Literary Criticism


This is part of an essay I originally wrote back in 2011 in my first year of University. I decided to post it today because of his fairly untimely demise. I found Heaney’s work in North slightly drab to have to analyse in an academic manner, but his fluency with words was undeniable. 

I am going to attempt to do some work excavating the meaning and essence of the collected poems in ‘North’ by Seamus Heaney, first published in 1975. The poems in North explore a number of intriguing and mysterious themes such as the national and cultural past of his homeland, life, death, sex, gender, and land and blood myths, bringing about a unique vision of Ireland’s rich and bloody history. Bearing in mind the socio-political context at the time of writing, North has shown to have had a profound impact on how the troubles and violence in Ireland are observed. One way he does this is to highlight the complex relationship between the past and present, directly and indirectly. In light of his art, Heaney has been described by Malcolm Bradbury as “the poet of poets” and makes up two thirds of the sales of living poets in the UK whilst being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995.

In order to read the poems in their proper context, one must firstly get an overview of the history of Ireland up to 1975 to clarify and understand the complex relationship between past and present, knowledge of Heaney’s own background also being crucial as to appreciate the engagement between identity of the self and the political landscape of the time, growing up as a young boy. The earliest historical references found in North concern the Iron Age where Heaney adopts an almost Anglo-Saxon prose to describe the brutality of Viking invasion, predominantly featured in Part I in poems such as ‘The Grauballe Man’ and ‘Bog Queen’. After a long period of unrest and political turbulence concerning control of the land, the Act of Union was signed in 1800 to legally bind Britain to Ireland. The first real instances of national Republicanism followed the Great Hunger of 1845-49 leading to the creation of Sinn Fein in 1905, who ‘campaigned for an independent, united Ireland’ (BBC; 2001).

After the original IRA was formed in 1919, the era we widely denote as ‘The Troubles’  began, characterised by violence against civil rights protesters and culminating in ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1972.  Heaney engages in a clear manner with the contemporary struggle for independence, marred by barbarism and religious fanaticism (giving the impression he is almost bemused by it) to create an analogy with the Ancient world of sacrifice and religion .

Born into a Catholic family on a farm in Northern Ireland just before WWII, Heaney’s geographical and archaeological approach to poetry is somewhat unsurprising. His father a farmer and his mother having links to the industrial revolution, rural and religious tension manifests itself in the earthy subject matter which he approaches. This is featured particularly in his early work like ‘Digging’ where he draws a comparison between his father’s farming work and his own literary achievements.  Poems such as ‘Punishment’ and ‘Bog Queen’ were almost undoubtedly inspired by the discoveries of Scandinavian and Irish bog bodies in the early 1950’s; – ‘on the gravel bottom, my brain darkening, a jar of spawn, fermenting underground’. This sentence to me depicts a unique sense of a bizarre organic restless soul who is trapped under the ground, the brooding body of the past, a vision which is encouraged by the spooky brutality of Heaney’s words.

In North, my view is that Heaney is making a stand by immortalising his words to be read not so much as a moral guideline but as an observational document to highlight the need for examination and pushing through the boundaries of history to understand our selves, writing that “the bog is a dark casket where we have found many of the clues to our past and to our cultural identity”. It is a coherent explanation of Heaney’s use of contrast between past and present. Other poems with historical references contained in subject matter are featured throughout North, half-known just from looking at the titles: ‘Act of Union’ – which compares the signing away of the Country with the violation of a female; this humanistic approach is also found in ‘Strange Fruit’, which immediately recalls the 1939 poem with the same title regarding the lynching’s of black people in the US. The violent theme of death is again featured in both poems, even with a similar turn of phrase again from Heaney: ‘Here is the girl’s head like an exhumed gourd.’ and ‘Here is your fruit, for the crows to pluck’ . Both poems seem to deal broadly with civil rights and the Callous and imprudent disposal of human lives, the corrosive effect his has on society.

