I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. “The first thing,” I said, “is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.” But this was not enough for my young friend. He seemed to have a notion that there was some sort of esoteric cookery book, full of literary recipes, which you had only to follow attentively to become a Dickens, a Henry James, a Flaubert — “according to taste,” as the authors of recipes say, when they come to the question of seasoning and sweetening. Wouldn’t I let him have a glimpse of this cookery book? I said that I was sorry, but that (unhappily — for what an endless amount of time and trouble it would save!) I had never even seen such a work. He seemed sadly disappointed; so, to console the poor lad, I advised him to apply to the professors of dramaturgy and short-story writing at some reputable university; if any one possessed a trustworthy cookery book of literature, it should surely be they. But even this was not enough to satisfy the young man. Disappointed in his hope that I would give him the fictional equivalent of “One Hundred Ways of Cooking Eggs” or the “Carnet de la Ménagère,” he began to cross-examine me about my methods of “collecting material.” Did I keep a notebook or a daily journal? Did I jot down thoughts and phrases in a cardindex? Did I systematically frequent the drawing-rooms of the rich and fashionable? Or did I, on the contrary, inhabit the Sussex downs? or spend my evenings looking for “copy” in East End gin-palaces? Did I think it was wise to frequent the company of intellectuals? Was it a good thing for a writer of novels to try to be well educated, or should he confine his reading exclusively to other novels? And so on. I did my best to reply to these questions — as non-committally, of course, as I could. And as the young man still looked rather disappointed, I volunteered a final piece of advice, gratuitously. “My young friend,” I said, “if you want to be a psychological novelist and write about human beings, the best thing you can do is to keep a pair of cats.” And with that I left him.