Then sit you down if you would join us, taking paper, pens, and ink; and mark this, your pen is a matter of vital moment. For every pen writes its own sort of essay, and pencils also after their kind. The ink perhaps may have its influence too, and the paper; but paramount is the pen. This, indeed, is the fundamental secret of essay-writing. Wed any man to his proper pen, and the delights of composition and the birth of an essay are assured. Only many of us wander through the earth and never meet with her--futile and lonely men.
And, of all pens, your quill for essays that are literature. There is a subtle informality, a delightful easiness, perhaps even a faint immorality essentially literary, about the quill. The quill is rich in suggestion and quotation. There are quills that would quote you Montaigne and Horace in the hands of a trades-union delegate. And those quirky, idle noises this pen makes are delightful, and would break your easy fluency with wit. All the classical essayists wrote with a quill, and Addison used the most expensive kind the Government purchased. And the beginning of the inferior essay was the dawn of the cheap steel pen.
The quill nibs they sell to fit into ordinary pen-holders are no true quills at all, lacking dignity, and may even lead you into the New Humour if you trust overmuch to their use. After a proper quill commend me to a stumpy BB pencil; you get less polish and broader effects, but you are still doing good literature. Sometimes the work is close--Mr. George Meredith, for instance, is suspected of a soft pencil--and always it is blunter than quill work and more terse. With a hard pencil no man can write anything but a graceless style--a kind of east wind air it gives--and smile you cannot. So that it is often used for serious articles in the half-crown reviews.
There follows the host of steel pens. That bald, clear, scientific style, all set about with words like "evolution" and "environment," which aims at expressing its meaning with precision and an exemplary economy of words, is done with fine steel nibs--twelve a penny at any stationer's. The J pen to the lady novelist, and the stenograph to the devil--your essayist must not touch the things. So much for the pen. If you cannot write essays easily, that is where the hitch comes in. Get a box of a different kind of pen and begin again, and so on again and again until despair or joy arrests you.
As for a typewriter, you could no more…