Heaney addresses his own personal relationship with the past predominantly in part II of North. In a stark change of tone, Heaney brings the text into a more modern era with a direct use of the English language to approach more personal and contemporary topics. As a wider reference to the Troubles in Ireland, we can point to ‘Orange Drums, Tyrone, 1966’, which is perhaps a reflection of an Orange Order parade, the largest old protestant organisation (BBC; 2001) in Northern Ireland. The drums in the poem resonate as ancient Nationalist carnival, yet pervading undertones of darkness and violence; ‘It is the drums preside, like giant tumours… the goatskin’s sometimes plastered with his blood. The air is pounding like a stethoscope’ – showing an internal religious conflict, a constant problem. Heaney is also citing Irish poet W.B. Keats with his references to the ‘Orangemen’ recalling Yeats’ own memories of that period, whose work is shadowed to some extent by Heaney’s. Continuing on the theme of the passing of time in ‘Fosterage: For Michael Mclaverty’, Heaney writes his formative years by referencing his former teacher and perhaps how he feels fostered by this Father figure, who Heaney could relate to unlike his farmer father. He is acknowledging the effect his own past has had on shaping the person he has become, perhaps best described in the line ‘he discerned the lineaments of patience everywhere and fostered me and sent me out, with words imposing on my tongue like obels’.

The final poem in North, ‘Exposure’ leaves Heaney and the reading pondering the possibilities of the future; ‘Escaped from the massacre, taking protective covering, from bole and bark, feeling every wind that blows’,  mans vulnerability is exposed and explored in the book and we know it is closing time. It is clear we need to learn from our past, no matter how bloody or unpleasant it appears. Truth and learning is key. Perhaps Heaney is unsympathetic to the idea of mythologizing violence of the past simply because he see’s parallels of it with the modern day and vehemently rejects the idea of the contemporary troubles being distorted, mythologised or trivialised in the future, a message heavily implied and reiterated throughout the relationships between past and present explored by Heaney in North. Give this book to young poets as a piece of archaeology itself, one which set the framework for a large amount of modern day Irish political writing.


If you find yourself in Amsterdam at some point before April and need a break from the freezing wind or gliding bicycles, be sure to visit the Stedelijk museum. A three minute walk from the much celebrated Rijksmuseum, De Stedelijk is the curious setting which houses the late American artist Mike Kelley’s retrospective exhibition. Contained within the price of a general museum admissions ticket (around 7 Euros) is access to several rooms and galleries, pertaining Kelley’s life lived through art.

Mike Kelley’s exhibition presents an audio and visual experience accessible to many with his unique and bizarre take on America and its values, culture, ideology, ‘constructions in all their messy contradictions’ and crude representations of pop. Nothing is covered up from Kelley’s inspective eye, his dark and drastic sense of humour. An artist who freely interplayed with a vast manner of forms, the legacy of Kelley on show here features both the age-old practice of nude drawing and modern sculpture and light projection, as well as television constructions broadcasting a loop of unsettling YouTube clips – itself interspersed with minimalist dots and clinical beeps. It seems Kelley was a master of portraying 20th Century popular culture in art. Who else would burst the mythic bubble surrounding the question of supressed memory in his work (‘People tend to think about these works in a very generic way as, somehow, being about childhood. That was not my intent’[1]) but Kelley himself? Critics have made comparisons to the 1960’s avant-garde, but if Mike Kelley was the Frank Zappa of the art world, then their similarities end where deep emotion and personal anguish within it are concerned; for the serious decorum of authenticity, that of the oblique creator – is present throughout the show.

Sadly, following a bout of depression, Kelley committed suicide in January 2012 at the particular age of 57. This has enhanced his status as a troubled figure (as it undoubtedly will), but the work Kelley left us was always slightly alarming and at least interesting (I didn’t know about the nature of his tragic demise at the time of visiting). Whilst security will have to hear the sounds of feminine shrieks and indefinable circular clangs on a daily basis for the next couple of months, it is slightly irking to know that this distinctive collection will never be added to, enhanced or shown in a new capacity. When cruising around the gallery in De Stedelijk, I noticed some of the pieces on parade consisted solely of words on a page, affirming any suspicion that writing can be a form of art too. Where, though, is the line drawn -so to speak – between literature, or simply empty words, and art itself?

Words and the practice of using them can only ever be conservative in that one is restricted by the ‘box’ of the words meaning and the limitations of actual speech. Art by its nature rejects this limitation so where words fail, art can often suffice – permeating those depths of the soul that letters can never reach. But I’m convinced these magisteria can and do overlap, as I’m sure is Kelley; the written piece may not simply be just a craft. Who, that takes an interest in the practice, has failed to be affected by a high calibre essay or a timeless work of fiction in the same way that they are by music or painting? Kelley himself trod the fine line between the two positions, and between the role of spectator and partaker.

