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at once tripped up and silenced: is there panied my walks with dramatic dialogues, not something brave and spirited in such a in which I played many parts; and often termination? and does not life go down exercised myself in writing down converwith a better grace, foaming in full body sations from memory. over a precipice, than miserably straggling This was all excellent, no doubt; so to an end in sandy deltas? When the were the diaries I sometimes tried to keep, Greeks made their fine saying that those but always and very speedily discarded, whom the gods love die young, I cannot finding them a school of posturing and help believing they had this sort of death melancholy self-deception. And yet this also in their eye. For surely, at whatever was not the most efficient part of my age it overtake the man, this is to die training. Good though it was, it only young. Death has not been suffered to taught me (so far as I have learned them take so much as an illusion from his heart. at all) the lower and less intellectual eleIn the hot-fit of life, a tip-toe on the high- ments of the art, the choice of the essential est point of being, he passes at a bound note and the right word: things that to on to the other side. The noise of the a happier constitution had perhaps come mallet and chisel is scarcely quenched, by nature. And regarded as training, the trumpets are hardly done blowing, it had one grave defect; for it set me no when, trailing with him clouds of glory, standard of achievement. So that there this happy-starred, fullblooded spirit was perhaps more profit, as there was shoots into the spiritual land.

certainly more effort, in my secret labours

at home. Whenever I read a book or a LEARNING TO WRITE 1

passage that particularly pleased me, in

which a thing was said or an effect rendered All through my boyhood and youth, with propriety, in which there was either I was known and pointed out for the some conspicuous force or some happy pattern of an idler; and yet I was always distinction in the style, I must sit down at busy on my own private end, which was once and set myself to ape that quality. to learn to write. I kept always two I was unsuccessful, and I knew it; and books in my pocket, one to read, one to tried again, and was again unsuccessful write in. As I walked, my mind was busy and always unsuccessful; but at least fitting what I saw with appropriate words; in these vain bouts, I got some practice when I sat by the roadside, I would either

in rhythm, in harmony, in construction read, or a pencil and a penny version- and coördination of parts. I have thus book would be in my hand, to note down played the sedulous ape to Hazlitt, to the features of the scene or commemorate Lamb, to Wordsworth, to Sir Thomas some halting stanzas. Thus I lived with Browne, to Defoe, to Hawthorne, to words. And what I thus wrote was for Montaigne, to Baudelaire and to Oberno ulterior use, it was written consciously

I remember one of these monkey for practice. It was not so much that I tricks, which was called The Vanity of wished to be an author (though I wished Morals: it was to have had a second part, that too) as that I had vowed that I would The Vanity of Knowledge; and as I had learn to write. That was a proficiency neither morality nor scholarship, the that tempted me; and I practised to ac- names were apt; but the second part was quire it, as men learn to whittle, in a wager never attempted, and the first part was with myself. Description was the prin- written (which is my reason for recalling cipal field of my exercise; for to any one it, ghostlike, from its ashes) no less than with senses there is always something three times : first in the manner of Hazlitt, worth describing, and town and country second in the manner of Ruskin, who had are but one continuous subject. But I cast on me a passing spell, and third, in a worked in other ways also; often accom- laborious pasticcio of Sir Thomas Browne. 1 From A College Magazine.

So with my other works: Cain, an epic,

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to copy,

was (save the mark !) an imitation of unlike Cicero; yet no craftsman can fail Sordello: Robin Hood, a tale in verse, to see how much the one must have tried took an eclectic middle course among in his time to imitate the other. Burns is the fields of Keats, Chaucer, and Morris : the very type of a prime force in letters: in Monmouth, a tragedy, I reclined on he was of all men the most imitative. the bosom of Mr. Swinburne; in my Shakespeare himself, the imperial, proinnumerable gouty-footed lyrics, I fol- ceeds directly from a school. It is only lowed many masters; in the first draft from a school that we can expect to have of The King's Pardon, a tragedy, I was on good writers; it is almost invariably from the trail of no lesser man than John Web- a school that great writers, these lawless ster; in the second draft of the same piece, exceptions, issue. Nor is there anything with staggering versatility, I had shifted here that should astonish the considerate. my allegiance to Congreve, and of course Before he can tell what cadences he truly conceived my fable in a less serious vein prefers, the student should have tried for it was not Congreve's verse, it was his all that are possible; before he can choose exquisite prose, that I admired and sought and preserve a fitting key of words, he

