Accepted writing styles, like fashion, continually change.
While reading a variety of selections in popular fiction, memoirs and the classics, I’ve come across tremendous diversity and I find it interesting when comparing writing styles through recent history, and I ask myself, “Are we dumbing down?”
That’s not to say that current works are less engaging. But have we disposed of the elegant beauty in carefully worded prose in favor of elementary phrasing. Has the photographic image taken the place of a master’s oil painting?
Here is an excerpt from the classic, Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson.
I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-barrow — a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man, his tarry pigtail falling over the shoulders on his soiled blue coat, his hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails, and the sabre cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white. I remember him looking round the cove and whistling to himself as he did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song that he sang so often afterwards:
“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”
in the high, old tottering voice that seemed to have been turned and broken at the capstan bars. Then he rapped on the door with a bit of stick like a handspike that he carried, and when my father appeared, called roughly for a glass of rum. This, when it was brought to him, he drank slowly, like a connoisseur, lingering on the taste and still looking about him at the cliffs and up at our signboard.
How beautifully the author paints a picture of a first meeting. Vivid in my mind, I can view the scene he has written for me.
Is there anyone today that compares to Stevenson or more importantly, do we care?
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote thirteen novels, published 22 short-stories not to include his travel writings, poetry and literature on the pacific islands. He was a literary celebrity during his lifetime, at one time ranking among the 26 most translated authors in the world.
Until tomorrow – Write On!
~ K. L. Parry