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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

II

BOOKS WHICH HAVE INFLUENCED ME l

THE Editor2 has somewhat insidiously laid a trap for
his correspondents, the question put appearing at first so
innocent, truly cutting so deep. It is not, indeed, until
after some reconnaissance and review that the writer
awakes to find himself engaged upon something in the
nature of autobiography, or, perhaps worse, upon a chapter
in the life of that little, beautiful brother whom we once
all had, and whom we have all lost and mourned, the man
we ought to have been, the man we hoped to be. But
when word has been passed (even to an editor), it should,
if possible, be kept; and if sometimes I am wise and say
too little, and sometimes weak and say too much, the
blame must lie at the door of the person who entrapped
me.

The most influential books, and the truest in their
influence, are works of fiction. They do not pin the
reader to a dogma, which he must afterwards discover to
be inexact; they do not teach him a lesson, which he must
afterwards unlearn. They repeat, they rearrange, they
clarify the lessons of life; they disengage us from our-
selves, they constrain us to the acquaintance of others;
and they show us the web of experience, not as we can see
it for ourselves, but with a singular change—that mon-
strous, consuming ego of ours being, for the nonce, struck
out. To be so, they must be reasonably true to the human
comedy; and any work that is so serves the turn of in-
struction. But the course of our education is answered

i First published in the British Weekly, May 13, 1887,
a Of the British Weekly.

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