How Do You Reconcile the Writing Style of Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway?

I discovered Ernest Hemingway a few years ago. That was mainly thanks to my study of ‘copywriting’ and trying to write well for web visitors to my various websites/blogs. The advice was straightforward, and easy to follow provided you followed some simple rules.

The rules focused on using short words, short sentences, short paragraphs and making it as easy as possible for the greatest number of people to read my blog posts. That’s where Hemingway came in because he was held up as the leading proponent of such vigorous, muscular, frills free writing. If you were in any doubt you only had to read his novella, ‘The Old Man and the Sea’.

Then I discovered Charles Dickens. It took a while to wade through the first Dickens book I read, ‘Bleak House’, but I soon appreciated Dickens’s genius. This genius was, in my view, founded on his stories, his storytelling, and the unforgettable, vivid characters he created in his books.

When I think then about the difference between Hemingway and Dickens, I struggle to reconcile the chasms of difference between the two styles. Sometimes I resent having to ‘dumb down’ and write in a way that makes what I write easy to read, understand, and scan. Sometimes I would like to write a blog post in the Dickens style of writing.

I doubt, however, that the piece would be read. The attention span of web surfers is short and getting shorter and you had better make your stuff easy to consume or you will not be read.

And the main purpose of writing is to get read, at least by the people for whom you are writing and catering.

One thing I can say with confidence: writing in the ‘Hemingway’ style has the most profound effect on readers. I have had people come to see me from all over the country and many of them have referred to my writing and even go so far as to quote some of my own stuff back to me.

Meanwhile, I want to improve my craft and continue learning and communicating with the greatest number of people who may have concerns with which I can help.

The Best 10 Minutes of My Day

My favourite time of the day is the ten minutes in the morning it takes me to drive to work. When I leave the house it is usually between 6.15 am and 6.30 am and it takes approximately ten minutes to reach my office in Enfield.

In that ten minutes, however, I am transported to another world courtesy of my mobile phone and the Audible app which allows me to listen to the novels of Charles Dickens.

It is not just the stories; it is not just Dickens’s use of words; it is not just his construction of sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books; the narration is also a huge factor in my enjoyment and transport me, however briefly, to another world.

A world of London in the mid 1800s, and the tough life for working class people, and the class system, and the idea of a good marriage being one made  between money and blood.

The ability of the narrators such as Simon Callow, Martin Jarvis, Owen Teale, and other professional British actors to carry off the various accents of the characters is a vital factor in the overall audiobook experience.

To my mind Charles Dickens is the pre-eminent writer in the English language.

The first book of his that I read was “Bleak House”, Dickens’s great criticism of the legal profession.

It was tough going at first-tough because of the words he used, the length of his sentences, the length of his paragraphs, the length of the book’s chapters, and the doubt whether it was worth my time or not, whether there was a story in there at the end of it.

Boy, how there was a story. Each and every time. A story populated with such memorable characters.

I am tremendously glad, a few short years later, that I persisted.

Like cheese or Guinness or many of the finer things in life for which it is worthwhile to cultivate a taste, it may not be sweetly saccharine and digestible at the first attempt.

But the perseverance has been worth it and now I admit to having read many of his books more than once, and am also making my way through the audiobook versions.

Presently I am reading “Bleak House” for the second time, having also listened to the audio book, and am listening to “Dombey and Son”.

I believe that reading Dickens’s books has helped me greatly to improve my vocabulary, improve my writing in my day to day work as a solicitor, and assisted in the fight against the invasion of the use of trite, meaningless words from across the Atlantic-words such as “super” and “awesome” and “sick” and “amped”.

I also have great fun from time to time “speaking Dickens” to my wife by observing that she is once again “going into society” when she is going out to meet a friend or “improving my acquaintance” with someone when I myself am meeting someone or when I “lay to prodigiously” when I am describing how I polished off a meal or when I talk about “feeling all the glories of dissipation” after a rare overindulgence in alcohol.

The characters that populate his books, too, are a wonder to behold and tremendously memorable; characters such as Carker the manger in Dombey and son or Uriah Heep in David Copperfield or Fagin or the Artful Dodger or Master Bates or Bill Sykes or Nancy in Oliver Twist or Thomas Gradgrind and Josiah Bounderby in Hard Times or the various solicitors such as Mr. Tulkinghorn or Mr. Vholes in Bleak House or the wide range of saintly female characters such as Little Dorrit or Florence Dombey in Dombey & Son.

And the villains, the villians you have no difficulty hating with a passion so true to life and credible are they.

To make things even better many of Dickens’s books are considered to be “classics” which means they are available for free or a pittance on or

Dombey & Son By Charles Dickens-an Early Feminist Novel?

Charles Dickens

One of the greatest pleasures I have discovered in the last ten years or so is the genius of Charles Dickens. It started with Bleak House as this was a book recommended as one that would interest anyone with an interest in the law and legal system.

It took a while to get into his wordy, florid, detailed style and it was, at first, a struggle. But I persevered and am delighted that I did.

At this stage I believe I have read every book Dickens has written, with the exception of Dombey & Son. And I am putting that right at the moment.

I am enjoying Dombey & Son via Audible audio books and the pleasure I derive from listening to a RADA trained English actor bringing all the diverse, interesting characters to life with their superb readings is tremendous.

Dombey & Son is about, among other themes, the pride that Mr. Dombey, a well to do  businessman , enjoys with the birth of a long awaited son. It is said that prior to the birth of the son that “girls are given away in this house”.

However, things do not turn out as expected as the son grows up to be a waster and his older, ignored sister turns out to be a wonderful, caring person.

I have only listened to about 3 chapters so far but I am really looking forward to the rest of it.