Lew Wallace’s Work Habits

In 1907, an interview with General Lew Wallace was published giving some insight into his habits and personal beliefs. The brief interview had taken place a few years earlier when Wallace was on the lecture circuit. Here are some interesting excerpts:

Lew in Study (cropped)He has himself described his daily habits: ‘I begin to write at about 9 A.M. Keep at work till noon. Resume about 1.30 P.M., and leave my studio about 4. I then exercise for two hours. I walk or ride horse-back, according to the weather. When it rains I put on a heavy pair of boots and trudge five to seven miles across the country. I usually ride about a dozen miles. To this habit of taking regular exercise I attribute my good health. I eat just what I want and as much as I want. When night comes I lie down and sleep like a child, never once waking until morning. I usually retire at 9:30 and rise at 7:30, aiming to secure nine hours’ sleep. I smoke at pleasure, a pipe or a cigar, but never a cigarette, which I consider the deadliest thing a person can put in his mouth. The amount of work I produce in a day varies greatly. Sometimes I write four hundred and sometimes twelve hundred words. What I write to-day in the rough, to-morrow I revise, perhaps reducing it to twenty words, perhaps striking out all of the day’s work and beginning at the same point once more. That constitutes my second copy. When proofs come from the publisher another revision takes place. It consists chiefly of condensation and expurgation.’

He was asked once what he considered the secret of his success. ‘Work,’ he answered, ‘and, as an author, the doing it myself with my own hand, not by means of a typewriter, or amanuensis or stenographer. To work I would add universal reading.’

Who is your favorite novelist? The questioner went on. ‘Sir Walter Scott.’

What is your favorite novel? ‘Ivanhoe.’

And your favorite poem? ‘Idylls of the King.’

What do you consider the sublimest poetry in the world? ‘You will find it in the Psalms and Job, in Homer, in Milton and in Shakespeare.’

Who, in your judgment, are the three greatest warriors the world has produced? ‘Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon.’

Who, in your opinion, were the greatest American statesmen? ‘George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Alexander Hamilton is, in my judgment, the father of the American Constitution. But that Constitution would never have been adopted save for the support given it by the great name of George Washington.’

The printed interview concluded with “We have said, after all, far too little of this distinguished man, but all that we might say would hardly give the right emphasis to the greatness of his manifold deeds and to the charm of his personal character.”

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