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Autobiography of Anthony Trollope by Anthony Trollope

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without cards I should now be much at a loss. When I began to play
at the Garrick, I did so simply because I liked the society of the
men who played.

I think that I became popular among those with whom I associated.
I have long been aware of a certain weakness in my own character,
which I may call a craving for love. I have ever had a wish to be
liked by those around me,--a wish that during the first half of
my life was never gratified. In my school-days no small part of my
misery came from the envy with which I regarded the popularity of
popular boys. They seemed to me to live in a social paradise, while
the desolation of my pandemonium was complete. And afterwards,
when I was in London as a young man, I had but few friends. Among
the clerks in the Post Office I held my own fairly for the first
two or three years; but even then I regarded myself as something of
a pariah. My Irish life had been much better. I had had my wife and
children, and had been sustained by a feeling of general respect.
But even in Ireland I had in truth lived but little in society.
Our means had been sufficient for our wants, but insufficient for
entertaining others. It was not till we had settled ourselves at
Waltham that I really began to live much with others. The Garrick
Club was the first assemblage of men at which I felt myself to be

I soon became a member of other clubs. There was the Arts Club in
Hanover Square, of which I saw the opening, but from which, after
three or four years, I withdrew my name, having found that during
these three or four years I had not once entered the building.
Then I was one of the originators of the Civil Service Club--not
from judgment, but instigated to do so by others. That also I left
for the same reason. In 1864 I received the honour of being elected
by the Committee at the Athenaeum. For this I was indebted to the
kindness of Lord Stanhope; and I never was more surprised than when
I was informed of the fact. About the same time I became a member
of the Cosmopolitan, a little club that meets twice a week in
Charles Street, Berkeley Square, and supplies to all its members,
and its members' friends, tea and brandy and water without charge!
The gatherings there I used to think very delightful. One met
Jacob Omnium, Monckton Mimes, Tom Hughes, William Stirling, Henry
Reeve, Arthur Russell, Tom Taylor, and such like; and generally
a strong political element, thoroughly well mixed, gave a certain
spirit to the place. Lord Ripon, Lord Stanley, William Forster,
Lord Enfield, Lord Kimberley, George Bentinck, Vernon Harcourt,
Bromley Davenport, Knatchbull Huguessen, with many others, used to
whisper the secrets of Parliament with free tongues. Afterwards I
became a member of the Turf, which I found to be serviceable--or
the reverse--only for the playing of whist at high points.

In August, 1861, I wrote another novel for the Cornhill Magazine.
It was a short story, about one volume in length, and was called
The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson. In this I attempted a
style for which I certainly was not qualified, and to which I never
had again recourse. It was meant to be funny, was full of slang,
and was intended as a satire on the ways of trade. Still I think
that there is some good fun it it, but I have heard no one else
express such an opinion. I do not know that I ever heard any opinion
expressed on it, except by the publisher, who kindly remarked
that he did not think it was equal to my usual work. Though he had
purchased the copyright, he did not republish the story in a book
form till 1870, and then it passed into the world of letters sub
silentio. I do not know that it was ever criticised or ever read.
I received œ600 for it. From that time to this I have been paid at
about that rate for my work--œ600 for the quantity contained in
an ordinary novel volume, or œ3000 for a long tale published in
twenty parts, which is equal in length to five such volumes. I have
occasionally, I think, received something more than this, never
I think less for any tale, except when I have published my work
anonymously. [Footnote: Since the date at which this was written
I have encountered a diminution in price.] Having said so much, I
need not further specify the prices as I mention the books as they
were written. I will, however, when I am completing this memoir,
give a list of all the sums I have received for my literary labours.
I think that Brown, Jones and Robinson was the hardest bargain I
ever sold to a publisher.

In 1861 the War of Secession had broken out in America, and from
the first I interested myself much in the question. My mother
had thirty years previously written a very popular, but, as I had
thought, a somewhat unjust book about our cousins over the water.
She had seen what was distasteful in the manners of a young people,
but had hardly recognised their energy. I had entertained for
many years an ambition to follow her footsteps there, and to write
another book. I had already paid a short visit to New York City and
State on my way home from the West Indies, but had not seen enough
then to justify me in the expression of any opinion. The breaking
out of the war did not make me think that the time was peculiarly
fit for such inquiry as I wished to make, but it did represent itself
as an occasion on which a book might be popular. I consequently
consulted the two great powers with whom I was concerned. Messrs.
Chapman & Hall, the publishers, were one power, and I had no difficulty
in arranging my affairs with them. They agreed to publish the book
on my terms, and bade me God-speed on my journey. The other power
was the Postmaster-General and Mr. Rowland Hill, the Secretary of
the Post Office. I wanted leave of absence for the unusual period
of nine months, and fearing that I should not get it by the ordinary
process of asking the Secretary, I went direct to his lordship.
"Is it on the plea of ill-health?" he asked, looking into my face,
which was then that of a very robust man. His lordship knew the
Civil Service as well as any one living, and must have seen much
of falseness and fraudulent pretence, or he could not have asked
that question. I told him that I was very well, but that I wanted
to write a book. "Had I any special ground to go upon in asking for
such indulgence?" I had, I said, done my duty well by the service.
There was a good deal of demurring, but I got my leave for nine
months,--and I knew that I had earned it. Mr. Hill attached to
the minute granting me the leave an intimation that it was to be
considered as a full equivalent for the special services rendered
by me to the department. I declined, however, to accept the grace
with such a stipulation, and it was withdrawn by the directions of
the Postmaster-General. [Footnote: During the period of my service
in the Post Office I did very much special work for which I never
asked any remuneration,--and never received any, though payments
for special services were common in the department at that time.
But if there was to be a question of such remuneration, I did not
choose that my work should be valued at the price put upon it by
Mr. Hill.]

I started for the States in August and returned in the following
May. The war was raging during the time that I was there, and the
country was full of soldiers. A part of the time I spent in Virginia,
Kentucky, and Missouri, among the troops, along the line of attack.
I visited all the States (excepting California) which had not then
seceded,--failing to make my way into the seceding States unless I
was prepared to visit them with an amount of discomfort I did not
choose to endure. I worked very hard at the task I had assigned to
myself, and did, I think, see much of the manners and institutions
of the people. Nothing struck me more than their persistence in
the ordinary pursuits of life in spite of the war which was around
them. Neither industry nor amusement seemed to meet with any check.
Schools, hospitals, and institutes were by no means neglected
because new regiments were daily required. The truth, I take it,
is that we, all of us, soon adapt ourselves to the circumstances
around us. Though three parts of London were in flames I should
no doubt expect to have my dinner served to me if I lived in the
quarter which was free from fire.

The book I wrote was very much longer than that on the West Indies,
but was also written almost without a note. It contained much
information, and, with many inaccuracies, was a true book. But it
was not well done. It is tedious and confused, and will hardly,
I think, be of future value to those who wish to make themselves
acquainted with the United States. It was published about the
middle of the war,--just at the time in which the hopes of those
who loved the South were I most buoyant, and the fears of those who
stood by the North were the strongest. But it expressed an assured
confidence--which never quavered in a page or in a line--that the
North would win. This assurance was based on the merits of the
Northern cause, on the superior strength of the Northern party,
and on a conviction that England would never recognise the South,
and that France would be guided in her policy by England. I was
right in my prophecies, and right, I think, on the grounds on which
they were made. The Southern cause was bad. The South had provoked
the quarrel because its political supremacy was checked by the election
of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency. It had to fight as a little man
against a big man, and fought gallantly. That gallantry,--and a
feeling based on a misconception as to American character that the
Southerners are better gentlemen than their Northern brethren,--did
create great sympathy here; but I believe that the country was too
just to be led into political action by a spirit of romance, and
I was warranted in that belief. There was a moment in which the
Northern cause was in danger, and the danger lay certainly in the
prospect of British interference. Messrs. Slidell and Mason,--two
men insignificant in themselves,--had been sent to Europe by the
Southern party, and had managed to get on board the British mail
steamer called "The Trent," at the Havannah. A most undue importance
was attached to this mission by Mr. Lincoln's government, and
efforts were made to stop them. A certain Commodore Wilkes, doing
duty as policeman on the seas, did stop the "Trent," and took the
men out. They were carried, one to Boston and one to New York,
and were incarcerated, amidst the triumph of the nation. Commodore
Wilkes, who had done nothing in which a brave man could take glory,
was made a hero and received a prize sword. England of course
demanded her passengers back, and the States for a while refused
to surrender them. But Mr. Seward was at that time the Secretary
of State, and Mr. Seward, with many political faults, was a wise
man. I was at Washington at the time, and it was known there that
the contest among the leading Northerners was very sharp on the
matter. Mr. Sumner and Mr. Seward were, under Mr. Lincoln, the two
chiefs of the party. It was understood that Mr. Sumner was opposed
to the rendition of the men, and Mr. Seward in favour of it. Mr.
Seward's counsels at last prevailed with the President, and England's
declaration of war was prevented. I dined with Mr. Seward on the
day of the decision, meeting Mr. Sumner at his house, and was told
as I left the dining-room what the decision had been. During the
afternoon I and others had received intimation through the embassy
that we might probably have to leave Washington at an hour's
notice. This, I think, was the severest danger that the Northern
cause encountered during the war.

But my book, though it was right in its views on this subject,--and
wrong in none other as far as I know,--was not a good book. I can
recommend no one to read it now in order that he may be either
instructed or amused,--as I can do that on the West Indies. It
served its purpose at the time, and was well received by the public
and by the critics.

Before starting to America I had completed Orley Farm, a novel which
appeared in shilling numbers,--after the manner in which Pickwick,
Nicholas Nickleby, and many others had been published. Most of
those among my friends who talk to me now about my novels, and are
competent to form an opinion on the subject, say that this is the
best I have written. In this opinion I do not coincide. I think
that the highest merit which a novel can have consists in perfect
delineation of character, rather than in plot, or humour, or pathos,
and I shall before long mention a subsequent work in which I think
the main character of the story is so well developed as to justify
me in asserting its claim above the others. The plot of Orley Farm
is probably the best I have ever made; but it has the fault of
declaring itself, and thus coming to an end too early in the book.
When Lady Mason tells her ancient lover that she did forge the
will, the plot of Orley Farm has unravelled itself;--and this she
does in the middle of the tale. Independently, however, of this the
novel is good. Sir Peregrine Orme, his grandson, Madeline Stavely,
Mr. Furnival, Mr. Chaffanbrass, and the commercial gentlemen,
are all good. The hunting is good. The lawyer's talk is good. Mr.
Moulder carves his turkey admirably, and Mr. Kantwise sells his
tables and chairs with spirit. I do not know that there is a dull
page in the book. I am fond of Orley Farm;--and am especially fond
of its illustrations by Millais, which are the best I have seen in
any novel in any language.

I now felt that I had gained my object. In 1862 I had achieved that
which I contemplated when I went to London in 1834, and towards which
I made my first attempt when I began the Macdermots in 1843. I had
created for myself a position among literary men, and had secured
to myself an income on which I might live in ease and comfort,--which
ease and comfort have been made to include many luxuries. From this
time for a period of twelve years my income averaged œ4500 a year.
Of this I spent about two-thirds, and put by one. I ought perhaps
to have done better,--to have spent one-third, and put by two; but
I have ever been too well inclined to spend freely that which has
come easily.

