Man of Letters in Business
William Dean Howells

This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]

LITERATURE AND LIFE--The Man of Letters as a Man of Business

by William Dean Howells


Perhaps the reader may not feel in these papers that inner solidarity
which the writer is conscious of; and it is in this doubt that the writer
wishes to offer a word of explanation. He owns, as he must, that they
have every appearance of a group of desultory sketches and essays,
without palpable relation to one another, or superficial allegiance to
any central motive. Yet he ventures to hope that the reader who makes
his way through them will be aware, in the retrospect, of something like
this relation and this allegiance.

For my own part, if I am to identify myself with the writer who is here
on his defence, I have never been able to see much difference between
what seemed to me Literature and what seemed to me Life. If I did not
find life in what professed to be literature, I disabled its profession,
and possibly from this habit, now inveterate with me, I am never quite
sure of life unless I find literature in it. Unless the thing seen
reveals to me an intrinsic poetry, and puts on phrases that clothe it
pleasingly to the imagination, I do not much care for it; but if it will
do this, I do not mind how poor or common or squalid it shows at first
glance: it challenges my curiosity and keeps my sympathy. Instantly I
love it and wish to share my pleasure in it with some one else, or as
many ones else as I can get to look or listen. If the thing is something
read, rather than seen, I am not anxious about the matter: if it is like
life, I know that it is poetry, and take it to my heart. There can be no
offence in it for which its truth will not make me amends.

Out of this way of thinking and feeling about these two great things,
about Literature and Life, there may have arisen a confusion as to which
is which. But I do not wish to part them, and in their union I have
found, since I learned my letters, a joy in them both which I hope will
last till I forget my letters.

"So was it when my life began;
So is it, now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old."

It is the rainbow in the sky for me; and I have seldom seen a sky without
some bit of rainbow in it. Sometimes I can make others see it, sometimes
not; but I always like to try, and if I fail I harbor no worse thought of
them than that they have not had their eyes examined and fitted with
glasses which would at least have helped their vision.

As to the where and when of the different papers, in which I suppose
their bibliography properly lies, I need not be very exact. "The Man of
Letters as a Man of Business" was written in a hotel at Lakewood in the
May of 1892 or 1893, and pretty promptly printed in Scribner's Magazine;
"Confessions of a Summer Colonist" was done at York Harbor in the fall of
1898 for the Atlantic Monthly, and was a study of life at that pleasant
resort as it was lived-in the idyllic times of the earlier settlement,
long before motors and almost before private carriages; "American
Literary Centres," "American Literature in Exile," "Puritanism in
American Fiction," "Politics of American Authors," were, with three or
four other papers, the endeavors of the American correspondent of the
London Times's literary supplement, to enlighten the British
understanding as to our ways of thinking and writing eleven years ago,
and are here left to bear the defects of the qualities of their obsolete
actuality in the year 1899. Most of the studies and sketches are from an
extinct department of "Life and Letters" which I invented for Harper's
Weekly, and operated for a year or so toward the close of the nineteenth
century. Notable among these is the "Last Days in a Dutch Hotel," which
was written at Paris in 1897; it is rather a favorite of mine, perhaps
because I liked Holland so much; others, which more or less personally
recognize effects of sojourn in New York or excursions into New England,
are from the same department; several may be recalled by the longer-
memoried reader as papers from the "Editor's Easy Chair" in Harper's
Monthly; "Wild Flowers of the Asphalt" is the review of an ever-
delightful book which I printed in Harper's Bazar; "The Editor's
Relations with the Young Contributor" was my endeavor in Youth's
Companion to shed a kindly light from my experience in both seats upon
the too-often and too needlessly embittered souls of literary beginners.

So it goes as to the motives and origins of the collection which may
persist in disintegrating under the reader's eye, in spite of my well-
meant endeavors to establish a solidarity for it. The group at least
attests, even in this event, the wide, the wild, variety of my literary
production in time and space. From the beginning the journalist's
independence of the scholar's solitude and seclusion has remained with
me, and though I am fond enough of a bookish entourage, of the serried
volumes of the library shelves, and the inviting breadth of the library
table, I am not disabled by the hard conditions of a bedroom in a summer
hotel, or the narrow possibilities of a candle-stand, without a
dictionary in the whole house, or a book of reference even in the running
brooks outside.



I think that every man ought to work for his living, without exception,
and that, when he has once avouched his willingness to work, society
should provide him with work and warrant him a living. I do not think
any man ought to live by an art. A man's art should be his privilege,
when he has proven his fitness to exercise it, and has otherwise earned
his daily bread; and its results should be free to all. There is an
instinctive sense of this, even in the midst of the grotesque confusion
of our economic being; people feel that there is something profane,
something impious, in taking money for a picture, or a poem, or a statue.
Most of all, the artist himself feels this. He puts on a bold front with
the world, to be sure, and brazens it out as Business; but he knows very
well that there is something false and vulgar in it; and that the work
which cannot be truly priced in money cannot be truly paid in money.
He can, of course, say that the priest takes money for reading the
marriage service, for christening the new-born babe, and for saying the
last office for the dead; that the physician sells healing; that justice
itself is paid for; and that he is merely a party to the thing that is
and must be. He can say that, as the thing is, unless he sells his art
he cannot live, that society will leave him to starve if he does not hit
its fancy in a picture, or a poem, or a statue; and all this is bitterly
true. He is, and he must be, only too glad if there is a market for his
wares. Without a market for his wares he must perish, or turn to making
something that will sell better than pictures, or poems, or statues.
All the same, the sin and the shame remain, and the averted eye sees them
still, with its inward vision. Many will make believe otherwise, but I
would rather not make believe otherwise; and in trying to write of
Literature as Business I am tempted to begin by saying that Business is
the opprobrium of Literature.


