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Title: Wings and the Child - or, the Building of Magic Cities
Author: Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858-1924
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    LAYS AND LEGENDS. 1st Series
    LAYS AND LEGENDS. 2nd Series

[Illustration: _Photo David Norris_

E. Nesbit










_Printed in 1913_


WHEN this book first came to my mind it came as a history and theory of
the building of Magic Cities on tables, with bricks and toys and little
things such as a child may find and use. But as I kept the thought by me
it grew and changed, as thoughts will do, until at last it took shape as
an attempt to contribute something, however small and unworthy, to the
science of building a magic city in the soul of a child, a city built of
all things pure and fine and beautiful. As you read, it will, I hope,
seem to you that something of what I say is true--in much, no doubt, it
will seem to you that I am mistaken; but however you may disagree with
me, you will, I trust, at least have faith in the honesty of my purpose.
If I seem to you to be too dogmatic, to lay down the law too much as
though I were the teacher and you the learner, I beg you to believe that
it is in no such spirit that I have written. Rather it is as though you
and I, spending a quiet evening by your fire, talked together of the
things that matter, and as though I laid before you all the things that
were in my heart--not stopping at every turn to say "Do you not think so
too?" and "I hope you agree with me?" but telling you, straight from the
heart, what I have felt and thought and, I humbly say, known about
children and the needs of children. I have talked to you as to a friend,
without the reservations and apologies which we use with strangers. And
if, in anything, I shall have offended you, I entreat you to extend to
me the forgiveness and the forbearance which you would exercise towards
a friend who had offended you, not meaning to offend, and to believe
that I have spoken to you as frankly and plainly as I would wish you to
speak to me, were you the writer and I the reader.

                                                   E. NESBIT.


    _PART I_

    OF UNDERSTANDING                3

    NEW WAYS                        9

    PLAYTHINGS                     17

    IMAGINATION                    24

    OF TAKING ROOT                 33

    BEAUTY AND KNOWLEDGE           42


    THE MORAL CODE                 67


    THE ONE THING NEEDFUL          94

    _PART II_

    ROMANCE IN GAMES              107

    BUILDING CITIES               118


    THE MAGIC CITY                143

    MATERIALS                     156

    COLLECTIONS                   165

    THE POOR CHILD'S CITY         177

    THE END                       190


    PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR      _Frontispiece_


    THE KING'S SUMMER-HOUSE              8


    HE HAS CREATED THE ENGINE           18

    THE TOMB IN THE DESERT              18

    STONEHENGE                          22

    THE TREE LIKE A MAN                 27

    POPPY DOLL                          29

    DOVES AND DRAGON                    30

    THE ASTROLOGER'S TOWER              32

    THE SILVER TOWERS                   34

    FURNITURE TO LIVE WITH              35

    THE TURQUOISE TEMPLE                40

    THE HALL OF PEARL AND RED           47

    A CHINESE TEMPLE                    52

    THE SQUARE TOWER                    56

    SHELL ARCHES                        57

    HANDKERCHIEF TENTS                  65

    ONE HALF OF THE CITY                72

    THE TAIL OF PUSS                    78

    THE OTHER HALF OF THE CITY          82


    OF LOVELY HILLS AND DALES           97

    THE PALACE OF CATS                 120

    GUARDED ARCH                       123

    BOXES                              135

    ARCHES AND PILLARS                 140

    PILLARED COURT                     141


    THE GUARD-ROOM                     149

    THE DOMINO DOOR                    150

    LARCH PALM                         152

    THE MAGIC CITY                     152

    HONESTY PILLARS                    159

    TREES                              166

    THICK ARCHES                       168

    FAN WINDOW                         169

    THE ELEPHANT TEMPLE                171

    HONESTY ROOF                       174

    CLOTHES PEGS                       181


    COTTON REELS                       186

    LATTICE WINDOWS                    187



Of Understanding

IT is not with any pretension to special knowledge of my subject that I
set out to write down what I know about children. I have no special
means of knowing anything: I do, in fact, know nothing that cannot be
known by any one who will go to the only fount of knowledge, experience.
And by experience I do not mean scientific experience, that is the
recorded results of experiments, the tabulated knowledge wrung from
observation; I mean personal experience, that is to say, memory. You may
observe the actions of children and chronicle their sayings, and produce
from these, perhaps, a lifelike sketch of a child, as it appears to the
grown-up observer; but observation is no key to the inner mysteries of a
child's soul. The only key to those mysteries is in knowledge, the
knowledge of what you yourself felt when you were good and little and a
child. You can remember how things looked to you, and how things looked
to the other children who were your intimates. Our own childhood,
besides furnishing us with an exhaustless store of enlightening
memories, furnishes us with the one opportunity of our lives for the
observation of children--other children. There is a freemasonry between
children, a spontaneous confidence and give-and-take which is and must
be for ever impossible between children and grown-ups, no matter how
sympathetic the grown-up, how confiding the child. Between the child and
the grown-up there is a great gulf fixed--and this gulf, the gulf
between one generation and another, can never be really bridged. You may
learn to see across it, a little, or sometimes in rare cases to lean
very far across it so that you can just touch the tips of the little
fingers held out from the other side. But if your dealings with those on
the other side of the gulf are to be just, generous, noble, and helpful,
they must be motived and coloured by your memories of the time when you
yourself were on the other side--when you were a child full of your own
hopes, dreams, aims, interests, instincts, and imaginings, and over
against you, kindly perhaps, tenderly loving, often tenderly loved, but
still in some mysterious way antagonistic and counting as "Them," were
the grown-ups. I might say elders, parents, teachers, spiritual pastors
and masters, but the word which the child himself uses seems to me, for
all reasons, to be the best word for my use, because it expresses fully
and finally the nature of the gulf between. The grown-ups are the people
who once were children and who have forgotten what it felt like to be a
child. And Time marks with the same outward brand those who have
forgotten and those who do not forget. So that even the few who have
managed to slip past the Customs-house with their bundle of memories
intact can never fully display them. These are a sort of contraband, and
neither the children nor the grown-ups will ever believe that that which
we have brought with us from the land of childhood is genuine. The
grown-ups accuse us of invention, sometimes praise us for it, when all
we have is memory; and the children imagine that we must have been
watching them, and thus surprised a few of their secrets, when all that
we have is the secrets which were our own when we were children--secrets
which were so bound up with the fibre of our nature that we could never
lose them, and so go through life with them, our dearest treasures. Such
people feel to the end that they are children in a grown-up world. For
a middle-aged gentleman with a beard or a stout elderly lady with
spectacles to move among other elderly and spectacled persons feeling
that they are still children, and that the other elderly and spectacled
ones are really grown-ups, seems thoroughly unreasonable, and therefore
those who have never forgotten do not, as a rule, say anything about it.
They just mingle with the other people, looking as grown-up as any
one--but in their hearts they are only pretending to be grown-up: it is
like acting in a charade. Time with his make-up box of lines and
wrinkles, his skilful brush that paints out the tints and the contours
of youth, his supply of grey wigs and rounded shoulders and pillows for
the waist, disguises the actors well enough, and they go through life
altogether unsuspected. The tired eyes close on a world which to them
has always been the child's world, the tired hands loose the earthly
possessions which have, to them, been ever the toys of the child. And
deep in their hearts is the faith and the hope that in the life to come
it may not be necessary to pretend to be grown-up.

Such people as these are never pessimists, though they may be sinners;
and they will be trusting, to the verge of what a real grown-up would
call imbecility. To them the world will be, from first to last, a
beautiful place, and every unbeautiful thing will be a surprise, hurting
them like a sudden blow. They will never learn prudence, or parsimony,
nor know, with the unerring instinct of the really grown-up, the things
that are or are not done by the best people. All their lives they will
love, and expect love--and be sad, wondering helplessly when they do not
get it. They will expect beautiful quixotic impulsive generosities and
splendours from a grown-up world which has forgotten what impulse was:
and to the very end they will not leave off expecting. They will be
easily pleased and easily hurt, and the grown-ups in grain will
contemplate their pains and their pleasures with an uncomprehending

If these children, disguised by grown-up bodies, are ever recognised for
what they are, it is when they happen to have the use of their
pens--when they write for and about children. Then grown-up people will
call them intelligent and observant, and children will write to them and
ask the heart-warm, heart-warming question, "How did you know?" For if
they can become articulate they will speak the language that children
understand, and children will love, not them, for their identity is
cloaked with grey grown-up-ness, but what they say. There are some of
these in whom the fire of genius burns up and licks away the trappings
under which Time seeks to disguise them--Andersen, Stevenson, Juliana
Ewing were such as these--and the world knows them for what they were,
and adores in them what in the uninspired it would decry and despise.

To these others who have the memories of childhood untainted and yet
have not the gift and relief of words, to these I address myself in the
first instance, because they will understand without any involved
explanation on my part what it is that I am driving at, and it is these
who, alone, can teach the real grown-ups the things which they have
forgotten. For these things can be taught, these things can be
re-learned. I would have every man and woman in whom the heart of
childhood still lives, protest, however feebly and haltingly, yet with
all the power of the heart, against machine-made education--against the
instruction which crams a child with facts and starves it of dreams,
which forces the free foot into heavy boots and bids it walk on narrow
pavement, which crushes with heavy hand the wings of the soul, and
presses the flower of imagination flat between the pages of a lexicon.




New Ways

"WHAT," we ask with anxious gravity, "what is the best sort of teaching
for children?" One might as sanely ask what is the best sort of
spectacles for men, or the best size in gloves for women. And the blind
coarse generalisation which underlies that question is the very heart
and core of the muddled, musty maze we call education. We talk of the
best sort of education for children, as we might talk of the best sort
of polish for stoves, the best sort of nourishment for mice. Stoves are
all alike, they vary in ugliness perhaps, but the iron soul of one is as
the iron soul of the other. The polish that is good for one is good for
all. Mice may, and do, vary in size and colour; their mousehood does not
vary, nor their taste for cheese. In the inner nature, in the soul and
self of it, each child is different from any other child, and the
education that treats children as a class and not as individual human
beings is the education whose failure is bringing our civilisation
about our ears even as we speak.

Each child is an explorer in a new country--an explorer with its own
special needs and curiosities. We put up iron railings to keep the
explorers to our own sordidly asphalted paths. The little free wild
creatures would seek their meat from God: we round them into herds, pen
them in folds, and feed them with artificial foods--drab flat oil cakes
all alike, not considering that for some brown nuts and red berries, and
for some the new clean green grass, may be the bread of life.

Or, if you take the mind of a child to be a garden wherein flowers grow
that might be trained to beauty, you bring along your steam-roller, and
crush everything to a flat field where you may grow cabbages. It is so
good for the field, you say--because you like cabbages.

Liberty is one of the rights we claim for ourselves, though God knows we
get little enough of it and use still less; and Liberty is one of the
rights that a child above all needs--every possible liberty, of thought,
of word, of deed. The old systems of education seem to have found it
good to coerce a child for the simple sake of coercion--to make it do
what the master chose, to make it leave undone those things which it
wished to do and to do those things which it did not wish to do--nay,
more, wished violently and conclusively not to do. To force the choice
of the teacher on the child, to override the timid natural impulses of
the child with the hard hoofs of the teacher's individuality, to crush
out all initiative, to force the young supple mind into a mould, to lop
the budding branches, nip off the sensitive seeking tendrils, to batter
down the child's will by the brute force of the grown-up will, to "break
the child's spirit," as the cursed phrase used to run--this was, in
effect, what education meant. There was a picture in _Punch_, I
remember--at least I have forgotten the picture, but I remember the
legend: "Cissy, go and see what Bobbie's doing, and tell him not to."

It did not much matter what you made a child do, so long as it was
something against the grain. He was to learn, not what he with his
wonderful new curiosities and aptitudes longed to learn, but what you
wished to teach; you with your dulled senses--dulled in the same bitter
school as that in which he was now a sad learner.


Generation after generation has gone on, pounding away at the old silly
game, each generation anxious and eager to hurt the new one as it, in
its time, was hurt. Each generation must, one would have thought, have
remembered what things hurt children and how much these things hurt, and
yet this intolerable cycle of bullying and punishment and repression
went on and on and on. Children were bullied and broken--and grew up to
bully and break in their turn. It must be that this was because the
grown-ups did not remember. Those who have the care of children, who
work for them, who teach them, should be those who do remember: those
who have not forgotten what it feels like to be a child--any sort of
child. For, though children are all different, there is a common measure
among them as there is among men. A law for men cannot be good if it be
made--as indeed but too often happens--by those who have forgotten what
it used to feel like to be a man; and what sort of poetry do you get
from one who has forgotten beauty and sorrow, and the Spring, and how it
feels to be young and a lover? And if the people who have the care of
children have forgotten what it feels like to be a child, those who do
remember should remind them. They should be reminded how it feels to be
not so very much higher than the table, how it feels not to be so clever
as you are now, and so much more interested in so much more--how it
feels to believe in things and in people as you did when you were new to
the journey of life--to explore every road you came to, to trust every
person you met. It is a long time ago, but can you not remember the days
when right and wrong were as different as milk and mud, when you knew
that it was really wrong to be naughty and really good to be good, when
you felt that your mother could do no wrong and that your father was the
noblest and bravest of men? Do you remember the world of small and new
and joyous and delightful things? Try to remember it if you would know
how to help a child instead of hindering it--try to look at the world
with the clear, clean eyes that once were yours in the days when you had
never read a newspaper or deceived a friend. You will then be able to
see again certain ideals, unclouded and radiant, which the dust of the
crowded highway and the smears of getting-on have dimmed and
distorted--quite simple ideals of love, faith, unselfishness, honour,
truth. I know these words are often enough on the lips of all of us, but
a child's ear will be able to tell whether the words spring from the
lips or the heart. Look back, and you will see that you yourself were
also able to distinguish these things--once.

Education as it should be, the unfolding of a flower, not the distorting
of it, is only possible to those who are willing and able themselves to
become as little children.

It is because certain great spirits have done this and have tried to
teach others to do it, that reforms in education have begun to be at
least possible. Froebel, Pestalozzi, Signora Montessori and many a
lesser star has shone upon a new path. And public interest has centred
more and more on the welfare of the child. Books are written, societies
formed, newspapers founded in the interests of the child, and true
education becomes a possibility.

And well indeed it is for us that this is so. For the education of the
last three hundred years has led, in all things vital and spiritual,
downhill all the way. We have gone on frustrating natural human
intelligences and emotions, inculcating false doctrines, and choking
with incoherent facts the souls which asked to be fed with
dreams-come-true--till now our civilisation is a thing we cannot look at
without a mental and moral nausea. We have, in our countrysides,
peasants too broken for rebellion, in our cities.

    The mortal sickness of a mind
    Too unhappy to be kind.

If ever we are to be able to look ourselves and each other in the face
again it will be because a new generation has arisen in whose ears the
voice of God and His angels has not ceased to sound. If only we would
see the things that belong to our peace, and lead the children instead
of driving them, who knows what splendid thoughts and actions they in
their natural development might bring to the salvation of the world?

In the Palace of Education which the great minds have designed and are
designing, many stones will be needed--and so I bring the little stone I
have hewn out and tried to shape, in the hope that it may fit into a
corner of that great edifice. For if anything is to be done, it is
necessary that all who have anything to give, shall give it. As Francis
Bacon said:

"Nothing can so much conduce to the drawing down, as it were, from
heaven a whole shower of new and profitable Inventions, as this, that
the experiments of many . . . may come to the knowledge of one man, or
some few, who by mutual conference may whet and sharpen one another, so
that by this . . . Arts may flourish, and as it were by a commixture and
communication of Rays, inflame one another. . . . This sagacity by
literate experience may in the mean project and scatter for the benefit
of man many rudiments to knowledge which may be had at hand."

And that is why I have left for a little while the telling of stories
and set myself to write down something of what I know about
children--know by the grace of memory and by the dreams of childhood, to
me, thank God, persistent and imperishable.



THE prime instinct of a child at play--I do not mean a child at
games--is to create. I use the word confidently. He will make as well as
create, if you let him, but always he will create: he will use the whole
force of dream and fancy to create something out of nothing--over and
beyond what he will make out of such materials as he has to hand. The
five-year-old will lay a dozen wooden bricks and four cotton reels
together, set a broken cup on the top of them, and tell you it is a
steam-engine. And it is. He has created the engine which he sees, and
you don't see, and the pile of bricks and cotton reels is the symbol of
his creation. He will silently borrow your best scissors and cut a
serrated band of newspaper, which he will fasten round his head (with
your best brooch, if he cannot find a pin), hang another newspaper from
his shoulders, and sit in state holding the hearth-brush. He will tell
you that he is a king--and he is. He has created crown, robes, sceptre,
and kingship. The paper and the rest of it are but symbols.


And you shall observe that the toys which the child loves best are
always those toys which lend themselves to such symbolic use.

[Illustration: THE TOMB IN THE DESERT.


Christmas is at hand. You go to buy gifts for the child, in memory of
that Other Child whose birthday gifts were gold, frankincense, and
myrrh. You go into the toyshops, elbowing your way as best you can,
looking for such toys as may aid the child in his work of creative

You find a vast mass and litter and jumble of incredible
futilities--things made to sell, things made by people who have
forgotten what it is like to be a child. Mechanical toys of all sorts,
stupid toys, toys that will only do one thing, and that thing vulgar and
foolish. And, worst outrage of all, ugly toys, monstrosities,
deformities, lead devils, grinning humpbacked clowns, "comic" dogs and
cats, hideous mis-shapen pigs, incredible negroes, intolerable
golliwogs. All such things the natural child, with a child's decent
detestation of deformity, will thrust from it with screams of fear and
hatred, till the materialistic mother or nurse explains that the horror
is not really, as the child knows it to be, horrible and unnatural, but
"funny." Thus do we outrage the child's inborn sense of beauty, which is
also the sense of health and fitness, and teach it that deformity is not
shocking, not pitiable even, but just "funny." All these ugly toys are
impossible as aids to clean imagination.

So, almost in as great, though not in so harmful a degree, is the
"character doll." The old doll was a doll, and not a character.
Therefore she could assume any character at your choice. The character
doll is Baby Willy, and can never be anything else, unless imagination,
exasperated and baffled, christens him Silly Billy in the moment of
furious projection across the nursery floor. But the old doll, with her
good, expressionless face and clear blue eyes, could be a duchess or a
dairymaid, a captive princess or a greengrocer's wife keeping shop, a
cruel stepmother or Joan of Arc. I beg you to try Baby Willy in the
character of Joan of Arc.

You cannot hope to understand children by common-sense, by reason, by
logic, nor by any science whatsoever. You cannot understand them by
imagination--not even by love itself. There is only one way: to remember
what you thought and felt and liked and hated when you yourself were a
child. Not what you know now--or think you know--you ought to have
thought and liked, but what you did then, in stark fact, like and think.
There is no other way.

Do you remember the toys you liked, the toys you played with? Do you
remember the toys you hated--after the fading of the first day's flush
of novelty, of possession? The houses with doors that wouldn't open? The
stables with horses that wouldn't stand up? The shops whose goods were
part of their painted shelves, whose shopmen were as fast glued behind
the counter as any live shop-assistant before the passing of the Shops

And the mechanical toys--the clockwork toys. The engine was all right,
even after the clockwork ran down for the last time with that inexorable
whizz which told you all was over; you could build tunnels with the big
brown books in the library and push the engine through with your
hand--it would run quite a long way out on the other side. But the other
clockwork things! How can one love and pet a mouse, no matter how furry
its superficial exterior, when underneath, where its soft waistcoat and
its little feet should be, there is only a hard surface from which
incompetent wheels protrude? And the ostrich who draws a hansom cab, and
the man who beats the boy with a stick? When they have whizzed their
last, who cares for the tin relics outliving their detestable

Think of the toys you liked: the Noah's Ark--full of characters. What
stirring dramas of the chase, what sporting incidents, what domestic and
agricultural operations could be carried out with that most royal of
toys. Mr. Noah, I remember, was equally competent and convincing as
ploughman or carter. But his chief rôle was Sitting Bull. His sons were
inimitable as Chingachgook and scalp hunters generally. You cannot play
scalp hunters with the mechanical ostrich indissolubly welded to a
hansom cab.

[Illustration: STONEHENGE.]

