Imatges de pÓgina

in the morning I have no spirits. So much the worse for my correspondents. Sleep, that refreshes my body, seems to cripple me in every other respect. As the evening approaches I grow more alert, and when I am retiring to bed am more fit for mental occupation than at any other time. So it fares with us whom they call nervous."

He was very assiduous in labor. While he was translating Homer, he says: "As soon as breakfast is over, I retire to my nutshell of a summer-house, which is my verse manufactory, and here I abide seldom less than three hours, and not often more." This little summer-house, which he called his boudoir, was not much bigger than a sedan-chair; the door of it opened into the garden, which was covered with pinks, roses, and honeysuckles. The window opened into his neighbor's orchard. He says: "It formerly served an apothecary, now dead, as a smokingroom; and under my feet is a trapdoor, which once covered a hole in the ground where he kept his bottles. At present, however, it is dedicated to sublimer uses. Having lined it with garden mats, and furnished it with a table and two chairs, here I write all that I write in summer-time, whether to my friends or to the public..... In the afternoon I return to it again, and all the daylight that follows, except what is sometimes devoted to a walk, is given to Homer." In the evening he devoted himself to transcribing, so that his mornings and evenings were, for the most part, completely engaged. He read also, but less than he wrote; "for I must have bodily exercise," he said, "and therefore never let a day pass without it." His walk was usually in the afternoon.

Lord Byron, who used to sit up at night writing "Don Juan," (which he did under the influence of gin and water.) rose late in the morning. Leigh Hunt thus describes him: "He breakfasted, read, lounged about, singing an air, generally out of Rossini, and in a swaggering style, though in a voice at once small and veiled; then took a bath

and was dressed, and coming down stairs, was heard, still singing, in the court-yard, out of which the garden ascended at the back of the house. The servants at the same time brought out two or three chairs. We then lounged about, or sat and talked. In the course of an hour or two, being an early riser, I used to go in to dinner. Lord Byron either stayed a little longer, or went up stairs to his books and his couch. When the heat of the day declined we rode out, either on horseback or in a barouche, generally towards the forest. He was a good rider, graceful, and kept a firm seat. In the evening I seldom saw him. He recreated himself in the balcony, or with a book; and at night, when I went to bed, he was just thinking of setting to work with 'Don Juan.' His favorite reading was history and travels. His favorite authors were Bayle and Gibbon. His favorite recreation was boating." Byron had prodigious facility of composition. He was fond of suppers, and in London, after supping at Rogers's and eating heartily, he would go home and throw off sixty or eighty verses, which he would send to press the next morning.

Goldsmith's desultory habits are quite characteristic. Irving says: "It was his custom during the summertime, when pressed by a multiplicity of literary jobs, or urged to the accomplishment of some particular task, to take country lodgings a few miles from town, generally on the Harrow or Edgeware road, and bury himself there for weeks and months together. Sometimes he would remain closely occupied in his room, at other times he would stroll out along the lanes and hedgerows, and, taking out paper and pencil, note down thoughts to be expanded and corrected at home." Though he engaged to board with the family, his meals were generally sent to him in his room, in which he passed the most of his time, negligently dressed, with his shirt-collar open, busily engaged in writing. Sometimes, probably when in moods of composition, he would

wander into the kitchen, without noticing any one, stand musing with his back to the fire, and then hurry off again to his room, no doubt to commit to paper some thought which had struck him. He was subject to fits of wakefulness, and read much in bed; if not disposed to read, he still kept the candle burning; if he wished to extinguish it, and it was out of his reach, he flung his slipper at it, which would be found in the morning near the overturned candlestick, daubed with grease. He is said to have considered four lines of poetry a day good work.

