Thursday 7 March 2013

Writer - Roger Steer

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Roger Steer.  Enjoy.

Roger Steer

Hello Roger, can you please introduce yourself? 
I am Roger Steer and I live and work in the village of Down St Mary in mid-Devon. 
How long have you been writing? 
My first book was published in 1975.
What first got you interested in writing? 
On 26 July 1972, as a young man of 27, I walked into the old Warwick Lane headquarters of Hodder and Stoughton in the shadow of St Paul’s cathedral.  I had fallen in love with the story of George Müller, a German who had come to my home county of Devon in 1829, before moving to Bristol and founding children’s homes which made his name a byword for faith throughout the world.  I had optimistically sent a draft chapter of what I hoped might be a new biography of Müller to Hodders for their consideration.
Six years earlier, at the age of 36, Edward England, had moved from managing the Scripture Union bookshop at 5 Wigmore Street, London, to become religious editor at Hodder and Stoughton.  I was ushered into his room to find that he had my draft chapter on his desk in front of him.  After a few pleasantries, he began (verbally) tear my precious manuscript to shreds and strike out phrases and whole sentences as I watched in horror.
‘Your draft is saturated with religious jargon,’ he told me, ‘and your opinions.  Your readers aren’t interested in what you think.  They want you simply to tell the story of Müller’s life in plain words.’
Edward never went to university.  He was a fan of Harold Ross, first editor of the New Yorker, who – Edward maintained – was largely illiterate.  This meant that Ross wanted everything explained and refused to pass a sentence from his journalists unless it was wholly comprehensible to him.  He instinctively distrusted pretentious or mannered writing.  Edward used to cite the example of John Wesley who, in his early days, had read his sermons to an old domestic servant, instructing her to interrupt when she couldn’t understand.  ‘I desire plain truth for plain people,’ Wesley had written.  ‘I labour to avoid all words which are not easy to understand, all which are not used in common life.’
Despite the evident shortcomings of my manuscript, however, Edward had been eager for some time to publish a new biography of Müller.  He walked across to his bookshelves and handed me a copy of God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew.  Edward had published this in 1967 and it had already been reprinted many times.  The book told the story of how Brother Andrew had carried contraband Bibles past armed border guards to bring the love of Christ to people behind the Iron Curtain.
God’s Smuggler was ghost-written by John and Elizabeth Sherrill,’ Edward told me.  ‘It went through ten drafts before they were satisfied with it.  They worked on every sentence until they got it right.  They were craftsmen with words.  They told Brother Andrew’s story in a series of scenes where the reader could imagine himself present, see the scenery, hear the dialogue and smell the smells.  Dialogue breaks up the page.  If you can tell the story of George Müller in a style along the lines of the Sherrills I will take another look at your manuscript.  Go away and write four chapters and we will talk again.  And, oh,’ he added, ‘pray about what you are writing.’
I still keep that copy of God’s Smuggler close to my desk together with the notes I jotted down summarising the Sherrills’ writing technique. 
And so I beavered at my four chapters for Edward.  I edited them over and over again – trying to incorporate as much as I could of the best of the Sherills’ techniques while trying to develop a style of my own.  I read Geoffrey Ashe’s book The Art of Writing which I still think is one of the best books for aspiring writers.  And I even remembered Edward’s advice to pray over what I was drafting.  At last I decided my four chapters were good enough and delivered them to Hodders’ HQ in Warwick Lane.  All I could do now was wait.
Four days later, the phone rang on my desk at the Monopolies Commission in Carey Street.  It was Edward England.
‘I like your chapters very much,’ he said.  ‘We will publish with enthusiasm.  And I am going to pay you an advance of £600.’
We had never talked about money and £600 was a decent sum in 1972.  When I delivered the complete manuscript, Hodders scarcely made any changes before publishing the book, George Müller: Delighted in God, in November 1975 and naming it their ‘Book of the Year’.
During fourteen years at Hodders, Edward rose to become director on the company’s main board and was responsible for commissioning or acquiring a series of bestselling books including The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz and Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger.  He was responsible for bringing the New International Version of the Bible to Britain – a publishing coup which transformed the fortunes of Hodder and Stoughton.
But Edward had a horror of ruts.  A year after his success with the NIV, he left Hodders and became editor and publisher of the magazine Renewal which placed him at the heart of the charismatic world.  He set up his own literary agency, Edward England Books, and asked me to become one of his first authors.  He negotiated with the OMF for me to write a new biography of Hudson Taylor which was published in 1990. 
