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Title: My First Book: - the experiences of Walter Besant, James Payn, W. Clark Russell, Grant Allen, Hall Caine, George R. Sims, Rudyard Kipling, A. Conan Doyle, M.E. Braddon, F.W. Robinson, H. Rider Haggard, R.M. Ballantyne, I. Zangwill, Morley Roberts, David Christie Murray, Marie Corelli, Jerome K. Jerome, John Strange Winter, Bret Harte, "Q.", Robert Buchanan, Robert Louis Stevenson, with an introduction by Jerome K. Jerome.
Author: Various
Language: English
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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 "My First Book: - the experiences of Walter Besant, James Payn, W. Clark Russell, Grant Allen, Hall Caine, George R. Sims, Rudyard Kipling, A. Conan Doyle, M.E. Braddon, F.W. Robinson, H. Rider Haggard, R.M. Ballantyne, I. Zangwill, Morley Roberts, David Christie Murray, Marie Corelli, Jerome K. Jerome, John Strange Winter, Bret Harte, "Q.", Robert Buchanan, Robert Louis Stevenson, with an introduction by Jerome K. Jerome." ***

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[Illustration: book's cover]



[Illustration: signed: Yours sincerely,

Jerome K. Jerome]































'Please, sir,' he said, 'could you tell me the right time?'

'Twenty minutes to eight,' I replied, looking at my watch.

'Oh,' he remarked. Then added for my information after a pause: 'I
haven't got to be in till half-past eight.'

After that we fell back into our former silence, and sat watching the
murky twilight, he at his end of the park seat, I at mine.

'And do you live far away?' I asked, lest, he having miscalculated, the
short legs might be hard put to it.

'Oh no, only over there,' he answered, indicating with a sweep of his
arm the northern half of London where it lay darkening behind the
chimney-fringed horizon; 'I often come and sit here.'

It seemed an odd pastime for so very small a citizen. 'And what makes
you like to come and sit here?' I said.

'Oh, I don't know,' he replied, 'I think.'

'And what do you think about?'

'Oh--oh, lots of things.'

He inspected me shyly out of the corner of his eye, but, satisfied
apparently by the scrutiny, he sidled up a little nearer.

'Mama does not like this evening time,' he confided to me; 'it always
makes her cry. But then,' he went on to explain, 'Mama has had a lot of
trouble, and that makes anyone feel different about things, you know.'

I agreed that this was so. 'And do you like this evening time?' I

'Yes,' he answered; 'don't you?'

'Yes, I like it too,' I admitted. 'But tell me why you like it, then I
will tell you why I like it.'

'Oh,' he replied, 'things come to you.'

'What things?' I asked.

Again his critical eye passed over me, and it raised me in my own
conceit to find that again the inspection contented him, he evidently
feeling satisfied that here was a man to whom another gentleman might
speak openly and without reserve.

He wriggled sideways, slipping his hands beneath him and sitting on

'Oh, fancies,' he explained; 'I'm going to be an author when I grow up,
and write books.'

Then I knew why it was that the sight of his little figure had drawn me
out of my path to sit beside him, and why the little serious face had
seemed so familiar to me, as of some one I had once known long ago.

So we talked of books and bookmen. He told me how, having been born on
the fourteenth of February, his name had come to be Valentine, though
privileged parties, as for example Aunt Emma, and Mr. Dawson, and Cousin
Naomi, had shortened it to Val, and Mama would sometimes call him
Pickaniny, but that was only when they were quite alone. In return I
confided to him my name, and discovered that he had never heard it,
which pained me for the moment, until I found that of all my confrères,
excepting only Mr. Stevenson, he was equally ignorant, he having lived
with the heroes and the heroines of the past, the new man and the new
woman, the new pathos and the new humour being alike unknown to him.

Scott and Dumas and Victor Hugo were his favourites. 'Gulliver's
Travels,' 'Robinson Crusoe,' 'Don Quixote,' and the 'Arabian Nights,' he
knew almost by heart, and these we discussed, exchanging many pleasant
and profitable ideas upon the same. But the psychological novel, I
gathered, was not to his taste. He liked '_real_ stories,' he told me,
naïvely unconscious of the satire, 'where people did things.'

'I used to read silly stuff once,' he confessed humbly, 'Indian tales
and that sort of thing, you know, but Mama said I'd never be able to
write if I read that rubbish.'

'So you gave it up,' I concluded for him.

'Yes,' he answered. But a little sigh of regret, I thought, escaped him
at the same time.

'And what do you read now?' I asked.

'I'm reading Marlowe's plays and De Quincey's Confessions (he called him
Quinsy) just now,' was his reply.

'And do you understand them?' I queried.

'Fairly well,' he answered. Then added more hopefully, 'Mama says I'll
get to like them better as I go on.'

'I want to learn to write very, very well indeed,' he suddenly added
after a long pause, his little earnest face growing still more serious,
'then I'll be able to earn heaps of money.'

It rose to my lips to answer him that it was not always the books
written very, very well that brought in the biggest heaps of money; that
if heaps of money were his chiefest hope he would be better advised to
devote his energies to the glorious art of self-advertisement and the
gentle craft of making friends upon the Press. But something about the
almost baby face beside me, fringed by the gathering shadows, silenced
my middle-aged cynicism. Involuntarily my gaze followed his across the
strip of foot-worn grass, across the dismal-looking patch of ornamental
water, beyond the haze of tangled trees, beyond the distant row of
stuccoed houses, and, arrived there with him, I noticed many men and
women clothed in the garments of all ages and all lands, men and women
who had written very, very well indeed and who notwithstanding had
earned heaps of money, the hire worthy of the labourer, and who were not
ashamed; men and women who had written true words which the common
people had read gladly; men and women who had been raised to lasting
fame upon the plaudits of their day; and before the silent faces of
these, made beautiful by Time, the little bitter sneers I had counted
truth rang foolish in my heart, so that I returned with my young friend
to our green seat beside the foot-worn grass, feeling by no means so
sure as when I had started which of us twain were the better fitted to
teach wisdom to the other.

'And what would you do, Valentine, with heaps of money?' I asked.

Again for a moment his old shyness of me returned. Perhaps it was not
quite a legitimate question from a friend of such recent standing. But
his frankness wrestled with his reserve and once more conquered.

'Mama need not do any work then,' he answered. 'She isn't really strong
enough for it, you know,' he explained, 'and I'd buy back the big house
where she used to live when she was a little girl, and take her back to
live in the country--the country air is so much better for her, you
know--and Aunt Emma, too.'

But I confess that as regards Aunt Emma his tone was not enthusiastic.

I spoke to him--less dogmatically than I might have done a few minutes
previously, and I trust not discouragingly--of the trials and troubles
of the literary career, and of the difficulties and disappointments
awaiting the literary aspirant, but my croakings terrified him not.

'Mama says that every work worth doing is difficult,' he replied, 'and
that it doesn't matter what career we choose there are difficulties and
disappointments to be overcome, and that I must work very hard and say
to myself "I _will_ succeed," and then in the end, you know, I shall.'

'Though of course it may be a long time,' he added cheerfully.

Only one thing in the slightest daunted him, and that was the weakness
of his spelling.

'And I suppose,' he asked, 'you must spell very well indeed to be an

I explained to him, however, that this failing was generally met by a
little judicious indistinctness of caligraphy, and all obstacles thus
removed, the business of a literary gent seemed to him an exceptionally
pleasant and joyous one.

'Mama says it is a noble calling,' he confided to me, 'and that anyone
ought to be very proud and glad to be able to write books, because they
give people happiness and make them forget things, and that one ought to
be awfully good if one's going to be an author, so as to be worthy to
help and teach others.'

'And do you try to be awfully good, Valentine?' I enquired.

'Yes,' he answered; 'but it's awfully hard, you know. I don't think
anybody could ever be _quite_ good--until,' he corrected himself, 'they
were grown up.'

'I suppose,' he added with a little sigh, 'it's easy for grown-up people
to be good.'

It was my turn to glance suspiciously at him, this time wondering if the
seeds of satire could have taken root already in that tiny brain. But
his eyes met mine without flinching, and I was not loath to drift away
from the point.

'And what else does your Mama say about literature, Valentine?' I asked.
For the strangeness of it was that, though I kept repeating under my
breath 'Copy-book maxims, copy-book maxims,' hoping by such shibboleth
to protect myself from their influence, the words yet stirred within me
old childish thoughts and sentiments that I, in my cleverness, had long
since learnt to laugh at, and had thought forgotten. I, with my years of
knowledge and experience behind me, seemed for the nonce to be sitting
with Valentine at the feet of this unseen lady, listening, as I again
told myself, to 'copy-book maxims' and finding in them in spite of
myself a certain element of truth, a certain amount of helpfulness, an
unpleasant suggestion of reproach.

He tucked his hands underneath him, as before, and sat swinging his
short legs.

'Oh--oh lots of things,' he answered vaguely.

'Yes?' I persisted.

'Oh, that--' he repeated it slowly, recalling it word for word as he
went on, 'that he who can write a great book is greater than a king;
that a good book is better than a good sermon; that the gift of being
able to write is given to anybody in trust, and that an author should
never forget that he is God's servant.'

I thought of the chatter of the clubs, and could not avoid a smile. But
the next moment something moved me to take his hand in mine, and,
turning his little solemn face towards mine, to say:

'If ever there comes a time, little man, when you are tempted to laugh
at your mother's old-fashioned notions--and such a time may
come--remember that an older man than you once told you he would that he
had always kept them in his heart, he would have done better work.'

Then growing frightened at my own earnestness, as we men do, deeming it,
God knows why, something to be ashamed of, I laughed away his answering
questions, and led the conversation back to himself.

'And have you ever tried writing anything?' I asked him.

Of course he had, what need to question! And it was, strange to say, a
story about a little boy who lived with his mother and aunt, and who
went to school.

'It is sort of,' he explained, 'sort of auto--bio--graphical, you know.'

'And what does Mama think of it?' was my next question, after we had
discussed the advantages of drawing upon one's own personal experiences
for one's material.

'Mama thinks it is very clever--in parts,' he told me.

'You read it to her?' I suggested.

'Yes,' he acknowledged, 'in the evening, when she's working, and Aunt
Emma isn't there.'

The room rose up before me, I could see the sweet-faced lady in her
chair beside the fire, her white hands moving to and from the pile of
sewing by her side, the little flushed face of the lad bending over his
pages written in sprawling schoolboy hand. I saw the love light in her
eyes as every now and then she stole a covert glance across at him, I
heard his childish treble rising and falling, as his small finger moved
slowly down the sheet.

Suddenly it said, a little more distinctly:

'Please, sir, could you tell me the time?'

'Just over the quarter, Valentine,' I answered, waking up and looking at
my watch.

He rose and held out his hand.

'I didn't know it was so late,' he said, 'I must go now.'

But as our hands met another question occurred to him.

'Oh,' he exclaimed, 'you said you'd tell me why you liked to come and
sit here of an evening, like I do. Why?'

'So I did, Valentine,' I replied, 'but I've changed my mind. When you
are a big man, as old as I am, you come and sit here and you'll know.
But it isn't so pleasant a reason as yours, Valentine, and you wouldn't
understand it. Good-night.'

He raised his cap with an old-fashioned courtesy and trotted off,
looking however a little puzzled. Some distance down the path, he turned
and waved his hand to me, and I watched him disappear into the twilight.

I sat on for a while, thinking many thoughts, until across the rising
mist there rang a hoarse, harsh cry, 'All out, All out,' and slowly I
moved homeward.



READY-MONEY MORTIBOY. BY WALTER BESANT                                 3

THE FAMILY SCAPEGRACE. BY JAMES PAYN                                  15

RUSSELL                                                               29

ALLEN                                                                 43

THE SHADOW OF A CRIME. BY HALL CAINE                                  53

THE SOCIAL KALEIDOSCOPE. BY GEORGE R. SIMS                            75

DEPARTMENTAL DITTIES. BY RUDYARD KIPLING                              91

JUVENILIA. BY A. CONAN DOYLE                                          99

THE TRAIL OF THE SERPENT. BY M. E. BRADDON                           109

THE HOUSE OF ELMORE. BY F. W. ROBINSON                               123

DAWN. BY H. RIDER HAGGARD                                            135

HUDSON'S BAY. BY R. M. BALLANTYNE                                    151

THE PREMIER AND THE PAINTER. BY I. ZANGWILL                          163

THE WESTERN AVERNUS. BY MORLEY ROBERTS                               181

A LIFE'S ATONEMENT. BY DAVID CHRISTIE MURRAY                         193

A ROMANCE OF TWO WORLDS. BY MARIE CORELLI                            206

ON THE STAGE AND OFF. BY JEROME K. JEROME                            221

STANNARD)                                                            239

CALIFORNIAN VERSE. BY BRET HARTE                                     257

DEAD MAN'S ROCK. BY 'Q.'                                             269

BY ROBERT BUCHANAN                                                   283

TREASURE ISLAND. BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON                           297



JEROME K. JEROME                         _Frontispiece_

WALTER BESANT                                                          2

JAMES RICE                                                             5

JULIA                                                                  7

MR. BESANT'S STUDY                                                     9

THE OYSTER SHOP                                                       12

A BOOK PLATE                                                          13

A WICKED SISTER                                                       16

JAMES PAYN                                                            17

IT 'TOOK OFF' FROM HIS SHOULDER                                       18

MR. PAYN'S STUDY                                                      19

COUNT GOTSUCHAKOFF                                                    21

'WOULD YOU MIND JUST READING A BIT OF IT?'                            22

THE SERVANT CAME TO PUT COALS ON THE FIRE                             23

MR. PAYN'S OFFICE AT WATERLOO PLACE                                   24

KILLED BY LIONS                                                       25

CLARK RUSSELL                                                         28

CLARK RUSSELL AS A MIDSHIPMAN OF SEVENTEEN                            29

I WAS A CHILD OF THIRTEEN                                             30

NEATBY                                                                31

ANCHORED IN THE DOWNS                                                 32

SOME OF THE CREW                                                      33

THE MAGISTRATES                                                       34

THE WRECK OF THE 'GROSVENOR'                                          35

MRS. CLARK RUSSELL                                                    37

THE BOATSWAIN OF THE 'GROSVENOR'                                      38

THE 'HOUGOUMONT'                                                      39

POOR JACK!                                                            40

GRANT ALLEN                                                           42

FICTION                                                               44

SCIENCE                                                               45

ANDREW CHATTO                                                         49

A SHELF IN THE STUDY                                                  50

'THANK YOU, SIR'                                                      51

I LEFT IT                                                             54

HALL CAINE                                                            55

MY MS. WENT SPRAWLING OVER THE TABLE                                  56

DERWENTWATER                                                          57

STY HEAD PASS                                                         58

WASTWATER FROM STY HEAD PASS                                          59

THE HORSE BROKE AWAY                                                  60

SOMETHING STRAPPED ON ITS BACK                                        61

THE CASTLE ROCK, ST. JOHN'S VALE                                      62

THIRLMERE                                                             63

ROSSETTI WALKING TO AND FRO                                           64

DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI                                                65

MR. HALL CAINE IN HIS STUDY                                           68

MRS. HALL CAINE                                                       69

COMING UP IN THE TRAIN                                                71

12 CLARENCE TERRACE                                                   75

THE HALL                                                              76

GEORGE R. SIMS                                                        77

GEORGE R. SIMS                                                        78

THE 'SOCIAL KALEIDOSCOPE'                                             79

THE SNUGGERY                                                          80

MR. SIMS'S 'LITTLE DAWG'                                              81

THE DINING-ROOM                                                       82

THE LIBRARY                                                           83

'SIR HUGO'                                                            84

THE BALCONY                                                           85

'BEAUTY,' AN OLD FAVOURITE, TWENTY YEARS OLD                          86

THE DRAWING-ROOM                                                      87

'FAUST UP TO DATE'                                                    88

MR. SIMS'S DINNER PARTY                                               89

THE NEWSPAPER FILES                                                   91


RUDYARD KIPLING                                                       93

SUNG TO THE BANJOES ROUND CAMP FIRES                                  96

DEPARTMENTAL DITTIES                                                  97

A. CONAN DOYLE                                                        98

I WAS SIX                                                             99

ON THE PRAIRIES AND THE OCEANS                                       100

MY DÉBUT AS A STORY-TELLER                                           101

'WITH THE EDITOR'S COMPLIMENTS'                                      102

'HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT YOU?'                             103


MR. ANDREW LANG                                                      107

LICHFIELD HOUSE, RICHMOND                                            110

THE HALL                                                             111

THE DINING-ROOM                                                      112

THE DRAWING-ROOM                                                     113

THE EVENING-ROOM                                                     115

THE SMOKING-ROOM                                                     116

THE LIBRARY                                                          117

MISS BRADDON'S FAVOURITE MARE                                        119

THE ORANGERY                                                         120

MISS BRADDON'S COTTAGE AT LYNDHURST                                  121

MISS BRADDON'S INKSTAND                                              122

AT TWENTY                                                            124

F. W. ROBINSON                                                       125

ELMORE HOUSE                                                         126

AT THIRTY                                                            127

MR. ROBINSON'S LIBRARY                                               128

THE GARDEN                                                           129

THE DRAWING-ROOM                                                     130

AT FORTY                                                             131

MR. ROBINSON AT WORK                                                 132

H. RIDER HAGGARD                                                     134

THE FRONT GARDEN                                                     135

MR. RIDER HAGGARD AND HIS DAUGHTERS                                  137

THE HALL                                                             139

MR. RIDER HAGGARD'S STUDY                                            141

SOME CURIOS                                                          143

A STUDY CORNER                                                       145

MR. RIDER HAGGARD                                                    147

THE FARM                                                             149

WHERE I WROTE MY FIRST BOOK                                          151

R. M. BALLANTYNE                                                     153

MR. BALLANTYNE'S HOUSE AT HARROW                                     155

TROPHIES FROM MR. BALLANTYNE'S TRAVELS                               157

THE STUDY                                                            159

MR. R. M. BALLANTYNE                                                 161

LOOKING FOR TOOLE                                                    164

I. ZANGWILL                                                          165

I SAT DOWN AND WROTE SOMETHING                                       166

ARTHUR GODDARD                                                       167

IT WAS HAWKED ABOUT THE STREETS                                      168

A POLICEMAN TOLD HIM TO GET DOWN                                     169


LIFE IN BETHNAL GREEN                                                173

WE SENT IT ROUND                                                     175

MR. ZANGWILL AT WORK                                                 177

EDITING A COMIC PAPER                                                178


MR. MORLEY ROBERTS                                                   180

BEFORE THE MAST                                                      181

I MARRIED THEM ALL OFF AT THE END                                    182


DEFYING THE UNIVERSE                                                 185

COWBOY ROBERTS                                                       186

THE VERY PRAIRIE DOGS TAUGHT ME                                      187

THE CALIFORNIA COAST RANGE                                           189

BY THE CAMP FIRE                                                     190

D. CHRISTIE MURRAY                                                   192

I HANDED HIM TWO CHAPTERS                                            194

I SENT ALL MY PEOPLE INTO A COAL-MINE                                195

THEY INVESTED HIM WITH THE MEDAL                                     197

CONSULTING OLD ALMANACS                                              199

SHE DREW FROM IT A BROWN-PAPER PARCEL                                201

IF THERE HAD BEEN NO 'DAVID COPPERFIELD'                             202

THE STOCK WAS TRANSFERRED                                            203

SOME NOVELS                                                          204

THE DRAWING-ROOM                                                     209

THE LIBRARY                                                          211

THE STUDY                                                            213


MY FIRST-BORN                                                        222

JEROME K. JEROME                                                     223


THAT BRILLIANT IDEA                                                  227

I HATED THE DISMAL LITTLE 'SLAVEY'                                   230

THE STUDY                                                            231

I AM REMEMBERING                                                     234

MR. JEROME K. JEROME                                                 237

THREE SOLDIERS AND A PIG                                             239

JOHN STRANGE WINTER                                                  241

MR. ARTHUR STANNARD                                                  243

'THE FIRM' CONSIDERING                                               246

HE SQUINTED!                                                         247

MISS STANNARD                                                        248

'THE TWINS'--BOOTLES AND BETTY                                       249

LONG-LEGGED SOLDIERS                                                 251

CAVALRY LIFE                                                         253

I TOOK UP THE 'SATURDAY REVIEW'                                      255

BRET HARTE                                                           256

WE SETTLED TO OUR WORK                                               258

A CIRCULATION IT HAD NEVER KNOWN BEFORE                              259

'CONSIDER THEM AT YOUR SERVICE'                                      261

I WAS INWARDLY RELIEVED                                              263

THE BOOK SOLD TREMENDOUSLY                                           265

A. T. QUILLER COUCH                                                  268

'Q.' JUNIOR                                                          269

'THE HAVEN,' FOWEY                                                   273

MR. AND MRS. QUILLER COUCH                                           275


THE OLD STUDY                                                        279

MR. AND MRS. QUILLER COUCH IN A CANADIAN CANOE                       281

ROBERT BUCHANAN                                                      285

MR. BUCHANAN'S HOUSE                                                 287

THE STUDY                                                            291

MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN AND HIS FAVOURITE DOG                            295

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON                                               299

MR. STEVENSON'S HOUSE IN SAMOA                                       301

MRS. R. L. STEVENSON                                                 305

STEVENSON TELLING 'YARNS'                                            307

[Illustration: drawing, signed: Walter Besant]





Not the very first. That, after causing its writer labour infinite, hope
exaggerated, and disappointment dire, was consigned, while still in
manuscript, to the flames. My little experience, however, with this work
of Art, which never saw the light, may help others to believe, what is
so constantly denied, that publishers _do_ consider MSS. sent to them.
My MS. was sent anonymously, without any introduction, through a friend.
It was not only read--and refused--but it was read very conscientiously
and right through. So much was proved by the reader's opinion, which not
only showed the reasons--good and sufficient reasons--why he could not
recommend the manuscript to be published, but also contained,
indirectly, certain hints and suggestions, which opened up new ideas as
to the Art of Fiction, and helped to put a strayed sheep in the right
way. Now it is quite obvious that what was done for me must be
constantly and consistently done for others. My very first novel,
therefore, was read and refused. Would that candidates for literary
honours could be made to understand that refusal is too often the very
best thing that can happen to them! But the gods sometimes punish man by
granting his prayers. How heavy may be the burden laid upon the writer
by his first work! If anyone, for instance, should light upon the first
novels written by Richard Jefferies, he will understand the weight of
that burden.

My first MS., therefore, was destined to get burned or somehow
destroyed. For some years it lay in a corner--say, sprawled in a
corner--occupying much space. At dusk I used to see a strange, wobbling,
amorphous creature in that corner among those papers. His body seemed
not made for his limbs, nor did these agree with each other, and his
head was out of proportion to the rest of him. He sat upon the pile of
papers, and he wept, wringing his hands. 'Alas!' he said: 'Not another
like me. Don't make another like me. I could not endure another like
myself.' Finally, the creature's reproaches grew intolerable; so I threw
the bundle of papers behind the fire, and he vanished. One had
discovered by this time that for the making even of a tolerable novel it
is necessary to leave off copying other people, to observe on your own
account, to study realities, to get out of the conventional groove, to
rely upon one or other of the great emotions of human nature, and to try
to hold the reader by dramatic presentation rather than by talk. I do
not say that this discovery came all at once, but it came gradually, and
it proved valuable.

[Illustration: drawing signed: Yours faithfully James Rice]

One more point. A second assertion is continually being heard concerning
editors. It is said that they do not read contributions offered to them.
When editors publicly advertise that they do not invite contributions,
or that they will not return contributions, it is reasonable to suppose
that they do not read them. Well, you have heard my first experience
with a publisher. Hear next an experience with editors. It is, first, to
the fact that contributions _are_ read by editors that I owe my
introduction to James Rice and my subsequent collaboration with him. It
was, next, to an unsolicited contribution that I owed a connection of
many years with a certain monthly magazine. It was, lastly, through an
unsolicited contribution that I became and continued for some time a
writer of leading articles for a great London daily. Therefore, when I
hear that editors will not read contributions, I ask if things have
changed in twenty years--and why?

I sent a paper, then, unasked, and without introduction, to the editor
of _Once a Week_. The editor read it, accepted it, and sent it to the
press. Immediately afterwards he left the journal because it was sold to
Rice, then a young man, not long from Cambridge, and just called to the
Bar. He became editor as well as proprietor. The former editor forgot to
tell his successor anything about my article. Rice, finding it in type,
and not knowing who had written it, inserted it shortly after he took
over the journal, so that the first notice that I received that the
paper was accepted was when I saw it in the magazine, bristling with
printer's errors. Of course I wrote indignantly to the editor. I
received a courteous reply begging me to call. I did so, and the matter
was explained. Then for a year or two I continued to send things to
_Once a Week_. But the paper was anything but prosperous. Indeed, I
believe there was never any time during its existence of twenty years
when it could be called prosperous. After three years of gallant
struggle, Rice concluded to give it up. He sold the paper. He would
never confess how much he lost over it; but the ambition to become
proprietor and editor of a popular weekly existed no longer in his
bosom, and he was wont to grow thoughtful in after years when this
episode was recalled to his memory. During this period, however, I saw a
great deal of the management, and was admitted behind the scenes, and
saw several remarkable and interesting people. For instance, there was a
certain literary hack, a pure and simple hack, who was engaged at a
salary to furnish so many columns a week to order. He was clever,
something of a scholar, something of a poet, and could write a very
readable paper on almost any subject. In fact, he was not in the least
proud, and would undertake anything that was proposed. It was not his
duty to suggest, nor did he show the least interest in his work, nor had
he the least desire to advance himself. In most cases, I believe, he
simply 'conveyed' the matter; and if the thing was found out, he would
be the first to deplore that he had 'forgotten the quotes.' He was a
thirsty soul; he had no enthusiasm except for drink; he lived, in fact,
only for drink; in order to get more money for drink he lived in one
squalid room, and went in rags. One day he dismissed himself after an
incident over which we may drop a veil. Some time after it was reported
that he was attempting the stage as a pantomime super. But fate fell
upon him; he became ill; he was carried to a hospital; and pneumonia
opened for him the gates of the other world. He was made for better

[Illustration: JULIA]

Again, it was in the editor's small back room that I made the
acquaintance of a young lady named Julia, whose biography I afterwards
related. She was a bookbinder's accountant all the day, and in the
evening she was a _figurante_ at one of the theatres. I think she was
not a very pretty girl, but she had good eyes--of the soft, sad kind,
which seem to belong to those destined to die young; and in the evening,
when she was dressed, she looked very well indeed, and was placed in the

To the editor's office came in multitudes seedy and poverty-stricken
literary men; there were not, twenty-four years ago, so many literary
women as at present, but there were many more seedy literary men,
because in those days the great doors of journalism were neither so wide
nor so wide open as they are now. Every one, I remember, wanted to write
a series of articles. Each in turn proposed a series as if it was a new
and striking idea. A certain airy, rollicking, red-nosed person, who had
once walked the hospitals, proposed, I remember, to 'catch science on
the Wing--on the Wing, sir'--in a series of articles; a heavy,
conscientious person, also red-nosed, proposed, in a series of articles,
to set the world right in Economics; an irresponsible, fluttering,
elderly gentleman, with a white waistcoat and a red nose, thought that a
series of articles on--say the Vestries of our Native Land, would prove
enormously popular; if not the Vestries, then the Question of Education,
or of Emigration, or--or--something else. The main point with all was
not the subject, but the series. As it happened, nobody ever was allowed
to contribute a series at all. Then there were the people who sent up
articles, and especially the poor ladies who were on the point of
starving. Would the editor only--only take their article? Heavens! what
has become of all these ladies? It was twenty-four years ago; these
particular ladies must have perished long since; but there are more--and
more--and more--still starving, as every editor knows full well.

[Illustration: MR. BESANT'S STUDY]

Sometimes, sitting in that sanctum, I looked through their MSS. for
them. Sometimes the writers called in person, and the editor had to see
them, and if they were women, they went away crying, though he was
always as kind as possible. Poor things! Yet what could one do? Their
stuff was too--too terrible.

Another word as to the contributions. In most cases a glance at the
first page was sufficient. The MS. was self-condemned. 'Oh!' says the
contributor; 'if the editor would only tell me what is wrong, I would
alter it.' Dear contributor, no editor has time for teaching. You must
send him the paper complete, finished, and ready for press; else it
either goes back or lies on the shelf. When Rice handed over the paper
to his successor, there were piles of MSS. lying on all the shelves.
Where are those MSS. now? To be sure, I do not believe there was one
among them all worth having.

Rice wrote a novel by himself, for his own paper. It was a work which he
did not reproduce, because there were certain chapters which he wished
to re-write. He was always going to re-write these chapters, but never
did, and the work remains still in the columns of _Once a Week_, where
it may be hunted out by those who are curious. One day, when he was
lamenting the haste with which he had been compelled to send off a
certain instalment, he told me that he had an idea of another novel,
which seemed to him not only possible, but hopeful. He proposed that we
should take up this idea together, work it out, if it approved itself to
me as it did to him, and write a novel upon it together.

His idea, in the first crude form, was simple--so simple that I wonder
it had never occurred to anybody before. The prodigal son was to come
home again--apparently repentant--really with the single intention of
feigning repentance and getting what he could out of the old man and
then going back to his old companions. That was the first germ.

When we came to hammer this out together, a great many modifications
became necessary. The profligate, stained with vice, the companion of
scoundrels, his conscience hardened and battered and reckless, had yet
left, hitherto undiscovered, some human weakness. By this weakness he
had to be led back to the better life. Perhaps you have read the story,
dear reader. One may say without boasting that it attracted some
attention from the outset I even believe that it gave an upward turn--a
last gasp--to the circulation of the dying paper.

When--to anticipate a little--the time came for publishing it, we were
faced with the fact that a new and anonymous novel is naturally regarded
with doubt by publishers. Nothing seems more risky than such a venture.
On the other hand, we were perfectly satisfied that there was no risk in
our novel at all. This, of course, we had found out, not only from the
assurances of Vanity, but also from the reception the work had met with
during its progress through the magazine. Therefore, we had it printed
and bound at our own expense, and we placed the book, ready for
publication, in the hands of Mr. William Tinsley. We so arranged the
business that the printer's bill was not due till the first returns came
from the publisher. By this artful plan we avoided paying anything at
all. We had only printed a modest edition of 600, and these all went
off, leaving, of course, a very encouraging margin. The cheap edition
was sold to Henry S. King & Co. for a period of five years. Then the
novel was purchased outright by Chatto & Windus, who still continue to
publish it--and, I believe, to sell it. As things go, a novelist has
reason to be satisfied with an immortality which stretches beyond the
twenty-first year.

In another place I am continually exhorting young writers never to pay
for production. It may be said that I broke my own rule.

But it will be observed that this case was not one in which production
was 'paid for,' in the ordinary sense of the term--it was one of
publication on commission of a book concerning which, we were quite
certain, there was neither doubt nor risk. And this is a very good way
indeed to publish, provided you have such a book, and provided your
publisher will push the book with as much vigour as his own.

Now, since the origin of the story cannot be claimed as my own, I may be
allowed to express an opinion upon it.

[Illustration: THE OYSTER SHOP]

[Illustration: A BOOK PLATE]

The profligate, with his dreadful past behind him, dragging him down;
the low woman whom he has married; the gambler, his associate; the
memory of robbery and of prison; and with the new influences around
him--the girl he loves, pure and sweet, and innocent; the boy whom he
picks out of the gutter; the wreck of his old father--form together a
group which I have always thought to be commanding, strong, attractive,
interesting, much beyond any in the ordinary run of fiction. The central
figure, which, I repeat, is not my own, but my partner's initial
conception, has been imitated since--in fiction and on the stage--which
shows how strong he is. I do not venture to give an opinion upon the
actual presentment or working out of that story. No doubt it might have
been better told. But I wish I was five-and-twenty years younger,
sitting once more in that dingy little office where we wrangled over
this headstrong hero of ours, and had to suppress so many--oh! so very
many--of the rows and troubles and fights into which he fell even after
he became respectable. The office was handy for Rule's and oysters. We
would adjourn for the 'delicious mollusc,' and then go back again to the
editor's room to resume the wrangle. Here we would be interrupted by
Julia, who brought the bookbinder's account; or by the interesting but
thirsty hack, who brought his copy, and with it an aroma of rum; or by
the airy gentleman who wanted to catch science on the Wing, sir--on the
Wing; or by the Economic man; or by the irresponsible man, ready for
anything. In the evening we would dine together, or go to a theatre, or
sit in my chambers and play cards before resuming the wrangle--we used
to take an hour of Vingt-un, by way of relaxation. And always during
that period, whatever we did, wherever we went, Dick Mortiboy sat
between us. Dear old Dick grew quiet towards the end. The wrangling was
finished. The inevitable was before him; he must pay for the past. Love
could not be his, nor honour, such as comes to most men, nor the quiet
_vie de famille_, which is all that life really has to give worth
having. His cousin Frank might have love and honour. For him--Dick's
brave eyes looked straight before--he had no illusions; for him, the end
that belongs to the nineteenth-century ruffler, the man of the West, the
sportsman and the gambler, the only end--the bullet from the revolver of
his accomplice, was certain and inevitable. So it ended. Dick died. The
novel was finished.

Dick died; our friend died; he had his faults--but he was Dick; and he
died. And alas! his history was all told and done with; the manuscript
finished; the last wrangle over; the fatal word, the melancholy word,
_Finis_, written below the last line.




I had written a great many short stories and articles in all sorts of
publications, from _Eliza Cook's Journal_ to the _Westminster Review_,
before I ventured upon writing a novel; and the appearance of them I
have since had cause to regret. Not at all because they were 'immature,'
and still less because I am ashamed of them--on the contrary, I still
think them rather good--but because the majority of them were not made
the most of from a literary point of view, and also went very cheap. As
a friend observed to me, who was much my senior, and whose advice was
therefore treated with contempt, 'You are like an extravagant cook, who
wastes too much material on a single dish.' The _entrées_ of the
story-teller--his early and tentative essays in Fiction--if he has
really any turn for his calling, are generally open to this criticism.
Later on, he becomes more economical (sometimes, indeed, a good deal too
much so, because, alas! there is so little in the cupboard), and has a
much finer sense of proportion.

I don't know how many years I went on writing narratives of school and
college life, and spinning short stories, like a literary spider, out of
my own interior, but I don't remember that it was ever borne in upon me
that the reservoir could hardly hold out for ever, and that it was time
to be doing something on a more permanent and extended scale. The cause
of that act of prudence and sagacity was owing mainly to a travelling
menagerie. I had had in my mind, for some time, to write a sort of
autobiography (of which character first novels almost always consist, or
at least partake), but had in truth abstained from doing so on the not
unreasonable ground that my life had been wholly destitute of incidents
of public interest. True, I had mended that matter by the wholly
gratuitous invention of a cheerless home and a wicked sister, but I had
hitherto found nothing more attractive to descant upon than my own
domestic wrongs. Even if they had existed, it was doubtful whether they
would have aroused public indignation, and I mistrusted my powers of
making them exist. What I wanted was a dramatic situation or two (a
'plot,' the evolution of which by no means comes by nature, though the
germ is often an inspiration, was at that time beyond me), and
especially the opportunity of observation.

[Illustration: A WICKED SISTER]

[Illustration: signed drawing: James Payne]

My own slender experiences were used up, and imagination had no material
to work upon; one can't blow even glass out of nothing at all. Just in
the nick of time arrived in Edinburgh, where I was then editing
_Chambers's Journal_, Tickeracandua, 'the African Lion Tamer.' At that
time (though I have seen a great deal of them since) lions were entirely
out of my line, and also tamers; but this gentleman was a most
attractive specimen of his class. Handsome, frank, and intelligent, he
took my fancy from the first, and we became great friends. 'His actual
height,' says my notebook, 'could scarcely have been less than six feet
two, while it was artificially increased by a circlet of cock's feathers
set in a coronet, which the majority of enraptured beholders believed to
be of virgin gold. A leopard skin, worn after the fashion of a Scotch
plaid, set off a jerkin of green leather, while his legs were encased in
huge jack boots.' This, of course, was his performing dress, and I used
to wonder how the leopards (with whom he had a great deal to do) liked
his wearing their relative's cast-off clothing. In the 'leopard-hunt'
(twice a day) these animals raced over him as he stood erect, and each,
as it 'took off' from his shoulder, left its mark there with its claws.
He was so good as to show me his shoulder, which looked as if he had
been profusely vaccinated in the wrong place. A much more dangerous, if
less painful, experience was his daily (and nightly) doings with the
lions. There were two of them, with a lioness of an uncertain temper,
who jumped through hoops at his imperious bidding with many a growl and
snarl of remonstrance.


'Are you never afraid?' I once asked him tentatively.

'If I was,' he answered, quietly, but not contemptuously, 'I might count
myself from that moment a dead man. Then, you see, I have my whip.' It
was a carter's whip, good to keep off a dog, but scarcely a lion. 'The
handle is loaded,' he explained, 'and I know exactly where to hit 'em
with it, if the worst comes to the worst.' If I remember right, it was
the tip of the nose.

[Illustration: MR. PAYN'S STUDY]

His conversation was delightful, and he often honoured me with his
company at supper, when the toils and perils of the day were o'er. Upon
the whole, though I have since known many other eminent persons, he has
left a more marked impression on me than any of them, and it is no
wonder that in those youthful days he influenced my imagination. His
autobiography, without his having the least suspicion of the
appropriation, became in fact _my_ autobiography, as may be read (if
there is anybody who has not enjoyed that treat) in 'The Family
Scapegrace.' But, as my predecessors in the field of Fiction were wont
to exclaim, 'I am anticipating.'

Another official connected with the menagerie gave daily lectures upon
the animals, so curiously dry and grave that they filled me with
admiration; he was like an embodiment of the answers to 'Mangnall's
Questions.' Whatever suspicions Tickeracandua may have subsequently
entertained of me, I am quite sure that 'Mr. Mopes' would no more have
seen himself in the portrait I drew of him than would the animals under
his charge, if their attention had been drawn to them, have recognised
their counterfeit presentments outside the show. I also became
acquainted with the Earthman and Earthwoman, the slaughterman of the
establishment, Mr. and Mrs. Tredgold (its proprietors), and other
individuals seldom met with in ordinary society.

The adventures of 'Richard Arbour' were, therefore, cut out for me in a
most convenient and unexpected fashion, but I had the intelligence to
perceive that though the interest they might excite would be dramatic
enough, they would be in danger of dealing too much with the animal
world to interest adult readers; nor would the narrative have made an
attractive book for boys, since I felt it would be too full of fun (for
my spirits were very high in those days) to suit juvenile tastes. I knew
little of the world, but had seen much of boys (though I had never
belonged to the species), and was well aware that, except as regards
practical jokes, the boy is not gifted with humour. I accordingly looked
about me for some dramatic material of a wholly different kind, and
eventually found it in the person of Count Gotsuchakoff.

It was a mistake to call such a sombre and serious individual by so
ludicrous a name, but it was a characteristic one. My disposition was at
that time lively (not to say frivolous), and the atmosphere I usually
lived in was one of mirth, but, as often happens, it had another side to
it, which was melancholy almost to melodrama. In after years I found
this to be the case in an infinitely greater story-teller, who, while he
delighted all the world with humour and pathos, in reality nourished a
taste for the weird and terrible, which, though its ghastly face but
very rarely showed itself in his writings, was the favourite topic of
his familiar and confidential talk. Tickeracandua himself was not dearer
to me than the Count, who was almost entirely the offspring of my own
invention; and though I have since seen in Nihilist novels a good many
gentlemen of the same type, I venture to think that, slightly as he is
sketched, he will bear comparison with the best of them. The conception
of his long years of enforced silence, and even of the terrible moment
in which he forgot that he was dumb, owed its origin, if I remember
right, to a child's game that was popular in our nursery. It consisted
in resisting the temptation to laugh, and the resolution to reply in
tones of gravity when such questions as 'Have you heard the Emperor of
Morocco is dead?' were put. The adaptation of it, in the substitution of
speech for laughter, suddenly suggested itself, like any other happy


Instead of writing straight ahead, as the fancy prompted, which, in my
less ambitious attempts at Fiction (like all young writers) I had
hitherto done, I had all these materials pretty well arranged in my mind
before sitting down to write my first book. It was, after all, only a
string of adventures, but it is still, and I think deservedly, a
popular book. The question with its author, however, was how, when it
was finished, he was to get it published. I took it to my friend, Robert
Chambers, and asked for his opinion about it. He looked at the
manuscript, which was certainly not in such good handwriting as his own,
and observed slyly--

'Would you mind just reading a bit of it?'


I had never done such a thing before, nor have I since, and the proposal
was a little staggering, not to my _amour propre,_ but to my natural
modesty. Moreover, I mistrusted my ability to do justice to it,
remembering what the poet has said about reading one's own productions:

    The chariot wheels jar in the gates through which we drive them forth.

However, I started with it, and notwithstanding that we were subjected
to 'jars' (one by the servant, who came to put coals on the fire, just
at a crisis, and made me at heart a murderer), the specimen was
pronounced satisfactory.

'I think it will suit nicely for the _Journal_,' said my friend, which I
think were the pleasantest words I ever heard from the mouth of man. I
might have taken them, indeed, as a good omen; for though I have since
written more novels than I can count, I have never failed to secure
serial publication for every one of them. 'This gentleman's novels are
suitable enough for serial publication,' once wrote a critic of them,
intending to be very particularly disagreeable, but it aroused no
emotion in my breast warmer than gratitude.


So 'The Family Scapegrace' came out in _Chambers's Journal_. I do not
remember whether it had any effect upon its circulation, but it was well
spoken of, and there was at least one person in the world who thought it
a masterpiece. The difficulty, which no one but a young and unknown
writer can estimate, was to get a publisher to share in this belief. For
many years afterwards I published my books anonymously (_i.e._, 'by the
author' of so and so), and many a humorous interview I had with various
denizens of Paternoster Row, to whom I (very strongly) recommended them,
by proxy. 'If I were speaking to the author,' they said, 'it would be
unpleasant to say this (that, and the other of a deprecatory character),
but with _you_ we can be quite frank.' And they were sometimes very
frank; and, though I didn't much like it at the time, their candour
(when I had sold the book tolerably well) tickled me afterwards
immensely. For persons who have enjoyed this experience, mere literary
criticism has henceforth no terrors.


'The Family Scapegrace,' however, had appeared under my own name, so
that concealment was out of the question; it was in one volume, a form
of publication which, at that time at all events (though I see they now
affirm the contrary), was unpopular with the libraries, and I was quite
an unknown novelist. Under these circumstances, I have never forgotten
the kindness of Mr. Douglas (of the firm of Edmonston & Douglas), who
gave me fifty pounds for the first edition of the book--by which
enterprise he lost his money. There were many reasons for it, no doubt,
though the story has since done well enough, but I think the chief of
them was the alteration of the title to 'Richard Arbour,' which,
contrary to the wishes both of myself and my publisher, was insisted
upon by a leading librarian. It is difficult, nowadays, to guess his
reason, but people were more 'square-toed' in those times, and I fancy
he thought his highly respectable customers would scent something
Bohemian, if not absolutely scampish, in a Scapegrace. A mere name is
not an attractive title for a book; though many books so called--such as
'Martin Chuzzlewit' and 'Robinson Crusoe'--have become immensely
popular, they owed nothing to their baptism; and certainly 'Richard
Arbour' prospered better when he got rid of his rather commonplace name.