This, however, has been so exactly the life which my thoughts and
aspirations had marked out,--thoughts and aspirations which used
to cause me to blush with shame because I was so slow in forcing
myself to the work which they demanded,--that I have felt some pride
in having attained it. I have before said how entirely I fail to
reach the altitude of those who think that a man devoted to letters
should be indifferent to the pecuniary results for which work is
generally done. An easy income has always been regarded by me as
a great blessing. Not to have to think of sixpences, or very much
of shillings; not to be unhappy because the coals have been burned
too quickly, and the house linen wants renewing; not to be debarred
by the rigour of necessity from opening one's hands, perhaps
foolishly, to one's friends;--all this to me has been essential to
the comfort of life. I have enjoyed the comfort for I may almost
say the last twenty years, though no man in his youth had less
prospect of doing so, or would have been less likely at twenty-five
to have had such luxuries foretold to him by his friends.

But though the money has been sweet, the respect, the friendships, and
the mode of life which has been achieved, have been much sweeter.
In my boyhood, when I would be crawling up to school with dirty
boots and trousers through the muddy lanes, I was always telling
myself that the misery of the hour was not the worst of it, but
that the mud and solitude and poverty of the time would insure me
mud and solitude and poverty through my life. Those lads about me
would go into Parliament, or become rectors and deans, or squires
of parishes, or advocates thundering at the Bar. They would not
live with me now,--but neither should I be able to live with them
in after years. Nevertheless I have lived with them. When, at the
age in which others go to the universities, I became a clerk in
the Post Office, I felt that my old visions were being realised. I
did not think it a high calling. I did not know then how very much
good work may be done by a member of the Civil Service who will show
himself capable of doing it. The Post Office at last grew upon me
and forced itself into my affections. I became intensely anxious
that people should have their letters delivered to them punctually.
But my hope to rise had always been built on the writing of novels,
and at last by the writing of novels I had risen.

I do not think that I ever toadied any one, or that I have acquired
the character of a tuft-hunter. But here I do not scruple to say
that I prefer the society of distinguished people, and that even the
distinction of wealth confers many advantages. The best education
is to be had at a price as well as the best broadcloth. The son
of a peer is more likely to rub his shoulders against well-informed
men than the son of a tradesman. The graces come easier to the
wife of him who has had great-grandfathers than they do to her
whose husband has been less,--or more fortunate, as he may think
it. The discerning man will recognise the information and the graces
when they are achieved without such assistance, and will honour
the owners of them the more because of the difficulties they have
overcome;--but the fact remains that the society of the well-born
and of the wealthy will as a rule be worth seeking. I say this
now, because these are the rules by which I have lived, and these
are the causes which have instigated me to work.

I have heard the question argued--On what terms should a man of
inferior rank live with those who are manifestly superior to him?
If a marquis or an earl honour me, who have no rank, with his
intimacy, am I in my intercourse with him to remember our close
acquaintance or his high rank? I have always said that where the
difference in position is quite marked, the overtures to intimacy
should always come from the higher rank; but if the intimacy be
ever fixed, then that rank should be held of no account. It seems
to me that intimate friendship admits of no standing but that
of equality. I cannot be the Sovereign's friend, nor probably the
friend of many very much beneath the Sovereign, because such equality
is impossible.

When I first came to Waltham Cross in the winter of 1859-1860, I had
almost made up my mind that my hunting was over. I could not then
count upon an income which would enable me to carry on an amusement
which I should doubtless find much more expensive in England than
in Ireland. I brought with me out of Ireland one mare, but she was
too light for me to ride in the hunting-field. As, however, the
money came in, I very quickly fell back into my old habits. First
one horse was bought, then another, and then a third, till it became
established as a fixed rule that I should not have less than four
hunters in the stable. Sometimes when my boys have been at home
I have had as many as six. Essex was the chief scene of my sport,
and gradually I became known there almost as well as though I had
been an Essex squire, to the manner born. Few have investigated more
closely than I have done the depth, and breadth, and water-holding
capacities of an Essex ditch. It will, I think, be accorded to me
by Essex men generally that I have ridden hard. The cause of my
delight in the amusement I have never been able to analyse to my
own satisfaction. In the first place, even now, I know very little
about hunting,--though I know very much of the accessories of the
field. I am too blind to see hounds turning, and cannot therefore
tell whether the fox has gone this way or that. Indeed all the
notice I take of hounds is not to ride over them. My eyes are so
constituted that I can never see the nature of a fence. I either
follow some one, or ride at it with the full conviction that I
may be going into a horse-pond or a gravel-pit. I have jumped into
both one and the other. I am very heavy, and have never ridden
expensive horses. I am also now old for such work, being so stiff
that I cannot get on to my horse without the aid of a block or a
bank. But I ride still after the same fashion, with a boy's energy,
determined to get ahead if it may possibly be done, hating the
roads, despising young men who ride them, and with a feeling that
life can not, with all her riches, have given me anything better
than when I have gone through a long run to the finish, keeping a
place, not of glory, but of credit, among my juniors.



During the early months of 1862 Orley Farm was still being brought
out in numbers, and at the same time Brown, Jones and Robinson was
appearing in the Cornhill Magazine. In September, 1862, the Small
House at Allington began its career in the same periodical. The
work on North America had also come out in 1862. In August, 1863,
the first number of Can You Forgive Her? was published as a separate
serial, and was continued through 1864. In 1863 a short novel was
produced in the ordinary volume form, called Rachel Ray. In addition
to these I published during the time two volumes of stories called
The Tales of all Countries. In the early spring of 1865 Miss Mackenzie
was issued in the same form as Rachel Ray; and in May of the same
year The Belton Estate was commenced with the commencement of the
Fortnightly Review, of which periodical I will say a few words in
this chapter.

I quite admit that I crowded my wares into the market too
quickly,--because the reading world could not want such a quantity
of matter from the hands of one author in so short a space of
time. I had not been quite so fertile as the unfortunate gentleman
who disgusted the publisher in Paternoster Row,--in the story of
whose productiveness I have always thought there was a touch of
romance,--but I had probably done enough to make both publishers
and readers think that I was coming too often beneath their notice.
Of publishers, however, I must speak collectively, as my sins
were, I think, chiefly due to the encouragement which I received
from them individually. What I wrote for the Cornhill Magazine, I
always wrote at the instigation of Mr. Smith. My other works were
published by Messrs. Chapman & Hall, in compliance with contracts
made by me with them, and always made with their good-will. Could
I have been two separate persons at one and the same time, of whom
one might have been devoted to Cornhill and the other to the interests
of the firm in Piccadilly, it might have been very well;--but as
I preserved my identity in both places, I myself became aware that
my name was too frequent on titlepages.

Critics, if they ever trouble themselves with these pages, will, of
course, say that in what I have now said I have ignored altogether
the one great evil of rapid production,--namely, that of inferior
work. And of course if the work was inferior because of the too
great rapidity of production, the critics would be right. Giving
to the subject the best of my critical abilities, and judging of
my own work as nearly as possible as I would that of another, I
believe that the work which has been done quickest has been done
the best. I have composed better stories--that is, have created
better plots--than those of The Small House at Allington and Can
You Forgive Her? and I have portrayed two or three better characters
than are to be found in the pages of either of them; but taking
these books all through, I do not think that I have ever done better
work. Nor would these have been improved by any effort in the art
of story telling, had each of these been the isolated labour of a
couple of years. How short is the time devoted to the manipulation
of a plot can be known only to those who have written plays and
novels; I may say also, how very little time the brain is able
to devote to such wearing work. There are usually some hours of
agonising doubt, almost of despair,--so at least it has been with
me,--or perhaps some days. And then, with nothing settled in my
brain as to the final development of events, with no capability
of settling anything, but with a most distinct conception of some
character or characters, I have rushed at the work as a rider rushes
at a fence which he does not see. Sometimes I have encountered
what, in hunting language, we call a cropper. I had such a fall in
two novels of mine, of which I have already spoken--The Bertrams
and Castle Richmond. I shall have to speak of other such troubles.
But these failures have not arisen from over-hurried work. When my
work has been quicker done,--and it has sometimes been done very
quickly--the rapidity has been achieved by hot pressure, not in
the conception, but in the telling of the story. Instead of writing
eight pages a day, I have written sixteen; instead of working five
days a week, I have worked seven. I have trebled my usual average,
and have done so in circumstances which have enabled me to give
up all my thoughts for the time to the book I have been writing.
This has generally been done at some quiet spot among the
mountains,--where there has been no society, no hunting, no whist,
no ordinary household duties. And I am sure that the work so done
has had in it the best truth and the highest spirit that I have
been able to produce. At such times I have been able to imbue myself
thoroughly with the characters I have had in hand. I have wandered
alone among the rocks and woods, crying at their grief, laughing at
their absurdities, and thoroughly enjoying their joy. I have been
impregnated with my own creations till it has been my only excitement
to sit with the pen in my hand, and drive my team before me at as
quick a pace as I could make them travel.

The critics will again say that all this may be very well as to
the rough work of the author's own brain, but it will be very far
from well in reference to the style in which that work has been
given to the public. After all, the vehicle which a writer uses for
conveying his thoughts to the public should not be less important
to him than the thoughts themselves. An author can hardly hope to
be popular unless he can use popular language. That is quite true;
but then comes the question of achieving a popular--in other words,
I may say, a good and lucid style. How may an author best acquire
a mode of writing which shall be agreeable and easily intelligible
to the reader? He must be correct, because without correctness he
can be neither agreeable nor intelligible. Readers will expect him
to obey those rules which they, consciously or unconsciously, have
been taught to regard as binding on language; and unless he does
obey them, he will disgust. Without much labour, no writer will
achieve such a style. He has very much to learn; and, when he has
learned that much, he has to acquire the habit of using what he has
learned with ease. But all this must be learned and acquired,--not
while he is writing that which shall please, but long before. His
language must come from him as music comes from the rapid touch of
the great performer's fingers; as words come from the mouth of the
indignant orator; as letters fly from the fingers of the trained
compositor; as the syllables tinkled out by little bells form
themselves to the ear of the telegraphist. A man who thinks much of
his words as he writes them will generally leave behind him work
that smells of oil. I speak here, of course, of prose; for in poetry
we know what care is necessary, and we form our taste accordingly.

Rapid writing will no doubt give rise to inaccuracy,--chiefly because
the ear, quick and true as may be its operation, will occasionally
break down under pressure, and, before a sentence be closed, will
forget the nature of the composition with which it was commenced.
A singular nominative will be disgraced by a plural verb, because
other pluralities have intervened and have tempted the ear into
plural tendencies. Tautologies will occur, because the ear, in
demanding fresh emphasis, has forgotten that the desired force has
been already expressed. I need not multiply these causes of error,
which must have been stumbling-blocks indeed when men wrote in the
long sentences of Gibbon, but which Macaulay, with his multiplicity
of divisions, has done so much to enable us to avoid. A rapid writer
will hardly avoid these errors altogether. Speaking of myself, I
am ready to declare that, with much training, I have been unable to
avoid them. But the writer for the press is rarely called upon--a
writer of books should never be called upon--to send his manuscript
hot from his hand to the printer. It has been my practice to read
everything four times at least--thrice in manuscript and once in
print. Very much of my work I have read twice in print. In spite
of this I know that inaccuracies have crept through,--not single
spies, but in battalions. From this I gather that the supervision
has been insufficient, not that the work itself has been done too
fast. I am quite sure that those passages which have been written
with the greatest stress of labour, and consequently with the
greatest haste, have been the most effective and by no means the
most inaccurate.