You loved your bricks, I think, especially if you lived in the days when
bricks were of well-seasoned oak, heavy, firm, exactly proportioned,
before the boxes of inexact light deal bricks, with the one painted
glass window, began to be made in Germany. How finely those great bricks
stood for Stonehenge, and how submissively Anna, the Dutch doll, whose
arms and legs were gone, played the part of the Sacrifice. If you
remember those bricks you will remember the polished, white wooden dairy
sets in oval white boxes--churns and tubs and kettles and pots all
neatly and beautifully turned. You will remember the doll's house
furniture, rosewood, duly mitred and dovetailed, fine cabinet-makers'
work, little beautiful models of beautiful things. Now the dolls' house
furniture is glued together. You can't trust a light-weight china doll
to sit on the kitchen chairs. . . . But you can get your mechanical
ostrich and your golliwog. . . .

Children in towns are cut off, at least for most of the year, from the
splendid and ever-varying possibilities of clay and mud and sand,
oak-apples and snow-berries, acorn-cups and seaweed, shells and sticks
and stones which serve and foster the creative instinct, the thousand
adjuncts to that play which is dream and reality in one.

For them, even more than for the happier country children, it is good to
choose toys which shall possess, above and before all, the one supreme
quality of a good toy. Let it be a toy that is not merely itself, like
the ostrich of whom I hope you are now as weary as I, but a toy that can
be, at need, other things. A toy, in fine, that your child can, in the
fullest and most satisfying sense, play with.



TO the child, from the beginning, life is the unfolding of one vast
mystery; to him our stalest commonplaces are great news, our dullest
facts prismatic wonders. To the baby who has never seen a red ball, a
red ball is a marvel, new and magnificent as ever the golden apples were
to Hercules.

You show the child many things, all strange, all entrancing; it sees, it
hears, it touches; it learns to co-ordinate sight and touch and hearing.
You tell it tales of the things it cannot see and hear and touch, of men
"that it may never meet, of lands that it shall never see"; strange
black and brown and yellow people whose dress is not the dress of mother
or nurse--strange glowing yellow lands where the sun burns like fire,
and flowers grow that are not like the flowers in the fields at home.
You tell it that the stars, which look like pin-holes in the floor of
heaven, are really great lonely worlds, millions of miles away; that
the earth, which the child can see for itself to be flat, is really
round; that nuts fall from the trees because of the force of
gravitation, and not, as reason would suggest, merely because there is
nothing to hold them up. And the child believes; it believes all the
seeming miracles.

Then you tell it of other things no more miraculous and no less; of
fairies, and dragons, and enchantments, of spells and magic, of flying
carpets and invisible swords. The child believes in these wonders
likewise. Why not? If very big men live in Patagonia, why should not
very little men live in flower-bells? If electricity can move unseen
through the air, why not carpets? The child's memory becomes a
store-house of beautiful and wonderful things which are or have been in
the visible universe, or in that greater universe, the mind of man. Life
will teach the child, soon enough, to distinguish between the two.

But there are those who are not as you and I. These say that all the
enchanting fairy romances are lies, that nothing is real that cannot be
measured or weighed, seen or heard or handled. Such make their idols of
stocks and stones, and are blind and deaf to the things of the spirit.
These hard-fingered materialists crush the beautiful butterfly wings of
imagination, insisting that pork and pews and public-houses are more
real than poetry; that a looking-glass is more real than love, a viper
than valour. These Gradgrinds give to the children the stones which they
call facts, and deny to the little ones the daily bread of dreams.

Of the immeasurable value of imagination as a means to the development
of the loveliest virtues, to the uprooting of the ugliest and meanest
sins, there is here no space to speak. But the gain in sheer happiness
is more quickly set forth. Imagination, duly fostered and trained, is to
the world of visible wonder and beauty what the inner light is to the
Japanese lantern. It transfigures everything into a glory that is only
not magic to us because we know Who kindled the inner light, Who set up
for us the splendid lantern of this world.

[Illustration: THE TREE LIKE A MAN.]

But Mr. Gradgrind prefers the lantern unlighted. Material facts are good
enough for him. Until it comes to religion. And then, suddenly, the
child who has been forbidden to believe in Jack the Giant Killer must
believe in Goliath and David. There are no fairies, but you must believe
that there are angels. The magic sword and the magic buckler are
nonsense, but the child must not have any doubts about the breastplate
of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit. What spiritual reaction do
you expect when, after denying all the symbolic stories and legends, you
suddenly confront your poor little Materialist with the Most Wonderful
Story in the world?

If I had my way, children should be taught no facts unless they asked
for them. Heaven knows they ask questions enough. They should just be
taught the old wonder-stories, and learn their facts through these. Who
wants to know about pumpkins until he has heard Cinderella? Why not tell
the miracle of Jonah first, and let the child ask about the natural
history of the whale afterwards, if he cares to hear it?

And one of the greatest helps to a small, inexperienced traveller in
this sometimes dusty way is the likeness of things to each other. Your
piece of thick bread and butter is a little stale, perhaps, and bores
you; but, when you see that your first three bites have shaped it to the
likeness of a bear or a beaver, dull teatime becomes interesting at
once. A cloud that is like a face, a tree that is like an old man, a
hill that is like an elephant's back, if you have things like these to
look at, and look out for, how short the long walk becomes.

[Illustration: POPPY DOLL.]

And in the garden, when the columbine is a circle of doves, with spread
wings and beaks that touch, when the foxglove flower is a little Puck's
hat which will fit on your finger, when the snapdragon is not just a
snapdragon, but a dragon that will snap, and the poppies can be made
into dolls with black woolly hair and grass sashes--how the enchantment
of the garden grows. The child will be all the more ready to hear about
the seed vessels of the columbine when he has seen the doves, and the
pollen of the poppy will have a double interest for her who has played
with the woolly-haired dolls. Imagination gives to the child a world
transfigured; let us leave it that radiant mystery for the little time
that is granted.

[Illustration: DOVES AND DRAGON.]

I know a child whose parents are sad because she does not love
arithmetic and history, but rather the beautiful dreams which the
Gradgrinds call nonsense. Here are the verses I wrote for that child:



    You see the fairies dancing in the fountain,
      Laughing, leaping, sparkling with the spray.
    You see the gnomes, at work beneath the mountain,
      Make gold and silver and diamonds every day.
    You see the angels, sliding down the moonbeams,
      Bring white dreams, like sheaves of lilies fair.
    You see the imps scarce seen against the noonbeams,
      Rise from the bonfire's blue and liquid air.

    All the enchantment, all the magic there is
      Hid in trees and blossoms, to you is plain and true.
    Dewdrops in lupin leaves are jewels for the fairies;
      Every flower that blows is a miracle for you.
    Air, earth, water, fire, spread their splendid wares for you.
      Millions of magics beseech your little looks;
    Every soul your winged soul meets, loves you and cares for you.
      Ah! why must we clip those wings and dim those eyes with books?

    Soon, soon enough, the magic lights grow dimmer,
      Marsh mists arise to veil the radiant sky.
    Dust of hard highways will veil the starry glimmer;
      Tired hands will lay the folded magic by.
    Storm winds will blow through those enchanted closes,
      Fairies be crushed where weed and briar grow strong. . . .
    Leave her her crown of magic stars and roses,
      Leave her her kingdom--she will not keep it long!



Of Taking Root

WHEN the history of our time comes to be written, it may be that the
historian, remarking our many faults and weaknesses, and seeking to find
a reason for them, speculating on our civilisation as we now speculate
on the civilisations of Rome and Egypt, will come to see that the poor
blossoms of civic virtue which we put forth owe their meagreness and
deformity to the fact that our lives are no longer permitted to take
root in material possessions. Material possessions indeed we have--too
much of them and too many of them--but they are rather a dust that
overlays the leaves of life than a soil in which the roots of life can

A certain solidness of character, a certain quiet force and confidence
grow up naturally in the man who lives all his life in one house, grows
all the flowers of his life in one garden. To plant a tree and know that
if you live and tend it, you will gather fruit from it; that if you set
out a thorn-hedge, it will be a fine thing when your little son has
grown to be a man--these are pleasures which none but the very rich can
now know. (And the rich who might enjoy these pleasures prefer to run
about the country in motor cars.) That is why, for ordinary people, the
word "neighbour" is ceasing to have any meaning. The man who occupies
the villa partially detached from your own is not your neighbour. He
only moved in a month or so ago, and you yourself will probably not be
there next year. A house now is a thing to live in, not to love; and a
neighbour a person to criticise, but not to befriend.

[Illustration: THE SILVER TOWERS.]

When people's lives were rooted in their houses and their gardens they
were also rooted in their other possessions. And these possessions were
thoughtfully chosen and carefully tended. You bought furniture to live
with, and for your children to live with after you. You became familiar
with it--it was adorned with memories, brightened with hopes; it, like
your house and your garden, assumed then a warm friendliness of intimate
individuality. In those days if you wanted to be smart, you bought a new
carpet and curtains: now you "refurnish the drawing-room." If you have
to move house, as you often do, it seems cheaper to sell most of your
furniture and buy other, than it is to remove it, especially if the
moving is caused by a rise of fortune.


I do not attempt to explain it, but there is a certain quality in men
who have taken root, who have lived with the same furniture, the same
house, the same friends for many years, which you shall look for in
vain in men who have travelled the world over and met hundreds of
acquaintances. For you do not know a man by meeting him at an hotel, any
more than you know a house by calling at it, or know a garden by walking
along its paths. The knowledge of human nature of the man who has taken
root may be narrow, but it will be deep. The unrooted man who lives in
hotels and changes his familiars with his houses, will have a shallow
familiarity with the veneer of acquaintances; he will not have learned
to weigh and balance the inner worth of a friend.

In the same way I take it that a constant succession of new clothes is
irritating and unsettling, especially to women. It fritters away the
attention and exacerbates their natural frivolity. In other days when
clothes were expensive, women bought few clothes, but those clothes were
meant to last, and they did last. A silk dress often outlived the
natural life of its first wearer. The knowledge that the question of
dress will not be one to be almost weekly settled tends to calm the
nerves and consolidate the character. Clothes are very cheap
now--therefore women buy many new dresses, and throw the shoddy things
away when, as they soon do, they grow shabby. Men are far more
sensible. Every man knows the appeal of an old coat. So long as women
are insensible to the appeal of an old gown, they need never hope to be
considered, in stability of character, the equals of men.

The passion for ornaments--not ornament--is another of the unsettling
factors in an unsettling age. The very existence of the "fancy shop" is
not only a menace to, but an attack on the quiet dignity in the home.
The hundreds of ugly, twisted, bizarre fancy articles which replace the
old few serious "ornaments" are all so many tokens of the spirit of
unrest which is born of, and in turn bears, our modern civilisation.

It is not, alas! presently possible for us as a nation to return to that
calmer, more dignified state when the lives of men were rooted in their
individual possessions, possessions adorned with memories of the past
and cherished as legacies to the future. But I wish I could persuade
women to buy good gowns and grow fond of them, to buy good chairs and
tables, and to refrain from the orgy of the fancy shop. So much of life,
of thought, of energy, of temper is taken up with the continual change
of dress, house, furniture, ornaments, such a constant twittering of
nerves goes on about all these things which do not matter. And the
children, seeing their mother's gnat-like restlessness, themselves, in
turn, seek change, not of ideas or of adjustments, but of possessions.
Consider the acres of rubbish specially designed for children and spread
out over the counters of countless toy-shops. Trivial, unsatisfying
things, the fruit of a perverse and intense commercial ingenuity: things
made to sell, and not to use.

When the child's birthday comes, relations send him presents--give him
presents, and his nursery is littered with a fresh array of undesirable
imbecilities--to make way for which the last harvest of the same empty
husks is thrust aside in the bottom of the toy cupboard. And in a couple
of days most of the flimsy stuff is broken, and the child is weary to
death of it all. If he has any real toys, he will leave the glittering
trash for nurse to put away and go back to those real toys.

When I was a child in the nursery we had--there were three of us--a
large rocking horse, a large doll's house (with a wooden box as annexe),
a Noah's Ark, dinner and tea things, a great chest of oak bricks, and a
pestle and mortar. I cannot remember any other toys that pleased us.
Dolls came and went, but they were not toys, they were characters, and
now and then something of a clockwork nature strayed our way--to be
broken up and disembowelled to meet the mechanical needs of the moment.
I remember a desperate hour when I found that the walking doll from
Paris had clockwork under her crinoline, and could not be comfortably
taken to bed. I had a black-and-white china rabbit who was hard enough,
in all conscience, but then he never pretended to be anything but a
china rabbit, and I bought him with my own penny at Sandhurst Fair. He
slept with me for seven or eight years, and when he was lost, with my
play-box and the rest of its loved contents, on the journey from France
to England, all the dignity of my thirteen years could not uphold me in
that tragedy.

It is a mistake to suppose that children are naturally fond of change.
They love what they know. In strange places they suffer violently from
home-sickness, even when their loved nurse or mother is with them. They
want to get back to the house they know, the toys they know, the books
they know. And the loves of children for their toys, especially the ones
they take to bed with them, should be scrupulously respected. Children
nowadays have insanitary, dusty Teddy Bears. I had a "rag doll," but
she was stuffed with hair, and was washed once a fortnight, after which
nurse put in her features again with a quill pen, and consoled me for
any change in her expression by explaining that she was "growing up." My
little son had a soap-stone mouse, and has it still.

The fewer toys a child has the more he will value them; and it is
important that a child should value his toys if he is to begin to get
out of them their _full_ value. If his choice of objects be limited, he
will use his imagination and ingenuity in making the objects available
serve the purposes of such plays as he has in hand. Also it is well to
remember that the supplementing of a child's own toys by other things,
_lent for a time_, has considerable educational value. The child will
learn quite easily that the difference between his and yours is not a
difference between the attainable and the unattainable, but between the
constant possession and the occasional possession. He will also learn to
take care of the things which are lent to him, and, if he sees that you
respect his possessions, will respect yours all the more in that some of
them are, now and then, for a time and in a sense, his.



The generosity of aunts, uncles, and relations generally should be
kindly but firmly turned into useful channels. The purchase of "fancy"
things should be sternly discouraged.

With the rocking horse, the bricks, the doll's house, the cart or
wheel-barrow, the tea and dinner set, the Noah's Ark and the puzzle
maps, the nursery will be rudimentarily equipped. The supplementary
equipment can be added as it is needed, not by the sporadic outbursts of
unclish extravagance, but by well-considered and slow degrees, and by
means in which the child participates. For we must never forget that the
child loves, both in imagination and in fact, to create. All his dreams,
his innocent pretendings and make-believes, will help his nature to
unfold, and his hands in their clumsy efforts will help the dreams,
which in turn will help the little hands.


Beauty and Knowledge

CLEVER young people find it amusing to sneer at the old-fashioned ideal
of combining instruction with amusement--a stupid Victorian ideal, we
are told, which a progressive generation has cast aside. Too hastily,
perhaps--too inconsiderately. "Work while you work and play while you
play" is a motto dealing with a big question, and one to which there are
at least two sides. Entirely to divorce amusement and instruction--may
not this tend to make the one dull and the other silly? In this, as in
some other matters, our generation might well learn a little from its
ancestors. In many ways no doubt we have far surpassed the simple ideals
of our forefathers, but in the matter of amusements, in the matter of
beauty, in the matter of teaching children things without boring them,
or giving powders really and truly concealed in jam--have we advanced so

To begin with, the world is much uglier than it was. At least England
is, and France, and Belgium, and Italy, and I do not suppose that
Germany, so far ahead of us with airships, is far behind in the ugliness
which seems to be, with the airship, the hall-mark of a really advanced

We are proud, and justly, of the enormous advances made in the last
sixty years in education, sanitation, and all the complicated and heavy
machinery of the other 'ations, the 'ologies, and the 'isms; but in
these other matters how is it with us? We have grown uglier, and the
things which amuse no longer teach.

For a good many years now--more than three hundred--old men have said
"Such things and such were better in our time." And always the young
have disbelieved the saying, which in due course came from their own
lips. Has it ever occurred to any one that the reason why old people say
this is quite the simplest of all reasons? They say it because it is
_true_, and true in our land in quite a special manner. The chariot
wheels of advancing civilisation must always furrow some green fields,
grind some fair flowers in the dust. But the chariot wheels in which
civilisation to-day advances grows less and less like a chariot and more
and more like a steam-roller, and unless we steer better there will
very soon be few flowers left to us.

Those of us who have reached middle age already see that the old men
spoke truly. Things are not what they were. Without dealing with frauds
and adulterations and shoddy of all sorts we can see that things are not
so good as they were, nor yet so beautiful.

And I do not think that this means just that we are growing old, and
that the fingers of Time have rubbed the bloom from the fruit of Life.
Because those things which must be now as they used to be, trees,
leaves, rivers, and the laughter of little children, flowers, the sea at
those points where piers are impracticable, and mountains--the ones
stony and steep enough to resist the jerry-builder and the funicular
railway--still hold all, and more than all, their old magic and delight.

It seems that it is not only that the ugly and unmeaning things have
grown, like a filthy fungus, over the sheer beauty of the world, but
that the things that people mean to be beautiful are not beautiful, and
the things they mean to be interesting lack interest.

And the disease is universal: it attacks new things as well as old. The
cinematographs even, newest of the new, as things went in the old
world; already the canker has eaten them up. In the first year of
Picture Palaces we all crowded to see beautiful pictures of beautiful
places: Niagara, the Zambesi Falls, the Grand Cañon. The comic pieces
were perhaps French, but they were certainly funny. Also we saw the way
the world lived, when it was the other side of the world: "Elephants
a-piling teak," naked savages, or as near naked as don't matter, moving
in ceremonial dance before the idols that were the gods of their deep
dangerous faith. Dramas of love and death and pity and poverty. Quite
often in the early days the cinematograph tale was of some workman
driven by want to the theft of a loaf. It is true that the story
generally ended in his conviction and the adoption of his charming baby
girl by the wife of the _Juge d'Instruction_, but all the same people
saw some one poor and sad and tempted, and were sorry and sad for his
sake. Also we had tales of Indians with men that rode amain, and horses
that one longed to bestride, such beauties they were, all fire and
delicate strong temperament. War dramas too there were, where the hero
left his sweetheart, and turned coward perhaps, redeeming himself with
magnificent completeness in the splendid _débâcle_ of a forlorn hope.
That is all over. Already the sordid, heavy hand that smears commercial
commonplace on all the bright facets of romance has obscured the vivid
possibilities of the cinematograph. We have now for fun the elaborate
hurting of one American person by another American person; for scenery,
American flat-iron buildings; for romance the incredibly unimportant
emotions of fleshy American actresses and actors. There are two girls,
good and bad; two men, bad and good. In the end the good man gets the
good girl, which is, of course, as it should be, or would be if we could
believe in any moral quality in these fat-faced impersonators. You don't
care a bit who wins, but none the less, the four of them mouth and mop
and mow and make faces at you through five interminable acts, and when
the good young man marries the good young woman in a parlour grossly
furnished according to American ideals, you feel that both of them are
well punished for their unpardonable existence. All real and delicate
romance has, we observe, been wiped out by the cinematograph.


It has long been the fashion to sneer at the Crystal Palace, and indeed
the poor dear has gone from bad to worse. There are exhibitions there
all exactly like all other exhibitions: Switch-backs, _Montagnes
Russes_, Silhouettes, Tumble-scumbles, Weary waves, Threepenny thrills
(where you hustle against strangers and shriek at the impact). But once
the Crystal Palace was otherwise. In the Victorian days we sneer at,
when our fathers could not see that there was any quarrel between
knowledge and beauty, both of whom they loved, they built the Crystal
Palace as a Temple vowed to these twin Deities of their worship. Think
what the Crystal Palace was then. Think what its authors intended it to
be. Think what, for a little time, it was. A place of beauty, a place
where beauty and knowledge went hand in hand. It is quite true that a
Brobdingnagian Conservatory does not seem so beautiful to us as it did
to the Prince Consort and Sir Joseph Paxton. It is true that even in the
palmiest days of the Crystal Palace you barked your shins over iron
girders--painted a light blue, my memory assures me--and that the boards
of the flooring were so far apart that you could lose, down the cracks
of them, not only your weekly sixpence or your birthday shilling, but
even the sudden unexpected cartwheel (do they still call a crown that?)
contributed by an uncle almost more than human. It is true that the
gravel of the paths in the "grounds" tired your feet and tried your
temper, and that the adventure ended in a clinging to bony fingers and
admonitions from nurse "not to drag so." But on the other hand. . . .

