20 June 2012

Hopelessly Unremunerative

Andrew Lang, How to Fail in Literature (London: Field & Tuer, 1890), pp. 88-9:
In an unpublished letter of Mr. Thackeray's, written before he was famous, and a novelist, he says how much he likes writing on historical subjects, and how he enjoys historical research. The work is so gentlemanly, he remarks. Often and often, after the daily dreadful lines, the bread and butter winning lines on some contemporary folly or frivolity, does a man take up some piece of work hopelessly unremunerative, foredoomed to failure as far as money or fame go, some dealing with the classics of the world, Homer or Aristotle, Lucian or Molière. It is like a bath after a day's toil, it is tonic and clean; and such studies, if not necessary to success, are, at least, conducive to mental health and self-respect in literature.