Friday, December 7, 2018

Lapidary prose (twenty-five words a day)

So, while revising to my Eddison piece I came across a striking passage that I'd either overlooked before or, more likely, read when the book in question (Paul Thomas's edition of ERE's ZIMIAMVIA) came out (in 1992) and since forgot.

In a passage discussing the composition of THE MEZENIAN GATE, Paul describes how Eddison wrote slowly but persistently, writing and rewriting a passage until he was satisfied with it.* By Paul's estimation,  at times, when working on particularly important passages, Eddison wrote an average of about twenty-five words a day.

Even given the amount of time and energy the War took up during Eddison's final years, that's punishingly slow progress, especially for someone who had taken an early retirement in order to devote whatever time he had left to his books.** It's surprising he got as much down of that final book as he did, and testimony to his persistence.

--at the desk, with Hastur in a box, on the desk, soaking up warm bright lights and accepting a little handheld  bowl of water.

*ZIMIANVIA p. 572-573.
   This is the exact opposite of Dunsany's practice: Lord D. made it a point of honor never to revise his work but to present it just as he had left it once he'd captured the idea in words.

**Eddison walked away from a senior post at the Board of Trade (including, it's said, a probable knighthood); I'm not certain of the date, but it seems to have been about 1939 (with his sudden death coming in 1945).


Magister said...

Lord Dunsany did make revisions sometimes, but they were always slight. For example, there are three different typescripts of "When Mrs. Fynn Was Young": A has one set of (slight) revisions in ink; B has another set of revisions; and C contains the revisions of both A and B, in ink (creating a redundancy in one spot that is easily resolved; the text in The Ghost in the Corner and Other Stories follows C). But he never made complete re-writes.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Magister

That's good to know. What manuscripts I was able to consult back when working on the dissertation (mainly those in Austin, but also Dublin, Oxford, London, and Binghamton) had led me to think otherwise. I clearly missed some important details, though I will say I had a lot to get through in a short time.

Speaking of Dunsany, I had something Dunsany-related I wanted to send you a hard copy of; if you're interested cd you send me contact information so I know where to mail it?


Magister said...

Dunany's revisions (the few he made) are usually easily spotted: whereas the first (and only) draft would be in ink, the revisions are usually in coloured crayon or pencil (some of which are very difficult to decipher now). But there are also examples of revisions in ink, where text has been crossed out and other text added above or below the line. However, the revisions are never extensive; hence my comment about him not doing re-writes. There are very few revisions in the typescripts that I have seen, but they do exist.

A gift? How nice! Thank you! :) Are you still on your earthlink e-mail address that I have from a few years back?

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi, Magister

Are you still on your earthlink e-mail address that I have from a few years back?

--yes, that's the one.