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Title: Not that it Matters
Author: Milne, A. A. (Alan Alexander)
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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                      Not That it Matters
                          A. A. Milne


The Pleasure of Writing
Acacia Road
My Library
The Chase
The Charm of Golf
Saturday to Monday
The Pond
A Seventeenth-century Story
Our Learned Friends
A Word for Autumn
A Christmas Number
No Flowers by Request
The Unfairness of Things
A Household Book
The Friend of Man
The Diary Habit
Midsummer Day
At the Bookstall
"Who's Who"
A Day at Lord's
By the Sea
Golden Fruit
Signs of Character
Intellectual Snobbery
A Question of Form
A Slice of Fiction
The Label
The Profession
Smoking as a Fine Art
The Path to Glory
A Problem in Ethics
The Happiest Half-hours of Life
Natural Science
On Going Dry
A Misjudged Game
A Doubtful Character
Thoughts on Thermometers
For a Wet Afternoon
Declined with Thanks
On Going into a House
The Ideal Author

Not That it Matters

The Pleasure of Writing

Sometimes when the printer is waiting for an article which really
should have been sent to him the day before, I sit at my desk and
wonder if there is any possible subject in the whole world upon
which I can possibly find anything to say. On one such occasion I
left it to Fate, which decided, by means of a dictionary opened
at random, that I should deliver myself of a few thoughts about
goldfish. (You will find this article later on in the book.) But
to-day I do not need to bother about a subject. To-day I am
without a care. Nothing less has happened than that I have a new
nib in my pen.

In the ordinary way, when Shakespeare writes a tragedy, or Mr.
Blank gives you one of his charming little essays, a certain
amount of thought goes on before pen is put to paper. One cannot
write "Scene I. An Open Place. Thunder and Lightning. Enter Three
Witches," or "As I look up from my window, the nodding daffodils
beckon to me to take the morning," one cannot give of one's best
in this way on the spur of the moment. At least, others cannot.
But when I have a new nib in my pen, then I can go straight from
my breakfast to the blotting-paper, and a new sheet of foolscap
fills itself magically with a stream of blue-black words. When
poets and idiots talk of the pleasure of writing, they mean the
pleasure of giving a piece of their minds to the public; with an
old nib a tedious business. They do not mean (as I do) the
pleasure of the artist in seeing beautifully shaped "k's" and
sinuous "s's" grow beneath his steel. Anybody else writing this
article might wonder "Will my readers like it?" I only tell
myself "How the compositors will love it!"

But perhaps they will not love it. Maybe I am a little above
their heads. I remember on one First of January receiving an
anonymous postcard wishing me a happy New Year, and suggesting
that I should give the compositors a happy New Year also by
writing more generously. In those days I got a thousand words
upon one sheet 8 in. by 5 in. I adopted the suggestion, but it
was a wrench; as it would be for a painter of miniatures forced
to spend the rest of his life painting the Town Council of
Boffington in the manner of Herkomer. My canvases are bigger now,
but they are still impressionistic. "Pretty, but what is it?"
remains the obvious comment; one steps back a pace and saws the
air with the hand; "You see it better from here, my love," one
says to one's wife. But if there be one compositor not carried
away by the mad rush of life, who in a leisurely hour (the
luncheon one, for instance) looks at the beautiful words with the
eye of an artist, not of a wage-earner, he, I think, will be
satisfied; he will be as glad as I am of my new nib. Does it
matter, then, what you who see only the printed word think of it?

A woman, who had studied what she called the science of
calligraphy, once offered to tell my character from my
handwriting. I prepared a special sample for her; it was full of
sentences like "To be good is to be happy," "Faith is the lode-
star of life," "We should always be kind to animals," and so on.
I wanted her to do her best. She gave the morning to it, and told
me at lunch that I was "synthetic." Probably you think that the
compositor has failed me here and printed "synthetic" when I
wrote "sympathetic." In just this way I misunderstood my
calligraphist at first, and I looked as sympathetic as I could.
However, she repeated "synthetic," so that there could be no
mistake. I begged her to tell me more, for I had thought that
every letter would reveal a secret, but all she would add was
"and not analytic." I went about for the rest of the day saying
proudly to myself "I am synthetic! I am synthetic! I am
synthetic!" and then I would add regretfully, "Alas, I am not
analytic!" I had no idea what it meant.

And how do you think she had deduced my syntheticness? Simply
from the fact that, to save time, I join some of my words
together. That isn't being synthetic, it is being in a hurry.
What she should have said was, "You are a busy man; your life is
one constant whirl; and probably you are of excellent moral
character and kind to animals." Then one would feel that one did
not write in vain.

My pen is getting tired; it has lost its first fair youth.
However, I can still go on. I was at school with a boy whose
uncle made nibs. If you detect traces of erudition in this
article, of which any decent man might be expected to be
innocent, I owe it to that boy. He once told me how many nibs his
uncle made in a year; luckily I have forgotten. Thousands,
probably. Every term that boy came back with a hundred of them;
one expected him to be very busy. After all, if you haven't the
brains or the inclination to work, it is something to have the
nibs. These nibs, however, were put to better uses. There is a
game you can play with them; you flick your nib against the other
boy's nib, and if a lucky shot puts the head of yours under his,
then a sharp tap capsizes him, and you have a hundred and one in
your collection. There is a good deal of strategy in the game
(whose finer points I have now forgotten), and I have no doubt
that they play it at the Admiralty in the off season. Another
game was to put a clean nib in your pen, place it lightly against
the cheek of a boy whose head was turned away from you, and then
call him suddenly. As Kipling says, we are the only really
humorous race. This boy's uncle died a year or two later and left
about £80,000, but none of it to his nephew. Of course, he had
had the nibs every term. One mustn't forget that.

The nib I write this with is called the "Canadian Quill"; made, I
suppose, from some steel goose which flourishes across the seas,
and which Canadian housewives have to explain to their husbands
every Michaelmas. Well, it has  seen me to the end of what I
wanted to say--if indeed I wanted to say anything. For it was
enough for me this morning just to write; with spring coming in
through the open windows and my good Canadian quill in my hand, I
could have copied out a directory. That is the real pleasure of

Acacia Road

Of course there are disadvantages of suburban life. In the fourth
act of the play there may be a moment when the fate of the erring
wife hangs in the balance, and utterly regardless of this the
last train starts from Victoria at 11.15. It must be annoying to
have to leave her at such a crisis; it must be annoying too to
have to preface the curtailed pleasures of the play with a meat
tea and a hasty dressing in the afternoon. But, after all, one
cannot judge life from its facilities for playgoing. It would be
absurd to condemn the suburbs because of the 11.15.

There is a road eight miles from London up which I have walked
sometimes on my way to golf. I think it is called Acacia Road;
some pretty name like that. It may rain in Acacia Road, but never
when I am there. The sun shines on Laburnum Lodge with its pink
may tree, on the Cedars with its two clean limes, it  casts its
shadow on the ivy of Holly House, and upon the whole road there
rests a pleasant afternoon peace. I cannot walk along Acacia Road
without feeling that life could be very happy in it--when the sun
is shining. It must be jolly, for instance, to live in Laburnum
Lodge with its pink may tree. Sometimes I fancy that a suburban
home is the true home after all.

When I pass Laburnum Lodge I think of Him saying good-bye to Her
at the gate, as he takes the air each morning on his way to the
station. What if the train is crowded? He has his newspaper. That
will see him safely to the City. And then how interesting will be
everything which happens to him there, since he has Her to tell
it to when he comes home. The most ordinary street accident
becomes exciting if a story has to be made of it. Happy the man
who can say of each little incident, "I must remember to tell Her
when I get home." And it is only in the suburbs that one "gets
home." One does not "get home" to Grosvenor Square; one is simply
"in" or "out."

But the master of Laburnum Lodge may have something better to
tell his wife than the incident of the runaway horse; he may have
heard a new funny story at lunch. The joke may have been all over
the City, but it is unlikely that his wife in the suburbs will
have heard it. Put it on the credit side of marriage that you can
treasure up your jokes for some one else. And perhaps She has
something for him too; some backward plant, it may be, has burst
suddenly into flower; at least he will walk more eagerly up
Acacia Road for wondering. So it will be a happy meeting under
the pink may tree of Laburnum Lodge when these two are restored
safely to each other after the excitements of the day. Possibly
they will even do a little gardening together in the still
glowing evening.

If life has anything more to offer than this it will be found at
Holly House, where there are babies. Babies give an added
excitement to the master's homecoming, for almost anything may
have happened to them while he has been away. Dorothy perhaps has
cut a new tooth and Anne may have said something really clever
about the baker's man. In the morning, too, Anne will walk with
him to the end of the road; it is perfectly safe, for in Acacia
Road nothing untoward could occur. Even the dogs are quiet and
friendly. I like to think of the master of Holly House saying
good-bye to Anne at the end of the road and knowing that she will
be alive when he comes back in the evening. That ought to make
the day's work go quickly.

But it is the Cedars which gives us the secret of the happiness
of the suburbs. The Cedars you observe is a grander house
altogether; there is a tennis lawn at the back. And there are
grown-up sons and daughters at the Cedars. In such houses in
Acacia Road the delightful business of love-making is in full
swing. Marriages are not "arranged" in the suburbs; they grow
naturally out of the pleasant intercourse between the Cedars, the
Elms, and Rose Bank. I see Tom walking over to the Elms, racket
in hand, to play tennis with Miss Muriel. He is hoping for an
invitation to remain to supper, and indeed I think he will get
it. Anyhow he is going to ask Miss Muriel to come across to lunch
to-morrow; his mother has so much to talk to her about. But it
will be Tom who will do most of the talking.

I am sure that the marriages made in Acacia Road are happy. That
is why I have no fears for Holly House and Laburnum Lodge. Of
course they didn't make love in this Acacia Road; they are come
from the Acacia Road of some other suburb, wisely deciding that
they will be better away from their people. But they met each
other in the same way as Tom and Muriel are meeting; He has seen
Her in Her own home, in His home, at the tennis club, surrounded
by the young bounders (confound them!) of Turret Court and the
Wilderness; She has heard of him falling off his bicycle or
quarrelling with his father. Bless you, they know all about each
other; they are going to be happy enough together.

And now I think of it, why of course there is a local theatre
where they can do their play- going, if they are as keen on it as
that. For ten shillings they can spread from the stage box an air
of luxury and refinement over the house; and they can nod in an
easy manner across the stalls to the Cedars in the opposite box--
in the deep recesses of which Tom and Muriel, you may be sure,
are holding hands.

My Library

When I moved into a new house a few weeks ago, my books, as was
natural, moved with me. Strong, perspiring men shovelled them
into packing-cases, and staggered with them to the van, cursing
Caxton as they went. On arrival at this end, they staggered with
them into the room selected for my library, heaved off the lids
of the cases, and awaited orders. The immediate need was for an
emptier room. Together we hurried the books into the new white
shelves which awaited them, the order in which they stood being
of no matter so long as they were off the floor. Armful after
armful was hastily stacked, the only pause being when (in the
curious way in which these things happen) my own name suddenly
caught the eye of the foreman. "Did you write this one, sir?" he
asked. I admitted it. "H'm," he said noncommittally. He glanced
along the names of every armful after that, and appeared a
little surprised at the number of books which I hadn't written.
An easy-going profession, evidently.

So we got the books up at last, and there they are still. I told
myself that when a wet afternoon came along I would arrange them
properly. When the wet afternoon came, I told myself that I would
arrange them one of these fine mornings. As they are now, I have
to look along every shelf in the search for the book which I
want. To come to Keats is no guarantee that we are on the road to
Shelley. Shelley, if he did not drop out on the way, is probably
next to How to Be a Golfer Though Middle-aged.

Having written as far as this, I had to get up and see where
Shelley really was. It is worse than I thought. He is between
Geometrical Optics and  Studies in New Zealand Scenery. Ella
Wheeler Wilcox, whom I find myself to be entertaining unawares,
sits beside Anarchy or Order, which was apparently "sent in the
hope that you will become a member of the Duty and Discipline
Movement"--a vain hope, it would seem, for I have not yet paid my
subscription. What I Found Out, by an English Governess, shares a
corner with The Recreations of a Country Parson; they are
followed by Villette and Baedeker's Switzerland. Something will
have to be done about it.
But I am wondering what is to be done. If I gave you the
impression that my books were precisely arranged in their old
shelves, I misled you. They were arranged in the order known as
"all anyhow." Possibly they were a little less "anyhow" than they
are now, in that the volumes of any particular work were at least
together, but that is all that can be claimed for them. For years
I put off the business of tidying them up, just as I am putting
it off now. It is not laziness; it is simply that I don't know
how to begin.

Let us suppose that we decide to have all the poetry together. It
sounds reasonable. But then Byron is eleven inches high (my
tallest poet), and Beattie (my shortest) is just over four
inches. How foolish they will look standing side by side. Perhaps
you don't know Beattie, but I assure you that he was a poet. He
wrote those majestic lines:--

  "The shepherd-swain of whom I mention made
   On Scotia's mountains fed his little flock;
   The sickle, scythe or plough he never swayed--
   An honest heart was almost all his stock."

Of course, one would hardly expect a shepherd to sway a plough in
the ordinary way, but Beattie  was quite right to remind us that
Edwin didn't either. Edwin was the name of the shepherd- swain.
"And yet poor Edwin was no vulgar boy," we are told a little
further on in a line that should live. Well, having satisfied you
that Beattie was really a poet, I can now return to my argument
that an eleven-inch Byron cannot stand next to a four-inch
Beattie, and be followed by an eight-inch Cowper, without making
the shelf look silly. Yet how can I discard Beattie-- Beattie who

"And now the downy cheek and deepened voice
 Gave dignity to Edwin's blooming prime."

You see the difficulty. If you arrange your books according to
their contents you are sure to get an untidy shelf. If you
arrange your books according to their size and colour you get an
effective wall, but the poetically inclined visitor may lose
sight of Beattie altogether. Before, then, we decide what to do
about it, we must ask ourselves that very awkward question, "Why
do we have books on our shelves at all?" It is a most
embarrassing question to answer.

Of course, you think that the proper answer (in your own case) is
an indignant protest that you bought them in order to read them,
and that yon put them on your shelves in order that you could
refer to them when necessary. A little reflection will show you
what a stupid answer that is. If you only want to read them, why
are some of them bound in morocco and half-calf and other
expensive coverings? Why did you buy a first edition when a
hundredth edition was so much cheaper? Why have you got half a
dozen copies of The Rubaiyat? What is the particular value of
this other book that you treasure it so carefully? Why, the fact
that its pages are uncut. If you cut the pages and read it, the
value would go.

So, then, your library is not just for reference. You know as
well as I do that it furnishes your room; that it furnishes it
more effectively than does paint or mahogany or china. Of course,
it is nice to have the books there, so that one can refer to them
when one wishes. One may be writing an article on sea-bathing,
for instance, and have come to the sentence which begins: "In the
well-remembered words of Coleridge, perhaps almost too familiar
to be quoted"--and then one may have to look them up. On these
occasions a library is not only ornamental but useful. But do not
let us be ashamed that we find it ornamental. Indeed, the more I
survey it, the more I feel that my library is sufficiently
ornamental as it stands. Any reassembling of the books might
spoil the colour-scheme. Baedeker's Switzerland and Villette are
both in red, a colour which is neatly caught up again, after an
interlude in blue, by a volume of Browning and Jevons' Elementary
Logic. We had a woman here only yesterday who said, "How pretty
your books look," and I am inclined to think that that is good
enough. There is a careless rapture about them which I should
lose if I started to arrange them methodically.

But perhaps I might risk this to the extent of getting all their
heads the same way up. Yes, on one of these fine days (or wet
nights) I shall take my library seriously in hand. There are
still one or two books which are the wrong way round. I shall put
them the right way round.

The Chase

The fact, as revealed in a recent lawsuit, that there is a
gentleman in this country who spends £10,000 a year upon his
butterfly collection would have disturbed me more in the early
nineties than it does to-day. I can bear it calmly now, but
twenty-five years ago the knowledge would have spoilt my pride in
my own collection, upon which I was already spending the best
part of threepence a week pocket-money. Perhaps, though, I should
have consoled myself with the thought that I was the truer
enthusiast of the two; for when my rival hears of a rare
butterfly in Brazil, he sends a man out to Brazil to capture it,
whereas I, when I heard that there was a Clouded Yellow in the
garden, took good care that nobody but myself encompassed its
death. Our aims also were different. I purposely left Brazil out
of it.

Whether butterfly-hunting is good or bad for the character I
cannot undertake to decide. No doubt it can be justified as
clearly as fox- hunting. If the fox eats chickens, the
butterfly's child eats vegetables; if fox-hunting improves the
breed of horses, butterfly-hunting improves the health of boys.
But at least, we never told ourselves that butterflies liked
being pursued, as (I understand) foxes like being hunted. We were
moderately honest about it. And we comforted ourselves in the end
with the assurance of many eminent naturalists that "insects
don't feel pain."

I have often wondered how naturalists dare to speak with such
authority. Do they never have dreams at night of an after-life in
some other world, wherein they are pursued by giant insects eager
to increase their "naturalist collection"--insects who assure
each other carelessly that "naturalists don't feel pain"? Perhaps
they do so dream. But we, at any rate, slept well, for we had
never dogmatized about a butterfly's feelings. We only quoted the
wise men.

But if there might be doubt about the sensitiveness of a
butterfly, there could be no doubt about his distinguishing
marks. It was amazing to us how many grown-up and (presumably)
educated men and women did not know that a butterfly had knobs on
the end of his antennae, and that the moth had none. Where had
they been all these years to be so ignorant? Well-meaning but
misguided aunts, with mysterious promises of a new butterfly for
our collection, would produce some common Yellow Underwing from
an envelope, innocent (for which they may be forgiven) that only
a personal capture had any value to us, but unforgivably ignorant
that a Yellow Underwing was a moth. We did not collect moths;
there were too many of them. And moths are nocturnal creatures. A
hunter whose bed-time depends upon the whim of another is
handicapped for the night-chase.

But butterflies come out when the sun comes out, which is just
when little boys should be out; and there are not too many
butterflies in England. I knew them all by name once, and could
have recognized any that I saw--yes, even Hampstead's Albion Eye
(or was it Albion's Hampstead Eye?), of which only one specimen
had ever been caught in this country; presumably by Hampstead--or
Albion. In my day-dreams the second specimen was caught by me.
Yet he was an insignificant-looking fellow, and perhaps I should
have been better pleased with a Camberwell Beauty, a Purple
Emperor, or a Swallowtail. Unhappily the Purple Emperor (so the
book told us) haunted the tops of trees, which was to take an
unfair advantage of a boy small for his age, and the Swallowtail
haunted Norfolk, which was equally inconsiderate of a family
which kept holiday in the south. The Camberwell Beauty sounded
more hopeful, but I suppose the trams disheartened him. I doubt
if he ever haunted Camberwell in my time.