Literature is at once the most intimate and the most articulate of the
arts. It cannot impart its effect through the senses or the nerves as
the other arts can; it is beautiful only through the intelligence; it is
the mind speaking to the mind; until it has been put into absolute terms,
of an invariable significance, it does not exist at all. It cannot
awaken this emotion in one, and that in another; if it fails to express
precisely the meaning of the author, if it does not say him, it says
nothing, and is nothing. So that when a poet has put his heart, much or
little, into a poem, and sold it to a magazine, the scandal is greater
than when a painter has sold a picture to a patron, or a sculptor has
modelled a statue to order. These are artists less articulate and less
intimate than the poet; they are more exterior to their work; they are
less personally in it; they part with less of themselves in the dicker.
It does not change the nature of the case to say that Tennyson and
Longfellow and Emerson sold the poems in which they couched the most
mystical messages their genius was charged to bear mankind. They
submitted to the conditions which none can escape; but that does not
justify the conditions, which are none the less the conditions of
hucksters because they are imposed upon poets. If it will serve to make
my meaning a little clearer, we will suppose that a poet has been crossed
in love, or has suffered some real sorrow, like the loss of a wife or
child. He pours out his broken heart in verse that shall bring tears of
sacred sympathy from his readers, and an editor pays him a hundred
dollars for the right of bringing his verse to their notice. It is
perfectly true that the poem was not written for these dollars, but it is
perfectly true that it was sold for them. The poet must use his emotions
to pay his provision bills; he has no other means; society does not
propose to pay his bills for him. Yet, and at the end of the ends, the
unsophisticated witness finds the transaction ridiculous, finds it
repulsive, finds it shabby. Somehow he knows that if our huckstering
civilization did not at every moment violate the eternal fitness of
things, the poet's song would have been given to the world, and the poet
would have been cared for by the whole human brotherhood, as any man
should be who does the duty that every man owes it.

The instinctive sense of the dishonor which money-purchase does to art is
so strong that sometimes a man of letters who can pay his way otherwise
refuses pay for his work, as Lord Byron did, for a while, from a noble
pride, and as Count Tolstoy has tried to do, from a noble conscience.
But Byron's publisher profited by a generosity which did not reach his
readers; and the Countess Tolstoy collects the copyright which her
husband foregoes; so that these two eminent instances of protest against
business in literature may be said not to have shaken its money basis.
I know of no others; but there may be many that I am culpably ignorant
of. Still, I doubt if there are enough to affect the fact that
Literature is Business as well as Art, and almost as soon. At present
business is the only human solidarity; we are all bound together with
that chain, whatever interests and tastes and principles separate us,
and I feel quite sure that in writing of the Man of Letters as a Man of
Business I shall attract far more readers than I should in writing of him
as an Artist. Besides, as an artist he has been done a great deal
already; and a commercial state like ours has really more concern in him
as a business man. Perhaps it may sometime be different; I do not
believe it will till the conditions are different, and that is a long way


In the mean time I confidently appeal to the reader's imagination with
the fact that there are several men of letters among us who are such good
men of business that they can command a hundred dollars a thousand words
for all they write. It is easy to write a thousand words a day, and,
supposing one of these authors to work steadily, it can be seen that his
net earnings during the year would come to some such sum as the President
of the United States gets for doing far less work of a much more
perishable sort. If the man of letters were wholly a business man, this
is what would happen; he would make his forty or fifty thousand dollars a
year, and be able to consort with bank presidents, and railroad
officials, and rich tradesmen, and other flowers of our plutocracy on
equal terms. But, unfortunately, from a business point of view, he is
also an artist, and the very qualities that enable him to delight the
public disable him from delighting it uninterruptedly. "No rose blooms
right along," as the English boys at Oxford made an American collegian
say in a theme which they imagined for him in his national parlance; and
the man of letters, as an artist, is apt to have times and seasons when
he cannot blossom. Very often it shall happen that his mind will lie
fallow between novels or stories for weeks and months at a stretch; when
the suggestions of the friendly editor shall fail to fruit in the essays
or articles desired; when the muse shall altogether withhold herself, or
shall respond only in a feeble dribble of verse which he might sell
indeed, but which it would not be good business for him to put on the
market. But supposing him to be a very diligent and continuous worker,
and so happy as to have fallen on a theme that delights him and bears him
along, he may please himself so ill with the result of his labors that he
can do nothing less in artistic conscience than destroy a day's work, a
week's work, a month's work. I know one man of letters who wrote to-day
and tore up tomorrow for nearly a whole summer. But even if part of the
mistaken work may be saved, because it is good work out of place, and not
intrinsically bad, the task of reconstruction wants almost as much time
as the production; and then, when all seems done, comes the anxious and
endless process of revision. These drawbacks reduce the earning capacity
of what I may call the high-cost man of letters in such measure that an
author whose name is known everywhere, and whose reputation is
commensurate with the boundaries of his country, if it does not transcend
them, shall have the income, say, of a rising young physician, known to a
few people in a subordinate city.

In view of this fact, so humiliating to an author in the presence of a
nation of business men like ours, I do not know that I can establish the
man of letters in the popular esteem as very much of a business man,
after all. He must still have a low rank among practical people; and he
will be regarded by the great mass of Americans as perhaps a little off,
a little funny, a little soft! Perhaps not; and yet I would rather not
have a consensus of public opinion on the question; I think I am more
comfortable without it.


There is this to be said in defence of men of letters on the business
side, that literature is still an infant industry with us, and, so far
from having been protected by our laws, it was exposed for ninety years
after the foundation of the republic to the vicious competition of stolen
goods. It is true that we now have the international copyright law at
last, and we can at least begin to forget our shame; but literary
property has only forty-two years of life under our unjust statutes, and
if it is attacked by robbers the law does not seek out the aggressors and
punish them, as it would seek out and punish the trespassers upon any
other kind of property; it leaves the aggrieved owner to bring suit
against them, and recover damages, if he can. This may be right enough
in itself; but I think, then, that all property should be defended by
civil suit, and should become public after forty-two years of private
tenure. The Constitution guarantees us all equality before the law, but
the law-makers seem to have forgotten this in the case of our literary
industry. So long as this remains the case, we cannot expect the best
business talent to go into literature, and the man of letters must keep
his present low grade among business men.

As I have hinted, it is but a little while that he has had any standing
at all. I may say that it is only since the Civil War that literature
has become a business with us. Before that time we had authors, and very
good ones; it is astonishing how good they were; but I do not remember
any of them who lived by literature except Edgar A. Poe, perhaps; and we
all know how he lived; it was largely upon loans. They were either men
of fortune, or they were editors or professors, with salaries or incomes
apart from the small gains of their pens; or they were helped out with
public offices; one need not go over their names or classify them. Some
of them must have made money by their books, but I question whether any
one could have lived, even very simply, upon the money his books brought
him. No one could do that now, unless he wrote a book that we could not
recognize as a work of literature. But many authors live now, and live
prettily enough, by the sale of the serial publication of their writings
to the magazines. They do not live so nicely as successful tradespeople,
of course, or as men in the other professions when they begin to make
themselves names; the high state of brokers, bankers, railroad operators,
and the like is, in the nature of the case, beyond their fondest dreams
of pecuniary affluence and social splendor. Perhaps they do not want the
chief seats in the synagogue; it is certain they do not get them. Still,
they do very fairly well, as things go; and several have incomes that
would seem riches to the great mass of worthy Americans who work with
their hands for a living--when they can get the work. Their incomes are
mainly from serial publication in the different magazines; and the
prosperity of the magazines has given a whole class existence which, as a
class, was wholly unknown among us before the Civil War. It is not only
the famous or fully recognized authors who live in this way, but the much
larger number of clever people who are as yet known chiefly to the
editors, and who may never make themselves a public, but who do well a
kind of acceptable work. These are the sort who do not get reprinted
from the periodicals; but the better recognized authors do get reprinted,
and then their serial work in its completed form appeals to the readers
who say they do not read serials. The multitude of these is not great,
and if an author rested his hopes upon their favor he would be a much
more imbittered man than he now generally is. But he understands
perfectly well that his reward is in the serial and not in the book; the
return from that he may count as so much money found in the road--a few
hundreds, a very few thousands, at the most, unless he is the author of
an historical romance.