As I was backtracking through Kelley’s life in words I came upon an interesting quote in an interview from the Guardian page about critics: “Artist and critic are dependent on each other but have fundamentally different social positions and world views. As the story goes, the artist is uneducated but has a kind of innate gift for visual expression, which the educated and socialised critic must decode for the general population.”[2]

Kelley himself attained the unique position of being both artist and critic, releasing a book of art criticism called ‘Foul Perfection: Essays and Criticism’ with John Welchman in 2003. What’s more, he could remove himself further from the positions to gain perspective on the whole ordeal itself (hence the above quote); Kelley undermines his own words through his actions. Historically, the two positions are not a separate as is made out. The poet and writer John Betjeman divided his life’s work into both occupations: a profound lover of the English countryside and Anglican churches, you would never be sure if he was to write a verse of accolade for the country in its days of old, or a structured critique, albeit full of adoration. It also portrays a strange effect to the observer.

In his general idiolect Betjeman sort of spoke in the manner of the poet, an odd halfway position between general conversation and metaphorical interjection; videos of him speaking show him gazing up in slow candour, almost as though he were picking the words from some noble encyclopaedia in the sky. In an interview conducted by Betjeman on Down Cemetery Road[3] (1964), Philip Larkin makes the confession that “really one agrees with them that what one writes is based so much on the kind of person one is”. Larkin too was a critic, particularly of early jazz records and modernist literature and his polemical prose is collected in the fine publication ‘Required Writing’, though he asserts that he didn’t very much enjoy this hack job.

Is this split of roles, this cognitive dissonance at all praise worthy? It is certain that one is not required to be detached from the world of creativity to be able to assess it themselves. It can produce some odd or even negative results; apparently Martin Amis’ ‘Koba The Dread’ which deals with Stalinism fails boorishly where the writer neglects his familiar output of fiction. If the writer is painting with words then Kelley’s own words must be wrong.  The counter-examples show that even if the results are disingenuous or quirky (or brilliant), the two worlds do collide and often produce a lovely light in return.

Fifty years have passed almost to the day since Sylvia Plath was writing the last of her journals. Thoughts, feelings, stories and personal confessions of Plath were committed to paper in the last weeks of her life, only to be destroyed by her late husband Ted Hughes, in respect of the maxim of forgetfulness as ‘an essential part of survival’[1]. It will bring no surprise to the reader to learn that he himself was a poet, the artist lovers famously entwined in books, separated by their passion.

Plath’s suicide at the age of thirty in 1963 secured her reputation as the archetypal modern ‘suicide writer’, a hero of deep prose for the younger generation. So what is it of the enigma surrounding Plath which remains? A quick glance at the history of literature would show that she was hardly the first ‘troubled’ female author to gain such a reputation. Virginia Woolf had preceded Plath by about 35 years and was twice her age when she finally killed herself in 1941, not before declaring “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Plath built upon this affirmation with her tale of the conflicting desires inherent in the young writer in The Bell Jar, published a month before her death in 1963, sometime ‘Between the end of the Chatterly Ban and the Beatles’ first LP’ ( if we are to take Larkin’s account of the year).

The Bell Jar, arguably Plath’s most acclaimed work and the only novel she actually completed, is constructed in remarkably readable prose with each turn of the page seeming more lucid than the last. Plath drew on her own youthful experiences for the novel and the main protagonist is undeniably hers; Plath, like her doppelganger Esther Greenwood, lost her father at the tender age of eight and was somewhat of a wondering nomad, securing a position as editor at Mademoiselle in New York City following her college education. Plath moved around different parts of Massachusetts throughout her childhood. Born to an Austrian mother and a German father, Plath seemed to carry a sense of Holocaust guilt and a minor preoccupation with Jewishness, mentioned several times in the novel and some of her seminal poems in Ariel (1965). In fact Plath’s father, Otto, shared the same first name as the tragic Anne Frank’s father, a name that might ring odd in the ears of the modern-day observer. Plath moved herself to Cambridge, England to study and then to Devon, finally settling in London, burying herself in the English winters.