With threepence a week one has to be careful. It was necessary to
buy killing-boxes and setting-boards, but butterfly-nets could be
made at home. A stick, a piece of copper wire, and some muslin
were all that were necessary. One liked the muslin to be green,
for there was a feeling that this deceived the butterfly in some
way; he thought that Birnam Wood was merely coming to Dunsinane
when he saw it approaching, arid that the queer- looking thing
behind was some local efflorescence. So he resumed his dalliance
with the herbaceous border, and was never more surprised in his
life than when it turned out to be a boy and a butterfly-net.
Green muslin, then, but a plain piece of cane for the stick. None
of your collapsible fishing-rods--"suitable for a Purple
Emperor." Leave those to the millionaire's sons.

It comes back to me now that I am doing this afternoon what I did
more than twenty-five years ago; I am writing an article upon the
way to make a butterfly-net. For my first contribution to the
press was upon this subject. I sent it to the editor of some
boys' paper, and his failure to print it puzzled me a good deal,
since every word in it (I was sure) was correctly spelt. Of
course, I see now that you want more in an article than that. But
besides being puzzled I was extremely disappointed, for I wanted
badly the money that it should have brought in. I wanted it in
order to buy a butterfly-net; the stick and the copper wire and
the green muslin being (in my hands, at any rate) more suited to
an article.


I have just read a serious column on the prospects for next year.
This article consisted of contributions from experts in the
various branches of industry (including one from a meteorological
expert who, I need hardly tell you, forecasted a wet summer) and
ended with a general summing up of the year by Old Moore or one
of the minor prophets. Old Moore, I am sorry to say, left me

I should like to believe in astrology, but I cannot. I should
like to believe that the heavenly bodies sort themselves into
certain positions in order that Zadkiel may be kept in touch with
the future; the idea of a star whizzing a million miles out of
its path by way of indicating a "sensational divorce case in high
life" is extraordinarily massive. But, candidly, I do not believe
the stars bother. What the stars are for, what they are like when
you get there, I do not know; but a starry night would not be so
beautiful if it were simply meant as a warning to some unpleasant
financier that Kaffirs were going up. The ordinary man looks at
the heavens and thinks what an insignificant atom he is beneath
them; the believer in astrology looks up and realizes afresh his
overwhelming importance. Perhaps, after all, I am glad I do not

Life must be a very tricky thing for the superstitious. At dinner
a night or two ago I happened to say that I had never been in
danger of drowning. I am not sure now that it was true, but I
still think that it was harmless. However, before I had time to
elaborate my theme (whatever it was) I was peremptorily ordered
to touch wood. I protested that both my feet were on the polished
oak and both my elbows on the polished mahogany (one always knew
that some good instinct inspired the pleasant habit of elbows on
the table) and that anyhow I did not see the need. However,
because one must not argue at dinner I tapped the table two or
three times... and now I suppose I am immune. At the same time I
should like to know exactly whom I have appeased.

For this must be the idea of the wood-touching superstition, that
a malignant spirit dogs one's conversational footsteps, listening
eagerly for the complacent word. "I have never had the mumps,"
you say airily. "Ha, ha!" says the spirit, "haven't you? Just you
wait till next Tuesday, my boy." Unconsciously we are crediting
Fate with our own human weaknesses. If a man standing on the edge
of a pond said aloud, "I have never fallen into a pond in my
life," and we happened to be just behind him, the temptation to
push him in would be irresistible. Irresistible, that is by us;
but it is charitable to assume that Providence can control itself
by now.

Of course, nobody really thinks that our good or evil spirits
have any particular feeling about wood, that they like it
stroked; nobody, I suppose, not even the most superstitious,
really thinks that Fate is especially touchy in the matter of
salt and ladders. Equally, of course, many people who throw spilt
salt over their left shoulders are not superstitious in the
least, and are only concerned to display that readiness in the
face of any social emergency which is said to be the mark of good
manners. But there are certainly many who feel that it is the
part of a wise man to propitiate the unknown, to bend before the
forces which work for harm; and they pay tribute to Fate by means
of these little customs in the hope that they will secure in
return an immunity from evil. The tribute is nominal, but it is
an acknowledgment all the same.

A proper sense of proportion leaves no room for superstition. A
man says, "I have never been in a shipwreck," and becoming
nervous touches wood. Why is he nervous? He has this paragraph
before his eyes: "Among the deceased was Mr. ----. By a
remarkable coincidence this gentleman had been saying only a few
days before that he had never been in a shipwreck. Little did he
think that his next voyage would falsify his words so
tragically." It occurs to him that he has read paragraphs like
that again and again. Perhaps he has. Certainly he has never read
a paragraph like this: "Among the deceased was Mr. ----. By a
remarkable coincidence this gentleman had never made the remark
that he had not yet been in a shipwreck." Yet that paragraph
could have been written truthfully thousands of times. A sense of
proportion would tell you that, if only one side of a case is
ever recorded, that side acquires an undue importance. The truth
is that Fate does not go out of its way to be dramatic. If you or
I had the power of life and death in our hands, we should no
doubt arrange some remarkably bright and telling effects. A man
who spilt the salt callously would be drowned next week in the
Dead Sea, and a couple who married in May would expire
simultaneously in the May following. But Fate cannot worry to
think out all the clever things that we should think out. It goes
about its business solidly and unromantically, and by the
ordinary laws of chance it achieves every now and then something
startling and romantic. Superstition thrives on the fact that
only the accidental dramas are reported.

But there are charms to secure happiness as well as charms to
avert evil. In these I am a firm believer. I do not mean that I
believe that a horseshoe hung up in the house will bring me good
luck; I mean that if anybody does believe this, then the hanging
up of his horseshoe will probably bring him good luck. For if you
believe that you are going to be lucky, you go about your
business with a smile, you take disaster with a smile, you start
afresh with a smile. And to do that is to be in the way of

The Charm of Golf

When he reads of the notable doings of famous golfers, the
eighteen-handicap man has no envy in his heart. For by this time
he has discovered the great secret of golf. Before he began to
play he wondered wherein lay the fascination of it; now he knows.
Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the
world at which to be bad.

Consider what it is to be bad at cricket. You have bought a new
bat, perfect in balance; a new pair of pads, white as driven
snow; gloves of the very latest design. Do they let you use them?
No. After one ball, in the negotiation of which neither your bat,
nor your pads, nor your gloves came into play, they send you back
into the pavilion to spend the rest of the afternoon listening to
fatuous stories of some old gentleman who knew Fuller Pilch. And
when your side takes the field, where are you? Probably at long
leg both ends, exposed to the public gaze as the worst fieldsman
in London. How devastating are your emotions. Remorse, anger,
mortification, fill your heart; above all, envy--envy of the
lucky immortals who disport themselves on the green level of

Consider what it is to be bad at lawn tennis. True, you are
allowed to hold on to your new racket all through the game, but
how often are you allowed to employ it usefully? How often does
your partner cry "Mine!" and bundle you out of the way? Is there
pleasure in playing football badly? You may spend the full eighty
minutes in your new boots, but your relations with the ball will
be distant. They do not give you a ball to yourself at football.

But how different a game is golf. At golf it is the bad player
who gets the most strokes. However good his opponent, the bad
player has the right to play out each hole to the end; he will
get more than his share of the game. He need have no fears that
his new driver will not be employed. He will have as many swings
with it as the scratch man; more, if he misses the ball
altogether upon one or two tees. If he buys a new niblick he is
certain to get fun out of it on the very first day.

And, above all, there is this to be said for golfing mediocrity--
the bad player can make the strokes of the good player. The poor
cricketer has perhaps never made fifty in his life; as soon as he
stands at the wickets he knows that he is not going to make fifty
to-day. But the eighteen-handicap man has some time or other
played every hole on the course to perfection. He has driven a
ball 250 yards; he has made superb approaches; he has run down
the long putt. Any of these things may suddenly happen to him
again. And therefore it is not his fate to have to sit in the
club smoking- room after his second round and listen to the
wonderful deeds of others. He can join in too. He can say with
perfect truth, "I once carried the ditch at the fourth with my
second," or "I remember when I drove into the bunker guarding the
eighth green," or even "I did a three at the eleventh this
afternoon"--bogey being five. But if the bad cricketer says, "I
remember when I took a century in forty minutes off Lockwood and
Richardson," he is nothing but a liar.

For these and other reasons golf is the best game in the world
for the bad player. And sometimes I am tempted to go further and
say that it is a better game for the bad player than for the good
player. The joy of driving a ball straight after a week of
slicing, the joy of putting a mashie shot dead, the joy of even a
moderate stroke with a brassie; best of all, the joy of the
perfect cleek shot--these things the good player will never know.
Every stroke we bad players make we make in hope. It is never so
bad but it might have been worse; it is never so bad but we are
confident of doing better next time. And if the next stroke is
good, what happiness fills our soul. How eagerly we tell
ourselves that in a little while all our strokes will be as good.

What does Vardon know of this? If he does a five hole in four he
blames himself that he did not do it in three; if he does it in
five he is miserable. He will never experience that happy
surprise with which we hail our best strokes. Only his bad
strokes surprise him, and then we may suppose that he is not
happy. His length and accuracy are mechanical; they are not the
result, as so often in our case, of some suddenly applied maxim
or some suddenly discovered innovation. The only thing which can
vary in his game is his putting, and putting is not golf but

But of course we, too, are going to be as good as Vardon one day.
We are only postponing the day because meanwhile it is so
pleasant to be bad. And it is part of the charm of being bad at
golf that in a moment, in a single night, we may become good. If
the bad cricketer said to a good cricketer, "What am I doing
wrong?" the only possible answer would be, "Nothing particular,
except that you can't play cricket." But if you or I were to say
to our scratch friend, "What am I doing wrong?" he would reply at
once, "Moving the head" or "Dropping the right knee" or "Not
getting the wrists in soon enough," and by to-morrow we should be
different players. Upon such a little depends, or seems to the
eighteen-handicap to depend, excellence in golf.

And so, perfectly happy in our present badness and perfectly
confident of our future goodness, we long-handicap men remain.
Perhaps it would be pleasanter to be a little more certain of
getting the ball safely off the first tee; perhaps at the
fourteenth hole, where there is a right of way and the public
encroach, we should like to feel that we have done with topping;

Well, perhaps we might get our handicap down to fifteen this
summer. But no lower; certainly no lower.


Let us talk about--well, anything you will. Goldfish, for

Goldfish are a symbol of old-world tranquillity or mid-Victorian
futility according to their position in the home. Outside the
home, in that wild state from which civilization has dragged
them, they may have stood for dare-devil courage or constancy or
devotion; I cannot tell. I may only speak of them now as I find
them, which is in the garden or in the drawing-room. In their
lily-leaved pool, sunk deep in the old flagged terrace, upon
whose borders the blackbird whistles his early-morning song, they
remind me of sundials and lavender and old delightful things. But
in their cheap glass bowl upon the three- legged table, above
which the cloth-covered canary maintains a stolid silence, they
remind me of antimacassars and horsehair sofas and all that is
depressing. It is hard that the goldfish himself should have so
little choice in the matter. Goldfish look pretty in the terrace
pond, yet I doubt if it was the need for prettiness which brought
them there. Rather the need for some thing to throw things to. No
one of the initiate can sit in front of Nature's most wonderful
effect, the sea, without wishing to throw stones into it, the
physical pleasure of the effort and the aesthetic pleasure of the
splash combining to produce perfect contentment. So by the margin
of the pool the same desires stir within one, and because ants'
eggs do not splash, and look untidy on the surface of the water,
there must be a gleam of gold and silver to put the crown upon
one's pleasure.

Perhaps when you have been feeding the goldfish you have not
thought of it like that. But at least you must have wondered why,
of all diets, they should prefer ants' eggs. Ants' eggs are, I
should say, the very last thing which one would take to without
argument. It must be an acquired taste, and, this being so, one
naturally asks oneself how goldfish came to acquire it.

I suppose (but I am lamentably ignorant on these as on all other
matters) that there was a time when goldfish lived a wild free
life of their own. They roamed the sea or the river, or whatever
it was, fighting for existence, and Nature showed them, as she
always does, the food which suited them. Now I have often come
across ants' nests in my travels, but never when swimming. In
seas and rivers, pools and lakes, I have wandered, but Nature has
never put ants' eggs in my way. No doubt--it would be only right-
-the goldfish has a keener eye than I have for these things, but
if they had been there, should I have missed them so completely?
I think not, for if they had been there, they must have been
there in great quantities. I can imagine a goldfish slowly
acquiring the taste for them through the centuries, but only if
other food were denied to him, only if, wherever he went, ants'
eggs, ants' eggs, ants' eggs drifted down the stream to him.

Yet, since it would seem that he has acquired the taste, it can
only be that the taste has come to him with captivity--has been
forced upon him, I should have said. The old wild goldfish (this
is my theory) was a more terrible beast than we think. Given his
proper diet, he could not have been kept within the limits of the
terrace pool. He would have been unsuited to domestic life; he
would have dragged in the shrieking child as she leant to feed
him. As the result of many experiments ants' eggs were given him
to keep him thin (you can see for yourself what a bloodless diet
it is), ants' eggs were given him to quell his spirit; and just
as a man, if he has sufficient colds, can get up a passion even
for ammoniated quinine, so the goldfish has grown in captivity to
welcome the once-hated omelette.

Let us consider now the case of the goldfish in the house. His
diet is the same, but how different his surroundings! If his bowl
is placed on a table in the middle of the floor, he has but to
flash his tail once and he has been all round the drawing-room.
The drawing-room may not seem much to you, but to him this
impressionist picture through the curved glass must be amazing.
Let not the outdoor goldfish boast of his freedom. What does he,
in his little world of water-lily roots, know of the vista upon
vista which opens to his more happy brother as he passes jauntily
from china dog to ottoman and from ottoman to Henry's father? Ah,
here is life! It may be that in the course of years he will get
used to it, even bored by it; indeed, for that reason I always
advocate giving him a glance at the dining-room or the bedrooms
on Wednesdays and Saturdays; but his first day in the bowl must
be the opening of an undreamt of heaven to him.

Again, what an adventurous life is his. At any moment a cat may
climb up and fetch him out, a child may upset him, grown-ups may
neglect to feed him or to change his water. The temptation to
take him up and massage him must be irresistible to outsiders.
All these dangers the goldfish in the pond avoids; he lives a
sheltered and unexciting life, and when he wants to die he dies
unnoticed, unregretted, but for his brother the tears and the
solemn funeral.

Yes; now that I have thought it out, I can see that I was wrong
in calling the indoor goldfish a symbol of mid-Victorian
futility. An article of this sort is no good if it does not teach
the writer something as well as his readers. I recognize him now
as the symbol of enterprise and endurance, of restlessness and
Post-Impressionism. He is not mid-Victorian, he is Fifth

Which is all I want to say about goldfish.

Saturday to Monday

The happy man would have happy faces round him; a sad face is a
reproach to him for his happiness. So when I escape by the 2.10
on Saturday I distribute largesse with a liberal hand. The
cabman, feeling that an effort is required of him, mentions that
I am the first gentleman he has met that day; he penetrates my
mufti and calls me captain, leaving it open whether he regards me
as a Salvation Army captain or the captain of a barge. The
porters hasten to the door of my cab; there is a little struggle
between them as to who shall have the honour of waiting upon me.

Inside the station things go on as happily. The booking-office
clerk gives me a pleasant smile; he seems to approve of the
station I am taking. "Some do go to Brighton," he implies, "but
for a gentleman like you--" He pauses to point out that with this
ticket I can come back on the Tuesday if I like (as, between
ourselves, I hope to do). In exchange for his courtesies I push
him my paper through the pigeon hole. A dirty little boy thrust
it into my cab; I didn't want it, but as we are all being happy
to- day he had his penny.

I follow my porter to the platform. "On the left," says the
ticket collector. He has said it mechanically to a hundred
persons, but he becomes human and kindly as he says it to me. I
feel that he really wishes me to get into the right train, to
have a pleasant journey down, to be welcomed heartily by my
friends when I arrive. It is not as to one of a mob but to an
individual that he speaks.

The porter has found me an empty carriage. He is full of ideas
for my comfort; he tells me which way the train will start, where
we stop, and when we may be expected to arrive. Am I sure I
wouldn't like my bag in the van? Can he get me any papers? No;
no, thanks. I don't want to read. I give him sixpence, and there
is another one of us happy.

Presently the guard. He also seems pleased that I have selected
this one particular station from among so many. Pleased, but not
astonished; he expected it of me. It is a very good run down in
his train, and he shouldn't be surprised if we had a fine week-
end. ...

I stand at the door of ray carriage feeling very happy. It is
good to get out of London. Come to think of it, we are all
getting out of London, and none of us is going to do any work to-
morrow. How jolly! Oh, but what about my porter? Bother! I wish
now I'd given him more than sixpence. Still, he may have a
sweetheart and be happy that way.

We are off. I have nothing to read, but then I want to think. It
is the ideal place in which to think, a railway carriage; the
ideal place in which to be happy. I wonder if I shall be in good
form this week-end at cricket and tennis, and croquet and
billiards, and all the other jolly games I mean to play. Look at
those children trying to play cricket in that dirty backyard.
Poor little beggars! Fancy living in one of those horrible
squalid houses. But you cannot spoil to- day for me, little
backyards. On Tuesday perhaps, when I am coming again to the ugly
town, your misery will make me miserable; I shall ask myself
hopelessly what it all means; but just now I am too happy for
pity. After all, why should I assume that you envy me, you two
children swinging on a gate and waving to me? You are happy,
aren't you? Of course; we are all happy to-day. See, I am waving
back to you.

My eyes wander round the carriage and rest on my bag. Have I put
everything in? Of course I have. Then why this uneasy feeling
that I have left something very important out? Well, I can soon
settle the question. Let's start with to-night. Evening clothes--
they're in, I know. Shirts, collars ...

I go through the whole programme for the week-end, allotting
myself in my mind suitable clothes for each occasion. Yes; I seem
to have brought everything that I can possibly want. But what a
very jolly programme I am drawing up for myself! Will it really
be as delightful as that? Well, it was last time, and the time
before; that is why I am so happy.

The train draws up at its only halt in the glow of a September
mid-afternoon. There is a little pleasant bustle; nice people get
out and nice people meet them; everybody seems very cheery and
contented. Then we are off again ... and now the next station is

We are there. A porter takes my things with a kindly smile and a
"Nice day." I see Brant outside with the wagonette, not the trap;
then I am not the only guest coming by this train. Who are the
others, I wonder. Anybody I know? ... Why, yes, it's Bob and Mrs.
Bob, and--hallo!--Cynthia! And isn't that old Anderby? How
splendid! I must get that shilling back from Bob that I lost to
him at billiards last time. And if Cynthia really thinks that she
can play croquet ...

We greet each other happily and climb into the wagonette. Never
has the country looked so lovely. "No; no rain at all," says
Brant, "and the glass is going up." The porter puts our luggage
in the cart and comes round with a smile. It is a rotten life
being a porter, and I do so want everybody to enjoy this
afternoon. Besides, I haven't any coppers.

