’Tis often harder to live than to die.
Schopenhauer says happiness is only a delusion of youth and childhood;
anyway, my work now began. Hard work; collar-work, uphill and
unceasing. The work of a professional woman, not the pleasant dipping
into the inkpot as amateur fancy led.
Despite advice showered on me I refused to give up my “home.” Many
things were sold, the carriages and saddles among them, but I stuck to
the “home.” The old family silver was sent to the bank, the ancestors’
china packed away; the house was let for two years until the worker
should feel her feet. But those two years were destined to be more than
doubled before I should sit down once more on my own hearth, among my
beloved household gods.
Now that I had to face the world on my own and take up my pen
seriously, the few pounds that dilettante work had brought in before—to
be distributed in charity—must be doubled and quadrupled.
* * * * *
A school-fellow—the native of Finland whom I have already mentioned—was
staying with us in England that spring. She had often talked of her
wonderful country—her beloved Suomi—with its eight hundred miles of
coastline, and literally thousands of islands, ranging in size from
tiny rocks to habitable portions of land. She had often done her best
to persuade us to go there, but it seemed a long way and there was no
particular reason for the journey. Now, when my husband had passed
away, she persuaded me anew to pack my trunk and accompany her to
Finland. Change of scene and thought would be good for me, and I could
gather material for a book. We started within a week, and thus, on
a brilliant morning early in June, in 1896, our vessel steamed into
My friend was connected with some of the oldest families in Finland,
and great and wonderful was the hospitality we—my sister and I—received
upon her native shores. We were there for some months. We wandered
north, south, east, and west. We slept in a haunted, deserted
castle, which stood alone on a rocky island, round which the current
made endless whirlpools. We roved through districts where milk and
eggs and black bread were the only food procurable; we went to the
fashionable watering-place Hangö, and there were entertained on a
Russian man-of-war. We saw the Kokko fires lighted on Midsummer’s Eve;
we watched the process of emptying the salmon nets at five o’clock in
the morning and packing the fish for transport to St. Petersburg. We
heard the Runo singers, those weird folk who, by word of mouth, have
kept alive the Finnish legends from generation to generation. We saw
forests burnt; and I tried an ant-heap bath, which is a Finnish remedy
for rheumatism and such-like ills. We plodded along the stony path to
Russia. We stayed at a monastery at Lake Ladoga, and, above all, we
descended in tar-boats the famous rapids between Russia and the Gulf of
Bothnia, which was perhaps one of the most exciting events in my life—a
life which has not been altogether devoid of excitement.
No one can dream of the pleasure and nervous strain of rushing through
curdling water for six miles at a stretch over huge waves, in a fragile
craft, at breakneck speed.
Six miles, with a new experience every second. Six miles, when every
bend, every mile, may be the last. Turning and twisting between piles
of rocks, running down like precipices to the water’s side, from which
one could feel the drops of water as they splashed over our little
craft, or when a great wave struck it and threw a volume of water into
our laps. We felt almost inclined to shriek at the speed with which
we were flying those rapids. Wildly we tore past the banks, when, lo!
what was that? A broken tar-boat, now a scattered mass of beams, which
only a few short hours before had carried passengers like ourselves.
In spite of the wonderful dexterity of the pilots such accidents
sometimes happen. The steersman of that boat had ventured a little
too near a hidden rock and his frail craft was instantly shattered
to pieces, the tar barrels bubbling over the water like Indian corn
over a fire. The two occupants had luckily been saved, as they were
sufficiently near the water’s edge to allow a rope to be thrown.
Yes, these rapids, of which there are several, the largest being
thirteen miles long at Pyhakoski, represent an enormous force of
nature, and, to descend them, shows a wonderful example of what great
skill and a cool head can do to steer a frail boat through such
turbulent waters and such cataracts.
