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Title: Certain Personal Matters
Author: Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Certain Personal Matters" ***

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          CERTAIN PERSONAL MATTERS

                    BY

                H.G. WELLS



                  LONDON
              T. FISHER UNWIN
          PATERNOSTER SQUARE, E.C.
                   1901



CONTENTS

                                                                    PAGE

THOUGHTS ON CHEAPNESS AND MY AUNT CHARLOTTE                            7

THE TROUBLE OF LIFE                                                   12

ON THE CHOICE OF A WIFE                                               18

THE HOUSE OF DI SORNO                                                 22

OF CONVERSATION                                                       27

IN A LITERARY HOUSEHOLD                                               32

ON SCHOOLING AND THE PHASES OF MR. SANDSOME                           36

THE POET AND THE EMPORIUM                                             40

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS                                               45

THE LITERARY REGIMEN                                                  49

HOUSE-HUNTING AS AN OUTDOOR AMUSEMENT                                 54

OF BLADES AND BLADERY                                                 59

OF CLEVERNESS                                                         63

THE POSE NOVEL                                                        67

THE VETERAN CRICKETER                                                 71

CONCERNING A CERTAIN LADY                                             76

THE SHOPMAN                                                           80

THE BOOK OF CURSES                                                    85

DUNSTONE'S DEAR LADY                                                  90

EUPHEMIA'S NEW ENTERTAINMENT (_this is illustrated_)                  94

FOR FREEDOM OF SPELLING                                               98

INCIDENTAL THOUGHTS ON A BALD HEAD                                   104

OF A BOOK UNWRITTEN                                                  108

THE EXTINCTION OF MAN                                                115

THE WRITING OF ESSAYS                                                120

THE PARKES MUSEUM                                                    124

BLEAK MARCH IN EPPING FOREST                                         128

THE THEORY OF QUOTATION                                              132

ON THE ART OF STAYING AT THE SEASIDE                                 135

CONCERNING CHESS                                                     140

THE COAL-SCUTTLE                                                     145

BAGARROW                                                             150

THE BOOK OF ESSAYS DEDICATORY                                        155

THROUGH A MICROSCOPE                                                 159

THE PLEASURE OF QUARRELLING                                          164

THE AMATEUR NATURE-LOVER                                             169

FROM AN OBSERVATORY                                                  174

THE MODE IN MONUMENTS                                                177

HOW I DIED                                                           182



CERTAIN PERSONAL MATTERS



THOUGHTS ON CHEAPNESS AND MY AUNT CHARLOTTE


The world mends. In my younger days people believed in mahogany; some of
my readers will remember it--a heavy, shining substance, having a
singularly close resemblance to raw liver, exceedingly heavy to move,
and esteemed on one or other count the noblest of all woods. Such of us
as were very poor and had no mahogany pretended to have mahogany; and
the proper hepatite tint was got by veneering. That makes one incline to
think it was the colour that pleased people. In those days there was a
word "trashy," now almost lost to the world. My dear Aunt Charlotte used
that epithet when, in her feminine way, she swore at people she did not
like. "Trashy" and "paltry" and "Brummagem" was the very worst she could
say of them. And she had, I remember, an intense aversion to plated
goods and bronze halfpence. The halfpence of her youth had been vast and
corpulent red-brown discs, which it was folly to speak of as small
change. They were fine handsome coins, and almost as inconvenient as
crown-pieces. I remember she corrected me once when I was very young.
"Don't call a penny a copper, dear," she said; "copper is a metal. The
pennies they have nowadays are bronze." It is odd how our childish
impressions cling to us. I still regard bronze as a kind of upstart
intruder, a mere trashy pretender among metals.

All my Aunt Charlotte's furniture was thoroughly good, and most of it
extremely uncomfortable; there was not a thing for a little boy to break
and escape damnation in the household. Her china was the only thing with
a touch of beauty in it--at least I remember nothing else--and each of
her blessed plates was worth the happiness of a mortal for days
together. And they dressed me in a Nessus suit of valuable garments. I
learned the value of thoroughly good things only too early. I knew the
equivalent of a teacup to the very last scowl, and I have hated good,
handsome property ever since. For my part I love cheap things, trashy
things, things made of the commonest rubbish that money can possibly
buy; things as vulgar as primroses, and as transitory as a morning's
frost.

Think of all the advantages of a cheap possession--cheap and nasty, if
you will--compared with some valuable substitute. Suppose you need this
or that. "Get a good one," advises Aunt Charlotte; "one that will last."
You do--and it does last. It lasts like a family curse. These great
plain valuable things, as plain as good women, as complacently assured
of their intrinsic worth--who does not know them? My Aunt Charlotte
scarcely had a new thing in her life. Her mahogany was avuncular; her
china remotely ancestral; her feather beds and her bedsteads!--they were
haunted; the births, marriages, and deaths associated with the best one
was the history of our race for three generations. There was more in her
house than the tombstone rectitude of the chair-backs to remind me of
the graveyard. I can still remember the sombre aisles of that house, the
vault-like shadows, the magnificent window curtains that blotted out the
windows. Life was too trivial for such things. She never knew she tired
of them, but she did. That was the secret of her temper, I think; they
engendered her sombre Calvinism, her perception of the trashy quality of
human life. The pretence that they were the accessories to human life
was too transparent. _We_ were the accessories; we minded them for a
little while, and then we passed away. They wore us out and cast us
aside. We were the changing scenery; they were the actors who played on
through the piece. It was even so with clothing. We buried my other
maternal aunt--Aunt Adelaide--and wept, and partly forgot her; but her
wonderful silk dresses--they would stand alone--still went rustling
cheerfully about an ephemeral world.

All that offended my sense of proportion, my feeling of what is due to
human life, even when I was a little boy. I want things of my own,
things I can break without breaking my heart; and, since one can live
but once, I want some change in my life--to have this kind of thing and
then that. I never valued Aunt Charlotte's good old things until I sold
them. They sold remarkably well: those chairs like nether millstones for
the grinding away of men; the fragile china--an incessant anxiety until
accident broke it, and the spell of it at the same time; those silver
spoons, by virtue of which Aunt Charlotte went in fear of burglary for
six-and-fifty years; the bed from which I alone of all my kindred had
escaped; the wonderful old, erect, high-shouldered, silver-faced clock.

But, as I say, our ideas are changing--mahogany has gone, and repp
curtains. Articles are made for man, nowadays, and not man, by careful
early training, for articles. I feel myself to be in many respects a
link with the past. Commodities come like the spring flowers, and vanish
again. "Who steals my watch steals trash," as some poet has remarked;
the thing is made of I know not what metal, and if I leave it on the
mantel for a day or so it goes a deep blackish purple that delights me
exceedingly. My grandfather's hat--I understood when I was a little boy
that I was to have that some day. But now I get a hat for ten shillings,
or less, two or three times a year. In the old days buying clothes was
well-nigh as irrevocable as marriage. Our flat is furnished with
glittering things--wanton arm-chairs just strong enough not to collapse
under you, books in gay covers, carpets you are free to drop lighted
fusees upon; you may scratch what you like, upset your coffee, cast your
cigar ash to the four quarters of heaven. Our guests, at anyrate, are
not snubbed by our furniture. It knows its place.

But it is in the case of art and adornment that cheapness is most
delightful. The only thing that betrayed a care for beauty on the part
of my aunt was her dear old flower garden, and even there she was not
above suspicion. Her favourite flowers were tulips, rigid tulips with
opulent crimson streaks. She despised wildings. Her ornaments were
simply displays of the precious metal. Had she known the price of
platinum she would have worn that by preference. Her chains and brooches
and rings were bought by weight. She would have turned her back on
Benvenuto Cellini if he was not 22 carats fine. She despised
water-colour art; her conception of a picture was a vast domain of oily
brown by an Old Master. The Babbages at the Hall had a display of gold
plate swaggering in the corner of the dining-room; and the visitor
(restrained by a plush rope from examining the workmanship) was told the
value, and so passed on. I like my art unadorned: thought and skill, and
the other strange quality that is added thereto, to make things
beautiful--and nothing more. A farthing's worth of paint and paper, and,
behold! a thing of beauty!--as they do in Japan. And if it should fall
into the fire--well, it has gone like yesterday's sunset, and to-morrow
there will be another.

These Japanese are indeed the apostles of cheapness. The Greeks lived to
teach the world beauty, the Hebrews to teach it morality, and now the
Japanese are hammering in the lesson that men may be honourable, daily
life delightful, and a nation great without either freestone houses,
marble mantelpieces, or mahogany sideboards. I have sometimes wished
that my Aunt Charlotte could have travelled among the Japanese nation.
She would, I know, have called it a "parcel of trash." Their use of
paper--paper suits, paper pocket-handkerchiefs--would have made her
rigid with contempt. I have tried, but I cannot imagine my Aunt
Charlotte in paper underclothing. Her aversion to paper was
extraordinary. Her Book of Beauty was printed on satin, and all her
books were bound in leather, the boards regulated rather than decorated
with a severe oblong. Her proper sphere was among the ancient
Babylonians, among which massive populace even the newspapers were
built of brick. She would have compared with the King's daughter whose
raiment was of wrought gold. When I was a little boy I used to think she
had a mahogany skeleton. However, she is gone, poor old lady, and at
least she left me her furniture. Her ghost was torn in pieces after the
sale--must have been. Even the old china went this way and that. I took
what was perhaps a mean revenge of her for the innumerable
black-holeings, bread-and-water dinners, summary chastisements, and
impossible tasks she inflicted upon me for offences against her too
solid possessions. You will see it at Woking. It is a light and graceful
cross. It is a mere speck of white between the monstrous granite
paperweights that oppress the dead on either side of her. Sometimes I am
half sorry for that. When the end comes I shall not care to look her in
the face--she will be so humiliated.



THE TROUBLE OF LIFE


I do not know whether this will awaken a sympathetic lassitude in, say,
fifty per cent. of its readers, or whether my experience is unique and
my testimony simply curious. At anyrate, it is as true as I can make it.
Whether this is a mere mood, and a certain flagrant exhilaration my true
attitude towards things, or this is my true attitude and the exuberant
phase a lapse from it, I cannot say. Probably it does not matter. The
thing is that I find life an extremely troublesome affair. I do not want
to make any railing accusations against life; it is--to my
taste--neither very sad nor very horrible. At times it is distinctly
amusing. Indeed, I know nothing in the same line that can quite compare
with it. But there is a difference between general appreciation and
uncritical acceptance. At times I find life a Bother.

The kind of thing that I object to is, as a good example, all the
troublesome things one has to do every morning in getting up. There is
washing. This is an age of unsolicited personal confidences, and I will
frankly confess that if it were not for Euphemia I do not think I should
wash at all. There is a vast amount of humbug about washing. Vulgar
people not only profess a passion for the practice, but a physical
horror of being unwashed. It is a sort of cant. I can understand a
sponge bath being a novelty the first time and exhilarating the second
and third. But day after day, week after week, month after month, and
nothing to show at the end of it all! Then there is shaving. I have to
get shaved because Euphemia hates me with a blue jowl, and I will admit
I hate myself. Yet, if I were left alone, I do not think my personal
taste would affect my decision; I will say that for myself. Either I
hack about with a blunt razor--my razors are always blunt--until I am a
kind of Whitechapel Horror, and with hair in tufts upon my chin like the
top of a Bosjesman's head, or else I have to spend all the morning being
dabbed about the face by a barber with damp hands. In either case it is
a repulsive thing to have, eating into one's time when one might be
living; and I have calculated that all the hair I have lost in this way,
put end to end, would reach to Berlin. All that vital energy thrown
away! However, "Thorns and bristles shall it bring forth to thee." I
suppose it is part of the primal curse, and I try and stand it like a
man. But the thing is a bother all the same.

Then after shaving comes the hunt for the collar-stud. Of all idiotic
inventions the modern collar is the worst. A man who has to write things
for such readers as mine cannot think over-night of where he puts his
collar-stud; he has to keep his mind at an altogether higher level.
Consequently he walks about the bedroom, thinking hard, and dropping
things about: here a vest and there a collar, and sowing a bitter
harvest against the morning. Or he sits on the edge of the bed jerking
his garments this way and that. "I shot a slipper in the air," as the
poet sings, and in the morning it turns up in the most impossible
quarters, and where you least expect it. And, talking of going to bed,
before Euphemia took the responsibility over, I was always forgetting to
wind my watch. But now that is one of the things she neglects.

Then, after getting up, there is breakfast. Autolycus of the _Pall Mall
Gazette_ may find heaven there, but I am differently constituted. There
is, to begin with the essence of the offence--the stuff that has to be
eaten somehow. Then there is the paper. Unless it is the face of a
fashionable beauty, I know of nothing more absolutely uninteresting than
a morning paper. You always expect to find something in it, and never
do. It wastes half my morning sometimes, going over and over the thing,
and trying to find out why they publish it. If I edited a daily I think
I should do like my father does when he writes to me. "Things much the
same," he writes; "the usual fussing about the curate's red socks"--a
long letter for him. The rest margin. And, by the bye, there are letters
every morning at breakfast, too!

Now I do not grumble at letters. You can read them instead of getting on
with your breakfast. They are entertaining in a way, and you can tear
them up at the end, and in that respect at least they are better than
people who come to see you. Usually, too, you need not make a reply. But
sometimes Euphemia gets hold of some still untorn, and says in her
dictatorial way that they _have_ to be answered--insists--says I _must_.
Yet she knows that nothing fills me with a livelier horror than having
to answer letters. It paralyses me. I waste whole days sometimes
mourning over the time that I shall have to throw away presently,
answering some needless impertinence--requests for me to return books
lent to me; reminders from the London Library that my subscription is
overdue; proposals for me to renew my ticket at the stores--Euphemia's
business really; invitations for me to go and be abashed before
impertinent distinguished people: all kinds of bothering things.

And speaking of letters and invitations brings me round to friends. I
dislike most people; in London they get in one's way in the street and
fill up railway carriages, and in the country they stare at you--but I
_hate_ my friends. Yet Euphemia says I _must_ "keep up" my friends. They
would be all very well if they were really true friends and respected my
feelings and left me alone, just to sit quiet. But they come wearing
shiny clothes, and mop and mow at me and expect me to answer their
gibberings. Polite conversation always appears to me to be a wicked
perversion of the blessed gift of speech, which, I take it, was given us
to season our lives rather than to make them insipid. New friends are
the worst in this respect. With old friends one is more at home; you
give them something to eat or drink, or look at, or something--whatever
they seem to want--and just turn round and go on smoking quietly. But
every now and then Euphemia or Destiny inflicts a new human being upon
me. I do not mean a baby, though the sentence has got that turn
somehow, but an introduction; and the wretched thing, all angles and
offence, keeps bobbing about me and discovering new ways of worrying me,
trying, I believe, to find out what topics interest me, though the fact
is no topics interest me. Once or twice, of course, I have met human
beings I think I could have got on with very well, after a time; but in
this mood, at least, I doubt if any human being is quite worth the
bother of a new acquaintance.

These are just sample bothers--shaving, washing, answering letters,
talking to people. I could specify hundreds more. Indeed, in my sadder
moments, it seems to me life is all compact of bothers. There are the
details of business--knowing the date approximately (an incessant
anxiety) and the time of day. Then, having to buy things. Euphemia does
most of this, it is true, but she draws the line at my boots and gloves
and hosiery and tailoring. Then, doing up parcels and finding pieces of
string or envelopes or stamps--which Euphemia might very well manage for
me. Then, finding your way back after a quiet, thoughtful walk. Then,
having to get matches for your pipe. I sometimes dream of a better
world, where pipe, pouch, and matches all keep together instead of being
mutually negatory. But Euphemia is always putting everything into some
hiding-hole or other, which she calls its "place." Trivial things in
their way, you may say, yet each levying so much toll on my brain and
nervous system, and demanding incessant vigilance and activity. I
calculated once that I wasted a masterpiece upon these mountainous
little things about every three months of my life. Can I help thinking
of them, then, and asking why I suffer thus? And can I avoid seeing at
last how it is they hang together?

For there is still one other bother, a kind of _bother botherum_, to
tell of, though I hesitate at the telling. It brings this rabble herd of
worries into line and makes them formidable; it is, so to speak, the
Bother Commander-in-Chief. Well! Euphemia. I simply worship the ground
she treads upon, mind, but at the same time the truth is the truth.
Euphemia is a bother. She is a brave little woman, and helps me in
every conceivable way. But I wish she would not. It is so obviously all
her doing. She makes me get up of a morning--I would not stand as much
from anybody else--and keeps a sharp eye on my chin and collar. If it
were not for her I could sit about always with no collar or tie on in
that old jacket she gave to the tramp, and just smoke and grow a beard
and let all the bothers slide. I would never wash, never shave, never
answer any letters, never go to see any friends, never do any
work--except, perhaps, an insulting postcard to a publisher now and
again. I would just sit about.

Sometimes I think this may be peculiar in me. At other times I fancy I
am giving voice to the secret feeling of every member of my sex. I
suspect, then, that we would all do as the noble savage does, take our
things off and lie about comfortable, if only someone had the courage to
begin. It is these women--all love and reverence to Euphemia
notwithstanding--who make us work and bother us with Things. They keep
us decent, and remind us we have a position to support. And really,
after all, this is not my original discovery! There is the third chapter
of Genesis, for instance. And then who has not read Carlyle's gloating
over a certain historical suit of leather? It gives me a queer thrill of
envy, that Quaker Fox and his suit of leather. Conceive it, if you can!
One would never have to quail under the scrutiny of a tailor any more.
Thoreau, too, come to think of it, was, by way of being a prophet, a
pioneer in this Emancipation of Man from Bothery.

Then the silent gentry who brew our Chartreuse; what are they in
retirement for? Looking back into history, with the glow of discovery in
my eyes, I find records of wise men--everyone acknowledged they were
wise men--who lived apart. In every age the same associate of solitude,
silence, and wisdom. The holy hermits!... I grant it, they professed to
flee wickedness and seek after righteousness, but now my impression is
that they fled bothers. We all know they had an intense aversion to any
savour of domesticity, and they never shaved, washed, dined, visited,
had new clothes. Holiness, indeed! They were _viveurs_.... We have
witnessed Religion without Theology, and why not an Unsectarian Thebaid?
I sometimes fancy it needs only one brave man to begin.... If it were
not for the fuss Euphemia would make I certainly should. But I know she
would come and worry me worse than St. Anthony was worried until I put
them all on again, and that keeps me from the attempt.

I am curious whether mine is the common experience. I fancy, after all,
I am only seeing in a clearer way, putting into modern phrase, so to
speak, an observation old as the Pentateuch. And looking up I read upon
a little almanac with which Euphemia has cheered my desk:--

        "The world was sad" (sweet sadness!)
        "The garden was a wild" (a picturesque wild)
        "And man the hermit" (he made no complaint)
        "Till the woman smiled."--CAMPBELL.

[And very shortly after he had, as you know, all that bother about the
millinery.]



ON THE CHOICE OF A WIFE


Wife-choosing is an unending business. This sounds immoral, but what I
mean will be clearer in the context. People have lived--innumerable
people--exhausted experience, and yet other people keep on coming to
hand, none the wiser, none the better. It is like a waterfall more than
anything else in the world. Every year one has to turn to and warn
another batch about these stale old things. Yet it is one's duty--the
last thing that remains to a man. And as a piece of worldly wisdom, that
has nothing to do with wives, always leave a few duties neglected for
the comfort of your age. There are such a lot of other things one can do
when one is young.

Now, the kind of wife a young fellow of eight- or nine-and-twenty
insists on selecting is something of one-and-twenty or less,
inexperienced, extremely pretty, graceful, and well dressed, not too
clever, accomplished; but I need not go on, for the youthful reader can
fill in the picture himself from his own ideal. Every young man has his
own ideal, as a matter of course, and they are all exactly alike. Now, I
do not intend to repeat all the stale old saws of out-of-date wiseacres.
Most of them are even more foolish than the follies they reprove. Take,
for instance, the statement that "beauty fades." Absurd; everyone knows
perfectly well that, as the years creep on, beauty simply gets more
highly coloured. And then, "beauty is only skin-deep." Fantastically
wrong! Some of it is not that; and, for the rest, is a woman like a toy
balloon?--just a surface? To hear that proverb from a man is to know him
at once for a phonographic kind of fool. The fundamental and enduring
grace of womanhood goes down to the skeleton; you cannot have a pretty
face without a pretty skull, just as you cannot have one without a good
temper.

Yet all the same there is an excellent reason why one should shun beauty
in a prospective wife, at anyrate obvious beauty--the kind of beauty
people talk about, and which gets into the photographers' windows. The
common beautiful woman has a style of her own, a favourite aspect. After
all, she cannot be perfect. She comes upon you, dazzles you, marries
you; there is a time of ecstasy. People envy you, continue to envy you.
After a time you envy yourself--yourself of the day before yesterday.
For the imperfection, the inevitable imperfection--in one case I
remember it was a smile--becomes visible to you, becomes your especial
privilege. That is the real reason. No beauty is a beauty to her
husband. But with the plain woman--the thoroughly plain woman--it is
different. At first--I will not mince matters--her ugliness is an
impenetrable repulse. Face it. After a time little things begin to
appear through the violent discords: little scraps of melody--a shy
tenderness in her smile that peeps out at you and vanishes, a something
that is winning, looking out of her eyes. You find a waviness of her
hair that you never saw at the beginning, a certain surprising,
pleasing, enduring want of clumsiness in part of her ear. And it is
yours. You can see she strikes the beholder with something of a shock;
and while the beauty of the beauty is common for all the world to
rejoice in, you will find in your dear, plain wife beauty enough and to
spare; exquisite--for it is all your own, your treasure-trove, your
safely-hidden treasure....

Then, in the matter of age; though young fellows do not imagine it, it
is very easy to marry a wife too young. Marriage has been defined as a
foolish bargain in which one man provides for another man's daughter,
but there is no reason why this should go so far as completing her
education. If your conception of happiness is having something pretty
and innocent and troublesome about you, something that you can cherish
and make happy, a pet rabbit is in every way preferable. At the worst
that will nibble your boots. I have known several cases of the
girl-wife, and it always began like an idyll, charmingly; the tenderest
care on one hand, winsome worship on the other--until some little thing,
a cut chin or a missing paper, startled the pure and natural man out of
his veneer, dancing and blaspheming, with the most amazing consequences.
Only a proven saint should marry a girl-wife, and his motives might be
misunderstood. The idyllic wife is a beautiful thing to read about, but
in practice idylls should be kept episodes; in practice the idyllic life
is a little too like a dinner that is all dessert. A common man, after a
time, tires of winsome worship; he craves after companionship, and a
sympathy based on experience. The ordinary young man, with the still
younger wife, I have noticed, continues to love her with all his
heart--and spends his leisure telling somebody else's wife all about it.
If in these days of blatant youth an experienced man's counsel is worth
anything, it would be to marry a woman considerably older than oneself,
if one must marry at all. And while upon this topic--and I have lived
long--the ideal wife, I am persuaded, from the close observation of many
years, is invariably, by some mishap, a widow....

Avoid social charm. It was the capacity for entertaining visitors that
ruined Paradise. It grows upon a woman. An indiscriminating personal
magnetism is perhaps the most dreadful vice a wife can have. You think
you have married the one woman in the world, and you find you have
married a host--that is to say, a hostess. Instead of making a home for
you she makes you something between an ethnographical museum and a
casual ward. You find your rooms littered with people and teacups and
things, strange creatures that no one could possibly care for, that seem
scarcely to care for themselves. You go about the house treading upon
chance geniuses, and get tipped by inexperienced guests. And even when
she does not entertain, she is continually going out. I do not deny that
charming people are charming, that their company should be sought, but
seeking it in marriage is an altogether different matter.

Then, I really must insist that young men do not understand the real
truth about accomplishments. There comes a day when the most variegated
wife comes to the end of her tunes, and another when she ends them for
the second time; _Vita longa, ars brevis_--at least, as regards the art
of the schoolgirl. It is only like marrying a slightly more complicated
barrel-organ. And, for another point, watch the young person you would
honour with your hand for the slightest inkling of economy or tidiness.
Young men are so full of poetry and emotion that it does not occur to
them how widely the sordid vices are distributed in the other sex. If
you are a hotel proprietor, or a school proprietor, or a day labourer,
such weaknesses become a strength, of course, but not otherwise. For a
literary person--if perchance you are a literary person--it is
altogether too dreadful. You are always getting swept and garnished,
straightened up and sent out to be shaved. And home--even your
study--becomes a glittering, spick-and-span mechanism. But you know the
parable of the seven devils?

To conclude, a summary. The woman you choose should be plain, as plain
as you can find, as old or older than yourself, devoid of social gifts
or accomplishments, poor--for your self-respect--and with a certain
amiable untidiness. Of course no young man will heed this, but at least
I have given my counsel, and very excellent reasons for that counsel.
And possibly I shall be able to remind him that I told him as much, in
the course of a few years' time. And, by the bye, I had almost
forgotten! Never by any chance marry a girl whose dresses do up at the
back, unless you can afford her a maid or so of her own.



THE HOUSE OF DI SORNO

A MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN A BOX


And the box, Euphemia's. Brutally raided it was by an insensate husband,
eager for a tie and too unreasonably impatient to wait an hour or so
until she could get home and find it for him. There was, of course, no
tie at all in that box, for all his stirring--as anyone might have
known; but, if there was no tie, there were certain papers that at least
suggested a possibility of whiling away the time until the Chooser and
Distributer of Ties should return. And, after all, there is no reading
like your accidental reading come upon unawares.

It was a discovery, indeed, that Euphemia _had_ papers. At the first
glance these close-written sheets suggested a treasonable Keynote, and
the husband gripped it with a certain apprehension mingling with his
relief at the opiate of reading. It was, so to speak, the privilege of
police he exercised, so he justified himself. He began to read. But what
is this? "She stood on the balcony outside the window, while the
noblest-born in the palace waited on her every capricious glance, and
watched for an unbending look to relieve her hauteur, but in vain." None
of your snippy-snappy Keynote there!

Then he turned over a page or so of the copy, doubting if the privilege
of police still held good. Standing out by virtue of a different ink,
and coming immediately after "bear her to her proud father," were the
words, "How many yards of carpet 3/4 yds. wide will cover room, width 16
ft., length 27-1/2 ft.?" Then he knew he was in the presence of the
great romance that Euphemia wrote when she was sixteen. He had heard
something of it before. He held it doubtfully in his hands, for the
question of conscience still troubled him. "Bah!" he said abruptly, "not
to find it irresistible was to slight the authoress and her skill." And
with that he sat plump down among the things in the box very comfortably
and began reading, and, indeed, read until Euphemia arrived. But she, at
the sight of his head and legs, made several fragmentary and presumably
offensive remarks about crushing some hat or other, and proceeded with
needless violence to get him out of the box again. However, that is my
own private trouble. We are concerned now with the merits of Euphemia's
romance.

The hero of the story is a Venetian, named (for some unknown reason)
Ivan di Sorno. So far as I ascertained, he is the entire house of Di
Sorno referred to in the title. No other Di Sornos transpired. Like
others in the story, he is possessed of untold wealth, tempered by a
profound sorrow, for some cause which remains unmentioned, but which is
possibly internal. He is first displayed "pacing a sombre avenue of ilex
and arbutus that reflected with singular truth the gloom of his
countenance," and "toying sadly with the jewelled hilt of his dagger."
He meditates upon his loveless life and the burthen of riches. Presently
he "paces the long and magnificent gallery," where a "hundred
generations of Di Sornos, each with the same flashing eye and the same
marble brow, look down with the same sad melancholy upon the
beholder"--a truly monotonous exhibition. It would be too much for
anyone, day after day. He decides that he will travel. Incognito.

The next chapter is headed "In Old Madrid," and Di Sorno, cloaked to
conceal his grandeur, "moves sad and observant among the giddy throng."
But "Gwendolen"--the majestic Gwendolen of the balcony--"marked his
pallid yet beautiful countenance." And the next day at the bull-fight
she "flung her bouquet into the arena, and turning to Di Sorno"--a
perfect stranger, mind you--"smiled commandingly." "In a moment he had
flung himself headlong down among the flashing blades of the toreadors
and the trampling confusion of bulls, and in another he stood before
her, bowing low with the recovered flowers in his hand. 'Fair sir,' she
said, 'methinks my poor flowers were scarce worth your trouble.'" A very
proper remark. And then suddenly I put the manuscript down.

My heart was full of pity for Euphemia. Thus had she gone a-dreaming. A
man of imposing physique and flashing eye, who would fling you oxen here
and there, and vault in and out of an arena without catching a breath,
for his lady's sake--and here I sat, the sad reality, a lean and
slippered literary pretender, and constitutionally afraid of cattle.

Poor little Euphemia! For after all is said and done, and the New Woman
gibed out of existence, I am afraid we do undeceive these poor wives of
ours a little after the marrying is over. It may be they have deceived
themselves, in the first place, but that scarcely affects their
disappointment. These dream-lovers of theirs, these monsters of
unselfishness and devotion, these tall fair Donovans and dark
worshipping Wanderers! And then comes the rabble rout of us poor human
men, damning at our breakfasts, wiping pens upon our coat sleeves,
smelling of pipes, fearing our editors, and turning Euphemia's private
boxes into public copy. And they take it so steadfastly--most of them.
They never let us see the romance we have robbed them of, but turn to
and make the best of it--and us--with such sweet grace. Only now and
then--as in the instance of a flattened hat--may a cry escape them. And
even then----

But a truce to reality! Let us return to Di Sorno.

This individual does not become enamoured of Gwendolen, as the crude
novel reader might anticipate. He answers her "coldly," and his eye
rests the while on her "tirewoman, the sweet Margot." Then come scenes
of jealousy and love, outside a castle with heavily mullioned windows.
The sweet Margot, though she turns out to be the daughter of a bankrupt
prince, has one characteristic of your servant all the world over--she
spends all her time looking out of the window. Di Sorno tells her of his
love on the evening of the bull-fight, and she cheerfully promises to
"learn to love him," and therafter he spends all his days and nights
"spurring his fiery steed down the road" that leads by the castle
containing the young scholar. It becomes a habit with him--in all, he
does it seventeen times in three chapters. Then, "ere it is too late,"
he implores Margot to fly.

Gwendolen, after a fiery scene with Margot, in which she calls her a
"petty minion,"--pretty language for a young gentlewoman,--"sweeps with
unutterable scorn from the room," never, to the reader's huge
astonishment, to appear in the story again, and Margot flies with Di
Sorno to Grenada, where the Inquisition, consisting apparently of a
single monk with a "blazing eye," becomes extremely machinatory. A
certain Countess di Morno, who intends to marry Di Sorno, and who has
been calling into the story in a casual kind of way since the romance
began, now comes prominently forward. She has denounced Margot for
heresy, and at a masked ball the Inquisition, disguised in a yellow
domino, succeeds in separating the young couple, and in carrying off
"the sweet Margot" to a convent.

"Di Sorno, half distraught, flung himself into a cab and drove to all
the hotels in Grenada" (he overlooked the police station), and, failing
to find Margot, becomes mad. He goes about ejaculating "Mad, mad!" than
which nothing could be more eloquent of his complete mental inversion.
In his paroxysms the Countess di Morno persuades him to "lead her to the
altar," but on the way (with a certain indelicacy they go to church in
the same conveyance) she lets slip a little secret. So Di Sorno jumps
out of the carriage, "hurling the crowd apart," and, "flourishing his
drawn sword," "clamoured at the gate of the Inquisition" for Margot. The
Inquisition, represented by the fiery-eyed monk, "looked over the gate
at him." No doubt it felt extremely uncomfortable.

Now it was just at this thrilling part that Euphemia came home, and the
trouble about the flattened hat began. I never flattened her hat. It was
in the box, and so was I; but as for deliberate flattening----It was
just a thing that happened. She should not write such interesting
stories if she expects me to go on tiptoe through the world looking
about for her hats. To have that story taken away just at that
particular moment was horrible. There was fully as much as I had read
still to come, so that a lot happened after this duel of Sword _v._
Fiery Eye. I know from a sheet that came out of place that Margot
stabbed herself with a dagger ("richly jewelled"), but of all that came
between I have not the faintest suspicion. That is the peculiar interest
of it. At this particular moment the one book I want to read in all the
world is the rest of this novel of Euphemia's. And simply, on the score
of a new hat needed, she keeps it back and haggles!