[Illustration: KILLED BY LIONS]

A rather curious incident took place with respect to this book, which
annoyed me greatly at the time, because I was quite unacquainted with
the queer crotchets and imaginary grievances that would-be literary
persons often take into their heads. Somebody wrote to complain that he
had written (not published) a story upon the same lines, and even
incidents, as 'The Family Scapegrace,' just before its appearance in the
columns of _Chambers's Journal_, and the delicate inference he drew was
that, whether in my capacity of editor or otherwise, I must have somehow
got hold of it. He gave the exact date of the conclusion of his own
composition, which was prior to the commencement of my story in the

Conscious of innocence, but troubled by so disagreeable an imputation, I
laid the matter before Robert Chambers.

'You are not so versed in the ways of this class of person as I am,' he
said, smiling; 'but since he has been so injudicious as to give a date,
I think we can put him out of court. I am one of those methodical
individuals who keep a diary.' And on reference to it, he found that I
had read him my story long before that of my traducer, according to his
own account, had left his hands.

It was a small matter, but proved a useful lesson to me, for there is a
great deal of imposture of this kind going on in the literary world;
sometimes, as perhaps in this case, the result of mere egotistic fancy,
but also sometimes begotten by the desire to levy blackmail.

The above, so far as I can remember them, are the circumstances under
which I published my first novel. I am sorry to add that poor
Tickeracandua, to whom it owed so much, subsequently met the very fate
in reality which I had assigned to him in fiction; though as good a
fellow as many I have met _out_ of a show, he came to the same end as
'Don't Care' did in the nursery story, and was 'eaten (or at all events
killed) by lions.'

[Illustration: signed drawing: W. Clark Russell]




I am complimented by an invitation to tell what I can recollect of the
writing, publication, and reception of the earliest of my sea books,
'The Wreck of the "Grosvenor."' I approach the subject with diffidence,
and ask the reader to forgive me if he thinks or finds me unduly
egotistical. 'John Holdsworth: Chief Mate,' preceded 'The Wreck of the
"Grosvenor."' I do not regard that story as a novel of the sea. I was
reluctant and timid in dealing with ocean topics when the scheme of that
tale came into my head; I contented myself with pulling off my shoes and
socks and walking about ankle deep into the ripples. But in the
'Grosvenor' I went to sea like a man; I signed articles aboard her as
second mate; I had ruffians for shipmates, and the stench of the
harness-cask was the animating influence of the narrative. It is the
first sea book I ever wrote, in the sense, I mean, that its successors
are sea books: what I have to say, therefore, agreeably to the plan of
these personal contributions, will refer to it.


And first, I must write a few words about my own experience as a sailor.
I went to sea in the year 1858, when I was a child of thirteen years and
a few months old. My first ship was a well-known Australian liner, the
'Duncan Dunbar,' commanded by an old salt, named Neatby, who will always
be memorable to me for his habit of wearing the tall chimney-pot hat of
the London streets in all weathers and parallels, whether in the
roasting calms of the Equator, or in the snow-darkened hurricanes of the
Horn. I went to sea as a 'midshipman' as it is termed, though I never
could persuade myself that a lad in the Merchant Service, no matter how
heavy might be the premium his friends paid for him, has a right to a
title of grade or rating that belongs essentially and peculiarly to the
Royal Navy. I signed for a shilling a month, and with the rest of us
(there were ten) was called 'young gentleman'; but we were put to work
which an able seaman would have been within his rights in refusing, as
being what is called 'boys'' duty. I need not be particular. Enough that
the discipline was as rough as though we had been lads in the
forecastle, with a huge boatswain and brutal boatswain's mates to look
after us. We paid ten guineas each as a contribution to some imagination
of a stock of eatables for the midshipmen's berth; but my memory
carries no more than a few tins of preserved potatoes, a great number of
bottles of pickles, and a cask of exceedingly moist sugar. Therefore, we
were thrown upon the ship's provisions, and I very soon became
intimately acquainted with the quality and nature of the stores served
out to forecastle hands.

[Illustration: NEATBY]

I made, but not after the manner of Gulliver, several voyages into
remote nations of the world, and in the eight years I was at sea I
picked up enough knowledge to qualify me to give the public a few new
ideas about the ocean life. Yet when the scribbling mania possessed me
it was long before I could summon courage to write about the sea and
sailors. I asked myself, Who is interested in the Merchant Service? What
public shall I find to listen to me? Those who read novels want stories
about love and elopements, abductions, and the several violations of the
sanctities of domestic life. The great mass of readers--those who
support the circulating libraries--are ladies. Will it be possible to
interest ladies in forecastle life and in the prosaics of the cabin?


Then, again, I was frightened by the Writer for Boys. _He_ was very much
at sea. I never picked up a book of his without lighting upon some
hideous act of piracy, some astounding and unparalleled shipwreck, some
marvellous island of treasure. This writer, of a clan numerous as
Wordsworth's 'little lot of stars,' warned me off and affrighted me. His
paper ship had so long and successfully filled the public eye that I
shrank from launching anything real, anything with strakes and
treenails, anything with running rigging so leading that a sailor would
exactly know what to let go when the order was given. In plain English,
I judged that the sea story had been irremediably depressed, and
rendered wholly ridiculous by the strenuous periodic and Christmas
labours of the Writer for Boys. Had he not sunk even Marryat and Michael
Scott, who, because they wrote about the sea, were compelled in due
course by the publishers to address themselves exclusively to boys! The
late George Cupples--a man of fine genius--in the course of a letter to
me, complained warmly of being made to figure as 'Captain' George
Cupples upon the title-page of his admirable work, 'The Green Hand.' He
assured me that he was no captain, and that his name thus written was
merely a bookseller's dodge to recommend his story to boys.

And, still, I would sometimes think that if I would but take heart and
go afloat in imagination, under the old red flag, I should find within
the circle of the horizon such materials for a book as might recommend
it, at all events on the score of freshness. Only two writers had dealt
with the mercantile side of the ocean life--Dana, the author of 'Two
Years before the Mast,' and Herman Melville, both of them, it is
needless to say, Americans. I could not recollect a book, written by an
Englishman, relating, as a work of fiction, to shipboard life on the
high seas under the flag of the Merchant Service. I excluded the Writer
for Boys. I could recall no author who, himself a practical seaman, one
who had slept with sailors, eaten with them, gone aloft with them, and
suffered with them, had produced a book, a novel--call it what you
will--wholly based on what I may term the inner life of the forecastle
and the cabin.

[Illustration: SOME OF THE CREW]

[Illustration: THE MAGISTRATES]

It chanced one day that a big ship, with a mastheaded colour, telling
of trouble on board, let go her anchor in the Downs. I then lived in a
town which overlooks those waters. The crew of the ship had mutinied:
they had carried the vessel halfway down Channel, when, discovering by
that time what sort of provisions had been shipped for them, they forced
the master to shift his helm for the inwards course. The crew of
thirteen or fourteen hairy, queerly attired fellows, in Scotch caps,
divers-coloured shirts, dungaree breeches stuffed into half wellingtons,
were brought before the magistrates. The bench consisted of an old sea
captain, who had lost a ship in his day through the ill conduct of his
crew, and whose hatred of the forecastle hand was strong and peculiar; a
parson, who knew about as much of the sea as his wife; a medical
practitioner, and a schoolmaster. I was present, and listened to the
men's evidence, and I also heard the captain's story. Samples of the
food were produced. A person with whom I had some acquaintance found me
an opportunity to examine and taste samples of the forecastle provisions
of the ship whose crew had mutinied. Nothing more atrociously nasty
could be found amongst the neglected putrid sweepings of a butcher's
back premises. Nothing viler in the shape of food ever set a famished
mongrel hiccoughing. Nevertheless, this crew of thirteen or fourteen
men, for refusing to sail in the vessel unless fresh forecastle stores
were shipped, were sent to gaol for terms ranging from three to six


Some time earlier than this there had been legislation helpful to the
seaman through the humane and impassioned struggles of Mr. Samuel
Plimsoll. The crazy, rotten old coaster had been knocked into staves.
The avaricious owner had been compelled to load with some regard to the
safety of sailors. But I could not help thinking that the shore-going
menace of the sailor's life did not lie merely in overloaded ships, and
in crazy, porous hulls. Mutinies were incessantly happening in
consequence of the loathsome food shipped for sailors' use, and many
disasters attended these outbreaks. When I came away from the
magistrates' court, after hearing the men sentenced, I found my mind
full of that crew's grievance. I reflected upon what Mr. Plimsoll had
done, and how much of the hidden parts of the sea life remained to be
exposed to the public eye, to the advantage of the sailor, providing the
subject should be dealt with by one who had himself suffered, and very
well understood what he sat down to write about. This put into my head
the idea of the tale which I afterwards called 'The Wreck of the
"Grosvenor."' I said to myself, I'll found a story on a mutiny at sea,
occasioned entirely by the shipment of bad provisions for the crew. No
writer has as yet touched this ugly feature of the life. Dana is silent.
Herman Melville merely drops a joke or two as he rolls out of the
caboose with a cube of salt horse in his hand. It has never been made a
serious canvas of. And yet deeper tragedies lie in the stinking
harness-cask than in the started butt. There are wilder and bloodier
possibilities in a barrel of rotten pork, and in a cask of worm-riddled
ship's bread, than in a whole passage of shifting cargoes, and in a long
round voyage of deadweight that sinks to the wash-streak.

But if I was to find a public I must make my book a romance. I must
import the machinery of the petticoat. The pannikin of rum I proposed to
offer must be palatable enough to tempt the lips of the ladies to sip
it. My publisher would want a market, and if Messrs. Mudie and Smith
would have none of me I should write in vain; for assuredly I was not
going to find a public among sailors. Sailors don't read: a good many of
them _can't_ read. Those who can have little leisure, and they do not
care to fill up their spare hours with yarns of a calling which eighty
out of every hundred of them loathe. So I schemed out a nautical romance
and went to work, and in two months and a week I finished the story of
'The Wreck of the "Grosvenor."'

[Illustration: MRS. CLARK RUSSELL]

Whilst I was writing it an eminent publisher, a gentleman whose
friendship I had been happy in possessing for many years, asked me to
let him have a sea story. I think he had been looking into 'John
Houldsworth: Chief Mate', which some months before this time had been
received with much kindness by the reviewers. I sent him the manuscript
of 'The Wreck of the "Grosvenor."' One of his readers was a lady, and
to this lady my friend the publisher forwarded the manuscript, with a
request for a report on its merits. Now to send the manuscript of a sea
book to a woman! To submit a narrative abounding in marine terms,
thunder-charged with the bully-in-our-alley passions of the forecastle,
throbbing with suppressed oaths, clamorous with rolling oceans, the like
of which no female would ever dream of leaving her bunk to behold--to
submit all this, and how much more, to a lady for an opinion on its
merits! Of course, the poor woman barely understood a third of what she
looked at, and as, obviously she couldn't quite collect the meaning of
the remainder, she pronounced against the whole. She called it a
'catalogue of ship's furniture,' and the manuscript came back to me. I
never regret this. I do not believe that this sea book would have cut a
figure in my old esteemed friend's list. Publishers are well known by
the public for the sort of intellectual fare they deal in. If I desired
a charming story about flirtation, divorce, inconvenient husbands, the
state of the soul when it has flown out of the body, the passions of the
female heart whilst it still beats hot in the breast, I should turn to
my friend's list, well assured of handsome satisfaction. But I don't
think I could read a sea book published by him. I should suspect the
marine qualities of a Jack who had run foul of, and got smothered up in,
a whole wardrobe of female apparel, grinning with a scarcely sunburnt
face through the horse-collar of a crinoline, the deep sea roll of his
gait hampered and destroyed by the clinging folds of a flannel


Be this as it may, I sent the manuscript of 'The Wreck of the
"Grosvenor"' to my old friend Edward Marston, of the firm of Sampson Low
& Co. The firm offered me fifty pounds for it; I took the money and
signed the agreement, in which I disposed of all rights. Do I murmur
over the recollection of this fifty pounds which, with another ten
pounds kindly sent to me by Mr. Marston as the whole of, or a part of, a
cheque received from Messrs. Harper & Brothers, was all I ever got for
this sea book? Certainly not. The transaction was absolutely fair, and
what leaning there was was in my favour. The book was an experiment; it
was published anonymously; it might have fallen dead. Happily for
publisher and author, the book made its way. I believe it was
immediately successful in America, and that its reception there somewhat
influenced inquiry here. American critics who try to vex me say that my
books never would have been read in this country but for what was said
of them in the States, and for the publicity provided for them there by
the twenty-cent editions. How far this is true I don't know; but
certainly the Yankees are handsomer and prompter in their recognition of
what pleases them than we are on our side. What they like they raise a
great cry over, and the note of so mighty a concourse, I don't doubt,
fetches an echo out of distances below the horizon.

[Illustration: THE 'HOUGOUMONT'[A]]

[Illustration: POOR JACK!]

It is many years now since 'The Wreck of the "Grosvenor"' was written,
and I do not very clearly recollect its reception in this country. I
believe it speedily went into a second edition. But before we talk of an
edition seriously we must first learn the number of copies which make
it. Since this was written, my friend, Mr. R. B. Marston, of the firm of
Sampson Low & Co., has been good enough to look into the sales of 'The
Wreck of the "Grosvenor,"' and he informs me that down to 1891 there had
been sold 34,950 copies. One of the most cordial welcomes the story
received was from _Vanity Fair_. I supposed that the review was written
by the editor, Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles, until I learnt that the late
Mr. James Runciman was the author. The critics on the whole were
generous. They thought the book fresh. They judged that it was an
original piece of work wrought largely out of the personal experiences
of the writer. One gentleman, indeed, said that he had crossed the
Channel on several occasions between Boulogne and Folkestone, but had
never witnessed such seas as I described; and another that he had
frequently travelled to Plymouth on the Great Western Railway in company
with sailors, but had never met such seamen as the forecastle hands I
depicted. The book is considered my best--this, perhaps, because it was
my first, and its reputation lies in the memory and impression of its
freshness. It is far from being my best. Were it my property I would
re-write it. I had quitted the sea some years when I wrote the story,
and here and there my memory played me false; that is to say, in the
direction of certain minute technicalities and in accounts of the
internal discipline of the ship. Yet, on the whole, the blunders are
few considering how very complicated a fabric a vessel is, and how
ceaselessly one needs to go on living the life of the sea to hold all
parts of it clear to the sight of the mind. Professionally, the
influence of the book has been small. I have heard that it made one
ship-owner sorry and rather virtuous, and that for some time his
harness-casks went their voyages fairly sweet. He is, however, but a
solitary figure, the lonesome Crusoe of my little principality of fancy.
As a piece of literature, 'The Wreck of the "Grosvenor"' has been
occasionally imitated. Mr. Plimsoll, I understand, has lately been
dealing with the subject of sailors' food. I heartily wish success to
his efforts.

[Illustration: drawing by Geo. Hutchinson

signed: Yours very sincerely,

Grant Allen.]



The story of my first book is a good deal mixed, and, like many other
stories, cannot be fully understood without some previous allusion to
what historians call 'the causes which led to it.' For my first book was
not my first novel, and it is the latter, I take it, not the former,
that an expectant world, as represented by the readers of this volume,
is anxious to hear about. I first blossomed into print with
'Physiological Æsthetics' in 1877--the title alone will be enough for
most people--and it was not till seven years later that I wrote and
published my earliest long work of fiction, which I called 'Philistia.'
I wasn't born a novelist, I was only made one. Philosophy and science
were the first loves of my youth. I dropped into romance as many men
drop into drink, or opium-eating, or other bad practices, not of native
perversity, but by pure force of circumstances. And this is how fate (or
an enterprising publisher) turned me from an innocent and impecunious
naturalist into a devotee of the muse of shilling shockers.

When I left Oxford in 1870, with a decent degree and nothing much else
in particular to brag about, I took perforce to that refuge of the
destitute, the trade of schoolmaster. To teach Latin and Greek verse at
Brighton College, Cheltenham College, Reading Grammar School,
successively, was the extremely uncongenial task imposed upon me by the
chances of the universe. But in 1873, Providence, disguised as the
Colonial Office, sent me out in charge of a new Government College at
Spanish Town, Jamaica. I had always been psychological, and in the space
and leisure of the lazy Tropics I began to excogitate by slow degrees
various expansive works on the science of mind, the greater number of
which still remain unwritten. Returning to England in '76 I found myself
out of work, and so committed to paper some of my views on the origin of
the higher pleasure we derive from natural or artistic products; and I
called my book 'Physiological Æsthetics.' It was not my very first
attempt at literature; already I had produced about a hundred or more
magazine articles on various philosophical and scientific subjects,
every one of which I sent to the editors of leading reviews, and every
one of which was punctually 'Declined with thanks,' or committed without
even that polite formality to the editorial waste paper basket. Nothing
daunted by failure, however, I wrote on and on, and made up my mind, in
my interval of forced idleness, to print a book of my own at all

[Illustration: FICTION]

I wrote 'Physiological Æsthetics' in lodgings at Oxford. When it was
finished and carefully revised, I offered it to Messrs. Henry S. King &
Co., who were then leading publishers of philosophical literature. Mr.
Kegan Paul, their reader, reported doubtfully of the work. It was not
likely to pay, he said, but it contained good matter, and the firm
would print it for me on the usual commission. I was by no means
rich--for fear of exaggeration I am stating the case mildly--but I
believed somehow in 'Physiological Æsthetics.' I was young then, and I
hope the court of public opinion will extend to me, on that ground, the
indulgence usually shown to juvenile offenders. But I happened to
possess a little money just at that moment, granted me as compensation
for the abolition of my office in Jamaica. Messrs. King reported that
the cost of production (that mysterious entity so obnoxious to the soul
of the Society of Authors) would amount to about a hundred guineas. A
hundred guineas was a lot of money then; but, being young, I risked it.
It was better than if I had taken it to Monte Carlo, anyway. So I wrote
to Mr. Paul with heedless haste to publish away right off, and he
published away right off accordingly. When the bill came in, it was, if
I recollect aright, somewhere about 120_l._ I paid it without a murmur;
I got my money's worth. The book appeared in a stately green cover, with
my name in front, and looked very philosophical, and learned, and

[Illustration: SCIENCE]

Poor 'Physiological Æsthetics' had a very hard fate. When I come to look
back upon the circumstances calmly and dispassionately now, I'm not
entirely surprised at its unhappy end. It was a good book in its way, to
be sure, though it's me that says it as oughtn't to say it, and it
pleased the few who cared to read it; but it wasn't the sort of
literature the public wanted. The public, you know, doesn't hanker
after philosophy. Darwin, and Herbert Spencer, and the Editor of
_Mind_, and people of that sort, tried my work and liked it; in point of
fact, my poor little venture gained me at once, an unknown man, the
friendship of not a few whose friendship was worth having. But
financially, 'Physiological Æsthetics' was a dead failure; it wasn't the
sort of work to sell briskly at the bookstalls. Mr. Smith would have
none of it. The reviews, indeed, were, almost without exception,
favourable; the volume went off well for a treatise of its kind--that is
to say, we got rid of nearly 300 copies; but even so, it left a deficit
of some forty or fifty pounds to the bad against me. Finally, the
remaining stock fell a victim to the flames in Mr. Kegan Paul's
historical fire, when many another stout volume perished: and that was
the end of my _magnum opus_. Peace to its ashes! Mr. Paul gave me 15_l._
as compensation for loss sustained, and I believe I came out some 30_l._
a loser by this, my first serious literary venture. In all these
matters, however, I speak from memory alone, and it is possible I may be
slightly wrong in my figures.

But though 'Physiological Æsthetics' was a financial failure, it paid me
in the end, both scientifically and commercially. Not only did it bring
me into immediate contact with several among the leaders of thought in
London, but it also made my name known in a very modest way, and induced
editors--those arbiters of literary fate--to give a second glance at my
unfortunate manuscripts. Almost immediately after its appearance, Leslie
Stephen (I omit the Mr., _honoris causa_) accepted two papers of mine
for publication in the _Cornhill_. 'Carving a Cocoanut' was the first,
and it brought me in twelve guineas. That was the very first money I
earned in literature. I had been out of work for months, the abolition
of my post in Jamaica having thrown me on my beam-ends, and I was
overjoyed at so much wealth poured suddenly in upon me. Other magazine
articles followed in due course, and before long I was earning a
modest--a very modest--and precarious income, yet enough to support
myself and my family. Moreover, Sir William Hunter, who was then engaged
on his gigantic 'Gazetteer of India,' gave me steady employment in his
office at Edinburgh, and I wrote with my own hand the greater part of
the articles on the North-West Provinces, the Punjaub, and Sind, in
those twelve big volumes.

Meanwhile, I was hard at work in my leisure moments (for I have
sometimes some moments which I regard as leisure) on another ambitious
scientific work, which I called 'The Colour-Sense.' This book I
published on the half-profits system with Trübner. Compared with my
first unhappy venture, 'The Colour-Sense' might be counted a distinct
success. It brought me in, during the course of about ten years,
something like 25_l._ or 30_l._ As it only took me eighteen months to
write, and involved little more than five or six thousand references,
this result may be regarded as very fair pay for an educated man's time
and labour. I have sometimes been reproached by thoughtless critics for
deserting the noble pursuit of science in favour of fiction and filthy
lucre. If those critics think twenty pounds a year a sufficient income
for a scientific writer to support himself and a growing family
upon--well, they are perfectly at liberty to devote their own pens to
the instruction of their kind without the slightest remonstrance or
interference on my part.

I won't detail in full the history of my various intermediate books,
most of which were published first as newspaper articles, and afterwards
collected and put forth on a small royalty. Time is short, and art is
long, so I'll get on at once to my first novel. I drifted into fiction
by the sheerest accident. My friend, Mr. Chatto, most generous of men,
was one of my earliest and staunchest literary supporters. From the
outset of my journalistic days, he printed my articles in _Belgravia_
and the _Gentleman's Magazine_ with touching fidelity; and I take this
opportunity of saying in public that to his kindness and sympathy I owe
as much as to anyone in England. Some people will have it there is no
such thing as 'generosity' in publishers. I beg leave to differ from
them. I know the commercial value of literary work as well as any man,
and I venture to say that both from Mr. Chatto and from Mr. Arrowsmith,
of Bristol, I have met, time and again, with what I cannot help
describing as most generous treatment. One day it happened that I wanted
to write a scientific article on the impossibility of knowing one had
seen a ghost, even if one saw one. For convenience sake, and to make the
moral clearer, I threw the argument into narrative form, but without the
slightest intention of writing a story. It was published in _Belgravia_
under the title of 'Our Scientific Observations on a Ghost,' and was
reprinted later in my little volume of 'Strange Stories.' A little while
after, to my immense surprise, Mr. Chatto wrote to ask me whether I
could supply him with another story, like the last I had written, for
the _Belgravia Annual_. I was rather taken aback at this singular
request, as I hadn't the slightest idea I could do anything at all in
the way of fiction. Still, like a good journalist, I never refuse an
order of any sort; so I sat down at once and wrote a tale about a mummy
on the ghastliest and most approved Christmas number pattern. Strange to
say, Mr. Chatto again printed it, and, what was still more remarkable,
asked for more of the same description. From that time forth, I went on
producing short stories for _Belgravia_; but I hardly took them
seriously, being immersed at the time in biological study. I looked upon
my own pretensions in the way of fiction as an amiable fad of my kind
friend Chatto; and not to prejudice any little scientific reputation I
might happen to have earned, I published them all under the carefully
veiled pseudonym of 'J. Arbuthnot Wilson.'

I would probably never have gone any further on my downward path had it
not been for the accidental intervention of another believer in my
powers as a story-writer. I had sent to _Belgravia_ a little tale about
a Chinaman, entitled 'Mr. Chung,' and written perhaps rather more
seriously and carefully than my previous efforts. This happened to
attract the attention of Mr. James Payn, who had then just succeeded to
the editorship of the _Cornhill_. I had been a constant contributor to
the _Cornhill_ under Leslie Stephen's management, and by a singular
coincidence I received almost at the same time two letters from Mr.
Payn, one of them addressed to me in my own name, and regretting that he
would probably be unable to insert my scientific papers in his magazine
in future; the other, sent through Chatto & Windus to the imaginary J.
Arbuthnot Wilson, and asking for a short story somewhat in the style of
my 'admirable Mr. Chung.'


Encouraged by the discovery that so good a judge of fiction thought well
of my humble efforts at story-writing, I sat down at once and produced
two pieces for the _Cornhill_. One was 'The Reverend John Creedy'--a
tale of a black parson who reverted to savagery--which has perhaps
attracted more attention than any other of my short stories. The other,
which I myself immensely prefer, was 'The Curate of Churnside.' Both
were so well noticed that I began to think seriously of fiction as an
alternative subject. In the course of the next year I wrote several more
sketches of the same sort, which were published, either anonymously or
still under the pseudonym, in the _Cornhill_, _Longmans'_, _The
Gentleman's_, and _Belgravia_. If I recollect aright, the first
suggestion to collect and reprint them all in a single volume came from
Mr. Chatto. They were published as 'Strange Stories,' under my own name,
and I thus, for the first time, acknowledged my desertion of my earliest
loves--science and philosophy--for the less profound but more lucrative
pursuit of literature.

[Illustration: A SHELF IN THE STUDY]

'Strange Stories' was well received and well reviewed. Its reception
gave me confidence for future ventures. Acting upon James Payn's advice,
I set to work seriously upon a three-volume novel. My first idea was to
call it 'Born out of Due Time,' as it narrated the struggles of a
Socialist thinker a century in front of his generation; but, at Mr.
Chatto's suggestion, the title was afterwards changed to 'Philistia.' I
desired, if possible, to run it through the _Cornhill_, and Mr. Payn
promised to take it into his most favourable consideration for that
purpose. However, when the unfinished manuscript was submitted in due
time to his editorial eye, he rightly objected that it was far too
socialistic for the tastes of his public. He said it would rather repel
than attract readers. I was disappointed at the time. I see now that, as
an editor, he was perfectly right; I was giving the public what I felt
and thought and believed myself, not what the public felt and thought
and wanted. The education of an English novelist consists entirely in
learning to subordinate all his own ideas and tastes and opinions to the
wishes and beliefs of the inexorable British matron.

[Illustration: 'THANK YOU, SIR']

Mr. Chatto, however, was prepared to accept the undoubted risk of
publishing 'Philistia.' Only, to meet his views, the _dénoûment_ was
altered. In the original version, the hero came to a bad end, as a hero
in real life who is in advance of his age, and consistent and honest,
must always do. But the British matron, it seems, likes her novels to
'end well'; so I married him off instead, and made him live happily ever
afterward. Mr. Chatto gave me a lump sum down for serial rights and
copyright, and ran 'Philistia' through the pages of _The Gentleman's_.
When it finally appeared in book form, it obtained on the whole more
praise than blame, and, as it paid a great deal better than scientific
journalism, it decided me that my _rôle_ in life henceforth must be that
of a novelist. And a novelist I now am, good, bad, or indifferent.

If anybody gathers, however, from this simple narrative, that my upward
path from obscurity to a very modest modicum of popularity and success
was a smooth and easy one, he is immensely mistaken. I had a ten years'
hard struggle for bread, into the details of which I don't care to
enter. It left me broken in health and spirit, with all the vitality and
vivacity crushed out of me. I suppose the object of this series of
papers is to warn off ingenuous and aspiring youth from the hardest
worked and worst paid of the professions. If so, I would say earnestly
to the ingenuous and aspiring--'Brain for brain, in no market can you
sell your abilities to such poor advantage. Don't take to literature if
you've capital enough in hand to buy a good broom, and energy enough to
annex a vacant crossing.'



I cannot follow Mr. Besant with any pitiful story of rejection at the
hands of publishers. If refusal is quite the best thing that can happen
to the candidate for literary honours, my fate has not been favourable.
No tale of mine has yet passed from publishing house to publishing
house. Except the first of the series, my stories have been accepted
before they have been read. In two or three instances they have been
bought before they have been written. It has occurred to me, as to
others, to have two or three publishers offering terms for the same
book. I have even been offered half payment in hand on account of a book
which I could not hope to write for years, and might never write at all.
Thus the most helpful confession which the more or less successful man
of letters can make for the comfort and cheer of his younger and less
fortunate brethren, it is out of my power to offer.

But I reflect that this is true of my literary experiences in the
character of a novelist only. I had an earlier and semi-subterranean
career that was very different. At eighteen I wrote a poem of a mystical
sort, which was printed (not at my own risk) and published under a
pseudonym. Happily, no man will ever identify me behind the romantic
name wherein I hid my own. Only one literary man knew my secret. That
was George Gilfillan, and he is dead. Then at twenty I wrote an
autobiography for another person, and was paid ten pounds for it. These
were really my first books, and I grow quite hot when I think of them.
At five-and-twenty I came up to London with the manuscript of a critical
work, which I had written while at Liverpool. Somebody had recommended
that I should submit it to a certain great publishing house, and I took
it in person. At the door of the office I was told to write my own name,
and the name of the person whom I wished to see, and to state the nature
of my business. I did so, and the boy who took my message brought back
word that I might leave my manuscript for consideration. It seemed to me
that somebody might have seen me for a minute, but I had expected too
much. The manuscript was carefully tied up in brown paper, and so I left

[Illustration: I LEFT IT]

After waiting three torturing weeks for the decision of the publishers,
I made bold to call again. At the same little box at the door of the
office I had once more to fill up the same little document. The boy took
it in, and I was left to sit on his table, to look at the desk which he
had been whittling away with his penknife, to wait and to tremble. After
a time I heard a footstep returning. I thought it might be the publisher
or the editor of the house. It was the boy back again. He had a pile of
loose sheets of white paper in his hands. They were the sheets of my
book. 'The editor's compliments, sir, and--thank you,' said the boy, and
my manuscript went sprawling over the table. I gathered it up, tucked it
as deep as possible into the darkness, under the wings of my Inverness
cape, and went downstairs ashamed, humiliated, crushed, and
broken-spirited. Not quite that, either, for I remember that, as I got
to the fresh air at the door, my gorge rose within me, and I cried in my
heart, 'By God! you shall---- ' and something proud and vain.

[Illustration: drawing by Geo. Hutchinson

signed: with Kindest regards,

Hall Caine]

I dare say it was all right and proper and in good order. The book was
afterwards published, and I think it sold well. I hardly know whether I
ought to say that the editor should have shown me more courtesy. It was
all a part of the anarchy of things which Mr. Hardy considers the rule
of life. But the sequel is worth telling. That editor became my personal
friend. He is dead, and he was a good and able man. Of course he
remembered nothing of this incident, and I never poisoned one hour of
our intercourse by telling him how, when I was young and a word of cheer
would have buoyed me up, he made me drink the waters of Marah. And three
times since that day the publishing house I speak of has come to me with
the request that I should write a book for them. I have never been able
to do so, but I have outgrown my bitterness, and, of course, I show no
malice. Indeed, I have now the best reasons for wishing the great
enterprise well. But if literary confessions are worth anything, this
one may perhaps be a seed that will somewhere find grateful soil. Keep a
good heart, even if you have to knock in vain at many doors, and kick
about the backstairs of the house of letters. There is room enough


[Illustration: DERWENTWATER]

I wrote and edited sundry things during my first years in London, but
not until I had published a story did I feel that I had so much as
touched the consciousness of the public.

Hence, my first novel may very properly be regarded as my first book,
and if I have no tale to tell of heart-broken impediments in getting it
published, I have something to say of the difficulty of getting it
written. The novel is called 'The Shadow of a Crime,' but title it had
none until it was finished, and a friend christened it. I cannot
remember when the story was begun, because I cannot recall a time when
the idea of it did not exist in my mind. Something of the same kind is
true of every tale I have ever written or shall ever write. I think it
must be in the nature of imagination that an imaginative idea does not
spring into being, that it has no spontaneous generation, but, as a
germinating conception, a shadow of a vision, always comes floating from
somewhere out of the back chambers of memory. You are waiting for the
central thought that shall link together incidents that you have gleaned
from among the stubble of many fields, for the _motif_ that shall put
life and meaning into the characters that you have gathered and grouped,
and one morning, as you awake, just at that moment when you are between
the land of light and the mists of sleep, and as your mind is grappling
back for the vanishing form of some delicious dream, a dim but familiar
ghost of an idea comes up unbidden for the hundredth time, and you say
to yourself, with surprise at your own stupidity, 'That's it!'

[Illustration: STY HEAD PASS]

The idea of my first novel moved about me in this way for many years
before I recognised it. As usually happens, it came in the shape of a
story. I think it was, in actual fact, first of all, a tale of a
grandfather. My mother's father was a Cumberland man, and he was full of
the lore of the hills and dales. One of the oldest legends of the Lake
mountains tells of the time of the plague. The people were afraid to go
to market, afraid to meet at church, and afraid to pass on the highway.
When any lonely body was ill, the nearest neighbour left meat and drink
at the door of the afflicted house, and knocked and ran away. In these
days, a widow with two sons lived in one of the darkest of the valleys.
The younger son died, and the body had to be carried over the mountains
to be buried. Its course lay across Sty Head Pass, a bleak and 'brant'
place, where the winds are often high. The eldest son, a strong-hearted
lad, undertook the duty. He strapped the coffin on to the back of a
young horse, and they started away. The day was wild, and on the top of
the pass, where the path dips into Wastdale, between the breast of Great
Gable and the heights of Scawfell, the wind rose to a gale. The horse
was terrified. It broke away and galloped over the fells, carrying its
burden with it. The lad followed and searched for it, but in vain, and
he had to go home at last, unsatisfied.


[Illustration: THE HORSE BROKE AWAY]


This was in the spring, and nearly all the summer through the surviving
son of the widow was out on the mountains, trying to recover the runaway
horse, but never once did he catch sight of it, though sometimes, as he
turned homeward at night, he thought he heard, in the gathering
darkness, above the sough of the wind, the horse's neigh. Then winter
came, and the mother died. Once more the dead body had to be carried
over the fells for burial, and once again the coffin was strapped on the
back of a horse. It was an old mare that was chosen this time, the
mother of the young one that had been lost. The snow lay deep on the
pass, and from the cliffs of the Scawfell pikes it hung in great
toppling masses. All went well with the little funeral party until they
came to the top of the pass, and though the day was dead calm the son
held the rein with a hand that was like a vice. But just as the mare
reached the spot where the wind had frightened the young horse, there
was a terrific noise. An immense body of the snow had parted at that
instant from the beetling heights overhead, and rushed down into the
valley with the movement as of a mighty earthquake, and the deafening
sound as of a peal of thunder. The dale echoed and re-echoed from side
to side, and from height to height. The old mare was affrighted; she
reared, leapt, flung her master away, and galloped off. When they had
recovered from their consternation, the funeral party gave chase, and at
length, down in a hollow place, they thought they saw what they were in
search of. It was a horse with something strapped on its back. When they
came up with it they found it was the _young_ horse, with the coffin of
the younger son. They led it away and buried the body that it had
carried so long, but the old mare they never recovered, and the body of
the mother never found sepulchre.


Such was the legend, sufficiently terrible, and even ghastly, which was
the germ of my first novel. Its fascination for me lay in its shadow and
suggestion of the supernatural. I thought it had all the grip of a ghost
story without ever passing out of the world of reality. Imagination
played about the position of that elder son, and ingenuity puzzled
itself for the sequel to his story. What did he think? What did he feel?
What were his superstitions? What became of him? Did he die mad, or was
he a MAN, and did he rise out of all doubt and terror? I cannot say how
many years this ghost of a conception (with various brothers and sisters
of a similar complexion) haunted my mind before I recognised it as the
central incident of a story, the faggot for a fire from which other
incidents might radiate and imaginary characters take life. When I began
to think of it in this practical way I was about six-and-twenty, and was
lodging in a lonely farmhouse in the Vale of St. John.

[Illustration: THIRLMERE]


Rossetti was with me, for I had been up to London at his request, and
had brought him down to my retreat. The story of that sojourn among the
mountains I have told elsewhere. It lives in my memory as a very sweet
and sad experience. The poet was a dying man. He spent a few hours of
every day in painful efforts to paint a picture. His nights were long,
for sleep never came to him until the small hours of the morning; his
sight was troublesome, and he could not read with ease; he was in that
condition of ill-health when he could not bear to be alone, and thus he
and I were much together. I was just then looking vaguely to the career
of a public lecturer, and was delivering a long course of lectures at
Liverpool. The subject was prose fiction, and to fortify myself for the
work I was reading the masterpieces over again. Seeing this, Rossetti
suggested that I should read aloud, and I did so. Many an evening we
passed in this way. The farmhouse stood at the foot of a fell by the
side of the lowest pool of a ghyll, Fishers' Ghyll, and the roar of
falling waters could be heard from within. On the farther side of the
vale there were black crags where ravens lived, and in the unseen bed of
the dale between lay the dark waters of Thirlmere. The surroundings were
striking to the eye and ear in the daylight, but when night came, and
the lamp was lit, and the curtains were drawn, and darkness covered
everything outside, they were yet more impressive to the imagination. I
remember those evenings with gratitude and some pain. The little oblong
room, the dull thud of the ghyll like faint thunder overhead, the
crackle of the wood fire, myself reading aloud, and Rossetti in a long
sack painting coat, his hands thrust into its upright pockets, walking
with his heavy and uncertain step to and fro, to and fro, laughing
sometimes his big deep laugh, and sometimes sitting down to wipe his
moist spectacles and clear his dim eyes. The autumn was far spent, and
the nights were long. Not rarely the dead white gleams of the early dawn
before the coming of the sun met the yellow light of our candles as we
passed on the staircase going to bed a little window that looked up to
the mountains, and over them to the east.


Perhaps it was not all pleasure, so far as I was concerned, but
certainly it was all profit. The novels we read were 'Tom Jones,' in
four volumes, and 'Clarissa,' in its original eight, one or two of
Smollett's, and some of Scott's. Rossetti had not, I think, been a great
reader of fiction, but his critical judgment was in some respects the
surest and soundest I have known. He was one of the only two men I have
ever met with who have given me in personal intercourse a sense of the
presence of a gift that is above and apart from talent--in a word, of
genius. Nothing escaped him. His alert mind seized upon everything. He
had never before, I think, given any thought to fiction as an art, but
his intellect played over it like a bright light. It amazes me now,
after ten years' close study of the methods of story-telling, to recall
the general principles which he seemed to formulate out of the back of
his head for the defence of his swift verdicts. 'Now why?' I would say,
when the art of the novelist seemed to me to fail, or when the poet's
condemnation appeared extreme. 'Because so-and-so _must_ happen,' he
would answer. He was always right. He grasped with masterly strength the
operation of the two fundamental factors in the novelist's art--the
sympathy and the 'tragic mischief.' If these were not working well, he
knew by the end of the first chapters that, however fine in observation,
or racy in humour, or true in pathos, the work as an organism must fail.

It was an education in literary art to sharpen one's wits on such a
grindstone, to clarify one's thought in such a stream, to strengthen
one's imagination by contact with a mind that was 'of imagination all

Now, down to that time, though I had often aspired to the writing of
plays, it had never occurred to me that I might write a novel. But I
began to think of it then as a remote possibility, and the immediate
surroundings of our daily life brought back recollection of the old
Cumberland legend. I told the story to Rossetti, and he was impressed by
it, but he strongly advised me not to tackle it. The incident did not
repel him by its ghastliness, but he saw no way of getting sympathy into
it on any side. His judgment disheartened me, and I let the idea go back
to the dark chambers of memory. He urged me to try my hand at a Manx
story. '"The Bard of Manxland"--it's worth while to be that,' he
said--he did not know the author of 'Foc's'le Yarns.' I thought so, too,
but the Cumbrian 'statesman' had begun to lay hold of my imagination. I
had been reviving my recollection and sharpening my practice of the
Cumbrian dialect which had been familiar to my ear, and even to my
tongue, in childhood, and so my Manx ambitions had to wait.

Two years passed, the poet died, I had spent eighteen months in daily
journalism in London, and was then settled in a little bungalow of three
rooms in a garden near the beach at Sandown in the Isle of Wight. And
there, at length, I began to write my first novel. I had grown impatient
of critical work, had persuaded myself (no doubt wrongly) that nobody
would go on writing about other people's writing who could do original
writing himself, and was resolved to live on little and earn nothing,
and never go back to London until I had written something of some sort.
As nearly as I can remember, I had enough to keep things going for four
months, and if, at the end of that time, nothing had got itself done, I
must go back bankrupt.

Something did get done, but at a heavy price of labour and
heart-burning. When I began to think of a theme, I found four or five
subjects clamouring for acceptance. There was the story of the Prodigal
Son, which afterwards became 'The Deemster'; the story of Jacob and
Esau, which in the same way turned into 'The Bondman'; the story of
Samuel and Eli, which, after a fashion, moulded itself ultimately into
'The Scapegoat'; and half-a-dozen other stories, chiefly Biblical, which
are still on the forehead of my time to come. But the Cumbrian legend
was first favourite, and to that I addressed myself. I thought I had
seen a way to meet Rossetti's objection. The sympathy was to be got out
of the elder son. He was to think God's hand was upon him. But whom
God's hand rested on had God at his right hand; so the elder son was to
be a splendid fellow--brave, strong, calm, patient, long-suffering, a
victim of unrequited love, a man standing square on his legs against all
weathers. It is said that the young novelist usually begins with a
glorified version of his own character; but it must interest my friends
to see how every quality of my first hero was a rebuke to my own
peculiar infirmities.


(_From a photograph by A. M. Pettit_)]

Above this central figure and legendary incident I grouped a family of
characters. They were heroic and eccentric, good and bad, but they all
operated upon the hero. Then I began to write.

[Illustration: MRS. HALL CAINE

(_From a photograph by A. M. Pettit_)]

Shall I ever forget the agony of the first efforts? There was the ground
to clear with necessary explanations. This I did in the way of Scott in
a long prefatory chapter. Having written it I read it aloud, and found
it unutterably slow and dead. Twenty pages were gone, and the interest
was not touched. Throwing the chapter aside I began with an alehouse
scene, intending to work back to the history in a piece of retrospective
writing. The alehouse was better, but to try its quality I read it
aloud, after the 'Rainbow' scene in 'Silas Marner,' and then cast it
aside in despair. A third time I began, and when the alehouse looked
tolerable the retrospective chapter that followed it seemed flat and
poor. How to begin by gripping the interest, how to tell all and yet
never stop the action--these were agonising difficulties.

It took me nearly a fortnight to start that novel, sweating drops as of
blood at every fresh attempt. I must have written the first half volume
four times at the least. After that I saw the way clearer, and got on
faster. At the end of three months I had written nearly two volumes, and
then in good spirits I went up to London.

My first visit was to J. S. Cotton, an old friend, and to him I detailed
the lines of my story. His rapid mind saw a new opportunity. 'You want
_peine forte et dure_,' he said. 'What's that?' I said. 'An old
punishment--a beautiful thing,' he answered. 'Where's my dear old
Blackstone?' and the statute concerning the punishment for standing mute
was read to me. It was just the thing I wanted for my hero, and I was in
rapture, but I was also in despair. To work this fresh interest into my
theme, half of what I had written would need to be destroyed!

It _was_ destroyed, the interesting piece of ancient jurisprudence took
a leading place in my scheme, and after two months more I got well into
the third volume. Then I took my work down to Liverpool, and showed it
to my friend, the late John Lovell, a most able man, first manager of
the Press Association, but then editing the local _Mercury_. After he
had read it he said, 'I suppose you want my _candid_ opinion?' 'Well,
ye--s,' I said. 'It's crude,' he said. 'But it only wants sub-editing.'

I took it back to London, began again at the first line, and wrote every
page over again. At the end of another month the story had been
reconstructed, and was shorter by some fifty pages of manuscript. It had
drawn my heart's blood to cut out my pet passages, but they were gone,
and I knew the book was better. After that I went on to the end and
finished with a tragedy. Then the story was sent back to Lovell, and I
waited for his verdict.

