Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Literary Art
by [?]

Margery has a passion for writing just now. I can see nothing in it myself, but if people will write I suppose you can’t stop them.

“Will you just lend me your pencil?” she asked.

“Remind me to give you a hundred pencils some time,” I said as I took it out, “and then you’ll always have one. You simply eat pencils.”

“Oo, I gave it you back last time.”

“Only just. You inveigle me down here—-“

“What do I do?”

“I’m not going to say that again for anybody.”

“Well, may I have the pencil?”

I gave her the pencil and a sheet of paper, and settled her in a chair.

“B-a-b-y,” said Margery to herself, planning out her weekly article for the Reviews. “B-a-b-y, baby.” She squared her elbows and began to write….

“There!” she said, after five minutes’ composition.

The manuscript was brought over to the critic, and the author stood proudly by to point out subtleties that might have been overlooked at a first reading.

“B-a-b-y,” explained the author. “Baby.”

“Yes, that’s very good; very neatly expressed. ‘Baby’–I like that.”

“Shall I write some more?” said Margery eagerly.

“Yes, do write some more. This is good, but it’s not long enough.”

The author retired again, and in five minutes produced this:

B A B Y

“That’s ‘baby,'” explained Margery.

“Yes, I like that baby better than the other one. It’s more spread out. And it’s bigger–it’s one of the biggest babies I’ve seen.”

“Shall I write some more?”

“Don’t you write anything else ever?”

“I like writing ‘baby,'” said Margery carelessly. “B-a-b-y.”

“Yes, but you can’t do much with just that one word. Suppose you wanted to write to a man at a shop–‘Dear Sir, You never sent me my boots. Please send them at once as I want to go out this afternoon. I am yours faithfully, Margery’–it would be no good simply putting ‘B-a-b-y,’ because he wouldn’t know what you meant.”

“Well, what would it be good putting?”

“Ah, that’s the whole art of writing–to know what it would be any good putting. You want to learn lots and lots of new words, so as to be ready. Now here’s a jolly little one that you ought to meet.” I took the pencil and wrote G O T. “Got. G-o-t, got.”

Margery, her elbows on my knee and her chin resting on her hands, studied the position.

“Yes, that’s old ‘got,'” she said.

“He’s always coming in. When you want to say, ‘I’ve got a bad pain, so I can’t accept your kind invitation’; or when you want to say, ‘Excuse more, as I’ve got to go to bed now’; or quite simply, ‘You’ve got my pencil.'”

“G-o-t, got,” said Margery. “G-o-t, got. G-o-t, got.”

“With appropriate action it makes a very nice recitation.”

“Is that a ‘g’?” said Margery, busy with the pencil, which she had snatched from me.

“The gentleman with the tail. You haven’t made his tail quite long enough…. That’s better.”

Margery retired to her study charged with an entirely new inspiration, and wrote her second manifesto. It was this:

G O T

“Got,” she pointed out.

I inspected it carefully. Coming fresh to the idea Margery had treated it more spontaneously than the other. But it was distinctly a “got.” One of the gots.

“Have you any more words?” she asked, holding tight to the pencil.

“You’ve about exhausted me, Margery.”

“What was that one you said just now? The one you said you wouldn’t say again?”

“Oh, you mean ‘inveigle’?” I said, pronouncing it differently this time.

“Yes; write that for me.”

“It hardly ever comes in. Only when you are writing to your solicitor.”

“What’s ‘solicitor’?”

“He’s the gentleman who takes the money. He’s always coming in.”

“Then write ‘solicitor.'”

I took the pencil (it was my turn for it) and wrote SOLICITOR. Then I read it out slowly to Margery, spelt it to her three times very carefully, and wrote SOLICITOR again. Then I said it thoughtfully to myself half-a-dozen times–“Solicitor.” Then I looked at it wonderingly.

“I am not sure now,” I said, “that there is such a word.”

“Why?”

“I thought there was when I began, but now I don’t think there can be. ‘Solicitor’–it seems so silly.”

“Let me write it,” said Margery, eagerly taking the paper and pencil, “and see if it looks silly.”

She retired, and–as well as she could for her excitement–copied the word down underneath. The combined effort then read as follows:

SOLICITOR
SOLICITOR
SOLCTOR

“Yes, you’ve done it a lot of good,” I said. “You’ve taken some of the creases out. I like that much better.”

“Do you think there is such a word now?”

“I’m beginning to feel more easy about it. I’m not certain, but I hope.”

“So do I,” said Margery. With the pencil in one hand and the various scraps of paper in the other, she climbed on to the writing desk and gave herself up to literature….

And it seems to me that she is well equipped for the task. For besides having my pencil still (of which I say nothing for the moment) she has now three separate themes upon which to ring the changes–a range wide enough for any writer. These are, “Baby got solicitor” (supposing that there is such a word), “Solicitor got baby,” and “Got baby solicitor.” Indeed, there are really four themes here, for the last one can have two interpretations. It might mean that you had obtained an ordinary solicitor for Baby or it might mean that you had got a specially small one for yourself. It lacks, therefore, the lucidity of the best authors, but in a woman writer this may be forgiven.