I tremble now when I think of those awful nights in Finland. Sleep had
deserted me. I used to steal from my bed in the small hours, when I
could toss about no more, and, throwing on a dressing-gown, slip out
on to the balcony. How perfect it all was, that great high dome of
sky so light that one could barely see a star, so warm that sun and
moon fought for pre-eminence. No one who has not really seen them can
know the glory of those Northern nights both in winter and in summer.
In winter the glory of the darkness and the aurora borealis (Northern
Lights), in summer the perfection of colour and light. I have seen them
on four or five different occasions. Beautiful as is the South, the
night of the Arctic is still more wondrous. It is so still, so calm, so
There on the balcony, listening to the grasshoppers and watching the
reds and yellows of the midnight sun, I would dream waking dreams.
Could I really write professionally? Could I earn sufficient to send my
boys to school and keep a home, ought I to risk it, or should I decide,
as so many friends wished, to part myself from all my old ties and
treasures, and live in seclusion on my little income in a cottage or a
suburb? It was a great fight. Six months of anxiety and two terrible
shocks had weakened me and made me distrust myself.
Yes, even now I shiver when I think of those nights. Nights of
wakefulness after a hard working day. Napoleon, Wellington, and Grant
could all sleep at a moment’s notice, even on the battlefield, the
result of will-power and habit. I wished I could acquire the gift.
Was it possible that I, a woman of no particular education, no
particular gift as far as I knew, could become one of the army of
That an occupation was necessary, I resolved. I had no money to enjoy
my old world, not enough to keep up my old home. There were debts to
be paid. The children must be properly educated, something must be
Should I turn to the stage? There I felt fairly sure of success.
I could walk, talk, move as a lady, knew how to recite and speak;
besides, had I not had that girlish offer when I was less capable than
In the early ’eighties Mrs. J. H. Riddell, the then fashionable
novelist, started a magazine called _Home_. Looking back, I fancy
she wrote a good deal of the copy herself, anyway, it was fairly
successful, and amongst other articles was one called “Here and There,”
by an Idle Man. This gives in a few words her impressions of my
performance as a girl in the schoolroom.
A Dramatic Contrast, by W. S. GILBERT.
_Garden Scene—Early Spring, 1849._
Harry Spreadbrow (the Young Lover) SIR WILLIAM MAGNAY, BART.
Wilcox (the Old Gardener) GENERAL ANDERSON.
Jenny Northcott MISS ETHEL B. HARLEY.
_The Fall of the Leaf, after a lapse of Thirty Years._
Sir Henry Spreadbrow SIR WILLIAM MAGNAY, BART.
(an Old Indian Judge)
Miss Northcott MISS ETHEL B. HARLEY.
Ruth (her maid-servant) MISS MAUD HOLT (afterwards
LADY BEERBOHM TREE).
Scenery painted by Miss Ethel B. Harley, Proscenium by General
Number 25, Harley Street, is the residence of Doctor George Harley,
F.R.S., the mention of whose name will at once recall to the
readers of _Home_ “My Ghost Story”—so weird a narrative that, to my
thinking, it was a pity to mar its dramatic effect by explanation.
To the general public, he is better known by the results of his
labours in the field of medical science; but it is only his friends
who are aware of his large experience, his wide knowledge, and
his untiring efforts to make the age in which he lives wiser,
happier, better. Though still, comparatively speaking, young, he
has been on terms of intimacy with most of the men of the Victorian
era, whose memories (alas! we live fast now and the great die too
soon) will never be forgotten while the English language remains
to tell of their achievements; and his conversation teems with
anecdotes concerning famous beauties, authors, artists, statesmen,
millionaires. No pleasanter hour could be spent than in hearing his
kindly appreciative talk concerning “People I have known.”
His observation of the habits of animals also has been marvellous. I
never recollect reading anything which conveyed so vivid a picture to
my mind, as his verbal description of a lake haunted by wild swans in
At the door of his house, then, do we find ourselves.
