orthent (orthent) wrote in little_details,

Victorian authors--paid by the word?

I've often seen it claimed that Victorian authors like Dickens wrote ornate, wordy prose because they were paid by the word, so they had a financial incentive to be needlessly prolix and pad their narratives. Can anyone point me to an authoritative, scholarly source (i.e., not a site giving advice to writers) for this?

It seems to be one of those things that "everyone knows," so no one bothers to cite a source for them--like "the phrase 'rule of thumb' refers to the thickness of the stick with which a man was allowed to beat his wife" or "'Crap' comes from Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the flush toilet"--and it has the same ring as these origin stories (both bogus, as far as I know).

Searches I've tried: "Victorian prose style," "Dickens's prose style," "Influences on Victorian prose style," "influences on Dickens's style," and "Dickens paid by the word." I also checked Peter Ackroyd's biography of Dickens, with no luck.
Tags: uk: history: victorian era, ~literature, ~victorian era

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