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Title: More Trivia
Author: Smith, Logan Pearsall, 1865-1949
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "More Trivia" ***

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Author of "Trivia"

New York
Harcourt, Brace and Company

Copyright, 1921, by
Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc.

Printed in the U. S. A. by
The Quinn & Boden Company
Rahway N. J.


A GREETING                       _ix_

REASSURANCE                      _3_

THE GREAT ADVENTURE              _4_

THE BEATIFIC VISION              _5_

FACES                            _6_

THE OBSERVER                     _7_

CHAOS                            _8_

THE GHOST                        _9_

THE HOUR-GLASS                   _10_

THE LATCHKEY                     _11_

GOOD PRACTICE                    _12_

EVASION                          _13_

DINING OUT                       _14_

WHAT'S WRONG                     _15_

AT SOLEMN MUSIC                  _17_

THE GOAT                         _18_

SELF-CONTROL                     _19_


WAXWORKS                         _21_

ADJECTIVES                       _22_

WHERE?                           _23_

IN THE STREET                    _24_

THE ABBEY AT NIGHT               _25_

DESPERANCE                       _26_

CHAIRS                           _27_

A GRIEVANCE                      _28_

THE MOON                         _29_

LONGEVITY                        _30_

IN THE BUS                       _31_

JUSTIFICATION                    _32_


MONOTONY                         _34_

DAYDREAM                         _35_

PROVIDENCE                       _36_

ACTION                           _37_

WAITING                          _38_

THE WRONG WORD                   _40_

IONS                             _41_

A FIGURE OF SPEECH               _42_

A SLANDER                        _43_

SYNTHESIS                        _44_

THE AGE                          _45_

COMFORT                          _46_


LONELINESS                       _48_

THE WELSH HARP                   _49_

MISAPPREHENSION                  _51_

THE LIFT                         _52_

SLOAN STREET                     _53_

REGENT'S PARK                    _54_

THE AVIARY                       _55_

ST. JOHN'S WOOD                  _56_

THE GARDEN SUBURB                _57_

SUNDAY CALLS                     _59_

AN ANOMALY                       _60_

THE LISTENER                     _61_

ABOVE THE CLOUDS                 _62_

THE BUBBLE                       _63_

CAUTION                          _64_

DESIRES                          _65_

MOMENTS                          _66_

THE EPITAPH                      _67_

INTERRUPTION                     _68_

THE EAR-TRUMPET                  _70_

GUILT                            _71_

CADOGAN GARDENS                  _72_

THE RESCUE                       _73_

CHARM                            _74_

CARAVANS                         _75_

THE SUBURBS                      _76_

THE CONCERTO                     _77_

SOMEWHERE                        _78_

THE PLATITUDE                    _79_

THE FETISH                       _80_

THE ECHO                         _81_

THE SCAVENGER                    _82_

THE HOT-BED                      _83_

APHASIA                          _84_

MAGIC                            _85_

MRS. BACKE                       _86_

WHISKERS                         _87_

THE SPELLING LESSON              _88_

JEUNESSE                         _89_

HANGING ON                       _90_

SUPERANNUATION                   _91_

AT THE CLUB                      _92_

DELAY                            _93_

SMILES                           _94_

THE DAWN                         _95_

THE PEAR                         _96_

INSOMNIA                         _97_

READING PHILOSOPHY               _98_

MORAL TRIUMPH                    _99_

A VOW                            _100_

THE SPRINGS OF ACTION            _101_

IN THE CAGE                      _102_

SHRINKAGE                        _103_

VOICES                           _104_

EVANESCENCE                      _105_

COMPLACENCY                      _106_

MY PORTRAIT                      _107_

THE RATIONALIST                  _108_

THOUGHTS                         _109_

PHRASES                          _110_

DISENCHANTMENT                   _111_

ASK ME NO MORE                   _112_

FAME                             _113_

NEWS ITEMS                       _114_

JOY                              _115_

IN ARCADY                        _116_

WORRIES                          _117_

THINGS TO WRITE                  _118_

PROPERTY                         _119_

IN A FIX                         _120_

VERTIGO                          _122_

THE EVIL EYE                     _123_

THE EPITHET                      _124_

THE GARDEN PARTY                 _125_

WELTSCHMERZ                      _126_

BOGEYS                           _127_

LIFE-ENHANCEMENT                 _129_

ECLIPSE                          _130_

THE PYRAMID                      _131_

THE FULL MOON                    _132_

LUTON                            _133_


THE SONNET                       _136_

WELTANSCHAUUNG                   _137_

THE ALIEN                        _138_

HYPOTHESES                       _139_

THE ARGUMENT                     _140_


'What funny clothes you wear, dear Readers! And your hats! The thought
of your hats does make me laugh. And I think your sex-theories quite

Thus across the void of Time I send, with a wave of my hand, a greeting
to that quaint, remote, outlandish, unborn people whom we call
Posterity, and whom I, like other very great writers, claim as my
readers--urging them to hurry up and get born, that they may have the
pleasure of reading 'More Trivia.'



I look at my overcoat and my hat hanging in the hall with reassurance;
for although I go out of doors with one individuality to-day, when
yesterday I had quite another, yet my clothes keep my various selves
buttoned up together, and enable all these otherwise irreconcilable
aggregates of psychological phenomena to pass themselves off as one


Before opening the front-door I paused, for a moment of profound

Dim-lit, shadowy, full of menace and unimaginable chances, stretched all
around my door the many-peopled streets. I could hear, ominous and
muffled, the tides of multitudinous traffic, sounding along their ways.
Was I equipped for the navigation of those waters, armed and ready to
adventure out into that dangerous world again?

Gloves? Money? Cigarettes? Matches? Yes; and I had an umbrella for its
tempests, and a latchkey for my safe return.


Shoving and pushing, and shoved and pushed, a dishonoured bag of bones
about London, or carted like a herring in a box through tunnels in the
clay beneath it, as I bump my head in a bus, or hang, half-suffocated;
from a greasy strap in the Underground, I dream, like other Idealists
and Saints and Social Thinkers, of a better world than this, a world
that might be, a City of Heaven brought down at last to earth.

One footman flings open the portals of my palace in that New Jerusalem
for me; another unrolls a path of velvet to the enormous motor which
floats me, swift and silent, through the city traffic--I leaning back
like God on hallowed cushions, smoking a big cigar.


Almost always the streets are full of dreary-looking people; sometimes
for weeks on end the poor face-hunter returns unblest from his
expeditions, with no provision with which to replenish his

Then one day the plenty is all too great; there are Princesses at the
street-crossings, Queens in the taxi-cabs, Beings fair as the day-spring
on the tops of busses; and the Gods themselves can be seen promenading
up and down Piccadilly.


Talk of ants! It's the precise habits, the incredible proceedings of
human insects I like to note and study.

Walking to-day, like a stranger dropped upon this planet, towards
Victoria, I chanced to see a female of this species, a certain Mrs.
Jones of my acquaintance, approaching from the opposite direction.
Immediately I found myself performing the oddest set of movements and
manoeuvres. I straightened my back and simpered, I lifted my hat in
the air; and then, seizing the paw of this female, I moved it up and
down several times, giving utterance to a set formula of articulated

These anthropological gestures and vocalisations, and my automatic
performance of them, reminded me that it was after all from inside one
of them, that I was observing these Bipeds.


Punctual, commonplace, keeping all appointments, as I go my round in the
obvious world, a bit of Chaos and old Night seems to linger on inside
me; a dark bewilderment of mind, a nebulous sea of speculation, a
looming of shadowy universes out of nothing, and their collapse, as in a


When people talk of Ghosts and Hauntings, I never mention the Apparition
by which I am pestered, the Phantom that shadows me about the streets,
the image or spectre, so familiar, so like myself, and yet so abhorrent,
which lurks in the plate-glass of shop-windows, or leaps out of mirrors
to waylay me.


At the corner of Oakley Street I stopped for a moment's chat with my
neighbour, Mrs. Wheble, who was waiting there for a bus.

'Do tell me,' she asked, 'what you have got in that odd-looking parcel?'

'It's an hour-glass,' I said, taking it out of its paper wrapping. 'I
saw it in a shop in the King's Road. I've always wanted an hour-glass to
measure time by. What a mystery Time really is, when you think of it!
See, the sands are running now while we are talking. I've got here in my
hand the most potent, the most enigmatic, the most fleeting of all
essences--Time, the sad cure for all our sorrows--but I say! There's
your bus just starting. You'll miss it if you don't look out!'


I was astonished, I was almost horror-struck by the sight of the New
Moon at the end of the street. In bewilderment and Blake-like wonder I
stood and gazed at it on my doorstep. For what was I doing there; I, a
wanderer, a pilgrim, a nomad of the desert, with no home save where the
evening found me--what was my business on that doorstep; at what
commonplace had the Moon caught me with a latchkey in my hand?


We met in an omnibus last evening. 'And where are you going now?' she
asked, as she looked at me with amusement.

'I am going, if the awful truth must be told, to dine in Grosvenor

'Lord!' she colloquially replied, 'and what do you do that for?'

'I do it because I am invited. And besides,' I went on, 'let me remind
you of what the Persian Mystics say of the Saints--that the Saints are
sometimes rich, that God sometimes endows them with an outward show of
wealth to hide them from the profane.'

'Oh, does He? Hides them in Grosvenor Square?'

'Very well, then, I shall tell you the real truth; I shall tell you my
real reason for going to dine there. Do you remember what Diogenes
answered when they asked him why he had asked for a statue at the public

'No; what did he say?'

'He said--but I must explain another time. I have to get off here.

I paused, however, at the door of the bus. 'He said,' I called back, '"I
am practising Disappointment." That--you know whom I mean?--was his


'What do you think of the International Situation?' asked that foreign
Countess, with her foreign, fascinating smile.

Was she a Spy? I felt I must be careful.

'What do I think?' I evasively echoed; and then, carried away by the
profound and melancholy interest of this question, 'Think?' I queried,
'do I ever really think? Is there anything inside my head but
cotton-wool? How can I call myself a Thinker? What am I anyhow?' I
pursued the sad inquiry: 'A noodle, a pigwidgeon, a ninnyhammer, a
bubble on the wave, a leaf in the wind, Madame!'