My home (or what served for it) was now on the fourth floor of New
Court, in Lincoln's Inn, and one morning Lovell came purring and blowing
and steaming (the good fellow was a twenty-stone man) into my lofty
nest. He had re-read my novel coming up in the train. 'Well?' I asked,
nervously. 'It's magnificent,' he said. That was all the favourable
criticism he offered. All save one practical and tangible bit. 'We'll
give you 100_l._ for the serial right of the story for the _Weekly_'.

[Illustration: COMING UP IN THE TRAIN]

He offered one unfavourable criticism. 'The death of your hero will
never do,' he said. 'If you kill that man Ralph, you'll kill your book.
What's the good? Take no more than the public will give you to begin
with, and by-and-by they'll take what _you_ give _them_.' It was
practical advice, but it went sorely against my grain. The death of the
hero was the natural sequel to the story; the only end that gave
meaning, and intention, and logic to its _motif_. I had a strong
predisposition towards a tragic climax to a serious story. To close a
narrative of disastrous events with a happy ending it always seemed
necessary to turn every incident into accident. That was like laughing
at the reader. Comedy was comedy, but comedy and tragedy together was
farce. Then a solemn close was so much more impressive. A happy end
nearly always frayed off into rags and nothingness, but a sad one closed
and clasped a story as with a clasp. Besides, a tragic end might be a
glorious and satisfying one, and need by no means be squalid and
miserable. But all these arguments went down before my friend's
practical assurance: 'Kill that man, and you kill your book.'

With much diffidence I altered the catastrophe and made my hero happy.
Then, thinking my work complete, I asked Mr. Theodore Watts (a friend to
whose wise counsel I owed much in those days) to read some 'galley'
slips of it. He thought the rustic scenes good, but advised me to
moderate the dialect, and he propounded to me his well-known views on
the use of _patois_ in fiction. 'It gives a sense of reality,' he said,
'and often has the effect of wit, but it must not stand in the way.' The
advice was sound. A man may know over much of his subject to write on it
properly. I had studied Cumbrian to too much purpose, and did not
realise that some of my scenes were like sealed books to the general
reader. So once again I ran over my story, taking out some of the
'nobbuts' and the 'dustas' and the 'wiltas.'

My first novel was now written, but I had still to get it published. In
my early days in London, while trying to live in the outer court of a
calling wherein the struggle for existence is keenest and bitterest and
cruellest, I conceived one day the idea of offering myself as a reader
to the publishers. With this view I called on several of that ilk, who
have perhaps no recollection of my early application. I recall my
interview with one of them. He was sitting at a table when I was taken
into his room, and he never once raised his head from his papers to look
at me. I just remember that he had a neck like a three-decker, and a
voice like a peahen's. 'Well, sir?' he said. I mentioned the object of
my visit. 'What can you read?' 'Novels and poems,' I answered. 'Don't
publish either--good day,' he said, and I went out.

But one of the very best, and quite, I think, the very oldest of
publishers now living, received me differently. 'Come into my own
room,' he said. It was a lovely little place, full of an atmosphere that
recalled the publishing house of the old days, half office, half study;
a workshop where books might be made, not turned out by machinery. I
read many manuscripts for that publisher, and must have learned much by
the experience. And now that my novel was finished I took it to him
first. He offered to publish it the following year. That did not suit
me, and I took my book elsewhere. Next day I was offered 50_l._ for my
copyright. That was wages at the rate of about four shillings a day for
the time I had been actually engaged upon the work, sweating brain and
heart and every faculty. Nevertheless, one of my friends urged me to
accept it. 'Why?' I asked. 'Because it is a story of the past, and
therefore not one publisher in ten will look at it.' I used strong
language, and then took my novel to Chatto & Windus. Within a few hours
Mr. Chatto made me an offer which I accepted. The book is now, I think,
in its fifteenth edition.

The story I have told of many breakdowns in the attempt to write my
first novel may suggest the idea that I was merely serving my
apprenticeship to fiction. It is true that I was, but it would be wrong
to conclude that the writing of a novel has been plain sailing with me
ever since. Let me 'throw a crust to my critics,' and confess that I am
serving my apprenticeship still. Every book that I have written since
has offered yet greater difficulties. Not one of the little series but
has at some moment been a despair to me. There has always been a point
of the story at which I have felt confident that it must kill me. I have
written six novels (that is to say, about sixteen), and sworn as many
oaths that I would never begin another. Three times I have thrown up
commissions in sheer terror of the work ahead of one. Yet here I am at
this moment (like half-a-dozen of my fellow-craftsmen), with contracts
in hand which I cannot get through for three years. The public expects a
novel to be light reading. It may revenge itself for occasional
disappointments by remembering that a novel is not always light writing.

Let me conclude with a few words that may be timely. Of all the literary
cants that I despise and hate, the one I hate and despise the most is
that which would have the world believe that greatly gifted men who have
become distinguished in literature and are earning thousands a year by
it, and have no public existence and no apology apart from it, hold it
in pity as a profession and in contempt as an art. For my own part, I
have found the profession of letters a serious pursuit, of which in no
company and in no country have I had need to be ashamed. It has demanded
all my powers, fired all my enthusiasm, developed my sympathies,
enlarged my friendships, touched, amused, soothed, and comforted me. If
it has been hard work, it has also been a constant inspiration, and I
would not change it for all the glory and more than all the emoluments
of the best-paid and the most illustrious profession in the world.



My first book hardly deserved the title. I have only a dim remembrance
of it now, because it is one of those things which I have studiously set
myself to forget. I was very proud of it before I saw it. After I had
seen it, I realised in one swift moment's anguish the concentrated truth
of the word vanity as applied to human wishes. Hidden away in the bottom
corner of an old box, which is not to be opened until after I am dead,
that first book lies at the present moment; that is to say, unless the
process of decay, which had already set in upon the paper on which it
was printed, has gone on to the bitter end, and the book has disappeared
entirely of its own accord.

[Illustration: 12 CLARENCE TERRACE]

Before that book was published, I used to lie awake at night and fancy
how great and how grand a thing it would be for me to see a book with
my name on the cover lying on Smith's bookstalls, and staring me in the
face from the booksellers' windows. After it was published, I felt that
I owed Messrs. Smith & Sons a deep debt of gratitude for refusing to
take it, and my heart rejoiced within me greatly that the only
booksellers who exhibited it lived principally in old back streets and
half-finished suburban thoroughfares.

[Illustration: THE HALL]

Stay--I will go upstairs to my lumber room, I will open that box, I will
dig deep down among the buried memories of the past, and I will find
that book, and I will summon up my courage and ask the publishers of
this volume to kindly allow the cover of that book to be reproduced
here. It is only by looking at it as I looked at it that you will
thoroughly appreciate my feelings on the subject.

I have found the box, but my heart sinks within me as I try to open the
lid. All my lost youth lies there. The key is rusty and will hardly turn
in the lock.

[Illustration: drawing by Geo. Hutchinson

signed: Very sincerely yours,

George R. Sims]

So--so--so, at last! Ghosts of the long ago, come forth from your
resting-places and haunt me once again.

Dear me! dear me! how musty everything smells; how old, and worn, and
time-stained everything is. A folded poster:

                 'GRECIAN THEATRE

     'Mr. G. R. Sims will positively _not_ appear
      this evening at the entertainment held in the

Yes, I remember. I had been announced, entirely without my consent or
knowledge, to appear at a hall attached to the Grecian Theatre with Mrs.
Georgina Weldon, and take part in an entertainment. This notice was
stuck about outside the theatre in consequence of my indignant
remonstrance. My old friend Mr. George Conquest had, I need hardly say,
nothing to do with that bill. Some one had taken the hall for a special
occasion. I think it was something remotely connected with lunatics.

[Illustration: GEORGE R. SIMS]

My first play! Poor little play--a burlesque written for my brothers and
sisters, and played by us in the Theatre Royal Day Nursery. There were
some really brilliant lines in it, I remember. They were taken bodily
from a burlesque of H. J. Byron's, which I purchased at Lacy & Son's
(now French's) in the Strand--'a new and original burlesque by Master G.
R. Sims.' My misguided parents actually had the playbill printed and
invited friends to witness the performance. They little knew what they
were doing by pandering to my boyish vanity in such a way. But for that
printed playbill, and that public performance in my nursery, I might
never have taken to the stage, and inflicted upon a long-suffering
public Adelphi melodrama and Gaiety burlesque, farcical comedy and comic
opera; I might have remained all my life an honest, hard-working City
man, relieving my feelings occasionally by joining in the autumn
discussions in the _Daily Telegraph_. I was still in the City when my
first book was published. I used, in those days, to get to the City at
nine and leave it at six, but I had a dinner hour, and in that dinner
hour I wrote short stories and little things that I fancied were funny,
and I used to put them in big envelopes and send them to the different
magazines. I sent about twenty out in that way. I never had one
accepted, but several returned.

[Illustration: Photo of title page of "The Social Kaleidoscope."]

I wrote my first book in my dinner hour, in a City office. I have just
found it. Here is the cover. You will observe that it has my portrait on
it. I look very ill and thin and haggard. That was, perhaps, the result
of going without my dinner in order to devote myself to 'literature.'

If you could look inside that book, if you could see the paper on which
it is printed, you would understand the shock it was to me when they
laid it in my arms and said: 'Behold your firstborn.'

All the vanity in me (and they tell me that I have a good deal) rose up
as I gazed at the battered wreck upon the cover--the man with the face
that suggested a prompt subscription to a burial club.

But I shouldn't have minded that so much if the people who bought my
book hadn't written to me personally to complain. One gentleman sent me
a postcard to say that his volume fell to pieces while he was carrying
it home. Another assured me that he had picked enough pieces of straw
out of the leaves to make a bed for his horse with, and a third returned
a copy to me without paying the postage, and asked me kindly to put it
in _my_ dustbin, because his cook was rather proud of the one he had in
his back garden.

Still the book sold (the sketches had all previously appeared in the
_Weekly Dispatch_), and when the first edition was exhausted, a new and
better one was prepared (without that haggard face upon the cover), and
I was happy.

The sale ran into thirty thousand the first year of publication, and as
I was fortunate enough to have published it on a royalty, I am glad to
say it is still selling.

[Illustration: THE SNUGGERY]

'The Social Kaleidoscope' was my first book. With it I made my actual
_début_ between covers.

I hadn't done very well before then; since then I have, from a worldly
point of view, done remarkably well--far better than I deserved to do,
my good-natured friends assure me, and I cordially agree with them.

But I had made a good fight for it, and I had suffered years of
disappointment and rebuff. I began to send contributions to periodicals
when I was fourteen years old, and a boy at Hanwell College. _Fun_ was
the first journal I favoured with my effusions, and week after week I
had a sinking at the heart as I bought that popular periodical and
searched in vain for my comic verses, my humorous sketches, and my smart

It took me thirteen years to get something printed and paid for, but I
succeeded at last, and it was _Fun_, my early love, that first took me
by the hand. When I was on the staff of _Fun_, and its columns were open
to me for all I cared to write, I used often to look over the batch of
boyish efforts that littered the editor's desk, and let my heart go out
to the writers who were suffering the pangs that I had known so well.

[Illustration: MR. SIMS'S 'LITTLE DAWG']

I had had effusions of mine printed before that, but I didn't get any
money for them. I had the pleasure of seeing my signature more than once
in the columns of certain theatrical journals, in the days when I was a
constant first-nighter, and a determined upholder of the privileges of
the pit. And I even had some of my poetry printed. In the old box to
which I have gone in search of the first edition of my first book, there
are two papers carefully preserved, because they were once my pride and
glory. One is a copy of the _Halfpenny Journal_, and the other is a copy
of the _Halfpenny Welcome Guest_. On the back page of the correspondence
column of the former there is a poem signed 'G. R. S.,' addressed to a
young lady's initials in affectionately complimentary terms. Alas! I
don't know what has become of that young lady. Probably she is married,
and is the mother of a fine family of boys and girls, and has forgotten
that I ever wrote verses in her honour. I think I sent her a copy of the
_Halfpenny Journal_, but a few weeks after a coldness sprang up between
us. She was behind the counter of a confectioner's shop in Camden Town,
and I found her one afternoon giggling at a young friend of mine who
used to buy his butterscotch there. My friend and I had words, but
between myself and that fair confectioner 'the rest was silence.'

[Illustration: THE DINING-ROOM]

I was really very much distressed that my pride compelled me never again
to cross the threshold of that establishment. There wasn't a
confectioner's in all Camden Town that could come within measurable
distance of it for strawberry ices.

In the correspondence column of the _Halfpenny Welcome Guest_, which is
among my buried treasures, there is an 'answer' instead of the poem
which I had fondly hoped to see inserted in its glorious pages. And
this is the answer: 'G. R. S.--Your poem is not quite up to our
standard, but it gives decided promise of better things. We should
advise you to persevere.'

I am quoting from memory, for after turning that box upside down, I
can't lay my hand on this particular _Welcome Guest_, though I know that
it is there. I don't know who the editor was who gave me that kindly pat
on the head, but whoever he was he earned my undying gratitude. At the
time I felt I should have liked him better had he printed my poem. I was
no more fortunate with my prose than I was with my poetry. I began to
tell stories at a very early age, but it was not until after I had
succeeded in getting a poem printed among the 'Answers to
Correspondents' that I took seriously to prose with a view of
publication. I was encouraged to try my hand at writing stories by the
remembrance of the success which had attended my efforts at romantic
narrative when I was a school-boy.

[Illustration: THE LIBRARY]

There were eight other boys in the dormitory I slept in at Hanwell (the
College, not the Asylum), and they used to make me tell them stories
every night until they fell asleep, and woe betide me if I cut my
narrative short while one of them remained awake. I wasn't much of a boy
with a bolster or a boot, but they were all champions, and many a time
when I had married the hero and heroine and wound up my story did I have
to start a fresh complication in a hurry to save myself from
chastisement. I remember on one occasion, when I was dreadfully sleepy,
and I had got into a fearful fog as to who committed the murder, I made
a wild plunge at a ghost to get me out of the difficulty, and the whole
dormitory rose to a boy and set about me with bolsters in their
indignation at such a lame and impotent conclusion.

Night after night did those maddening words, 'Tell us a story,' salute
my ears as I laid my weary little head upon the pillow, and I had to
tell one or run the gauntlet of eight bolsters and sixteen slippers, to
say nothing of the biggest boy of all, who kept a reserve pair of boots
hidden away under his bed for purposes not altogether unconnected with
midnight excursions to a neighbouring orchard.

[Illustration: 'SIR HUGO']

It was the remembrance of my early story-telling days that prompted me,
when poetry seemed a drug in the market, to try my hand at what is now,
I believe, called 'The Complete Novelette.'

I set myself seriously to work, laid in a large stock of apples and
jumbles, and spent several consecutive afternoons in completing a story
which I called 'A Pleasant Evening.' After I had written it I copied it
out in my best hand, and then, with fear and trembling, I sent it to
the _Family Herald_.

I sent it to the _Family Herald_ because I had heard a lady who visited
at our house say that she knew a lady who knew a lady who had sent a
story to the _Family Herald_, never having written anything before in
her life, and the story had been accepted, and the writer had received
five pounds for it by return of post.

[Illustration: THE BALCONY]

I didn't receive anything by return of post, but in about a fortnight my
manuscript came back to me. Nothing daunted, I carefully cut off the
corner on which 'Declined with thanks' had been written, and I sent the
story to _Chamber's Journal_. Here it met with a similar fate, but I
fancy it took a little longer to come back, and it bore signs of wear
and tear. I knew, or I had read, that it was not wise to let your
manuscript have the appearance of being rejected, so I spent several
unpleasant evenings in writing 'A Pleasant Evening' out again, and I
sent it to _All the Year Round_.

It came back! This time I didn't take the trouble to open it I knew it
directly I saw it, and as it reached me so I flung it in my desk and bit
my lips, and made up my mind that after all it was better to be accepted
as a poet in the 'Answers to Correspondents' column of the _Halfpenny
Journal_ than to be rejected as a story-writer by the editors of
higher-priced periodicals.

[Illustration: 'Beauty,' an old Favourite, Twenty Years old.]

But though I played with poetry again, I didn't even succeed in getting
into the 'Answers to Correspondents.' My vaulting ambition o'erleaped
its selle, and I sent my verses to journals which didn't 'correspond.'
In those days I kept a little book, in which I entered all the
manuscripts I sent to editors, and from it now I copy the following
instructive record. R stands for 'Returned':--

    _Once a Week_      'The Minstrel's Curse'         R.
    _Belgravia_         'After the Battle'            R.
    _Broadway_          'After the Battle'            R.
    _Fun_              'Nearer and Dearer'            R.
    _Fun_             'An Unfortunate Attachment'     R.
    _Fun_                   'A Song of May'           R.
    _Banter_              'Nearer and Dearer'         R.
    _Judy_               'An Unfortunate Attachment'  R.
    _London Society_   'The Minstrel's Curse'         R.
    _Owl_               'Nearer and Dearer'           R.

Returned! Returned! Returned! All I got for my pains was the chance of
making a joke in my diary on my birthday. In those days of my wild
struggles with Fate I find written against the 2nd of September, 'Many
unhappy Returns.'

I believe that I should have flung up authorship in despair, and never
have had a first book, but for the chance remark of the dear old doctor
who looked after my health in the days when I hadn't to pay my own
doctor's bills.

[Illustration: THE DRAWING-ROOM]

He was talking about me one day in my father's private office, and I
happened to be passing, and I heard him say, 'He's a nice lad--what a
pity he scribbles!' Scribbles! the word burnt itself into my brain, it
seared my heart, it brought the hot blood to my cheeks, and the
indignant tears to my eyes. Was I not ready to write an acrostic at a
moment's notice on the name of the sweetheart of any fellow who asked me
to do it? Had I not written a poem on the fall of Napoleon, which my
eldest sister had read aloud to her schoolfellows, and made them all mad
with jealousy to think there wasn't a brother among the lot of them who
could even rhyme decently? Had I not had stories rejected by the _Family
Herald_, _All the Year Round_, and _Chambers's Journal_, and a letter on
the subject of the crossing opposite St. Mark's Church, Hamilton
Terrace, printed in the _Marylebone Mercury_? And was I to be dubbed a
scribbler, and pitied for my weakness? It is nearly twenty years since
those words were uttered, and my dear old doctor rests beyond the reach
of all human ills, but I can hear them now. They have never ceased to
ring in my ears as they rang that day.

[Illustration: 'FAUST UP TO DATE']

My pride was wounded, my vanity was hurt, I was put upon my mettle. I
registered a silent vow there and then that some day I would have a
noble revenge on my friendly detractor, and make him confess that he was
wrong when he said that it was a pity I scribbled.

From that hour I set myself steadily to be an author. I wrote poetry by
the mile, prose by the acre, and I sent it to every kind of periodical
that I could find in the 'Post Office Directory.'

I had to pass through years of rejection, but still I wrote on, and
still I spent all my pocket-money on books, and postage-stamps, and

And at last the chance came. I was allowed to write paragraphs in the
_Weekly Dispatch_ by a friend who was a real journalist, and had a
column at his disposal to fill with gossip.

After doing the work for a month for nothing, I had the whole column
given to me, and one day I received my first guinea earned by

[Illustration: MR. SIMS'S DINNER PARTY]

I was a proud man when I went out of the _Dispatch_ office that day with
a sovereign and a shilling in my hand. I had forced the gates of the
citadel at last. I had marched in with the honours of war, and I was
marching out with the price of victory in my hand.

Soon afterwards there came another chance. The editor of the _Dispatch_
wanted a series of short complete stories. I asked to be allowed to try
if I could do them. Under the title of 'The Social Kaleidoscope,' I
wrote a series of short stories or sketches, and from that day no week
has passed that I have not contributed something to the columns of a
weekly journal.

When the sketches were complete, the publisher of the _Dispatch_ offered
to bring them out in book form for me and publish them in the office.

'The Social Kaleidoscope' was my first book, and that is how it came
into the world.

Years afterwards, my chance came with the dear old fellow who had said
that it was a pity I scribbled so. Fortune had smiled upon me in one way
then, and I was earning an excellent income with my pen. But my health
had broken down, and it was thought necessary that I should place myself
in the hands of a celebrated surgeon. I had not seen my old doctor for
some years, but my people wished that he should be consulted, because he
had known me so well in the days of my youth.

So I submitted, and he came, and he shook his head and agreed that
so-and-so was the man to take me in hand.

'I think he'll cure you, my dear fellow,' said the doctor; 'he's the
most skilful surgeon we have for cases like yours, but his fee is a
heavy one. Still, you can afford it.'

'Yes, doctor,' I replied, 'thanks to my _scribbling_, I can.'

That was the hour of my triumph. I had waited for it for fifteen years,
but it had come at last.

The dear old boy gripped my hand. 'I was wrong,' he said, with a quiet
smile, 'and I confess it; but we'll get you well, and you shall scribble
for many a year to come.'

And I am scribbling still.




As there is only one man in charge of a steamer, so there is but one man
in charge of a newspaper, and he is the editor. My chief taught me this
on an Indian journal, and he further explained that an order was an
order, to be obeyed at a run, not a walk, and that any notion or notions
as to the fitness or unfitness of any particular kind of work for the
young had better be held over till the last page was locked up to press.
He was breaking me into harness, and I owe him a deep debt of gratitude,
which I did not discharge at the time. The path of virtue was very
steep, whereas the writing of verses allowed a certain play to the mind,
and, unlike the filling in of reading matter, could be done as the
spirit served. Now, a sub-editor is not hired to write verses: he is
paid to sub-edit. At the time, this discovery shocked me greatly; but,
some years later, when I came to be a sort of an editor in charge,
Providence dealt me for my subordinate one saturated with Elia. He
wrote very pretty, Lamblike essays, but he wrote them when he should
have been sub-editing. Then I saw a little of what my chief must have
suffered on my account. There is a moral here for the ambitious and
aspiring who are oppressed by their superiors.


This is a digression, as all my verses were digressions from office
work. They came without invitation, unmanneredly, in the nature of
things; but they had to come, and the writing out of them kept me
healthy and amused. To the best of my remembrance, no one then
discovered their grievous cynicism, or their pessimistic tendency, and I
was far too busy, and too happy, to take thought about these things.

[Illustration: drawing by Geo. Hutchinson

signed: Sincerely,

Rudyard Kipling]

So they arrived merrily, being born out of the life about me, and they
were very bad indeed, and the joy of doing them was payment a thousand
times their worth. Some, of course, came and ran away again, and the
dear sorrow of going in search of these (out of office hours, and
catching them) was almost better than writing them clear. Bad as they
were, I burned twice as many as were published, and of the survivors at
least two-thirds were cut down at the last moment. Nothing can be wholly
beautiful that is not useful, and therefore my verses were made to ease
off the perpetual strife between the manager extending his
advertisements and my chief fighting for his reading-matter. They were
born to be sacrificed. Rukn-Din, the foreman of our side, approved of
them immensely, for he was a Muslim of culture. He would say: 'Your
potery very good, sir; just coming proper length to-day. You giving more
soon? One-third column just proper. Always can take on third page.'

Mahmoud, who set them up, had an unpleasant way of referring to a new
lyric as '_Ek aur chiz_'--one more thing--which I never liked. The job
side, too, were unsympathetic, because I used to raid into their type
for private proofs with old English and Gothic headlines. Even a Hindoo
does not like to find the serifs of his f's cut away to make long s's.

And in this manner, week by week, my verses came to be printed in the
paper. I was in very good company, for there is always an undercurrent
of song, a little bitter for the most part, running through the Indian
papers. The bulk of it is much better than mine, being more graceful,
and is done by those less than Sir Alfred Lyall--to whom I would
apologise for mentioning his name in this gallery--'Pekin,' 'Latakia,'
'Cigarette,' 'O.,' 'T. W.,' 'Foresight,' and others, whose names come up
with the stars out of the Indian Ocean going eastward.

Sometimes a man in Bangalore would be moved to song, and a man on the
Bombay side would answer him, and a man in Bengal would echo back, till
at last we would all be crowing together like cocks before daybreak,
when it is too dark to see your fellow. And, occasionally, some unhappy
Chaaszee, away in the China Ports, would lift up his voice among the
tea-chests, and the queer-smelling yellow papers of the Far East brought
us his sorrows. The newspaper files showed that, forty years ago, the
men sang of just the same subjects as we did--of heat, loneliness, love,
lack of promotion, poverty, sport, and war. Further back still, at the
end of the eighteenth century, Hickey's _Bengal Gazette_, a very wicked
little sheet in Calcutta, published the songs of the young factors,
ensigns, and writers to the East India Company. They, too, wrote of the
same things, but in those days men were strong enough to buy a bullock's
heart for dinner, cook it with their own hands because they could not
afford a servant, and make a rhymed jest of all the squalor and poverty.
Lives were not worth two monsoons' purchase, and perhaps the knowledge
of this a little coloured the rhymes when they sang:

    In a very short time you're released from all cares--
    If the Padri's asleep, Mr. Oldham reads prayers!

The note of physical discomfort that runs through so much Anglo-Indian
poetry had been struck then. You will find it most fully suggested in
'The Long, Long Indian Day,' a comparatively modern affair; but there is
a set of verses called 'Scanty Ninety-five,' dated about Warren
Hastings's time, which gives a lively idea of what our seniors in the
Service had to put up with. One of the most interesting poems I ever
found was written at Meerut, three or four days before the Mutiny broke
out there. The author complained that he could not get his clothes
washed nicely that week, and was very facetious over his worries.


My verses had the good fortune to last a little longer than some others,
which were more true to facts and certainly better workmanship. Men in
the Army, and the Civil Service, and the Railway, wrote to me saying
that the rhymes might be made into a book. Some of them had been sung to
the banjoes round camp fires, and some had run as far down coast as
Rangoon and Moulmein, and up to Mandalay. A real book was out of the
question, but I knew that Rukn-Din and the office plant were at my
disposal at a price, if I did not use the office time. Also, I had
handled in the previous year a couple of small books, of which I was
part owner, and had lost nothing. So there was built a sort of a book, a
lean oblong docket, wire-stitched, to imitate a D.O. Government
envelope, printed on one side only, bound in brown paper, and secured
with red tape. It was addressed to all heads of departments and all
Government officials, and among a pile of papers would have deceived a
clerk of twenty years' service. Of these 'books' we made some hundreds,
and as there was no necessity for advertising, my public being to my
hand, I took reply-postcards, printed the news of the birth of the book
on one side, the blank order-form on the other, and posted them up and
down the Empire from Aden to Singapore, and from Quetta to Colombo.
There was no trade discount, no reckoning twelves as thirteens, no
commission, and no credit of any kind whatever. The money came back in
poor but honest rupees, and was transferred from the publisher, the
left-hand pocket, direct to the author, the right-hand pocket. Every
copy sold in a few weeks, and the ratio of expenses to profits, as I
remember it, has since prevented my injuring my health by sympathising
with publishers who talk of their risks and advertisements. The
down-country papers complained of the form of the thing. The wire
binding cut the pages, and the red tape tore the covers. This was not
intentional, but Heaven helps those who help themselves. Consequently,
there arose a demand for a new edition, and this time I exchanged the
pleasure of taking in money over the counter for that of seeing a real
publisher's imprint on the title-page. More verses were taken out and
put in, and some of that edition travelled as far as Hong-Kong on the
map, and each edition grew a little fatter, and, at last, the book came
to London with a gilt top and a stiff back, and was advertised in the
publishers' poetry department.


But I loved it best when it was a little brown baby with a pink string
round its stomach; a child's child, ignorant that it was afflicted with
all the most modern ailments; and before people had learned, beyond
doubt, how its author lay awake of nights in India, plotting and
scheming to write something that should 'take' with the English public.

[Illustration: portrait by Geo. Hutchinson. Signed: Yours very truly A
Conan Doyle]



It is very well for the master craftsman with twenty triumphs behind him
to look down the vista of his successes, and to recall how he picked out
the path which has led him to fame, but for the tiro whose first book is
perilously near to his last one it becomes a more invidious matter. His
past presses too closely upon his present, and his reminiscences,
unmellowed by the flight of years, are apt to be rawly and crudely
personal. And yet even time helps me when I speak of my first work, for
it was written seven-and-twenty years ago.

[Illustration: I WAS SIX]

I was six at the time, and have a very distinct recollection of the
achievement It was written, I remember, upon foolscap paper, in what
might be called a fine bold hand--four words to the line, and was
illustrated by marginal pen-and-ink sketches by the author. There was a
man in it, and there was a tiger. I forget which was the hero, but it
didn't matter much, for they became blended into one about the time when
the tiger met the man. I was a realist in the age of the Romanticists. I
described at some length, both verbally and pictorially, the untimely
end of that wayfarer. But when the tiger had absorbed him, I found
myself slightly embarrassed as to how my story was to go on. 'It is very
easy to get people into scrapes, and very hard to get them out again,' I
remarked, and I have often had cause to repeat the precocious aphorism
of my childhood. On this occasion the situation was beyond me, and my
book, like my man, was engulfed in my tiger. There is an old family
bureau with secret drawers, in which lie little locks of hair tied up in
circles, and black silhouettes and dim daguerreotypes, and letters which
seem to have been written in the lightest of straw-coloured inks.
Somewhere there lies my primitive manuscript, where my tiger, like a
many-hooped barrel with a tail to it, still envelops the hapless
stranger whom he has taken in.


Then came my second book, which was told and not written, but which was
a much more ambitious effort than the first. Between the two, four years
had elapsed, which were mainly spent in reading. It is rumoured that a
special meeting of a library committee was held in my honour, at which a
bye-law was passed that no subscriber should be permitted to change his
book more than three times a day. Yet, even with these limitations, by
the aid of a well-stocked bookcase at home, I managed to enter my tenth
year with a good deal in my head that I could never have learned in the


I do not think that life has any joy to offer so complete, so
soul-filling as that which comes upon the imaginative lad, whose spare
time is limited, but who is able to snuggle down into a corner with his
book, knowing that the next hour is all his own. And how vivid and fresh
it all is! Your very heart and soul are out on the prairies and the
oceans with your hero. It is you who act and suffer and enjoy. You carry
the long small-bore Kentucky rifle with which such egregious things are
done, and you lie out upon the topsail yard, and get jerked by the flap
of the sail into the Pacific, where you cling on to the leg of an
albatross, and so keep afloat until the comic boatswain turns up with
his crew of volunteers to handspike you into safety. What a magic it is,
this stirring of the boyish heart and mind! Long ere I came to my teens
I had traversed every sea and knew the Rockies like my own back garden.
How often had I sprung upon the back of the charging buffalo and so
escaped him! It was an everyday emergency to have to set the prairie on
fire in front of me in order to escape from the fire behind, or to run a
mile down a brook to throw the bloodhounds off my trail. I had creased
horses, I had shot down rapids, I had strapped on my mocassins
hind-foremost to conceal my tracks, I had lain under water with a reed
in my mouth, and I had feigned madness to escape the torture. As to the
Indian braves whom I slew in single combats, I could have stocked a
large graveyard, and, fortunately enough, though I was a good deal
chipped about in these affairs, no real harm ever came of it, and I was
always nursed back into health by a very fascinating young squaw. It was
all more real than the reality. Since those days I have in very truth
both shot bears and harpooned whales, but the performance was flat
compared with the first time that I did it with Mr. Ballantyne or
Captain Mayne Reid at my elbow.


In the fulness of time I was packed off to a public school, and in some
way it was discovered by my playmates that I had more than my share of
the lore after which they hankered. There was my _début_ as a
story-teller. On a wet half-holiday I have been elevated on to a desk,
and with an audience of little boys all squatting on the floor, with
their chins upon their hands, I have talked myself husky over the
misfortunes of my heroes. Week in and week out those unhappy men have
battled and striven and groaned for the amusement of that little circle.
I was bribed with pastry to continue these efforts, and I remember that
I always stipulated for tarts down and strict business, which shows that
I was born to be a member of the Authors' Society. Sometimes, too, I
would stop dead in the very thrill of a crisis, and could only be set
agoing again by apples. When I had got as far as 'With his left hand in
her glossy locks, he was waving the blood-stained knife above her head,
when---- ' or 'Slowly, slowly, the door turned upon its hinges, and with
eyes which were dilated with horror, the wicked Marquis saw---- ' I knew
that I had my audience in my power. And thus my second book was evolved.


It may be that my literary experiences would have ended there had there
not come a time in my early manhood when that good old harsh-faced
schoolmistress, Hard Times, took me by the hand. I wrote, and with
amazement I found that my writing was accepted. _Chambers's Journal_ it
was which rose to the occasion, and I have had a kindly feeling for its
mustard-coloured back ever since. Fifty little cylinders of manuscript
did I send out during eight years, which described irregular orbits
among publishers, and usually came back like paper boomerangs to the
place that they had started from. Yet in time they all lodged somewhere
or other. Mr. Hogg, of _London Society_, was one of the most constant of
my patrons, and Mr. James Payn wasted hours of his valuable time in
encouraging me to persevere. Knowing as I did that he was one of the
busiest men in London, I never received one of his shrewd and kindly and
most illegible letters without a feeling of gratitude and wonder.

I have heard folk talk as though there were some hidden back door by
which one may creep into literature, but I can say myself that I never
had an introduction to any editor or publisher before doing business
with them, and that I do not think that I suffered on that account. Yet
my apprenticeship was a long and trying one. During ten years of hard
work, I averaged less than fifty pounds a year from my pen. I won my way
into the best journals, _Cornhill_, _Temple Bar_, and so on; but what is
the use of that when the contributions to those journals must be
anonymous? It is a system which tells very hardly against young authors.
I saw with astonishment and pride that 'Habakuk Jephson's Statement' in
the _Cornhill_ was attributed by critic after critic to Stevenson, but,
overwhelmed as I was by the compliment, a word of the most lukewarm
praise sent straight to my own address would have been of greater use to
me. After ten years of such work I was as unknown as if I had never
dipped a pen into an ink-bottle. Sometimes, of course, the anonymous
system may screen you from blame as well as rob you of praise. How well
I can see a dear old friend running after me in the street, waving a
London evening paper in his hand! 'Have you seen what they say about
your _Cornhill_ story?' he shouted. 'No, no. What is it?' 'Here it is!
Here it is!' Eagerly he turned over the column, while I, trembling with
excitement, but determined to bear my honours meekly, peeped over his
shoulder. 'The _Cornhill_ this month,' said the critic, 'has a story in
it which would have made Thackeray turn in his grave.' There were
several witnesses about, and the Portsmouth bench are severe upon
assaults, so my friend escaped unscathed. Then first I realised that
British criticism had fallen into a shocking state of decay, though when
some one has a pat on the back for you you understand that, after all,
there are some very smart people upon the literary Press.


And so at last it was brought home to me that a man may put the very
best that is in him into magazine work for years and years and reap no
benefit from it, save, of course, the inherent benefits of literary
practice. So I wrote another of my first books and sent it off to the
publishers. Alas for the dreadful thing that happened! The publishers
never received it, the Post Office sent countless blue forms to say
that they knew nothing about it, and from that day to this no word has
ever been heard of it. Of course it was the best thing I ever wrote. Who
ever lost a manuscript that wasn't? But I must in all honesty confess
that my shock at its disappearance would be as nothing to my horror if
it were suddenly to appear again--in print. If one or two other of my
earlier efforts had also been lost in the post, my conscience would have
been the lighter. This one was called 'The Narrative of John Smith,' and
it was of a personal-social-political complexion. Had it appeared I
should have probably awakened to find myself infamous, for it steered,
as I remember it, perilously near to the libellous. However, it was
safely lost, and that was the end of another of my first books.

Then I started upon an exceedingly sensational novel, which interested
me extremely at the time, though I have never heard that it had the same
effect upon anyone else afterwards. I may urge in extenuation of all
shortcomings that it was written in the intervals of a busy though
ill-paying practice. And a man must try that and combine it with
literary work before he quite knows what it means. How often have I
rejoiced to find a clear morning before me, and settled down to my task,
or rather, dashed ferociously at it, as knowing how precious were those
hours of quiet! Then to me enter my housekeeper, with tidings of dismay.
'Mrs. Thurston's little boy wants to see you, doctor.' 'Show him in,'
say I, striving to fix my scene in my mind that I may splice it when
this trouble is over. 'Well, my boy?' 'Please, doctor, mother wants to
know if she is to add water to that medicine.' 'Certainly, certainly.'
Not that it matters in the least, but it is well to answer with
decision. Exit the little boy, and the splice is about half accomplished
when he suddenly bursts into the room again. 'Please, doctor, when I got
back mother had taken the medicine without the water.' 'Tut, tut!' I
answer. 'It really does not matter in the least.' The youth withdraws
with a suspicious glance, and one more paragraph has been written when
the husband puts in an appearance. 'There seems to have been some
misunderstanding about that medicine,' he remarks coldly. 'Not at all,'
I say, 'it really didn't matter.' 'Well, then, why did you tell the boy
that it should be taken with water?' And then I try to disentangle the
business, and the husband shakes his head gloomily at me. 'She feels
very queer,' says he; 'we should all be easier in our minds if you came
and looked at her.' So I leave my heroine in the four-foot way with an
express thundering towards her, and trudge sadly off, with the feeling
that another morning has been wasted, and another seam left visible to
the critic's eye in my unhappy novel. Such was the genesis of my
sensational romance, and when publishers wrote to say that they could
see no merit in it, I was, heart and soul, of the same way of thinking.

[Illustration: MR. ANDREW LANG]

And then, under more favourable circumstances, I wrote 'Micah Clarke,'
for patients had become more tractable, and I had married, and in every
way I was a brighter man. A year's reading and five months' writing
finished it, and I thought I had a tool in my hands that would cut a
path for me. So I had, but the first thing that I cut with it was my
finger. I sent it to a friend, whose opinion I deeply respected, in
London, who read for one of the leading houses, but he had been bitten
by the historical novel, and very naturally he distrusted it. From him
it went to house after house, and house after house would have none of
it. Blackwood found that the people did not talk so in the seventeenth
century; Bentley that its principal defect was that there was a complete
absence of interest; Cassells that experience had shown that an
historical novel could never be a commercial success. I remember smoking
over my dog-eared manuscript when it returned for a whiff of country air
after one of its descents upon town, and wondering what I should do if
some sporting, reckless kind of publisher were suddenly to stride in and
make me a bid of forty shillings or so for the lot. And then suddenly I
bethought me to send it to Messrs. Longmans, where it was fortunate
enough to fall into the hands of Mr. Andrew Lang. From that day the way
was smoothed to it, and, as things turned out, I was spared that keenest
sting of ill-success, that those who had believed in your work should
suffer pecuniarily for their belief. A door had been opened for me into
the temple of the Muses, and it only remained that I should find
something that was worthy of being borne through it.



MY first novel! Far back in the distinctness of childish memories I see
a little girl who has lately learnt to write, who has lately been given
a beautiful brand-new mahogany desk, with a red velvet slope, and a
glass ink-bottle, such a desk as might now be bought for
three-and-sixpence, but which in the forties cost at least half a
guinea. Very proud is the little girl, with the Kenwigs pigtails and the
Kenwigs frills, of that mahogany desk, and its infinite capacities for
literary labour, above all, gem of gems, its stick of variegated
sealing-wax, brown, speckled with gold, and its little glass seal with
an intaglio representing two doves--Pliny's doves, perhaps, famous in
mosaic, only the little girl had never heard of Pliny, or his Laurentine

Armed with that desk and its supply of stationery, Mary Elizabeth
Braddon--very fond of writing her name at full length, and her address
also at full length, though the word 'Middlesex' offered
difficulties--began that pilgrimage on the broad high road of fiction,
which was destined to be a longish one. So much for the little girl of
eight years old, in the third person, and now to become strictly

My first story was based on those fairy tales which first opened to me
the world of imaginative literature. My first attempt in fiction, and in
round-hand, on carefully pencilled double lines, was a story of two
sisters, a good sister and a wicked, and I fear adhered more faithfully
to the lines of the archetypal story than the writer's pen kept to the
double fence which should have ensured neatness.

The interval between the ages of eight and twelve was a prolific period,
fertile in unfinished MSS., among which I can now trace an historical
novel on the Siege of Calais, an Eastern story, suggested by a
passionate love of Miss Pardoe's Turkish tales, and Byron's 'Bride of
Abydos,' which my mother, a devoted Byron worshipper, allowed me to read
aloud to her--and doubtless murder in the reading--a story of the Hartz
Mountains, with audacious flights in German diablerie; and lastly, very
seriously undertaken, and very perseveringly worked upon, a domestic
story, the outline of which was suggested by the same dear and
sympathetic mother.


Now it is a curious fact, which may or may not be common to other
story-spinners, that I have never been able to take kindly to a plot--or
the suggestion of a plot--offered to me by anybody else. The moment a
friend tells me that he or she is desirous of imparting a series of
facts--strictly true--as if truth in fiction mattered one jot!--which
in his or her opinion would make the ground plan of an admirable,
startling, and altogether original three-volume novel, I know in advance
that my imagination will never grapple with those startling
circumstances--that my thoughts will begin to wander before my friend
has got half through the remarkable chain of events, and that if the
obliging purveyor of romantic incidents were to examine me at the end of
the story, I should be spun ignominiously. For the most part, such
subjects as have been proposed to me by friends have been hopelessly
unfit for the circulating library; or, where not immoral, have been
utterly dull; but it is, I believe, a fixed idea in the novel-reader's
mind that any combination of events out of the beaten way of life will
make an admirable subject for the novelist's art.

[Illustration: THE HALL]

My dear mother, taking into consideration my tender years, and perhaps
influenced in somewise by her own love of picking up odd bits of
Sheraton or Chippendale furniture in the storehouses of the less
ambitious second-hand dealers of those simpler days, offered me the
following _scenario_ for a domestic story. It was an incident which, I
doubt not, she had often read at the tail of a newspaper column, and
which certainly savours of the gigantic gooseberry, the sea-serpent, and
the agricultural labourer who unexpectedly inherits half a million. It
was eminently a Simple Story, and far more worthy of that title than
Mrs. Inchbald's long and involved romance.

An honest couple, in humble circumstances, possess among their small
household gear a good old easy chair, which has been the pride of a
former generation, and is the choicest of their household gods. A
comfortable cushioned chair, snug and restful, albeit the chintz
covering, though clean and tidy, as virtuous people's furniture always
is in fiction, is worn thin by long service, while the dear chair itself
is no longer the chair it once was as to legs and framework.

[Illustration: THE DINING-ROOM]

Evil days come upon the praiseworthy couple and their dependent brood,
among whom I faintly remember the love interest of the story to have
lain; and that direful day arrives when the average landlord of juvenile
fiction, whose heart is of adamant and brain of brass, distrains for the
rent. The rude broker swoops upon the humble dovecot; a cart or
hand-barrow waits on the carefully hearth-stoned doorstep for the
household gods; the family gather round the cherished chair, on which
the rude broker has already laid his grimy fingers; they hang over the
back and fondle the padded arms; and the old grandmother, with clasped
hands, entreats that, if able to raise the money in a few days, they may
be allowed to buy back that loved heirloom.

[Illustration: THE DRAWING-ROOM]

The broker laughs the plea to scorn; they might have their chair, and
cheap enough, he had no doubt. The cover was darned and patched--as only
the virtuous poor of fiction do darn and do patch--and he made no doubt
the stuffing was nothing better than brown wool; and with that coarse
taunt the coarser broker dug his clasp-knife into the cushion against
which grandfatherly backs had leaned in happier days, and lo! an
avalanche of banknotes fell out of the much-maligned horsehair, and the
family was lifted from penury to wealth. Nothing more simple--or more
natural. A prudent but eccentric ancestor had chosen this mode of
putting by his savings, assured that, whenever discovered, the money
would be useful to--somebody.