The Small House at Allington redeemed my reputation with the spirited
proprietor of the Cornhill, which must, I should think, have been
damaged by Brown, Jones, and Robinson. In it appeared Lily Dale,
one of the characters which readers of my novels have liked the
best. In the love with which she has been greeted I have hardly
joined with much enthusiasm, feeling that she is somewhat of a
French prig. She became first engaged to a snob, who jilted her;
and then, though in truth she loved another man who was hardly
good enough, she could not extricate herself sufficiently from the
collapse of her first great misfortune to be able to make up her
mind to be the wife of one whom, though she loved him, she did not
altogether reverence. Prig as she was, she made her way into the
hearts of many readers, both young and old; so that, from that time
to this, I have been continually honoured with letters, the purport
of which has always been to beg me to marry Lily Dale to Johnny
Eames. Had I done so, however, Lily would never have so endeared
herself to these people as to induce them to write letters to the
author concerning her fate. It was because she could not get over
her troubles that they loved her. Outside Lily Dale and the chief
interest of the novel, The Small House at Allington is, I think,
good. The De Courcy family are alive, as is also Sir Raffle Buffle,
who is a hero of the Civil Service. Sir Raffle was intended to
represent a type, not a man; but the man for the picture was soon
chosen, and I was often assured that the portrait was very like.
I have never seen the gentleman with whom I am supposed to have
taken the liberty. There is also an old squire down at Allington,
whose life as a country gentleman with rather straitened means is,
I think, well described.

Of Can you Forgive Her? I cannot speak with too great affection,
though I do not know that of itself it did very much to increase
my reputation. As regards the story, it was formed chiefly on that
of the play which my friend Mr. Bartley had rejected long since,
the circumstances of which the reader may perhaps remember. The
play had been called The Noble Jilt; but I was afraid of the name
for a novel, lest the critics might throw a doubt on the nobility.
There was more of tentative humility in that which I at last adopted.
The character of the girl is carried through with considerable
strength, but is not attractive. The humorous characters, which are
also taken from the play,--a buxom widow who with her eyes open
chooses the most scampish of two selfish suitors because he is
the better looking,--are well done. Mrs. Greenow, between Captain
Bellfield and Mr. Cheeseacre, is very good fun--as far as the fun
of novels is. But that which endears the book to me is the first
presentation which I made in it of Plantagenet Palliser, with his
wife, Lady Glencora.

By no amount of description or asseveration could I succeed in
making any reader understand how much these characters with their
belongings have been to me in my latter life; or how frequently
I have used them for the expression of my political or social
convictions. They have been as real to me as free trade was to Mr.
Cobden, or the dominion of a party to Mr. Disraeli; and as I have
not been able to speak from the benches of the House of Commons,
or to thunder from platforms, or to be efficacious as a lecturer,
they have served me as safety-valves by which to deliver my soul.
Mr. Plantagenet Palliser had appeared in The Small House at Allington,
but his birth had not been accompanied by many hopes. In the last
pages of that novel he is made to seek a remedy for a foolish
false step in life by marrying the grand heiress of the day;--but
the personage of the great heiress does not appear till she comes
on the scene as a married woman in Can You Forgive Her? He is
the nephew and heir to a duke--the Duke of Omnium--who was first
introduced in Doctor Thorne, and afterwards in Framley Parsonage,
and who is one of the belongings of whom I have spoken. In these
personages and their friends, political and social, I have endeavoured
to depict the faults and frailties and vices,--as also the virtues,
the graces, and the strength of our highest classes; and if I have
not made the strength and virtues predominant over the faults and
vices, I have not painted the picture as I intended. Plantagenet
Palliser I think to be a very noble gentleman,--such a one as justifies
to the nation the seeming anomaly of an hereditary peerage and of
primogeniture. His wife is in all respects very inferior to him;
but she, too, has, or has been intended to have, beneath the thin
stratum of her follies a basis of good principle, which enabled her
to live down the conviction of the original wrong which was done
to her, and taught her to endeavour to do her duty in the position
to which she was called. She had received a great wrong,--having
been made, when little more than a child, to marry a man for whom
she cared nothing;--when, however, though she was little more than
a child, her love had been given elsewhere. She had very heavy
troubles, but they did not overcome her.

As to the heaviest of these troubles, I will say a word in vindication
of myself and of the way I handled it in my work. In the pages of
Can You Forgive Her? the girl's first love is introduced,--beautiful,
well-born, and utterly worthless. To save a girl from wasting
herself, and an heiress from wasting her property on such a scamp,
was certainly the duty of the girl's friends. But it must ever
be wrong to force a girl into a marriage with a man she does not
love,--and certainly the more so when there is another whom she does
love. In my endeavour to teach this lesson I subjected the young
wife to the terrible danger of overtures from the man to whom her
heart had been given. I was walking no doubt on ticklish ground,
leaving for a while a doubt on the question whether the lover
might or might not succeed. Then there came to me a letter from a
distinguished dignitary of our Church, a man whom all men honoured,
treating me with severity for what I was doing. It had been one
of the innocent joys of his life, said the clergyman, to have my
novels read to him by his daughters. But now I was writing a book
which caused him to bid them close it! Must I also turn away to
vicious sensation such as this? Did I think that a wife contemplating
adultery was a character fit for my pages? I asked him in return,
whether from his pulpit, or at any rate from his communion-table,
he did not denounce adultery to his audience; and if so, why should
it not be open to me to preach the same doctrine to mine. I made
known nothing which the purest girl could not but have learned,
and ought not to have learned, elsewhere, and I certainly lent no
attraction to the sin which I indicated. His rejoinder was full
of grace, and enabled him to avoid the annoyance of argumentation
without abandoning his cause. He said that the subject was so much
too long for letters; that he hoped I would go and stay a week with
him in the country,--so that we might have it out. That opportunity,
however, has never yet arrived.

Lady Glencora overcomes that trouble, and is brought, partly by her
own sense of right and wrong, and partly by the genuine nobility
of her husband's conduct, to attach herself to him after a certain
fashion. The romance of her life is gone, but there remains a
rich reality of which she is fully able to taste the flavour. She
loves her rank and becomes ambitious, first of social, and then of
political ascendancy. He is thoroughly true to her, after his thorough
nature, and she, after her less perfect nature, is imperfectly true
to him.

In conducting these characters from one story to another I realised
the necessity, not only of consistency,--which, had it been maintained
by a hard exactitude, would have been untrue to nature,--but also
of those changes which time always produces. There, are, perhaps,
but few of us who, after the lapse of ten years, will be found to
have changed our chief characteristics. The selfish man will still
be selfish, and the false man false. But our manner of showing or
of hiding these characteristics will be changed,--as also our power
of adding to or diminishing their intensity. It was my study that
these people, as they grew in years, should encounter the changes
which come upon us all; and I think that I have succeeded. The
Duchess of Omnium, when she is playing the part of Prime Minister's
wife, is the same woman as that Lady Glencora who almost longs to
go off with Burgo Fitzgerald, but yet knows that she will never do
so; and the Prime Minister Duke, with his wounded pride and sore
spirit, is he who, for his wife's sake, left power and place when
they were first offered to him;--but they have undergone the changes
which a life so stirring as theirs would naturally produce. To do
all this thoroughly was in my heart from first to last; but I do
not know that the game has been worth the candle.

To carry out my scheme I have had to spread my picture over so wide
a canvas that I cannot expect that any lover of such art should
trouble himself to look at it as a whole. Who will read Can You
Forgive Her? Phineas Finn, Phineas Redux, and The Prime Minister
consecutively, in order that they may understand the characters of
the Duke of Omnium, of Plantagenet Palliser, and of Lady Glencora?
Who will ever know that they should be so read? But in the performance
of the work I had much gratification, and was enabled from time to
time to have in this way that fling at the political doings of the
day which every man likes to take, if not in one fashion then in
another. I look upon this string of characters,--carried sometimes
into other novels than those just named,--as the best work of
my life. Taking him altogether, I think that Plantagenet Palliser
stands more firmly on the ground than any other personage I have

On Christmas day, 1863, we were startled by the news of Thackeray's
death. He had then for many months given up the editorship of the
Cornhill Magazine,--a position for which he was hardly fitted either
by his habits or temperament,--but was still employed in writing
for its pages. I had known him only for four years, but had grown
into much intimacy with him and his family. I regard him as one
of the most tender-hearted human beings I ever knew, who, with an
exaggerated contempt for the foibles of the world at large, would
entertain an almost equally exaggerated sympathy with the joys
and troubles of individuals around him. He had been unfortunate in
early life--unfortunate in regard to money--unfortunate with an
afflicted wife--unfortunate in having his home broken up before
his children were fit to be his companions. This threw him too much
upon clubs, and taught him to dislike general society. But it never
affected his heart, or clouded his imagination. He could still revel
in the pangs and joys of fictitious life, and could still feel--as
he did to the very last--the duty of showing to his readers the
evil consequences of evil conduct. It was perhaps his chief fault
as a writer that he could never abstain from that dash of satire
which he felt to be demanded by the weaknesses which he saw around
him. The satirist who writes nothing but satire should write but
little,--or it will seem that his satire springs rather from his
own caustic nature than from the sins of the world in which he
lives. I myself regard Esmond as the greatest novel in the English
language, basing that judgment upon the excellence of its language,
on the clear individuality of the characters, on the truth of
its delineations in regard to the tine selected, and on its great
pathos. There are also in it a few scenes so told that even Scott
has never equalled the telling. Let any one who doubts this read
the passage in which Lady Castlewood induces the Duke of Hamilton to
think that his nuptials with Beatrice will be honoured if Colonel
Esmond will give away the bride. When he went from us he left behind
living novelists with great names; but I think that they who best
understood the matter felt that the greatest master of fiction of
this age had gone.

Rachel Ray underwent a fate which no other novel of mine has
encountered. Some years before this a periodical called Good Words
had been established under the editorship of my friend Dr. Norman
Macleod, a well-known Presbyterian pastor in Glasgow. In 1863 he
asked me to write a novel for his magazine, explaining to me that
his principles did not teach him to confine his matter to religious
subjects, and paying me the compliment of saying that he would feel
himself quite safe in my hands. In reply I told him I thought he
was wrong in his choice; that though he might wish to give a novel
to the readers of Good Words, a novel from me would hardly be what
he wanted, and that I could not undertake to write either with
any specially religious tendency, or in any fashion different from
that which was usual to me. As worldly and--if any one thought me
wicked--as wicked as I had heretofore been, I must still be, should
I write for Good Words. He persisted in his request, and I came
to terms as to a story for the periodical. I wrote it and sent it
to him, and shortly afterwards received it back--a considerable
portion having been printed--with an intimation that it would not
do. A letter more full of wailing and repentance no man ever wrote.
It was, he said, all his own fault. He should have taken my advice.
He should have known better. But the story, such as it was, he
could not give to his readers in the pages of Good Words. Would I
forgive him? Any pecuniary loss to which his decision might subject
me the owner of the publication would willingly make good. There
was some loss--or rather would have been--and that money I exacted,
feeling that the fault had in truth been with the editor. There is
the tale now to speak for itself. It is not brilliant nor in any
way very excellent; but it certainly is not very wicked. There is
some dancing in one of the early chapters, described, no doubt,
with that approval of the amusement which I have always entertained;
and it was this to which my friend demurred. It is more true of
novels than perhaps of anything else, that one man's food is another
man's poison.

Miss Mackenzie was written with a desire to prove that a novel may
be produced without any love; but even in this attempt it breaks
down before the conclusion. In order that I might be strong in my
purpose, I took for my heroine a very unattractive old maid, who
was overwhelmed with money troubles; but even she was in love before
the end of the book, and made a romantic marriage with an old man.
There is in this story an attack upon charitable bazaars, made
with a violence which will, I think, convince any reader that such
attempts at raising money were at the time very odious to me. I beg
to say that since that I have had no occasion to alter my opinion.
Miss Mackenzie was published in the early spring of 1865.