I slip half a crown into his palm. Now we are all very, very

The Pond

My friend Aldenham's pond stands at a convenient distance from
the house, and is reached by a well-drained gravel path; so that
in any weather one may walk, alone or in company, dry shod to its
brink, and estimate roughly how many inches of rain have fallen
in the night. The ribald call it the hippopotamus pond, tracing a
resemblance between it and the bath of the hippopotamus at the
Zoo, beneath the waters of which, if you particularly desire to
point the hippopotamus out to somebody, he always lies hidden. To
the rest of us it is known simply as "the pond"--a designation
which ignores the existence of several neighbouring ponds, the
gifts of nature, and gives the whole credit to the handiwork of
man. For "the pond" is just a small artificial affair of cement,
entirely unpretentious.

There are seven steps to the bottom of the pond, and each step is
10 in. high. Thus the steps help to make the pond a convenient
rain- gauge; for obviously when only three steps are left
uncovered, as was the case last Monday, you know that there have
been 40 in. of rain since last month, when the pond began to
fill. To strangers this may seem surprising, and it is only fair
to tell them the great secret, which is that much of the
surrounding land drains secretly into the pond too. This seems to
me to give a much fairer indication of the rain that has fallen
than do the official figures in the newspapers. For when your
whole day's cricket has been spoilt, it is perfectly absurd to be
told that .026 of an inch of rain has done the damage; the soul
yearns for something more startling than that The record of the
pond, that there has been another 5 in., soothes us, where the
record of the ordinary pedantic rain-gauge would leave us
infuriated. It speaks much for my friend Aldenham's breadth of
view that he understood this, and planned the pond accordingly.

A most necessary thing in a country house is that there should be
a recognized meeting-place, where the people who have been
writing a few letters after breakfast may, when they have
finished, meet those who have no intention of writing any, and
arrange plans with them for the  morning. I am one of those who
cannot write letters in another man's house, and when my pipe is
well alight I say to Miss Robinson--or whoever it may be--"Let's
go and look at the pond." "Right oh," she says willingly enough,
having spent the last quarter of an hour with The Times Financial
Supplement, all of the paper that is left to the women in the
first rush for the cricket news. We wander down to the pond
together, and perhaps find Brown and Miss Smith there. "A lot of
rain in the night," says Brown. "It was only just over the third
step after lunch yesterday." We have a little argument about it,
Miss Robinson being convinced that she stood on the second step
after breakfast, and Miss Smith repeating that it looks exactly
the same to her this morning. By and by two or three others
stroll up, and we all make measurements together. The general
opinion is that there has been a lot of rain in the night, and
that 43 in. in three weeks must be a record. But, anyhow, it is
fairly fine now, and what about a little lawn tennis? Or golf? Or
croquet? Or---? And so the arrangements for the morning are made.

And they can be made more readily out of doors; for--supposing it
is fine--the fresh air calls you to be doing something, and the
sight of the newly marked tennis lawn fills you with thoughts of
revenge for your accidental defeat the evening before. But
indoors it is so easy to drop into a sofa after breakfast, and,
once there with all the papers, to be disinclined to leave it
till lunch-time. A man or woman as lazy as this must not be
rushed. Say to such a one, "Come and play," and the invitation
will be declined. Say, "Come and look at the pond," and the worst
sluggard will not refuse such gentle exercise. And once he is out
he is out.

All this for those delightful summer days when there are fine
intervals; but consider the advantages of the pond when the rain
streams down in torrents from morning till night. How tired we
get of being indoors on these days, even with the best of books,
the pleasantest of companions, the easiest of billiard tables.
Yet if our hostess were to see us marching out with an umbrella,
how odd she would think us. "Where are you off to?" she would
ask, and we could only answer lamely, "Er--I was just going to--
er--walk about a bit." But now we tell her brightly, "I'm going
to see the pond. It must be nearly full. Won't you come too?" And
with any luck she comes.  And you know, it even reconciles us a
little to these streaming days to reflect that it all goes to
fill the pond. For there is ever before our minds that great
moment in the future when the pond is at last full. What will
happen then? Aldenham may know, but we his guests do not. Some
think there will be merely a flood over the surrounding paths and
the kitchen garden, but for myself I believe that we are promised
something much bigger than that. A man with such a broad and
friendly outlook towards rain-gauges will be sure to arrange
something striking when the great moment arrives. Some sort of
fete will help to celebrate it, I have no doubt; with an open-air
play, tank drama, or what not. At any rate we have every hope
that he will empty the pond as speedily as possible so that we
may watch it fill again.

I must say that he has been a little lucky in his choice of a
year for inaugurating the pond. But, all the same, there are now
45 in. of rain in it, 45 in. of rain have fallen in the last
three weeks, and I think that something ought to be done about

A Seventeenth-Century Story

There is a story in every name in that first column of The Times-
-Births, Marriages, and Deaths--down which we glance each
morning, but, unless the name is known to us, we do not bother
about the stories of other people. They are those not very
interesting people, our contemporaries. But in a country
churchyard a name on an old tombstone will set us wondering a
little. What sort of life came to an end there a hundred years

In the parish register we shall find the whole history of them;
when they were born, when they were married, how many children
they had, when they died--a skeleton of their lives which we can
clothe with our fancies and make living again. Simple lives, we
make them, in that pleasant countryside; "Man comes and tills the
field and lies beneath"; that is all. Simple work, simple
pleasures, and a simple death.

Of course we are wrong. There were passions and pains in those
lives; tragedies perhaps. The tombstones and the registers say
nothing of them; or, if they say it, it is in a cypher to which
we have not the key. Yet sometimes the key is almost in our
hands. Here is a story from the register of a village church--
four entries only, but they hide a tragedy which with a little
imagination we can almost piece together for ourselves.

The first entry is a marriage. John Meadowes of Littlehaw Manor,
bachelor, took Mary Field to wife (both of this parish) on 7th
November 1681.

There were no children of the marriage. Indeed, it only lasted a
year. A year later, on l2th November 1682, John died and was

Poor Mary Meadowes was now alone at the Manor. We picture her
sitting there in her loneliness, broken-hearted, refusing to be
comforted. ...

Until we come to the third entry. John has only been in his grave
a month, but here is the third entry, telling us that on l2th
December 1682, Robert Cliff, bachelor, was married to Mary
Meadowes, widow. It spoils our picture of her. ...

And then the fourth entry. It is the fourth entry which reveals
the tragedy, which makes us wonder what is the story hidden away
in the parish register of Littlehaw--the mystery of Littlehaw
Manor. For here is another death, the death of Mary Cliff, and
Mary Cliff died on ... l3th December 1682.

And she was buried in unconsecrated ground. For Mary Cliff (we
must suppose) had killed herself. She had killed herself on the
day after her marriage to her second husband.

Well, what is the story? We shall have to make it up for
ourselves. Here is my rendering of it. I have no means of finding
out if it is the correct one, but it seems to fit itself within
the facts as we know them.

Mary Field was the daughter of well-to-do parents, an only child,
and the most desirable bride, from the worldly point of view, in
the village. No wonder, then, that her parents' choice of a
husband for her fell upon the most desirable bridegroom of the
village--John Meadowes. The Fields' land adjoined Littlehaw
Manor; one day the child of John and Mary would own it all. Let a
marriage, then, be arranged.

But Mary loved Robert Cliff whole-heartedly --Robert, a man of no
standing at all. A ridiculous notion, said her parents, but the
silly girl would grow out of it. She was taken by a handsome
face. Once she was safely wedded to John, she would forget her
foolishness. John might not be handsome, but he was a solid,
steady fellow; which was more--much more, as it turned out--than
could be said for Robert.

So John and Mary married. But she still loved Robert. ...

Did she kill her husband? Did she and Robert kill him together?
Or did she only hasten his death by her neglect of him in some
illness? Did she dare him to ride some devil of a horse which she
knew he could not master; did she taunt him into some foolhardy
feat; or did she deliberately kill him--with or without her
lover's aid? I cannot guess, but of this I am certain. His death
was on her conscience. Directly or indirectly she was responsible
for it --or, at any rate, felt herself responsible for it. But
she would not think of it too closely; she had room for only one
thought in her mind. She was mistress of Littlehaw Manor now, and
free to marry whom she wished. Free, at last, to marry Robert.
Whatever had been done had been worth doing for that.

So she married him. And then--so I read the story--she discovered
the truth. Robert had never loved her. He had wanted to marry the
rich Miss Field, that was all. Still more, he had wanted to marry
the rich Mrs. Meadowes. He was quite callous about it. She might
as well know the truth now as later. It would save trouble in the
future, if she knew.

So Mary killed herself. She had murdered John for nothing.
Whatever her responsibility for John's death, in the bitterness
of that discovery she would call it murder. She had a murder on
her conscience for love's sake--and there was no love. What else
to do but follow John? ...

Is that the story? I wonder.

Our Learned Friends

I do not know why the Bar has always seemed the most respectable
of the professions, a profession which the hero of almost any
novel could adopt without losing caste. But so it is. A
schoolmaster can be referred to contemptuously as an usher; a
doctor is regarded humorously as a licensed murderer; a solicitor
is always retiring to gaol for making away with trust funds, and,
in any case, is merely an attorney; while a civil servant sleeps
from ten to four every day, and is only waked up at sixty in
order to be given a pension. But there is no humorous comment to
be made upon the barrister--unless it is to call him "my learned
friend." He has much more right than the actor to claim to be a
member of the profession. I don't know why. Perhaps it is because
he walks about the Temple in a top-hat.

So many of one's acquaintances at some time or other have "eaten
dinners" that one hardly dares to say anything against the
profession. Besides, one never knows when one may not want to be
defended. However, I shall take the risk, and put the barrister
in the dock. "Gentlemen of the jury, observe this well-dressed
gentleman before you. What shall we say about him?"

Let us begin by asking ourselves what we expect from a
profession. In the first place, certainly, we expect a living,
but I think we want something more than that. If we were offered
a thousand a year to walk from Charing Cross to Barnet every day,
reasons of poverty might compel us to accept the offer, but we
should hardly be proud of our new profession. We should prefer to
earn a thousand a year by doing some more useful work. Indeed, to
a man of any fine feeling the profession of Barnet walking would
only be tolerable if he could persuade himself that by his
exertions he was helping to revive the neglected art of
pedestrianism, or to make more popular the neglected beauties of
Barnet; if he could hope that, after his three- hundredth
journey, inquisitive people would begin to follow him, wondering
what he was after, and so come suddenly upon the old Norman
church at the cross-roads, or, if they missed this, at any rate
upon a much better appetite for their dinner. That is to say, he
would have to persuade himself that he was walking, not only for
himself, but also for the community.

It seems to me, then, that a profession is a noble or an ignoble
one, according as it offers or denies to him who practises it the
opportunity of working for some other end than his own
advancement. A doctor collects fees from his patients, but he is
aiming at something more than pounds, shillings, and pence; he is
out to put an end to suffering. A schoolmaster earns a living by
teaching, but he does not feel that he is fighting only for
himself; he is a crusader on behalf of education. The artist,
whatever his medium, is giving a message to the world, expressing
the truth as he sees it; for his own profit, perhaps, but not for
that alone. All these and a thousand other ways of living have
something of nobility in them. We enter them full of high
resolves. We tell ourselves that we will follow the light as it
has been revealed to us; that our ideals shall never be lowered;
that we will refuse to sacrifice our principles to our interests.
We fail, of course. The painter finds that "Mother's Darling"
brings in the stuff, and he turns out Mother's Darlings
mechanically. The doctor neglects research and cultivates instead
a bedside manner. The schoolmaster drops all his theories of
education and conforms hastily to those of his employers. We
fail, but it is not because the profession is an ignoble one; we
had our chances. Indeed, the light is still there for those who
look. It beckons to us.

Now what of the Bar? Is the barrister after anything other than
his own advancement? He follows what gleam? What are his ideals?
Never mind whether he fails more often or less often than others
to attain them; I am not bothering about that. I only want to
know what it is that he is after. In the quiet hours when we are
alone with ourselves and there is nobody to tell us what fine
fellows we are, we come sometimes upon a weak moment in which we
wonder, not how much money we are earning, nor how famous we are
becoming, but what good we are doing. If a barrister ever has
such a moment, what is his consolation? It can only be that he is
helping Justice to be administered. If he is to be proud of his
profession, and in that lonely moment tolerant of himself, he
must feel that he is taking a noble part in the vindication of
legal right, the punishment of legal wrong. But he must do more
than this. Just as the doctor, with increased knowledge and
experience, becomes a better fighter against disease, advancing
himself, no doubt, but advancing also medical science; just as
the schoolmaster, having learnt new and better ways of teaching,
can now give a better education to his boys, increasing thereby
the sum of knowledge; so the barrister must be able to tell
himself that the more expert he becomes as an advocate, the
better will he be able to help in the administration of this
Justice which is his ideal.

Can he tell himself this? I do not see how he can. His increased
expertness will be of increased service to himself, of increased
service to his clients, but no ideal will be the better served by
reason of it. Let us take a case--Smith v. Jones. Counsel is
briefed for Smith. After examining the case he tells himself in
effect this: "As far as I can see, the Law is all on the other
side. Luckily, however, sentiment is on our side. Given an
impressionable jury, there's just a chance that we might pull it
off. It's worth trying." He tries, and if he is sufficiently
expert he pulls it off. A triumph for himself, but what has
happened to the ideal? Did he even think, "Of course I'm bound to
do the best for my client, but he's in the wrong, and I hope we
lose?" I imagine not. The whole teaching of the Bar is that he
must not bother about justice, but only about his own victory.
What ultimately, then, is he after? What does the Bar offer its
devotees--beyond material success?

I asked just now what were a barrister's ideals. Suppose we ask
instead, What is the ideal barrister? If one spoke loosely of an
ideal doctor, one would not necessarily mean a titled gentleman
in Harley Street. An ideal schoolmaster is not synonymous with
the Headmaster of Eton or the owner of the most profitable
preparatory school. But can there be an ideal barrister other
than a successful barrister? The eager young writer, just
beginning a literary career, might fix his eyes upon Francis
Thompson rather than upon Sir Hall Caine; the eager young
clergyman might dream dreams over the Life of Father Damien more
often than over the Life of the Archbishop of Canterbury; but to
what star can the eager young barrister hitch his wagon, save to
the star of material success? If he does not see himself as Sir
Edward Carson, it is only because he thinks that perhaps after
all Sir John Simon's manner is the more effective.

There may be other answers to the questions I have asked than the
answers I have given, but it is no answer to ask me how the law
can be administered without barristers. I do not know; nor do I
know how the roads can be swept without getting somebody to sweep
them. But that would not disqualify me from saying that road-
sweeping was an unattractive profession. So also I am entitled to
my opinion about the Bar, which is this. That because it offers
material victories only and never spiritual ones, that because
there can be no standard by which its disciples are judged save
the earthly standard, that because there is no place within its
ranks for the altruist or the idealist--for these reasons the Bar
is not one of the noble professions.

A Word for Autumn

Last night the waiter put the celery on with the cheese, and I
knew that summer was indeed dead. Other signs of autumn there may
be--the reddening leaf, the chill in the early-morning air, the
misty evenings--but none of these comes home to me so truly.
There may be cool mornings in July; in a year of drought the
leaves may change before their time; it is only with the first
celery that summer is over.

I knew all along that it would not last. Even in April I was
saying that winter would soon be here. Yet somehow it had begun
to seem possible lately that a miracle might happen, that summer
might drift on and on through the months--a final upheaval to
crown a wonderful year. The celery settled that. Last night with
the celery autumn came into its own.

There is a crispness about celery that is of the essence of
October. It is as fresh and clean as a rainy day after a spell of
heat. It crackles pleasantly in the mouth. Moreover it is
excellent, I am told, for the complexion. One is always hearing
of things which are good for the complexion, but there is no
doubt that celery stands high on the list. After the burns and
freckles of summer one is in need of something. How good that
celery should be there at one's elbow.

A week ago--("A little more cheese, waiter") --a week ago I
grieved for the dying summer. I wondered how I could possibly
bear the waiting --the eight long months till May. In vain to
comfort myself with the thought that I could get through more
work in the winter undistracted by thoughts of cricket grounds
and country houses. In vain, equally, to tell myself that I could
stay in bed later in the mornings. Even the thought of after-
breakfast pipes in front of the fire left me cold. But now,
suddenly, I am reconciled to autumn. I see quite clearly that all
good things must come to an end. The summer has been splendid,
but it has lasted long enough. This morning I welcomed the chill
in the air; this morning I viewed the falling leaves with
cheerfulness; and this morning I said to myself, "Why, of course,
I'll have celery for lunch." ("More bread, waiter.")  "Season of
mists and mellow fruitfulness," said Keats, not actually picking
out celery in so many words, but plainly including it in the
general blessings of the autumn. Yet what an opportunity he
missed by not concentrating on that precious root. Apples,
grapes, nuts, and vegetable marrows he mentions specially--and
how poor a selection! For apples and grapes are not typical of
any month, so ubiquitous are they, vegetable marrows are
vegetables pour rire and have no place in any serious
consideration of the seasons, while as for nuts, have we not a
national song which asserts distinctly, "Here we go gathering
nuts in May"? Season of mists and mellow celery, then let it be.
A pat of butter underneath the bough, a wedge of cheese, a loaf
of bread and--Thou.

How delicate are the tender shoots unfolded layer by layer. Of
what, a whiteness is the last baby one of all, of what a
sweetness his flavour. It is well that this should be the last
rite of the meal--finis coronat opus--so that we may go straight
on to the business of the pipe. Celery demands a pipe rather than
a cigar, and it can be eaten better in an inn or a London tavern
than in the home. Yes, and it should be eaten alone, for it is
the only food which one really wants to hear oneself eat.
Besides, in company one may have to consider the wants of others.
Celery is not a thing to share with any man. Alone in your
country inn you may call for the celery; but if you are wise you
will see that no other traveller wanders into the room. Take
warning from one who has learnt a lesson. One day I lunched alone
at an inn, finishing with cheese and celery. Another traveller
came in and lunched too. We did not speak--I was busy with my
celery. From the other end of the table he reached across for the
cheese. That was all right; it was the public cheese. But he also
reached across for the celery--my private celery for which I
owed. Foolishly--you know how one does--I had left the sweetest
and crispest shoots till the last, tantalizing myself pleasantly
with the thought of them. Horror! to see them snatched from me by
a stranger. He realized later what he had done and apologized,
but of what good is an apology in such circumstances? Yet at
least the tragedy was not without its value. Now one remembers to
lock the door.

Yes, I can face the winter with calm. I suppose I had forgotten
what it was really like. I had been thinking of the winter as a
horrid wet, dreary time fit only for professional football. Now I
can see other things--crisp and sparkling days, long pleasant
evenings, cheery fires. Good work shall be done this winter. Life
shall be lived well. The end of the summer is not the end of the
world. Here's to October--and, waiter, some more celery.

