And instead of having a taste for being successful merchants and retiring at thirty, some people have a taste for high and what we call heroic forms of excitement.

*

These are predestined; if a man love the labour of any trade, apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him.

*

The incommunicable thrill of things, that is the tuning- fork by which we test the flatness of our art. Here it is that Nature teaches and condemns, and still spurs us up to further effort and new failure.

*

To please is to serve; and so far from its being difficult to instruct while you amuse, it is difficult to do the one thoroughly without the other.

*

We shall never learn the affinities of beauty, for they lie too deep in nature and too far back in the mysterious history of man.

*

Mirth, lyric mirth, and a vivacious contentment are of the very essence of the better kind of art.

*

This is the particular crown and triumph of the artist--not to be true merely, but to be lovable; not simply to convince, but to enchant.

*

Life is hard enough for poor mortals, without having it indefinitely embittered for them by bad art.

*

So that the first duty of any man who is to write is intellectual. Designedly or not, he has so far set himself up for a leader in the minds of men; and he must see that his own mind is kept supple, charitable, and bright. Everything but prejudice should find a voice through him; he should see the good in all things; where he has even a fear that he does not wholly understand, there he should be wholly silent; and he should recognise from the first that he has only one tool in his workshop, and that tool is sympathy.

*

Through no art beside the art of words can the kindness of a man's affections be expressed. In the cuts you shall find faithfully paraded the quaintness and the power, the triviality and the surprising freshness of the author's fancy; there you shall find him outstripped in ready symbolism and the art of bringing things essentially invisible before the eyes: but to feel the contact of essential goodness, to be made in love with piety, the book must be read and not the prints examined.

*

And then I had an idea for John Silver from which I promised myself funds of entertainment: to take an admired friend of mine (whom the reader very likely knows and admires as much as I do), to deprive him of all his finer qualities and higher graces of temperament, to leave him with nothing but his strength, his courage, his quickness, and his magnificent geniality, and to try to express these in terms of the culture of a raw tarpaulin, such physical surgery is, I think, a common way of 'making character'; perhaps it is, indeed, the only way. We can put in the quaint figure that spoke a hundred words with us yesterday by the wayside; but do we know him? Our friend with his infinite variety and flexibility, we know-but can we put him in? Upon the first, we must engraft secondary and imaginary qualities, possibly all wrong; from the second, knife in hand, we must cut away and deduct the needless arborescence of his nature, but the trunk and the few branches that remain we may at least be fairly sure of.

*

In anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process itself should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a book, be rapt clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our mind filled with the busiest, kaleidoscopic dance of images, incapable of sleep or of continuous thought. The words, if the book be eloquent, should run thenceforward in our ears like the noise of breakers, and the story, if it be a story, repeat itself in a thousand coloured pictures to the eye.

*

The obvious is not of necessity the normal; fashion rules and deforms; the majority fall tamely into the contemporary shape, and thus attain, in the eyes of the true observer, only a higher power of insignificance; and the danger is lest, in seeking to draw the normal, a man should draw the null, and write the novel of society instead of the romance of man.

The Pocket R. L. S. Page 55

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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