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Thread: Dickens or Bulwer-Lytton

  1. #1
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Dickens or Bulwer-Lytton

    Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton gets a bad rap these days. There is the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest for the worst opening sentence in a book. That's a little unfair. "It was a dark and windy night..." was not so much of a cliché when he wrote it. He is often blamed for persuading Charles Dickens to change the ending of Great Expectations. Well, why did Dickens ask him for his opinion if he was so sure of it?

    Anyway, someone called Mikhail Simkin has set up a quiz in which extracts of some of Dickens' and Bulwer-Lytton's best work is reproduced, and you have to guess who wrote which. I scored 42%.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Got to boast - I got 92%

    I haven't read Bulwer Lytton (who has?), but I've sure read a lot of Dickens, and I could easily recognise the style. This is the only passage I got wrong -

    It was a murky confusion - here and there blotted with a colour like the colour of the smoke from damp fuel - of flying clouds, tossed up into most remarkable heaps, suggesting greater heights in the clouds than there were depths below them to the bottom of the deepest hollows in the earth, through which the wild moon seemed to plunge headlong, as if, in a dread disturbance of the laws of nature, she had lost her way and were frightened. There had been a wind all day; and it was rising then, with an extraordinary great sound. In another hour it had much increased, and the sky was more overcast, and blew hard.
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

  3. #3
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    Got to boast - I got 92%
    Nobody likes a show-off
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  4. #4
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    A journo has discovered the quiz (link).
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  5. #5
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Oh God, I've had terrible experiences with Mr. Simkin on another site years ago, he's a real *** who has serious issues with logic. He's also a shameless self-promoter who spreads his inane quiz "studies" all over the internet. The quiz is not methodologically meaningful, and it should never be considered anything other than a curiosity. Simkin also construct multiple quizes like this, some include distinguishing between Jackson Pollock and bird **** on a sidewalk, until he hits on a sample where he can make the ludicrous claims he wants to.
    Last edited by OrphanPip; 03-25-2013 at 04:02 PM.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

  6. #6
    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Yeah it's really silly to pick up purple passages from Victorian writers and then try to decide which is worse!

    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Nobody likes a show-off
    Ha ha! Totally missed that all these days!
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

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    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Ah, now that about the guy himself is quite interesting.

    I flagged this thing up in another thread actually. Maybe I should have put it on this forum instead.

    I did it and came off with 42%. My father came off with a mere 17%. Admittedly, I've never read anything much of Dickens because I can't stand him (to me he is like Les Misérables, but without the content and the thought behind it), but I personally thought that the worst passages in that series were actually Lytton's, not Dickens's... How wrong I was.

    Maybe if you knew about Dickens's style, you could tell the difference, as Mona so aptly showed , but then possibly the idea of deciding which is better written is skewed. Now, probably the guy took the most dysmal passages in Dickens to put maybe up against some slightly better ones by Lytton. Who knows.

    I'm sure Lytton is bad or at least at the lower end of mediocre compared to Hardy or Thackeray, but then where is Dickens? I grant you, Dickens wrote some great stories. You can make me sit through millions of adaptations of Dickens stories (even multiple adaptations of the same stories if you like), but don't make me sit through a novel of his. Maybe it was Lytton's characterisation that doesn't get through to people anymore, maybe it is what we now perceive as the cliché (the dark and stormy night was indeed, not such a cliché as it is now; I'm sure you could get a Radcliffe prize in that respect too, in that case), maybe it is (judging from those few passages) the not-original style or whatever and his one-dimensional characterisation, I'm told. But the fact remains that not every sentence can be admired in Dickens (in which writer can that be done anyway? Kafka has many admirable sentences, but even he had some instantances of normality).

    I'm sure that if you got well-read people to evaluate blind a number of random exerpts from Victorian writers merely for their style and had them put them in order from better to worse that Dickens would not come out on top.

    I like some Dickens bashing.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    Ah, now that about the guy himself is quite interesting.

    I flagged this thing up in another thread actually. Maybe I should have put it on this forum instead.

    I did it and came off with 42%. My father came off with a mere 17%. Admittedly, I've never read anything much of Dickens because I can't stand him (to me he is like Les Misérables, but without the content and the thought behind it), but I personally thought that the worst passages in that series were actually Lytton's, not Dickens's... How wrong I was.

    Maybe if you knew about Dickens's style, you could tell the difference, as Mona so aptly showed , but then possibly the idea of deciding which is better written is skewed. Now, probably the guy took the most dysmal passages in Dickens to put maybe up against some slightly better ones by Lytton. Who knows.

    I'm sure Lytton is bad or at least at the lower end of mediocre compared to Hardy or Thackeray, but then where is Dickens? I grant you, Dickens wrote some great stories. You can make me sit through millions of adaptations of Dickens stories (even multiple adaptations of the same stories if you like), but don't make me sit through a novel of his. Maybe it was Lytton's characterisation that doesn't get through to people anymore, maybe it is what we now perceive as the cliché (the dark and stormy night was indeed, not such a cliché as it is now; I'm sure you could get a Radcliffe prize in that respect too, in that case), maybe it is (judging from those few passages) the not-original style or whatever and his one-dimensional characterisation, I'm told. But the fact remains that not every sentence can be admired in Dickens (in which writer can that be done anyway? Kafka has many admirable sentences, but even he had some instantances of normality).

    I'm sure that if you got well-read people to evaluate blind a number of random exerpts from Victorian writers merely for their style and had them put them in order from better to worse that Dickens would not come out on top.

    I like some Dickens bashing.
    I once wrote a piece on some considerations about that pathetic, insane man, Lytton. I called it The man from the german Metro. It's somewhere in my archive.

  9. #9
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I had another go and I scored 75% this time. But since the only two Dickens books quoted were Great Expectations and David Copperfield and I have read Great Expectations, that is not a particularly great score.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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