He commenced his poem of "The Traveller" in Switzerland, but long kept it back from publication, till Johnson's praise of it induced him to prepare it for the press. It is said that, while for two years previous to its publication he was employed in the drudgery of laborious compilations for the booksellers, his few vacant hours were fondly devoted to the patient revisal and correction of this his greatest poem; pruning its luxuriances, or supplying its defects, till it appeared at length finished with exactness and polished into beauty. While writing his History of England, he would read Hume, Rapin-Thoyras, Carte, and Kennet, in the morning, make a few notes, ramble with a friend into the country about the skirts of "Merry Islington," return to a temperate dinner and cheerful evening, and, before going to bed, write off what had arranged itself in his head from the studies of the morning. In this way he took a more general view of the subject, and wrote in a more free and fluent style than if he had been mousing at the time among authorities. The influence of this way of composing history is plainly seen in the entertaining, but not immortal, volumes it produced.

Douglas Jerrold's day of labor may be sketched thus. At eight o'clock he breakfasts on cold new milk, toast, bacon, watercresses, and perhaps strawberries. Then he makes long examination of the papers, cutting out bits of

[blocks in formation]

In again,

The thought

with books and pictures; its furniture is of solid oak. There work begins. If it be a comedy, he will now and then walk rapidly up and down the room, talking wildly to himself, and laughing as he hits upon a good point. Suddenly the pen will be put down, and through a little conservatory, without seeing anybody, he will pass out into the garden for a little while, talking to the gardeners, walking, &c. and vehemently to work. has come; and, in letters smaller than the type in which they shall be set, it is unrolled along the little blue slips of paper. A crust of bread and glass of wine are brought in, but no word is spoken. The work goes rapidly forward, and halts at last suddenly. The pen is dashed aside, a few letters, seldom more than three lines in each, are written and despatched to the post, and then again into the garden, visits to the horse, cow, and fowls, then another long turn around the lawn, and at last a seat with a quaint old volume in the tent under the mulberry-tree. Friends come, - walks and conversation. A very simple dinner at four. Then a short nap - forty winks upon the great sofa in the study; another long stroll over the lawn while tea is prepared. Over the tea-table are jokes of all kinds, as at dinner. In the later years of his life, Jerrold seldom wrote after dinner; and his evenings were usually spent alone in his study, reading, writing letters, &c. Sometimes he would join the family circle for half an hour before going to bed at ten; but his rule was a solitary evening in the study with his books.

Dickens's favorite time for composition is said to be in the morning. Powell, in his "Notices of Living Authors of England," says that he writes till about one or two o'clock, when he lunches, and afterwards takes a walk for a couple of hours; returns to dinner, and gives the evening to his own or a friend's fireside. Sometimes his method of labor is much more intense and unremitting. Of his delightful little Christmas book, "The Chimes," the

author says, in a letter to a friend, that he shut himself up for one month close and tight over it. "All my affections and passions got twined and knotted up in it, and I became as haggard as a murderer long before I wrote, The End.' When I had done that, like The Man of Thessaly,' who, having scratched his eyes out in a quickset hedge, plunged into a bramble-bush to scratch them in again, I fled to Venice to recover the composure I had disturbed." When his imagination begins to outline a new novel, with vague thoughts rife within him, he goes "wandering about at night into the strangest places," he says, "seeking rest and finding none."

Bulwer accomplishes his voluminous productions in about three hours a day, usually from ten until one, and seldom later, writing all with his own hand. Composition was at first very laborious to him, but he gave himself sedulously to mastering its difficulties ; and is said to have rewritten some of his briefer productions eight or nine times before publication. He now writes very rapidly, averaging, it is said, twenty octavo pages a day. He says of himself in a letter to a friend : "I literatize away the morning, ride at three, go to bathe at five, dine at six, and get through the evening as I best may, sometimes by correcting a proof."

Charles Anthon, so well known to the classical students of this generation, was accustomed, for many years at least, constantly to retire at ten and rise at four, so that a large part of his day's work was done by breakfast-time; and it was this untiring industry that enabled him, despite his incessant labors both in college and in school, to produce some fifty volumes.

