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The Lowest Rung Together with The Hand on the Latch, St. Luke's Summer and The Understudy   By: (1859-1925)

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Together with The Hand on the Latch, St. Luke's Summer and The Understudy



Author of "Red Pottage"

London John Murray, Albemarle Street, W. 1908

Copyright, 1908, in the United States of America









I have been writing books for five and twenty years, novels of which I believe myself to be the author, in spite of the fact that I have been assured over and over again that they are not my own work. When I have on several occasions ventured to claim them, I have seldom been believed, which seems the more odd as, when others have claimed them, they have been believed at once. Before I put my name to them they were invariably considered to be, and reviewed as, the work of a man; and for years after I had put my name to them various men have been mentioned to me as the real author.

I remember once, when I was very young and shy, how at one of my first London dinner parties a charming elderly man discussed one of my earliest books with such appreciation that I at last remarked that I had written it myself. If I had looked for a surprised flash of delight at the fact that so much talent was palpitating in white muslin beside him, I was doomed to be disappointed. He gravely and gently said, "I know that to be untrue," and the conversation was turned to other subjects.

One man did indeed actually announce himself to be the author of "Red Pottage," in the presence of a large number of people, including the late Mr. William Sharp, who related the occurrence to me. But the incident ended uncomfortably for the claimant, which one would have thought he might have foreseen.

But whether my books are mine or not, still whenever one of them appears the same thing happens. I am pressed to own that such and such a character "is taken from So and so." I have not yet yielded to these exhortations to confession, partly, no doubt, because it would be very awkward for me afterwards if I owned that thirty different persons were the one and only original of "So and so."

My character for uprightness (if I ever had one) has never survived my tacit, or in some cases emphatic, refusal to be squeezed through the "clefts of confession."

It is perhaps impossible for those who do not write fiction to form any conception how easily an erroneous idea gains credence that some one has been "put in a book"; or, if the idea has once been entertained, how impossible it is to eradicate it.

Looking back over a string of incidents of this kind in my own personal experience, covering the last five and twenty years, I feel doubtful whether I shall be believed if I instance some of them. They seem now, after the lapse of years, frankly incredible, and yet they were real enough to give me not a little pain at the time. It is the fashion nowadays, if one says anything about oneself, to preface it by the pontifical remark that what one writes is penned for the sake of others, to save them, to cheer them, etc., etc. This, of course, now I come to think of it, must be my reason also for my lapse into autobiography. I see now that I only do it out of tenderness for the next generation. Therefore, young writers of the future, now on the playing fields of Eton, take notice that my heart yearns over you. If, later on, you are harrowed as I have been harrowed, remember

J'ai passé par là.

Observe the prints of my goloshes on the steep ascent, and take courage. And if you are perturbed, as I have been perturbed, let me whisper to you the exhortation of the bankrupt to the terrestrial globe:

Never you mind. Roll on.

When I first took a pen into my youthful hand, I lived in a very secluded part of the Midlands, and perhaps, my little world being what it was, it was inevitable that the originals of my characters, especially the tiresome ones, should be immediately identified with the kindly neighbours within a five mile radius of my paternal Rectory... Continue reading book >>

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