Monday, June 15, 2015

Fine Writing

This week, I noticed in Mme. de Stael's De L'Allemagne, in her chapter on Schiller's plays Wallenstein and Mary Stuart,
Nothing is easier than to compose what people call brilliant verses: there are ready-made machines for that...
(She thought, by the way, that the French were given to this, and that Schiller was not.)

Not that long ago, I encountered in Wilfrid Sheed's Frank and Maisie: A Memoir with Parents the tutor,
a third gloomy genius dressed entirely in gray who cured me forever of fine writing with one offhand sentence. "This sort of thing is much easier to do than many people suppose."
In English, I suppose, the model for such advice comes from Samuel Johnson, quoted by Boswell on April 30, 1773:
 I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: "Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out."

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