So ran the _scenario_; but I fancy my juvenile pen hardly held on to the
climax. My brief experience of boarding school occurred at this time,
and I well remember writing 'The Old Arm Chair' in a penny account book,
in the schoolroom of Cresswell Lodge, and that I was both surprised and
offended at the laughter of the kindly music-teacher who, coming into
the room to summon a pupil, and seeing me gravely occupied, inquired
what I was doing, and was intensely amused at my stolid method of
composition, plodding on undisturbed by the voices and occupations of
the older girls around me. 'The Old Arm Chair' was certainly my first
serious, painstaking effort in fiction; but as it was abandoned
unfinished before my eleventh birthday, and as no line thereof ever
achieved the distinction of type, it can hardly rank as my first novel.

[Illustration: THE EVENING ROOM]

There came a very few years later the sentimental period, in which my
unfinished novels assumed a more ambitious form, and were modelled
chiefly upon 'Jane Eyre,' with occasional tentative imitations of
Thackeray. Stories of gentle hearts that loved in vain, always ending in
renunciation. One romance there was, I well remember, begun with
resolute purpose, after the first reading of 'Esmond,' and in the
endeavour to give life and local colour to a story of the Restoration
period, a brilliantly wicked interval in the social history of England,
which, after the lapse of thirty years, I am still as bent upon taking
for the background of a love story as I was when I began 'Master
Anthony's Record' in Esmondese, and made my girlish acquaintance with
the reading-room of the British Museum, where I went in quest of local
colour, and where much kindness was shown to my youth and inexperience
of the book world. Poring over a folio edition of the 'State Trials' at
my uncle's quiet rectory in sleepy Sandwich, I had discovered the
passionate romantic story of Lord Grey's elopement with his
sister-in-law, next in sequence to the trial of Lawrence Braddon and
Hugh Speke for conspiracy. At the risk of seeming disloyal to my own
race, I must add that it seemed to me a very tinpot order of plot to
which these two learned gentlemen bent their legal minds, and which cost
the Braddon family a heavy fine in land near Camelford--confiscation
which I have heard my father complain of as especially unfair--Lawrence
being a younger son. The romantic story of Lord Grey was to be the
subject of 'Master Anthony's Record,' but Master Anthony's sentimental
autobiography went the way of all my earlier efforts. It was but a year
or so after the collapse of Master Anthony, that a blindly enterprising
printer of Beverley, who had seen my poor little verses in the _Beverley
Recorder_, made me the spirited offer of ten pounds for a serial story,
to be set up and printed at Beverley, and published on commission by a
London firm in Warwick Lane. I cannot picture to myself, in my
after-knowledge of the bookselling trade, any enterprise more futile in
its inception or more feeble in its execution; but to my youthful
ambition the actual commission to write a novel, with an advance
payment of fifty shillings to show good faith on the part of my
Yorkshire speculator, seemed like the opening of that pen-and-ink
paradise which I had sighed for ever since I could hold a pen. I had,
previously to this date, found a Mæcenas in Beverley, in the person of a
learned gentleman who volunteered to foster my love of the Muses by
buying the copyright of a volume of poems and publishing the same at his
own expense--which he did, poor man, without stint, and by which noble
patronage of Poet's Corner verse he must have lost money. He had,
however, the privilege of dictating the subject of the principal poem,
which was to sing--however feebly--Garibaldi's Sicilian campaign.

[Illustration: THE SMOKING-ROOM]

The Beverley printer suggested that my Warwick Lane serial should
combine, as far as my powers allowed, the human interest and genial
humour of Dickens with the plot-weaving of G. W. R. Reynolds; and,
furnished with these broad instructions, I filled my ink-bottle, spread
out my foolscap, and, on a hopelessly wet afternoon, began my first
novel--now known as 'The Trail of the Serpent'--but published in Warwick
Lane, and later in the stirring High Street of Beverley, as 'Three Times
Dead.' In 'Three Times Dead' I gave loose to all my leanings to the
violent in melodrama. Death stalked in ghastliest form across my pages:
and villainy reigned triumphant till the Nemesis of the last chapter. I
wrote with all the freedom of one who feared not the face of a critic;
and, indeed, thanks to the obscurity of its original production, and its
re-issue as the ordinary two-shilling railway novel, this first novel of
mine has almost entirely escaped the critical lash, and has pursued its
way as a chartered libertine. People buy it and read it, and its faults
and follies are forgiven as the exuberances of a pen unchastened by
experience; but faster and more facile at that initial stage than it
ever became after long practice.

[Illustration: THE LIBRARY]

I dashed headlong at my work, conjured up my images of horror or of
mirth, and boldly built the framework of my story, and set my puppets
moving. To me, at least, they were living creatures, who seemed to
follow impulses of their own, to be impelled by their own passions, to
love and hate, and plot and scheme of their own accord. There was
unalloyed pleasure in the composition of that first story, and in the
knowledge that it was to be actually printed and published, and not to
be declined with thanks by adamantine magazine editors, like a certain
short story which I had lately written, and which contained the germ of
'Lady Audley's Secret.' Indeed, at this period of my life, the postman's
knock had become associated in my mind with the sharp sound of a
rejected MS. dropping through the open letter-box on to the floor of the
hall, while my heart seemed to drop in sympathy with that book-post

Short of never being printed at all, my Beverley-born novel could have
hardly entered upon the world of books in a more profound obscurity.
That one living creature ever bought a number of 'Three Times Dead' I
greatly doubt. I can recall the thrill of emotion with which I tore open
the envelope that contained my complimentary copy of the first number,
folded across, and in aspect inferior to a gratis pamphlet about a
patent medicine. The miserable little wood block which illustrated that
first number would have disgraced a baker's whitey-brown bag, would have
been unworthy to illustrate a penny bun. My spirits were certainly
dashed at the technical shortcomings of that first serial, and I was
hardly surprised when I was informed a few weeks later, that although my
admirers at Beverley were deeply interested in the story, it was not a
financial success, and that it would be only obliging on my part, and in
accordance with my known kindness of heart, if I were to restrict the
development of the romance to half its intended length, and to accept
five pounds in lieu of ten as my reward. Having no desire that the rash
Beverley printer should squander his own or his children's fortune in
the obscurity of Warwick Lane, I immediately acceded to his request,
shortened sail, and went on with my story, perhaps with a shade less
enthusiasm, having seen the shabby figure it was to make in the book
world. I may add that the Beverley publisher's payments began and ended
with his noble advance of fifty shillings. The balance was never paid;
and it was rather hard lines that, on his becoming bankrupt in his poor
little way a few years later, a judge in the Bankruptcy Court remarked
that, as Miss Braddon was now making a good deal of money by her pen,
she ought to 'come to the relief' of her first publisher.

And now my volume of verses being well under way, I went with my mother
to farmhouse lodgings in the neighbourhood of that very Beverley, where
I spent perhaps the happiest half-year of my life--half a year of
tranquil, studious days, far from the madding crowd, with the mother
whose society was always all sufficient for me--half a year among level
pastures, with unlimited books from the library in Hull, an old
farm-horse to ride about the green lanes, the breath of summer, with all
its sweet odours of flower and herb, around and about us; half a year of
unalloyed bliss, had it not been for one dark shadow, the heroic figure
of Garibaldi, the sailor-soldier, looming large upon the foreground of
my literary labours, as the hero of a lengthy narrative poem in the
Spenserian metre.


My chief business at Beverley was to complete the volume of verse
commissioned by my Yorkshire Mæcenas, at that time a very rich man, who
paid me a much better price for my literary work than his townsman, the
enterprising printer, and who had the first claim on my thought and

[Illustration: THE ORANGERY]

With the business-like punctuality of a salaried clerk, I went every
morning to my file of the _Times_, and pored and puzzled over Neapolitan
revolution and Sicilian campaign, and I can only say that if Emile Zola
has suffered as much over Sedan as I suffered in the freshness of my
youth, when flowery meadows and the old chestnut mare invited to summer
idlesse, over the fighting in Sicily, his dogged perseverance in
uncongenial labour should place him among the Immortal Forty. How I
hated the great Joseph G. and the Spenserian metre, with its exacting
demands upon the rhyming faculty! How I hated my own ignorance of modern
Italian history, and my own eyes for never having looked upon Italian
landscape, whereby historical allusion and local colour were both
wanting to that dry-as-dust record of heroic endeavour! I had only the
_Times_ correspondent; where he was picturesque I could be
picturesque--allowing always for the Spenserian straining--where he was
rich in local colour I did my utmost to reproduce his colouring,
stretched always on the Spenserian rack, and lengthened out by the
bitter necessity of finding triple rhymes. Next to Giuseppe Garibaldi I
hated Edmund Spenser, and it may be from a vengeful remembrance of those
early struggles with a difficult form of versification, that, although
throughout my literary life I have been a lover of England's earlier
poets, and have delighted in the quaintness and _naïveté_ of Chaucer, I
have refrained from reading more than a casual stanza or two of the
'Faëry Queen.' When I lived at Beverley, Spenser was to me but a name,
and Byron's 'Childe Harold' was my only model for that exacting verse. I
should add that the Beverley Mæcenas, when commissioning this volume of
verse, was less superb in his ideas than the literary patron of the
past. He looked at the matter from a purely commercial standpoint, and
believed that a volume of verse, such as I could produce, would pay--a
delusion on his part which I honestly strove to combat before accepting
his handsome offer of remuneration for my time and labour. It was with
this idea in his mind that he chose and insisted upon the Sicilian
campaign as a subject for my muse, and thus started me heavily
handicapped on the racecourse of Parnassus.


The weekly number of 'Three Times Dead' was 'thrown off' in brief
intervals of rest from my _magnum opus_, and it was an infinite relief
to turn from Garibaldi and his brothers in arms to the angels and the
monsters which my own brain had engendered, and which to me seemed more
alive than the good great man whose arms I so laboriously sang. My
rustic pipe far better loved to sing of melodramatic poisoners and
ubiquitous detectives; of fine houses in the West of London, and dark
dens in the East. So the weekly chapter of my first novel ran merrily
off my pen while the printer's boy waited in the farmhouse kitchen.

Happy, happy days, so near to memory, and yet so far! In that peaceful
summer I finished my first novel, knocked Garibaldi on the head with a
closing rhapsody, saw the York spring and summer races in hopelessly wet
weather, learnt to love the Yorkshire people, and left Yorkshire almost
broken-heartedly on a dull, grey October morning, to travel Londonwards
through a landscape that was mostly under water.


And, behold, since that October morning I have written fifty-three
novels; I have lost dear old friends and found new friends, who are also
dear, but I have never looked on a Yorkshire landscape since I turned my
reluctant eyes from those level meadows and green lanes where the old
chestnut mare used to carry me ploddingly to and fro between tall,
tangled hedges of eglantine and honeysuckle.

[Illustration: signature: Very truly yours,

M. E. Braddon]




It is a far cry back to 1853, when dreams of writing a book had almost
reached the boundary line of 'probable events.' I was then a pale,
long-haired, consumptive-looking youth, who had been successful in prize
poems--for there were prize competitions even in those far-off days--and
in acrostics, and in the acceptance of one or two short stories, which
had been actually published in a magazine that did not pay for
contributions (it was edited by a clergyman of the Church of England,
and the chaplain to a real duke), which magazine has gone the way of
many magazines, and is now as extinct as the dodo. It was in the year
1853, or a month or two earlier, that I wrote my first novel--which,
upon a moderate computation, I think, would make four or five good-sized
library volumes, but I have never attempted to 'scale' the manuscript.
It is in my possession still, although I have not seen it for many
weary years. It is buried with a heap more rubbish in a respectable old
oak chest, the key of which is even lost to me. And yet that MS. was the
turning-point of my small literary career. And it is the history of that
manuscript which leads up to the publication of my first novel; my first
step, though I did not know it, and hence it is part and parcel of the
history of my first book--a link in the chain.

[Illustration: AT TWENTY]

[Illustration: drawing by Geo. Hutchinson

signed: Yours Very Truly,

F. W. Robinson

(_From a photograph by Elliott & Fry_)]

When that manuscript was completed, it was read aloud, night after
night, to an admiring audience of family members, and pronounced as fit
for publication as anything of Dickens or Thackeray or Bulwer, who were
then in the full swing of their mighty capacities. Alas! I was a better
judge than my partial and amiable critics. I had very grave
doubts--'qualms,' I think they are called--and I had read that it was
uphill work to get a book published, and swagger through the world as a
real live being who had actually written a novel. There was a faint
hope, that was all; and so, with my MS. under my arm, I strolled into
the palatial premises of Messrs. Hurst & Blackett ('successors to Henry
Colburn' they proudly designated themselves at that period), laid my
heavy parcel on the counter, and waited, with fear and trembling, for
some one to emerge from the galleries of books and rows of desks beyond,
and inquire the nature of my business. And here ensued my first
surprise--quite a dramatic coincidence--for the tall, spare, middle-aged
gentleman who advanced from the shadows towards the counter, proved, to
my intense astonishment, to be a constant chess antagonist of mine at
Kling's Chess Rooms, round the corner, in New Oxford Street--rooms
which have long since disappeared, together with Horwitz, Harrwitz,
Loewenthal, Williams, and other great chess lights of those far-away
times, who were to be seen there, night after night, prepared for all
comers. Kling's was a great chess house, and I was a chess enthusiast,
as well as a youth who wanted to get into print. Failing literature, I
had made up my mind to become a chess champion, if possible, although I
knew already by quiet observation of my antagonists, that in that way
madness lay, sheer uncontrollable, raging madness--for me at any rate.
And the grave, middle-aged gentleman behind the counter of 13 Great
Marlborough Street, proved to be the cashier of the firm, and
used--being chess-mad with the rest of us--to spend his evenings at
'Kling's.' He was a player of my own strength, and for twelve months or
so had I skirmished with him over the chessboard, and fought innumerable
battles with him. He had never spoken of his occupation, nor I of my
restless ambitions--chess players never go far beyond the chequered

[Illustration: ELMORE HOUSE]

'Hallo, Robinson!' he exclaimed in his surprise, 'you don't mean to say
that you---- '

And then he stopped and regarded my youthful appearance very critically.

'Yes, Mr. Kenny--it's a novel,' I said modestly; 'my first.'

'There's plenty of it,' he remarked dryly. 'I'll send it upstairs at
once. And I'll wish you luck, too; but,' he added, kindly preparing to
soften the shock of a future refusal, 'we have plenty of these come
in--about seven a day--and most of them go back to their writers again.'

[Illustration: AT THIRTY]

'Ye-es, I suppose so,' I answered, with a sigh.

For a while, however, I regarded the meeting as a happy augury--a lucky
coincidence. I even had the vain, hopeless notion that Mr. Kenny might
put in a good word for me, ask for special consideration, out of that
kindly feeling which we had for each other, and which chess antagonists
have invariably for each other, I am inclined to believe. But though we
met three or four times a week, from that day forth not one word
concerning the fate of my manuscript escaped the lips of Mr. Kenny. It
is probable the incident had passed from his memory; he had nothing to
do with the novel department itself, and the delivery of MSS. was a very
common everyday proceeding to him. I was too bashful, perhaps too
proud, an individual to ask any questions; but every evening that I
encountered him I used to wonder 'if he had heard anything,' if any news
of the book's fate had reached him, directly or indirectly; occasionally
even, as time went on, I was disposed to imagine that he was letting me
win the game out of kindness--for he was a gentle, kindly soul
always--in order to soften the shock of a disappointment which he knew
perfectly well was on its way towards me.

[Illustration: MR. ROBINSON'S LIBRARY]

[Illustration: THE GARDEN]

Some months afterwards, the fateful letter came to me from the firm,
regretting its inability to make use of the MS., and expressing many
thanks for a perusal of the same--a polite, concise, all-round kind of
epistle, which a publisher is compelled to keep in stock, and to send
out when rejected literature pours forth like a waterfall from the dusky
caverns of a publishing house in a large way of business. It was all
over, then--I had failed! From that hour I would turn chess player, and
soften my brain in a quest for silver cups or champion amateur stakes.
I could play chess better than I could write fiction, I was sure. Still,
after some days of dead despair, I sent the MS. once more on its
travels--this time to Smith & Elder's, whose reader, Mr. Williams, had
leapt into singular prominence since his favourable judgment of
Charlotte Brontë's book, and to whom most MSS. flowed spontaneously for
many years afterwards. And in due course of time, Mr. Williams, acting
for Messrs. Smith & Elder, asked me to call upon him--_for the MS.!_--at
Cornhill, and there I received my first advice, my first thrill of
exultation. 'Presently, and probably, _and with perseverance_,' he said,
'you will succeed in literature, and if you will remember now, that to
write a good novel is a very considerable achievement. Years of short
story-writing is the best apprenticeship for you. Write and rewrite, and
spare no pains.' I thanked him, and I went home with tears in my eyes of
gratitude and consolation, though my big story had been declined with
thanks. But I did not write again. I put away my MS., and went on for
six or eight hours a day at chess for many idle months before I was in
the vein for composition, and then, with a sudden dash, I began 'The
House of Elmore.' It was half finished when another strange incident
occurred. I received one morning a letter from Lascelles Wraxall
(afterwards Sir Lascelles Wraxall, Bart., as the reader may be probably
aware), informing me that he was one of the readers for Messrs. Hurst &
Blackett, and that it had been his duty some time ago to decide
unfavourably against a story which I had submitted to the notice of his
firm, but that he had intended to write to me a private note urging me
to adopt literature as a profession. His principal object in writing at
that time was to suggest my trying the fortunes of the novel, which he
had already read, with Messrs. Routledge, and he kindly added a letter
of introduction to that firm in the Broadway--an introduction which, by
the way, never came to anything.

[Illustration: THE DRAWING-ROOM]

Poor Lascelles Wraxall, clever writer and editor, press-man and literary
adviser, real Bohemian and true friend--indeed, everybody's friend but
his own--I look back at him with feelings of deep gratitude. He was a
rolling stone, and when I met him for the first time in my life, years
afterwards, he had left Marlborough Street for the Crimea; he had been
given a commission in the Turkish Contingent at Kertch; he had come back
anathematising the Service, and 'chock full' of grievances against the
Government, and he became once more editor and sub-editor, and
publisher's hack even, until he stepped into his baronetcy--an empty
title, for he had sold the reversion of the estates for a mere song long
ago--and became special correspondent in Austria for the _Daily
Telegraph_. And in Vienna he died, young in years still--not forty, I
think--closing a life that only wanted one turn more of 'application,' I
have often thought, to have achieved very great distinction. There are
still a few writing men about who remember Lascelles Wraxall, but they
are 'the boys of the old brigade.'

[Illustration: AT FORTY]

It was to Lascelles Wraxall I sent, when finished, 'The House of
Elmore,' as the reader may very easily guess. Wraxall had stepped so
much out of his groove--for the busy literary man that he was--to take
me by the hand, and point the way along 'the perilous road;' he had
given me so many kind words, that I wrote my hardest to complete my new
story before I should fade from his recollection. The book was finished
in five weeks, and in hot haste, and for months again I was left
wondering what the outcome of it all was to be; whether Wraxall was
reading my story, or whether--oh, horror!--some other reader less kindly
disposed, and more austere and critical, and hard to please, had been
told off to sit in judgment upon my second MS.

[Illustration: MR. ROBINSON AT WORK]

I went back to chess for a distraction till the fate of that book was
pronounced or sealed--it was always chess in the hours of my distress
and anxiety--and I once again faced Charles Kenny, and once again
wondered if he knew, and how much he knew, whilst he was deep in his
king's gambit or his giuoco piano; but he was not even aware that I had
sent in a second story, I learned afterwards. And then at last came the
judgment--the pleasant, if formal, notice from Marlborough Street that
the novel had been favourably reported upon by the reader, and that
Messrs. Hurst & Blackett would be pleased to see me at Marlborough
Street to talk the matter of its publication over with me. Ah! what a
letter that was!--what a surprise, after all!--what a good omen!

And some three months afterwards, at the end of the year 1854, my first
book--but my second novel--was launched into the reading world, and I
have hardly got over the feeling yet that I had actually a right to dub
myself a novelist!

When the first three notices of the book appeared, wild dreams of a
brilliant future beset me. They were all favourable notices--too
favourable; but _John Bull_, _The Press_, and _Bell's Messenger_ (I
think they were the papers) scattered favourable notices
indiscriminately at that time. Presently the _Athenæum_ sobered me a
little, but wound up with a kindly pat on the back, and the _Saturday
Review_, then in its seventh number, drenched me with vitriolic acid,
and brought me to a lower level altogether; and, finally, the _Morning
Herald_ blew a loud blast to my praise and glory--that last notice, I
believe, having been written by my old friend Sir Edward Clarke, then a
very young reviewer on the _Herald_ staff, with no dreams of becoming
Her Majesty's Solicitor-General just then! 'The House of Elmore'
actually paid its publishers' expenses, and left a balance, and brought
me in a little cheque; and thus my writing life began in sober earnest.

[Illustration: drawing by Geo. Hutchinson

signed: Very Truly Yours,

H. Rider Haggard]



[Illustration: THE FRONT GARDEN[B]]

I think that it was in an article by a fellow-scribe, where, doubtless
more in sorrow than in anger, that gentleman exposed the worthlessness
of the productions of sundry of his brother authors, in which I read
that whatever success I had met with as a writer of fiction was due to
my literary friends and 'nepotic criticism.' This is scarcely the case,
since when I began to write I do not think that I knew a single creature
who had published books--blue books alone excepted. Nobody was ever more
outside the ring, or less acquainted with the art of 'rolling logs,'
than the humble individual who pens these lines. But the reader shall
judge for himself.

To begin at the beginning: My very first attempt at imaginative writing
was made while I was a boy at school. One of the masters promised a
prize to that youth who should best describe on paper any incident, real
or imaginary. I entered the lists, and selected the scene at an
operation in a hospital as my subject. The fact that I had never seen an
operation, nor crossed the doors of a hospital, did not deter me from
this bold endeavour, which, however, was justified by its success. I was
declared to have won in the competition, though, probably through the
forgetfulness of the master, I remember that I never received the
promised prize. My next literary effort, written in 1876, was an account
of a Zulu war dance, which I witnessed when I was on the staff of the
Governor of Natal. It was published in the _Gentleman's Magazine_, and
very kindly noticed in various papers. A year later I wrote another
article, entitled 'A Visit to the Chief Secocoeni,' which very nearly
got me into trouble. I was then serving on the staff of Sir Theophilus
Shepstone, and the article, signed with my initials, reached South
Africa in its printed form shortly after the annexation of the
Transvaal. Young men with a pen in their hands are proverbially
indiscreet, and in this instance I was no exception. In the course of my
article I had described the Transvaal Boer at home with a fidelity that
should be avoided by members of a diplomatic mission, and had even gone
the length of saying that most of the Dutch women were 'fat.' Needless
to say, my remarks were translated into the Africander papers, and
somewhat extensively read, especially by the ladies in question and
their male relatives; nor did the editors of those papers forbear to
comment on them in leading articles. Shortly afterwards, there was a
great and stormy meeting of Boers at Pretoria. As matters began to look
serious, somebody ventured among them to ascertain the exciting cause,
and returned with the pleasing intelligence that they were all talking
of what the Englishman had written about the physical proportions of
their womenkind and domestic habits, and threatening to take up arms to
avenge it. Of my feelings on learning this news I will not discourse,
but they were uncomfortable, to say the least of it. Happily, in the
end, the gathering broke up without bloodshed, but when the late Sir
Bartle Frere came to Pretoria, some months afterwards, he administered
to me a sound and well-deserved lecture on my indiscretion. I excused
myself by saying that I had set down nothing which was not strictly
true, and he replied to the effect that therein lay my fault. I quite
agree with him; indeed, there is little doubt but that these bald
statements of fact as to the stoutness of the Transvaal 'fraus,' and the
lack of cleanliness in their homes, went near to precipitating a result
that, as it chanced, was postponed for several years. Well, it is all
done with now, and I take this opportunity of apologising to such of the
ladies in question as may still be in the land of life.


This unfortunate experience cooled my literary ardour, yet, as it
chanced, when some five years later I again took up my pen, it was in
connection with African affairs. These pages are no place for politics,
but I must allude to them in explanation. It will be remembered that the
Transvaal was annexed by Great Britain in 1877. In 1881 the Boers rose
in rebellion and administered several thrashings to our troops, whereon
the Government of this country came suddenly to the conclusion that a
wrong had been done to the victors, and, subject to some paper
restrictions, gave them back their independence. As it chanced, at the
time I was living on some African property belonging to me in the centre
of the operations, and so disgusted was I, in common with thousands of
others, at the turn which matters had taken, that I shook the dust of
South Africa off my feet and returned to England. Now, the first impulse
of an aggrieved Englishman is to write to the _Times_, and if I remember
right I took this course, but, my letter not being inserted, I enlarged
upon the idea and composed a book called 'Cetewayo and his White
Neighbours.' This semi-political work, or rather history, was very
carefully constructed from the records of some six years' experience,
and by the help of a shelf full of blue books that stare me in the face
as I write these words; and the fact that it still goes on selling seems
to show that it has some value in the eyes of students of South African
politics. But when I had written my book I was confronted by a
difficulty which I had not anticipated, being utterly without experience
in such affairs--that of finding somebody willing to publish it. I
remember that I purchased a copy of the _Athenæum_, and selecting the
names of various firms at hazard, wrote to them offering to submit my
manuscript, but, strange to say, none of them seemed anxious to peruse
it. At last--how I do not recollect--it came into the hands of Messrs.
Trübner, who, after consideration, wrote to say that they were willing
to bring it out on the half profit system, provided that I paid down
fifty pounds towards the cost of production. I did not at all like the
idea of parting with the fifty pounds, but I believed in my book, and
was anxious to put my views on the Transvaal rebellion and other African
questions before the world. So I consented to the terms, and in due
course 'Cetewayo' was published in a neat green binding. Somewhat to my
astonishment, it proved a success from a literary point of view. It was
not largely purchased--indeed, that fifty pounds took several years on
its return journey to my pocket, but it was favourably, and in some
instances almost enthusiastically, reviewed, especially in the colonial

[Illustration: THE HALL]

About this time the face of a girl whom I saw in a church at Norwood
gave me the idea of writing a novel. The face was so perfectly
beautiful, and at the same time so refined, that I felt I could fit a
story to it which should be worthy of a heroine similarly endowed. When
next I saw Mr. Trübner I consulted him on the subject.

'You can write--it is certain that you can write. Yes, do it, and I will
get the book published for you,' he answered.

Thus encouraged I set to work. How to compose a novel I knew not, so I
wrote straight on, trusting to the light of nature to guide me. My main
object was to produce the picture of a woman perfect in mind and body,
and to show her character ripening and growing spiritual, under the
pressure of various afflictions. Of course, there is a vast gulf between
a novice's aspiration and his attainment, and I do not contend that
Angela as she appears in 'Dawn' fulfils this ideal; also, such a person
in real life might, and probably would, be a bore--

    Something too bright and good
    For human nature's daily food.


Still, this was the end I aimed at. Indeed, before I had done with her,
I became so deeply attached to my heroine that, in a literary sense, I
have never quite got over it. I worked very hard at this novel during
the next six months or so, but at length it was finished and despatched
to Mr. Trübner, who, as his firm did not deal in this class of book,
submitted it to five or six of the best publishers of fiction. One and
all they declined it, so that by degrees it became clear to me that I
might as well have saved my labour. Mr. Trübner, however, had confidence
in my work, and submitted the manuscript to Mr. John Cordy Jeaffreson
for report; and here I may pause to say that I think there is more
kindness in the hearts of literary men than is common in the world. It
is not a pleasant task, in the face of repeated failure, again and again
to attempt the adventure of persuading brother publishers to undertake
the maiden effort of an unknown man. Still less pleasant is it, as I can
vouch from experience, to wade through a lengthy and not particularly
legible manuscript, and write an elaborate opinion thereon for the
benefit of a stranger. Yet Mr. Trübner and Mr. Jeaffreson did these
things for me without fee or reward. Mr. Jeaffreson's report I have lost
or mislaid, but I remember its purport well. It was to the effect that
there was a great deal of power in the novel, but that it required to be
entirely rewritten. The first part he thought so good that he advised me
to expand it, and the unhappy ending he could not agree with. If I
killed the heroine, it would kill the book, he said. He may have been
right, but I still hold to my first conception, according to which
Angela was doomed to an early and pathetic end, as the fittest crown to
her career. That the story needed rewriting there is no doubt, but I
believe that it would have been better as a work of art if I had dealt
with it on the old lines, especially as the expansion of the beginning,
in accordance with the advice of my kindly critic, took the tale back
through the history of another generation--always a most dangerous
experiment. Still, I did as I was told, not presuming to set up a
judgment of my own in the matter. If I had worked hard at the first
draft of the novel, I worked much harder at the second, especially as I
could not give all my leisure to it, being engaged at the time in
reading for the Bar. So hard did I work that at length my eyesight gave
out, and I was obliged to complete the last hundred sheets in a darkened
room. But let my eyes ache as they might, I would not give up till it
was finished, within about three months from the date of its
commencement. Recently, I went through this book to prepare it for a new
edition, chiefly in order to cut out some of the mysticism and tall
writing, for which it is too remarkable, and was pleased to find that it
still interested me. But if a writer may be allowed to criticise his own
work, it is two books, not one. Also, the hero is a very poor creature.
Evidently I was too much occupied with my heroines to give much thought
to him; moreover, women are so much easier and more interesting to write
about, for whereas no two of them are alike, in modern men, or rather,
in young men of the middle and upper classes, there is a paralysing
sameness. As a candid friend once said to me, 'There is nothing manly
about that chap, Arthur'--he is the hero--'except his bull-dog!' With
Angela herself I am still in love; only she ought to have died, which,
on the whole, would have been a better fate than being married to
Arthur, more especially if he was anything like the illustrator's
conception of him in the current edition.

In its new shape 'Dawn' was submitted to Messrs. Hurst & Blackett, and
at once accepted by that firm. Why it was called 'Dawn' I am not now
quite clear, but I think it was because I could find no other title
acceptable to the publishers. The discovery of suitable titles is a more
difficult matter than people who do not write romances would suppose,
most of the good ones having been used already and copyrighted. In due
course the novel was published in three fat volumes, and a pretty green
cover, and I sat down to await events. At the best I did not expect to
win a fortune out of it, as if every one of the five hundred copies
printed were sold, I could only make fifty pounds under my
agreement--not an extravagant reward for a great deal of labour. As a
matter of fact, but four hundred and fifty sold, so the net proceeds of
the venture amounted to ten pounds only, and forty surplus copies of the
book, which I bored my friends by presenting to them. But as the
copyright of the work reverted to me at the expiration of a year, I
cannot grumble at this result. The reader may think that it was
mercenary of me to consider my first book from this financial point of
view, but to be frank, though the story interested me much in its
writing, and I had a sneaking belief in its merits, it never occurred to
me that I, an utterly inexperienced beginner, could hope to make any
mark in competition with the many brilliant writers of fiction who were
already before the public. Therefore, so far as I was concerned, any
reward in the way of literary reputation seemed to be beyond my reach.

[Illustration: SOME CURIOS]

It was on the occasion of the publication of this novel that I made my
first and last attempt to 'roll a log,' with somewhat amusing results.
Almost the only person of influence whom I knew in the world of letters
was the editor of a certain society paper. I had not seen him for ten
years, but at this crisis I ventured to recall myself to his memory, and
to ask him, not for a favourable notice, but that the book should be
reviewed in his journal. He acceded to my prayer; it was reviewed, but
after a fashion for which I did not bargain. This little incident taught
me a lesson, and the moral of it is: never trouble an editor about your
immortal works; he can so easily be even with you. I commend it to all
literary tiros. Even if you are in a position to command 'puffs,' the
public will find you out in the second edition, and revenge itself upon
your next book. Here is a story that illustrates the accuracy of this
statement; it came to me on good authority, and I believe it to be true.
A good many years ago, the relation of an editor of a great paper
published a novel. It was a bad novel, but a desperate effort was made
to force it upon the public, and in many of the leading journals
appeared notices so laudatory that readers fell into the trap, and the
book went through several editions. Encouraged by success, the writer
published a second book, but the public had found her out, and it fell
flat. Being a person of resource, she brought out a third work under a
_nom de plume_, which, as at first, was accorded an enthusiastic
reception by previous arrangement, and forced into circulation. A fourth
followed under the same name, but again the public had found her out,
and her career as a novelist came to an end.

To return to the fate of 'Dawn.' In most quarters it met with the usual
reception of a first novel by an unknown man. Some of the reviewers
sneered at it, and some 'slated' it, and made merry over the
misprints--a cheap form of wit that saves those who practise it the
trouble of going into the merits of a book. Two very good notices fell
to its lot, however, in the _Times_ and in the _Morning Post_, the first
of these speaking about the novel in terms of which any amateur writer
might feel proud, though, unfortunately, it appeared too late to be of
much service. Also, I discovered that the story had interested a great
many readers, and none of them more than the late Mr. Trübner, through
whose kind offices it came to be published, who, I was told, paid me the
strange compliment of continuing its perusal till within a few hours of
his death, a sad event that the enemy might say was hastened thereby. In
this connection I remember that the first hint I received that my story
was popular with the ordinary reading public, whatever reviewers might
say of it, came from the lips of a young lady, a chance visitor at my
house, whose name I have forgotten. Seeing the book lying on the table,
she took a volume up, saying--

[Illustration: A STUDY CORNER]

'Oh, have you read 'Dawn'? It is a first-rate novel; I have just
finished it.' Somebody explained, and the subject dropped, but I was not
a little gratified by the unintended compliment.

These facts encouraged me, and I wrote a second novel--'The Witch's
Head.' This book I endeavoured to publish serially by posting the MS.
to the editors of various magazines for their consideration. But in
those days there were no literary agents or Authors' Societies to help
young writers with their experience and advice, and the bulky manuscript
always came back to my hand like a boomerang, till at length I wearied
of the attempt. Of course I sent to the wrong people; afterwards the
editor of a leading monthly told me that he would have been delighted to
run the book had it fallen into the hands of his firm. In the end, as in
the case of 'Dawn,' I published 'The Witch's Head' in three volumes. Its
reception astonished me, for I did not think so well of the book as I
had done of its predecessor. In that view, by the way, the public has
borne out my judgment, for to this day three copies of 'Dawn' are
absorbed for every two of 'The Witch's Head,' a proportion that has
never varied since the two works appeared in one-volume form.

'The Witch's Head' was very well reviewed; indeed, in one or two cases,
the notices were almost enthusiastic, most of all when they dealt with
the African part of the book, which I had inserted as padding, the fight
between Jeremy and the Boer giant being singled out for especial praise.
Whatever it may lack, one merit this novel has, however, that was
overlooked by all the reviewers. Omitting the fictitious incidents
introduced for the purposes of the story, it contains an accurate
account of the great disaster inflicted upon our troops by the Zulus at
Isandhlwana. I was in the country at the time of the massacre, and heard
its story from the lips of survivors; also, in writing of it, I studied
the official reports in the blue books and the minutes of the court

[Illustration: MR. RIDER HAGGARD]

'The Witch's Head' attained the dignity of being pirated in America, and
in England went out of print in a few weeks, but no argument that I
could use would induce my publishers to re-issue it in a one volume
edition. The risk was too great, they said. Then it was I came to the
conclusion that I would abandon the making of books. The work was very
hard, and when put to the test of experience the glamour that surrounds
this occupation vanished. I did not care much for the publicity it
involved, and, like most young authors, I failed to appreciate being
sneered at by anonymous critics who happened not to admire what I wrote,
and whom I had no opportunity of answering. It is true that then, as
now, I liked the work for its own sake. Indeed, I have always thought
that literature would be a charming profession if its conditions allowed
of the depositing of manuscripts, when completed, in a drawer, there to
language in obscurity, or of their private publication only. But I could
not afford myself these luxuries. I was too modest to hope for any
renown worth having, and for the rest the game seemed scarcely worth the
candle. I had published a history and two novels. On the history I had
lost fifty pounds, on the first novel I had made ten pounds, and on the
second fifty; net profit on the three, ten pounds, which in the case of
a man with other occupations and duties did not appear to be an adequate
return for the labour involved. But I was not destined to escape thus
from the toils of romance. One day I chanced to read a clever article in
favour of boys' books, and it occurred to me that I might be able to do
as well as others in that line. I was working at the Bar at the time,
but in my spare evenings, more from amusement than from any other
reason, I entered on the literary adventure that ended in the
appearance of 'King Solomon's Mines.' This romance has proved very
successful, although three firms, including my own publishers, refused
even to consider it. But as it can scarcely be called one of my first
books, I shall not speak of it here.

In conclusion, I will tell a moving tale, that it may be a warning to
young authors for ever. After my publishers declined to issue 'The
Witch's Head' in a six-shilling edition, I tried many others without
success, and at length in my folly signed an agreement with a firm since
deceased. Under this document the firm in question agreed to bring out
'Dawn' and 'The Witch's Head' in a two-shilling edition, and generously
to remunerate me with a third share in the profits realised, if any. In
return for this concession, I on my part undertook to allow the said
firm to republish any novel that I might write, for a period of five
years from the date of the agreement, in a two-shilling form, and on the
same third-profit terms. Of course, so soon as the success of 'King
Solomon's Mines' was established, I received a polite letter from the
publishers in question, asking when they might expect to republish that
romance at two shillings. Then the matter came under the consideration
of lawyers and other skilled persons, with the result that it appeared
that, if the Courts took a strict view of the agreement, ruin stared me
in the face, so far as my literary affairs were concerned. To begin
with, either by accident or design, this artful document was so worded
that, _primâ facie_, the contracting publisher had a right to place his
cheap edition on the market whenever it might please him to do so,
subject only to the payment of a third of the profit, to be assessed by
himself, which practically might have meant nothing at all. How could I
expect to dispose of work subject to such a legal 'servitude'? For five
long years I was a slave to the framer of the 'hanging' clause of the
agreement. Things looked black indeed, when, thanks to the diplomacy of
my agent, and to a fortunate change in the _personnel_ of the firm to
which I was bound, I avoided disaster. The fatal agreement was
cancelled, and in consideration of my release I undertook to write two
books upon a moderate royalty. Thus, then, did I escape out of bondage.
To be just, it was my own fault that I should ever have been sold into
it, but authors are proverbially guileless when they are anxious to
publish their books, and a piece of printed paper with a few additions
written in a neat hand looks innocent enough. Now no such misfortunes
need happen, for the Authors' Society is ready and anxious to protect
them from themselves and others, but in those days it did not exist.

[Illustration: THE FARM]

This is the history of how I drifted into the writing of books. If it
saves one beginner so inexperienced and unfriended as I was in those
days from putting his hand to a 'hanging' agreement under any
circumstances whatsoever, it will not have been set out in vain.

The advice that I give to would-be authors, if I may presume to offer
it, is to think for a long while before they enter at all upon a career
so hard and hazardous, but having entered on it, not to be easily cast
down. There are great virtues in perseverance, even though critics sneer
and publishers prove unkind.



Having been asked to give some account of the commencement of my
literary career, I begin by remarking that my first book was not a tale
or 'story-book,' but a free-and-easy record of personal adventure and
every-day life in those wild regions of North America which are known,
variously, as Rupert's Land--The Hudson's Bay Territory--The Nor' West,
and 'The Great Lone Land.'


(_A Sketch by the Author_)]

The record was never meant to see the light in the form of a book. It
was written solely for the eye of my mother, but, as it may be said that
it was the means of leading me ultimately into the path of my life-work,
and was penned under somewhat peculiar circumstances, it may not be out
of place to refer to it particularly here.

The circumstances were as follows:--

After having spent about six years in the wild Nor' West, as a servant
of the Hudson's Bay Fur Company, I found myself, one summer--at the
advanced age of twenty-two--in charge of an outpost on the uninhabited
northern shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence named Seven Islands. It was
a dreary, desolate spot; at that time far beyond the bounds of
civilisation. The gulf, just opposite the establishment, was about fifty
miles broad. The ships which passed up and down it were invisible, not
only on account of distance, but because of seven islands at the mouth
of the bay coming between them and the outpost. My next neighbour, in
command of a similar post up the gulf, was about seventy miles distant.
The nearest house down the gulf was about eighty miles off, and behind
us lay the virgin forests, with swamps, lakes, prairies, and mountains,
stretching away without break right across the continent to the Pacific

The outpost--which, in virtue of a ship's carronade and a flagstaff, was
occasionally styled a 'fort'--consisted of four wooden buildings. One of
these--the largest, with a verandah--was the Residency. There was an
offshoot in rear which served as a kitchen. The other houses were a
store for goods wherewith to carry on trade with the Indians, a stable,
and a workshop. The whole population of the establishment--indeed of the
surrounding district--consisted of myself and one man--also a horse! The
horse occupied the stable, I dwelt in the Residency, the rest of the
population lived in the kitchen.

There were, indeed, five other men belonging to the establishment, but
these did not affect its desolation, for they were away netting salmon
at a river about twenty miles distant at the time I write of.

[Illustration: drawing by Geo. Hutchinson

signed: R. M. Ballantyne]

My 'Friday'--who was a French-Canadian--being cook, as well as
man-of-all-works, found a little occupation in attending to the duties
of his office, but the unfortunate Governor had nothing whatever to do
except await the arrival of Indians, who were not due at that time. The
horse was a bad one, without a saddle, and in possession of a pronounced
backbone. My 'Friday' was not sociable. I had no books, no newspapers,
no magazines or literature of any kind, no game to shoot, no boat
wherewith to prosecute fishing in the bay, and no prospect of seeing
anyone to speak to for weeks, if not months, to come. But I had pen and
ink, and, by great good fortune, was in possession of a blank paper book
fully an inch thick.

These, then, were the circumstances in which I began my first book.

When that book was finished, and, not long afterwards, submitted to
the--I need hardly say favourable--criticism of my mother, I had not the
most distant idea of taking to authorship as a profession. Even when a
printer-cousin, seeing the MS., offered to print it, and the well-known
Blackwood of Edinburgh, seeing the book, offered to publish it--and did
publish it--my ambition was still so absolutely asleep that I did not
again put pen to paper in _that_ way for eight years thereafter,
although I might have been encouraged thereto by the fact that this
first book--named 'Hudson's Bay'--besides being a commercial success,
received favourable notice from the Press.

It was not until the year 1854 that my literary path was opened up. At
that time I was a partner in the late publishing firm of Constable &
Co., of Edinburgh. Happening one day to meet with the late William
Nelson, publisher, I was asked by him how I should like the idea of
taking to literature as a profession. My answer I forget. It must have
been vague, for I had never thought of the subject before.

'Well,' said he, 'what would you think of trying to write a story?'

Somewhat amused, I replied that I did not know what to think, but I
would try if he wished me to do so.

'Do so,' said he, 'and go to work at once'--or words to that effect.

I went to work at once, and wrote my first story or work of fiction. It
was published in 1855 under the name of 'Snowflakes and Sunbeams; or,
The Young Fur-traders.' Afterwards the first part of the title was
dropped, and the book is now known as 'The Young Fur-traders.' From that
day to this I have lived by making story-books for young folk.


From what I have said it will be seen that I have never aimed at the
achieving of this position, and I hope that it is not presumptuous in me
to think--and to derive much comfort from the thought--that God led me
into the particular path along which I have walked for so many years.