When I think of Etiquette and Funerals; when I consider the euphemisms
and rites and conventions and various costumes with which we invest the
acts of our animal existence; when I bear in mind how elegantly we eat
our victuals, and remember the series of ablutions and preparations and
salutations and exclamations and manipulations I went through when I
dined out last evening, I reflect what creatures we are of ceremony; how
elaborate, how pompous and polite a simian Species.


From the corner of the dim, half-empty drawing-room where they sat, they
could see, in a great mirror, the other dinner-guests linger and depart.
But none of them were going on--what was the good?--to that evening
party. They talked of satiety and disenchantment, of the wintry weather,
of illness and old age and death.

'But what really frightens me most in life,' said one of them, 'what
gives me a kind of vertigo or shiver, is--it sounds absurd, but it's
simply the horror of Space, _l'épouvante sidérale_,--the dismay of
Infinity, the black abysses in the Milky Way, the silence of those
eternal spaces beyond the furthest stars.'

'But Time,' said another of the group, 'surely Time is a worse
nightmare. Think of it! the Past with never a beginning, the Future
going on for ever and ever, and the little present in which we live for
a second, twinkling between these two black abysses.'

'What's wrong with me,' mused the third speaker, 'is that even the
Present eludes me. I don't know what it really is; I can never catch the
moment as it passes; I am always far ahead or far away behind, and
always somewhere else. I am not really here now with you, though I am
talking to you. And why should I go to the party? I shouldn't be there,
either, if I went. My life is all reminiscence and anticipation--if you
can call it life, if I am not rather a kind of ghost, haunting a past
that has ceased to be, or a future that is still more shadowy and
unreal. It's ghastly in a way, this exile and isolation. But why speak
of it, after all?'

They rose, and their images too were reflected in the great mirror, as
they passed out of the drawing-room, and dispersed, each on his or her
way, into the winter night.


I sat there, hating the exuberance of her bust, and her high-coloured
wig. And how could I listen to music in the close proximity of those
loud stockings?

Then our eyes met: in both of us the enchanted chord was touched; we
both looked through the same window into Heaven. In that moment of
musical, shared delight, my soul and the soul of that large lady, joined
hands and sang like the morning stars together.


In the midst of my anecdote a sudden misgiving chilled me--had I told
them about this Goat before? And then as I talked there gaped upon
me--abyss opening beneath abyss--a darker speculation: when goats are
mentioned, do I automatically and always tell this story about the Goat
at Portsmouth?


Still I am not a pessimist, nor misanthrope, nor grumbler; I bear it
all, the burden of Public Affairs, the immensity of Space, the brevity
of Life, and the thought of the all-swallowing Grave--all this I put up
with without impatience. I accept the common lot. And if now and then
for a moment it seems too much; if I get my feet wet, or have to wait
too long for tea, and my soul in these wanes of the moon cries out in
French _C'est fini!_ I always answer _Pazienza!_ in Italian--_abbia la
santa Pazienza!_


'So of course I bought it! How could I help buying it?' Then, lifting
the conversation, as with Lady Hyslop one always lifts it, to a higher
level, 'this notion of Free Will,' I went on, 'the notion, for instance,
that I was free to buy or not to buy that rare edition, seems, when you
think of it--at least to me it seems--a wretched notion really. I like
to feel that I must follow the things I desire as--how shall I put
it?--as the tide follows the Moon; that my actions are due to necessary
causes; that the world inside me isn't a meaningless chaos, but a world
of order, like the world outside, governed by beautiful laws, as the
Stars are governed.'

'Ah, how I love the Stars!' murmured Lady Hyslop. 'What things they say
to me! They are the pledges of lost recognitions; the promise of
ineffable mitigations.'

'Mitigations?' I gasped, feeling for a moment a little giddy. But it
didn't matter: always when we meet Lady Hyslop and I have the most
wonderful conversations.


'But one really never knows the Age one lives in. How interesting it
would be,' I said to the lady next me, 'how I wish we could see
ourselves as Posterity will see us!'

I have said it before, but on this occasion I was struck--almost
thunder-struck--by my own remark. Like a rash enchanter, the spirit I
had raised myself alarmed me. For a queer second I did see ourselves in
that inevitable mirror, but cadaverous and out-of-date and palsied--a
dusty set of old waxworks, simpering inanely in the lumber-room of Time.

'Better to be forgotten at once!' I exclaimed, with an emphasis that
seemed to surprise the lady next me.


But why wasn't I born, alas, in an age of Adjectives; why can one no
longer write of silver-shedding Tears and moon-tailed Peacocks, of
eloquent Death, and the negro and star-enamelled Night?


I, who move and breathe and place one foot before the other, who watch
the Moon wax and wane, and put off answering my letters, where shall I
find the Bliss which dreams and blackbirds' voices promise, of which the
waves whisper, and hand-organs in streets near Paddington faintly sing?

Does it dwell in some island of the South Seas, or far oasis among
deserts and gaunt mountains; or only in those immortal gardens imagined
by Chinese poets beyond the great cold palaces of the Moon?


These eye-encounters in the street, little touches of love-liking; faces
that ask, as they pass, 'Are you my new lover?' Shall I one day--in Park
Lane or Oxford Street perhaps--see the unknown Face I dread and look


And as at night I went past the Abbey, saw its walls towering high and
solemn among the autumn stars, I pictured to myself the white population
in the vast darkness of its interior--all that hushed people of
Heroes--; not dead, I would think them, but animated with a still kind
of life; and at last, after all their intolerable toils, the sounding
tumult of battle, and perilous seapaths, resting there, tranquil and
satisfied and glorious, amid the epitaphs and allegorical figures of
their tombs--those high-piled, trophied, shapeless Abbey tombs, that
long ago they toiled for, and laid down their gallant lives to win.


'Yes, as you say, life is so full of disappointment, disillusion! More
and more I ask myself, as I grow older, what is the good of it all? We
dress, we go out to dinner,' I went on, 'but surely we walk in a vain
show. How good this asparagus is! I often say asparagus is the most
delicious of all vegetables. And yet, I don't know--when one thinks of
fresh green peas. One can get tired of asparagus, as one can of
strawberries--but tender peas I could eat forever. Then peaches, and
melons;--and there are certain pears, too, that taste like heaven. One
of my favourite daydreams for the long afternoon of life is to live
alone, a formal, greedy, selfish old gentleman, in a square house, say
in Devonshire, with a square garden, whose walls are covered with
apricots and figs and peaches: and there are precious pears, too, of my
own planting, on espaliers along the paths. I shall walk out with a
gold-headed cane in the autumn sunshine, and just at the right moment I
shall pick another pear. However, that isn't at all what I was going to


In the streets of London there are door-bells I ring (I see myself
ringing them); in certain houses there are chairs covered with chintz or
cretonne in which I sit and talk about life, explaining often after tea
what I think of it.


They are all persons of elegant manners and spotless reputations; they
seem to welcome my visits, and they listen to my anecdotes with
unflinching attention. I have only one grievance against them; they will
keep in their houses mawkish books full of stale epithets, which, when I
only seem to smell their proximity, produce in me a slight feeling of

There are people, I believe, who are affected in this way by the
presence of cats.


I went in and shook hands with my hostess, but no one else took any
special notice; no one screamed or left the room; the quiet murmur of
talk went on. I suppose I seemed like the others; observed from outside
no doubt I looked more or less like them.

But inside, seen from within...? Or was it a conceivable hypothesis that
we were all alike inside also--that all those quietly-talking people had
got the Moon, too, in their heads?


'But when you are as old as I am!' I said to the young lady in pink
satin. 'But I don't know how old you are,' that young lady answered
almost archly. We were getting on quite nicely.

'Oh I'm endlessly old; my memory goes back almost forever. I come out of
the Middle Ages. I am the primitive savage we are all descended from; I
believe in Devil-worship, and the power of the Stars; I dance under the
new Moon, naked and tattooed and holy. I am a Cave-dweller, a
contemporary of Mastodons and Mammoths; I am pleistocene and neolithic,
and full of the lusts and terrors of the great pre-glacial forests. But
that's nothing; I am millions of years older; I am an arboreal Ape, an
aged Baboon, with all its instincts; I am a pre-simian quadruped, I have
great claws, eyes that see in the dark, and a long prehensile tail.'

'Good gracious!' said the terrified young lady in pink satin. Then she
turned, and for the rest of the dinner talked in a hushed voice with her
other neighbour.


As I sat inside that crowded bus, so sad, so incredible and sordid
seemed the fat face of the woman opposite me, that I interposed the
thought of Kilimanjaro, that highest mountain of Africa, between us; the
grassy slopes and green realms of negro kings from which its dark cone
rises, the immense, dim, elephant-haunted forests which clothe its
flanks; and above, the white crown of snow, freezing in eternal
isolation over the palm trees and deserts of the African Equator.


Well, what if I did put it on a little at that luncheon? Do I not owe it
to my friends to assert now and then my claims to consideration; ought I
always to allow myself to be trampled on and treated as dirt? And how
about the Saints and Patriarchs of the Bible? Didn't Joseph tell of the
dream in which his wheatsheaf was exalted; Deborah sing without blame
how she arose a mother in Israel, and David boast of his triumph over
the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear? Nay, in His confabulations
with His chosen people, does not the Creator of the Universe Himself
take every opportunity of impressing on those Hebrews His importance,
His power, His glory?

Was I not made in His image?


All this hurry to dress and go out, these journeys in taxi-cabs, or in
trains with my packed bag from big railway stations--what keeps me
going, I sometimes ask myself; and I remember how, in his 'Masnavi I
Ma'navi' or 'Spiritual Couplets,' Jalalu 'D-Din Muhammad Rumi says that
our Desires, the swarm of gaudy Thoughts we pursue and follow, are
short-lived like summer insects, and must all be killed before long by
the winter of age.


Oh, to be becalmed on a sea of glass all day; to listen all day to rain
on the roof, or wind in pine trees; to sit all day by a waterfall
reading exquisite, artificial, monotonous Persian poems about an
oasis-garden where it is always spring--where roses bloom and lovers
sigh, and nightingales lament without ceasing, and white-robed figures
sit in groups by the running water and discuss all day, and day after
day, the Meaning of Life.