At the same time I was engaged with others in establishing a
periodical Review, in which some of us trusted much, and from which
we expected great things. There was, however, in truth so little
combination of idea among us, that we were not justified in our
trust or in our expectations. And yet we were honest in our purpose,
and have, I think, done some good by our honesty. The matter on which
we were all agreed was freedom of speech, combined with personal
responsibility. We would be neither conservative nor liberal, neither
religious nor free-thinking, neither popular nor exclusive;--but
we would let any man who had a thing to say, and knew how to say
it, speak freely. But he should always speak with the responsibility
of his name attached. In the very beginning I militated against this
impossible negation of principles,--and did so most irrationally,
seeing that I had agreed to the negation of principles,--by declaring
that nothing should appear denying or questioning the divinity of
Christ. It was a most preposterous claim to make for such a publication
as we proposed, and it at once drove from us one or two who had
proposed to join us. But we went on, and our company--limited--was
formed. We subscribed, I think, œ1250 each. I at least subscribed
that amount, and--having agreed to bring out our publication every
fortnight, after the manner of the well-known French publication,--we
called it The Fortnightly. We secured the services of G. H. Lewes
as our editor. We agreed to manage our finances by a Board, which
was to meet once a fortnight, and of which I was the Chairman.
And we determined that the payments for our literature should be
made on a liberal and strictly ready-money system. We carried out
our principles till our money was all gone, and then we sold the
copyright to Messrs. Chapman & Hall for a trifle. But before we
parted with our property we found that a fortnightly issue was not
popular with the trade through whose hands the work must reach the
public; and, as our periodical had not become sufficiently popular
itself to bear down such opposition, we succumbed, and brought
it out once a month. Still it was The Fortnightly, and still it
is The Fortnightly. Of all the serial publications of the day, it
probably is the most serious, the most earnest, the least devoted
to amusement, the least flippant, the least jocose,--and yet it
has the face to show itself month after month to the world, with
so absurd a misnomer! It is, as all who know the laws of modern
literature are aware, a very serious thing to change the name of
a periodical. By doing so you begin an altogether new enterprise.
Therefore should the name be well chosen;--whereas this was very
ill chosen, a fault for which I alone was responsible.

That theory of eclecticism was altogether impracticable. It was as
though a gentleman should go into the House of Commons determined
to support no party, but to serve his country by individual utterances.
Such gentlemen have gone into the House of Commons, but they have
not served their country much. Of course the project broke down.
Liberalism, freethinking, and open inquiry will never object to appear
in company with their opposites, because they have the conceit to
think that they can quell those opposites; but the opposites will
not appear in conjunction with liberalism, free-thinking, and open
inquiry. As a natural consequence, our new publication became an
organ of liberalism, free-thinking, and open inquiry. The result
has been good; and though there is much in the now established
principles of The Fortnightly with which I do not myself agree, I
may safely say that the publication has assured an individuality,
and asserted for itself a position in our periodical literature,
which is well understood and highly respected.

As to myself and my own hopes in the matter,--I was craving after
some increase in literary honesty, which I think is still desirable but
which is hardly to be attained by the means which then recommended
themselves to me. In one of the early numbers I wrote a paper
advocating the signature of the authors to periodical writing,
admitting that the system should not be extended to journalistic
articles on political subjects. I think that I made the best of
my case; but further consideration has caused me to doubt whether
the reasons which induced me to make an exception in favour of
political writing do not extend themselves also to writing on other
subjects. Much of the literary criticism which we now have is very
bad indeed;--. so bad as to be open to the charge both of dishonesty
and incapacity. Books are criticised without being read,--are
criticised by favour,--and are trusted by editors to the criticism
of the incompetent. If the names of the critics were demanded,
editors would be more careful. But I fear the effect would be that
we should get but little criticism, and that the public would put
but little trust in that little. An ordinary reader would not care
to have his books recommended to him by Jones; but the recommendation
of the great unknown comes to him with all the weight of the Times,
the Spectator, or the Saturday.

Though I admit so much, I am not a recreant from the doctrine I then
preached. I think that the name of the author does tend to honesty,
and that the knowledge that it will be inserted adds much to the
author's industry and care. It debars him also from illegitimate
license and dishonest assertions. A man should never be ashamed
to acknowledge that which he is not ashamed to publish. In The
Fortnightly everything has been signed, and in this way good has,
I think, been done. Signatures to articles in other periodicals
have become much more common since The Fortnightly was commenced.

After a time Mr. Lewes retired from the editorship, feeling that
the work pressed too severely on his moderate strength. Our loss
in him was very great, and there was considerable difficulty in
finding a successor. I must say that the present proprietor has
been fortunate in the choice he did make. Mr. John Morley has done
the work with admirable patience, zeal, and capacity. Of course
he has got around him a set of contributors whose modes of thought
are what we may call much advanced; he being "much advanced" himself,
would not work with other aids. The periodical has a peculiar tone
of its own; but it holds its own with ability, and though there
are many who perhaps hate it, there are none who despise it. When
the company sold it, having spent about œ9000 on it, it was worth
little or nothing. Now I believe it to be a good property.

My own last personal concern with it was on a matter, of fox-hunting.
[Footnote: I have written various articles for it since, especially
two on Cicero, to which I devoted great labour.] There came out in
it an article from the pen of Mr. Freeman the historian, condemning
the amusement, which I love, on the grounds of cruelty and general
brutality. Was it possible, asked Mr. Freeman, quoting from Cicero,
that any educated man should find delight in so coarse a pursuit?
Always bearing in mind my own connection with The Fortnightly, I
regarded this almost as a rising of a child against the father. I
felt at any rate bound to answer Mr. Freeman in the same columns,
and I obtained Mr. Morley's permission to do so. I wrote my defence
of fox-hunting, and there it is. In regard to the charge of cruelty,
Mr. Freeman seems to assert that nothing unpleasant should be
done to any of God's creatures except f or a useful purpose. The
protection of a lady's shoulders from the cold is a useful purpose;
and therefore a dozen fur-bearing animals may be snared in the
snow and left to starve to death in the wires, in order that the
lady may have the tippet,--though a tippet of wool would serve
the purpose as well as a tippet of fur. But the congregation and
healthful amusement of one or two hundred persons, on whose behalf
a single fox may or may not be killed, is not a useful purpose. I
think that Mr. Freeman has failed to perceive that amusement is as
needful and almost as necessary as food and raiment. The absurdity
of the further charge as to the general brutality of the pursuit,
and its consequent unfitness for an educated man, is to be attributed
to Mr. Freeman's ignorance of what is really done and said in the
hunting-field,--perhaps to his misunderstanding of Cicero's words.
There was a rejoinder to my answer, and I asked for space for
further remarks. I could have it, the editor said, if I much wished
it; but he preferred that the subject should be closed. Of course
I was silent. His sympathies were all with Mr. Freeman,--and
against the foxes, who, but for fox-hunting, would cease to exist
in England. And I felt that The Fortnighty was hardly the place for
the defence of the sport. Afterwards Mr. Freeman kindly suggested
to me that he would be glad to publish my article in a little book
to be put out by him condemnatory of fox-hunting generally. He was
to have the last word and the first word, and that power of picking
to pieces which he is known to use in so masterly a manner, without
any reply from me! This I was obliged to decline. If he would give
me the last word, as be would have the first, then, I told him, I
should be proud to join him in the book. This offer did not however
meet his views.

It had been decided by the Board of Management, somewhat in opposition
to my own ideas on the subject, that the Fortnightly Review should
always contain a novel. It was of course natural that I should write
the first novel, and I wrote The Belton Estate. It is similar in
its attributes to Rachel Ray and to Miss Mackenzie. It is readable,
and contains scenes which are true to life; but it has no peculiar
merits, and will add nothing to my reputation as a novelist. I have
not looked at it since it was published; and now turning back to
it in my memory, I seem to remember almost less of it than of any
book that I have written.



The Claverings, which came out in 1866 and 1867, was the last novel
which I wrote for the Cornhill; and it was for this that I received
the highest rate of pay that was ever accorded to me. It was the
same length as Framley Parsonage, and the price was œ2800. Whether
much or little, it was offered by the proprietor of the magazine,
and was paid in a single cheque.

In The Claverings I did not follow the habit which had now become
very common to me, of introducing personages whose names are already
known to the readers of novels, and whose characters were familiar
to myself. If I remember rightly, no one appears here who had
appeared before or who has been allowed to appear since. I consider
the story as a whole to be good, though I am not aware that the
public has ever corroborated that verdict. The chief character
is that of a young woman who has married manifestly for money and
rank,--so manifestly that she does not herself pretend, even while
she is making the marriage, that she has any other reason. The
man is old, disreputable, and a wornout debauchee. Then comes the
punishment natural to the offence. When she is free, the man whom
she had loved, and who had loved her, is engaged to another woman.
He vacillates and is weak,--in which weakness is the fault of the
book, as he plays the part of hero. But she is strong--strong in
her purpose, strong in her desires, and strong in her consciousness
that the punishment which comes upon her has been deserved.

But the chief merit of The Clarverings is in the genuine fun of
some of the scenes. Humour has not been my forte, but I am inclined
to think that the characters of Captain Boodle, Archie Clavering,
and Sophie Gordeloup are humorous. Count Pateroff, the brother of
Sophie, is also good, and disposes of the young hero's interference
in a somewhat masterly manner. In The Claverings, too, there is a
wife whose husband is a brute to her, who loses an only child--his
heir--and who is rebuked by her lord because the boy dies. Her
sorrow is, I think, pathetic. From beginning to end the story is
well told. But I doubt now whether any one reads The Claverings.
When I remember how many novels I have written, I have no right
to expect that above a few of them shall endure even to the second
year beyond publication. This story closed my connection with the
Cornhill Magazine;--but not with its owner, Mr. George Smith, who
subsequently brought out a further novel of mine in a separate
form, and who about this time established the Pall Mall Gazette,
to which paper I was for some years a contributor.

It was in 1865 that the Pall Mall Gazette was commenced, the
name having been taken from a fictitious periodical, which was the
offspring of Thackeray's brain. It was set on foot by the unassisted
energy and resources of George Smith, who had succeeded by means
of his magazine and his publishing connection in getting around him
a society of literary men who sufficed, as far as literary ability
went, to float the paper at one under favourable auspices. His two
strongest staffs probably were "Jacob Omnium," whom I regard as the
most forcible newspaper writer of my days, and Fitz-James Stephen,
the most conscientious and industrious. To them the Pall Mall
Gazette owed very much of its early success,--and to the untiring
energy and general ability of its proprietor. Among its other
contributors were George Lewes, Hannay,--who, I think, came up
from Edinburgh for employment on its columns,--Lord Houghton, Lord
Strangford, Charles Merivale, Greenwood the present editor, Greg,
myself, and very many others;--so many others, that I have met
at a Pall Mall dinner a crowd of guests who would have filled the
House of Commons more respectably than I have seen it filled even
on important occasions. There are many who now remember--and no
doubt when this is published there will be left some to remember--the
great stroke of business which was done by the revelations of a
visitor to one of the casual wards in London. A person had to be
selected who would undergo the misery of a night among the usual
occupants of a casual ward in a London poorhouse, and who should at
the same time be able to record what he felt and saw. The choice
fell upon Mr. Greenwood's brother, who certainly possessed the
courage and the powers of endurance. The description, which was
very well given, was, I think, chiefly written by the brother of
the Casual himself. It had a great effect, which was increased by
secrecy as to the person who encountered all the horrors of that
night. I was more than once assured that Lard Houghton was the man.
I heard it asserted also that I myself had been the hero. At last
the unknown one could no longer endure that his honours should be
hidden, and revealed the truth,--in opposition, I fear, to promises
to the contrary, and instigated by a conviction that if known he
could turn his honours to account. In the meantime, however, that
record of a night passed in a workhouse had done more to establish
the sale of the journal than all the legal lore of Stephen, or the
polemical power of Higgins, or the critical acumen of Lewes.