OF CONVERSATION

AN APOLOGY


I must admit that in conversation I am not a brilliant success. Partly,
indeed, that may be owing to the assiduity with which my aunt suppressed
my early essays in the art: "Children," she said, "should be seen but
not heard," and incontinently rapped my knuckles. To a larger degree,
however, I regard it as intrinsic. This tendency to silence, to go out
of the rattle and dazzle of the conversation into a quiet apart, is
largely, I hold, the consequence of a certain elevation and breadth and
tenderness of mind; I am no blowfly to buzz my way through the universe,
no rattle that I should be expected to delight my fellow-creatures by
the noises I produce. I go about to this social function and that,
deporting myself gravely and decently in silence, taking, if possible, a
back seat; and, in consequence of that, people who do not understand me
have been heard to describe me as a "stick," as "shy," and by an
abundance of the like unflattering terms. So that I am bound almost in
self-justification to set down my reasons for this temperance of mine in
conversation.

Speech, no doubt, is a valuable gift, but at the same time it is a gift
that may be abused. What is regarded as polite conversation is, I hold,
such an abuse. Alcohol, opium, tea, are all very excellent things in
their way; but imagine continuous alcohol, an incessant opium, or to
receive, ocean-like, a perennially flowing river of tea! That is my
objection to this conversation: its continuousness. You have to keep on.
You find three or four people gathered together, and instead of being
restful and recreative, sitting in comfortable attitudes and at peace
with themselves and each other, and now and again, perhaps three or four
times in an hour, making a worthy and memorable remark, they are all
haggard and intent upon keeping this fetish flow agoing. A fortuitous
score of cows in a field are a thousand times happier than a score of
people deliberately assembled for the purposes of happiness. These
conversationalists say the most shallow and needless of things, impart
aimless information, simulate interest they do not feel, and generally
impugn their claim to be considered reasonable creatures. Why, when
people assemble without hostile intentions, it should be so imperative
to keep the trickling rill of talk running, I find it impossible to
imagine. It is a vestige of the old barbaric times, when men murdered at
sight for a mere whim; when it was good form to take off your sword in
the antechamber, and give your friend your dagger-hand, to show him it
was no business visit. Similarly, you keep up this babblement to show
your mind has no sinister concentration, not necessarily because you
have anything to say, but as a guarantee of good faith. You have to make
a noise all the time, like the little boy who was left in the room with
the plums. It is the only possible explanation.

To a logical mind there is something very distressing in this social law
of gabble. Out of regard for Mrs. A, let us say, I attend some festival
she has inaugurated. There I meet for the first time a young person of
pleasant exterior, and I am placed in her company to deliver her at a
dinner-table, or dance her about, or keep her out of harm's way, in a
cosy nook. She has also never seen me before, and probably does not want
particularly to see me now. However, I find her nice to look at, and she
has taken great pains to make herself nice to look at, and why we cannot
pass the evening, I looking at her and she being looked at, I cannot
imagine. But no; we must talk. Now, possibly there are topics she knows
about and I do not--it is unlikely, but suppose so; on these topics she
requires no information. Again, I know about other topics things unknown
to her, and it seems a mean and priggish thing to broach these, since
they put her at a disadvantage. Thirdly, comes a last group of subjects
upon which we are equally informed, and upon which, therefore, neither
of us is justified in telling things to the other. This classification
of topics seems to me exhaustive.

These considerations, I think, apply to all conversations. In every
conversation, every departure must either be a presumption when you talk
into your antagonist's special things, a pedantry when you fall back
upon your own, or a platitude when you tell each other things you both
know. I don't see any other line a conversation can take. The reason why
one has to keep up the stream of talk is possibly, as I have already
suggested, to manifest goodwill. And in so many cases this could be
expressed so much better by a glance, a deferential carriage, possibly
in some cases a gentle pressure of the hand, or a quiet persistent
smile. And suppose there is some loophole in my reasoning--though I
cannot see it--and that possible topics exist, how superficial and
unexact is the best conversation to a second-rate book!

Even with two people you see the objection, but when three or four are
gathered together the case is infinitely worse to a man of delicate
perceptions. Let us suppose--I do not grant it--that there is a possible
sequence of things to say to the person A that really harmonise with A
and yourself. Grant also that there is a similar sequence between
yourself and B. Now, imagine yourself and A and B at the corners of an
equilateral triangle set down to talk to each other. The kind of talk
that A appreciates is a discord with B, and similarly B's sequence is
impossible in the hearing of A. As a matter of fact, a real conversation
of three people is the most impossible thing in the world. In real life
one of the three always drops out and becomes a mere audience, or a mere
partisan. In real life you and A talk, and B pretends to be taking a
share by interjecting interruptions, or one of the three talks a
monologue. And the more subtle your sympathy and the greater your
restraint from self-assertion, the more incredible triple and quadruple
conversation becomes.

I have observed that there is even nowadays a certain advance towards my
views in this matter. Men may not pick out antagonists, and argue to the
general audience as once they did: there is a tacit taboo of
controversy, neither may you talk your "shop," nor invite your
antagonist to talk his. There is also a growing feeling against
extensive quotations or paraphrases from the newspapers. Again,
personalities, scandal, are, at least in theory, excluded. This narrows
the scope down to the "last new book," "the last new play," "impressions
de voyage," and even here it is felt that any very ironical or satirical
remarks, anything unusual, in fact, may disconcert your adversary. You
ask: Have you read the _Wheels of Chance_? The answer is "Yes." "Do you
like it?" "A little vulgar, I thought." And so forth. Most of this is
stereo. It is akin to responses in church, a prescription, a formula.
And, following out this line of thought, I have had a vision of the
twentieth century dinner. At a distance it is very like the nineteenth
century type; the same bright light, the same pleasant deglutition, the
same hum of conversation; but, approaching, you discover each diner has
a little drum-shaped body under his chin--his phonograph. So he dines
and babbles at his ease. In the smoking-room he substitutes his anecdote
record. I imagine, too, the suburban hostess meeting the new maiden: "I
hope, dear, you have brought a lot of conversation," just as now she
asks for the music. For my own part, I must confess I find this dinner
conversation particularly a bother. If I could eat with my eye it would
be different.

I lose a lot of friends through this conversational difficulty. They
think it is my dulness or my temper, when really it is only my refined
mind, my subtlety of consideration. It seems to me that when I go to see
a man, I go to see him--to enjoy his presence. If he is my friend, the
sight of him healthy and happy is enough for me. I don't want him to
keep his vocal cords, and I don't want to keep my own vocal cords, in
incessant vibration all the time I am in his company. If I go to see a
man, it distracts me to have to talk and it distracts me to hear him
talking. I can't imagine why one should not go and sit about in people's
rooms, without bothering them and without their bothering you to say all
these stereotyped things. Quietly go in, sit down, look at your man
until you have seen him enough, and then go. Why not?

Let me once more insist that this keeping up a conversation is a sign of
insecurity, of want of confidence. All those who have had real friends
know that when the friendship is assured the gabble ceases. You are not
at the heart of your friend, if either of you cannot go off comfortably
to sleep in the other's presence. Speech was given us to make known our
needs, and for imprecation, expostulation, and entreaty. This pitiful
necessity we are under, upon social occasions, to say something--however
inconsequent--is, I am assured, the very degradation of speech.



IN A LITERARY HOUSEHOLD


In the literary household of fiction and the drama, things are usually
in a distressing enough condition. The husband, as you know, has a
hacking cough, and the wife a dying baby, and they write in the
intervals of these cares among the litter of the breakfast things.
Occasionally a comic, but sympathetic, servant brings in an
armful--"heaped up and brimming over"--of rejected MSS., for, in the
dramatic life, it never rains but it pours. Instead of talking about
editors in a bright and vigorous fashion, as the recipients of
rejections are wont, the husband groans and covers his face with his
hands, and the wife, leaving the touching little story she is
writing--she posts this about 9 p.m., and it brings in a publisher and
£100 or so before 10.30--comforts him by flopping suddenly over his
shoulder. "Courage," she says, stroking his hyacinthine locks (whereas
all real literary men are more or less grey or bald). Sometimes, as in
_Our Flat_, comic tradesmen interrupt the course of true literature with
their ignoble desire for cash payment, and sometimes, as in _Our Boys_,
uncles come and weep at the infinite pathos of a bad breakfast egg. But
it's always a very sordid, dusty, lump-in-your-throaty affair, and no
doubt it conduces to mortality by deterring the young and impressionable
from literary vices. As for its truth, that is another matter
altogether.

Yet it must not be really imagined that a literary household is just
like any other. There is the brass paper-fastener, for instance. I have
sometimes thought that Euphemia married me with an eye to these
conveniences. She has two in her grey gloves, and one (with the head
inked) in her boot in the place of a button. Others I suspect her of.
Then she fastened the lamp shade together with them, and tried one day
to introduce them instead of pearl buttons as efficient anchorage for
cuffs and collars. And she made a new handle for the little drawer under
the inkstand with one. Indeed, the literary household is held together,
so to speak, by paper-fasteners, and how other people get along without
them we are at a loss to imagine.

And another point, almost equally important, is that the husband is
generally messing about at home. That is, indeed, to a superficial
observer, one of the most remarkable characteristics of the literary
household. Other husbands are cast out in the morning to raven for
income and return to a home that is swept and garnished towards the end
of the day; but the literary husband is ever in possession. His work
must not be disturbed even when he is merely thinking. The study is
consequently a kind of domestic cordite factory, and you are never
certain when it may explode. The concussion of a dust-pan and brush may
set it going, the sweeping of a carpet in the room upstairs. Then behold
a haggard, brain-weary man, fierce and dishevelled, and full of
shattered masterpiece--expostulating. Other houses have their day of
cleaning out this room, and their day for cleaning out that; but in the
literary household there is one uniform date for all such functions, and
that is "to-morrow." So that Mrs. Mergles makes her purifying raids with
her heart in her mouth, and has acquired a way of leaving the pail and
brush, or whatever artillery she has with her, in a manner that
unavoidably engages the infuriated brute's attention and so covers her
retreat.

It is a problem that has never been probably solved, this discord of
order and orderly literary work. Possibly it might be done by making the
literary person live elsewhere or preventing literary persons from
having households. However it might be done, it is not done. This is a
thing innocent girls exposed to the surreptitious proposals of literary
men do not understand. They think it will be very fine to have
photographs of themselves and their "cosy nooks" published in magazines,
to illustrate the man's interviews, and the full horror of having this
feral creature always about the house, and scarcely ever being able to
do any little thing without his knowing it, is not brought properly home
to them until escape is impossible.

And then there is the taint of "copy" everywhere. That is really the
fundamental distinction. It is the misfortune of literary people, that
they have to write about something. There is no reason, of course, why
they should, but the thing is so. Consequently, they are always looking
about them for something to write about. They cannot take a pure-minded
interest in anything in earth or heaven. Their servant is no servant,
but a character; their cat is a possible reservoir of humorous
observation; they look out of window and see men as columns walking.
Even the sanctity of their own hearts, their self-respect, their most
private emotions are disregarded. The wife is infected with the taint.
Her private opinion of her husband she makes into a short story--forgets
its origin and shows it him with pride--while the husband decants his
heart-beats into occasional verse and minor poetry. It is amazing what a
lot of latter-day literature consists of such breaches of confidence.
And not simply latter-day literature.

The visitor is fortunate who leaves no marketable impression behind. The
literary entertainers eye you over, as if they were dealers in a slave
mart, and speculate on your uses. They try to think how you would do as
a scoundrel, and mark your little turns of phrase and kinks of thought
to that end. The innocent visitor bites his cake and talks about
theatres, while the meditative person in the arm-chair may be in
imagination stabbing him, or starving him on a desert island, or
even--horrible to tell!--flinging him headlong into the arms of the
young lady to the right and "covering her face with a thousand
passionate kisses." A manuscript in the rough of Euphemia's, that I
recently suppressed, was an absolutely scandalous example of this method
of utilising one's acquaintances. Mrs. Harborough, who was indeed
Euphemia's most confidential friend for six weeks and more, she had
made to elope with Scrimgeour--as steady and honourable a man as we
know, though unpleasant to Euphemia on account of his manner of holding
his teacup. I believe there really was something--quite harmless, of
course--between Mrs. Harborough and Scrimgeour, and that, imparted in
confidence, had been touched up with vivid colour here and there and
utilised freely. Scrimgeour is represented as always holding teacups in
his peculiar way, so that anyone would recognise him at once. Euphemia
calls that character. Then Harborough, who is really on excellent terms
with his wife, and, in spite of his quiet manner, a very generous and
courageous fellow, is turned aside from his headlong pursuit of the
fugitives across Wimbledon Common--they elope, by the bye, on
Scrimgeour's tandem bicycle--by the fear of being hit by a golf ball. I
pointed out to Euphemia that these things were calculated to lose us
friends, and she promises to destroy the likeness; but I have no
confidence in her promise. She will probably clap a violent auburn wig
on Mrs. Harborough and make Scrimgeour squint and give Harborough a big
beard. The point that she won't grasp is, that with that fatal facility
for detail, which is one of the most indisputable proofs of woman's
intellectual inferiority, she has reproduced endless remarks and
mannerisms of these excellent people with more than photographic
fidelity. But this is really a private trouble, though it illustrates
very well the shameless way in which those who have the literary taint
will bring to market their most intimate affairs.



ON SCHOOLING AND THE PHASES OF MR. SANDSOME


I do not know if you remember your "dates." Indeed, I do not know if
anyone does. My own memory is of a bridge; like that bridge of
Goldsmith's, standing firm and clear on its hither piers and then
passing into a cloud. In the beginning of days was "William the
Conqueror, 1066," and the path lay safe and open to Henry the Second;
then came Titanic forms of kings, advancing and receding, elongating and
dwindling, exchanging dates, losing dates, stealing dates from battles
and murders and great enactments--even inventing dates, vacant years
that were really no dates at all. The things I have suffered--prisons,
scourgings, beating with rods, wild masters, in bounds often, a hundred
lines often, standing on forms and holding out books often--on account
of these dates! I knew, and knew well before I was fifteen, what these
"heredity" babblers are only beginning to discover--that the past is the
curse of the present. But I never knew my dates--never. And I marvel now
that all little boys do not grow up to be Republicans, seeing how much
they suffer for the mere memory of Kings.

Then there were pedigrees, and principal parts and conjugations, and
county towns. Every county had a county town, and it was always on a
river. Mr. Sandsome never allowed us a town without that colophon. I
remember in my early manhood going to Guildford on the Wey, and trying
to find that unobtrusive rivulet. I went over the downs for miles. It is
not only the Wey I have had a difficulty in finding. There are certain
verses--Heaven help me, but I have forgotten them!--about "_i_ vel _e_
dat" (_was_ it dat?) "utrum malis"--if I remember rightly--and all that
about _amo, amas, amat_. There was a multitude of such things I
acquired, and they lie now, in the remote box-rooms and lumber recesses
of my mind, a rusting armoury far gone in decay. I have never been able
to find a use for them. I wonder even now why Mr. Sandsome equipped me
with them. Yet he seemed to be in deadly earnest about this learning,
and I still go in doubt. In those early days he impressed me, chiefly in
horizontal strips, with the profoundest respect for his mental and
physical superiority. I credited him then, and still incline to believe
he deserved to be credited, with a sincere persuasion that unless I
learnt these things I should assuredly go--if I may be frank--to the
devil. It may be so. I may be living in a fool's paradise,
prospering--like that wicked man the Psalmist disliked. Some unsuspected
gulf may open, some undreamt-of danger thrust itself through the
phantasmagoria of the universe, and I may learn too late the folly of
forgetting my declensions.

I remember Mr. Sandsome chiefly as sitting at his desk, in a little room
full of boys, a humming hive whose air was thick with dust, as the
slanting sunbeams showed. When we were not doing sums or writing copies,
we were always learning or saying lessons. In the early morning Mr.
Sandsome sat erect and bright, his face animated, his ruddy eyes keen
and observant, the cane hanging but uncertainly upon its hook. There was
a standing up of classes, a babble of repetition, now and then a crisis.
How long the days were then! I have heard that scientific
people--Professor C. Darwin is their leader, unless I err--which
probably I do, for names and dates I have hated from my youth up--say
the days grow longer. Anyhow, whoever says it, it is quite wrong. But as
the lank hours of that vast schooltime drawled on, Mr. Sandsome lost
energy, drooped like a flower,--especially if the day was at all
hot,--his sandy hair became dishevelled, justice became nerveless,
hectic, and hasty. Finally came copybooks; and yawns and weird rumblings
from Mr. Sandsome. And so the world aged to the dinner-hour.

When I had been home--it was a day school, for my aunt, who had an
appetite for such things, knew that boarding-schools were sinks of
iniquity--and returned, I had Mr. Sandsome at another phase. He had
dined--for we were simple country folk. The figurative suggestions of
that "phase" are irresistible--the lunar quality. May I say that Mr.
Sandsome was at his full? We now stood up, thirty odd of us altogether,
to read, reading out of books in a soothing monotone, and he sat with
his reading-book before him, ruddy as the setting sun, and slowly,
slowly settling down. But now and then he would jerk back suddenly into
staring wakefulness as though he were fishing--with himself as bait--for
schoolboy crimes in the waters of oblivion--and fancied a nibble. That
was a dangerous time, full of anxiety. At last he went right under and
slept, and the reading grew cheerful, full of quaint glosses and
unexpected gaps, leaping playfully from boy to boy, instead of
travelling round with a proper decorum. But it never ceased, and little
Hurkley's silly little squeak of a voice never broke in upon its mellow
flow. (It took a year for Hurkley's voice to break.) Any such
interruption and Mr. Sandsome woke up and into his next phase
forthwith--a disagreeable phase always, and one we made it our business
to postpone as long as possible.

During that final period, the last quarter, Mr. Sandsome was distinctly
malignant. It was hard to do right; harder still to do wrong. A feverish
energy usually inspired our government. "Let us try to get some work
done," Mr. Sandsome would say--and I have even known him teach things
then. More frequently, with a needless bitterness, he set us upon
impossible tasks, demanding a colossal tale of sums perhaps, scattering
pens and paper and sowing the horrors of bookkeeping, or chastising us
with the scorpions of parsing and translation. And even in wintry
weather the little room grew hot and stuffy, and we terminated our
schoolday, much exhausted, with minds lax, lounging attitudes, and red
ears. What became of Mr. Sandsome after the giving-out of home-work, the
concluding prayer, and the aftermath of impositions, I do not know. I
stuffed my books, such as came to hand--very dirty they were inside, and
very neat out with my Aunt Charlotte's chintz covers--into my green
baize bag, and went forth from the mysteries of schooling into the great
world, up the broad white road that went slanting over the Down.

I say "the mysteries of schooling" deliberately. I wondered then, I
wonder still, what it was all for. Reading, almost my only art, I learnt
from Aunt Charlotte; a certain facility in drawing I acquired at home
and took to school, to my own undoing. "Undoing," again, is
deliberate--it was no mere swish on the hand, gentle reader. But the
things I learnt, more or less partially, at school, lie in my mind, like
the "Sarsen" stones of Wiltshire--great, disconnected, time-worn chunks
amidst the natural herbage of it. "The Rivers of the East Coast; the
Tweed, the Tyne, the Wear, the Tees, the Humber"--why is that, for
instance, sticking up among my ferns and wild flowers? It is not only
useless but misleading, for the Humber is not another Tweed. I sometimes
fancy the world may be mad--yet that seems egotistical. The fact remains
that for the greater part of my young life Mr. Sandsome got an appetite
upon us from nine till twelve, and digested his dinner, at first
placidly and then with petulance, from two until five--and we thirty odd
boys were sent by our twenty odd parents to act as a sort of chorus to
his physiology. And he was fed (as I judge) more than sufficiently,
clothed, sheltered, and esteemed on account of this relation. I think,
after all, there must have been something in that schooling. I can't
believe the world mad. And I have forgotten it--or as good as forgotten
it--all! At times I feel a wild impulse to hunt up all those
chintz-covered books, and brush up my dates and paradigms, before it is
too late.



THE POET AND THE EMPORIUM


"I am beginning life," he said, with a sigh. "Great Heavens! I have
spent a day--_a day!_--in a shop. Three bedroom suites and a sideboard
are among the unanticipated pledges of our affection. Have you lithia?
For a man of twelve limited editions this has been a terrible day."

I saw to his creature comforts. His tie was hanging outside his
waistcoat, and his complexion was like white pasteboard that has got
wet. "Courage," said I. "It will not occur again----"

"It will," said he. "We have to get there again tomorrow. We have--what
is it?--carpets, curtains----"

He produced his tablets. I was amazed. Those receptacles of choice
thoughts!

"The amber sunlight splashing through the leaky--leafy interlacing
green," he read. "No!--that's not it. Ah, here! Curtains!
Drawing-room--not to cost more than thirty shillings! And there's all
the Kitchen Hardware! (Thanks.) Dining-room chairs--query--rush bottoms?
What's this? G.L.I.S.--ah! "Glistering thro' deeps of
glaucophane"--that's nothing. Mem. to see can we afford Indian
needlework chairs--57s. 6d.? It's dreadful, Bellows!"

He helped himself to a cigarette.

"Find the salesman pleasant?" said I.

"Delightful. Assumed I was a spendthrift millionaire at first. Produced
in an off-hand way an eighty-guinea bedroom suite--we're trying to do
the entire business, you know, on about two hundred pounds. Well--that's
ten editions, you know. Came down, with evidently dwindling respect, to
things that were still ruinously expensive. I told him we wanted an
idyll--love in a cottage, and all that kind of thing. He brushed that on
one side, said idols were upstairs in the Japanese Department, and that
perhaps we might _do_ with a servant's set of bedroom furniture. Do with
a set! He was a gloomy man with (I should judge) some internal pain. I
tried to tell him that there was quite a lot of middle-class people like
myself in the country, people of limited or precarious means, whose
existence he seemed to ignore; assured him some of them led quite
beautiful lives. But he had no ideas beyond wardrobes. I quite forgot
the business of shopping in an attempt to kindle a little human
enthusiasm in his heart. We were in a great vast place full of
wardrobes, with a remote glittering vista of brass bedsteads--skeleton
beds, you know--and I tried to inspire him with some of the poetry of
his emporium; tried to make him imagine these beds and things going east
and west, north and south, to take sorrow, servitude, joy, worry,
failing strength, restless ambition in their impartial embraces. He only
turned round to Annie, and asked her if she thought she could _do_ with
'enamelled.' But I was quite taken with my idea----Where is it? I left
Annie to settle with this misanthrope, amidst his raw frameworks of the
Homes of the Future."

He fumbled with his tablets. "Mats for hall--not to exceed 3s. 9d....
Kerbs ... inquire tiled hearth ... Ah! Here we are: 'Ballade of the
Bedroom Suite':--

        "'Noble the oak you are now displaying,
          Subtly the hazel's grainings go,
        Walnut's charm there is no gainsaying,
          Red as red wine is your rosewood's glow;
        Brave and brilliant the ash you show,
          Rich your mahogany's hepatite shine,
        Cool and sweet your enamel: But oh!
          _Where are the wardrobes of Painted Pine?_'

"They have 'em in the catalogue at five guineas, with a picture--quite
as good they are as the more expensive ones. To judge by the picture."

"But that's scarcely the idea you started with," I began.

"Not; it went wrong--ballades often do. The preoccupation of the
'Painted Pine' was too much for me. What's this? 'N.B.--Sludge sells
music stools at--' No. Here we are (first half unwritten):--

        "'White enamelled, like driven snow,
          Picked with just one delicate line.
        Price you were saying is? Fourteen!--No!
          _Where are the wardrobes of Painted Pine?_'

"Comes round again, you see! Then _L'Envoy_:--

        "'Salesman, sad is the truth I trow:
          Winsome walnut can never be mine.
        Poets are cheap. And their poetry. So
          _Where are the wardrobes of Painted Pine?_'

"Prosaic! As all true poetry is, nowadays. But, how I tired as the
afternoon moved on! At first I was interested in the shopman's amazing
lack of imagination, and the glory of that fond dream of mine--love in a
cottage, you know--still hung about me. I had ideas come--like that
Ballade--and every now and then Annie told me to write notes. I think my
last gleam of pleasure was in choosing the drawing-room chairs. There is
scope for fantasy in chairs. Then----"

He took some more whisky.

"A kind of grey horror came upon me. I don't know if I can describe it.
We went through vast vistas of chairs, of hall-tables, of machine-made
pictures, of curtains, huge wildernesses of carpets, and ever this cold,
unsympathetic shopman led us on, and ever and again made us buy this or
that. He had a perfectly grey eye--the colour of an overcast sky in
January--and he seemed neither to hate us nor to detest us, but simply
to despise us, to feel such an overwhelming contempt for our petty means
and our petty lives, as an archangel might feel for an apple-maggot. It
made me think...."

He lit a fresh cigarette.

"I had a kind of vision. I do not know if you will understand. The
Warehouse of Life, with our Individual Fate hurrying each of us through.
Showing us with a covert sneer all the good things that we cannot
afford. A magnificent Rosewood love affair, for instance, deep and
rich, fitted complete, some hours of perfect life, some acts of perfect
self-sacrifice, perfect self-devotion.... You ask the price."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Where are the wardrobes of Painted Pine?" I quoted.

"That's it. All the things one might do, if the purse of one's courage
were not so shallow. If it wasn't for the lack of that coinage, Bellows,
every man might be magnificent. There's heroism, there's such nobility
as no one has ever attained to, ready to hand. Anyone, if it were not
for this lack of means, might be a human god in twenty-four hours....
You see the article. You cannot buy it. No one buys it. It stands in the
emporium, I suppose, for show--on the chance of a millionaire. And the
shopman waves his hand to it on your way to the Painted Pine.

"Then you meet other couples and solitary people going about, each with
a gloomy salesman leading. The run of them look uncomfortable; some are
hot about the ears and in the spiteful phase of ill-temper; all look
sick of the business except the raw new-comers. It's the only time they
will ever select any furniture, their first chance and their last. Most
of their selections are hurried a little. The salesman must not be kept
all day.... Yet it goes hard with you if you buy your Object in Life and
find it just a 'special line' made to sell.... We're all amateurs at
living, just as we are all amateurs at furnishing--or dying. Some of the
poor devils one meets carry tattered little scraps of paper, and fumble
conscientiously with stumpy pencils. It's a comfort to see how you go,
even if you do have to buy rubbish. 'If we have _this_ so good, dear, I
don't know _how_ we shall manage in the kitchen,' says the careful
housewife.... So it is we do our shopping in the Great Emporium."

"You will have to rewrite your Ballade," said I, "and put all that in."

"I wish I could," said the poet.

"And while you were having these very fine moods?"

"Annie and the shopman settled most of the furniture between them.
Perhaps it's just as well. I was never very good at the practical
details of life.... Cigarette's out! Have you any more matches?"

"Horribly depressed you are!" I said.

"There's to-morrow. Well, well...."

And then he went off at a tangent to tell me what he expected to make by
his next volume of poems, and so came to the congenial business of
running down his contemporaries, and became again the cheerful little
Poet that I know.



THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS


During the early Victorian revival of chivalry the Language of Flowers
had some considerable vogue. The Romeo of the mutton-chop whiskers was
expected to keep this delicate symbolism in view, and even to display
his wit by some dainty conceits in it. An ignorance of the code was
fraught with innumerable dangers. A sprig of lilac was a suggestion, a
moss-rosebud pushed the matter, was indeed evidence to go to court upon;
and unless Charlotte parried with white poplar--a by no means accessible
flower--or apricot blossom, or failing these dabbed a cooling dock-leaf
at the fellow, he was at her with tulip, heliotrope, and honeysuckle,
peach-blossom, white jonquil, and pink, and a really overpowering and
suffocating host of attentions. I suppose he got at last to
three-cornered notes in the vernacular; and meanwhile what could a poor
girl do? There was no downright "No!" in the language of flowers,
nothing equivalent to "Go away, please," no flower for "Idiot!" The only
possible defence was something in this way: "Your cruelty causes me
sorrow," "Your absence is a pleasure." For this, according to the code
of Mr. Thomas Miller (third edition, 1841, with elegantly coloured
plates) you would have to get a sweet-pea blossom for Pleasure, wormwood
for Absence, and indicate Sorrow by the yew, and Cruelty by the
stinging-nettle. There is always a little risk of mixing your predicates
in this kind of communication, and he might, for instance, read that his
Absence caused you Sorrow, but he could scarcely miss the point of the
stinging-nettle. That and the gorse carefully concealed were about the
only gleams of humour possible in the language. But then it was the
appointed tongue of lovers, and while their sickness is upon them they
have neither humour nor wit.

This Mr. Thomas Miller wrote abundant flowers of language in his book,
and the plates were coloured by hand. By the bye, what a blessed thing
colour-printing is! These hand-tinted plates, to an imaginative person,
are about as distressing as any plates can very well be. Whenever I look
at these triumphs of art over the beauties of nature, with all their
weary dabs of crimson, green, blue, and yellow, I think of wretched,
anæmic girls fading their youth away in some dismal attic over a
publisher's, toiling through the whole edition tint by tint, and being
mocked the while by Mr. Miller's alliterative erotics. And they _are_
erotics! In one place he writes, "Beautiful art thou, O Broom! on the
breezy bosom of the bee-haunted heath"; and throughout he buds and
blossoms into similar delights. He wallows in doves and coy toyings and
modest blushes, and bowers and meads. He always adds, "Wonderful boy!"
to Chatterton's name as if it were a university degree (W.B.), and he
invariably refers to Moore as the Bard of Erin, and to Milton as the
Bard of Paradise--though Bard of the Bottomless Pit would be more
appropriate. However, we are not concerned with Mr. Miller's language so
much as with a very fruitful suggestion he throws out, that "it is
surely worth while to trace a resemblance between the flower and the
emblem it represents" (a turn like that is nothing to Mr. Miller) "which
shall at least have some show of reason in it."

Come to think of it, there is something singularly unreasonable about
almost all floral symbolism. There is your forget-me-not, pink in the
bud, and sapphire in the flower, with a fruit that breaks up into four,
the very picture of inconstancy and discursiveness. Yet your lover, with
a singular blindness, presents this to his lady when they part. Then the
white water-lily is supposed to represent purity of heart, and, mark
you, it is white without and its centre is all set about with
innumerable golden stamens, while in the middle lies, to quote the words
of that distinguished botanist, Mr. Oliver, "a fleshy disc." Could
there be a better type of sordid and mercenary deliberation maintaining
a fair appearance? The tender apple-blossom, rather than Pretence, is
surely a reminder of Eden and the fall of love's devotion into inflated
worldliness. The poppy which flaunts its violent colours athwart the
bearded corn, and which frets and withers like the Second Mrs. Tanqueray
so soon as you bring it to the shelter of a decent home, is made the
symbol of Repose. One might almost think Aimé Martin and the other great
authorities on this subject wrote in a mood of irony.

The daisy, too, presents you Innocence, "companion of the milk-white
lamb," Mr. Miller calls it. I am sorry for the milk-white lamb. It was
one of the earliest discoveries of systematic botany that the daisy is a
fraud, a complicated impostor. _The daisy is not a flower at all._ It is
a favourite trap in botanical examinations, a snare for artless young
men entering the medical profession. Each of the little yellow things in
the centre of the daisy is a flower in itself,--if you look at one with
a lens you will find it not unlike a cowslip flower,--and the white rays
outside are a great deal more than the petals they ought to be if the
Innocence theory is to hold good. There is no such thing as an innocent
flower; they are all so many deliberate advertisements to catch the eye
of the undecided bee, but any flower almost is simpler than this one. We
would make it the emblem of artistic deception, and the confidence trick
expert should wear it as his crest.

The violet, again, is a greatly overrated exemplar. It stimulates a
certain bashfulness, hangs its head, and passed as modest among our
simple grandparents. Its special merit is its perfume, and it pretends
to wish to hide that from every eye. But, withal, the fragrance is as
far-reaching as any I know. It droops ingenuously. "How _could_ you come
to me," it seems to say, "when all these really brilliant flowers invite
you?" Mere fishing for compliments. All the while it is being sweet, to
the very best of its undeniable ability. Then it comes, too, in early
spring, without a chaperon, and catches our hearts fresh before they
are jaded with the crowded beauties of May. A really modest flower would
wait for the other flowers to come first. A subtle affectation is surely
a different thing from modesty. The violet is simply artful, the young
widow among flowers, and to hold up such a flower as an example is not
doing one's duty by the young. For true modesty commend me to the agave,
which flowers once only in half a hundred years, as one may see for
oneself at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Enough has been said to show what scope there is for revision of this
sentimental Volapuk. Mr. Martin himself scarcely goes so far as I have
done, though I have merely worked out his suggestion. His only
revolutionary proposal is to displace the wind star by the "rathe
primrose" for Forsaken, on the strength of a quotation familiar to every
reader of Mason's little text-book on the English language. For the rest
he followed his authorities, and has followed them now to the remote
recesses of the literary lumber-room and into the twopenny book-box.
From that receptacle one copy of him was disinterred only a day or so
ago; a hundred and seventy pages of prose, chiefly alliterative, several
coloured plates, enthusiastic pencil-marking of a vanished somebody,
and, besides, an early Victorian flavour of dust and a dim vision of a
silent conversation in a sunlit flower garden--altogether I think very
cheap at twopence. The fashion has changed altogether now. In these days
we season our love-making with talk about heredity, philanthropy, and
sanitation, and present one another with Fabian publications instead of
wild flowers. But in the end, I fancy, the business comes to very much
the same thing.



