I’m titling this entry HEEP! only because [David Copperfield spoiler alert, skip rest of sentence if you don’t want to know] Mr. Micawber’s demolition of Uriah Heep cracked me up so much.
I’ve been getting a deluge of emails about my comment in an earlier post that it may not be possible for a writer today to be as good as Dickens. Just kidding, I have not been getting a deluge of emails or even one email. But I have been thinking I should give a better explanation.
So many people wrote letters back in the 19th century, I think the average person was a better writer than is the average person today. I’ll qualify that by saying the average literate person was a better writer. So you have this pool of decent writers and from that pool a few great writers rise. Today, the pool of average writers is smaller and so the number of great writers is smaller.
Let’s say every kid in America plays basketball. Out of that pool, we will get some great basketball players. But if only 10% of the kids in America play basketball, we will get fewer basketball players. We see this in soccer. If soccer was America’s most popular sport, we would have many more great soccer players. Instead, most of the talented young soccer players move to football or baseball or basketball.
To bring it back to writing, when you read old letters from the 19th century that were written by average people, it’s amazing how clever they are. The pool of writers was so big it allowed a Dickens to emerge. That’s my theory anyway.