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Sister Teresa   By: (1852-1933)

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First Edition, 1901

Second Edition (entirely rewritten), 1909


A weaver goes to the mart with a divided tapestry, and with half in either hand he walks about telling that whoever possesses one must, perforce, possess the other for the sake of the story. But allegories are out of place in popular editions; they require linen paper, large margins, uncut edges; even these would be insufficient; only illuminated vellum can justify that which is never read. So perhaps it will be better if I abandon the allegory and tell what happened: how one day after writing the history of "Evelyn Innes" for two years I found myself short of paper, and sought vainly for a sheet in every drawer of the writing table; every one had been turned into manuscript, and "Evelyn Innes" stood nearly two feet high.

"Five hundred pages at least," I said, "and only half of my story finished.... This is a matter, on which I need the publisher's opinion."

Ten minutes after I was rolling away in a hansom towards Paternoster Square, very anxious to persuade him that the way out of my difficulty would be to end the chapter I was then writing on a full close.

"That or a novel of a thousand pages," I said.

"A novel of a thousand pages!" he answered. "Impossible! We must divide the book." It may have been to assuage the disappointment he read on my face that he added, "You'll double your money."

My publisher had given way too easily, and my artistic conscience forthwith began to trouble me, and has never ceased troubling me since that fatal day. The book the publisher puts asunder the author may not bring together, and I shall write to no purpose in one preface that "Evelyn Innes" is not a prelude to "Sister Teresa" and in another that "Sister Teresa" is not a sequel to "Evelyn Innes." Nor will any statement of mine made here or elsewhere convince the editors of newspapers and reviews to whom this book will be sent for criticism that it is not a revised edition of a book written ten years ago, but an entirely new book written within the last eighteen months; the title will deceive them, and my new book will be thrown aside or given to a critic with instructions that he may notice it in ten or a dozen lines. Nor will the fact that "Evelyn Innes" occupies a unique place in English literature cause them to order that the book shall be reread and reconsidered a unique place I hasten to add which it may easily lose to morrow, for the claim made for it is not one of merit, but of kind.

"Evelyn Innes" is a love story, the first written in English for three hundred years, and the only one we have in prose narrative. For this assertion not to seem ridiculous it must be remembered that a love story is not one in which love is used as an ingredient; if that were so nearly all novels would be love stories; even Scott's historical novels could not be excluded. In the true love story love is the exclusive theme; and perhaps the reason why love stories are so rare in literature is because the difficulty of maintaining the interest is so great; probably those in existence were written without intention to write love stories. Mine certainly was. The manuscript of this book was among the printers before it broke on me one evening as I hung over the fire that what I had written was a true love story about a man and a woman who meet to love each other, who are separated for material or spiritual reasons, and who at the end of the story are united in death or affection, no matter which, the essential is that they should be united. My story only varies from the classical formula in this, that the passion of "the lovely twain" is differentiated.

It would be interesting to pursue this subject, and there are other points which it would be interesting to touch upon; there must be a good deal for criticism in a book which has been dreamed and re dreamed for ten years... Continue reading book >>

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