Declined With Thanks


THE Contributor who says, “ Believe me, gentle writer, it is far better for posterity that your manuscripts should be rejected than that they should be accepted,” assumes that hers is the usual experience, and that success affects us all in the same way. It seems safe to say “ her.” The incident of the apple barrel and Irish Mary point to “ her.” He would have asked Mary to bring him the apple, having been pampered in that way since the time of Eve.

Very likely it would be better for posterity were most manuscripts rejected, but that does not appear to be the Contributor’s meaning. She finds her wings clipped (perhaps one would better say her fishing-line entangled) by success, and posterity deprived of other and possibly better productions. There are those of us who could tell a different tale. Myself, for instance. I, too, sit with a beautiful, long morning before me. I have ideas which please me, and an opening sentence has formed itself on the paper. Let me but manage the attack and then try to live up to it! I write and erase, and write again. Quite suddenly the word, the phrase, leaps out of the void and writes itself. I take a turn around the room and write again. I am having a delightful time. Under no other circumstances do I like myself so well as when doing this thing which I am always intending and seldom accomplishing. Forgotten are cares and troubles, and even self-consciousness loosens its grip. Then the doorbell rings and the postman hands in a large envelope. No need to open it, — the address in the upper left-hand corner is enough. Nevertheless I do open it, and with a sickening sinking of the heart read the inclosed printed slip. The editor has read my manuscript with much interest, but regrets that it is not adapted to his special requirements, and he therefore returns it to me with thanks for my courtesy in submitting it. And he is quite right, I say to myself, as I open the deepest drawer in my secretary and thrust the manuscript into the f arthest corner. Seldom indeed do I get courage to send it out a second time. What a fool I was to fancy there was anything good in it. No, I won’t give up. I ’ll try again. I swallow my disappointment and return to my writing ; but now my ideas are commonplace and my style is crude. I cling to the belief that I really have something to say, but in vain I grope for it. The cover of the well is fastened down and defies every effort to lift it. At last I give up in despair and seek refuge in the most mechanical employment that presents itself, and for many a morning my pen lies idle, not at all to the disadvantage of posterity, but greatly to the detriment of my own self-respect.

On the other hand, let me have an experience like that of the Contributor. Let the postman come with the note of acceptance and the check. What an uplifting of the spirits ! Then I really was n’t mistaken, I really could judge! The manuscript which I sent off with a certain modest confidence was actually worthy of that confidence ! The check is very nice to have as money, but how much more valuable as a sign that I can do the thing I want to do, and that I may have some small amount of faith in my opinion of my own performance. I put the check away (I do not, like the Contributor, indorse it, — that strikes me as an imprudent thing to do before one is ready to use it), and return to my work with a wonderful new energy. My head is full of ideas, and the right word does not escape me as often as usual. The “ pretty, shining things ” beckon alluringly.

This is the happiest time. That other day, when the postman leaves the magazine with the printed article, is, on the whole, a day of dread. I am horribly afraid to look at it in the irrevocable print. One would think that reading the proof would have taken off the edge of my apprehension. Not at all. I lay it aside and all day it is on my mind. I take up the magazine and read all around it, skipping it with half-shut eyes, lest by chance I may see some sentence which will bring me to confusion. Then at night, in shame of my own cowardice, I slowly, reluctantly, turn to it and read it through. Heavens! What courage it takes. Yet on the whole it gives me pleasure. There are some things I long to change, — some things which make my cheeks burn with a sense of my own stupidity, but on the whole — yes, I like it pretty well, and lay it down planning with fresh courage to do better next time.

Believe me, gentle Contributor, we are not all made alike.