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Edward William Bok (1863–1930). The Americanization of Edward Bok. 1921.


Page 296

write, as I try to write, takes every ounce of my vitality.” Just as the best “impromptu” speeches are those most carefully prepared, so do the simplest articles and stories represent the hardest kind of work; the simpler the method seems and the easier the article reads, the harder, it is safe to say, was the work put into it.

But the author must also know when to let his material alone. In his excessive regard for style even so great a master as Robert Louis Stevenson robbed his work of much of the spontaneity and natural charm found, for example, in his Vailima Letters. The main thing is for a writer to say what he has to say in the best way, natural to himself, in which he can say it, and then let it alone—always remembering that, provided he has made himself clear, the message itself is of greater import than the manner in which it is said. Up to a certain point only is a piece of literary work an artistic endeavor. A readable, lucid style is far preferable to what is called a “literary style”—a foolish phrase, since it often means nothing except a complicated method of expression which confuses rather than clarifies thought. What the public wants in its literature is human nature, and that human nature simply and forcibly expressed. This is fundamental, and this is why true literature has no fashion and knows no change, despite the cries of the modern weaklings who affect weird forms. The clarity of Shakespeare is the clarity of to-day and will be that of to-morrow.

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