Think of the imagination, the feeling for romance that went to the
furnishing of the old Crystal Palace. There was a lake in the grounds of
Penge Park. How would our twentieth century _entrepreneurs_ deal with a
lake? We need not pause to invent an answer. We know it would be
something new and nasty. How did these despised mid-Victorians deal with
it? They set up, amid the rocks and reeds and trees of the island in
that lake, life-sized images of the wonders of a dead world. On a great
stone crouched a Pterodactyl, his vast wings spread for flight. A
mammoth sloth embraced a tree, and I give you my word that when you came
on him from behind, you, in your six years, could hardly believe that he
was not real, that he would not presently leave the tree and turn his
attention to your bloused and belted self. (Little boys wore caps with
peaks then, and blouses with embroidered collars.) Convinced, at last,
by the cold feel of his flank to your fat little hand, that he was but
stone, you kept, none the less, a memory of him that would last your
life, and make his name, when you met it in a book, as thrilling as the
name of a friend in the list of birthday honours. There was an
Ichthyosaurus too, and another chap whose name I forget, but he had a
scalloped crest all down his back to the end of his tail. And the
Dinosaurus . . . he had a round hole in his antediluvian stomach: and,
with a brother--his own turn to come next, as in honour bound--to give
you a leg-up, you could explore the roomy interior of the Dinosaur with
feelings hardly to be surpassed by those of bandits in a cave. It is
almost impossible to over-estimate the Dinosaurus as an educational
influence. On your way back to the Palace itself you passed Water
Temples surrounded by pools where water-lilies grew. Afterwards, when
you read of tanks and lotuses and India, you knew what to think.

There were Sphinxes--the correct plural was told you by aunts, and you
rejected it on the terrace--and, within, more smooth water with marble
at the edge and more lilies, and goldfish, palms, and ferns, and humming
pervasive music from the organ. There were groves or shrubberies; you
entered them a-tremble with a fearful joy. You knew that round the next
corner or the next would be black and brown and yellow men; savages,
with their huts and their wives and their weapons, their
looking-glass-pools and their reed tunics, so near you that it was only
a step across a little barrier and you could pretend that you also were
a black, a brown, or a yellow person, and not a little English child in
a tunic, belt, and peaked cap. You never took the step, but none the
less those savages were your foes and your friends, and when you met
them in your geography you thrilled to the encounter.

Further, there were Courts; I first met Venus, the armless wonder of
Milo, and Hermes, embodied vision of Praxiteles, and the Discobolus,
whom we all love, and who is exactly like Mr. Graham Wallas in youth, in
the Grecian Court. In the Egyptian Court there were pictured pillars,
and the very word Egypt is to me for their sake a Word of Power to this
day. And the Spanish Court, the court of the Alhambra, the lovely
mosaic, the gold and the blue and the red, the fountain, the marble, the
strange unnatural beauty of the horseshoe arches. . . .

I shall never see the Alhambra now, but it is because of the Spanish
Court at the Crystal Palace that there will always be an empty ache in
my thought, an ache of the heart, a longing that is not all pain, at its
name, a feeling like a beautiful dwarf despair, in that I never shall
see that blue and red and golden glory, and the mystery of its strange
mis-shapen arches that open to the whole world of dreams.

Say of the Mid-Victorians what you will; they did at least know, when
they set them, the seeds of Romance. Think of Euston Station: those
glorious pillars, the magnificent dream of an Egyptian building to loom
through the Egyptian darkness of London's fogs. And the architecture of
Egypt was too expensive, and Euston remains, a magnificent memorial--the
child of genius stunted by finance.

There was Madame Tussaud's too, a close link with the French Revolution:
the waxen heads of kings and democrats, the very guillotine itself. And
Madame Tussaud's daughter, with the breathing breast that seemed alive,
and the little old woman in the black bonnet, Madame herself, who had
seen the rise of Republics and the deaths of kings. These things, last
time I trod those halls, were put in the shade, their place usurped by
vulgar tableaux, explaining to the bored spectators what happens to a
vulgar young man with a wife whose skirt is much too short in front and
her hair very badly done, if he leaves his home for the society of
sirens and cardsharpers. The tableaux were cheap and nasty, and taught
one nothing that one could not learn from the _Police News_.

Once there were nightingales that sang in the gardens on Loampit Hill.
Now it is all villas. Once the Hilly Fields were hilly fields where the
children played, and there were primroses. Once the road from Eltham to
Woolwich was a grassy lane with hedges and big trees in the hedges, and
wild pinks and Bethlehem stars, and ragged robin and campion. Now the
trees are cut down and there are no more flowers. It is asphalt all the
way, and here and there seats divided by iron rods so that tired tramps
should not sleep on them. And the green fields by Mottingham where the
kingcups used to grow, and the willows by the little stream, they are
eaten up by yellow caterpillars of streets all alike, all horrible;
while in London old handsome houses are tenements, and children play on
the dirty doorsteps of them with dead mice and mutton bones for toys. In
the country women wear men's tweed caps instead of sunbonnets, and
Hinde's curlers by day instead of curl papers (which if you were pretty,
looked like wreaths of white roses) by night. And everything is getting
uglier and uglier. And no one seems to care. And only the old people
remember that things were not always ugly, remember how different
things were--once.

[Illustration: A CHINESE TEMPLE.]

Therefore I would plead with all those who have to do with children to
resist and to denounce uglification wherever they may meet with it, and
to remember that there is knowledge which goes hand in hand with beauty.
To show a child beautiful things, and to answer as well all the
questions he will ask about them, to charm and thrill his imagination
with pictures and statues and models of the wonders of the world, to
familiarise the child with beauty, so that he knows ugliness when he
meets it, and hates it for the outrage it is to the beauty he has known
and loved ever since he was very little--this is worth doing. If we
would make beauty the dear rule of a man's life, and ugliness the hated
exception, we should make beauty as familiar to the child as the air he
breathes, and if we associate knowledge with beauty the child will love
them both.


Of Building and Other Matters

A MOMENT of rapturous anticipation lights life when the kind aunt or
uncle has given the bricks, when the flat, sliding lid has been slipped
back, and the smooth wooden cubes and oblongs have tumbled resoundingly
on table or floor.

"I am going to build a palace," says the child. Or a tower or a church.
And, the highest hopes inspiring him, he sets out on the new adventure.
But he does not build a palace or a church, or even a railway station.
What he builds is a factory, or a wall, or, in the case of the
terra-cotta bricks, a portion of a French gentleman's country villa--the
kind you see dozens of along the railway between Paris and Versailles.
And however strong the child's desire that what he shall build shall be
a palace or a church, that is, something beautiful and romantic, what he
does build will always be the last thing he does, or ought to, admire.
The fault is in the materials. They are lacking both in quality and
quantity. No box of bricks that can at present be bought for money will
build anything that can satisfy an imaginative child. An ordinary box of
bricks--a really handsome one--measures, say, 12 by 8 by 2 in. If
anything admirable is to be built from this amount of material the
material ought to be presented in very small cubes, oblongs and
arches--say 1 in. by ½ in. for the largest bricks, and going down to ¼
by ¼ by ¼ in. Given these proportions a really pretty though
undistinguished building might result. But in the box of bricks 12 by 8
by 2 in. the smallest cube measures ¾ in. and the largest brick 9 by ¾
by ¾ in. These long slabs of surface cannot be broken and disguised in
such small buildings as the only ones which the materials are enough to
build. Hence, the deadly monotony of façade, broken only by the three
or, in the case of the really handsome box, five arches, and suggesting
nothing so much as a "works" or a workhouse.

[Illustration: THE SQUARE TOWER.]

In the bricks themselves there is not enough variety. The stone bricks,
it is true, have broken out into a variety of ugly shapes and a blue
colour with which you can, if you like, build a Mansard roof. But a
Mansard roof in a coarse ugly blue tint, is no thing of beauty.
Besides, it needs a solid substructure to support it, and if you make
your building solid, every brick in your box will be used up, and all
you will have to show for it will be a partially built wing of a
peculiarly undesirable villa residence, replete with every modern
inconvenience. Nor must it be supposed that the difficulty can be met
by adding more and more boxes of bricks. Add them, by all means; and the
result will be a larger and probably an uglier factory, or a completed,
and therefore more completely hideous, villa. Unless you are a
millionaire, and have a toy cupboard as big as a pantechnicon, you will
never have enough bricks to build up the solid masses which rest the
eye, and give solidity and dignity to architecture. Among such solid
masses _steps_ are not the least important. Every child knows that a
really good flight of steps will take half the bricks in his box and
leave insufficient material for the edifice to which the steps were
intended to lead up. The tall broad smooth wall, its quiet surface
disturbed only by one or two windows, a flight of steps and a doorway,
is for ever out of reach of the child who has only bricks wherewith to

[Illustration: SHELL ARCHES]

The arches supplied with boxes of bricks are usually few and badly
proportioned. There is seldom any provision for setting them up in a

The pillars which will support the ends of two arches are too wide for
the _end_ arch, which is single. This difficulty is dealt with in stone
bricks, but not in wooden ones; at any rate so far as my experience

There never was a time, one supposes, when so much money was spent on
children and their toys. It is impossible to believe that, should some
toy maker design and put on the market really desirable bricks for
children, there would not be a ready sale for them. I suggest, then,
that bricks are too large, and too small--and that what is needed is
much smaller bricks, and much larger ones. The bricks in the old chest
in our nursery started with 2-in. cubes, and went on in gradations of
2-in. to the largest brick--12 by 2 by 2 in. The chest itself must have
been at least 4 by 2 by 1½ ft. Another detestable quality in our modern
bricks is their inexactness--a sixteenth or even a quarter of an inch,
more or less, is no more to the maker of bricks nowadays than it is to
a bad dressmaker. Our bricks were well and truly cut: they were of
seasoned oak, smooth and pleasant to touch--none of the rough-sawn edges
which vex the hand and render the building unstable; they were heavy--a
very important quality in bricks. They "stayed put." I suggest that such
bricks as these, supplemented by arches of varied curves, but unvarying
thicknesses, and slabs of board varying in breadth but not in length,
would not be a toy beyond the purse of kind uncles and aunts, and
certainly not beyond the means of our Council schools. The slabs of
boards are to build steps with and to make roofs with. Every child who
has ever built with bricks feels the reckless wastefulness of using for
steps the bricks so much needed for walls and towers. And who has not
experienced the aggravation of finding when his tower is built that he
has used up all the long bricks near its foundation and has now none
left which are long enough to lay across its summit and form its roof?
The slabs of board should be, like the bricks, of seasoned oak, and
should be an inch thick. There should be plenty of arches--so as to
render possible some sort of resemblance to Norman and classical

But bricks alone, however beautiful and varied, cannot as building
material have the value which material freely chosen would have.
Children love to make mud pies, and to build sand castles, because the
material is plastic and responds with more or less of docility to their
demands upon it. Also there is always enough of it, which there never is
of bricks, or for the matter of that, of plasticine. I can imagine a
splendid happiness for a child in a bushel of plasticine--but the sticks
of plasticine are too small to be made into anything architecturally
satisfying; and much too expensive for ordinary children to have in any
but such quantities as encourage niggling. You will notice that children
never tire of building sand castles on the sea-shore--but they would
soon tire of building with a quart of damp sand on a table. It is true
that the sea washes away your sand castle, usually before it is
finished, but its end is finely catastrophic and full of damp delightful
incident. Also the climax has the great essential of drama--it is
inevitable. How different the demolition of the brick-built house by
mamma, who wants space for cutting out, or by Mary, who desires to lay
the table. The most promising of palaces, the most beautiful of bridges,
are, at the urgence of these grown-up needs, swept away, and so, never
being able to finish anything, the builder becomes discouraged. Perhaps
he takes to the floor as an eligible building site, only to find his
buildings exposed to the tempestuous petticoat of Mary, or the
carelessly stepping high-heeled shoes of mamma. The same thing happens
with a dolls' school, or a dolls' dinner-party, or any game requiring
pageantry of any sort--so that little girls who would like their dolls
to be actors in some scene of magnificence find no safe place for the
actors save in their arms--and nurse with enforced premature maternal
fussings the doll who, in happier circumstances, might be a Druid or a
martyr, or Francis the First at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. It is
better to the child's mind that the cherished doll should safely be baby
for ever, than that it should be Francis the First and get walked on.

In any house where space makes such a thing possible, a table might be
set aside for children, to be their very own--a table on which neither
food nor millinery should ever trespass. Of course it is needful that
toys and pseudo-toys should be "put away" daily, but it is not necessary
that they should all be put away. Those which are being used in some
splendid half-developed scheme might surely be allowed to stay where
they are, so that it may be possible to go on with the game next day. A
truce might be called of that ruthless tidying up which, every day,
destroys the new idea, and compels the child each day to produce a new
scheme instead of allowing it to work on yesterday's and bring it to
something a little nearer the perfection which it touched when the
child's mind first conceived it. But, it may be urged, children leave
everything half-finished, and go off to something else. Of course they
do--but clear away the half-finished thing, and you will find when they
come back from the butterfly flight after some other interest, that they
will not be pleased with you.

"I've put all your bricks nicely away," you say proudly; and Tommy will
say "Bother!" in his heart, even if his lips are sufficiently trained to
avoid that expletive and to substitute: "I do wish you hadn't: I wanted
to finish building my tower."

You see one thing leads to another. It isn't that children are any more
bird-witted than we are: it is that they have not yet learned to
restrain the thousand curiosities, desires, and creative impulses proper
to their age. You, of course, if you desired to set up a tableau of the
Field of the Cloth of Gold, would sit down with a bit of pencil and the
back of an envelope and jot down all the properties required for staging
the scene. But the child who has "had" the Field "in History," and whose
imagination has been stirred by the name of it--a thing that will happen
under the stupidest of teachers--sets up Henry and Francis in paper
crowns and only then begins to see that tents and banners and cloth of
gold are lacking. Perhaps he goes off to the village shop to get flags,
perhaps to your handkerchief case for tent-cloth, perhaps to the meadow
beyond the orchard to gather buttercups. While on any of these quests
some supremely important event may strike across his plans, and
overshadow them--a new kitten, a gift from the gardener of plants for
his little garden, or the fact that some one is going fishing. Then
Francis and Henry are forgotten, the buttercups left dying on the
doorstep, and the tent-cloth crammed into the pockets among string,
stamps, acid drops, and pieces of the watch he took to pieces last
holidays and never put together again, and he will follow the new trail.
But he will come back to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and if you have
"tidied up" the kings and put their crowns in the wastepaper basket the
child will be disappointed and worried, his imagination checked and his
scheme baffled.


His annexation of your handkerchiefs will not occur if you have
accustomed him to come to you or to his nurse for the means to his small
ends; but if there is no one to whom he can apply for help, you will
find that he will not stick at the sacred threshold of your handkerchief
case. The tents of the Field of the Cloth of Gold will be far more
important to him than the inviolability of that scented
treasure-house--unless, of course, you happen to have explained to him
exactly how much you dislike that your handkerchiefs should keep the
sort of company they meet with in his pockets. Then, if he loves you,
and has found you reasonable, he will refrain, while wondering at your
prejudices. But he will--or ought to--find some other material for
tents--letter paper perhaps. Letter paper makes quite good tents, though
not nearly so good, of course, as handkerchiefs folded
diagonally--supported by a central pole, say a penholder, and fastened
down at the tucked-in corners with pins or rose thorns. You can explain
to him that rose-thorns hurt handkerchiefs, but you will not punish him
if this has not occurred to him. And this brings one to the question of
crime and punishment, of which perhaps I had better say what I have to
say before I go on talking about bricks and how to supplement them. As
I was saying, one thing leads to another.


The Moral Code

IN attempting to explain and enforce a moral code, the first and most
essential need is to formulate definitely to oneself the code which one
proposes to enforce and to explain. There is nothing from which
children, and subject human beings generally, suffer so much as the
incoherence of the thought of those in authority over them. Before you
can begin to lay down the law you must know what that law is, and your
heart, soul, and spirit must not only know it, but approve it, before
you can gain a willing obedience to it from those on whom you wish to
impose it. By this I do not mean only that we ought to make up our minds
whether this, that, or the other isolated act is right or wrong, as it
occurs, but that we ought to have a clear perception and knowledge of
the things that are right and the things that are wrong, and have a
standard which we can apply to any new action brought under our notice,
so that, measuring the new act by our old standard, we shall be able to
say, with some sort of rough accuracy, "This is wrong," or "This is

And the standard of expediency is not a good one for this purpose, nor
is the standard of custom, nor yet the standard of gentility or the
standard of success in life. Children are not good judges of expediency.
The law of mere custom will not be strong enough to bind them when
desire calls with enchanting voice to forbidden things. Gentility and
the gospel of getting on will leave them cold. You may at first deal
merely with a succession of unrelated particulars, saying, "This is
right," "This is wrong," beating down the children's questionings by
your mere _Ipse dixit_; but a time will come when it will not be enough,
in answer to their "Why is it wrong?" "Why is it right?" to answer
"Because I say so." The child will want some other standard which he
himself can apply. The standard of what you say may be a shifting one,
and anyhow, he cannot be at all sure what you will say unless he knows
what is your standard, the standard by which you will decide whether to
say, in any given case, that a thing is wrong or right. And in order
that you may clearly set before the child your own moral standard you
must first have set it very clearly before yourself. It is not enough
to say, "Stealing is wrong," "Lying is wrong," "Greediness is wrong." If
you feel that these things are wrong because they are contrary to the
will of God, you will not find that that explanation is sufficient for a
child unless he knows very much more about God than His name and certain
miraculous and incomprehensible attributes of His. He will want to know
what is the will of God, to which these wrong things are contrary. And
he will want very much to know the definite right as well as the
definite wrong. You will have to give the child a standard that can be
applied to positives as well as negatives.

There is a very simple standard by which to measure the actions of
children--and, much more severely, our own actions. It is set up in the
words of Christ: "Do unto others as you would they should do unto
you"--a standard so simple that quite little children can understand and
apply it, a standard so severe that were it understood and applied by us
who are no longer children, the warped, tangled, rotten web we call
civilisation could not endure for a day. There is no other standard by
which a child can judge its own actions, and yours, and judge them

Having fixed your standard it will be necessary to try your own actions
by it as well as the child's. And this standard will give you the only
vital code of morality, because it compels the continual exercise of
imagination, the continual preening and flight of the wings of the soul.
You cannot order your life by that Divine precept without a hundred
times a day asking yourself, "How should _I_ like that, if I were not
myself?" without continually putting yourself, imaginatively, in some
one else's place. And when the child asks, "Why is it wrong to steal?"
you can lead him to see how little he would like to have his own
possessions stolen. When he asks, "Why is it wrong to lie?" you may
teach him to imagine his own bitterness if others should deceive him. It
is, of course, much easier to say, "It is wrong because I say so," or
even "because God says so"; but if you want to mark it right or wrong,
to grave it deeply and ineffaceably on the tables of the heart and the
soul, teach the child to see for himself _how_ things are right and
wrong--and to judge of them by that one Divine and unfailing rule.

Of course even when the child knows what is right he will not always do
it, any more than you do: and one of the questions to be considered is
how you shall deal with those lapses from moral rectitude of which he,
no less than you, will often be guilty. Punishments, the old savage
punishments, were revenge, and nothing but revenge, a desire to "pay
out" the offender, to take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. More
humane and reasonable legislators have sought to prove that punishment
is curative--that the fear of punishment will deter people from doing
wrong. A distinguished official of the Home Office gave it as his
opinion only the other day that punishment, no matter how severe, will
not act as a deterrent, if there is ever so slight a chance of the
criminal's escaping it. What would deter would be the _certainty_ of
punishment, however slight. Now since you are not omniscient you cannot
pretend to your child that if he does wrong you are certain to know and
to punish him: if you are silly enough to pretend it, he will find you
out immediately, and estimate your lie at its true blackness. You can,
however, without any pretence, assure him that if he does wrong he
himself will know it, that it will make him feel unclean and nasty, and
miserable till he is able to wash himself in the waters of repentance
and forgiveness. That if he acts meanly and dirtily he will feel dirty
and mean, and if he acts bravely and cleanly he will feel clean and
brave. And he will find that what you say is true. But not unless you
shall have succeeded in convincing him that your standard is a true
standard, and that the things which that standard shows to be wrong are
wrong indeed. Here is the highest work of the imagination: to teach the
child so to put himself in the place of the one he has wronged that the
knowledge of that wrong shall be its own punishment.

No one desires, of course, that a child should be always feeling his own
moral pulse: if he has learned that there is a right and a wrong way he
will not be always bothering about which way he may be living--it will
be only when something goes amiss that he will stop and consider. Just
as one does not stop to think whether one is breathing properly, only
when one chokes one knows that one isn't.

[Illustration: ONE HALF OF THE CITY.