I doubt, indeed, whether the earnings of literary men are absolutely as
great as they were earlier in the century, in any of the English-speaking
countries; relatively they are nothing like as great. Scott had forty
thousand dollars for 'Woodstock,' which was not a very large novel, and
was by no means one of his best; and forty thousand dollars then had at
least the purchasing power of sixty thousand now. Moore had three
thousand guineas for 'Lalla Rookh,' but what publisher would be rash
enough to pay fifteen thousand dollars for the masterpiece of a minor
poet now? The book, except in very rare instances, makes nothing like
the return to the author that the magazine makes, and there are few
leading authors who find their account in that form of publication.
Those who do, those who sell the most widely in book form, are often not
at all desired by editors; with difficulty they get a serial accepted by
any principal magazine. On the other hand, there are authors whose
books, compared with those of the popular favorites, do not sell, and yet
they are eagerly sought for by editors; they are paid the highest prices,
and nothing that they offer is refused. These are literary artists; and
it ought to be plain from what I am saying that in belles-lettres, at
least, most of the best literature now first sees the light in the
magazines, and most of the second-best appears first in book form. The
old-fashioned people who flatter themselves upon their distinction in not
reading magazine fiction or magazine poetry make a great mistake, and
simply class themselves with the public whose taste is so crude that they
cannot enjoy the best. Of course, this is true mainly, if not merely, of
belles-lettres; history, science, politics, metaphysics, in spite of the
many excellent articles and papers in these sorts upon what used to be
called various emergent occasions, are still to be found at their best in
books. The most monumental example of literature, at once light and
good, which has first reached the public in book form is in the different
publications of Mark Twain; but Mr. Clemens has of late turned to the
magazines too, and now takes their mint-mark before he passes into
general circulation. All this may change again, but at present the
magazines--we have no longer any reviews form the most direct approach to
that part of our reading public which likes the highest things in
literary art. Their readers, if we may judge from the quality of the
literature they get, are more refined than the book readers in our
community; and their taste has no doubt been cultivated by that of the
disciplined and experienced editors. So far as I have known these, they
are men of aesthetic conscience and of generous sympathy. They have
their preferences in the different kinds, and they have their theory of
what kind will be most acceptable to their readers; but they exercise
their selective function with the wish to give them the best things they
can. I do not know one of them--and it has been, my good fortune to know
them nearly all--who would print a wholly inferior thing for the sake of
an inferior class of readers, though they may sometimes decline a good
thing because for one reason or another, they believe it would not be
liked. Still, even this does not often happen; they would rather chance
the good thing they doubted of than underrate their readers' judgment.

The young author who wins recognition in a first-class magazine has
achieved a double success, first, with the editor, and then with the best
reading public. Many factitious and fallacious literary reputations have
been made through books, but very few have been made through the
magazines, which are not only the best means of living, but of outliving,
with the author; they are both bread and fame to him. If I insist a
little upon the high office which this modern form of publication fulfils
in the literary world, it is because I am impatient of the antiquated and
ignorant prejudice which classes the magazines as ephemeral. They are
ephemeral in form, but in substance they are not ephemeral, and what is
best in them awaits its resurrection in the book, which, as the first
form, is so often a lasting death. An interesting proof of the value of
the magazine to literature is the fact that a good novel will often have
wider acceptance as a book from having been a magazine serial.


Under the 'regime' of the great literary periodicals the prosperity of
literary men would be much greater than it actually is if the magazines
were altogether literary. But they are not, and this is one reason why
literature is still the hungriest of the professions. Two-thirds of the
magazines are made up of material which, however excellent, is without
literary quality. Very probably this is because even the highest class
of readers, who are the magazine readers, have small love of pure
literature, which seems to have been growing less and less in all
classes. I say seems, because there are really no means of ascertaining
the fact, and it may be that the editors are mistaken in making their
periodicals two-thirds popular science, politics, economics, and the
timely topics which I will call contemporanics. But, however that may
be, their efforts in this direction have narrowed the field of literary
industry, and darkened the hope of literary prosperity kindled by the
unexampled prosperity of their periodicals. They pay very well indeed
for literature; they pay from five or six dollars a thousand words for
the work of the unknown writer to a hundred and fifty dollars a thousand
words for that of the most famous, or the most popular, if there is a
difference between fame and popularity; but they do not, altogether, want
enough literature to justify the best business talent in devoting itself
to belles-lettres, to fiction, or poetry, or humorous sketches of travel,
or light essays; business talent can do far better in dry goods,
groceries, drugs, stocks, real estate, railroads, and the like. I do not
think there is any danger of a ruinous competition from it in the field
which, though narrow, seems so rich to us poor fellows, whose business
talent is small, at the best.

The most of the material contributed to the magazines is the subject of
agreement between the editor and the author; it is either suggested by
the author or is the fruit of some suggestion from the editor; in any
case the price is stipulated beforehand, and it is no longer the custom
for a well-known contributor to leave the payment to the justice or the
generosity of the publisher; that was never a fair thing to either, nor
ever a wise thing. Usually, the price is so much a thousand words, a
truly odious method of computing literary value, and one well calculated
to make the author feel keenly the hatefulness of selling his art at all.
It is as if a painter sold his picture at so much a square inch, or a
sculptor bargained away a group of statuary by the pound. But it is a
custom that you cannot always successfully quarrel with, and most writers
gladly consent to it, if only the price a thousand words is large enough.
The sale to the editor means the sale of the serial rights only, but if
the publisher of the magazine is also a publisher of books, the
republication of the material is supposed to be his right, unless there
is an understanding to the contrary; the terms for this are another
affair. Formerly something more could be got for the author by the
simultaneous appearance of his work in an English magazine; but now the
great American magazines, which pay far higher prices than any others in
the world, have a circulation in England so much exceeding that of any
English periodical that the simultaneous publication can no longer be
arranged for from this side, though I believe it is still done here from
the other side.


