On the Art of Writing eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 246 pages of information about On the Art of Writing.

Gentlemen, on a day early in this term I sought the mound which is the old Castle of Cambridge.  Access to it, as perhaps you know, lies through the precincts of the County Prison.  An iron railing encloses the mound, having a small gate, for the key of which a notice-board advised me to ring the prison bell.  I rang.  A very courteous gaoler answered the bell and opened the gate, which stands just against his wicket.  I thanked him, but could not forbear asking ‘Why do they keep this gate closed?’ ’I don’t know, sir,’ he answered, ’but I suppose if they didn’t the children might get in and play.’

So with his answer I went up the hill and from the top saw Cambridge spread at my feet; Magdalene below me, and the bridge which—­poor product as it is of the municipal taste—­has given its name to so many bridges all over the world; the river on its long ambit to Chesterton; the tower of St John’s, and beyond it the unpretentious but more beautiful tower of Jesus College.  To my right the magnificent chine of King’s College Chapel made its own horizon above the yellowing elms.  I looked down on the streets—­the narrow streets—­the very streets which, a fortnight ago, I tried to people for you with that mediaeval throng which has passed as we shall pass.  Still in my ear the gaoler’s answer repeated itself—­’I suppose, if they didn’t keep it locked, the children might get in and play’:  and a broken echo seemed to take it up, in words that for a while had no more coherence than the scattered jangle of bells in the town below.  But as I turned to leave, they chimed into an articulate sentence and the voice was the voice of Francis Bacon—­Regnum Scientiae ut regnum Coeli non nisi sub persona infantis intratur.—­Into the Kingdom of Knowledge, as into the Kingdom of Heaven, whoso would enter must become as a little child.

[Footnote 1:  “Cambridge History of English Literature”, vol. iii, p. 213.]



Wednesday, January 28, 1914

Should Providence, Gentlemen, destine any one of you to write books for his living, he will find experimentally true what I here promise him, that few pleasures sooner cloy than reading what the reviewers say.  This promise I hand on with the better confidence since it was endorsed for me once in conversation by that eminently good man the late Henry Sidgwick; who added, however, ’Perhaps I ought to make a single exception.  There was a critic who called one of my books “epoch-making.”  Being anonymous, he would have been hard to find and thank, perhaps; but I ought to have made the effort.’

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On the Art of Writing from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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