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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:00:02
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I got into my place without any examining. Looking back now, I think I can see with accuracy what was then the condition of my own mind and intelligence. Of things to be learned by lessons I knew almost less than could be supposed possible after the amount of schooling I had received. I could read neither French, Latin, nor Greek. I could speak no foreign language — and I may as well say here as elsewhere that I never acquired the power of really talking French. I have been able to order my dinner and take a railway ticket, but never got much beyond that. Of the merest rudiments of the sciences I was completely ignorant. My handwriting was in truth wretched. My spelling was imperfect. There was no subject as to which examination would have been possible on which I could have gone through an examination otherwise than disgracefully. And yet I think I knew more than the average young men of the same rank who began life at nineteen. I could have given a fuller list of the names of the poets of all countries, with their subjects and periods — and probably of historians — than many others; and had, perhaps, a more accurate idea of the manner in which my own country was governed. I knew the names of all the Bishops, all the Judges, all the Heads of Colleges, and all the Cabinet Ministers — not a very useful knowledge indeed, but one that had not been acquired without other matter which was more useful. I had read Shakespeare and Byron and Scott, and could talk about them. The music of the Miltonic line was familiar to me. I had already made up my mind that Pride and Prejudice was the best novel in the English language — a palm which I only partially withdrew after a second reading of Ivanhoe, and did not completely bestow elsewhere till Esmond was written. And though I would occasionally break down in my spelling, I could write a letter. If I had a thing to say, I could so say it in written words that the readers should know what I meant — a power which is by no means at the command of all those who come out from these competitive examinations with triumph. Early in life, at the age of fifteen, I had commenced the dangerous habit of keeping a journal, and this I maintained for ten years. The volumes remained in my possession unregarded — never looked at — till 1870, when I examined them, and, with many blushes, destroyed them. They convicted me of folly, ignorance, indiscretion, idleness, extravagance, and conceit. But they had habituated me to the rapid use of pen and ink, and taught me how to express myself with faculty.

On my return from Egypt I was sent down to Scotland to revise the Glasgow Post Office. I almost forget now what it was that I had to do there, but I know that I walked all over the city with the letter-carriers, going up to the top flats of the houses, as the men would have declared me incompetent to judge the extent of their labours had I not trudged every step with them. It was midsummer, and wearier work I never performed. The men would grumble, and then I would think how it would be with them if they had to go home afterwards and write a love-scene. But the love-scenes written in Glasgow, all belonging to The Bertrams, are not good.

The Domestic Manners of the Americans was the first of a series of books of travels, of which it was probably the best, and was certainly the best known. It will not be too much to say of it that it had a material effect upon the manners of the Americans of the day, and that that effect has been fully appreciated by them. No observer was certainly ever less qualified to judge of the prospects or even of the happiness of a young people. No one could have been worse adapted by nature for the task of learning whether a nation was in a way to thrive. Whatever she saw she judged, as most women do, from her own standing-point. If a thing were ugly to her eyes, it ought to be ugly to all eyes — and if ugly, it must be bad. What though people had plenty to eat and clothes to wear, if they put their feet upon the tables and did not reverence their betters? The Americans were to her rough, uncouth, and vulgar — and she told them so. Those communistic and social ideas, which had been so pretty in a drawing-room, were scattered to the winds. Her volumes were very bitter; but they were very clever, and they saved the family from ruin.

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

should be kept in view as to every character and every string of action. Your Achilles should all through, from beginning to end, be impatient, fiery, ruthless, keen.” Your Achilles, such as he is, will probably keep up his character. But your Davus also should be always Davus, and that is more difficult. The rustic driving his pigs to market cannot always make them travel by the exact path which he has intended for them. When some young lady at the end of a story cannot be made quite perfect in her conduct, that vivid description of angelic purity with which you laid the first lines of her portrait should be slightly toned down. I had felt that the rushing mode of publication to which the system of serial stories had given rise, and by which small parts as they were written were sent hot to the press, was injurious to the work done. If I now complied with the proposition made to me, I must act against my own principle. But such a principle becomes a tyrant if it cannot be superseded on a just occasion. If the reason be tanti,” the principle should for the occasion be put in abeyance. I sat as judge, and decreed that the present reason was tanti.” On this my first attempt at a serial story, I thought it fit to break my own rule. I can say, however, that I have never broken it since.

Our pleasant mirth, our loves, our wine, our sport,

When that sale was made I was on my way to Italy with my wife, paying a third visit there to my mother and brother. This was in 1857, and she had then given up her pen. It was the first year in which she had not written, and she expressed to me her delight that her labours should be at an end, and that mine should be beginning in the same field. In truth they had already been continued for a dozen years, but a man’s career will generally be held to date itself from the commencement of his success. On those foreign tours I always encountered adventures, which, as I look back upon them now, tempt me almost to write a little book of my long past Continental travels. On this occasion, as we made our way slowly through Switzerland and over the Alps, we encountered again and again a poor forlorn Englishman, who had no friend and no aptitude for travelling. He was always losing his way, and finding himself with no seat in the coaches and no bed at the inns. On one occasion I found him at Coire seated at 5 A. M. in the coupe of a diligence which was intended to start at noon for the Engadine, while it was his purpose to go over the Alps in another which was to leave at 5.30, and which was already crowded with passengers. Ah!” he said, I am in time now, and nobody shall turn me out of this seat,” alluding to former little misfortunes of which I had been a witness. When I explained to him his position, he was as one to whom life was too bitter to be borne. But he made his way into Italy, and encountered me again at the Pitti Palace in Florence. Can you tell me something?” he said to me in a whisper, having touched my shoulder. The people are so ill-natured I don’t like to ask them. Where is it they keep the Medical Venus?” I sent him to the Uffizzi, but I fear he was disappointed.

MY DEAR MR. TROLLOPE — Smith & Elder have sent you their proposals; and the business part done, let me come to the pleasure, and say how very glad indeed I shall be to have you as a co-operator in our new magazine. And looking over the annexed programme, you will see whether you can’t help us in many other ways besides tale-telling. Whatever a man knows about life and its doings, that let us hear about. You must have tossed a good deal about the world, and have countless sketches in your memory and your portfolio. Please to think if you can furbish up any of these besides a novel. When events occur, and you have a good lively tale, bear us in mind. One of our chief objects in this magazine is the getting out of novel spinning, and back into the world. Don’t understand me to disparage our craft, especially YOUR wares. I often say I am like the pastrycook, and don’t care for tarts, but prefer bread and cheese; but the public love the tarts (luckily for us), and we must bake and sell them. There was quite an excitement in my family one evening when Paterfamilias (who goes to sleep on a novel almost always when he tries it after dinner) came up-stairs into the drawing-room wide awake and calling for the second volume of The Three Clerks. I hope the Cornhill Magazine will have as pleasant a story. And the Chapmans, if they are the honest men I take them to be, I’ve no doubt have told you with what sincere liking your works have been read by yours very faithfully,


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