Still Writing?

The Amateur Emigrant, by Robert Louis Stevenson (written 1879–80, published 1895). The author aboard ship from Europe to New York. He seems to have had full access to the different areas of the ship, the different classes of accommodations, the working conditions. He apparently talked with everybody, passengers and crew. His accounts of events, his descriptions of people are vivid, often harsh, but with underlying respect, even love. The hardship for most on board is reminiscent of what we hear of refugee and immigrant movement today. But Mr. Stevenson also knows his place. His main purpose being on the ship carrying immigrants across the Atlantic Ocean is to make money, hopefully, writing about the journey. And as a writer I enjoyed this bit of self-deprecation from him, knocking writing as being an “absurd occupation” and “misguided industry,” and how it is one’s “fallen fortunes” to end up being a writer!

from The Amateur Emigrant, by Robert Louis Stevenson:

To such of the officers as knew about me — the doctor, the purser, and the stewards — I appeared in the light of a broad joke. The fact that I spent the better part of my day in writing had gone abroad over the ship and tickled them all prodigiously. Whenever they met me they referred to my absurd occupation with familiarity and breadth of humorous intention. Their manner was well calculated to remind me of my fallen fortunes. You may be sincerely amused by the amateur literary efforts of a gentleman, but you scarce publish the feeling to his face. “Well!” they would say; “still writing?” And the smile would widen into a laugh. The purser came one day into the cabin, and, touched to the heart by my misguided industry, offered me some other kind of writing, “for which,” he added pointedly, “you will be paid.” This was nothing else than to copy out the list of passengers.

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