One factor which makes The Bell Jar and Plath’s work in general widely accessible is her ability to relay both the obscure aspects of a life lived in capitalism and the more general, the universal. An example of this realism is contained on page 53 where Esther describes the predicament of having wished she’d said something different in reply to a comment or jibe: ‘These conversations I had in my mind usually repeated the beginnings of conversations I’d had with buddy, only they finished with me answering him back quite sharply, instead of just sitting around and saying ‘I guess so’. The metaphors employed by Plath for casual observations are succinct and mentally pleasing, ‘My secret hope of spending the afternoon alone in Central Park died in the glass egg-beater of Ladies’ Day’s revolving doors.’, raising the question of why Larkin (who was a contemporary poet, though slightly older) never conjured such an image considering his inevitable daily entry to Hull University’s Brynmoor Jones library.

Plath’s prose reads well on the page and gives one the impression that Plath barely had to try once pen had hit paper, an achievement most writers will understand to be harder than it looks. Plath’s writing contains mountains of clarity in the manner of George Orwell, though she leaves Orwell behind in her sometimes naive worldly observations, and attitudes surrounding mental illness, the charming nihilism for which she is often famous. Plath is rejected for this too often by those who feel fit to be critics and troubled Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards even had the audacity to proclaim ‘I spat out Plath and Pinter’ in 1994, though he was undoubtedly influenced by her literary clout. One must keep in mind the fact that at the time of writing, manic-depressive heroes were in short supply and the approach of emptying the contents of the mind, un-judged, was relatively new in the pre-sexual revolution of the early 1960’s – the dark split between the social norm and personal reality.

A useful but humorous comparison may be drawn between The Bell Jar and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea (1938) in that both contain characters dealing with the oppressive sensation of nausea. Sartre’s existential ‘masterpiece’ draws its strength from the sense of displacement one feels through the character of the lone wanderer, the individual who is incurably sick at the comprehension of nature’s reality and the movement away from a solipsism previously held (and an idea which had historically plagued so much philosophical thought). Esther too became sick in the social arena of hotels and cinemas. One presumes the reason for this is a similar sort of existential crisis – but we soon learn that flamboyant Esther had simply consumed too much bad crabmeat at someone else’s expense, as did many other girls in her company. The resulting impression (one that is welcomed) is that she too is a material being who is not to be singled out as any special exception, which relates in a curious way to the reader, who might’ve noticed such a distinction between fiction and reality on one’s own accord.

Plath’s poetry, for which she was most well known in her lifetime, is notable too for its fractured imagery and the ability to incorporate life experience into a simple turn of phrase. She returns to her upbringing and family in what is arguably her most famous poem (published posthumously) ‘Daddy’, with the displacing opener:

You do not do, you do not do,

Any more, black shoe’.

Reading the stanzas for a BBC program in October 1962 following a creative spurt in which she produced around 50 poems in just a few months, Plath has a remarkable tone of voice, which recalls Judy Garland’s Dorothy in point of directness and sweetness. This clashes irresistibly with the ghoulish content that permeates Plath’s work, establishing her as the first mentally ill, feminine housewife who wrote poetry for the masses. Plath fell forever in love with Ted Hughes and was consigned to a miserable last few months, looking after two children on her own in a cold London flat, following their fateful split. And what was left of Plath’s riddled conscience?

‘And I

Am the arrow,

The dew that flies

Suicidal, at one with the drive

Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.’[2]

If there is any social statement which oversees Plath’s work it is surely a critique of the American dream, the Western dream; the fact that even pretty suburban girls like herself can fall far from grace. This is the real face of depression, a girl with the need to die. Plath wanted badly to caste out the monster of mental illness and portray it in the English language.

Half a century since her death, Plath is remembered for achieving this above all things, and The Bell Jar is a novel I’d recommend to anybody in pursuit of either education or pleasure. This type of writing had and has been done before. Only Plath did it with such a distinctive style.



When Christopher Hitchens wrote about the humbling experience of being accidently referred to as the ‘late’ Hitchens in his memoir Hitch-22 in 2010, he could have had no idea that a ‘malignant alien’ was in fact already burrowing deep into his oesophagus.  Perhaps this earlier realisation that he, too, was an aging mortal helped soften the blow somewhat when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in June 2010. Adopting the stoic tradition previously undertaken by journalist’s Richard Brookhiser and John Diamond, Hitchens decided to document, as part of an agreement with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter that he would write about anything except sports, his experience of the disease – in no uncertain detail.