I think this is the case of authorship as it now stands with regard to
the magazines. I am not sure that the case is in every way improved for
young authors. The magazines all maintain a staff for the careful
examination of manuscripts, but as most of the material they print has
been engaged, the number of volunteer contributions that they can use is
very small; one of the greatest of them, I know, does not use fifty in
the course of a year. The new writer, then, must be very good to be
accepted, and when accepted he may wait long before he is printed.
The pressure is so great in these avenues to the public favor that one,
two, three years, are no uncommon periods of delay. If the young writer
has not the patience for this, or has a soul above cooling his heels in
the courts of fame, or must do his best to earn something at once, the
book is his immediate hope. How slight a hope the book is I have tried
to hint already, but if a book is vulgar enough in sentiment, and crude
enough in taste, and flashy enough in incident, or, better or worse
still, if it is a bit hot in the mouth, and promises impropriety if not
indecency, there is a very fair chance of its success; I do not mean
success with a self-respecting publisher, but with the public, which does
not personally put its name to it, and is not openly smirched by it.
I will not talk of that kind of book, however, but of the book which the
young author has written out of an unspoiled heart and an untainted mind,
such as most young men and women write; and I will suppose that it has
found a publisher. It is human nature, as competition has deformed human
nature, for the publisher to wish the author to take all the risks, and
he possibly proposes that the author shall publish it at his own expense,
and let him have a percentage of the retail price for managing it. If
not that, he proposes that the author shall pay for the stereotype
plates, and take fifteen per cent. of the price of the book; or if this
will not go, if the author cannot, rather than will not, do it (he is
commonly only too glad to do any thing he can), then the publisher offers
him ten per cent. of the retail price after the first thousand copies
have been sold. But if he fully believes in the book, he will give ten
per cent. from the first copy sold, and pay all the costs of publication
himself. The book is to be retailed for a dollar and a half, and the
publisher is not displeased with a new book that sells fifteen hundred
copies. Whether the author has as much reason to be pleased is a
question, but if the book does not sell more he has only himself to
blame, and had better pocket in silence the two hundred and twenty-five
dollars he gets for it, and bless his publisher, and try to find work
somewhere at five dollars a week. The publisher has not made any more,
if quite as much as the author, and until a book has sold two thousand
copies the division is fair enough. After that, the heavier expenses of
manufacturing have been defrayed and the book goes on advertising itself;
there is merely the cost of paper, printing, binding, and marketing to be
met, and the arrangement becomes fairer and fairer for the publisher.
The author has no right to complain of this, in the case of his first
book, which he is only too grateful to get accepted at all. If it
succeeds, he has himself to blame for making the same arrangement for his
second or third; it is his fault, or else it is his necessity, which is
practically the same thing. It will be business for the publisher to
take advantage of his necessity quite the same as if it were his fault;
but I do not say that he will always do so; I believe he will very often
not do so.

At one time there seemed a probability of the enlargement of the author's
gains by subscription publication, and one very well-known American
author prospered fabulously in that way. The percentage offered by the
subscription houses was only about half as much as that paid by the
trade, but the sales were so much greater that the author could very well
afford to take it. Where the book-dealer sold ten, the book-agent sold a
hundred; or at least he did so in the case of Mark Twain's books; and we
all thought it reasonable he could do so with ours. Such of us as made
experiment of him, however, found the facts illogical. No book of
literary quality was made to go by subscription except Mr. Clemens's
books, and I think these went because the subscription public never knew
what good literature they were. This sort of readers, or buyers, were so
used to getting something worthless for their money that they would not
spend it for artistic fiction, or, indeed, for any fiction at all except
Mr. Clemens's, which they probably supposed bad. Some good books of
travel had a measurable success through the book-agents, but not at all
the success that had been hoped for; and I believe now the subscription
trade again publishes only compilations, or such works as owe more to the
skill of the editor than the art of the writer. Mr. Clemens himself no
longer offers his books to the public in that way.

It is not common, I think, in this country, to publish on the half-
profits system, but it is very common in England, where, owing probably
to the moisture in the air, which lends a fairy outline to every
prospect, it seems to be peculiarly alluring. One of my own early books
was published there on these terms, which I accepted with the insensate
joy of the young author in getting any terms from a publisher. The book
sold, sold every copy of the small first edition, and in due time the
publisher's statement came. I did not think my half of the profits was
very great, but it seemed a fair division after every imaginable cost had
been charged up against my poor book, and that frail venture had been
made to pay the expenses of composition, corrections, paper, printing,
binding, advertising, and editorial copies. The wonder ought to have
been that there was anything at all coming to me, but I was young and
greedy then, and I really thought there ought to have been more. I was
disappointed, but I made the best of it, of course, and took the account
to the junior partner of the house which employed me, and said that I
should like to draw on him for the sum due me from the London publishers.
He said, Certainly; but after a glance at the account he smiled and said
he supposed I knew how much the sum was? I answered, Yes; it was eleven
pounds nine shillings, was not it? But I owned at the same time that I
never was good at figures, and that I found English money peculiarly
baffling. He laughed now, and said, It was eleven shillings and
ninepence. In fact, after all those charges for composition,
corrections, paper, printing, binding, advertising, and editorial copies,
there was a most ingenious and wholly surprising charge of ten per cent.
commission on sales, which reduced my half from pounds to shillings, and
handsomely increased the publisher's half in proportion. I do not now
dispute the justice of the charge. It was not the fault of the half-
profits system; it was the fault of the glad young author who did not
distinctly inform himself of its mysterious nature in agreeing to it, and
had only to reproach himself if he was finally disappointed.

But there is always something disappointing in the accounts of
publishers, which I fancy is because authors are strangely constituted,
rather than because publishers are so. I will confess that I have such
inordinate expectations of the sale of my books, which I hope I think
modestly of, that the sales reported to me never seem great enough. The
copyright due me, no matter how handsome it is, appears deplorably mean,
and I feel impoverished for several days after I get it. But, then, I
ought to add that my balance in the bank is always much less than I have
supposed it to be, and my own checks, when they come back to me, have the
air of having been in a conspiracy to betray me.

No, we literary men must learn, no matter how we boast ourselves in
business, that the distress we feel from our publisher's accounts is
simply idiopathic; and I for one wish to bear my witness to the constant
good faith and uprightness of publishers. It is supposed that because
they have the affair altogether in their hands they are apt to take
advantage in it; but this does not follow, and as a matter of fact they
have the affair no more in their own hands than any other business man
you have an open account with. There is nothing to prevent you from
looking at their books, except your own innermost belief and fear that
their books are correct, and that your literature has brought you so
little because it has sold so little.