My work was various. I wrote much on the subject of the American
War, on which my feelings were at the time very keen,--subscribing,
if I remember right, my name to all that I wrote. I contributed
also some sets of sketches, of which those concerning hunting found
favour with the public. They were republished afterwards, and had
a considerable sale, and may, I think, still be recommended to those
who are fond of hunting, as being accurate in their description of
the different classes of people who are to be met in the hunting-field.
There was also a set of clerical sketches, which was considered to
be of sufficient importance to bring down upon my head the critical
wrath of a great dean of that period. The most ill-natured review
that was ever written upon any work of mine appeared in the
Contemporary Review with reference to these Clerical Sketches. The
critic told me that I did not understand Greek. That charge has
been made not unfrequently by those who have felt themselves strong
in that pride-producing language. It is much to read Greek with
ease, but it is not disgraceful to be unable to do so. To pretend
to read it without being able,--that is disgraceful. The critic,
however, had been driven to wrath by my saying that Deans of the
Church of England loved to revisit the glimpses of the metropolitan

I also did some critical work for the Pall Mall,--as I did also for
The Fortnightly. It was not to my taste, but was done in conformity
with strict conscientious scruples. I read what I took in hand, and
said what I believed to be true,--always giving to the matter time
altogether incommensurate with the pecuniary result to myself. In
doing this for the Pall Mall, I fell into great sorrow. A gentleman,
whose wife was dear to me as if she were my own sister; was in
some trouble as to his conduct in the public service. He had been
blamed, as he thought unjustly, and vindicated himself in a pamphlet.
This he handed to me one day, asking me to read it, and express my
opinion about it if I found that I had an opinion. I thought the
request injudicious, and I did not read the pamphlet. He met me
again, and, handing me a second pamphlet, pressed me very hard. I
promised him that I would read it, and that if I found myself able
I would express myself;--but that I must say not what I wished
to think, but what I did think. To this of course he assented. I
then went very much out of my way to study the subject,--which was
one requiring study. I found, or thought that I found, that the
conduct of the gentleman in his office had been indiscreet; but that
charges made against himself affecting his honour were baseless.
This I said, emphasising much more strongly than was necessary the
opinion which I had formed of his indiscretion,--as will so often
be the case when a man has a pen in his hand. It is like a club
or sledge-hammer,--in using which, either for defence or attack,
a man can hardly measure the strength of the blows he gives. Of
course there was offence,--and a breaking off of intercourse between
loving friends,--and a sense of wrong received, and I must own,
too, of wrong done. It certainly was not open to me to whitewash
with honesty him whom I did not find to be white; but there was no
duty incumbent on me to declare what was his colour in my eyes,--no
duty even to ascertain. But I had been ruffled by the persistency
of the gentleman's request,--which should not have been made,--and
I punished him for his wrong-doing by doing a wrong myself. I must
add, that before he died his wife succeeded in bringing us together.

In the early days of the paper, the proprietor, who at that time
acted also as chief editor, asked me to undertake a duty,--of which
the agony would indeed at no one moment have been so sharp as that
endured in the casual ward, but might have been prolonged until
human nature sank under it. He suggested to me that I should during
an entire season attend the May meetings in Exeter Hall, and give
a graphic and, if possible, amusing description of the proceedings.
I did attend one,--which lasted three hours,--and wrote a paper which
I think was called A Zulu in Search of a Religion. But when the
meeting was over I went to that spirited proprietor, and begged him
to impose upon me some task more equal to my strength. Not even on
behalf of the Pall Mall Gazette, which was very dear to me, could
I go through a second May meeting,--much less endure a season of
such martyrdom.

I have to acknowledge that I found myself unfit for work on
a newspaper. I had not taken to it early enough in life to learn
its ways and bear its trammels. I was fidgety when any work was
altered in accordance with the judgment of the editor, who, of
course, was responsible for what appeared. I wanted to select my
own subjects,--not to have them selected for me; to write when I
pleased,--and not when it suited others. As a permanent member of
the staff I was of no use, and after two or three years I dropped
out of the work.

From the commencement of my success as a writer, which I date
from the beginning of the Cornhill Magazine, I had always felt an
injustice in literary affairs which had never afflicted me or even
suggested itself to me while I was unsuccessful. It seemed to me
that a name once earned carried with it too much favour. I indeed
had never reached a height to which praise was awarded as a matter
of course; but there were others who sat on higher seats to whom
the critics brought unmeasured incense and adulation, even when
they wrote, as they sometimes did write, trash which from a beginner
would not have been thought worthy of the slightest notice. I hope
no one will think that in saying this I am actuated by jealousy
of others. Though I never reached that height, still I had so
far progressed that that which I wrote was received with too much
favour. The injustice which struck me did not consist in that which
was withheld from me, but in that which was given to me. I felt
that aspirants coming up below me might do work as good as mine,
and probably much better work, and yet fail to have it appreciated.
In order to test this, I determined to be such an aspirant myself,
and to begin a course of novels anonymously, in order that I might
see whether I could obtain a second identity,--whether as I had made
one mark by such literary ability as I possessed, I might succeed
in doing so again. In 1865 I began a short tale called Nina Balatka,
which in 1866 was published anonymously in Blackwood's Magazine.
In 1867 this was followed by another of the same length, called
Linda Tressel. I will speak of them together, as they are of the
same nature and of nearly equal merit. Mr. Blackwood, who himself
read the MS. of Nina Balatka, expressed an opinion that it would
not from its style be discovered to have been written by me;--but
it was discovered by Mr. Hutton of the Spectator, who found the
repeated use of some special phrase which had rested upon his ear
too frequently when reading for the purpose of criticism other
works of mine. He declared in his paper that Nina Balatka was by
me, showing I think more sagacity than good nature. I ought not,
however, to complain of him, as of all the critics of my work he
has been the most observant, and generally the most eulogistic.
Nina Balatka never rose sufficiently high in reputation to make
its detection a matter of any importance. Once or twice I heard the
story mentioned by readers who did not know me to be the author,
and always with praise; but it had no real success. The same may
be said of Linda Tressel. Blackwood, who of course knew the author,
was willing to publish them, trusting that works by an experienced
writer would make their way, even without the writer's name, and he
was willing to pay me for them, perhaps half what they would have
fetched with my name. But he did not find the speculation answer,
and declined a third attempt, though a third such tale was written
for him.

Nevertheless I am sure that the two stories are good. Perhaps the
first is somewhat the better, as being the less lachrymose. They
were both written very quickly, but with a considerable amount of
labour; and both were written immediately after visits to the towns
in which the scenes are laid,--Prague, mainly, and Nuremberg. Of
course I had endeavoured to change not only my manner of language,
but my manner of story-telling also; and in this, pace Mr. Hutton,
I think that I was successful. English life in them there was none.
There was more of romance proper than had been usual with me. And
I made an attempt at local colouring, at descriptions of scenes
and places, which has not been usual with me. In all this I am
confident that I was in a measure successful. In the loves, and
fears, and hatreds, both of Nina and of Linda, there is much that
is pathetic. Prague is Prague, and Nuremberg is Nuremberg. I know
that the stories are good, but they missed the object with which
they had been written. Of course there is not in this any evidence
that I might not have succeeded a second time as I succeeded before,
had I gone on with the same dogged perseverance. Mr. Blackwood,
had I still further reduced my price, would probably have continued
the experiment. Another ten years of unpaid unflagging labour might
have built up a second reputation. But this at any rate did seem
clear to me, that with all the increased advantages which practice
in my art must have given me, I could not induce English readers
to read what I gave to them, unless I gave it with my name.

I do not wish to have it supposed from this that I quarrel with public
judgment in affairs of literature. It is a matter of course that
in all things the public should trust to established reputation. It
is as natural that a novel reader wanting novels should send to a
library for those by George Eliot or Wilkie Collins, as that a lady
when she wants a pie for a picnic should go to Fortnum & Mason.
Fortnum & Mason can only make themselves Fortnum & Mason by dint of
time and good pies combined. If Titian were to send us a portrait
from the other world, as certain dead poets send their poetry by
means of a medium, it would be some time before the art critic of
the Times would discover its value. We may sneer at the want of
judgment thus displayed, but such slowness of judgment is human and
has always existed. I say all this here because my thoughts on the
matter have forced upon me the conviction that very much consideration
is due to the bitter feelings of disappointed authors.

We who have succeeded are so apt to tell new aspirants not to
aspire, because the thing to be done may probably be beyond their
reach. "My dear young lady, had you not better stay at home and darn
your stockings?" "As, sir, you have asked for my candid opinion,
I can only counsel you to try some other work of life which may be
better suited to your abilities." What old-established successful
author has not said such words as these to humble aspirants for
critical advice, till they have become almost formulas? No doubt
there is cruelty in such answers; but the man who makes them has
considered the matter within himself, and has resolved that such
cruelty is the best mercy. No doubt the chances against literary
aspirants are very great. It is so easy to aspire,--and to begin!
A man cannot make a watch or a shoe without a variety of tools and
many materials. He must also have learned much. But any young lady
can write a book who has a sufficiency of pens and paper. It can
be done anywhere; in any clothes--which is a great thing; at any
hours--to which happy accident in literature I owe my success.
And the success, when achieved, is so pleasant! The aspirants, of
course, are very many; and the experienced councillor, when asked
for his candid judgment as to this or that effort, knows that among
every hundred efforts there will be ninety-nine failures. Then the
answer is so ready: "My dear young lady, do darn your stockings;
it will be for the best." Or perhaps, less tenderly, to the male
aspirant: "You must earn some money, you say. Don't you think
that a stool in a counting-house might be better?" The advice will
probably be good advice,--probably, no doubt, as may be proved by
the terrible majority of failures. But who is to be sure that he
is not expelling an angel from the heaven to which, if less roughly
treated, he would soar,--that he is not dooming some Milton to be
mute and inglorious, who, but for such cruel ill-judgment, would
become vocal to all ages?

The answer to all this seems to be ready enough. The judgment,
whether cruel or tender, should not be ill-judgment. He who
consents to sit as judge should have capacity for judging. But in
this matter no accuracy of judgment is possible. It may be that the
matter subjected to the critic is so bad or so good as to make an
assured answer possible. "You, at any rate, cannot make this your
vocation;" or "You, at any rate, can succeed, if you will try." But
cases as to which such certainty can be expressed are rare. The
critic who wrote the article on the early verses of Lord Byron, which
produced the English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, was justified in
his criticism by the merits of the Hours of Idleness. The lines had
nevertheless been written by that Lord Byron who became our Byron.
In a little satire called The Biliad, which, I think, nobody knows,
are the following well-expressed lines:--

"When Payne Knight's Taste was issued to the town,
A few Greek verses in the text set down
Were torn to pieces, mangled into hash,
Doomed to the flames as execrable trash,--
In short, were butchered rather than dissected,
And several false quantities detected,--
Till, when the smoke had vanished from the cinders,
'Twas just discovered that--THE LINES WERE PINDAR'S!"

