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中英:月亮和六便士(3)

2006-08-22 21:02

    Chapter III

    But all this is by the way.

    I was very young when I wrote my first book. By a lucky chance it excited attention, and various persons sought my acquaintance.

    It is not without melancholy that I wander among my recollections of the world of letters in London when first, bashful but eager, I was introduced to it. It is long since I frequented it, and if the novels that describe its present singularities are accurate much in it is now changed. The venue is different. Chelsea and Bloomsbury have taken the place of Hampstead, Notting Hill Gate, and High Street, Kensington. Then it was a distinction to be under forty, but now to be more than twenty-five is absurd. I think in those days we were a little shy of our emotions, and the fear of ridicule tempered the more obvious forms of pretentiousness. I do not believe that there was in that genteel Bohemia an intensive culture of chastity, but I do not remember so crude a promiscuity as seems to be practised in the present day. We did not think it hypocritical to draw over our vagaries the curtain of a decent silence. The spade was not invariably called a bloody shovel. Woman had not yet altogether come into her own.

    I lived near Victoria Station, and I recall long excursions by bus to the hospitable houses of the literary. In my timidity I wandered up and down the street while I screwed up my courage to ring the bell; and then, sick with apprehension, was ushered into an airless room full of people. I was introduced to this celebrated person after that one, and the kind words they said about my book made me excessively uncomfortable. I felt they expected me to say clever things, and I never could think of any till after the party was over. I tried to conceal my embarrassment by handing round cups of tea and rather ill-cut bread-and-butter. I wanted no one to take notice of me, so that I could observe these famous creatures at my ease and listen to the clever things they said.

    I have a recollection of large, unbending women with great noses and rapacious eyes, who wore their clothes as though they were armour; and of little, mouse-like spinsters, with soft voices and a shrewd glance. I never ceased to be fascinated by their persistence in eating buttered toast with their gloves on, and I observed with admiration the unconcern with which they wiped their fingers on their chair when they thought no one was looking. It must have been bad for the furniture, but I suppose the hostess took her revenge on the furniture of her friends when, in turn, she visited them. Some of them were dressed fashionably, and they said they couldn't for the life of them see why you should be dowdy just because you had written a novel; if you had a neat figure you might as well make the most of it, and a smart shoe on a small foot had never prevented an editor from taking your "stuff. " But others thought this frivolous, and they wore "art fabrics" and barbaric jewelry. The men were seldom eccentric in appearance. They tried to look as little like authors as possible. They wished to be taken for men of the world, and could have passed anywhere for the managing clerks of a city firm. They always seemed a little tired. I had never known writers before, and I found them very strange, but I do not think they ever seemed to me quite real.

    I remember that I thought their conversation brilliant, and I used to listen with astonishment to the stinging humour with which they would tear a brother-author to pieces the moment that his back was turned. The artist has this advantage over the rest of the world, that his friends offer not only their appearance and their character to his satire, but also their work. I despaired of ever expressing myself with such aptness or with such fluency. In those days conversation was still cultivated as an art; a neat repartee was more highly valued than the crackling of thorns under a pot; and the epigram, not yet a mechanical appliance by which the dull may achieve a semblance of wit, gave sprightliness to the small talk of the urbane. It is sad that I can remember nothing of all this scintillation. But I think the conversation never settled down so comfortably as when it turned to the details of the trade which was the other side of the art we practised. When we had done discussing the merits of the latest book, it was natural to wonder how many copies had been sold, what advance the author had received, and how much he was likely to make out of it. Then we would speak of this publisher and of that, comparing the generosity of one with the meanness of another; we would argue whether it was better to go to one who gave handsome royalties or to another who "pushed" a book for all it was worth. Some advertised badly and some well. Some were modern and some were old-fashioned. Then we would talk of agents and the offers they had obtained for us; of editors and the sort of contributions they welcomed, how much they paid a thousand, and whether they paid promptly or otherwise. To me it was all very romantic. It gave me an intimate sense of being a member of some mystic brotherhood.