The author is not to blame for his superficial delusion to the contrary,
especially if he has written a book that has set every one talking,
because it is of a vital interest. It may be of a vital interest,
without being at all the kind of book people want to buy; it may be the
kind of book that they are content to know at second hand; there are such
fatal books; but hearing so much, and reading so much about it, the
author cannot help hoping that it has sold much more than the publisher
says. The publisher is undoubtedly honest, however, and the author had
better put away the comforting question of his integrity.

The English writers seem largely to suspect their publishers; but I
believe that American authors, when not flown with flattering reviews,
as largely trust theirs. Of course there are rogues in every walk of
life. I will not say that I ever personally met them in the flowery
paths of literature, but I have heard of other people meeting them there,
just as I have heard of people seeing ghosts, and I have to believe in
both the rogues and the ghosts, without the witness of my own senses.
I suppose, upon such grounds mainly, that there are wicked publishers,
but, in the case of our books that do not sell, I am afraid that it is
the graceless and inappreciative public which is far more to blame than
the wickedest of the publishers. It is true that publishers will drive a
hard bargain when they can, or when they must; but there is nothing to
hinder an author from driving a hard bargain, too, when he can, or when
he must; and it is to be said of the publisher that he is always more
willing to abide by the bargain when it is made than the author is;
perhaps because he has the best of it. But he has not always the best of
it; I have known publishers too generous to take advantage of the
innocence of authors; and I fancy that if publishers had to do with any
race less diffident than authors, they would have won a repute for
unselfishness that they do now now enjoy. It is certain that in the long
period when we flew the black flag of piracy there were many among our
corsairs on the high seas of literature who paid a fair price for the
stranger craft they seized; still oftener they removed the cargo and
released their capture with several weeks' provision; and although there
was undoubtedly a good deal of actual throat-cutting and scuttling, still
I feel sure that there was less of it than there would have been in any
other line of business released to the unrestricted plunder of the
neighbor. There was for a long time even a comity among these amiable
buccaneers, who agreed not to interfere with each other, and so were
enabled to pay over to their victims some portion of the profit from
their stolen goods. Of all business men publishers are probably the most
faithful and honorable, and are only surpassed in virtue when men of
letters turn business men.


Publishers have their little theories, their little superstitions, and
their blind faith in the great god Chance which we all worship. These
things lead them into temptation and adversity, but they seem to do
fairly well as business men, even in their own behalf. They do not make
above the usual ninety-five per cent. of failures, and more publishers
than authors get rich.

Some theories or superstitions publishers and authors share together.
One of these is that it is best to keep your books all in the hands of
one publisher if you can, because then he can give them more attention
and sell more of them. But my own experience is that when my books were
in the hands of three publishers they sold quite as well as when one had
them; and a fellow-author whom I approached in question of this venerable
belief laughed at it. This bold heretic held that it was best to give
each new book to a new publisher, for then the fresh man put all his
energies into pushing it; but if you had them all together, the publisher
rested in a vain security that one book would sell another, and that the
fresh venture would revive the public interest in the stale ones.
I never knew this to happen; and I must class it with the superstitions
of the trade. It may be so in other and more constant countries, but in
our fickle republic each last book has to fight its own way to public
favor, much as if it had no sort of literary lineage. Of course this is
stating it rather largely, and the truth will be found inside rather than
outside of my statement; but there is at least truth enough in it to give
the young author pause. While one is preparing to sell his basket of
glass, he may as well ask himself whether it is better to part with all
to one dealer or not; and if he kicks it over, in spurning the imaginary
customer who asks the favor of taking the entire stock, that will be his
fault, and not the fault of the customer.

However, the most important question of all with the man of letters as a
man of business is what kind of book will sell the best of itself,
because, at the end of the ends, a book sells itself or does not sell at
all; kissing, after long ages of reasoning and a great deal of culture,
still goes by favor, and though innumerable generations of horses have
been led to the water, not one horse has yet been made to drink. With
the best, or the worst, will in the world, no publisher can force a book
into acceptance. Advertising will not avail, and reviewing is
notoriously futile. If the book does not strike the popular fancy,
or deal with some universal interest, which need by no means be a
profound or important one, the drums and the cymbals shall be beaten in
vain. The book may be one of the best and wisest books in the world,
but if it has not this sort of appeal in it the readers of it, and,
worse yet, the purchasers, will remain few, though fit. The secret of
this, like most other secrets of a rather ridiculous world, is in the
awful keeping of fate, and we can only hope to surprise it by some lucky
chance. To plan a surprise of it, to aim a book at the public favor,
is the most hopeless of all endeavors, as it is one of the unworthiest;
and I can, neither as a man of letters nor as a man of business, counsel
the young author to do it. The best that you can do is to write the book
that it gives you the most pleasure to write, to put as much heart and
soul as you have about you into it, and then hope as hard as you can to
reach the heart and soul of the great multitude of your fellow-men. That,
and that alone, is good business for a man of letters.

The man of letters must make up his mind that in the United States the
fate of a book is in the hands of the women. It is the women with us who
have the most leisure, and they read the most books. They are far better
educated, for the most part, than our men, and their tastes, if not their
minds, are more cultivated. Our men read the newspapers, but our women
read the books; the more refined among them read the magazines. If they
do not always know what is good, they do know what pleases them, and it
is useless to quarrel with their decisions, for there is no appeal from
them. To go from them to the men would be going from a higher to a lower
court, which would be honestly surprised and bewildered, if the thing
were possible. As I say, the author of light literature, and often the
author of solid literature, must resign himself to obscurity unless the
ladies choose to recognize him. Yet it would be impossible to forecast
their favor for this kind or that. Who could prophesy it for another,
who guess it for himself? We must strive blindly for it, and hope
somehow that our best will also be our prettiest; but we must remember at
the same time that it is not the ladies' man who is the favorite of the

There are, of course, a few, a very few, of our greatest authors who have
striven forward to the first place in our Valhalla without the help of
the largest reading-class among us; but I should say that these were
chiefly the humorists, for whom women are said nowhere to have any warm
liking, and who have generally with us come up through the newspapers,
and have never lost the favor of the newspaper readers. They have become
literary men, as it were, without the newspaper readers' knowing it; but
those who have approached literature from another direction have won fame
in it chiefly by grace of the women, who first read them; and then made
their husbands and fathers read them. Perhaps, then, and as a matter of
business, it would be well for a serious author, when he finds that he is
not pleasing the women, and probably never will please them, to turn
humorous author, and aim at the countenance of the men. Except as a
humorist he certainly never will get it, for your American, when he is
not making money, or trying to do it, is making a joke, or trying to do


