Chapter 66

Trepidations - Subtle principle - Perverse imagination - Are they mine? - Another book - How hard! - Agricultural dinner - Incomprehensible actions - Inmost bosom - Give it up - Chance resemblance - Rascally newspaper.

‘AN author,’ said I, addressing my host; ‘is it possible that I am under the roof of an author?’

‘Yes,’ said my host, sighing, ‘my name is so and so, and I am the author of so and so; it is more than probable that you have heard both of my name and works. I will not detain you much longer with my history; the night is advancing, and the storm appears to be upon the increase. My life since the period of my becoming an author may be summed briefly as an almost uninterrupted series of doubts, anxieties, and trepidations. I see clearly that it is not good to love anything immoderately in this world, but it has been my misfortune to love immoderately everything on which I have set my heart. This is not good, I repeat - but where is the remedy? The ancients were always in the habit of saying, "Practise moderation," but the ancients appear to have considered only one portion of the subject. It is very possible to practise moderation in some things, in drink and the like - to restrain the appetites - but can a man restrain the affections of his mind, and tell them, so far you shall go, and no farther? Alas, no! for the mind is a subtle principle, and cannot be confined. The winds may be imprisoned; Homer says that Odysseus carried certain winds in his ship, confined in leathern bags, but Homer never speaks of confining the affections. It were but right that those who exhort us against inordinate affections, and setting our hearts too much upon the world and its vanities, would tell us how to avoid doing so.

‘I need scarcely tell you that no sooner did I become an author than I gave myself up immoderately to my vocation. It became my idol, and, as a necessary consequence, it has proved a source of misery and disquietude to me, instead of pleasure and blessing. I had trouble enough in writing my first work, and I was not long in discovering that it was one thing to write a stirring and spirited address to a set of county electors, and another widely different to produce a work at all calculated to make an impression upon the great world. I felt, however, that I was in my proper sphere, and by dint of unwearied diligence and exertion I succeeded in evolving from the depths of my agitated breast a work which, though it did not exactly please me, I thought would serve to make an experiment upon the public; so I laid it before the public, and the reception which it met with was far beyond my wildest expectations. The public were delighted with it, but what were my feelings? Anything, alas! but those of delight. No sooner did the public express its satisfaction at the result of my endeavours, than my perverse imagination began to conceive a thousand chimerical doubts; forthwith I sat down to analyse it; and my worst enemy, and all people have their enemies, especially authors - my worst enemy could not have discovered or sought to discover a tenth part of the faults which I, the author and creator of the unfortunate production, found or sought to find in it. It has been said that love makes us blind to the faults of the loved object - common love does, perhaps - the love of a father to his child, or that of a lover to his mistress, but not the inordinate love of an author to his works, at least not the love which one like myself bears to his works: to be brief, I discovered a thousand faults in my work, which neither public nor critics discovered. However, I was beginning to get over this misery, and to forgive my work all its imperfections, when - and I shake when I mention it - the same kind of idea which perplexed me with regard to the hawks and the gypsy pony rushed into my mind, and I forthwith commenced touching the objects around me, in order to baffle the evil chance, as you call it; it was neither more nor less than a doubt of the legality of my claim to the thoughts, expressions, and situations contained in the book; that is, to all that constituted the book. How did I get them? How did they come into my mind? Did I invent them? Did they originate with myself? Are they my own, or are they some other body’s? You see into what difficulty I had got; I won’t trouble you by relating all that I endured at that time, but will merely say that after eating my own heart, as the Italians say, and touching every object that came in my way for six months, I at length flung my book, I mean the copy of it which I possessed, into the fire, and began another.

‘But it was all in vain; I laboured at this other, finished it, and gave it to the world; and no sooner had I done so, than the same thought was busy in my brain, poisoning all the pleasure which I should otherwise have derived from my work. How did I get all the matter which composed it? Out of my own mind, unquestionably; but how did it come there - was it the indigenous growth of the mind? And then I would sit down and ponder

  By PanEris using Melati.

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