The Lantern Bearers

I'm working on a piece on Margaret Wise Brown--writing this, in fact, from the divine Wertheim Study Room of the New York Public Library. One way to know that research is going is when you find yourself somewhere new and unexpected. Or, in this case, somewhere old and unexpected. So, I followed Brown's biographer to William James and his Talks to Teachers (1899). (My tumblr has received a few of those gems lately) and, in that, the appendices, Talks to Students, especially the overly long but very very dear "On A Certain Blindness in Human Beings," which says many of the same things Henry James does in the Preface to The Ambassadors, about finding the important thing in life, but in a more William-y way and, mostly, through extensive block quotations from Robert Louis Stevenson's essay "The Lantern Bearers" (1888). 

I first read and loved that essay a quarter century ago while writing my dissertation on Woolf's essays. Reading it again, and finding it in this way that seemed at first so far from Woolf but ended up right back in a Woolfian vein, was a source of joy on a day when things otherwise felt a little flat. 

In fact, the sentence that James most admires, the one he holds out as "the best thing I know in all Stevenson" struck me as at once almost embarrassingly simple-minded and also deeply important and lovely. So, I made a little meme for you. Forgive the lack of naming either Maxfield Parrish or Robert Louis Stevenson, but, guys, it's a silly meme: 

Parrish & Stevenson


If you're lucky enough to get money from your writing, what should you do with it? Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight, Moon, has, to me, the best answer ever. In 1935, she sold her first book, When the Wind Blew:

“When the check for her royalty advance came in the mail soon afterward, Margaret cashed it immediately. Horse-drawn flower carts were still a familiar sight in the Village; fresh from the bank, Margaret hailed a cart, told the vendor that she wanted to buy everything he had, and directed him to her front door, where the entire cartload was deposited. She decorated her apartment, then called her friends over for a party”

From Awakened by the Moon, Leonard Marcus, 1992.