THE LITERARY REGIMEN


At the risk of offending the young beginner's illusions, he must be
reminded of one or two homely but important facts bearing upon literary
production. Homely as they are, they explain much that is at first
puzzling. This perplexing question of distinction; the quality of being
somehow _fresh_--individual. Really it is a perfectly simple matter. It
is common knowledge that, after a prolonged fast, the brain works in a
feeble manner, the current of one's thoughts is pallid and shallow, it
is difficult to fix the attention and impossible to mobilise the full
forces of the mind. On the other hand, immediately after a sound meal,
the brain feels massive, but static. Tea is conducive to a gentle flow
of pleasing thoughts, and anyone who has taken Easton's syrup of the
hypophosphites will recall at once the state of cerebral erethrism, of
general mental alacrity, that followed on a dose. Again, champagne
(followed perhaps by a soupçon of whisky) leads to a mood essentially
humorous and playful, while about three dozen oysters, taken fasting,
will in most cases produce a profound and even ominous melancholy. One
might enlarge further upon this topic, on the brutalising influence of
beer, the sedative quality of lettuce, the stimulating consequences of
curried chicken; but enough has been said to point our argument. It is,
that such facts as this can surely indicate only one conclusion, and
that is the entire dependence of literary qualities upon the diet of the
writer.

I may remind the reader, in confirmation of this suggestion, of what is
perhaps the most widely known fact about Carlyle, that on one memorable
occasion he threw his breakfast out of the window. Why did he throw his
breakfast out of the window? Surely his friends have cherished the story
out of no petty love of depreciatory detail? There are, however, those
who would have us believe it was mere childish petulance at a chilly
rasher or a hard-boiled egg. Such a supposition is absurd. On the other
hand, what is more natural than an outburst of righteous indignation at
the ruin of some carefully studied climax of feeding? The thoughtful
literary beginner who is not altogether submerged in foolish theories of
inspiration and natural genius will, we fancy, see pretty clearly that I
am developing what is perhaps after all the fundamental secret of
literary art.

To come now to more explicit instructions. It is imperative, if you wish
to write with any power and freshness at all, that you should utterly
ruin your digestion. Any literary person will confirm this statement. At
any cost the thing must be done, even if you have to live on German
sausage, onions, and cheese to do it. So long as you turn all your
dietary to flesh and blood you will get no literature out of it. "We
learn in suffering what we teach in song." This is why men who live at
home with their mothers, or have their elder sisters to see after them,
never, by any chance, however great their literary ambition may be,
write anything but minor poetry. They get their meals at regular hours,
and done to a turn, and that plays the very devil--if you will pardon
the phrase--with one's imagination.

A careful study of the records of literary men in the past, and a
considerable knowledge of living authors, suggests two chief ways of
losing one's digestion and engendering literary capacity. You go and
live in humble lodgings,--we could name dozens of prominent men who have
fed a great ambition in this way,--or you marry a nice girl who does not
understand housekeeping. The former is the more efficacious method,
because, as a rule, the nice girl wants to come and sit on your knee all
day, and that is a great impediment to literary composition. Belonging
to a club--even a literary club--where you can dine is absolute ruin to
the literary beginner. Many a bright young fellow, who has pushed his
way, or has been pushed by indiscreet friends, into the society of
successful literary men, has been spoilt by this fatal error, and he has
saved his stomach to lose his reputation.

Having got rid of your digestion, then, the common condition of all good
literature, the next thing is to arrange your dietary for the particular
literary effect you desire. And here we may point out the secrecy
observed in such matters by literary men. Stevenson fled to Samoa to
hide his extremely elaborate methods, and to keep his kitchen servants
out of the reach of bribery. Even Sir Walter Besant, though he is fairly
communicative to the young aspirant, has dropped no hints of the plain,
pure, and wholesome menu he follows. Sala professed to eat everything,
but that was probably his badinage. Possibly he had one staple, and took
the rest as condiment. Then what did Shakespeare live on? Bacon? And Mr.
Barrie, though he has written a delightful book about his pipe and
tobacco, full of suggestion to the young humorist, lets out nothing or
next to nothing of his meat and drink. His hints about pipes are very
extensively followed, and nowadays every ambitious young pressman smokes
in public at least one well-burnt briar with an eccentric stem--even at
some personal inconvenience. But this jealous reticence on the part of
successful men--you notice they never let even the interviewer see their
kitchens or the débris of a meal--necessarily throws one back upon
rumour and hypothesis in this matter. Mr. Andrew Lang, for instance, is
popularly associated with salmon, but that is probably a wilful
delusion. Excessive salmon, far from engendering geniality, will be
found in practice a vague and melancholy diet, tending more towards the
magnificent despondency of Mr. Hall Caine.

Nor does Mr. Haggard feed entirely on raw meat. Indeed, for lurid and
somewhat pessimistic narrative, there is nothing like the ordinary
currant bun, eaten new and in quantity. A light humorous style is best
attained by soda-water and dry biscuits, following café-noir. The
soda-water may be either Scotch or Irish as the taste inclines. For a
florid, tawdry style the beginner must take nothing but boiled water,
stewed vegetables, and an interest in the movements against vivisection,
opium, alcohol, tobacco, sarcophagy, and the male sex.

For contributions to the leading reviews, boiled pork and cabbage may be
eaten, with bottled beer, followed by apple dumpling. This effectually
suppresses any tendency to facetiousness, or what respectable English
people call _double entendre_, and brings you _en rapport_ with the
serious people who read these publications. So soon as you begin to feel
wakeful and restless discontinue writing. For what is vulgarly known as
the _fin-de-siècle_ type of publication, on the other hand, one should
limit oneself to an aërated bread shop for a week or so, with the
exception of an occasional tea in a literary household. All people fed
mainly on scones become clever. And this regimen, with an occasional
debauch upon macaroons, chocolate, and cheap champagne, and brisk daily
walks from Oxford Circus, through Regent Street, Piccadilly, and the
Green Park, to Westminster and back, should result in an animated
society satire.

It is not known what Mr. Kipling takes to make him so peculiar. Many of
us would like to know. Possibly it is something he picked up in the
jungle--berries or something. A friend who made a few tentative
experiments to this end turned out nothing beyond a will, and that he
dictated and left incomplete. (It was scarcely on the lines of an
ordinary will, being blasphemous, and mentioning no property except his
inside.) For short stories of the detective type, strong cold tea and
hard biscuits are fruitful eating, while for a social science novel one
should take an abundance of boiled rice and toast and water.

However, these remarks are mainly by way of suggestion. Every writer in
the end, so soon as his digestion is destroyed, must ascertain for
himself the peculiar diet that suits him best--that is, which disagrees
with him the most. If everything else fails he might try some chemical
food. "Jabber's Food for Authors," by the bye, well advertised, and with
portraits of literary men, in their drawing-rooms, "Fed entirely on
Jabber's Food," with medical certificates of its unwholesomeness, and
favourable and expurgated reviews of works written on it, ought to be a
brilliant success among literary aspirants. A small but sufficient
quantity of arsenic might with advantage be mixed in.



HOUSE-HUNTING AS AN OUTDOOR AMUSEMENT


Since Adam and Eve went hand in hand out of the gates of Paradise, the
world has travailed under an infinite succession of house-hunts. To-day
in every eligible suburb you may see New Adams and New Eves by the
score, with rusty keys and pink order-forms in hand, wandering still, in
search of the ideal home. To them it is anything but an amusement. Most
of these poor pilgrims look simply tired, some are argumentative in
addition, but all are disappointed, anxious, and unhappy, their hands
dirty with prying among cisterns, and their garments soiled from cellar
walls. All, in the exaltation of the wooing days, saw at least the
indistinct reflection of the perfect house, but now the Quest is
irrevocably in hand they seek and do not find. And such a momentous
question it is to them. Are they not choosing the background, the air
and the colour, as it were, of the next three or four years, the
cardinal years, too! of their lives?

Perhaps the exquisite exasperation of the business for the man who hunts
among empty houses for a home is, that it is so entirely a choice of
second-hand, or at least ready-made goods. To me, at least, there is a
decided suggestion of the dead body in your empty house that has once
been occupied. Here, like pale ghosts upon the wall paper, are outlined
the pictures of the departed tenant; here are the nails of the invisible
curtains, this dent in the wall is all that is sensible of a vanished
piano. I could fancy all these things creeping back to visibility as the
light grew dim. Someone was irritable in the house, perhaps, and a
haunting fragrance of departed quarrels is to be found in the loose
door-handles, and the broken bell-pull. Then the blind in the bedroom
has a broken string. He was a beer-drinker, for the drip of the tap has
left its mark in the cellar; a careless man, for this wall is a record
of burst water-pipes; and rough in his methods, as his emendation of the
garden gate--a remedy rather worse than the disease--shows. The mark of
this prepotent previous man is left on the house from cellar to attic.
It is his house really, not mine. And against these haunting
individualities set the horrible wholesale flavour, the obvious
dexterous builder's economies of a new house. Yet, whatever your
repulsion may be, the end is always the same. After you have asked for
your ideal house a hundred times or so you begin to see you do not get
it. You go the way of your kind. All houses are taken in despair.

But such disgusts as this are for the man who really aims at taking a
house. The artist house-hunter knows better than that. He hunts for the
hunt's sake, and does not mar his work with a purpose. Then
house-hunting becomes a really delightful employment, and one strangely
neglected in this country. I have heard, indeed, of old ladies who
enlivened the intervals of their devotions in this manner, but to the
general run of people the thing is unknown. Yet a more entertaining way
of spending a half-holiday--having regard to current taste--it should be
difficult to imagine. An empty house is realistic literature in the
concrete, full of hints and allusions if a little wanting in tangible
humanity, and it outdoes the modern story in its own line, by beginning
as well as ending in a note of interrogation. That it is not more
extensively followed I can only explain by supposing that its merits are
generally unsuspected. In which case this book should set a fashion.

One singular thing the house-hunter very speedily discovers is, that the
greater portion of the houses in this country are owned by old gentlemen
or old ladies who live next door. After a certain age, and especially
upon retired tradespeople, house property, either alone or in common
with gardening, exercises an irresistible fascination. You always know
you are going to meet a landlord or landlady of this type when you read
on your order to view, "Key next door but one." Calling next door but
one, you are joined after the lapse of a few minutes by a bald, stout
gentleman, or a lady of immemorial years, who offers to go over "the
property" with you. Apparently the intervals between visits to view are
spent in slumber, and these old people come out refreshed and keen to
scrutinise their possible new neighbours. They will tell you all about
the last tenant, and about the present tenants on either side, and about
themselves, and how all the other houses in the neighbourhood are damp,
and how they remember when the site of the house was a cornfield, and
what they do for their rheumatism. As one hears them giving a most
delightful vent to their loquacity, the artistic house-hunter feels all
the righteous self-applause of a kindly deed. Sometimes they get
extremely friendly. One old gentleman--to whom anyone under forty must
have seemed puerile--presented the gentle writer with three fine large
green apples as a kind of earnest of his treatment: apples, no doubt, of
some little value, since they excited the audible envy of several little
boys before they were disposed of.

Sometimes the landlord has even superintended the building of the house
himself, and then it often has peculiar distinctions--no coal cellar, or
a tower with turrets, or pillars of ornamental marble investing the
portico with disproportionate dignity. One old gentleman, young as old
gentlemen go, short of stature, of an agreeable red colour, and with
short iron-grey hair, had a niche over the front door containing a piece
of statuary. It gave one the impression of the Venus of Milo in
chocolate pyjamas. "It was nood at first," said the landlord, "but the
neighbourhood is hardly educated up to art, and objected. So I gave it
that brown paint."

On one expedition the artistic house-hunter was accompanied by Euphemia.
Then it was he found Hill Crest, a vast edifice at the incredible rent
of £40 a year, with which a Megatherial key was identified. It took the
two of them, not to mention an umbrella, to turn this key. The rent was
a mystery, and while they were in the house--a thunderstorm kept them
there some time--they tried to imagine the murder. From the top windows
they could see the roofs of the opposite houses in plan.

"I wonder how long it would take to get to the top of the house from the
bottom?" said Euphemia.

"Certainly longer than we could manage every day," said the artistic
house-hunter. "Fancy looking for my pipe in all these rooms. Starting
from the top bedroom at the usual time, I suppose one would arrive
downstairs to breakfast about eleven, and then we should have to be
getting upstairs again by eight o'clock if we wanted any night's rest
worth having. Or we might double or treble existence, live a Gargantuan
life to match the house, make our day of forty-eight hours instead of
twenty-four. By doubling everything we should not notice the hole it
made in our time getting about the place. Perhaps by making dinner last
twice as long, eating twice as much, and doing everything on the scale
of two to one, we might adapt ourselves to our environment in time, grow
twice as big."

"_Then_ we might be very comfortable here," said Euphemia.

They went downstairs again. By that time it was thundering and raining
heavily. The rooms were dark and gloomy. The big side door, which would
not shut unless locked from the outside, swayed and banged as the gusts
of wind swept round the house. But they had a good time in the front
kitchen, playing cricket with an umbrella and the agent's order crumpled
into a ball. Presently the artistic house-hunter lifted Euphemia on to
the tall dresser, and they sat there swinging their feet patiently until
the storm should leave off and release them.

"I should feel in this kitchen," said Euphemia, "like one of my little
dolls must have felt in the dolls'-house kitchen I had once. The top of
her head just reached the level of the table. There were only four
plates on the dresser, but each was about half her height across----"

"Your reminiscences are always entertaining," said the artistic
house-hunter; "still they fail to explain the absorbing mystery of this
house being to let at £40 a year." The problem raised his curiosity, but
though he made inquiries he found no reason for the remarkably low rent
or the continued emptiness of the house. It was a specimen puzzle for
the house-hunter. A large house with a garden of about half an acre, and
with accommodation for about six families, going begging for £40 a year.
Would it let at eighty? Some such problem, however, turns up in every
house-hunt, and it is these surprises that give the sport its particular
interest and delight. Always provided the mind is not unsettled by any
ulterior notion of settling down.



OF BLADES AND BLADERY


The Blade is not so much a culture as a temperament, and Bladery--if the
thing may have the name--a code of sentiments rather than a ritual. It
is the rococo school of behaviour, the flamboyant gentleman, the
gargoyle life. The Blade is the tribute innocence pays to vice. He may
look like a devil and belong to a church. And the clothing of the Blade,
being symbolical, is a very important part of him. It must show not only
a certain tastiness, but also decision in the accent, courage in the
pattern, and a Dudley Hardihood of outline. A Blade must needs take the
colour of his social standing, but all Blades have the same essential
qualities. And all Blades have this quality, that they despise and
contemn other Blades from the top downward. (But where the bottommost
Blade comes no man can tell.)

A well-bred Blade--though he be a duke--tends to wear his hat tilted a
little over the right eyebrow, and a piece of hair is pulled
coquettishly down just below the brim. His collar is high, and a very
large bow is worn slightly askew. This may be either cream-coloured or
deep blue, with spots of white, or it may be red, or buff, but not
green, because of badinage. The Blade of the middle class displays a
fine gold watch-chain, and his jacket and vest may be of a rough black
cloth or blue serge. The trousering may be of a suit with the jacket, or
tasteful, and the shoes must be long. The betting man, adorned, is a
perfect Blade. There is often a large and ornamental stick, which is
invariably carried head downwards. And note, that the born Blade
instinctively avoids any narrowness of pose. In walking he thrusts out
his shoulders, elbows, and knees, and it is rather the thing to
dominate a sphere of influence beyond this by swinging his stick. At
first the beginner will find this weapon a little apt to slip from the
hand and cause inconvenience to the general public; but he must not mind
that. After a few such misadventures he will acquire dexterity.

All Blades smoke--publicly at least. To smoke a white meerschaum in the
streets, however, is very inferior form. The proper smoking is a briar,
and, remember, it is not smart to have a new pipe. So soon as he buys
it, the Blade takes his pipe home, puts it on a glowing fire to burn the
rim, scrapes this away, burns it again, and so on until it looks a
sullen desperado of a pipe--a pipe with a wild past. Sometimes he cannot
smoke a pipe. In this case he may--for his stomach's sake--smoke a
cigarette. And, besides, there is something cynical about a cigarette.
For the very young Blade there are certain makes of cigarette that burn
well--they are mixed with nitre--and these may be smoked by holding them
in the left hand and idly swinging them to and fro in the air. If it
were not for the public want of charity, I would recommend a well-known
brand. A Blade may always escape a cigar by feigning a fastidious taste.
"None of your Cabanas" is rather good style.

The Blade, it must be understood--especially by the Blade's
friends--spends his time in a whirl of dissipation. That is the
symbolism of the emphatic obliquity of the costume. First, he drinks.
The Blade at Harrow, according to a reliable authority, drinks cherry
brandy and even champagne; other Blades consume whisky-and-soda; the
less costly kind of Blade does it on beer. And here the beginner is
often at a loss. Let us say he has looked up the street and down,
ascertained that there are no aunts in the air, and then plunged into
his first public-house. How shall he ask for his liquor? "I will take a
glass of ale, if you please, Miss," seems tame for a Blade. It may be
useful to know a more suitable formula. Just at present, we may assure
the Blade neophyte, it is all the rage to ask for "Two of swipes,
ducky." Go in boldly, bang down your money as loudly as possible, and
shout that out at the top of your voice. If it is a barman, though, you
had better not say "ducky." The slang will, we can assure him, prove
extremely effective.

Then the Blade gambles; but over the gambling of the Blade it is well to
draw a veil--a partially translucent and coquettish veil, through which
we can see the thing dimly, and enhanced in its enormity. You must
patronise the Turf, of course, and have money on horses, or you are no
Blade at all, but a mere stick. The Harrow Blade has his book on all the
big races in the calendar; and the great and noble game of Nap--are not
Blades its worshippers wherever the sun shines and a pack of cards is
obtainable? Baccarat, too. Many a glorious Blade has lost his whole
term's pocket-money at a single sitting at that noble game. And the
conversation of the Blade must always be brilliant in the extreme, like
the flashing of steel in the sunlight. It is usually cynical and
worldly, sometimes horrible enough to make a governess shudder, but
always epigrammatic. Epigrams and neat comparisons are much easier to
make than is vulgarly supposed. "Schoolmasters hang about the crops of
knowledge like dead crows about a field, examples and warnings to greedy
souls." "Marriage is the beginning of philosophy, and the end is, 'Do
not marry.'" "All women are constant, but some discover mistakes." "One
is generally repentant when one is found out, and remorseful when one
can't do it again." A little practice, and this kind of thing may be
ground out almost without thinking. Occasionally, in your conversation
with ladies, you may let an oath slip. (Better not let your aunt hear
you.) Apologise humbly at once, of course. But it will give them a
glimpse of the lurid splendour of your private life.

And that brings us to the central thing of the Blade's life, the eternal
Feminine! Pity them, be a little sorry for them--the poor souls cannot
be Blades. They must e'en sit and palpitate while the Blade flashes. The
accomplished Blade goes through life looking unspeakable wickedness at
everything feminine he meets, old and young, rich and poor, one with
another. He reeks with intrigue. Every Blade has his secrets and
mysteries in this matter--remorse even for crimes. You do not know all
that his handsome face may hide. Even he does not know. He may have sat
on piers and talked to shop-girls, kissed housemaids, taken barmaids to
music halls, conversed with painted wickedness in public places--nothing
is too much for him. And oh! the reckless protestations of love he has
made, the broken promises, the broken hearts! Yet men must be Blades,
though women may weep; and every Blade must take his barmaid to a music
hall at least once, even if she be taller than himself. Until then his
manhood is not assured.

Just one hint in conclusion. A Blade who collects stamps, or keeps tame
rabbits, or eats sweets, oranges, or apples in the streets, or calls
names publicly after his friends, is no Blade at all, but a boy still.
So, with our blessing, he swaggers on his way and is gone. A Don Juan as
fresh as spring, a rosebud desperado. May he never come upon just cause
for repentance!



OF CLEVERNESS

ÀPROPOS OF ONE CRICHTON


Crichton is an extremely clever person--abnormally, indeed almost
unnaturally, so. He is not merely clever at this or that, but clever all
round; he gives you no consolations. He goes about being needlessly
brilliant. He caps your jests and corrects your mistakes, and does your
special things over again in newer and smarter ways. Any really
well-bred man who presumed so far would at least be plain or physically
feeble, or unhappily married by way of apology, but the idea of so much
civility seems never to have entered Crichton's head. He will come into
a room where we are jesting perhaps, and immediately begin to flourish
about less funny perhaps but decidedly more brilliant jests, until at
last we retire one by one from the conversation and watch him with
savage, weary eyes over our pipes. He invariably beats me at chess,
invariably. People talk about him and ask my opinion of him, and if I
venture to criticise him they begin to look as though they thought I was
jealous. Grossly favourable notices of his books and his pictures crop
up in the most unlikely places; indeed I have almost given up newspapers
on account of him. Yet, after all----

This cleverness is not everything. It never pleases me, and I doubt
sometimes if it pleases anyone. Suppose you let off some clever little
thing, a subtlety of expression, a paradox, an allusive suggestive
picture; how does it affect ordinary people? Those who are less clever
than yourself, the unspecialised, unsophisticated average people, are
simply annoyed by the puzzle you set them; those who are cleverer find
your cleverness mere obvious stupidity; and your equals, your
competitors in cleverness, are naturally your deadly rivals. The fact is
this cleverness, after all, is merely egotism in its worst and unwisest
phase. It is an incontinence of brilliance, graceless and aggressive, a
glaring swagger. The drunken helot of cleverness is the creature who
goes about making puns. A mere step above comes the epigram, the
isolated epigram framed and glazed. Then such impressionist art as
Crichton's pictures, mere puns in paint. What they mean is nothing, they
arrest a quiet decent-minded man like myself with the same spasmodic
disgust as a pun in literature--the subject is a transparent excuse;
they are mere indecent and unedifying exhibitions of himself. He thinks
it is something superlative to do everything in a startling way. He
cannot even sign his name without being offensive. He lacks altogether
the fundamental quality of a gentleman, the magnanimity to be
commonplace. I----

On the score of personal dignity, why should a young man of respectable
antecedents and some natural capacity stoop to this kind of thing? To be
clever is the last desperate resort of the feeble, it is the merit of
the ambitious slave. You cannot conquer _vi et armis_, you cannot
stomach a decent inferiority, so you resort to lively, eccentric, and
brain-wearying brilliance to ingratiate yourself. The cleverest animal
by far is the monkey, and compare that creature's undignified activity
with the mountainous majesty of the elephant!

And I cannot help thinking, too, that cleverness must be the greatest
obstacle a man can possibly have in his way upward in the world. One
never sees really clever people in positions of trust, never widely
influential or deeply rooted. Look, for instance, at the Royal Academy,
at the Judges, at----But there! The very idea of cleverness is an
all-round readiness and looseness that is the very negation of
stability.

Whenever Crichton has been particularly exasperating, getting himself
appreciated in a new quarter, or rising above his former successes, I
find some consolation in thinking of my Uncle Augustus. He was the
glory of our family. Even Aunt Charlotte's voice drooped a little in the
mention of his name. He was conspicuous for an imposing and even
colossal stupidity: he rose to eminence through it, and, what is more,
to wealth and influence. He was as reliable, as unlikely to alter his
precise position, or do anything unexpected, as the Pyramids of Egypt. I
do not know any topic upon which he was not absolutely uninformed, and
his contributions to conversation, delivered in that ringing baritone of
his, were appallingly dull. Often I have seen him utterly flatten some
cheerful clever person of the Crichton type with one of his simple
garden-roller remarks--plain, solid, and heavy, which there was no
possibility either of meeting or avoiding. He was very successful in
argument, and yet he never fenced. He simply came down. It was, so to
speak, a case of small sword _versus_ the avalanche. His moral inertia
was tremendous. He was never excited, never anxious, never jaded; he was
simply massive. Cleverness broke upon him like shipping on an ironbound
coast. His monument is like him--a plain large obelisk of coarse
granite, unpretending in its simple ugliness and prominent a mile off.
Among the innumerable little white sorrows of the cemetery it looks
exactly as he used to look among clever people.

Depend upon it cleverness is the antithesis of greatness. The British
Empire, like the Roman, was built up by dull men. It may be we shall be
ruined by clever ones. Imagine a regiment of lively and eccentric
privates! There never was a statesman yet who had not some ballast of
stupidity, and it seems to me that part at least of the essentials of a
genius is a certain divine dulness. The people we used to call the
masters--Shakespeare, Raphael, Milton, and so forth--had a certain
simplicity Crichton lacks. They do not scintillate nearly so much as he
does, and they do not give that same uncomfortable feeling of internal
strain. Even Homer nods. There are restful places in their work, broad
meadows of breezy flatness, calms. But Crichton has no Pacific Ocean to
mitigate his everlasting weary passage of Cape Horn: it is all point
and prominence, point and prominence.

No doubt this Crichton is having a certain vogue now, but it cannot
last. I wish him no evil, of course, but I cannot help thinking he will
presently have had his day. This epoch of cleverness must be very near
its last flare. The last and the abiding thought of humanity is peace. A
dull man will presently be sought like the shadow of a great rock in a
thirsty land. Dulness will be the New Genius. "Give us dull books,"
people will cry, "great dull restful pictures. We are weary, very
weary." This hectic, restless, incessant phase in which we
travail--_fin-de-siècle_, "decadent," and all the rest of it--will pass
away. A chubby, sleepy literature, large in aim, colossal in execution,
rotund and tranquil will lift its head. And this Crichton will become a
classic, Messrs. Mudie will sell surplus copies of his works at a
reduction, and I shall cease to be worried by his disgusting success.



THE POSE NOVEL


I watched the little spurts of flame jet out from between the writhing
pages of my manuscript, watched the sheets coil up in their fiery
anguish and start one from another. I helped the fire to the very vitals
of the mass by poking the brittle heap, and at last the sacrifice was
over, the flames turned from pink to blue and died out, the red glow
gave place to black, little luminous red streaks coiled across the
charred sheets and vanished at the margins, and only the ashes of my
inspiration remained. The ink was a lustrous black on the dull blackness
of the burnt paper. I could still read this much of my indiscretion
remaining, "He smiled at them all and said nothing."

"Fool!" I said, and stirred the crackling mass into a featureless heap
of black scraps. Then with my chin on my fists and elbows on knees I
stared at the end of my labours.

I suppose, after all, there has been some profit out of the thing. Satan
finds some mischief still for idle hands to do, and one may well thank
Heaven it was only a novel. Still, it means many days out of my life,
and I would be glad to find some positive benefit accruing. Clearly, in
the first place, I have eased my mind of some execrable English. I am
cleaner now by some dozen faulty phrases that I committed and saw
afterwards in all the nakedness of typewriting. (Thank Heaven for
typewriting! Were it not for that, this thing had gone to the scoffing
of some publisher's reader, and another had known my shame.) And I shall
not write another pose novel.

I am inclined to think these pose novels the wild oats of authorship. We
sit down in the heyday of our youth to write the masterpiece.
Obviously, it must be a novel about a man and a woman, and something as
splendid as we can conceive of in that way. We look about us. We do not
go far for perfection. One of the brace holds the pen and the other is
inside his or her head; and so Off! to the willing pen. Only a few years
ago we went slashing among the poppies with a walking-stick, and were,
we said boldly and openly, Harolds and Hectors slaying our thousands.
Now of course we are grown up to self-respect, and must needs be a
little disingenuous about it. But as the story unfolds there is no
mistaking the likeness, in spite of the transfiguration. This bold,
decided man who performs such deeds of derring-do in the noisome slum,
knocks down the burly wife-beater, rescues an unmistakable Miss Clapton
from the knife of a Lascar, and is all the while cultivating a virtuous
consumption that stretches him on an edifying, pathetic, and altogether
beautiful deathbed in the last chapter----My dear Authorling, cry my
friends, we hear the squeak of that little voice of yours in every word
he utters. Is _that_ what you aspire to be, that twopence-coloured
edition of yourself? Heaven defend you from your desires!

Yet there was a singular fascination in writing the book; to be in
anticipation my own sympathetic historian, to joy with my joys yet to
come, and sorrow with my sorrows, to bear disaster like a man, and at
last to close my own dear eyes, and with a swelling heart write my own
epitaph. The pleasure remained with me until I reached the end. How
admirably I strutted in front of myself! And I and the better self of me
that was flourishing about in the book--we pretended not to know each
other for what we were. He was myself with a wig and a sham visiting
card, and I owed it to myself to respect my disguise. I made him with
very red hair--my hair is fairly dark--and shifted his university from
London to Cambridge. Clearly it could not be the same person, I argued.
But I endowed him with all the treasures of myself; I made him say all
the good things I might have said had I thought of them opportunely, and
all the noble thoughts that occurred to me afterwards occurred to him
at the time. He was myself--myself at a premium, myself without any
drawbacks, the quintessence and culmination of me. And yet somehow when
he came back from the typewriter he seemed a bit of an ass.

Probably every tadpole author writes a pose novel--at least I hope so
for the sake of my self-respect. Most, after my fashion, burn the thing,
or benevolent publishers lose it. It is an ill thing if by some accident
the tadpole tale survives the tadpole stage. The authoress does the
feminine equivalent, but I should judge either that she did it more
abundantly or else that she burned less. Has she never swept past you
with a scornful look, disdained you in all the pride of her beauty,
rippled laughter at you, or amazed you with her artless girlishness? And
even after the early stages some of the trick may survive, unless I read
books with malice instead of charity. I must confess, though, that I
have a weakness for finding mine author among his puppets. I conceive
him always taking the best parts, like an actor-manager or a little boy
playing with his sisters. I do not read many novels with sincere belief,
and I like to get such entertainment from them as I can. So that these
artless little self-revelations are very sweet and precious to me among
all the lay figures, tragedy and comedy. Since the deception is
transparent I make the most of the transparency, and love to see the
clumsy fingers on the strings of the marionettes. And this will be none
the less pleasant now that I have so narrowly escaped giving this
entertainment to others.

I suppose this stage is a necessary one. We begin with ignorance and the
imagination, the material of the pose novel. Later come self-knowledge,
disappointments and self-consciousness, and the prodigals of fiction
stay themselves upon the husks of epigram and cynicism, and in the place
of artless aspiration are indeed in plain black and white very desperate
characters. It is after all only another pose--the pose of not posing.
We, the common clay of the world of letters, must needs write in this
way, because we cannot forget our foolish little selves in our work.
But some few there are who sit as gods above their private universes,
and write without passion or vanity. At least, so I have been told.
These be the true artists of letters, the white windows upon the truth
of things. We by comparison are but stained glass in our own honour, and
do but obstruct the view with our halos and attitudes. Yet even
Shakespeare, the critics tell us--and they say they know--posed in the
character of Hamlet.

After all, the pose novel method has at times attained to the level of
literature. Charlotte Brontë might possibly have found no other topic
had she disdained the plain little woman with a shrewish tongue; and
where had Charles Kingsley been if the vision of a curate rampant had
not rejoiced his heart? Still, I am not sorry that this novel is burned.
Even now it was ridiculous, and the time might have come when this book,
full of high, if foolish aims, and the vain vast promise of well-meaning
youth, had been too keen a reproach to be endured. Three volumes of good
intentions! It is too much. There was more than a novel burning just
now. After this I shall be in a position to take a humorist's view of
life.



THE VETERAN CRICKETER


My old cricketer was seized, he says, some score of years ago now, by
sciatica, clutched indeed about the loins thereby, and forcibly
withdrawn from the practice of the art; since when a certain
predisposition to a corpulent habit has lacked its natural check of
exercise, and a broadness almost Dutch has won upon him. Were it not for
this, which renders his contours and his receding aspect unseemly, he
would be indeed a venerable-looking person, having a profile worthy of a
patriarch, tinged though it may be with an unpatriarchal jollity, and a
close curly beard like that of King David. He lives by himself in a
small cottage outside the village--hating women with an unaccountable
detestation--and apparently earns a precarious livelihood, and certainly
the sincere aversion of the country side, by umpiring in matches, and
playing whist and "Nap" with such as will not be so discreet and
economical as to bow before his superior merit.