The scene of my first story was naturally laid in those backwoods with
which I was familiar, and the story itself was founded on the adventures
and experiences of myself and my companions. When a second book was
required of me, I stuck to the same regions, but changed the locality.
When casting about in my mind for a suitable subject, I happened to meet
with an old retired 'Nor'wester' who had spent an adventurous life in
Rupert's Land. Among other duties he had been sent to establish an
outpost of the Hudson's Bay Company at Ungava Bay, one of the most
dreary parts of a desolate region. On hearing what I wanted he sat down
and wrote a long narrative of his proceedings there, which he placed at
my disposal, and thus furnished me with the foundation of 'Ungava.'

But now I had reached the end of my tether, and when a third story was
wanted I was compelled to seek new fields of adventure in the books of
travellers. Regarding the Southern seas as a most romantic part of the
world--after the backwoods!--I mentally and spiritually plunged into
those warm waters, and the dive resulted in the 'Coral Island.'

It now began to be borne in upon me that there was something not quite
satisfactory in describing, expatiating on, and energising in, regions
which one has never seen. For one thing, it was needful to be always
carefully on the watch to avoid falling into mistakes--geographical,
topographical, natural-historical, and otherwise.


For instance, despite the utmost care of which I was capable while
studying up for the 'Coral Island,' I fell into a blunder through
ignorance in regard to a familiar fruit. I was under the impression that
cocoanuts grew on their trees in the same form as that in which they are
usually presented to us in grocers' windows--namely, about the size of a
large fist, with three spots at one end. Learning from trustworthy
books that at a certain stage of development the nut contains a
delicious beverage like lemonade, I sent one of my heroes up a tree for
a nut, through the shell of which he bored a hole with a penknife. It
was not till long after the story was published that my own brother--who
had voyaged in Southern seas--wrote to draw my attention to the fact
that the cocoanut is nearly as large as a man's head, and its outer husk
is over an inch thick, so that no ordinary penknife could bore to its
interior! Of course I should have known this, and, perhaps, should be
ashamed of my ignorance, but, somehow I'm not!

I admit that this was a slip, but such, and other slips, hardly justify
the remark that some people have not hesitated to make--namely, that I
have a tendency to draw the long bow. I feel almost sensitive on this
point, for I have always laboured to be true to nature and to fact even
in my wildest flights of fancy.

This reminds me of the remark made to myself once by a lady in reference
to this same 'Coral Island.' 'There is one thing, Mr. Ballantyne,' she
said, 'which I really find it hard to believe. You make one of your
three boys dive into a clear pool, go to the bottom, and then, turning
on his back, look up and wink and laugh at the other two.'

'No, no, not "_laugh_,"' said I, remonstratively.

'Well, then, you make him smile.'

'Ah! that is true, but there is a vast difference between laughing and
smiling under water. But is it not singular that you should doubt the
only incident in the story which I personally verify? I happened to be
in lodgings at the seaside while writing that story, and, after penning
the passage you refer to, I went down to the shore, pulled off my
clothes, dived to the bottom, turned on my back, and, looking up, I
smiled and winked.'

The lady laughed, but I have never been quite sure, from the tone of
that laugh, whether it was a laugh of conviction or of unbelief. It is
not improbable that my fair friend's mental constitution may have been
somewhat similar to that of the old woman who declined to believe her
sailor-grandson when he told her he had seen flying-fish, but at once
recognised his veracity when he said he had seen the remains of
Pharaoh's chariot wheels on the shores of the Red Sea.

Recognising, then, the difficulties of my position, I formed the
resolution to visit--when possible--the scenes in which my stories were
laid; converse with the people who, under modification, were to form
the _dramatis personæ_ of the tales, and, generally, to obtain
information in each case, as far as lay in my power, from the

[Illustration: THE STUDY]

Thus, when about to begin 'The Lifeboat,' I went to Ramsgate, and, for
some time, was hand and glove with Jarman, the heroic coxswain of the
Ramsgate boat, a lion-like as well as a lion-hearted man, who rescued
hundreds of lives from the fatal Goodwin Sands during his career. In
like manner, when getting up information for 'The Lighthouse,' I
obtained permission from the Commissioners of Northern Lights to visit
the Bell Rock Lighthouse, where I hobnobbed with the three keepers of
that celebrated pillar-in-the-sea for three weeks, and read Stevenson's
graphic account of the building of the structure in the library, or
visitors' room, just under the lantern. I was absolutely a prisoner
there during those three weeks, for no boats ever came near us, and it
need scarcely be said that ships kept well out of our way. By good
fortune there came on a pretty stiff gale at the time, and Stevenson's
thrilling narrative was read to the tune of whistling winds and roaring
seas, many of which latter sent the spray right up to the lantern and
caused the building, more than once, to quiver to its foundation.

In order to do justice to 'Fighting the Flames' I careered through the
streets of London on fire-engines, clad in a pea-jacket and a black
leather helmet of the Salvage Corps. This to enable me to pass the
cordon of police without question--though not without recognition, as
was made apparent to me on one occasion at a fire by a fireman
whispering confidentially, 'I know what _you_ are, sir, you're a

'Right you are,' said I, and moved away in order to change the subject.

It was a glorious experience, by the way, this galloping on fire-engines
through the crowded streets. It had in it much of the excitement of the
chase--possibly that of war--with the noble end in view of saving
instead of destroying life! Such tearing along at headlong speed; such
wild roaring of the firemen to clear the way; such frantic dashing aside
of cabs, carts, 'buses, and pedestrians; such reckless courage on the
part of the men, and volcanic spoutings on the part of the fires! But I
must not linger. The memory of it is too enticing. 'Deep Down' took me
to Cornwall, where, over two hundred fathoms beneath the green turf, and
more than half a mile out under the bed of the sea, I saw the sturdy
miners at work winning copper and tin from the solid rock, and acquired
some knowledge of their life, sufferings, and toils.

[Illustration: MR. R. M. BALLANTYNE]

In the land of the Vikings I shot ptarmigan, caught salmon, and gathered
material for 'Erling the Bold.' A winter in Algiers made me familiar
with the 'Pirate City.' I enjoyed a fortnight with the hearty
inhabitants of the Gull Lightship off the Goodwin Sands; and went to the
Cape of Good Hope and up into the interior of the Colony, to spy out the
land and hold intercourse with 'The Settler and the Savage'--although I
am bound to confess that, with regard to the latter, I talked to him
only with mine eyes. I also went afloat for a short time with the
fishermen of the North Sea in order to be able to do justice to 'The
Young Trawler.'

To arrive still closer at the truth, and to avoid errors, I have always
endeavoured to submit my proof sheets, when possible, to experts and men
who knew the subjects well. Thus, Captain Shaw, late chief of the London
Fire Brigade, kindly read the proofs of 'Fighting the Flames,' and
prevented my getting off the rails in matters of detail, and Sir Arthur
Blackwood, financial secretary to the General Post Office, obligingly
did me the same favour in regard to 'Post Haste.'

One other word in conclusion. Always, while writing--whatever might be
the subject of my story--I have been influenced by an undercurrent of
effort and desire to direct the minds and affections of my readers
towards the higher life.



As it is scarcely two years since my name (which, I hear, is a _nom de
plume_) appeared in print on the cover of a book, I may be suspected of
professional humour when I say I do not really know which was my first
book. Yet such is the fact. My literary career has been so queer that I
find it not easy to write my autobibliography.

'What is a pound?' asked Sir Robert Peel in an interrogative mood futile
as Pilate's. 'What is a book?' I ask, and the dictionary answers with
its usual dogmatic air, 'A collection of sheets of paper, or similar
material, blank, written, or printed, bound together.' At this rate my
first book would be that romance of school life in two volumes, which,
written in a couple of exercise books, circulated gratuitously in the
schoolroom, and pleased our youthful imaginations with teacher-baiting
tricks we had not the pluck to carry out in the actual. I shall always
remember this story because, after making the tour of the class, it was
returned to me with thanks and a new first page from which all my graces
of style had evaporated. Indignant inquiry discovered the criminal--he
admitted he had lost the page, and had rewritten it from memory. He
pleaded that it was better written (which in one sense was true), and
that none of the facts had been omitted.

This ill-treated tale was 'published' when I was ten, but an old
schoolfellow recently wrote to me reminding me of an earlier novel
written in an old account-book. Of this I have no recollection, but, as
he says he wrote it day by day at my dictation, I suppose he ought to
know. I am glad to find I had so early achieved the distinction of
keeping an amanuensis.

The dignity of print I achieved not much later, contributing verses and
virtuous essays to various juvenile organs. But it was not till I was
eighteen that I achieved a printed first book. The story of this first
book is peculiar; and, to tell it in approved story form, I must request
the reader to come back two years with me.

[Illustration: LOOKING FOR TOOLE]

One fine day, when I was sixteen, I was wandering about the Ramsgate
sands looking for Toole. I did not really expect to see him, and I had
no reason to believe he was in Ramsgate, but I thought if Providence
were kind to him it might throw him in my way. I wanted to do him a good
turn. I had written a three-act farcical comedy at the request of an
amateur dramatic club. I had written out all the parts, and I think
there were rehearsals. But the play was never produced. In the light of
after knowledge I suspect some of those actors must have been of quite
professional calibre. You understand, therefore, why my thoughts turned
to Toole. But I could not find Toole. Instead, I found on the sands a
page of a paper called _Society_. It is still running merrily at a
penny, but at that time it had also a Saturday edition at threepence.
On this page was a great prize-competition scheme, as well as details of
a regular weekly competition. The competitions in those days were always
literary and intellectual, but then popular education had not made such
strides as to-day.

[Illustration: Drawing with signature below:

I. Zangwill]

I sat down on the spot, and wrote something which took a prize in the
weekly competition. This emboldened me to enter for the great stakes.


There were various events. I resolved to enter for two. One was a short
novel, and the other a comedietta. The '5_l._ humorous story'
competition I did not go in for; but when the last day of sending in
MSS. for that had passed, I reproached myself with not having despatched
one of my manuscripts. Modesty had prevented me sending in old work, as
I felt assured it would stand no chance, but when it was too late I was
annoyed with myself for having thrown away a possibility. After all I
could have lost nothing. Then I discovered that I had mistaken the last
date, and that there was still a day. In the joyful reaction I selected
a story called 'Professor Grimmer,' and sent it in. Judge of my
amazement when this got the prize (5_l._), and was published in serial
form running through three numbers of _Society_. Last year, at a Press
dinner, I found myself next to Mr. Arthur Goddard, who told me he had
acted as Competition Editor, and that quite a number of now well-known
people had taken part in these admirable competitions. My painfully
laboured novel only got honourable mention, and my comedietta was lost
in the post.

But I was now at the height of literary fame, and success stimulated me
to fresh work. I still marvel when I think of the amount of rubbish I
turned out in my seventeenth and eighteenth years, in the scanty leisure
of a harassed pupil-teacher at an elementary school, working hard in the
evenings for a degree at the London University to boot. There was a
fellow pupil-teacher (let us call him Y.) who believed in me, and who
had a little money with which to back his belief. I was for starting a
comic paper. The name was to be _Grimaldi_, and I was to write it all
every week.

'But don't you think your invention would give way ultimately?' asked Y.
It was the only time he ever doubted me.

'By that time I shall be able to afford a staff,' I replied

[Illustration: ARTHUR GODDARD]

Y. was convinced. But before the comic paper was born, Y. had another
happy thought. He suggested that if I wrote a Jewish story, we might
make enough to finance the comic paper. I was quite willing. If he had
suggested an epic, I should have written it.

So I wrote the story in four evenings (I always write in spurts), and
within ten days from the inception of the idea the booklet was on sale
in a coverless pamphlet form. The printing cost ten pounds. I paid five
(the five I had won), Y. paid five, and we divided the profits. He has
since not become a publisher.


My first book (price one penny nett) went well. It was loudly denounced
by those it described, and widely bought by them; it was hawked about
the streets. One little shop in Whitechapel sold 400 copies. It was even
on Smith's bookstalls. There was great curiosity among Jews to know the
name of the writer. Owing to my anonymity, I was enabled to see those
enjoying its perusal, who were afterwards to explain to me their horror
and disgust at its illiteracy and vulgarity. By vulgarity vulgar Jews
mean the reproduction of the Hebrew words with which the poor and the
old-fashioned interlard their conversation. It is as if English-speaking
Scotchmen and Irishmen should object to 'dialect' novels reproducing the
idiom of their 'uncultured' countrymen. I do not possess a copy of my
first book, but somehow or other I discovered the MS. when writing
'Children of the Ghetto.' The description of market-day in Jewry was
transferred bodily from the MS. of my first book, and is now generally

What the profits were I never knew, for they were invested in the second
of our publications. Still jealously keeping the authorship secret, we
published a long comic ballad which I had written on the model of 'Bab.'
With this we determined to launch out in style, and so we had gorgeous
advertisement posters printed in three colours, which were to be stuck
about London to beautify that great dreary city. Y. saw the black-hair
of Fortune almost within our grasp.

One morning our headmaster walked into my room with a portentously
solemn air. I felt instinctively that the murder was out. But he only
said, 'Where is Y.?' though the mere coupling of our names was ominous,
for our publishing partnership was unknown. I replied, 'How should I
know? In his room, I suppose.'

He gave me a peculiar sceptical glance.


'When did you last see Y.?' he said.

'Yesterday afternoon,' I replied wonderingly.

'And you don't know where he is now?'

'Haven't an idea--isn't he in school?'

'No,' he replied in low, awful tones.

'Where then?' I murmured.

'_In prison!_'

'In prison!' I gasped.

'In prison; I have just been to help bail him out.'

It transpired that Y. had suddenly been taken with a further happy
thought. Contemplation of those gorgeous tricoloured posters had turned
his brain, and, armed with an amateur paste-pot and a ladder, he had
sallied forth at midnight to stick them about the silent streets, so as
to cut down the publishing expenses. A policeman, observing him at work,
had told him to get down, and Y., being legal-minded, had argued it out
with the policeman _de haut en bas_ from the top of his ladder. The
outraged majesty of the law thereupon haled Y. off to the cells.

Naturally the cat was now out of the bag, and the fat in the fire.

To explain away the poster was beyond the ingenuity of even a professed

Straightway the committee of the school was summoned in hot haste, and
held debate upon the scandal of a pupil-teacher being guilty of
originality. And one dread afternoon, when all Nature seemed to hold its
breath, I was called down to interview a member of the committee. In his
hand were copies of the obnoxious publications.

I approached the great person with beating heart. He had been kind to me
in the past, singling me out, on account of some scholastic successes,
for an annual vacation at the seaside. It has only just struck me, after
all these years, that, if he had not done so, I should not have found
the page of _Society_, and so not have perpetrated the deplorable

In the course of a bad quarter of an hour, he told me that the ballad
was tolerable, though not to be endured; he admitted the metre was
perfect, and there wasn't a single false rhyme. But the prose novelette
was disgusting. 'It is such stuff,' said he, 'as little boys scribble
upon walls.'

I said I could not see anything objectionable in it.

'Come now, confess you are ashamed of it,' he urged. 'You only wrote it
to make money.'

'If you mean that I deliberately wrote low stuff to make money,' I
replied calmly, 'it is untrue. There is nothing I am ashamed of. What
you object to is simply realism.' I pointed out that Bret Harte had been
as realistic; but they did not understand literature on that committee.

'Confess you are ashamed of yourself,' he reiterated, 'and we will look
over it.'

'I am not,' I persisted, though I foresaw only too clearly that my
summer's vacation was doomed if I told the truth. 'What is the use of
saying I am?'

The headmaster uplifted his hands in horror. 'How, after all your
kindness to him, he can contradict you--!' he cried.


'When I come to be your age,' I conceded to the member of the committee,
'it is possible I may look back on it with shame. At present I feel

In the end I was given the alternative of expulsion or of publishing
nothing which had not passed the censorship of the committee. After
considerable hesitation I chose the latter.

This was a blessing in disguise; for, as I have never been able to
endure the slightest arbitrary interference with my work, I simply
abstained from publishing. Thus, although I still wrote--mainly
sentimental verses--my nocturnal studies were less interrupted. Not till
I had graduated, and was of age, did I return to my inky vomit. Then
came my next first book--a real book at last.

In this also I had the collaboration of a fellow-teacher, Louis Cowen by
name. This time my colleague was part-author. It was only gradually that
I had been admitted to the privilege of communion with him, for he was
my senior by five or six years, and a man of brilliant parts who had
already won his spurs in journalism, and who enjoyed deservedly the
reputation of an Admirable Crichton. What drew me to him was his mordant
wit (to-day, alas! wasted on anonymous journalism! If he would only
reconsider his indetermination, the reading public would be the richer!)
Together we planned plays, novels, treatises on political economy, and
contributions to philosophy. Those were the days of dreams.


One afternoon he came to me with quivering sides, and told me that an
idea for a little shilling book had occurred to him. It was that a
Radical Prime Minister and a Conservative working man should change into
each other by supernatural means, and the working man be confronted with
the problem of governing, while the Prime Minister should be as
comically out of place in the East End environment. He thought it would
make a funny 'Arabian Nights' sort of burlesque. And so it would have
done; but, unfortunately, I saw subtler possibilities of political
satire in it, nothing less than a _reductio ad absurdum_ of the whole
system of Party Government. I insisted the story must be real, not
supernatural, the Prime Minister must be a Tory, weary of office, and it
must be an ultra-Radical atheistic artisan bearing a marvellous
resemblance to him who directs (and with complete success) the
Conservative Administration. To add to the mischief, owing to my
collaborator's evenings being largely taken up by other work,
seven-eighths of the book came to be written by me, though the leading
ideas were, of course, threshed out and the whole revised in common, and
thus it became a vent-hole for all the ferment of a youth of twenty-one,
whose literary faculty had furthermore been pent up for years by the
potential censorship of a committee. The book, instead of being a
shilling skit, grew to a ten-and-sixpenny (for that was the unfortunate
price of publication) political treatise of over sixty long chapters and
500 closely printed pages. I drew all the characters as seriously and
complexly as if the fundamental conception were a matter of history; the
outgoing Premier became an elaborate study of a nineteenth-century
Hamlet; the Bethnal Green life amid which he came to live was presented
with photographic fulness and my old trick of realism; the governmental
manoeuvres were described with infinite detail; numerous real
personages were introduced under nominal disguises; and subsequent
history was curiously anticipated in some of the Female Franchise and
Home Rule episodes. Worst of all, so super-subtle was the satire, that
it was never actually stated straight out that the Premier had changed
places with the Radical working man, so that the door might be left open
for satirically suggested alternative explanations of the metamorphosis
in their characters; and as, moreover, the two men re-assumed their
original _rôles_ for one night only with infinitely complex effects,
many readers, otherwise unimpeachable, reached the end without any
suspicion of the actual plot--and yet (on their own confession) enjoyed
the book!

[Illustration: 'WE SENT IT ROUND']

In contrast to all this elephantine waggery the half-dozen chapters near
the commencement, in which my collaborator sketched the first adventures
of the Radical working man in Downing Street, were light and sparkling,
and I feel sure the shilling skit he originally meditated would have
been a great success. We christened the book. 'The Premier and the
Painter,' ourselves J. Freeman Bell, had it type-written, and sent it
round to the publishers in two enormous quarto volumes. I had been
working at it for more than a year every evening after the hellish
torture of the day's teaching, and all day every holiday, but now I had
a good rest while it was playing its boomerang prank of returning to me
once a month. The only gleam of hope came from Bentleys, who wrote to
say that they could not make up their minds to reject it; but they
prevailed upon themselves to part with it at last, though not without
asking to see Mr. Bell's next book. At last it was accepted by Spencer
Blackett, and, though it had been refused by all the best houses, it
failed. Failed in a material sense, that is; for there was plenty of
praise in the papers, though at too long intervals to do us any good.
The _Athenæum_ has never spoken so well of anything I have done since.
The late James Runciman (I learnt after his death that it was he) raved
about it in various uninfluential organs. It even called forth a leader
in the _Family Herald_(!), and there are odd people here and there, who
know the secret of J. Freeman Bell, who declare that I. Zangwill will
never do anything so good. There was a cheaper edition, but it did not
sell much then, though now it is in its third edition, issued uniformly
with my other books by Heinemann, and absolutely unrevised. But not only
did 'The Premier and the Painter fail with the great public at first, it
did not even help either of us one step up the ladder; never got us a
letter of encouragement nor a stroke of work. I had to begin journalism
at the very bottom and entirely unassisted, narrowly escaping canvassing
for advertisements, for I had by this time thrown up my scholastic
position, and had gone forth into the world penniless and without even a
'character,' branded as an Atheist (because I did not worship the Lord
who presided over our committee) and a Revolutionary (because I refused
to break the law of the land).

I should stop here if I were certain I had written the required article.
But as 'The Premier and the Painter' was not entirely _my_ first book, I
may perhaps be expected to say something of my third first book, and the
first to which I put my name--'The Bachelors' Club.' Years of literary
apathy succeeded the failure of 'The Premier and the Painter.' All I did
was to publish a few serious poems (which, I hope, will survive _Time_),
a couple of pseudonymous stories signed 'The Baroness Von S.' (!), and a
long philosophical essay upon religion, and to lend a hand in the
writing of a few playlets. Becoming convinced of the irresponsible
mendacity of the dramatic profession, I gave up the stage, too, vowing
never to write except on commission (I kept my vow and yet was played
ultimately), and sank entirely into the slough of journalism (glad
enough to get there), _inter alia_ editing a comic paper (not
_Grimaldi_, but _Ariel_) with a heavy heart. At last the long apathy
wore off, and I resolved to cultivate literature again in my scraps of
time. It is a mere accident that I wrote a pair of 'funny' books, or put
serious criticism of contemporary manners into a shape not understood in
a country where only the dull are profound and only the ponderous are
earnest. 'The Bachelors' Club' was the result of a whimsical remark made
by my dear friend, Eder of Bartholomew's, with whom I was then sharing
rooms in Bernard Street, and who helped me greatly with it, and its
publication was equally accidental. One spring day, in the year of grace
1891, having lived unsuccessfully for a score of years and seven upon
this absurd planet, I crossed Fleet Street and stepped into what is
called 'success.' It was like this. Mr. J. T. Grein, now of the
Independent Theatre, meditated a little monthly called _The Playgoers'
Review_, and he asked me to do an article for the first number, on the
strength of some speeches I had made at the Playgoers' Club.

[Illustration: MR. ZANGWILL AT WORK]


When I got the proof it was marked, 'Please return at once to 6 Bouverie
Street.' My office boy being out, and Bouverie Street being only a few
steps away, I took it over myself, and found myself, somewhat to my
surprise, in the office of Henry & Co., publishers, and in the presence
of Mr. J. Hannaford Bennett, an active partner in the firm. He greeted
me by name, also to my surprise, and told me he had heard me speak at
the Playgoers' Club. A little conversation ensued, and he mentioned that
his firm was going to bring out a Library of Wit and Humour. I told him
I had begun a book, avowedly humorous, and had written two chapters of
it, and he straightway came over to my office, heard me read them, and
immediately secured the book. (The then editor ultimately refused to
have it in the 'Whitefriars' Library of Wit and Humour,' and so it was
brought out separately.) Within three months, working in odds and ends
of time, I finished it, correcting the proofs of the first chapters
while I was writing the last; indeed, ever since the day I read those
two chapters to Mr. Hannaford Bennett I have never written a line
anywhere that has not been purchased before it was written. For, to my
undying astonishment, two average editions of my real 'first book' were
disposed of on the day of publication, to say nothing of the sale in New
York. Unless I had acquired a reputation of which I was totally
unconscious, it must have been the title that 'fetched' the trade. Or,
perhaps, it was the illustrations by my friend, Mr. George Hutchinson,
whom I am proud to have discovered as a cartoonist for _Ariel_.

So here the story comes to a nice sensational climax. Re-reading it, I
feel dimly that there ought to be a moral in it somewhere for the
benefit of struggling fellow-scribblers. But the best I can find is
this: That if you are blessed with some talent, a great deal of
industry, and an amount of conceit mighty enough to enable you to
disregard superiors, equals and critics, as well as the fancied demands
of the public, it is possible, without friends, or introductions, or
bothering celebrities to read your manuscripts, or cultivating the camp
of the log-rollers, to attain, by dint of slaving day and night for
years during the flower of your youth, to a fame infinitely less
widespread than a prizefighter's, and a pecuniary position which you
might with far less trouble have been born to.


[Illustration: Drawing signed E. M. Jessop with signature below:

Morley Roberts]



Certainly no one was more surprised than myself when I discovered that I
could write decent prose, and even make money out of it, for during many
years my youthful aspirations had been to rival Rossetti, or get on a
level with Browning, rather than to make a living out of literature as a
profession. But when I did start a book, I went through three years of
American experience like fire through flax, and wrote 'The Western
Avernus,' a volume containing ninety-three thousand words, in less than
a lunar month.

[Illustration: BEFORE THE MAST]

I had been in Australia years before, coming home before the mast as an
A.B. in a Blackwall liner, but my occasional efforts to turn that
experience into form always failed. Once or twice, I read some of my
prose to friends, who told me that it was worse even than my poetry.
Such criticism naturally confirmed me in the belief that I must be a
poet or nothing, and I soon got into a fair way to become nothing, for
my health broke down. At last, finding my choice lay between two kinds
of tragedies, I chose the least, and went off to Texas. On February 27,
1884, I was working in a Government office as a writer; on March 27, I
was sheep-herding in Scurry County, North-west Texas, in the south of
the Panhandle. This experience was the opening of 'The Western Avernus.'


But I should never have written the book if it had not been for two
friends of mine. One was George Gissing, and the other W. H. Hudson, the
Argentine naturalist. When I returned from the West, and yarned to them
of starvation and toil and strife in that new world, they urged me to
put it down instead of talking it. I suppose they looked on it as good
material running to verbal conversational waste, being both writers of
many years' standing. Now I understand their point of view, and carry a
note-book, or an odd piece of paper, to jot down motives that crop up in
occasional talk, but then I was ignorant, and astonished at the wild
notion of writing anything saleable. However, in desperation, for I had
no money, I began to write, and went ahead in the same way that I have
so far kept to. I wrote it without notes, without care, without
thought, save that each night the past was resurgent and alive before
and within me, just as it was when I worked and starved between Texas
and the great North-west. Each Sunday I read what I had done to George
Gissing; at first with terror, but afterwards with more confidence when
he nodded approval, and as the end approached I began to believe in it


It is only six years since the book was finished and sent to Messrs.
Smith, Elder, & Co., but it seems half a century ago, so much has
happened since then; and when it was accepted and published and paid
for, and actually reviewed favourably, I almost determined to take to
literature as a profession. I remembered that when I was a boy of eleven
I wrote a romance with twenty people, men and women, in it. I married
them all off at the end, being then in the childish mind of the most
usual novelist who believes, or pretends to believe, or at any rate by
implication teaches, that the interesting part of life finishes then
instead of beginning. I recalled the fact that I wrote doggerel verse at
the age of thirteen when I was at Bedford Grammar School, and that an
ardent, ignorant Conservatism drove me, when I was at Owens College,
Manchester, to lampoon the Liberal candidates in rhymes, and paste them
up in the big lavatory; and under the influence of these memories I
began to think that perhaps scribbling was my natural trade. I had tried
some forty different callings, including 'sailorising,' saw-mill work,
bullock-driving, tramping, and the selling of books in San Francisco,
with indifferent financial success, so perhaps my _métier_ was the
making of books instead. So I went on trying, and had a very bad time
for two years.

Having written 'The Western Avernus' in a kind of intuitive, instructive
way, it came easy enough to me, but very soon I began to think of the
technique of writing, and wrote badly. I had to look back at the best
part of that book to be assured I could write at all. For a long time it
was a consolation and a distress to me, for I had to find out that
knowledge must get into one's fingers before it can be used. Only those
who know nothing, or who know a great deal very well, can write
decently, and the intermediate state is exceedingly painful. Both the
public and private laudation of my American book made me unhappy then. I
thought I had only that one book in me.

Some of the letters I received from America, and, more particularly,
British Columbia, were anything but cheerful reading. One man, of whom I
had spoken rather freely, said I should be hanged on a cottonwood tree
if I ever set foot in the Colony again. I do not believe there are any
cottonwoods there, but he used a phrase common in American literature.
Another whilom friend of mine, who had read some favourable criticisms,
wrote me to say he was sure Messrs. Smith & Elder had paid for them. He
had understood it was always done, and now he knew the truth of it,
because the book was so bad. I almost feared to return to British
Columbia: the critics there might use worse weapons than a sneering
paragraph. In England the worst one need fear is an action for criminal
libel, or a rough and tumble fight. There it might end in an inquest. I
wrote back to my critics that if I ever came out again, I would come
armed, and endeavour to reply effectually.

For that wild life, far away from the ancient set and hardened bonds of
social law which crush a man and make him just like his fellows, or so
nearly like that only intimacy can distinguish individual differences,
had allowed me to grow in another way, and become more myself; more
independent, more like a savage, better able to fight and endure. That
is the use of going abroad, and going abroad to places that are not
civilised. They allow a man to revert and be himself. It may make his
return hard, his endurance of social bonds bitterer, but it may help him
to refuse to endure. He may attain to some natural sight.


Not many weeks ago I was talking to a well-known American publisher, and
our conversation ran on the trans-oceanic view of Europe. He was amused
and delighted to come across an Englishman who was so Americanised in
one way as to look on our standing camps and armed kingdoms as citizens
of the States do, especially those who live in the West. To the
American, Europe seems like a small collection of walled yards, each
with a crowing fighting-cock defying the universe on the top of his own
dunghill, with an occasional scream from the wall. The whole of our
international politics gets to look small and petty, and a bitter waste
of power. Perhaps the American view is right. At any rate, it seemed so
when I sat far aloof upon the lofty mountains to the west of the great
plains. The isolation from the politics of the moment allowed me to see
nature and natural law.

And as it was with nations, so it was with men. Out yonder, in the West,
most of us were brutal at times, and ready to kill, or be killed, but my
American-bred acquaintances looked like men, strikingly like men,
independent, free, equal to the need of the ensuing day or the call of
some sudden hour. It is a liberal education to the law-abiding
Englishman to see a good specimen of a Texan cowboy walk down a Western
street; for he looks like a law unto himself, calm and greatly assured
of the validity of his own enactments. We live in a crowd here, and it
takes a rebel to be himself; and in the struggle for freedom he is
likely to go under.

[Illustration: COWBOY ROBERTS]

While I was gaining the experience that went solid and crystallised into
'The Western Avernus,' I was discovering much that had never been
discovered before, not in a geographical sense--for I have been in few
places where men have not been--but in myself. Each new task teaches us
something new, and something more than the mere way to do it. To drive
horses or milk a cow or make bread, or kill a sheep, sets us level with
facts and face to face with some reality. We are called on to be real,
and not the shadow of others. This is the worth that is in all real
workers, whatever they do, under whatever conditions. Every truth so
learnt strips away ancient falsehood from us; it is real education, not
the taught instruction which makes us alike, and thus shams, merely
arming us with weapons to fight our fellows in the crowded, unwholesome
life of falsely civilised cities.


And in America there is the sharp contrast between the city life and the
life of the mountain and the plain. It is seen more clearly than in
England, which is all more or less city. There are no clear stellar
interspaces in our life here. But out yonder, a long day's train ride
across the high barren cactus plateaus of Arizona teaches us as much as
a clear and open depth in the sky. For, of a sudden, we run into the
very midst of a big town, and shams are made gods for our worship. It is
difficult to be oneself when all others refuse to be themselves.

This was for me the lesson of the West and the life there. When I wrote
this book I did not know it; I wrote almost unconsciously, without
taking thought, without weighing words, without conscious knowledge.
But I see now what I learnt in a hard and bitter school.

For I acknowledge that the experience was at times bitterly painful. It
is not pleasant to toil sixteen hours a day; it is not good to starve
overmuch; it is not well to feel bitter for long months. And yet it is
well and good and pleasant in the end to learn realities and live
without lies. It is better to be a truthful animal than a civilised man,
as things go. I learnt much from horses and cattle and sheep; the very
prairie dogs taught me; the ospreys and the salmon they preyed on
expressed truths. They didn't attempt to live on words, or the dust and
ashes of dead things. They were themselves and no one else, and were not
diseased with theories or a morbid altruism that is based on dependence.

This, I think, is the lesson I learnt from my own book. I did not know
it when I wrote it. I never thought of writing it; I never meant to
write anything; I only went to America because England and the life of
London made me ill. If I could have lived my own life here I would have
stayed, but the crushing combination of social forces drove me out. For
fear of cutting my own throat I left, and took my chance with natural
forces. To fight with nature makes men, to fight with society makes
devils, or criminals, or martyrs, and sometimes a man may be all three.
I preferred to revert to mere natural conditions for a time.

To lead such a life for a long time is to give up creeds, and to go to
the universal storehouse whence all creeds come. It is giving up dogmas
and becoming religious. In true opposition to instructive nature, we
find our own natural religion, which cannot be wholly like any other. So
a life of this kind does not make men good, in the common sense of the
word. But it makes a man good for something. It may make him an ethical
outcast, as facts faced always will. He prefers induction to deduction,
especially the sanctioned unverified deductions of social order. For
nature affords the only verification for the logical process of
deduction. 'We fear nature too much, to say the least.' For most of us
hold to other men's theories instead of making our own.

When Mill said, 'Solitude, in the sense of being frequently alone, is
necessary to the formation of any depth of character,' he spoke almost
absolute truth. But here we can never be alone; the very air is full of
the dead breath of others. I learnt more in a four days' walk over the
California coast range, living on parched Indian corn, than I could have
done in a lifetime of the solitude of a lonely house. The Selkirks and
the Rocky Mountains are books of ancient learning: the long plains of
grey grass, the burnt plateaus of the hot South, speak eternal truths to
all who listen. They need not listen, for there men do not learn by the
ear. They breathe the knowledge in.


In speaking as I have done about America I do not mean to praise it as a
State or a society. In that respect it is perhaps worse than our own,
more diseased, more under the heel of the money fiend, more recklessly
and brutally acquisitive. But there are parts of it still more or less
free; nature reigns still over vast tracts in the West. As a democracy
it is so far a failure, as democracies must be organised on a
plutocratic basis; but it at any rate allows a man to think himself a
man. Walt Whitman is the big expression of that thought, but his fervent
belief in America was really but deep trust in man himself, in man's
power of revolt, in his ultimate recognition of the beauty of the truth.
The power of America to teach lies in the fact that a great part of her
fertile and barren soil has not yet been taught, not yet cultivated for
the bread which of itself can feed no man wholly.

[Illustration: BY THE CAMP FIRE]

Perhaps among the few who have read 'The Western Avernus' (for it was
not a financial success), fewer still have seen what I think I myself
see in it now. But it has taken me six years to understand it, six years
to know how I came to write it, and what it meant. That is the way in
life: we do not learn at once what we are taught, we do not always
understand all we say even when speaking earnestly. There is often one
aspect of a book that the writer himself can learn from, and that is not
always the technical part of it. All sayings may have an esoteric
meaning. In those hard days by the camp fire, on the trail, on the
prairie with sheep and cattle, I did not understand that they called up
in me the ancient underlying experience of the race, and, like a deep
plough, brought to the surface the lowest soil which should hereafter be
a little fertile. When I starved, I thought not of our far ancestors who
had suffered too; as I watched the sheep or the sharp-horned Texas
steers, I could not reflect upon our pastoral forefathers; as I climbed
with bleeding feet the steep slopes of the Western hills, my thoughts
were set in a narrow circle of dark misery. I could not think of those
who had striven, like me, in distant ages. But the songs of the camp
fire, and the leap of the flame, and the crackling wood, and the lofty
snow-clad hills, and the long dim plains, the wild beast, and the
venomous serpents, and the need of food, brought me back to nature, the
nature that had created those who were the fathers of us all, and,
bringing me back, they taught me, as they strive to teach all, that the
real and deeper life is everywhere, even in a city, if we will but look
for it with unsealed eyes and minds set free from the tedious
trivialities of this debauched modern life.

[Illustration: (_From a photograph by Thos. Fall, Baker Street_)


Yours very truly,

D. Christie Murray]





I began my first book more years ago than I care to count, and,
naturally enough, it took poetic form, if not poetic substance. In its
original shape it was called 'Marsh Hall,' and ran into four cantos. On
the eve of my twenty-first birthday I sent the MS. to Messrs. Macmillan,
who, very wisely, as I have since come to believe, counselled me not to
publish it. I say this in full sincerity, though I remember some of the
youthful bombast not altogether without affection. Here and there I can
recall a passage which still seems respectable. I wrote reams of verse
in those days, but when I came into the rough and tumble of journalistic
life I was too occupied to court the Muses any longer, and found myself
condemned to a life of prose. I was acting as special correspondent for
the _Birmingham Morning News_ in the year '73--I think it was '73,
though it might have been a year later--and at that time Mr. Edmund
Yates was lecturing in America, and a novel of his, the last he ever
wrote, was running through our columns. Whether the genial 'Atlas,' who
at that time had not taken the burden of _The World_ upon his shoulders,
found his associations too numerous and heavy, I can only guess, but he
closed the story with an unexpected suddenness, and the editor, who had
supposed himself to have a month or two in hand in which to make
arrangements for his next serial, was confronted with the _finis_ of Mr.
Yates's work, and was compelled to start a new novel at a week's
notice. In this extremity he turned to me. 'I think, young 'un,' he
said, 'that you ought to be able to write a novel.' I shared his faith,
and had, indeed, already begun a story which I had christened 'Grace
Forbeach.' I handed him two chapters, which he read at once, and, in
high feather, sent to the printer. It never bade fair to be a mighty
work, but at least it fulfilled the meaning of the original edition of
Pope's famous line, for it was certainly 'all without a plan.' I had
appropriate scenery in my mind, no end of typical people to draw, and
one or two moving actualities to work from. But I had forgotten the
plot. To attempt a novel without a definite scheme of some sort is very
like trying to make a Christmas pudding without a cloth. Ruth Pinch was
uncertain as to whether her first venture at a pudding might not turn
out a soup. My novelistic effort, I am sorry to confess, had no cohesion
in it. Its parts got loose in the cooking, and I have reason to think
that most people who tried it found the dish repellent. The cashier
assured me that I had sent down the circulation of the Saturday issue by
sixteen thousand. I had excellent reasons for disbelieving this
circumstantial statement in the fact that the Saturday issue had never
reached that number, but I have no doubt I did a deal of damage. There
had been an idea in 'Marsh Hall,' and what with interpolated ballads and
poetic excursions and alarums of all sorts, I had found in it matter
enough to fill out my four cantos. I set out with the intent to work
that same idea through the pages of 'Grace Forbeach,' but it was too
scanty for the uses of a three-volume novel, at least in the hands of a
tiro. I know one or two accomplished gentlemen who could make it serve
the purpose admirably, and, perhaps, I myself might do something with it
at a pinch at this time of day. Anyhow, as it was, the cloth was too
small to hold the pudding, and, in the process of cooking, I was driven
to the most desperate expedients. To drop the simile and to come to the
plain facts of the case, I sent all my wicked and superfluous people
into a coal-mine, and there put an end to them by an inrush of water. I
forget what became of the hero, but I know that some of the most
promising characters dropped out of that story, and were no more heard
of. The sub-editor used occasionally, for my encouragement, to show me
letters he received, denouncing the work, and asking wrathfully when it
would end.

Whilst I am about 'Grace Forbeach,' it may be worth while to tell the
story of the champion printer's error of my experience. I wrote at the
close of the story:

    'Are there no troubles now?' the lover asks.
    'Not one, dear Frank. Not one.'
    And then, in brackets, thus [] I set the words:
               [White line.]

This was a technical instruction to the printer, and meant that one line
of space should be left clear. The genius who had the copy in hand put
the lover's speech in type correctly, and then, setting it out as if it
were a line of verse, he gave me--

    'Not one, dear Frank, not one white line!'

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a custom in the printing office to suspend a leather medal by a
leather bootlace round the neck of the man who had achieved the prize
_bêtise_ of the year. It was somewhere about midsummer at this time, but
it was instantly and unanimously resolved that nothing better than this
would or could be done by anybody. The compositors performed what they
called a 'jerry' in the blunderer's honour, and invested him, after an
animated fight, with the medal.

'Grace Forbeach' has been dead and buried for very nearly a score of
years. It never saw book form, and I was never anxious that it should do
so, but as _it_ had grown out of 'Marsh Hall,' so my first book grew out
of it, and, oddly enough, not only my first, but my second and my third.
'Joseph's Coat,' which made my fortune, and gave me such literary
standing as I have, was built on one episode of that abortive story, and
'Val Strange' was constructed and written to lead up to the episode of
the attempted suicide on Welbeck Head, which had formed the culminating
point in the poem.