Punishment, however, should not be confused with the consequences of
action, and while children are yet too small to understand all that God
may be to them, it is possible to show them the _consequences_ of their
misdeeds, magnifying these beyond the consequences of the act to be
reprobated and thus pointing the general moral. I mean that one may
honourably apply, to the small wrong-doings of childhood, the _sort_
of consequences--proportioned, of course, to the wrong-doing--which
would result from such wrong-doing on a larger scale by a grown-up
person. It will be exceedingly troublesome and painful for you, but
perhaps its painfulness to you may be the measure of its value to the
child. For instance, Tommy steals a penny, knowing that to steal pennies
is wrong. He is very little, and a penny is very little, and your
impulse, if not to slap him, might be to tell him that he is a very
naughty boy and have done with it. It will go to your heart to bring
home to him the consequences of theft, especially as you cannot do it at
once; but if, next time you are about to send him to the shop for
something, you say, "No: I can't send you because you might steal my
pennies as you did the other day"--this will be hateful for you to
do--but it will show him more plainly than anything else what happens to
people who steal. They are not trusted. And the same with lies. Show him
that those who tell lies are not believed.

But, remembering how it felt to be a child, have pity, and do not teach
him these lessons when any one else is there. Let the humiliation of
them be a secret between you two alone. Only when a wrong has been done
which demands a restitution or an amend should the soul of the child,
shamed with wrong-doing, be exposed to alien eyes.

When we sit in judgment on the aggressions and on the shortcomings of
others the first need is neither justice nor mercy, but imagination with
self-knowledge. The judge should be able to put himself in the place of
the accused, to perceive, by sympathetic vision, the point of view of
the one who stands before the judgment-seat. The judge is an adult human
being, and therefore has some knowledge of the mental and moral
processes of human beings. He should use this knowledge; and when it
comes to a grown-up judging a child, it is no less necessary for the
judge to place himself imaginatively in the place of the small offender.
And this cannot be done by imagination and self-consideration alone.
Memory is needed. Let me say it again: there is only one way of
understanding children; they cannot be understood by imagination, by
observation, nor even by love. They can only be understood by memory.
Only by remembering how you felt and thought when you yourself were a
child can you arrive at any understanding of the thoughts and feelings
of children. When you were a child you suffered intensely from
injustice, from want of understanding, in your grown-up censors. You
were punished when you had not meant to do wrong: you escaped punishment
when you had not meant to do right. The whole scheme of grown-up law
seemed to you, and very likely was, arbitrary and incomprehensible. And
you suffered from it desperately. So much that, even if you have now
forgotten all that you suffered, the mark of that suffering none the
less remains on your soul to this day.

It would seem that the humiliations, the mortifications endured in
childhood leave an ineffaceable brand on the spirit. How then can we not
remember, and, remembering, refrain from hurting other children as we
were hurt?

The spirit of the child is sensitive to the slightest change in the
atmosphere about him. You can convey disapproval quite easily--and
approval also. But while most parents and guardians are constantly alive
to the necessity for expressing disapproval and inflicting punishment,
the other side of the medal seems to be hidden from them.

The most prevalent idea of training children is the idea of prohibition
and punishment. "You are not to do it! You will? Then take that!" the
blow or punishment following, expresses simply and exactly the whole
theory of moral education held by the mass of modern mothers. The vast
mistake, both in the education of children and government of nations, is
the heavy stress laid on the negative virtues. Also the fact that
punishment follows on the failure _not_ to do certain things--whereas no
commensurate reward is offered even for success in _not_ doing, let
alone for success in active and honourable well-doing. The reward of
negative virtue is negative also, and consists simply in non-punishment.
The rewards of active virtue are, in the world of men, money and praise.
But there are deeds for which money cannot pay, and sometimes these are
rewarded by medals and paragraphs in the newspapers--not at all the same
thing as being rewarded by the praise of your fellow-men. Now children,
like all sane human beings, love praise. They love it more keenly
perhaps than other human beings because their natural craving for it has
not been overlaid with false modesties and shames. They have not learned

    Praise to the face
    Is open disgrace.

On the contrary, praise to the face seems to them natural, right, and
altogether desirable. See that they get it.

Do you remember when you were little how you struggled to exercise some
tiresome negative virtue, such as not biting your nails, not teasing the
cat, not executing, with your school-boots, that heavy shuffling
movement, so simply relieving to you, so mysteriously annoying to the
grown-ups? Can you have forgotten how for ages and ages--three or four
days, even--you refrained from drinking water with your mouth full of
food, from leaving your handkerchief about in obvious spots natural and
convenient, how you sternly denied yourself the pleasure of drawing your
hoop stick along the front railings--because, though you enjoyed this
musical exercise, others did not? And how, all through the interminable
period of self-denial, you heartened yourself to these dismal
refrainings by the warm comfortable thought, "_Won't_ they be
pleased?"--and how they never were. They took it all as a matter of
course. To them, because they had forgotten how it felt to be a child,
all your heroic sacrifices and renunciations counted as nothing. To them
it was natural that a child should keep his fingers out of his mouth,
and off the tail of Puss, should keep his feet still and his
handkerchief in his pocket, should do the suitable things with meat,
drink, and hoop-sticks. They never noticed, and so they never praised.
But when, worn out by long abstinence from natural joys, natural
relaxations, you broke one of those rules which seemed to you so useless
and so arbitrary, then they noticed fast enough.

[Illustration: THE TAIL OF PUSS.]

"Can you _never_ remember," they said, "just a simple thing like not
biting your nails?" Bitter aloes following, no doubt. Or, "I really
should have thought," they would say, "that considering the number of
times I've spoken about it you would remember not to make that frightful
noise," with boots or hoop sticks or a blade of wet grass or what not.
They did not pause to think, in their earnest grown-up business of
"bringing the boy up," how many, how very many, and how seemingly silly,
were the "don'ts" which you had to remember. But you will not be like
that: you will notice and approve, and most needful of all, reward with
praise the earnest, difficult refrainings of the child who is trying to
please you: who is trying to learn the long table of your commandments
all beginning with "Thou shalt not," and to practise them, not because
these commandments appeal to him as reasonable or just or useful, but
just because he loves you, wants to please you, and, deepest need of
love, wants you to be pleased with him.

A hasty yet determined effort at putting yourself in his place is the
thing needed every time you have to sit in judgment on the actions of
another human being--most of all when that human being is a little
child. If we cultivated this habit we should not hurt other people as we
do. I have seen cruel things.

A little girl, suffering from a slight affection of the eye, was given
by a sympathetic aunt the run of a box of that aunt's old ball-dresses.
She spent a whole hour in arranging a costume which seemed to her to be
of royal beauty. A crushed pink tulle dress, a many-coloured striped
Roman sash, white satin slippers, put on over the black strapped shoes,
and turning up very much at the toes. White gloves, very dirty and
wrinkled like a tortoise's legs over the plump dimpled arms. Hair
dressed high on the head over a pad of folded stockings, secured by
hairpins borrowed from the housemaid. A wreath, of crushed red calico
roses from somebody's last summer's hat, some pearl beads, the property
of cook, and a blue heart out of a cracker--saved since Christmas.

"I am a beautiful Princess," said the child, and the housemaid responded
heartily: "That you are, ducky, and no mistake. Go and show mother."

But mother, when she was told that this stumbling, long-tailed bundle of
crushed finery was a beautiful Princess, laughed and said, "Princess
Rag-Bag, I should say."

"It's only pretending, you know," the child explained, wondering why
explanations should be needed by mother and not by Eliza.

The mother laughed again. "I shouldn't pretend to be a Princess with
that great stye in my eye," she said, and thought no more about it.

But the child remembers to this day how she slunk away and tore off the
beautiful Princess-clothes, and cried and cried and cried, and wished
that she was dead. Children really do wish that, sometimes.

Another form of cruelty is mere carelessness. A child spends hours in
preparing some surprise for you--decorates your room with flowers, not
in the best taste perhaps, and fading maybe before your impatiently
awaited arrival--or ties scarves and handkerchiefs to the banisters to
represent flags at your home-coming.

"Very pretty, dear," you say carelessly, hardly looking--and the child
sees that you hardly look, "and now clear it all away, there's a dear!"

The child clears it all away, and with the dying flowers something else
is cleared away, something that will no more live again than will the
faded flowers.

Be generous of praise--it is the dew that waters the budding flowers of
kindness and love and unselfishness: it is to all that is best in the
child the true Elixir of Life.


Praise and Punishment



WHILE admitting that no pains can be too great, no labours too arduous
to spend upon the education of the child, we must not shut our eyes to
the fact that the sacrifice of the grown-up may often be better for
him--or much more often her--than it is for the child for whom that
sacrifice is made. There is a certain danger that the enthusiastic
educator, passionately desiring to sacrifice her whole life, may
incidentally, and quite without meaning it, sacrifice something very
vital in the child. For the child whose every want is anticipated, whose
every thought is considered, who is surrounded by the softness of love
and the sweetness of sympathy, is not unlikely to disappoint and dismay
the fond parent or guardian, pastor or master, by growing up selfish,
cowardly, heartless and ungrateful; with no capacity for obedience, no
power of endurance, no hardihood, no resource--whining in adversity
and intolerable in success. The object of education is to fit the child
for the life of the man. Once it was held that a rigorous discipline,
enforced by violence, was the best preparation for the life which is
never too easy or too soft. Now we have changed all that, and there is
some danger that the pendulum may swing too far, and that the aim of
education may come to mean only the ensuring of a happy childhood,
without arming the child for the battle of life. It is right that to the
educator the child should be the prime object, the centre of the
universe, the prime consideration to which every other consideration
must give way. But there is the danger that the child may become his own
prime object, not only the centre of his own universe, but its
circumference, and cherish, deeply rooted in his inmost soul, the
conviction that all other considerations should and will give way to his

Life, we know, will teach him, in her rough, hard school, that he is
only the centre of his own universe in that sense in which the same is
true of us all--that far from being the prime object of the world which
surrounds him, he himself counts for little or nothing, except to those
who love him--and that the consideration he receives will not be, as was
the consideration lavished on him in his childhood, free, ungrudging,
and invariable, but will be conditioned by the services he renders to
others and the extent to which he can be to them pleasant or useful.
Life, it is true, will teach him all this, but if her teaching be a
course of lessons in a wholly new subject, they will be very difficult
to learn, and the learning will hurt. Whereas if, from the very
beginning, the child is taught to understand the interdependence of
human beings, the fact that rights involve duties and that duties confer
rights, he will be able to apply and to use for his own help the lessons
which later life will teach him. More, he will have at the outset of
life the advantage which one with a clear conception of rights and
duties has over one who only sees life as a muddle and maze of things
that are "jolly hard lines." They suffer as without hope who see that
the world needs mending, and have never made up their minds what sort of
world they would like. Whereas the child to whom, quite early, the
lesson of human solidarity has been taught will, when he shall be a man,
know very well what he wants, and will be able, however humbly, to help,
in his day and generation, to re-mould the world to the fashion of his

It is not difficult to teach children the duties of kindness and
helpfulness to others, and the duty of public spirit and loyalty to
their fellow-men. A healthy child is active, energetic, and deeply
desirous of using his senses and his faculties. It is possible to assign
to quite a small child certain duties, but the wise educator will manage
to make such duties privileges and not tasks. The system of sentencing
children to the performance of useful offices by way of punishment is
abominable. It gives them for ever a distaste for that particular form
of social service.

If we must punish, let us not permit the punishments to trench on the
province of useful and, in good conditions, pleasant tasks. Give the boy
an imposition rather than an order to weed the shrubbery walk; set the
girl to learn a French verb rather than to hem dusters. The
consciousness of being useful is very dear to children--it is worth
while to feel and to show gratitude to them for all services rendered,
and though it may be, as they say, more trouble than it is worth to
teach the children to help effectually, that only means that it is more
trouble than the help they give is worth. What is really valuable is
the cultivation of the sense that it is a good and pleasant thing to
help mother to wash up, to help father to water the geraniums, and,
further, a thing which will make father and mother pleased and grateful.
Children, like the rest of us, love to feel themselves important. Is it
not well that they should feel themselves important as givers, and not
as claimants only?

The tale of their public obligations may well begin with the lesson that
it is part of the duty of a citizen to help to keep his city, his
country, clean and beautiful. Therefore, we must not leave nasty traces
of our presence in street or meadow--such traces as orange-peel,
banana-skins, and the greasy bag that once held the bun or the
bull's-eye. And it is quite as important to learn what we should as what
we should not do. The idea and organisation of the Boy Scouts is a fine
object-lesson in the way of training children to be good citizens. The
duties of a citizen should be taught in all schools: they are more
important than the latitude of Cathay and the industries of Kamskatka.
Even the smallest children could learn something of this branch of
education. I should like to write a little book of Moral Songs for Young
Citizens, only I wouldn't call it that. The songs in it might take the
place of "Mary had a little lamb" or whatever it is that they make the
infants learn by heart. One of them might go something like this:

    I must not steal, and I must learn
    Nothing is mine that I do not earn.
    I must try in work and play
    To make things beautiful every day.
    I must be kind to every one
    And never let cruel things be done.
    I must be brave, and I must try
    When I am hurt never to cry,
    And always laugh as much as I can
    And be glad that I'm going to be a man,
    To work for my living and help the rest,
    And never do less than my very best.

Another might begin:

    I must not litter the park or the street
    With bits of paper or things to eat:
    I must not pick the public flowers
    They are not _mine_, but they are _ours_. . . .

And so on. Simple rhymes learned when you are very young stay with you
all your life. The duties and refrainings just touched on here might be
elaborated in different poems. There might be one on being brave, and
another on prompt obedience to the word of command. There is no position
in life where the habit of obedience to your superior officer is not of
value. To teach obedience without bullying would be quite easy: with
very little children it could take the form of a game, in which a
series of orders were given--for the performance of such actions as
occur in the mulberry bush; and the competition among the children to be
the first to obey the new order would quicken the child's mind and body,
while the habit of obedience to the word of command would be firmly
planted, so that it would grow with the child's growth and adapt itself
to the needs of life. I would write more than one poem, I think, about
the green country and the shame it is that those who should love and
protect it desecrate it as they do. Let it be the pride of the child
that he is not of the sort of people who leave greasy papers lying about
in woods, broken bottles in meadows, and old sardine tins among the
rushes at the margin of cool streams. Such people touch no foot of land
that they do not desecrate and defile. Wherever they are suffered to be,
there they leave behind them the vilest leavings. Filthy papers, the
rinds and skins of fruit, crusts and parings, jagged tins, smashed
bottles, straw and shavings and empty stained cardboard boxes. They
leave it all, openly and shamelessly, making the magic meadows sordid as
a suburb, and carrying into the very heart of the country the
vulgarities of the street corner. It is time, indeed, that certain of
the finer duties of citizenship were taught in all schools, Harrow as
well as Houndsditch, Eton as well as Borstal. And one of the first of
these is the keeping of the beauty of beautiful places unsmirched, the
duty of preserving for others the beauty which we ourselves admire, the
duty of burning bits of paper and burying pieces of orange-peel. If
there is not time to teach geography as well as the duties and decencies
of a citizen, the geography should go, and the duties and decencies be
taught. For what is the use of knowing the names of places if you do not
know that places should be beautiful, and what is the use of knowing how
many counties there are in England unless you know also that every field
and every tree and every stream in every one of those counties is a
precious gift of God not to be desecrated by shameless refuse and
garbage, but to be cared for as one cares for one's garden, and loved,
as one should love every inch of our England, this garden-land more
beautiful than any garden in the world?

A child should be taught to read almost as soon as it has learned to
speak. I can remember my fourth birthday, but I cannot remember a time
when I could not read. Without going into details as to the merits of
different methods of teaching, I may say that a good many words may be
taught before it is necessary to teach the letters--that reading should
precede spelling--that CAT should be presented whole, as the symbol of
Cat--and that the dissection of it into C.A.T. should come later. I
believe that children taught in this way, and taught young, will not in
after life be tortured by the difficulties of spelling. They will spell
naturally, as they speak or walk. Of the value of the accomplishment of
reading, as a let-off to parents and guardians, it would be impossible
to speak too highly. It keeps the child busy, amused, still and quiet.
The value to the child himself is not less. Nor is it only that the
matter of his reading stores his mind with new material. To him also it
is a good thing that he should sometimes be still and quiet, and at the
same time interested and occupied. Of books for little children there
are plenty--not fine literature, it is true--but harmless. As the child
grows older he will want more books, and different books--and if you
insist on personally conducting him on his grand tour through literature
he will probably miss a good many places that he would like to go to.
For a child from ten onwards it is no bad thing to give the run of a
good general library. When he has exhausted the story books he will
read the ballads, the histories and the travels, and may even nibble at
science, poetry, or philosophy. I myself, at the age of thirteen,
browsed contentedly in such a library--where Percy's anecdotes in
thirty-nine volumes or so divided my attention with Hume, Locke and
Berkeley. I even read Burton's _Anatomy of Melancholy_, and was none the
worse for it. It is astonishing how little harm comes to children
through books. Unless they have been taught by servants' chatter how to
look for the "harm," they do not find it. I do not mean that absolutely
every book is fit for a child's reading, but if you allow the reading of
the Old Testament it is mere imbecility to insist that all the rest of
your child's reading shall ignore the facts of life. You can always have
a locked book-case if you choose: only see to it that the doors are not
of glass, for the forbidden is always the desired.

As regards the facts of life, by which I mean the physiological facts
about which there is so much needless and vain concealment, there is, it
seems to me, only one rule. If your child has learned to love and trust
you it will come to you with its questions, instead of going to the
housemaid or the groom. Answer all its questions truthfully, even at the
cost of a little trouble in formulating your answers. Do not leave the
child to learn the truth about its body and its birth from vulgar and
tainted sources. There is absolutely nothing that you cannot decently
tell a child when it has reached the age when it understands that
certain things are not fit subjects for public conversation--and until
it has reached that age it will not ask that sort of questions. There is
no difficulty in making children understand that their digestive
processes are not to be discussed in general society, and it is quite
easy to explain to them that other physiological processes are also to
be avoided as subjects for general conversation. The Cat and her family
will help you to explain all that the child wants to know. The child
should be taught that its body is the Temple of the Holy Ghost, and that
it is our duty to keep our bodies healthy, clean, and well-exercised,
just as we should try to keep our minds strong and active, and our
hearts tender and pure. And one need not always "talk down" to children:
they understand far better than you think. They are always flattered by
talk that rises now and then above the level of their understanding. And
if they do not understand they will tell you so, and you can simplify.
In talking of the subjects which interest them, you need not be afraid
of being too clever. For even if they do not ask, your instinct and the
child's eyes will, if there be love and trust between you, tell you when
you are getting out of its depth. But there must be love and trust:
without that all education outside book-learning is for ever


The One Thing Needful

THE most ardent advocate of our present civilisation, the blindest
worshipper of what we call progress, can hardly fail to be aware of the
steadily increasing and brutal ugliness of life. Civilisation, whatever
else it is, is a state in which a few people have the chance of living
beautifully--those who take that chance are fewer still--and the
enormous majority live, by no choice or will of their own, lives which
at the best are uncomfortable, anxious, and lacking in beauty, and at
the worst are so ugly, diseased, desperate, and wretched that those who
feel their condition most can hardly bear to think of them, and those
who have not imagination enough to feel it fully yet cannot bear it
unless they succeed in persuading themselves that the poor of this world
are the heirs of the next, while hoping, at the same time, that a
portion of Lazarus's heavenly legacy may, after all, be reserved for

The hideous disfigurement of lovely hills and dales with factories and
mines and pot banks--coal, cinder, and slag; the defilement of bright
rivers with the refuse of oil and dye works; the eating up of the green
country by greedy, long, creeping yellow caterpillars of streets; the
smoke and fog that veil the sun in heaven; the sordid enamelled iron
advertisements that scar the fields of earth--all the torn paper and
straw and dirt and disorder spring from one root. And from the same root
spring pride, anger, cruelty, and sycophancy, the mean subservience of
the poor and the mean arrogance of the rich. As the fair face of the
green country is disfigured by all this machinery which ministers to the
hope of getting rich, so is the face of man marred by the fear of
getting poor. Look at the faces you see in the street--old and young,
gay and sad--on all there is the brand of anxiety, a terrible anxiety
that never rests, a fear that never sleeps, the anxiety for the future:
the fear of poverty for the rich, the fear of starvation for the poor.
Think of the miles and miles of sordid squalor and suffering in the East
of London--not in comfortable Whitechapel, but out Canning Town way;
think of Barking and Plaistow and Plashet and Bow--then think of Park
Lane and Bond Street. And if your eyes are not blinded, the West is no
less terrible than the East. If you want to be sure of this, bring a
hungry, ragged child from that Eastern land and set it outside a West
End restaurant; let it press its dirty little face against the plate
glass and gaze at the well-to-do people gorging and guzzling round the
bright tables inside. The diners may be smart, the ragged child may be
picturesque--but bring the two together, and consider the conjunction.