In the cold and malicious society in which I live, I must never mention
the Soul, nor speak of my aspirations. If I ever once let these people
get a glimpse of the higher side of my nature, they would set on me like
a pack of wolves and tear me in pieces.

I wish I had soulful friends-refined Maiden Ladies with ideals and long
noses, who live at Hampstead or Putney, and play Chopin with passion. On
sad autumn afternoons I would go and have tea with them, and talk of the
spiritual meaning of Beethoven's late Sonatas; or discuss in the
twilight the pathos of life and the Larger Hope.


But God sees me; He knows my beautiful nature, and how pure I keep amid
all sorts of quite horrible temptations. And that is why, as I feel in
my bones, there is a special Providence watching over me; an Angel sent
expressly from heaven to guide my footsteps from harm. For I never trip
up or fall downstairs like other people; I am not run over by cabs and
busses at street-crossings; in the worst wind my hat never blows off.

And if ever any of the great cosmic processes or powers threaten me, I
believe that God sees it: 'Stop it!' He shouts from His ineffable
Throne, 'Don't you touch my Chosen One, my Pet Lamb, my Beloved. Leave
him alone, I tell you!'


I am no mere thinker, no mere creature of dreams and imagination. I
stamp and post letters; I buy new bootlaces and put them in my boots.
And when I set out to get my hair cut, it is with the iron face of those
men of empire and unconquerable will, those Cæsars and Napoleons, whose
footsteps shake the earth.


We met at Waterloo; as we were paying the same visit, we travelled in
the train together; but when we got out at that country station, she
found that her boxes had not arrived. They might have gone on to the
next station; I waited with her while enquiries were telephoned down the
line. It was a mild spring evening: side by side we sat in silence on a
wooden bench facing the platform; the bustle caused by the passing train
ebbed away; the dusk deepened, and one by one the stars twinkled out in
the serene sky.

'How peaceful it is!' I remarked at last. 'Is there not a certain
charm,' I went on after another pause, 'in waiting like this in silence
under the stars? It's after all a little adventure, is it not? a moment
with a certain mood and colour and atmosphere of its own.'

'I often think,' I once more mused aloud, 'I often think that it is in
moments like this of waiting and hushed suspense, that one tastes most
fully the savour of life, the uncertainty, and yet the sweetness of our
frail mortal condition, so capable of fear and hope, so dependent on a
million accidents.'

'Luggage!' I said, after another silence, 'is it not after all absurd
that minds which contemplate the universe should cart about with them
brushes and boots and drapery in leather boxes? Suppose all this paltry
junk,' I said, giving my suitcase, which stood near me, a disdainful
poke with my umbrella, 'suppose it all disappears, what after all does
it matter?'

At last she spoke. 'But it's not your luggage,' she said, 'but mine
which is lost.'


We were talking of the Universe at tea, and one of our company declared
that he at least was entirely without illusions. He had long since faced
the fact that Nature had no sympathy with our hopes and fears, and was
completely indifferent to our fate. The Universe, he said, was a great
meaningless machine; Man, with his reason and moral judgments, was the
product of blind forces, which, though they would so soon destroy him,
he must yet despise. To endure this tragedy of our fate with passionless
despair, never to wince or bow the head, to confront the hostile powers
with high disdain, to fix with eyes of scorn the Gorgon face of Destiny,
to stand on the brink of the abyss, hurling defiance at the icy
stars--this, he said, was his attitude, and it produced, as you can
imagine, a very powerful impression on the company. As for me, I was
completely carried away by my enthusiasm.

'By Jove, that is a stunt!' I cried.


'Self-determination,' one of them insisted. 'Arbitration!' cried

'Co-operation?' suggested the mildest of the party.

'Confiscation!' answered an uncompromising female.

I, too, became slightly intoxicated by the sound of these vocables. And
were they not the cure for all our ills?

'Inoculation!' I chimed in. 'Transubstantiation, Alliteration,
Inundation, Flagellation and Afforestation!'


Though I sometimes lay down the law myself on public questions, I don't
very much care to hear other people do it. The heavy talker, however,
who was now holding forth about finance, showed such a grasp of his
subject, and made such mincemeat of a rash opponent, that I thought it
best, for the moment, to say nothing.

'So what you allege,' he triumphed in his overbearing manner, 'is
perfectly irrelevant. My withers are unwrung. It does not affect my
position in the least.'

And then I lightly flung my Goliath pebble. 'Withers?' I ingenuously
asked, 'what are the withers, anyhow?'

He turned on me a glance of anger and contempt. 'Withers--why the
withers--' 'It's only--only a figure of speech,' he stammered.

'Oh!' I said, with a look at the company full of suggestion, 'a figure
of speech--I see.'


'But I'm told you don't believe in love--'

'Now who on earth could have told you that?' I cried indignantly. 'Of
course I believe in it--there is no one more enthusiastic about Love
than I am. I believe in it at all times and seasons, but especially in
the Spring. Why, just think of it! True-love amid the apple-blossoms,
lovers who outwake the nightingales of April, the touch of hands and
lips, and the clinging of flower-soft limbs together; and all this amid
the gay, musical, perfumed landscape of the Spring. Why, nothing, Miss
Tomkins, could be more appropriate and pretty!'

'Haven't I said so again and again, haven't I published it more than
once in the weekly papers?'


'It's awful,' I said, 'I think it simply wicked, the way you tear your
friends to pieces!'

'But you do it yourself, you know you do! You analyse and analyse
people, and then you make them up again into creatures larger than

'That's exactly it,' I answered gravely. 'If I take people to pieces, I
do it in order to put them together again better than they were before;
I make them more real, so to speak, more significant, more essentially
themselves. But to cut them up, as you do, and leave the fragments lying
around anywhere on the floor--I can't tell you how cruel and heartless
and wrong I think it!'


Again, as the train drew out of the station, the old gentleman pulled
out of his pocket his great shining watch; and for the fifth, or, as it
seemed to me, the five-hundredth time, he said (we were in the carriage
alone together) 'To the minute, to the very minute! It's a marvellous
thing, the Railway; a wonderful age!'

Now I had been long annoyed by the old gentleman's smiling face,
platitudes, and piles of newspapers; I had no love for the Age, and an
impulse came on me to denounce it.

'Allow me to tell you,' I said, 'that I consider it a wretched, an
ignoble age. Where's the greatness of life? Where's dignity, leisure,
stateliness; where's Art and Eloquence? Where are your great scholars,
statesmen? Let me ask you, sir,' I cried glaring at him, 'where's your
Gibbon, your Burke or Chatham?'


People often said that there was nothing sadder, she mourned, than the
remembrance of past happiness; but to her it seemed that not the way we
remembered, but the way we forgot, was the real tragedy of life.
Everything faded from us; our joys and sorrows vanished alike in the
irrevocable flux; we could not stay their fleeting. Did I not feel, she
asked, the sadness of this forgetting, this out-living all the things we
care for, this constant dying, so to speak, in the midst of life?

I felt its sadness very much; I felt quite lugubrious about it. 'And
yet,' I said (for I did really want to think of something that might
console this lamentable lady), 'and yet can we not find, in this fading
of recollection, some recompense, after all? Think, for instance--' But
what, alas, could I suggest?

'Think,' I began once more after a moment of reflection, 'think of
forgetting, and reading over and over again, all Jane Austen's novels!'


It is pleasant to saunter out in the morning sun and idle along the
summer streets with no purpose.

But is it Right?

I am not really bothered by these Questions--the hoary old puzzles of
Ethics and Philosophy, which lurk around the London corners to waylay
me. I have got used to them; and the most formidable of all, the biggest
bug of Metaphysics, the Problem which nonplusses the wisest heads on
this Planet, has become quite a familiar companion of mine. What is
Reality? I ask myself almost daily: how does the External World exist,
materialised in mid-air, apart from my perceptions? This show of streets
and skies, of policemen and perambulators and hard pavements, is it a
mere vision, a figment of the Mind; or does it remain there, permanent
and imposing, when I stop thinking about it?

Often, as I saunter along Piccadilly or Bond Street, I please myself
with the Berkeleian notion that Matter has no existence; that this so
solid-seeming World is all idea, all appearance--that I am carried soft
through space inside an immense Thought-bubble, a floating, diaphanous,
opal-tinted Dream.


Is there, then, no friend? No one who hates Ibsen and problem plays, and
the Supernatural, and Switzerland and Adultery as much as I do? Must I
live all my life as mute as a mackerel, companionless and uninvited, and
never tell anyone what I think of my famous contemporaries? Must I
plough always a solitary furrow, and tread the winepress alone?


What charming corners one can find in the immense dinginess of London,
and what curious encounters become a part of the London-lover's
experience! The other day, when I walked a long way out of the Edgware
Road, and stopped for tea at the Welsh Harp, on the banks of the Brent
Reservoir, I found, beyond the modern frontage of this inn, an old
garden adorned with sham ruins and statues, and full of autumn flowers
and the shimmer of clear water. Sitting there and drinking my tea--alone
as I thought at first, in the twilight--I became aware that the garden
had another occupant; that at another table, not far from me, a vague
and not very prosperous-looking woman in a shabby bonnet was sitting,
with her reticule lying by her, also drinking tea and gazing at the
after-glow of the sunset. An elderly spinster I thought her, a
dressmaker perhaps, or a retired governess, one of those maiden ladies
who live alone in quiet lodgings, and are fond of romantic fiction and
solitary excursions.

As we sat there, we two alone in the growing dusk, more than once our
glances met, and a curious relation of sympathy and understanding seemed
to establish itself between us; we seemed to carry on a dialogue full
of tacit avowals, 'Yes,' we seemed to say, as our eyes met over our
suspended tea-cups, 'yes, Beauty, Romance, the Blue Bird that sings of
Happiness--these are the things we care for--the only things that, in
spite of everything, we still care for; but where can we find them in
the dingy London streets and suburbs?'

'And yet,' our eyes seemed to ask each other, 'isn't this garden, in its
shabby, pretentious way, romantic; isn't it like something in a poem of
Verlaine's; hasn't it now, in the dim light, a kind of beauty? And this
mood of meditation after our excellent tea, what name, if we are honest,
can we call it by, if we do not call it Happiness?'