At the time, many considered it an interesting experiment; imagine, if you will, your favourite intellectual faced with the subjective circumstance of their fast-impending demise and their considered reaction to this on-going malady. The results here are at least interesting not only for the humour and fluency present in the writing, even when describing excruciating pain in real time, but for displaying his contempt for euphemism and holy cows (of all kinds), an affirmation of his character and with a good deal of (cowboy, as it turned out to be) hat-tipping to the stoics gone before him (including Sir Kingsley Amis, and his own father).  Whilst he also maintained a steady output of essays on politics and culture until at least a few weeks before his death in December last year, the filings from ‘Tumortown’ have now been gathered in a short book, under the bold collective title of Mortality.

After reading the first few pages of the book, it becomes clear one was right to not simply buy it through sympathy, disregarding the grave, sheepish looking Hitchens on the front cover. This is something he would certainly have none of and berates such consolations on others himself, even previous residents of Tumortown;  Randy Pausch and Friedrich Nietzsche are hardly spared a cynical analysis – the only way we would want it to be. No, these works emit the perfume of admirable objectivity, with the central idea being to inform and educate particular groups concerned: the religious, writers, the doctors, the family members and the public regarding general cancer ‘etiquette’. It was on this last topic that I found myself laughing out loud at the description of a fan discussion at a book signing containing the following dialogue:

‘She: And then he died. It was agonizing. Agonizing. Seemed to take him forever.

Me: [Beginning to search for words.] …

She: Of course, he was a lifelong homosexual.

Me: [Not quite finding the words, and not wishing to sound stupid by echoing “of course.”] …’ [1]

The empathy is absolute. Even people like I, who fortunately have been lucky enough never to have family members felled with any such disease become engrossed in this person’s world; such is the trick of the anecdote. The easy writing style and straight forward construction of this book – and we unfortunately, know in advance the ending – make for a very speedy reading, and accordingly induce a profound regret that this is undoubtedly the final Hitchens publication.

Perhaps it is also a shame that such a last book would be riddled with pockets of distinct ugliness, like the descriptions of having skin numbing injections into his wretched body, or losing his golden voice which could previously command many-a dinner table, or the slightly distressing ‘fragmentary jottings’ included at the end of the book which display a man emerging in and out of consciousness to give a disjointed monologue, as though these thoughts are considered specially profound. These do however serve to affirm Christopher Hitchens’ lifelong belief in materialism, summed up best by the man himself: ‘I do not have a body, I am a body’. It is therefore in retrospect puzzling to learn that he firmly believed he would be in the 5% or so of patients who would ‘beat’ the disease, without special reason (his father had also succumbed to the illness) ; or resist it, as the contrary Hitchens camp might have it. His admiration for science and medicine still resonates though, with written tributes paid to personal physician Francis Collins, leader of the Human Genome Project and surely incompatibly for Hitchens, a committed Christian, as well as various doctors and nurses. Hitchens also squares up to the Nietzschien philosophical doctrine (and a personal conundrum) ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’, which he was clearly more than qualified to discuss and rather tersely resolves the thought to a populist sound bite which even Nietzsche experienced as a falsity in his last miserable, bed-ridden years.

If there is to be any criticism of this small collection about one’s inevitable demise, it might be because it is limited to solely this. Given that we know ‘Hitch’ (as he was affectionately denoted by his comrades) was writing on the topics of Dickens, Chesterton, and The Republican Party nominations until up to a matter of days before his death, why not include all these and other unpublished articles and thoughts? Mortality feels unfinished without a definite conclusion –perhaps silence can be the only conclusion? – and surely these half-hearted jottings aren’t the way he would like his last work to finish up. Widow Carol Blue’s consummate and touchingly sad afterword leaves us with a bit more information about his circumstance at the end than we had at the time (and of how it was ‘unexpected’; indeed, I remember from October last year reading how he was to attend an atheist convention earlier this year).

These final writings in Mortality act as an accessible, lucid, perfectly secular, and life-affirming reflection on our common fate, with as much vinegar as anybody dying could muster. It’s a comfort in a way to know he never let the inspective audience down up to the last point, and created a muse with the spectre of oblivion, paving the way for anybody else. With Hitchens gone, the world feels a bit lighter, with nobody to fill his shoes; it’s strange to think it will almost be a year since he went. This book works well as a tribute to the man who ‘wasn’t going to give up, until I absolutely have to’. Well, that he certainly didn’t.

[1] ‘Mortality’, Christopher Hitchens, Published 2012 by Atlantic Books (UK).