There can be no assurance against cases such as these; and yet we
are so free with our advice, always bidding the young aspirant to

There is perhaps no career or life so charming as that of a successful
man of letters. Those little unthought of advantages which I just
now named are in themselves attractive. If you like the town, live in
the town, and do your work there; if you like the country, choose
the country. It may be done on the top of a mountain or in the
bottom of a pit. It is compatible with the rolling of the sea and
the motion of a railway. The clergyman, the lawyer, the doctor, the
member of Parliament, the clerk in a public office, the tradesman,
and even his assistant in the shop, must dress in accordance with
certain fixed laws; but the author need sacrifice to no grace,
hardly even to Propriety. He is subject to no bonds such as those
which bind other men. Who else is free from all shackle as to hours?
The judge must sit at ten, and the attorney-general, who is making
his œ20,000 a year, must be there with his bag. The Prime Minister
must be in his place on that weary front bench shortly after
prayers, and must sit there, either asleep or awake, even though
---- or ---- should be addressing the House. During all that Sunday
which he maintains should be a day of rest, the active clergyman
toils like a galley-slave. The actor, when eight o'clock comes,
is bound to his footlights. The Civil Service clerk must sit there
from ten till four,--unless his office be fashionable, when twelve
to six is just as heavy on him. The author may do his work at five
in the morning when he is fresh from his bed, or at three in the
morning before he goes there. And the author wants no capital, and
encounters no risks. When once he is afloat, the publisher finds
all that;--and indeed, unless he be rash, finds it whether he be
afloat or not. But it is in the consideration which he enjoys that
the successful author finds his richest reward. He is, if not of
equal rank, yet of equal standing with the highest; and if he be
open to the amenities of society, may choose his own circles. He
without money can enter doors which are closed against almost all
but him and the wealthy. I have often heard it said that in this
country the man of letters is not recognised. I believe the meaning
of this to be that men of letters are not often invited to be
knights and baronets. I do not think that they wish it;--and if
they had it they would, as a body, lose much more than they would
gain. I do not at all desire to have letters put after my name, or
to be called Sir Anthony, but if my friends Tom Hughes and Charles
Reade became Sir Thomas and Sir Charles, I do not know how I might
feel,--or how my wife might feel, if we were left unbedecked. As
it is, the man of letters who would be selected for titular honour,
if such bestowal of honours were customary, receives from the general
respect of those around him a much more pleasant recognition of
his worth.

If this be so,--if it be true that the career of the successful
literary man be thus pleasant--it is not wonderful that many should
attempt to win the prize. But how is a man to know whether or not
he has within him the qualities necessary for such a career? He
makes an attempt, and fails; repeats his attempt, and fails again!
So many have succeeded at last who have failed more than once or
twice! Who will tell him the truth as to himself? Who has power to
find out that truth? The hard man sends him off without a scruple
to that office-stool; the soft man assures him that there is much
merit in his MS.

Oh, my young aspirant,--if ever such a one should read these
pages,--be sure that no one can tell you! To do so it would be
necessary not only to know what there is now within you, but also
to foresee what time will produce there. This, however, I think may
be said to you, without any doubt as to the wisdom of the counsel
given, that if it be necessary for you to live by your work, do not
begin by trusting to literature. Take the stool in the office as
recommended to you by the hard man; and then, in such leisure hours
as may belong to you, let the praise which has come from the lips
of that soft man induce you to persevere in your literary attempts.
Should you fail, then your failure will not be fatal,--and what
better could you have done with the leisure hours had you not so
failed? Such double toil, you will say, is severe. Yes, but if
you want this thing, you must submit to severe toil.

Sometime before this I had become one of the Committee appointed
for the distribution of the moneys of the Royal Literary Fund, and
in that capacity I heard and saw much of the sufferings of authors.
I may in a future chapter speak further of this Institution, which
I regard with great affection, and in reference to which I should
be glad to record certain convictions of my own; but I allude to it
now, because the experience I have acquired in being active in its
cause forbids me to advise any young man or woman to enter boldly
on a literary career in search of bread. I know how utterly I
should have failed myself had my bread not been earned elsewhere
while I was making my efforts. During ten years of work, which I
commenced with some aid from the fact that others of my family were
in the same profession, I did not earn enough to buy me the pens,
ink, and paper which I was using; and then when, with all my
experience in my art, I began again as from a new springing point,
I should have failed again unless again I could have given years
to the task. Of course there have been many who have done better
than I,--many whose powers have been infinitely greater. But then,
too, I have seen the failure of many who were greater.

The career, when success has been achieved, is certainly very
pleasant; but the agonies which are endured in the search for that
success are often terrible. And the author's poverty is, I think,
harder to be borne than any other poverty. The man, whether rightly
or wrongly, feels that the world is using him with extreme injustice.
The more absolutely he fails, the higher, it is probable, he will
reckon his own merits; and the keener will be the sense of injury
in that he whose work is of so high a nature cannot get bread,
while they whose tasks are mean are lapped in luxury. "I, with
my well-filled mind, with my clear intellect, with all my gifts,
cannot earn a poor crown a day, while that fool, who simpers in
a little room behind a shop, makes his thousands every year." The
very charity, to which he too often is driven, is bitterer to him
than to others. While he takes it he almost spurns the hand that
gives it to him, and every fibre of his heart within him is bleeding
with a sense of injury.

The career, when successful, is pleasant enough certainly; but when
unsuccessful, it is of all careers the most agonising.



It is nearly twenty years since I proposed to myself to write
a history of English prose fiction. I shall never do it now, but
the subject is so good a one that I recommend it heartily to some
man of letters, who shall at the same time be indefatigable and
light-handed. I acknowledge that I broke down in the task, because
I could not endure the labour in addition to the other labours of
my life. Though the book might be charming, the work was very much
the reverse. It came to have a terrible aspect to me, as did that
proposition that I should sit out all the May meetings of a season.
According to my plan of such a history it would be necessary
to read an infinity of novels, and not only to read them, but so
to read them as to point out the excellences of those which are
most excellent, and to explain the defects of those which, though
defective, had still reached sufficient reputation to make them
worthy of notice. I did read many after this fashion,--and here
and there I have the criticisms which I wrote. In regard to many,
they were written on some blank page within the book; I have not,
however, even a list of the books so criticised. I think that the
Arcadia was the first, and Ivanhoe the last. My plan, as I settled
it at last, had been to begin with Robinson Crusoe, which is the
earliest really popular novel which we have in our language, and
to continue the review so as to include the works of all English
novelists of reputation, except those who might still be living
when my task should be completed. But when Dickens and Bulwer died,
my spirit flagged, and that which I had already found to be very
difficult had become almost impossible to me at my then period of

I began my own studies on the subject with works much earlier than
Robinson Crusoe, and made my way through a variety of novels which
were necessary for my purpose, but which in the reading gave me no
pleasure whatever. I never worked harder than at the Arcadia, or
read more detestable trash than the stories written by Mrs. Aphra
Behn; but these two were necessary to my purpose, which was not only
to give an estimate of the novels as I found them, but to describe
how it had come to pass that the English novels of the present
day have become what they are, to point out the effects which they
have produced, and to inquire whether their great popularity has on
the whole done good or evil to the people who read them. I still
think that the book is one well worthy to be written.

I intended to write that book to vindicate my own profession as
a novelist, and also to vindicate that public taste in literature
which has created and nourished the profession which I follow.
And I was stirred up to make such an attempt by a conviction that
there still exists among us Englishmen a prejudice in respect
to novels which might, perhaps, be lessened by such a work. This
prejudice is not against the reading of novels, as is proved by their
general acceptance among us. But it exists strongly in reference
to the appreciation in which they are professed to be held; and it
robs them of much of that high character which they may claim to
have earned by their grace, their honesty, and good teaching.

No man can work long at any trade without being brought to consider
much, whether that which he is daily doing tends to evil or to
good. I have written many novels, and have known many writers of
novels, and I can assert that such thoughts have been strong with
them and with myself. But in acknowledging that these writers have
received from the public a full measure of credit for such genius,
ingenuity, or perseverance as each may have displayed, I feel that
there is still wanting to them a just appreciation of the excellence
of their calling, and a general understanding of the high nature
of the work which they perform.

By the common consent of all mankind who have read, poetry takes
the highest place in literature. That nobility of expression, and
all but divine grace of words, which she is bound to attain before
she can make her footing good, is not compatible with prose. Indeed
it is that which turns prose into poetry. When that has been in
truth achieved, the reader knows that the writer has soared above
the earth, and can teach his lessons somewhat as a god might teach.
He who sits down to write his tale in prose makes no such attempt,
nor does he dream that the poet's honour is within his reach;--but
his teaching is of the same nature, and his lessons all tend to
the same end. By either, false sentiments may be fostered; false
notions of humanity may be engendered; false honour, false love,
false worship may be created; by either, vice instead of virtue
may be taught. But by each, equally, may true honour, true love;
true worship, and true humanity be inculcated; and that will be
the greatest teacher who will spread such truth the widest. But
at present, much as novels, as novels, are bought and read, there
exists still an idea, a feeling which is very prevalent, that novels
at their best are but innocent. Young men and women,--and old men
and women too,--read more of them than of poetry, because such reading
is easier than the reading of poetry; but they read them,--as men
eat pastry after dinner,--not without some inward conviction that
the taste is vain if not vicious. I take upon myself to say that
it is neither vicious nor vain.

But all writers of fiction who have desired to think well of their
own work, will probably have had doubts on their minds before they
have arrived at this conclusion. Thinking much of my own daily
labour and of its nature, I felt myself at first to be much afflicted
and then to be deeply grieved by the opinion expressed by wise and
thinking men as to the work done by novelists. But when, by degrees,
I dared to examine and sift the sayings of such men, I found them
to be sometimes silly and often arrogant. I began to inquire what
had been the nature of English novels since they first became common
in our own language, and to be desirous of ascertaining whether they
had done harm or good. I could well remember that, in my own young
days, they had not taken that undisputed possession of drawing-rooms
which they now hold. Fifty years ago, when George IV. was king, they
were not indeed treated as Lydia had been forced to treat them in
the preceding reign, when, on the approach of elders, Peregrine
Pickle was hidden beneath the bolster, and Lord Ainsworth put away
under the sofa. But the families in which an unrestricted permission
was given for the reading of novels were very few, and from many
they were altogether banished. The high poetic genius and correct
morality of Walter Scott had not altogether succeeded in making men
and women understand that lessons which were good in poetry could
not be bad in prose. I remember that in those days an embargo was
laid upon novel-reading as a pursuit, which was to the novelist
a much heavier tax than that want of full appreciation of which I
now complain.

There is, we all know, no such embargo now. May we not say that
people of an age to read have got too much power into their own
hands to endure any very complete embargo? Novels are read right
and left, above stairs and below, in town houses and in country
parsonages, by young countesses and by farmers' daughters, by old
lawyers and by young students. It has not only come to pass that
a special provision of them has to be made for the godly, but that
the provision so made must now include books which a few years since
the godly would have thought to be profane. It was this necessity
which, a few years since, induced the editor of Good Words to apply
to me for a novel,--which, indeed, when supplied was rejected, but
which now, probably, owing to further change in the same direction,
would have been accepted.

If such be the case--if the extension of novel-reading be so wide
as I have described it--then very much good or harm must be done
by novels. The amusement of the time can hardly be the only result
of any book that is read, and certainly not so with a novel, which
appeals especially to the imagination, and solicits the sympathy of
the young. A vast proportion of the teaching of the day,--greater
probably than many of us have acknowledged to ourselves,--comes
from these books, which are in the hands of all readers. It is from
them that girls learn what is expected from them, and what they
are to expect when lovers come; and also from them that young men
unconsciously learn what are, or should be, or may be, the charms
of love,--though I fancy that few young men will think so little
of their natural instincts and powers as to believe that I am right
in saying so. Many other lessons also are taught. In these times,
when the desire to be honest is pressed so hard, is so violently
assaulted by the ambition to be great; in which riches are the
easiest road to greatness; when the temptations to which men are
subjected dull their eyes to the perfected iniquities of others;
when it is so hard for a man to decide vigorously that the pitch,
which so many are handling, will defile him if it be touched;--men's
conduct will be actuated much by that which is from day to day
depicted to them as leading to glorious or inglorious results. The
woman who is described as having obtained all that the world holds
to be precious, by lavishing her charms and her caresses unworthily
and heartlessly, will induce other women to do the same with
theirs,--as will she who is made interesting by exhibitions of
bold passion teach others to be spuriously passionate. The young
man who in a novel becomes a hero, perhaps a Member of Parliament,
and almost a Prime Minister, by trickery, falsehood, and flash
cleverness, will have many followers, whose attempts to rise in
the world ought to lie heavily on the conscience of the novelists
who create fictitious Cagliostros. There are Jack Sheppards other
than those who break into houses and out of prisons,--Macheaths,
who deserve the gallows more than Gay's hero.