People often seem to take me for some one else; they talk to me as if I
were a person of earnest views and unalterable convictions. 'What is
your opinion of Democracy?' they ask: 'Are you in favour of the Channel
Tunnel?' 'Do you believe in existence after Death?'

I assume a thoughtful attitude, and by means of grave looks and evasive
answers, I conceal--or at least I hope I conceal--my discreditable


What on earth had I come up for? I stood out of breath in my bedroom,
having completely forgotten the errand which had carried me upstairs,
leaping two steps at a time.

Gloves! Of course it was my gloves which I had left there. But what did
gloves matter, I asked myself, in a world, as Dr. Johnson describes it,
bursting with misery?

O stars and garters! how bored I am by this trite, moralising way of
regarding natural phenomena--this crying of vanity on the beautiful
manifestations of mechanical forces. This desire of mine to appear out
of doors in appropriate apparel, if it can thus defy and overcome the
law of gravitation, if it can lift twelve stone of matter thirty or
forty feet above the earth's surface; if it can do this every day, and
several times a day, and never get out of order, is it not as remarkable
and convenient in the house as a hydraulic lift?


When I walk out, middle-aged, but still sprightly, and still, if the
truth must be told, with an idiot dream in my heart of some romantic
encounter, I look at the passers-by, say in Sloane Street, and then I
begin to imagine moonfaces more alluring than any I see in that
thoroughfare. But then again vaster thoughts visit me, remote
metaphysical musings; those faces like moons I imagined all wane as
moons wane, the passers-by vanish; and immortal Reason, disdaining the
daymoth she dwells with, turns away to her crystalline sphere of sublime
contemplation. I am lost out of time, I walk on alone in a world of
white silence.


I wondered, as I passed Regent's Park on my way to Hampstead, what kind
of people live in those great stuccoed terraces and crescents, with
their solemn façades and friezes and pediments and statues. People
larger than life I picture the inhabitants of those inexpensive, august,
unfashionable houses, people with a dignity of port, an amplitude of
back, an emphasis of vocabulary and conviction unknown in other regions;
Dowagers and Dignitaries who have retired from a world no longer worthy
of them, ex-Governors of Dominions, unavailing Viceroys, superannuated
Bishops and valetudinarian Generals, who wear top-hats and drive around
the Park in old-fashioned barouches--a society, I imagine it, not
frivolous, not flippant, entirely devoid of double meanings; a society
in which the memory of Queen Victoria is still revered, and regrets are
still felt, perhaps, for the death of the Prince Consort.

Or, as I have sometimes fancied, are those noble mansions the homes of
the Victorian Statesmen and Royal Ladies and distinguished-looking
Murderers who, in the near-by wax-work exhibition, gaze on the shallow,
modern generation which chatters and pushes all day before the glassy
disapprobation of their eyes?


Peacock Vanities, great, crested Cockatoos of Glory, gay Infatuations
and painted Daydreams--what a pity it is all the Blue Birds of
impossible Paradises have such beaks and sharp claws, that one really
has to keep them shut up in their not too cleanly cages!


As I walked on the air soon lightened; the Throne, the Altar and the
top-hat cast fainter shadows, the figures of John Bright and Gladstone
and Queen Victoria faded from my mind. I had entered the precincts of
St. John's Wood; and as I went past its villas of coquettish aspect,
with their gay Swiss gables, their frivolously Gothic or Italian or
almost Oriental faces, the lighter aspects of existence they represent,
the air they have of not taking life too seriously, began to exert their

St. John's Wood is the home in fiction of adventuresses and profligacy
and Bohemian supper-parties; often have I read about those foreign
Countesses, of unknown history and incredible fascination, who decoy
handsome young officials of the Foreign Office to these villas, and rob
them, in dim-lit, scented bedrooms, of important documents. But I at
least have never too harshly blamed these young diplomatists. Silent is
the street as the mysterious brougham pauses, lovely the eyes that
flash, and graceful the white-gloved hand that beckons from the carriage
window; and how can they resist (for they are only human) the lure of so
adventurous, so enchanting an invitation?


I had often heard of the Hampstead Garden Suburb, and the attempt of its
inhabitants to create an atmosphere of the Higher Culture, to
concentrate, as it were, the essence of the ideal life in one region.
But I must now confess that it was in a spirit of profane curiosity that
I walked up towards its courts and closes. And when I saw the notices of
the Societies for Ethical Culture and Handicrafts and Child Study, the
lectures on Reincarnation, the Holy Grail, the Signs of the Zodiac, and
the Teaching of the Holy Zoroaster, I am afraid I laughed. But how
shallow, how thin this laughter soon sounded amid the quiet amenity, the
beautiful distinction of this pretty paradise! It was an afternoon of
daydreams; the autumnal light under the low clouds was propitious to
inner recollection; and as I walked the streets of this ideal city,
soothed by the sense of order and beautiful architecture all around me,
I began to feel that I too was an Idealist, that here was my spiritual
home, and that it would be a right and seemly thing to give up the
cinemas and come and make my dwelling on this hill-top. Pictures floated
before my eyes of tranquil days, days of gardening and handicrafts and
lectures, evenings spent in perusing the world's masterpieces.

Although I still frequent the cinemas, and spend too much time gazing in
at the windows of expensive shops, and the reverie of that afternoon has
come to no fruition, yet I feel myself a better person for it: I feel
that it marks me off from the merely cynical and worldly. For I at least
have had a Pisgah sight of the Promised City; I have made its ideal my
own, if but for an afternoon, and only in a daydream.


'Well, I must say!' Reason exclaimed, when we found ourselves in the
street again.

'What's the matter now?' I asked uneasily.

'Why are you always trying to be some one else? Why not be what you
really are?'

'But what am I really? Again I ask you?'

'I do hate to see you playing the ass; and think how they must laugh at

The glossy and respected image of myself I had left in the house behind
us began to tarnish.

'And what next?' my querulous companion went on. 'What will you be in
South Kensington, I wonder? a sad and solitary Satan, disillusioned and
distinguished, or a bluff, breezy sailor, fond of his bottle and his
boon companions?'


When people embellish their conversation with a glitter of titles, and
drag into it self-aggrandizing anecdotes, though I laugh at this peacock
vein in them, I do not harshly condemn it. Nay, since I too am human,
since I too belong to the great household, would it be surprising
if--say once or twice in my life--I also should have gratified this
tickling relish of the tongue?

No--but what is surprising, is the way that, as I feel, I alone always
escape detection, always throw dust in other people's eyes.


The topic was one of my favourite topics of conversation, but I didn't
at all feel on this occasion that it was I who was speaking. No, it was
the Truth shining through me; the light of the Revelation which I had
been chosen to proclaim and blazon to the world. No wonder they were all
impressed by my moving tones and gestures; no wonder even the fastidious
lady whom it was most difficult to please kept watching me with almost
ecstatic attention.

As a cloud may obscure the sun in his glory, so from some morass of
memory arose a tiny mist of words to darken my mind for a moment. I
brushed them aside; they had no meaning. Sunning myself in the mirror of
those eyes, never, for a moment, could I credit that devil-suggested
explanation of their gaze.

Oh, no! that phrase I had heard, I had heard, was a nonsense phrase; the
words, 'She mimics you to perfection,' were nothing but a bit of
unintelligible jabber.


'I do so hate gossip,' she murmured.

'How I hate it too!' I heard myself exclaim.

'There is so much that is good and noble in human nature; why not talk
of that?'

'Why not indeed?' I sighed.

'I always feel that it is one's own fault if one dislikes people, or
finds them boring.'

'How I agree with you!' I cried sincerely.

'But people are nowadays so cynical--they sneer at everything that makes
life worth living--Love, Faith, Friendship--'

'And yet those very names are so lovely that even when used in mockery
they shed a radiance--they shine like stars.'

'How beautifully you put it! I have so enjoyed our talk.' I had enjoyed
it too, and felt all the better for it, only a little giddy and out of
breath, as if I had been up in a balloon.


Walking home at night, troubled by the world's affairs, and with the
National Debt crushing down my weak shoulders, I sometimes allow my
Thoughts an interlude of solace. From the jar in which I keep my vanity
bottled, I remove the cork; out rushes that friendly Jinn and swells up
and fills the sky. I walk on lightly through another world, a world in
which I cut a very different figure.

I shall not describe that exquisite, evanescent universe; even for me
'tis but the bubble of a moment; I soon snuff it out, or of itself it
melts in the thin air.


With all that I know about life, all this cynical and sad knowledge of
what happens and must happen, all the experience and caution and
disillusion stored and packed in the uncanny, cold, grey matter of my
cerebrum--with all this inside my head, how can I ever dream of banging
it against the Stars?


These exquisite and absurd fancies of mine--little curiosities, and
greedinesses, and impulses to kiss and touch and snatch, and all the
vanities and artless desires that nest and sing in my heart like birds
in a bush--all these, we are now told, are an inheritance from our
pre-human past, and were hatched long ago in very ancient swamps and
forests. But what of that? I like to share in the dumb delights of birds
and animals, to feel my life drawing its sap from roots deep in the soil
of Nature. I am proud of those bright-eyed, furry, four-footed
progenitors, and not at all ashamed of my cousins, the Tigers and Apes
and Peacocks.


'Awful moments? Why, yes, of course,' I said, 'life is full of them--let
me think--'

'To find other people's unposted letters in an old pocket; to be seen
looking at oneself in a street-mirror, or overhead talking of the Ideal
to a duchess; to refuse Nuns who come to the door to ask for
subscriptions, or to be lent by a beautiful new acquaintance a book she
has written full of mystical slipslop, or dreadful musings in an
old-world garden--'


'But perhaps he is a friend of yours?' said my lips. 'Is it safe?' my
eyes asked, 'Dare I tell you what I think of him?'

It was safe; only silence fell upon them, those Sad Ones, who at my
decease should murmur, 'He never said of any one an unkind word.' 'Alas,
Farewell!' breathed that boyish daydream of my funeral, as it faded.


'Life,' said a gaunt widow, with a reputation for being clever--'life is
a perpetual toothache.'

