15 November 2013

Drop English and Learn a Trade

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft  (London: Archibald Constable, 1912), pp. 48-49:
Innumerable are the men and women now writing for bread, who have not the least chance of finding in such work a permanent livelihood. They took to writing because they knew not what else to do, or because the literary calling tempted them by its independence and its dazzling prizes. They will hang on to the squalid profession, their earnings eked out by begging and borrowing, until it is too late for them to do anything else — and then? With a lifetime of dread experience behind me, I say that he who encourages any young man or woman to look for his living to “literature,” commits no less than a crime. If my voice had any authority, I would cry this truth aloud wherever men could hear. Hateful as is the struggle for life in every form, this rough-and-tumble of the literary arena seems to me sordid and degrading beyond all others. Oh, your prices per thousand words! Oh, your paragraphings and your interviewings! And oh, the black despair that awaits those down-trodden in the fray.
Stephen Alcorn, New Grub Street (1984)