Dickens said in his Preface, "Those who take an interest in this tale, will be glad to learn that the BROTHERS CHEERYBLE live: that their liberal charity, their singleness of heart, their noble nature ... are no creations of the Author's brain."]

[Note 21: "_Rake the backets_." The "backet" is a small, square, wooden trough generally used for ashes and waste.]

[Note 22: _Woggs_ (_and Note: Walter, Watty, Woggy, Woggs, Wog, and lastly Bogue; under which last name he fell in battle some twelve months ago. Glory was his aim and he attained it; for his icon, by the hand of Caldecott, now lies among the treasures of the nation.) Stevenson's well-beloved black Skye terrier. See Balfour's _Life_, I, 212, 223. Stevenson was so deeply affected by Woggs's death that he could not bear ever to own another dog. A Latin inscription was placed on his tombstone.... This Note was added in 1887, when the essay appeared in _Memories and Portraits_. "Icon" means image (cf. _iconoclast_); the word has lately become familiar through the religious use of icons by the Russians in the war with Japan. Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) was a well-known artist and prominent contributor of sketches to illustrated magazines.]

[Note 23: "_Stammering Professors_." A "professor" here means simply a professing Christian. Stevenson alludes to the fact that dogs howl fearfully if some one in the house is dying.]

[Note 24: "_Carneying_." This means coaxing, wheedling.]

[Note 25: _Louis Quatorze_. Louis XIV of France, who died in 1715, after a reign of 72 years, the longest reign of any monarch in history. His absolutism and complete disregard of the people unconsciously prepared the way for the French Revolution in 1789.]




All through my boyhood and youth, I was known and pointed out for the pattern of an idler;[1] and yet I was always busy on my own private end, which was to learn to write. I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in. As I walked, my mind was busy fitting what I saw with appropriate words; when I sat by the roadside, I would either read, or a pencil and a penny version-book would be in my hand, to note down the features of the scene or commemorate some halting stanzas. Thus I lived with words. And what I thus wrote was for no ulterior use, it was written consciously for practice. It was not so much that I wished to be an author (though I wished that too) as that I had vowed that I would learn to write. That was a proficiency that tempted me; and I practised to acquire it, as men learn to whittle, in a wager with myself. Description was the principal field of my exercise; for to any one with senses there is always something worth describing, and town and country are but one continuous subject. But I worked in other ways also; often accompanied my walks with dramatic dialogues, in which I played many parts; and often exercised myself in writing down conversations from memory.

This was all excellent, no doubt; so were the diaries I sometimes tried to keep, but always and very speedily discarded, finding them a school of posturing[2] and melancholy self-deception. And yet this was not the most efficient part of my training. Good though it was, it only taught me (so far as I have learned them at all) the lower and less intellectual elements of the art, the choice of the essential note and the right word: things that to a happier constitution had perhaps come by nature. And regarded as training, it had one grave defect; for it set me no standard of achievement. So that there was perhaps more profit, as there was certainly more effort, in my secret labours at home. Whenever I read a book or a passage that particularly pleased me, in which a thing was said or an effect rendered with propriety, in which there was either some conspicuous force or some happy distinction in the style, I must sit down at once and set myself to ape that quality. I was unsuccessful, and I knew it; and tried again, and was again unsuccessful and always unsuccessful; but at least in these vain bouts, I got some practice in rhythm, in harmony, in construction and the co-ordination of parts.

Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson Page 61

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book