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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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These writers would retort (if I take tnem properiyj
hat this was very true ; that it was the same with
hemselves and other persons of (what they call) the
rtistic temperament; that in this we were exceptional, and
hould apparently be ashamed of ourselves ; but that our
rorks must deal exclusively with (what they call) the
Average man, who was a prodigious dull fellow, and quite
lead to all but the paltriest considerations. I accept the
ssue. We can only know others by ourselves. The
irtistic temperament (a plague on the expression !) does
lot make us different from our fellowmen, or it would
nake us incapable of writing novels ; and the average
oian (a murrain on the word !) is just like you and me,
^I he would not be average. It was Whitman who stamped
a, kind of Birmingham sacredness upon the latter phrase ;
but Whitman knew very well, and showed very nobly,
that the average man was full of joys and full of a poetry
of his own. And this harping on life's dullness and man's
meanness is a loud profession of incompetence; it is one
of two things : the cry of the blind eye, I cannot see, or
the complaint of the dumb tongue, I cannot utter. To
draw a life without delights is to prove I have not realized
it. To picture a man without some sort of poetry—well,
it goes near to prove my case, for it shows an author may
have little enough. To see Dancer only as a dirty, old,
sjnall-minded, impotently fuming man, in a dirty house,
"besieged by Harrow boys, and probably beset by small
attorneys, is to show myself as keen an observer as ... the
Harrow boys. But these young gentlemen (with a more
becoming modesty) were content to pluck Dancer by the
coat-tails ; they did not suppose they had surprised his
secret or could put him living in a book : and it is there
my error would have lain. Or say that in the same
romance—I continue to call these books romances, in
the hope of giving pain—say that in the same romance,
which now begins really to take shape, I should leave to
speak of Dancer, and follow instead the Harrow boys;
and say that I came on some such business as that of
my lantern-bearers on the links; and described the boys
•as very cold, spat upon by flurries of rain, and drearily