His neighbours do not like him, because he will not take their cricket
or their whist seriously, because he will persist in offering counsel
and the stimulus of his gift of satire. All whist than his he avers is
"Bumble-puppy." His umpiring is pedagogic in tone; he fails to see the
contest in the game. To him, who has heard his thousands roar as the
bails of the best of All England went spinning, these village matches
are mere puerile exercises to be corrected. His corrections, too, are
Olympian, done, as it were, in red ink, vivid, and without respect of
persons. Particularly he gibes. He never uses vulgar bad language
himself, but has a singular power of engendering it in others. He has a
word "gaby," which he will sometimes enlarge to "stuppid gaby," the
which, flung neatly into a man who has just missed a catch, will fill
the same with a whirl of furious curses difficult to restrain. And if
perchance one should escape, my ancient cricketer will be as startled as
Cadmus at the crop he has sown. And not only startled but pained at
human wickedness and the follies of a new generation. "Why can't you
play without swearing, Muster Gibbs?" he will say, catching the
whispered hope twenty yards away, and proclaiming it to a censorious
world. And so Gibbs, our grocer and draper, and one made much of by the
vicar, is shamed before the whole parish, and damned even as he desired.

To our vicar, a well-meaning, earnest, and extremely nervous man, he
displays a methodical antagonism. Our vicar is the worst of all possible
rural vicars--unripe, a glaring modern, no classical scholar, no lover
of nature, offensively young and yet not youthful, an indecent
politician. He was meant to labour amid Urban Myriads, to deal with
Social Evils, Home Rule, the Woman Question, and the Reunion of
Christendom, attend Conferences and go with the _Weltgeist_--damn
him!--wherever the _Weltgeist_ is going. He presents you jerkily--a tall
lean man of ascetic visage and ample garments, a soul clothed not so
much in a fleshy body as in black flaps that ever trail behind its
energy. Where they made him Heaven knows. No university owns him. It may
be he is a renegade Dissenting minister, neither good Church nor
wholesome Nonconformity. Him my cricketer regards with malignant
respect. Respect he shows by a punctilious touching of his hat brim,
directed to the sacred office; all the rest is malignity, and aimed at
the man that fills it. They come into contact on the cricket-field, and
on the committee of our reading-room. For our vicar, in spite of a
tendency to myopia, conceives it his duty to encourage cricket by his
participation. _Duty_--to encourage cricket! So figure the scene to
yourself. The sunlit green, and a match in progress,--the ball has just
snipped a stump askew,--my ancient, leaning on a stout cabbage stick,
and with the light overcoat that is sacred to umpires upon his arm.

"_Out_, Billy Durgan," says he, and adds, _ex cathedrâ_, "and one you
ought to ha' hit for four."

Then appears our vicar in semi-canonicals, worn "to keep up his
position," or some such folly, nervous about the adjustment of his hat
and his eyeglasses. He approaches the pitch, smiling the while to show
his purely genial import and to anticipate and explain any amateurish
touches. He reaches the wicket and poses himself, as the convenient book
he has studied directs. "You'll be caught, Muster Shackleforth, if you
keep your shoulder up like that," says the umpire. "Ya-a-ps! that's
worse!"--forgetting himself in his zeal for attitude. And then a voice
cries "Play!"

The vicar swipes wildly, cuts the ball for two, and returns to his
wicket breathless but triumphant. Next comes a bye, and then over. The
misguided cleric, ever pursuing a theory of foolish condescension to his
betters at the game, and to show there is no offence at the "Yaaps,"
takes the opportunity, although panting, of asking my ancient if his
chicks--late threatened with staggers--are doing well. What would he
think if my cricketer retaliated by asking, in the pause before the
sermon, how the vicarage pony took his last bolus? The two men do not
understand one another. My cricketer waves the hens aside, and revenges
himself, touching his hat at intervals, by some offensively obvious
remarks--as to a mere beginner--about playing with a straight bat. And
the field sniggers none too furtively. I sympathise with his malice.
Cricket is an altogether too sacred thing to him to be tampered with on
merely religious grounds. However, our vicar gets himself caught at the
first opportunity, and so being removed from my veteran's immediate
environment, to their common satisfaction, the due ritual of the great
game is resumed.

My ancient cricketer abounds in reminiscence of the glorious days that
have gone for ever. He can still recall the last echoes of the
"throwing" controversy that agitated Nyren, when over-arm bowling began,
and though he never played himself in a beaver hat, he can, he says,
recollect seeing matches so played. In those days everyone wore tall
hats--the policeman, the milkman, workmen of all sorts. Some people I
fancy must have bathed in them and gone to bed wearing them. He recalls
the Titans of that and the previous age, and particularly delights in
the legend of Noah Mann, who held it a light thing to walk twenty miles
from Northchapel to Hambledon to practise every Tuesday afternoon, and
wander back after dark. He himself as a stripling would run a matter of
four miles, after a day's work in the garden where he was employed, to
attend an hour's practice over the downs before the twilight made the
balls invisible. And afterwards came Teutonic revelry or wanderings
under the summer starlight, as the mood might take him. For there was a
vein of silent poetry in the youth of this man.

He hates your modern billiard-table pitch, and a batting of dexterous
snickery. He likes "character" in a game, gigantic hitting forward,
bowler-planned leg catches, a cunning obliquity in a wicket that would
send the balls mysteriously askew. But dramatic breaks are now a thing
unknown in trade cricket. One legend of his I doubt; he avers that once
at Brighton, in a match between Surrey and Sussex, he saw seven wickets
bowled by some such aid in two successive overs. I have never been able
to verify this. I believe that, as a matter of fact, the thing has never
occurred, but he tells it often in a fine crescendo of surprise, and the
refrain, "Out HE came." His first beginning is a cheerful
anecdote of a crew of "young gentlemen" from Cambridge staying at the
big house, and a challenge to the rustic talent of "me and Billy Hall,"
who "played a bit at that time," "of me and Billy Hall" winning the
pitch and going in first, of a memorable if uncivil stand at the wickets
through a long hot afternoon, and a number of young gentlemen from
Cambridge painfully discovering local talent by exhaustive fielding in
the park, a duty they honourably discharged.

I am fond of my old cricketer, in spite of a certain mendacious and
malign element in him. His yarns of gallant stands and unexpected turns
of fortune, of memorable hits and eccentric umpiring, albeit tending
sometimes incredibly to his glory, are full of the flavour of days well
spent, of bright mornings of play, sunlit sprawlings beside the score
tent, warmth, the flavour of bitten grass stems, and the odour of
crushed turf. One seems to hear the clapping hands of village ancients,
and their ululations of delight. One thinks of stone jars with cool
drink swishing therein, of shouting victories and memorable defeats, of
eleven men in a drag, and tuneful and altogether glorious home-comings
by the light of the moon. His were the Olympian days of the sport, when
noble squires were its patrons, and every village a home and nursery of
stalwart cricketers, before the epoch of special trains, gate-money,
star elevens, and the tumultuous gathering of idle cads to jabber at a
game they cannot play.



CONCERNING A CERTAIN LADY


This lady wears a blue serge suit and a black hat, without flippancy;
she is a powerfully built lady and generally more or less flushed, and
she is aunt, apparently, to a great number of objectionable-looking
people. I go in terror of her. Yet the worm will turn at last, and so
will the mild, pacific literary man. Her last outrage was too much even
for my patience. It was committed at Gloucester Road Station the other
afternoon. I was about to get into a train for Wimbledon,--and there are
only two of them to the hour,--and, so far as I could see, the whole
world was at peace with me. I felt perfectly secure. The ægis of the
_pax Britannica_--if you will pardon the expression--was over me. For
the moment the thought of the lady in the blue serge was quite out of my
mind. I had just bought a newspaper, and had my hand on the carriage
door. The guard was fluttering his flag.

Then suddenly she swooped out of space, out of the infinite unknown, and
hit me. She always hits me when she comes near me, and I infer she hits
everyone she comes across. She hit me this time in the chest with her
elbow and knocked me away from the door-handle. She hit me very hard;
indeed, she was as fierce as I have ever known her. With her there were
two nieces and a nephew, and the nephew hit me too. He was a horrid
little boy in an Eton suit of the kind that they do not wear at Eton,
and he hit me with his head and pushed at me with his little pink hands.
The nieces might have been about twenty-two and thirteen respectively,
and I infer that they were apprenticed to her. All four people seemed
madly excited. "It's just starting!" they screamed, and the train was,
indeed, slowly moving. Their object--so far as they had an object and
were not animated by mere fury--appeared to be to assault me and then
escape in the train. The lady in blue got in and then came backwards out
again, sweeping the smaller girl behind her upon the two others, who
were engaged in hustling me. "It's 'smoking!'" she cried. I could have
told her that, if she had asked instead of hitting me. The elder girl,
by backing dexterously upon me, knocked my umbrella out of my hand, and
when I stooped to pick it up the little boy knocked my hat off. I will
confess they demoralised me with their archaic violence. I had some
thought of joining in their wild amuck, whooping, kicking out madly,
perhaps assaulting a porter,--I think the lady in blue would have been
surprised to find what an effective addition to her staff she had picked
up,--but before I could collect my thoughts sufficiently to do any
definite thing the whole affair was over. A porter was slamming doors on
them, the train was running fast out of the station, and I was left
alone with an unmannerly newsboy and an unmannerly porter on the
platform. I waited until the porter was out of the way, and then I hit
the newsboy for laughing at me, but even with that altercation it was a
tedious wait for the next train to Wimbledon.

This is the latest of my encounters with this lady, but it has decided
me to keep silence no longer. She has been persecuting me now for years
in all parts of London. It may be I am her only victim, but, on the
other hand, she may be in the habit of annoying the entire class of
slender and inoffensive young men. If so, and they will communicate with
me through the publishers of this little volume, we might do something
towards suppressing her, found an Anti-Energetic-Lady-League, or
something of that sort. For if there was ever a crying wrong that
clamoured for suppression it is this violent woman.

She is, even now, flagrantly illegal. She might be given in charge for
hitting people at any time, and be warned, or fined, or given a week.
But somehow it is only when she is overpast and I am recovering my wits
that I recollect that she might be dealt with in this way. She is the
chartered libertine of British matrons, and assaulteth where she
listeth. The blows I have endured from her? She fights people who are
getting into 'buses. It is no mere accidental jostling, but a deliberate
shouldering, poking with umbrellas, and clawing. It is her delight to go
to the Regent Circus corner of Piccadilly, about half-past seven in the
evening, accompanied by a genteel rout of daughters, and fill up whole
omnibuses with them. At that hour there are work-girls and tired clerks,
and the like worn-out anæmic humanity trying to get home for an hour or
so of rest before bed, and they crowd round the 'buses very eagerly.
They are little able to cope with her exuberant vitality, being
ill-nourished and tired from the day's work, and she simply mows through
them and fills up every vacant place they covet before their eyes. Then,
I can never count change even when my mind is tranquil, and she knows
that, and swoops threateningly upon me in booking offices and
stationers' shops. When I am dodging cabs at crossings she will appear
from behind an omnibus or carriage and butt into me furiously. She holds
her umbrella in her folded arms just as the Punch puppet does his staff,
and with as deadly effect. Sometimes she discards her customary navy
blue and puts on a glittering bonnet with bead trimmings, and goes and
hurts people who are waiting to enter the pit at theatres, and
especially to hurt me. She is fond of public shows, because they afford
such possibilities of hurting me. Once I saw her standing partly on a
seat and partly on another lady in the church of St. George's, Hanover
Square, partly, indeed, watching a bride cry, but chiefly, I expect,
scheming how she could get round to me and hurt me. Then there was an
occasion at the Academy when she was peculiarly aggressive. I was
sitting next my lame friend when she marked me. Of course she came at
once and sat right upon us. "Come along, Jane," I heard her say, as I
struggled to draw my flattened remains from under her; "this gentleman
will make room."

My friend was not so entangled and had escaped on the other side. She
noticed his walk. "Oh, don't _you_ get up," she said. "_This_
gentleman," she indicated my convulsive struggles to free myself, "will
do that. _I did not see that you were a cripple._"

It may be some of my readers will recognise the lady now. It can be--for
the honour of womankind--only one woman. She is an atavism, a survival
of the age of violence, a Palæolithic squaw in petticoats. I do not know
her name and address or I would publish it. I do not care if she kills
me the next time she meets me, for the limits of endurance have been
passed. If she kills me I shall die a martyr in the cause of the Queen's
peace. And if it is only one woman, then it was the same lady, more than
half intoxicated, that I saw in the Whitechapel Road cruelly
ill-treating a little costermonger. If it was not she it was certainly
her sister, and I do not care who knows it.

What to do with her I do not know. A League, after all, seems
ineffectual; she would break up any League. I have thought of giving her
in charge for assault, but I shrink from the invidious publicity of
that. Still, I am in grim earnest to do something. I think at times that
the compulsory adoption of a narrow doorway for churches and places of
public entertainment might be some protection for quiet, inoffensive
people. How she would rage outside to be sure! Yet that seems a great
undertaking.

But this little paper is not so much a plan of campaign as a preliminary
defiance. Life is a doubtful boon while one is never safe from assault,
from hitting and shoving, from poking with umbrellas, being sat upon,
and used as a target for projectile nephews and nieces. I warn
her--possibly with a certain quaver in my voice--that I am in revolt. If
she hits me again----I will not say the precise thing I will do, but I
warn her, very solemnly and deliberately, that she had better not hit me
again.

And so for the present the matter remains.



THE SHOPMAN


If I were really opulent, I would not go into a shop at all--I would
have a private secretary. If I were really determined, Euphemia would do
these things. As it is, I find buying things in a shop the most
exasperating of all the many trying duties of life. I am sometimes
almost tempted to declare myself Adamite to escape it. The way the
shopman eyes you as you enter his den, the very spread of his fingers,
irritate me. "What can I have the pleasure?" he says, bowing forward at
me, and with his eye on my chin--and so waits.

Now I hate incomplete sentences, and confound his pleasure! I don't go
into a shop to give a shopman pleasure. But your ordinary shopman must
needs pretend you delight and amuse him. I say, trying to display my
dislike as plainly as possible, "Gloves." "Gloves, yessir," he says. Why
should he? I suppose he thinks I require to be confirmed in my
persuasion that I want gloves. "Calf--kid--dogskin?" How should _I_ know
the technicalities of his traffic? "Ordinary gloves," I say, disdaining
his petty distinctions. "About what price, sir?" he asks.

Now that always maddens me. Why should I be expected to know the price
of gloves? I'm not a commercial traveller nor a wholesale dealer, and I
don't look like one. Neither am I constitutionally parsimonious nor
petty. I am a literary man, unworldly, and I wear long hair and a soft
hat and a peculiar overcoat to indicate the same to ordinary people.
Why, I say, should I know the price of gloves? I know they are some
ordinary price--elevenpence-halfpenny, or three-and-six, or
seven-and-six, or something--one of those prices that everything is
sold at--but further I don't go. Perhaps I say elevenpence-halfpenny at
a venture.

His face lights up with quiet malice. "Don't keep them, sir," he says. I
can tell by his expression that I am ridiculously low, and so being
snubbed. I think of trying with three-and-six, or seven-and-six; the
only other probable prices for things that I know, except a guinea and
five pounds. Then I see the absurdity of the business, and my anger
comes surging up.

"Look here!" I say, as bitterly as possible. "I don't come here to play
at Guessing Games. Never mind your prices. I want some gloves. Get me
some!"

This cows him a little, but very little. "May I ask your size, sir?" he
says, a trifle more respectfully.

One would think I spent all my time remembering the size of my gloves.
However, it is no good resenting it. "It's either seven or nine," I say
in a tired way.

He just begins another question, and then he catches my eye and stops
and goes away to obtain some gloves, and I get a breathing space. But
why do they keep on with this cross-examination? If I knew exactly what
I wanted--description, price, size--I should not go to a shop at all, it
would save me such a lot of trouble just to send a cheque to the Stores.
The only reason why I go into a tradesman's shop is because I don't know
what I want exactly, am in doubt about the name or the size, or the
price, or the fashion, and want a specialist to help me. The only reason
for having shopmen instead of automatic machines is that one requires
help in buying things. When I want gloves, the shopman ought to
understand his business sufficiently well to know better than I do what
particular kind of gloves I ought to be wearing, and what is a fair
price for them. I don't see why I should teach him what is in fashion
and what is not. A doctor does not ask you what kind of operation you
want and what price you will pay for it. But I really believe these
outfitter people would let me run about London wearing white cotton
gloves and a plaid comforter without lifting a finger to prevent me.

And, by the bye, that reminds me of a scandalous trick these salesmen
will play you. Sometimes they have not the thing you want, and then they
make you buy other things. I happen to have, through no fault of my own,
a very small head, and consequently for one long summer I wore a little
boy's straw hat about London with the colours of a Paddington Board
School, simply because a rascal outfitter hadn't my size in a proper
kind of headgear, and induced me to buy the thing by specious
representations. He must have known perfectly well it was not what I
ought to wear. It seems never to enter into a shopman's code of honour
that he ought to do his best for his customer. Since that, however, I
have noticed lots of people about who have struck me in a new light as
triumphs of the salesman, masterpieces in the art of incongruity; age in
the garb of youth, corpulence put off with the size called "slender
men's"; unhappy, gentle, quiet men with ties like oriflammes, breasts
like a kingfisher's, and cataclysmal trouser patterns. Even so, if the
shopkeeper had his will, should we all be. Those poor withered maiden
ladies, too, who fill us with a kind of horror, with their juvenile
curls, their girlish crudity of colouring, their bonnets, giddy,
tottering, hectic. It overcomes me with remorse to think that I myself
have accused them of vanity and folly. It overcomes me with pain to hear
the thoughtless laugh aloud after them, in the public ways. For they are
simply short-sighted trustful people, the myopic victims of the salesman
and saleswoman. The little children gibe at them, pelt even.... And
somewhere in the world a draper goes unhung.

However, the gloves are bought. I select a pair haphazard, and he
pretends to perceive they fit perfectly by putting them over the back of
my hand. I make him assure me of the fit, and then buy the pair and
proceed to take my old ones off and put the new on grimly. If they split
or the fingers are too long--glovemakers have the most erratic
conceptions of the human finger--I have to buy another pair.

But the trouble only begins when you have bought your thing. "Nothing
more, sir?" he says. "Nothing," I say. "Braces?" he says. "No, thank
you," I say. "Collars, cuffs?" He looks at mine swiftly but keenly, and
with an unendurable suspicion.

He goes on, item after item. Am I in rags, that I should endure this
thing? And I get sick of my everlasting "No, thank you"--the monotony
shows up so glaringly against his kaleidoscope variety. I feel all the
unutterable pettiness, the mean want of enterprise of my poor little
purchase compared with the catholic fling he suggests. I feel angry with
myself for being thus played upon, furiously angry with him. "_No, no_!"
I say.

"These tie-holders are new." He proceeds to show me his infernal
tie-holders. "They prevent the tie puckering," he says with his eye on
mine. It's no good. "How much?" I say.

This whets him to further outrage. "Look here, my man!" I say at last,
goaded to it, "I came here for gloves. After endless difficulties I at
last induced you to let me have gloves. I have also been intimidated, by
the most shameful hints and insinuations, into buying that _beastly_
tie-holder. I'm not a child that I don't know my own needs. Now _will_
you let me go? How much do you want?"

That usually checks him.

The above is a fair specimen of a shopman--a favourable rendering. There
are other things they do, but I simply cannot write about them because
it irritates me so to think of them. One infuriating manoeuvre is to
correct your pronunciation. Another is to make a terrible ado about your
name and address--even when it is quite a well-known name.

After I have bought things at a shop I am quite unfit for social
intercourse. I have to go home and fume. There was a time when Euphemia
would come and discuss my purchase with a certain levity, but on one
occasion....

Some day these shopmen will goad me too far. It's almost my only
consolation, indeed, to think what I am going to do when I do break out.
There is a salesman somewhere in the world, he going on his way and I
on mine, who will, I know, prove my last straw. It may be he will read
this--amused--recking little of the mysteries of fate.... Is killing a
salesman murder, like killing a human being?



THE BOOK OF CURSES


Professor Gargoyle, you must understand, has travelled to and fro in the
earth, culling flowers of speech: a kind of recording angel he is, but
without any sentimental tears. To be plain, he studies swearing. His
collection, however, only approaches completeness in the western
departments of European language. Going eastward he found such an
appalling and tropical luxuriance of these ornaments as to despair at
last altogether of even a representative selection. "They do not curse,"
he says, "at door-handles, and shirt-studs, and such other trifles as
will draw down the meagre discharge of an Occidental, but when they do
begin----

"I hired a promising-looking man at Calcutta, and after a month or so
refused to pay his wages. He was unable to get at me with the big knife
he carried, because the door was locked, so he sat on his hams outside
under the verandah, from a quarter-past six in the morning until nearly
ten, cursing--cursing in one steady unbroken flow--an astonishing spate
of blasphemy. First he cursed my family, from me along the female line
back to Eve, and then, having toyed with me personally for a little
while, he started off along the line of my possible posterity to my
remotest great-grandchildren. Then he cursed me by this and that. My
hand ached taking it down, he was so very rich. It was a perfect
anthology of Bengali blasphemy--vivid, scorching, and variegated. Not
two alike. And then he turned about and dealt with different parts of
me. I was really very fortunate in him. Yet it was depressing to think
that all this was from one man, and that there are six hundred million
people in Asia."

"Naturally," said the Professor in answer to my question, "these
investigations involve a certain element of danger. The first condition
of curse-collecting is to be unpopular, especially in the East, where
comminatory swearing alone is practised, and you have to offend a man
very grievously to get him to disgorge his treasure. In this country,
except among ladies in comparatively humble circumstances, anything like
this fluent, explicit, detailed, and sincere cursing, aimed,
missile-fashion, at a personal enemy, is not found. It was quite common
a few centuries ago; indeed, in the Middle Ages it was part of the
recognised procedure. Aggrieved parties would issue a father's curse,
an orphan's curse, and so forth, much as we should take out a county
court summons. And it played a large part in ecclesiastical policy too.
At one time the entire Church militant here on earth was swearing in
unison, and the Latin tongue, at the Republic of Venice--a very splendid
and imposing spectacle. It seems to me a pity to let these old customs
die out so completely. I estimate that more than half these Gothic forms
have altogether passed out of memory. There must have been some splendid
things in Erse and Gaelic too; for the Celtic mind, with its more vivid
sense of colour, its quicker transitions, and deeper emotional quality,
has ever over-cursed the stolid Teuton. But it is all getting forgotten.

"Indeed, your common Englishman now scarcely curses at all. A more
colourless and conventional affair than what in England is called
swearing one can scarcely imagine. It is just common talk, with some
half-dozen orthodox bad words dropped in here and there in the most
foolish and illogical manner. Fancy having orthodox unorthodox words! I
remember one day getting into a third-class smoking carriage on the
Metropolitan Railway about one o'clock, and finding it full of rough
working men. Everything they said was seasoned with one incredibly
stupid adjective, and no doubt they thought they were very desperate
characters. At last I asked them not to say that word again. One
forthwith asked me 'What the ----'--I really cannot quote these
puerilities--'what the idiotic _cliché_ that mattered to me?' So I
looked at him quietly over my glasses, and I began. It was a revelation
to these poor fellows. They sat open-mouthed, gasping. Then those that
were nearest me began to edge away, and at the very next station they
all bundled out of the carriage before the train stopped, as though I
had some infectious disease. And the thing was just a rough imperfect
rendering of some mere commonplaces, passing the time of day as it were,
with which the heathen of Aleppo used to favour the servants of the
American missionary. Indeed," said Professor Gargoyle, "if it were not
for women there would be nothing in England that one could speak of as
swearing at all."

"I say," said I, "is not that rather rough on the ladies?"

"Not at all; they have agreed to consider certain words, for no very
good reason, bad words. It is a pure convention; it has little or
nothing to do with the actual meaning, because for every one of these
bad words there is a paraphrase or synonym considered to be quite
suitable for polite ears. Hence the feeblest creature can always produce
a sensation by breaking the taboo. But women are learning how to undo
this error of theirs now. The word 'damn,' for instance, is, I hear,
being admitted freely into the boudoir and feminine conversation; it is
even considered a rather prudish thing to object to this word. Now, men,
especially feeble men, hate doing things that women do. As a
consequence, men who go about saying 'damn' are now regarded by their
fellow-men as only a shade less effeminate than those who go about
saying 'nasty' and 'horrid.' The subtler sex will not be long in
noticing what has happened to this objectionable word. When they do they
will, of course, forthwith take up all the others. It will be a little
startling perhaps at first, but in the end there will be no swearing
left. I have no doubt there will be those who will air their petty wit
on the pioneer women, but where a martyr is wanted a woman can always be
found to offer herself. She will clothe herself in cursing, like the
ungodly, and perish in that Nessus shirt, a martyr to pure language. And
then this dull cad swearing--a mere unnecessary affectation of
coarseness--will disappear. And a very good job too.

"There is a pretty department of the subject which I might call grace
swearing. 'Od's fish,' cried the king, when he saw the man climbing
Salisbury spire; 'he shall have a patent for it--no one else shall do
it.' One might call such little things Wardour Street curses. 'Od's
bodkins' is a ladylike form, and 'Od's possles' a variety I met in the
British Museum. Every gentleman once upon a time aspired to have his own
particular grace curse, just as he liked to have his crest, and his
bookplate, and his characteristic signature. It fluttered pleasantly
into his conversation, as Mr. Whistler's butterfly comes into his
pictures--a signature and a delight. 'Od's butterfly!' I have sometimes
thought of a little book of grace-words and heraldic curses, printed
with wide margins on the best of paper. Its covers should be of soft red
leather, stamped with little gold flowers. It might be made a birthday
book, or a pocket diary--'Daily Invocations.'

"Coming back to wrathy swearing, I must confess I am sorry to see it
decay. It was such a thoroughly hygienic and moral practice. You see, if
anything annoying happens to a man, or if any powerful emotion seizes
him, his brain under the irritation begins to disengage energy at a
tremendous rate. He has to use all his available force of control in
keeping the energy in. Some of it will leak away into the nerves of his
face and distort his features, some may set his tear-glands at work,
some may travel down his vagus nerve and inhibit his heart's action so
that he faints, or upset the blood-vessels in his head and give him a
stroke. Or if he pens it up, without its reaching any of these vents, it
may rise at last to flood-level, and you will have violent assaults, the
breaking of furniture, 'murther' even. For all this energy a good
flamboyant, ranting swear is Nature's outlet. All primitive men and most
animals swear. It is an emotional shunt. Your cat swears at you because
she does not want to scratch your face. And the horse, because he cannot
swear, drops dead. So you see my reason for regretting the decay of
this excellent and most wholesome practice....

"However, I must be getting on. Just now I am travelling about London
paying cabmen their legal fares. Sometimes one picks up a new variant,
though much of it is merely stereo."

And with that, flinging a playful curse at me, he disappeared at once
into the tobacco smoke from which I had engendered him. An amusing and
cheerful person on the whole, though I will admit his theme was a little
undesirable.



DUNSTONE'S DEAR LADY


The story of Dunstone is so slight, so trivial in its cardinal
incidents, such a business of cheap feathers and bits of ribbon on the
surface, that I should hesitate to tell it, were it not for its
Inwardness, what one might call the symbolism of the thing. Frankly, I
do not clearly see what that symbolism is, but I feel it hovering in
some indefinable way whenever I recall his case. It is one of those
things that make a man extend his arm and twiddle his fingers, and say,
blinking, "Like _that_, you know." So do not imagine for one moment that
this is a shallow story, simply because it is painted, so to speak, not
in heart's blood but in table claret.

Dunstone was a strong, quiet kind of man--a man of conspicuous
mediocrity, and rising rapidly, therefore, in his profession. He was
immensely industrious, and a little given to melancholia in private
life. He smoked rather too many cigars, and took his social occasions
seriously. He dressed faultlessly, with a scrupulous elimination of
style. Unlike Mr. Grant Allen's ideal man, he was not constitutionally a
lover; indeed, he seemed not to like the ordinary girl at all--found her
either too clever or too shallow, lacking a something. I don't think
_he_ knew quite what it was. Neither do I--it is a case for extended
hand and twiddling fingers. Moreover, I don't think the ordinary girl
took to Dunstone very much.

He suffered, I fancy, from a kind of mental greyness; he was all subtle
tones; the laughter of girls jarred upon him; foolish smartness or
amiable foolishness got on his nerves; he detested, with equal
sincerity, bright dressing, artistic dabbling, piety, and the glow of
health. And when, as his confidential friend--confidential, that is, so
far as his limits allowed--I heard that he intended to marry, I was
really very much surprised.

I expected something quintessential; I was surprised to find she was a
visiting governess. Harringay, the artist, thought there was nothing in
her, but Sackbut, the art critic, was inclined to admire her bones. For
my own part, I took rather a liking to her. She was small and thin, and,
to be frank, I think it was because she hardly got enough to eat--of the
delicate food she needed. She was shabby, too, dressed in rusty
mourning--she had recently lost her mother. But she had a sweet, low
voice, a shrinking manner, rather a graceful carriage, I thought, and,
though she spoke rarely, all she said was sweet and sane. She struck me
as a refined woman in a blatant age. The general effect of her upon me
was favourable; upon Dunstone it was tremendous. He lost a considerable
proportion of his melancholia, and raved at times like a common man. He
called her in particular his "Dear Lady" and his "Sweet Lady," things
that I find eloquent of what he found in her. What that was I fancy I
understand, and yet I cannot say it quite. One has to resort to the
extended arm and fingers vibratile.

Before he married her--which he did while she was still in
half-mourning--there was anxiety about her health, and I understood she
needed air and exercise and strengthening food. But she recovered
rapidly after her marriage, her eyes grew brighter, we saw less of
Sackbut's "delicious skeleton." And then, in the strangest way, she
began to change. It is none of my imagining; I have heard the change
remarked upon by half a dozen independent observers. Yet you would think
a girl of three-and-twenty (as she certainly was) had attained her
development as a woman. I have heard her compared to a winter bud, cased
in its sombre scales, until the sun shone, and the warm, moist winds
began to blow. I noticed first that the delicate outline of her cheek
was filling, and then came the time when she reverted to colour in her
dress.

Her first essays were charitably received. Her years of struggle, her
year of mourning, had no doubt dwarfed her powers in this direction;
presently her natural good taste would reassert itself. But the next
effort and the next were harder to explain. It was not the note of
nervousness or inexperience we saw; there was an undeniable decision,
and not a token of shame. The little black winter bud grew warm-coloured
above, and burst suddenly into extravagant outlines and chromatic
confusion. Harringay, who is a cad, first put what we were all feeling
into words. "I've just seen Dunstone and his donah," he said. Clearly
she was one of those rare women who cannot dress. And that was not all.
A certain buoyancy, hitherto unsuspected, crept into her manner, as the
corpuscles multiplied in her veins--an archness. She talked more, and
threw up a spray of playfulness. And, with a growing energy, she began
to revise the exquisite æsthetic balance of Dunstone's house. She even
enamelled a chair.

For a year or so I was in the East. When I returned Mrs. Dunstone amazed
me. In some odd way she had grown, she had positively grown. She was
taller, broader, brighter--infinitely brighter. She wore a diamond
brooch in the afternoon. The "delicious skeleton" had vanished in
plumpness. She moved with emphasis. Her eye--which glittered--met mine
bravely, and she talked as one who would be heard. In the old days you
saw nothing but a rare timid glance from under the pretty lids. She
talked now of this and that, of people of "good family," and the
difficulty of getting a suitable governess for her little boy. She said
she objected to meeting people "one would not care to invite to one's
house." She swamped me with tea and ruled the conversation, so that
Dunstone and I, who were once old friends, talked civil twaddle for the
space of one hour--theatres, concerts, and assemblies chiefly--and then
parted again. The furniture had all been altered--there were two "cosy
nooks" in the room after the recipe in the _Born Lady_. It was plain to
me, it is plain to everyone, I find, that Mrs. Dunstone is, in the sun
of prosperity, rapidly developing an extremely florid vulgarity. And
afterwards I discovered that she had forgotten her music, and evidently
enjoyed her meals. Yet I for one can witness that five years ago there
was _that_ about her--I can only extend my arm with quivering digits.
But it was something very sweet and dainty, something that made her
white and thoughtful, and marked her off from the rest of womankind. I
sometimes fancy it may have been anæmia in part, but it was certainly
poverty and mourning in the main.