Even at the age of thirteen I should long have practised the literary had tried to do justice to the inhabitants scales; and it is only after years of such of the famous city of Peebles in the style gymnastic that he can sit down at last, of the Book of Snobs. So I might go on legions of words swarming to his call, for ever, through all my abortive novels. dozens of turns of phrase simultaneously and down to my later plays, of which I bidding for his choice, and he himself think more tenderly, for they were not knowing what he wants to do and (within only conceived at first under the bracing the narrow limit of a man's ability) able influence of old Dumas, but have met to do it. with resurrections: one, strangely bettered And it is the great point of these imiby another hand, came on the stage itself tations that there still shines beyond the and was played by bodily actors; the student's reach his inimitable model. other, originally known as Semiramis: Let him try as he please, he is still sure a Tragedy, I have observed on book- of failure; and it is a very old and a very stalls under the alias of Prince Otto. But true saying that failure is the only highenough has been said to show by what road to success.

I must have had some arts of impersonation, and in what purely disposition to learn; for I clear-sightedly ventriloquial efforts I first saw my words condemned my own performances. I on paper,

liked doing them indeed; but when they That, like it or not, is the way to learn were done, I could see they were rubbish. to write; whether I have profited or not, In consequence, I rarely showed them even that is the way.

It was so Keats learned, to my friends; and such friends as I chose and there was never a finer temperament to be my confidants I must have chosen for literature than Keats’s; it was so if well, for they had the friendliness to be we could trace it out, that all men have quite plain with me. “Padding," said learned; and that is why a revival of Another wrote: “I cannot underletters is always accompanied or heralded stand why you do lyrics so badly.” No by a cast back, to earlier and fresher more could I! Thrice I put myself in models. Perhaps I hear someone cry out: the way of a more authoritative rebuff, But this is not the way to be original ! by sending a paper to a magazine. These It is not; nor is there any way but to be were returned; and I was not surprised born so. Nor yet, if you are born original, nor even pained. If they had not been is there anything in this training that looked at, as (like all amateurs) I suspected shall clip the wings of your originality. was the case, there was no good in repeatThere can be none more original than ing the experiment; if they had been Montaigne, neither could any be more looked at — well, then I had not yet learned to write, and I must keep on and “nag,” still sound in my ears like learning and living. Lastly, I had a piece poetry. One and all, at least, and each of good fortune which is the occasion of with his particular fancy, we read storythis paper, and by which I was able to see books in childhood, not for eloquence my literature in print, and to measure or character or thought, but for some experimentally how far I stood from the quality of the brute incident. That favour of the public.


quality was not mere bloodshed or wonder. Although each of these was welcome in

its place, the charm for the sake of which A GOSSIP ON ROMANCE we read depended on something different

from either. My elders used to read In anything fit to be called by the name novels aloud; and I can still remember of reading, the process itself should be four different passages which I heard, absorbing and voluptuous; we should before I was ten, with the same keen and gloat over a book, be rapt clean out of lasting pleasure. One I discovered long ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our afterwards to be the admirable opening mind filled with the busiest kaleidoscopic of What will he Do with It? It was no dance of images, incapable of sleep or of wonder that I was pleased with that. continuous thought. The words, if the The other three still remain unidentified. book be eloquent, should run thence- One is a little

