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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

4                   A COLLEGE MAUAZIJNE

student should have tried all that are possible ; before he
can choose and preserve a fitting key of words, he should
long have practised the literary scales ; and it is only after
years of such gymnastic that he can sit down at last,
legions of words swarming to his call, dozens of turns of
phrase simultaneously bidding for his choice, and he him-
self knowing what he wants to do and (within the narrow
limit of a man's ability) able to do it.

And it is the great point of these imitations that there
still shines beyond the student's reach his inimitable
model Let him try as he please, he is still sure of failure ;
and it is a very old and a very true saying that failure is
the only highroad to success. I must have had some
disposition to learn ; for I clear-sightedly condemned my
own performances. I liked doing them indeed ; but when
they were done, I could see they were rubbish. In conse-
quence, I very rarely showed them even to my friends;
and such friends as I chose to be my confidants I must
have chosen well, for they had the friendliness to be quite
plain with me, ' Padding/ said one. Another wrote;
11 cannot understand why you do lyrics so badly.' No
more could I! Thrice I put myself in the way of a more
authoritative rebuff, by sending a paper to a magazine.
These were returned; and I was not surprised nor even
pained. If they had not been looked at, as (like all
amateurs) I suspected was the case, there was no good in
repeating the experiment; if they had been looked at-
well, then I had not yet learned to write, and I must keep
on learning and living. Lastly, I had a piece of good
fortune which is the occasion of this paper, and by which
I was able to see my literature in print, and to measure
experimentally how far I stood from the favour of the
public.