You may think that this is a story of disillusionment. When I first
heard the story, I thought so too. But, so far as Dunstone goes, that is
not the case. It is rare that I see him now, but the other day we smoked
two cigars apiece together. And in a moment of confidence he spoke of
her. He said how anxious he felt for her health, called her his "Dainty
Little Lady," and spoke of the coarseness of other women. I am afraid
this is not a very eventful story, and yet there is _that_----That very
convenient gesture, an arm protruded and flickering fingers, conveys my
meaning best. Perhaps you will understand.



EUPHEMIA'S NEW ENTERTAINMENT


Euphemia has great ideas of putting people at their ease, a thousand
little devices for thawing the very stiffest among them with a home-like
glow. Far be it from me to sing her praises, but I must admit that at
times she is extremely successful in this--at times almost too
successful. That tea-cake business, for instance. No doubt it's a genial
expedient to make your guests toast his own tea-cake: down he must go
upon his knees upon your hearthrug, and his poses will melt away like
the dews of the morning before the rising sun. Nevertheless, when it
comes to roasting a gallant veteran like Major Augustus, deliberately
roasting him, in spite of the facts that he has served his country nobly
through thirty irksome years of peace, and that he admires Euphemia with
a delicate fervour--roasting him, I say, alive, as if he were a
Strasburg goose, or suddenly affixing a delicate young genius to the
hither end of a toasting-fork while he is in the midst of a really very
subtle and tender conversation, the limits of social warmth seem to be
approaching dangerously near. However, this scarcely concerns Euphemia's
new entertainment.

This new entertainment is modelling in clay. Euphemia tells me it is to
be quite the common thing this winter. It is intended especially for the
evening, after a little dinner. As the reader is aware, the evening
after a little dinner is apt to pall. A certain placid contentment
creeps over people. I don't know in what organ originality resides; but
it's a curious thing, and one I must leave to the consideration of
psychologists, that people's output of original remarks appears to be
obstructed in some way after these gastronomic exercises. Then a little
dinner always confirms my theory of the absurdity of polygonal
conversation. Music and songs, too, have their drawbacks, especially gay
songs; they invariably evoke a vaporous melancholy. Card-playing
Euphemia objects to because her uncle, the dean, is prominent in
connection with some ridiculous association for the suppression of
gambling; and in what are called "games" no rational creature esteeming
himself an immortal soul would participate. In this difficulty it was
that Euphemia--decided, I fancy, by the possession of certain really
very becoming aprons--took up this business of clay-modelling.

You have a lump of greyish clay and a saucer of water and certain small
tools of wood (for which I cannot discover the slightest use in the
world) given you, and Euphemia puts on a very winning bib. Then,
moistening the clay until it acquires sufficient plasticity, and
incidentally splashing your cuffs and coat-sleeves with an agreeably
light tinted mud, you set to work. At first people are a little
disgusted at the apparent dirtiness of the employment, and also perhaps
rather diffident. The eldest lady says weakly deprecatory things, and
the feeblest male is jocular after his wont. But it is remarkable how
soon the charm of this delightful occupation seizes hold of you. For
really the sensations of moulding this plastic matter into shape are
wonderfully and quite unaccountably pleasing. It is ever so much easier
than drawing things--"anyone can do it," as the advertisement people
say--and the work is so much more substantial in its effects. Technical
questions arise. In moulding a head, do you take a lump and fine it
down, or do you dab on the features after the main knob of it is shaped?

So soon as your guests realise the plastic possibilities before them, a
great silence, a delicious absorption comes over them. Some rash person
states that he is moulding an Apollo, or a vase, or a bust of Mr.
Gladstone, or an elephant, or some such animal. The wiser ones go to
work in a speculative spirit, aiming secretly at this perhaps, but quite
willing to go on with that, if Providence so wills it. Buddhas are good
subjects; there is a certain genial rotundity not difficult to attain,
and the pyramidal build of the idol is well suited to the material. You
can start a Buddha, and hedge to make it a loaf of bread if the features
are unsatisfactory. For slender objects a skeletal substructure of bent
hairpins or matches is advisable. The innate egotism of the human animal
becomes very conspicuous. "His tail is too large," says the lady with
the fish, in self-criticism. "I haven't put his tail on yet--that's his
trunk," answers the young man with the elephant.

[Illustration]

It's a pretty sight to see the first awakening of the artistic passion
in your guests--the flush of discovery, the glow of innocent pride as
the familiar features of Mr. Gladstone emerge from the bust of Clytie.
An accidental stroke of the thumbnail develops new marvels of
expression. (By the bye, it's just as well to forbid deliberate attempts
at portraiture.) And I know no more becoming expression for everyone
than the look of intent and pleasing effort--a divine touch almost--that
comes over the common man modelling. For my own part, I feel a being
infinitely my own superior when I get my fingers upon the clay. And,
incidentally, how much pleasanter this is than writing articles--to see
the work grow altogether under your hands; to begin with the large
masses and finish with the details, as every artist should! Just to show
how easy the whole thing is, I append a little sketch of the first work
I ever did. I had had positively no previous instruction. Unfortunately
the left ear of the animal--a cat, by the bye--has fallen off. (The
figure to the left is the back view of a Buddha.)

However, I have said enough to show the charm of the new amusement. It
will prove a boon to many a troubled hostess. The material is called
modelling-clay, and one may buy it of any dealer in artists' materials,
several pounds for sixpence. This has to be renewed at intervals, as a
good deal is taken away by the more careless among your guests upon
their clothes.



FOR FREEDOM OF SPELLING

THE DISCOVERY OF AN ART


It is curious that people do not grumble more at having to spell
correctly. Yet one may ask, Do we not a little over-estimate the value
of orthography? This is a natural reflection enough when the maker of
artless happy phrases has been ransacking the dictionary for some
elusive wretch of a word which in the end proves to be not yet
naturalised, or technical, or a mere local vulgarity; yet one does not
often hear the idea canvassed in polite conversation. Dealers in small
talk, of the less prolific kind, are continually falling back upon the
silk hat or dress suit, or some rule of etiquette or other convention as
a theme, but spelling seems to escape them. The suspicion seems quaint,
but one may almost fancy that an allusion to spelling savoured a little
of indelicacy. It must be admitted, though where the scruples come from
would be hard to say, that there is a certain diffidence even here in
broaching my doubts in the matter. For some inexplicable reason spelling
has become mixed up with moral feeling. One cannot pretend to explain
things in a little paper of this kind; the fact is so. Spelling is not
appropriate or inappropriate, elegant or inelegant; it is right or
wrong. We do not greatly blame a man for turn-down collars when the
vogue is erect; nor, in these liberal days, for theological
eccentricity; but we esteem him "Nithing" and an outcast if he but drop
a "p" from opportunity. It is not an anecdote, but a scandal, if we say
a man cannot spell his own name. There is only one thing esteemed worse
before we come to the deadly crimes, and that is the softening of
language by dropping the aspirate.

After all, it is an unorthodox age. We are all horribly afraid of being
bourgeois, and unconventionality is the ideal of every respectable
person. It is strange that we should cling so steadfastly to correct
spelling. Yet again, one can partly understand the business, if one
thinks of the little ways of your schoolmaster and schoolmistress. This
sanctity of spelling is stamped upon us in our earliest years. The
writer recalls a period of youth wherein six hours a week were given to
the study of spelling, and four hours to all other religious
instruction. So important is it, that a writer who cannot spell is
almost driven to abandon his calling, however urgent the thing he may
have to say, or his need of the incidentals of fame. Yet in the crisis
of such a struggle rebellious thoughts may arise. Even this: Why, after
all, should correct spelling be the one absolutely essential literary
merit? For it is less fatal for an ambitious scribe to be as dull as
Hoxton than to spell in diverse ways.

Yet correct spelling of English has not been traced to revelation; there
was no grammatical Sinai, with a dictionary instead of tables of stone.
Indeed, we do not even know certainly when correct spelling began, which
word in the language was first spelt the right way, and by whom. Correct
spelling may have been evolved, or it may be the creation of some master
mind. Its inventor, if it had an inventor, is absolutely forgotten.
Thomas Cobbett would have invented it, but that he was born more than
two centuries too late, poor man. All that we certainly know is that,
contemporaneously with the rise of extreme Puritanism, the belief in
orthography first spread among Elizabethan printers, and with the
Hanoverian succession the new doctrine possessed the whole length and
breadth of the land. At that time the world passed through what
extension lecturers call, for no particular reason, the classical epoch.
Nature--as, indeed, all the literature manuals testify--was in the
remotest background then of human thought. The human mind, in a mood of
the severest logic, brought everything to the touchstone of an orderly
reason; the conception of "correctness" dominated all mortal affairs.
For instance, one's natural hair with its vagaries of rat's tails,
duck's tails, errant curls, and baldness, gave place to an orderly wig,
or was at least decently powdered. The hoop remedied the deficiencies of
the feminine form, and the gardener clipped his yews into
respectability. All poetry was written to one measure in those days, and
a Royal Academy with a lady member was inaugurated that art might become
at least decent. Dictionaries began. The crowning glory of Hanoverian
literature was a Great Lexicographer.

In those days it was believed that the spelling of every English word
had been settled for all time. Thence to the present day, though the
severities then inaugurated, so far as metre and artistic composition
are concerned, been generously relaxed--though we have had a Whistler, a
Walt Whitman, and a Wagner--the rigours of spelling have continued
unabated. There is just one right way of spelling, and all others are
held to be not simply inelegant or undesirable, but wrong; and
unorthodox spelling, like original morality, goes hand in hand with
shame.

Yet even at the risk of shocking the religious convictions of some, may
not one ask whether spelling is in truth a matter of right and wrong at
all? Might it not rather be an art? It is too much to advocate the
indiscriminate sacking of the alphabet, but yet it seems plausible that
there is a happy medium between a reckless debauch of errant letters and
our present dead rigidity. For some words at anyrate may there not be
sometimes one way of spelling a little happier, sometimes another? We do
something of this sort even now with our "phantasy" and "fantasie," and
we might do more. How one would spell this word or that would become, if
this latitude were conceded, a subtle anxiety of the literary exquisite.
People are scarcely prepared to realise what shades of meaning may be
got by such a simple device. Let us take a simple instance. You write,
let us say, to all your cousins, many of your friends, and even, it may
be, to this indifferent intimate and that familiar enemy, "My dear
So-and-so." But at times you feel even as you write, sometimes, that
there is something too much and sometimes something lacking. You may
even get so far in the right way occasionally as to write, "My dr.
So-and-so," when your heart is chill. And people versed in the arts of
social intercourse know the subtle insult of misspelling a person's
name, or flicking it off flippantly with a mere waggling wipe of the
pen. But these are mere beginnings.

Let the reader take a pen in hand and sit down and write, "My very dear
wife." Clean, cold, and correct this is, speaking of orderly affection,
settled and stereotyped long ago. In such letters is butcher's meat also
"very dear." Try now, "Migh verrie deare Wyfe." Is it not immediately
infinitely more soft and tender? Is there not something exquisitely
pleasant in lingering over those redundant letters, leaving each word,
as it were, with a reluctant caress? Such spelling is a soft, domestic,
lovingly wasteful use of material. Or, again, if you have no wife, or
object to an old-fashioned conjugal tenderness, try "Mye owne sweete
dearrest Marrie." There is the tremble of a tenderness no mere
arrangement of trim everyday letters can express in those double
_r's_. "Sweete" my ladie must be; sweet! why pump-water and inferior
champagne, spirits of nitrous ether and pancreatic juice are "sweet."
For my own part I always spell so, with lots of f's and g's and such
like tailey, twirley, loopey things, when my heart is in the tender
vein. And I hold that a man who will not do so, now he has been shown
how to do it, is, in plain English, neither more nor less than a prig.
The advantages of a varied spelling of names are very great.
Industrious, rather than intelligent, people have given not a little
time, and such minds as they have, to the discussion of the right
spelling of our great poet's name. But he himself never dreamt of tying
himself down to one presentation of himself, and was--we have his hand
for it--Shakespeare, Shakspear, Shakespear, Shakspeare, and so forth, as
the mood might be. It would be almost as reasonable to debate whether
Shakespeare smiled or frowned. My dear friend Simmongues is the same.
He is "Sims," a mere slash of the pen, to those he scorns, Simmonds or
Simmongs to his familiars, and Simmons, A.T. Simmons, Esq., to all
Europe.

From such mere introductory departures from precision, such petty
escapades as these, we would we might seduce the reader into an utter
debauch of spelling. But a sudden Mænad dance of the letters on the
page, gleeful and iridescent spelling, a wild rush and procession of
howling vowels and clattering consonants, might startle the half-won
reader back into orthodoxy. Besides, there is another reader--the
printer's reader--to consider. For if an author let his wit run to these
matters, he must write elaborate marginal exhortations to this
authority, begging his mercy, to let the little flowers of spelling
alone. Else the plough of that Philistine's uniformity will utterly root
them out.

Such high art of spelling as is thus hinted at is an art that has still
to gather confidence and brave the light of publicity. A few, indeed,
practise it secretly for love--in letters and on spare bits of paper.
But, for the most part, people do not know that there is so much as an
art of spelling possible; the tyranny of orthography lies so heavily on
the land. Your common editors and their printers are a mere orthodox
spelling police, and at the least they rigorously blot out all the
delightful frolics of your artist in spelling before his writings reach
the public eye. But commonly, as I have proved again and again, the
slightest lapse into rococo spelling is sufficient to secure the
rejection of a manuscript without further ado.

And to end,--a word about Phonographers. It may be that my title has led
the reader to anticipate some mention of these before. They are a kind
of religious sect, a heresy from the orthodox spelling. They bind one
another by their mysteries and a five-shilling subscription in a
"soseiti to introduis an impruvd method of spelinj." They come across
the artistic vision, they and their Soseiti, with an altogether
indefinable offence. Perhaps the essence of it is the indescribable
meanness of their motive. For this phonography really amounts to a
study of the cheapest way of spelling words. These phonographers are
sweaters of the Queen's English, living meanly on the selvage of honest
mental commerce by clipping the coin of thought. But enough of them.
They are mentioned here only to be disavowed. They would substitute one
narrow orthodoxy for another, and I would unfold the banner of freedom.
Spell, my brethren, as you will! Awake, arise, O language living in
chains; let Butter's spelling be our Bastille! So with a prophetic
vision of liberated words pouring out of the dungeons of a
spelling-book, this plea for freedom concludes. What trivial arguments
there are for a uniform spelling I must leave the reader to discover.
This is no place to carp against the liberation I foresee, with the glow
of the dawn in my eyes.



INCIDENTAL THOUGHTS ON A BALD HEAD


I was asked to go, quite suddenly, and found myself there before I had
time to think of what it might be. I understood her to say it was a
meeting of some "Sunday society," some society that tried to turn the
Sabbath from a day of woe to a day of rejoicing. "St. George's Hall,
Langham Place," a cab, and there we were. I thought they would be
picturesque Pagans. But the entertainment was the oddest it has ever
been my lot to see, a kind of mystery. The place was dark, except for a
big circle of light on a screen, and a dismal man with a long stick was
talking about the effects of alcohol on your muscles. He talked and
talked, and people went to sleep all about us. Euphemia's face looked so
very pretty in the dim light that I tried to talk to her and hold her
hand, but she only said "Ssh!" And then they began showing pictures on
the screen--the most shocking things!--stomachs, and all that kind of
thing. They went on like that for an hour, and then there was a lot of
thumping with umbrellas, and they turned the lights up and we went home.
Curious way of spending Sunday afternoon, is it not?

But you may imagine I had a dismal time all that hour. I understood the
people about me were Sceptics, the kind of people who don't believe
things--a singular class, and, I am told, a growing one. These excellent
people, it seems, have conscientious objections to going to chapel or
church, but at the same time the devotional habit of countless
generations of pious forerunners is strong in them. Consequently they
have invented things like these lectures to go to, with a professor
instead of a priest, and a lantern slide of a stomach by way of
altar-piece; and alcohol they make their Devil, and their god is
Hygiene--a curious and instructive case of mental inertia. I understand,
too, there are several other temples of this Cult in London--South Place
Chapel and Essex Hall, for instance, where they worship the Spirit of
the Innermost. But the thing that struck me so oddly was the number of
bald heads glimmering faintly in the reflected light from the lantern
circle. And that set me thinking upon a difficulty I have never been
able to surmount.

You see these people, and lots of other people, too, believe in a thing
they call Natural Selection. They think, as part of that belief, that
men are descended from hairy simian ancestors; assert that even a
hundred thousand years ago the ancestor was hairy--hairy, heavy, and
almost as much a brute as if he lived in Mr. Arthur Morrison's
Whitechapel. For my own part I think it a pretty theory, and would
certainly accept it were it not for one objection. The thing I cannot
understand is how our ancestor lost that hair. I see no reason why he
should not have kept his hair on. According to the theory of natural
selection, materially favourable variations survive, unfavourable
disappear; the only way in which the loss is to be accounted for is by
explaining it as advantageous; but where is the advantage of losing your
hair? The disadvantages appear to me to be innumerable. A thick covering
of hair, like that of a Capuchin monkey, would be an invaluable
protection against sudden changes of temperature, far better than any
clothing can be. Had I that, for instance, I should be rid of the
perpetual cold in the head that so disfigures my life; and the
multitudes who die annually of chills, bronchitis, and consumption, and
most of those who suffer from rheumatic pains, neuralgia, and so forth,
would not so die and suffer. And in the past, when clothing was less
perfect and firing a casual commodity, the disadvantages of losing hair
were all the greater. In very hot countries hair is perhaps even more
important in saving the possessor from the excessive glare of the sun.
Before the invention of the hat, thick hair on the head at least was
absolutely essential to save the owner of the skull from sunstroke.
That, perhaps, explains why the hair has been retained there, and why it
is going now that we have hats, but it certainly does not explain why it
has gone from the rest of the body.

One--remarkably weak--explanation has been propounded: an appeal to our
belief in human vanity. He picked it out by the roots, because he
thought he was prettier without. But that is no reason at all. Suppose
he did, it would not affect his children. Professor Weismann has at
least convinced scientific people of this: that the characters acquired
by a parent are rarely, if ever, transmitted to its offspring. An
individual given to such wanton denudation would simply be at a
disadvantage with his decently covered fellows, would fall behind in the
race of life, and perish with his kind. Besides, if man has been at such
pains to uncover his skin, why have quite a large number of the most
respected among us such a passionate desire to have it covered up again?

Yet that is the only attempted explanation I have ever come upon, and
the thing has often worried me. I think it is just as probably a change
in dietary. I have noticed that most of your vegetarians are
shock-headed, ample-bearded men, and I have heard the Ancestor was
vegetarian. Or it may be, I sometimes fancy, a kind of inherent
disposition on the part of your human animal to dwindle. That came back
in my memory vividly as I looked at the long rows of Sceptics, typical
Advanced people, and marked their glistening crania. I recalled other
losses. Here is Humanity, thought I, growing hairless, growing bald,
growing toothless, unemotional, irreligious, losing the end joint of the
little toe, dwindling in its osseous structures, its jawbone and brow
ridges, losing all the full, rich curvatures of its primordial beauty.

It seems almost like what the scientific people call a Law. And by
strenuous efforts the creature just keeps pace with his losses--devises
clothes, wigs, artificial teeth, paddings, shoes--what civilised being
could use his bare feet for his ordinary locomotion? Imagine him on a
furze-sprinkled golf links. Then stays, an efficient substitute for the
effete feminine backbone. So the thing goes on. Long ago his superficies
became artificial, and now the human being shrinks like a burning cigar,
and the figure he has abandoned remains distended with artificial ashes,
dead dry protections against the exposures he so unaccountably fears.
Will he go on shrinking, I wonder?--become at last a mere lurking atomy
in his own recesses, a kind of hermit crab, the bulk of him a complex
mechanism, a thing of rags and tatters and papier-maché, stolen from the
earth and the plant-world and his fellow beasts? And at last may he not
disappear altogether, none missing him, and a democracy of honest
machinery, neatly clad and loaded up with sound principles of action,
walk to and fro in a regenerate world? Thus it was my mind went dreaming
in St. George's Hall. But presently, as I say, came the last word about
stomachs, and the bald men woke up, rattled their umbrellas, said it was
vastly interesting, and went toddling off home in an ecstasy of advanced
Liberalism. And we two returned to the place whence we came.



OF A BOOK UNWRITTEN


Accomplished literature is all very well in its way, no doubt, but much
more fascinating to the contemplative man are the books that have not
been written. These latter are no trouble to hold; there are no pages to
turn over. One can read them in bed on sleepless nights without a
candle. Turning to another topic, primitive man in the works of the
descriptive anthropologist is certainly a very entertaining and quaint
person, but the man of the future, if we only had the facts, would
appeal to us more strongly. Yet where are the books? As Ruskin has said
somewhere, _à propos_ of Darwin, it is not what man has been, but what
he will be, that should interest us.

The contemplative man in his easy-chair, pondering this saying, suddenly
beholds in the fire, through the blue haze of his pipe, one of these
great unwritten volumes. It is large in size, heavy in lettering,
seemingly by one Professor Holzkopf, presumably Professor at
Weissnichtwo. "The Necessary Characters of the Man of the Remote Future
deduced from the Existing Stream of Tendency" is the title. The worthy
Professor is severely scientific in his method, and deliberate and
cautious in his deductions, the contemplative man discovers as he
pursues his theme, and yet the conclusions are, to say the least,
remarkable. We must figure the excellent Professor expanding the matter
at great length, voluminously technical, but the contemplative
man--since he has access to the only copy--is clearly at liberty to make
such extracts and abstracts as he chooses for the unscientific reader.
Here, for instance, is something of practicable lucidity that he
considers admits of quotation. "The theory of evolution," writes the
Professor, "is now universally accepted by zoologists and botanists, and
it is applied unreservedly to man. Some question, indeed, whether it
fits his soul, but all agree it accounts for his body. Man, we are
assured, is descended from ape-like ancestors, moulded by circumstances
into men, and these apes again were derived from ancestral forms of a
lower order, and so up from the primordial protoplasmic jelly. Clearly
then, man, unless the order of the universe has come to an end, will
undergo further modification in the future, and at last cease to be man,
giving rise to some other type of animated being. At once the
fascinating question arises, What will this being be? Let us consider
for a little the plastic influences at work upon our species.

"Just as the bird is the creature of the wing, and is all moulded and
modified to flying, and just as the fish is the creature that swims, and
has had to meet the inflexible conditions of a problem in hydrodynamics,
so man is the creature of the brain; he will live by intelligence, and
not by physical strength, if he live at all. So that much that is purely
'animal' about him is being, and must be, beyond all question,
suppressed in his ultimate development. Evolution is no mechanical
tendency making for perfection, according to the ideas current in the
year of grace 1897; it is simply the continual adaptation of plastic
life, for good or evil, to the circumstances that surround it.... We
notice this decay of the animal part around us now, in the loss of teeth
and hair, in the dwindling hands and feet of men, in their smaller jaws,
and slighter mouths and ears. Man now does by wit and machinery and
verbal agreement what he once did by bodily toil; for once he had to
catch his dinner, capture his wife, run away from his enemies, and
continually exercise himself, for love of himself, to perform these
duties well. But now all this is changed. Cabs, trains, trams, render
speed unnecessary, the pursuit of food becomes easier; his wife is no
longer hunted, but rather, in view of the crowded matrimonial market,
seeks him out. One needs wits now to live, and physical activity is a
drug, a snare even; it seeks artificial outlets, and overflows in
games. Athleticism takes up time and cripples a man in his competitive
examinations, and in business. So is your fleshly man handicapped
against his subtler brother. He is unsuccessful in life, does not marry.
The better adapted survive."

The coming man, then, will clearly have a larger brain, and a slighter
body than the present. But the Professor makes one exception to this.
"The human hand, since it is the teacher and interpreter of the brain,
will become constantly more powerful and subtle as the rest of the
musculature dwindles."

Then in the physiology of these children of men, with their expanding
brains, their great sensitive hands and diminishing bodies, great
changes were necessarily worked. "We see now," says the Professor, "in
the more intellectual sections of humanity an increasing sensitiveness
to stimulants, a growing inability to grapple with such a matter as
alcohol, for instance. No longer can men drink a bottleful of port; some
cannot drink tea; it is too exciting for their highly-wrought nervous
systems. The process will go on, and the Sir Wilfrid Lawson of some near
generation may find it his duty and pleasure to make the silvery spray
of his wisdom tintinnabulate against the tea-tray. These facts lead
naturally to the comprehension of others. Fresh raw meat was once a dish
for a king. Now refined persons scarcely touch meat unless it is
cunningly disguised. Again, consider the case of turnips; the raw root
is now a thing almost uneatable, but once upon a time a turnip must have
been a rare and fortunate find, to be torn up with delirious eagerness
and devoured in ecstasy. The time will come when the change will affect
all the other fruits of the earth. Even now, only the young of mankind
eat apples raw--the young always preserving ancestral characteristics
after their disappearance in the adult. Some day even boys will regard
apples without emotion. The boy of the future, one must believe, will
gaze on an apple with the same unspeculative languor with which he now
regards a flint"--in the absence of a cat.

"Furthermore, fresh chemical discoveries came into action as modifying
influences upon men. In the prehistoric period even, man's mouth had
ceased to be an instrument for grasping food; it is still growing
continually less prehensile, his front teeth are smaller, his lips
thinner and less muscular; he has a new organ, a mandible not of
irreparable tissue, but of bone and steel--a knife and fork. There is no
reason why things should stop at partial artificial division thus
afforded; there is every reason, on the contrary, to believe my
statement that some cunning exterior mechanism will presently masticate
and insalivate his dinner, relieve his diminishing salivary glands and
teeth, and at last altogether abolish them."

Then what is not needed disappears. What use is there for external ears,
nose, and brow ridges now? The two latter once protected the eye from
injury in conflict and in falls, but in these days we keep on our legs,
and at peace. Directing his thoughts in this way, the reader may
presently conjure up a dim, strange vision of the latter-day face: "Eyes
large, lustrous, beautiful, soulful; above them, no longer separated by
rugged brow ridges, is the top of the head, a glistening, hairless dome,
terete and beautiful; no craggy nose rises to disturb by its unmeaning
shadows the symmetry of that calm face, no vestigial ears project; the
mouth is a small, perfectly round aperture, toothless and gumless,
jawless, unanimal, no futile emotions disturbing its roundness as it
lies, like the harvest moon or the evening star, in the wide firmament
of face." Such is the face the Professor beholds in the future.

Of course parallel modifications will also affect the body and limbs.
"Every day so many hours and so much energy are required for digestion;
a gross torpidity, a carnal lethargy, seizes on mortal men after dinner.
This may and can be avoided. Man's knowledge of organic chemistry widens
daily. Already he can supplement the gastric glands by artificial
devices. Every doctor who administers physic implies that the bodily
functions may be artificially superseded. We have pepsine, pancreatine,
artificial gastric acid--I know not what like mixtures. Why, then,
should not the stomach be ultimately superannuated altogether? A man
who could not only leave his dinner to be cooked, but also leave it to
be masticated and digested, would have vast social advantages over his
food-digesting fellow. This is, let me remind you here, the calmest,
most passionless, and scientific working out of the future forms of
things from the data of the present. At this stage the following facts
may perhaps stimulate your imagination. There can be no doubt that many
of the Arthropods, a division of animals more ancient and even now more
prevalent than the Vertebrata, have undergone more phylogenetic
modification"--a beautiful phrase--"than even the most modified of
vertebrated animals. Simple forms like the lobsters display a primitive
structure parallel with that of the fishes. However, in such a form as
the degraded 'Chondracanthus,' the structure has diverged far more
widely from its original type than in man. Among some of these most
highly modified crustaceans the whole of the alimentary canal--that is,
all the food-digesting and food-absorbing parts--form a useless solid
cord: the animal is nourished--it is a parasite--by absorption of the
nutritive fluid in which it swims. Is there any absolute impossibility
in supposing man to be destined for a similar change; to imagine him no
longer dining, with unwieldy paraphernalia of servants and plates, upon
food queerly dyed and distorted, but nourishing himself in elegant
simplicity by immersion in a tub of nutritive fluid?

"There grows upon the impatient imagination a building, a dome of
crystal, across the translucent surface of which flushes of the most
glorious and pure prismatic colours pass and fade and change. In the
centre of this transparent chameleon-tinted dome is a circular white
marble basin filled with some clear, mobile, amber liquid, and in this
plunge and float strange beings. Are they birds?

"They are the descendants of man--at dinner. Watch them as they hop on
their hands--a method of progression advocated already by
Bjornsen--about the pure white marble floor. Great hands they have,
enormous brains, soft, liquid, soulful eyes. Their whole muscular
system, their legs, their abdomens, are shrivelled to nothing, a
dangling, degraded pendant to their minds."

The further visions of the Professor are less alluring.

"The animals and plants die away before men, except such as he preserves
for his food or delight, or such as maintain a precarious footing about
him as commensals and parasites. These vermin and pests must succumb
sooner or later to his untiring inventiveness and incessantly growing
discipline. When he learns (the chemists are doubtless getting towards
the secret now) to do the work of chlorophyll without the plant, then
his necessity for other animals and plants upon the earth will
disappear. Sooner or later, where there is no power of resistance and no
necessity, there comes extinction. In the last days man will be alone on
the earth, and his food will be won by the chemist from the dead rocks
and the sunlight.

"And--one may learn the full reason in that explicit and painfully right
book, the _Data of Ethics_--the irrational fellowship of man will give
place to an intellectual co-operation, and emotion fall within the
scheme of reason. Undoubtedly it is a long time yet, but a long time is
nothing in the face of eternity, and every man who dares think of these
things must look eternity in the face."

Then the earth is ever radiating away heat into space, the Professor
reminds us. And so at last comes a vision of earthly cherubim, hopping
heads, great unemotional intelligences, and little hearts, fighting
together perforce and fiercely against the cold that grips them tighter
and tighter. For the world is cooling--slowly and inevitably it grows
colder as the years roll by. "We must imagine these creatures," says the
Professor, "in galleries and laboratories deep down in the bowels of the
earth. The whole world will be snow-covered and piled with ice; all
animals, all vegetation vanished, except this last branch of the tree of
life. The last men have gone even deeper, following the diminishing heat
of the planet, and vast metallic shafts and ventilators make way for the
air they need."

So with a glimpse of these human tadpoles, in their deep close gallery,
with their boring machinery ringing away, and artificial lights glaring
and casting black shadows, the Professor's horoscope concludes. Humanity
in dismal retreat before the cold, changed beyond recognition. Yet the
Professor is reasonable enough, his facts are current science, his
methods orderly. The contemplative man shivers at the prospect, starts
up to poke the fire, and the whole of this remarkable book that is not
written vanishes straightway in the smoke of his pipe. This is the great
advantage of this unwritten literature: there is no bother in changing
the books. The contemplative man consoles himself for the destiny of the
species with the lost portion of Kubla Khan.



THE EXTINCTION OF MAN


It is part of the excessive egotism of the human animal that the bare
idea of its extinction seems incredible to it. "A world without _us_!"
it says, as a heady young Cephalaspis might have said it in the old
Silurian sea. But since the Cephalaspis and the Coccostëus many a fine
animal has increased and multiplied upon the earth, lorded it over land
or sea without a rival, and passed at last into the night. Surely it is
not so unreasonable to ask why man should be an exception to the rule.
From the scientific standpoint at least any reason for such exception is
hard to find.

No doubt man is undisputed master at the present time--at least of most
of the land surface; but so it has been before with other animals. Let
us consider what light geology has to throw upon this. The great land
and sea reptiles of the Mesozoic period, for instance, seem to have been
as secure as humanity is now in their pre-eminence. But they passed away
and left no descendants when the new orders of the mammals emerged from
their obscurity. So, too, the huge Titanotheria of the American
continent, and all the powerful mammals of Pleistocene South America,
the sabre-toothed lion, for instance, and the Machrauchenia suddenly
came to a finish when they were still almost at the zenith of their
rule. _And in no case does the record of the fossils show a really
dominant species succeeded by its own descendants._ What has usually
happened in the past appears to be the emergence of some type of animal
hitherto rare and unimportant, and the extinction, not simply of the
previously ruling species, but of most of the forms that are at all
closely related to it. Sometimes, indeed, as in the case of the extinct
giants of South America, they vanished without any considerable rivals,
victims of pestilence, famine, or, it may be, of that cumulative
inefficiency that comes of a too undisputed life. So that the analogy of
geology, at anyrate, is against this too acceptable view of man's
certain tenure of the earth for the next few million years or so.

