October 15 Monday – In Hartford Sam wrote to Orion about the typesetter; letter not extant but referred to in Orion’s Oct. 19 [MTP].
Sam also responded to Rev. George Bainton’s Oct. 6 letter. Bainton had asked if Sam used any particular methods in his composition work, and Sam’s answers are instructive and insightful into his thoughts on composition theory.
If I have subjected myself to any training processes — & no doubt I have — it must have been in this unconscious or half-conscious fashion. I think it unlikely that deliberate & consciously methodical training is usual with the craft…
Sam felt that various “bricks” were laid in the mind, such as confusion when confronting a too-long sentence, and speculates what the writer then does:
Unconsciously he accustoms himself to writing short sentences as a rule. At times he may indulge himself with a long one, but he will make sure that there are no folds in it, no vaguenesses, no parenthetical interruptions of its view as a whole; when he is done with it, it won’t be a sea-serpent, with half of its arches under the water, it will be a torchlight procession.
Well, also, he will notice, in the course of time, as his reading goes on, that the difference between the almost-right word & the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug & the lightning. After that, of course, that exceedingly important brick, the exact word…. So I seem to have arrived at this: doubtless I have methods, but they begot themselves; in which case I am only their proprietor, not their father [MTP].
Note: This letter first printed in The Art of Authorship: Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners, Personally Contributed by Leading Authors of the Day. Compiled and Edited by George Bainton. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1890, pp.85-88.
Sam’s notebook entry (Also see Oct. 14 entry):
October 15/88. Special officer Heise goes on duty to-day noon at $2.73 a day, regular policeman’s wages, as he says, & as Mr. Smith told me last night. He will patrol the yard & frontage in uniform from 7 every evening & discourage the tramps — & is to stay until I get up my electric street-lamp. Let go Oct. 27 [MTNJ 3: 427].
Frederick J. Hall had recently consulted with book agents in Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, and St. Louis. He wrote to Sam of perceived changes in the marketplace for war books:
There is one thing this trip has convinced me of viz: war literature of any kind and no matter by whom written is played out. We have got to hustle everlastingly to get rid of 75,000 sets of Sheridan. I had set my mind on 100,000 sets but am forced to lessen this figure. There is not a man today who could write another book on the war and sell 5000 in the whole country [MTNJ 3: 430n78].
Note: Sam’s notebook entry on or about this date speculated on his future with Webster & Co. :
- If my Dec 31 Sher[idan] proves to be unprofitable, demand a reconstruction of contract placing power in my hands where it belongs. Refusal? Go into court .
Demand dissolution. Go into Court.
Can I be held for debts made beyond the capital? I will buy out or sell out.
Since the spring of ’86 the thing has gone straight downhill toward sure destruction. It must be brought to an end Feb. 1 at all hazards. This is final [430-1].
John H. Morrison in Hartford asked Sam for help to raise a banner on Signoury St. for the Young Democrats of the Second Ward. Sam wrote, “Brer W. Answer him simply Yes. And sign it per W.” [MTP].
Arthur H. Wright for Webster & Co. wrote to Sam that they had on hand $1,766.09; nothing new; Hall had not returned from his trip west. At the bottom of the typed letter, Wright’s hand: “PS Have just rec’d a telegram from Mr. Hall from St. Louis will be in N.Y. City on Wednesday” [MTP].