Such a day! the rain pouring down in torrents, the sky leaden, the
earth soppy, all cabs engaged, all trains full, all omnibuses wretched.
But once across the hospitable threshold, life casts its cloud-tints,
and sunshine seems to reign.
We go upstairs. Can this possibly be the remembered drawing-room? It
is parted off from door to window, the side next the hearth being
converted into the stage, and the larger half admirably arranged for
the accommodation of the spectators.
* * * * *
So, the lover comes to say farewell, and the young lady’s manner will
not let him say more. One does not quite like—at least an old fogey
like myself, with ideas as much out of fashion as his coat, hesitates,
even in such an exclusive publication as _Home_—to talk about the
charms of a living maiden in print; but yet in some future happy time
Miss Harley may like to show eyes still younger and brighter than her
own are now, the impression she produced upon one not too impressible.
Most fair, most sweet, most lovable. With respect as profound as our
admiration is deep we write this sentence. We look and wonder. So
young, so gifted!
* * * * *
And now we all go downstairs again, to find Wilcox—who we had fancied
was dead—alive, and looking exactly as he did thirty years ago,
handling meringues and jellies to the ladies, and suggesting coffee,
sherry, claret-cup. It is all very pretty and very pleasant. Our last
memory, ere we go out into the rain again, is of Jenny Northcott’s
lovely face, and our hostess’s kindly farewell; and so we take our
leave, feeling—well, we scarcely know how we feel!
At one moment the stage flashed through my mind, but the stage had
serious disadvantages my friends at the top of the tree told me. Supers
can generally get work, stars can’t. Of course, I hoped to be a star,
we all do, and then those kind friends told me of the weary months,
perhaps years, without work of those who have reached the top and for
whom there are no suitable parts—years of long-drawn-out waiting,
ironically called “resting.”
A very amusing account of some theatricals we had the following year,
for which Weedon Grossmith and I painted the scenery, appeared in a
little book by L. F. Austin, the predecessor of Chesterton on the
_Illustrated London News_—Beerbohm Tree supervised the performance,
and his young wife took part.
Should I take up painting seriously? My love of colour and form, the
fact that I had exhibited a little without lessons, seemed to point to
the possibility of my doing more if I studied.
Then again, a hat shop was no impossible means of livelihood, with my
huge connection of friends.
Or, should I give up everything, give up the battle, and just live
quietly in a small cottage somewhere and look after chickens?
Weeks rolled on in Finland, the notes for the book were made; parts of
it were written in steamers or on railway trains, bundles of material
had been collected for subsequent articles, and, most important of all,
my mind was made up. _I was going to write._
By the time we had knocked about Finland for three or four months I
was worn out, from worry, work, anxiety as to the future, and want of
sleep. Many people in England do not realise that the midnight sun
shines in Finland no less than in northern Norway, and the perpetual
sense of light is wearying, inexpressibly so sometimes, to the brain.
However, the notes were taken. I was steeped in the customs, habits,
thoughts, and scenery of Finland, but, more important than all the
rest, I had entered Finland in deepest sorrow, my mind had now been
made up, flame-like—imagination had decided I would write—my spirit
emerged in the house of life.
Artistic life is, after all, self-development, and self-development and
outward expression lay before me in my newly sought profession. Cruel
doubts crept in; but the flame of desire was burning, and again and
again I said to myself, “I _will_ write.” _Through Finland in Carts_
appeared in 1897, the third edition came out three years later, and
others followed at intervals (now in Nelson’s 1/- library).