He and his wife Ann entertained me in their home in Crowborough and came to stay with us in Devon when he addressed what was then known as the South West group of the Fellowship of Christian Writers.  After he died on 16 May 2010, nine days short of his eightieth birthday, The Times said that he had ‘dominated British Christian publishing in the second half of the 20th century’.  I,like hundreds of authors, and thousands of readers throughout the world, thank God for his remarkable life and for all he taught us.
Do you attend a writing group?   
I am member of the Devon Group of the Society of Authors and the Exeter branch of the Association of Christian Writers.
What genre(s) do you write?  
Biography; Church History; Science and Religion.
You mentioned earlier that you've had books published.  Where can we find them?
My books may be seen by following the link to at my website
Do you have a writing routine?
I keep more or less office hours and feel most creative early in the morning. When I am particularly busy I sometimes start writing between 4 and 5 in the morning and occasionally have worked all through the night. 
There's a 4 and 5 in the morning?!  Do you have an editing process?  
I think the craft of writing is all about editing. It is a continuous process of editing and, to my surprise, when I bought my first computer in 1985 I took very quickly to computerised editing.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won? 
In 2010 by biography ‘Inside Story: The Life of John Stott’ was one of three final nominations for Christian Book of the Year. This award was however won by Andrew White’s ‘The Vicar of Baghdad’. 
What advice could you give to a new writer?  
My ’20 secrets of good writing’ begin with one example of a piece of writing from the Bible:
Ecclesiastes 9:11: I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
Out of 46 words, it has 40 words of one syllable and 6 of two. The cadence is magnificent.
It has vivid images (something people can visualise): runners in a race, soldiers in a battle, bread (NIV, weaker: food), the sun…
George Orwell, among other things, the author of Animal Farm and 1984, rewrote the verse in a modern, but much uglier style (deliberately ugly to illustrate bad style): Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena suggests that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account.
What’s wrong with this?
average length of word has increased dramatically
no cadence at all
no vivid images; nothing for people to visualise. Instead a whole series of abstract words: consideration (words ending in ‘ion’ nearly always abstract and usually rather boring!); phenomena; activities; element and so on.
If you were asked to write an article (or preach a sermon) on goodness what would be the most effective way to do it? Tell them about a good man or woman. The word goodness is an abstract one. Many abstract ideas can be effectively communicated in terms of people. Jesus the master of this art with his parables. Which brings us to stories. Shortly, I’ll talk about the value of stories and suggest some story-telling techniques.
The writing is pretentious: a striving for effect which fails in its object. If you want to write well, avoid striving for effect.
Someone said that good writing should be new, you and true. A lot in that. The ‘you’ bit means that you don’t try to sound like someone else or write in someone else’s style – although we can certainly learn from other people’s techniques. But while we can learn from good writing techniques and pick that up from others, what emerges must be us. Just as it’s good practical psychology to ‘be yourself’ to it’s a good rule for writing.
What was the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes’ secret? Did it all come from his pen like magic? Was it dictated by God? What was his technique?
Some clues in Ecclesiastes 12:9-14
He feared God (13) Acknowledged his dependence… Humility. Suggests a readiness to learn to acquire insights from God and from men and women created in His image.
He pondered (9) Took time to think and reflect. We all need to slow down, notice things and meditate. Most of what I am saying today is common sense and you could have worked it out for yourself if you took time to stop and reflect on eg
the market or audience you are writing for or speaking to: whose attention you want to grab
exactly what it is you want to say
how you are going to gain the listener or reader’s attention at the start, keep it, and leave him or her with something to ponder
He searched out (9) Research is normally important for 2 main reasons:
to be ‘new’: original, not a poor rehash of someone else’s ideas but something which makes people pay attention because they’ve never heard it before
to be ‘true’: we are bombarded on the media with half-truths, distortions, even lies. Sloppy use of evidence, selective use of statistics, misleading use of material. The writer of Ecclesiastes searched out for the truth. Requires effort; the good writer needs to take pains
He set in order (9) How often an article, a book, a sermon, even an item of liturgy, has a lot of good stuff in it – but it’s muddled. It hasn’t been properly set in order. Putting it in order, perhaps under headings, can be hard work but satisfying. Follow a logical sequence. The preacher in the southern States… ‘First I tells ‘m what I’m going to tell’m; then I tells’m; then I tells’m what I’ve told’m!’ Set it in order. Lots of markers, signposts along the way. Make it plain. People want to understand.
