LE STYLE, C'EST L'HOMME
FOR the most part, Butler was a slow writer and an inveterate reviser of what he wrote. He liked too, even if he did not revise his writings, to keep them by him and look at them again after an interval before he let them go. He told Miss Savage, "I am not to be trusted to write three lines unless I can keep them three weeks." The notes which he made in the "little note-books" he was firmly convinced every good author should have always handy he revised persistently, taking immense pains to get the phrases that would say exactly what he meant. Yet he had a great admiration for spontaneous fine writing, when he could find it, as in his prime favourites--Shakespeare, and the authoress of the Odyssey. He said that Shakespeare's Sonnets were full of "slovenliness, crabbedness and obscurity";
"He [ Shakespeare] thought he would take more pains and polish up Venus and Adonis and Lucrece with extreme care-- with what result? We can admire these last, but we do not want them; whereas we can read the Sonnets over and over and over again."
This was in a letter, in which he went on to adjure his correspondent "not to trouble about a style--not the least little bit."
It was, indeed, not about what he regarded as "style" that Butler did trouble, but about making sure that he was saying what he meant. He wrote in his note-book, "I never