PyroManiac devotes Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.
Among all the things I love about Charles Spurgeon, the impishness that occasionally surfaced in his sense of humor has to rank somewhere near the top of the list.
Spurgeon personally made many of the editorial decisions and wrote most of the lead articles for his famous magazine, The Sword and the Trowel.
Trust me, that's a job you don't want.
I'm mainly a book editor, and that's bad enough. But I've also been involved with the editorial process on a few magazines over the years, and it's not a fun job. The unremitting deadlines and perennial creative pressure will literally take years off your life.
One of the inevitable, never-ending annoyances for any magazine editor is the difficulty of dealing with someone who fancies himself a great writer or gifted poet and wants you to publish his work. "And if you won't publish it, will you please help me get it published. I'm eager to hear your thoughts about my work and am open to any suggestions you might have."
I've received countless letters just like that from all kinds of ballad-mongers. But I have yet to meet the aspiring poet who is really eager to hear an editor's thoughts or truly open to any editorial suggestions.
I sometimes think the church is full of amateur poets who write the cheesiest doggerel and are honestly convinced it's high art. My advice to young editors: Don't try telling them their poetry is badespecially if you're not a great poet yourself. To them, the reason you don't recognize the genius of their versification is all too obvious: you're just a Philistine when it comes to such matters.
Spurgeon had people like that sending him twaddle, tooincluding one guy who offered to supply entire devotional articles for The Sword and the Trowel written completely in "blank verse" (which is supposed to be rhythmic but unrhyming lines, usually written in iambic pentameter). This particular bard felt blank verse was the perfect vehicle for Spurgeon's readers, and he was just the poet/theologian to write it for Spurgeon's magazine.
Spurgeon was unimpressed. He published the following brief item in the July 1884 issue of The Sword and the Trowel:
Where Not to Send Poems or Blank Verse
"BLANK VERSE was first written in the modern languages in 1508, by Trissine." We do not know the gentleman, and do not wish to make his acquaintance. He lived a very long time ago, and it might have been as well had he never lived at all.
We have seen a vast deal of very blank verse in our time, and feel no kind of gratitude to its inventor for having brought upon us this infliction. Oh, poetic brother, do try your hand at prose! You will be prosy enough then; but now you string together your long lines of nonsense, with such an absence of all thought, that you are altogether unbearable.
We once saw an advertisement of a sermon in blank verse: we did not go to hear it, and the good man is since dead. We believe his discourse was dead long before. He has not sold the good-will of the poetical discourse business, and so there is no successor in the blank-verse-sermon line. Quite as well! Pulpits are dull enough without this last ounce of aggravation.
Milton and Thomson, Young and Cowper, we can all rejoice in; but your ordinary imitator of these sweet singers is blank as blankness itself. When the dear man feels that he must cover reams of paper with his effervescences, we have not the remotest objection to his doing so: it may be good for the paper-trade and good for himself; BUT, with the utmost vehemence of our outraged nature, we entreat him not to send his manuscripts to us, that we may pass our opinion upon them, and introduce them to a publisher.
This is one of our afflictions, and by no means a light one. The quantity of time it takes to answer poets we dare not attempt to calculate. Moreover, there is the solemn responsibility of having such jewels to take care of. We do not feet worthy to have the charge of such priceless treasures. Burglars might run off with them, rats might eat them, our Mary might either sell them to the waste-paper man, or they might even drop into
THE RECEPTACLE BELOW