In this vein the conversation went on: the familiar topics were
discussed of labour troubles, epidemics, cancer, tuberculosis, and

Near me there sat a little old lady who was placidly drinking her tea,
and taking no part in the melancholy chorus. 'Well, I must say,' she
remarked, turning to me and speaking in an undertone, 'I must say I
enjoy life.'

'So do I,' I whispered.

'When I enjoy things,' she went on, 'I know it. Eating, for instance,
the sunshine, my hot-water bottle at night. Other people are always
thinking of unpleasant things. It makes a difference,' she added, as she
got up to go with the others.

'All the difference in the world,' I answered.

It's too bad that I had no chance for a longer conversation with this
wise old lady. I felt that we were congenial spirits, and had a lot to
tell each other. For she and I are not among those who fill the mind
with garbage; we make a better use of that divine and adorable
endowment. We invite Thought to share, and by sharing to enhance, the
pleasures of the delicate senses; we distil, as it were, an elixir from
our golden moments, keeping out of the shining crucible of consciousness
everything that tastes sour. I do wish that we could have discussed at
greater length, like two Alchemists, the theory and practice of our


They were talking of people I did not know. 'How do they spend their
time there?' some one asked.

Then I, who had been sitting too long silent, raised my voice. 'Ah,
that's a mysterious question, when you think of it, how people spend
their time. We only see them after all in glimpses; but what, I often
wonder, do they do in their hushed and shrouded hours--in all the
interstices of their lives?'

'In the what?'

'In the times, I mean, when no one sees them. In the intervals.'

'But that isn't the word you used?'

'It's the same thing--the interstices--'

Of course there was a deaf lady present. 'What did you say?' she
inquired, holding out her ear-trumpet for my answer.


What should I think of? I asked myself as I opened my umbrella. How
should I amuse my imagination, that harsh, dusky, sloshy, winter
afternoon, as I walked to Bedford Square? Should I think of Arabia or
exotic birds; of Albatrosses, or of those great Condors who sleep on
their outspread wings in the blue air above the Andes?

But a sense of guilt oppressed me. What had I done or left undone? And
the shadowy figures that seemed to menace and pursue me? Yes, I had
wronged them; it was again those Polish Poets, it was Mickiewicz,
Slowacki, Szymonowicz, Krasicki, Kochanowski, of all whose works I had
never read a word.


Out of the fog a dim figure accosted me. 'I beg your pardon, Sir, but
could you tell me how to get to Cadogan Gardens?'

'Cadogan Gardens? I am afraid I am lost myself. Perhaps, Sir,' I added
(we two seemed oddly alone and intimate in that white world of mystery
together), 'perhaps, Sir, you can tell me where I can find the Gardens I
am looking for?' I breathed their name.

'Hesperian Gardens?' the voice repeated. 'I don't think I have ever
heard of Hesperian Gardens.'

'Oh, surely!' I cried, 'The Gardens of the Sunset and the singing

'But what I am really looking for,' I confided to that dim-seen figure,
'what I am always hoping to find is the Fortunate Abodes, the Happy
Orchard, the Paradise our parents lost so long ago.'


As I sat there, hopeless, with my coat and hat on in my bedroom, I felt
I had no hold on life, no longer the slightest interest in it. To gain
all that the world could give I would not have raised a listless finger;
and it was entirely without intention that I took a cigarette, and felt
for matches in my pocket. It was the act of an automaton, of a corpse
that twitches a little after life has left it.

But when I found that I hadn't any matches, that--hang it!--there wasn't
a box of matches anywhere, then, with this vexation, life came flooding
back--the warm, familiar sense of my own existence, with all its
exasperation, and incommunicable charm.


'Speaking of Charm,' I said, 'there is one quality which I find very
attractive, though most people don't notice it, and rather dislike it if
they do. That quality is Observation. You read of it in
eighteenth-century books--"a Man of much Observation," they say. So few
people,' I went on, 'really notice anything--they live in theories and
thin dreams, and look at you with unseeing eyes. They take very little
interest in the real world; but the Observers I speak of find it a
source of inexhaustible fascination. Nothing escapes them; they can tell
at once what the people they meet are like, where they belong, their
profession, the kind of houses they live in. The slightest thing is
enough for them to judge by--a tone of voice, a gesture, a way of
putting on the hat--'

'I always judge people,' one of the company remarked, 'by their boots.
It's people's feet I look at first. And bootlaces now--what an awful lot
bootlaces can tell you!'

As I slipped my feet back under my chair, I subjected my theory of Charm
to a rapid revision.


Always over the horizon of the Sahara move those soundless caravans of
camels, swaying with their padded feet across the desert I imagine, till
in the shadowy distance of my mind they fade away, and vanish.


What are the beliefs about God in Grosvenor Gardens, the surmises of
South Kensington concerning our fate beyond the Grave? On what grounds
does life seem worth living in Pimlico; and how far in the Cromwell Road
do they follow, or think they follow, the precepts of the Sermon on the

If I can but dimly discern the ideals of these familiar regions, how
much more am I in the dark about the inner life of the great outer
suburbs. In what works of local introspection can I study the daydreams
of Brixton, the curiosities and discouragements of Camberwell or Ealing?

More than once I have paused before a suburban villa, telling myself
that I had after all but to ring the bell, and go in and ask them. But
alas, they would not tell me; they could not tell me, even if they


'What a beautiful movement!' she murmured, as the music paused.

'Beautiful!' I roused myself to echo, though I hadn't heard a note.

Immediately I found myself again in the dock; and again the trial began,
that ever-recurring criminal Action in which I am both Judge and
culprit, all the jury, and the advocate on either side.

I now pleaded my other respectable attainments and previous good
character; and winning a favourable verdict, I dropped back into my
dream, letting the violin wail unheard through the other movements, and
the Grand Piano tinkle.


Somewhere, far below the horizon, there is a City; some day I shall sail
to find that sun-bright harbour; by what star I shall steer my vessel,
or where that seaport lies, I know not; but somehow, through calms and
storms and all the vague sea-noises I shall voyage, until at last some
mountain peak will rise to tell me I am near my destination; or I shall
see, some day at dusk, a lighthouse twinkling at its port.


'It's after all the little things in life that really matter!' I
exclaimed. I was as much chagrined as they were flabbergasted by this
involuntary outbreak; but I have become an expert in that Taoist art of
disintegration which Yen Hui described to Confucius as the art of
'sitting and forgetting.' I have learnt to lay aside my personality in
awkward moments, to dissolve this self of mine into the All Pervading;
to fall back, in fact, into the universal flux, and sit, as I now sat
there, a blameless lump of matter, rolled on according to the heavens'
rolling, with rocks and stones and trees.


Enshrined in a box of white paste-board upstairs I keep a black,
ceremonial object; 'tis my link with Christendom and the world of grave
custom; only on sacred occasions does it make its appearance, only at
some great tribal dance of my race. To pageants of Woe I convey it, or
of the hugest Felicity: at great Hallelujahs of Wedlock, or at last
Valedictions, I hold it bare-headed as I bow before altars and tombs.


Now and then, from the other end of the table, words and phrases reached
us as we talked.

'What do they mean by complexes?' she asked. 'Oh, it's only one of the
catchwords of the day,' I answered. 'Everything's a complex just now.'

'The talk of most people,' I went on, 'is simply--how shall I put
it?--simply the ticking of clocks; it marks the hour, but it has no
other interest. But I like to think for myself, to be something more
than a mere mouthpiece of the age I live in--a mere sounding-board and
echo of contemporary chatter.'

'Just listen!' I said as again their raised voices reached our ears.

'It's simply one of the catchwords of the day,' some one was shouting,
'the merest echo of contemporary chatter!'


'My parlour-maid and cook both gave notice--'

'My stomach is not at all what it should be--'

'Of course the telephone was out of order--'

'The coal they sent was all stones and coal-dust--'

'All the electric wiring has had to be renewed--'

'I find it impossible to digest potatoes--'

'My aunt has had to have eighteen of her teeth extracted--'

Am I nothing but a dust-bin or kitchen-sink for other people's troubles?
Have I no agonies, no indigestions of my own?


It was too much: the news in the paper was appalling; Central Europe and
the Continent of Asia in a state of chaos; no comfort anywhere; tempests
in the Channel, earthquakes, famines, strikes, insurrections. The burden
of the mystery, the weight of all this incorrigible world was really
more than I could cope with.

'To prepare a hot-bed for early vegetables, equal quantities are taken
of horse-manure and fallen leaves; a large heap is built in alternate
layers,' I read with passionate interest, 'of these materials; it is
left for several days, and then turned over. The site of the hot-bed
should be sheltered from cold winds, but open to the sunshine. Early and
dwarf varieties of potatoes should be chosen; asparagus plants may be
dug up from the open garden--'


'But you haven't spoken a word--you ought to tell us what you think.'

'The truth is,' I whispered hoarsely in her unaverted ear, 'the truth
is, I talk too much. Think of all the years I have been wagging my
tongue; think how I shall go on wagging it, till it is smothered in

'And the worst of it is,' I went on hoarsely vociferating, 'the horror
is that no one understands me; I can never make clear to any one my view
of the world. I may wear my tongue to the stump, and no one will ever
know--I shall go down to the grave, and no one will know what I mean.'


'Do you think there are ghosts?' she foamed, her eyes ablaze, 'do you
believe in Magic?' I had no intention of discussing the supernatural
with this spook-enthusiast.

'Magic,' I mused aloud, 'what a beautiful word Magic is when you think
of it.'

'Are you interested in etymology?' I asked. 'To my mind there is nothing
more fascinating than the derivation of words--it's full of the romance
and wonder of real life and history. Think of _Magic_, for instance; it
comes, as no doubt you know, from the Magi, or ancient priests of

'Don't you love our deposit of Persian words in English? To me they
glitter like jewels in our northern speech. _Magic_ and _Paradise_, for
instance; and the names of flowers and gems and rich fruits and
tissues--_Tulip_ and _Lilac_ and _Jasmin_ and _Peach_ and _Lapis
Lazuli_,' I chanted, waving my hands to keep off the spooks, 'and
_Orange_ and _Azure_ and _Scarlet_.'


