Then the hate mail started.
-- First, many authors in the 19th century were paid by the word, so they piled them on. They went after those extra words like shrimp at a salad bar, grabbing as many as they could. In this regard, excess was merely excess.
-- More importantly, the actual wordsmiths of the era used every word to heighten the mood, not just paint a picture. Merely creating a scene with long, drawn-out or extravagant sentences full of description but devoid of function in the story is considered purple prose, a notable taboo in writing. If each word contributes to a greater theme, it's valuable literary nourishment for the reader. If it just builds up the sentence then fades away, it is little more than empty calories.
Consider this famous opening sentence:
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."This sentence is evocative of a number of things, mostly a stormy London night. However, it uses a lot of extra words to basically say what was covered in the first seven words. Every word after the semicolon just reinforces what we already know, without contributing to some larger theme. And considering this is the opening of a novel, it is particularly weak because the only part of the story we know is location - London. A lot of words, very little sustenance.
If you write horror, make sure that every descriptive word contributes to that creepy mood that should envelop your story. For romance, love should be like an intoxicant filling the scenes. Gritty thrillers should have tension in every sentence possible. If your words satisfy that demand, use as many as you want. If not, why use them at all?