And all this ugliness springs from the same cause. As Ruskin says: "We
have forgotten God." We have therefore forgotten His attributes, mercy,
loving-kindness, justice, truth, and beauty. Their names are still on
our lips, but the great, stupid, crashing, blundering machine which we
call civilisation knows them not. The Devil's gospel of _laissez-faire_
still inspires the calloused heart of man. Each for himself, and Mammon
for the foremost. We no longer care that life should be beautiful for
all God's children--we wish it to be beautiful for us and forget who, as
we wish that wish, becomes our foster-father. There can be no healing
of the great wound in the body of mankind till each one of us would die
rather than see the ugliness of a wound on the body of the least of
these our brethren. But so dulled and stupefied is our sense of beauty,
our sense of brotherhood, that our brother's wounds do not hurt us. We
have not imagination enough to know how it feels to be wounded. Just as
we have not imagination enough to see the green fields that lie crushed
where Manchester sprawls in the smoke--the fair hills and streams on
which has grown the loathsome fungus of Stockport.


Now I do believe that this insensitiveness to ugliness and misery, this
blindness to wanton befouling of human life and the green world, comes
less from the corruption of man's heart than from the emptiness of the
teaching which man receives when he is good and little and a child. The
teaching in our schools is almost wholly materialistic. The child is
taught the botanical name of the orange--dissects it and its flower and
perhaps learns the Latin names of the flower and fruit; but it is not
taught that oranges are things you will be pleased with yourself for
giving up to some one who is thirstier than you are--or that to throw
orange-peel on the pavement where some one may slip on it, fall and
hurt himself, is as mean a trick as stealing a penny from a blind man.
We teach the children about the wonders of gases and ethers, but we do
not explain to them that furnaces ought to consume their own smoke, or
why. The children learn of acids and starches, but not that it is a
disgraceful thing to adulterate beer and bread. The rules of
multiplication and subtraction are taught in schools, but not the old
rule, "If any will not work, neither shall he eat."

There is no dogmatical teaching. That means a diet of dry bones. It
means that the child is never shown how to look for happiness in the
performance of acts which do not, on the face of them, look as though
they would make him happy. It is not explained to him that man's life
and the will of God are like a poem--God writes a line and man must make
the next line rhyme to it. When it does rhyme, then you get that
happiness which can only come from harmony. And when you do your best to
make your line rhyme and cannot--well, the Author of the first line
knows that it was your best that you did. God is shown, when He is shown
at all, to our modern children, as a sort of glorified head master, who
will be tremendously down on you if you break the rules: alternatively
as a sort of rich uncle who will give you things if you ask properly. He
is not shown as the Father to whom you can tell everything.

If you are successful in your work you win a prize and go home to your
people, and tell them that you are first in history, receiving their
applause without shame.

If you are good at games or athletics you can tell your mates that you
made two goals or eighty-three runs or whatever it is, and delight in
their admiration. If you are an athlete the applause of the bystanders
is your right and your reward.

But whom can you tell of the little intimate triumphs, the secret
successes, the temptations resisted, the kind things done, the gentle
refrainings, the noble darings of that struggling, bewildered,
storm-tossed little thing you call your soul?

God, your Father, is the only person to whom you can talk of these. To
him you can say: "Father, I wanted to pay Smith Minor out to-day for
something he did last week, and I didn't because I thought You wouldn't
like it. Are You pleased with Your boy?" Do they teach you this in
schools or give you any hint or hope of what you will feel when your
Father answers: "Yes, My son, I am pleased." Or do they teach you to
say: "Father, I am sorry I was a beast to-day, and I'll try not to do it
again"--and tell you that a Voice will answer, "I am sorry too, My
son--but I am glad you told Me. Try again, dear lad. And let Me help

As you show your Latin exes. to your master, so you should be taught to
show the leaves of your life to the only One who can read and understand
that blotted record. And if you learn to show that book every day there
will be less and less in it that you mind showing, and more and more
that will give you the glow and glory of the heart that comes to him who
hears "Faithful and good, well done."

You cannot suppose that your life is rhyming with the will of God when
you destroy the beauty of the country and of the lives of men so that
you may get rich and you and your children may live without working.

Can you imagine a company promoter who should say: "Father, I have made
a lot of money out of a company which has gone to pieces, and a lot of
other people are ruined, but I know that there must always be rich and
poor, and if I didn't do it some one else would"?

Or--"Father, I spoiled the green fields where children used to play and
I have built a lot of streets of hideous and uncomfortable houses, but
they are quite good enough for the working people. As long as they have
such low wages they can't live like human beings. And Thou knowest, O
Father, that wages are and must be regulated by the divine law of supply
and demand."

Or--"Father, I have put sand in the sugar and poison in the beer, alum
in the bread and water in the milk, all these being, as Thou knowest,
Father, long-established trade customs."

Men can say these things to themselves and to each other, but there is
One to whom they cannot say them. It is of Him and not only of the
wonders of His Universe that I would have the children taught. But they
are only taught of the wonders, not of the Wonder-worker.

It is not that there are none who could teach, no initiates of the great
and simple mysteries, no keepers of the faith. There are such, but they
are muzzled, and the detestable horrors of civilisation go on in a
community which calls itself after the name of Christ. And so long as we
have in our schools this materialistic teaching, so long shall we raise
up generation after generation to support that civilisation and to keep
it the damnable thing we know.

Talk goes on and goes on and goes on. There is talk now of a Great
Measure for the Reform of National Education, much talk--there will be
more. There will be much ink spilt, much breath wasted; we shall hear of
Montessori and Froebel and Pestalozzi, of Science and the Classics, of
opportunities of ladders of scholarships and prizes and endowments.

We shall hear how hard it is that the sons of the plumber should not be
able to go to Oxford and how desirable it is that daughters of the
dustman should sometimes take the Prix de Rome.

We shall be told how important are the telescope and the microscope, and
how right it is that children should know all about their little
insides. The one thing we shall not hear about will be the one thing

A tottering Government may keep itself in power by such a measure, a
defeated party may, by it, bring itself back to office, but such a
measure will not keep the nation from perdition, nor bring back the soul
of a man into the true way.

We may build up as we will schemes of Education and Instruction, add
science to science, learning to learning, and facts to facts; but what
we shall build will be only a dead body unless it be informed by the
breath of the Spirit which maketh alive. For Education which teaches a
man everything but how to live to the glory of God and the service of
man is not Education, but only instruction; and it is the fruit of the
tree, not of Life, but of Death.



Romance in Games

A SHARP distinction can be drawn between games with toys and games
without them. In the latter the child's imagination has to supply
everything, in the former it supplements or corrects the suggestion of
the toy. But in both, as in every movement and desire of the natural
child, it is imagination which tints the picture and makes the whole
enterprise worth while.

In hide-and-seek, that oldest of games, and still more in its sister "I
spy," a little live streak of fear brought down from who knows what wild
ancestry lends to the game an excitement not to be found in games with
bats and balls and nets and bails and straightforward trappings bought
at shops. When you lurk in the shrubbery ready to spring out on the one
who is hunting you, and to become in your turn the hunter, you are no
longer a child, you are a red Indian or a Canadian settler, or a tiger
or a black-fellow, according to the measure of your dreams and the
nature of the latest book of your reading.

At this point it occurs to me that perhaps you who read may have
forgotten the difference between "Hide-and-seek" and "I spy."
Hide-and-seek is just what it says it is; half the players hide, and the
others seek them and there's an end of it. It is an interesting game,
but flat compared with "I spy." It has, however, this merit, that it can
be played without those screams to which grown-ups are, usually, so
averse. Whereas I defy any one to play "I spy" without screaming.
Hide-and-seek is a calm game; the thing sought for might almost as well
be an inanimate object: it is the game of stoats looking for pheasants'
eggs, of bears looking for honey. But "I spy" is the game of enemy
looking for enemy: it calls for the virtues of fortitude, endurance,
courage--for the splendours of physical fitness, for aptness, for speed.
In "I spy" half the players hide and the others seek; but they seek not
an unresisting stationary object, but a keen, watchful retaliatory
terror. They seek, in shrubbery and garden, behind summer-house and
conservatory, in the shelter of tree, hedge, and arbour, for the enemy,
and when that enemy is found the seeker does not just say, "Oh, here
you are"--that ending the game. Far otherwise; the seeker in "I spy"
goes warily, his heart in his mouth--for, the moment he sees a hider, he
must shout "I spy," adding the hider's name. "I spy Jimmy!" he cries,
and turning, flees at his best speed. The hidden one follows after--the
hunted becoming in one swift terrible transition the hunter, and he who
was the seeker flies with all the speed he may, across country, to the
appointed "home." The quarry unearthed has become the pursuer and
follows with yells. Grown-ups would always rather that you played
hide-and-seek--and can you wonder? But sometimes they will concede to
you "I spy" rights, and even join in the sport. It is always well, in
playing any game where anything may be trampled, such as asparagus beds,
or broken, such as windows, to have a grown-up or two on your side. And
by "your," here, of course I mean children. The habit of years is not
easily broken, and I am so much more used to writing _for_ children than
_of_ them.

Chevy Chase is a good old-fashioned game of courage and adventure. Does
any one play it now? No child can play it _con amore_ who does not know
who it was who

    When his legs were smitten off
    He fought upon his stumps,

and to what bold heart the bitterest drop in the cup of defeat was "Earl
Percy sees my face----"

All wreathed with romance are the song-games, "Nuts in May," "There came
Three Knights," and the rest, where the up-and-down dancing movement and
the song of marriage-by-capture ends in a hard jolly tug-of-war, and woe
to the vanquished! This is a very old game--and there are many words to
it. One set I know, but I never have known the end. Little boys in light
trousers and short jackets and little girls in narrow frilled gowns used
to play it on the village green a hundred years ago. This is how it

    Up and down the green grass
      This and that and thus,
    Come along, my pretty maid,
      And take a walk with us;
    You shall have a duck, my dear,
      And you shall have a drake,
    And you shall have a handsome man,
      For your father's sake.

My mother told me all of that song-game, and that is all of it that I
can remember. She always said she would write it down, and I always
thought there was plenty of time, and somehow there was not, and so I do
not know the end. Perhaps Mr. Charles Marson, who first found out the
Somerset folk-songs of which Mr. Somebody Else now so mysteriously gets
all the credit, may know the end of these verses. If he does, and if he
sees this, perhaps he will write and tell me.

This game of come and go and give and take is alive in France; witness
the old song:

    Qu'est-ce qui passe ici si tard,
      Compagnons de la Marjolaine?
    Qu'est-ce qui passe ici si tard
        Toujours si gai?

    Ce sont les cavaliers du Roi,
      Compagnons de la Marjolaine.
    Ce sont les cavaliers du Roi
        Toujours si gais.

    Et que veulent ces cavaliers,
      Compagnons de la Marjolaine?
    Et que veulent ces cavaliers
        Toujours si gais?

    Des jeunes filles à marier,
      Compagnons de la Marjolaine;
    Des jeunes filles à marier,
        Toujours si gais.

And I have no doubt that stout Dutch children and German children with
flaxen plaits, and small contadine, and Spanish and Swedish and Russian
and Lithuanian babes all move rhythmically back and forth on their
native greensward and rehearse the old story of the fair maid and the
Knight "out to marry."

The Mulberry Bush is another of the old song-games, where play-acting is
the soul of the adventure, and this too is everywhere. "A la claire
fontaine," I remember as the French version, danced on wet days in the
cloisters of the convent of my youth. Le Pont d'Avignon, a glorious
game, with its impersonations of animals, has, as far as I know, no
counterpart in this country.

All these games are active games: they can, of course, be played by
sheer imitation, a sort of parrot-and-monkey aptitude will do it; but if
they are to be enjoyed to the full, the imagination must have full play.
To _be_ a knight a-riding to fetch a fair lady is quite simple, and
quite thrilling--just as to be a bear demands nothing but growls and a
plantigrade activity in the performer to be a fearful joy to the

Cricket and football, fives and racquets, the games that are played with
things out of shops, do not need imagination to help them out. The games
without bought accessories should perhaps rather be termed "plays" than
games. And the more highly cultivated the imagination the more intensely
joyous are the games. All sorts of acting, dressing-up, and pretending
games depend entirely on the imagination, and it is well to encourage
children to act scenes which they have observed, or heard about or read
about. The smallest child will experience a real joy in putting its
pinafore on wrong way round, call it a coat, and announce with pride
that it is "Daddy going a tata."

In the dolls' tea-parties you will observe a careful copy or travesty of
your own "company manners," and as the small minds are filled with tales
of wonder and adventure, you will find them re-enacted, the nursery
rocking chair serving as charger for the gallant knight, and nurse's
hassock taking quite adequately the part of the dragon. A small sister
can generally be relied on to be the captive princess, especially if
handsome trappings go with the part--and a cobweb brush is an admirable
spear. The princess will be released from her bonds in time to act as
chief mourner at the funeral of the slain hassock, which can be carried
down the river in a barge made of the nursery table wrong way up--with
the nursery tablecloth for a sail--an admirable tableau certain to occur
if any one has told the children the story of Elaine. That the dragon
should have as sumptuous a funeral as Enoch Arden himself, need not
surprise you: a funeral is a funeral, be the corpse canary, guinea pig,
or hassock, and to a dead dragon are due all the honours we pay to a
gallant if unfortunate antagonist. Not only fairy tales, but history
will be acted. You will have Jane as Queen Eleanor sucking the poison
from Jack's grubby paws, and Alice as an Arab physician curing the
plague, represented by blobs of paint-water on the rigid arms of Robert.
How beloved will be the grown-up who, passing by the scene, shall
refrain from commenting on the deafening groans of the patient, and
shall, instead, offer the physician a ribbon for his girdle or a plume
from the dusting brush for his turban.

Exploring plays and all the plays which include wigwams and war paint
are such as an intelligent grown-up will be able to intensify and add
backbone to--for a child's fancy will naturally outrun his performance,
and though he may imagine a feather head-dress or moccasins, he will be
only too pleased that a grown-up should make the things for him with
that strong, unerring touch to which his small experimenting hands
cannot yet attain. All such games require numbers; your only lonely
child cannot play Indians to the full. Two is better than one and more
than two is better than two, up to the number of six or eight. People
don't seem to see how important numbers are for play. They see it fast
enough when it comes to schools, but a regular association of children
for the purposes of play is not encouraged. In a large family of boys
and girls it just happens happily, but an association of children from
various homes generally means a predatory horde of boys: girls don't
associate with unrelated girls in joyous play-adventures, and boys are
apt to think that little girls who are not their sisters are either
angels or muffs, and neither a muff nor an angel is what you want to
play games with. Parents and guardians might do a great deal to render
play-association possible: I suggest that house parties of children,
where the utmost possible liberty should be given, would stimulate
enormously the plays which encourage daring and initiative, and would
teach boys that girls are not necessarily muffs or angels, and teach
girls that boys are not all brutes.

Fathers and mothers sacrifice themselves every year in August; you see
them doing it, heavily, definitely, with clenched teeth and a grim
determination not to be selfish, and to spend a month with the children
at the seaside, however much it may cost in time, temper, and money. The
Browns go to Scarborough, their friends the Robinsons go to Wales, the
Smiths are in Devonshire and the Joneses at Littlehampton. They all go
to the same sort of lodgings, do the same sort of things, and lucky is
the mother whose nerves are not worn very thin indeed before the holiday
ends. Now suppose all these worthy and self-sacrificing parents agreed
to pool their families and let Mr. and Mrs. Brown take charge of them
all--in some jolly big house suited to the needs of so swollen a
household. Sixteen children are really, in many ways, four times easier
to manage than four--and at least forty times as easy to amuse. In fact,
you don't need to amuse them--they will amuse themselves and each other:
Mr. and Mrs. Brown will only have to adjust ebullitions.

Meanwhile the Smiths, Robinsons, and Joneses are having their holiday
where they will. Their turn of having the children will come another
year, when the Browns will be free to range the world in August, knowing
that their children are safe and happy and are, thank you, having a much
better time than they could have in small seaside lodgings, even with
the undivided attention of their fathers and mothers. Besides, if I may
for once take the part of the mothers instead of that of the children,
what sort of holiday do you think the mother has, when to the ordinary
routine of housekeeping at home are added the difficulties of
housekeeping in unfamiliar surroundings, in a house of whose
capabilities she has no experience, and with a landlady whose temper, as
often as not, is as short as her tale of extras is long? The woman who
works all the year round at the incredibly arduous task of making a
home, answering week in and week out the constant, varying demands on
all her complex mental and physical activities, does really deserve a
real holiday. What is more, she needs it. She will be a better mother
the rest of the year if she be allowed for that one month to be just a
wife, and a wife on a holiday. The wife whose turn it is to take charge
of the amalgamated families will find so great a change from the
exclusive care of her own chickens that the change in itself will be a
sort of holiday. And the children themselves, perhaps, will learn a
little from the enforced separation from the fount of unselfish
devotion, and appreciate their mother all the more if they have, be it
only half-consciously, missed her a little even through the varied and
joyous experiences of their month's house-party.


Building Cities

THE devotion of aunts has often stirred my admiration. The heroism of
aunts deserves an epic. But this is, as you say, not the place to write
that epic. Give me leave, however, to say that of all the heroic acts of
the devoted aunt, none seems to me more magnificent than the
self-sacrifice which nerves those delightful ladies to settle themselves
down to play, in cold blood, with their nephews and nieces games bought
at a shop, games in boxes. I am not talking of croquet, or even
badminton, though these may be, and are, bought in boxes at shops. Nor
do I wish to depreciate chess and draughts, nor even halma, the poor
relation of draughts and chess, nor dominoes, which we all love. These
games, so precious on wet days, or when other people have headaches,
cannot be too highly prized, too assiduously cultivated.

The rigours of the seaside holiday, too often in wet weather a time of
trial and temper, would be considerably mitigated if chess and
chess-board, draughts, dominoes, and halma were packed in the trunks
along with the serge suits, the sandshoes, and the sun-bonnets. The
games which I do so 'wonder and admire' to see aunts playing are the
meaningless games with counters and dice: ill-balanced dice and roughly
turned counters and boards that look like folding chequer-boards till
you open them, and then you find all the ugliest colours divided into
squares and circles or slabs, with snakes or motors or some other
unpleasing devices on them. These games are all exactly the same in
their primary qualities: the first of them that was invented had all the
faults of all its successors. Yet dozens of new ones are invented every
year, just to sell, and helpless children try to play them, knowing no
better, and angel aunts abet them, knowing all.

Grown-ups suffer a great deal in playing with children: it is not the
least charm of a magic city that a grown-up can play it and suffer
nothing worse than the fatigue incidental to the bricklayer's calling.
Of course, most grown-ups will say that they would rather be burnt at a
slow fire, or play halma, than be bothered with magic cities. But that
is only because they do not understand. Try the experiment the next
time you are spending a wet week-end in a country house where there are
children. Get the children to yourself and ask your hostess whether you
may borrow what you want for a game. The library is the best place for
building: there is almost certainly a large and steady table: also there
are the books. I need not urge you to spare the elegantly bound volumes,
and the prized first editions, and the priceless folios and duodecimos
in their original calf and vellum. You will find plenty of books that
nobody will mind your using--the old _Whitakers_, bound volumes of the
_Cornhill_ and _Temple Bar_--good solid blocks for the foundations of
your city. If there be a pair of candlesticks or an inkstand which
match, you may make a magnificent archway by setting up the candlesticks
as pillars and laying the inkstand on the top. You can see how this is
done in the picture of the Elephant Temple. Get the children to bring
down the bricks and enlist a friendly parlour-maid to let you have the
run of the china cupboard, or a footman, if you are in that sort of
house, to bring you the things you want on a tray.

[Illustration: THE PALACE OF CATS.


But it is much better if you can go alone over the house and choose what
you really want. You invite the children to help you build, and to
build themselves. If they have never built a magic city you will find
that they will presently desert their plain brick edifices to watch the
development of your palace or temple. They will offer suggestions, and
quite soon they will offer objects. They will begin to look about the
room with their sharp eyes--and about the house with their keen memory
and imagination, and produce the sort of things that look like the sort
of things they think you might like for your building. They will wander
off, returning with needle-cases, little boxes, shells--and "Would this
do for something?" is the word on every lip. They are soon as much
absorbed in the building as you are--and I take it you are an
enthusiast--and your magic city grows apace. Then after a little while a
grown-up, bored and out of employment, will stray into the library with
"Hullo! what are you kids up to with all this rubbish?" and stand with
his hands in his pockets contemplating the building industry. If you
answer him simply and kindly, and don't resent his choice of epithet, it
is almost certain he will quite soon withdraw a hand from his pocket and
reach out to touch your magic walls with "Wouldn't it be better like
that?" Admit it, and in hardly any time at all you have him building on
his own account. Another grown-up will stray in presently with the same
question on his lips. He too will come to be bored and will remain to
build, and by tea-time you will have collected every grown-up of the
house-party--every grown-up, that is to say, with the right feeling for
cities. It will surprise you to find how keen you will yourself become
as the work goes on, and how it will call into play all your invention
and your latent craftsmanship.