He searched to find just the right words (taking pains) (10) May 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and told the House of Commons, ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat…’ but my aim is ‘… victory, however long and hard the road may be’.Of the Battle of Britain: ‘If the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour””Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few’To convey every idea, every mood, every picture in the eye of your reader or listener, there’s just the right word, the right combination of words. One sign of sloppy use of words, a telltale sign of insufficient thought, is the use of inverted commas. Sometimes essential eg when recording direct speech. Sometimes legitimate at other times, but often it means: ‘I know this isn’t quite the right word, but I’m just too lazy. I can’t be bothered to think, or to use the dictionary or Thesaurus to find the right word.’ Apparently, Churchill worked very hard at this; so did the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes. And consider Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 (how many drafts did this go through?).Ursula Holden, the novelist, rewrites each draft 30 times. ‘I want to say what I have to say in as few words as possible, and not just slop them over the page. I hate adjectives.’ God’s Smuggler, the story of Brother Andrew told by the professional writers John and Elizabeth Sherrill first pubd in 1968. Some of you might not consider it great literature, but it became an international best seller. That book went through 10 different rewrites – the Sherills saw themselves as craftsmen with words, like cathedral carvers. They also said that they prayed over every page they wrote.In 1869 a writer in The Times called John Henry Newman one of ‘the three greatest masters of English style in the generation which is just closing’. Newman replied to the author with a revealing private letter: ‘… I have been obliged to take great pains with everything I have written, and I often write chapters over and over again, besides innumerable corrections and interlinear additions… my one and single desire and aim has been to do what is so difficult – viz to express clearly and exactly my meaning; this has been the motive principle of all my corrections and re-writings. When I have read over a passage which I had written a few days before, I have found it so obscure to myself that I have either put it altogether aside or fiercely corrected it; but I don’t get any better for practice.’
Take pains: Oscar Wilde spent a morning putting in, then taking out a comma.
What he wrote was upright and true (10) We are assaulted today by words which are themselves and in their content ugly, impure, malicious, cynical, evil and untrue. Follow the example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and write, as she put it, Something beautiful for God. Joseph Pulitzer, the American newspaper proprietor in the early years of this century and establisher of the Pulitzer prizes for literature and the arts: ‘Put it to them briefly, so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light’.Know and care… truth matters. Rightness mattersSome other tips, not arising from the Ecclesiastes passage.
Make it real Something which strikes a chord with people rather than sounding trivial or superficial. Great writing comes out of great suffering. ‘A great deal of living must go into a very little writing.’ A high proportion of authors suffer exceptionally: the author copes differently from others with his suffering. Authors have a need to define and diagnose.
Be concise In general keep sentences and paragraphs short. Always be looking to see how you can reduce length.
Be clear Avoid generalisations. Illustrate points. Use active rather than passive words. Be positive rather than negative.
Be contemporary Avoid religious jargon or technical terms like justification, redemption. Avoid clichés ‘like the plague’; ‘leave no stone unturned’ ‘explore every avenue’ If not too patronising: ‘Start where people are; lead them where you want to take them’.
Don’t caricature other people’s views Our stereotypes of others. The different strands within the Christian faith.
Keep it simple World already a pretty complex place. Don’t unnecessarily add to that complexity. Picture yourself meeting some intelligent but non-literary person (your grocer?) who asks you what you are writing about. Could you explain to him briefly and understandably? If not, think a bit harder. Your ideas may be too complex, too clever by half, too modish. You may discover that you weren’t wholly clear what you were driving at yourself.
Try to give pleasure Celebrate God, the author of everything which is beautiful, good and true.
Be aware Develop the capacity to see beyond the obvious and superficial. That can’t be developed overnight. As a Christian I find it’s related to prayerfulness, trying to build into my life times of quiet and reflection, listening to God.
Tell a story ‘The preacher preaches, the congregation dozes; the preacher tells a story, the congregation sits up and listens.’Stories can
answer questions (as Jesus demonstrated, eg Luke 10:29ff)
deepen faith
touch the emotions of the listeners
are non-threatening: people are free to respond in a way they find appropriate, although they may make people think (why is he/she telling it?)
Ingredients of a story:
Conflict: a problem that has to be solved Suspense: a continuous mounting tension in the mind of the reader. May be gentle suspense, but a suspicion in the mind of the reader that something is going to happen. What happens next? Keep up pace to maintain the drama. Ensure ‘highs and lows’ in the narrative. Dialogue Description through dialogue and action: If it’s essential to the story that John has a red Rover. Don’t say John had a red Rover: that’s dull. Rather: John drove his red Rover up to the gate and got out… Details: Are all the details necessary and relevant? Scenes: Try to tell the story in a series of scenes in which the reader can feel that he or she is there, picturing the scenery, hearing the voices, smelling the smells.
