Wednesday, January 21, 2009

O.Henry had blogger tendencies!

He was quite delightfully random. Read this and see for yourself. It's an extract from his short story- 'A Sacrifice Hit.' I've left out some bits in the middle as well (wherever you see a '...')
You can find the full version online.

'The editor of the Hearthstone Magazine has his own ideas about the selection of manuscript for his publication. 


"The Hearthstone," he will say, "does not employ a staff of readers. We obtain opinions of the manuscripts submitted to us directly from types of the various classes of our readers."


When a batch of MSS. is received the editor stuffs every one of his pockets full of them and distributes them as he goes about during the day. The office employees, the hall porter, the janitor, the elevator man, messenger boys, the waiters at the café where the editor has luncheon, the man at the news-stand where he buys his evening paper, the grocer and milkman, the guard on the 5.30 uptown elevated train, the ticket-chopper at Sixty --th street, the cook and maid at his home -- these are the readers who pass upon MSS. sent in to the Hearthstone Magazine. If his pockets are not entirely emptied by the time he reaches the bosom of his family the remaining ones are handed over to his wife to read after the baby goes to sleep. A few days later the editor gathers in the MSS. during his regular rounds and con- siders the verdict of his assorted readers.


The Hearthstone Company also publishes books, and its imprint is to be found on several successful works -- all recommended, says the editor, by the Hearthstone'8 army of volunteer readers. Now and then (according to talkative members of the editorial staff) the Hearthstone has allowed manuscripts to slip through its fingers on the advice of its heterogeneous readers, that afterward proved to be famous sellers when brought out by other houses.

For instance (the gossips say), "The Rise and Fall of Silas Latham" was unfavourably passed upon by the elevator-man; the office-boy unanimously rejected "The Boss"; "In the Bishop's Carriage" was contemptuously looked upon by the street-car conductor; "The Deliver- ance" was turned down by a clerk in the subscription department whose wife's mother had just begun a two- months' visit at his home; "The Queen's Quair" came back from the janitor with the comment: "So is the book."

But nevertheless the Hearthstone adheres to its theory and system, and it will never lack volunteer readers; for each one of the widely scattered staff, ... has expectations of becoming editor of the magazine some day.

This method of the Hearthstone was well known to Allen Slayton when he wrote his novelette entitled "Love Is All." ...

He knew (also), that the stories of sentimental love- interest went to Miss Puffkin, the editor's stenographer. ...

Slayton made "Love Is All" the effort of his life. He gave it six months of the best work of his heart and brain. ... Slayton's literary ambition was intense. ... He would almost have cut off his right hand, or have offered himself to the knife of the appendi- citis fancier to have realized his dream of seeing one of his efforts published in the Hearthstone.

Slayton finished "Love Is All," and took it to thy Hearthstone in person. The office of the magazine was in a large, conglomerate building, presided under by a janitor.


Slayton took the elevator at the end of the hall and went up to the offices of the Hearthstone. He left the MS. of "Love Is All" with the editor, who agreed to give, him an answer as to its availability at the end of a week.

Slayton formulated his great winning scheme on his way down. It struck him with one brilliant flash, and he could not refrain from admiring his own genius in conceiving the idea. That very night he set about carry- ing it into execution.

Miss Puffkin, the Hearthstone stenographer, boarded in the same house with the author. She was an oldish, thin, exclusive, languishing, sentimental maid; and Slayton had been introduced to her some time before.

The writer's daring and self-sacrificing project was this: He knew that the editor of the Hearthstone relied strongly upon Miss Puffkin's judgment in the manuscript of romantic and sentimental fiction. Her taste represented the immense average of mediocre women who devour novels and stories of that type. The central idea and keynote of "Love Is All" was love at first sight -- the enrapturing, irresistible, soul-thrilling, feeling that com- pels a man or a woman to recognize his or her spirit-mate as soon as heart speaks to heart. Suppose he should impress this divine truth upon Miss Puffkin personally! -- would she not surely indorse her new and rapturous sensations by recommending highly to the editor of the Hearthstone the novelette "Love Is All" ?

Slayton thought so. And that night he took Miss Puffkin to the theatre. The next night he made vehement love to her in the dim parlour of the boarding-house. He quoted freely from "Love Is All"; and he wound up with Miss Puffkin's head on his shoulder, and visions of literary fame dancing in his head.

But Slayton did not stop at love-making. This, he said to himself, was the turning point of his life; and, like a true sportsman, he "went the limit." On Thursday night he and Miss Puffkin walked over to the Big Church in the Middle of the Block and were married.

Brave Slayton! Chateaubriand died in a garret, Byron courted a widow, Keats starved to death, Poe mixed his drinks, De Quincey hit the pipe, Ade lived in Chica-o, James kept on doing it, Dic Kens wore white socks, De Maupassant wore a strait-jacket, Tom Watson became a Populist, Jeremiah wept, all these authors did these things for the sake of literature, but thou didst cap them all; thou marriedst a wife for to carve for thyself a niche in the temple of fame!'

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