A Christmas Number

The common joke against the Christmas number is that it is
planned in July and made up in September. This enables it to be
published in the middle of November and circulated in New Zealand
by Christmas. If it were published in England at Christmas, New
Zealand wouldn't get it till February. Apparently it is more
important that the colonies should have it punctually than that
we should.

Anyway, whenever it is made up, all journalists hate the
Christmas number. But they only hate it for one reason--this
being that the ordinary weekly number has to be made up at the
same time. As a journalist I should like to devote the autumn
exclusively to the Christmas number, and as a member of the
public I should adore it when it came out. Not having been asked
to produce such a number on my own I can amuse myself here by
sketching out a plan for it. I follow the fine old tradition.
First let us get the stories settled. Story No. 1 deals with the
escaped convict. The heroine is driving back from the country-
house ball, where she has had two or three proposals, when
suddenly, in the most lonely part of the snow-swept moor, a
figure springs out of the ditch and covers the coachman with a
pistol. Alarms and confusions. "Oh, sir," says the heroine,
"spare my aunt and I will give you all my jewels." The convict,
for such it is, staggers back. "Lucy!" he cries. "Harold!" she
gasps. The aunt says nothing, for she has swooned. At this point
the story stops to explain how Harold came to be in
knickerbockers. He had either been falsely accused or else he had
been a solicitor. Anyhow, he had by this time more than paid for
his folly, and Lucy still loved him. "Get in," she says, and
drives him home. Next day he leaves for New Zealand in an
ordinary lounge suit. Need I say that Lucy joins him later? No;
that shall be left for your imagination. The End.

So much for the first story. The second is an "i'-faith-and-stap-
me" story of the good old days. It is not seasonable, for most of
the action takes place in my lord's garden amid the scent of
roses; but it brings back to us the old romantic days when
fighting and swearing were more picturesque  than they are now,
and when women loved and worked samplers. This sort of story can
be read best in front of the Christmas log; it is of the past,
and comes naturally into a Christmas number. I shall not describe
its plot, for that is unimportant; it is the "stap me's" and the
"la, sirs," which matter. But I may say that she marries him all
right in the end, and he goes off happily to the wars.

We want another story. What shall this one be about? It might be
about the amateur burglar, or the little child who reconciled old
Sir John to his daughter's marriage, or the ghost at Enderby
Grange, or the millionaire's Christmas dinner, or the accident to
the Scotch express. Personally, I do not care for any of these;
my vote goes for the desert-island story. Proud Lady Julia has
fallen off the deck of the liner, and Ronald, refused by her that
morning, dives off the hurricane deck--or the bowsprit or
wherever he happens to be--and seizes her as she is sinking for
the third time. It is a foggy night and their absence is
unnoticed. Dawn finds them together on a little coral reef. They
are in no danger, for several liners are due to pass in a day or
two and Ronald's pockets are full of biscuits and chocolate, but
it is awkward for Lady Julia, who had hoped that they would never
meet again. So they sit on the beach back to back (drawn by Dana
Gibson) and throw sarcastic remarks over their shoulders at each
other. In the end he tames her proud spirit--I think by hiding
the turtles' eggs from her--and the next liner but one takes the
happy couple back to civilization.

But it is time we had some poetry. I propose to give you one
serious poem about robins, and one double-page humorous piece,
well illustrated in colours. I think the humorous verses must
deal with hunting. Hunting does not lend itself to humour, for
there are only two hunting jokes --the joke of the horse which
came down at the brook and the joke of the Cockney who overrode
hounds; but there are traditions to keep up, and the artist
always loves it. So far we have not considered the artist
sufficiently. Let us give him four full pages. One of pretty
girls hanging up mistletoe, one of the squire and his family
going to church in the snow, one of a brokendown coach with
highwaymen coming over the hill, and one of the postman bringing
loads and loads of parcels. You have all Christmas in those four
pictures. But there is room for another page--let it be a
coloured page, of half a dozen sketches, the period and the
lettering very early English. "Ye Baron de Marchebankes calleth
for hys varlet." "Ye varlet cometh righte hastilie---" You know
the delightful kind of thing.

I confess that this is the sort of Christmas number which I love.
You may say that you have seen it all before; I say that that is
why I love it. The best of Christmas is that it reminds us of
other Christmases; it should be the boast of Christmas numbers
that they remind us of other Christmas numbers.

But though I doubt if I shall get quite what I want from any one
number this year, yet there will surely be enough in all the
numbers to bring Christmas very pleasantly before the eyes. In a
dull November one likes to be reminded that Christmas is coming.
It is perhaps as well that the demands of the colonies give us
our Christmas numbers so early. At the same time it is difficult
to see why New Zealand wants a Christmas number at all. As I
glance above at the plan of my model paper I feel more than ever
how adorable it would be--but not, oh not with the thermometer at
a hundred in the shade.

No Flowers by Request

If a statement is untrue, it is not the more respectable because
it has been said in Latin. We owe the war, directly, no doubt, to
the Kaiser, but indirectly to the Roman idiot who said, "Si vis
pacem, para bellum." Having mislaid my Dictionary of Quotations I
cannot give you his name, but I have my money on him as the
greatest murderer in history.

Yet there have always been people who would quote this classical
lie as if it were at least as authoritative as anything said in
the Sermon on the Mount. It was said a long time ago, and in a
strange language--that was enough for them. In the same way they
will say, "De mortuis nil nisi bonum." But I warn them solemnly
that it will take a good deal more than this to stop me from
saying what I want to say about the recently expired month of

I have waited purposely until February was  dead. Cynics may say
that this was only wisdom, in that a damnatory notice from me
might have inspired that unhappy month to an unusually brilliant
run, out of sheer wilfulness. I prefer to think that it was good
manners which forbade me to be disrespectful to her very face. It
is bad manners to speak the truth to the living, but February is
dead. De mortuis nil nisi veritas.

The truth about poor February is that she is the worst month of
the year. But let us be fair to her. She has never had a chance.
We cannot say to her, "Look upon this picture and on this. This
you might have been; this you are." There is no "might have been"
for her, no ideal February. The perfect June we can imagine for
ourselves. Personally I do not mind how hot it be, but there must
be plenty of strawberries. The perfect April--ah, one dare not
think of the perfect April. That can only happen in the next
world. Yet April may always be striving for it, though she never
reach it. But the perfect February--what is it? I know not. Let
us pity February, then, even while we blame her.

For February comes just when we are sick of winter, and therefore
she may not be wintry. Wishing to do her best, she ventures her
spring costume, crocus and primrose and daffodil days; days when
the first faint perfume of mint is blown down the breezes, and
one begins to wonder how the lambs are shaping. Is that the ideal
February? Ah no! For we cannot be deceived. We know that spring
is not here; that March is to come with its frosts and perchance
its snows, a worse March for the milder February, a plunge back
into the winter which poor February tried to flatter us was over.

Such a February is a murderer--an accessory to the murders of
March. She lays the ground-bait for the victims. Out pop the
stupid little flowers, eager to be deceived (one could forgive
the annuals, but the perennials ought to know better by now), and
down comes March, a roaring lion, to gobble them up.

And how much lost fruit do we not owe to February! One feels--a
layman like myself feels--that it should be enough to have a
strawberry-bed, a peach-tree, a fig-tree. If these are not
enough, then the addition of a gardener should make the thing a
certainty. Yet how often will not a gardener refer one back to
February as the real culprit. The tree blossomed too early; the
late frosts killed it; in the annoyance of the moment one may
reproach the gardener for allowing it to blossom so prematurely,
but one cannot absolve February of all blame.

It is no good, then, for February to try to be spring; no hope
for her to please us by prolonging winter. What is left to her?
She cannot even give us the pleasure of the hairshirt. Did April
follow her, she could make the joys of that wonderful month even
keener for us by the contrast, but--she is followed by March.
What can one do with March? One does not wear a hair-shirt merely
to enjoy the pleasure of following it by one slightly less hairy.

Well, we may agree that February is no good. "Oh, to be out of
England now that February's here," is what Browning should have
said. One has no use for her in this country. Pope Gregory, or
whoever it was that arranged the calendar, must have had
influential relations in England who urged on him the need for
making February the shortest month of the year. Let us be
grateful to His Holiness that he was so persuaded. He was a
little obstinate about Leap Year; a more imaginative pontiff
would have given the extra day to April; but he was amenable
enough for a man who only had his relations' word for it. Every
first of March I raise my glass to Gregory. Even as a boy I used
to drink one of his powders to him at about this time of the

February fill-dyke! Well, that's all that can be said for it.

The Unfairness of Things

The most interesting column in any paper (always excepting those
which I write myself) is that entitled "The World's Press,"
wherein one may observe the world as it appears to a press of
which one has for the most part never heard. It is in this column
that I have just made the acquaintance of The Shoe Manufacturers'
Monthly, the journal to which the elect turn eagerly upon each
new moon. (Its one-time rival, The Footwear Fortnightly, has, I
am told, quite lost its following.) The bon mot of the current
number of The S.M.M. is a note to the effect that Kaffirs have a
special fondness for boots which make a noise. I quote this
simply as an excuse for referring to the old problem of the
squeaky boots and the squeaky collar; the problem, in fact, of
the unfairness of things.

The majors and clubmen who assist their country with columns of
advice on clothes have often tried to explain why a collar
squeaks, but have never done so to the satisfaction of any man of
intelligence. They say that the collar is too large or too small,
too dirty or too clean. They say that if you have your collars
made for you (like a gentleman) you will be all right, but that
if you buy the cheap, ready-made article, what can you expect?
They say that a little soap on the outside of the shirt, or a
little something on the inside of something else, that this,
that, and the other will abate the nuisance. They are quite

The simple truth, and everybody knows it really, is that collars
squeak for some people and not for others. A squeaky collar round
the neck of a man is a comment, not upon the collar, but upon the
man. That man is unlucky. Things are against him. Nature may have
done all for him that she could, have given him a handsome
outside and a noble inside, but the world of inanimate objects is
against him.

We all know the man whom children or dogs love instinctively. It
is a rare gift to be able to inspire this affection. The Fates
have been kind to him. But to inspire the affection of inanimate
things is something greater. The man to whom a collar or a window
sash takes instinctively is a man who may truly be said to have
luck on his side. Consider him for a moment. His collar never
squeaks; his clothes take a delight in fitting him. At a dinner-
party he walks as by instinct straight to his seat, what time you
and I are dragging our partners round and round the table in
search of our cards. The windows of taxicabs open to him easily.
When he travels by train his luggage works its way to the front
of the van and is the first to jump out at Paddington. String
hastens to undo itself when he approaches; he is the only man who
can make a decent impression with sealing-wax. If he is asked by
the hostess in a crowded drawing-room to ring the bell, that bell
comes out from behind the sofa where it hid from us and places
itself in a convenient spot before his eyes. Asparagus stiffens
itself at sight of him, macaroni winds itself round his fork.

You will observe that I am not describing just the ordinary lucky
man. He may lose thousands on the Stock Exchange; he may be
jilted; whenever he goes to the Oval to see Hobbs, Hobbs may be
out first ball; he may invariably get mixed up in railway
accidents. That is a kind of ill-luck which one can bear, not
indeed without grumbling, but without rancour. The man who is
unlucky to experience these things at least has the consolation
of other people's sympathy; but the man who is the butt of
inanimate things has no one's sympathy. We may be on a motor bus
which overturns and nobody will say that it is our fault, but if
our collar deliberately and maliciously squeaks, everybody will
say that we ought to buy better collars; if our dinner cards hide
from us, or the string of our parcel works itself into knots, we
are called clumsy; our asparagus and macaroni give us a
reputation for bad manners; our luggage gets us a name for

I think we, we others, have a right to complain. However lucky we
may be in other ways, if we have not this luck of inanimate
things we have a right to complain. It is pleasant, I admit, to
win £500 on the Stock Exchange by a stroke of sheer good fortune,
but even in the blue of this there is a cloud, for the next £500
that we win by a stroke of shrewd business will certainly be put
down to luck. Luck is given the credit of all our successes, but
the other man is given the credit of all his luck. That is why we
have a right to complain.

I do not know why things should conspire against a man. Perhaps
there is some justice in it. It is possible--nay, probable--that
the man whom things love is hated by animals and children--even
by his fellow-men. Certainly he is hated by me. Indeed, the more
I think of him, the more I see that he is not a nice man in any
way. The gods have neglected him; he has no good qualities. He is
a worm. No wonder, then, that this small compensation is doled
out to him--the gift of getting on with inanimate things. This
gives him (with the unthinking) a certain reputation for
readiness and dexterity. If ever you meet a man with such a
reputation, you will know what he really is.

Circumstances connected with the hour at which I rose this
morning ordained that I should write this article in a dressing-
gown. I shall now put on a collar. I hope it will squeak.


The confession-book, I suppose, has disappeared. It is twenty
years since I have seen one. As a boy I told some inquisitive
owner what was my favourite food (porridge, I fancy), my
favourite hero in real life and in fiction, my favourite virtue
in woman, and so forth. I was a boy, and it didn't really matter
what were my likes and dislikes then, for I was bound to outgrow
them. But Heaven help the journalist of those days who had to
sign his name to opinions so definite! For when a writer has said
in print (as I am going to say directly) that the daffodil is his
favourite flower, simply because, looking round his room for
inspiration, he has seen a bowl of daffodils on his table and
thought it beautiful, it would be hard on him if some confession-
album-owner were to expose him in the following issue as already
committed on oath to the violet. Imaginative art would become
impossible. Fortunately I have no commitments, and I may affirm
that the daffodil is, and always has been, my favourite flower.
Many people will put their money on the rose, but it is
impossible that the rose can give them the pleasure which the
daffodil gives them, just as it is impossible that a thousand
pounds can give Rockefeller the pleasure which it gives you or
me. For the daffodil comes, not only before the swallow comes--
which is a matter of indifference, as nobody thinks any the worse
of the swallow in consequence--but before all the many flowers of
summer; it comes on the heels of a flowerless winter. Whereby it
is as superior to the rose as an oasis in the Sahara is to
champagne at a wedding.

Yes, a favourite flower must be a spring flower--there is no
doubt about that. You have your choice, then, of the daffodil,
the violet, the primrose, and the crocus. The bluebell comes too
late, the cowslip is but an indifferent primrose; camelias and
anemones and all the others which occur to you come into a
different class. Well, then, will you choose the violet or the
crocus? Or will you follow the legendary Disraeli and have
primroses on your statue?

I write as one who spends most of his life in London, and for me
the violet, the primrose, and the crocus are lacking in the same
necessary quality--they pick badly. My favourite flower must
adorn my house; to show itself off to the best advantage within
doors it must have a long stalk. A crocus, least of all, is a
flower to be plucked. I admit its charm as the first hint of
spring that is vouchsafed to us in the parks, but I want it
nearer home than that. You cannot pick a crocus and put it in
water; nor can you be so cruel as to spoil the primrose and the
violet by taking them from their natural setting; but the
daffodil cries aloud to be picked. It is what it is waiting for.

"Long stalks, please." Who, being commanded by his lady to bring
in flowers for the house, has not received this warning? And was
there ever a stalk to equal the daffodil's for length and
firmness and beauty? Other flowers must have foliage to set them
off, but daffodils can stand by themselves in a bowl, and their
green and yellow dress brings all spring into the room. A house
with daffodils in it is a house lit up, whether or no the sun be
shining outside. Daffodils in a green bowl--and let it snow if it

Wordsworth wrote a poem about daffodils. He wrote poems about
most flowers. If a plant would be unique it must be one which had
never inspired him to song. But he did not write about daffodils
in a bowl. The daffodils which I celebrate are stationary;
Wordsworth's lived on the banks of Ullswater, and fluttered and
tossed their heads and danced in the breeze. He hints that in
their company even he might have been jocose--a terrifying
thought, which makes me happier to have mine safely indoors. When
he first saw them there (so he says) he gazed and gazed and
little thought what wealth the show to him had brought. Strictly
speaking, it hadn't brought him in anything at the moment, but he
must have known from his previous experiences with the daisy and
the celandine that it was good for a certain amount.

   A simple daffodil to him
   Was so much matter for a slim
   Volume at two and four.

You may say, of course, that I am in no better case, but then I
have never reproached other people (as he did) for thinking of a
primrose merely as a primrose.

But whether you prefer them my way or Wordsworth's--indoors or
outdoors--will make no difference in this further matter to which
finally I call your attention. Was there ever a more beautiful
name in the world than daffodil? Say it over to yourself, and
then say "agapanthus" or "chrysanthemum," or anything else you
please, and tell me if the daffodils do not have it.

  Pansies, lilies, kingcups, daisies,   Let them live upon their
praises;   Long as there's a sun that sets,   Primroses will have
their glory;   Long as there are violets   They will have a place
in story;   But for flowers my bowls to fill,   Give me just the

As Wordsworth ought to have said.

A Household Book

Once on a time I discovered Samuel Butler; not the other two, but
the one who wrote The Way of All Flesh, the second-best novel in
the English language. I say the second-best, so that, if you
remind me of Tom Jones or The Mayor of Casterbridge or any other
that you fancy, I can say that, of course, that one is the best.
Well, I discovered him, just as Voltaire discovered Habakkuk, or
your little boy discovered Shakespeare the other day, and I
committed my discovery to the world in two glowing articles. Not
unnaturally the world remained unmoved. It knew all about Samuel

Last week I discovered a Frenchman, Claude Tillier, who wrote in
the early part of last century a book called Mon Oncle Benjamin,
which may be freely translated My Uncle Benjamin. (I read it in
the translation.) Eager as I am to be lyrical about it, I shall
refrain. I think that I am probably safer with Tillier than with
Butler, but I dare not risk it. The thought of your scorn at my
previous ignorance of the world-famous Tillier, your amused
contempt because I have only just succeeded in borrowing the
classic upon which you were brought up, this is too much for me.
Let us say no more about it. Claude Tillier--who has not heard of
Claude Tillier? Mon oncle Benjamin--who has not read it, in
French or (as I did) in American? Let us pass on to another book.

For I am going to speak of another discovery; of a book which
should be a classic, but is not; of a book of which nobody has
heard unless through me. It was published some twelve years ago,
the last-published book of a well-known writer. When I tell you
his name you will say, "Oh yes! I LOVE his books!" and you will
mention SO-AND-SO, and its equally famous sequel SUCH-AND-SUCH.
But when I ask you if you have read MY book, you will profess
surprise, and say that you have never heard of it. "Is it as good
as SO-AND-SO and SUCH-AND-SUCH?" you will ask, hardly believing
that this could be possible. "Much better," I shall reply--and
there, if these things were arranged properly, would be another
ten per cent, in my pocket. But, believe me, I shall be quite
content with your gratitude. Well, the writer of my book is
Kenneth Grahame. You have heard of him? Good, I thought so. The
books you have read are The Golden Age. and Dream Days. Am I not
right? Thank you. But the book you have not read-- my book--is
The Wind in the Willows. Am I not right again? Ah, I was afraid

The reason why I knew you had not read it is the reason why I
call it "my" book. For the last ten or twelve years I have been
recommending it. Usually I speak about it at my first meeting
with a stranger. It is my opening remark, just as yours is
something futile about the weather. If I don't get it in at the
beginning, I squeeze it in at the end. The stranger has got to
have it some time. Should I ever find myself in the dock, and one
never knows, my answer to the question whether I had anything to
say would be, "Well, my lord, if I might just recommend a book to
the jury before leaving." Mr. Justice Darling would probably
pretend that he had read it, but he wouldn't deceive me.

