Letter to a Young Contributor 7

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Reduce yourself to short allowance of parentheses and dashes;
if you employ them merely from clumsiness, they will lose all their
power in your hands. Economize quotation-marks also, clear that
dust from your pages, assume your readers to be acquainted with
the current jokes and the stock epithet: all persons like the
compliment of having it presumed that they know something,
and prefer to discover the wit or beauty of your allusion without
a guide-board.
The same principle applies to learned citations and the results
of study. Knead these thoroughly in, supplying the maximum of
desired information with a minimum of visible schoolmaster. It
requires no pedantic mention of Euclid to indicate a mathematical
mind, but only the habitual use of clear terms and close connections.
To employ in argument the forms of Whately's Logic would render
it probable that you are juvenile and certain that you are tedious;
wreathe the chain with roses. The more you have studied foreign
languages, the more you will be disposed to keep Ollendorff in
the background: the proper result of such acquirements is visible
in a finer ear for words; so that Goethe said, the man who had
studied but one language could not know that one. But spare
the raw material; deal as cautiously in Latin as did General
Jackson when Jack Downing was out of the way; and avoid
French as some fashionable novelists avoid English.
Thus far, these are elementary and rather technical suggestions,
fitted for the very opening of your literary career. Supposing you
fairly in print, there are needed some further counsels.
Do not waste a minute, not a second, in trying to demonstrate to
others the merit of your own performance. If your work does not
vindicate itself, you cannot vindicate it, but you can labor steadily
on to something which needs no advocate but itself. It was said
of Haydon, the English artist, that, if he had taken half the pains
to paint great pictures that he took to persuade the public he had
painted them, his fame would have been secure. Similar was the
career of poor Horne, who wrote the farthing epic of "Orion" with
one grand line in it, and a prose work without any, on "The False
Medium excluding Men of Genius from the Public." He spent
years in ineffectually trying to repeal the exclusion in his own
case, and he has since manfully gone to the grazing regions in
Australia, hoping there at least to find the sheep and goats better
discriminated. Do not emulate these tragedies. Remember how
many great writers have created the taste by which they were
enjoyed, and do not be in a hurry. Toughen yourself a little, and
perform something better. Inscribe above your desk the words
of Rivarol, "Genius is only great patience." It takes less time to
build an avenue of shingle palaces than to hide away unseen,
block by block, the vast foundation-stones of an observatory.
Most by-gone literary fames have been very short-lived in
America, because they have lasted no longer than they deserved. 
Happening the other day to recur to a list of Cambridge
lyceum-lecturers in my boyish days, I find with dismay that the
only name now popularly remembered is that of Emerson: death,
oblivion, or a professorship has closed over all the rest, while the
whole standard of American literature has been vastly raised
meanwhile, and no doubt partly through their labors. To this
day, some of our most gifted writers are being dwarfed by the
unkind friendliness of too early praise. It was Keats, the most
precocious of all great poets, the stock victim of critical
assassination,--though the charge does him utter injustice,
--who declared that "nothing is finer for purposes of production
than a very gradual ripening of the intellectual powers."
Yet do not be made conceited by obscurity, any more than
by notoriety. Many fine geniuses have been long neglected;
but what would become of us, if all the neglected were to
turn out geniuses? It is unsafe reasoning from either extreme.
You are not necessarily writing like Holmes because your reputation