THE POWER OF SELF-CRITICISM
and a penny version-book would be in my hand, to note down the features of the scene or commemorate some halting stanzas.… And what I wrote was for no ulterior use; it was written consciously for practice.… I had vowed that I would learn to write. That was a proficiency that tempted me, and I practiced, to acquire it, as a man learns to whittle, in a wager with myself.
But in all your studies of other writers, the living and the dead, cultivate independence. Never slavishly imitate. Take what you find best from the technique of each book you read and reject the rest. Notice what qualities and what defects the authors you read have in common and what are their individual sins and virtues. In learning your lesson from them, do not be afraid of independence, so long as you know the reason why. But as Miss Ellen Terry remarks aptly, in her volume of autobiography, before you are allowed to be