Gibbon always studied with his pen in hand, and for the purpose of his history he practised laboriously the formation of his style of writing. The first chapter of his history he rewrote three times, and the second and third chapters twice, before he was satisfied with them; but after thus getting under way, the greater part of his manuscript was sent to the

press in the first rough draft, without any intermediate copy being made. After completing his great history, he congratulated himself upon having accomplished a long, but temperate labor, without fatiguing either the mind or the body. "Happily for my eyes," he said, "I have always closed my studies with the day and commonly with the morning." When he had accomplished the labors of the morning in the library, he preferred recreation and social enjoyments rather than any exercise of mind. He gives the following account of his sensations on accomplishing his great work. "It was on the day, or rather night, of June 27, 1787, between the hours of eleven and twelve, that I wrote the last lines of the last page in a summer-house in my garden. After laying down my pen, I took several turns in a covered walk of acacias. I will not dissemble the first emotions of joy on the recovery of my freedom, and perhaps the establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind by the idea that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion."

This reminds us of the emotions which Noah Webster describes as overwhelming him when he reached the close of his dictionary. "When I finished my copy," says Dr. Webster, "I was sitting at my table in Cambridge, England, January, 1825. When I arrived at the last word, I was seized with a tremor that made it difficult to proceed. I, however, summoned up my strength to finish the work, and then, walking about the room, I soon recovered."

Buckle, even more systematically and laboriously than ever did Gibbon, devoted himself to the formation of his style of writing as a special preparation for entering upon the composition of his history. In his later years he abandoned the custom of writing at night, and it was his usual practice to lay aside his pen by three o'clock in the afternoon. When at home in London, he spent an hour or so at noon in walking about the city, frequently dined out,

and read an hour after coming home. He went to dinner-parties exclusively, it is said, because they took less time

than others.

Sir William Jones while in India began his studies with the dawn, and in seasons of intermission from professional duty continued them throughout the day; meditation retraced and confirmed what reading had collected or investigation discovered. With respect to the division of his time, he wrote on a small piece of paper these lines:


"Six hours in sleep, in law's grave study six, Four spend in prayer, the rest on nature fix.”


"Seven hours to law, to soothing slumber seven, Ten to the world allot, and all to heaven."

Of Chief-Justice Parsons of Massachusetts, his son says: "It is literally true that for fifty years he was always reading or writing when not obliged to be doing something else. He had, fortunately for himself, many interruptions, but he avoided them as far as he could; and there were weeks, and I believe consecutive months, when he passed nearly two thirds of his day with books and papers. . . . . He very seldom took exercise for exercise' sake. Excepting an infrequent walk of some minutes in the long entry which ran through the middle of his house, he almost never walked for mere exercise, until an attack of ill


After that he sometimes, though rarely, took a walk about the streets or on the Common. . . . . His office was always in his dwelling-house. There

he sat all the day, but his evenings were invariably spent in the large common sitting-room. He had his chair by the fireside, and a small table near it on which the evening's supply of books was placed. There he sat, always reading, (seldom writing in the evening or out of his office,) but never disturbed by any noise or frolic which might be going on. If anybody, young or old, appealed to him, he was always ready to answer; and sometimes, though not very often, would join in a game or play, and then return to his books.

... I have never known him wholly

unoccupied at any time whatsoever. He was always doing something, with books, pen, or instrument, or engaged in conversation."