For one cannot recommend a book to all the hundreds of people
whom one has met in ten years without discovering whether it is
well known or not. It is the amazing truth that none of those
hundreds had heard of The Wind in the Willows  until I told them
about it. Some of them had never heard of Kenneth Grahame; well,
one did not have to meet them again, and it takes all sorts to
make a world. But most of them were in your position--great
admirers of the author and his two earlier famous books, but
ignorant thereafter. I had their promise before they left me, and
waited confidently for their gratitude. No doubt they also spread
the good news in their turn, and it is just possible that it
reached you in this way, but it was to me, none the less, that
your thanks were due. For instance, you may have noticed a couple
of casual references to it, as if it were a classic known to all,
in a famous novel published last year. It was I who introduced
that novelist to it six months before. Indeed, I feel sometimes
that it was I who wrote The Wind in the Willows, and recommended
it to Kenneth Grahame ... but perhaps I am wrong here, for I have
not the pleasure of his acquaintance. Nor, as I have already
lamented, am I financially interested in its sale, an explanation
which suspicious strangers require from me sometimes.

I shall not describe the book, for no description would help it.
But I shall just say this; that it is what I call a Household
Book. By a Household Book I mean a book which everybody in the
household loves and quotes continually ever afterwards; a book
which is read aloud to every new guest, and is regarded as the
touchstone of his worth. But it is a book which makes you feel
that, though everybody in the house loves it, it is only you who
really appreciate it at its true value, and that the others are
scarcely worthy of it. It is obvious, you persuade yourself, that
the author was thinking of you when he wrote it. "I hope this
will please Jones," were his final words, as he laid down his

Well, of course, you will order the book at once. But I must give
you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so
ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my
taste, still less on the genius of Kenneth Grahame. You are
merely sitting in judgment on yourself. ... You may be worthy; I
do not know. But it is you who are on trial.


Food is a subject of conversation more spiritually refreshing
even than the weather, for the number of possible remarks about
the weather is limited, whereas of food you can talk on and on
and on. Moreover, no heat of controversy is induced by mention of
the atmospheric conditions (seeing that we are all agreed as to
what is a good day and what is a bad one), and where there can be
no controversy there can be no intimacy in agreement. But tastes
in food differ so sharply (as has been well said in Latin and, I
believe, also in French) that a pronounced agreement in them is
of all bonds of union the most intimate. Thus, if a man hates
tapioca pudding he is a good fellow and my friend.

To each his favourite meal. But if I say that lunch is mine I do
not mean that I should like lunch for breakfast, dinner, and tea;
I do not mean that of the four meals (or five, counting supper)
lunch is the one which I most enjoy--at which I do myself most
complete justice. This is so far from being true that I
frequently miss lunch altogether ... the exigencies of the
journalistic profession. To-day, for instance, I shall probably
miss it. No; what I mean is that lunch is the meal which in the
abstract appeals to me most because of its catholicity.

We breakfast and dine at home, or at other people's homes, but we
give ourselves up to London for lunch, and London has provided an
amazing variety for us. We can have six courses and a bottle of
champagne, with a view of the river, or one poached egg and a box
of dominoes, with a view of the skylights; we can sit or we can
stand, and without doubt we could, if we wished, recline in the
Roman fashion; we can spend two hours or five minutes at it; we
can have something different, every day of the week, or cling
permanently (as I know one man to do) to a chop and chips--and
what you do with the chips I have never discovered, for they
combine so little of nourishment with so much of inconvenience
that Nature can never have meant them for provender. Perhaps as
counters. ... But I am wandering from my theme.

There is this of romance about lunch, that one can imagine great
adventures with stockbrokers, actor-managers, publishers, and
other demigods to have had their birth at the luncheon table. If
it is a question of "bulling" margarine or "bearing" boot-polish,
if the name for the new play is still unsettled, if there is some
idea of an American edition--whatever the emergency, the final
word on the subject is always the same, "Come and have lunch with
me, and we'll talk it over"; and when the waiter has taken your
hat and coat, and you have looked diffidently at the menu, and in
reply to your host's question, "What will you drink?" have made
the only possible reply, "Oh, anything that you're drinking"
(thus showing him that you don't insist on a bottle to yourself)-
-THEN you settle down to business, and the history of England is
enlarged by who can say how many pages.

And not only does one inaugurate business matters at lunch, but
one also renews old friendships. Who has not had said to him in
the Strand, "Hallo, old fellow, I haven't seen you for ages; you
must come and lunch with me one day"? And who has not answered,
"Rather! I should love to," and passed on with a glow at the
heart which has not died out until the next day, when the
incident is forgotten? An invitation to dinner is formal, to tea
unnecessary, to breakfast impossible, but there is a casualness,
very friendly and pleasant, about invitations to lunch which make
them complete in themselves, and in no way dependent on any lunch
which may or may not follow.

Without having exhausted the subject of lunch in London (and I
should like to say that it is now certain that I shall not have
time to partake to-day), let us consider for a moment lunch in
the country. I do not mean lunch in the open air, for it is
obvious that there is no meal so heavenly as lunch thus eaten,
and in a short article like this I have no time in which to dwell
upon the obvious. I mean lunch at a country house. Now, the most
pleasant feature of lunch at a country house is this--that you
may sit next to whomsoever you please. At dinner she may be
entrusted to quite the wrong man; at breakfast you are faced with
the problem of being neither too early for her nor yet too late
for a seat beside her; at tea people have a habit of taking your
chair at the moment when a simple act of courtesy has drawn you
from it in search of bread and butter; but at lunch you follow
her in and there you are--fixed.

But there is a place, neither London nor the country, which
brings out more than any other place all that is pleasant in
lunch. It was really the recent experience of this which set me
writing about lunch. Lunch in the train! It should be the "second
meal"--about 1.30-- because then you are really some distance
from London and are hungry. The panorama flashes by outside,
nearer and nearer comes the beautiful West; you cross rivers and
hurry by little villages, you pass slowly and reverently through
strange old towns ... and, inside, the waiter leaves the potatoes
next to you and slips away.

Well, it is his own risk. Here goes. ... What I say is that, if a
man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of

The Friend of Man

When swords went out of fashion, walking-sticks, I suppose, came
into fashion. The present custom has its advantages. Even in his
busiest day the hero's sword must have returned at times to its
scabbard, and what would he do then with nothing in his right
hand? But our walking-sticks have no scabbards. We grasp them
always, ready at any moment to summon a cab, to point out a view,
or to dig an enemy in the stomach. Meanwhile we slash the air in
defiance of the world.

My first stick was a malacca, silver at the collar and polished
horn as to the handle. For weeks it looked beseechingly at me
from a shop window, until a lucky birthday tip sent me in after
it. We went back to school together that afternoon, and if
anything can lighten the cloud which hangs over the last day of
holidays, it is the glory of some such stick as mine. Of course
it was too beautiful to live long; yet its death became it. I had
left many a parental umbrella in the train unhonoured and unsung.
My malacca was mislaid in an hotel in Norway. And even now when
the blinds are drawn and we pull up our chairs closer round the
wood fire, what time travellers tell to awestruck stay-at-homes
tales of adventure in distant lands, even now if by a lucky
chance Norway is mentioned, I tap the logs carelessly with the
poker and drawl, "I suppose you didn't happen to stay at
Vossvangen? I left a malacca cane there once. Rather a good one
too." So that there is an impression among my friends that there
is hardly a town in Europe but has had its legacy from me. And
this I owe to my stick.

My last is of ebony, ivory-topped. Even though I should spend
another fortnight abroad I could not take this stick with me. It
is not a stick for the country; its heart is in Piccadilly.
Perhaps it might thrive in Paris if it could stand the sea
voyage. But no, I cannot see it crossing the Channel; in a cap I
am no companion for it. Could I step on to the boat in a silk hat
and then retire below--but I am always unwell below, and that
would not suit its dignity. It stands now in a corner of my room
crying aloud to be taken to the opera. I used to dislike men who
took canes to Covent Garden, but I see now how it must have been
with them. An ebony stick topped with ivory has to be humoured.
Already I am considering a silk-lined cape, and it is settled
that my gloves are to have black stitchings.

Such is my last stick, for it was given to me this very morning.
At my first sight of it I thought that it might replace the
common one which I lost in an Easter train. That was silly of me.
I must have a stick of less gentle birth which is not afraid to
be seen with a soft hat. It must be a stick which I can drop, or
on occasion kick; one with which I can slash dandelions; one for
which, when ultimately I leave it in a train, conscience does not
drag me to Scotland Yard. In short, a companionable stick for a
day's journey; a country stick.

The ideal country stick will never be found. It must be thick
enough to stand much rough usage of a sort which I will explain
presently, and yet it must be thin so that it makes a pleasant
whistling sound through the air. Its handle must be curved so
that it can pull down the spray of blossom of which you are in
need, or pull up the luncheon basket which you want even more
badly, and yet it must be straight so that you can drive an old
golf ball with it. It must be unadorned, so that it shall lack
ostentation, and yet it must have a band, so that when you throw
stones at it you can count two if you hit the silver. You begin
to see how difficult it is to achieve the perfect stick.

Well, each one of us must let go those properties which his own
stick can do best without. For myself I insist on this--my stick
must be good for hitting and good to hit with. A stick, we are
agreed, is something to have in the hand when walking. But there
are times when we sit down; and if our journey shall have taken
us to the beach, our stick must at once be propped in the sand
while from a suitable distance we throw stones at it. However
beautiful the sea, its beauty can only be appreciated properly in
this fashion. Scenery must not be taken at a gulp; we must absorb
it unconsciously. With the mind gently exercised as to whether we
scored a two on the band or a one just below it, and with the
muscles of the arm at stretch, we are in a state ideally
receptive of beauty.

And, for my other essential of a country stick, it must be
possible to grasp it by the wrong end and hit a ball with it. So
it must have no ferrule, and the handle must be heavy and
straight. In this way was golf born; its creator roamed the
fields after his picnic lunch, knocking along the cork from his
bottle. At first he took seventy-nine from the gate in one field
to the oak tree in the next; afterwards fifty-four. Then suddenly
he saw the game. We cannot say that he w;is no lover of Nature.
The desire to knock a ball about, to play silly games with a
stick, comes upon a man most keenly when he is happy; let it be
ascribed that he is happy to the streams and the hedges and the
sunlight through the trees. And so let my stick have a handle
heavy and straight, and let there be no ferrule on the end. Be
sure that I have an old golf ball in my pocket.

In London one is not so particular. Chiefly we want a stick for
leaning on when we are talking to an acquaintance suddenly met.
After the initial "Hulloa!" and the discovery that we have
nothing else of importance to say, the situation is distinctly
eased by the remembrance of our stick. It gives us a support
moral and physical, such as is supplied in a drawing-room by a
cigarette. For this purpose size and shape are immaterial. Yet
this much is essential--it must not be too slippery, or in our
nervousness we may drop it altogether. My ebony stick with the
polished ivory top--

But I have already decided that my ebony stick is out of place
with the everyday hat. It stands in its corner waiting for the
opera season, I must get another stick for rough work.

The Diary Habit

A newspaper has been lamenting the decay of the diary-keeping
habit, with the natural result that several correspondents have
written to say that they have kept diaries all their lives. No
doubt all these diaries now contain the entry, "Wrote to the
Daily ---- to deny the assertion that the diary-keeping habit is
on the wane." Of such little things are diaries made.

I suppose this is the reason why diaries are so rarely kept
nowadays--that nothing ever happens to anybody. A diary would be
worth writing up if it could be written like this:--

MONDAY.--"Another exciting day. Shot a couple of hooligans on my
way to business and was forced to give my card to the police. On
arriving at the office was surprised to find the building on
fire, but was just in time to rescue the confidential treaty
between England and Switzerland. Had this been discovered by the
public, war would infallibly have resulted. Went out to lunch and
saw a runaway elephant in the Strand. Thought little of it at the
time, but mentioned it to my wife in the evening. She agreed that
it was worth recording."

TUESDAY.--"Letter from solicitor informing me that I have come
into £1,000,000 through the will of an Australian gold-digger
named Tomkins. On referring to my diary I find that I saved his
life two years ago by plunging into the Serpentine. This is very
gratifying. Was late at the office as I had to look in at the
Palace on the way, in order to get knighted, but managed to get a
good deal of work done before I was interrupted by a madman with
a razor, who demanded £100. Shot him after a desperate struggle.
Tea at an ABC, where I met the Duke of ---. Fell into the Thames
on my way home, but swam ashore without difficulty."

Alas! we cannot do this. Our diaries are very prosaic, very dull
indeed. They read like this:--

Monday.--"Felt inclined to stay in bed this morning and send an
excuse to the office, but was all right after a bath and
breakfast. Worked till 1.30 and had lunch. Afterwards worked till
five, and had my hair cut on the way home. After dinner read A
Man's Passion, by Theodora Popgood. Rotten. Went to bed at

Tuesday.--"Had a letter from Jane. Did some good work in the
morning, and at lunch met Henry, who asked me to play golf with
him on Saturday. Told him I was playing with Peter, but said I
would like a game with him on the Saturday after. However, it
turned out he was playing with William then, so we couldn't fix
anything up. Bought a pair of shoes on my way home, but think
they will be too tight. The man says, though, that they will

Wednesday.--"Played dominoes at lunch and won fivepence."

If this sort of diary is now falling into decay, the world is not
losing much. But at least it is a harmless pleasure to some to
enter up their day's doings each evening, and in years to come it
may just possibly be of interest to the diarist to know that it
was on Monday, 27th April, that he had his hair cut. Again, if in
the future any question arose as to the exact date of Henry's
decease, we should find in this diary proof that anyhow he was
alive as late as Tuesday, 28th April. That might, though it
probably won't, be of great importance. But there is another sort
of diary which can never be of any importance at all. I make no
apology for giving a third selection of extracts.

Monday.--"Rose at nine and came down to find a letter from Mary.
How little we know our true friends! Beneath the mask of outward
affection there may lurk unknown to us the serpent's tooth of
jealousy. Mary writes that she can make nothing for my stall at
the bazaar as she has her own stall to provide for. Ate my
breakfast mechanically, my thoughts being far away. What, after
all, is life? Meditated deeply on the inner cosmos till lunch-
time. Afterwards I lay down for an hour and composed my mind. I
was angry this morning with Mary. Ah, how petty! Shall I never be
free from the bonds of my own nature? Is the better self within
me never to rise to the sublime heights of selflessness of which
it is capable? Rose at four and wrote to Mary, forgiving her.
This has been a wonderful day for the spirit."

Yes; I suspect that a good many diaries record adventures of the
mind and soul for lack of stirring adventures to the body. If
they cannot say, "Attacked by a lion in Bond Street to-day," they
can at least say, "Attacked by doubt in St. Paul's Cathedral."
Most people will prefer, in the absence of the lion, to say
nothing, or nothing more important than "Attacked by the
hairdresser with a hard brush"; but there are others who must get
pen to paper somehow, and who find that only in regard to their
emotions have they anything unique to say.

But, of course, there is ever within the breasts of all diarists
the hope that their diaries may some day be revealed to the
world. They may be discovered by some future generation, amazed
at the simple doings of the twentieth century, or their
publication may be demanded by the next generation, eager to know
the inner life of the great man just dead. Best of all, they may
be made public by the writers themselves in their

Yes; the diarist must always have his eye on a possible
autobiography. "I remember," he will write in that great work,
having forgotten all about it, "I distinctly remember"--and here
he will refer to his diary--"meeting X. at lunch one Sunday and
saying to him ..."

What he said will not be of much importance, but it will show you
what a wonderful memory the distinguished author retains in his
old age.

Midsummer Day

There is magic in the woods on Midsummer Day--so people tell me.
Titania conducts her revels. Let others attend her court; for
myself I will beg to be excused. I have no heart for revelling on
Midsummer Day. On any other festival I will be as jocund as you
please, but on the longest day of the year I am overburdened by
the thought that from this moment the evenings are beginning to
draw in. We are on the way to winter.

It is on Midsummer Day, or thereabouts, that the cuckoo changes
his tune, knowing well that the best days are over and that in a
little while it will be time for him to fly away. I should like
this to be a learned article on "The Habits of the Cuckoo," and
yet, if it were, I doubt if I should love him at the end of it.
It is best to know only the one thing of him, that he lays his
eggs in another bird's nest--a friendly idea--and beyond that to
take him as we find him. And we find that his only habit which
matters is the delightful one of saying "Cuckoo."

The nightingale is the bird of melancholy, the thrush sings a
disturbing song of the good times to come, the blackbird whistles
a fine, cool note which goes best with a February morning, and
the skylark trills his way to a heaven far out of the reach of
men; and what the lesser white-throat says I have never rightly
understood. But the cuckoo is the bird of present joys; he keeps
us company on the lawns of summer, he sings under a summer sun in
a wonderful new world of blue and green. I think only happy
people hear him. He is always about when one is doing pleasant
things. He never sings when the sun hides behind banks of clouds,
or if he does, it is softly to himself so that he may not lose
the note. Then "Cuckoo!" he says aloud, and you may be sure that
everything is warm and bright again.

But now he is leaving us. Where he goes I know not, but I think
of him vaguely as at Mozambique, a paradise for all good birds
who like their days long. If geography were properly taught at
schools, I should know where Mozambique was, and what sort of
people live there. But it may be that, with all these cuckoos
cuckooing and swallows swallowing from July to April, the country
is so full of immigrants that there is no room for a stable
population. It may also be, of course, that Mozambique is not the
place I am thinking of; yet it has a birdish sound.

The year is arranged badly. If Mr. Willett were alive he would do
something about it. Why should the days begin to get shorter at
the moment when summer is fully arrived? Why should it be
possible for the vicar to say that the evenings are drawing in,
when one is still having strawberries for tea? Sometimes I think
that if June were called August, and April June, these things
would be easier to bear. The fact that in what is now called
August we should be telling each other how wonderfully hot it was
for October would help us to bear the slow approach of winter. On
a Midsummer Day in such a calendar one would revel gladly, and
there would be no midsummer madness.

