The Man of Letters as a Man of Business eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 39 pages of information about The Man of Letters as a Man of Business.
then their serial work in its completed form appeals to the readers who say they do not read serials.  The multitude of these is not great, and if an author rested his hopes upon their favor he would be a much more imbittered man than he now generally is.  But he understands perfectly well that his reward is in the serial and not in the book; the return from that he may count as so much money found in the road—­a few hundreds, a very few thousands, at the most, unless he is the author of an historical romance.

IV

I doubt, indeed, whether the earnings of literary men are absolutely as great as they were earlier in the century, in any of the English-speaking countries; relatively they are nothing like as great.  Scott had forty thousand dollars for ‘Woodstock,’ which was not a very large novel, and was by no means one of his best; and forty thousand dollars then had at least the purchasing power of sixty thousand now.  Moore had three thousand guineas for ‘Lalla Rookh,’ but what publisher would be rash enough to pay fifteen thousand dollars for the masterpiece of a minor poet now?  The book, except in very rare instances, makes nothing like the return to the author that the magazine makes, and there are few leading authors who find their account in that form of publication.  Those who do, those who sell the most widely in book form, are often not at all desired by editors; with difficulty they get a serial accepted by any principal magazine.  On the other hand, there are authors whose books, compared with those of the popular favorites, do not sell, and yet they are eagerly sought for by editors; they are paid the highest prices, and nothing that they offer is refused.  These are literary artists; and it ought to be plain from what I am saying that in belles-lettres, at least, most of the best literature now first sees the light in the magazines, and most of the second-best appears first in book form.  The old-fashioned people who flatter themselves upon their distinction in not reading magazine fiction or magazine poetry make a great mistake, and simply class themselves with the public whose taste is so crude that they cannot enjoy the best.  Of course, this is true mainly, if not merely, of belles-lettres; history, science, politics, metaphysics, in spite of the many excellent articles and papers in these sorts upon what used to be called various emergent occasions, are still to be found at their best in books.  The most monumental example of literature, at once light and good, which has first reached the public in book form is in the different publications of Mark Twain; but Mr. Clemens has of late turned to the magazines too, and now takes their mint-mark before he passes into general circulation.  All this may change again, but at present the magazines—­we have no longer any reviews form the most direct approach to that part of our reading public which likes the highest things in literary art.  Their readers,

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The Man of Letters as a Man of Business from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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