vague; was about a dark, forward in our ears like the noise of break- tall house at night, and people groping ers, and the story — if it be a story on the stairs by the light that escaped repeat itself in a thousand coloured pic- from the open door of a sickroom. In tures to the eye. It was for this last another, a lover left a ball, and went walkpleasure that we read so closely, and ing in a cool, dewy park, whence he could loved our books so dearly, in the bright, watch the lighted windows and the figures troubled period of boyhood. Eloquence of the dancers as they moved. This was and thought, character and conversation, the most sentimental impression I think were but obstacles to brush aside as we I had yet received, for a child is somewhat dug blithely after a certain sort of incident, deaf to the sentimental. In the last, like a pig for truffles. For my part, I a poet, who had been tragically wrangling liked a story to begin with an old way- with his wife, walked forth on the seaside inn where, "towards the close of the beach on a tempestuous night and wityear 17-," several gentlemen in three- nessed the horrors of a wreck. Different cocked hats were playing bowls. A friend as they are, all these early favourites have of mine preferred the Malabar coast in a a common note — they have all a touch storm, with a ship beating to westward, of the romantic. and a scowling fellow of herculean propor- Drama is the poetry of conduct, romance tions striding along the beach; he, to be the poetry of circumstance. The pleasure sure, was a pirate. This was further that we take in life is of two sorts the afield than my home-keeping fancy loved active and the passive. Now we are conto travel, and designed altogether for a scious of a great command over our deslarger canvas than the tales that I affected. tiny; anon we are lifted up by circumGive me a highwayman and I was full to stance, as by a breaking wave, and dashed the brim; a Jacobite would do, but the we know not how into the future. Now highwayman was my favourite dish. I we are pleased by our conduct, anon can still hear that merry clatter of the merely pleased by our surroundings. It hoofs along the moonlit lane; night and would be hard to say which of these modes the coming of day are still related in my of satisfaction is the more effective, but mind with the doings of John Rann or

1 Since traced by many obliging correspondents Jerry Abershaw; and the words “post

to the gallery of Charles Kingsley. (Stevenson's chaise," the "great North road," "ostler," note.)


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the latter is surely the more constant. suggestive and impenetrable, “miching Conduct is three parts of life, they say; mallecho.” The inn at Burford Bridge, but I think they put it high. There is with its arbours and green garden and a vast deal in life and letters both which silent, eddying river — though it is known is not immoral, but simply a-moral; already as the place where Keats wrote which either does not regard the human some of his Endymion and Nelson parted will at all, or deals with it in obvious and from his Emma still seems to wait the healthy relations; where the interest coming of the appropriate legend. Within turns, not upon what a man shall choose these ivied walls, behind these old green to do, but on how he manages to do it; shutters, some further business smoulders, not on the passionate slips and hesitations waiting for its hour. The old Hawes of the conscience, but on the problems Inn at the Queen's Ferry makes a similar of the body and of the practical intelli- call upon my fancy. There it stands, gence, in clean, open-air adventure, the apart from the town, beside the pier, in shock of arms or the diplomacy of life. a climate of its own, half inland, half With such material as this it is impossible marine — in front,

marine -- in front, the ferry bubbling to build a play, for the serious theatre with the tide and the guardship swingexists solely on moral grounds, and is a ing to her anchor; behind, the old garden standing proof of the dissemination of with the trees. Americans seek it already the human conscience. But it is possible for the sake of Lovel and Oldbuck, who to build upon this ground the most joyous dined there at the beginning of The Antiof verses, and the most lively, beautiful, quary. But you need not tell me — that and buoyant tales.

is not all; there is some story, unrecorded One thing in life calls for another; or not yet complete, which must express there is a fitness in events and places. the meaning of that inn more fully. So The sight of a pleasant arbour puts it in it is with names and faces; so it is with our mind to sit there. One place suggests incidents that are idle and inconclusive work, another idleness, a third early in themselves, and yet seem like the berising and long rambles in the dew. The ginning of some quaint romance, which effect of night, of any flowing water, of the all-careless author leaves untold. lighted cities, of the peep of day, of ships, How many of these romances have we of the open ocean, calls up in the mind not seen determined at their birth; how an army of anonymous desires and pleas- many people have met us with a look of ures. Something, we feel, should happen; meaning in their eye, and sunk at once we know not what, yet we proceed in quest