And, after all, even now man is by no means such a master of the
kingdoms of life as he is apt to imagine. The sea, that mysterious
nursery of living things, is for all practical purposes beyond his
control. The low-water mark is his limit. Beyond that he may do a little
with seine and dredge, murder a few million herrings a year as they come
in to spawn, butcher his fellow air-breather, the whale, or haul now and
then an unlucky king-crab or strange sea-urchin out of the deep water,
in the name of science; but the life of the sea as a whole knows him
not, plays out its slow drama of change and development unheeding him,
and may in the end, in mere idle sport, throw up some new terrestrial
denizens, some new competitor for space to live in and food to live
upon, that will sweep him and all his little contrivances out of
existence, as certainly and inevitably as he has swept away auk, bison,
and dodo during the last two hundred years.

For instance, there are the Crustacea. As a group the crabs and lobsters
are confined below the high-water mark. But experiments in air-breathing
are no doubt in progress in this group--we already have tropical
land-crabs--and as far as we know there is no reason why in the future
these creatures should not increase in size and terrestrial capacity. In
the past we have the evidence of the fossil _Paradoxides_ that creatures
of this kind may at least attain a length of six feet, and, considering
their intense pugnacity, a crab of such dimensions would be as
formidable a creature as one could well imagine. And their amphibious
capacity would give them an advantage against us such as at present is
only to be found in the case of the alligator or crocodile. If we
imagine a shark that could raid out upon the land, or a tiger that could
take refuge in the sea, we should have a fair suggestion of what a
terrible monster a large predatory crab might prove. And so far as
zoological science goes we must, at least, admit that such a creature is
an evolutionary possibility.

Then, again, the order of the Cephalopods, to which belong the
cuttle-fish and the octopus (sacred to Victor Hugo), may be, for all we
can say to the contrary, an order with a future. Their kindred, the
Gastropods, have, in the case of the snail and slug, learnt the trick of
air-breathing. And not improbably there are even now genera of this
order that have escaped the naturalist, or even well-known genera whose
possibilities in growth and dietary are still unknown. Suppose some day
a specimen of a new species is caught off the coast of Kent. It excites
remark at a Royal Society soirée, engenders a Science Note or so, "A
Huge Octopus!" and in the next year or so three or four other specimens
come to hand, and the thing becomes familiar. "Probably a new and larger
variety of _Octopus_ so-and-so, hitherto supposed to be tropical," says
Professor Gargoyle, and thinks he has disposed of it. Then conceive some
mysterious boating accidents and deaths while bathing. A large animal of
this kind coming into a region of frequent wrecks might so easily
acquire a preferential taste for human nutriment, just as the Colorado
beetle acquired a new taste for the common potato and gave up its old
food-plants some years ago. Then perhaps a school or pack or flock of
_Octopus gigas_ would be found busy picking the sailors off a stranded
ship, and then in the course of a few score years it might begin to
stroll up the beaches and batten on excursionists. Soon it would be a
common feature of the watering-places--possibly at last commoner than
excursionists. Suppose such a creature were to appear--and it is, we
repeat, a possibility, if perhaps a remote one--how could it be fought
against? Something might be done by torpedoes; but, so far as our past
knowledge goes, man has no means of seriously diminishing the numbers of
any animal of the most rudimentary intelligence that made its fastness
in the sea.

Even on land it is possible to find creatures that with a little
modification might become excessively dangerous to the human ascendency.
Most people have read of the migratory ants of Central Africa, against
which no man can stand. On the march they simply clear out whole
villages, drive men and animals before them in headlong rout, and kill
and eat every living creature they can capture. One wonders why they
have not already spread the area of their devastations. But at present
no doubt they have their natural checks, of ant-eating birds, or what
not. In the near future it may be that the European immigrant, as he
sets the balance of life swinging in his vigorous manner, may kill off
these ant-eating animals, or otherwise unwittingly remove the checks
that now keep these terrible little pests within limits. And once they
begin to spread in real earnest, it is hard to see how their advance
could be stopped. A world devoured by ants seems incredible now, simply
because it is not within our experience; but a naturalist would have a
dull imagination who could not see in the numerous species of ants, and
in their already high intelligence, far more possibility of strange
developments than we have in the solitary human animal. And no doubt the
idea of the small and feeble organism of man, triumphant and
omnipresent, would have seemed equally incredible to an intelligent
mammoth or a palæolithic cave bear.

And, finally, there is always the prospect of a new disease. As yet
science has scarcely touched more than the fringe of the probabilities
associated with the minute fungi that constitute our zymotic diseases.
But the bacilli have no more settled down into their final quiescence
than have men; like ourselves, they are adapting themselves to new
conditions and acquiring new powers. The plagues of the Middle Ages, for
instance, seem to have been begotten of a strange bacillus engendered
under conditions that sanitary science, in spite of its panacea of
drainage, still admits are imperfectly understood, and for all we know
even now we may be quite unwittingly evolving some new and more terrible
plague--a plague that will not take ten or twenty or thirty per cent.,
as plagues have done in the past, but the entire hundred.

No; man's complacent assumption of the future is too confident. We
think, because things have been easy for mankind as a whole for a
generation or so, we are going on to perfect comfort and security in the
future. We think that we shall always go to work at ten and leave off at
four, and have dinner at seven for ever and ever. But these four
suggestions, out of a host of others, must surely do a little against
this complacency. Even now, for all we can tell, the coming terror may
be crouching for its spring and the fall of humanity be at hand. In the
case of every other predominant animal the world has ever seen, I
repeat, the hour of its complete ascendency has been the eve of its
entire overthrow. But if some poor story-writing man ventures to figure
this sober probability in a tale, not a reviewer in London but will tell
him his theme is the utterly impossible. And, when the thing happens,
one may doubt if even then one will get the recognition one deserves.



THE WRITING OF ESSAYS


The art of the essayist is so simple, so entirely free from canons of
criticism, and withal so delightful, that one must needs wonder why all
men are not essayists. Perhaps people do not know how easy it is. Or
perhaps beginners are misled. Rightly taught it may be learnt in a brief
ten minutes or so, what art there is in it. And all the rest is as easy
as wandering among woodlands on a bright morning in the spring.

Then sit you down if you would join us, taking paper, pens, and ink; and
mark this, your pen is a matter of vital moment. For every pen writes
its own sort of essay, and pencils also after their kind. The ink
perhaps may have its influence too, and the paper; but paramount is the
pen. This, indeed, is the fundamental secret of essay-writing. Wed any
man to his proper pen, and the delights of composition and the birth of
an essay are assured. Only many of us wander through the earth and never
meet with her--futile and lonely men.

And, of all pens, your quill for essays that are literature. There is a
subtle informality, a delightful easiness, perhaps even a faint
immorality essentially literary, about the quill. The quill is rich in
suggestion and quotation. There are quills that would quote you
Montaigne and Horace in the hands of a trades-union delegate. And those
quirky, idle noises this pen makes are delightful, and would break your
easy fluency with wit. All the classical essayists wrote with a quill,
and Addison used the most expensive kind the Government purchased. And
the beginning of the inferior essay was the dawn of the cheap steel
pen.

The quill nibs they sell to fit into ordinary pen-holders are no true
quills at all, lacking dignity, and may even lead you into the New
Humour if you trust overmuch to their use. After a proper quill commend
me to a stumpy BB pencil; you get less polish and broader effects, but
you are still doing good literature. Sometimes the work is close--Mr.
George Meredith, for instance, is suspected of a soft pencil--and always
it is blunter than quill work and more terse. With a hard pencil no man
can write anything but a graceless style--a kind of east wind air it
gives--and smile you cannot. So that it is often used for serious
articles in the half-crown reviews.

There follows the host of steel pens. That bald, clear, scientific
style, all set about with words like "evolution" and "environment,"
which aims at expressing its meaning with precision and an exemplary
economy of words, is done with fine steel nibs--twelve a penny at any
stationer's. The J pen to the lady novelist, and the stylograph to the
devil--your essayist must not touch the things. So much for the pen. If
you cannot write essays easily, that is where the hitch comes in. Get a
box of a different kind of pen and begin again, and so on again and
again until despair or joy arrests you.

As for a typewriter, you could no more get an essay out of a typewriter
than you could play a sonata upon its keys. No essay was ever written
with a typewriter yet, nor ever will be. Besides its impossibility, the
suggestion implies a brutal disregard of the division of labour by which
we live and move and have our being. If the essayist typewrite, the
unemployed typewriter, who is commonly a person of superior education
and capacity, might take to essays, and where is your living then? One
might as reasonably start at once with the Linotype and print one's wit
and humour straight away. And taking the invasion of other trades one
step further one might, after an attempt to sell one's own newspaper,
even get to the pitch of having to read it oneself. No; even essayists
must be reasonable. If its mechanical clitter-clatter did not render
composition impossible, the typewriter would still be beneath the honour
of a literary man.

Then for the paper. The luxurious, expensive, small-sized cream-laid
note is best, since it makes your essay choice and compact; and, failing
that, ripped envelopes and the backs of bills. Some men love ruled
paper, because they can write athwart the lines, and some take the
fly-leaves of their friends' books. But whosoever writes on cheap sermon
paper full of hairs should write far away from the woman he loves, lest
he offend her ears. It is good, however, for a terse, forcible style.

The ink should be glossy black as it leaves your pen, for polished
English. Violet inks lead to sham sentiment, and blue-black to
vulgarity. Red ink essays are often good, but usually unfit for
publication.

This is as much almost as anyone need know to begin essay writing. Given
your proper pen and ink, or pencil and paper, you simply sit down and
write the thing. The value of an essay is not its matter, but its mood.
You must be comfortable, of course; an easy-chair with arm-rests,
slippers, and a book to write upon are usually employed, and you must be
fed recently, and your body clothed with ease rather than grandeur. For
the rest, do not trouble to stick to your subject, or any subject; and
take no thought for the editor or the reader, for your essay should be
as spontaneous as the lilies of the field.

So long as you do not begin with a definition you may begin anyhow. An
abrupt beginning is much admired, after the fashion of the clown's entry
through the chemist's window. Then whack at your reader at once, hit him
over the head with the sausages, brisk him up with the poker, bundle him
into the wheelbarrow, and so carry him away with you before he knows
where you are. You can do what you like with a reader then, if you only
keep him nicely on the move. So long as you are happy your reader will
be so too. But one law must be observed: an essay, like a dog that
wishes to please, must have a lively tail, short but as waggish as
possible. Like a rocket, an essay goes only with fizzle and sparks at
the end of it. And, know, that to stop writing is the secret of writing
an essay; the essay that the public loves dies young.



THE PARKES MUSEUM

THE PLACE TO SPEND A HAPPY DAY


By way of jest, my morning daily paper constantly includes in its menu
of "To-day" the Parkes Museum, Margaret Street, adding, seductively,
"free"; and no doubt many a festive Jonas Chuzzlewit has preened himself
for a sight-seeing, and all unaware of the multitudes of Margaret
Streets--surely only Charlottes of that ilk are more abundant--has
started forth, he and his feminine, to find this Parkes Museum. One may
even conceive a rare Bank Holiday thoughtfully put aside for the quest,
and spent all vainly in the asking of policemen, and in traversing this
vast and tiresome metropolis, from Margaret Street to Margaret Street,
the freshness of the morning passing into the dry heat of the day,
fatigue spreading from the feet upwards, discussion, difference, denial,
"words," and a day of recreation dying at last into a sunset of lurid
sulks. Such possibility was too painful to think of, and a philanthropic
inquirer has at last by persistent investigation won the secret of the
Missing Museum and opened the way to it for all future investigators.

The Margaret Street in question is an apparently derelict thoroughfare,
opening into Great Portland Street. Immemorial dust is upon its
pavements, and a profound silence broods over its vacant roadway. The
blinds of its houses are mostly down, and, where the blackness of some
window suggests a dark interior, no face appears to reassure us in our
doubt of humanity within. It may be that somewhen in the past the entire
population of this street set out on a boating party up the river, and
was overset by steam launches, and so never returned, or perchance it
has all been locked up for a long term of imprisonment--though the
houses seem almost too respectable for that; or the glamour of the
Sleeping Beauty is upon it all. Certainly we saw the figure of a porter
in an attitude of repose in the little glass lodge in the museum
doorway. He _may_ have been asleep. But we feared to touch him--and
indeed slipped very stealthily by him--lest he should suddenly crumble
into dust.

And so to the Museum and its wonders. This Parkes Museum is a kind of
armoury of hygiene, a place full of apparatus for being healthy--in
brief, a museum of sanitary science. To that large and growing class of
people who take no thought of anything but what they eat and what they
drink, and wherewithal they should be clothed, it should prove intensely
interesting. Apart from the difficulty of approach we cannot understand
how it is so neglected by an intelligent public. You can see germicides
and a model convict prison, Pentonville cells in miniature, statistical
diagrams and drain pipes--if only there was a little more about
heredity, it would be exactly the kind of thing that is popular in
literature now, as literature goes. And yet excepting ourselves and the
sleeping porter--if he was sleeping--and the indistinct and motionless
outline, visible through a glass door, of a human body sitting over a
book, there was not a suggestion or memory of living humanity about the
place.

The exhibits of food are especially remarkable. We cleaned the glass
case with our sleeves and peered at the most appetising revelations.
There are dozens of little bottles hermetically sealed, containing such
curios as a sample of "Bacon Common (Gammon) Uncooked," and then the
same cooked--it looked no nicer cooked--Irish sausage, pork sausage,
black pudding, Welsh mutton, and all kinds of rare and exquisite
feeding. There are ever so many cases of this kind of thing. We saw, for
instance, further along, several good specimens of the common oyster
shell (_Ostrea edulis_), cockle shells, and whelks, both "almonds" and
"whites," and then came breadstuffs. The breadstuffs are particularly
impressive, of a grey, scientific aspect, a hard, hoary antiquity. We
always knew that stale bread was good for one, but yet the Parkes Museum
startled us with the antique pattern it recommended. There was a muffin,
too, identified and labelled, but without any Latin name, a captured
crumpet, a collection of buns, a dinner-roll, and a something novel to
us, called Pumpernickel, that we had rather be without, or rather--for
the expression is ambiguous--that we had rather not be without, but
altogether remote from. And all these things have been tested by an
analyst, with the most painful results. Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and
the like nasty chemical things seem indeed to have occurred in
everything he touched. Those sturdy mendicants who go about complaining
that they cannot get food should visit this Parkes Museum and see what
food is really like, and learn contentment with their lot.

There were no real vegetables, but only the ideals of a firm of
seedsmen, made of wax and splendidly coloured, with something of the
boldness and vigour of Michael Angelo about the modelling of them. And
among other food stuffs were sweetmeats and yellow capers, liver flukes,
British wines, and snuff. At last we felt replete with food stuffs, and
went on to see the models to illustrate ventilation, and the exhibits of
hygienic glazed tiles arranged around a desert lecture-theatre. Hygienic
tiles stimulate the eye vigorously rather than relax it by any æsthetic
weakness; and the crematory appliances are so attractive as they are,
and must have such an added charm of neatness and brightness when
alight, that one longs to lose a relative or so forthwith, for the mere
pleasure of seeing them in operation.

A winding staircase designed upon hygienic principles, to bump your head
at intervals, takes one to a little iron gallery full of the most
charming and varied display of cooking-stoves and oil-lamps. Here, also,
there are flaunted the resources of civilisation for the Prevention of
Accidents, which resources are four, namely, a patent fire-escape, a
patent carriage pole, a coal plate, and a dog muzzle. But the labels,
though verbose, are scarcely full enough. They do not tell you, for
instance, if you wish to prevent cramp while bathing, whether the dog
muzzle or the coal plate should be employed, nor do they show how the
fire-escape will prevent the explosion of a paraffin lamp. However, this
is a detail. We feel assured that no intelligent person will regret a
visit to this most interesting and instructive exhibition. It offers you
valuable hints how to live, and suggests the best and tidiest way in
which you can, when dead, dispose of your body. We feel assured that the
public only needs this intimation of its whereabouts to startle the
death-like slumbers of Margaret Street with an unaccustomed tumult. And
the first to arrive will, no doubt, find legibly and elegantly written
in the dust that covers the collection the record of its discovery by
Euphemia and me.



BLEAK MARCH IN EPPING FOREST


All along the selvage of Epping Forest there was excitement. Before the
swallows, before the violets, long before the cuckoo, with only untimely
honeysuckle bushes showing a trace of green, two trippers had been seen
traversing the district, making their way towards High Beech, and
settling awhile near the Forest Hotel. Whether they were belated
survivals from last season or exceptionally early hatchings of the
coming year, was a question of considerable moment to the natives, and
has since engaged the attention of the local Natural History Society.
But we know that, as a matter of fact, they were of little omen, being
indeed but insignificant people from Hampstead and not true trippers at
all, who were curious to see this forest in raw winter.

For some have argued that there is no Epping Forest at all in the
winter-time; that it is, in fact, taken up and put away, and that
agriculture is pursued there. Others assert that the Forest is shrouded
with wrappers, even as a literary man's study is shrouded by dusty women
when they clean him out. Others, again, have supposed that it is a
delightful place in winter, far more delightful than in summer, but that
this is not published, because no writing man hath ever been there in
the cold season. And much more of unreal speculation, but nothing which
bore upon it the stamp of truth. So these two--and I am one of the
two--went down to Epping Forest to see that it was still there, and how
it fared in the dismal weather.

The sky was a greasy grey that guttered down to the horizon, and the
wind smote damp and chill. There was a white fringe of ice in the
cart-wheel ruts, but withal the frost was not so crisp as to prevent a
thin and slippery glaze of softened clay upon the road. The decaying
triumphal arch outside the station sadly lacked a coat of paint, and was
indistinctly regretful of remote royal visits and processions gone for
ever. Then we passed shuddering by many vacant booths that had once
resounded with the revelry of ninepenny teas and the gingerbeer cork's
staccato, and their forms were piled together and their trestles
overturned. And the wind ravened, and no human beings were to be seen.
So up the hill to the left, and along the road leading by devious
windings between the black hedges and through clay wallows to the hilly
part round High Beech.

But upon the shoulder of a hill we turned to a gate to scrape off the
mud that made our boots unwieldy. At that moment came a threadbare place
in the cloudy curtain that was sweeping across the sun, and our shadows
showed themselves for an instant to comfort us. The amber patch of
sunlight presently slipped from us and travelled down the meadows
towards the distant blue of the hills by Waltham Abbey, touching with
miraculous healing a landscape erst dead and shrouded in grey. This
transitory gleam of light gladdened us mightily at the time, but it made
the after-sky seem all the darker.

So through the steep and tortuous village to High Beech, and then
leaving the road we wandered in among big trees and down slopes ankle
deep with rustling leaves towards Chingford again. Here was pleasanter
walking than the thawing clay, but now and then one felt the threat of
an infinite oozy softness beneath the stiff frozen leaves. Once again
while we were here the drifting haze of the sky became thinner, and the
smooth green-grey beech stems and rugged oak trunks were brightly
illuminated. But only for a moment, and thereafter the sky became not
simply unsympathetic but ominous. And the misery of the wind grew apace.

Presently we wandered into that sinister corner of the Forest where the
beech trees have grown so closely together that they have had perforce
to lift their branches vertically. Divested of leaves, the bare grey
limbs of these seem strangely restless. These trees, reaching so
eagerly upward, have an odd resemblance to the weird figures of horror
in which William Blake delighted--arms, hands, hair, all stretch
intensely to the zenith. They seem to be straining away from the spot to
which they are rooted. It is a Laocoon grouping, a wordless concentrated
struggle for the sunlight, and disagreeably impressive. The trippers
longed to talk and were tongue-tied; they looked now and then over their
shoulders. They were glad when the eerie influence was passed, though
they traversed a morass to get away from it.

Then across an open place, dismal with the dun hulls of lost cows and
the clatter of their bells, over a brook full of dead leaves and edged
with rusty clay, through a briery thicket that would fain have detained
us, and so to a pathway of succulent green, that oozed black under our
feet. Here some poor lost wayfarer has blazed his way with rustic seats,
now rheumatic and fungus-eaten. And here, too, the wind, which had
sought us howling, found us at last, and stung us sharply with a shower
of congealing raindrops. This grew to a steady downfall as the open
towards Chingford station was approached at last, after devious winding
in the Forest. Then, coming upon the edge of the wood and seeing the
lone station against the grey sky, we broke into a shout and began
running. But it is dismal running on imperfectly frozen clay, in rain
and a gusty wind. We slipped and floundered, and one of us wept sore
that she should never see her home again. And worse, the only train
sleeping in the station was awakened by our cries, and, with an eldritch
shriek at the unseasonable presence of trippers, fled incontinently
Londonward.

Smeared with clay and dead leaves almost beyond human likeness, we
staggered into the derelict station, and found from an outcast porter
that perhaps another train might after the lapse of two hours accumulate
sufficiently to take us back to Gospel Oak and a warm world again. So we
speered if there were amusements to be got in this place, and he told us
"some very nice walks." To refrain from homicide we left the station,
and sought a vast red hotel that loomed through the drift on a steep
hill, and in the side of this a door that had not been locked. Happily
one had been forgotten, and, entering at last, we roused a hibernating
waiter, and he exhumed us some of his winter victual. In this way we
were presently to some degree comforted, and could play chess until a
train had been sent for our relief. And this did at last happen, and
towards the hour of dinner we rejoined our anxious friends, and all the
evening time we boasted of a pleasant day and urged them to go even as
we had gone.



THE THEORY OF QUOTATION


The nobler method of quotation is not to quote at all. For why should
one repeat good things that are already written? Are not the words in
their fittest context in the original? Clearly, then, your new setting
cannot be quite so congruous, which is, forthwith, an admission of
incongruity. Your quotation is evidently a plug in a leak, an apology
for a gap in your own words. But your vulgar author will even go out of
his way to make the clothing of his thoughts thus heterogeneous. He
counts every stolen scrap he can work in an improvement--a literary
caddis worm. Yet would he consider it improvement to put a piece of even
the richest of old tapestry or gold embroidery into his new pair of
breeks?

The passion for quotation is peculiar to literature. We do not glory to
quote our costume, dress in cast-off court robes, or furnish our houses
from the marine store. Neither are we proud of alien initials on the
domestic silver. We like things new and primarily our own. We have a
wholesome instinct against infection, except, it seems, in the matter of
ideas. An authorling will deliberately inoculate his copy with the
inverted comma bacillus, till the page swims unsteadily, counting the
fever a glow of pure literary healthiness. Yet this reproduction,
rightly considered, is merely a proof that his appetite for books has
run beyond his digestion. Or his industry may be to seek. You expect an
omelette, and presently up come the unbroken eggs. A tissue of quotation
wisely looked at is indeed but a motley garment, eloquent either of a
fool, or an idle knave in a fool's disguise.

Nevertheless at times--the truth must be told--we must quote. As for
admitting that we have quoted, that is another matter altogether. But
the other man's phrase will lie at times so close in one's mind to the
trend of one's thoughts, that, all virtue notwithstanding, they must
needs run into the groove of it. There are phrases that lie about in the
literary mind like orange peel on a pavement. You are down on them
before you know where you are. But does this necessitate acknowledgment
to the man, now in Hades, who sucked that orange and strewed the peel in
your way? Rather, is it not more becoming to be angry at his careless
anticipation?

One may reasonably look at it in this way. What business has a man to
think of things right in front of you, poke his head, as it were, into
your light? What right has he to set up dams and tunnel out
swallow-holes to deflect the current of your thoughts? Surely you may
remove these obstructions, if it suits you, and put them where you will.
Else all literature will presently be choked up, and the making of books
come to an end. One might as well walk ten miles out of one's way
because some deaf oaf or other chose to sit upon a necessary stile.
Surely Shakespeare or Lamb, or what other source you contemplate, has
had the thing long enough? Out of the road with them. Turn and turn
about.

And inverted commas are so inhospitable. If you _must_ take in another
man's offspring, you should surely try to make the poor foundlings feel
at home. Away with such uncharitable distinctions between the children
of the house and the stranger within your gates. I never see inverted
commas but I think of the necessary persecuted mediæval Jew in yellow
gabardine.

At least, never put the name of the author you quote. Think of the
feelings of the dead. Don't let the poor spirit take it to heart that
its monumental sayings would pass unrecognised without your
advertisement. You mean well, perhaps, but it is in the poorest taste.
Yet I have seen Patience on a Monument honourably awarded to William
Shakespeare, and fenced in by commas from all intercourse with the
general text.

There is something so extremely dishonest, too, in acknowledging
quotations. Possibly the good people who so contrive that such
signatures as "Shakespeare," "Homer," or "St. Paul," appear to be
written here and there to parts of their inferior work, manage to
justify the proceeding in their conscience; but it is uncommonly like
hallmarking pewter on the strength of an infinitesimal tinge of silver
therein. The point becomes at once clear if we imagine some obscure
painter quoting the style of Raphael and fragments of his designs, and
acknowledging his indebtedness by appending the master's signature.
Blank forgery! And a flood of light was thrown on the matter by a chance
remark of one of Euphemia's aunts--she is a great reader of pure
fiction--anent a popular novel: "I am sure it must be a nice book," said
she, "or she could not get all these people to write the mottoes for the
chapters."

No, it is all very well to play with one's conscience. I have known men
so sophisticated as to assert that unacknowledged quotation was wrong.
But very few really reasonable people will, I think, refuse to agree
with me that the only artistic, the only kindly, and the only honest
method of quotation is plagiary. If you cannot plagiarise, surely it
were better not to quote.



ON THE ART OF STAYING AT THE SEASIDE

A MEDITATION AT EASTBOURNE


To stay at the seaside properly, one should not think. But even in
staying at the seaside there are intervals, waking moments when meals
come, even if there are no appointed meal-times. Moreover, now and then,
one must go to buy tobacco, a matter one can trust to no hireling, lest
he get it dry. It cannot be always seaside, even as it cannot be always
May, and through the gaps thought creeps in. Going over the cliff and
along the parade, and down by the circulating library to the cigar
divan, where they sell Parique tobacco, the swinging of one's legs seems
to act like a pendulum to the clockwork of one's brain. One meditates
all the way, and chiefly on how few people there are who can really--to
a critical adept--be said to stay at the seaside.

People seem to think that one can take a ticket to Eastbourne, or
Bognor, or Ventnor, and come and stay at the seaside straight away, just
as I have known new-hatched undergraduates tell people they were going
to play billiards. Thousands and thousands of people think they have
stayed at the seaside, and have not, just as thousands of people
erroneously imagine they have played whist. For the latter have played
not whist, but Bumble-puppy, and the former have only frequented a
watering-place for a time. Your true staying at the seaside is an art,
demanding not only railway fares but special aptitude, and, moreover,
needing culture, like all worthy arts.

The most insurmountable difficulty of the beginner is the classical
simplicity of the whole thing. To stay at the seaside properly you just
spread yourself out on the extreme edge of the land and let the sunlight
soak in. Your eyes are fixed upon the horizon. Some have it that your
head should be towards the sea, but the best authorities think that this
determines blood to that region, and so stimulates thought. This is all
the positive instruction; the rest is prohibition. You must not think,
and you must not move, neither may you go to sleep. In a few minutes the
adept becomes as a god, even as a god that sits upon the lotus leaf. New
light and colour come into the sky and sea, and the surges chant his
praises. But those who are not of the elect get pins and needles all
over them.

It must be freely admitted that staying at the seaside such as this,
staying at the seaside in its perfection, is a thing for a select few.
You want a broad stretch of beach and all the visible sea to yourself.
You cannot be disturbed by even the most idyllic children trying to bury
you with sand and suchlike playfulness, nor by boatloads of the
democracy rowing athwart your sea and sky. And the absence of friend or
wife goes without saying. I notice down here a very considerable
quantity of evidently married pairs, and the huge majority of the rest
of the visitors run in couples, and are to all appearances engaged. If
they are not, I would submit that they ought to be. Probably there is a
certain satisfaction in sitting by the sea with the girl you are in love
with, or your wife for the matter of that, just as many people
undoubtedly find tea with milk and sugar very nice. But the former is no
more the way to get the full and perfect pleasure of staying at the
seaside than the latter is the way to get the full and perfect flavour
of the tea. True staying at the seaside is neither the repetition of old
conversations in new surroundings nor the exposure of one's affections
to ozone. It is something infinitely higher. It is pure quiescence. It
is the experience of a waking inanition savouring of Buddha and the
divine.

Now, staying at the seaside is so rarely done well, because of the
littleness of man. To do it properly needs many of the elements of
greatness. Your common man, while he has life in him, can let neither
himself nor the universe alone. He must be asserting himself in some
way, even if it is only by flinging pebbles at a stick. That
self-forgetfulness which should be a delight is a terror to him. He
brings dogs down to the beach to stand between him and the calm of
nature, and yelp. He does worse than that.

The meditative man going daily over by the cliff and along the parade,
to get his ounce of tobacco, has a sad spectacle of what human beings
may be driven to in this way. One sees altogether some hundreds of
people there who have heard perhaps that staying at the seaside is good,
and who have, anyhow, got thus far towards it, and stopped. They have
not the faintest idea how to make themselves happy. The general
expression is veiled curiosity. They sit--mostly with their backs to the
sea--talking poorly of indifferent topics and watching one another. Most
obviously they want hints of what to do with themselves. Behind them is
a bank of flowers like those in Battersea Park, and another parallel
parade, and beyond are bathing-machines. The pier completely cuts the
horizon out of the background. There is a stout lady, in dark blue,
bathing. The only glances directed seaward are furtive ones at her. Many
seem to be doubting whether this is not what they came down for. Others
lean dubiously to the invitations of the boatmen. Others again listen to
vocalists and dramatic outcasts who, for ha'pence, render obvious the
reason of their professional degradation. It seems eccentric to travel
seventy or eighty miles to hear a man without a voice demonstrate that
he is unfit to have one, but they do. Anyone curious in these matters
need only go to a watering-place to see and, what is worse, to hear for
himself. After an excursion train to Eastbourne, upwards of a thousand
people have been seen thus heaped together over an oblong space of a
mile long by twenty yards wide. Only three miles away there was a
towering white cliff overhanging a practically desert beach; and one
seagull circled above one solitary, motionless, supine man, really
staying at the seaside.

You cannot walk six miles anywhere along the south coast without coming
upon one of these heaps of people, called a watering-place. There will
be a town of houses behind wherein the people lodge, until, as they
think, they have stayed a sufficient time at the sea, and they return,
hot, cross, and mystified, to London. The sea front will be bricked or
paved for a mile or so, and there will be rows of boats and
bathing-machines, and other contrivances to screen off the view of the
sea. And, as we have indicated, watering-places and staying by the
seaside are incompatible things. The true stayer by the seaside goes
into the watering-place because he must; because there is little food,
and that uncooked, and no tobacco, between the cliffs and the sea.
Having purchased what he needs he flees forth again. What time the whole
selvage of England becomes watering-place, there will be no more staying
by the seaside at all in the land. But this is a gloomy train of thought
that we will not pursue.

There have been those who assert that one end of staying at the seaside
is bathing; but it is easy to show that this is not so. Your proper
bathing-place is up the river, where the trees bend to the green and
brown shadows of the water. There the bath is sweet, fresh out of the
sky, or but just filtered through the blue hills of the distant
water-shed; and it is set about with flowers. But the sea--the sea has
stood there since the beginning of things, and with small prospect of
change, says Mr. Kipling, to all eternity. The water in the sea,
geologists tell us, has _not been changed for fifty million years_! The
same chemist who sets me against all my food with his chemical names
speaks of the sea as a weak solution of drowned men. Be that as it may,
it leaves the skin harsh with salt, and the hair sticky. Moreover, it is
such a promiscuous bathing-place. However, we need scarcely depreciate
the sea as a bath, for what need is there of that when the river is
clearly better? No one can deny that the river is better. People who
bathe in the sea bathe by mistake, because they have come to the side of
the sea, and know not how else to use it.

So, too, with the boating. It is hard to imagine how human beings who
have drifted down streams, and watched the brown fish in the shallows,
and peered through the tall sedges at the forget-me-nots, and fought
with the ropes of the water-lilies, and heard the ripple under the bows,
can ever think of going to and fro, pitching spasmodically, in front of
a watering-place. And as for fishing--they catch fish at sea, indeed,
but it is not fishing at all; neither rods nor flies have they, and
there is an end to that matter.