I have for a while been interested in late Victorian gothic horror. At an early age I relished the story of Jekyll and Hyde (1886), the horrid split between the gentile and collective, pleasant side of the man and the cunning madness of the evil side. Also, with a keen interest in ghosts I obsessed over the nearby Borley Rectory (the once ‘most haunted house in England) and the investigations of Harry Price, although perhaps sheepishly pursued more photographic ‘evidence’ to validate my intrigue than I should have realised. Reading The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) by Charlotte Perkins-Gilmore at school tickled further my interest in this subtle form of horror which could evidently (or especially as I now might say) permeate the lives of the grand mansion-types, making for a nice encapsulation of the term ‘gothic’ for me.

I think that because of the unsophisticated young mind and fascination with and inclination toward the supernatural, the old manifestations of ghouls and demons (which were also entertained by the Demon Headmaster and R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps) generated a horror that was undeterred by modern technology, scientific evidence and the gross modern manifestations of ‘evil’ one see’s on T.V. and the psycho-killer.  We learn where the true ‘evil’ lies in the world when get older. But in this artistic world, being psychotic isn’t scary… that person still conforms to the world’s natural order, and eventually reason and science. It is the suspension of these things which generates a certain type of gothic horror that infects the mind and is most effective when the mind does most the work itself. This all of course is considering that the prose is accessible and understandable; as inferred, the less said the better. So I approached Turn of The Screw with such anticipation.

It is a tough piece of work to get through – the convoluted writing style of Henry James is to use the old English vernacular, ghastly. For me there is much at fault with this style of literature, the kind where it takes about 100 pages to say what ought to have been said in 10, a far cry from the benign and agreeable prose of Dickens. The thought did not escape me that the rules George Orwell laid out for good English in ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946) were a reaction to such writing as this (not that the rules were ‘commandments’ as such, but guidelines to how one should write. Clarity of language equates to clarity in political dialogue and thinking). In fact, it is hardly believable that Orwell was writing his work, including this, only about 30-50 years after James. And so I will subject Turn of the Screw to the scrutiny of Orwell’s critique and see how it is left up.

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

This rule is not so horribly violated as some in Turn of the Screw. ‘I dare say!’ is used far too frequently, ‘by slip of the tongue’, ‘of the dammed’, ‘queer business’, ‘more or less’ all make appearances but don’t greatly offend.

  1. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

The novella is riddled with examples of this: ‘sequestration’ instead of a simple ‘separation’, the ludicrous ‘preternaturally’ when ‘unusually’ would suffice, ‘perambulations’ ahead of ‘inspection’. Sentences like ‘in the renouncement of one pretension’ clutter up the entire book and don’t make for an easy translation.

  1. If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out.

Again, James falls foul of this crime too many times, notably with the long conjunctions which dominate the early chapters or instalments of the novella.  Examples: ‘it sufficiently struck out that, by tacit little tricks in which even more than myself he carried out the care for my dignity , I had had to appeal to him to let me off straining to meet him on the ground of  his true capacity’. An absurd jungle of words which barely carry any meaning – not only could words be cut out but entire sentences or passages…’headache inducing’ is the idea which comes to mind.

  1. Never use the passive when you can use the active.

These are harder to determine and it would take a close reading to discover these faults in Turn of the Screw. ‘“With them?” Oh on this the poor woman promptly joined me!’ is a common type of switch between speech and an internal monologue which makes for exhausting reading.

  1. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Jargon is of course harder to find in a short novel such as this, but strangely words like ‘fabulous’ are used to mean strange or unreal, which may just be the Victorian context but inspection of James’ contemporaries will show how different the writing could be at the same time. Same with ‘gaoler’ to mean in jail and James uses ‘mot’, the French equivalent of the ‘word’, packing in further hidden meaning to an unintelligible sentence.

  1. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

This doesn’t really apply for James as it does say the political speaker, although break the rules, he certainly does!

Although Orwell meant for these ‘elementary’ rules to mainly be observed by those using ‘language as an instrument for expressing’ and not so much literature, I think it can be useful for text as well. Authors hold the artistic licence to write whatever and however they like. But especially for a gothic horror novel such as this it remains important to use simple words and phrasing (to sharp and sinister effect) to truly penetrate the clear mind. I look forward to my next novel of this kind and hope the lucidity for which I am looking exists.