Mrs. Backe would be down in a few minutes, so I waited in the
drawing-room of this new acquaintance who had so kindly invited me to

It is indiscreet, but I cannot help it; if I am left alone in a room, I
cannot help peering about at the pictures and ornaments and books.
Interiors, the habitations people make for their souls, are so
fascinating, and tell so much; they interest me like sea-shells, or the
nests of birds.

'A lover of Switzerland,' I inferred, 'has travelled in the East--the
complete works of Canon Farrar--that big bust with whiskers is
Mendelssohn, no doubt. Good heavens! a stuffed cat! And that Moorish
plaque is rather awful. Still, some of the nicest people have no

Then I saw the clock. One look at that pink china clock, with the face
of a monkey, was enough. Softly from that drawing-room, softly I stole
downstairs, and closed the front door of that house softly behind me.


There was once a young man who thought he saw Life as it really is, who
prided himself on looking at it grimly in the face without illusions.
And he went on looking at it grimly, as he thought, for a number of
years. This was his notion of himself; but one day, meeting some very
young people, he saw, reflected as it were in their eyes, a bland old
gentleman with a white waistcoat and Victorian whiskers, a lover of
souls and sunsets, and noble solutions for all problems--

That was what he saw in the eyes of those atrocious young men.


The anecdote which had caused the laughter of those young people was not
a thing to joke about. I expressed my conviction briefly; but the
time-honoured word I made use of seemed unfamiliar to them--they looked
at each other and began whispering together. Then one of them asked in a
hushed voice, 'It's what, did you say?'

I repeated my monosyllable loudly.

Again they whispered together, and again their spokesman came forward.

'Do you mind telling us how you spell it?'

'I spell it with a W!' I shouted.



Mind you, I don't say that their eyes aren't bigger than ours, their
eyelashes longer, their faces more pink and plump--and they can skip
about with an agility of limb which we cannot equal. But all the same a
great deal too much is made of these painted dolls.

Think of the thinness of their conversation!

Depicted in gaudy tints on the covers of paper novels they look well
enough; and they make a better appearance in punts, I admit, than we do.
But is that a reason why they should be allowed to disturb the decorum
of tables, and interrupt with their giggles and squeaks our grave


If it didn't all depend on me; if there was any one else to decide the
destinies of Europe; if I wasn't bound to vindicate the Truth on all
occasions, and shout down every falsehood, standing alone in arms
against a sea of error, and holding desperately in place the hook from
which Truth and Righteousness and Good Taste hang as by a thread and
tremble over the unspeakable abyss; if but for a day or two;--it cannot
be, I cannot let Art and Civilisation go crashing into chaos. Suppose
the skies should fall in while I was napping; suppose the round world
should take its chance to collapse into Stardust again?


'What an intolerable young person!' I exclaimed, the moment he had left
the room. 'How can one sit and listen to such folly? The arrogance and
ignorance of these young men! And the things they write, and their

'It's all pose and self-advertisement, I tell you--'

'They have no reverence!' I gobbled.

Now why do I do it? I know it turns the hair grey and stiffens the
joints--why, then, by denouncing them in this unhygienic fashion, do I
talk myself into an invalid and old fogey before my time?


'It's the result of Board School Education--'

'It's the popular Press--'

'It's the selfishness of the Working Classes--'

'It's the Cinema--'

'It's the Jews--'

'Paid Agitators!--'

'The decay of faith--'

'The disintegration of family life--'

'I put it down,' I said, 'to sun-spots. If you want to know what I
think,' I went inexorably on, 'if you ask me the cause of all this
modern unrest--'


I was late for breakfast this morning, for I was delayed in my heavenly
hot bath by the thought of all the other Earnest Thinkers, who, at that
very moment--I had good reason to believe it--were blissfully soaking
the time away in hot baths all over London.


When people smile to themselves in the street, when I see the face of an
ugly man or uninteresting woman light up (faces, it would seem, not
exactly made for happy smiling), I wonder from what visions within those
smiles are reflected; from what footlights, what gay and incredible
scenes they gleam of glory and triumph.


My Imagination has its dancing-places, like the Dawn in Homer; there are
terraces, with balustrades and marble fountains, where Ideal Beings
smile at my approach; there are ilex-groves and beech trees in whose
shadows I hold forth for ever; gardens fairer than all earthly gardens
where groups of ladies grow never weary of listening to my voice.


'But every one is enthusiastic about the book!' I protested. 'Well, what
if they are?' was the answer.

I too am a Superior Person, but the predicament was awkward. To appear
the dupe of a vulgar admiration, to be caught crying stale fish at a
choice luncheon party!

'Oh, of course!' I hit back, 'I know it's considered the thing just now
to despise the age one lives in. No one, even in Balham, will admit that
they have read the books of the day. But my attitude has always been'
(what had it been? I had to think in a hurry), 'I have always felt that
it was more interesting, after all, to belong to one's own epoch; to
share its dated and unique vision, that flying glimpse of the great
panorama, which no subsequent generation can ever recapture. To be
Elizabethan in the age of Elizabeth; romantic at the height of the
Romantic Movement--'

But it was no good: I saw it was no good, so I took a large pear and eat
it in silence. I know a good deal about pears, and am particularly fond
of them. This one was a _Doyenne du Comice_, the most delicious kind of


Sometimes, when I am cross and cannot sleep, I begin an angry contest
with the opinions I object to. Into the room they flop, those bat-like
monsters of Wrong-Belief and Darkness; and though they glare at me with
the daylight faces of bullying opponents, and their voices are the
voices that often shout me down in argument, yet, in these nocturnal
controversies, it is always my assertions that admit no answer.

I do not spare them; it is now their turn to be lashed to fury, and made
to eat their words.


'The abstractedness of the relation, on the other hand, brings to
consciousness no less strongly the foreignness of the Idea to natural
phenomena. In its widest formulation--' Mechanically I turned the page;
but what on earth was it all about? Some irrelevant fancy must have been
fluttering between my spectacles and the printed paper.

I turned and caught that pretty Daydream. To be a Wit--yes, while my
eyes were reading Hegel, I had stolen out myself to amaze society with
my epigrams. Each conversation I had crowned at its most breathless
moment with words of double meaning which had echoed all through London.
Feared and famous all my life-time for my repartees, when at last had
come the last sad day, when my ashes had been swept at last into an urn
of moderate dimensions, still then had I lived upon the lips of men;
still had my plays on words been echoed, my sayings handed down in
memoirs to ensuing ages.


When I see motors gliding up at night to great houses in the fashionable
squares, I journey in them: I ascend in imagination the grand stairways
of those palaces; and ushered with éclat into drawing-rooms of
splendour, I sun myself in the painted smiles of the Mayfair Jezebels,
and glitter in that world of wigs and rouge and diamonds like a star.
There I quaff the elixir and sweet essence of mundane triumph, eating
truffles to the sound of trumpets, and feasting at sunrise on
lobster-salad and champagne.

But it's all dust, it's all emptiness and ashes; and I retire to an
imagined desert to contend with Demons; to overcome in holy combats
unspeakable temptations, and purge, by prodigious abstinences, my heart
of base desire. For this is the only imperishable victory, this is the
true immortal garland; this triumph over the predilections of our fallen
nature crowns us with a satisfaction which the vain glory of the world
can never give.


Like the Aztec Emperors of ancient Mexico, who took a solemn oath to
make the Sun pursue his wonted journey, I too have vowed to corroborate
and help sustain the Solar System; vowed that by no vexed thoughts of
mine, no attenuating doubts, nor incredulity, nor malicious scepticism,
nor hypercritical analysis, shall the great frame and first principles
of things be compromised or shaken.


'What am I? What is man?' I had looked into a number of books for an
answer to this question, before I came on Jeremy Bentham's simple and
satisfactory explanation: Man is a mechanism, moved by just so many
springs of Action. These springs he enumerates in elaborate tables; and
glancing over them this morning before getting up, I began with
_Charity_, _All-embracing Benevolence_, _Love of Knowledge_, _Laudable
Ambition_, _Godly Zeal_. Then I waited, but there was no sign or buzz of
any wheel beginning to move in my inner mechanism. I looked again: I saw
_Arrogance_, _Ostentation_, _Vainglory_, _Abomination_, _Rage_, _Fury_,
_Revenge_, and I was about to leap from my bed in a paroxysm of
passions, when fortunately my eye fell on another set of motives, _Love
of Ease_, _Indolence_, _Procrastination_, _Sloth_.


'What I say is, what I say!' I vociferate, as a Parrot in the great cage
of the World, I hop, screeching, 'What I say is!' from perch to perch.


Sometimes my soul floats out beyond the constellations; then all the
vast life of the Universe is mine. Then again it evaporates, it shrinks,
it dwindles; and of all that flood which over-brimmed the bowl of the
great Cosmos, there is hardly enough now left to fill a teaspoon.


'You smoke too much!' whispers the still small voice of Conscience.

'You are a failure, nobody likes you,' Self-contempt keeps muttering.

'What's the good of it all?' sighs Disillusion, arid as a breath from
the Sahara.

I can't tell you how all these Voices bore me; but I can listen all day
with grave attention to that suave bosom-Jesuit who keeps on unweariedly
proving that everything I do is done for the public good, and all my
acts and appetites and inclinations in the most amazing harmony with
Pure Reason and the dictates of the Moral Law.


How the years pass and life changes, how all things float down the
stream of Time and vanish; how friendships fade, and illusions crumble,
and hopes dissolve, and solid piece after piece of soap melts away in
our hands as we wash them!


Dove-grey and harmless as a dove, full of piety and innocence and pure
thoughts, my Soul brooded unaffectedly within me--I was only half
listening to that shrill conversation. And I began to wonder, as more
than once in little moments like this of self-esteem I have wondered,
whether I might not claim to be something more, after all, than a mere
echo or compilation--might not claim in fact to possess a distinct
personality of my own. Might it not be worth while, I now asked myself,
to follow up this pleasing conjecture, to retire like Descartes from the
world, and spend the rest of life, as he spent it, trying to prove my
own existence?


For after all I am no amoeba, no mere sack and stomach; I am capable
of discourse, can ride a bicycle, look up trains in Bradshaw; in fact, I
am and calmly boast myself a Human Being--that Masterpiece of Nature, a
rational, polite, meat-eating Man.