An Eastbourne meditative man returning to where he stays, with his daily
ounce of tobacco already afire, sees in the streets what are called by
the natives "cherry-bangs," crowded with people, and, further,
cabriolets and such vehicles holding parties and families. The good
folks are driving away from the sea for the better part of the day,
going to Battle and other places inland. The puzzle of what to do with
their sea is too much for them, and they are going away for a little to
rest their minds. Regarded as a centre of drives one might think an
inland place would be preferable to a seaside town, which at best
commands but a half-circle. However that may be, the fact remains that
one of the chief occupations of your common visitor to the seaside is
going away from it. Than this fact there can be nothing more conclusive
in support of my argument that ordinary people are absolutely ignorant
and incapable of staying by the seaside.



CONCERNING CHESS


The passion for playing chess is one of the most unaccountable in the
world. It slaps the theory of natural selection in the face. It is the
most absorbing of occupations, the least satisfying of desires, an
aimless excrescence upon life. It annihilates a man. You have, let us
say, a promising politician, a rising artist, that you wish to destroy.
Dagger or bomb are archaic, clumsy, and unreliable--but teach him,
inoculate him with chess! It is well, perhaps, that the right way of
teaching chess is so little known, that consequently in most cases the
plot fails in the performance, the dagger turns aside. Else we should
all be chess-players--there would be none left to do the business of the
world. Our statesmen would sit with pocket boards while the country went
to the devil, our army would bury itself in chequered contemplation, our
bread-winners would forget their wives in seeking after impossible
mates. The whole world would be disorganised. I can fancy this
abominable hypnotism so wrought into the constitution of men that the
cabmen would go trying to drive their horses in Knights' moves up and
down Charing Cross Road. And now and again a suicide would come to hand
with the pathetic inscription pinned to his chest: "I checked with my
Queen too soon. I cannot bear the thought of it." There is no remorse
like the remorse of chess.

Only, happily, as we say, chess is taught the wrong way round. People
put out the board before the learner with all the men in battle array,
sixteen a side, with six different kinds of moves, and the poor wretch
is simply crushed and appalled. A lot of things happen, mostly
disagreeable, and then a mate comes looming up through the haze of
pieces. So he goes away awestricken but unharmed, secretly believing
that all chess-players are humbugs, and that intelligent chess, which is
neither chancy nor rote-learned, is beyond the wit of man. But clearly
this is an unreasonable method of instruction. Before the beginner can
understand the beginning of the game he must surely understand the end;
how can he commence playing until he knows what he is playing for? It is
like starting athletes on a race, and leaving them to find out where the
winning-post is hidden.

Your true teacher of chess, your subtle chess-poisoner, your cunning
Comus who changes men to chess-players, begins quite the other way
round. He will, let us say, give you King, Queen, and Pawn placed out in
careless possible positions. So you master the militant possibilities of
Queen and Pawn without perplexing complications. Then King, Queen, and
Bishop perhaps; King, Queen, and Knight; and so on. It ensures that you
always play a winning game in these happy days of your chess childhood,
and taste the one sweet of chess-playing, the delight of having the
upper hand of a better player. Then to more complicated positions, and
at last back to the formal beginning. You begin to see now to what end
the array is made, and understand why one Gambit differeth from another
in glory and virtue. And the chess mania of your teacher cleaveth to you
thenceforth and for evermore.

It is a curse upon a man. There is no happiness in chess--Mr. St. George
Mivart, who can find happiness in the strangest places, would be at a
loss to demonstrate it upon the chess-board. The mild delight of a
pretty mate is the least unhappy phase of it. But, generally, you find
afterwards that you ought to have mated two moves before, or at the time
that an unforeseen reply takes your Queen. No chess-player sleeps well.
After the painful strategy of the day one fights one's battles over
again. You see with more than daylight clearness that it was the Rook
you should have moved, and not the Knight. No! it is impossible! no
common sinner innocent of chess knows these lower deeps of remorse. Vast
desert boards lie for the chess-player beyond the gates of horn.
Stalwart Rooks ram headlong at one, Knights hop sidelong, one's Pawns
are all tied, and a mate hangs threatening and never descends. And once
chess has been begun in the proper way, it is flesh of your flesh, bone
of your bone; you are sold, and the bargain is sealed, and the evil
spirit hath entered in.

The proper outlet for the craving is the playing of games, and there is
a class of men--shadowy, unhappy, unreal-looking men--who gather in
coffee-houses, and play with a desire that dieth not, and a fire that is
not quenched. These gather in clubs and play Tournaments, such
tournaments as he of the Table Round could never have imagined. But
there are others who have the vice who live in country places, in remote
situations--curates, schoolmasters, rate collectors--who go consumed
from day to day and meet no fit companion, and who must needs find some
artificial vent for their mental energy. No one has ever calculated how
many sound Problems are possible, and no doubt the Psychical Research
people would be glad if Professor Karl Pearson would give his mind to
the matter. All the possible dispositions of the pieces come to such a
vast number, however, that, according to the theory of probability, and
allowing a few thousand arrangements each day, the same problem ought
never to turn up more than twice in a century or so. As a matter of
fact--it is probably due to some flaw in the theory of probability--the
same problem has a way of turning up in different publications several
times in a month or so. It may be, of course, that, after all, quite
"sound" problems are limited in number, and that we keep on inventing
and reinventing them; that, if a record were kept, the whole system, up
to four or five moves, might be classified, and placed on record in the
course of a few score years. Indeed, if we were to eliminate those with
conspicuously bad moves, it may be we should find the number of
reasonable games was limited enough, and that even our brilliant Lasker
is but repeating the inspirations of some long-buried Persian, some mute
inglorious Hindoo, dead and forgotten ages since. It may be over every
game there watches the forgotten forerunners of the players, and that
chess is indeed a dead game, a haunted game, played out centuries ago,
even, as beyond all cavil, is the game of draughts.

The artistic temperament, the gay irresponsible cast of mind, does what
it can to lighten the gravity of this too intellectual game. To a mortal
there is something indescribably horrible in these champions with their
four moves an hour--the bare thought of the mental operations of the
fifteen minutes gives one a touch of headache. Compulsory quick moving
is the thing for gaiety, and that is why, though we revere Steinitz and
Lasker, it is Bird we love. His victories glitter, his errors are
magnificent. The true sweetness of chess, if it ever can be sweet, is to
see a victory snatched, by some happy impertinence, out of the shadow of
apparently irrevocable disaster. And talking of cheerfulness reminds me
of Lowson's historical game of chess. Lowson said he had been cheerful
sometimes--but, drunk! Perish the thought! Challenged, he would have
proved it by some petty tests of pronunciation, some Good Templar's
shibboleths. He offered to walk along the kerb, to work any problem in
mathematics we could devise, finally to play MacBryde at chess. The
other gentleman was appointed judge, and after putting the antimacassar
over his head ("jush wigsh") immediately went to sleep in a disorderly
heap on the sofa. The game was begun very solemnly, so I am told.
MacBryde, in describing it to me afterwards, swayed his hands about with
the fingers twiddling in a weird kind of way, and said the board went
like that. The game was fierce but brief. It was presently discovered
that both kings had been taken. Lowson was hard to convince, but this
came home to him. "Man," he is reported to have said to MacBryde, "I'm
just drunk. There's no doubt in the matter. I'm feeling very ashamed of
myself." It was accordingly decided to declare the game drawn. The
position, as I found it next morning, is an interesting one. Lowson's
Queen was at K Kt 6, his Bishop at Q B 3, he had several Pawns, and his
Knight occupied a commanding position at the intersection of four
squares. MacBryde had four Pawns, two Rooks, a Queen, a draught, and a
small mantel ornament arranged in a rough semicircle athwart the board.
I have no doubt chess exquisites will sneer at this position, but in my
opinion it is one of the cheerfulest I have ever seen. I remember I
admired it very much at the time, in spite of a slight headache, and it
is still the only game of chess that I recall with undiluted pleasure.
And yet I have played many games.



THE COAL-SCUTTLE

A STUDY IN DOMESTIC ÆSTHETICS


Euphemia, who loves to have home dainty and delightful, would have no
coals if she could dispense with them, much less a coal-scuttle. Indeed,
it would seem she would have no fireplace at all, if she had her will.
All the summer she is happy, and the fireplace is anything but the place
for a fire; the fender has vanished, the fireirons are gone, it is
draped and decorated and disguised. So would dear Euphemia drape and
disguise the whole iron framework of the world, with that decorative and
decent mind of hers, had she but the scope. There are exotic ferns
there, spreading their fanlike fronds, and majolica glows and gleams;
and fabrics, of which Morris is the actual or spiritual begetter,
delight the eye. In summer-time our fireplace is indeed a thing of
beauty, but, alas for the solar system! it is not a joy for ever. The
sun at last recedes beyond the equinoxes, and the black bogey who has
slept awakens again. Euphemia restores the fender kerb and the brazen
dogs and the fireirons that will clatter; and then all the winter,
whenever she sits before the fire, her trouble is with her. Even when
the red glow of the fire lights up her features most becomingly, and
flattery is in her ear, every now and then a sidelong glance at her ugly
foe shows that the thought of it is in her mind, and that the crumpled
roseleaf, if such a phrase may be used for a coal-scuttle, insists on
being felt. And she has even been discovered alone, sitting elbows on
knees, and chin on her small clenched fist, frowning at it, puzzling how
to circumvent the one enemy of her peace.

"_It_" is what Euphemia always calls this utensil, when she can bring
herself to give the indescribable an imperfect vent in speech. But
commonly the feeling is too deep for words. Her war with this foeman in
her household, this coarse rebel in her realm of soft prettiness, is one
of those silent ones, those grim struggles without outcry or threat or
appeal for quarter that can never end in any compromise, never find a
rest in any truce, except the utter defeat of her antagonist. And how
she has tried--the happy thoughts, the faint hopes, the new departures
and outflanking movements! And even to-day there the thing defies her--a
coal-box, with a broad smile that shows its black teeth, thick and
squat, filling a snug corner and swaggering in unmanly triumph over the
outrage upon her delicacy that it commits.

One of Euphemia's brightest ideas was to burn wood. Logs make even a
picturesque pile in a corner--look "uncommon." But there are objections
to wood. Wood finely divided burns with gay quirks and jets of flame,
and making cheerful crackling noises the while; but its warmth and
brightness are as evanescent as love's young dream. And your solid log
has a certain irritating inertness. It is an absentee fuel, spending its
fire up the chimney, and after its youthful clouds of glory turns but a
cheerless side of black and white char towards the room. And, above all,
the marital mind is strangely exasperated by the log. Smite it with the
poker, and you get but a sullen resonance, a flight of red sparks, a
sense of an unconquerable toughness. It is worse than coke. The crisp
fracture of coal, the spitting flames suddenly leaping into existence
from the shiny new fissures, are altogether wanting. Old-seasoned timber
burns indeed most delightfully, but then it is as ugly as coal, and
withal very dear. So Euphemia went back to coal again with a sigh.
Possibly if Euphemia had been surrounded by the wealth she deserves this
trouble would not have arisen. A silent servant, bearing the due dose of
fresh fuel, would have come gliding from a mysterious Beneath, restored
the waning animation of the grate, and vanished noiselessly again. But
this was beyond the range of Euphemia's possibilities. And so we are
face to face with this problem of the scuttle again.

At first she would feign there was no such thing as coal. It was too
horrible. Only a Zola would admit it. It was the epoch of concealment.
The thing purchased was like a little cupboard on four legs; it might
have held any convenient trifle; and there was a shelf upon the top and
a book of poetry and a piece of crackled Satsuma. You took a little
brass handle and pulled it down, and the front of the little cupboard
came forward, and there you found your coal. But a dainty little
cupboard can no more entertain black coal and inelegant firewood and
keep its daintiness than a mind can entertain black thoughts and yet be
sweet. This cabinet became demoralised with amazing quickness; it became
incontinent with its corruptions, a hinge got twisted, and after a time
it acquired the habit of suddenly, and with an unpleasant oscillatory
laughing noise, opening of its own accord and proclaiming its horrid
secret to Euphemia's best visitors. An air of wickedness, at once
precocious and senile, came upon it; it gaped and leered at Euphemia as
the partner of her secret with such a familiar air of "I and you" that
she could stand it no longer, and this depraved piece of furniture was
banished at last from her presence, and relegated to its proper sphere
of sham gentility below stairs, where it easily passed itself upon the
cook as an exquisite. Euphemia tried to be sensible then, and
determined, since she must have coal in her room, to let no false
modesty intervene, but to openly proclaim its presence to all the world.

The next thing, therefore, was a cylinder of brass, broadly open above,
saying to the world, as it were, "Look! I contain coal." And there were
brass tongs like sugar tongs wherewith Euphemia would regale the fire
and brighten it up, handing it a lump at a time in the prettiest way.
But brass dints. The brazen thing was quiet and respectable enough
upstairs, but ever and again it went away to be filled. What happened on
these holiday jaunts Euphemia has never ascertained. But a chance blow
or worse cause ran a crease athwart the forehead of the thing, and
below an almost imperceptible bulging hinted at a future corpulency. And
there was complaint of the quantity of polishing it needed, and an
increasing difficulty in keeping it bright. And except when it was full
to the brim, the lining was unsightly; and this became more so. One day
Ithuriel must have visited Euphemia's apartment, and the tarnished
brilliancy of the thing stood confessed. For some days there was an
interregnum, and a coal-scuttle from downstairs--a black unstable thing
on flat foot and with a vast foolish nether lip--did its duty with
inelegant faithfulness.

Then Euphemia had a really pretty fancy. She procured one of those big
open garden baskets and painted it a pleasant brown, and instead of a
garden fork she had a little half horticultural scoop. In this basket
she kept her coals, and she tied a pink ribbon on the handle. One might
fancy she had been in some dewy garden and had dug a few coals as one
might dig up bulbs, and brought them in and put them down. It attracted
attention from all her visitors, and set a kind of fashion in the
neighbourhood. For a time Euphemia was almost contented. But one day a
malignant woman called, and looked at this device through her gilt
eye-glasses, while she secretly groped in the dark of her mind for an
unpleasant thing to say. Then suddenly she remarked, "Why not put your
coal in a bassinette? Or keep it _all_ on the floor?" Euphemia's face
fell. The thing was undeniably very like a cradle, in the light of this
suggestion; the coal certainly did seem a little out of place there; and
besides, if there were more than three or four lumps they had a way of
tumbling over the edge upon the carpet when the fire was replenished.
The tender shoot of Euphemia's satisfaction suddenly withered and died.

So the struggle has gone on. Sometimes it has been a wrought iron tripod
with a subtle tendency to upset in certain directions; sometimes a
coal-box; once even the noisy old coal-box of japanned tin, making more
noise than a Salvation Army service, and strangely decorated with "art"
enamels, had a turn. At present Euphemia is enduring a walnut "casket,"
that since its first week of office has displayed an increasing
indisposition to shut. But things cannot stay like this. The worry and
anxiety and vexation, Euphemia declares, are making her old before her
time. A delicate woman should not be left alone to struggle against
brazen monsters. A closed gas stove is happily impossible, but the
husband of the household is threatened with one of those beastly sham
fires, wherein gas jets flare among firebrick--a mechanical fire without
vitality or variety, that never dances nor crackles nor blazes, a
monotonous horror, a fire you cannot poke. That is what it will
certainly come to if the problem remains unsolved.



BAGARROW


Frankly, I detest this Bagarrow. Yet it is quite generally conceded that
Bagarrow is a very well-meaning fellow. But the trouble is to understand
him. To do that I have been at some pains, and yet I am still a mere
theorist. An anthropometric estimate of the man fails to reveal any
reason for the distinction of my aversion. He is of passable height,
breadth, and density, and, save for a certain complacency of expression,
I find no salient objection in his face. He has bluish eyes and a
whitish skin, and average-coloured hair--none of them distinctly
indictable possessions. It is something in his interior and unseen
mechanism, I think, that must be wrong; some internal lesion that finds
expression in his acts.

His mental operations, indeed, were at first as inconceivable to me as a
crab's or a cockchafer's. That is where all the trouble came in. For
that reason alone they fascinated me and aggrieved me. From the
conditions of our acquaintance--we were colleagues--I had to study him
with some thoroughness, observing him under these circumstances and
those. I have, by the bye, sometimes wondered idly how he would react to
alcohol--a fluid he avoids. It would, I am sure, be an entirely novel
and remarkable kind of Drunk, and I am also certain it would be an
offensive one. But I can't imagine it; I have no data. I could as soon
evolve from my inner consciousness an intoxicated giraffe. But, as I
say, this interesting experience has hitherto been denied me.

Now my theory of Bagarrow is this, that he has a kind of disease in his
ideals, some interruption of nutrition that has left them small and
emasculate. He aims, it appears, at a state called "Really Nice" or the
"True Gentleman," the outward and visible signs of which are a
conspicuous quietness of costume, gloves in all weathers, and a
tightly-rolled umbrella. But coupled in some way with this is a queer
smack of the propagandist, a kind of dwarfed prophetic passion. That is
the particular oddness of him. He displays a timid yet persistent desire
to foist this True Gentleman of his upon an unwilling world, to make you
Really Nice after his own pattern. I always suspect him of trying to
convert me by stealth when I am not looking.

So far as I can see, Bagarrow's conception of this True Gentleman of his
is at best a compromise, mainly holiness, but a tinted kind of
holiness--goodness in clean cuffs and with something neat in ties. He
renounces the flesh and the devil willingly enough, but he wants to keep
up a decent appearance. Now a stark saint I can find sympathy for. I
respect your prophet unkempt and in a hair shirt denouncing Sin--and
mundane affairs in general--with hoarse passion and a fiery hate. I
would not go for my holidays with nor make a domestic pet of such a man,
but I respect him. But Bagarrow's pose is different. Bagarrow would call
that carrying things to extremes. His is an unobtrusive virtue, a
compromising dissent, inaggressive aggressions on sin. So I take it. And
at times he puts it to you in a drawling argument, a stream of
Bagarrowisms, until you have to hurt his feelings--happily he is always
getting his feelings hurt--just to stop the flow of him.

"Life," said Bagarrow, in a moment of expansiveness, "is scarcely worth
living unless you are doing good to someone." That I take to be the
keystone of him. "I want to be a Good Influence upon all the people I
meet." I do not think it has ever dawned upon him that he himself is any
way short of perfection; and, so far as I can see, the triumph and end
of his good influence is cleanliness of cuff, compactness of umbrella,
and general assimilation to the Bagarrow ideal.

Hear him upon one's social duties--this living soul in this world of
wonders! "In moderation," said Bagarrow, opening out to questions on
that matter, "social relaxation is desirable, and I will even go so far
as to admit that I think it well to have at hand some pleasant expedient
for entertaining people and passing the time. A humorous song or a
recitation--provided it is in really good taste--is harmless enough, and
sometimes it may even be turned to good account. And everyone should try
to master some instrument or other. The flute, perhaps, is as convenient
as any; for the fiddle and piano, you know, are difficult and expensive
to learn, and require constant practice. A little legerdemain is also a
great acquisition for a man. Some may differ from me in that," continued
Bagarrow, "but I see no harm in it. There are hundreds of perfectly
proper and innocent tricks with coins and bits of paper, and pieces of
string, that will make an evening pass most delightfully. One may get
quite a little reputation as an entertainer with these things."

"And it is," pursued Bagarrow, quite glowing with liberality, "just a
little pharisaical to object to card tricks. There are quantities of
really quite clever and mathematical things that one may do with a
chosen card, dealing the pack into heaps and counting slowly. Of course
it is not for mere pleasuring that I learn these things. It gives anyone
with a little tact an opportunity for stopping card-playing. When the
pack is brought in, and all the party are intent upon gaming, you may
seize your opportunity and take the cards, saying, 'Let me show you a
little trick,' or, 'Have you seen Maskelyne's new trick with the cards?'
Before anyone can object you are displaying your skill to their
astonished eyes, and in their wonder at your cleverness the
objectionable game may be indefinitely postponed."

"Yet so set at times is your gambler upon his abominable pursuit," says
Bagarrow, "that in practice even this ingenious expedient has been known
to fail." He tried it once, it seems, in a race train to Kempton Park,
and afterwards he had to buy a new hat. That incident, indeed, gives you
the very essence of Bagarrow in his insidious attacks on evil. I
remember that on another occasion he went out of his way to promise a
partially intoxicated man a drink; and taking him into a public-house
ordered two lemon squashes! Drinks! He liked lemon squash himself and he
did not like beer, and he thought he had only to introduce the poor
fallen creature to the delights of temperance to ensure his conversion
there and then. I think he expected the man to fall upon him, crying "My
benefactor!" But he did not say "My benefactor," at anyrate, though he
fell upon him, cheerfully enough.

To avoid the appearance of priggishness, which he dreads with some
reason, he even went so far as to procure a herb tobacco, which he
smokes with the help of frequent sulphur matches. This he recommends to
us strongly. "Won't you try it?" he says, with a winning smile. "Just
once." And he is the only man I ever met who drinks that facetious
fluid, non-alcoholic beer. Once he proposed to wean me upon that from my
distinctive vice, which led indeed to our first rupture. "_I_ find it
delicious," he said in pathetic surprise.

It is one of his most inveterate habits to tell you quietly what he
does, or would do under the circumstances. Seeing you at Kipling, he
will propound the proposition that "all true literature has a distinct
aim." His test of literary merit is "What good does it do you?" He is a
great lender of books, especially of Carlyle and Ruskin, which authors
for some absolutely inscrutable reason he considers provocative of
Bagarrowism, and he goes to the County Council lectures on dairy-work,
because it encourages others to improve themselves. But I have said
enough to display him, and of Bagarrow at least--as I can well
testify--it is easy to have more than enough. Indeed, after whole days
with him I have gone home to dream of the realisation of his ideals, a
sort of Bagarrow millennium, a world of Bagarrows. All kinds of
men--Falstaffs, Don Quixotes, Alan Stewarts, John the Baptists, John
Knoxes, Quilps, and Benvenuto Cellinis--all, so to speak, Bagarrowed,
all with clean cuffs, tight umbrellas, and temperate ways, passing to
and fro in a regenerate earth.

And so he goes on his way through this wonderful universe with his eyes
fixed upon two or three secondary things, without the lust or pride of
life, without curiosity or adventure, a mere timid missionary of a
religion of "Nicer Ways," a quiet setter of a good example. I can assure
you this is no exaggeration, but a portrait. It seems to me that the
thing must be pathological, that he and this goodness of his have
exactly the same claim upon Lombroso, let us say, as the born criminal.
He is born good, a congenital good example, a sufferer from atrophy of
his original sin. The only hope I can see for Bagarrow, short of murder,
is forcible trepanning. He ought to have the seat of his ideals lanced,
and all this wash about doing good to people by stealth taken away. It
may be he might prove a very decent fellow then--if there was anything
left of him, that is.



THE BOOK OF ESSAYS DEDICATORY


I have been bothered about this book this three months. I have written
scarcely anything since Llewellyn asked me for it, for when he asked me
I had really nothing on hand. I had just published every line I had ever
written, at my own expense, with Prigsbys. Yet three months should
suffice for one of Llewellyn's books, which consist chiefly of decorous
fly-leaves and a dedication or so, and margins. Of course you know
Llewellyn's books--the most delightful things in the market: the
sweetest covers, with little gilt apples and things carelessly
distributed over luminous grey, and bright red initials, and all these
delightful fopperies. But it was the very slightness of these bibelots
that disorganised me. And perhaps, also, the fact that no one has ever
asked me for a book before.

I had no trouble with the title though--"Lichens." I have wondered the
thing was never used before. Lichens, variegated, beautiful, though on
the most arid foundations, half fungoid, half vernal--the very name for
a booklet of modern verse. And that, of course, decided the key of the
cover and disposed of three or four pages. A fly-leaf, a leaf with
"Lichens" printed fair and beautiful a little to the left of the centre,
then a title-page--"Lichens. By H.G. Wells. London: MDCCCXCV. Stephen
Llewellyn." Then a restful blank page, and then--the Dedication. It was
the dedication stopped me. The title-page, it is true, had some points
of difficulty. Should the Christian name be printed in full or not, for
instance; but it had none of the fatal fascination of the dedicatory
page. I had, so to speak, to look abroad among the ranks of men, and
make one of those fretful forgotten millions--immortal. It seemed a
congenial task.

I went to work forthwith.

It was only this morning that I realised the magnitude of my
accumulations. Ever since then--it was three months ago--I have been
elaborating this Dedication. I turned the pile over, idly at first.
Presently I became interested in tracing my varying moods, as they had
found a record in the heap.

This struck me--

[Illustration: A Handwritten dedication, "To my Dearest Friend"
followed by three successive names, two crossed out, then the whole
dedication struck out]

Then again, a little essay in gratitude came to hand--

                     TO
          PROFESSOR AUGUSTUS FLOOD,
         Whose Admirable Lectures on
               Palæontology
         First turned my Attention to
                Literature.

There was a tinge of pleasantry in the latter that pleased me very
greatly when I wrote it, and I find immediately overlying it another
essay in the same line--

         To the Latter-day Reviewer,
               These Pearls.

For some days I was smitten with the idea of dedicating my little
booklet to one of my numerous personal antagonists, and conveying some
subtly devised insult with an air of magnanimity. I thought, for
instance, of Blizzard--

                  SIR JOSEPH BLIZZARD,
The most distinguished, if not the greatest, of contemporary
                     anatomists.


I think it was "X.L.'s" book, _Aut Diabolus aut Nihil_, that set me upon
another line. There is, after all, your reader to consider in these
matters, your average middle-class person to impress in some way. They
say the creature is a snob, and absolutely devoid of any tinge of
humour, and I must confess that I more than half believe it. At anyrate,
it was that persuasion inspired--

            To the Countess of X.,
         In Memory of Many Happy Days.

I know no Countess of X., as a matter of fact, but if the public is such
an ass as to think better of my work for the suspicion, I do not care
how soon I incur it. And this again is a pretty utilisation of the waste
desert of politics--

     MY DEAR SALISBURY,--Pray accept this unworthy tribute of
     my affectionate esteem.

There were heaps of others. And looking at those heaps it suddenly came
sharp and vivid before my mind that there--there was the book I needed,
already written! A blank page, a dedication, a blank page, a dedication,
and so on. I saw no reason to change the title. It only remained to
select the things, and the book was done. I set to work at once, and in
a very little while my bibelot was selected. There were dedications
fulsome and fluid, dedications acrid and uncharitable, dedications in
verse and dedications in the dead languages: all sorts and conditions of
dedications, even the simple "To J.H. Gabbles"--so suggestive of the
modest white stones of the village churchyard. Altogether I picked out
one hundred and three dedications. At last only one thing remained to
complete the book. And that was--the Dedication. You will scarcely
credit it, but that worries me still....

I am almost inclined to think that Dedications are going out of
fashion.



THROUGH A MICROSCOPE

SOME MORAL REFLECTIONS


This dabbler person has recently disposed of his camera and obtained a
microscope--a short, complacent-looking implement it is, of brass--and
he goes about everywhere now with little glass bottles in his pocket,
ready to jump upon any stray polly-woggle he may find, and hale it home
and pry into its affairs. Within his study window are perhaps half a
dozen jars and basins full of green scum and choice specimens of black
mud in which his victims live. He persists in making me look through
this instrument, though I would rather I did not. It seems to me a kind
of impropriety even when I do it. He gets innumerable things in a drop
of green water, and puts it on a glass slip under the object glass, and,
of course, they know nothing of the change in their condition, and go on
living just as they did before they were observed. It makes me feel at
times like a public moralist, or Peeping Tom of Coventry, or some such
creature.

Certainly there are odd things enough in the water. Among others,
certain queer green things that are neither plants nor animals. Most of
the time they are plants, quiet green threads matted together, but every
now and then the inside comes out of one, so to speak, and starts off
with a fine red eye and a long flickering tail, to see the world. The
dabbler says it's quite a usual thing among the lower plants--_Algæ_ he
calls them, for some reason--to disgorge themselves in this way and go
swimming about; but it has quite upset my notions of things. If the
lower plants, why not the higher? It may be my abominable imagination,
but since he told me about these--swarm spores I think he called
them--I don't feel nearly so safe with my geraniums as I did.

A particularly objectionable thing in these water drops, the dabbler
insists upon my spying at is the furious activity of everything you see
in them. You look down his wretched tube, and there, bright and yellow
with the lamplight in the round field of the microscope, is a perfect
riot of living things. Perhaps it's the water he got from Hampstead, and
a dozen flat things the shape of shortbreads will be fussing about.
They are all quite transparent and colourless, and move about like
galleys by means of a lot of minute oars that stick out all over them.
Never a moment's rest. And, presently, one sees that even the green
plant threads are wriggling across the field. The dabbler tries to
moralise on this in the vein of Charles Kingsley, and infer we have much
to learn from these ridiculous creatures; but, so far as I can see, it's
a direct incentive to sloth to think how low in the scale of creation
these things are, in spite of all their fussing. If they had sat about
more and thought, they might be fishing the dabbler out of ponds and
examining him instead of his examining them. Your energetic people might
do worse things than have a meditative half-hour at the microscope. Then
there are green things with a red spot and a tail, that creep about like
slugs, and are equally transparent. _Euglena viridis_ the dabbler calls
them, which seems unnecessary information. In fact all the things he
shows me are transparent. Even the little one-eyed Crustacea, the size
of a needle-point, that discredit the name of Cyclops. You can see their
digestion and muscle and nerve, and, in fact, everything. It's at least
a blessing we are not the same. Fancy the audible comments of the
temperance advocate when you get in the bus! No use pulling yourself
together then. "Pretty full!" And "Look," people would say, "his wife
gives him cold mutton."

Speaking of the name of Cyclops reminds me that these scientific people
have been playing a scurvy trick upon the classics behind our backs. It
reminds one of Epistemon's visit to Hades, when he saw Alexander a
patcher of clouts and Xerxes a crier of mustard. Aphrodite, the dabbler
tells me, is a kind of dirty mud-worm, and much dissected by spectacled
pretenders to the London B.Sc.; every candidate, says the syllabus, must
be able to dissect, to the examiner's satisfaction, and demonstrate upon
Aphrodite, Nereis, Palæmon. Were the gods ever so insulted? Then the
snaky Medusa and Pandora, our mother, are jelly-fish; Astræa is still to
be found on coral reefs, a poor thing, and much browsed upon by parrot
fish; and Doris and Tethys and Cydippe are sea slugs. It's worse than
Heine's vision of the gods grown old. They can't be content with the
departed gods merely. Evadne is a water flea--they'll make something out
of Mrs. Sarah Grand next; and Autolycus, my Autolycus! is a polymorphic
worm, whatever subtlety of insult "polymorphic worm" may convey.

However, I wander from the microscope. These shortbread things are
fussing about hither and thither across the field, and now and then an
amoeba comes crawling into view. These are invertebrate jelly-like
things of no particular shape, and they keep on thrusting out a part
here, and withdrawing a part there, and changing and advancing just as
though they were popular democratic premiers. Then diatoms keep gliding
athwart the circle. These diatoms are, to me at least, the most
perplexing things in the universe. Imagine a highly ornamental thing in
white and brown, the shape of a spectacle case, without any limbs or
other visible means of progression, and without any wriggling of the
body, or indeed any apparent effort at all, gliding along at a smart
pace. That's your diatom. The dabbler really knows nothing of how they
do it. He mumbles something about Bütschli and Grenfell. Imagine the
thing on a larger scale, Cleopatra's Needle, for instance, travelling on
its side up the Thames Embankment, and all unchaperoned, at the rate of
four or five miles an hour.

There's another odd thing about these microscope things which redeems,
to some extent at least, their singular frankness. To use the decorous
phrase of the text-book, "They multiply by fission." Your amoeba or
vorticella, as the case may be, splits in two. Then there are two amoebæ
or vorticellæ. In this way the necessity of the family, that
middle-class institution so abhorrent to the artistic mind, is avoided.
In my friend's drop of ditch-water, as in heaven, there is neither
marrying nor giving in marriage. There are no waste parents, which
should appeal to the scholastic mind, and the simple protozoon has none
of that fitful fever of falling in love, that distressingly tender state
that so bothers your mortal man. They go about their business with an
enviable singleness of purpose, and when they have eaten and drunk, and
attained to the fulness of life, they divide and begin again with
renewed zest the pastime of living.