into trivial acquaintances; to how many of it. And many of the happiest hours places have we not drawn near, with exof life fleet by us in this vain attendance press intimations — “here my destiny on the genius of the place and moment. awaits me” — and we have but dined It is thus that tracts of young fir, and there and passed on! I have lived both low rocks that reach into deep soundings, at the Hawes and Burford in a perpetual particularly torture and delight me. flutter, on the heels, as it seemed, of some Something must have happened in such adventure that should justify the place: places, and perhaps ages back, to mem- but though the feeling had me to bed at bers of my race; and when I was a child night and called me again at morning I tried in vain to invent appropriate games in one unbroken round of pleasure and for them, as I still try, just as vainly, to suspense, nothing befell me in either fit them with the proper story. Some

worth remark. The man of the hour places speak distinctly. Certain dank had not yet come; but some day, I gardens cry aloud for a murder; certain think, a boat shall put off from the old houses demand to be haunted; certain Queen's Ferry, fraught with a dear cargo, coasts are set apart for shipwreck. Other and some frosty night a horseman, on spots again seem to abide their destiny, a tragic errand, rattle with his whip upon the green shutters of the inn at impression. This, then, is the plastic Burford."

part of literature: to embody character, Now this is one of the natural appetites thought, or emotion in some act or attiwith which any lively literature has to tude that shall be remarkably striking count. The desire for knowledge, I had to the mind's eye. This is the highest almost added the desire for meat, is not and hardest thing to do in words; the more deeply seated than this demand for thing which, once accomplished, equally fit and striking incident. The dullest delights the schoolboy and the sage, and of clowns tells, or tries to tell, himself a makes, in its own right, the quality of story, as the feeblest of children uses in- epics. Compared with this, all other vention in his play; and even as the imagi- purposes in literature, except the purely native grown person, joining in the game, lyrical or the purely philosophic, are at once enriches it with many delightful bastard in nature, facile of execution, and circumstances, the great creative writer feeble in result. It is one thing to write shows us the realization and the apotheosis about the inn at Burford, or to describe of the day-dreams of common men. His scenery with the word-painters; it is stories

may be nourished with the realities quite another to seize on the heart of the of life, but their true mark is to satisfy suggestion and make a country famous the nameless longings of the reader, and with a legend. It is one thing to remark to obey the ideal laws of the day-dream. and to dissect, with the most cutting logic, The right kind of thing should fall out in the complications of life and of the human the right kind of place; the right kind spirit; it is quite another to give them of thing should follow; and not only the body and blood in the story of Ajax or characters talk aptly and think naturally, of Hamlet. The first is literature, but but all the circumstances in a tale answer the second is something besides, for it is one to another like notes in music. The likewise art. threads of a story come from time to time English people of the present day are together, and make a picture in the web; apt, I know not why, to look somewhat the characters fall from time to time into down on incident, and reserve their adsome attitude to each other or to nature, miration for the clink of teaspoons and the which stamps the story home like an accents of the curate. It is thought illustration. Crusoe recoiling from the clever to write a novel with no story at all, footprint, Achilles shouting over against or at least with a very dull one. Reduced the Trojans, Ulysses bending the great even to the lowest terms, a certain interest bow, Christian running with his fingers can be communicated by the art of narrain his ears, – these are each culminating tive, a sense of human kinship stirred; moments in the legend, and each has been and a kind of monotonous fitness, comprinted on the mind's eye forever. Other parable to the words and air of “Sandy's things we may forget; we may forget Mull," preserved among the infinitesimal the words, although they are beautiful; occurrences recorded. Some people work we may forget the author's comment, al- in this manner, with even a strong touch. though perhaps it was ingenious and true; Mr. Trollope's inimitable clergymen arise but these epoch-making scenes, which to the mind in this connection. But put the last mark of truth upon a story even Mr. Trollope does not confine himand fill up at one blow our capacity for self to chronicling small beer. Mr. Crawsympathetic pleasure, we so adopt into ley's collision with the bishop's wife, Mr. the very bosom of our mind that neither Melnotte dallying in the deserted banquettime nor tide can efface or weaken the room, are typical incidents, epically con

ceived, fitly embodying a crisis. Or 1 Since the above was written I have tried to launch the boat with my own hand in Kidnapped.

again look at Thackeray. If Rawdon Some day, perhaps, I may try a rattle at the

Crawley's blow were not delivered, Vanity shutters.' (Stevenson’s note.]

Fair would cease to be a work of art.

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