Bad writing from a long time ago

Search around Project Guttenberg, the excellent repository of free ebooks, and you’re bound to find dozens of books that in some way have to do with Egypt. One thing most of these have in common — particularly those from the 19th and early 20th century, when the Victorian fad was to write travel diaries — is that they are mostly dreadfully dull. They also appear to be written by the same person who writes the scripts for the sound and light show at the Pyramids (O Nile, Father of Time…)

Here’s one I found today, The Spell of Egypt by Robert Smythe Hichens (otherwise a relatively capable early fantastic/mystery writer). These are the first two paragraphs:

Why do you come to Egypt? Do you come to gain a dream, or to regain lost dreams of old; to gild your life with the drowsy gold of romance, to lose a creeping sorrow, to forget that too many of your hours are sullen, grey, bereft? What do you wish of Egypt?

The Sphinx will not ask you, will not care. The Pyramids, lifting their unnumbered stones to the clear and wonderful skies, have held, still hold, their secrets; but they do not seek for yours. The terrific temples, the hot, mysterious tombs, odorous of the dead desires of men, crouching in and under the immeasurable sands, will muck you with their brooding silence, with their dim and sombre repose. The brown children of the Nile, the toilers who sing their antique songs by the shadoof and the sakieh, the dragomans, the smiling goblin merchants, the Bedouins who lead your camel into the pale recesses of the dunes—these will not trouble themselves about your deep desires, your perhaps yearning hunger of the heart and the imagination.


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