Judge Story arose at seven in summer and at half past seven in winter,never earlier. If breakfast was not ready, he went at once to his library, and occupied the interval, whether it was five minutes or fifty, in writing. When the family assembled, he was called, and breakfasted with them. After breakfast he sat in the drawingroom, and spent from half to three quarters of an hour in reading the newspapers of the day. He then returned to his study, and wrote until the bell sounded for his lecture at the Law School. After lecturing for two, and sometimes three hours, he returned to his study, and worked until two o'clock, when he was called to dinner. To his dinner-which on his part was always simple - he gave an hour, and then again betook himself to his study, where in the winter time he worked as long as the daylight lasted, unless called away by a visitor, or obliged to attend a moot - court. Then he came down and joined the family, and work for the day was over. During the evening he was rarely without company; but if alone he read some new publication, sometimes corrected a proof-sheet, listened to music, talked with the family, or played backgammon. In the summer afternoons he left his library towards twilight. Generally the summer afternoon was varied three or four times a week in fair weather by a drive of about an hour in the country in an open chaise. At ten or half past he retired for the night, never varying a half-hour from this time. The exercise he took was almost entirely incidental to his duties, and consisted in driving to Boston to hold his court, or attend to other business, and in walking to and from the Law School. His real exercise was in talking. His diet was exceedingly simple. His lectures were wholly extemporary, or delivered without minutes, and no record was ever made of them by himself. After an in

terruption of hours, and even of days, he could take up the pen and continue a sentence which he had left half-written, without reading back, going on with the same certainty and rapidity as if he had never been stopped.

While Lord Jeffrey was judge, during the sittings of the court, the performance of his official duties exhausted nearly his whole day, the evenings especially; and his spare time, whether during his sittings or in vacation, was given to society, to correspondence, to walking, to lounging in his garden, and to reading.

John C. Calhoun was an arduous student, and very simple in his habits. He avoided all stimulants. When at home, he rose at daybreak, and, if weather permitted, took a walk over his farm. He breakfasted at half past seven, and then retired to his office, which stood near his house, where he wrote till dinner-time, or three o'clock. After dinner he read or conversed with his family till sunset, when he took another walk. His tea hour was eight. He then joined the family, and read or talked till ten, when he retired.

Dr. Arnold of Rugby began lessons at seven; and, with the interval of breakfast, they lasted till nearly three. Then he would walk with his pupils, and dine at half past five. At seven he usually had some lessons on hand; and "it was only when they were all gathered up in the drawing-room "after tea," says Mr. Stanley, "amidst young men on all sides of him, that he would commence work for himself in writing his sermons or Roman History."

In a letter Dr. Arnold said: "From about a quarter before nine till ten o'clock every evening I am at liberty, and enjoy my wife's company fully; during this time I read aloud to her, I am now reading to her Herodotus, translating as I go on,or write my sermons, or write letters." His favorite recreations were horseback-riding, walking, and playing with his children.

Florence Nightingale, in advising that the sick be not suddenly inter

rupted so as to distract their attention, says that the rule applies to the well quite as much as to the sick. She adds: "I have never known persons who exposed themselves for years to constant interruptions who did not muddle away their intellects by it at last." Dr. Arnold seems to be an exception.

The elder Alexander, the Princeton theologian, was another exception to Florence Nightingale's rule. It was his peculiarity that he seemed incapable of being interrupted. Except in hours of devotion, his study was always free to his children, even the youngest; noise made no difference; their books and toys were on his floor, and two or three would be clambering upon him while he was handling a folio or had the pen in his hand. Nor was this while engaged in the mechanical part of an author's work. His door was always open to the children; they burst in freely without any signal, and he always looked up with a smile of welcome; and he declared that he often could think to most purpose when there was a clatter of little voices around him. His voluminous works, which he commenced to publish late in life, do not indicate that he underwent a "muddling" process.

Johnson used to assert that a man could write just as well at one time as another, and as well in one place as another, if he would only set himself doggedly about it.

Dr. Channing's habits of labor when at home in Boston are thus described. "The sun is just rising, and the fires are scarcely lighted, when, with a rapid step, Dr. Channing enters his study. He has been watchful during many hours, his brain teeming, and under the excitement of his morning bath he longs to use the earliest hours for work. . . . His first act is to write down the thoughts which have been given in his vigils; next he reads a chapter or more in Griesbach's edition of the Greek Testament, and, after a quick glance over the newspapers of the day, he takes his light repast.

« AnteriorContinua »