Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child;
it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.
Robert Louis Stevenson
I still contend that, in the humblest sort of literary work,
we have it in our power either to do great harm or great good.
– Robert Louis Stevenson
These words are from a portion of Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay that are not in BriteLites’ serialization but will be part of the whole that is offered shortly. While Stevenson was denouncing the sensational and mediocre, mundane and dishonest journalism of his time, his words are reminders to all who write, whether non fiction, fantasy or poetry.
Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLitesBiz invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths. Following is the fifth excerpt from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Morality of The Profession of Letters.”
The Two Duties of All Writers
There are two duties incumbent upon any man who enters on the business of writing: truth to the fact and a good spirit in the treatment.
In every department of literature, though so low as hardly to deserve the name, truth to the fact is of importance to the education and comfort of mankind, and so hard to preserve, that the faithful trying to do so will lend some dignity to the man who tries it. Our judgments are based upon two things: first, upon the original preferences of our soul; but, second, upon the mass testimony to the nature of God, man, and the universe which reaches us, in divers manners, from without.
For the most part these diverse manners are reducible to one, all that we learn of past times and much that we learn of our own reaching us through the medium of books or papers, and even he who cannot read learning from the same source at second-hand and by the report of him who can. Thus the sum of the contemporary knowledge or ignorance of good and evil is, in large measure, the handiwork of those who write. Those who write have to see that each man’s knowledge is, as near aas they can make it, answerable to the facts of life; that he shall not suppose himself an angel or a monster; nor take this world for a hell; nor be suffered to image that all rights are concentred in his own caste or country, or all veracities in his own parochial creed.
Each man should learn what is within him, that he may strive to men; he must be taught what is without him, that he may be kind to others. It can never be wrong to tell him the truth; for, in his disputable state, weaving as he goes his theory of life, steering himself, cheering or reproving others, all facts are of the first importance to his conduct; and even if a fact shall discourage or corrupt him, it is still best that he should know it; for it is in this world as it is, and not in a world made easy by educational suppressions, that he must win his way to shame or glory. In one word, it must always be foul to tell what is false; and it can never be safe to suppress what is true.
Watch for mid-week posting
NANOWriMo Prep, 2nd Step
National Book Award winner Alice McDermott discusses her process with Charlie Rose