Smells of the Lamp

Said of a literary production manifestly laboured. Plutarch attributes the phrase to Pytheas the orator, who said, “The orations of Demosthenes smell of the lamp,” alluding to the current tale that the great orator lived in an underground cave lighted by a lamp, that he might have no distraction to his severe study.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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