Father Payne eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 442 pages of information about Father Payne.
not as a photographic plate records it:  and that is where the personality of the artist comes in, and where writers are handicapped, according as they have or have not a personal charm.  That is the unsolved mystery of writing—­the personal charm:  apart from that there is little in it.  A man may see a thing with hideous distinctness, but he may not be able to invest it with charm:  and the danger of charm is that some people can invest very shallow, muddled, and shabby thinking with a sort of charm.  It is like a cloak, if I may say so.  If I wear an old cloak, it looks shabby and disgraceful, as it is.  But if I lend it to a shapely and well-made friend, it gets a beauty from the wearer.  There are men I know who can tell me a story as old as the hills, and yet make it fresh and attractive.  Look at that delicious farrago of nonsense and absurdity, Ruskin’s Fors Clavigera.  He crammed in anything that came into his head—­his reminiscences, scraps out of old dreary books he had read, paragraphs snipped out of the papers.  There’s no order, no sequence about it, and yet it is irresistible.  But then Ruskin had the charm, and managed to pour it into all that he wrote.  He is always there, that whimsical, generous, perverse, affectionate, afflicted, pathetic creature, even in the smallest scrap of a letter or the dreariest old tag of quotation.  But you and I can’t play tricks like that.  You are sometimes there, I confess, in what you write, while I am never there in anything that I write.  What I want to teach you to do is to be really yourself in all that you write.”

“But isn’t it apt to be very tiresome,” said I, “if the writer is always obtruding himself?”

“Yes, if he obtrudes himself, of course he is tiresome,” said Father Payne.  “But look at Ruskin again.  I imagine, from all that I read about him, that if he was present at a gathering, he was the one person whom everyone wanted to hear.  If he was sulky or silent, it was everyone’s concern to smoothe him down—­if only he would talk.  What you must learn to do is to give exactly as much of yourself as people want.  But it must be a transfusion of yourself, not a presentment, I don’t imagine that Ruskin always talked about himself—­he talked about what interested him, and because he saw five times as much as anyone else saw in a picture, and about three times as much as was ever there, it was fascinating:  but the primary charm was in Ruskin himself.  Don’t you know the curious delight of seeing a house once inhabited by anyone whom one has much admired and loved?  However dull and commonplace it is, you keep on saying to yourself, ’That was what his eyes rested on, those were the books he handled; how could he bear to have such curtains, how could he endure that wallpaper?’ The most hideous things become interesting, because he tolerated them.  In writing, all depends upon how much of what is interesting, original, emphatic, charming in yourself you can communicate to what you are writing.  It has got to live; that is the secret of the commonplace and even absurd books which reviewers treat with contempt, and readers buy in thousands.  They have life!

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Father Payne from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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