By coincidence, I came across a passage in Giacomo Casanova’s memoirs that seems to sum up perfectly the mystery surrounding a writer’s voice that Cheri and I talked about yesterday.
Casanova, a Venetian, was studying French and visiting a teacher three times a week for an entire year. Once, he composed some poetry and showed it to his teacher.
Casanova: How so?
Teacher: I haven’t any idea. What’s lacking is that certain something. Imagine seeing a man whom you find handsome, well-built, pleasing, full of intelligence and wit: in a word, perfect in your severest judgment. A woman arrives, gives the man a look and after considering him well, tells you, as she leaves, that she doesn’t find him at all attractive. ‘But Madame,’ you say, ‘tell me what you don’t like about him.’ ‘I haven’t the vaguest idea,’ she says. You return to this man, look at him more carefully, and you finally realize that he’s a castrato. ‘Ah,’ you say, ‘now I see why that woman didn’t find him to her liking.’ (page 169 here)