Really Really Ridiculously Good Writing

Yesterday I started reading Charles Dicken’s Hard Times.

I’m at chapter 6 now and I have already read more great writing in it than in the last six books I’ve read combined. This may be a matter of taste (I am of the opinion that Dickens is a genius) so I think I’ll put it to you, the few souls who read this blog.

Also, because today I came across a great quote about the best way to learn writing is to copy down your favorite passages, this will be an exercise for me to improve my writing as well as a chance for me to make a point about Dickens’ skill.

Describing a boy and girl in a classroom:

But, whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to receive a deeper ad more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed. … His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white.

Describing a boy and girl never allowed to use their imaginations:

There was an air of jaded sullenness in them both, and particularly in the girl: yet, struggling through the dissatisfaction of her face, there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow, which brightened its expression. Not with the brightness natural to cheerful youth, but with uncertain, eager, doubtful flashes, which had something painful in them, analogous to changes on a blind face groping its way.

Describing a pompous, fat man:

He was a rich man: banker, merchant, manufacturer, and what not. A big, loud man, with a stare, and a metallic laugh. A man made out of a course material, which seemed to have been stretched to make so much of him. A man with a great puffed head and forehead, swelled veins in his temples, and such a strained skin to his face that it seemed to hold his eyes open, and lift his eyebrows up.


Describing a pub in a poor town:

She stopped, at twilight, at the door of a mean little public-house, with dim red lights in it. As haggard and as shabby, as if, for want of custom, it had itself taken to drinking, and had gone the way all drunkards go, and was very near the end of it. 

Whenever I start a new Dickens book I always feel like I’m coming home after a hard day at work. 


2 thoughts on “Really Really Ridiculously Good Writing”

  1. My favorite among these: “A man made out of a course material, which seemed to have been stretched to make so much of him.” This gives such an accurate picture of the character. I wish I could write like that too.


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