In the career of the most unliterary of writers, in the sense that
literary ambition had never entered the world of his imagination, the
coming into existence of the first book is quite an inexplicable event.
In my own case I cannot trace it back to any mental or psychological
cause which one could point out and hold to. The greatest of my gifts
being a consummate capacity for doing nothing, I cannot even point to
boredom as a rational stimulus for taking up a pen. The pen, at any
rate, was there, and there is nothing wonderful in that. Everybody keeps
a pen (the cold steel of our days) in his rooms, in this enlightened age
of penny stamps and halfpenny post-cards. In fact, this was the epoch
when by means of postcard and pen Mr. Gladstone had made the reputation
of a novel or two. And I, too, had a pen rolling about somewhere--the
seldom-used, the reluctantly taken-up pen of a sailor ashore, the pen
rugged with the dried ink of abandoned attempts, of answers delayed
longer than decency permitted, of letters begun with infinite
reluctance, and put off suddenly till next day--till next week, as like
as not! The neglected, uncared-for pen, flung away at the slightest
provocation, and under the stress of dire necessity hunted for without
enthusiasm, in a perfunctory, grumpy worry, in the "Where the devil _is_
the beastly thing gone to?" ungracious spirit. Where, indeed! It might
have been reposing behind the sofa for a day or so. My landlady's anemic
daughter (as Ollendorff would have expressed it), though commendably
neat, had a lordly, careless manner of approaching her domestic duties.
Or it might even be resting delicately poised on its point by the side
of the table-leg, and when picked up show a gaping, inefficient beak
which would have discouraged any man of literary instincts. But not me!
"Never mind. This will do."