Monday, 11 October 2010

Harold Frederick to Wilkie Collins

Some advice given to the English novelist Wilkie Collins by Harold Frederick an American journalist and novelist on how to conduct yourself when carrying out an American book tour. This short extract is taken from John O'London's Weekly, June 4, 1927.

"You are primarily, in the American mind, an eminent novelist. They have read you (in pirated cheap editions) by the score of thousands. They think of you as a cousin of Dickens, Thackeray, Reade, and the rest. Now that is your role, marked out for you by God. Stick to it. Wear reasonably conventional clothes, cultivate an intelligently conventional aspect, and do not for your life say anything about the stage, or the latter-day hard luck you have had, or anything else which will not commend itself to a popular sense which, though artistic on one side, is implacably Philistine on the other.
Two things destroy a man in America. One is the suggestion of personal eccentricity, bohemianism, etc. The other is a disposition for critisism and controversy on their own subjects. The latter is the more dangerous of the two. It is a people devoured by the newspaper habit, like the Irish, or the old Greeks of the Areopagus. They ask every few minutes, 'What is the news?' Thousands of smart young men are hustling about, fifteen hours a day, to answer that ceaseless question. If it occurs to any of them, anywhere, to say: 'Well, here is a cocky Englishmen, who is over here to make money, but is unable to resist the temptation to harangue us on our shortcomings' - just that minute you are damned - irrevocably damned. That one sniff of blood will suffice. The whole pack will be on your shoulder within twenty-four hours.......