What stellar collisions and conflagrations, what floods and slaughters
and enormous efforts has it not cost the Universe to make me--of what
astral periods and cosmic processes am I not the crown and wonder?

Where, then, is the Esplanade or Alp or earth-dominating Terrace for my
sublime Statue; the landscape of palaces and triumphal arches for the
background of my Portrait; stairs of marble, flung against the sunset,
not too narrow and ignoble for me to pause with ample gesture on their
balustraded flights?


Occultisms, incantations, glimpses of the Beyond, intimations from
another world--all kinds of supernaturalisms are distasteful to me; I
cling to the known world of common sense and explicable phenomena; and I
was much put out to find, this morning, a cabbalistic inscription
written in letters of large menace on my bath-room floor. TAM HTAB--what
could be the meaning of these cryptic words, and how on earth had they
got there? Like Belshazzar, my eyes were troubled by this writing, and
my knees smote one against the other; till majestic Reason, deigning to
look downward from her contemplation of eternal causes, spelt backwards
for me, with a pitying smile, the homely, harmless inscription on the
BATH MAT, which was lying there wrong side up.


One Autumn, a number of years ago--I forget the exact date, but it was a
considerable time before the War--I spent a few weeks in Venice in
lodgings that looked out on an old Venetian garden. At the end of the
garden there was a rustic temple, and on its pediment stood some naked,
decayed, gesticulating statues--heathen gods and goddesses I vaguely
thought them--and above, among the yellowing trees, I could see the
belfry of a small convent--a convent of Nuns vowed to contemplation, who
were immured there for life, and never went outside the convent walls.

The belfry was so near that when, towards dusk, the convent bell began
to ring against the sky, I could see its bell-rope and clapper moving;
and sometimes, as I sat there at my window, I would think about the
mysterious existence, so near me, of those life-renouncing virgins.

Very clearly it comes back to me, the look of that untidy garden, of
those gesticulating statues, and of that convent bell swinging against
the sky; but the thoughts that I thought about those Nuns I have
completely forgotten. They were probably not of any especial interest.


Is there, after all, any solace like the solace and consolation of
Language? When I am disconcerted by the unpleasing aspects of existence,
when for me, as for Hamlet, this fair creation turns to dust and
stubble, it is not in Metaphysics nor in Religion that I seek
reassurance, but in fine phrases. The thought of gazing on life's
Evening Star makes of ugly old age a pleasing prospect; if I call Death
mighty and unpersuaded, it has no terrors for me; I am perfectly content
to be cut down as a flower, to flee as a shadow, to be swallowed like a
snowflake on the sea. These similes soothe and effectually console me. I
am sad only at the thought that Words must perish like all things
mortal; that the most perfect metaphors must be forgotten when the human
race is dust.

'But the iniquity of Oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy.'


Life, I often thought, would be so different if I only had one; but in
the meantime I went on fastening scraps of paper together with pins.

Opalescent, infinitely desirable, in the window of a stationer's shop
around the corner, gleamed the paste-pot of my daydreams. Every day I
passed it, but every day my thoughts were distracted by some hope or
disenchantment, some metaphysical perplexity, or giant preoccupation
with the world's woe.

And then one morning my pins gave out. I met this crisis with manly
resolution; putting on my hat, I went round the corner and bought three
paste-pots and calmly took them home. At last the spell was broken; but
Oh, at what a cost!

Unnerved and disenchanted, I sat facing those pots of nauseating paste,
with nothing to wait for now but death.


Where are the snows of yesteryear? Ask me no more the fate of
Nightingales and Roses, and where the old Moons go, or what becomes of
last year's Oxford Poets.


Somewhat furtively I bowed to the new Moon in Knightsbridge; the little
old ceremony was a survival, no doubt, of dark superstition, but the
Wish that I breathed was an inheritance from a much later epoch. 'Twas
an echo of Greece and Rome, the ideal ambition of poets and heroes; the
thought of it seemed to float through the air in starlight and music; I
saw in a bright constellation those stately Immortals; their great names
rang in my ears.

'May I, too,----' I whispered, incredulous, as I lifted my hat to the
unconcerned Moon.


In spite of the delicacy of my moral feelings, and my unrelaxed
solicitude for the maintenance of the right principles of conduct, I
find I can read without tears of the retired Colonels who forge cheques,
and the ladies of unexceptionable position who are caught pilfering furs
in shops. Somehow the sudden lapses of respected people, odd indecorums,
backbitings, bigamies, embezzlements, and attempted chastities--the
surprising leaps they make now and then out of propriety into the
police-courts--somehow news-items of this kind do not altogether--how
shall I put it?--well, they don't absolutely blacken the sunshine for

And Clergymen? If a Clergyman slips up, do not, I pray you, gentle
Reader, grieve on my account too much.


Sometimes at breakfast, sometimes in a train or empty bus, or on the
moving stairs at Charing Cross, I am happy; the earth turns to gold, and
life becomes a magical adventure. Only yesterday, travelling alone to
Sussex, I became light-headed with this sudden joy. The train seemed to
rush to its adorable destination through a world new-born in splendour,
bathed in a beautiful element, fresh and clear as on the morning of
Creation. Even the coloured photographs of South Coast watering-places
in the railway carriage shone with the light of Paradise upon them.
Brighton faced me; next to it divine Southsea beckoned; then I saw the
beach at Sidmouth, the Tilly Whim caves near Swanage--was it in those
unhaunted caves, or amid the tumult of life which hums about the
Worthing bandstand, that I should find Bliss in its quintessence?

Or on the pier at St Peter Port, perhaps, in the Channel Islands, amid
that crowd who watch in eternal ecstasy the ever-arriving
never-disembarking Weymouth steamer?


When I retire from London to my rural solitudes, and taste once more, as
always, those pure delights of Nature which the Poets celebrate--walks
in the unambitious meadows, and the ever-satisfying companionship of
vegetables and flowers--I am nevertheless haunted now and then (but tell
it not to Shelley's Skylark, nor whisper to Wordsworth's Daffodils, the
disconcerting secret)--I am incongruously beset by longings of which the
Lake Poets never sang. Echoes and images of the abandoned City
discompose my arcadisings: I hear, in the babbling of brooks, the
delicious sound of London gossip, and newsboys' voices in the cries of
birds. Sometimes the gold-splashed distance of a country lane seems to
gleam at sunset with the posters of the evening papers; I dream at dawn
of dinner-invitations, when, like a telephone-call, I hear the
Greenfinch trill his electric bell.


In the woods about my garden and familiar precincts lurk the fears of
life; all threaten me, some I may escape, of others I am the destined
and devoted victim. Sooner or later--and yet in any case how soon!--I
shall fall, as I have seen others fall, touched by an unseen hand.

But I do not think of these Terrors often, though I seem to hear them
sometimes moving in the thickets. It is the little transitory worries
that bite and annoy me, querulous insects, born of the moment, and
perishing with the day.


What things there are to write, if one could only write them! My mind is
full of gleaming thoughts; gay moods and mysterious, moth-like
meditations hover in my imagination, fanning their painted wings. They
would make my fortune if I could catch them; but always the rarest,
those freaked with azure and the deepest crimson, flutter away beyond my

The childish and ever-baffled chase of these filmy nothings often seems,
for one of sober years in a sad world, a trifling occupation. But have I
not read of the great Kings of Persia who used to ride out to hawk for
butterflies, nor deemed this pastime beneath their royal dignity?


I should be very reluctant to think that there was anything fishy or
fraudulent about the time-honoured institution of Private Property. It
is endorsed by Society, defended by the Church, maintained by the Law;
and the slightest tampering with it is severely punished by Judges in
large horsehair wigs. Oh, certainly it must be all right; I have a
feeling that it is all right; and one of these days I will get some one
to explain why the world keeps on putting adequate sums of its currency
into my pocket.

But of course it's all right--


To go, or not to go? Did I want or not want to bicycle over to tea with
the Hanbury-Belchers at Pokemore? Wouldn't it be pleasanter to stay at

I liked the Hanbury-Belchers--

Or did I really like them?

Still, it might be pleasant?

But how beforehand can one ever tell? Experience? I was still, I felt,
as ignorant of life as a new-born infant; experience has taught me
nothing; what I needed was some definite, a priori principle, some deep
conception of the meaning of existence, in the light of which problems
of this kind would solve themselves at once.

I leant my bicycle against the gate, and sat down to think the matter
out. Calling to mind the moral debates of the old philosophers, I
meditated on that _Summum Bonum_, or Sovereign Felicity of which they
argued; but from their disputes and cogitations what came back most
vividly--what seemed to fall upon one almost in a hush of terror--was
that paralysis or dread balance of desire they imagined; the predicament
in fact of that philosophic quadruped, who, because he found in each of
them precisely the same attraction, stood, unable to move, between two
bundles of hay, until he perished of hunger.


No! I don't like it; I can't approve of it; I have always thought it
most regrettable that serious and ethical Thinkers like ourselves should
go scuttling through space in this undignified manner. Is it seemly that
I, at my age, should be hurled, with my books of reference, and
bed-clothes, and hot-water bottle, across the sky at the unthinkable
rate of nineteen miles a second? As I say, I don't at all like it. This
universe of astronomical whirligigs makes me a little giddy.

That God should spend His eternity--which might be so much better
employed--in spinning countless Solar Systems, and skylarking, like a
great child, with tops and teetotums--is not this a serious scandal? I
wonder what all our circumgyrating Monotheists really do think of it?


Drawn by the unfelt wind in my little sail over the shallow estuary, I
lay in my boat, lost in a dream of mere existence. The cool water glided
through my trailing fingers; and leaning over, I watched the sands that
slid beneath me, the weeds that languidly swayed with the boat's motion.
I was the cool water, I was the gliding sand and the swaying weeds, I
was the sea and sky and sun, I was the whole vast Universe.

Then between my eyes and the sandy bottom a mirrored face looked up at
me, floating on the smooth film of water over which I glided. At one
look from that too familiar, and yet how sinister and goblin a face, my
immeasurable soul collapsed like a wrecked balloon; I shrank sadly back
into my named personality, and sat there, shabby, hot, and very much
bored with myself in my little boat.