On the borders of Lapland my resolution to become a scribe had
been made and my luck had turned. It was there I received the wire
containing an offer to take my house off my hands; and so began my
first “let.” Four years later, when strenuous effort had made it
possible, I went back to live in that same old home. It was a very
old-fashioned thing to do, because everybody lives in everybody else’s
house nowadays. The snobbish rich luxuriate in the castles of the
aristocratic poor, and the aristocratic poor curl themselves up in the
abandoned cottages of the self-made. But I reached my first goal when
I stepped across the threshold of my old home again. The accompanying
illustration, taken just after my husband’s death, is from a photograph
for which a paper asked on the appearance of _Finland_. The reason for
its not showing the conventional widow’s weeds—no crêpe and no veil—is
that I never wore these social brands, and my severe, unrelieved
black—a terrible breach of custom in the opinion of Jay’s forewoman—was
impossible, for reasons connected with the camera. Hence a dilemma!
Suddenly remembering my grandmother’s lace scarf and my sister’s new
bridesmaid’s hat, I donned both and went off to be “taken.” Hence this
When I returned to England, late in September, and York Terrace was
in other hands, I took a tiny country cottage in Buckinghamshire, and
retired there alone with my little boys of six and seven years of age
to write my book.
This had barely been started, and the notes were still scattered over
the table and piled on the sofa, and the chapters had not yet been
formulated, when another dreadful telegram was put into my hands: My
father had fallen dead of apoplexy in his study. The second breadwinner
in the family had gone out.
This made the third death in my circle of loved ones within four
months: my husband, my father, my more or less adopted father, Sir John
Erichsen—“dear Uncle John”—and my mother was very ill.
Life seemed full of sorrow.
* * * * *
These were the sad circumstances under which _Finland_ was written.
* * * * *
Curious. Whilst so often my feelings during those days of journeying
were of exhaustion from insomnia, heat, mosquitoes, jolting vehicles,
and impossible beds, the papers were full of compliment on my “spirited
sprightliness,” on “the liveliness of observation and the humour
displayed by the narrator” whose pages were “full of entertainment
and instruction.” It must often be so in the lives of those who are
servants of the public. A smile and grin from actress or mountebank:
the sigh and tear when the curtain drops.
A leading article in the _Liverpool Post_, a column and a half in
length, kindly said:
“Very few English people visit Finland. There is a far-away sound
in the name. Probably the general idea of Finland in this country
is associated with thoughts of Polar bears and barbarity and
reindeer sledges in use all the year round. The task of disabusing
the English mind on this subject has fallen to a well-known and
popular English lady—Mrs. Alec Tweedie—whose latest book, entitled
_Through Finland in Carts_, has recently been published. In this,
Finland is extremely fortunate. No country and no people could find
a more capable champion. Not only is Mrs. Tweedie an experienced
traveller, whose intrepidity might well put many of the sterner sex
to the blush: she is also possessed of a remarkably keen faculty
for minute observation of men and manners and scenery; and a
power of expression and a literary style which are as strong and
convincing as they are easy and graceful. Her book has all the
interest of a well-told story; the vivacious charm of a volume of
personal reminiscences; the excitement of a book of adventure,
and the exactness and studious attention to necessary detail of
an official Blue Book. From this time forth let no one complain
that a journey to Finland is almost the only means of becoming
intimately acquainted with the country and its inhabitants. Mrs.
Alec Tweedie’s book—which ought to become a standard work on the
subject—is a contradiction of that notion.
“It is worth a thought that—some would say as a result of the free
and equal footing of the sexes—the morality and virtue of the
people reaches the highest possible level. Divorce is not often
heard of. When it does occur, it is oftener through incompatibility
of temper than immorality. ‘Surely,’ says Mrs. Alec Tweedie,
‘if two people find they have made a mistake, and are irritants
instead of sedatives to one another, they should not be left to
champ and fret like horses at too severe a bit, for all their
long, sad lives—to mar one another’s happiness, to worry their
children and annoy their friends. Finland shows us an excellent
example. The very fact of being able to get free makes folk less
inclined to struggle at their chains. Life is intolerable to Mrs.
Jones in Finland, and away she goes; at the end of a year Mr.
