Robert Louis Stevenson, Essays in the Art of Writing

A short read at just 85 pages, Essays in the Art of Writing contains 7 essays, covering topics from the technical elements of style, to Stevenson’s literary influences, and the writing of his novels. The book is available for free download from iTunes or Project Gutenberg, and is an interesting read, with many of the ideas presented by Stevenson still relevant to writers today.

Robert Louis Stevenson Essays on the Art of Writing Quote

On the choice and arrangement of words:

“Now the first merit which attracts in the pages of a good writer, or the talk of a brilliant conversationalist, is the apt choice and contrast of the words employed. It is, indeed, a strange art to take these blocks, rudely conceived for the purpose of the market or the bar, and by tact of application touch them to the finest meanings and distinctions, restore to them their primal energy, wittily shift them to another issue, or make of them a drum to rouse the passions.”

“Each phrase of each sentence, like an air or a recitative in music, should be so artfully compounded out of long and short, out of accented and unaccented, as to gratify the sensual ear. And of this the ear is the sole judge. It is impossible to lay down laws.”

Excerpts From: Robert Louis Stevenson. “Essays in the Art of Writing.” iBooks.

Robert Louis Stevenson Essays in the Art of Writing Quote

On the equal importance of style and substance: 

“Pattern and argument live in each other; and it is by the brevity, clearness, charm, or emphasis of the second, that we judge the strength and fitness of the first.”

“The web, then, or the pattern: a web at once sensuous and logical, an elegant and pregnant texture: that is style, that is the foundation of the art of literature. Books indeed continue to be read, for the interest of the fact or fable, in which this quality is poorly represented, but still it will be there. And, on the other hand, how many do we continue to peruse and reperuse with pleasure whose only merit is the elegance of texture? … It is a poor diet for the mind, a very colourless and toothless ‘criticism of life’; but we enjoy the pleasure of a most intricate and dexterous pattern, every stitch a model at once of elegance and of good sense.”

Excerpts From: Robert Louis Stevenson. “Essays in the Art of Writing.” iBooks.

Available for free on iTunes

Essays in the Art of Writing is also available for free download from Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org

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