Father Payne eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about Father Payne.

VIII

THE METHOD

I do not propose to make any history of events, or to say how, within a very short time, I fell into the life of the place.  I will only say what were the features of the scheme, and how the rule, such as it was, worked out.

First of all, and above all, came the personality of Father Payne, which permeated and sustained the whole affair.  It was not that he made it his business to drive us along.  It was not a case of “the guiding hand in front and the propelling foot behind.”  He seldom interfered, and sometimes for a considerable space one would have no very direct contact with him.  He was a man who was always intent, but by no means always intent on shepherding.  I should find it hard to say how he spent his time.  He was sometimes to all appearances entirely indolent and good-natured, when he would stroll about, talk to the people in the village, and look after the little farm which he kept in his own hands under a bailiff.  At another time he would be for long together in an abstracted mood, silent, absent-minded, pursuing some train of thought.  At another time he would be very busy with what we were doing, and hold long interviews with us, making us read our work to him and giving us detailed criticisms.  On these occasions he was extremely stimulating, for the simple reason that he always seemed to grasp what it was that one was aiming at, and his criticisms were all directed to the question of how far the original conception was being worked out.  He did not, as a rule, point out a different conception, or indicate how the work could be done on other lines.  He always grasped the plan and intention, and really seemed to be inside the mind of the contriver.  He would say; “I think the theme is weak here—­and you can’t make a weak place strong by filling it with details, however good in themselves.  That is like trying to mend the Slough of Despond with cartloads of texts.  The thing is not to fall in, or, if you fall in, to get out.”  His three divisions of a subject were “what you say, what you wanted to say, what you ought to have wanted to say.”  Sometimes he would listen in silence, and then say:  “I can’t criticise that—­it is all off the lines.  You had better destroy it and begin again,” Or he would say:  “You had better revise that and polish it up.  It won’t be any good when it is done—­these patched-up things never are; but it will be good practice,” He was encouraging, because he never overlooked the good points of any piece of writing.  He would say:  “The detail is good, but it is all too big for its place, quite out of scale; it is like a huge ear on a small head,” Or he would say:  “Those are all things worth saying and well said, but they are much too diffuse.”  He used to tell me that I was apt to stop the carriage when I was bound on a rapid transit, and go for a saunter among fields.  “I don’t object to your sauntering, but you must intend to saunter—­you

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Father Payne from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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