I hope that I have not been hinting that the author who approaches
literature through journalism is not as fine and high a literary man as
the author who comes directly to it, or through some other avenue; I have
not the least notion of condemning myself by any such judgment. But I
think it is pretty certain that fewer and fewer authors are turning from
journalism to literature, though the 'entente cordiale' between the two
professions seems as great as ever. I fancy, though I may be as mistaken
in this as I am in a good many other things, that most journalists would
have been literary men if they could, at the beginning, and that the
kindness they almost always show to young authors is an effect of the
self-pity they feel for their own thwarted wish to be authors. When an
author is once warm in the saddle, and is riding his winged horse to
glory, the case is different: they have then often no sentiment about
him; he is no longer the image of their own young aspiration, and they
would willingly see Pegasus buck under him, or have him otherwise brought
to grief and shame. They are apt to gird at him for his unhallowed
gains, and they would be quite right in this if they proposed any way for
him to live without them; as I have allowed at the outset, the gains are
unhallowed. Apparently it is unseemly for two or three authors to be
making half as much by their pens as popular ministers often receive in
salary; the public is used to the pecuniary prosperity of some of the
clergy, and at least sees nothing droll in it; but the paragrapher can
always get a smile out of his readers at the gross disparity between the
ten thousand dollars Jones gets for his novel and the five pounds Milton
got for his epic. I have always thought Milton was paid too little, but
I will own that he ought not to have been paid at all, if it comes to
that. Again I say that no man ought to live by any art; it is a shame to
the art if not to the artist; but as yet there is no means of the
artist's living otherwise and continuing an artist.

The literary man has certainly no complaint to make of the newspaper man,
generally speaking. I have often thought with amazement of the kindness
shown by the press to our whole unworthy craft, and of the help so
lavishly and freely given to rising and even risen authors. To put it
coarsely, brutally, I do not suppose that any other business receives so
much gratuitous advertising, except the theatre. It is, enormous, the
space given in the newspapers to literary notes, literary announcements,
reviews, interviews, personal paragraphs, biographies, and all the rest,
not to mention the vigorous and incisive attacks made from time to time
upon different authors for their opinions of romanticism, realism,
capitalism, socialism, Catholicism, and Sandemanianism. I have sometimes
doubted whether the public cared for so much of it all as the editors
gave them, but I have always said this under my breath, and I have
thankfully taken my share of the common bounty. A curious fact, however,
is that this vast newspaper publicity seems to have very little to do
with an author's popularity, though ever so much with his notoriety.
Some of those strange subterranean fellows who never come to the surface
in the newspapers, except for a contemptuous paragraph at long intervals,
outsell the famousest of the celebrities, and secretly have their horses
and yachts and country seats, while immodest merit is left to get about
on foot and look up summer-board at the cheaper hotels. That is probably
right, or it would not happen; it seems to be in the general scheme, like
millionairism and pauperism; but it becomes a question, then, whether the
newspapers, with all their friendship for literature, and their actual
generosity to literary men, can really help one much to fortune, however
much they help one to fame. Such a question is almost too dreadful, and,
though I have asked it, I will not attempt to answer it. I would much
rather consider the question whether, if the newspapers can make an
author, they can also unmake him, and I feel pretty safe in saying that I
do not think they can. The Afreet, once out of the bottle, can never be
coaxed back or cudgelled back; and the author whom the newspapers have
made cannot be unmade by the newspapers. Perhaps he could if they would
let him alone; but the art of letting alone the creature of your favor,
when he has forfeited your favor, is yet in its infancy with the
newspapers. They consign him to oblivion with a rumor that fills the
land, and they keep visiting him there with an uproar which attracts more
and more notice to him. An author who has long enjoyed their favor
suddenly and rather mysteriously loses it, through his opinions on
certain matters of literary taste, say. For the space of five or six
years he is denounced with a unanimity and an incisive vigor that ought
to convince him there is something wrong. If he thinks it is his
censors, he clings to his opinions with an abiding constancy, while
ridicule, obloquy, caricature, burlesque, critical refutation, and
personal detraction follow unsparingly upon every expression, for
instance, of his belief that romantic fiction is the highest form of
fiction, and that the base, sordid, photographic, commonplace school of
Tolstoy, Tourgunief, Zola, Hardy, and James is unworthy a moment's
comparison with the school of Rider Haggard. All this ought certainly to
unmake the author in question, but this is not really the effect. Slowly
but surely the clamor dies away, and the author, without relinquishing
one of his wicked opinions, or in any wise showing himself repentant,
remains apparently whole; and he even returns in a measure to the old
kindness--not indeed to the earlier day of perfectly smooth things, but
certainly to as much of it as he merits.

I would not have the young author, from this imaginary case; believe that
it is well either to court or to defy the good opinion of the press. In
fact, it will not only be better taste, but it will be better business,
for him to keep it altogether out of his mind. There is only one whom he
can safely try to please, and that is himself. If he does this he will
very probably please other people; but if he does not please himself he
may be sure that he will not please them; the book which he has not
enjoyed writing no one will enjoy reading. Still, I would not have him
attach too little consequence to the influence of the press. I should
say, let him take the celebrity it gives him gratefully but not too
seriously; let him reflect that he is often the necessity rather than the
ideal of the paragrapher, and that the notoriety the journalists bestow
upon him is not the measure of their acquaintance with his work, far less
his meaning. They are good fellows, those hard-pushed, poor fellows of
the press, but the very conditions of their censure, friendly or
unfriendly, forbid it thoroughness, and it must often have more zeal than
knowledge in it.


There are some sorts of light literature once greatly in demand, but now
apparently no longer desired by magazine editors, who ought to know what
their readers desire. Among these is the travel sketch, to me a very
agreeable kind, and really to be regretted in its decline. There are
some reasons for its decline besides a change of taste in readers, and a
possible surfeit. Travel itself has become so universal that everybody,
in a manner, has been everywhere, and the foreign scene has no longer the
charm of strangeness. We do not think the Old World either so romantic
or so ridiculous as we used; and perhaps from an instinctive perception
of this altered mood writers no longer appeal to our sentiment or our
humor with sketches of outlandish people and places. Of course, this can
hold true only in a general way; the thing is still done, but not nearly
so much done as formerly. When one thinks of the long line of American
writers who have greatly pleased in this sort, and who even got their
first fame in it, one must grieve to see it obsolescent. Irving, Curtis,
Bayard Taylor, Herman Melville, Ross Browne, Warner, Ik Marvell,
Longfellow, Lowell, Story, Mr. James, Mr. Aldrich, Mr. Hay, Mrs. Hunt,
Mr. C. W. Stoddard, Mark Twain, and many others whose names will not come
to me at the moment, have in their several ways richly contributed to our
pleasure in it; but I cannot now fancy a young author finding favor with
an editor in a sketch of travel or a study of foreign manners and
customs; his work would have to be of the most signal importance and
brilliancy to overcome the editor's feeling that the thing had been done
already; and I believe that a publisher, if offered a book of such
things, would look at it askance and plead the well-known quiet of the
trade. Still, I may be mistaken.