'Occult, night-wandering, enormous, honey-pale--'

The morning paper lay there unopened; I knew I ought to look at the
news, but I was too busy just then trying to find an adjective for the
Moon--the magical, unheard of, moony epithet, which, could I only find
or invent it, what then would matter the sublunary quakes and conflicts
of this negligible earth?


'Yes, I suppose it is rather a dull Garden Party,' I agreed, though my
local pride was a little hurt by the disdain of that visiting young
woman for our rural society. 'Still we have some interesting neighbours,
when you get to know them. Now that fat lady over there in purple--do
you see her? Mrs. Turnbull--she believes in Hell, believes in Eternal
Torment. And that old gentleman with whiskers and white spats is
convinced that England is tottering on the very brink of the abyss. The
pie-faced lady he is talking to was, she asserts, Mary Queen of Scots in
a previous existence. And our Curate--we're proud of our Curate--he's a
great cricketer, and a kind of saint as well. They say he goes out in
Winter at three o'clock in the morning, and stands up to his neck in a
pond, praying for sinners.'


'How depressed you look! What on earth's the matter?'

'Central Europe,' I said, 'and the chaos in China is something awful.
There's a threatened shortage, too, of beer in Copenhagen.'

'But why should that worry you?'

'It doesn't. It's what I said to Mrs. Rumbal--I do say such idiotic
things! She asked me to come to see them. "I shall be delighted," I
said, "as delighted--"

'But it's your fault for lending me that book of Siamese
translations!--"as delighted," I said, "Mrs. Rumbal, as a royal
flamingo, when he alights upon a cluster of lotuses."'


I remember how charmed I was with these new acquaintances, to whose
house I had been taken that afternoon to call. I remember the gardens
through which we sauntered, with peaches ripening on the sunny walls; I
remember the mellow light on the old portraits in the drawing-room, the
friendly atmosphere and tranquil voices; and how, as the quiet stream of
talk flowed on, one subject after another was pleasantly mirrored on its
surface--till, at a chance remark, there was a sudden change and
darkening, an angry swirl, as if a monster were raising its head above
the waters.

What was it about, the dreadful disputation into which we were plunged,
in spite of desperate efforts to clutch at other subjects? Was it Tariff
Reform or Table-rapping,--Bacon and Shakespeare, Disestablishment,
perhaps--or Anti-Vivisection? What did any of us know or really care
about it? What force, what fury drove us into saying the stupid,
intolerant, denunciatory things we said; that made us feel we would
rather die than not say them? How could a group of humane, polite and
intelligent people be so suddenly transformed into barking animals?

Why do we let these Abstractions and implacable Dogmatisms take
possession of us, glare at each other through our eyes, and fight their
frenzied conflicts in our persons? Life without the rancours and
ever-recurring battles of these Bogeys might be so simple, friendly,
affectionate and pleasant!


I was simply telling them at tea the details of my journey--how late the
train had been in starting, how crowded the railway carriage, how I had
mislaid my umbrella, and nearly lost my Gladstone bag.

But how I enjoyed making them listen, what a sense of enhanced existence
I found it gave me (and to think that I have pitied bores!) to force my
doings, my interests, my universe, with my bag and umbrella, down their


A mild radiance and the scent of flowers filled the drawing-room, whose
windows stood open to the summer night. I thought our talk delightful;
the topic was one of my favourite topics; I had much that was
illuminating to say about it, and I was a little put out when we were
called to the window to look at the planet Jupiter, which was shining in
the sky just then, we were told, with great brilliance.

In turns through a telescope we gazed at that planet: I thought the
spectacle over-rated, but said nothing. Not for the world, not for any
number of worlds would I have wished them to guess why I was displeased
with that glittering star.


'To read Gibbon,' I said as we paced that terrace in the sunshine, 'to
peruse his metallic, melancholy pages, and then forget them; to re-read
and re-forget the _Decline and Fall_; to fill the mind with that great,
sad, meaningless panorama of History, and then to watch it fade from the
memory as it has faded from the glass of time--'

As she turned to me with a glance full of enthusiasm, 'What is so
enchanting,' I asked myself, 'as the dawn of an acquaintance with a
lovely woman with whom one can share one's thoughts?'

But those dawns are too often false dawns.

It was her remark about History, how she believed the builders of the
Great Pyramid had foreseen and foretold many events of Modern History,
which made a gigantic shadow, a darkness, as of Egypt, loom between us
on that terrace.


Suddenly one night, low above the trees, we saw the great, amorous,
unabashed face of the full Moon. It was an exhibition that made me
blush, feel that I had no right to be there. 'After all these millions
of years, she ought to be ashamed of herself!' I cried.


In a field of that distant, half-neglected farm, I found an avenue of
great elms leading to nothing. But I could see where the wheat-bearing
earth had been levelled into a terrace; and in one corner there were
broken, overgrown, garden gateposts, almost hid among great straggling
trees of yew.

This, then, was the place I had come to see. Here had stood the great
palladian house or palace, with its terraces, and gardens, and
artificial waters; this field had once been the favourite resort of
Eighteenth-Century Fashion; the Duchesses and Beauties had driven hither
in their gilt coaches, and the Beaux and Wits of that golden age of
English Society. And although the house had long since vanished, and the
plough had gone over its pleasant places, yet for a moment I seemed to
see this fine company under the green and gold of that great avenue;
seemed to hear their gossiping voices as they passed on into the


As I came away from the Evening Service, walking home from that Sabbath
adventure, some neighbours of mine passed me in their motor, laughing.
Were they laughing at me? I wondered uneasily; and as I sauntered across
the fields I vaguely cursed those misbelievers. Yes, yes, their eyes
should be darkened, and their lying lips put to silence. They should be
smitten with the botch of Egypt, and a sore botch in the legs that
cannot be healed. All the teeth should be broken in the mouths of those
bloody men and daughters of back-sliding; their faces should become as
flames, and their heads be made utterly bald. Their little ones should
be dashed to pieces before their eyes, and brimstone scattered upon
their habitations. They should be led away with their buttocks
uncovered; they should stagger to and fro as a drunken man staggereth in
his vomit.

But as for the Godly Man who kept his Sabbaths, his should be the
blessings of those who walk in the right way. 'These blessings'--the
words came back to me from the Evening Lesson--'these blessings shall
come upon thee, and overtake thee.' And suddenly, in the mild summer
air, it seemed as if, like a swarm of bees inadvertently wakened, the
blessings of the Bible were actually rushing after me. From the hot,
remote, passionate past of Hebrew history, out of the Oriental climate
and unctuous lives of that infuriate people, gross good things were
coming to overwhelm me with benedictions for which I had not bargained.
Great oxen and camels and concubines were panting close behind me,
he-goats and she-goats and rams of the breed of Bashan. My barns should
burst their doors with plenty, and all my paths drop fatness. My face
should be smeared with the oil of rejoicing; all my household and the
beasts of my household should beget and bear increase; and as for the
fruit of my own loins, it should be for multitude as the sands of the
sea and as the stars of heaven. My little ones should be as olive plants
around my table; sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters to the
third and fourth generation, should rise up and call me blessed. My feet
should be dipped in butter, and my eyes stand out with fatness; I should
flourish as the Cedar of Lebanon that bringeth forth fruit in old age.


It came back to me this rainy afternoon for no reason, the memory of
another afternoon long ago in the country, when, at the end of an autumn
day, I had stood at the rain-dashed window and gazed out at the dim
landscape; and as I watched the yellowing leaves blown about the garden,
I had seen a flock of birds rise above the half-denuded poplars and
wheel in the darkening sky. I had felt there was a mysterious meaning in
that moment, and in that flight of dim-seen birds an augury of ill-omen
for my life. It was a mood of Autumnal, minor-poet melancholy, a mood
with which, it had occurred to me, I might fill out the rhymes of a
lugubrious sonnet.

But my Sonnet about those birds--those Starlings, or whatever they
were--will, I fear, never be written now. For how can I now recapture
the sadness, the self-pity of youth?

Alas! What do the compensations of age after all amount to? What joy can
the years bring half so sweet as the unhappiness they take away?


When, now and then, on a calm night I look up at the Stars, I reflect on
the wonders of Creation, the unimportance of this Planet, and the
possible existence of other worlds like ours. Sometimes it is the
self-poised and passionless shining of those serene orbs which I think
of; sometimes Kant's phrase comes into my mind about the majesty of the
Starry Heavens and the Moral Law; or I remember Xenophanes gazing at the
broad firmament, and crying, 'All is One!' and thus, in that sublime
exclamation, enunciating for the first time the great doctrine of the
Unity of Being.

But these Thoughts are not my thoughts; they eddy through my mind like
scraps of old paper, or withered leaves in the wind. What I really feel
is the survival of a much more primitive mood--a view of the world which
dates indeed from before the invention of language. It has never been
put into literature; no poet has sung of it, no historian of human
thought has so much as alluded to it; astronomers in their glazed
observatories, with their eyes glued to the ends of telescopes, seem to
have had no notion of it.

But sometimes, far off at night, I have heard a dog howling it at the


The older I grow, the more of an alien I find myself in the world; I
cannot get used to it, cannot believe that it is real. I think I must
have been made to live on some other Star. Or perhaps I am subject to
hallucinations and hear voices; perhaps what I seem to see is delusion
and doesn't happen; perhaps people don't really say the things I think I
hear them saying.

Ah, some one ought to have told me when I was young, I should certainly
have been told of the horrible songs that are sung in drawing-rooms;
they ought to have warned me about the great fat women who suddenly get
up and bellow out incredible recitations.


I got up with Stoic fortitude of mind in the cold this morning; but
afterwards, in my hot bath, I joined the school of Epicurus. I was a
Materialist at breakfast; after it an Idealist, as I smoked my first
cigarette and turned the world to transcendental vapour. But when I
began to read the _Times_ I had no doubt of the existence of an external

So all the morning and all the afternoon opinions kept flowing into and
out of the receptacle of my mind; till, by the time the enormous day was
over, it had been filled by most of the widely-known Theories of
Existence, and then emptied of them.


This long speculation of life, this thinking and syllogising that always
goes on inside me, this running over and over of hypothesis and surmise
and supposition--one day this infinite Argument will have ended, the
debate will be forever over, I shall have come to an indisputable
conclusion, and my brain will be at rest.

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