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Thread: Arcane words and allusions

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Arcane words and allusions

    Reading this book reminds me of a TV show from my youth called Call My Bluff, in which two teams of three read out definitions of little known English words. Two of the definitions were false and one true. In the latest chapter I read were skein, captious and contumely. Then there are all the references to the bible and to classical mythology. I suppose Victorian readers would have understood the allusions better than today's. After reading a chapter I have to read a page of notes on all the references. Tess of the d'Urbervilles was like that, but from memory, The Woodlanders and Far From the Madding Crowd weren't too bad.
    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 kev67's Avatar
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    I know educated men of Victorian England usually had a classical education and were steeped in bible learning (I don't think Victorian women were educated so expensively). Nevertheless, I wonder whether they would have picked up on all the references. For example, on page 38 there is an allusion to Tartarean situation. According to the notes, Tartarus was the lowest part of the infernal regions in Greek and Roman mythology. It transpires some characters do not have a very high opinion of Egdon Heath, the setting of the book. Would a Victorian gentleman instantly get this? iirc, Thomas Hardy used to serialize his stories in the Cornhill magazine before publishing it in book form. I am sure the magazine editions would not have explanatory notes, and I doubt the early book editions would either.
    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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