Jones advertises three times in the paper for his wife, or for
information that will lead to his knowing her whereabouts; no one
responds, and Mr. Jones can sue for and obtain a divorce without
any of those scandalous details appearing in the Press which are
a disgrace to English journalism.’ Whatever may be thought of
Mrs. Alec Tweedie’s plain words as to the facilities for divorce,
her remarks about the English Press do not quite convince the
journalistic mind. The Press has a public duty to perform, and if
it can be proved that the conscientious publication of ’scandalous
details’ is more likely to act as a deterrent to vice and crime
than would be the case if those details were suppressed, one should
pause before describing the course adopted by the majority of
English journals as a disgrace to the profession….
“We can only refer our readers to Mrs. Alec Tweedie’s pages, where
the inner life and the outer life of the Finns, their weaknesses
and their strong points, their advantages and their limitations,
are all revealed with the discreet thoroughness of an artist and
the kindliness and consideration and admiration and candour of a
And now journalism in turn began and that seriously.
I found a list of editors and papers, scanned it carefully, and to the
most likely addressed manuscripts. On every possible and impossible
subject—very often the latter, be it known—I scribbled. Often the
manuscripts were returned, but equally often they were accepted, and
gradually this came to mean regular engagement. Thus, for years, I
turned out four, five, and six articles every week, many of them
signed. The front page of the _Pall Mall Gazette_ and the front page
of the _Queen_ were a constant source of employment, to say nothing of
other work on nearly every important paper at some time or the other.
I have written serious stuff for the magazines, topical stuff for the
dailies, and rubbish for the frivolous papers.
I never had an introduction in my life and have rarely been inside
a newspaper office. My work was done from my own writing-table and
entirely by correspondence; for, in my belief, if the material is
worth taking it will find its own market, and no amount of pushing or
introductions will be of the slightest avail.
Penmanship means hard brain-fagging work with little gain in
proportion. A well-known writer once told me one of his big important
books brought him exactly thirteen pounds.
I still remember with what joy I read a leader in the _Daily Telegraph_
on a magazine article of mine. It then seemed so great and wonderful to
be mentioned in a leader; next to which recollection comes my pride on
seeing book reviews with my own name above them in the literary page
of that literary paper, the _Daily Chronicle_. These little vanities
were the recompense for the dreary hours of work, when one’s head ached
and one’s eyes felt hot and swollen and one’s brain seemed on fire or
What years of anxiety some of those were, when the house would not
let and the bills would come in! Tenant succeeded tenant, and between
whiles I wandered.
Later, when I returned to the old home, I took a boarder. In
polite society people talk of “paying guests.” I prefer the true
term—“lodger.” She was an old lady with a title, nearly blind, and had
her maid. They were with me for two years. I used to work all day,
and read aloud, trim her caps, or chat to her in the evening. She
very rarely had a meal outside the house, so there was a good deal to
arrange for her in my otherwise busy life.
My old lady came into an unexpected fortune and left.
Little boys home from school had to be fed at meals, amused between tea
and dinner during that precious “children’s hour,” and I often left my
bed in the morning, to begin another strenuous day, more tired than I
had entered it the previous night.
But mediocrity and determination succeeded where genius and inspiration
might have failed.
One rule, and a very good rule, for success is never to let one’s self
get out of hand. If anybody cannot rule himself, he cannot rule his
Age has nothing to do with success. Byron, Burns, and Shelley all wrote
priceless gems in youthful years, and, on the other hand, Samuel Smiles
never took up his pen until he was past forty, and was then read by
millions all over the world and translated into a dozen languages.
Often in those days I longed for my old world. I was too proud to
tell people I could not afford a cab, and a bus fare was often
a consideration. My beautiful evening dresses were out of date.
Opera-cloaks and tea-gowns were laid aside in tissue paper—quite
inappropriate for a journalist living in a country cottage. I used to
long for a night at a theatre, a whirling dance, a day on the river.
But no, life was one round of work, work, work. Thoughtless friends,
out of the kindness of their heart, invited me to stay with them.
