While, in order to win popularity and immediate success, it appears to be a necessity to write to a probable public, it is no less true that the greatest minds — those which have influenced the thought, not of individuals, but of the race — have simply written out what was in them; written not for popularity nor fame, nor even for money, but for posterity, for all time.
Primarily, though, I am inclined to think they wrote for themselves, because they could not help it, absolute necessity for expression being one of the laws of genius. A poet sings as does the bird, and a brain that is bursting with thought must give itself vent. Herein lies the difference. The magazinist writes to his public, the genius must form his public; the first must please his audience, and if he succeeds, he has his reward in applause and bouquets. But genius toils during long and apparently fruitless years; he cannot get before the footlights. He is unheard, unappreciated by the public, while too often misunderstood, taunted, and scorned by his private critic. To many people print is the criterion of excellence, and they would not estimate Shakespeare himself in manuscript.
No less than other men would our genius enjoy fame, success, and the ease of wealth, but not for these will he exchange his soul. Genius cannot popularize itself; it must wait for the thought of the times to catch up with it, for it is the very essence of genius that it is before and far away beyond its generation. The greater the genius, the longer the waiting. Remember Hawthorne, the hermit, secluding himself in a bleak New England chamber for seventeen years before his marvellous witchery began to win recognition; Carlyle at Craigan-Puttoch, and again at Cheyne Row tearing his hair over the “French Revolution,” and bitterly reviling in his heart the pigmy public which could “eat; drink, and be merry” on the edge of a no less terrible social abyss. Emerson never won riches, and grand old Walt Whitman has lived in poverty all these years. Shelley, the exile, was banished from Oxford, scorned by his own, robbed of his children, and yet to-day the Clarendon Press is bringing out his “Adonais” in an edition de luxe. Browning lived to realize fame and a sufficiency of success; but read his “Men and Women” to learn if he knew or not the depths of sorrowing disheartenment.
“Given the conditions, who would be a genius?” cries one, and the answer comes swift: “Surely, not he who asks the question and flaunts the doubt.”
(Jeanie Porter Rudd, “Writing to a Public,” The Writer, Vol. V, 1891, p. 117).