16 January 1921

16 January 1921

Villa Isola Bella, Menton, France

In the way a thing is made – it may be a tree or a woman or a gazelle or a dish of fruit – you get your inspiration. This sounds a bit too simple when it is written down & rather like "Professor Leonard. The Indian Palmist". I mean something though. Its a very queer thing how craft comes into writing. I mean down to details. Par exemple. In Miss Brill I chose not only the length of every sentence, but even the sound of every sentence – I chose the rise and fall of every paragraph to fit her – and to fit her on that day at that very moment. After Id written it I read it aloud – numbers of times – just as one would play over a musical composition, trying to get it nearer and nearer to the expression of Miss Brill – until it fitted her.

Don't think Im vain about the little sketch. Its the only method I wanted to explain. I often wonder whether other writers do the same. If a thing has really come off it seems to me there mustn't be one single word out of place or one word that could be taken out. Thats how I AIM at writing. It will take some time to get anywhere near there.

[Letter to Richard Murry in Collected Letters, 17 January 1921]