Seeing Bernie again reminded me this time of Herman Melville's final novel, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade (1857). Human nature remains exactly the same as in Melville's day, but what may be more surprising is how much of Melville's language seems quite recognizable.
Then there are the unintentionally contemporary-sounding chapter headers, such as the one for chapter five, straight out of Colorado:
THE MAN WITH THE WEED MAKES IT AN EVEN QUESTION WHETHER HE BE A GREAT SAGE OR A GREAT SIMPLETON.
Next, here's a little sample from Chapter 42:
UPON THE HEEL OF THE LAST SCENE THE COSMOPOLITAN ENTERS THE BARBER'S SHOP, A BENEDICTION ON HIS LIPS.
"Bless you, barber!"
Now, owing to the lateness of the hour, the barber had been all alone until within the ten minutes last passed; when, finding himself rather dullish company to himself, he thought he would have a good time with Souter John and Tam O'Shanter, otherwise called Somnus and Morpheus, two very good fellows, though one was not very bright, and the other an arrant rattlebrain, who, though much listened to by some, no wise man would believe under oath.
In short, with back presented to the glare of his lamps, and so to the door, the honest barber was taking what are called cat-naps, and dreaming in his chair; so that, upon suddenly hearing the benediction above, pronounced in tones not unangelic, starting up, half awake, he stared before him, but saw nothing, for the stranger stood behind. What with cat-naps, dreams, and bewilderments, therefore, the voice seemed a sort of spiritual manifestation to him; so that, for the moment, he stood all agape, eyes fixed, and one arm in the air.
"Why, barber, are you reaching up to catch birds there with salt?"
"Ah!" turning round disenchanted, "it is only a man, then."
Bottom line for Mr. Melville: despite a few now strange-sounding turns of phrase, most contemporary English-readers will be able to understand his words, sentences and ideas more than 150 years later, cat-naps and all. The things that we have to look up or try to figure out from context, I suppose, represent the biggest changes in perception or normative communication between then and now.
Today's Rune: Fertility.