When I got to London I determined to try my hand anew, and, having
learned by failure something more than success could ever have taught
me, I built up my scheme before I started on my book. Having come to
utter grief for want of a scheme to work on, I ran, in my eagerness to
avoid that fault, into the opposite extreme, and built an iron-bound
plot, which afterwards cost me very many weeks of unnecessary and
unvalued labour. I am quite sure that no reader of 'A Life's Atonement'
ever guessed that the author took one tithe, or even one-twentieth part,
of the trouble it actually cost to weave the two strands of its
narrative together. I divided my story into thirty-six chapters. Twelve
of these were autobiographical, in the sense that they were supposed to
be written by the hero in person. The remaining twenty-four were
historical, purporting to be written, that is, by an impersonal author.
The autobiographical portions necessarily began in the childhood of the
narrator, and between them and the 'History' there was a considerable
gulf of time. Little by little this gulf had to be bridged over until
the action in both portions of the story became synchronous. I really do
not suppose that the most pitiless critic ever felt it worth his while
to question the accuracy of my dates, and I dare say that all the
trouble I took was quite useless, but I fixed in my own mind the actual
years over which the story extended, and spent scores of hours in the
consultation of old almanacs. I have never verified the work since it
was done, but I believe that in this one respect, at least, it is beyond
cavil. The two central figures of the book were lifted straight from the
story of 'Marsh Hall,' and 'Grace Forbeach' gave her quota to the




I had completed the first volume when I received a commission to go out
as special correspondent to the Russo-Turkish war. I left the MS. behind
me, and for many months the scheme was banished from my mind. I went
through those cities of the dead, Kesanlik, Calofar, Carlova, and Sopot.
I watched the long-drawn artillery duel at the Shipka Pass, made the
dreary month-long march in the rainy season from Orkhanié to Plevna,
with the army of reinforcement, under Chefket Pasha and Chakir Pasha,
lived in the besieged town until Osman drove away all foreign visitors,
and sent out his wounded to sow the whole melancholy road with corpses.
I put up on the heights of Tashkesen, and saw the stubborn defence of
Mehemet Ali, and there was pounced upon by the Turkish authorities for a
too faithful dealing with the story of the horrors of the war, and was
deported to Constantinople. I had originally gone out for an American
journal at the instance of a gentleman who exceeded his instructions in
despatching me, and I was left high and dry in the Turkish capital
without a penny and without a friend. But work of the kind I could do
was wanted, and I was on the spot. I slid into an engagement with the
_Scotsman_, and then into another with the _Times_. The late Mr.
Macdonald, who was killed by the Pigott forgeries, was then manager of
the leading journal, and offered me fresh work. I waited for it, and a
year of wild adventure in the face of war had given me such a taste for
that sort of existence that I let 'A Life's Atonement' slide, and had no
thought of taking it up again. A misunderstanding with the _Times_
authorities--happily cleared up years after--left me in the cold, and I
was bound to do something for a living. The first volume of 'A Life's
Atonement' had been written in the intervals of labour in the Gallery of
the House of Commons, and such work as an active hack journalist can
find among the magazines and the weekly society papers. I had been away
a whole year, and everywhere my place was filled. It was obviously no
use to a man in want of ready money to undertake the completion of a
three-volume novel of which only one volume was written, and so I betook
myself to the writing of short stories. The very first of these was
blessed by a lucky accident. Mr. George Augustus Sala had begun to write
for _The Gentleman's Magazine_ a story called, if I remember rightly,
'Dr. Cupid.' Sala was suddenly summoned by the proprietors of the _Daily
Telegraph_ to undertake one of his innumerable journeys, and the copy
of the second instalment of his story reached the editor too late for
publication. Just when the publishers of the _Gentleman's_ were at a
loss for suitable copy, my MS. of 'An Old Meerschaum' reached them, and,
to my delighted surprise, I received proofs almost by return of post.
The story appeared, with an illustration by Arthur Hopkins, and, about a
week later, there came to me, through Messrs. Chatto & Windus, a letter
from Robert Chambers: 'Sir,--I have read, with unusual pleasure and
interest, in this month's _Gentleman's Magazine_, a story from your pen
entitled "An Old Meerschaum." If you have a novel on hand, or in
preparation, I should be glad to see it. In the meantime, a short story,
not much longer than "An Old Meerschaum," would be gladly considered
by--Yours very truly, ROBERT CHAMBERS. P.S.--We publish no authors'
names, but we pay handsomely.' This letter brought back to mind at once
the neglected 'Life's Atonement,' but I was uncertain as to the
whereabouts of the MS. I searched everywhere amongst my own belongings
in vain, but it suddenly occurred to me that I had left it in charge of
a passing acquaintance of mine, who had taken up the unexpired lease of
my chambers in Gray's Inn at the time of my departure for the seat of
war. I jumped into a cab, and drove off in search of my property. The
shabby old laundress who had made my bed and served my breakfast was
pottering about the rooms. She remembered me perfectly well, of course,
but could not remember that I had left anything behind me when I went
away. I talked of manuscript, and she recalled doubtfully a quantity of
waste paper, of the final destination of which she knew nothing. I began
to think it extremely improbable that I should ever recover a line of
the missing novel, when she opened a cupboard and drew from it a
brown-paper parcel, and, opening it, displayed to me the MS. of which I
was in search. I took it home and read it through with infinite
misgiving. The enthusiasm with which I had begun the work had long
since had time to pall, and the whole thing looked weary, flat, stale,
and unprofitable. For one thing, I had adopted the abominable expedient
of writing in the present tense so far as the autobiographical portion
of the work was concerned, and, in the interval which had gone by, my
taste had, I suppose, undergone an unconscious correction. It was a dull
business, but, despondent as I was, I found the heart to rewrite those
chapters. Charles Reade describes the task of writing out one's work a
second time as 'nauseous,' and I confess that I am with him with all my
heart. It is a misery which I have never since, in all my work, imposed
upon myself. At that time I counted amongst my friends an eminent
novelist, on whose critical faculty and honesty I knew I could place
the most absolute reliance. I submitted my revised first volume to his
judgment, and was surprised to learn that he thought highly of it. His
judgment gave me new courage, and I sent the copy in to Chambers. After
a delay of a week or two, I received a letter which gave me, I think, a
keener delight than has ever touched me at the receipt of any other
communication. 'If,' wrote Robert Chambers,'the rest is as good as the
first volume, I shall accept the book with pleasure. Our price for the
serial use will be 250_l._, of which we will pay 100_l._ on receipt of
completed MS.; the remaining 150_l._ will be paid on the publication of
the first monthly number.' I had been out of harness for so long a time,
and had been, by desultory work, able to earn so little, that this
letter seemed to open a sort of Eldorado to my gaze. It was not that
alone which made it so agreeable to receive. It opened the way to an
honourable ambition which I had long nourished, and I slaved away at the
remaining two volumes with an enthusiasm which I have never been able to
revive. There are two or three people still extant who know in part the
privations I endured whilst the book was being finished. I set
everything else on one side for it, incautiously enough, and for two
months I did not earn a penny by other means. The most trying accident
of all the time was the tobacco famine which set in towards the close
of the third volume, but, in spite of all obstacles, the book was
finished. I worked all night at the final chapter, and wrote 'Finis'
somewhere about five o'clock on a summer morning. I shall never forget
the solemn exultation with which I laid down my pen and looked from the
window of the little room in which I had been working over the golden
splendour of the gorse-covered common of Ditton Marsh. All my original
enthusiasm had revived, and in the course of my lonely labours had grown
to a white heat. I solemnly believed at that moment that I had written a
great book. I suppose I may make that confession now without proclaiming
myself a fool. I really and seriously believed that the work I had just
finished was original in conception, style, and character. No reviewer
ever taunted me with the fact, but the truth is that 'A Life's
Atonement' is a very curious instance of unconscious plagiarism. It is
quite evident to my mind now that if there had been no 'David
Copperfield' there would have been no 'Life's Atonement.' My Gascoigne
is Steerforth, my John Campbell is David, John's aunt is Miss Betsy
Trotwood, Sally Troman is Peggotty. The very separation of the friends,
though brought about by a different cause, is a reminiscence. I was
utterly unconscious of these facts, and, remembering how devotedly and
honestly I worked, how resolute I was to put my best of observation and
invention into the story, I have ever since felt chary of entertaining a
charge of plagiarism against anybody. There are, of course, flagrant and
obvious cases, but I believe that in nine instances out of ten the
supposed criminal has worked as I did, having so completely absorbed and
digested in childhood the work of an admired master that he has come to
feel that work as an actual portion of himself. 'A Life's Atonement' ran
its course through _Chambers's Journal_ in due time, and was received
with favour. Messrs. Griffith & Farran undertook its publication in book
form, but one or two accidental circumstances forbade it to prosper in
their hands. To begin with, the firm at that time had only newly decided
on publishing novels at all, and a work under such a title, and issued
by such a house, was naturally supposed to have a theological tendency.
Then again, in the very week in which my book saw the light, 'Lothair'
appeared, and for the time being swamped everything. All the world read
'Lothair,' all the world talked about it, and all the newspapers and
reviews dealt with it, to the exclusion of the products of the smaller
fry. Later on, 'A Life's Atonement' was handsomely reviewed, and was
indeed, as I am disposed to think, praised a good deal beyond its
merits. But it lay a dead weight on the hands of its original
publishers, until Messrs. Chatto & Windus expressed a wish to
incorporate it in their Piccadilly Series. The negotiations between the
two houses were easily completed, the stock was transferred from one
establishment to the other, the volumes were stripped of their old
binding and dressed anew, and with this novel impetus the story reached
a second edition in three-volume form. It brought me almost immediately
two commissions, and by the time that they were completed I had grown
into a professional novel-writer.


[Illustration: SOME NOVELS]



It is an unromantic thing for an author to have had no literary
vicissitudes. One cannot expect to be considered interesting, unless one
has come up to London with the proverbial solitary 'shilling,' and gone
about hungry and footsore, begging from one hard-hearted publisher's
house to another with one's perpetually rejected manuscript under one's
arm. One ought to have consumed the 'midnight oil;' to have 'coined
one's heart's blood' (to borrow the tragic expression of a contemporary
gentleman-novelist); to have sacrificed one's self-respect by
metaphorically crawling on all-fours to the critical faculty; and to
have become æsthetically cadaverous and blear-eyed through the action of
inspired dyspepsia. Now, I am obliged to confess that I have done none
of these things, which, to quote the Prayer-book, I ought to have done.
I have had no difficulty in making my career or winning my public. And I
attribute my good fortune to the simple fact that I have always tried to
write straight from my own heart to the hearts of others, regardless of
opinions and indifferent to results. My object in writing has never
been, and never will be, to concoct a mere story which shall bring me in
a certain amount of cash or notoriety, but solely because I wish to say
something which, be it ill or well said, is the candid and independent
expression of a thought which I will have uttered at all risks.

In this spirit I wrote my first book, 'A Romance of Two Worlds,' now in
its seventh edition. It was the simply worded narration of a singular
psychical experience, and included certain theories on religion which I,
personally speaking, accept and believe. I had no sort of literary pride
in my work whatsoever; there was nothing of self in the wish I had, that
my ideas, such as they were, should reach the public, for I had no
particular need of money, and certainly no hankering after fame. When
the book was written I doubted whether it would ever find a publisher,
though I determined to try and launch it if possible. My notion was to
offer it to Arrowsmith as a shilling railway volume, under the title
'Lifted Up.' But in the interim, as a kind of test of its merit or
demerit, I sent the MS. to Mr. George Bentley, head of the
long-established and famous Bentley publishing firm. It ran the gauntlet
of his 'readers' first, and they all advised its summary rejection.
Among these 'readers' at that time was Mr. Hall Caine. His strictures on
my work were peculiarly bitter, though, strange to relate, he afterwards
forgot the nature of his own report. For, on being introduced to me at a
ball given by Miss Eastlake, when my name was made and my success
assured, he blandly remarked, before a select circle of interested
auditors, that he 'had had the pleasure of _recommending_' my first book
to Mr. Bentley! Comment on this were needless and unkind: he tells
stories so admirably that I readily excuse him for his 'slip of memory,'
and accept the whole incident as a delightful example of his inventive

His severe judgment pronounced upon me, combined with similar, but
perhaps milder, severity on the part of the other 'readers,' had,
however, an unexpected result. Mr. George Bentley, moved by curiosity,
and possibly by compassion for the impending fate of a young woman so
'sat upon' by his selected censors, decided to read my MS. himself.
Happily for me, the consequence of his unprejudiced and impartial
perusal was acceptance; and I still keep the kind and encouraging letter
he wrote to me at the time, informing me of his decision, and stating
the terms of his offer. These terms were, a sum down for one year's
rights, the copyright of the work to remain my own entire property. I
did not then understand what an advantage this retaining of my copyright
in my own possession was to prove to me, financially speaking; but I am
willing to do Mr. Bentley the full justice of supposing that he foresaw
the success of the book; and that, therefore, his action in leaving me
the sole owner of my then very small literary estate redounds very much
to his credit, and is an evident proof amongst many of his manifest
honour and integrity. Of course, the copyright of an unsuccessful book
is valueless; but my 'Romance' was destined to prove a sound investment,
though I never dreamed that it would be so. Glad of my chance of
reaching the public with what I had to say, I gratefully closed with Mr.
Bentley's proposal. He considered the title 'Lifted Up' as lacking
attractiveness; it was therefore discarded, and Mr. Eric Mackay, the
poet, gave the book its present name, 'A Romance of Two Worlds.'

Once published, the career of the 'Romance' became singular, and totally
apart from that of any other so-called 'novel.' It only received four
reviews, all brief and distinctly unfavourable. The one which appeared
in the dignified _Morning Post_ is a fair sample of the rest. I keep it
by me preciously, because it serves as a wholesome tonic to my mind, and
proves to me that when a leading journal can so 'review' a book, one
need fear nothing from the literary knowledge, acumen, or discernment of
reviewers. I quote it _verbatim_: 'Miss Corelli would have been better
advised had she embodied her ridiculous ideas in a sixpenny pamphlet.
The names of Heliobas and Zara are alone sufficient indications of the
dulness of this book.' This was all. No explanation was vouchsafed as to
why my ideas were 'ridiculous,' though such explanation was justly due;
nor did the reviewer state why he (or she) found the 'names' of
characters 'sufficient indications' of dulness, a curious discovery
which I believe is unique. However, the so-called 'critique' did one
good thing; it moved me to sincere laughter, and showed me what I might
expect from the critical brethren in these days--days which can no
longer boast of a Lord Macaulay, a brilliant, if bitter, Jeffrey, or a
generous Sir Walter Scott.

[Illustration: THE DRAWING-ROOM[D]]

To resume: the four 'notices' having been grudgingly bestowed, the Press
'dropped' the 'Romance,' considering, no doubt, that it was 'quashed,'
and would die the usual death of 'women's novels,' as they are
contemptuously called, in the prescribed year. But it did nothing of the
sort. Ignored by the Press, it attracted the public. Letters concerning
it and its theories began to pour in from strangers in all parts of the
United Kingdom; and at the end of its twelvemonth's run in the
circulating libraries Mr. Bentley brought it out in one volume in his
'Favorite' series. Then it started off at full gallop--the 'great
majority' got at it, and, what is more, kept at it. It was 'pirated' in
America; chosen out and liberally paid for by Baron Tauchnitz for the
'Tauchnitz' series; translated into various languages on the Continent,
and became a topic of social discussion. A perfect ocean of
correspondence flowed in upon me from India, Africa, Australia, and
America, and at this very time I count through correspondence a host of
friends in all parts of the world whom I do not suppose I shall ever
see; friends who even carry their enthusiasm so far as to place their
houses at my disposal for a year or two years--and surely the force of
hospitality can no further go! With all these attentions, I began to
find out the advantage my practical publisher had given me in the
retaining of my copyright; my 'royalties' commenced, increased, and
accumulated with every quarter, and at the present moment continue still
to accumulate, so much so, that the 'Romance of Two Worlds' alone, apart
from all my other works, is the source of a very pleasant income. And I
have great satisfaction in knowing that its prolonged success is not due
to any influence save that which is contained within itself. It
certainly has not been helped on by the Press, for since I began my
career six years ago, I have never had a word of open encouragement or
kindness from any leading English critic. The only real 'reviews' I ever
received worthy of the name appeared in the _Spectator_ and the
_Literary World_. The first was on my book 'Ardath: The Story of a Dead
Self,' and in this the over-abundant praise in the beginning was all
smothered by the unmitigated abuse at the end. The second in the
_Literary World_ was eminently generous; it dealt with my last book,
'The Soul of Lilith.' So taken aback was I with surprise at receiving
an all-through kindly, as well as scholarly, criticism from any quarter
of the Press, that, though I knew nothing about the _Literary World_, I
wrote a letter of thanks to my unknown reviewer, begging the editor to
forward it in the right direction. He did so, and my generous critic
turned out to be--a woman--a literary woman, too, fighting a hard fight
herself, who would have had an excuse to 'slate' me as an unrequired
rival in literature had she so chosen, but who, instead of this easy
course, adopted the more difficult path of justice and unselfishness.

[Illustration: THE LIBRARY]

After the 'Romance of Two Worlds' I wrote 'Vendetta;' then followed
'Thelma,' and then 'Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self,' which, among
other purely personal rewards, brought me a charming autograph letter
from the late Lord Tennyson, full of valuable encouragement. Then
followed 'Wormwood: A Drama of Paris'--now in its fifth edition;
'Ardath' and 'Thelma' being in their seventh editions. My publishers
seldom advertise the number of my editions, which is, I suppose, the
reason why the continuous 'run' of the books escapes the Press comment
of the 'great success' supposed to attend various other novels which
only attain to third or fourth editions. 'The Soul of Lilith,' published
only last year, ran through four editions in three-volume form; it is
issued now in one volume by Messrs. Bentley, to whom, however, I have
not offered any new work. A change of publishers is sometimes advisable;
but I have a sincere personal liking for Mr. George Bentley, who is
himself an author of distinct originality and ability, though his
literary gifts are only known to his own private circle. His book of
essays, entitled 'After Business,' is a delightful volume, full of point
and brilliancy, two specially admirable papers being those on Villon and
Carlyle, while it would be difficult to discover a more 'taking' prose
bit than the concluding chapter, 'Under an Old Poplar.'

[Illustration: THE STUDY]

A very foolish and erroneous rumour has of late been circulated
concerning me, asserting that I owe a great measure of my literary
success to the kindly recognition and interest of the Queen. I take the
present opportunity to clear up this perverse misunderstanding. My books
have been running successfully through several editions for six years,
and the much-commented-upon presentation of a complete set of them to
Her Majesty took place only last year. If it were possible to regret the
honour of the Queen's acceptance of these volumes, I should certainly
have cause to do so, as the extraordinary spite and malice that has
since been poured on my unoffending head has shown me a very bad side of
human nature, which I am sorry to have seen. There is very little cause
to envy me in this matter. I have but received the courteously formal
thanks of the Queen and the Empress Frederick, conveyed through the
medium of their ladies-in-waiting, for the special copies of the books
their Majesties were pleased to admire; yet for this simple and quite
ordinary honour I have been subjected to such forms of gratuitous abuse
as I did not think possible to a 'just and noble' English Press. I have
often wondered why I was not equally assailed when the Queen of Italy,
not content with merely 'accepting' a copy of the 'Romance of Two
Worlds,' sent me an autograph portrait of herself, accompanied by a
charming letter, a souvenir which I value, not at all because the sender
is a queen, but because she is a sweet and noble woman whose every
action is marked by grace and unselfishness, and who has deservedly won
the title given her by her people, 'the blessing of Italy.' I repeat, I
owe nothing whatever of my popularity, such as it is, to any 'royal'
notice or favour, though I am naturally glad to have been kindly
recognised and encouraged by those 'thronëd powers' who command the
nation's utmost love and loyalty. But my appeal for a hearing was first
made to the great public, and the public responded; moreover, they do
still respond with so much heartiness and goodwill, that I should be the
most ungrateful scribbler that ever scribbled if I did not (despite
Press 'drubbings' and the amusing total ignoring of my very existence by
certain cliquey literary magazines) take up my courage in both hands, as
the French say, and march steadily onward to such generous cheering and

I am told by an eminent literary authority that critics are 'down upon
me' because I write about the supernatural. I do not entirely believe
the eminent literary authority, inasmuch as I have not always written
about the supernatural. Neither 'Vendetta,' nor 'Thelma,' nor 'Wormwood'
is supernatural. But, says the eminent literary authority, why write at
all, at any time, about the supernatural? Why? Because I feel the
existence of the supernatural, and feeling it, I must speak of it. I
understand that the religion we profess to follow emanates from the
supernatural. And I presume that churches exist for the solemn worship
of the supernatural. Wherefore, if the supernatural be thus universally
acknowledged as a guide for thought and morals, I fail to see why I, and
as many others as choose to do so, should not write on the subject. An
author has quite as much right to characterise angels and saints in his
or her pages as a painter has to depict them on his canvas. And I do not
keep my belief in the supernatural as a sort of special mood to be
entered into on Sundays only; it accompanies me in my daily round, and
helps me along in all my business. But I distinctly wish it to be
understood that I am neither a 'Spiritualist' nor a 'Theosophist.' I am
not a 'strong-minded' woman, with egotistical ideas of a 'mission.' I
have no other supernatural belief than that which is taught by the
Founder of our Faith, and this can never be shaken from me or 'sneered
down.' If critics object to my dealing with this in my books, they are
very welcome to do so; their objections will not turn me from what they
are pleased to consider the error of my ways. I know that unrelieved
naturalism and atheism are much more admired subjects with the critical
faculty; but the public differ from this view. The public, being in the
main healthy-minded and honest, do not care for positivism and
pessimism. They like to believe in something better than themselves;
they like to rest on the ennobling idea that there is a great loving
Maker of this splendid Universe, and they have no lasting affection for
any author whose tendency and teaching is to despise the hope of heaven,
and 'reason away' the existence of God. It is very clever, no doubt, and
very brilliant to deny the Creator; it is as if a monkey should, while
being caged and fed by man, deny man's existence. Such a circumstance
would make us laugh, of course; we should think it uncommonly 'smart' of
the monkey. But we should not take his statement for a fact all the

Of the mechanical part of my work there is little to say. I write every
day from ten in the morning till two in the afternoon, alone and
undisturbed, save for the tinpot tinkling of unmusical neighbours'
pianos, and the perpetual organ-grinding which is freely permitted to
interfere _ad libitum_ with the quiet and comfort of all the patient
brain-workers who pay rent and taxes in this great and glorious
metropolis. I generally scribble off the first rough draft of a story
very rapidly in pencil; then I copy it out in pen and ink, chapter by
chapter, with fastidious care, not only because I like a neat
manuscript, but because I think everything that is worth doing at all is
worth doing well; and I do not see why my publishers should have to pay
for more printers' errors than the printers themselves make necessary. I
find, too, that in the gradual process of copying by hand, the original
draft, like a painter's first sketch, gets improved and enlarged. No one
sees my manuscript before it goes to press, as I am now able to refuse
to submit my work to the judgment of 'readers.' These worthies treated
me roughly in the beginning, but they will never have the chance again.
I correct my proofs myself, though I regret to say my instructions and
revisions are not always followed. In my novel 'Wormwood' I corrected
the French article '_le_ chose' to '_la_ chose' three times, but
apparently the printers preferred their own French, for it is still
'_le_ chose' in the 'Favorite' edition, and the error is stereotyped. In
accordance with the arrangement made by Mr. George Bentley for my first
book, I retain to myself sole possession of all my copyrights, and as
all my novels are successes, the financial results are distinctly
pleasing. America, of course, is always a thorn in the side of an
author. The 'Romance,' 'Vendetta,' 'Thelma' and 'Ardath' were all
'pirated' over there before the passing of the American Copyright Act,
it being apparently out of Messrs. Bentley & Son's line to make even an
attempt to protect my rights. After the Act was passed, I was paid a sum
for 'Wormwood,' and a larger sum for 'The Soul of Lilith,' but, as
everyone knows, the usual honorarium offered by American publishers for
the rights of a successful English novel are totally inadequate to the
sales they are able to command. American critics, however, have been
very good to me. They have at least read my books before starting to
review them, which is a great thing. I have always kept my 'Tauchnitz'
rights, and very pleasant have all my dealings been with the courteous
and generous Baron. All wanderers on the Continent love the 'Tauchnitz'
volumes--their neatness, handy form, and remarkably clear type give them
precedence over every other foreign series. Baron Tauchnitz pays his
authors excellently well, and takes a literary as well as commercial
interest in their fortunes.


_A page of the "Romance of Two Worlds"_]

Perhaps one of the pleasantest things connected with my 'success' is the
popularity I have won in many quarters of the Continent without any
exertion on my own part. My name is as well known in Germany as
anywhere, while in Sweden they have been good enough to elect me as
one of their favourite authors, thanks to the admirable translations
made of all my books by Miss Emilie Kullmann, of Stockholm, whose energy
did not desert her even when she had so difficult a task to perform as
the rendering of 'Ardath' into Swedish. In Italy and Spain 'Vendetta,'
translated into the languages of those countries, is popular. Madame
Emma Guarducci-Giaconi is the translator of 'Wormwood' into Italian, and
her almost literal and perfect rendering has been running as the
_feuilleton_ in the Florentine journal, _La Nazione_, under the title
'L'Alcoolismo: Un Dramma di Parigi.' The 'Romance of Two Worlds' is to
be had in Russian, so I am told; and it will shortly be published at
Athens, rendered into modern Greek. While engaged in writing this
article, I have received a letter asking for permission to translate
this same 'Romance' into one of the dialects of North-west India, a
request I shall very readily grant. In its Eastern dress the book will,
I understand, be published at Lucknow. I may here state that I gain no
financial advantage from these numerous translations, nor do I seek any.
Sometimes the translators do not even ask my permission to translate,
but content themselves with sending me a copy of the book when
completed, without any word of explanation.

And now to wind up; if I have made a name, if I have made a career, as
it seems I have, I have only one piece of pride connected with it. Not
pride in my work, for no one with a grain of sense or modesty would, in
these days, dare to consider his or her literary efforts of much worth,
as compared with what has already been done by the past great authors.
My pride is simply this: that I have fought my fight alone, and that I
have no thanks to offer to anyone, save those legitimately due to the
publisher who launched my first book, but who, it must be remembered,
would, as a good business man, have unquestionably published nothing
else of mine had I been a failure. I count no 'friend on the Press,' and
I owe no 'distinguished critic' any debt of gratitude. I have come, by
happy chance, straight into close and sympathetic union with my public,
and attained to independence and good fortune while still young and able
to enjoy both. An 'incomprehensibly successful' novelist I was called
last summer by an irritated correspondent of _Life_, who chanced to see
me sharing in the full flow of pleasure and social amusement during the
'season' at Homburg. Well, if it be so, this 'incomprehensible success'
has been attained, I rejoice to say, without either 'log-roller' or
'boom,' and were I of the old Greek faith, I should pour a libation to
the gods for giving me this victory. Certainly I used to hope for what
Britishers aptly call 'fair play' from the critics, but I have ceased to
expect that now. It is evidently a delight to them to abuse me, else
they would not go out of their way to do it; and I have no wish to
interfere with either their 'copy' or their fun. The public are beyond
them altogether. And Literature is like that famous hill told of in the
'Arabian Nights,' where threatening anonymous voices shouted the most
deadly insults and injuries to anyone who attempted to climb it. If the
adventurer turned back to listen, he was instantly changed into stone;
but if he pressed boldly on, he reached the summit and found magic
talismans. Now I am only at the commencement of the journey, and am
ascending the hill with a light heart and in good humour. I hear the
taunting voices on all sides, but I do not stop to listen, nor have I
once turned back. My eyes are fixed on the distant peak of the mountain,
and my mind is set on arriving there if possible. My ambition may be too
great, and I may never arrive. That is a matter for the fates to settle.
But, in the meanwhile, I enjoy climbing. I have nothing to grumble
about. I consider Literature the noblest Art in the world, and have no
complaint whatever to urge against it as a profession. Its rewards,
whether great or small, are sufficient for me, inasmuch as I love my
work, and love makes all things easy.

[Illustration: signature of Marie Corelli]

     NOTE.--Since writing the above I have been asked to state whether,
     in my arrangements for publishing, I employ a 'literary agent' or
     use a 'type-writer.' I do not. With regard to the first part of the
     query, I consider that authors, like other people, should learn how
     to manage their own affairs themselves, and that when they take a
     paid agent into their confidence, they make open confession of
     their business incapacity, and voluntarily elect to remain in
     foolish ignorance of the practical part of their profession.
     Secondly, I dislike type-writing, and prefer to make my own MS.
     distinctly legible. It takes no more time to write clearly than in
     spidery hieroglyphics, and a slovenly scribble is no proof of
     cleverness, but rather of carelessness and a tendency to 'scamp'



The story of one's 'first book' I take to be the last chapter of one's
literary romance. The long wooing is over. The ardent young author has
at last won his coy public. The good publisher has joined their hands.
The merry critics, invited to the feast of reason, have blessed the
union, and thrown the rice and slippers--occasionally other things. The
bridegroom sits alone with his bride, none between them, and ponders.

The fierce struggle, with its wild hopes and fears, its heart-leapings
and heart-achings, its rose-pink dawns of endless promise, its grey
twilights of despair, its passion and its pain, lies behind. Before him
stretches the long, level road of daily doing. Will he please her to all
time? Will she always be sweet and gracious to him? Will she never tire
of him? The echo of the wedding-bells floats faintly through the
darkening room. The fair forms of half-forgotten dreams rise up around
him. He springs to his feet with a slight shiver, and rings for the
lamps to be lighted.

Ah! that 'first book' we meant to write! How it pressed forward an
oriflamme of joy, through all ranks and peoples; how the world rang with
the wonder of it! How men and women laughed and cried over it! From
every page there leaped to light a new idea. Its every paragraph
scintillated with fresh wit, deep thought, and new humour. And, ye
gods! how the critics praised it! How they rejoiced over the discovery
of the new genius! How ably they pointed out to the reading public its
manifold merits, its marvellous charm! Aye, it was a great work, that
book we wrote as we strode laughing through the silent streets, beneath
the little stars.

And, heigho! what a poor little thing it was, the book that we did
write! I draw him from his shelf (he is of a faint pink colour, as
though blushing all over for his sins), and stand him up before me on
the desk. 'Jerome K. Jerome'--the K very big, followed by a small J, so
that in many quarters the author is spoken of as 'Jerome Kjerome,' a
name that in certain smoke-laden circles still clings to me--'On the
Stage--and Off: The Brief Career of a would-be Actor. One Shilling.'

I suppose I ought to be ashamed of him, but how can I be? Is he not my
first-born? Did he not come to me in the days of weariness, making my
heart glad and proud? Do I not love him the more for his shortcomings?

[Illustration: MY FIRST-BORN]

Somehow, as I stare at him in this dim candlelight, he seems to take odd
shape. Slowly he grows into a little pink imp, sitting cross-legged
among the litter of my books and papers, squinting at me (I think the
squint is caused by the big 'K'), and I find myself chatting with him.

It is an interesting conversation to me, for it is entirely about
myself, and I do nearly all the talking, he merely throwing in an
occasional necessary reply, or recalling to my memory a forgotten name
or face.

[Illustration: Drawing with signature:

Yours Sincerely,

Jerome K. Jermome]

We chat of the little room in Whitfield Street, off the Tottenham Court
Road, where he was born; of our depressing, meek-eyed old landlady, and
of how, one day, during the course of chance talk, it came out that she,
in the far back days of her youth, had been an actress, winning stage
love and breaking stage hearts with the best of them; of how the faded
face would light up as, standing with the tea-tray in her hands, she
would tell us of her triumphs, and repeat to us her 'Press Notices,'
which she had learned by heart; and of how from her we heard not a few
facts and stories useful to us. We talk of the footsteps that of
evenings would climb the creaking stairs and enter at our door; of
George, who always believed in us (God bless him!), though he could
never explain why; of practical Charley, who thought we should do better
if we left literature alone and stuck to work. Ah! well, he meant
kindly, and there be many who would that he had prevailed. We remember
the difficulties we had to contend with; the couple in the room below,
who would come in and go to bed at twelve, and lie there, quarrelling
loudly, until sleep overcame them about two, driving our tender and
philosophical sentences entirely out of our head; of the asthmatical old
law-writer, whose never-ceasing cough troubled us greatly (maybe, it
troubled him also, but I fear we did not consider that); of the rickety
table that wobbled as we wrote, and that, whenever in a forgetful moment
we leant upon it, gently but firmly collapsed.

'Yes,' I said to the little pink imp; 'as a study the room had its
drawbacks, but we lived some grand hours there, didn't we? We laughed
and sang there, and the songs we chose breathed ever of hope and
victory, and so loudly we sang them we might have been modern Joshuas,
thinking to capture a city with our breath.

'And then that wonderful view we used to see from its dingy window
panes--that golden country that lay stretched before us, beyond the
thousand chimney pots, above the drifting smoke, above the creeping
fog--do you remember that?'

It was worth living in that cramped room, worth sleeping on that knobbly
bed, to gain an occasional glimpse of that shining land, with its marble
palaces, where one day we should enter, an honoured guest; its wide
market-places, where the people thronged to listen to our words. I have
climbed many stairs, peered through many windows in this London town
since then, but never have I seen that view again. Yet, from somewhere
in our midst, it must be visible for friends of mine, as we have sat
alone, and the talk has sunk into low tones, broken by long silences,
have told me that they, too, have looked upon those same glittering
towers and streets. But the odd thing is that none of us has seen them
since he was a very young man. So, maybe, it is only that the country is
a long way off, and that our eyes have grown dimmer as we have grown

'And who was that old fellow that helped us so much?' I ask of my little
pink friend; 'you remember him surely--a very ancient fellow, the oldest
actor on the boards he always boasted himself--had played with Edmund
Kean and Macready. I used to put you in my pocket of a night and meet
him outside the stage door of the Princess's; and we would adjourn to a
little tavern in old Oxford Market to talk you over, and he would tell
me anecdotes and stories to put in you.'

'You mean Johnson,' says the pink imp; 'J. B. Johnson. He was with you
in your first engagement at Astley's, under Murray Wood and Virginia
Blackwood. He and you were the High Priests in "Mazeppa," if you
remember, and had to carry Lisa Weber across the stage, you taking her
head and he her heels. Do you recollect what he said to her, on the
first night, as you were both staggering towards the couch?--"Well, I've
played with Fanny Kemble, Cushman, Glyn, and all of them, but hang me,
my dear, if you ain't the heaviest lead I've ever supported."'


'That's the old fellow,' I reply; 'I owe a good deal to him, and so do
you. I used to read bits of you to him in a whisper as we stood in the
bar; and he always had one formula of praise for you: "It's damned
clever, young 'un; damned clever. I shouldn't have thought it of you."

'And that reminds me,' I continue--I hesitate a little here, for I fear
what I am about to say may offend him--'what have you done to yourself
since I wrote you? I was looking you over the other day, and really I
could scarcely recognise you. You were full of brilliancy and
originality when you were in manuscript. What have you done with it

By some mysterious process he contrives to introduce an extra twist into
the squint with which he is regarding me, but makes no reply, and I

'Take, for example, that gem I lighted upon one drizzly night in
Portland Place. I remember the circumstance distinctly. I had been
walking the deserted streets, working at you; my note-book in one hand
and a pencil in the other. I was coming home through Portland Place,
when suddenly, just beyond the third lamp-post from the Crescent, there
flashed into my brain a thought so original, so deep, so true, that
involuntarily I exclaimed: "My God, what a grand idea!" and a
coffee-stall keeper, passing with his barrow just at that moment, sang
out: "Tell it us, guv'nor. There ain't many knocking about."


'I took no notice of the man, but hurried on to the next lamp-post to
jot down that brilliant idea before I should forget it; and the moment I
reached home I pulled you out of your drawer and copied it out on to
your pages, and sat long staring at it, wondering what the world would
say when it came to read it. Altogether I must have put into you nearly
a dozen startlingly original thoughts. What have you done with them?
They are certainly not there now.'

Still he keeps silence, and I wax indignant at the evident amusement
with which he regards my accusation.

'And the bright wit, the rollicking humour with which I made your pages
sparkle, where are they?' I ask him, reproachfully; 'those epigrammatic
flashes that, when struck, illumined the little room with a blaze of
sudden light, showing each cobweb in its dusty corner, and dying out,
leaving my dazzled eyes groping for the lamp; those grand jokes at which
I myself, as I made them, laughed till the rickety iron bedstead beneath
me shook in sympathy with harsh metallic laughter; where are they, my
friend? I have read you through, page by page, and the thoughts in you
are thoughts that the world has grown tired of thinking; at your wit one
smiles, thinking that anyone could think it wit; and your humour your
severest critic could hardly accuse of being very new. What has happened
to you? What wicked fairy has bewitched you? I poured gold into your
lap, and you yield me back only crumpled leaves.'

With a jerk of his quaint legs he assumes a more upright posture.

'My dear Parent,' he begins in a tone that at once reverses our
positions, so that he becomes the monitor and I the wriggling
admonished; 'don't, I pray you, turn prig in your old age; don't sink
into the "superior person" who mistakes carping for criticism, and
jeering for judgment. Any fool can see faults, they lie on the surface.
The merit of a thing is hidden within it, and is visible only to
insight. And there is merit in me, in spite of your cheap sneers, sir.
Maybe I do not contain an original idea. Show me the book published
since the days of Caxton that does! Are our young men, as are the youth
of China, to be forbidden to think, because Confucius thought years ago?
The wit you appreciate now needs to be more pungent than the wit that
satisfied you at twenty; are you sure it is as wholesome? You cannot
smile at humour you would once have laughed at; is it you or the humour
that has grown old and stale? I am the work of a very young man, who,
writing of that which he knew and had felt, put down all things
truthfully as they appeared to him, in such way as seemed most natural
to him, having no thought of popular taste, standing in no fear of what
critics might say. Be sure that all your future books are as free from
unworthy aims.'

'Besides,' he adds, after a short pause, during which I have started to
reply, but have turned back to think again, 'is not this talk idle
between you and me? This apologetic attitude, is it not the cant of the
literary profession? At the bottom of your heart you are proud of me, as
every author is of every book he has written. Some of them he thinks
better than others; but, as the Irishman said of whiskies, they are all
good. He sees their shortcomings. He dreams he could have done better;
but he is positive no one else could.'

His little twinkling eyes look sternly at me, and, feeling that the
discussion is drifting into awkward channels, I hasten to divert it, and
we return to the chat about our early experiences.

I ask him if he remembers those dreary days when, written neatly in
round hand on sermon paper, he journeyed a ceaseless round from
newspaper to newspaper, from magazine to magazine, returning always
soiled and limp to Whitfield Street, still further darkening the ill-lit
room as he entered. Some would keep him for a month, making me indignant
at the waste of precious time. Others would send him back by the next
post, insulting me by their indecent haste. Many, in returning him,
would thank me for having given them the privilege and pleasure of
reading him, and I would curse them for hypocrites. Others would reject
him with no pretence at regret whatever, and I would marvel at their

I hated the dismal little 'slavey' who, twice a week, on an average,
would bring him up to me. If she smiled as she handed me the packet, I
fancied she was jeering at me. If she looked sad, as she more often did,
poor little over-worked slut, I thought she was pitying me. I shunned
the postman if I saw him in the street, sure that he guessed my shame.

'Did anyone ever read you out of all those I sent you to?' I ask him.

'Do editors read manuscript by unknown authors?' he asks me in return.

'I fear not more than they can help,' I confess; 'they would have little
else to do.'

'Oh,' he remarks demurely, 'I thought I had read that they did.'

'Very likely,' I reply; 'I have also read that theatrical managers read
all the plays sent to them, eager to discover new talent. One obtains
much curious information by reading.'


'But somebody did read me eventually,' he reminds me; 'and liked me.
Give credit where credit is due.'

'Ah, yes,' I admit; 'my good friend Aylmer Gowing--the "Walter Gordon"
of the old Haymarket in Buckstone's time, "Gentleman Gordon" as Charles
Matthews nicknamed him--kindliest and most genial of men. Shall I ever
forget the brief note that came to me four days after I had posted you
to "The Editor--_Play_":--"Dear Sir, I like your articles very much. Can
you call on me to-morrow morning before twelve?--Yours truly, W. AYLMER

So success had come at last--not the glorious goddess I had pictured,
but a quiet, pleasant-faced lady. I had imagined the editor of
_Cornhill_, or the _Nineteenth Century_, or _The Illustrated London
News_ writing me that my manuscript was the most brilliant, witty, and
powerful story he had ever read, and enclosing me a cheque for two
hundred guineas. _The Play_ was an almost unknown little penny weekly,
'run' by Mr. Gowing--who, though retired, could not bear to be
altogether unconnected with his beloved stage--at a no inconsiderable
yearly loss. It could give me little fame and less wealth. But a crust
is a feast to a man who has grown weary of dreaming dinners, and as I
sat with that letter in my hand a mist rose before my eyes, and I--acted
in a way that would read foolish if written down.

[Illustration: THE STUDY

(_From a photograph by Fradelle & Young_)]

The next morning, at eleven, I stood beneath the porch of 37 Victoria
Road, Kensington, wishing I did not feel so hot and nervous, and that I
had not pulled the bell-rope quite so vigorously. But when Mr. Gowing,
in smoking-coat and slippers, came forward and shook me by the hand, my
shyness left me. In his study, lined with theatrical books, we sat and
talked. Mr. Gowing's voice seemed the sweetest I had ever listened to,
for, with unprofessional frankness, it sang the praises of my work. He,
in his young acting days, had been through the provincial mill, and
found my pictures true, and many of my pages seemed to him, so he said,
'as good as _Punch_.' (He meant it complimentary.) He explained to me
the position of his paper, and I agreed (only too gladly) to give him
the use of the book for nothing. As I was leaving, however, he called me
back and slipped a five-pound note into my hand--a different price from
what friend A. P. Watt charms out of proprietors' pockets for me
nowadays, yet never since have I felt as rich as on that foggy November
morning when I walked across Kensington Gardens with that 'bit of
flimsy' held tight in my left hand. I could not bear the idea of
spending it on mere mundane things. Now and then, during the long days
of apprenticeship, I drew it from its hiding-place and looked at it,
sorely tempted. But it always went back, and later, when the luck began
to turn, I purchased with it, at a second-hand shop in Goodge Street, an
old Dutch bureau that I had long had my eye upon. It is an inconvenient
piece of furniture. One cannot stretch one's legs as one sits writing at
it, and if one rises suddenly it knocks bad language into one's knees
and out of one's mouth. But one must pay for sentiment, as for other

In _The Play_ the papers gained a fair amount of notice, and won for me
some kindly words; notably, I remember, from John Clayton and Palgrave
Simpson. I thought that in the glory of print they would readily find a
publisher, but I was mistaken. The same weary work lay before me, only
now I had more heart in me, and, having wrestled once with Fate and
prevailed, stood less in fear of her.

Sometimes with a letter of introduction, sometimes without, sometimes
with a bold face, sometimes with a timid step, I visited nearly every
publisher in London. A few received me kindly, others curtly, many not
at all. From most of them I gathered that the making of books was a
pernicious and unprofitable occupation. Some thought the work would
prove highly successful if I paid the expense of publication, but were
less impressed with its merits on my explaining to them my financial
position. All kept me waiting long before seeing me, but made haste to
say 'Good day' to me.

I suppose all young authors have had to go through the same course. I
sat one evening, a few months ago, with a literary friend of mine. The
talk turned upon early struggles, and, with a laugh, he said: 'Do you
know one of the foolish things I love to do? I like to go with a paper
parcel under my arm into some big publishing house, and to ask, in a
low, nervous voice, if Mr. So-and-so is disengaged. The clerk, with a
contemptuous glance towards me, says that he is not sure, and asks if I
have an appointment. "No," I reply; "not--not exactly, but I think he
will see me. It's a matter of importance. I shall not detain him a

'The clerk goes on with his writing, and I stand waiting. At the end of
about five minutes, he, without looking up, says curtly, "What name?"
and I hand him my card.

'Up to that point, I have imagined myself a young man again, but there
the fancy is dispelled. The man glances at the card, and then takes a
sharp look at me. "I beg your pardon, sir," he says, "will you take a
seat in here for a moment?" In a few seconds he flies back again with
"Will you kindly step this way, sir?" As I follow him upstairs I catch a
glimpse of somebody being hurriedly bustled out of the private office,
and the great man himself comes to the door, smiling, and as I take his
outstretched hand I am remembering other times that he has forgotten.

[Illustration: I AM REMEMBERING]

In the end--to make a long story short, as the saying is--Mr. Tuer, of
'Ye Leadenhall Press,' urged thereto by a mutual friend, read the book,
and, I presume, found merit in it, for he offered to publish it if I
would make him a free gift of the copyright. I thought the terms hard at
the time (though in my eagerness to see my name upon the cover of a real
book I quickly agreed to them), but with experience, I am inclined to
admit that the bargain was a fair one. The English are not a
book-buying people. Out of every hundred publications hardly more than
one obtains a sale of over a thousand, and, in the case of an unknown
writer, with no personal friends upon the Press, it is surprising how
few copies sometimes _can_ be sold.

I am happy to think that in this instance, however, nobody suffered. The
book was, as the phrase goes, well received by the public, who were
possibly attracted to it by its subject, a perennially popular one. Some
of the papers praised it, others dismissed it as utter rubbish; and
then, fifteen months later, on reviewing my next book, regretted that a
young man who had written such a capital first book should have followed
it up by so wretched a second.

One writer--the greatest enemy I have ever had, though I exonerate him
of all but thoughtlessness--wrote me down a 'humourist,' which term of
reproach (as it is considered to be in Merrie England) has clung to me
ever since, so that now, if I pen a pathetic story, the reviewer calls
it 'depressing humour,' and if I tell a tragic story, he says it is
'false humour,' and, quoting the dying speech of the broken-hearted
heroine, indignantly demands to know 'where he is supposed to laugh.' I
am firmly persuaded that if I committed a murder half the book reviewers
would allude to it as a melancholy example of the extreme lengths to
which the 'new humour' had descended.

'Once a humourist, always a humourist,' is the reviewer's motto.

'And all things allowed for--the unenthusiastic publisher, the
insufficiently appreciative public, the wicked critic,' says my little
pink friend, breaking his somewhat long silence, 'what do you think of
literature as a profession?'

I take some time to reply, for I wish to get down to what I really
think, not stopping, as one generally does, at what one thinks one ought
to think.