I am rather more confident about the decline of another literary species
--namely, the light essay. We have essays enough and to spare of certain
soberer and severer sorts, such as grapple with problems and deal with
conditions; but the kind that I mean, the slightly humorous, gentle,
refined, and humane kind, seems no longer to abound as it once did. I do
not know whether the editor discourages them, knowing his readers' frame,
or whether they do not offer themselves, but I seldom find them in the
magazines. I certainly do not believe that if any one were now to write
essays such as Warner's Backlog Studies, an editor would refuse them; and
perhaps nobody really writes them. Nobody seems to write the sort that
Colonel Higginson formerly contributed to the periodicals, or such as
Emerson wrote. Without a great name behind it, I am afraid that a volume
of essays would find few buyers, even after the essays had made a public
in the magazines. There are, of course, instances to the contrary, but
they are not so many or so striking as to make me think that the essay
could be offered as a good opening for business talent.

I suspect that good poetry by well-known hands was never better paid in
the magazines than it is now. I must say, too, that I think the quality
of the minor poetry of our day is better than that of twenty-five or
thirty years ago. I could name half a score of young poets whose work
from time to time gives me great pleasure, by the reality of its feeling
and the delicate perfection of its art, but I will not name them, for
fear of passing over half a score of others equally meritorious. We have
certainly no reason to be discouraged, whatever reason the poets
themselves have to be so, and I do not think that even in the short story
our younger writers are doing better work than they are doing in the
slighter forms of verse. Yet the notion of inviting business talent into
this field would be as preposterous as that of asking it to devote itself
to the essay. What book of verse by a recent poet, if we except some
such peculiarly gifted poet as Mr. Whitcomb Riley, has paid its expenses,
not to speak of any profit to the author? Of course, it would be rather
more offensive and ridiculous that it should do so than that any other
form of literary art should do so; and yet there is no more provision in
our economic system for the support of the poet apart from his poems than
there is for the support of the novelist apart from his novel. One could
not make any more money by writing poetry than by writing history, but it
is a curious fact that while the historians have usually been rich men,
and able to afford the luxury of writing history, the poets have usually
been poor men, with no pecuniary justification in their devotion to a
calling which is so seldom an election.

To be sure, it can be said for them that it costs far less to set up poet
than to set up historian. There is no outlay for copying documents, or
visiting libraries, or buying books. In fact, except as historian, the
man of letters, in whatever walk, has not only none of the expenses of
other men of business, but none of the expenses of other artists. He has
no such outlay to make for materials, or models, or studio rent as the
painter or the sculptor has, and his income, such as it is, is immediate.
If he strikes the fancy of the editor with the first thing he offers, as
he very well may, it is as well with him as with other men after long
years of apprenticeship. Although he will always be the better for an
apprenticeship, and the longer apprenticeship the better, he may
practically need none at all. Such are the strange conditions of his
acceptance with the public, that he may please better without it than
with it. An author's first book is too often not only his luckiest, but
really his best; it has a brightness that dies out under the school he
puts himself to, but a painter or a sculptor is only the gainer by all
the school he can give himself.


In view of this fact it becomes again very hard to establish the author's
status in the business world, and at moments I have grave question
whether he belongs there at all, except as a novelist. There is, of
course, no outlay for him in this sort, any more than in any other sort
of literature, but it at least supposes and exacts some measure of
preparation. A young writer may produce a brilliant and very perfect
romance, just as he may produce a brilliant and very perfect poem, but in
the field of realistic fiction, or in what we used to call the novel of
manners, a writer can only produce an inferior book at the outset. For
this work he needs experience and observation, not so much of others as
of himself, for ultimately his characters will all come out of himself,
and he will need to know motive and character with such thoroughness and
accuracy as he can acquire only through his own heart. A man remains in
a measure strange to himself as long as he lives, and the very sources of
novelty in his work will be within himself; he can continue to give it
freshness in no other way than by knowing himself better and better. But
a young writer and an untrained writer has not yet begun to be acquainted
even with the lives of other men. The world around him remains a secret
as well as the world within him, and both unfold themselves
simultaneously to that experience of joy and sorrow that can come only
with the lapse of time. Until he is well on towards forty, he will
hardly have assimilated the materials of a great novel, although he may
have amassed them. The novelist, then, is a man of letters who is like a
man of business in the necessity of preparation for his calling, though
he does not pay store-rent, and may carry all his affairs under his hat,
as the phrase is. He alone among men of letters may look forward to that
sort of continuous prosperity which follows from capacity and diligence
in other vocations; for story-telling is now a fairly recognized trade,
and the story-teller has a money-standing in the economic world. It is
not a very high standing, I think, and I have expressed the belief that
it does not bring him the respect felt for men in other lines of
business. Still our people cannot deny some consideration to a man who
gets a hundred dollars a thousand words or whose book sells five hundred
thousand copies or less. That is a fact appreciable to business, and the
man of letters in the line of fiction may reasonably feel that his place
in our civilization, though he may owe it to the women who form the great
mass of his readers, has something of the character of a vested interest
in the eyes of men. There is, indeed, as yet no conspiracy law which
will avenge the attempt to injure him in his business. A critic, or a
dark conjuration of critics, may damage him at will and to the extent of
their power, and he has no recourse but to write better books, or worse.
The law will do nothing for him, and a boycott of his books might be
preached with immunity by any class of men not liking his opinions on the
question of industrial slavery or antipaedobaptism. Still the market for
his wares is steadier than the market for any other kind of literary
wares, and the prices are better. The historian, who is a kind of
inferior realist, has something like the same steadiness in the market,
but the prices he can command are much lower, and the two branches of the
novelist's trade are not to be compared in a business way. As for the
essayist, the poet, the traveller, the popular scientist, they are
nowhere in the competition for the favor of readers. The reviewer,
indeed, has a pretty steady call for his work, but I fancy the reviewers
who get a hundred dollars a thousand words could all stand upon the point
of a needle without crowding one another; I should rather like to see
them doing it. Another gratifying fact of the situation is that the best
writers of fiction, who are most in demand with the magazines, probably
get nearly as much money for their work as the inferior novelists who
outsell them by tens of thousands, and who make their appeal to the
innumerable multitude of the less educated and less cultivated buyers of
fiction in book form. I think they earn their money, but if I did not
think all of the higher class of novelists earned so much money as they
get, I should not be so invidious as to single out for reproach those who
did not.

