Saturday, June 5, 2010

Vigilance in Writing

"It seems, however, no very easy task to write for children. Those only who have been interested in the education of a family, who have patiently followed children through the first processes of reasoning, who have daily watched over their thoughts and feelings--those only who know with what ease and rapidity the early association of ideas are formed, on which the future taste, character and happiness depend, can feel the dangers and difficulties of such an undertaking." (Maria Edgeworth, in the preface to The Parent's Assistant, 1800)

"It has been somewhere said by Johnson, that merely to invent a story is no small effort of the human understanding. How much more difficult is it to construct stories suited to the early years of youth, and, at the same time, conformable to the complicate relations of modern society--fictions, that shall display examples of virtue, without initiating the young reader into the ways of vice--narratives, written in a style level to his capacity, without tedious detail, or vulgar idiom! The author, sensible of these difficulties, solicits indulgence for such errors as have escaped her vigilance.
"In a former work the author has endeavored to add something to the increasing stock of innocent amusement and early instruction, which the laudable exertions of some excellent modern writers provide for the rising generation; and, in the present, an attempt is made to provide for young people, of a more advanced age, a few tales, that shall neither dissipate the attention, nor inflame the imagination."
(Richard Edgeworth {Maria Edgeworth's father}, in the preface to Moral Tales, 1801)

"Her regular contributions to the magazine enhanced her reputation, and broadened the sphere of her usefulness.
Profoundly impressed by the conviction that she held her talent in trust, she worked steadily, looking neither to the right nor left, but keeping her eyes fixed upon that day when she would be called to render an account to Him, who would demand His own with interest. Instead of becoming flushed with success, she grew daily more cautious, more timid, lest inadvertence or haste should betray her into errors.
...Ruthlessly she assaulted the darling follies, the pet, velvet-masked vices that society had adopted,...demanding that men and women should pause and reflect in their mad career. Because she was earnest and not bitter,...because her rebukes were free from scorn, and written rather in tears than gall, people turned their heads and stopped to listen.
...Edna was consious of the influence she exerted, and ceaselessly she prayed that she might wield it aright. ...Day by day she weighed more carefully all that fell from her pen, dreading lest some error might creep into her writings and lead others astray."
(Augusta Jane Evans Wilson, St. Elmo, 1910)

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