The Night Land (1912), by William Hope Hodgson, is considered a landmark of "far future" fantasy (a precursor to works by science fiction/fantasy crossover authors such as Jack Vance, Michael Moorcock, and Gene Wolfe). However, it is not frequently read, because of its "mock antiquated style" (as critic Malcolm Edwards described it).

The novel has a frame narrative, that its images of the impossibly-distant future are being recorded by a psychically sensitive man in what he calls "modern day" Kent, England. The setting of this frame is not terribly clear, but appears to fall at some point in early modern times, based on the descriptions of technology and culture in the first chapter. The rest of the story is all told in the narrator's somewhat distracting voice, e.g.—

And I went thirty hours in all, even as before, ere that I did come again to sleep, and I eat and drank at every sixth hour, so that my strength should abide within me. And by that I was come to the ending of the thirty hours, I was sorely awearied, and gat me upward of the monstrous cliff that did make the left side of the Gorge, having perceived in a place a great ledge of the rock, that did seem very proper for my purpose of slumber.

Although this is certainly not the easiest thing to read, the archaisms are fairly consistent. For example (as illustrated in the passage above), there is the use of "eat" as a past tense, as well as "gat" as a past tense for "get." The author also makes frequent use of the verb "wit" (past tense "wot"), meaning "know."

What I am wondering is whether Hodgson's specific dialect choices are actually indicative of real usage in an early Modern English dialect (perhaps from Kent). Or did the author construct an artificial antiquated-sounding grammar and vocabulary for effect?

  • 3
    This question seems better suited for English Language & Usage.
    – jwodder
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 3:10
  • Early Modern English as in the Bible and Shakespeare? Is that what you mean?
    – user14111
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 4:01
  • @user14111 Yes, that is the period the narrator appears to hail from.
    – Buzz
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 4:40
  • 1
    The reason I asked is, the bit you quoted does not put me in mind of the Bible (I mean the King James Version) or Shakespeare. It just sounds weird. But what do I know.
    – user14111
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 8:04
  • He also wrote the "Carnacki the ghost finder" series, which I think (has been a while since I read them) used a less convoluted style of writing. According to Wikipedia these were written in the same time range.
    – Brian
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 13:41

1 Answer 1


No. The story was written well after any of the archaic features were used, occasionally uses some grammatical features incorrectly, and uses the prose in an obtuse style dissimilar to how early modern english was actually spoken.

  • 8
    I don't see how when the story was written should have any bearing on whether this is indicative of a dialect or not. However, you should edit in some sources or some form of evidence to back up that this truly isn't indicative. For example, you say some grammatical features are used incorrectly, how? How it the prose dissimilar? etc. etc.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 13:52

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