The difficulty about payment, as I have hinted, is that literature has no
objective value really, but only a subjective value, if I may so express
it. A poem, an essay, a novel, even a paper on political economy, may be
worth gold untold to one reader, and worth nothing whatever to another.
It may be precious to one mood of the reader, and worthless to another
mood of the same reader. How, then, is it to be priced, and how is it to
be fairly marketed? All people must be fed, and all people must be
clothed, and all people must be housed; and so meat, raiment, and shelter
are things of positive and obvious necessity, which may fitly have a
market price put upon them. But there is no such positive and obvious
necessity, I am sorry to say, for fiction, or not for the higher sort of
fiction. The sort of fiction which corresponds in literature to the
circus and the variety theatre in the show-business seems essential to
the spiritual health of the masses, but the most cultivated of the
classes can get on, from time to time, without an artistic novel. This
is a great pity, and I should be-very willing that readers might feel
something like the pangs of hunger and cold, when deprived of their finer
fiction; but apparently they never do. Their dumb and passive need is
apt only to manifest itself negatively, or in the form of weariness of
this author or that. The publisher of books can ascertain the fact
through the declining sales of a writer; but the editor of a magazine,
who is the best customer of the best writers, must feel the market with a
much more delicate touch. Sometimes it may be years before he can
satisfy himself that his readers are sick of Smith, and are pining for
Jones; even then he cannot know how long their mood will last, and he is
by no means safe in cutting down Smith's price and putting up Jones's.
With the best will in the world to pay justly, he cannot. Smith, who has
been boring his readers to death for a year, may write tomorrow a thing
that will please them so much that he will at once be a prime favorite
again; and Jones, whom they have been asking for, may do something so
uncharacteristic and alien that it will be a flat failure in the
magazine. The only thing that gives either writer positive value is his
acceptance with the reader; but the acceptance is from month to month
wholly uncertain. Authors are largely matters of fashion, like this
style of bonnet, or that shape of gown. Last spring the dresses were all
made with lace berthas, and Smith was read; this year the butterfly capes
are worn, and Jones is the favorite author. Who shall forecast the fall
and winter modes?


In this inquiry it is always the author rather than the publisher, always
the contributor rather than the editor, whom I am concerned for. I study
the difficulties of the publisher and editor only because they involve
the author and the contributor; if they did not, I will not say with how
hard a heart I should turn from them; my only pang now in scrutinizing
the business conditions of literature is for the makers of literature,
not the purveyors of it.

After all, and in spite of my vaunting title, is the man of letters ever
am business man? I suppose that, strictly speaking, he never is, except
in those rare instances where, through need or choice, he is the
publisher as well as the author of his books. Then he puts something on
the market and tries to sell it there, and is a man of business. But
otherwise he is an artist merely, and is allied to the great mass of
wage-workers who are paid for the labor they have put into the thing done
or the thing made; who live by doing or making a thing, and not by
marketing a thing after some other man has done it or made it. The
quality of the thing has nothing to do with the economic nature of the
case; the author is, in the last analysis, merely a working-man, and is
under the rule that governs the working-man's life. If he is sick or
sad, and cannot work, if he is lazy or tipsy, and will not, then he earns
nothing. He cannot delegate his business to a clerk or a manager; it
will not go on while he is sleeping. The wage he can command depends
strictly upon his skill and diligence.

I myself am neither sorry nor ashamed for this; I am glad and proud to be
of those who eat their bread in the sweat of their own brows, and not the
sweat of other men's brows; I think my bread is the sweeter for it. In
the mean time, I have no blame for business men; they are no more of the
condition of things than we working-men are; they did no more to cause it
or create it; but I would rather be in my place than in theirs, and I
wish that I could make all my fellow-artists realize that economically
they are the same as mechanics, farmers, day-laborers. It ought to be
our glory that we produce something, that we bring into the world
something that was not choately there before; that at least we fashion or
shape something anew; and we ought to feel the tie that binds us to all
the toilers of the shop and field, not as a galling chain, but as a
mystic bond also uniting us to Him who works hitherto and evermore.
I know very well that to the vast multitude of our fellow-working-men we
artists are the shadows of names, or not even the shadows. I like to
look the facts in the face, for though their lineaments are often
terrible, yet there is light nowhere else; and I will not pretend, in
this light, that the masses care any more for us than we care for the
masses, or so much. Nevertheless, and most distinctly, we are not of the
classes. Except in our work, they have no use for us; if now and then
they fancy qualifying their material splendor or their spiritual dulness
with some artistic presence, the attempt is always a failure that bruises
and abashes. In so far as the artist is a man of the world, he is the
less an artist, and if he fashions himself upon fashion, he deforms his
art. We all know that ghastly type; it is more absurd even than the
figure which is really of the world, which was born and bred in it, and
conceives of nothing outside of it, or above it. In the social world, as
well as in the business world, the artist is anomalous, in the actual
conditions, and he is perhaps a little ridiculous.

Yet he has to be somewhere, poor fellow, and I think that he will do well
to regard himself as in a transition state. He is really of the masses,
but they do not know it, and what is worse, they do not know him; as yet
the common people do not hear him gladly or hear him at all. He is
apparently of the classes; they know him, and they listen to him; he
often amuses them very much; but he is not quite at ease among them;
whether they know it or not, he knows that he is not of their kind.
Perhaps he will never be at home anywhere in the world as long as there
are masses whom he ought to consort with, and classes whom he cannot
consort with. The prospect is not brilliant for any artist now living,
but perhaps the artist of the future will see in the flesh the
accomplishment of that human equality of which the instinct has been
divinely planted in the human soul.


Artist has seasons, as trees, when he cannot blossom
Book that they are content to know at second hand
Business to take advantage of his necessity
Competition has deformed human nature
Conditions of hucksters imposed upon poets
Fate of a book is in the hands of the women
God of chance leads them into temptation and adversity
Historian, who is a kind of inferior realist
I do not think any man ought to live by an art
If he has not enjoyed writing no one will enjoy reading
Impropriety if not indecency promises literary success
Literature beautiful only through the intelligence
Literature has no objective value
Literature is Business as well as Art
Man is strange to himself as long as he lives
Men read the newspapers, but our women read the books
More zeal than knowledge in it
Most journalists would have been literary men if they could
Never quite sure of life unless I find literature in it
No man ought to live by any art
No rose blooms right along
Our huckstering civilization
Public whose taste is so crude that they cannot enjoy the best
Results of art should be free to all
Reward is in the serial and not in the book--19th Century
Rogues in every walk of life
There is small love of pure literature
Two branches of the novelist's trade: Novelist and Historian
Warner's Backlog Studies
Work not truly priced in money cannot be truly paid in money


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