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.

[Footnote 1:  The date of the above lecture was Wednesday, February 12th, 1913, the date on which our morning newspapers printed the first telegrams giving particulars of the fate of Captain Scott’s heroic conquest of the South Pole, and still more glorious, though defeated, return.  The first brief message concerning Captain Oates, ran as follows:—­

’From the records found in the tent where the bodies were discovered it appeared that Captain Oates’s feet and hands were badly frost-bitten, and, although he struggled on heroically, his comrades knew on March 16 that his end was approaching.  He had borne intense suffering for weeks without complaint, and he did not give up hope to the very end.

“He was a brave soul.  He slept through the night hoping not to wake; but he awoke in the morning.

“It was blowing a blizzard.  Oates said:  ’I am just going outside, and I may be some time.’  He went out into the blizzard, and we have not seen him since.

“We knew that Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman."’]



Wednesday, February 26

You will forgive me, Gentlemen, that having in my second lecture encouraged you to the practice of verse as well as of prose, I seize the very next opportunity to warn you against confusing the two, which differ on some points essentially, and always so as to demand separate rules—­or rather (since I am shy of the word ‘rules’) a different concept of what the writer should aim at and what avoid.  But you must, pray, understand that what follows will be more useful to the tiro in prose than to the tiro in verse; for while even a lecturer may help you to avoid writing prose in the manner of Milton, only the gods—­and they hardly—­can cure a versifier of being prosaic.

We started upon a promise to do without scientific definitions; and in drawing some distinctions to-day between verse and prose I shall use only a few rough ones; good, as I hope, so far as they go; not to be found contrary to your scientific ones, if ever, under another teacher you attain to them; yet for the moment used only as guides to practice, and pretending to be no more.

Thus I go some way—­though by no means all the way—­towards defining literature when I remind you that its very name (litterae—­letters) implies the written rather than the spoken word; that, for example, however closely they approximate one to the other as we trace them back, and even though we trace them back to identical beginnings, the Writer—­the Man of Letters—­does to-day differ from the Orator.  There was a time, as you know, when the poet and the historian had no less than the orator, and in the most literal sense, to ‘get a hearing.’  Nay, he got it with more pains:  for the orator

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