Father Payne eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about Father Payne.
you:  and the man may convey a kind of inspiration by his very obscurities.  But it must be an impulse which simply overpowers him—­it mustn’t be an effect deliberately planned.  You may perhaps feel the bigness of the thought all the more in the presence of a writer who, for all his power, can’t confine the stream, and comes down in a cataract of words.  But if you begin trying for an effect, it is like splashing about in a pool to make people believe it is a rushing river.  The movement mustn’t be your own contortions, but the speed of the stream.  If you want to see the bad side of obscurity, look at Browning.  The idea is often a very simple one when you get at it; it’s only obscure because it is conveyed by hints and jerks and nudges.  In Pickwick, for instance, one does not read Jingle’s remarks for the underlying thought—­only for the pleasure of seeing how he leaps from stepping-stone to stepping-stone.  You mustn’t confuse the pleasure of unravelling thought with the pleasure of thought.  If you can make yourself so attractive to your readers that they love your explosions and collisions, and say with a half-compassionate delight—­’how characteristic—­but it is worth while unravelling!’ you have achieved a certain success.  But the chance is that future ages won’t trouble you much.  Disentangling obscurities isn’t bad fun for contemporaries, who know by instinct the nuances of words; but it becomes simply a bore a century later, when people are not interested in old nuances, but simply want to know what you thought.  Only scholars love obscurity—­but then they are detectives, and not readers.”

“But isn’t it possible to be too obvious?” I said—­“to get a namby-pamby way of writing—­what a reviewer calls painfully kind?”

“Well, of course, the thought must be tough,” said Father Payne, “but it’s your duty to make a tough thought digestible, not to make an easy thought tough.  No, my boy, you may depend upon it that, if you want people to attend to you, you must be intelligible.  Don’t, for God’s sake, think that Carlyle or Meredith or Browning meant to be unintelligible, or even thought they were being unintelligible.  They were only thinking too concisely or too rapidly for the reader.  But don’t you try to produce that sort of illusion.  Try to say things like Newman or Ruskin—­big, beautiful, profound, delicate things, with an almost childlike naivete.  That is the most exquisite kind of charm, when you find that half-a-dozen of the simplest words in the language have expressed a thought which holds you spell-bound with its truth and loveliness.  That is what lasts.  People want to be fed, not to be drugged:  That, I believe, is the real difference between romance and realism, and I am one of those who gratefully believe that romance has had its day.  We want the romance that comes from realism, not the romance which comes by neglecting it.  But that’s another subject.”


Project Gutenberg
Father Payne from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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