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´╗┐Title: The story of my first novel; How a novel is written
Author: Duchess, 1855?-1897
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The story of my first novel; How a novel is written" ***

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[Transcriber's note: Mrs. Hungerford (Margaret Wolfe Hamilton)
(1855?-1897) "The story of my first novel" (from The Ladies'
Home Journal vol. VII No 8 Philadelphia July 1890 p.14)]

The Duchess

"The story of my first novel"

My first novel! Alas! for that first story of mine--the raven I sent
out of my ark and never see again! Unlike the proverbial curse, it did
_not_ come home to roost, it stayed where I had sent it. The only thing
I ever heard of it again was a polite letter from the editor in whose
office it lay, telling me I could have it back if I enclosed stamps for
the amount of twopence halfpenny, otherwise he should feel it his
unpleasant duty to "consign it to the waste-paper basket."

I was only sixteen then, and it is a very long time ago; but I have
always hated the words "waste-paper" ever since. I don't remember that
I was either angry or indignant, but I _do_ remember that I was both
sad and sorry. At all events, I never sent that two-pence half-penny,
so I conclude my first MS. went to light the fire of that heartless
editor. So much comfort I may have bestowed on him, but he left me
comfortless; and yet who can say what good he may not have done me?
Paths made too smooth leave the feet unprepared for rougher roads. To
step always in the primrose ways is death to the higher desires. Yet
oh, for the hours I spent over that poor rejected story, beautifying it
(as I fondly, if erroneously, believed), adding a word here, a
sentiment there! So conscientiously-minded was I, that even the
headings of the chapters were scraps of poetry (so called) done all by
myself. Well, never mind. I was very young then, and as they say upon
the stage, I "meant well."

For a long twelvemonth after that I never dreamed of putting pen to
paper. I had given myself up, as it were. I was the most modest of
children, and fully decided within myself that a man so clever, as a
real live editor must needs be, could not have been mistaken. He had
seen and judged, and practically told me that writing was not my forte.
Yet the inevitable hour came round once more. Once again an idea caught
me, held me, _persuaded_ me that I could put it into words. I struggled
with it this time, but it was too strong for me, that early
exhilarating certainty that there was "something in me," as people say,
was once more mine, and seizing my pen, I sat down and wrote, wrote,
wrote, until the idea was an object formed. With closed doors I wrote
at stolen moments. I had not forgotten the quips and cranks uttered at
my expense by my brother and sister on the refusal of that last-first
manuscript. To them it had been a fund of joy.

In fear and trembling I wrote this second effusion, finished it, wept
over it (it was the most lachrymose of tales), and finally under cover
of night induced the house maid to carry it to the post. To that first
unsympathetic editor I sent it (which argues a distinct lack of malice
in my disposition), and oh, joy! it was actually accepted. I have
written many a thing since, but I doubt if I have ever known again the
unadulterated delight that was mine when my first insignificant check
was held within my hands.


[Transcriber's note: Mrs. Hungerford (Margaret Wolfe Hamilton)
(1855?-1897) "How a novel is written" (from The Ladies' Home
Journal vol. VII No 2 Philadelphia January 1890 p.11)]

The Duchess

"How a novel is written"

The characters in my novels, you ask how I conceive them? Once the plot
is rescued from the misty depths of the mind, the characters come and
range themselves readily enough. A scene, we will say, suggests
itself--a garden, a flower show, a ball-room, what you will--and two
people in it. A _young_ man and woman for choice. They are _always_
young with me, for that matter, for what, under the heaven we are
promised, is so altogether perfect as youth! If any one of you, dear
readers, is as bad a sleeper as I am, you will understand how thoughts
swarm at midnight. Busy, bustling, stinging bees, they forbid the
needed rest, and, thronging the idle brain, compel attention. Here in
the silent hours the ghosts called characters walk, smiling, bowing,
nodding, pirouetting, going like marionettes through all their paces.
At night I have had my gayest thoughts, at night my saddest. All things
seem open then to that giant, Imagination. Here, lying in the dark,
with as yet no glimmer of the coming dawn, no faintest light to show
where the closed curtains join, too indolent to rise and light the
lamp, too sleepy to put one's foot out of the well-warmed bed, praying
fruitlessly for that sleep that will not come--it is at such moments
as theses that my mind lays hold of the novel now in hand, and works
away at it with a vigor, against which the natural desire for sleep
hopelessly makes battle.

Just born this novel may be, or half completed; however it is, off goes
my brain at a tangent. Scene follows scene, one touching the other; the
character unconsciously falls into shape; the villain takes a rudy hue;
the hero dons a white robe; as for the heroine, who shall say what dyes
from Olympia are not hers? A conversation suggests itself, an act
thrusts itself into notice. Lightest of skeletons all these must
necessarily be, yet they make up eventually the big whole, and from the
brain wanderings of one wakeful night three of four chapters are
created for the next morning's work. As for the work itself, mine is
perhaps strangely done, for often I have written the last chapter
first, and founded my whole story on the one episode that it contained.

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