You will be amazed at the results you can achieve with quite
dull-looking materials, and still more will you be surprised at the
increasing interest and skill of the grown-ups. When it is time to dress
for dinner you will feel a pang of positive despair at the thought that
your beautiful city, the child of your dreams and skill, must be taken
down. It is like the end of the magic of Cinderella when her coach
became a pumpkin, her horses mice and her coachman a fat rat. Now your
domes are once more mere basins, your fountain basins are ash-trays,
your fountains are but silver pen-cases and their gleaming waters only
strips of the tin-foil that comes off chocolate or cigarettes. The walls
of your palaces go back into the book-cases, and their façades return to
the dull obscurity of the brick-boxes. The doors and the animals who
stood on guard at the door-ways and terraces, on plinths or pillars,
share in the dark rattling seclusion where many a wooden tail has been
broken, many a painted ear lost for ever, but the tidying up has to be
done: unless your hostess is one of those rare and delightful people who
see what their guests like and lets them do it. In that case she may say
"Oh! what a pity to disturb the pretty thing! Why not let your city
stay for a day or two, so that the children can build some more to it
to-morrow. No, of course it won't be in the way--and wouldn't it be
pretty if we lighted it up with fairy lights after dark?"

Then your city really has a chance. The children will think of it till
bed-time and fall asleep in the happy throes of their first

You may think that I exaggerate the charms of magic cities, because I
happened to invent them, and you may be afraid that my swan, if you ever
make up your mind to adopt it, may turn out to be an ugly and
dispiriting duckling. I assure you this is not so. I have never met a
child who did not like building magic cities, and not many grown-ups. Of
course the love of them grows, like other loves, and the longer you can
keep the city standing, the fonder you and your playmates will get of
it. It will grow more and more finished in detail, and the ugly
make-shifts will be reorganised and made neat with an irreproachable
neatness. If the magic city game were played in schools, as I think it
ought to be, a long table--or series of tables--could easily be kept for
it, and the city kept standing and be added to from day to day. But it
will not be the same sort of city as the one you build in the house
where the parlour-maid lives and still less the sort that happens in
the house where there is a butler and many silver boxes and cups and

Now I come to write all this down it seems very trivial, and it will
perhaps seem even more so when I come to tell you about the different
things we made and used for magic cities. But it is not really trivial.
I do not think I claim for the magic city game more than it justifies,
and I will tell you, presently, why I think this. Of course, when you
have finished your city, if you ever do finish it, you make up stories
about it, and always, even when you are building it, you imagine how
splendid it would be if you were small enough to walk through the arches
of your city gates, to run along the little corridors of your city
palaces. Of course, it would do quite as well if your city became big
enough for you to run about in while still keeping your natural
size--but it is somehow not really so cosy to think of.

When I had built my first three or four magic cities this idea of
getting into the city--being, of course, correct citizen-size--lived
with me so much that I wrote a story-book about it called _The Magic
City_,[A] in which a boy and girl do really become the right size and
enter into the city they have built. They have there all the adventures
whose wraiths danced before me when I was building courts and making
palm trees and finding out the many fine and fair uses of cowries and

This book, _The Magic City_, produced a curious effect. I hope I shall
not look conceited (because really I am only proud) when I say that
about my books I have had the dearest letters from children, saying
pretty things about the stories in the prettiest way. It is one of the
most heart-warming things in the world to get these letters and to
answer them. And if I had letters like these I should have been only
pleased and not disturbed. But the letters about the Magic City, though
they were full of the pretty, awkward, delicious things that children
write to the author of the books they like, held something else--a
demand, severe and almost unanimous, to know how magic cities were
built, and whether "children like us" could build one, and, if so, how?
I got so many of these letters that I decided to build a magic city
where any child, in London at any rate, could come and see it. And I
built it at the Children's Welfare Exhibition which the _Daily News_
arranged last year at Olympia. The history of that building would make
a largish and intimate volume. The difficulties that beset a
home-dweller when she goes out into the world, the anguish of
misunderstandings which arise between the builder of magic cities and
the people who lay linoleum and put up electric lights, the confusion
which results from having packed in boxes and all mixed up the building
materials which you are accustomed to look for as you need them in your
own home, the extraordinary mass of people, the extraordinary kindness
of people; for after all, it is the kindness which stands out. It is
true that the gentleman who, very much isolated, fixed the electric
lights, behaved exactly like an earthquake, upsetting two temples, a
palace, and a tank with an educated seal in it. But then how more than a
brother was the man who did the whitewash! It is true that the dictator
with the linoleum--but I will not remember these things. Let me remember
how many good friends I found among the keepers of the stalls, how a
great personage of the _Daily News_ came with his wife at the last
despairing moment, and lent me the golden and ruby lamps from their
dining-table, how the Boy Scouts "put themselves in four" to get me some
cocoa-nuts for roofs of cottages, how their Scout Master gave me
fourteen beautiful little ivory fishes with black eyes, to put in my
silver paper ponds, how the basket-makers on the one side and the home
hobbies on the other were to me as brothers, how the Cherry Blossom Boot
Polish lady gave me hairpins and the wardens of Messrs. W. H. Smith's
bookstall gave me friendship, how the gifted boy-sculptor for the
Plasticine stall, moved by sheer loving-kindness, rushed over one day
and dumped a gorgeous prehistoric beast, modelled by his own hands, in
the sands about my Siberian tomb, how the Queen of Portugal came and
talked to me for half an hour in the most flattering French, while the
Deity from the _Daily News_ looked on benign.

These are things I can never forget. When the show opened I was feeling
like a snail who has inadvertently come out without his shell. Think how
all this kindness comforted and protected me. And then came the long
stream of visitors--crowds of them--I don't know how many thousands, who
came and looked at my magic city and asked questions, and looked and
looked at it, looked and said things. It is because of what they said
that I am writing about that show at all. They all liked the city except
two, and I cannot think that those two were, in other respects, really
nice people. And more than half of them asked whether I would not write
a book about the magic city which I had built there, and which lay
looking so real and romantic under the soft glow of the tinted lamps:
not a story-book, but a book to tell other people how to make such
cities. And I said I would tell all I knew in a book. And when I came to
write I found that there were many other things that I wanted to write
about children, and other things than magic cities, and I wrote them,
and this is the book.

And the reason I am telling you all this is that my big magic city at
Olympia showed me, more than anything else could have done, that the
building of magic cities interests practically every one, young or old.

It is very difficult to say all this and yet not to feel that you will
think that I am boasting about my magic city. But I want you to believe
that it was very beautiful, and that you can build one just as beautiful
or much more beautiful if you care to try it. It is such an easy game.
Every one can play it. And every one likes it--even quite old people. By
the way, I have been asked to build another city at Olympia in April,
and I hope that it will be a prettier one even than the other which I
loved so.


[A] Macmillans.


Bricks--and Other Things

IT is a mistake when you are going to build a city to make too large a
collection of building materials before you begin to build. If it is
natural to you to express yourself by pencil lines on paper you might
perhaps draw an outline of the masses of your city as you see them in
the architect's vision or illumination which should precede all
building, either of magic cities or municipal cab-shelters. Having
roughly indicated on paper the general shape of your city as you look at
it from the front--the shape it would have against the western sky at
dusk (I think architects call this the elevation, don't they?)--you
proceed to collect such material as will roughly indicate that shape on
the table or other building-place. And here let me once more warn the
builder new to his business not to be trapped by the splendid obvious
bait of floor's wide space. To build palaces while prone on the stomach
may be natural and easy to extreme youth. To grown-up people it is
agonising and impossible. The floor has only two qualifications as a
building site. It is large--larger at least than any of the pieces of
furniture which stand on it--and it is flat. And when you have said that
you have said all. Whereas the inconveniences of the floor as a place
for building are innumerable. The floor is draughty, it is inaccessible,
except from the attitude of the serpent, and the serpent's attitude,
even if rich in a certain lax comfort, is most unfavourable for the
steady use of both hands. If you want to see how unfavourable assume
that attitude and try to build a card-house on the floor. You cannot do
it. If you kneel--well, you know how hard the floor gets if you kneel on
it for quite a little time; if you sit or squat your dress or your
coat-tails insist on playing at earthquakes with your building. Also the
city on the floor is liable to hostile invasion by cats or dogs or
servants: to the crushing and scattering by short-sighted outsiders or
people who rush into the room to look for something in a hurry. Think of
a playful elephant in some Eastern court of carved pearl and ivory
lattice; an elephant co-inciding with one of the more fanciful volcanic
eruptions, and your conception will pale into placidity in the face of
the spectacle of a normal puppy in a floor-built city. And on the floor
things not only get broken, they get lost. Cotton reels roll under
sofas, draughts bowl away into obscurity and are only found next day by
the housemaid when she moves the fender, and not then, as often as not;
chess kings are walked on and get their crowns chipped; card counters
disappear for ever, and it is quite impossible for you to keep an eye on
your materials when you are grovelling among them. Therefore build on a
table--or tables. Tables of different shapes, heights, and sizes make
beautiful sites for cities. And bureaux are good, if you may take the
drawers out and empty the pigeon-holes. I remember a wonderful city we
made once: it was called the "City of the Thousand Lights," and it was
built on a bureau, two large tables and three other smaller ones, all
connected by bridges in the handsomest way. (The lids of the brick boxes
make excellent bridges and you can adorn them to your fancy, and make
impressive gate-houses at each end.) The bureau was the Temple of Mung,
and we sacrificed a pale pink animal from the Noah's Ark at the shrine
of this, the most mysterious of the Gods of Pegana. The thousand
lights--there were not a thousand, really, but there were many luminous
towers, with windows of a still brighter glow. You make them by putting
a night-light in a tumbler--a little water first by way of fire
insurance--and surrounding the tumbler by a sheet of paper with windows
and battlements and fixed to a cylindrical shape by pins. The paper
cylinders are, of course, fitted on outside the tumblers so that there
is no danger of fire. All the same it is better to let a grown-up do the
luminous towers.

[Illustration: GUARDED ARCH.]

Having chosen your site and blocked out the mass of your buildings, you
begin to collect the building material. For my own part I see the city I
am going to build in the eye of the mind--or of the heart--so vividly
and consistently that I never need to make notes of it on paper. I know
when what I am building is not in accord with the vision, and then I
pull it down. Truly in accord it never really is, but it approximates.

Now when you have seen the silhouette of your city and begin to look for
stuff to build with, you will instantly find that everything you can lay
your hands on is too small. The bricks, even the boxes which contained
them, are suited for the detailed building which is to come later, but
now you want something at once bigger and less conventionally
proportioned. Now is the time to look for boxes--not the carved
sandal-wood boxes in which aunts keep their pins, nor the smooth
cedarwood boxes in which uncles buy their cigars, though both these are
excellent when you come to the details of your work, but for the mass
you want real big boxes; if you have a large table, or tables, Tate's
sugar boxes are not too large. Also there are the boxes in which starch
is packed, and cocoa, and the flatter boxes which the lady at the
sweet-shop will give you if she likes you, and sell to you for a penny
anyhow. The boxes in which your father gets his collars, and the boxes
in which your mother gets her chocolates, though not really large,
should be collected at the same time, because they need the same
treatment. I am assuming now that you are not building a city for an
afternoon's amusement, but one for which you have found a safe resting
place--a city that may take days to build and will not be disturbed for
days. If you can once found your city in a safe place, and you are
working at it day after day, you will go on thinking of more and more
things to be added to it, and it will grow in beauty under your hands as
naturally as a flower under the hand of summer.

[Illustration: BOXES.]

You have now your collection of boxes--but they are of plain, rough
wood, and probably disfigured by coarse coloured printed papers telling
what the boxes once held. These papers you wash off, and when the boxes
are clean and dry, you paint or colour-wash them to suit your
requirements. Now your requirements are large blocks of colours to match
your bricks, and bricks are of three colours--white, terra-cotta, and
stone colour.

The stone bricks are stone colour and terra-cotta--oak bricks are very
nearly stone colour--and there are white-wood bricks. To these three I
would add a dark brown; and as this dark brown is not sold in boxes at
the shops, you had better colour some of your bricks with it for
yourself. Dark wood in a city gives a wonderful richness and helps the
lighter colours more than you would think possible. A city in which some
buildings are of dark wood will have an air of reality never achieved by
a city where all is red or white or stone colour. By the way, among the
stone bricks there are some blue ones, but you will always have enough
of them, for they are the last things you will ever want to use.

Your boxes then must be coloured either white, red, stone colour, or
dark brown. In the white use either white paint--flat, not shining, or
if that cost too much trouble and money, whitewash made of whitening,
size, hot water and a pinch of yellow ochre or chrome powder to give it
a pleasant ivory creaminess. There should be a good deal of size so that
the whitewash does not come off on every thing.

The red boxes can be painted to match the red bricks, or colour-washed
(whitewash as before, but red ochre for colour).

Stone colour is not a very satisfactory tint and too much of it makes
for gloom. The lids and bottoms of the brick boxes will generally give
you as much of it as you want. But if you desire stone colour you can
make it by putting a pinch of raw umber in the whitewash. Or you can
paint your boxes with this uninteresting tint--resembling the doors of
back kitchens. With these paints or colour-washes you can make your odd
many-shaped boxes into smooth-surfaced blocks to match your bricks: and
not only wooden, but cardboard boxes can be treated in this way. All
these colours can be bought in gigantic penn'orths at the oil-shops. But
when I come to the dark brown, which I confess is my favourite colour,
no cardboard box will serve your turn. You must choose clean, smooth
wood, because the brown colouring is transparent, and the grain will
show through. Your bricks will be smooth enough, and if the boxes are
not smooth a little sand-paper will soon subdue their rough exterior. I
suppose you know how to use sand-paper? If you just rub with your
fingers you hurt your fingers and don't make much progress; the best way
is to wrap the sand-paper round a flat piece of wood--a wooden brick
will do--and rub with that.

When your wood is all smooth you mix your stain. And here I make a
present to all housewives of the best floor stain in the world. Get a
tin of Brunswick black--the kind you put on stoves--and some turpentine.
Mix a little of the black and a little of the turpentine in a pot and
try it on the wood with a smooth brush--a flat brush is the best--till
you have the colour you want, always remembering that it will be a
little lighter when it is dry. When you have decided on the colour,
paint your bricks and boxes on five out of their six sides lightly and
smoothly, keeping to the grain of the wood, and not going over the same
surface twice if you can help it. This is why a flat brush is the best:
it will go right down the side of a brick and colour it at one sweep.
Then stand each brick up on end to dry. When it is dry you can paint the
under bit on which it has been standing. While you have stains and
colours going it is well to colour some of your arches, and also such
things as cotton-reels, and the little wooden pill-boxes that you get at
the chemist's. Before colouring these boxes fill them with sand or
stones and stick the lids on with glue. Otherwise they will not be heavy
enough to build with happily.

This painting or colouring should be done out of doors, or in an
out-house, if possible. If you have to do it in the house spread several
thicknesses of newspaper before you begin, and make a calm resting place
for your painted things where they can dry at leisure and not be
scarred with the finger-marks of her who "clears away."

The earnest builder will keep a watchful eye on any carpentering that
may go on in the house, and annex the smaller blocks of wood cut off the
end of things, which, to an alien eye, are so much rubbish, but which
are to the builder stores of price.

If there are a few shillings to spare, the carpenter will, for those few
shillings, cut you certain shapes which you cannot buy in shops--arches
of a comfortable thickness and of satisfying curves, and slabs of board
for building steps. These should be of varying lengths and thicknesses
and made in sets of twelve steps, with two boards to each step,
twenty-four slabs to a set. The biggest might be 1 in. thick and the
bottom and largest slabs 12 by 6 in., lessening to 6 by 1 in. The next
set might be ¾ in., and of corresponding proportions, then ½ in., then ¼
in. The two basic slabs of the ¾ in. would be 9 by 4½ in., and those of
the ½ in. would be 6 by 3 in. A set with ¼ in. steps (the basic slabs 3
by 1½ in.) would complete the set. Flights of steps of many varying
heights and sizes could be built with these slabs. Ask the carpenter--if
the shillings are forthcoming--to save for you the curved pieces of
wood which come out of the arches. They are very useful for the bases
of pillars, for towers and for the pedestals of statues or vases. Some
of the arches, steps, and blocks should be coloured to match the red,
white, and brown bricks.

[Illustration: ARCHES AND PILLARS.]

Some of the boxes, particularly the larger ones, should have doorways
sawn in them on opposite sides--it is pleasant to look _through_ a
building and see the light beyond; and if you are a thorough builder you
can make a pillared interior which will delight the eyes of those who
stoop down and peer through the doorway. A few narrow, oblong windows,
high up, will also be useful. You need not show them unless you wish:
you can always conceal them by a façade of bricks.

[Illustration: PILLARED COURT.]

Another pleasant use of a big box is to cut out the top and sides and
make a columned court of it, which, when cream-washed, dignifies your
city with almost all the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was
Rome. The columns are cut from broom-handles--twopence each at the
oil-shop, or, in the case of smaller boxes, from those nice round smooth
wooden sticks which cost a penny and are used in ordinary life to thread
window-blinds on.

If you are going to make a city which is to stand for some time, a
little thin glue is a good help to stability. If it is only a
here-to-day-and-gone-to-morrow city, Plasticine is good--the least touch
of it seeming to make things safe which otherwise might totter to their
ruin. But except as mortar Plasticine should be shunned. It is not good
as a building material.

Having now your bricks, boxes, arches, steps, and rounds, you may begin
to block out your building. Quite soon you will begin to find that
everything is too rectilinear. Even the arches and the rounds and the
pillars and the pill-boxes cannot satisfy your desire for curves. This
is the moment when you will begin to look about you for domes. And the
domes, on the instant of their imposition in your building, will call
out for minarets. It is then that you will wander about the house
seeking eagerly for things that are like other things. Your search will
be magnificently successful, if only the lady of the house has given you
a free hand, and you have been so fortunate as to secure the sympathies
of the kitchen queen.


The Magic City

THE only magic in the city is the magic of imagination, which is, after
all, the best magic in the world. The idea of it came to me when I was
dissatisfied with the materials provided for children to build with, and
I think it must be a really true idea, because wherever I have applied
it, it has worked, and that, I am told, is in accordance with the
philosophy of pragmatism and a characteristic of all great discoveries.
You may build magic cities in homes of modest comfort, using all the
pretty things you can lay your hands on. You may build them in the
mansions of the rich, if the rich are nice people and love cities, and
if the butler will let you have the silver candlesticks for pillars, and
the silver-gilt rose-bowls for domes; and you could build one in the
houses of the very poor, if the very poor had any space for
building--build them there and not use a single thing that could not be
begged or borrowed by an intelligent child, no matter how poor.

Children love to build. I still think with fond affection, and I am
afraid speak with tiresome repetition, of those big oak bricks which we
had when we were children. They disappeared when we left the old London
house where I was born. It was in Kennington, that house--and it had a
big garden and a meadow and a cottage and a laundry, stables and
cow-house and pig-styes, elm-trees and vines, tiger lilies and flags in
the garden, and chrysanthemums that smelt like earth and hyacinths that
smelt like heaven. Our nursery was at the top of the house, a big room
with a pillar in the middle to support the roof. "The post," we called
it: it was excellent for playing mulberry bush, or for being martyrs at.
The skipping rope did to bind the martyrs to the stake. When we left
that house we went to Brighton, where there was a small and gritty
garden, where nothing grew but geraniums and calceolarias. And we did
not have our bricks any more. Perhaps they were too heavy to move.
Perhaps the Brighton house was too small for the chest. I think I must
have clamoured for the old bricks, for I remember very well the advent
of a small box of deal bricks made in Germany, which had indeed two
arches and four pillars, and a square of glass framed in wood daubed
with heavy, ugly body colour, and called a window. But you could not
build with those bricks. So there was no building at Brighton except on
the beach. Sand is as good as anything in the world to build with--but
there is no sand on the beach at Brighton, only sandiness. There are
stones--pebbles you call them, but they are too round to be piled up
into buildings. The only thing you can play with them is dolls' dinner
parties. There are plenty of oyster shells and flat bits of slate and
tile for dishes and plates--and it is quite easy to find stones the
proper shape and colour for boiled fowls and hams and roast legs of
mutton, German sausages, ribs of beef, mince pies, pork pies, roast hare
or calf's head. But building is impossible.

