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Whether the use of tobacco had anything to do with young Abbey’s breaking with his “Ledger” friends, is a question. Tradition has it that Childs extracted from the youth a promise, on his going away, that he would never use the weed. The Union Square records fail us at times, but it is believed that Abbey kept his promise for fully three weeks.

“Edwin Abbey learned to swim by jumping into deep water,” says Henry James. A young man in the Art Department of an absurdly punctual periodical, before the Era of the Halftone, just had to draw, and that was all there was about it.

Things were happening uptown, downtown, over in Boston, and out as far as Buffalo–and the young men in the Art Department were sent to make pictures. The experience of a reporter develops facility–you have to do the assignment. To write well and rapidly on any subject, the position of reporter on an old-time daily approached the ideal. Even the drone became animated, when the copy must be in inside of two hours. The way to learn to write is to write. But young men will not write of their own free will; the literary first-mate in way of a Managing Editor with a loaded club of expletives is necessary. Or, stay! there is another way to stimulate the ganglionic cells and become dexterous in the cosmic potentiality–the Daily Theme sent to a woman who thinks and feels. That is the way that Goethe acquired his style. There were love-letters that crossed each other daily, and after years of this practise–the sparks a-flying–Goethe found himself the greatest stylist of his day. Love taught him.

To write for a daily paper is a great drill, only you must not keep at it too long or you will find yourself bound to the wheel, a part of the roaring machinery.

Combine the daily paper with the daily love-letter and you have the ideal condition for forming a literary style; and should you drop out one, why, cleave to the second, would be the advice of a theorist.

To draw pictures is simply one way of telling a story. Abbey told the story, and there was soon evidence in better work that he was telling it for Some One. Get a complete file of “Harper’s Weekly,” say from Eighteen Hundred Seventy-two to Eighteen Hundred Ninety, and you can trace the Evolution of the Art of Edwin Abbey. If any of the Abbey pictures have been removed, the books are chiefly valuable as junk; but if the set can be advertised, as I saw one yesterday, “with all of Abbey’s drawings, warranted intact,” the set of books commands a price. People are now wisely collecting “Harper’s” simply because Abbey was once a part of the Art Department. And the value of the books will increase with the years, for they trace the gradual but sure evolution of a great and lofty soul.

Edwin Abbey was nineteen years old when he accepted a position–more properly, secured a job–in the Art Department of Harper’s. The records of the office show his salary was seven dollars a week–but it did not stay at that figure always. The young man did not get along well at school, and he was not a success as a printer; but he could focus his force at the end of a pencil, and he did. Transplantation often turns a weed into a flower. It seems a hard saying and a grievous one, but the salvation of many a soul turns on getting away from one’s own family. They are wise parents that do not prove a handicap to their children. The good old-fashioned idea was that parents were wholly responsible for their children’s coming into the world, and that, therefore, they owned them body and soul until they reached their majority–and even then the restraint was little removed. “Well, and what are you going to make of William?” and “To whom are you going to marry Fanny?” were once common questions. And all the while the fact remains that the child is not God’s gift to parents. Children are only God-given tenants. Use them well if you would have them remain with you as the joy of love and life and light. Give the child love and then more love and then love and freedom to live his God-given life. Then all the precepts you would give him for his own good, he will absorb from you and you need not say a word. Trying to teach a child by telling him is worthless and puts you in a bad light. A child has not lost his heavenly vision and sees you as you are, not minding what you say.