Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 27
The sun of Martin's good fortune rose. The day after Ruth's visit, he received a
check for three dollars from a New York scandal weekly in payment for three of
his triolets. Two days later a newspaper published in Chicago accepted his
"Treasure Hunters," promising to pay ten dollars for it on publication. The price
was small, but it was the first article he had written, his very first attempt to
express his thought on the printed page. To cap everything, the adventure serial
for boys, his second attempt, was accepted before the end of the week by a
juvenile monthly calling itself YOUTH AND AGE. It was true the serial was
twenty-one thousand words, and they offered to pay him sixteen dollars on
publication, which was something like seventy-five cents a thousand words; but it
was equally true that it was the second thing he had attempted to write and that
he was himself thoroughly aware of its clumsy worthlessness.
But even his earliest efforts were not marked with the clumsiness of mediocrity.
What characterized them was the clumsiness of too great strength - the
clumsiness which the tyro betrays when he crushes butterflies with battering
rams and hammers out vignettes with a war-club. So it was that Martin was glad
to sell his early efforts for songs. He knew them for what they were, and it had
not taken him long to acquire this knowledge. What he pinned his faith to was his
later work. He had striven to be something more than a mere writer of magazine
fiction. He had sought to equip himself with the tools of artistry. On the other
hand, he had not sacrificed strength. His conscious aim had been to increase his
strength by avoiding excess of strength. Nor had he departed from his love of
reality. His work was realism, though he had endeavored to fuse with it the
fancies and beauties of imagination. What he sought was an impassioned
realism, shot through with human aspiration and faith. What he wanted was life
as it was, with all its spirit-groping and soul-reaching left in.
He had discovered, in the course of his reading, two schools of fiction. One
treated of man as a god, ignoring his earthly origin; the other treated of man as a
clod, ignoring his heaven-sent dreams and divine possibilities. Both the god and
the clod schools erred, in Martin's estimation, and erred through too great
singleness of sight and purpose. There was a compromise that approximated the
truth, though it flattered not the school of god, while it challenged the brute-
savageness of the school of clod. It was his story, "Adventure," which had
dragged with Ruth, that Martin believed had achieved his ideal of the true in
fiction; and it was in an essay, "God and Clod," that he had expressed his views
on the whole general subject.
But "Adventure," and all that he deemed his best work, still went begging among
the editors. His early work counted for nothing in his eyes except for the money it
brought, and his horror stories, two of which he had sold, he did not consider