clearer idea, than I ever had before, of the meaning of the word ‘chaos’:
and I think it must have been ten years, or more, before I had succeeded
in classifying these odds-and-ends sufficiently to see what sort of a
story they indicated: for the story had to grow out of the incidents,
not the incidents out of the story I am telling all this, in no spirit
of egoism, but because I really believe that some of my readers will be
interested in these details of the ‘genesis’ of a book, which looks so
simple and straight-forward a matter, when completed, that they might
suppose it to have been written straight off, page by page, as one
would write a letter, beginning at the beginning; and ending at the end.
It is, no doubt, possible to write a story in that way: and, if it be
not vanity to say so, I believe that I could, myself,–if I were in the
unfortunate position (for I do hold it to be a real misfortune) of
being obliged to produce a given amount of fiction in a given time,–
that I could ‘fulfil my task,’ and produce my ‘tale of bricks,’
as other slaves have done. One thing, at any rate, I could guarantee
as to the story so produced–that it should be utterly commonplace,
should contain no new ideas whatever, and should be very very weary
This species of literature has received the very appropriate name of
‘padding’ which might fitly be defined as ‘that which all can write and
none can read.’ That the present volume contains no such writing I dare
not avow: sometimes, in order to bring a picture into its proper place,
it has been necessary to eke out a page with two or three extra lines:
but I can honestly say I have put in no more than I was absolutely
compelled to do.
My readers may perhaps like to amuse themselves by trying to detect,
in a given passage, the one piece of ‘padding’ it contains.
While arranging the ‘slips’ into pages, I found that the passage,
whichnow extends from the top of p. 35 to the middle of p. 38, was 3 lines
too short. I supplied the deficiency, not by interpolating a word here
and a word there, but by writing in 3 consecutive lines. Now can my readers
guess which they are?
A harder puzzle if a harder be desired would be to determine, as to the
Gardener’s Song, in which cases (if any) the stanza was adapted to the
surrounding text, and in which (if any) the text was adapted to the
Perhaps the hardest thing in all literature–at least I have found it
so: by no voluntary effort can I accomplish it: I have to take it as it
come’s is to write anything original. And perhaps the easiest is,
when once an original line has been struck out, to follow it up,
and to write any amount more to the same tune.
I do not know if ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was an original story–I was,
at least, no conscious imitator in writing it–but I do know that,
since it came out, something like a dozen story-books have appeared,
on identically the same pattern. The path I timidly explored believing
myself to be ‘the first that ever burst into that silent sea’–
is now a beaten high-road: all the way-side flowers have long ago been
trampled into the dust: and it would be courting disaster for me to
attempt that style again.
Hence it is that, in ‘Sylvie and Bruno,’ I have striven with I know not
what success to strike out yet another new path: be it bad or good,
it is the best I can do. It is written, not for money, and not for fame,
but in the hope of supplying, for the children whom I love, some thoughts
that may suit those hours of innocent merriment which are the very life
of Childhood; and also in the hope of suggesting, to them and to others,
some thoughts that may prove, I would fain hope, not wholly out of harmony
with the graver cadences of Life.