Already the oak trees have taken on an autumn look. I am told
that this is due to a local irruption of caterpillars, and not to
the waning of the summer, but it has a suspicious air. Probably
the caterpillars knew. It seems strange now to reflect that there
was a time when I liked caterpillars; when I chased them up
suburban streets, and took them home to fondle them; when I knew
them all by their pretty names, assisted them to become
chrysalises, and watched over them in that unprotected state as
if I had been their mother. Ah, how dear were my little charges
to me then! But now I class them with mosquitoes and blight and
harvesters, the pests of the countryside. Why, I would let them
crawl up my arm in those happy days of old, and now I cannot even
endure to have them dropping gently into my hair. And I should
not know what to say to a chrysalis.

There are great and good people who know all about solstices and
zeniths, and they can tell you just why it is that 24th June is
so much hotter and longer than 24th December--why it is so in
England, I should say. For I believe (and they will correct me if
I am wrong) that at the equator the days and nights are always of
equal length. This must make calling almost an impossibility, for
if one cannot say to one's hostess, "How quickly the days are
lengthening (or drawing in)," one might as well remain at home.
"How stationary the days are remaining" might pass on a first
visit, but the old inhabitants would not like it rubbed into
them. They feel, I am sure, that however saddening a Midsummer
Day may be, an unchanging year is much more intolerable. One can
imagine the superiority of a resident who lived a couple of miles
off the equator, and took her visitors proudly to the end of the
garden where the seasons were most mutable. There would be no
bearing with her.

In these circumstances I refuse to be depressed. I console myself
with the thought that if 25th June is the beginning of winter, at
least there is a next summer to which I may look forward. Next
summer anything may happen. I suppose a scientist would be
considerably surprised if the sun refused to get up one morning,
or, having got up, declined to go to bed again. It would not
surprise ME. The amazing thing is that Nature goes on doing the
same things in the same way year after year; any sudden little
irrelevance on her part would be quite understandable. When the
wise men tell us so confidently that there will be an eclipse of
the sun in 1921, invisible at Greenwich, do they have no qualms
of doubt as the day draws near? Do they glance up from their
whitebait at the appointed hour, just in case it IS visible after
all? Or if they have journeyed to Pernambuco, or wherever the
best view is to be obtained, do they wonder ... perhaps ... and
tell each other the night before that, of course, they were
coming to Pernambuco anyhow, to see an aunt?

Perhaps they don't. But for myself I am not so certain, and I
have hopes that, certainly next year, possibly even this year,
the days will go on lengthening after midsummer is over.

At the Bookstall

I have often longed to be a grocer. To be surrounded by so many
interesting things-- sardines, bottled raspberries, biscuits with
sugar on the top, preserved ginger, hams, brawn under glass,
everything in fact that makes life worth living; at one moment to
walk up a ladder in search of nutmeg, at the next to dive under a
counter in pursuit of cinnamon; to serve little girls with a
ha'porth of pear drops and lordly people like you and me with a
pint of cherry gin --is not this to follow the king of trades?
Some day I shall open a grocer's shop, and you will find me in my
spare evenings aproned behind the counter. Look out for the
currants in the window as you come in--I have an idea for
something artistic in the way of patterns there; but, as you love
me, do not offer to buy any. We grocers only put the currants out
for show, and so that we may run our fingers through them
luxuriously when business is slack. I have a good  line in
shortbreads, madam, if I can find the box, but no currants this
evening, I beg you.

Yes, to be a grocer is to live well; but, after all, it is not to
see life. A grocer, in as far as it is possible to a man who
sells both scented soap and pilchards, would become narrow. We do
not come into contact with the outside world much, save through
the medium of potted lobster, and to sell a man potted lobster is
not to have our fingers on his pulse. Potted lobster does not
define a man. All customers are alike to the grocer, provided
their money is good. I perceive now that I was over-hasty in
deciding to become a grocer. That is rather for one's old age.
While one is young, and interested in persons rather than in
things, there is only one profession to follow--the profession of
bookstall clerk.

To be behind a bookstall is indeed to see life. The fascination
of it struck me suddenly as 1 stood in front of a station
bookstall last Monday and wondered who bought the tie-clips. The
answer came to me just as I got into my train-- Ask the man
behind the bookstall. He would know. Yes, and he would know who
bought all his papers and books and pamphlets, and to know this
is to know something about the people in the world. You cannot
tell a man by the lobster he eats, but you can tell something
about him by the literature he reads.

For instance, I once occupied a carriage on an eastern line with,
among others, a middle-aged woman. As soon as we left Liverpool
Street she produced a bag of shrimps, grasped each individual in
turn firmly by the head and tail, and ate him. When she had
finished, she emptied the ends out of the window, wiped her
hands, and settled down comfortably to her paper. What paper?
You'll never guess; I shall have to tell you--The Morning Post.
Now doesn't that give you the woman? The shrimps alone, no; the
paper alone, no; but the two to-gether. Conceive the holy joy of
the bookstall clerk as she and her bag of shrimps-- yes, he could
have told at once they were shrimps--approached and asked for The
Morning Post.

The day can never be dull to the bookstall clerk. I imagine him
assigning in his mind the right paper to each customer. This man
will ask for Golfing--wrong, he wants Cage Birds; that one over
there wants The Motor--ah, well, The Auto-Car, that's near
enough. Soon he would begin to know the different types; he would
learn to distinguish between the patrons of The Dancing Times and
of The Vote, The Era and The Athenaeum. Delightful surprises
would overwhelm him at intervals; as when--a red-letter day in
all the great stations--a gentleman in a check waistcoat makes
the double purchase of Homer's Penny Stories and The Spectator.
On those occasions, and they would be very rare, his faith in
human nature would begin to ooze away, until all at once he would
tell himself excitedly that the man was obviously an escaped
criminal in disguise, rather overdoing the part. After which he
would hand over The Winning Post and The Animals' Friend to the
pursuing detective in a sort of holy awe. What a life!

But he has other things than papers to sell. He knows who buys
those little sixpenny books of funny stories--a problem which has
often puzzled us others; he understands by now the type of man
who wants to read up a few good jokes to tell them down at old
Robinson's, where he is going for the week-end. Our bookstall
clerk doesn't wait to be asked. As soon as this gentleman
approaches, he whips out the book, dusts it, and places it before
the raconteur. He recognizes also at a glance the sort of silly
ass who is always losing his indiarubber umbrella ring. Half-way
across the station he can see him, and he hastens to get a new
card out in readiness. ("Or we would let you have seven for
sixpence, sir.") And even when one of those subtler characters
draws near, about whom it is impossible to say immediately
whether they require a fountain pen with case or the Life and
Letters, reduced to 3s. 6d., of Major-General Clement Bulger,
C.B., even then the man behind the bookstall is not found
wanting. If he is wrong the first time, he never fails to recover
with his second. "Bulger, sir. One of our greatest soldiers."

I thought of these things last Monday, and definitely renounced
the idea of becoming a grocer; and as I wandered round the
bookstall, thinking, I came across a little book, sixpence in
cloth, a shilling in leather, called Proverbs and Maxims. It
contained some thousands of the best thoughts in all languages,
such as have guided men along the path of truth since the
beginning of the world, from "What ho, she bumps!" to "Ich dien,"
and more. The thought occurred to me that an interesting article
might be extracted from it, so I bought the book. Unfortunately
enough I left it in the train before I had time to master it. I
shall be at the bookstall next Monday and I shall have  to buy
another copy. That will be all right; you shan't miss it.

But I am wondering now what the bookstall clerk will make of me.
A man who keeps on buying Proverbs and Maxims. Well, as I say,
they see life.

"Who's Who"

I like my novels long. When I had read three pages of this one I
glanced at the end, and found to my delight that there were two
thousand seven hundred and twenty-five pages more to come. I
returned with a sigh of pleasure to page 4. I was just at the
place where Leslie Patrick Abercrombie wins the prize "for laying
out Prestatyn," some local wrestler, presumably, who had
challenged the crowd at a country fair. After laying him out,
Abercrombie returns to his books and becomes editor of the Town
Planning Review. A wonderfully drawn character.

The plot of this oddly named novel is too complicated to describe
at length. It opens with the conferment of the C.M.G. on Kuli
Khan Abbas in 1903, an incident of which the anonymous author
might have made a good deal more, and closes with a brief
description of the Rev. Samuel Marinus Zwemer's home in New York
City; but much has happened in the meanwhile. Thousands of
characters have made their brief appearance on the stage, and
have been hustled off to make room for others, but so unerringly
are they drawn that we feel that we are in the presence of living
people. Take Colette Willy, for example, who comes in on page
2656 at a time when the denouement is clearly at hand. The
author, who is working up to his great scene --the appointment of
Dr. Norman Wilsmore to the International Commission for the
Publication of Annual Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants--
draws her for us in a few lightning touches. She is "authoress,
actress." She has written two little books: Dialogue de Betes and
La Retraite Sentimentale. That is all. But is it not enough? Has
he not made Colette Willy live before us? A lesser writer might
have plunged into elaborate details about her telephone number
and her permanent address, but, like the true artist that he is,
our author leaves all those things unsaid. For though he can be a
realist when necessary (as in the case of Wallis Budge, to which
I shall refer directly), he does not hesitate to trust to the
impressionist sketch when the situation demands it.

Wallis Budge is apparently the hero of the taie; at any rate, the
author devotes most space to him--some hundred and twenty lines
or so. He does not appear until page 341, by which time we are on
familiar terms with some two or three thousand of the less
important characters. It is typical of the writer that, once he
has described a character to us, has (so to speak) set him on his
feet, he appears to lose interest in his creation, and it is only
rarely that further reference is made to him. Alfred Budd, for
instance, who became British Vice-Consul of San Sebastian in
1907, and resides, as the intelligent reader will have guessed,
at the San Sebastian British Vice-Consulate, obtains the M.V.O.
in 1908. Nothing is said, however, of the resultant effect on his
character, nor is any adequate description given--either then or
later--of the San Sebastian scenery. On the other hand, Bucy, who
first appears on page 340, turns up again on page 644 as the
Marquess de Bucy, a Grandee of Spain. I was half-expecting that
the body would be discovered about this time, but the author is
still busy over his protagonists, and only leaves the Marquess in
order to introduce to us his three musketeers, de Bunsen, de
Burgh, and de Butts.

But it is time that I returned to our hero, Dr. Wallis Budge.
Although Budge is a golfer of world-wide experience, having
"conducted excavations in Egypt, the Island of Meroe, Nineveh and
Mesopotamia," it is upon his mental rather than his athletic
abilities that the author dwells most lovingly. The fact that in
1886 he wrote a pamphlet upon The Coptic History of Elijah the
Tishbite, and followed it up in 1888 with one on The Coptic
Martyrdom of George of Cappadocia (which is, of course, in every
drawing-room) may not seem at first to have much bearing upon the
tremendous events which followed later. But the author is
artistically right in drawing our attention to them; for it is
probable that, had these popular works not been written, our hero
would never have been encouraged to proceed with his Magical
Texts of Za-Walda-Hawaryat, Tasfa Maryam, Sebhat-Le'ab, Gabra
Shelase Tezasu, Aheta-Mikael, which had such a startling effect
on the lives of all the other characters, and led indirectly to
the finding of the blood-stain on the bath-mat. My own suspicions
fell immediately upon Thomas Rooke, of whom we are told nothing
more than "R.W.S.," which is obviously the cabbalistic sign of
some secret society.

One of the author's weaknesses is a certain carelessness in the
naming of his characters. For instance, no fewer than two hundred
and forty-one of them are called Smith. True, he endeavours to
distinguish between them by giving them such different Christian
names as John, Henry, Charles, and so forth, but the result is
bound to be confusing. Sometimes, indeed, he does not even bother
to distinguish between their Christian names. Thus we have three
Henry Smiths, who appear to have mixed themselves up even in the
author's mind. He tells us that Colonel Henry's chief recreation
is "the study of the things around him," but it sounds much more
like that of the Reverend Henry, whose opportunities in the
pulpit would be considerably greater. It is the same with the
Thomsons, the Williamses and others. When once he hits upon one
of these popular names, he is carried away for several pages, and
insists on calling everybody Thomson. But occasionally he has an
inspiration. Temistocle Zammit is a good name, though the humour
of calling a famous musician Zimbalist is perhaps a little too

In conclusion, one can say that while our author's merits are
many, his faults are of no great moment. Certainly he handles his
love-scenes badly. Many of his characters are married but he
tells us little of the early scenes of courtship, and says
nothing of any previous engagements which were afterwards broken
off. Also, he is apparently incapable of describing a child,
unless it is the offspring of titled persons and will itself
succeed to the title; even then he prefers to dismiss it in a
parenthesis. But as a picture of the present-day Englishman his
novel can hardly be surpassed. He is not a writer who is only at
home with one class. He can describe the utterly unknown and
unimportant with as much gusto as he describes the genius or the
old nobility. True, he overcrowds his canvas, but one must
recognize this as his method. It is so that he expresses himself
best; just as one painter can express himself best in a rendering
of the whole Town Council of Slappenham, while another only
requires a single haddock on a plate.

His future will be watched with interest. He hints in his
introduction that he has another volume in preparation, in which
he will introduce to us several entirely new C.B.E.'s, besides
carrying on the histories (in the familiar manner of our modern
novelists) of many of those with whom we have already made
friends. Who's Who, 1920, it is to be called, and I, for one,
shall look out for it with the utmost eagerness.

A Day at Lord's

When one has been without a certain pleasure for a number of
years, one is accustomed to find on returning to it that it is
not quite so delightful as one had imagined. In the years of
abstinence one had built up too glowing a picture, and the
reality turns out to be something much more commonplace.
Pleasant, yes; but, after all, nothing out of the ordinary. Most
of us have made this discovery for ourselves in the last few
months of peace. We have been doing the things which we had
promised ourselves so often during the war, and though they have
been jolly enough, they are not quite all that we dreamed in
France and Flanders. As for the negative pleasures, the pleasure
of not saluting or not attending medical boards, they soon lose
their first freshness.

Yet I have had one pre-war pleasure this week which carried with
it no sort of disappointment. It was as good as I had thought it
would be. I went to Lord's and watched first-class cricket again.

There are people who want to "brighten cricket." They remind me
of a certain manager to whom I once sent a play. He told me, more
politely than truthfully, how much he had enjoyed reading it, and
then pointed out what was wrong with the construction. "You have
two brothers here," he said. "They oughtn't to have been
brothers, they should have been strangers. Then one of them
marries the heroine. That's wrong; the other one ought to have
married her. Then there's Aunt Jane--she strikes me as a very
colourless person. If she could have been arrested in the second
act for bigamy--- And then I should leave out your third act
altogether, and put the fourth act at Monte Carlo, and let the
heroine be blackmailed by-- what's the fellow's name? See what I
mean?" I said that I saw. "You don't mind my criticizing your
play?" he added carelessly. I said that he wasn't criticizing my
play. He was writing another one--one which I hadn't the least
wish to write myself.

And this is what the brighteners of cricket are doing. They are
inventing a new game, a game which those of us who love cricket
have not the least desire to watch. If anybody says that he finds
Lord's or the Oval boring, I shall not be at all surprised; the
only thing that would surprise me would be to hear that he found
it more boring than I find Epsom or Newmarket. Cricket is not to
everybody's taste; nor is racing. But those who like cricket like
it for what it is, and they don't want it brightened by those who
don't like it. Lord Lonsdale, I am sure, would hate me to
brighten up Newmarket for him.

Lord's as it is, which is as it was five years ago, is good
enough for me. I would not alter any of it. To hear the pavilion
bell ring out again was to hear the most musical sound in the
world. The best note is given at 11.20 in the morning; later on
it lacks something of its early ecstasy. When people talk of the
score of this or that opera I smile pityingly to myself. They
have never heard the true music. The clink of ice against glass
gives quite a good note on a suitable day, but it has not the
magic of the Lord's bell.

As was my habit on these occasions five years ago, I bought a
copy of The Daily Telegraph on entering the ground. In the
ordinary way I do not take in this paper, but I have always had a
warm admiration for it, holding it to have qualities which place
it far above any other London journal of similar price. For the
seats at Lord's are uncommonly hard, and a Daily Telegraph,
folded twice and placed beneath one, brings something of the
solace which good literature will always bring. My friends had
noticed before the war, without being able to account for it,
that my views became noticeably more orthodox as the summer
advanced, only to fall away again with the approach of autumn. I
must have been influenced subconsciously by the leading articles.

It rained, and play was stopped for an hour or two. Before the
war I should have been annoyed about this, and I should have said
bitterly that it was just my luck. But now I felt that I was
indeed lucky thus to recapture in one day all the old sensations.
It was delightful to herald again a break in the clouds, and to
hear the crowd clapping hopefully as soon as ever the rain had
ceased; to applaud the umpires, brave fellows, when they ventured
forth at last to inspect the pitch; to realize from the sudden
activity of the groundsmen that the decision was a favourable
one; to see the umpires, this time in their white coats, come out
again with the ball and the bails; and so to settle down once
more to the business of the day.

Perhaps the cricket was slow from the point of view of the
follower of league football, but I do not feel that this is any
condemnation of it. An essay of Lamb's would be slow to a reader
of William le Queux's works, who wanted a new body in each
chapter. I shall not quarrel with anyone who holds that a day at
Lord's is a dull day; if he thinks so, let him take his amusement
elsewhere. But let him not quarrel with me, because I keep to my
opinion, as firmly now as before the war, that a day at Lord's is
a joyous day. If he will leave me the old Lord's, I will promise
not to brighten his football for him.

By the Sea

It is very pleasant in August to recline in Fleet Street, or
wherever stern business keeps one, and to think of the sea. I do
not envy the millions at Margate and Blackpool, at Salcombe and
Minehead, for I have persuaded myself that the sea is not what it
was in my day. Then the pools were always full of starfish;
crabs--really big crabs--stalked the deserted sands; and anemones
waved their feelers at you from every rock.

Poets have talked of the unchanging sea (and they may be right as
regards the actual water), but I fancy that the beach must be
deteriorating. In the last ten years I don't suppose I have seen
more than five starfishes, though I have walked often enough by
the margin of the waves --and not only to look for lost golf
balls. There have been occasional belated little crabs whom I
have interrupted as they were scuttling home, but none of those
dangerous monsters to whom in fearful excitement, and as a
challenge to one's companion, one used to offer a forefinger. I
refuse regretfully your explanation that it is my finger which is
bigger; I should like to think that it were indeed so, and that
the boys and girls of to-day find their crabs and starfishes in
the size and quantity to which I was accustomed. But I am afraid
we cannot hide it from ourselves that the supply is giving out.
It is in fact obvious that one cannot keep on taking starfishes
home and hanging them up in the hall as barometers without
detriment to the coming race.

