There is a misconception around reading levels. They are what should be, a theoretical standard, not actually reflective of many/most people at that academic/age level (note the chronic angst of university faculty regarding freshman literacy).
The bog average adult reading level for western industrialised countries is grade 9. Again on average, for entertainment most folks like to read 2-levels down (grade 7) and for serious stuff, i.e. newspapers, will read 2-levels up (grade 11).
I note that Hemmingway wrote at a grade 4 level
What that means is that ~85% of folks can read The Old Man and the Sea, ~65%Harry Potter, ~40% Jurassic Park, ~10% EGOL's doctoral thesis.
In the past writers largely wrote for their peers. And the style and vocabulary reflected this. With the advent of universal education and popular serials in newspapers writers began to write for the masses. That being where the money was/is. And, gradually, literary simplification became the new standard.
Note: because the delivery is 'simple' does not necessarily mean so too the ideas within.
Note: although, far far too often, the two are one.
With the advent of the web another style shift occurred to accommodate skimming instead of, or in adjunct to, actual reading of content.
With the current popular fixation on content grade level/reading ease critical considerations of especial interest to web content publishers are often ignored:
* is the reader able to identify with character(s)/subject(s)?
* is the reader able to take in content/ideas without consciously thinking about individual words, how smooth the conscious flow?
Note: critical for skim writing.
* does the reader learn something (new) in a way to make them act (as desired)?
As with Nny777 (have I mentioned what a truly awesome young woman she is?) I enjoy the flowery and complex, i.e. that so populated 18th century writing. Prose as poetry. Pure intoxication!
Of course, these days poetry is even more out of fashion than prose, so many homes of even the supposedly well educated being totally book-less with not even a dictionary at hand... they shall reap as they sow and deserve it greatly...
Aside: I was going to insert Alzheimer's after reap but apparently that too is bacteria of the gut.
Ah, bah! I'd complain about the younger generation except mine own is worse; so self-centred, self-righteous, and hypocritical. Idjits of all ages abound. Myself, I am but a fool. And proud of it.