Wealth of gold often accompanies poverty of mind. They thought they
were helping me—they had not brains to see I could not afford the
ticket to Scotland, the clothes necessary for them and their guests, or
the stupendous tips required in large households—a life of pleasure now
seemed to me merely fierce misery. What time I could spare from my work
I spent resting, often in bed. Worn out mentally, bodily repose seemed
the only way of re-stoking the engine for a further pull uphill.
Invitation after invitation had to be refused because I could not
afford the expense nor the time. A great barrier had arisen between
me and my old world. How I regretted I had not done even more than
I had done for people less dowered than myself in the past! And yet
Alec and I had often sent a bank-note in an envelope to a sick or poor
friend. Then, yes then, the reward came. The thoughtless rich, with
all their kindly but useless offers of hospitality, left me alone, and
the others—those who were really worth knowing—sought me out. Well I
remember a first-class return ticket to Scotland being pinned, as if by
chance, on the top of the letter which invited me to a shooting-box.
Another time some friends asked me to go abroad with them _as their
guest_, and treated me as their most honoured friend. Boxes came for
the theatres, and the note accompanying them asked at what hour I would
like the carriage to fetch me, or motors were lent me to shop or call.
It was all to save me expense, I knew; but done so nicely, and showing
so keenly the determination to give me a good time and save my slender
purse. These were the acts of true gentlefolk—the vaunted offers of
visits that meant hundreds of pounds’ worth of clothes and ten pounds’
worth of tickets and tips were mere pretence, merely salves to the soul
of the sender of the invitation, that he or she was doing something
kind, knowing all the time they were but dangling a fly from the world
I had lost, to the woman not yet sure of her new world or of herself.
The creative mind is like a sensitive plant. It feels sorrow or joy
more acutely than its neighbour or it could not take in or give out
Everyone with initiative in the Arts is receptive. They are like
sensitive plates in a camera. They conceive and receive impressions.
Genius suffers, or it cannot expand, and poverty to genius is often
cruelly crushing. It paralyses output, or is a wild incentive to work
at the cost of double brain force.
It would be so nice if all really clever people, people whose work
benefits mankind, could be saved the gnawing pains of poverty.
Genius is often emotional, and there are just as many emotional men as
emotional women. I have seen as many tears lurking in men’s eyes as in
women’s in my day. God bless them for it—a person who cannot feel is
* * * * *
I went to all sorts of queer old eating-houses, doss-houses, lunatic
asylums, gaols, docks, slums, Jews’ markets, and Billingsgate, in my
pursuit of “copy”; always seeking something new.
I began to wonder if money was the only thing that counted, and then—a
thousand times no. I realised that money was the only thing that
counted in the world of snobs—but did the world of snobs count at all?
The words of Montaigne came back to me: “We commend a horse for his
strength and sureness of foot and not for his rich caparison; a
greyhound for his share of heels, not for his fine collar; a hawk for
her wing, not for her jesses and bells. Why in like manner do we not
value a man for what is properly his own? He has a great train, a
beautiful palace, so much credit, so many thousand pounds a year, and
all these are _about_ him, but not _in_ him.”
A millionaire was one day sitting having tea with me, when I exclaimed:
“I wonder what it feels like to be so rich?”
He stared at me, as though puzzled that anyone should be in doubt.
“Often very disagreeable,” he replied.
“Well, one never knows who are one’s friends, because of one’s money;
or who would cut one to-morrow if it were lost!”
Then he told me an experience which must certainly have been mortifying.
“At a ball my wife and I gave recently I felt tired, and slipped down
to the supper-room for a glass of champagne and a sandwich. I sat for a
moment at a little table where two young men were sitting, and this is
what I heard:
“‘Whose house is this?’
“‘Oh, one of those beastly rich African Jews, I’m told.’
“‘Do you know them?’
“‘Lord, no! I came with Lady M——.’