If you’re serious about writing beyond today keep notebooks. Heard a talk by a writer who kept three:
Journey into yourself: your thoughts, feelings, memories, experience of the presence of God. Who are you? Strengths, limitations, likes, dislikes… These crucial if you’re going to write with depth and truth.
Life Are you aware of people? Are you excited by them? People, character sketches, conversations (eg Thomas Hardy), happenings, scenes, diversity of life. Molière and Pezenas.
Words New words, have fun with them; memorable quotes
Remember George Orwell’s ‘rules’:
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break one of these rules sooner that say anything outright barbarous.
Remember Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s rules (1863-1944) Man of letters and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. Born in Bodmin and lived in Fowey from 1891. You can see his house overlooking the estuary.
Almost always prefer the concrete word to the abstract
Almost always prefer the direct word to the circumlocution (‘not unreasonable’ is a circumlocution)
Generally use transitive words in the active voice
Use adjectives with economy
Remember Sir Ernest Gowers’ rules (1880-1966) Author of Plain Words (1948) and ABC of Plain Words (1951), designed to rescue the English language from slipshod use, not least from jargon
Use no more words than are necessary to express your meaning. In particular do not use superfluous adjectives and adverbs.
Use familiar words rather than far-fetched, if they express your meaning equally well.
Use words with a precise meaning rather than a vague one; prefer the concrete to the abstract.
Reflect on this quote (and please forgive the absence of political correctness)
Paul Tournier: The hand of God is not seen in abstract ideas, but in nature, in history, in all the adventures of men.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests? 
Walking, travel, cycling, preaching, praying and reading. I enjoy Facebook ( Twitter (
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been? 
Any novel by Jane Austen or Tolstoy my favourite two writers. I think they were both geniuses.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotes? 
Yes, consider the genius of Tolstoy in Anna Karenina:
Prince Stepan Arkadyevitch Oblonsky (Stiva) has had an affair with a French governess. His wife, Dolly, has found a note which reveals that the affair has been going on. She is distraught and devastated. Anna Karenina (Oblonsky’s sister) travels fromPetersburgto visit the Oblonskys inMoscow, tells Dolly that she knows what has happened, and tries to comfort her sister-in-law.

In this extract from Constance Garnett’s translation of the Tolstoy’s novel – perhaps one of the greatest novels ever written – we see something of the writer’s genius:
When Anna went into the room, Dolly was sitting in the little drawing-room with a white-headed fat little boy, already like his father, giving him a lesson in French reading. As the boy read, he kept twisting and trying to tear off a button that was nearly off his jacket. His mother had several times taken his hand from it, but the fat little hand went back to the button again. His mother pulled the button off and put it in her pocket.
“Keep your hands still, Grisha,” she said, and she took up her work, a coverlet she had long been making. She always set to work on it at depressed moments, and now she knitted at it nervously, twitching her fingers and counting the stitches. Though she had sent word the day before to her husband that it was nothing to her whether his sister came or not, she had made everything ready for her arrival, and was expecting her sister-in-law with emotion.
Dolly was crushed by her sorrow, utterly swallowed up by it. Still she did not forget that Anna, her sister-in-law, was the wife of one of the most important personages in Petersburg, and was a Petersburggrande dame. And, thanks to this circumstance, she did not carry out her threat to her husband—that is to say, she remembered that her sister-in-law was coming. “And, after all, Anna is in no wise to blame,” thought Dolly. “I know nothing of her except the very best, and I have seen nothing but kindness and affection from her towards myself.” It was true that as far as she could recall her impressions atPetersburg at the Karenins’, she did not like their household itself; there was something artificial in the whole framework of their family life. “But why should I not receive her? If only she doesn’t take it into her head to console me!” thought Dolly. “All consolation and counsel and Christian forgiveness, all that I have thought over a thousand times, and it’s all no use.”
All these days Dolly had been alone with her children. She did not want to talk of her sorrow, but with that sorrow in her heart she could not talk of outside matters. She knew that in one way or another she would tell Anna everything, and she was alternately glad at the thought of speaking freely, and angry at the necessity of speaking of her humiliation with her, his sister, and of hearing her ready-made phrases of good advice and comfort. She had been on the lookout for her, glancing at her watch every minute, and, as so often happens, let slip just that minute when her visitor arrived, so that she did not hear the bell.