In the courtyard of our house in France there was an out-house with a
sloping roof and a flat parapet about four feet high. We used to build
little clay huts along this, and roof them with slates, leaving a hole
for a chimney. The huts had holes for windows and doors, and we used to
collect bits of candle and put them in our huts after dark and enjoy the
lovely spectacle of our illuminated buildings till some one remembered
us and caught us, and sent us to bed. That was the curse of our
hut-building--the very splendour of the result attracted the attention
one most wished to avoid. But clay was our only building material, and
after the big bricks were lost I never had any more bricks till I had
children of my own who had bricks of their own. And then I played with
them and theirs. And even then I never thought of building magic cities
till the Indian soldiers came.

They were very fine soldiers with turbans and swords and eyes that
gleamed in quite a lifelike way, riding on horses of a violently active
appearance: they came to my little son when he was getting well after
measles or some such sorrow, and he wanted a fort built for them. So we
rattled all the bricks out of their boxes on to the long cutting-out
table in the work-room and began to build. But do what we would our fort
would not look like a fort--at any rate not like an Eastern fort. We
pulled it down and tried again, and then again, but no: regardless of
our patient energy our fort quietly but persistently refused to look
like anything but a factory--a building wholly unworthy of those
military heroes with the prancing steeds and the coloured turbans, and
the eyes with so much white in them. So then I wondered what was needed
to give a hint of the gorgeous East to the fort, and I perceived that
what was wanted was a dome--domes.

So I fetched some brass finger-bowls and lustre basins off the dresser
in the dining-room and inverted one on the chief tower of our fort, and
behold! the East began to sparkle and beckon. Domes called for minarets,
and chessmen on pillars supplied the need. One thing led to another, and
before the day was over the Indian horsemen were in full charge across a
sanded plain where palm trees grew--a sanded plain bounded only by the
edges of the table, along three sides of which were buildings that never
rose beside the banks of Thames, but seemed quite suitable piles to
reflect their fair proportions in the Ganges or the Sutlej, especially
when viewed by eyes which had not had the privilege of gazing on those
fair and distant streams.

I learned a great deal in that my first day of what I may term romantic
building, but what I learned was the merest shadow-sketch of the
possibilities of my discovery. My little son, for his part, learned that
a bowl one way up is a bowl, a thing for a little boy to eat bread and
milk out of; the other way up it is a dome for a king's palace. That
books are not only things to read, but that they will make marble slabs
for the building of temples. That chessmen are not only useful for
playing that difficult and tedious game on which grown-ups are so slowly
and silently intent, or even for playing all those other games, of
soldiers, which will naturally occur to any one with command of the
pleasant turned pieces. Chessmen, he learned, had other and less simple
uses. As minarets of delicate carved work they lightened the mass of
buildings and conferred elegance and distinction, converting what had
been a block of bricks into a pavilion for a sultan or a tomb for a
sultan's bride.


There was a little guard-room, I remember, at the corner of our first
city, and there has been a little guard-room at the corner of every city
we have built since. In simple beauty, that little guard-room seemed to
us then to touch perfection. And really, you know, I have not yet been
able to improve on it. The material was simplicity itself: six books,
five chessmen, and a basin; and you see here how the guard-room looked
when it was done.

[Illustration: THE GUARD-ROOM.]

[Illustration: THE DOMINO DOOR.]

There was a black box, I remember, standing on another box, with domino
steps. It needed a door, and we made it a door of ivory with the double
blank of the dominoes, and a portico of three cigarettes--two for
pillars and one to lie on the top of the pillars and complete the
portico. You have no idea how fine the whole thing looked--like a
strong little house of ebony and ivory--a little sombre in appearance
perhaps, and like a house that has a secret to keep, but quite fine. The
palm trees we made out of pieces of larch and yew fastened by Plasticine
to the tops of elder twigs--and elder twigs have a graceful carriage,
not too upright and yet not drooping. They look very like the trunks of
tropical trees. But if you have not elders and larches and yew trees to
command, you can make trees for your city in other ways. For little
trees in tubs we had southernwood stuck in cotton reels--these make
enchanting tubs, and there are a good many different shapes, so that
your flower tubs are pleasantly varied. Fir cones we found useful, too;
they made magnificent _chevaux de frise_.

[Illustration: LARCH PALM.]

[Illustration: THE MAGIC CITY.


On the first day of building what we soon came to call magic cities we
trusted to inspiration; there was no time for thought. And this day was
perhaps the most interesting day of all--for we had everything to learn.
One of the things which I learned was that this magic city game was an
excellent training for eye and hand, as well as for the imagination and
the more soothing of the domestic virtues. The eye is trained to
perceive likenesses and differences in the shapes and colours of
things--to notice, as I said, that a bowl is a dome wrong way up, and
that cigarettes are like white pillars. A beautiful yet sinister temple
might be built with cigars for pillars and cigar-boxes for pediments,
if cigars were the sort of things you were ever allowed to play with.
You see that yew and larch and elder can be made to look like palm
trees, and that shrubs in tubs are really like sprigs of southernwood in
cotton reels. You go about with eyes newly opened to form and colour:
you look at every object in a new light, trying to see whether it is or
is not like something else--something that can be used in your magic
city. You notice that a door is much the same shape as auntie's
mother-of-pearl card-case, and your architectural instinct, already
beginning to develop, assures you that a pearly door would be a
beautiful thing for a temple, if only auntie sees things in the same
light as you do. You perceive that a cribbage board is straight and
narrow, as a path leading to such a door might be, and that if you stick
tiny tufts of southernwood or veronica into the holes along the ivory
sides of your path, your path will run between two little green hedges.
You will notice that books make colonnades darkly mysterious if the lids
of the brick boxes are laid along the back and along the top, and that
based on these solidly built colonnades your bricks and arches will rise
in galleries of unexpected dignity and charm. The building itself, the
placing of bricks and dominoes, and books and chessmen and bowls, with
exactness and neatness, is in itself a lesson in firm and delicate
handling, such a lesson as is impossible if you are building with bricks
alone. The call on the imagination is strong and clear. A house--the
meanest hut--cannot be built without a plan or without an architect,
though the architect may be only a little child and the plan may be only
a little child's dream. To build without a plan is to heap bricks one on
another, to make a cairn, not a house. The plan for the magic city,
then, gets itself dreamed--the child's imagination learns to know what
the bowl will look like when it is upside down, and, presently, what
sort of bowls and books and bricks are needed to give to the
cloud-capped palace of its desire some shadow in solid fact perceptible
to the senses. To create in the image of his dream is the hope and the
despair of every artist. And even though the image be distorted--as in
all works of art, even the greatest, it always must be--yet it is joy
even to have created the poorest image of a dream.

And in the labour of creation will blossom those domestic virtues which
best adorn the home; patience--for it is not often that for the young
architect dream and image even vaguely coincide at the first effort, or
the second or the third; good temper, for no one can build anything in a
rage. The spirit of anger is the enemy of the spirit of architecture.
And besides, being angry may make your hand shake, and then nothing is
any good. Perseverance too, without which patience is a mere passive
endurance. All these grow strong while you build your cities and try to
make visible your dream.

I do not mean that a child building a city sees all of it at once--in
every detail; I don't suppose even the heaviest of architects does that.
But I mean that he sees the masses of it with the eye of the mind and
arrives by experiment at the details that best suit those masses. If the
glass ash-tray will not do, the tea-cup without a handle will--or
perhaps the flower-pot saucer, or the lid of a cocoa-tin. . . . One must
look about, and find something that _will_ do, something which when it
is put in its place will seem the only possible thing. I don't know how
real architects work, but this is how you work with magic cities.



YOU wander round the house seeking beautiful things which look like
other beautiful things. Let us suppose that you have the run of a house
where beautiful things are. I will tell you afterwards what to do in the
house where beautiful--or at any rate costly--things are not. It is best
when the owner of the house is an enthusiastic member of the building
party; then she will grudge nothing.

In the drawing-room you will find silver candlesticks and a silver
inkstand. The candlesticks are like pillars. Put the inkstand across the
pillars and you have a gateway of unexampled splendour. If there be a
silver-backed blotting-book, take it. It will make the great door of
your greatest temple. Silver bowls should not be passed by, nor bronzes.
A vase of Japanese bronze set up between two ebony elephants crowns a
flat pillared building with splendour. There may be Chinese dragons or
Egyptian gods that have lain a thousand years safe in their bronze amid
the sands of the desert, cast aside by the foot of the camel, unseen in
the shadow of the tent, and now decking the mantelpiece of the room you
are looting. Little silver figures of knights in armour and what
not--take them if you get the chance. Chessmen, too, as many as you can
get, the carved ivory ones, of red and white, and the black and brown
kind where the heads of the kings and queens are so like marbles and
those of the pawns like boot-buttons; draughts too, and spillikins, and
those little metal animals, heavy and coloured life-like, which you see
on glass shelves in the fancy shop: take them too. They will serve other
uses than those to which you will dedicate your Noah's Ark animals. Card
counters, especially the golden and mother-of-pearl kinds, and dominoes,
and the willow-pattern pots and a blue cup or so from the glass-fronted
cupboard. Take all these, always giving preference to the things that
you will not be asked to put back the same day. Little Japanese
cabinets, tea-caddies of tortoiseshell or wood or silver, silver
boxes--and boxes of all beautiful kinds. Do not take the playing cards
that people play bridge with: these are never quite the same after they
have been used in magic cities, and the Queen of Hearts always gets
lost. You can usually acquire odd packs of cards that nobody wants.
Those with black and gold backs are the best. They make gorgeous
pagodas, and a touch of Plasticine keeps each card where it should be.

In the dining-room you may acquire perhaps, at least you can in mine,
brass finger-bowls, and the lids of urns and kettles from the
dresser--egg-cups and mugs and basins of lustre and of blue. Also those
very little pewter liqueur-cups from Liberty's, and the tumblers for
your towers of light, if you are going to have any. The library will
yield you books and atlases--very useful for roofs these last, if they
do not slope too much from back to edge; if they do, you can get even
with them by wedges of paper laid in on the thin side.

But the kitchen will be your happiest hunting-ground, and here you will
make a good bag even in those houses where you are not allowed any of
the treasures from the drawing-room or the dining-room.

Tins--tins of all kinds and shapes, from the tin that once held Bath
Olivers and its lesser brother where coffee once lived to the square
smaller tins designed for cocoa, mustard, pepper, and so forth.

[Illustration: HONESTY PILLARS.]

A flour-dredger and a pepper-pot, a potato-cutter, patty pans, and those
little tall tins that you bake castle puddings in, the round wooden
moulds with which dairy-maids imprint cows and swans upon pats of
butter, the kitchen mortar, especially the big marble one, so heavy that
cook does not care to use it, brown earthenware bowls and stewing-pots,
the lids of tea-pots, clothes-pegs, jars that have held ginger, and jars
that have held jam--especially the brownish corrugated kind of jar--all
these things and many more you may glean in a kitchen whose Queen is

One of the most beautiful buildings I have ever made was built of
kitchen things, and bricks and the boxes of bricks, a few shells, and a
few chessmen.

The three tall towers are two cocoa tins and a Bath Oliver tin, very
brightly polished; the windows and doors and crenellations are of black
_passe-partout_, that nice gummed paper which you buy in reels for
binding pictures and glass together when you don't want to have
picture-frames. On the tops of the tins are the lids of a silver urn, a
silver butter dish, and a silver jam-jar. A salt-cellar (wrong way up,
with a white chess knight on it) and a pepper-pot with _passe-partout_
doors and windows stand at the base of the tower, and turrets are made
of round bricks and draughts, with the chess castles on the top. The
porch is a big potato-cutter, with a white chess king on it, and on each
side two books with a binding of white and pale gold. Along the top of
the porch run the lids of two domino-boxes; on these are two rounds that
happened when the arches were being cut out. On these little pearl
shells are glued, and little roofs of blue tiles complete the porch.
Behind these more books, white and pale gold with marbled sides, lead up
to the platform on which the great tin towers rise up against the snowy
background (linen sheets over the backs of chairs). The lower building
is of the boxes of bricks faced with bricks and bearing a large blue jar
crowned with a silver egg-cup, a flour-dredger, and a pepper-pot, and
some blue and white tiles. An Egyptian god stands at the corner of the
upper and the lower building, and two green trees with white roses grow
out of a tomb at the left. The pathway is of tiles edged with fir cones,
and two rose-trees within tubs (cotton reels) stand at its beginning;
the whole thing was blue and silver and black, and I wish I could show
you a coloured picture of it, or, better still, build the thing up for
you to see.

The lower platform on the right is a box faced with silver seed-vessels
of honesty, and the arches and court are red. The steps are made of
blocks of sugar. The tank is edged with red bricks and the water where
the seal swims is silver paper. In front is a pavement made of
mother-of-pearl card counters, and the inside of the court is made of
one large red tile with a pattern of white on it. (You can do this with
a square board painted red, and counters laid on it.) The fountain in
the middle is a brass match-box and the waters that rise from it are
silver paper; but in the picture the water of the fountain seems to
have been blown aside by the wind, which no doubt is severe in "those
desolate regions of snow." You can build just such another tower and
castle with the things you have, but when once you start building you
will most likely think of some other way, quite different from mine, and
just as good.

Tiles, by the way, are most useful, and if you have an uncle who is an
architect he will have any number sent to him as samples, and he will be
rather glad to get rid of them. If your uncles are all eminent in other
walks of life it is a pity, but you are probably friends with the man
who papers and paints your house, or the man who comes when the pipes
burst at Christmas, or the man who comes about the gas, or the man who
knows all the sullen secrets of the kitchen range. It will be strange if
none of these can get you a few coloured tiles when once they know you
want them. It is well, if you are a child with a taste for building, to
take pains to become acquainted with all the men who come to your house
to do interesting things with tools and wood and iron and lead. Quite
apart from the joy of watching their slow and mysterious processes, and
thinking how easy it would be to be a plumber or a paperhanger yourself,
there are all sorts of things left over from their work which are of no
use to them, but may be of much use to you. All sorts of screws and
nails, for instance, these generous men will now and then bestow--little
screws of dry colour, little pieces of brass, door-knobs and
finger-plates, thick red earthenware pipe, good for towers, lengths of
pleasantly coloured wall-paper--the wrong side of which, being plain,
can be used for all sorts of purposes. Lead piping is useful too,
especially if you get it cut into 2-in. lengths--and cut _straight_. The
sections make excellent and stable flower-pots for cities. Bits of brass
tubing are useful too--in fact, brass objects of all sorts deserve your
careful consideration. Because, if a city is to look handsome, it must
have a good deal of metal about it, as the cities in Atlantis did.

As I write I see more and more clearly that a sharp distinction must be
drawn between cities built and demolished in an afternoon, and cities
that can be kept going and added to day by day for weeks. You may often
be fortunate enough to raid drawing-room and dining-room and to use the
spoils for a building that only lasts a day, but no one will strip her
rooms of all the pretty things you want and let you keep them for weeks.
Therefore if you are going to build a city that is to go on, you must
collect the materials of your own, and the odds and ends that amiable
workmen will readily give you will take a useful place in your
collection. If you let it be known that you want odds and ends of pretty
and simple shapes, your friends will save them for you, and you will
gradually amass the things you need. I know well enough that there will
have to be a place to keep them, but the toy-cupboard, if you clear out
all the toys you never play with, will hold a good deal, and many of the
things you collect will do for other purposes as well as for the
building of cities.



[Illustration: TREES.]

FIRST in your building collection will be the boxes, arches, and steps
of which I have spoken. Dominoes and draughts and chessmen you probably
have. Odd chessmen--quite beautiful ones can often be bought for a few
pence--are very valuable for our purpose. The black and red halma men
are very useful too, but the yellow and green always look cheap and
nasty. Card counters are useful, and so is silver paper. Glass drops off
old chandeliers are good for fountains, and pieces of green cloth for
grass plots. The back of green wall-paper does for this, too; and very
realistic grass lawns can be made by chopping up the long green grass
that people sell for fire screens. It is really sedge finely split up,
and dyed. You cut it up as finely as you can with scissors, and when you
have about a teacupful you take a square of stiff cardboard and cover it
all over with glue; then quickly, before the glue has time to cool, you
sprinkle your chopped grass thickly all over it and leave it to dry.
Next day, _not before_, spread a newspaper and turn the cardboard over
so that the loose grass falls away on to the paper. Fasten down your
grass plot in a suitable place in your city and build a little red brick
wall round it with a little arched gateway, and you will have a neat and
charming enclosed garden. For garden beds dark-coloured tobacco makes
good mould, and shows up your little rose-trees. You can make standard
rose-trees of loofah--dyed green, and the stalks of long matches
painted brown. The roses, which are stuck on with glue, are red or white
immortelles, and the whole effect is just what you are trying for. Large
trees can be made of sprigs of box or veronica, with immortelles glued
on, and they will last fresh and pretty about a week. Palm trees can be
made of elder stems and larch or of the sedge grass.

Lay the grass evenly and, beginning about half-way down, wind brown wool
or silk thread round and round closely and, very like splicing a cricket
bat, work downwards towards the thick part of the grass stalk. Fasten
the end very strongly. Then stick the stem in a cotton reel or a lead
piping pot, cut off, evenly, the loose ends of the grass, fold them back
level, cut the stem.

For the city of a day sprigs of southernwood, lavender, thyme, or
marjoram make charming little trees.

Shells are extremely useful for decoration and produce the effect of
carving. Almost all shells will be useful in one way or another, but I
have found the most satisfaction in the gray and pearly shells which you
find among the thick seaweed ridges on the beach below the grey cliffs
of Cornwall, and the little yellow periwinkly shells that lie on the
rocks below the white cliffs of Kent. If you glue these shells strongly
on arches and pillars you will find them very handsome adornments.

[Illustration: THICK ARCHES.]

Keep your shells in boxes. There are always plenty of boxes in the
world, and if not boxes, little bags will do to hold the different kinds
of shells. It is well worth while to keep the different kinds separate.
The work of sorting out the shells is very damping to the eager
enthusiast anxious to execute a decorative design. Indeed, it is well to
keep all your building materials sorted each according to its kind, the
wooden things together and the metal things and, above all, the crockery
things. Keep the Noah's Ark animals in their Ark, and the bricks in
their boxes, and when you are going to build don't get everything out
at once and make a rubbish heap of it on the floor.

[Illustration: FAN WINDOW.]

As you grow more accustomed to building, you will find that sometimes
you build a temple or palace that charms you so much that you wish to
build it again; and you will soon learn what are the materials needed,
and just take out those and a few more from your store. I say a few
more, because you will never build your temple or your palace twice
_exactly_ the same: you are sure to think of some improvement, however

I have made beautiful windows with the sticks of an old ivory fan,
framed in dark wood bricks, and ornamented the dark wall above with
elephant tusk shells and others, and below with carved ivory card

[Illustration: THE ELEPHANT TEMPLE.]

There is a certain Elephant Temple which I have built many times. Its
floor is a red and white chessboard, and its roof is supported on a
double row of white pillars. White pillars surround the altar--a wooden
box--on which the ebony elephant stands. On each side of him are red
fairy lights, hidden by buttresses from the human eye which peeps
through the brazen gates into that shadowy interior, and falling full on
the elephant on his pillared shrine. The walls are of big red
books--_Sheridan's Plays_, _Tom Jones_, and Boswell's _Life of Johnson_.
The roof is a flat square lid, once the lid of a packing case, stained a
dark brown like the bricks. On the side are the windows made of the
ivory fan, and the dark bricks and the elephant tusk shells. There is a
door, too, a mother-of-pearl one; in a former life it was the card-case
of a much-loved aunt, who nobly contributed it to the Temple. Above this
door is a white animal from the Noah's Ark.

And all the rest of that wall is built up of dark-stained brown wooden
bricks. The other side shows between dark buttresses the red of the
books, and towards the back of this side are small square
buildings--wooden boxes stained brown--with brass domes and mysterious
doorways. I think the priests and attendants of the Temple live here.

The front of the Temple shows a little of the red between dark
buttresses, which, here, are ornamented with delicate dark carved
chessmen. The gate is of pierced brass--two finger-plates for a door,
and the brazen pillars of the portico are two candlesticks, which
support a brass inkstand, on which stand two yellowish wooden chessmen.
On the middle of the roof is a big lacquered wooden bowl--the kind that
nice grocers put in their windows full of prunes or coffee. Above is a
brass rose-bowl, on that a finger-bowl of inlaid brass, crowned with a
black chess king. There are two dark arches with bed-knobs on them, and
round the roof are various towers and turrets, and tall minarets made of
dark bricks with chessmen on the top.

