We think that the author of a good work should refrain from three things-from putting his name, save very modestly, from the epistle dedicatory, and from the preface. Others should refrain from a fourth-that is, from writing.
Prefaces are another stumbling-block. "The 'I,'" said Pascal, "is hateful." Speak as little of yourself as possible; for you must know that the reader's self-esteem is as great as yours. He will never forgive you for wanting to condemn him to have a good opinion of you. It is for your book to speak for you, if it comes to be read by the crowd.
If you want to be an author, if you want to write a book; reflect that it must be useful and new, or at least infinitely agreeable.
If an ignoramus, a pamphleteer, presumes to criticize without discrimination, you can confound him; but make rare mention of him, for fear of sullying your writings.
If you are attacked as regards your style, never reply; it is for your work alone to make answer.
Someone says you are ill, be content that you are well, without wanting to prove to the public that you are in perfect health. And above all remember that the public cares precious little whether you are well or ill.
A hundred authors make compilations in order to have bread, and twenty pamphleteers make excerpts from these compilations, or apology for them, or criticism and satire of them, also with the idea of having bread, because they have no other trade. All these persons go on Friday to the police lieutenant of Paris to ask permission to sell their rubbish. They have audience immediately after the strumpets who do not look at them because they know that these are underhand dealings.
Real authors are those who have succeeded in one of the real arts, in epic poetry, in tragedy or comedy, in history or philosophy, who have taught men or charmed them. The others of whom we have spoken are, among men of letters, what wasps are among birds.