Many a journeyman has broken up his narrative and skipped about and rambled around, but he did it for a purpose, for an advantage; there was art in it, and points to be scored by it; the observant reader perceived the game, and enjoyed it and respected it, if it was well played. But Mrs. Eddy's performance was without intention, and destitute of art. She could score no points by it on those terms, and almost any reader can see that her work was the uncalculated puttering of a novice.
In the above paragraph I have described the first third of the booklet. That third being completed, Mrs. Eddy leaves the rabbit-range, crosses the frontier, and steps out upon her far-spreading big-game territory-- Christian Science and there is an instant change! The style smartly improves; and the clumsy little technical offenses disappear. In these two-thirds of the booklet I find only one such offence, and it has the look of being a printer's error.
I leave the riddle with the reader. Perhaps he can explain how it is that a person-trained or untrained--who on the one day can write nothing better than Plague-Spot-Bacilli and feeble and stumbling and wandering personal history littered with false figures and obscurities and technical blunders, can on the next day sit down and write fluently, smoothly, compactly, capably, and confidently on a great big thundering subject, and do it as easily and comfortably as a whale paddles around the globe.
As for me, I have scribbled so much in fifty years that I have become saturated with convictions of one sort and another concerning a scribbler's limitations; and these are so strong that when I am familiar with a literary person's work I feel perfectly sure that I know enough about his limitations to know what he can not do. If Mr. Howells should pretend to me that he wrote the Plague-Spot Bacilli rhapsody, I should receive the statement courteously; but I should know it for a--well, for a perversion. If the late Josh Billings should rise up and tell me that he wrote Herbert Spencer's philosophies; I should answer and say that the spelling casts a doubt upon his claim. If the late Jonathan Edwards should rise up and tell me he wrote Mr. Dooley's books, I should answer and say that the marked difference between his style and Dooley's is argument against the soundness of his statement. You see how much I think of circumstantial evidence. In literary matters--in my belief--it is often better than any person's word, better than any shady character's oath. It is difficult for me to believe that the same hand that wrote the Plague-Spot-Bacilli and the first third of the little Eddy biography wrote also Science and Health. Indeed, it is more than difficult, it is impossible.
Largely speaking, I have read acres of what purported to be Mrs. Eddy's writings, in the past two months. I cannot know, but I am convinced, that the circumstantial evidence shows that her actual share in the work of composing and phrasing these things was so slight as to be inconsequential. Where she puts her literary foot down, her trail across her paid polisher's page is as plain as the elephant's in a Sunday-school procession. Her verbal output, when left undoctored by her clerks, is quite unmistakable It always exhibits the strongly distinctive features observable in the virgin passages from her pen already quoted by me:
Desert vacancy, as regards thought. Self-complacency. Puerility. Sentimentality. Affectations of scholarly learning. Lust after eloquent and flowery expression. Repetition of pet poetic picturesquenesses. Confused and wandering statement. Metaphor gone insane. Meaningless words, used because they are pretty, or showy, or unusual. Sorrowful attempts at the epigrammatic. Destitution of originality.
The fat volume called Miscellaneous Writings of Mrs. Eddy contains several hundred pages. Of the five hundred and fifty-four pages of prose in it I find ten lines, on page 319, to be Mrs. Eddy's; also about a page of the preface or "Prospectus"; also about fifteen pages scattered along through the book.