'I think,' I begin, at length, 'that it depends upon the literary man.
If a man think to use literature merely as a means to fame and fortune,
then he will find it an extremely unsatisfactory profession, and he
would have done better to take up politics or company promoting. If he
trouble himself about his status and position therein, loving the
uppermost tables at feasts, and the chief seats in public places, and
greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Master, Master, then
he will find it a profession fuller than most professions of petty
jealousy, of little spite, of foolish hating and foolish log-rolling, of
feminine narrowness and childish querulousness. If he think too much of
his prices per thousand words, he will find it a degrading profession;
as the solicitor, thinking only of his bills-of-cost, will find the law
degrading; as the doctor, working only for two-guinea fees, will find
medicine degrading; as the priest, with his eyes ever fixed on the
bishop's mitre, will find Christianity degrading.

'But if he love his work for the work's sake, if he remain child enough
to be fascinated with his own fancies, to laugh at his own jests, to
grieve at his own pathos, to weep at his own tragedy--then, as, smoking
his pipe, he watches the shadows of his brain coming and going before
his half-closed eyes, listens to their voices in the air about him, he
will thank God for making him a literary man. To such a one, it seems to
me, literature must prove ennobling. Of all professions it is the one
compelling a man to use whatever brain he has to its fullest and widest.
With one or two other callings, it invites him--nay, compels him--to
turn from the clamour of the passing day to speak for a while with the
voices that are eternal.

'To me it seems that if anything outside oneself can help one, the
service of literature must strengthen and purify a man. Thinking of his
heroine's failings, of his villain's virtues, may he not grow more
tolerant of all things, kinder thinking towards man and woman? From the
sorrow that he dreams, may he not learn sympathy with the sorrow that he
sees? May not his own brave puppets teach him how a man should live and

'To the literary man, all life is a book. The sparrow on the telegraph
wire chirps cheeky nonsense to him as he passes by. The urchin's face
beneath the gas lamp tells him a story, sometimes merry, sometimes sad.
Fog and sunshine have their voices for him.

[Illustration: MR. JEROME K. JEROME

(_From a photograph by Fradelle & Young_)]

'Nor can I see, even from the most worldly and business-like point of
view, that the modern man of letters has cause of complaint. The old
Grub Street days when he starved or begged are gone. Thanks to the men
who have braved sneers and misrepresentation in unthanked championship
of his plain rights, he is now in a position of dignified independence;
and if he cannot attain to the twenty thousand a year prizes of the
fashionable Q.C. or M.D., he does not have to wait their time for his
success, while what he can and does earn is amply sufficient for all
that a man of sense need desire. His calling is a password into all
ranks. In all circles he is honoured. He enjoys the luxury of a power
and influence that many a prime minister might envy.

'There is still a last prize in the gift of literature that needs no
sentimentalist to appreciate. In a drawer of my desk lies a pile of
letters, of which if I were not very proud I should be something more or
less than human. They have come to me from the uttermost parts of the
earth, from the streets near at hand. Some are penned in the stiff
phraseology taught when old fashions were new, some in the free and easy
colloquialism of the rising generation. Some, written on sick beds, are
scrawled in pencil. Some, written by hands unfamiliar with the English
language, are weirdly constructed. Some are crested, some are smeared.
Some are learned, some are ill-spelled. In different ways they tell me
that, here and there, I have brought to some one a smile or pleasant
thought; that to some one in pain and in sorrow I have given a moment's

       *       *       *       *       *

Pinky yawns (or a shadow thrown by the guttering candle makes it seem
so). 'Well,' he says, 'are we finished? Have we talked about ourselves,
glorified our profession, and annihilated our enemies to our entire
satisfaction? Because, if so, you might put me back. I'm feeling

I reach out my hand, and take him up by his wide, flat waist. As I draw
him towards me, his little legs vanish into his squat body, the
twinkling eye becomes dull and lifeless. The dawn steals in upon him,
for I have sat working long into the night, and I see that he is only a
little shilling book bound in pink paper. Wondering whether our talk
together has been as good as at the time I thought it, or whether he has
led me into making a fool of myself, I replace him in his corner.





My first book 'as ever was' was written, or, to speak quite correctly,
was printed, on the nursery floor some thirty odd years ago. I remember
the making of the book very well; the leaves were made from an old
copybook, and the back was a piece of stiff paper, sewed in place and
carefully cut down to the right size. So far as I remember, it was about
three soldiers and a pig. I don't quite know how the pig came in, but
that is a mere detail. I have no data to go upon (as I did not dream
thirty years ago that I should ever be so known to fame as to be asked
to write the true history of my first book), but I have a wonderful
memory, and to the best of my recollection it was, as I say, about
three soldiers and a pig.

It never saw the light, and there are times when I feel thankful to a
gracious Providence that I have been spared the power of gratifying the
temptation to give birth to those early efforts, after the manner of Sir
Edwin Landseer and that pathetic little childish drawing of two sheep,
which is to be seen at provincial exhibitions of pictures, for the
encouragement and example of the rising generation.

So far as I can recall, I made no efforts for some years to woo fickle
fortune after the attempt to recount the story of the three soldiers and
a pig; but when I was about fourteen my heart was fired by the example
of a schoolfellow, one Josephine H----, who spent a large portion of her
time writing stories, or, as our schoolmistress put it, wasting time and
spoiling paper. All the same, Josephine H---- 's stories were very good,
and I have often wondered since those days whether she, in after life,
went on with her favourite pursuits. I have never heard of her again
except once, and then somebody told me that she had married a clergyman,
and lived at West Hartlepool. Yes, all this has something to do, and
very materially, with the story of my first book. For in emulating
Josephine H----, whom I was very fond of, and whom I admired immensely,
I discovered that I could write myself, or at least that I wanted to
write, and that I had ideas that I wanted to see on paper. Without that
gentle stimulant, however, I might never have found out that I might one
day be able to do something in the same way myself.

[Illustration: signed drawing: Ever Yours,

John Strange Winter.

(_From a photograph by Russell & Sons, Wimbledon_)]

My next try was at a joint story--a story written by three girls, myself
and two friends. That was in the same year. We really made considerable
headway with that story; and had visions of completely finishing it and
getting no less a sum than thirty pounds for it. I have a sort of an
idea that I supplied most of the framework for the story, and that the
elder of my collaborators filled in the millinery and the love-making.
But--alas for the futility of human hopes and desires!--that book was
destined never to be finished, for I had a violent quarrel with my
collaborators, and we have never spoken to each other from that day to

So came to an untimely end my second serious attempt at writing a book;
for the stories that I had written in emulation of Josephine H---- were
only short ones, and were mostly unfinished.

I wasted a terrible deal of paper between my second try and my
seventeenth birthday, and I believe that I was, at that time, one of the
most hopeless trials of my father's life. He many times offered to
provide me with as much cheap paper as I liked to have; but cheap paper
did not satisfy my artistic soul, for I always liked the best of
everything. Good paper was my weakness--as it was his--and I used it, or
wasted it, which you will, with just the same lavish hand as I had done

When I was seventeen, I did a skit on a little book called 'How to Live
on Sixpence a Day.' It was my first soldier story--excepting the
original three soldiers and a pig--and introduced the 'sixpence a day'
pamphlet into a smart cavalry regiment, whose officers were in various
degrees of debt and difficulty, and every man was a barefaced portrait,
without the smallest attempt at concealment of his identity. Eventually
this sketch was printed in a York paper, and the honour of seeing myself
in print was considered enough reward for me. I, on the contrary, had no
such pure love of fame. I had done what I considered a very smart
sketch, and I thought it well worth payment of some kind, which it
certainly was.

After this, I spent a year abroad, improving my mind--and I think, on
the whole, it will be best to draw a veil over that portion of my
literary history, for I went out to dinner on every possible occasion,
and had a good time generally. Stay--did I not say my literary history?
Well, that year had a good deal to do with my literary history, for I
wrote stories most of the time, during a large part of my working hours
and during the whole of my spare time, when I did not happen to be going
out to dinner. And when I came home, I worked on just the same until,
towards the end of '75, I drew blood for the first time. Oh, the joy of
that first bit of money--my first earnings! And it was but a bit, a mere
scrap. To be explicit, it amounted to ten shillings. I went and bought a
watch on the strength of it--not a very costly affair; a matter of two
pounds ten and an old silver turnip that I had by me. It was wonderful
how that one half-sovereign opened up my ideas. I looked into the future
as far as eye could see, and I saw myself earning an income--for at that
time of day I had acquired no artistic feelings at all, and I genuinely
wanted to make name and fame and money--I saw myself a young woman who
could make a couple of hundred pounds from one novel, and I gloried in
the prospect.

[Illustration: MR. ARTHUR STANNARD

(_From a photograph by Frances Browne, 135 Regent Street, W._)]

I disposed of a good many stories in the same quarter at starvation
prices, ranging from the original ten shillings to thirty-five. Then,
after a patient year of this not very luxurious work, I made a step
forward and got a story accepted by the dear old _Family Herald_. Oh,
yes, this is really all relevant to my first book; very much so, indeed,
for it was through Mr. William Stevens, one of the proprietors of the
_Family Herald_, that I learned to know the meaning of the word
'caution'--a word absolutely indispensable to any young author's

At this time I wrote a great deal for the _Family Herald_, and also for
various magazines, including _London Society_. In the latter, my first
'Winter' work appeared--a story called 'A Regimental Martyr.'

I was very oddly placed at this point of my career, for I liked most
doing the 'Winter' work, but the ordinary young-lady-like fiction paid
me so much the best, that I could not afford to give it up. I was, like
all young magazine writers, passionately desirous of appearing in book
form. I knew not a single soul in the way connected with literary
matters, had absolutely no help or interest of any kind to aid me over
the rough places, or even of whom to ask advice in times of doubt and
difficulty. Mr. William Stevens was the only editor that I knew to whom
I could go and say, 'Is this right?' or 'Is that wrong?' And I think it
may be interesting to say here that I have never asked for, or indeed
used, a letter of introduction in my life--that is, in connection with
any literary business.

Well, when I had been hard at work for several years, I wrote a very
long book--upon my word, in spite of my good memory, I forget what it
was called. The story, however, lives in my mind well enough; it was the
story of a very large family--about ten girls and boys, who all made
brilliant marriages and lived a sort of shabby, idyllic, happy life,
somewhat on the plan of 'God for us all and the devil take the
hindermost.' Need I say that it was told in the first person and in the
present tense, and that the heroine was anything but good-looking?

I was very young then, and thought a great deal of my pretty bits of
writing and those seductive scraps of moralising, against which Mr.
Stevens was always warning me. Well, this very long, not to say
spun-out, account of this very large family of boys and girls, did not
happen to please the 'readers' for the _Family Herald_--then my
stay-by--so I thought I would have a try round the various publishers
and see if I could not get it brought out in three volumes. Of course, I
tried all the best people first, and very often, when I receive from
struggling young authors (who know a great deal more about my past
history than I do myself, and who frequently write to ask me the best
and easiest way to get on at novel-writing, without either hard work, or
waiting, or disappointment, because, if you please, my own beginnings
were so singularly successful and delightful) the information that I
have never known of any of their troubles, it seems to me that my past
and my present cannot be the past and present of the same woman. Yet
they are. I went through it all; the same sickening disappointments, the
same hopes and fears; I trod the self-same path that every beginner must
assuredly tread, as we must all in time tread that other path to the
grave. I went through it all, and with that exceedingly long and
detailed account of that large and shabby family, I trod the thorny path
of publishing almost to the bitter end--ay, even to the goal where we
find the full-blown swindler waiting for us, with bland looks and
honeyed words of sweetest flattery. Dear, dear! many who read this will
know the process. It seldom varies. First, I sent my carefully written
MS., whose very handwriting betrayed my youth, to a certain firm which
had offices off the Strand, to be considered for publication. The firm
very kindly did consider it, and their consideration was such that they
made me an offer of publication--_on certain terms_.

Their polite note informed me that their readers had read the work and
thought very highly of it, that they were inclined--just by the way of
completing their list for the approaching September, the best month in
the year for bringing out novels--to bring it out, although I was, as
yet, unknown to fame. Then came the first hint of 'the consideration,'
which took the form of a hundred pounds, to be paid down in three sums,
all to fall due before the day of publication. I worked out the profits
which _could_ accrue if the entire edition sold out I found that, in
that case, I should have a nice little sum for myself of 180_l._ Now, no
struggling young author in his or her senses is silly enough to throw
away the chance of making 180_l._ in one lump. I thought, and I thought
the whole scheme out, and I must confess that the more I thought about
it, the more utterly tempting did the offer seem. To risk 100_l._--and
to make 180_l._! Why, it was a positive sin to lose such a chance.
Therefore, I scraped a hundred pounds together, and, with my mother, set
off for London, feeling that, at last, I was going to conquer the world.
We did a theatre on the strength of my coming good fortune, and the
morning after our arrival in town set off--in my case, at all
events--with swelling hearts, to keep the appointment with the kindly
publisher who was going to put me in the way of making fame and fortune.

[Illustration: 'THE FIRM' CONSIDERING]

I opened the door and went in. 'Is Mr.---- at home?' I asked. I was
forthwith conducted to an inner sanctum, where I was received by the
head of the firm himself. Then I experienced my first shock--he
squinted! Now, I never could endure a man with a squint, and I
distrusted this man instantly. You know, there are squints and squints!
There is the soft uncertain squint feminine, which is really charming.
And there is a particular obliquity of vision which, in a man, rather
gives a larky expression, and so makes you feel that there is nothing
prim and formal about him, and seems to put you on good terms at once.

[Illustration: HE SQUINTED!]

And there is a cold-blooded squint, which makes your flesh creep, and
which, when taken in connection with business, brings little stories to
your mind--'Is anyone coming, sister Anne?' and that sort of thing.

Mr.---- asked me to excuse him a moment while he gave some instructions,
and, without waiting for my permission, looked through a few letters,
shouted a message down a speaking-tube, and then, after having arranged
the fate of about half-a-dozen novels by the means of the same
instrument, he sent a final message down the tube asking for my MS.,
only to be told that he would find it in the top right-hand drawer of
his desk.

As a matter of fact, all this delay, intended to impress me and make me
understand what a great thing had happened to me in having won attention
from so busy a man, simply did for Mr.---- so far as I was concerned.
Instead of impressing me, it gave me time to get used to the place, it
gave me time to look at Mr.---- when he was not looking at me.

Then, having found the MS., he looked at me and prepared to give me his
undivided attention.

[Illustration: MISS STANNARD (_From a photograph by H. S. Mendelssohn_)]

'Well,' he said, with a long breath, as if it was quite a relief to see
a new face, 'I am very glad you have decided to close with our offer. We
confidently expect a great success with your book. We shall have to
change the title though. There's a good deal in a title.'

I replied modestly that there was a good deal in a title. 'But,' I
added, 'I have not closed with your offer--on the contrary, I---- '

He looked up sharply, and he squinted worse than ever. 'Oh, I quite
thought that you had definitely---- '

'Not at all,' I replied; then added a piece of information, which could
not by any chance have been new to him. 'A hundred pounds is a lot of
money, you know,' I remarked.

Mr.---- looked at me in a meditative fashion. 'Well, if you have not got
the money,' he said rather contemptuously, 'we might make a slight
reduction--say, if we brought it down to 75_l._, solely because our
readers have spoken so highly of the story. Now look here, I will show
you what our reader says--which is a favour that we don't extend to
everyone, that I can tell you. Here it is!'


(_From photographs by H. S. Mendelssohn_)]

Probably in the whole of his somewhat chequered career as a publisher,
Mr.---- never committed such a fatal mistake as by handing me the report
on my history (in detail) of that very large family of boys and girls.
'Bright, crisp, racy,' it ran. 'Very unequal in parts, wants a good deal
of revision, and should be entirely re-written. Would be better if the
story was brought to a conclusion when the heroine first meets with the
hero after the parting, as all the rest forms an anti-climax. This might
be worked up into a really popular novel, especially as it is written
very much in Miss---- 's style' (naming a then popular authoress whose
sole merit consisted in being the most faithful imitator of the gifted
founder of a very pernicious school).

I put the sheet of paper down, feeling very sick and ill. And the worst
of it was, I knew that every word of it was true. I was young and
inexperienced then, and had not _nous_ enough to say plump out that my
eyes had been opened, and that I could see that I should be neither more
nor less than a fool if I wasted a single farthing over a story that
must be utterly worthless. So I prevaricated mildly, and said that I
certainly did not feel inclined to throw a hundred or even seventy-five
pounds away over a story without some certainty of success. 'I'll think
it over during the day,' I said, rising from my chair.

'Oh, we must know within an hour, at the outside,' Mr.---- said very
curtly. 'Our arrangements will not wait, and the time is very short now
for us to decide on our books for September. Of course, if you have not
got the money, we might reduce a little more. We are always glad, if
possible, to meet our clients.'

'It's not that,' I replied, looking at him straight. 'I have the money
in my pocket; but a Yorkshire woman does not put down a hundred pounds
without some idea what is going to be done with it.'

'You must let me have your answer within an hour,' Mr.---- remarked

'I will,' said I, in my most polite manner; 'but I really must think out
the fact that you are willing to knock off twenty-five pounds at one
blow. It seems to me if you could afford to take that much off, and
perhaps a little more, there must have been something very odd about
your original offer.'

'My time is precious,' said Mr.---- in a grumpy voice.

'Then, good morning,' said I cheerfully.

My hopes were all dashed to the ground again, but I felt very cheerful,
nevertheless. I trotted round to my friend, Mr. Stevens, who gave a
whistle of astonishment at my story. 'I'll send my head clerk round for
your MS. at once,' he said, 'else you'll probably never see it again.'

And so he did, and so ended my next attempt to bring out my first book.

After this I felt very keenly the real truth of the old saying, 'Virtue
is its own reward.' For, not long after my episode with Mr.----, the
then editor of _London Society_ wrote to me, saying that he thought that
as I had already had several stories published in the magazine, it might
make a very attractive volume if I could add a few more and bring them
out as a collection of soldier stories.


I did not hesitate very long over this offer, but set to work with all
the enthusiasm of youth--and youth does have the advantage of being full
of the fire of enthusiasm, if of nothing else--and I turned out enough
new stories to make a very respectable volume.

Then followed the period of waiting to which all literary folk must
accustom themselves.

I was, however, always of a tolerably long-suffering disposition, and
possessed my soul in patience as well as I could. The next thing I heard
was that the book had very good prospects, but that it would have its
chances greatly improved if it were in two volumes instead of being in
only one.

Well, youth is generous, and I did not see the wisdom of spoiling the
ship for the traditional ha'porth of tar, so I cheerfully set to work
and evolved another volume of stories, all of smart, long-legged
soldiers, and with--as Heaven knows--no more idea of setting myself up
as possessing all knowledge about soldiers and the Service than I had of
aspiring to the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland. But, even then, I had need of a vast amount of patience, for
time went on, and really my book seemed as far from publication as ever.
Every now and then I had a letter telling me that the arrangements were
nearly completed, and that it would probably be brought out by Messrs.
So-and-so. But days wore into weeks, and weeks into months, until I
really began to feel as if my first literary babe was doomed to die
before it was born.

Then arose a long haggle over terms, which I had thought were settled,
and to be on the same terms as the magazine rates--no such wonderful
scale after all. However, my literary guide, philosopher, and friend
thought, as he was doing me the inestimable service of bringing me out,
that 20_l._ was an ample honorarium for myself; but I, being young and
poor, did not see things in the same light at all. Try as I would--and I
cannot lay claim to trying very hard--I could not see why a man, who had
never seen me, should have put himself to so much trouble out of a
spirit of pure philanthropy, and a desire to help a struggling young
author forward. So I obstinately kept to my point, and said if I did not
have 30_l._, I would rather have all of the stories back again. I think
nobody would credit to-day what that special bit of firmness cost me.
Still, I would cheerfully have died before I would have given in, having
once conceived my claim to be a just one. A bad habit on the whole, and
one that has since cost me dear more than once.

Eventually, my guide and I came to terms for the sum for which I had
held out, namely, 30_l._, which was the price I received for my very
first book, in addition to about 8_l._ that I had already had from the
magazine for serial use of a few of the stories.

So, in due course, my book, under the title of 'Cavalry Life,' was
brought out in two great cumbersome volumes by Messrs. Chatto & Windus,
and I was launched upon the world as a full-blown author under the name
of 'Winter.'

[Illustration: CAVALRY LIFE]

So many people have asked me why I took that name, and how I came to
think of it, that it will not, perhaps, be amiss if I give the reason in
this paper. It happened like this. During our negotiations, my guide
suggested that I had better take some _nom de guerre_, as it would
never do to bring out such a book under a woman's name. 'Make it as
real-sounding and non-committing as you can,' he wrote, and so, after
much cogitation and cudgelling of my brains, I chose the name of the
hero of the only story of the series which was written in the first
person, and called myself J. S. Winter. I believe that 'Cavalry Life'
was published on the last day of 1881.

Then followed the most trying time of all--that of waiting to see what
the Press would say of this, my first child, which had been so long in
coming to life, and had been chopped and changed, bundled from pillar to
post, until my heart was almost worn out before ever it saw the light.
Then, on January 14, 1882, I went into the Subscription Library at York,
where I was living, and began to search the new journals through, in but
faint hopes, however, of seeing a review of my book so soon as that; for
I was quite alone in the world, so far as literary matters went. Indeed,
not one friend did I possess who could in any way influence my career,
or obtain the slightest favour for me.

I remember that morning so well; it is, I think, printed on my memory as
the word 'Calais' was on the heart of Queen Mary. It was a fine, cold
morning, and there was a blazing fire in the inner room, where the
reviews were kept. I sat down at the table, and took up the _Saturday
Review_, never dreaming for a moment that I should be honoured by so
much as a mention in a journal which I held in such awe and respect. And
as I turned over the leaves, my eyes fell on a row of foot-notes at the
bottom of the page, giving the names of the books which were noticed
above, and among them I saw--'Cavalry Life, by J. S. Winter.'

For full ten minutes I sat there, feeling sick and more fit to die than
anything else. I was perfectly incapable of looking at the notice above.
But, at last, I plucked up courage to meet my fate, very much as one
summons up courage to have a tooth out and get the horrid wrench over.
Judge of my surprise and joy when, on reading the notice, I found that
the _Saturday_ had given me a rattling good notice, praising the new
author heartily and without stint. I shall never, as long as I live,
forget the effect of that, my first review, upon me. For quite half an
hour I sat without moving, only feeling, 'I shall never be able to keep
it up. I shall never be able to follow it up by another.' I felt
paralysed, faint, crushed, anything but elated and jubilant. And, at
last, through some instinct, I put my hand up to my head to find that it
was cold and wet, as if it had been dipped in the river. Thank Heaven,
from that day to this I have never known what a cold sweat was. It was
my first experience of such a thing, and sincerely I hope it will be my


[Illustration: Drawing signed A. S. Boyd, 18th Mar. 1892

with signature below: Bret Harte

_A Sketch from Life_]



When I say that my 'first book' was _not_ my own, and contained beyond
the title-page not one word of my own composition, I trust that I shall
not be accused of trifling with paradox, or tardily unbosoming myself of
youthful plagiary. But the fact remains that in priority of publication
the first book for which I became responsible, and which probably
provoked more criticism than anything I have written since, was a small
compilation of Californian poems indited by other hands.

A well-known bookseller of San Francisco one day handed me a collection
of certain poems which had already appeared in Pacific Coast magazines
and newspapers, with the request that I should, if possible, secure
further additions to them, and then make a selection of those which I
considered the most notable and characteristic for a single volume to be
issued by him. I have reason to believe that this unfortunate man was
actuated by a laudable desire to publish a pretty Californian
book--_his_ first essay in publication--and at the same time to foster
Eastern immigration by an exhibit of the Californian literary product,
but, looking back upon his venture, I am inclined to think that the
little volume never contained anything more poetically pathetic or
touchingly imaginative than that gentle conception. Equally simple and
trustful was his selection of myself as compiler. It was based somewhat,
I think, upon the fact that 'the artless Helicon' I boasted 'was
Youth,' but I imagine it was chiefly owing to the circumstance that I
had from the outset, with precocious foresight, confided to him my
intention of not putting any of my own verses in the volume. Publishers
are appreciative; and a self-abnegation so sublime, to say nothing of
its security, was not without its effect.

[Illustration: WE SETTLED TO OUR WORK]


We settled to our work with fatuous self-complacency, and no suspicion
of the trouble in store for us, or the storm that was to presently
hurtle around our devoted heads. I winnowed the poems, and he exploited
a preliminary announcement to an eager and waiting Press, and we moved
together unwittingly to our doom. I remember to have been early struck
with the quantity of material coming in--evidently the result of some
popular misunderstanding of the announcement. I found myself in daily
and hourly receipt of sere and yellow fragments, originally torn from
some dead and gone newspaper, creased and seamed from long folding in
wallet or pocket-book. Need I say that most of them were of an emotional
or didactic nature; need I add any criticism of these homely souvenirs,
often discoloured by the morning coffee, the evening tobacco, or, Heaven
knows! perhaps blotted by too easy tears! Enough that I knew now what
had become of those original but never re-copied verses which filled the
'Poet's Corner' of every country newspaper on the coast. I knew now the
genesis of every didactic verse that 'coldly furnished forth the
marriage table' in the announcement of weddings in the rural Press. I
knew now who had read--and possibly indited--the dreary _hic jacets_ of
the dead in their mourning columns. I knew now why certain letters of
the alphabet _had_ been more tenderly considered than others, and
affectionately addressed. I knew the meaning of the 'Lines to Her who
can best understand them,' and I knew that they had been understood. The
morning's post buried my table beneath these withered leaves of
posthumous passion. They lay there like the pathetic nosegays of
quickly-fading wild flowers, gathered by school children, inconsistently
abandoned upon roadsides, or as inconsistently treasured as limp and
flabby superstitions in their desks. The chill wind from the Bay blowing
in at my window seemed to rustle them into sad articulate appeal. I
remember that when one of them was whisked from the window by a
stronger gust than usual, and was attaining a circulation it had never
known before, I ran a block or two to recover it. I was young then, and
in an exalted sense of editorial responsibility which I have since
survived, I think I turned pale at the thought that the reputation of
some unknown genius might have thus been swept out and swallowed by the
all-absorbing sea.

There were other difficulties arising from this unexpected wealth of
material. There were dozens of poems on the same subject. 'The Golden
Gate,' 'Mount Shasta,' 'The Yosemite,' were especially provocative. A
beautiful bird known as the 'Californian Canary' appeared to have been
shot at and winged by every poet from Portland to San Diego. Lines to
the 'Mariposa' flower were as thick as the lovely blossoms themselves in
the Merced Valley, and the Madrone tree was as 'berhymed' as Rosalind.
Again, by a liberal construction of the publisher's announcement,
_manuscript_ poems, which had never known print, began to coyly unfold
their virgin blossoms in the morning's mail. They were accompanied by a
few lines stating, casually, that their sender had found them lying
forgotten in his desk, or, mendaciously, that they were 'thrown off' on
the spur of the moment a few hours before. Some of the names appended to
them astonished me. Grave, practical business men, sage financiers,
fierce speculators, and plodding traders, never before suspected of
poetry, or even correct prose, were among the contributors. It seemed as
if most of the able-bodied inhabitants of the Pacific Coast had been in
the habit at some time of expressing themselves in verse. Some sought
confidential interviews with the editor. The climax was reached when, in
Montgomery Street, one day, I was approached by a well-known and
venerable judicial magnate. After some serious preliminary conversation,
the old gentleman finally alluded to what he was pleased to call a task
of 'great delicacy and responsibility' laid upon my 'young shoulders.'
'In fact,' he went on paternally, adding the weight of his judicial hand
to that burden, 'I have thought of speaking to you about it. In my
leisure moments on the Bench I have, from time to time, polished and
perfected a certain college poem begun years ago, but which may now be
said to have been finished in California, and thus embraced in the scope
of your proposed selection. If a few extracts, selected by myself, to
save you all trouble and responsibility, be of any benefit to you, my
dear young friend, consider them at your service.'


In this fashion the contributions had increased to three times the bulk
of the original collection, and the difficulties of selection were
augmented in proportion. The editor and publisher eyed each other
aghast. 'Never thought there were so many of the blamed things alive,'
said the latter with great simplicity, 'had you?' The editor had not.
'Couldn't you sort of shake 'em up and condense 'em, you know? keep
their ideas--and their names--separate, so that they'd have proper
credit. See?' The editor pointed out that this would infringe the rule
he had laid down. 'I see,' said the publisher thoughtfully--'well,
couldn't you pare 'em down; give the first verse entire and sorter
sample the others?' The editor thought not. There was clearly nothing to
do but to make a more rigid selection--a difficult performance when the
material was uniformly on a certain dead level, which it is not
necessary to define here. Among the rejections were, of course, the
usual plagiarisms from well-known authors imposed upon an inexperienced
country Press; several admirable pieces detected as acrostics of patent
medicines, and certain veiled libels and indecencies such as mark the
'first' publications on blank walls and fences of the average youth.
Still the bulk remained too large, and the youthful editor set to work
reducing it still more with a sympathising concern which the
good-natured, but unliterary, publisher failed to understand, and which,
alas! proved to be equally unappreciated by the rejected contributors.

The book appeared--a pretty little volume typographically, and
externally a credit to pioneer book-making. Copies were liberally
supplied to the Press, and authors and publisher self-complacently
awaited the result. To the latter this should have been satisfactory;
the book sold readily from his well-known counters to purchasers who
seemed to be drawn by a singular curiosity, unaccompanied, however, by
any critical comment. People would lounge into the shop, turn over the
leaves of other volumes, say carelessly, 'Got a new book of California
poetry out, haven't you?' purchase it, and quietly depart. There were as
yet no notices from the Press; the big dailies were silent; there was
something ominous in this calm.


Out of it the bolt fell. A well-known mining weekly, which I here
poetically veil under the title of the Red Dog _Jay Hawk_, was first to
swoop down upon the tuneful and unsuspecting quarry. At this century-end
of fastidious and complaisant criticism, it may be interesting to recall
the direct style of the Californian 'sixties.' 'The hogwash and
"purp"-stuff ladled out from the slop bucket of Messrs.---- & Co., of
'Frisco, by some lop-eared Eastern apprentice, and called "A Compilation
of Californian Verse," might be passed over, so far as criticism goes. A
club in the hands of any able-bodied citizen of Red Dog and a steamboat
ticket to the Bay, cheerfully contributed from this office, would be
all-sufficient. But when an imported greenhorn dares to call his
flapdoodle mixture "Californian," it is an insult to the State that has
produced the gifted "Yellow Hammer," whose lofty flights have from time
to time dazzled our readers in the columns of the _Jay Hawk_. That this
complacent editorial jackass, browsing among the dock and thistles which
he has served up in this volume, should make no allusion to California's
greatest bard, is rather a confession of his idiocy than a slur upon the
genius of our esteemed contributor.' I turned hurriedly to my pile of
rejected contributions--the _nom de plume_ of 'Yellow Hammer' did _not_
appear among them; certainly I had never heard of its existence. Later,
when a friend showed me one of that gifted bard's pieces, I was inwardly
relieved! It was so like the majority of the other verses, in and out of
the volume, that the mysterious poet might have written under a hundred
aliases. But the Dutch Flat _Clarion_, following, with no uncertain
sound, left me small time for consideration. 'We doubt,' said that
journal, 'if a more feeble collection of drivel could have been made,
even if taken exclusively from the editor's own verses, which we note he
has, by an equal editorial incompetency, left out of the volume. When we
add that, by a felicity of idiotic selection, this person has chosen
only one, and the least characteristic, of the really clever poems of
Adoniram Skaggs, which have so often graced these columns, we have said
enough to satisfy our readers.' The Mormon Hill _Quartz Crusher_
relieved this simple directness with more fancy: 'We don't know why
Messrs.---- & Co. send us, under the title of "Selections of Californian
Poetry," a quantity of slum-gullion which really belongs to the sluices
of a placer mining camp, or the ditches of the rural districts. We have
sometimes been compelled to run a lot of tailings through our stamps,
but never of the grade of the samples offered, which, we should say,
would average about 33-1/3 cents per ton. We have, however, come across
a single specimen of pure gold evidently overlooked by the serene ass
who has compiled this volume. We copy it with pleasure, as it has
already shone in the "Poet's Corner" of the _Crusher_ as the gifted
effusion of the talented Manager of the Excelsior Mill, otherwise known
to our delighted readers as "Outcrop."' The Green Springs _Arcadian_ was
no less fanciful in imagery: 'Messrs.---- & Co. send us a gaudy
green-and-yellow, parrot-coloured volume, which is supposed to contain
the first callow "cheepings" and "peepings" of Californian songsters.
From the flavour of the specimens before us we should say that the nest
had been disturbed prematurely. There seems to be a good deal of the
parrot inside as well as outside the covers, and we congratulate our own
sweet singer "Blue Bird," who has so often made these columns melodious,
that she has escaped the ignominy of being exhibited in Messrs.---- &
Co.'s aviary.' I should add that this simile of the aviary and its
occupants was ominous, for my tuneful choir was relentlessly
slaughtered; the bottom of the cage was strewn with feathers! The big
dailies collected the criticisms and published them in their own columns
with the grim irony of exaggerated head-lines. The book sold
tremendously on account of this abuse, but I am afraid that the public
was disappointed. The fun and interest lay in the criticisms, and not in
any pointedly ludicrous quality in the rather commonplace collection,
and I fear I cannot claim for it even that merit. And it will be
observed that the animus of the criticism appeared to be the omission
rather than the retention of certain writers.


But this brings me to the most extraordinary feature of this singular
demonstration. I do not think that the publishers were at all troubled
by it; I cannot conscientiously say that _I_ was; I have every reason to
believe that the poets themselves, in and out of the volume, were not
displeased at the notoriety they had not expected, and I have long since
been convinced that my most remorseless critics were not in earnest, but
were obeying some sudden impulse started by the first attacking journal.
The extravagance of the Red Dog _Jay Hawk_ was emulated by others: it
was a large, contagious joke, passed from journal to journal in a
peculiar cyclonic Western fashion. And there still lingers, not
unpleasantly, in my memory the conclusion of a cheerfully scathing
review of the book which may make my meaning clearer: 'If we have said
anything in this article which might cause a single pang to the
poetically sensitive nature of the youthful individual calling himself
Mr. Francis Bret Harte--but who, we believe, occasionally parts his name
and his hair in the middle--we will feel that we have not laboured in
vain, and are ready to sing _Nunc Dimittis_, and hand in our checks. We
have no doubt of the absolutely pellucid and lacteal purity of Franky's
intentions. He means well to the Pacific Coast, and we return the
compliment. But he has strayed away from his parents and guardians while
he was too fresh. He will not keep without a little salt.'

It was thirty years ago. The book and its Rabelaisian criticisms have
been long since forgotten. Alas! I fear that even the capacity for that
Gargantuan laughter which met them, in those days, exists no longer. The
names I have used are necessarily fictitious, but where I have been
obliged to quote the criticisms from memory I have, I believe, only
softened their asperity. I do not know that this story has any moral.
The criticisms here recorded never hurt a reputation nor repressed a
single honest aspiration. A few contributors to the volume, who were of
original merit, have made their mark, independently of it or its
critics. The editor, who was for two months the most abused man on the
Pacific slope, within the year became the editor of its first successful
magazine. Even the publisher prospered, and died respected!

[Illustration: signed,

Very faithfully yours,

A. T. Quiller Couch.]


BY 'Q.'

I cherish no parental illusions about 'Dead Man's Rock.' It is two or
three years since I read a page of that blood-thirsty romance, and my
only copy of it was found, the other day, in turning out the lumber-room
at the top of the house. Later editions have been allowed to appear with
all the inaccuracies and crudities of the first. On page 116, Bombay is
still situated in the Bay of Bengal, and may continue to adorn that
shore. The error must be amusing, since unknown friends continue to
write and confess themselves tickled by it; and it is stupid to begin
amending a book in which you have lost interest. But though this is my
attitude towards 'Dead Man's Rock,' I can still look back on the writing
of it as on an amusing adventure.

[Illustration: 'Q.' JUNIOR]

It was begun in the late summer of 1886, and was my first attempt at
telling a story on paper. I am careful to say 'on paper,' because in
childhood I was telling myself stories from morning to night. Tens of
thousands of small boys are doing the same every day in the year; but I
should be sorry to guess how much of my time, between the ages of seven
and thirteen, must have been given up to weaving these childish epics.
They were curious jumbles; the characters (of which I had a constant
set) being drawn indiscriminately from the 'Morte d'Arthur,' 'Bunyan's
Holy War,' 'Pope's Iliad,' 'Ivanhoe,' and a book of Fairy Tales by Holme
Lee, as well as from history; and the themes ranging from battles and
tournaments to cricket, wrestling, and sailing matches. Anachronisms
never troubled the story-teller. The Duke of Wellington would cheerfully
break a lance with Captain Credence or Tristram of Lyonesse, and I
rarely made up a football fifteen without including Hardicanute (whom I
loved for his name), Hector (dear for his own sake) and Wamba (who
supplied the comic interest and scored off Thersites). They were brave
companions; but at the age of thirteen they deserted me suddenly. Or
perhaps after reading Mr. Stevenson's 'Chapter on Dreams,' I had better
say it was the Piskies--the Small People--who deserted me. They alone
know why--for their pensioner had never betrayed a single one of their
secrets--or why in these later times, when he sells their confidences
for money, they have come back to help him, though more sparingly. Three
or four of the little stories in 'Noughts and Crosses' are but
translated dreams, and there are others in my notebook; but now I never
compose without some pain, whereas in the old days I had but to sit
alone in a corner or take a solitary walk and invite them, and they did
all the work. But one summer evening I summoned them and met with no
response. Without warning the tales had come to an end.

From my first school at Newton Abbot I went to Clifton, and from Clifton
in my nineteenth year to Oxford. It was here that the old desire to
weave stories began to come back. Mr. Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' was
the immediate cause. I had been scribbling all through my school days;
had written a prodigious quantity of bad reflective poetry and burnt it
as soon as I really began to reflect; and was now plying the _Oxford
Magazine_ with light verse, a large proportion of which was lately
reprinted in a thin volume, with the title of 'Green Bays.' But I wrote
little or no prose. My prose essays at school were execrable. I had
followed after false models for a while, and when gently made aware of
this by the sound and kindly scholar who looked over our sixth-form
essays at Clifton, had turned dispirited and wrote scarcely at all.
Though reading great quantities of fiction, I had, as has been said, no
thought of telling a story, and so far as I knew, no faculty. The
desire, at least, was awakened by 'Treasure Island,' and, in explanation
of this, I can only quote the gentleman who reviewed my first book in
the _Athenæum_, and observed that 'great wits jump, and lesser wits jump
with them.' That is just the truth of it. I began as a pupil and
imitator of Mr. Stevenson, and was lucky in my choice of a master.

The germ of 'Dead Man's Rock' was a curious little bit of family lore,
which I may extract from my father's history of Polperro, a small haven
on the Cornish coast. The Richard Quiller of whom he speaks is my great

     'In the old home of the Quillers, at Polperro, there was hanging on
     a beam a key, which we as children regarded with respect and awe,
     and never dared to touch, for Richard Quiller had put the key of
     his quadrant on a nail, with strong injunctions that no one should
     take it off until his return (which never happened), and there, I
     believe, it still hangs. His brother John served for several years
     as commander of a hired armed lugger, employed in carrying
     despatches in the French war, Richard accompanying him as
     subordinate officer. They were engaged in the inglorious
     bombardment of Flushing in 1809. Some short time after this they
     were taken, after a desperate fight with a pirate, into Algiers,
     but were liberated on the severe remonstrances of the British
     Consul. They returned to their homes in most miserable plight,
     having lost their all, except their Bible, much valued then by the
     unfortunate sailors, and now by a descendant in whose possession
     it is. About the year 1812 these same brothers sailed to the island
     of Teneriffe in an armed merchant ship, but after leaving that
     place were never heard of.'

Here, then, I had the simple apparatus for a mystery; for, of course,
the key must be made to unlock something far more uncommon than a
quadrant; and I still think it a capital apparatus, had I only possessed
the wit to use it properly. There was romance in this key--that was
obvious enough, and I puzzled over it for some weeks, by the end of
which my plot had grown to something like this: A family living in
poverty, though heirs to great wealth--this wealth buried close to their
door, and the key to unlock it hanging over their heads from morning to
night. It was soon settled, too, that this family should be Cornish, and
the scene laid on the Cornish coast, Cornwall being the only corner of
the earth with which I had more than a superficial acquaintance.

So far, so good; but what was the treasure to be? And what the reason
that stood between its inheritors and their enjoyment of it? As it
happened, these two questions were answered together. The small library
at Trinity--a delightful room, where Dr. Johnson spent many quiet hours
at work upon his 'Dictionary'--is fairly rich in books of old travel and
discovery; fine folios, for the most part, filling the shelves on your
left as you enter. To the study of these I gave up a good many hours
that should have been spent on ancient history of another pattern, and
more directly profitable for Greats; and in one of them--Purchas, I
think, but will not swear--first came on the Great Ruby of Ceylon. Not
long after, a note in Yule's edition of 'Marco Polo' set my imagination
fairly in chase of this remarkable gem; and I hunted up all the
accessible authorities. The size of this ruby (as thick as a man's arm,
says Marco Polo, while Maundevile, who was an artist, and lied with
exactitude, puts it at a foot in length and five fingers in girth), its
colour, 'like unto fire,' and the mystery and completeness of its
disappearance, combined to fascinate me. No form of riches is so
romantic as a precious stone with a heart in it and a history. I had
only to endow it with a curse proportionate to its size and beauty, and
I had all that a story-teller could possibly want.

[Illustration: 'THE HAVEN,' FOWEY[E]]

But even a treasure hunt is a poor affair unless you have two parties
vying for the booty, and a curse can hardly be worked effectively until
you introduce the fighting element, and make destiny strike her blows
through the passions--hate, greed, &c.--of her victims. I had shaped my
story to this point: the treasure was to be buried by a man who had
slain his comrade and only confidant in order to enjoy the booty alone,
and had afterwards become aware of the curse attached to its possession.
And the descendants of these two men were to be rivals in the search for
it, each side possessing half of the clue. It was at this point that,
like George IV., I invented a buckle. My buckle had two clasps, and on
these the secret of the treasure was so engraved as to become
intelligible only when they were united.

My plot had now taken something like a shape; but it had one serious
defect. It would not start to walk. Coax it as I might it would not
budge. Even the worst book must have a beginning--this reflection was no
less distressing than obvious, for mine had none. And there is no saying
it would ever have found one but for a lucky accident.

In the Long Vacation of 1885 I spent three weeks or a month at the
Lizard pollacking and reading Plato. Knowing at that time comparatively
little of this corner of the coast, I had brought one or two guide books
and local histories in the bottom of my portmanteau. One evening, after
a stiff walk along the cliffs, I put the 'Republic' aside for a certain
'History and Description of the Parish of Mullyon,' by its vicar, the
Rev. E. G. Harvey, and came upon a passage that immediately shook my
scraps of invention into their proper places.

The passage in question was a narrative of the wreck of the 'Jonkheer
Meester Van de Wall,' a Dutch barque, on the night of March 25, 1867. I
cannot quote at length the vicar's description of this wreck; but in
substance and in many of its details it is the story of the 'Belle
Fortune' in 'Dead Man's Rock.' The vessel broke up in the night and
drowned every soul on board except a Greek sailor, who was found early
next morning clambering about the rocks under cliff, between Polurrian
and Poljew. This man's behaviour was mysterious from the first, and his
evidence at the inquest held on the drowned bodies of his shipmates was,
to say the least, extraordinary. He said: 'My name is Georgio Buffani. I
was seaman on board the ship, which belonged to Dordrecht. I joined the
ship at Batavia, _but I do not know the name of the ship or the name of
the captain_.' Being shown, however, the official list of Dutch East
Indiamen, he pointed to one built in 1854, the 'Kosmopoliet,' Captain
König. He then told his story of the disaster, which there was no one to
contradict, and the jury returned a verdict of 'Accidentally drowned.'
The Greek made his bow and left the neighbourhood.

