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Saturday, 1 February 2014

Talking fiction

Saturday, February 1st., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

I am still trying to write well. 

George Sturt wrote to me recently about fiction as an exercise for the intellect & fiction as the presentment of feeling for the appreciation of feeling, & one great and lovely fact became clear to me - I don't give a damn for the theory of our sacred art! Guided by an instinct which I cannot explain & on which I rely without knowing why, I seek to write down a story which I have imagined with only fitfully clear vision. Why I select certain scenes, why I make a beginning of a chapter at this point, and end a chapter at another point, why I go into minute detail here & slur over whole months there - God only knows. The only vital part of any art can never be learnt & certainly cannot be talked about with the slightest advantage. And yet one likes to talk about it & hear it talked about.

For more on George Sturt see 'George Sturt & me' -

For example, at an afternoon tea business on Sunday last, at the house of a member of our staff with whom I have recently chummed up, I met a girl (I suspect that we had been invited precisely to meet each other) who has written three novels, two of which I know to be good & which I have praised in Woman, not without enthusiasm. Her name is Symonds (niece of John Addington Symonds) & she calls herself George Paston. About my age. We fastened on to each other at once in spite of her extraordinary plainness of feature; her face is untouched by beauty. We just jawed about ourselves for two hours. She is just like George & me, has precisely the same difficulties, the same exultations, depressions, full stops, frenzies of production. Aside from George, I never met anyone with whom I was in so complete (artistic) sympathy. She gave me one or two tips & I gave her one. I don't think she knows more of writing than we do. She firmly believes in working only two hours a day, but not shirking that whether she feels in exact trim or the reverse. I think I must give the two hours a trial! I couldn't get her to give George Moore a good word, but never mind. I should have got more out of her had we not frequently been interrupted by an abnormally clever woman who writes for the Pall Mall Gazette. However, I shall take particular care to encounter Miss Symonds again as soon as may be; I think she ought to be cultivated.

'George Paston' (Emily Morse Symonds) began her writing career as a novelist in the 1890s, but from 1900 turned her attention to writing biographies, histories, and drama, many of which reflect her fascination with the eighteenth century. Several of her works question the legal and social limitations faced by women of all classes, particularly within the institution of marriage.

For more on Miss Symonds see 'Sincere artistic ladies' -

Additionally for February 1st., see 'Approaching contentment' -

If I could spend every day as I have spent today, happiness would be almost within grasp. A couple of hours editorial work in the office in the morning. After dinner I read myself to sleep with d'Annunzio's "Annales d'Anne", and when I awoke I went to pay some money into the bank. Then I schemed out in my head the next chapter of my novel. From six to nine I worked fairly easily at my novel, drafting 2,300 words - a complete chapter. After supper, I opened a new copy of Arnold's "Essays in Criticism" (Second series) and read the essay on Tolstoy.
I shall read myself to sleep (for the second time today) with Maria Edgeworth's "Belinda". In spite of the laziest liver in the world, I am well nigh content with myself tonight.

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