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Of all the elements that go to make up a good story, -- plot, verisimilitude, happy incident, local colour, excellent style, -- none perhaps is more important than the touch of understanding sympathy. The writer must not only see his characters clearly and draw them with a masterly hand; he must have the largeness of heart that can share in all the turbulent experience of the human spirit. His people must be set against the vast shifting background of destiny. He must show their dramatic relations, one to anOther, and the influence of life upon life; he must also show their profounder, more moving and mysterious, relations to fate and time and the infinite things. The writer of fiction creates for us a mimic country, peoples it with creatures of the fancy, like ourselves and yet different, and asks us to stray for our entertainment through that new kingdom. The scenes may be as strange or as familiar as you please; the characters as commonplace or as exceptional as you will; yet they must always be within the range of our sympathy. The incidents must be such as we ourselves could pass through; the people must be such as we can understand. They may well be exceptional, for that enlists our interest and enlivens our curiosity; they must not be beyond our comprehension nor outside our spiritual pale, for then we could have no sympathy with them, and our hearts would only grow cold as we read. And what is at the base of our sympathy and interest? Nothing but our common life. They, too, -- all the glad or sorrowing children of imaginative literature from Helen of Troy to Helena Richie -- are travelers like ourselves on the great highway. We know well how difficult a road it is, how rough, how steep, how dangerous, how boggy, how lined with pitfalls, how bordered with gardens of deadly delights, how beset by bandits, how noisy with fakirs, how overhung with poisonous fruit and swept by devastating storms. We know also what stretches of happiness are there, what days of friendship, what hours of love, what sane enjoyment, what rapturous content. How should we not, then, be interested in all that goes by upon that great road? We like to sit at our comfortable windows, when the fire is alight or the summer air is soft, and "watch the pass," as they say in Nantucket, -- what our neighbours are about, and what strangers are in town. If we live in a small community, there is the monotony of our daily routine to be relieved. When an unknown figure passes down the street, we may enjoy the harmless excitement of novelty and taste something of the keen savour of adventure. If we are dwellers in a great city, where every passer is unknown, there is still the discoverer's zest in larger measure; every moment is great with possibility; every face in the throng holds its secret; every figure is eloquent of human drama. The pageant is endless, its story never finished. Who, indeed, could not be spellbound, beholding that countless changing tatterdemalion caravan go by? Yet all we may hope for of the inner history of these journeying beings, so humanly amazing, so significant, and all moved like ourselves by springs of joy and fear, hope and discouragement, is a glimpse here and there, a life-story revealed in a single gesture, a tragic history betrayed in the tone of a voice or the lifting of a hand, or perhaps a heaven of gladness in a glancing smile. For the most part their orbits are as aloof from us as the courses of the stars, potent and mystic manifestations of the divine, glowing puppets of the eternal masked in a veil of flesh

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  • Print Length: 72 Pages
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