Catching a sound of skirts and light steps at the door, she looked round, and her care-worn face unconsciously expressed not gladness, but wonder. She got up and embraced her sister-in-law.
“What, here already!” she said as she kissed her.
“Dolly, how glad I am to see you!”
“I am glad, too,” said Dolly, faintly smiling, and trying by the expression of Anna’s face to find out whether she knew. “Most likely she knows,” she thought, noticing the sympathy in Anna’s face. “Well, come along, I’ll take you to your room,” she went on, trying to defer as long as possible the moment of confidences.
“Is this Grisha? Heavens, how he’s grown!” said Anna; and kissing him, never taking her eyes off Dolly, she stood still and flushed a little. “No, please, let us stay here.”
She took off her kerchief and her hat, and catching it in a lock of her black hair, which was a mass of curls, she tossed her head and shook her hair down.
“You are radiant with health and happiness!” said Dolly, almost with envy.
“I?…. Yes,” said Anna. “Merciful heavens, Tanya! You’re the same age as my Seryozha,” she added, addressing the little girl as she ran in. She took her in her arms and kissed her. “Delightful child, delightful! Show me them all.”
She mentioned them, not only remembering the names, but the years, months, characters, illnesses of all the children, and Dolly could not but appreciate that.
“Very well, we will go to them,” she said. “It’s a pity Vassya’s asleep.”
After seeing the children, they sat down, alone now, in the drawing room, to coffee. Anna took the tray, and then pushed it away from her.
“Dolly,” she said, “he has told me.”
Dolly looked coldly at Anna; she was waiting now for phrases of conventional sympathy, but Anna said nothing of the sort.
“Dolly, dear,” she said, “I don’t want to speak for him to you, nor to try to comfort you; that’s impossible. But, darling, I’m simply sorry, sorry from my heart for you!”
Under the thick lashes of her shining eyes tears suddenly glittered. She moved nearer to her sister-in-law and took her hand in her vigorous little hand. Dolly did not shrink away, but her face did not lose its frigid expression. She said:
“To comfort me’s impossible. Everything’s lost after what has happened, everything’s over!”
And directly she had said this, her face suddenly softened. Anna lifted the wasted, thin hand of Dolly, kissed it and said:
“But, Dolly, what’s to be done, what’s to be done? How is it best to act in this awful position—that’s what you must think of.”
“All’s over, and there’s nothing more,” said Dolly. “And the worst of all is, you see, that I can’t cast him off: there are the children, I am tied. And I can’t live with him! it’s a torture to me to see him.”
“Dolly, darling, he has spoken to me, but I want to hear it from you: tell me about it.”
Dolly looked at her inquiringly.
Sympathy and love unfeigned were visible on Anna’s face.
“Very well,” she said all at once. “But I will tell you it from the beginning. You know how I was married. With the education mamma gave us I was more than innocent, I was stupid. I knew nothing. I know they say men tell their wives of their former lives, but Stiva”—she corrected herself—”Stepan Arkadyevitch told me nothing. You’ll hardly believe it, but till now I imagined that I was the only woman he had known. So I lived eight years. You must understand that I was so far from suspecting infidelity, I regarded it as impossible, and then—try to imagine it—with such ideas, to find out suddenly all the horror, all the loathsomeness…. You must try and understand me. To be fully convinced of one’s happiness, and all at once…” continued Dolly, holding back her sobs, “to get a letter…his letter to his mistress, my governess. No, it’s too awful!” She hastily pulled out her handkerchief and hid her face in it. “I can understand being carried away by feeling,” she went on after a brief silence, “but deliberately, slyly deceiving me…and with whom?… To go on being my husband together with her…it’s awful! You can’t understand…”
“Oh, yes, I understand! I understand! Dolly, dearest, I do understand,” said Anna, pressing her hand.
“And do you imagine he realizes all the awfulness of my position?” Dolly resumed. “Not the slightest! He’s happy and contented.”
“Oh, no!” Anna interposed quickly. “He’s to be pitied, he’s weighed down by remorse…”
“Is he capable of remorse?” Dolly interrupted, gazing intently into her sister-in-law’s face.