Thinking of all this, as a novelist surely must do,--as I certainly
have done through my whole career,--it becomes to him a matter of
deep conscience how he shall handle those characters by whose words
and doings he hopes to interest his readers. It will very frequently
be the case that he will be tempted to sacrifice something for
effect, to say a word or two here, or to draw a picture there,
for which he feels that he has the power, and which when spoken or
drawn would be alluring. The regions of absolute vice are foul and
odious. The savour of them, till custom has hardened the palate and
the nose, is disgusting. In these he will hardly tread. But there
are outskirts on these regions, on which sweet-smelling flowers
seem to grow; and grass to be green. It is in these border-lands
that the danger lies. The novelist may not be dull. If he commit
that fault he can do neither harm nor good. He must please, and the
flowers and the grass in these neutral territories sometimes seem
to give him so easy an opportunity of pleasing!

The writer of stories must please, or he will be nothing. And
he must teach whether he wish to teach or no. How shall he teach
lessons of virtue and at the same time make himself a delight to
his readers? That sermons are not in themselves often thought to
be agreeable we all know. Nor are disquisitions on moral philosophy
supposed to be pleasant reading for our idle hours. But the novelist,
if he have a conscience, must preach his sermons with the same
purpose as the clergyman, and must have his own system of ethics.
If he can do this efficiently, if he can make virtue alluring and
vice ugly, while he charms his readers instead of wearying them,
then I think Mr. Carlyle need not call him distressed, nor talk
of that long ear of fiction, nor question whether he be or not the
most foolish of existing mortals.

I think that many have done so; so many that we English novelists
may boast as a class that has been the general result of our own
work. Looking back to the past generation, I may say with certainty
that such was the operation of the novels of Miss Edgeworth, Miss
Austen, and Walter Scott. Coming down to my own times, I find such
to have been the teaching of Thackeray, of Dickens, and of George
Eliot. Speaking, as I shall speak to any who may read these words,
with that absence of self-personality which the dead may claim, I
will boast that such has been the result of my own writing. Can any
one by search through the works of the six great English novelists
I have named, find a scene, a passage, or a word that would teach
a girl to be immodest, or a man to be dishonest? When men in their
pages have been described as dishonest and women as immodest, have
they not ever been punished? It is not for the novelist to say,
baldly and simply: "Because you lied here, or were heartless there,
because you Lydia Bennet forgot the lessons of your honest home,
or you Earl Leicester were false through your ambition, or you
Beatrix loved too well the glitter of the world, therefore you shall
be scourged with scourges either in this world or in the next;" but
it is for him to show, as he carries on his tale, that his Lydia,
or his Leicester, or his Beatrix, will be dishonoured in the estimation
of all readers by his or her vices. Let a woman be drawn clever,
beautiful, attractive,--so as to make men love her, and women
almost envy her,--and let her be made also heartless, unfeminine,
and ambitious of evil grandeur, as was Beatrix, what a danger is
there not in such a character! To the novelist who shall handle it,
what peril of doing harm! But if at last it have been so handled
that every girl who reads of Beatrix shall say: "Oh! not like
that;--let me not be like that!" and that every youth shall say:
"Let me not have such a one as that to press my bosom, anything
rather than that!"--then will not the novelist have preached his
sermon as perhaps no clergyman can preach it?

Very much of a novelist's work must appertain to the intercourse
between young men and young women. It is admitted that a novel
can hardly be made interesting or successful without love. Some few
might be named, but even in those the attempt breaks down, and the
softness of love is found to be necessary to complete the story.
Pickwick has been named as an exception to the rule, but even
in Pickwick there are three or four sets of lovers, whose little
amatory longings give a softness to the work. I tried it once with
Miss Mackenzie, but I had to make her fall in love at last. In this
frequent allusion to the passion which most stirs the imagination
of the young, there must be danger. Of that the writer of fiction
is probably well aware. Then the question has to be asked, whether
the danger may not be so averted that good may be the result,--and
to be answered.

respect the necessity of dealing with love is advantageous,--advantageous
from the very circumstance which has made love necessary to
all novelists. It is necessary because the passion is one which
interests or has interested all. Every one feels it, has felt it,
or expects to feel it,--or else rejects it with an eagerness which
still perpetuates the interest. If the novelist, therefore, can
so handle the subject as to do good by his handling, as to teach
wholesome lessons in regard to love, the good which he does will
be very wide. If I can teach politicians that they can do their
business better by truth than by falsehood, I do a great service;
but it is done to a limited number of persons. But if I can make
young men and women believe that truth in love will make them
happy, then, if my writings be popular, I shall have a very large
class of pupils. No doubt the cause for that fear which did exist
as to novels arose from an idea that the matter of love would be
treated in an inflammatory and generally unwholesome manner. "Madam,"
says Sir Anthony in the play, "a circulating library in a town is
an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge. It blossoms through the
year; and depend on it, Mrs. Malaprop, that they who are so fond of
handling the leaves will long for the fruit at last." Sir Anthony
was no doubt right. But he takes it for granted that the longing
for the fruit is an evil. The novelist who writes of love thinks
differently, and thinks that the honest love of an honest man is
a treasure which a good girl may fairly hope to win,--and that if
she can be taught to wish only for that, she will have been taught
to entertain only wholesome wishes.

I can easily believe that a girl should be taught to wish to love
by reading how Laura Bell loved Pendennis. Pendennis was not in
truth a very worthy man, nor did he make a very good husband; but
the girl's love was so beautiful, and the wife's love when she became
a wife so womanlike, and at the same time so sweet, so unselfish,
so wifely, so worshipful,--in the sense in which wives are told
that they ought to worship their husband,--that I cannot believe
that any girl can be injured, or even not benefited, by reading of
Laura's love.

There once used to be many who thought, and probably there still
are some, even here in England, who think that a girl should hear
nothing of love till the time come in which she is to be married.
That, no doubt, was the opinion of Sir Anthony Absolute and of Mrs.
Malaprop. But I am hardly disposed to believe that the old system
was more favourable than ours to the purity of manners. Lydia
Languish, though she was constrained by fear of her aunt to hide
the book, yet had Peregrine Pickle in her collection. While human
nature talks of love so forcibly it can hardly serve our turn
to be silent on the subject. "Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque
recurret." There are countries in which it has been in accordance
with the manners of the upper classes that the girl should be brought
to marry the man almost out of the nursery--or rather perhaps out
of the convent--without having enjoyed that freedom of thought
which the reading of novels and of poetry will certainly produce;
but I do not know that the marriages so made have been thought to
be happier than our own.

Among English novels of the present day, and among English
novelists, a great division is made. There are sensational novels
and anti-sensational, sensational novelists and anti-sensational,
sensational readers and anti-sensational. The novelists who are
considered to be anti-sensational are generally called realistic.
I am realistic. My friend Wilkie Collins is generally supposed
to be sensational. The readers who prefer the one are supposed to
take delight in the elucidation of character. Those who hold by
the other are charmed by the continuation and gradual development
of a plot. All this is, I think, a mistake,--which mistake arises
from the inability of the imperfect artist to be at the same time
realistic and sensational. A good novel should be both, and both in
the highest degree. If a novel fail in either, there is a failure
in art. Let those readers who believe that they do not like
sensational scenes in novels think of some of those passages from
our great novelists which have charmed them most:--of Rebecca in
the castle with Ivanhoe; of Burley in the cave with Morton; of the
mad lady tearing the veil of the expectant bride, in Jane Eyre; of
Lady Castlewood as, in her indignation, she explains to the Duke
of Hamilton Henry Esmond's right to be present at the marriage of
his Grace with Beatrix;--may I add of Lady Mason, as she makes her
confession at the feet of Sir Peregrine Orme? Will any one say that
the authors of these passages have sinned in being over-sensational? No
doubt, a string of horrible incidents, bound together without truth
in detail, and told as affecting personages without character,--wooden
blocks, who cannot make themselves known to the reader as men
and women, does not instruct or amuse, or even fill the mind with
awe. Horrors heaped upon horrors, and which are horrors only in
themselves, and not as touching any recognised and known person,
are not tragic, and soon cease even to horrify. And such would-be
tragic elements of a story may be increased without end, and
without difficulty. I may tell you of a woman murdered,--murdered
in the same street with you, in the next house,--that she was a
wife murdered by her husband,--a bride not yet a week a wife. I may
add to it for ever. I may say that the murderer roasted her alive.
There is no end to it. I may declare that a former wife was treated
with equal barbarity; and may assert that, as the murderer was led
away to execution, he declared his only sorrow, his only regret
to be, that he could not live to treat a third wife after the same
fashion. There is nothing so easy as the creation and the cumulation
of fearful incidents after this fashion. If such creation and cumulation
be the beginning and the end of the novelist's work,--and novels have
been written which seem to be without other attractions,--nothing
can be more dull or more useless. But not on that account are we
averse to tragedy in prose fiction. As in poetry, so in prose, he
who can deal adequately with tragic elements is a greater artist
and reaches a higher aim than the writer whose efforts never carry
him above the mild walks of everyday life. The Bride of Lammermoor
is a tragedy throughout, in spite of its comic elements. The life
of Lady Castlewood, of whom I have spoken, is a tragedy. Rochester's
wretched thraldom to his mad wife, in Jane Eyre, is a tragedy.
But these stories charm us not simply because they are tragic, but
because we feel that men and women with flesh and blood, creatures
with whom we can sympathise, are struggling amidst their woes. It
all lies in that. No novel is anything, for the purposes either
of comedy or tragedy, unless the reader can sympathise with the
characters whose names he finds upon the pages. Let an author so
tell his tale as to touch his reader's heart and draw his tears,
and he has, so far, done his work well. Truth let there be,--truth
of description, truth of character, human truth as to men and
women. If there be such truth, I do not know that a novel can be
too sensational.

I did intend when I meditated that history of English fiction to
include within its pages some rules for the writing of novels;--or
I might perhaps say, with more modesty, to offer some advice on
the art to such tyros in it as might be willing to take advantage
of the experience of an old hand. But the matter would, I fear,
be too long for this episode, and I am not sure that I have as yet
got the rules quite settled in my own mind. I will, however, say
a few words on one or two points which my own practice has pointed
out to me.

I have from the first felt sure that the writer, when he sits down
to commence his novel, should do so, not because he has to tell
a story, but because he has a story to tell. The novelist's first
novel will generally have sprung from the right cause. Some series
of events, or some development of character, will have presented
itself to his imagination,--and this he feels so strongly that he
thinks he can present his picture in strong and agreeable language
to others. He sits down and tells his story because he has a story
to tell; as you, my friend, when you have heard something which
has at once tickled your fancy or moved your pathos, will hurry
to tell it to the first person you meet. But when that first novel
has been received graciously by the public and has made for itself
a success, then the writer naturally feeling that the writing of
novels is within his grasp, looks about for something to tell in
another. He cudgels his brains, not always successfully, and sits
down to write, not because he has something which he burns to
tell, but because be feels it to be incumbent on him to be telling
something. As you, my friend, if you are very successful in
the telling of that first story, will become ambitious of further
storytelling, and will look out for anecdotes,--in the narration
of which you will not improbably sometimes distress your audience.

