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    The Book of Essays Dedicatory

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    Chapter 33
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    I have been bothered about this book this three months. I have written
    scarcely anything since Llewellyn asked me for it, for when he asked me
    I had really nothing on hand. I had just published every line I had ever
    written, at my own expense, with Prigsbys. Yet three months should
    suffice for one of Llewellyn's books, which consist chiefly of decorous
    fly-leaves and a dedication or so, and margins. Of course you know
    Llewellyn's books--the most delightful things in the market: the
    sweetest covers, with little gilt apples and things carelessly
    distributed over luminous grey, and bright red initials, and all these
    delightful fopperies. But it was the very slightness of these bibelots
    that disorganised me. And perhaps, also, the fact that no one has ever
    asked me for a book before.

    I had no trouble with the title though--"Lichens." I have wondered the
    thing was never used before. Lichens, variegated, beautiful, though on
    the most arid foundations, half fungoid, half vernal--the very name for
    a booklet of modern verse. And that, of course, decided the key of the
    cover and disposed of three or four pages. A fly-leaf, a leaf with
    "Lichens" printed fair and beautiful a little to the left of the centre,
    then a title-page--"Lichens. By H.G. Wells. London: MDCCCXCV. Stephen
    Llewellyn." Then a restful blank page, and then--the Dedication. It was
    the dedication stopped me. The title-page, it is true, had some points
    of difficulty. Should the Christian name be printed in full or not, for
    instance; but it had none of the fatal fascination of the dedicatory
    page. I had, so to speak, to look abroad among the ranks of men, and
    make one of those fretful forgotten millions--immortal. It seemed a
    congenial task.

    I went to work forthwith.

    It was only this morning that I realised the magnitude of my
    accumulations. Ever since then--it was three months ago--I have been
    elaborating this Dedication. I turned the pile over, idly at first.
    Presently I became interested in tracing my varying moods, as they had
    found a record in the heap.

    This struck me--

    [Illustration: A Handwritten dedication, "To my Dearest Friend"
    followed by three successive names, two crossed out, then the whole
    dedication struck out]

    Then again, a little essay in gratitude came to hand--

    TO
    PROFESSOR AUGUSTUS FLOOD,
    Whose Admirable Lectures on
    Palæontology
    First turned my Attention to
    Literature.

    There was a tinge of pleasantry in the latter that pleased me very
    greatly when I wrote it, and I find immediately overlying it another
    essay in the same line--

    To the Latter-day Reviewer,
    These Pearls.

    For some days I was smitten with the idea of dedicating my little
    booklet to one of my numerous personal antagonists, and conveying some
    subtly devised insult with an air of magnanimity. I thought, for
    instance, of Blizzard--

    SIR JOSEPH BLIZZARD,
    The most distinguished, if not the greatest, of contemporary
    anatomists.

    I think it was "X.L.'s" book, _Aut Diabolus aut Nihil_, that set me upon
    another line. There is, after all, your reader to consider in these
    matters, your average middle-class person to impress in some way. They
    say the creature is a snob, and absolutely devoid of any tinge of
    humour, and I must confess that I more than half believe it. At anyrate,
    it was that persuasion inspired--

    To the Countess of X.,
    In Memory of Many Happy Days.

    I know no Countess of X., as a matter of fact, but if the public is such
    an ass as to think better of my work for the suspicion, I do not care
    how soon I incur it. And this again is a pretty utilisation of the waste
    desert of politics--

    MY DEAR SALISBURY,--Pray accept this unworthy tribute of
    my affectionate esteem.

    There were heaps of others. And looking at those heaps it suddenly came
    sharp and vivid before my mind that there--there was the book I needed,
    already written! A blank page, a dedication, a blank page, a dedication,
    and so on. I saw no reason to change the title. It only remained to
    select the things, and the book was done. I set to work at once, and in
    a very little while my bibelot was selected. There were dedications
    fulsome and fluid, dedications acrid and uncharitable, dedications in
    verse and dedications in the dead languages: all sorts and conditions of
    dedications, even the simple "To J.H. Gabbles"--so suggestive of the
    modest white stones of the village churchyard. Altogether I picked out
    one hundred and three dedications. At last only one thing remained to
    complete the book. And that was--the Dedication. You will scarcely
    credit it, but that worries me still....

    I am almost inclined to think that Dedications are going out of
    fashion.
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