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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Pictures and Books            101

they breed new notes. I never try to lengthen them, so I do
not know whether they would grow shorter if I did. Perhaps
that might be a good way of getting them shorter.

Shortening

A young author is tempted to leave anything he has
written through fear of not having enough to say if he goes
cutting out too freely. But it is easier to be long than short.
I have always found compressing, cutting out, and tersifying
a passage suggest more than anything else does. Things
pruned off in this way are like the heads of the hydra, two
grow for every one that is lopped off.

Omission

If a writer will go on the principle of stopping everywhere
and anywhere to put down his notes, as the true painter will
stop anywhere and everywhere to sketch, he will be able to
cut down his works liberally. He will become prodigal not
of writingóany fool can be thisóbut of omission- You
become brief because you have more things to say than time
to say them in. One of the chief arts is that of knowing what
to neglect and the more talk increases the more necessary
does this art become.

Brevity

Handel's jig in. the ninth Suite de Pieces, in G minor, is
very fine but it is perhaps a little long. Probably Handel was
in a hurry, for it takes much more time to get a thing short
than to leave it a little long. Brevity is not only the soul of
wit, but the soul of making oneself agreeable and of getting
on with people, and, indeed, of everything that makes life
worth living. So precious a thing, however, cannot be got
without more expense and trouble than most of us have the
moral wealth to lay out.

Diffuseness

This sometirn.es helps, as, for instance, when the subject is
hard; words that may be, strictly speaking, unnecessary