Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.
The following is excerpted from Responsibilities of The Novelist published in 1903.
Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLites invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths.
Once upon a time I had occasion to buy so uninteresting a thing as a silver soup-ladle. The salesman at the silversmith’s was obliging and for my inspection brought forth quite an array of ladles. But my purse was flaccid, anemic, and I must pick and choose with all the discrimination in the world.
I wanted to make a brave showing of my gift – to get a great deal for my money. I went through a world of soup-ladles – ladles with gilded bowls, with embossed handles, with chased arabesques, but there were none to my taste.
“Or perhaps,: says the salesman, “you would care to look at something like this,” and he brought out a ladle that was as plain and as unadorned as the unclouded sky – and about a beautiful. Of all the others this was the most to my liking. But the price! Ah, that anemic purse; and I must put it from me! It was nearly double the cost of any of the rest. And when I asked why, the salesman said:
“You see, in this highly ornamental ware the flaws of the material don’t show, and you can cover up a blowhole or the like by wreaths and beading. But this plain ware has got to be the very best. Every defect is apparent.”
And there, if you please, is a conclusive comment upon the whole business – a final basis of comparison of all things whether commercial or artistic … . We painters and poets and writers – artists – must labour with all the wits of us, all the strength of us, and with all that we have of ingenuity and perseverance to attain simplicity.
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