    但是这一切都是题外之言。

    我写第一本书的时候非常年轻,但由于偶然的因缘这本书引起了人们的注意,不少人想要同我结识。

    我刚刚被引进伦敦文学界的时候,心情又是热切又是羞涩;现在回忆起当时的种种情况,不无凄凉之感。很久我没有到伦敦去了,如果现在出版的小说里面的描写是真,伦敦一定发生了很大变化了。文人聚会的地点已经改变了。柴尔西和布鲁姆斯伯里取代了汉普斯台德、诺廷山门、高街和肯星顿的地位。当时年纪不到四十岁就被看作了不起的人物,如今过了二十五岁就会让人觉得滑稽可笑了。我想在过去的日子里我们都羞于使自己的感情外露,因为怕人嘲笑,所以都约束着自己不给人以傲慢自大的印象。我并不认为当时风雅放浪的诗人作家执身如何端肃,但我却不记得那时候文艺界有今天这么多风流韵事。我们对自己的一些荒诞不经的行为遮上一层保持体面的缄默,并不认为这是虚伪。我们讲话讲究含蓄,并不总是口无遮拦,说什么都直言不讳。女性们那时也还没有完全取得绝对自主的地位。

    我住在维多利亚车站附近;我还记得我到一些殷勤好客的文艺家庭中去作客总要乘车在市区兜很大的圈子,因为羞怯的心理作祟,我往往在街上来来回回走好几遍才鼓起勇气去按门铃。然后,我心里捏着一把汗,被让进一间高朋满座、闷得透不过气的屋子。我被介绍给这位名士、那位巨擘,这些人对我的著作所说的恭维话让我感到坐立不安。我知道他们都等着我说几句隽词妙语,可是直到茶会开完了,我仍然想不出什么有风趣的话来。为了遮盖自己窘态,我就张罗着给客人倒茶送水,把切得不成形的涂着黄油的面包递到人们手里。我希望的是谁都别注意我,让我心神宁静地观察一下这些知名人士,好好听一听他们妙趣横生的言语。

    我记得我遇见不少身材壮硕、腰板挺得笔直的女人。这些女人生着大鼻头,目光炯炯,衣服穿在她们身上好象披着一挂甲胄;我也看到许多象小老鼠似的瘦小枯干的老处女,说话柔声细气,眼睛滴溜溜乱转。我对她们那种总是戴着手套吃黄油吐司的怪毛病常常感到十分好笑;她们认为没有人看见的时候就偷偷在椅子上揩手指头,这让我看着也十分佩服。这对主人的家具肯定不是件好事,但是我想在轮到主人到这些人家里作客的时候,肯定也会在她朋友的家具上进行报复的。这些女人有的衣着入时,她们说她们无论如何也看不出一个人为什么只因为写了一本小说就要穿得邋里邋遢。如果你的身段苗条为什么不能尽量把它显示出来呢?俊俏的小脚穿上时髦的鞋子绝不会妨碍编辑采用你的稿件。但是也有一些人认为这样不够庄重,这些人穿的是艺术性的纺织品,戴着具有蛮荒色调的珠宝装饰。男士们的衣着一般却很少有怪里怪气的。他们尽量不让人看出自己是作家,总希望别人把他们当作是老于世故的人。不论到什么地方,人们都会以为他们是一家大公司的高级办事员。这些人总显出有些劳累的样子。我过去同作家从来没有接触,我发现他们挺奇怪,但是我总觉得这些人不象真实的人物。

    我还记得,我总觉得他们的谈话富于机智。他们中的一个同行刚一转身,他们就会把他批评得体无完肤;我总是惊讶不置地听着他们那辛辣刻毒的幽默话。艺术家较之其他行业的人有一个有利的地方,他们不仅可以讥笑朋友们的性格和仪表,而且可以嘲弄他们的著作。他们的评论恰到好处,话语滔滔不绝,我实在望尘莫及。在那个时代谈话仍然被看作是一种需要下功夫陶冶的艺术,一句巧妙的对答比锅子底下噼啪爆响的荆棘①更受人赏识,格言警句当时还不是痴笨的人利用来冒充聪敏的工具,风雅人物的闲谈中随便使用几句会使得谈话妙趣横生。遗憾的是,这些妙言隽语我现在都回忆不起来了。我只记得最舒适顺畅的谈话莫过于这些人谈论起他们从事的行业的另一方面——谈起进行交易的一些细节来。在我们品评完毕一本新书的优劣后,自然要猜测一下这本书销售掉多少本,作者得到多少预支稿费,他一共能得到多少钱。以后我们就要谈到这个、那个出版商,比较一下这个人的慷慨和那个人的吝啬。我们还要争辩一下是把槁件交给这一个稿酬优厚的人还是哪一个会做宣传、善于推销的人。有的出版商不善于作广告,有的在这方面非常内行。有些出版商古板,有些能够适应潮流。再以后我们还要谈论一些出版代理人和他们为我们作家搞到的门路。我们还要谈论编辑和他们欢迎哪类作品,一千字付多少稿费,是很快付清呢,还是拖泥带水。这些对我说来都非常富于浪漫气味。它给我一种身为这一神秘的兄弟会的成员的亲密感。

    ①见《圣经》旧约传道书第七章:“愚昧人的笑声,好象锅下烧荆棘的爆声。”

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