Every man who embarks on the perilous profession of writing has to prepare himself for a punishing job. But, if he is honest, he will admit that the making of money is rarely the primary motive at work in his consciousness; oftener it is the love of fame that spurs him on to write.
But writing for money may be a secondary motive, and after all, why not? General Lew Wallace’s royalties on “Ben Hur” aggregated nearly $400,000. Dephne Du Maurier, that gifted writer, got several hundred thousand dollars for her “Trilby”. Kipling was paid half a crown a word for his stories; Arnold Bennett received £75 for weekly article about books. Dr. Johnson was not just to himself when he declared that no one but a fool would write except for money. Stevenson believed that the real reward of authorship is found in the joy of doing the work one loves.
Broadly speaking, writers can be divided into two classes—namely, those who look upon writing as a pure art and those who regard it as a means for well-being or reform. The former class consists of men and women who love words for their own sake, who value thought for its intrinsic worth, who appreciate beauty because it is beautiful and truth because it is true. They are not goaded onward to reform the world, to proclaim a mission, to educate the masses, to indulge in propaganda. They believe that a truthful and lovely poem, a play or story is a work of art, and therefore an end in itself. A thing of beauty is a joy forever and therefore needs no justification.
When Arnold Bennett wrote elaborate descriptions about hotels, he was not impelled by a mad desire to improve them. He wrote because he liked writing and the subject fascinated him profoundly. He wanted to give expression to the ideas and emotions pent up within his soul. He may have thought during intervals of work that the story would enhance his reputation or that it would be a financial success on both sides of the Atlantic; but the truth is that the subject possessed him and demanded to be written. He just had to write about the Five Towns; otherwise he would not have been Arnold Bennett.
The latter class consists of writers who are inflamed with a passion for reforming the world. They are social workers, political prophets and religious fanatics who are out to convert and change the world. They are hot-headed patriots who are moved by anger or indignation; they hate injustice, cruelty, tyranny, inhumanity and immorality—writing appeals to them because it provides a platform or a pulpit.
George Bernard Shaw was one such propagandist who used many of his plays as a pulpit from which he flayed and castigated his generation and ventilated his opinions with the rapier of his wit and rhetoric. John Galsworthy likewise has been accused of using the stage to advocate social re- forms. “Strife” was intended to make the world realize the futility of strikes; “The Silver Box” was an exposure of the injustice of the legal system; “Justice” was a protest against solitary confinement in prisons, and actually led Mr. Churchill to amend the law.