We had another amusement as children, in which I suppose the
modern child is no longer able to indulge. We used to wait until
the tide was just beginning to go down, and then start to climb
round the foot of the cliffs from one sandy bay to another. The
waves lapped the cliffs, a single false step would have plunged
us into the sea, and we had all the excitement of being caught by
the tide without any of the danger. We had the further
excitement, if we were lucky, of seeing frantic people waving to
us from the top of the cliff, people of inconceivable ignorance,
who thought that the tide was coming up and that we were in
desperate peril. But it was a very special day when that

I have done a little serious climbing since those days, but not
any which was more enjoyable. The sea was never more than a foot
below us and never more than two feet deep, but the shock of
falling into it would have been momentarily as great as that of
falling down a precipice. You had therefore the two joys of
climbing--the physical pleasure of the accomplished effort, and
the glorious mental reaction when your heart returns from the
middle of your throat to its normal place in your chest. And you
had the additional advantages that you couldn't get killed, and
that, if an insuperable difficulty presented itself, you were not
driven back, but merely waited five minutes for the tide to lower
itself and disclose a fresh foothold.

But, as I say, these are not joys for the modern child. The tide,
I dare say, is not what it was --it does not, perhaps, go down so
certainly. Or the cliffs are of a different and of an inferior
shape. Or people are no longer so ignorant as to mistake the
nature of your position. One way or another I expect I do better
in Fleet Street. I shall stay and imagine myself by the sea; I
shall not disappoint myself with the reality.

But I imagine myself away from bands and piers; for a band by a
moonlit sea calls you to be very grown-up, and the beach and the
crabs --such as are left--call you to be a child; and between the
two you can very easily be miserable. I can see myself with a
spade and bucket being extraordinarily happy. The other day I met
a lucky little boy who had a pile of sand in his garden to play
with, and I was fortunate enough to get an order for a tunnel.
The tunnel which I constructed for him was a good one, but not so
good that I couldn't see myself building a better one with
practice. I came away with an ambition for architecture. If ever
I go to the sea again I shall build a proper tunnel; and
afterwards-- well, we shall see. At the moment I feel in
tremendous form. I feel that I could do a cathedral.

There is one joy of childhood, however, which one can never
recapture, and that is the joy of getting wet in the sea. There
is a statue not so far from Fleet Street of the man who
introduced Sunday schools into England, but the man whom boys and
girls would really like to commemorate in lasting stone is the
doctor who first said that salt water couldn't give you a cold.
Whether this was true or not I do not know, but it was a splendid
and never-failing retort to anxious grown-ups, and added much to
the joys of the seaside. But it is a joy no longer possible to
one who is his own master. I, for instance, can get my feet wet
in fresh water if I like; to get them wet in salt water is no
special privilege.

Feeling as I do, writing as I have written, it is sad for me to
know that if I really went to the sea this August it would not be
with a spade and a bucket but with a bag of golf clubs; that even
my evenings would be spent, not on the beach, but on a bicycle
riding to the nearest town for a paper. Yet it is useless for you
to say that I do not love the sea with my old love, that I am no
longer pleased with the old childish things. I shall maintain
that it is the sea which is not what it was, and that I am very
happy in Fleet Street thinking of it as it used to be.

Golden Fruit

Of the fruits of the year I give my vote to the orange. In the
first place it is a perennial--if not in actual fact, at least in
the greengrocer's shop. On the days when dessert is a name given
to a handful of chocolates and a little preserved ginger, when
macêdoine de fruits is the title bestowed on two prunes and a
piece of rhubarb, then the orange, however sour, comes nobly to
the rescue; and on those other days of plenty when cherries and
strawberries and raspberries and gooseberries riot together upon
the table, the orange, sweeter than ever, is still there to hold
its own. Bread and butter, beef and mutton, eggs and bacon, are
not more necessary to an ordered existence than the orange.

It is well that the commonest fruit should be also the best. Of
the virtues of the orange I have not room fully to speak. It has
properties of health-giving, as that it cures influenza and
establishes the complexion. It is clean, for whoever handles it
on its way to your table but handles its outer covering, its top
coat, which is left in the hall. It is round, and forms an
excellent substitute with the young for a cricket ball. The pips
can be flicked at your enemies, and quite a small piece of peel
makes a slide for an old gentleman.

But all this would count nothing had not the orange such
delightful qualities of taste. I dare not let myself go upon this
subject. I am a slave to its sweetness. I grudge every marriage
in that it means a fresh supply of orange blossom, the promise of
so much golden fruit cut short. However, the world must go on.

Next to the orange I place the cherry. The cherry is a
companionable fruit. You can eat it while you are reading or
talking, and you can go on and on, absent-mindedly as it were,
though you must mind not to swallow the stone. The trouble of
disengaging this from the fruit is just sufficient to make the
fruit taste sweeter for the labour. The stalk keeps you from
soiling your fingers; it enables you also to play bob cherry.
Lastly, it is by means of cherries that one penetrates the great
mysteries of life--when and whom you will marry, and whether she
really loves you or is taking you for your worldly prospects. (I
may add here that I know a girl who can tie a knot in the stalk
of a cherry with her tongue. It is a tricky business, and I am
doubtful whether to add it to the virtues of the cherry or not.)

There are only two ways of eating strawberries. One is neat in
the strawberry bed, and the other is mashed on the plate. The
first method generally requires us to take up a bent position
under a net--in a hot sun very uncomfortable, and at any time
fatal to the hair. The second method takes us into the privacy of
the home, for it demands a dressing-gown and no spectators. For
these reasons I think the strawberry an overrated fruit. Yet I
must say that I like to see one floating in cider cup. It gives a
note of richness to the affair, and excuses any shortcomings in
the lunch itself.

Raspberries are a good fruit gone wrong. A raspberry by itself
might indeed be the best fruit of all; but it is almost
impossible to find it alone. I do not refer to its attachment to
the red currant; rather to the attachment to it of so many of our
dumb little friends. The instinct of the lower creatures for the
best is well shown in the case of the raspberry. If it is to be
eaten it must be picked by the hand, well shaken, and then taken.

When you engage a gardener the first thing to do is to come to a
clear understanding with him about the peaches. The best way of
settling the matter is to give him the carrots and the black
currants and the rhubarb for himself, to allow him a free hand
with the groundsel and the walnut trees, and to insist in return
for this that you should pick the peaches when and how you like.
If he is a gentleman he will consent. Supposing that some
satisfactory arrangement were come to, and supposing also that
you had a silver-bladed pocket-knife with which you could peel
them in the open air, then peaches would come very high in the
list of fruits. But the conditions are difficult.

Gooseberries burst at the wrong end and smother you; melons--as
the nigger boy discovered--make your ears sticky; currants, when
you have removed the skin and extracted the seeds, are
unsatisfying; blackberries have the faults of raspberries without
their virtues; plums are never ripe. Yet all these fruits are
excellent in their season. Their faults are faults which we can
forgive during a slight acquaintance, which indeed seem but
pleasant little idiosyncrasies in the stranger. But we could not
live with them.

Yet with the orange we do live year in and year out. That speaks
well for the orange. The fact is that there is an honesty about
the orange which appeals to all of us. If it is going to be bad--
for even the best of us are bad sometimes --it begins to be bad
from the outside, not from the inside. How many a pear which
presents a blooming face to the world is rotten at the core. How
many an innocent-looking apple is harbouring a worm in the bud.
But the orange has no secret faults. Its outside is a mirror of
its inside, and if you are quick you can tell the shopman so
before he slips it into the bag.

Signs of Character

Wellington is said to have chosen his officers by their noses and
chins. The standard for them in noses must have been rather high,
to judge by the portraits of the Duke, but no doubt he made
allowances. Anyhow, by this method he got the men he wanted. Some
people, however, may think that he would have done better to have
let the mouth be the deciding test. The lines of one's nose are
more or less arranged for one at birth. A baby, born with a snub
nose, would feel it hard that the decision that he would be no
use to Wellington should be come to so early. And even if he
arrived in the world with a Roman nose, he might smash it up in
childhood, and with it his chances of military fame. This, I
think you will agree with me, would be unfair.

Now the mouth is much more likely to be a true index of
character. A man may clench his teeth firmly or smile
disdainfully or sneer, or do a hundred things which will be
reflected in his mouth rather than in his nose or chin. It is
through the mouth and eyes that all emotions are expressed, and
in the mouth and eyes therefore that one would expect the marks
of such emotions to be left. I did read once of a man whose nose
quivered with rage, but it is not usual; I never heard of anyone
whose chin did anything. It would be absurd to expect it to.

But there arises now the objection that a man may conceal his
mouth, and by that his character, with a moustache. There arises,
too, the objection that a person whom you thought was a fool,
because he always went about with his mouth open, may only have
had a bad cold in the head. In fact the difficulties of telling
anyone's character by his face seem more insuperable every
moment. How, then, are we to tell whether we may safely trust a
man with our daughter, or our favourite golf club, or whatever we
hold most dear?

Fortunately a benefactor has stepped in at the right moment with
an article on the cigar-manner. Our gentleman has made the
discovery that you can tell a man's nature by the way he handles
his cigar, and he gives a dozen illustrations to explain his
theory. True, this leaves out of account the men who don't smoke
cigars; although, of course, you might sum them all up, with a
certain amount of justification, as foolish. But you do get, I am
assured, a very important index to the characters of smokers--
which is as much as to say of the people who really count.

I am not going to reveal all the clues to you now; partly because
I might be infringing the copyright of another, partly because I
have forgotten them. But the idea roughly is that if a man holds
his cigar between his finger and thumb, he is courageous and kind
to animals (or whatever it may be), and if he holds it between
his first and second fingers he is impulsive but yet considerate
to old ladies, and if he holds it upside down he is (besides
being an ass) jealous and self-assertive, and if he sticks a
knife into the stump so as to smoke it to the very end he is--
yes, you have guessed this one--he is mean. You see what a useful
thing a cigar may be.

I think now I am sorry that this theory has been given to the
world. Yes; I blame myself for giving it further publicity. In
the old days when we bought--or better, had presented to us--a
cigar, a doubt as to whether it was a good one was all that
troubled us. We bit one end and lit the other, and, the doubt
having been solved, proceeded tranquilly to enjoy ourselves. But
all this will be changed now. We shall be horribly self-
conscious. When we take our cigars from our mouths we shall feel
our neighbours' eyes rooted upon our hands, the while we try to
remember which of all the possible manipulations is the one which
represents virtue at its highest power. Speaking for myself, I
hold my cigar in a dozen different ways during an evening (though
never, of course, on the end of a knife), and I tremble to think
of the diabolically composite nature which the modern Wellingtons
of the table must attribute to me. In future I see that I must
concentrate on one method. If only I could remember the one which
shows me at my best!

But the tobacco test is not the only one. We may be told by the
way we close our hands; the tilt of a walking-stick may unmask
us. It is useless to model ourselves now on the strong, silent
man of the novel whose face is a shutter to hide his emotions.
This is a pity; yes, I am convinced now that it is a pity. If my
secret fault is cheque-forging I do not want it to be revealed to
the world by the angle of my hat; still less do I wish to
discover it in a friend whom I like or whom I can beat at

How dull the world would be if we knew every acquaintance inside
out as soon as we had offered him our cigar-case. Suppose--I put
an extreme case to you--suppose a pleasant young bachelor who
admired our bowling showed himself by his shoe laces to be a
secret wife-beater. What could we do? Cut so unique a friend? Ah
no. Let us pray to remain in ignorance of the faults of those we
like. Let us pray it as sincerely as we pray that they shall
remain in ignorance of ours.

Intellectual Snobbery

A good many years ago I had a painful experience. I was
discovered by my house-master reading in bed at the unauthorized
hour of midnight. Smith minor in the next bed (we shared a
candle) was also reading. We were both discovered. But the most
annoying part of the business, as it seemed to me then, was that
Smith minor was discovered reading Alton Locke, and that I was
discovered reading Marooned Among Cannibals. If only our house-
master had come in the night before! Then he would have found me
reading Alton Locke. Just for a moment it occurred to me to tell
him this, but after a little reflection I decided that it would
be unwise. He might have misunderstood the bearings of the

There is hardly one of us who is proof against this sort of
intellectual snobbery. A detective story may have been a very
good friend to us, but we don't want to drag it into the
conversation; we prefer a casual reference to The Egoist, with
which we have perhaps only a bowing acquaintance; a reference
which leaves the impression that we are inseparable companions,
or at any rate inseparable until such day when we gather from our
betters that there are heights even beyond The Egoist. Dead or
alive, we would sooner be found with a copy of Marcus Aurelius
than with a copy of Marie Corelli. I used to know a man who
carried always with him a Russian novel in the original; not
because he read Russian, but because a day might come when, as
the result of some accident, the "pockets of the deceased" would
be exposed in the public Press. As he said, you never know; but
the only accident which happened to him was to be stranded for
twelve hours one August at a wayside station in the Highlands.
After this he maintained that the Russians were overrated.

I should like to pretend that I myself have grown out of these
snobbish ways by this time, but I am doubtful if it would be
true. It happened to me not so long ago to be travelling in
company of which I was very much ashamed; and to be ashamed of
one's company is to be a snob. At this period I was trying to
amuse myself (and, if it might be so, other people) by writing a
burlesque story in the manner of an imaginary collaboration by
Sir Hall Caine and Mrs. Florence Barclay. In order to do this I
had to study the works of these famous authors, and for many
week-ends in succession I might have been seen travelling to, or
returning from, the country with a couple of their books under my
arm. To keep one book beneath the arm is comparatively easy; to
keep two is much more difficult. Many was the time, while waiting
for my train to come in, that one of those books slipped from me.
Indeed, there is hardly a junction in the railway system of the
southern counties at which I have not dropped on some Saturday or
other a Caine or a Barclay; to have it restored to me a moment
later by a courteous fellow-passenger--courteous, but with a
smile of gentle pity in his eye as he glimpsed the author's name.
"Thanks very much," I would stammer, blushing guiltily, and
perhaps I would babble about a sick friend to whom I was taking
them, or that I was running out of paper-weights. But he never
believed me. He knew that he would have said something like that

Nothing is easier than to assume that other people share one's
weaknesses. No doubt Jack the Ripper excused himself on the
ground that it was human nature; possibly, indeed, he wrote an
essay like this, in which he speculated mildly as to the reasons
which made stabbing so attractive to us all. So I realize that I
may be doing you an injustice in suggesting that you who read may
also have your little snobberies. But I confess that I should
like to cross-examine you. If in conversation with you, on the
subject (let us say) of heredity, a subject to which you had
devoted a good deal of study, I took it for granted that you had
read Ommany's Approximations, would you make it quite clear to me
that you had not read it? Or would you let me carry on the
discussion on the assumption that you knew it well; would you,
even, in answer to a direct question, say shamefacedly that
though you had not--er--actually read it, you--er--knew about it,
of course, and had--er--read extracts from it? Somehow I think
that I could lead you on to this; perhaps even make you say that
you had actually ordered it from your library, before I told you
the horrid truth that Ommany's Approximations was an invention of
my own.

It is absurd that we (I say "we," for I include you now) should
behave like this, for there is no book over which we need be
ashamed, either to have read it or not to have read it. Let us,
therefore, be frank. In order to remove the unfortunate
impression of myself which I have given you, I will confess that
I have only read three of Scott's novels, and begun, but never
finished, two of Henry James'. I will also confess --and here I
am by way of restoring that unfortunate impression--that I do
quite well in Scottish and Jacobean circles on those five books.
For, if a question arises as to which is Scott's masterpiece, it
is easy for me to suggest one of my three, with the air of one
who has chosen it, not over two others, but over twenty. Perhaps
one of my three is the acknowledged masterpiece; I do not know.
If it is, then, of course, all is well. But if it is not, then I
must appear rather a clever fellow for having rejected the
obvious. With regard to Henry James, my position is not quite so
secure; but at least I have good reason for feeling that the two
novels which I was unable to finish cannot be his best, and with
a little tact I can appear to be defending this opinion hotly
against some imaginary authority who has declared in favour of
them. One might have read the collected works of both authors,
yet make less of an impression.

Indeed, sometimes I feel that I have read their collected works,
and Ommany's Approximations, and many other books with which you
would be only too glad to assume familiarity. For in giving
others the impression that I am on terms with these masterpieces,
I have but handed on an impression which has gradually formed
itself in my own mind. So I take no advantage of them; and if it
appears afterwards that we have been deceived together, I shall
be at least as surprised and indignant about it as they.

A Question of Form

The latest invention on the market is the wasp gun. In theory it
is something like a letter clip; you pull the trigger and the
upper and lower plates snap together with a suddenness which
would surprise any insect in between. The trouble will be to get
him in the right place before firing. But I can see that a lot of
fun can be got out of a wasp drive. We shall stand on the edge of
the marmalade while the beaters go through it, and, given
sufficient guns, there will not be many insects to escape. A
loader to clean the weapon at regular intervals will be a

Yet I am afraid that society will look down upon the wasp gun.
Anything useful and handy is always barred by the best people. I
can imagine a bounder being described as "the sort of person who
uses a wasp gun instead of a teaspoon." As we all know, a hat-
guard is the mark of a very low fellow. I suppose the idea is
that you and I, being so dashed rich, do not much mind if our
straw hat does blow off into the Serpentine; it is only the poor
wretch of a clerk, unable to afford a new one every day, who must
take precautions against losing his first. Yet how neat, how
useful, is the hat-guard. With what pride its inventor must have
given birth to it. Probably he expected a statue at the corner of
Cromwell Road, fitting reward for a public benefactor. He did not
understand that, since his invention was useful, it was probably
bad form.

Consider, again, the Richard or "dicky." Could there be anything
neater or more dressy, anything more thoroughly useful? Yet you
and I scorn to wear one. I remember a terrible situation in a
story by Mr. W. S. Jackson. The hero found himself in a foreign
hotel without his luggage. To that hotel came, with her father,
the girl whom he adored silently. An invitation was given him to
dinner with them, and he had to borrow what clothes he could from
friendly waiters. These, alas! included a dicky. Well, the dinner
began well; our hero made an excellent impression; all was
gaiety. Suddenly a candle was overturned and the flame caught the
heroine's frock. The hero knew what the emergency demanded. He
knew how heroes always whipped off their coats and wrapped them
round burning heroines. He jumped up like a bullet (or whatever
jumps up quickest) and --remembered.

He had a dicky on! Without his coat, he would discover the dicky
to the one person of all from whom he wished to hide it. Yet if
he kept his coat on, she might die. A truly horrible dilemma. I
forget which horn he impaled himself upon, but I expect you and I
would have kept the secret of the Richard at all costs. And what
really is wrong with a false shirt-front? Nothing except that it
betrays the poverty of the wearer. Laundry bills don't worry us,
bless you, who have a new straw hat every day; but how terrible
if it was suspected that they did.

Our gentlemanly objection to the made-up tie seems to rest on a
different foundation; I am doubtful as to the psychology of that.
Of course it is a deception, but a deception is only serious when
it passes itself off as something which really matters. Nobody
thinks that a self-tied tie matters; nobody is really proud of
being able to make a cravat out of a length of silk. I suppose it
is simply the fact that a made-up tie saves time which condemns
it; the safety razor was nearly condemned for a like reason. We
of the leisured classes can spend hours over our toilet; by all
means let us despise those who cannot.

