Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Power and the Glory

For its 10th birthday, Jane Roper gave Grub Street a lovely gift: a well-worn copy of The Glory of Grub Street: Impressions of Contemporary Authors, edited by A. St. John Adcock and E. O. Hoppe, published in 1928.

I was enchanted by Adcock's preface, which extols the pleasures of the struggling and hard-working writer -- the hack who lives "in Grub Street," that metaphor for struggle itself -- and suggests what we all might secretly know: that the tumultuous journey (the uncertainty, the labored revisions, the thirst for something greater in ourselves, the solidarity with fellow hackers) might really be the most satisfying aspect of the writer's life after all.

So here's the first part of the Preface, which mostly speaks for itself. I did want to point out, though, how it takes Adcock no time to at all to announce his own faults and failings as a writer. A true Grubbie! Enjoy --

"The title of this second volume of The Gods of Modern Grub Street was originally given to it for the comfort of my publishers and would have been altered if, before going to press, I could have thought of a better one. It is not intended to suggest that every author once lived in Grub Street, nor that those who did were not glad to get out; it is intended to suggest that the Grub Street tradition has grown and put forth branches until it is no longer a mere street but a whole literary world of many-coloured romance which seems to be as fascinating to the artistic temperament as webs are to flies, so that one almost may say of it, as Chaucer said of the married state, that 'They who are in would fain get out,/And they who are out would fain get in.'

Anyhow, you find the author who formerly dwelt in Grub Street, but has become prosperous and changed his address, will confess that, looking back from the affluence and tame security of the present, he realises that when he lived in the Street, and everything seemed possible and nothing sure, those early days were more stimulating, richer in excitement, adventure, even in happiness, than he was aware of at the time, and he has wistful feelings that if he could return there something of the freedom and enthusiasm he lost with his youth might be restored to him. On the other hand, authors who fortunately (or unfortunately) had no initial difficulties to overcome but walked or were handsomely carried to success along paths strewn with roses and other soft things, have unsettling suspicions that they have missed something and often take to Bohemian haunts and habits under the impression that they are thus breaking "their birth's invidious bar" and doing the thing properly; and of course they are, if they sufficiently think they are.

So, in a sense, you may say that all authors belong to Grub Street, and the glory that was Grub Street belongs to all authors, so long as they have left the place behind them or never lodged in it...When the Pilgrim Fathers emigrated they evidently took their share of the Grub Street tradition with them and planted it in that soil, and, from information received, it is flourishing there sturdily. "

~Christopher Castellani

1 comment:

Sonya Schizzle said...

I LOVE this passage, Chris. That this old haunt could be so loved that writers either missed it or wished they'd had the opportunity to miss it. Hell, I miss it! Thankfully we have this nice new Grub now.