[Illustration: MR. AND MRS. QUILLER COUCH]

Just after the inquest Mr. Broad, Dutch Consul at Falmouth, arrived,
bringing with him the captains of two Dutch East Indiamen then lying at
Falmouth. One of them asked at once 'Is it Klaas Lammerts's?' Being told
that the 'Kosmopoliet' was the name of the wrecked ship, he said, 'I
don't believe it. The "Kosmopoliet" wouldn't be due for a fortnight,
almost. It must be Klaas Lammerts's vessel.' The vicar, who had now come
up, showed a scrap of flannel he had picked up, with '6. K. L.' marked
upon it. 'Ah!' said the Dutchman, 'it must be so. It _must_ be the
"Jonkheer."' But she had been returned 'Kosmopoliet' at the inquest, so
there the matter rested.

'On the Friday following, however,' pursues the vicar, 'when Mr. Broad
and this Dutch captain again visited Mullyon, the first thing handed
them was a parchment which had been picked up meanwhile, and this was
none other than the masonic diploma of Klaas van Lammerts. Here, then,
was no room for doubt. The ship was identified as the "Jonkheer Meester
van de Wall van Puttershoek," Captain Klaas van Lammerts, 650 tons
register, homeward bound from the East Indies, with a cargo of sugar,
coffee, spices, and some Banca tin. The value of the ship and cargo
would be between 40,000_l._ and 50,000_l._' It may be added that on the
afternoon before the wreck, the vessel had been seen to miss stays more
than once in her endeavour to beat off the land, and generally to behave
as if handled by an unaccountably clumsy crew. Altogether, folks on
shore had grave suspicions that there was mutiny or extreme disorder of
some kind on board; but of this nothing was ever certainly known.

I think this narrative was no sooner read than digested into the scheme
of my romance, now for some months neglected and almost forgotten. But
the Final School of Literæ Humaniores loomed unpleasantly near, and just
a year passed before I could turn my discovery to account. The following
August found me at Petworth, in Sussex, lodging over a clockmaker's shop
that looked out upon the Market Square. Petworth is quiet; and at that
time I knew scarcely a soul in the place; but lovely scenery lies all
around it, and on a hot afternoon you may do worse than stretch yourself
on the slopes above the weald and smoke and do nothing. There is one
small common in particular, close to the monument at the top of the
park, and just outside the park wall, where I spent many hours looking
across the blue country to Blackdown, and lazily making up my mind about
the novel. In the end--it was some time in September--I called on the
local stationer and bought a large heap of superior foolscap.


A travelling waxwork company was unpacking its caravan in the square
outside my window on the morning when I pulled in my chair and
light-heartedly wrote 'Dead Man's Rock (a Romance), by Q.,' at the top
of the first sheet of foolscap. The initial was my old initial of the
_Oxford Magazine_ verses, and the title had been settled on for some
time before. Staying with some friends on the Cornish coast, I had been
taken to a picnic, or some similar function, on a beach, where they
showed me a pillar-shaped rock, standing boldly up from the sands, and
veined with curious red streaks resembling bloodstains. 'I want a story
written about that rock,' a lady of the party had said; 'something
really blood-thirsty. "Slaughter Rock" might do for the name.' But my
title was really borrowed from the Dodman, locally called Deadman, a
promontory east of Falmouth, between Veryan and St. Austell bays.

I had covered two pages of foolscap before the brass band of the waxwork
show struck up and drove me out of doors and along the road that leads
to the railway station--the only dull road around Petworth, and chosen
now for that very reason. A good half of that morning's work was
afterwards torn up; but I felt at the time that the enterprise was going
well. I had written slowly, but easily; and, of course, believed that I
had found my vocation, and would always be able to write easily--most
vain delusion! For in six years and a half I have recaptured the fluency
of that morning not half-a-dozen times. Still, I continued to take a
lively interest in my story, and wrote at it very steadily, finishing
Book I. before my return to Oxford. It surprised me, though, that, for
all my interest in it, the story gave me little or no emotion. Once only
did I get a genuine thrill, and that was at the point where young Jasper
finds the sailor's cap (p. 25), and why at this point more than another
is past explaining. In later efforts I have written several pages with a
shaking pen and amid dismal signs of grief; and, on revision, have
usually had to tear those pages up. On the whole, my short experience
goes against

            _si vis me flere, dolendum est
    Primum ipsi tibi._

But if _on revision_ an author is moved to tears or laughter by any part
of his work, then he may reckon pretty safely upon it, no matter with
how stony a gravity it was written.

[Illustration: THE OLD STUDY]

Book I.--just half the tale--was finished then, and put aside. The
Oxford Michaelmas Term was beginning, and there were lectures to be
prepared; but this was not all the reason. To tell the truth, I had
wound up my story into a very pretty coil, and how to unwind it was past
my contriving. When the book appeared, its critics agreed in pronouncing
Part I. to be a deal better than Part II., and they were right; for Book
II. is little more than a violent cutting of half-a-dozen knots that had
been tied in the gayest of spirits; and it must be owned, moreover, that
the long arm of coincidence was invoked to perform a great part of the
cutting. For the time, however, the unfinished MS. lay in the drawer of
my writing-table; and I went back to Virgil and Aristophanes and
scribbled more verses for the _Oxford Magazine_. None of my friends knew
at that time of my excursion into fiction; but one of them possesses the
acutest eye in Oxford, and, with just a perceptible twinkle in it, he
asked me suddenly, one evening towards the end of Term, if I had yet
begun to write a novel. The shot was excellently fired, and I
surrendered my MS. at once, the more gladly because believing in his
judgment. Next morning he asserted that he had sat up half the night to
read it. His look was of the freshest, but he came triumphantly out of
cross-examination, and urged me to finish the story. In my elated mood I
would have promised anything, and set to work at once to think out the
rest of the plot; but it was not until the Easter Vacation that I
finished the book, in a farmhouse at the head of Wastwater.

Another friend was with me, who, in the intervals of climbing, put all
his enthusiasm into Aristotelian logic while I hammered away at the
'immortal product,' as we termed it by consent. It was further agreed
that he should abstain from looking at a line of it until the whole was
written--a compact which I have not heard he found any difficulty in
keeping. Indeed, there was plenty to occupy us both without the book.
Snow lay thick on the fells that spring, and the glissading was
excellent; we had found, or thought we had, a new way up the Mickledore
cliffs; and Mr. Gladstone had just introduced his first Home Rule Bill,
and made the newspapers (which reached us a day late) very good reading.
However, the MS. was finished and read with sincere, if discriminating,
approval, on the eve of our departure.

The next step was to find a publisher. My earliest hopes had inclined
upon my friend, Mr. Arrowsmith, of Bristol, who (I hoped) might remember
me as having for a time edited the _Cliftonian_; but the book was
clearly too long for his 'Railway Library,' and on this reflection I
determined to try the publishers of 'Treasure Island.' Mr. Lyttelton
Gell, of the Clarendon Press, was kind enough to provide a letter of
introduction; the MS. went to Messrs. Cassell & Co., and I fear the end
of my narrative must be even duller than the beginning. Messrs. Cassell
accepted the book, and have published all its successors. The inference
to be drawn from this is pleasant and obvious, and I shall be glad if my
readers will draw it.


It is the rule, I find, to conclude such a confession as this with a
paragraph or so in abuse of the literary calling; to parade one's self
before the youth of merry England as the Spartans paraded their drunken
Helot; to mourn the expense of energies that in any other profession
would have fetched a nobler pecuniary return. I cannot do this; at any
rate, I cannot do it yet. My calling ties me to no office stool, makes
me no man's slave, compels me to no action that my soul condemns. It
sets me free from town life, which I loathe, and allows me to breathe
clean air, to exercise limbs as well as brain, to tread good turf and
wake up every morning to the sound and smell of the sea and that wide
prospect which to my eyes is the dearest on earth. All happiness must
be purchased with a price, though people seldom recognise this; and part
of the price is that, living thus, a man can never amass a fortune. But
as it is extremely unlikely that I could have done this in any pursuit,
I may claim to have the better of the bargain.

Certain gentlemen who have preceded me in this series have spoken of
letters as of any ordinary characteristic pursuit. Naturally, therefore,
they report unfavourably; but they seem to me to prove the obvious.
Literature has her own pains, her own rewards; and it scarcely needs
demonstration that one who can only bring to these a bagman's estimate
had very much better be a bagman than an author.



My first serious effort in literature was what I may call a
double-barrelled one; in other words, I was seriously engaged upon two
books at the same time, and it was by the merest accident that they did
not appear simultaneously. As it was, only a few months divided one from
the other, and they are always, in my own mind, inseparable, or Siamese,
twins. The book of poems called 'Undertones' was the one; the book of
poems called 'Idyls and Legends of Inverburn' was the other. They were
published nearly thirty years ago, when I was still a boy, and as they
happened to bring me into connection, more or less intimately, with some
of the leading spirits of the age, a few notes concerning them may be of

A word, first, as to my literary beginnings. I can scarcely remember the
time when the idea of winning fame as an author had not occurred to me,
and so I determined very early to adopt the literary profession, a
determination which I unfortunately carried out, to my own life-long
discomfort, and the annoyance of a large portion of the reading public.
When a boy in Glasgow, I made the acquaintance of David Gray, who was
fired with a similar ambition to fly incontinently to London--

    The terrible City whose neglect is Death,
    Whose smile is Fame!

and to take it by storm. It seemed so easy! 'Westminster Abbey,' wrote
my friend to a correspondent; 'if I live, I shall be buried there--so
help me God!' 'I mean, after Tennyson's death,' I myself wrote to Philip
Hamerton, 'to be Poet Laureate!' From these samples of our callow
speech, the modesty of our ambition may be inferred. Well, it all
happened just as we planned, only otherwise! Through some blunder of
arrangement we two started for London on the same day, but from
different railway stations, and, until some weeks afterwards, one knew
nothing of the other's exodus. I arrived at King's Cross Railway Station
with the conventional half-crown in my pocket; literally and absolutely
half-a-crown; I wandered about the Great City till I was weary, fell in
with a Thief and Good Samaritan who sheltered me, starved and struggled
with abundant happiness, and finally found myself located at 66 Stamford
Street, Waterloo Bridge, in a top room, for which I paid, when I had the
money, seven shillings a week. Here I lived royally, with Duke Humphrey,
for many a day; and hither, one sad morning, I brought my poor friend
Gray, whom I had discovered languishing somewhere in the Borough, and
who was already death-struck through 'sleeping out' one night in Hyde
Park.[F] 'Westminster Abbey--if I live, I shall be buried there!' Poor
country singing-bird, the great Dismal Cage of the Dead was not for
_him_, thank God! He lies under the open Heaven, close to the little
river which he immortalised in song. After a brief sojourn in the 'dear
old ghastly bankrupt garret at No. 66,' he fluttered home to die.

[Illustration: drawing by Geo. Hutchinson

signed: Truly yours,

Robert Buchanan]

To that old garret, in these days, came living men of letters who were
of large and important interest to us poor cheepers from the North:
Richard Monckton Milnes, Laurence Oliphant, Sydney Dobell, among others,
who took a kindly interest in my dying comrade. But afterwards, when I
was left to fight the battle alone, the place was solitary. Ever
reserved and independent, not to say 'dour' and opinionated, I made no
friends, and cared for none. I had found a little work on the newspapers
and magazines, just enough to keep body and soul alive, and while
occupied with this I was busy on the literary twins to which I referred
at the opening of this paper. What did my isolation matter, when I had
all the gods of Greece for company, to say nothing of the fays and
trolls of Scottish Fairyland? Pallas and Aphrodite haunted that old
garret; out on Waterloo Bridge, night after night, I saw Selene and all
her nymphs; and when my heart sank low, the fairies of Scotland sang me
lullabies! It was a happy time. Sometimes, for a fortnight together, I
never had a dinner--save, perhaps, on Sunday, when a good-natured Hebe
would bring me covertly a slice from the landlord's joint. My favourite
place of refreshment was the Caledonian Coffee House in Covent Garden.
Here, for a few coppers, I could feast on coffee and muffins--muffins
saturated with butter, and worthy of the gods! Then, issuing forth,
full-fed, glowing, oleaginous, I would light my pipe, and wander out
into the lighted streets.

Criticisms for the _Athenæum_, then edited by Hepworth Dixon, brought me
ten-and-sixpence a column. I used to go to the old office in Wellington
Street and have my contributions measured off on the current number with
a foot-rule, by good old John Francis, the publisher. I wrote, too, for
the _Literary Gazette_, where the pay was less princely--seven-and-sixpence
a column, I think, but with all extracts deducted! The _Gazette_ was
then edited by John Morley, who came to the office daily with a big dog.
'I well remember the time when you, a boy, came to me, a boy, in
Catherine Street,' wrote honest John to me years afterwards. But the
neighbourhood of Covent Garden had greater wonders! Two or three times a
week, walking, black bag in hand, from Charing Cross Station to the
office of _All the Year Round_ in Wellington Street, came the good, the
only Dickens! From that good genie the poor straggler from Fairyland
got solid help and sympathy. Few can realise now what Dickens was then
to London. His humour filled its literature like broad sunlight; the
Gospel of Plum-pudding warmed every poor devil in Bohemia.

[Illustration: MR. BUCHANAN'S HOUSE]

At this time, I was (save the mark!) terribly in earnest, with a dogged
determination to bow down to no graven literary idol, but to judge men
of all ranks on their personal merits. I never had much reverence for
gods of any sort; if the superior persons could not win me by love, I
remained heretical. So it was a long time before I came close to any
living souls, and all that time I was working away at my poems. Then, a
little later, I used to go o' Sundays to the open house of Westland
Marston, which was then a great haunt of literary Bohemians. Here I
first met Dinah Muloch, the author of 'John Halifax,' who took a great
fancy to me, used to carry me off to her little nest on Hampstead Heath,
and lend me all her books. At Hampstead, too, I foregathered with Sydney
Dobell, a strangely beautiful soul, with (what seemed to me then) very
effeminate manners. Dobell's mouth was ever full of very pretty
Latinity, for the most part Virgilian. He was fond of quoting, as an
example of perfect expression, sound conveying absolute sense of the
thing described, the doggrel lines--

    Down the stairs the young missises ran
    To have a look at Miss Kate's young man!

The sibilants in the first line, he thought, admirably suggested the
idea of the young ladies slipping along the banisters and peeping into
the hall!

But I had other friends, more helpful to me in preparing my first
twin-offering to the Muses; the faces under the gas, the painted women
on the bridge (how many a night have I walked up and down by their
sides, and talked to them for hours together), the actors in the
theatres, the ragged groups at the stage doors. London to me, then, was
still Fairyland! Even in the Haymarket, with its babbles of nymph and
satyr, there was wonderful life from midnight to dawn--deep sympathy
with which told me that I was a born Pagan, and could never be really
comfortable in any modern Temple of the Proprieties. On other points
connected with that old life on the borders of Bohemia, I need not
touch; it has all been so well done already by Murger, in the 'Vie de
Bohème,' and it will not bear translation into contemporary English.
There were cakes and ale, pipes and beer, and ginger was hot in the
mouth too! _Et ego fui in Bohemiâ!_ There were inky fellows and bouncing
girls, _then; now_ there are only fine ladies, and respectable,
God-fearing men of letters.

It was while the twins were fashioning, that I went down in summer time
to live at Chertsey on the Thames, chiefly in order to be near to one I
had long admired, Thomas Love Peacock, the friend of Shelley and the
author of 'Headlong Hall'--'Greekey Peekey,' as they called him, on
account of his prodigious knowledge of things and books Hellenic. I soon
grew to love the dear old man, and sat at his feet, like an obedient
pupil, in his green old-fashioned garden at Lower Halliford. To him I
first read some of my 'Undertones,' getting many a rap over the
knuckles for my sacrilegious tampering with Divine Myths. What mercy
could _I_ expect from one who had never forgiven 'Johnny' Keats for his
frightful perversion of the sacred mystery of Endymion and Selene? and
who was horrified at the base 'modernism' of Shelley's 'Prometheus
Unbound?' But to think of it! He had known Shelley, and all the rest of
the demigods, and his speech was golden with memories of them all! Dear
old Pagan, wonderful in his death as in his life. When, shortly before
he died, his house caught fire, and the mild curate of the parish begged
him to withdraw from the library of books he loved so well, he flatly
refused to listen, and cried roundly, in a line of vehement blank verse,
'By the immortal gods, I will not stir!'[G]

Under such auspices, and with all the ardour of youth to help, my Book,
or Books, progressed. Meantime, I was breaking out into poetry in the
magazines, and writing 'criticism' by the yard. At last the time came
when I remembered another friend with whom I had corresponded, and whose
advice I thought I might now ask with some confidence. This was George
Henry Lewes, to whom, when I was a boy in Glasgow, I had sent a bundle
of manuscript, with the blunt question, 'Am I, or am I not, a Poet?' To
my delight he had replied to me with a qualified affirmative, saying
that in the productions he had 'discerned a real faculty, and _perhaps_
a future poet. I say perhaps,' he added, 'because I do not know your
age, and because there are so many poetical blossoms which never come to
fruit.' He had, furthermore, advised me 'to write as much as I felt
impelled to write, but to publish nothing'--at any rate, for a couple of
years. Three years had passed, and I had neither published
anything--that is to say, in book form--nor had I had any further
communication with my kind correspondent. To Lewes, then, I wrote,
reminding him of our correspondence, telling him that I _had_ waited,
not two years, but three, and that I now felt inclined to face the
public. I soon received an answer, the result of which was that I went,
on Lewes's invitation, to the Priory, North Bank, Regent's Park, and met
my friend and his partner, better known as 'George Eliot.'

But, as the novelists say, I am anticipating. Sick to death, David Gray
had returned to the cottage of his father, the handloom weaver, at
Kirkintilloch, and there had peacefully passed away, leaving as his
legacy to the world the volume of beautiful poems published under the
auspices of Lord Houghton. I knew of his death the hour he died; awaking
in the night, I was certain of my loss, and spoke of it (long before the
formal news reached me) to a friend. This by the way; but what is more
to the purpose is that my first grief for a beloved comrade had
expressed itself in the words which were to form the 'proem' of my first

                        Poet gentle hearted,
                        Are you then departed,
    And have you ceased to dream the dream we loved of old so well?
                        Has the deeply-cherish'd
                        Aspiration perished,
    And are you happy, David, in that heaven where you dwell?
                        Have you found the secret
                        We, so wildly, sought for,
    And is your soul enswath'd at last in the singing robes you fought for?

Full of my dead friend, I spoke of him to Lewes and George Eliot,
telling them the piteous story of his life and death. Both were deeply
touched, and Lewes cried, 'Tell that story to the public'; which I did,
immediately afterwards, in the _Cornhill Magazine_. By this time I had
my Twins ready, and had discovered a publisher for one of them,
_Undertones_. The other, _Idyls and Legends of Inverburn_, was a
ruggeder bantling, containing almost the first _blank verse_ poems ever
written in Scottish dialect. I selected one of the poems, 'Willie
Baird,' and showed it to Lewes. He expressed himself delighted, and
asked for more. I then showed him the 'Two Babes.' 'Better and better!'
he wrote; 'publish a volume of such poems and your position is assured.'
More than this, he at once found me a publisher, Mr. George Smith, of
Messrs. Smith and Elder, who offered me a good round sum (such it seemed
to me then) for the copyright. Eventually, however, after 'Willie Baird'
had been published in the _Cornhill_, I withdrew the manuscript from
Messrs. Smith and Elder, and transferred it to Mr. Alexander Strahan,
who offered me both more liberal terms and more enthusiastic

[Illustration: THE STUDY]

It was just after the appearance of my story of David Gray in the
_Cornhill_ that I first met, at the Priory, North Bank, with Robert
Browning. It was an odd and representative gathering of men, only one
lady being present, the hostess, George Eliot. I was never much of a
hero-worshipper, but I had long been a sympathetic Browningite, and I
well remember George Eliot taking me aside after my first _tête-à-tête_
with the poet, and saying, 'Well, what do you think of him? Does he come
up to your ideal?' He _didn't_ quite, I must confess, but I afterwards
learned to know him well and to understand him better. He was delighted
with my statement that one of Gray's wild ideas was to rush over to
Florence and 'throw himself on the sympathy of Robert Browning.'

Phantoms of these first books of mine, how they begin to rise around me!
Faces of friends and counsellors that have flown for ever; the sibylline
Marian Evans with her long, weird, dreamy face; Lewes, with his big brow
and keen thoughtful eyes; Browning, pale and spruce, his eye like a
skipper's cocked-up at the weather; Peacock, with his round, mellifluous
speech of the old Greeks; David Gray, great-eyed and beautiful, like
Shelley's ghost; Lord Houghton, with his warm worldly smile and
easy-fitting enthusiasm. Where are they all now? Where are the roses of
last summer, the snows of yester year? I passed by the Priory to-day,
and it looked like a great lonely Tomb. In those days, the house where I
live now was not built; all up here Hampstead-ways was grass and fields.
It was over these fields that Herbert Spencer and George Eliot used to
walk on their way to Hampstead Heath. The Sibyl has gone, but the great
Philosopher still remains, to brighten the sunshine. It was not my luck
to know him _then_--would it had been!--but he is my friend and
neighbour in these latter days, and, thanks to him, I still get glimpses
of the manners of the old gods.

With the publication of my first two books, I was fairly launched, I may
say, on the stormy waters of literature. When the _Athenæum_ told its
readers that 'this was _poetry_, and of a noble kind,' and when Lewes
vowed in the _Fortnightly Review_ that even if I 'never wrote another
line, my place among the pastoral poets would be undisputed,' I suppose
I felt happy enough--far more happy than any praise could make me now.
Poor little pigmy in a cockle-boat, I thought Creation was ringing with
my name! I think I must have seemed rather conceited and 'bounceable,'
for I have a vivid remembrance of a _Fortnightly_ dinner at the Star and
Garter, Richmond, when Anthony Trollope, angry with me for expressing a
doubt about the poetical greatness of Horace, wanted to fling a decanter
at my head! It was about this time that an omniscient publisher, after
an interview with me, exclaimed (the circumstance is historical), 'I
don't like that young man; he talked to me as if he was God Almighty, or
_Lord Byron_!' But in sober truth, I never had the sort of conceit with
which men credited me; I merely lacked gullibility, and saw, at the
first glance, the whole unmistakable humbug and insincerity of the
Literary Life. I think still that, as a rule, the profession of letters
narrows the sympathy and warps the intelligence. When I saw the
importance which a great man or woman could attach to a piece of
perfunctory criticism, when I saw the care with which this Eminent
Person 'humoured his reputation,' and the anxiety with which that
Eminent Person concealed his true character, I found my young illusions
very rapidly fading. On one occasion, when George Eliot was very much
pestered by an unknown lady, an insignificant individual, who had thrust
herself somewhat pertinaciously upon her, she turned to me and asked,
with a smile, for my opinion. I gave it, rudely enough, to the effect
that it was good for 'distinguished people' to be reminded occasionally
of how very small consequence they really were, in the mighty life of
the World!

From that time until the present I have pursued the vocation into which
fatal Fortune, during boyhood, incontinently thrust me, and have
subsisted, ill sometimes, well sometimes, by a busy pen. I may,
therefore, with a certain experience, if with little authority, imitate
those who have preceded me in giving reminiscences of their first
literary beginnings, and offer a few words of advice to my younger
brethren--to those persons, I mean, who are entering the profession of
Literature. To begin with, I entirely agree with Mr. Grant Allen in his
recent avowal that Literature is the poorest and least satisfactory of
all professions; I will go even further, and affirm that it is one of
the least ennobling. With a fairly extensive knowledge of the writers of
my own period, I can honestly say that I have scarcely met one
individual who has not deteriorated morally by the pursuit of literary
Fame. For complete literary success among contemporaries, it is
imperative that a man should either have no real opinions, or be able to
conceal such as he possesses, that he should have one eye on the market
and the other on the public journals, that he should humbug himself into
the delusion that book-writing is the highest work in the Universe, and
that he should regulate his likes and dislikes by one law, that of
expediency. If his nature is in arms against anything that is rotten in
Society or in Literature itself, he must be silent. Above all, he must
lay this solemn truth to heart, that when the World speaks well of him
the World will demand the _price_ of praise, and that price will
possibly be his living Soul. He may tinker, he may trim, he may succeed,
he may be buried in Westminster Abbey, he may hear before he dies all
the people saying, 'How good and great he is! how perfect is his art!
how gloriously he embodies the Tendencies of his Time!'[H] but he will
know all the same that the price has been paid, and that his living Soul
has gone, to furnish that whitewashed Sepulchre, a Blameless Reputation.


For one other thing, also, the Neophyte in Literature had better be
prepared. He will never be able to subsist by creative writing unless it
so happens that the form of expression he chooses is popular in form
(fiction, for example), and even in that case, the work he does, if he
is to live by it, must be in harmony with the social and artistic
_status quo_. Revolt of any kind is always disagreeable. Three-fourths
of the success of Lord Tennyson (to take an example) was due to the
fact that this fine poet regarded Life and all its phenomena from the
standpoint of the English public school, that he ethically and
artistically embodied the sentiments of our excellent middle-class
education. His great American contemporary, Whitman, in some respects
the most commanding spirit of this generation, gained only a few
disciples, and was entirely misunderstood and neglected by contemporary
criticism. Another prosperous writer, to whom I have already alluded,
George Eliot, enjoyed enormous popularity in her lifetime, while the
most strenuous and passionate novelist of her period, Charles Reade, was
entirely distanced by her in the immediate race for Fame. In Literature,
as in all things, manners and costume are most important; the hall-mark
of contemporary success is perfect Respectability. It is not respectable
to be too candid on any subject, religious, moral, or political. It is
very respectable to say, or imply, that this country is the best of all
possible countries, that War is a noble institution, that the Protestant
Religion is grandly liberal, and that social evils are only diversified
forms of social good. Above all, to be respectable, one must have
'beautiful ideas.' 'Beautiful ideas' are the very best stock-in-trade a
young writer can begin with. They are indispensable to every complete
literary outfit. Without them, the short cut to Parnassus will never be
discovered, even though one starts from Rugby.



It was far indeed from being my first book, for I am not a novelist
alone. But I am well aware that my paymaster, the Great Public, regards
what else I have written with indifference, if not aversion; if it call
upon me at all, it calls on me in the familiar and indelible character;
and when I am asked to talk of my first book, no question in the world
but what is meant is my first novel.

Sooner or later, somehow, anyhow, I was bound to write a novel. It seems
vain to ask why. Men are born with various manias: from my earliest
childhood, it was mine to make a plaything of imaginary series of
events; and as soon as I was able to write, I became a good friend to
the paper-makers. Reams upon reams must have gone to the making of
'Rathillet,' 'The Pentland Rising,'[I] 'The King's Pardon' (otherwise
'Park Whitehead'), 'Edward Daven,' 'A Country Dance,' and 'A Vendetta in
the West'; and it is consolatory to remember that these reams are now
all ashes, and have been received again into the soil. I have named but
a few of my ill-fated efforts, only such indeed as came to a fair bulk
ere they were desisted from; and even so they cover a long vista of
years. 'Rathillet' was attempted before fifteen, 'The Vendetta' at
twenty-nine, and the succession of defeats lasted unbroken till I was
thirty-one. By that time, I had written little books and little essays
and short stories; and had got patted on the back and paid for
them--though not enough to live upon. I had quite a reputation, I was
the successful man; I passed my days in toil, the futility of which
would sometimes make my cheek to burn--that I should spend a man's
energy upon this business, and yet could not earn a livelihood: and
still there shone ahead of me an unattained ideal: although I had
attempted the thing with vigour not less than ten or twelve times, I had
not yet written a novel. All--all my pretty ones--had gone for a little,
and then stopped inexorably like a schoolboy's watch. I might be
compared to a cricketer of many years' standing who should never have
made a run. Anybody can write a short story--a bad one, I mean--who has
industry and paper and time enough; but not everyone may hope to write
even a bad novel. It is the length that kills. The accepted novelist
may take his novel up and put it down, spend days upon it in vain,
and write not any more than he makes haste to blot. Not so the
beginner. Human nature has certain rights; instinct--the instinct of
self-preservation--forbids that any man (cheered and supported by the
consciousness of no previous victory) should endure the miseries of
unsuccessful literary toil beyond a period to be measured in weeks.
There must be something for hope to feed upon. The beginner must have a
slant of wind, a lucky vein must be running, he must be in one of those
hours when the words come and the phrases balance of themselves--_even
to begin_. And having begun, what a dread looking forward is that until
the book shall be accomplished! For so long a time, the slant is to
continue unchanged, the vein to keep running, for so long a time you
must keep at command the same quality of style: for so long a time your
puppets are to be always vital, always consistent, always vigorous! I
remember I used to look, in those days, upon every three-volume novel
with a sort of veneration, as a feat--not possibly of literature--but
at least of physical and moral endurance and the courage of Ajax.

[Illustration: drawing by A. S. Boyd

signed: Sincerely yours,

Robert Louis Stevenson]


In the fated year I came to live with my father and mother at Kinnaird,
above Pitlochry. Then I walked on the red moors and by the side of the
golden burn; the rude, pure air of our mountains inspirited, if it did
not inspire us, and my wife and I projected a joint volume of logic
stories, for which she wrote 'The Shadow on the Bed,' and I turned out
'Thrawn Janet' and a first draft of 'The Merry Men.' I love my native
air, but it does not love me; and the end of this delightful period was
a cold, a fly-blister, and a migration by Strathairdle and Glenshee to
the Castleton of Braemar. There it blew a good deal and rained in a
proportion; my native air was more unkind than man's ingratitude, and I
must consent to pass a good deal of my time between four walls in a
house lugubriously known as the Late Miss McGregor's Cottage. And now
admire the finger of predestination. There was a schoolboy in the Late
Miss McGregor's Cottage, home from the holidays, and much in want of
'something craggy to break his mind upon.' He had no thought of
literature; it was the art of Raphael that received his fleeting
suffrages; and with the aid of pen and ink and a shilling box of water
colours, he had soon turned one of the rooms into a picture gallery. My
more immediate duty towards the gallery was to be showman; but I would
sometimes unbend a little, join the artist (so to speak) at the easel,
and pass the afternoon with him in a generous emulation, making coloured
drawings. On one of these occasions, I made the map of an island; it was
elaborately and (I thought) beautifully coloured; the shape of it took
my fancy beyond expression; it contained harbours that pleased me like
sonnets; and with the unconsciousness of the predestined, I ticketed my
performance 'Treasure Island.' I am told there are people who do not
care for maps, and find it hard to believe. The names, the shapes of the
woodlands, the courses of the roads and rivers, the prehistoric
footsteps of man still distinctly traceable up hill and down dale, the
mills and the ruins, the ponds and the ferries, perhaps the _Standing
Stone_ or the _Druidic Circle_ on the heath; here is an inexhaustible
fund of interest for any man with eyes to see or twopence worth of
imagination to understand with! No child but must remember laying his
head in the grass, staring into the infinitesimal forest and seeing it
grow populous with fairy armies. Somewhat in this way, as I paused upon
my map of 'Treasure Island,' the future character of the book began to
appear there visibly among imaginary woods; and their brown faces and
bright weapons peeped out upon me from unexpected quarters, as they
passed to and fro, fighting and hunting treasure, on these few square
inches of a flat projection. The next thing I knew I had some papers
before me and was writing out a list of chapters. How often have I done
so, and the thing gone no further! But there seemed elements of success
about this enterprise. It was to be a story for boys; no need of
psychology or fine writing; and I had a boy at hand to be a touchstone.
Women were excluded. I was unable to handle a brig (which the
_Hispaniola_ should have been), but I thought I could make shift to sail
her as a schooner without public shame. And then I had an idea for John
Silver from which I promised myself funds of entertainment; to take an
admired friend of mine (whom the reader very likely knows and admires as
much as I do), to deprive him of all his finer qualities and higher
graces of temperament, to leave him with nothing but his strength, his
courage, his quickness, and his magnificent geniality, and to try to
express these in terms of the culture of a raw tarpaulin. Such psychical
surgery is, I think, a common way of 'making character'; perhaps it is,
indeed, the only way. We can put in the quaint figure that spoke a
hundred words with us yesterday by the wayside; but do we know him? Our
friend with his infinite variety and flexibility, we know--but can we
put him in? Upon the first, we must engraft secondary and imaginary
qualities, possibly all wrong; from the second, knife in hand, we must
cut away and deduct the needless arborescence of his nature, but the
trunk and the few branches that remain we may at least be fairly sure

On a chill September morning, by the cheek of a brisk fire, and the rain
drumming on the window, I began 'The Sea Cook,' for that was the
original title. I have begun (and finished) a number of other books, but
I cannot remember to have sat down to one of them with more complacency.
It is not to be wondered at, for stolen waters are proverbially sweet. I
am now upon a painful chapter. No doubt the parrot once belonged to
Robinson Crusoe. No doubt the skeleton is conveyed from Poe. I think
little of these, they are trifles and details; and no man can hope to
have a monopoly of skeletons or make a corner in talking birds. The
stockade I am told, is from 'Masterman Ready.' It may be, I care not a
jot. These useful writers had fulfilled the poet's saying: departing,
they had left behind them Footprints on the sands of time, Footprints
which perhaps another--and I was the other! It is my debt to Washington
Irving that exercises my conscience, and justly so, for I believe
plagiarism was rarely carried farther. I chanced to pick up the 'Tales
of a Traveller' some years ago with a view to an anthology of prose
narrative, and the book flew up and struck me: Billy Bones, his chest,
the company in the parlour, the whole inner spirit, and a good deal of
the material detail of my first chapters--all were there, all were the
property of Washington Irving. But I had no guess of it then as I sat
writing by the fireside, in what seemed the spring-tides of a somewhat
pedestrian inspiration; nor yet day by day, after lunch, as I read aloud
my morning's work to the family. It seemed to me original as sin; it
seemed to belong to me like my right eye. I had counted on one boy, I
found I had two in my audience. My father caught fire at once with all
the romance and childishness of his original nature. His own stories,
that every night of his life he put himself to sleep with, dealt
perpetually with ships, roadside inns, robbers, old sailors, and
commercial travellers before the era of steam. He never finished one of
these romances; the lucky man did not require to! But in 'Treasure
Island' he recognised something kindred to his own imagination; it was
_his_ kind of picturesque; and he not only heard with delight the daily
chapter, but set himself acting to collaborate. When the time came for
Billy Bones's chest to be ransacked, he must have passed the better part
of a day preparing, on the back of a legal envelope, an inventory of its
contents, which I exactly followed; and the name of 'Flint's old
ship'--the 'Walrus'--was given at his particular request. And now who
should come dropping in, _ex machinâ_, but Dr. Japp, like the disguised
prince who is to bring down the curtain upon peace and happiness in the
last act; for he carried in his pocket, not a horn or a talisman, but a
publisher--had, in fact, been charged by my old friend, Mr. Henderson,
to unearth new writers for _Young Folks_. Even the ruthlessness of a
united family recoiled before the extreme measure of inflicting on our
guest the mutilated members of 'The Sea Cook'; at the same time, we
would by no means stop our readings; and accordingly the tale was begun
again at the beginning, and solemnly re-delivered for the benefit of Dr.
Japp. From that moment on, I have thought highly of his critical
faculty; for when he left us, he carried away the manuscript in his

Here, then, was everything to keep me up, sympathy, help, and now a
positive engagement. I had chosen besides a very easy style. Compare it
with the almost contemporary 'Merry Men'; one reader may prefer the one
style, one the other--'tis an affair of character, perhaps of mood; but
no expert can fail to see that the one is much more difficult, and the
other much easier to maintain. It seems as though a full-grown
experienced man of letters might engage to turn out 'Treasure Island' at
so many pages a day, and keep his pipe alight. But alas! this was not my
case. Fifteen days I stuck to it, and turned out fifteen chapters; and
then, in the early paragraphs of the sixteenth, ignominiously lost hold.
My mouth was empty; there was not one word of 'Treasure Island' in my
bosom; and here were the proofs of the beginning already waiting me at
the 'Hand and Spear'! Then I corrected them, living for the most part
alone, walking on the heath at Weybridge in dewy autumn mornings, a good
deal pleased with what I had done, and more appalled than I can depict
to you in words at what remained for me to do. I was thirty one; I was
the head of a family; I had lost my health; I had never yet paid my way,
never yet made 200_l._ a year; my father had quite recently bought back
and cancelled a book that was judged a failure: was this to be another
and last fiasco? I was indeed very close on despair; but I shut my mouth
hard, and during the journey to Davos, where I was to pass the winter,
had the resolution to think of other things and bury myself in the
novels of M. de Boisgobey. Arrived at my destination, down I sat one
morning to the unfinished tale; and behold! it flowed from me like
small talk; and in a second tide of delighted industry, and again at a
rate of a chapter a day, I finished 'Treasure Island.' It had to be
transcribed almost exactly; my wife was ill; the schoolboy remained
alone of the faithful; and John Addington Symonds (to whom I timidly
mentioned what I was engaged on) looked on me askance. He was at that
time very eager I should write on the characters of Theophrastus: so
far out may be the judgments of the wisest men. But Symonds (to be sure)
was scarce the confidant to go to for sympathy on a boy's story. He was
large-minded; 'a full man,' if there was one; but the very name of my
enterprise would suggest to him only capitulations of sincerity and
solecisms of style. Well! he was not far wrong.

[Illustration: MRS. R. L. STEVENSON]

'Treasure Island'--it was Mr. Henderson who deleted the first title,
'The Sea Cook'--appeared duly in the story paper, where it figured in
the ignoble midst, without woodcuts, and attracted not the least
attention. I did not care. I liked the tale myself, for much the same
reason as my father liked the beginning: it was my kind of picturesque.
I was not a little proud of John Silver, also; and to this day rather
admire that smooth and formidable adventurer. What was infinitely more
exhilarating, I had passed a landmark; I had finished a tale, and
written 'The End' upon my manuscript, as I had not done since 'The
Pentland Rising,' when I was a boy of sixteen not yet at college. In
truth it was so by a set of lucky accidents: had not Dr. Japp come on
his visit, had not the tale flowed from me with singular ease, it must
have been laid aside like its predecessors, and found a circuitous and
unlamented way to the fire. Purists may suggest it would have been
better so. I am not of that mind. The tale seems to have given much
pleasure, and it brought (or was the means of bringing) fire and food
and wine to a deserving family in which I took an interest. I need
scarcely say I mean my own.


But the adventures of 'Treasure Island' are not yet quite at an end. I
had written it up to the map. The map was the chief part of my plot. For
instance, I had called an islet 'Skeleton Island,' not knowing what I
meant, seeking only for the immediate picturesque, and it was to justify
this name that I broke into the gallery of Mr. Poe and stole Flint's
pointer. And in the same way, it was because I had made two harbours
that the 'Hispaniola' was sent on her wanderings with Israel Hands. The
time came when it was decided to republish, and I sent in my manuscript,
and the map along with it, to Messrs. Cassell. The proofs came, they
were corrected, but I heard nothing of the map. I wrote and asked; was
told it had never been received, and sat aghast. It is one thing to draw
a map at random, set a scale in one corner of it at a venture, and write
up a story to the measurements. It is quite another to have to examine a
whole book, make an inventory of all the allusions contained in it, and
with a pair of compasses, painfully design a map to suit the data. I did
it; and the map was drawn again in my father's office, with
embellishments of blowing whales and sailing ships, and my father
himself brought into service a knack he had of various writing, and
elaborately _forged_ the signature of Captain Flint, and the sailing
directions of Billy Bones. But somehow it was never 'Treasure Island' to

I have said the map was the most of the plot. I might almost say it was
the whole. A few reminiscences of Poe, Defoe, and Washington Irving, a
copy of Johnson's 'Buccaneers,' the name of the Dead Man's Chest from
Kingsley's 'At Last,' some recollections of canoeing on the high seas,
and the map itself, with its infinite, eloquent suggestion, made up the
whole of my materials. It is, perhaps, not often that a map figures so
largely in a tale, yet it is always important. The author must know his
countryside, whether real or imaginary, like his hand; the distances,
the points of the compass, the place of the sun's rising, the behaviour
of the moon, should all be beyond cavil. And how troublesome the moon
is! I have come to grief over the moon in 'Prince Otto,' and so soon as
that was pointed out to me, adopted a precaution which I recommend to
other men--I never write now without an almanack. With an almanack, and
the map of the country, and the plan of every house, either actually
plotted on paper or already and immediately apprehended in the mind, a
man may hope to avoid some of the grossest possible blunders. With the
map before him, he will scarce allow the sun to set in the east, as it
does in 'The Antiquary.' With the almanack at hand, he will scarce allow
two horsemen, journeying on the most urgent affair, to employ six days,
from three of the Monday morning till late in the Saturday night, upon a
journey of, say, ninety or a hundred miles, and before the week is out,
and still on the same nags, to cover fifty in one day, as may be read at
length in the inimitable novel of 'Rob Roy.' And it is certainly well,
though far from necessary, to avoid such 'croppers.' But it is my
contention--my superstition, if you like--that who is faithful to his
map, and consults it, and draws from it his inspiration, daily and
hourly, gains positive support, and not mere negative immunity from
accident. The tale has a root there; it grows in that soil; it has a
spine of its own behind the words. Better if the country be real, and he
has walked every foot of it and knows every milestone. But even with
imaginary places, he will do well in the beginning to provide a map; as
he studies it, relations will appear that he had not thought upon; he
will discover obvious, though unsuspected, shortcuts and footprints for
his messengers; and even when a map is not all the plot, as it was in
'Treasure Island,' it will be found to be a mine of suggestion.




[A] In this ship, the 'Hougoumont,' I served three years. She was a
transport, and was in the China war, 1860-1. Her burden was about 1,000
tons. This picture represents her as a sheer hulk employed in the
construction of the Forth Bridge. I saw her towing down Channel in this
state in 1889--she drew abreast of my house at Deal--and I could have
wept to witness my old floating home in so miserable a condition.--C. R.

[B] This and succeeding illustrations are from photographs by Fradelle
and Young.

[C] This and the succeeding illustrations are from photographs by
Fradelle & Young.

[D] This and the succeeding illustrations are from photographs by

[E] Most of the illustrations in this chapter are from photographs by
Messrs. W. Heath & Co., Plymouth.

[F] See the writer's _Life of David Gray_.

[G] I have given a detailed account of Peacock in my _Look Round

[H] O those 'Tendencies of one's Time'! O those dismal Phantoms,
conjured up by the blatant Book-taster and the indolent Reviewer! How
many a poor Soul, that would fain have been honest, have they bewildered
into the Slough of Despond and the Bog of Beautiful Ideas!--R. B.

[I] _Ne pas confondre._ Not the slim green pamphlet with the imprint of
Andrew Elliott, for which (as I see with amazement from the book-lists)
the gentlemen of England are willing to pay fancy prices; but its
predecessor, a bulky historical romance without a spark of merit, and
now deleted from the world.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My First Book: - the experiences of Walter Besant, James Payn, W. Clark Russell, Grant Allen, Hall Caine, George R. Sims, Rudyard Kipling, A. Conan Doyle, M.E. Braddon, F.W. Robinson, H. Rider Haggard, R.M. Ballantyne, I. Zangwill, Morley Roberts, David Christie Murray, Marie Corelli, Jerome K. Jerome, John Strange Winter, Bret Harte, "Q.", Robert Buchanan, Robert Louis Stevenson, with an introduction by Jerome K. Jerome." ***

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