“Yes. I know him. I could not look at him without feeling sorry for him. We both know him. He’s good-hearted, but he’s proud, and now he’s so humiliated. What touched me most…” (and here Anna guessed what would touch Dolly most) “he’s tortured by two things: that he’s ashamed for the children’s sake, and that, loving you—yes, yes, loving you beyond everything on earth,” she hurriedly interrupted Dolly, who would have answered—”he has hurt you, pierced you to the heart. ‘No, no, she cannot forgive me,’ he keeps saying.”
Dolly looked dreamily away beyond her sister-in-law as she listened to her words.
“Yes, I can see that his position is awful; it’s worse for the guilty than the innocent,” she said, “if he feels that all the misery comes from his fault. But how am I to forgive him, how am I to be his wife again after her? For me to live with him now would be torture, just because I love my past love for him…”
And sobs cut short her words. But as though of set design, each time she was softened she began to speak again of what exasperated her.
“She’s young, you see, she’s pretty,” she went on. “Do you know, Anna, my youth and my beauty are gone, taken by whom? By him and his children. I have worked for him, and all I had has gone in his service, and now of course any fresh, vulgar creature has more charm for him. No doubt they talked of me together, or, worse still, they were silent. Do you understand?”
Again her eyes glowed with hatred.
“And after that he will tell me…. What! can I believe him? Never! No, everything is over, everything that once made my comfort, the reward of my work, and my sufferings…. Would you believe it, I was teaching Grisha just now: once this was a joy to me, now it is a torture. What have I to strive and toil for? Why are the children here? What’s so awful is that all at once my heart’s turned, and instead of love and tenderness, I have nothing but hatred for him; yes, hatred. I could kill him.”
“Darling Dolly, I understand, but don’t torture yourself. You are so distressed, so overwrought, that you look at many things mistakenly.”
Dolly grew calmer, and for two minutes both were silent.
“What’s to be done? Think for me, Anna, help me. I have thought over everything, and I see nothing.”
Anna could think of nothing, but her heart responded instantly to each word, to each change of expression of her sister-in-law.
“One thing I would say,” began Anna. “I am his sister, I know his character, that faculty of forgetting everything, everything” (she waved her hand before her forehead), “that faculty for being completely carried away, but for completely repenting too. He cannot believe it, he cannot comprehend now how he can have acted as he did.”
“No; he understands, he understood!” Dolly broke in. “But I…you are forgetting me…does it make it easier for me?”
“Wait a minute. When he told me, I will own I did not realize all the awfulness of your position. I saw nothing but him, and that the family was broken up. I felt sorry for him, but after talking to you, I see it, as a woman, quite differently. I see your agony, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am for you! But, Dolly, darling, I fully realize your sufferings, only there is one thing I don’t know; I don’t know…I don’t know how much love there is still in your heart for him. That you know—whether there is enough for you to be able to forgive him. If there is, forgive him!”
“No,” Dolly was beginning, but Anna cut her short, kissing her hand once more.
“I know more of the world than you do,” she said. “I know how men like Stiva look at it. You speak of his talking of you with her. That never happened. Such men are unfaithful, but their home and wife are sacred to them. Somehow or other these women are still looked on with contempt by them, and do not touch on their feeling for their family. They draw a sort of line that can’t be crossed between them and their families. I don’t understand it, but it is so.”
“Yes, but he has kissed her…”
“Dolly, hush, darling. I saw Stiva when he was in love with you. I remember the time when he came to me and cried, talking of you, and all the poetry and loftiness of his feeling for you, and I know that the longer he has lived with you the loftier you have been in his eyes. You know we have sometimes laughed at him for putting in at every word: ‘Dolly’s a marvelous woman.’ You have always been a divinity for him, and you are that still, and this has not been an infidelity of the heart…”
“But if it is repeated?”
“It cannot be, as I understand it…”
“Yes, but could you forgive it?”
“I don’t know, I can’t judge…. Yes, I can,” said Anna, thinking a moment; and grasping the position in her thought and weighing it in her inner balance, she added: “Yes, I can, I can, I can. Yes, I could forgive it. I could not be the same, no; but I could forgive it, and forgive it as though it had never been, never been at all…”
“Oh, of course,” Dolly interposed quickly, as though saying what she had more than once thought, “else it would not be forgiveness. If one forgives, it must be completely, completely. Come, let us go; I’ll take you to your room,” she said, getting up, and on the way she embraced Anna. “My dear, how glad I am you came. It has made things better, ever so much better.”
What are you working on at the moment? 
A magnum opus which will tell the whole story of Christianity concentrating on its most influential figures and most engaging insights.
Thank you very much Roger. 

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