In front of the pillars at the gate two black elephants stand on wooden
plinths, and the fore-court of the Temple and the space at the side are
paved with mother-of-pearl.

I know the main things that are needed for this Temple, but its details
are changed a little every time I build it.

If you cannot get mother-of-pearl card counters you can make a beautiful
pavement by pasting the shining pods of honesty in a pattern on a piece
of dark brown cardboard, or dark brown paper pasted on cardboard; but if
you do this you must build a little dark-wood brick wall all round to
hide the brown paper edges. Build gatehouses in your wall, little ones,
to show off, by contrast, the massive splendour of your Temple. These
honesty pods are a most useful substitute for mother-of-pearl. You can
paste them on square pillars or on the fronts of boxes (houses I mean)
or make sloping roofs of them by sticking them on folded cardboard
fastened at the proper angle by tapes glued about a third of the way up.
But as a rule sloping roofs are not good in Eastern cities. A grass
garden with paths of honesty, or a shell-built fountain basin in the
middle, will add a charm to any city square. And by the way, don't be
afraid of open spaces. Have as many buildings as you like, and mass them
together as you choose, but let there be open spaces. They will be to
your building as mounts are to pictures or margins to books. And for
frame or binding, let there be a wall all round your city. It gives a
neatness and a completeness which enhance a hundred-fold all the
qualities your city may possess.

[Illustration: HONESTY ROOF.]

There are cardboard models of St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower Bridge,
and the Temple at Jerusalem. These are interesting in themselves and it
is good to put them together. The Temple, which is sold by the Religious
Tract Society, is really beautiful, and when you have set it up it looks
like a model in ivory. The bridge and the Cathedral are of dull brown
pasteboard--but they are interesting for all that. But when you are
tired of these things as models, parts of them can be used with great
effect in your building, especially if you paint the brown ones with
aluminium paint, or even whitewash them.

In the foreground of the picture of the Astrologer's tower you will see
a little house which doesn't look as if it belonged where it is. And no
more it does. It was put in just to show you what these little cardboard
buildings are like--it is one of the gate-houses of the Tower Bridge,
and the little white house on the parapet above the steps in the picture
of the silver towers is a little gate-house out of another model.

When you are collecting shells, you will find smooth flat stones of
pleasing colours. Collect them--the thinner the better--you can make
mosaic floors of them, fastening them in their place with glue or a very
thin layer of Plasticine. Fir-cones of all shapes and sizes are useful,
from the delicate cones of the larch to the great varnished-looking
cones that fall from the big pine trees on the Riviera; they call them
pineapples there--_pommes-de-pin_--and they use them for lighting fires.
But you can use them for the tops of towers.

A little, and only a very little, red tinsel paper is good to use, for
the backs of shrines. It gives a suggestion of the glow of hidden
lamps--or, put as windows near the tops of towers, it suggests the glow
of sunset falling on jewelled casements. You can get it, and also
bundles of stamped strips of gold paper, which should be used very
sparingly indeed, from Mr. Bousquet, of the Barbican, in London City.
There are other things which could serve for part of your collection,
but I have told about these in the chapter on poor children's cities,
because the poorest child can get them. But they are desirable in any
collection, such things as tobacco-tins, jam-jars, clothes-pegs, and the
different kinds of common things that you can use for decorating the
fronts and backs and sides of houses, if you have not enough bricks to
build façades to them all. And remember always to make the backs of your
houses as beautiful as the fronts. They may--and should--be plainer but
not less beautiful. Do not be like the jerry-builders who spend all
their decoration, such as it is, on the flat fronts of their villas, and
leave the sides and back flat and ugly, and so that when you see the row
of them from the railway they look miserable and dejected, as though
they knew how ugly they were and were sorry.


The Poor Child's City

WHEN my city was built at Olympia a great many school-teachers who came
to see it told me that they would like to help the children in their
schools to build such cities, but that it would not be possible because
the children came from poor homes, where there were none of the pretty
things--candlesticks, brass bowls, silver ash-trays, chessmen, draughts,
well-bound books, and all the rest of it--which I had used to build my
city. So then I said I would build a city out of the sort of things that
poor children could collect and bring to school. And I did. My friends
Mr. Annis and Mr. Taylor, who were helping me to explain the city and
show it to visitors, helped me with the building. We did it in a day,
and it was very pretty--so pretty that the school-teachers who came to
see it asked me to write a book to say how _that_ was done. And so I

There are no words to express half what I feel about the teachers in
our Council Schools, their enthusiasm, their patience, their energy,
their devotion. When we think of what the lives of poor children are, of
the little they have of the good things of this world, the little chance
they have of growing up to any better fate than that of their fathers
and mothers, who do the hardest work of all and get the least pay of all
those who work for money--when we think how rich people have money to
throw away, how their dogs have velvet coats and silver collars, and eat
chicken off china, while the little children of the poor live on bread
and tea, and wear what they can get--often enough, too little--when we
think of all these things, if we can bear to think of them at all, there
is not one of us, I suppose, who would not willingly die if by our death
we could secure for these children a fairer share of the wealth of
England, the richest country in the world. For wealth, by which I mean
money, can buy all those things which children ought to have, and which
these children do not have--good food, warm clothes, fresh country air,
playthings and books, and pictures. Remembering that by far the greater
number of children of England have none of these things, you would, I
know, gladly die if dying would help. To die for a cause is easy--you
leap into the gulf like Curtius, or fall on the spears like Winkelried,
or go down with your ship for the honour of your country. To lead a
forlorn hope, to try to save one child from fire or water, and die in
the attempt--that is easy and glorious. The hard thing to do is to live
for your country--to live for its children. And it is this that the
teachers in the Council Schools do, year in and year out, with the most
unselfish nobility and perseverance. And nobody applauds or makes as
much fuss as is made over a boy who saves a drowning kitten. In the face
of enormous difficulties and obstacles, exposed to the constant
pin-pricks of little worries, kept short of space, short of materials
and short of money, yet these teachers go on bravely, not just doing
what they are paid to do, but a thousand times more, devoting heart,
mind, and soul to their splendid ambition and counting themselves well
paid if they can make the world a better and a brighter place for the
children they serve. If these children when they grow up shall prove
better citizens, kinder fathers, and better, wiser, and nobler than
their fathers were, we shall owe all the change and progress to the
teachers who are spending their lives to this end.

And this I had to say before I could begin to write about how cities
may be built of such materials as poor children can collect and bring to

For I have to own that poor children live in such little crowded houses
that there is no room for the building of cities, and in the courts and
streets where they play they cannot build, for the passers-by would
tumble over their cities, and the policemen would call it an
obstruction. So if they have a city at all it must be where they have
most of their pleasant plays--at school. Besides, the children I have in
mind are so very poor, that no one child could possibly collect enough
materials for a city. But a number of children could each of them bring
a few things, and thus make up enough for the building. And in most
schools there will be some children not quite so poor who can afford a
penny or so for tinsel paper and the few things--colours, paints, and so
on--that do not occur naturally in a house, even a well-to-do house.
These, let us hope, will be able to furnish a few old chessmen, for
there is nothing like chessmen for giving an air of elegance to domes
and minarets. If you cannot get chessmen, small clothes-pegs are good.
You can cut them in halves and then you have two kinds of minaret. They
can be coloured red or dark brown, or, if your city seems likely to
lack metal, you can paint them with gold or aluminium paint. They look
well when cut shorter as the battlements of buildings, rather like halma
men, but of handsomer and more rotund proportions. Your halma man as you
buy him in a box is ever a bit of a starveling. If you cut your peg into
three, the middle section will make short round pillars to support
little galleries, the roof being a strip of mill-board or the lid of a
narrow box.

[Illustration: CLOTHES PEGS.]

Cardboard and wooden boxes of all sizes and shapes are always easy to
get. These can be coloured as explained in another chapter, and little
doors and windows cut in them. But be sparing of windows; too many
windows detract from the dignity of your tower, and make it look like a
factory. In poor schools there will not be many bricks, and something
must be done to add variety to the façades of buildings when there are
not enough bricks to cover or decorate your boxes. A good deal can be
done with haricot beans, tapioca, and sago. Fasten the beans round the
doorways and the windows with glue or seccotine or Plasticine. If you
use glue let the bean-work be quite cold before you do anything else
with it. "Next day" is an excellent rule. When the beans are quite
firmly fixed, glue the surface all over and sprinkle _thickly_ with
tapioca so that not a bit of the box shows. Leave the tapioca lying on
the surface till _next day_, then turn it up; the loose tapioca will
fall off and leave a pleasant rough-cast-looking surface. Round
cardboard boxes, such as muff-boxes or biscuit-boxes make splendid
towers treated in this way. If you cannot get the little round yellow
periwinkly shells, maize is very good if you cut each grain flat with a
sharp knife, and fix the grains with glue as pillars and arches. Tin
boxes or round tins polished to silvery brightness, with doors and
windows and crenellations of black _passe-partout_, can be built into
palaces of astonishing splendour, as you can see in the picture of the
silver towers. But always beware of too many windows. Other excellent
towers are jam-pots: you can paint them any colour you like, but I
advise you to stick to terra-cotta, cream colour, and dark brown. Very
pretty towers can be made of white jam-pots with windows and doors and
crenellation of gold paper. Only you should outline the gold with ink or
dark stain to make it show up against the white. Basins that are cracked
make good domes, and you can almost always get a cracked basin, however
poor you are; tea-cups that have lost their handles, or had a piece
bitten out of them, are also not hard to get, and the lids of teapots
that are broken, and of saucepans that have been burnt through, come
readily enough to the hand of the collector. Honey pots and the little
brown jugs that cream is sold in are easy to come by, and make
Moorish-looking domes for buildings.

When once you begin to build, you will find that all sorts of things
that before looked neither useful nor beautiful become both, when they
are built into your city. Look at the bedstead-knobs in the Elephant
Temple, and the pepper-pots and the tea-cups on the top of the tower of
pearl and red.


Those children who are lucky enough to go into the country for a holiday
can collect fir-cones and acorns; nicely shaped bits of wood are more
easily come by in a country village than in a London slum. Acorns are
most useful, both the acorn and the cup. A brown building with doors and
windows outlined in acorn cups with their flat side set on with glue
looks like a precious work of carved wood. If you can't get acorn cups,
the shells of Barcelona nuts are good, but they are difficult to cut
into the needed cup shape. The shells of pea-nuts on a stone-coloured
building look like carved stones, but always the nutshell must fit its
edges tightly and neatly to the surface and show as a little round neat
boss. Your own observation will supply you with other little and
valueless things, which will become valuable as soon as you stick them
evenly and closely on a foundation of their own colour. The periwinkly
shells and the maize grains look best on white wood. The shells of the
cocoanut have a value all their own. The larger ones, sawn neatly in
halves, make impressive domes for brown buildings, and half a small
cocoanut shell will roof a cardboard box that has held elastic bands,
and you can call it a thatched cottage or the hut of a savage chief. I
called mine Cocoanut Cottage, and the Curator of my Botanical Museum
lived there. The Chief Astrologer, of course, lived at the top of his
tower, which was a photographic enlarging apparatus. Ponds and rivers
can be made with the silver paper that comes off cigarettes, and I have
made a very impressive tower with match boxes, painted black and piled
one on another so that the blue side shows in front, with a touch of red
at each side. Black windows if you like. If you cannot get any chessmen
the pinnacles of your buildings must be clothes-pegs, acorns, and
fir-cones, with a very occasional piece of lead pencil or short piece of
brass tubing with an acorn or a fir-cone on the top. Fir-cones, too,
look quite baronial stuck upright on the posts of gates--and they are
good edging for paths and roads. Pill-boxes make nice little turrets,
and cotton reels, coloured to match the bricks and the boxes, are the
finest flower tubs in the world. With sprigs of evergreen stuck in them,
or a little made rose-tree, they look quite life-like and convincing,
especially if you paste a circle of brown paper on the top of the reel,
to look like mould, before you stick your shrub in the hole so
conveniently placed in the reel, apparently on purpose to have shrubs
planted in it. Cotton reels with acorns or fir-cones on them are good on
the top of gate-posts.

[Illustration: COTTON REELS.]

[Illustration: LATTICE WINDOW.]

These are just a few of the things that poor children can get and the
way they can use them. The moment you begin to build you will think of
a hundred things that I have not thought of, and a hundred ways of using
them that I should not have thought of trying.

If you can so arrange the site of your city that it need not be
disturbed, it will grow in beauty day by day, and you will presently
have to name a day to satisfy the children who will want to bring their
parents to see it. If you give a school party no other attraction will
be needed, and you will find that neither children nor parents will tire
of examining your city as a whole and in detail, exclaiming at its
beauty and marvelling at its ingenuity. And the children will love it.
And so will you.

If you are disposed to take a little more trouble with your towers, you
can cover them with cement, and mould the crenellations and windows with
your fingers. The cement is made of newspaper, size, and whitening. Tear
up two newspapers and boil them in four quarts of water for three hours.
Then pound the paper in a large mortar, or squeeze it in your hands till
it is all pulp. It will have an unpleasing grey colour at this stage,
but in the end it will be creamy white. Then add equal quantities of
size and whitening and a pinch of yellow ochre, mix thoroughly and let
the mixture get cold, when it is ready for use. If it is too thin warm
it again, and add more whitening, but do not let the mixture _boil_
after the size has been added. When the mixture with which you have
covered your tower is dry,--it takes some days--it will be as hard as
stone. A cocoa tin set on a treacle tin makes a very neat tower, as you
will see by the picture. Square towers can also be made in this way, by
covering square tins with the cement. In fact, with a little trouble and
some tins of different sizes and shapes you could build a whole palace
in this way. Doors can be made of black paper, and lattices of paper cut
and folded, with black paper behind it, as you can see for yourself by
the picture.


The End

YOU will have noticed that though I began by pointing out that children
differ as much as grown-up people do, and that the individual character
and temperament of one child are not the character and temperament of
another, yet I have throughout spoken of the needs of the child as
though the needs of all children were the same. That is because, in the
body of this work, I have been dealing with the needs of children as a
genus, and not with those of the individual or species. There are
certain needs common to all children, needs as universal as the need for
food, raiment, warmth, and light. Such are the needs for sympathy and
justice, leisure and liberty. These things are admitted by all but the
driest economists to be the rights of adults, but not, alas! always
admitted as the rights of children. And I have tried to show a little
what it is that is essential to the true well-being of all children. The
hungers and thirsts of the individual spirit cannot be dealt with by
any but those in close relation to the individual child. I have tried to
lay down broad outlines--to make suggestions, to point out pleasant ways
leading to pleasant places. Parents, teachers, pastors and masters will
make the application--or the variation--in every individual case.

One of the things that is the matter with modern education is the
absence of the conception of personal idiosyncrasies, tastes, character
and temperament. For the matter of that it is this indifference to
personality which makes the whole of our civilisation vulgar and vain.
Our education treats children as though they were all cast in one mould;
it treats men and women as though they, in their sphere, differed not at
all one from another. You will say that it is impossible, in a great
country and a great school, to find out the personal tastes and wishes,
hopes, dreams, powers, and possibilities of individuals, and you are
quite right. That is why large schools and large communities fail so
detestably in the very objects of their existence. Schools are intended
to educate, and they merely instruct. Communities are, at least I
suppose they are, intended to enable their members to live happy and
useful lives as free citizens, and they only succeed in making slaves
of the many and tyrants of the few. The machinery of government and the
machinery of so-called education is too big--what it has to deal with is
too big--for any fine result to be possible. If we are ever to get out
of children, and men and women, anything like the best of which they are
capable, we shall have to have much smaller schools and much smaller
communities. Some sort of beautiful and useful corporate life is
possible in a place the size of Bedford; it is not possible in a place
the size of London. Ten or twenty children in a class can be treated as
individual human beings, and the best that is in them drawn out by a
sympathetic understanding of personal traits and characteristics. But a
class of seventy or eighty must be treated as a machine of which the
little live units are but wheels and cogs. It can, as a machine, be made
to do certain things; the component parts of it can be made to
contribute their share to the general result, even as the bright and
helpless parts of a machine contribute to its activity. But you can
never get out of the children composing such a class anything
approaching the fine result which can be achieved by an education based
on the broad lines of what is good for _children_, with a superstructure
of delicate perception of what is good for the _individual child_.
Dick, Tom, and Harry can join in certain lessons and certain games, but
there will always be some matters in which Dick is not in the least like
Tom, and Harry is quite different from both the others.

The people who govern us talk about education--they talk greatly, and a
little they do. But they will not do the one simple, straightforward
thing which is as essential to the growth of the mind as vital religion
is to the growth of the soul. Any teacher in any elementary school knows
what is needed, but those in power do not know it. They will make
scholarships as plentiful as blackberries, they will do all sorts of
fine things for secondary education. The one thing they will not do is
to _reduce the size of the classes_ in elementary schools. And so long
as this is not done the millions we spend yearly on education are, to a
pitiably great extent, millions wasted. We might almost as well take at
least half the money, put it in bags, tie it up with red tape, and drop
it over London Bridge, or, still better, spend the money in monthly
exhibitions of free fireworks, which would at least give the children
and the grown-ups one jolly evening in thirty.

A small class can be taught, and taught well, by a teacher of as
average ability as ever tumbled head over heels from London to York, but
a large class your average teacher will never get at at all. It takes a
genius and an orator to speak intelligibly to more than fifteen people.
I sometimes wonder if teachers know how much of their teaching their
scholars miss altogether--fail to see, fail to grasp, do not know is
there. Between the careless or overworked teacher and the timid and
rather stupid child there is a great gulf fixed. To such a child the
voice of the teacher is the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
crying quite aimlessly, in a wilderness of unintelligible jargon. Many
boys--in public as well as elementary schools by the way--go through
their whole school life "scraping through somehow," and never once
having a clear idea of anything that they are doing, hardly ever a
glimpse of what anything is about or that anything has any reasonable
relation to anything else. It is rather like a miracle, whichever way
you take it, but there it is, and a miracle which might be made
impossible and unnecessary by a little sensible commonplace legislation.
We want smaller classes, and we want those classes better taught. That
is to say, we want more teachers, and better-paid teachers; we want our
teachers to be placed in a position of certain comfort, that they shall
not be living in the House of Poverty with the wolf of Worry always
nosing round the door, distracting their attention from what should be
their chief thought--for most of the months of the year. We want longer
holidays, and a better provision for happiness in those holidays, both
for teachers and children. We want every teacher and every child to have
a real holiday, not merely an absence from school. In a word, we want
more money spent on schools and less on gaols and reformatories. It
cannot be put too plainly that the nation which will not pay for her
schools must pay for her prisons and asylums. People don't seem to mind
so much paying for prisons and workhouses. What they really hate seems
to be paying for schools. And yet how well, in the end, such spending
would pay us! "There is no darkness but ignorance," and we have now such
a chance as has never been the lot of men since Time began, a chance to
light enough lamps to dispel that darkness. If only we would take that
chance! Even from the meanest point of view we ought to take it. It
would be cheaper in the end. Schools are cheaper than prisons.

Now that I have written the words I don't like the look of them; and
looking back through this book, I see that most of what I have written
applies to the kind of children who are in little danger of going to
prison, children in comfortable homes, with enough of, at any rate,
material well-being. Most of my book refers to the class that is not
taught in Council Schools, and that will not be sent to a reformatory if
the eighth commandment is not learnt in one lesson. This class is called
the upper middle-class, and it does not go to the Council Schools
because it has money to go elsewhere. The children of this class are, in
brain and heart, not superior to the children of what are called the
working classes. Place the middle-class children in the surroundings of
the slum child, and thereupon the middle-class child would grow as the
slum child grows, as the plant debarred from light grows--_not
straight_. What we want is that there should be a distribution of wealth
so changed from the one that now destroys the nation's balance as to put
every parent in a position to pay for his child's education, and that
the nation's schools should be so superlatively better than all other
schools that no parent would dream of sending his child to any school
but that provided by the nation for the nation's children.

And now that it comes to good-bye, I am sorry to say it. I feel that I
have only been touching the fringe of the greatest problem in the world:
that there is very much which I have left unsaid, or which I might have
said differently, and better. One might go on for all one's life
thinking and writing about children and their needs, and always there
would be more unsaid than said, less thought than food for thought. If
the thoughts which I have striven to set forth give food for thought in
others, if my little candle may help to kindle a great torch, I shall
look back on the writing of this book as a great privilege and the
memory of the hours spent on it I shall treasure with a glad and
grateful heart.

_Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury._

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Varried hyphenation retained. Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

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