In a sense they are immortal. For we may look at this matter in another
light, and say our exuberant protozoon has shed a daughter, and remains.
In that case the amoeba I look at may have crawled among the slime of
the Silurian seas when the common ancestor of myself and the royal
family was an unassuming mud-fish like those in the reptile house in the
Zoo. His memoirs would be interesting. The thought gives a solemn tint
to one's meditations. If the dabbler wash him off this slide into his
tube of water again, this trivial creature may go on feeding and growing
and dividing, and presently be thrown away to wider waters, and so
escape to live ... after I am dead, after my masterpieces are forgotten,
after our Empire has passed away, after the human animal has passed
through I know not what vicissitudes. It may be he will still, with the
utmost nonchalance, be pushing out his pseudopodia, and ingesting
diatoms when the fretful transitory life of humanity has passed
altogether from the earth. One may catch him in specimen tubes by the
dozen; but still, when one thinks of this, it is impossible to deny him
a certain envious, if qualified, respect.

And all the time these creatures are living their vigorous, fussy little
lives; in this drop of water they are being watched by a creature of
whose presence they do not dream, who can wipe them all out of existence
with a stroke of his thumb, and who is withal as finite, and sometimes
as fussy and unreasonably energetic, as themselves. He sees them, and
they do not see him, because he has senses they do not possess, because
he is too incredibly vast and strange to come, save as an overwhelming
catastrophe, into their lives. Even so, it may be, the dabbler himself
is being curiously observed.... The dabbler is good enough to say that
the suggestion is inconceivable. I can imagine a decent amoeba saying
the same thing.



THE PLEASURE OF QUARRELLING


Your cultivated man is apt to pity the respectable poor, on the score of
their lack of small excitements, and even in the excess of his generous
sympathy to go a Toynbee-Halling in their cause. And Sir Walter Besant
once wrote a book about Hoxton, saying, among other things, how
monotonous life was there. That is your modern fallacy respecting the
lower middle class. One might multiply instances. The tenor of the pity
is always the same.

"No music," says the cultivated man, "no pictures, no books to read nor
leisure to read in. How can they pass their lives?"

The answer is simple enough, as Emily Brontë knew. They quarrel. And an
excellent way of passing the time it is; so excellent, indeed, that the
pity were better inverted. But we all lack the knowledge of our chiefest
needs. In the first place, and mainly, it is hygienic to quarrel, it
disengages floods of nervous energy, the pulse quickens, the breathing
is accelerated, the digestion improved. Then it sets one's stagnant
brains astir and quickens the imagination; it clears the mind of
vapours, as thunder clears the air. And, finally, it is a natural
function of the body. In his natural state man is always quarrelling--by
instinct. Not to quarrel is indeed one of the vices of our civilisation,
one of the reasons why we are neurotic and anæmic, and all these things.
And, at last, our enfeebled palates have even lost the capacity for
enjoying a "jolly good row."

There can be no more melancholy sight in the world than that of your
young man or young woman suffering from suppressed pugnacity. Up to the
end of the school years it was well with them; they had ample scope for
this wholesome commerce, the neat give and take of offence. In the
family circle, too, there are still plentiful chances of acquiring the
taste. Then, suddenly, they must be gentle and considerate, and all the
rest of it. A wholesome shindy, so soon as toga and long skirts arrive,
is looked upon as positively wrong; even the dear old institution of the
"cut" is falling into disrepute. The quarrelling is all forced back into
the system, as it were; it poisons the blood. This is why our literature
grows sinister and bitter, and our daughters yearn after this and that,
write odd books, and ride about on bicycles in remarkable clothes. They
have shut down the safety valve, they suffer from the present lamentable
increase of gentleness. They must find some outlet, or perish. If they
could only put their arms akimbo and tell each other a piece of their
minds for a little, in the ancient way, there can be not the slightest
doubt that much of this _fin-de-siècle_ unwholesomeness would disappear.

Possibly this fashion of gentleness will pass. Yet it has had increasing
sway now for some years. An unhealthy generation has arisen--among the
more educated class at least--that quarrels little, regards the function
as a vice or a nuisance, as the East-ender does a taste for fine art or
literature. We seem indeed to be getting altogether out of the way of
it. Rare quarrels, no doubt, occur to everyone, but rare quarrelling is
no quarrelling at all. Like beer, smoking, sea-bathing, cycling, and the
like delights, you cannot judge of quarrelling by the early essay. But
to show how good it is--did you ever know a quarrelsome person give up
the use? Alcohol you may wean a man from, and Barrie says he gave up the
Arcadia Mixture, and De Quincey conquered opium. But once you are set as
a quarreller you quarrel and quarrel till you die.

How to quarrel well and often has ever been something of an art, and it
becomes more of an art with the general decline of spirit. For it takes
two to make a quarrel. Time was when you turned to the handiest human
being, and with small care or labour had the comfortable warmth you
needed in a minute or so. There was theology, even in the fifties it was
ample cause with two out of three you met. Now people will express a
lamentable indifference. Then politics again, but a little while ago fat
for the fire of any male gathering, is now a topic of mere tepidity. So
you are forced to be more subtle, more patient in your quarrelling. You
play like a little boy playing cricket with his sisters, with those who
do not understand. A fellow-votary is a rare treat. As a rule you have
to lure and humour your antagonist like a child. The wooing is as
intricate and delicate as any wooing can well be. To quarrel now,
indeed, requires an infinity of patience. The good old days of
thumb-biting--"Do you bite your thumbs at us, sir?" and so to clash and
stab--are gone for ever.

There are certain principles in quarrelling, however, that the true
quarreller ever bears in mind, and which, duly observed, do much to
facilitate encounters. In the first place, cultivate Distrust. Have
always before you that this is a wicked world, full of insidious people,
and you never know what villainous encroachments upon you may be hidden
under fair-seeming appearances. That is the flavour of it. At the first
suspicion, "stick up for your rights," as the vulgar say. And see that
you do it suddenly. Smite promptly, and the surprise and sting of your
injustice should provoke an excellent reply. And where there is least
ground for suspicion, there, remember, is the most. The right hand of
fellowship extended towards you is one of the best openings you have.
"Not such a fool," is the kind of attitude to assume, and "You don't put
upon _me_ so easy." Your adversary resents this a little, and, rankling,
tries to explain. You find a personal inference in the expostulation.

Next to a wariness respecting your interests is a keen regard for your
honour. Have concealed in the privacy of your mind a code of what is due
to you. Expand or modify it as occasion offers. Be as it were a
collector of what are called "slights," and never let one pass you.
Watch your friend in doorways, passages; when he eats by you, when he
drinks with you, when he addresses you, when he writes you letters. It
will be hard if you cannot catch him smuggling some deadly insult into
your presence. Tax him with it. He did not think, forsooth! Tell him no
gentleman would do such a thing, thinkingly or not; that you certainly
will not stand it again. Say you will show him. He will presently argue
or contradict. So to your climax.

Then, again, there is the personal reference. "Meaning me, sir?" Your
victim with a blithe heart babbles of this or that. You let him meander
here and there, watching him as if you were in ambush. Presently he
comes into your spring. "Of course," you say, "I saw what you were
driving at just this minute, when you mentioned mustard in salad
dressing, but if I am peppery I am not mean. And if I have a thing to
say I say it straight out." A good gambit this, and well into him from
the start. The particular beauty of this is that you get him apologetic
at first, and can score heavily before he rises to the defensive.

Then, finally, there is your abstract cause, once very fruitful indeed,
but now sadly gone in decay, except perhaps in specialist society. As an
example, let there be one who is gibing genially at some topic or other,
at Japanese king-crabs, or the inductive process, or any other topic
which cannot possibly affect you one atom. Then is the time to drop all
these merely selfish interests, and to champion the cause of truth. Fall
upon him in a fine glow of indignation, and bring your contradiction
across his face--whack!--so that all the table may hear. Tell him, with
his pardon, that the king-crab is no more a crab than you are a
jelly-fish, or that Mill has been superseded these ten years. Ask: "How
can you say such things?" From thence to his general knowledge is a
short flight, and so to his veracity, his reasoning powers, his mere
common sense. "Let me tell you, sir," is the special incantation for the
storm.

These are the four chief ways of quarrelling, the four gates to this
delightful city. For it is delightful, once your 'prentice days are
past. In a way it is like a cold bath on a winter's morning, and you
glow all day. In a way it is like football, as the nimble aggravation
dances to and fro. In a way it is like chess. Indeed, all games of skill
are watered quarrels, quarrel and soda, come to see them in a proper
light. And without quarrelling you have not fully appreciated your
fellow-man. For in the ultimate it is the train and complement of Love,
the shadow that rounds off the delight we take in poor humanity. It is
the vinegar and pepper of existence, and long after our taste for sweets
has vanished it will be the solace of our declining years.



THE AMATEUR NATURE-LOVER


It is possible that an education entirely urban is not the best
conceivable preparation for descriptive articles upon the country. On
the other hand, your professional nature-lover is sometimes a little
over-familiar with his subject. He knows the names of all the things,
and he does not spare you. Besides, he is subtle. The prominent features
are too familiar to him, and he goes into details. What respectable
townsman, for instance, knows what "scabiosa" is? It sounds very
unpleasant. Then the professional nature-lover assumes that you know
trees. No Englishman can tell any tree from any other tree, except a
very palpable oak or poplar. So that we may at least, as an experiment,
allow a good Londoner to take his unsophisticated eyes out into the
sweet country for once, and try his skill at nature-loving, though his
botany has been learned over the counter of flower-shops, and his
zoology on Saturday afternoons when they have the band in the Gardens.
He makes his way, then, over by Epsom Downs towards Sutton, trying to
assimilate his mood to the proper flavour of appreciation as he goes,
and with a little notebook in the palm of his hand to assist an
ill-trained memory. And the burthen of his song is of course the autumn
tints.

The masses of trees towards Epsom and Ewell, with the red houses and
Elizabethan façades peeping through their interstices, contain, it would
seem, every conceivable colour, except perhaps sky-blue; there are
brilliant yellow trees, and a kind of tree of the most amazing gamboge
green, almost the green of spring come back, and tan-coloured trees,
deep brown, red, and deep crimson trees. Here and there the wind has
left its mark, and the grey-brown branches and their purple tracery of
twigs, with a suggestion of infinite depth behind, show through the
rents in the leafy covering. There are deep green trees--the amateur
nature-lover fancies they may be yews--with their dense warm foliage
arranged in horizontal masses, like the clouds low down in a sunset; and
certain other evergreens, one particularly, with a bluish-green covering
of upstanding needles, are intensely conspicuous among the flame tints
around. On a distant church tower, and nearer, disputing the possession
of a gabled red house with a glowing creeper, is some ivy; and never is
the perennial green of ivy so delightful as it is now, when all else is
alight with the sombre fire of the sunset of the year....

The amateur nature-lover proceeds over the down, appreciating all this
as hard as he can appreciate, and anon gazing up at the grey and white
cloud shapes melting slowly from this form to that, and showing lakes,
and wide expanses, and serene distances of blue between their gaps. And
then he looks round him for a zoological item. Underfoot the grass of
the down is recovering from the summer drought and growing soft and
green again, and plentiful little flattened snail shells lie about, and
here and there a late harebell still nods in the breeze. Yonder bolts a
rabbit, and then something whizzes by the amateur nature-lover's ear.

They shoot here somewhere, he remembers suddenly; and then looking
round, in a palpitating state, is reassured by the spectacle of a lone
golfer looming over the brow of the down, and gesticulating black and
weird against the sky. The Londoner, with an abrupt affectation of
nonchalance, flings himself flat upon his back, and so remains
comparatively safe until the golfer has passed. These golfers are
strange creatures, rabbit-coloured, except that many are bright red
about the middle, and they repel and yet are ever attracted by a devil
in the shape of a little white ball, which leads them on through toothed
briars, sharp furzes, pricking goss, and thorns; cursing the thing,
weeping even, and anon laughing at their own foolish rambling;
muttering, heeding no one to the right or left of their
career,--demented creatures, as though these balls were their souls,
that they ever sought to lose, and ever repented losing. And silent,
ever at the heel of each, is a familiar spirit, an eerie human hedgehog,
all set about with walking-sticks, a thing like a cylindrical
umbrella-stand with a hat and boots and a certain suggestion of leg. And
so they pass and are gone.

Rising, the amateur nature-lover finds he has been reclining on a
puff-ball. These puff-balls are certainly the most remarkable example of
adaptation to circumstances known to English botanists. They grow
abundantly on golf grounds, and are exactly like golf-balls in external
appearance. They are, however, Pharisees and whited sepulchres, and
within they are full of a soft mess of a most unpleasant appearance--the
amateur nature-lover has some on him now--which stuff contains the
spores. It is a case of what naturalists call "mimicry"--one of nature's
countless adaptations. The golf-player smites these things with force,
covering himself with ridicule--and spores, and so disseminating this
far-sighted and ingenious fungus far and wide about the links.

The amateur nature-lover passes off the down, and towards Banstead
village. He is on the watch for characteristic objects of the
countryside, and rustling through the leaves beneath a chestnut avenue
he comes upon an old boot. It is a very, very old boot, all its blacking
washed off by the rain, and two spreading chestnut leaves, yellow they
are with blotches of green, with their broad fingers extended, rest upon
it, as if they would protect and altogether cover the poor old boot in
its last resting-place. It is as if Mother Nature, who lost sight of her
product at the tanner's yard, meant to claim her own trampled child
again at last, after all its wanderings. So we go on, noting a sardine
tin gleaming brightly in the amber sunlight, through a hazel hedge, and
presently another old boot. Some hawthorn berries, some hoary clematis
we notice--and then another old boot. Altogether, it may be remarked, in
this walk the amateur nature-lover saw eleven old boots, most of them
dropped in the very sweetest bits of hedge tangle and grassy corner
about Banstead.

It is natural to ask, "Whence come all these old boots?" They are, as
everyone knows, among the commonest objects in a country walk, so
common, indeed, that the professional nature-lover says very little
about them. They cannot grow there, they cannot be dropped from
above--they are distinctly earth-worn boots. I have inquired of my own
domestic people, and caused inquiry to be made in a large number of
households, and there does not appear to be any regular custom of taking
boots away to remote and picturesque spots to abandon them. Some
discarded boots of my own were produced, but they were quite different
from the old boot of the outer air. These home-kept old boots were
lovely in their way, hoary with mould running into the most exquisite
tints of glaucophane and blue-grey, but it was a different way
altogether from that of the wild boot.

A friend says, that these boots are cast away by tramps. People, he
states, give your tramp old boots and hats in great profusion, and the
modesty of the recipient drives him to these picturesque and secluded
spots to effect the necessary change. But no nature-lover has ever
observed the tramp or tramp family in the act of changing their clothes,
and since there are even reasons to suppose that their garments are not
detachable, it seems preferable to leave the wayside boot as a pleasant
flavouring of mystery to our ramble. Another point, which also goes to
explode this tramp theory, is that these countryside boots _never occur
in pairs_, as any observer of natural history can testify....

So our Cockney Jefferies proceeds, presently coming upon a cinder path.
They use cinders a lot about Sutton, to make country paths with; it
gives you an unexpected surprise the first time it occurs. You drop
suddenly out of a sweetly tangled lane into a veritable bit of the Black
Country, and go on with loathing in your soul for your fellow-creatures.
There is also an abundance of that last product of civilisation, barbed
wire. Oh that I were Gideon! with thorns and briers of the wilderness
would I teach these elders of Sutton! But a truce to dark thoughts!

We take our last look at the country from the open down above Sutton.
Blue hills beyond blue hills recede into the remote distance; from
Banstead Down one can see into Oxfordshire. Windsor Castle is in minute
blue silhouette to the left, and to the right and nearer is the Crystal
Palace. And closer, clusters red-roofed Sutton and its tower, then
Cheam, with its white spire, and further is Ewell, set in a variegated
texture of autumn foliage. Water gleams--a silver thread--at Ewell, and
the sinking sun behind us catches a window here and there, and turns it
into an eye of flame. And so to Sutton station and home to Cockneydom
once more.



FROM AN OBSERVATORY


It will be some time yet before the rising of the moon. Looking down
from the observatory one can see the pathways across the park dotted out
in yellow lamps, each with a fringe of dim green; and further off, hot
and bright, is the tracery of the illuminated streets, through which the
people go to and fro. Save for an occasional stirring, or a passing
voice speaking out of the dimness beneath me, the night is very still.
Not a cloud is to be seen in the dark midwinter sky to hide one speck of
its broad smears of star dust and its shining constellations.

As the moon rises, heaven will be flooded with blue light, and one after
another the stars will be submerged and lost, until only a solitary
shining pinnacle of brightness will here and there remain out of the
whole host of them. It is curious to think that, were the moon but a
little brighter and truly the ruler of the night, rising to its empire
with the setting of the sun, we should never dream of the great stellar
universe in which our little solar system swims--or know it only as a
traveller's tale, a strange thing to be seen at times in the Arctic
Circle. Nay, if the earth's atmosphere were some few score miles higher,
a night-long twilight would be drawn like an impenetrable veil across
the stars. By a mere accident of our existence we see their multitude
ever and again, when the curtains of the daylight and moonlight, and of
our own narrow pressing necessities, are for a little while drawn back.
Then, for an interval, we look, as if out of a window, into the great
deep of heaven. So far as physical science goes, there is nothing in the
essential conditions of our existence to necessitate that we should have
these transitory glimpses of infinite space. We can imagine men just
like ourselves without such an outlook. But it happens that we have it.

If we had not this vision, if we had always so much light in the sky
that we could not perceive the stars, our lives, so far as we can infer,
would be very much as they are now; there would still be the same needs
and desires, the same appliances for our safety and satisfaction; this
little gaslit world below would scarcely miss the stars now, if they
were blotted out for ever. But our science would be different in some
respects had we never seen them. We should still have good reason, in
Foucault's pendulum experiment, for supposing that the world rotated
upon its axis, and that the sun was so far relatively fixed; but we
should have no suspicion of the orbital revolution of the world. Instead
we should ascribe the seasonal differences to a meridional movement of
the sun. Our spectroscopic astronomy--so far as it refers to the
composition of the sun and moon--would stand precisely where it does,
but the bulk of our mathematical astronomy would not exist. Our calendar
would still be in all essential respects as it is now; our year with the
solstices and equinoxes as its cardinal points. The texture of our
poetry might conceivably be the poorer without its star spangles; our
philosophy, for the want of a nebular hypothesis. These would be the
main differences. Yet, to those who indulge in speculative dreaming, how
much smaller life would be with a sun and a moon and a blue beyond for
the only visible, the only thinkable universe. And it is, we repeat,
from the scientific standpoint a mere accident that the present--the
daylight--world periodically opens, as it were, and gives us this
inspiring glimpse of the remoteness of space.

One may imagine countless meteors and comets streaming through the solar
system, unobserved by those who dwelt under such conditions as have just
been suggested, or some huge dark body from the outer depths sweeping
straight at that little visible universe, and all unsuspected by the
inhabitants. One may imagine the scientific people of such a world, calm
in their assurance of the permanence of things, incapable almost of
conceiving any disturbing cause. One may imagine how an imaginative
writer who doubted that permanence would be pooh-poohed. "Cannot we see
to the uttermost limits of space?" they might argue, "and is it not
altogether blue and void?" Then, as the unseen visitor draws near, begin
the most extraordinary perturbations. The two known heavenly bodies
suddenly fail from their accustomed routine. The moon, hitherto
invariably full, changes towards its last quarter--and then, behold! for
the first time the rays of the greater stars visibly pierce the blue
canopy of the sky. How suddenly--painfully almost--the minds of thinking
men would be enlarged when this rash of the stars appeared.

And what then if _our_ heavens were to open? Very thin indeed is the
curtain between us and the unknown. There is a fear of the night that is
begotten of ignorance and superstition, a nightmare fear, the fear of
the impossible; and there is another fear of the night--of the starlit
night--that comes with knowledge, when we see in its true proportion
this little life of ours with all its phantasmal environment of cities
and stores and arsenals, and the habits, prejudices, and promises of
men. Down there in the gaslit street such things are real and solid
enough, the only real things, perhaps; but not up here, not under the
midnight sky. Here for a space, standing silently upon the dim, grey
tower of the old observatory, we may clear our minds of instincts and
illusions, and look out upon the real.

And now to the eastward the stars are no longer innumerable, and the sky
grows wan. Then a faint silvery mist appears above the housetops, and at
last in the midst of this there comes a brilliantly shining line--the
upper edge of the rising moon.



THE MODE IN MONUMENTS

STRAY THOUGHTS IN HIGHGATE CEMETERY


On a sharp, sunlight morning, when the white clouds are drifting swiftly
across the luminous blue sky, there is no finer walk about London than
the Highgate ridge. One may stay awhile on the Archway looking down upon
the innumerable roofs of London stretching southward into the haze, and
shining here and there with the reflection of the rising sun, and then
wander on along the picturesque road by the college of Saint Aloysius to
the new Catholic church, and so through the Waterlow Park to the
cemetery. The Waterlow Park is a pleasant place, full of children and
aged persons in perambulators during the middle hours of the day, and in
the summer evening time a haunt of young lovers; but your early wanderer
finds it solitary save for Vertumnus, who, with L.C.C. on the front of
him, is putting in crocuses. So we wander down to the little red lodge,
whence a sinuous road runs to Hampstead, and presently into the close
groves of monuments that whiten the opposite slope.

How tightly these white sepulchres are packed here! How different this
congestion of sorrow from the mossy latitude of God's Acre in the
country! The dead are crammed together as closely as the living seemed
in that bird's-eye view from the Archway. There is no ample shadow of
trees, no tangled corners where mother earth may weave flower garlands
over her returning children. The monuments positively jostle and elbow
each other for frontage upon the footways. And they are so rawly clean
and assertive. Most of them are conspicuously new whitened, with
freshly-blackened or newly-gilt inscriptions, bare of lichen, moss, or
mystery, and altogether so restless that it seems to the meditative man
that the struggle for existence, for mere standing room and a show in
the world, still rages among the dead. The unstable slope of the hill,
with its bristling array of obelisks, crosses and urns, craning one
above another, is as directly opposed to the restfulness of the village
churchyard with its serene outspreading yews as midday Fleet Street to a
Sabbath evening amidst the Sussex hills. This cemetery is, indeed, a
veritable tumult of tombs.

Another thing that presently comes painfully home to one is the lack of
individuality among all these dead. Not a necessary lack of
individuality so much as a deliberate avoidance of it. As one wanders
along the steep, narrow pathways one is more and more profoundly
impressed by the wholesale flavour of the mourning, the stereotyping of
the monuments. The place is too modern for _memento mori_ and the
hour-glass and the skull. Instead, Slap & Dash, that excellent firm of
monumental masons, everywhere crave to be remembered. Truly, the firm of
Slap & Dash have much to answer for among these graves, and they do not
seem to be ashamed of it.

From one elevated point in this cemetery one can count more than a
hundred urns, getting at last weary and confused with the receding
multitude. The urn is not dissimilar to the domestic mantel ornament,
and always a stony piece of textile fabric is feigned to be thrown over
its shoulder. At times it is wreathed in stony flowers. The only variety
is in the form. Sometimes your urn is broad and squat, a Silenus among
urns; sometimes fragile and high-shouldered, like a slender old maid;
here an "out-size" in urns stalwart and strong, and there a dwarf
peeping quaintly from its wrapping. The obelisks, too, run through a
long scale of size and refinement. But the curious man finds no hidden
connection between the carriage of the monument and the character of the
dead. Messrs. Slap & Dash apparently take the urn or obelisk that comes
readiest to hand. One wonders dimly why mourners have this overwhelming
proclivity for Messrs. Slap & Dash and their obelisk and urn.

The reason why the firm produces these articles may be guessed at. They
are probably easy to make, and require scarcely any skill. The
contemplative man has a dim vision of a grimy shed in a back street,
where a human being passes dismally through life the while he chips out
an unending succession of these cheap urns and obelisks for his
employers' retailing. But the question why numberless people will
profane the memory of their departed by these public advertisements of
Slap & Dash, and their evil trade, is a more difficult problem. For
surely nothing could be more unmeaning or more ungainly than the
monumental urn, unless it be the monumental obelisk. The plain cross, by
contrast, has the tenderest meaning, and is a simple and fitting
monument that no repetition can stale.

The artistic cowardice of the English is perhaps the clue to the
mystery. Your Englishman is always afraid to commit himself to criticism
without the refuge of a _tu quoque_. He is covered dead, just as he is
covered living, with the "correct thing." A respectable stock-in-trade
is proffered him by the insinuating shopman, to whom it is our custom to
go. He is told this is selling well, or that is much admired. Heaven
defend that he should admire on his own account! He orders the stock urn
or the stock slab because it is large and sufficiently expensive for his
means and sorrow, and because he knows of nothing better. So we mourn as
the stonemason decrees, or after the example and pattern of the Smiths
next door. But some day it will dawn upon us that a little thought and a
search after beauty are far more becoming than an order and a cheque to
the nearest advertising tradesman. Or it may be we shall conclude that
the anonymous peace of a grassy mould is better than his commercial
brutalities, and so there will be an end of him.

One may go from end to end of this cemetery and find scarcely anything
beautiful, appropriate, or tender. A lion, ill done, and yet to some
degree impressive, lies complacently above a menagerie keeper, and near
this is a tomb of some imagination, with reliefs of the life of Christ.
In one place a grotesque horse, with a head disproportionately vast, is
to be seen. Perhaps among all these monuments the one to Mrs. Blake is
the most pleasing. It is a simply and quaintly executed kneeling figure,
with a certain quiet and pathetic reverence of pose that is strangely
restful against the serried vulgarity around it.

But the tradesman ghoul will not leave us; he follows us up and down,
indecently clamouring his name and address, and at last turns our
meditation to despair. Certain stock devices become as painful as
popular autotypes. There is the lily broken on its stalk; we meet it
here on a cross and there on an obelisk, presently on the pedestal of an
urn. There is the hand pointing upward, here balanced on the top of an
obelisk and there upon a cross. The white-robed angel, free from the
remotest shadow of expression, meets us again and again. "All this is
mine," says the tradesman ghoul. "Behold the names of me--Slap & Dash
here, the Ugliness Company there, and this the work of the Cheap and
Elegant Funeral Association. This is where we slew the art of sculpture.
These are our trophies that sculpture is no more. All this marble might
have been beautiful, all this sorrow might have been expressive, had it
not been for us. See, this is our border, No. A 5, and our pedestal No.
E, and our second quality urn, along of a nice appropriate text--a
pretty combination and a cheap one. Or we can do it you better in border
A 3, and pedestal C, and a larger urn or a hangel----"

The meditative man is seized with a dismal horror, and retreats to the
gates. Even there a wooden advertisement grins broadly at him in his
discomfiture, and shouts a name athwart his route. And so down the
winding road to the valley, and then up Parliament Hill towards
Hampstead and its breeze-whipped ponds. And the mind of him is full of a
dim vision of days that have been, when sculptor and stonemason were
one, when the artist put his work in the porch for all the world to see,
when people had leisure to think how things should be done and heart to
do them well, when there was beauty in the business of life and dignity
in death. And he wonders rather hopelessly if people will ever rise up
against these damnable tradesmen who ruin our arts, make our lives
costly and dismal, and advertise, advertise even on our graves.



HOW I DIED


It is now ten years ago since I received my death warrant. All these ten
years I have been, and I am, and shall be, I hope, for years yet, a
Doomed Man. It only occurred to me yesterday that I had been
dodging--missing rather than dodging--the common enemy for such a space
of time. _Then_, I know, I respected him. It seemed he marched upon me,
inexorable, irresistible; even at last I felt his grip upon me. I bowed
in the shadow. And he passed. Ten years ago, and once since, he and I
have been very near. But now he seems to me but a blind man, and we,
with all our solemn folly of medicine and hygiene, but players in a game
of Blind Man's Buff. The gaunt, familiar hand comes out suddenly,
swiftly, this time surely? And it passes close to my shoulder; I hear
someone near me cry, and it is over.... Another ream of paper; there is
time at least for the Great Book still.

Very close to the tragedy of life is the comedy, brightest upon the very
edge of the dark, and I remember now with a queer touch of sympathetic
amusement my dear departed self of the middle eighties. How the thing
staggered me! I was full of the vast ambition of youth; I was still at
the age when death is quite out of sight, when life is still an
interminable vista of years; and then suddenly, with a gout of blood
upon my knuckle, with a queer familiar taste in my mouth, that cough
which had been a bother became a tragedy, and this world that had been
so solid grew faint and thin. I saw through it; saw his face near to my
own; suddenly found him beside me, when I had been dreaming he was far
beyond there, far away over the hills.

My first phase was an immense sorrow for myself. It was a purely selfish
emotion. You see I had been saving myself up, denying myself half the
pride of life and most of its indulgence, drilling myself like a
drill-sergeant, with my eyes on those now unattainable hills. Had I
known it was to end so soon, I should have planned everything so
differently. I lay in bed mourning my truncated existence. Then
presently the sorrow broadened. They were so sorry, so genuinely sorry
for me. And they considered me so much now. I had this and that they
would never have given me before--the stateliest bedding, the costliest
food. I could feel from my bed the suddenly disorganised house, the
distressed friends, the new-born solicitude. Insensibly a realisation of
enhanced importance came to temper my regrets for my neglected sins. The
lost world, that had seemed so brilliant and attractive, dwindled
steadily as the days of my illness wore on. I thought more of the
world's loss, and less of my own.

Then came the long journey; the princely style of it! the sudden
awakening on the part of external humanity, which had hitherto been wont
to jostle me, to help itself before me, to turn its back upon me, to my
importance. "He has a diseased lung--cannot live long"....

I was going into the dark and I was not afraid--with ostentation. I
still regard that, though now with scarcely so much gravity as
heretofore, as a very magnificent period in my life. For nearly four
months I was dying with immense dignity. Plutarch might have recorded
it. I wrote--in touchingly unsteady pencil--to all my intimate friends,
and indeed to many other people. I saw the littleness of hate and
ambition. I forgave my enemies, and they were subdued and owned to it.
How they must regret these admissions! I made many memorable remarks.
This lasted, I say, nearly four months.

The medical profession, which had pronounced my death sentence,
reiterated it steadily--has, indeed, done so now this ten years. Towards
the end of those four months, however, dying lost its freshness for me.
I began to detect a certain habitual quality in my service. I had
exhausted all my memorable remarks upon the subject, and the strain
began to tell upon all of us.

One day in the spring-time I crawled out alone, carefully wrapped, and
with a stick, to look once more--perhaps for the last time--on sky and
earth, and the first scattered skirmishers of the coming army of
flowers. It was a day of soft wind, when the shadows of the clouds go
sweeping over the hills. Quite casually I happened upon a girl
clambering over a hedge, and her dress had caught in a bramble, and the
chat was quite impromptu and most idyllic. I remember she had three or
four wood anemones in her hand--"wind stars" she called them, and I
thought it a pretty name. And we talked of this and that, with a light
in our eyes, as young folks will.

I quite forgot I was a Doomed Man. I surprised myself walking home with
a confident stride that jarred with the sudden recollection of my
funereal circumstances. For a moment I tried in vain to think what it
was had slipped my memory. Then it came, colourless and remote. "Oh!
Death.... He's a Bore," I said; "I've done with him," and laughed to
think of having done with him.

"And why not so?" said I.


THE END



     _This book appeared some years ago at another price and in another
     form. The Publisher believes that its present guise will bring it
     within the reach of all and sundry, who, while delighting in the
     marriage of_ wit _with_ wisdom, _cannot complete the trilogy with
     the third desideratum of_ wealth.



PRINTED BY MORRISON AND GIBB LIMITED, EDINBURGH



[Illustration: Front Book Cover]

CERTAIN
PERSONAL
MATTERS


By

H.G. WELLS
_Author of the "Time Machine"_



LONDON
T. FISHER UNWIN
PATERNOSTER SQUARE

_Price One Shilling_
_Also issued in Cloth, price 2s._


[Illustration: Back Book Cover]


To Furnish Smartly Without Disturbing Capital

[Illustration: BED-TIME]


By means of a perfectly simple plan (commended by the Editor of _Truth_
and many others) you may furnish your House, Chambers, or Flat
throughout,--and to the extent of Linen, Silver, and Cutlery,--_Out of
Income without drawing upon Capital_ by dividing the initial outlay into
6, 12, or 24 monthly, or 12 quarterly payments. At any period the option
may be exercised of paying off the balance, and so take advantage of the
Cash Discount.

A beautifully coloured Catalogue given on personal application.


CONSULT:
NORMAN & STACEY, Ltd.,
_Artistic House Furnishers_,
118, Queen Victoria St., E.C.





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