So it has been with many novelists, who, after some good work,
perhaps after very much good work, have distressed their audience
because they have gone on with their work till their work has become
simply a trade with them. Need I make a list of such, seeing that
it would contain the names of those who have been greatest in the
art of British novel-writing? They have at last become weary of
that portion of a novelist's work which is of all the most essential
to success. That a man as he grows old should feel the labour of
writing to be a fatigue is natural enough. But a man to whom writing
has become a habit may write well though he be fatigued. But the
weary novelist refuses any longer to give his mind to that work of
observation and reception from which has come his power, without
which work his power cannot be continued,--which work should
be going on not only when he is at his desk, but in all his walks
abroad, in all his movements through the world, in all his intercourse
with his fellow-creatures. He has become a novelist, as another has
become a poet, because he has in those walks abroad, unconsciously
for the most part, been drawing in matter from all that he has seen
and heard. But this has not been done without labour, even when
the labour has been unconscious. Then there comes a time when he
shuts his eyes and shuts his ears. When we talk of memory fading
as age comes on, it is such shutting of eyes and ears that we mean.
The things around cease to interest us, and we cannot exercise
our minds upon them. To the novelist thus wearied there comes the
demand for further novels. He does not know his own defect, and
even if he did he does not wish to abandon his own profession. He
still writes; but he writes because he has to tell a story, not
because he has a story to tell. What reader of novels has not felt
the "woodenness" of this mode of telling? The characters do not
live and move, but are cut out of blocks and are propped against the
wall. The incidents are arranged in certain lines--the arrangement
being as palpable to the reader as it has been to the writer--but
do not follow each other as results naturally demanded by previous
action. The reader can never feel--as he ought to feel--that only
for that flame of the eye, only for that angry word, only for that
moment of weakness, all might have been different. The course of
the tale is one piece of stiff mechanism, in which there is no room
for a doubt.

These, it may be said, are reflections which I, being an old
novelist, might make useful to myself for discontinuing my work,
but can hardly be needed by those tyros of whom I have spoken. That
they are applicable to myself I readily admit, but I also find that
they apply to many beginners. Some of us who are old fail at last
because we are old. It would be well that each of us should say to

"Solve senescentem mature sanus equum, ne
Peccet ad extremum ridendus."

But many young fail also, because they endeavour to tell stories
when they have none to tell. And this comes from idleness rather
than from innate incapacity. The mind has not been sufficiently at
work when the tale has been commenced, nor is it kept sufficiently
at work as the tale is continued. I have never troubled myself much
about the construction of plots, and am not now insisting specially
on thoroughness in a branch of work in which I myself have not been
very thorough. I am not sure that the construction of a perfected
plot has been at any period within my power. But the novelist has
other aims than the elucidation of his plot. He desires to make
his readers so intimately acquainted with his characters that the
creatures of his brain should be to them speaking, moving, living,
human creatures. This he can never do unless he know those fictitious
personages himself, and he can never know them unless he can live
with them in the full reality of established intimacy. They must
be with him as he lies down to sleep, and as he wakes from his
dreams. He must learn to hate them and to love them. He must argue
with them, quarrel with them, forgive them, and even submit to them.
He must know of them whether they be cold-blooded or passionate,
whether true or false, and how far true, and how far false. The
depth and the breadth, and the narrowness and the shallowness of
each should be clear to him. And, as here, in our outer world, we
know that men and women change,--become worse or better as temptation
or conscience may guide them,--so should these creations of his
change, and every change should be noted by him. On the last day
of each month recorded, every person in his novel should be a month
older than on the first. If the would-be novelist have aptitudes
that way, all this will come to him without much struggling;--but
if it do not come, I think he can only make novels of wood.

It is so that I have lived with my characters, and thence has come
whatever success I have obtained. There is a gallery of them, and
of all in that gallery I may say that I know the tone of the voice,
and the colour of the hair, every flame of the eye, and the very
clothes they wear. Of each man I could assert whether he would have
said these or the other words; of every woman, whether she would
then have smiled or so have frowned. When I shall feel that this
intimacy ceases, then I shall know that the old horse should be
turned out to grass. That I shall feel it when I ought to feel it,
I will by no means say. I do not know that I am at all wiser than
Gil Blas' canon; but I do know that the power indicated is one without
which the teller of tales cannot tell them to any good effect.

The language in which the novelist is to put forth his story, the
colours with which he is to paint his picture, must of course be to
him matter of much consideration. Let him have all other possible
gifts,--imagination, observation, erudition, and industry,--they
will avail him nothing for his purpose, unless he can put forth
his work in pleasant words. If he be confused, tedious, harsh, or
unharmonious, readers will certainly reject him. The reading of
a volume of history or on science may represent itself as a duty;
and though the duty may by a bad style be made very disagreeable,
the conscientious reader will perhaps perform it. But the novelist
will be assisted by no such feeling. Any reader may reject his
work without the burden of a sin. It is the first necessity of his
position that he make himself pleasant. To do this, much more is
necessary than to write correctly. He may indeed be pleasant without
being correct,--as I think can be proved by the works of more than
one distinguished novelist. But he must be intelligible,--intelligible
without trouble; and he must be harmonious.

Any writer who has read even a little will know what is meant by
the word intelligible. It is not sufficient that there be a meaning
that may be hammered out of the sentence, but that the language
should be so pellucid that the meaning should be rendered without
an effort of the reader;--and not only some proposition of meaning,
but the very sense, no more and no less, which the writer has intended
to put into his words. What Macaulay says should be remembered by
all writers: "How little the all-important art of making meaning
pellucid is studied now! Hardly any popular author except myself
thinks of it." The language used should be as ready and as efficient
a conductor of the mind of the writer to the mind of the reader
as is the electric spark which passes from one battery to another
battery. In all written matter the spark should carry everything;
but in matters recondite the recipient will search to see that
he misses nothing, and that he takes nothing away too much. The
novelist cannot expect that any such search will be made. A young
writer, who will acknowledge the truth of what I am saying, will
often feel himself tempted by the difficulties of language to
tell himself that some one little doubtful passage, some single
collocation of words, which is not quite what it ought to be, will
not matter. I know well what a stumbling-block such a passage may
be. But he should leave none such behind him as he goes on. The
habit of writing clearly soon comes to the writer who is a severe
critic to himself.

As to that harmonious expression which I think is required, I shall
find it more difficult to express my meaning. It will be granted, I
think, by readers that a style may be rough, and yet both forcible
and intelligible; but it will seldom come to pass that a novel written
in a rough style will be popular,--and less often that a novelist
who habitually uses such a style will become so. The harmony which
is required must come from the practice of the ear. There are few
ears naturally so dull that they cannot, if time be allowed to them,
decide whether a sentence, when read, be or be not harmonious. And
the sense of such harmony grows on the ear, when the intelligence
has once informed itself as to what is, and what is not harmonious.
The boy, for instance, who learns with accuracy the prosody of a
Sapphic stanza, and has received through his intelligence a knowledge
of its parts, will soon tell by his ear whether a Sapphic stanza
be or be not correct. Take a girl, endowed with gifts of music,
well instructed in her art, with perfect ear, and read to her such
a stanza with two words transposed, as, for instance--

Mercuri, nam te docilis magistro
Tuque testudo resonare septem
Callida nervis--

and she will find no halt in the rhythm. But a schoolboy with
none of her musical acquirements or capacities, who has, however,
become familiar with the metres of the poet, will at once discover
the fault. And so will the writer become familiar with what is
harmonious in prose. But in order that familiarity may serve him
in his business, he must so train his ear that he shall be able
to weigh the rhythm of every word as it falls from his pen. This,
when it has been done for a time, even for a short time, will become
so habitual to him that he will have appreciated the metrical duration
of every syllable before it shall have dared to show itself upon
paper. The art of the orator is the same. He knows beforehand how
each sound which he is about to utter will affect the force of his
climax. If a writer will do so he will charm his readers, though
his readers will probably not know how they have been charmed.

In writing a novel the author soon becomes aware that a burden
of many pages is before him. Circumstances require that he should
cover a certain and generally not a very confined space. Short novels
are not popular with readers generally. Critics often complain of
the ordinary length of novels,--of the three volumes to which they
are subjected; but few novels which have attained great success in
England have been told in fewer pages. The novel-writer who sticks
to novel-writing as his profession will certainly find that this
burden of length is incumbent on him. How shall he carry his burden
to the end? How shall he cover his space? Many great artists have
by their practice opposed the doctrine which I now propose to
preach;--but they have succeeded I think in spite of their fault
and by dint of their greatness. There should be no episodes in a
novel. Every sentence, every word, through all those pages, should
tend to the telling of the story. Such episodes distract the
attention of the reader, and always do so disagreeably. Who has not
felt this to be the case even with The Curious Impertinent and with
the History of the Man of the Hill. And if it be so with Cervantes
and Fielding, who can hope to succeed? Though the novel which you
have to write must be long, let it be all one. And this exclusion
of episodes should be carried down into the smallest details.
Every sentence and every word used should tend to the telling of
the story. "But," the young novelist will say, "with so many pages
before me to be filled, how shall I succeed if I thus confine
myself;--how am I to know beforehand what space this story of mine
will require? There must be the three volumes, or the certain number
of magazine pages which I have contracted to supply. If I may not
be discursive should occasion require, how shall I complete my task?
The painter suits the size of his canvas to his subject, and must
I in my art stretch my subject to my canas?" This undoubtedly must
be done by the novelist; and if he will learn his business, may
be done without injury to his effect. He may not paint different
pictures on the same canvas, which he will do if he allow himself
to wander away to matters outside his own story; but by studying
proportion in his work, he may teach himself so to tell his story
that it shall naturally fall into the required length. Though his
story should be all one, yet it may have many parts. Though the
plot itself may require but few characters, it may be so enlarged
as to find its full development in many. There may be subsidiary
plots, which shall all tend to the elucidation of the main story,
and which will take their places as part of one and the same
work,--as there may be many figures on a canvas which shall not to
the spectator seem to form themselves into separate pictures.

There is no portion of a novelist's work in which this fault of
episodes is so common as in the dialogue. It is so easy to make
any two persons talk on any casual subject with which the writer
presumes himself to be conversant! Literature, philosophy, politics,
or sport, may thus be handled in a loosely discursive style; and
the writer, while indulging himself and filling his pages, is apt
to think that he is pleasing his reader. I think he can make no
greater mistake. The dialogue is generally the most agreeable part
of a novel; but it is only so as long as it tends in some way to
the telling of the main story. It need not seem to be confined to
that, but it should always have a tendency in that direction. The
unconscious critical acumen of a reader is both just and severe.
When a long dialogue on extraneous matter reaches his mind, he at
once feels that he is being cheated into taking something which he
did not bargain to accept when he took up that novel. He does not
at that moment require politics or philosophy, but he wants his
story. He will not perhaps be able to say in so many words that at
some certain point the dialogue has deviated from the story; but
when it does so he will feel it, and the feeling will be unpleasant.
Let the intending novel-writer, if he doubt this, read one of
Bulwer's novels,--in which there is very much to charm,--and then
ask himself whether he has not been offended by devious conversations.

And the dialogue, on which the modern novelist in consulting the
taste of his probable readers must depend most, has to be constrained
also by other rules. The writer may tell much of his story in
conversations, but he may only do so by putting such words into
the mouths of his personages as persons so situated would probably
use. He is not allowed for the sake of his tale to make his characters
give utterance to long speeches, such as are not customarily heard
from men and women. The ordinary talk of ordinary people is carried
on in short, sharp, expressive sentences, which very frequently are
never completed,--the language of which even among educated people
is often incorrect. The novel-writer in constructing his dialogue
must so steer between absolute accuracy of language--which would
give to his conversation an air of pedantry, and the slovenly
inaccuracy of ordinary talkers, which if closely followed would
offend by an appearance of grimace--as to produce upon the ear of
his readers a sense of reality. If he be quite real he will seem
to attempt to be funny. If he be quite correct he will seem to
be unreal. And above all, let the speeches be short. No character
should utter much above a dozen words at a breath,--unless the writer
can justify to himself a longer flood of speech by the specialty
of the occasion.

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