It is a difficult task being a reader today, not because there is not enough to read, but rather there is too much. Unlike those who lived in a time where all published material was executed by a printer, who had the laborious job of setting out one block letter at a time and manually turning a press that would emboss the ink to the paper… words today fly off the screen and are dumped into the ethereal airspace… so many pieces of writing that it would be presumptuous to believe we could count them all. Henceforth, we the reader has to decipher and manage this material like panning with a sieve to separate sand from gold nuggets, what we believe to be fact from fiction … and by following this procedure, as I stated before, it can only be sorted as a most cumbersome and challenging act.
And just like those professions who we trust to be sincere and honorable, so do we often believe is true for the author…yet naively often we wander into their passages and articles…like Little Red Riding Hood in the forest… just perhaps we need to be more wary of the wolf.
Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Scottish poet, novelist, and essayist. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he became one of the most celebrated authors, having penned such great works as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was a most prolific and notable writer; giving us pause to wonder what are the elements that fuels such literary grandness that were achieved by our acclaimed Mr. Stevenson; for once you become engrossed in his work it is hard not to concur that he demonstrates classical distinction.
So, I bid you to set aside a moment to read from his essay: “The Morality of the Profession of Letters” and then you will understand a bit of his thinking… discovering the constitutional make-up of a great writer.
“….Man is imperfect; yet, in his literature, he must express himself and his own views and preferences; for to do anything else is to do a far more perilous thing than to risk being immoral: it is to be sure of being untrue. To ape a sentiment, even a good one, is to travesty a sentiment; that will not be helpful. To conceal a sentiment, if you are sure you hold it, is to take a liberty with truth. There is probably no point of view possible to a sane man but contains some truth and, in the true connection, might be profitable to the race. I am not afraid of the truth, if any one could tell it me, but I am afraid of parts of it impertinently uttered. There is a time to dance and a time to mourn; to be harsh as well as to be sentimental; to be ascetic as well as to glorify the appetites; and if a man were to combine all these extremes into his work, each in its place and proportion, that work would be the world’s masterpiece of morality as well as of art. Partiality is immorality; for any book is wrong that gives a misleading picture of the world and life. The trouble is that the weakling must be partial; the work of one proving dank and depressing; of another, cheap and vulgar; of a third, epileptically sensual; of a fourth, sourly ascetic. In literature as in conduct, you can never hope to do exactly right. All you can do is to make as sure as possible; and for that there is but one rule. Nothing should be done in a hurry that can be done slowly. It is no use to write a book and put it by for nine or even ninety years; for in the writing you will have partly convinced yourself; the delay must precede any beginning; and if you meditate a work of art, you should first long roll the subject under the tongue to make sure you like the flavour, before you brew a volume that shall taste of it from end to end; or if you propose to enter on the field of controversy, you should first have thought upon the question under all conditions, in health as well as in sickness, in sorrow as well as in joy. It is this nearness of examination necessary for any true and kind writing, that makes the practice of the art a prolonged and noble education for the writer…”