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7. CHAPTER VII - "DOCTOR THORNE"--"THE BERTRAMS"--"THE WEST INDIES" AND "THE SPANISH MAIN" (continued)
But the trip is at the present moment of importance to my subject, as having enabled me to write that which, on the whole, I regard as the best book that has come from my pen. It is short, and, I think I may venture to say, amusing, useful, and true. As soon as I had learned from the secretary at the General Post Office that this journey would be required, I proposed the book to Messrs. Chapman & Hall, demanding œ250 for a single volume. The contract was made without any difficulty, and when I returned home the work was complete in my desk. I began it on board the ship in which I left Kingston, Jamaica, for Cuba,--and from week to week I carried it on as I went. From Cuba I made my way to St. Thomas, and through the island down to Demerara, then back to St. Thomas,--which is the starting-point for all places in that part of the globe,--to Santa Martha, Carthagena, Aspinwall, over the Isthmus to Panama, up the Pacific to a little harbour on the coast of Costa Rica, thence across Central America, through Costa Rica, and down the Nicaragua river to the Mosquito coast, and after that home by Bermuda and New York. Should any one want further details of the voyage, are they not written in my book? The fact memorable to me now is that I never made a single note while writing or preparing it. Preparation, indeed, there was none. The descriptions and opinions came hot on to the paper from their causes. I will not say that this is the best way of writing a book intended to give accurate information. But it is the best way of producing to the eye of the reader, and to his ear, that which the eye of the writer has seen and his ear heard. There are two kinds of confidence which a reader may have in his author,--which two kinds the reader who wishes to use his reading well should carefully discriminate. There is a confidence in facts and a confidence in vision. The one man tells you accurately what has been. The other suggests to you what may, or perhaps what must have been, or what ought to have been. The former require simple faith. The latter calls upon you to judge for yourself, and form your own conclusions. The former does not intend to be prescient, nor the latter accurate. Research is the weapon used by the former; observation by the latter. Either may be false,--wilfully false; as also may either be steadfastly true. As to that, the reader must judge for himself. But the man who writes currente calamo, who works with a rapidity which will not admit of accuracy, may be as true, and in one sense as trustworthy, as he who bases every word upon a rock of facts. I have written very much as I have, travelled about; and though I have been very inaccurate, I have always written the exact truth as I saw it ;--and I have, I think, drawn my pictures correctly.
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