the smell of the lamp

the smell of the lamp

Signs of arduous, overwrought effort, with an absence of freshness or vitality as a result. (Said especially of academic or literary work.) His thesis is meticulously crafted, but the paragraphs are so dry and calculated, and the paper lacks any flourish or style. As a whole, it has the smell of the lamp about it.
See also: lamp, of, smell
References in periodicals archive ?
is that there is the smell of the lamp about it: it may reflect the tastes of the judges and dons who advance it, rather than the real preferences of the commonality of mortals.