“‘And I came with Lady N——. Not a bad house, though. Champagne might
have been better.’
“Sick at heart, I looked at them, turned on my heel, and went upstairs.
A few minutes later they followed. I was standing talking to Lady M——
as the pair sauntered up.
“She caught one of them by the arm and said to him, ‘Oh, I must
introduce you to Mr. X——, our host.’
“I pulled myself together. ‘Thanks, there is no need; we met in the
supper-room a moment ago, and I had the pleasure of hearing his opinion
of my champagne.’ And having said that, I put out my hand and hoped he
was enjoying himself. You should have seen that young man’s face.
“Is it pleasant to be rich? No!”
He spoke so bitterly, one could not help feeling how often accumulated
wealth is merely luck, when it comes from the yield of the earth
or is the product of invention; but yet how often it comes through
Stock-Exchange knowledge, which not infrequently is another name for
In an earlier chapter I have alluded to my school-days at Queen’s
College, Harley Street. This was the first college opened for women,
and when it had been in existence fifty years (started 1848), I—as
an “old girl”—volunteered to edit a booklet giving a short account
of its history; and also suggested that other “old girls,” as an
encouragement to the younger generation, should contribute articles
describing their own particular professions, all of which were more or
less the outcome of the education they received in Harley Street.
If I gave an honest account of the editing of that volume people
would laugh. Up to that time no careful register of “old girls”
had been kept. These were the initial days of women learning to be
business-like, I suppose, and if the girls’ names were known their
addresses were not forthcoming, or else nobody had any idea whether or
not the said “girls” were married.
Persistency and dogged determination is rewarded in most things, and in
the end the first page of the little volume entitled:
“THE FIRST COLLEGE OPEN TO WOMEN,
QUEEN’S COLLEGE, LONDON,”
recorded the following contributions, among others (it appeared in
Dorothea Beale, “Recollections of the Early Days
of Queen’s College.”
Sophia Jex Blake, “The Medical Education of
Louisa Twining, “Workhouses and Pauperism.”
Lady Beerbohm Tree, “Quick, thy tablets, memory!”
Dr. Jex Blake was too busy to write her own articles, so I jotted down
the sort of thing I wanted and she filled in the facts and figures.
Another good lady’s I entirely re-wrote; it was so impossible in the
form in which it was sent in.
Some of the other contributors accepted the task gleefully, wrote to
the point, sent copy to date, returned their proofs the same day, and
otherwise showed the difference between an amateur and the professional
Several of my contributors seemed unaccustomed to writing for the
Press. One dear lady actually wrote to enquire how she would know when
she had written fifteen hundred words. She explained that a friend
had told her, that _she_ had a friend, who had another friend, who
thought that a column of a daily paper contained about three thousand
words, etc. etc. I suggested her writing a page and counting it, and
multiplying by the number of pages, but when the manuscript came back
the first page had been counted, and at the top of the second page
appeared, “Carried forward 162 words,” at the top of the third page,
“Carried forward 314 words,” and so on, as if it were the butcher’s
book. She had succeeded in life, but not as a scribe.
Another insisted on writing something quite different from the subject
arranged and asked for.
I had to sit in Maud Tree’s dressing-room at the Haymarket Theatre
during a performance of _Julius Cæsar_ to get her article out of her at
all. Not that she does not know how to write, for she is particularly
clever with her pen, as in many other things; but she has a little
trick of procrastination, so it was only by sitting beside her during
the “waits” and taking her ideas down on pieces of paper that we
managed the article. I know nothing of shorthand, unfortunately, so
the notes were somewhat scratchy and interlarded with remarks to her
dresser: “Give me my cloak,” “A little more rouge,” “Has the call-boy
been?” and so on.
There are two classes of successful people: those who buy a reputation,
and those who make one.
Each despises the other and nurses his own illusions. But, after all,
life would be deadly were it not for its illusions.