As far as dress goes, a man only knows the things which a man
mustn't do. It would be interesting if women would tell us what
no real lady ever does. I have heard a woman classified
contemptuously as one who does her hair up with two hair-pins,
and no doubt bad feminine form can be observed in other shocking
directions. But again it seems to be that the semblance of
poverty, whether of means or of leisure, is the one thing which
must be avoided.

Why, then, should the wasp gun be considered bad form? I don't
know, but I have an instinctive feeling that it will be. Perhaps
a wasp gun indicates a lack of silver spoons suitable for lethal
uses. Perhaps it shows too careful a consideration of the
marmalade. A man of money drowns his wasp in the jar with his
spoon, and carelessly calls for another pot to be opened. The
poor man waits on the outskirts with his gun, and the marmalade,
void of corpses, can still be passed round. Your gun proclaims
your poverty; then let it be avoided.

All the same I think I shall have one. I have kept clear of hat-
guards and Richards and made-up ties without quite knowing why,
but honestly I have not felt the loss of them. The wasp gun is
different; having seen it, I feel that I should be miserable
without it. It is going to be excellent sport, wasp-shooting; a
steady hand, a good eye, and a certain amount of courage will be
called for. When the season opens I shall be there, good form or
bad form. We shall shoot the apple-quince coverts first. "Hornet

A Slice of Fiction

This is a jolly world, and delightful things go on in it. For
instance, I had a picture post card only yesterday from William
Benson, who is staying at Ilfracombe. He wrote to say that he had
gone down to Ilfracombe for a short holiday, and had been much
struck by the beauty of the place. On one of his walks he
happened to notice that there was to be a sale of several plots
of land occupying a quite unique position in front of the sea. He
had immediately thought of me in connection with it. My readiness
to consider a good investment had long been known to him, and in
addition he had heard rumours that I might be coming down to
Ilfracombe in order to recruit my health. If so, here was a
chance which should be brought to my knowledge. Further
particulars ... and so on. Which was extremely friendly of
William Benson. In fact, my only complaint of William is that he
has his letters lithographed--a nasty habit in a friend. But I
have allowed myself to be carried away. It was not really of Mr.
Benson that I was thinking when I said that delightful things go
on in this world, but of a certain pair of lovers, the tragedy of
whose story has been revealed to me in a two-line "agony" in a
morning paper. When anything particularly attractive happens in
real life, we express our appreciation by saying that it is the
sort of thing which one reads about in books --perhaps the
highest compliment we can pay to Nature. Well, the story
underlying this advertisement reeks of the feuilleton and the

"PAT, I was alone when you called. You heard me talking to the
dog. PLEASE make appointment. --DAISY."

You will agree with me when you read this that it is almost too
good to be true. There is a freshness and a naïveté about it
which is only to be found in American melodrama. Let us
reconstruct the situation, and we shall see at once how
delightfully true to fiction real life can be.

Pat was in love with Daisy--engaged to her we may say with
confidence (for a reason which will appear in a moment). But even
though she had plighted her troth to him, he was jealous,
miserably jealous, of every male being who approached her. One
day last week he called on her at the house in Netting Hill. The
parlour-maid opened the door and smiled brightly at him. "Miss
Daisy is upstairs in the drawing-room," she said. "Thank you," he
replied, "I will announce myself." (Now you see how we know that
they were engaged. He must have announced himself in order to
have reached the situation implied in the "agony," and he would
not have been allowed to do so if he had not had the standing of
a fiance.)

For a moment before knocking Patrick stood outside the drawing-
room door, and in that moment the tragedy occurred; he heard his
lady's voice. "DARLING!" it said, "she SHALL kiss her sweetest,
ownest, little pupsy-wupsy."

Patrick's brow grew black. His strong jaw clenched (just like the
jaws of those people on the stage), and he staggered back from
the door. "This is the end," he muttered. Then he strode down the
stairs and out into the stifling streets. And up in the drawing-
room of the house in Netting Hill Daisy and the toy pom sat and
wondered why their lord and master was so late.

Now we come to the letter which Patrick wrote to Daisy, telling
her that it was all over. He would explain to her how he had
"accidentally"(he would dwell upon that) accidentally overheard
her and her----(probably he was rather coarse here) exchanging
terms of endearment; he would accuse her of betraying one whose
only fault was that he loved her not wisely but too well; he
would announce gloomily that he had lost his faith in women. All
this is certain. But it would appear also that he made some such
threat as this--most likely in a postscript: "It is no good your
writing. There can be no explanation. Your letters will be
destroyed unopened." It is a question, however, if even this
would have prevented Daisy from trying an appeal by post, for
though one may talk about destroying letters unopened, it is an
extremely difficult thing to do. I feel, therefore, that
Patrick's letter almost certainly contained a P.P.S. also--to
this effect: "I cannot remain in London where we have spent so
many happy hours together. I am probably leaving for the Rocky
Mountains to-night. Letters will not be forwarded. Do not attempt
to follow me."

And so Daisy was left with only the one means of communication
and explanation--the agony columns of the morning newspapers. "I
was alone when you called. You heard me talking to the dog.
PLEASE make appointment." In the last sentence there is just a
hint of irony which I find very attractive. It seems to me to
say, "Don't for heaven's sake come rushing back to Notting Hill
(all love and remorse) without warning, or you might hear me
talking to the cat or the canary. Make an appointment, and I'll
take care that there's NOTHING in the room when you come." We may
tell ourselves, I think, that Daisy understands her Patrick. In
fact, I am beginning to understand Patrick myself, and I see now
that the real reason why Daisy chose the agony column as the
medium of communication was that she knew Patrick would prefer
it. Patrick is distinctly the sort of man who likes agony
columns. I am sure it was the first thing he turned to on
Wednesday morning.

It occurs to me to wonder if the honeymoon will be spent at
Ilfracombe. Patrick must have received William Benson's picture
post card too. We have all had one. Just fancy if he HAD gone to
the Rocky Mountains; almost certainly Mr. Benson's letters would
not have been forwarded.

The Label

On those rare occasions when I put on my best clothes and venture
into society, I am always astonished at the number of people in
it whom I do not know. I have stood in a crowded ball-room, or
sat in a crowded restaurant, and reflected that, of all the
hundreds of souls present, there was not one of whose existence I
had previously had any suspicion. Yet they all live tremendously
important lives, lives not only important to themselves but to
numbers of friends and relations; every day they cross some sort
of Rubicon; and to each one of them there comes a time when the
whole of the rest of the world (including--confound it!--me)
seems absolutely of no account whatever. That I had lived all
these years in contented ignorance of their existence makes me a
little ashamed.

To-day in my oldest clothes I have wandered through the index of
The Times Literary Supplement, and I am now feeling a little
ashamed of my ignorance of so many books. Of novels alone there
seem to be about 900. To write even a thoroughly futile novel is,
to my thinking, a work of extraordinary endurance; yet in, say,
600 houses this work has been going on, and I (and you, and all
of us) have remained utterly unmoved. Well, I have been making up
for my indifference this morning. I have been reading the titles
of the books. That is not so good (or bad) as reading the books
themselves, but it enables me to say that I have heard of such
and such a novel, and in some cases it does give me a slight clue
to what goes on inside.

I should imagine that the best part of writing a novel was the
choosing a title. My idea of a title is that it should be
something which reflects the spirit of your work and gives the
hesitating purchaser some indication of what he is asked to buy.
To call your book Ethnan Frame or Esther Grant or John Temple or
John Merridew (I quote from the index) is to help the reader not
at all. All it tells him is that one of the characters inside
will be called John or Esther--a matter, probably, of
indifference to him. Phyllis is a better title, because it does
give a suggestion of the nature of the book. No novel with a
tragic ending, no powerful realistic novel, would be called
Phyllis. Without having read Phyllis I should say that it was a
charming story of suburban life, told mostly in dialogue, and
that Phyllis herself was a perfect dear--though a little cruel
about that first box of chocolates he sent her. However, she
married him in the end all right.

But if you don't call your book Phyllis or John Temple or Mrs.
Elmsley, what--I hear you asking--are you to call it? Well, you
might call it Kapak, as I see somebody has done. The beauty of
Kapak as a title is that if you come into the shop by the back
entrance, and so approach the book from the wrong end, it is
still Kapak. A title which looks the same from either end is of
immense advantage to an author. Besides, in this particular case
there is a mystery about Kapak which one is burning to solve. Is
it the bride's pet name for her father-in-law, the password into
the magic castle, or that new stuff with which you polish brown
boots? Or is it only a camera? Let us buy the book at once and
find out.

Another mystery title is The Man with Thicker Beard, which
probably means something. It is like Kapak in this, that it reads
equally well backwards; but it is not so subtle. Still, we should
probably be lured on to buy it. On the other hand, A Welsh
Nightingale and a Would-be Suffragette is just the sort of book
to which we would not be tempted by the title. It is bad enough
to have to say to the shopman, "Have you A Welsh Nightingale and
a Would-be Suffragette?" but if we forgot the title, as we
probably should, and had to ask at random for a would-be
nightingale and a Welsh suffragette, or a wood nightingale and a
Welsh rabbit, or the Welsh suffragette's night in gaol, we should
soon begin to wish that we had decided on some quite simple book
such as Greed, Earth, or Jonah.

And this is why a French title is always such a mistake. Authors
must remember that their readers have not only to order the book,
in many cases, verbally, but also to recommend it to their
friends. So I think Mr. Oliver Onions made a mistake when he
called his collection of short stories Pot au Feu. It is a good
title, but it is the sort of title to which the person to whom
you are recommending the book always answers, "What?" And when
people say "What?" in reply to your best Parisian accent, the
only thing possible for you is to change the subject altogether.
But it is quite time that we came to some sort of decision as to
what makes the perfect title. Kapak will attract buyers, as I
have said, though to some it may not seem quite fair. Excellent
from a commercial point of view, it does not satisfy the
conditions we laid down at first. The title, we agreed, must
reflect the spirit of the book. In one sense Five Gallons of
Gasolene does this, but of course nobody could ask for that in a

Well, then, here is a perfect title, Their High Adventure. That
explains itself just sufficiently. When a Man's Married, For
Henri and Navarre, and The King Over the Water are a little more
obvious, but they are still good. The Love Story of a Mormon
makes no attempt to deceive the purchaser, but it can hardly be
called a beautiful title. Melody in Silver, on the other hand, is
beautiful, but for this reason makes one afraid to buy it, lest
there should be disappointment within. In fact, as I look down
the index, I am beginning to feel glad that there are so many
hundreds of novels which I haven't read. In most of them there
would be disappointment. And really one only reads books nowadays
so as to be able to say to one's neighbour on one's rare
appearances in society, "HAVE you read The Forged Coupon, and
WHAT do you think of The Muck Rake?" And for this an index is
quite enough.

The Profession

I have been reading a little book called How to Write for the
Press. Other books which have been published upon the same
subject are How to Be an Author, How to Write a Play, How to
Succeed as a Journalist, How to Write for the Magazines, and How
to Earn £600 a Year with the Pen. Of these the last-named has, I
think, the most pleasing title. Anybody can write a play; the
trouble is to get it produced. Almost anybody can be an author;
the business is to collect money and fame from this state of
being. Writing for the magazines, again, sounds a delightful
occupation, but literally it means nothing without the co-
operation of the editors of the magazines, and it is this co-
operation which is so difficult to secure. But to earn £600 a
year with the pen is to do a definite thing; if the book could
really tell the secret of that, it would have an enormous sale. I
have not read it, so I cannot say what the secret is. Perhaps it
was only a handbook on forgery.

How to Write for the Press disappointed me. It is concerned not
with the literary journalist (as I believe he is called) but with
the reporter (as he is never called, the proper title being
"special representative"). It gives in tabular form a list of the
facts you should ascertain at the different functions you attend;
with this book in your pocket there would be no excuse if you
neglected to find out at a wedding the names of the bride and
bridegroom. It also gives--and I think this is very friendly of
it--a list of useful synonyms for the principal subjects, animate
and inanimate, of description. The danger of calling the
protagonists at the court of Hymen (this one is not from the
book; I thought of it myself just now)--the danger of calling
them "the happy pair" more than once in a column is that your
readers begin to suspect that you are a person of extremely
limited mind, and when once they get this idea into their heads
they are not in a proper state to appreciate the rest of your
article. But if in your second paragraph you speak of "the joyful
couple," and in your third of "the ecstatic brace," you give an
impression of careless mystery of the language which can never be
shed away.

Among the many interesting chapters is one dealing with contested
elections. One of the questions to which the special
representative was advised to find an answer was this: "What
outside bodies are taking active part in the contest?" In the bad
old days--now happily gone for ever--the outside bodies of dead
cats used to take an active and important part in the contest,
and as the same body would often be used twice the reporter in
search of statistics was placed in a position of great
responsibility. Nowadays, I suppose, he is only meant to concern
himself with such bodies as the Coal Consumers' League and the
Tariff Reform League, and there would be no doubt in the mind of
anybody as to whether they were there or not.

I am afraid I should not be a success as "our special
representative." I should never think of half the things which
occur to the good reporter. You read in your local paper a
sentence like this: "The bride's brother, who only arrived last
week from Australia, where he held an important post under the
Government, and is about to proceed on a tour through Canada
with--curiously enough--a nephew of the bride-groom, gave her
away." Well, what a mass of information has to be gleaned before
that sentence can be written. Or this. "The hall was packed to
suffocation, and beneath the glare of the electric light--
specially installed for this occasion by Messrs. Ampère & Son of
Pumpton, the building being at ordinary times strikingly
deficient in the matter of artificial lighting in spite of the
efforts of the more progressive members of the town council--the
faces of not a few of the fairer sex could be observed." You
know, I am afraid I should have forgotten all that. I should
simply have obtained a copy of the principal speech, and prefaced
it with the words," Mr. Dodberry then spoke as follows"; or, if
my conscience would not allow of such a palpable misstatement,
"Mr. Dodberry then rose with the intention of speaking as

In the more human art of interviewing I should be equally at
fault. The interview itself would be satisfactory, but I am
afraid that its publication would lead people to believe that all
the best things had been said by me. To remember what anybody
else has said is easy; to remember, even five minutes after, what
one has said oneself is almost impossible. For to recall YOUR
remarks in our argument at the club last night is simply a matter
of memory; to recall MINE, I have to forget all that I meant to
have said, all that I ought to have said, and all that I have
thought upon the subject since.

In fact, I begin to see that the successful reporter must
eliminate his personality altogether, whereas the successful
literary journalist depends for his success entirely upon his
personality --which is what is meant by "style." I suppose it is
for this reason that, when the literary journalist is sent as
"our extra-special representative" to report a prize fight or a
final cup tie or a political meeting, the result is always
appalling. The "ego" bulges out of every line, obviously
conscious that it is showing us no ordinary reporting, determined
that it will not be overshadowed by the importance of the
subject. And those who are more interested in the matter than in
the manner regard him as an intruder, and the others regret that
he is so greatly overtaxing his strength.

So each to his business, and his handbook to each--How to Write
for the Press to the special representative, and How to Be an
Author to the author. There is no book, I believe, called How to
Be a Solicitor, or a doctor or an admiral or a brewer. That is a
different matter altogether; but any fool can write for the

Smoking as a Fine Art

My first introduction to Lady Nicotine was at the innocent age of
eight, when, finding a small piece of somebody else's tobacco
lying unclaimed on the ground, I decided to experiment with it.
Numerous desert island stories had told me that the pangs of
hunger could be allayed by chewing tobacco; it was thus that the
hero staved off death before discovering the bread-fruit tree.
Every right-minded boy of eight hopes to be shipwrecked one day,
and it was proper that I should find out for myself whether my
authorities could be trusted in this matter. So I chewed tobacco.
In the sense that I certainly did not desire food for some time
afterwards, my experience justified the authorities, but I felt
at the time that it was not so much for staving off death as for
reconciling oneself to it that tobacco-chewing was to be
recommended. I have never practised it since.

At eighteen I went to Cambridge, and bought two pipes in a case.
In those days Greek was compulsory, but not more so than two
pipes in a case. One of the pipes had an amber stem and the other
a vulcanite stem, and both of them had silver belts. That also
was compulsory. Having bought them, one was free to smoke
cigarettes. However, at the end of my first year I got to work
seriously on a shilling briar, and I have smoked that, or
something like it, ever since.

In the last four years there has grown up a new school of pipe-
smokers, by which (I suspect) I am hardly regarded as a pipe-
smoker at all. This school buys its pipes always at one
particular shop; its pupils would as soon think of smoking a pipe
without the white spot as of smoking brown paper. So far are they
from smoking brown paper that each one of them has his tobacco
specially blended according to the colour of his hair, his taste
in revues, and the locality in which he lives. The first blend is
naturally not the ideal one. It is only when he has been a
confirmed smoker for at least three months, and knows the best
and worst of all tobaccos, that his exact requirements can be

However, it is the pipe rather than the tobacco which marks him
as belonging to this particular school. He pins his faith, not so
much to its labour-saving devices as to the white spot outside,
the white spot of an otherwise aimless life. This tells the world
that it is one of THE pipes. Never was an announcement more
superfluous. From the moment, shortly after breakfast, when he
strikes his first match to the moment, just before bed-time, when
he strikes his hundredth, it is obviously THE pipe which he is

For whereas men of an older school, like myself, smoke for the
pleasure of smoking, men of this school smoke for the pleasure of
pipe-owning--of selecting which of their many white-spotted pipes
they will fill with their specially-blended tobacco, of filling
the one so chosen, of lighting it, of taking it from the mouth to
gaze lovingly at the white spot and thus letting it go out, of
lighting it again and letting it go out again, of polishing it up
with their own special polisher and putting it to bed, and then
the pleasure of beginning all over again with another white-
spotted one. They are not so much pipe-smokers as pipe-keepers;
and to have spoken as I did just now of their owning pipes was
wrong, for it is they who are in bondage to the white spot. This
school is founded firmly on four years of war. When at the age of
eighteen you are suddenly given a cheque-book and called "Sir,"
you must do something by way of acknowledgment. A pipe in the
mouth makes it clear that there has been no mistake--you are
undoubtedly a man. But you may be excused for feeling after the
first pipe that the joys of smoking have been rated too high, and
for trying to extract your pleasure from the polish on the pipe's
surface, the pride of possessing a special mixture of your own,
and such-like matters, rather than from the actual inspiration
and expiration of smoke. In the same way a man not fond of
reading may find delight in a library of well-bound books. They
are pleasant to handle, pleasant to talk about, pleasant to show
to friends. But it is the man without the library of well-bound
books who generally does most of the reading.

So I feel that it is we of the older school who do most of the
smoking. We smoke unconsciously while we are doing other things;
THEY try, but not very successfully, to do other things while
they are consciously smoking. No doubt they despise us, and tell
themselves that we are not real smokers, but I fancy that they
feel a little uneasy sometimes. For my young friends are always
trying to persuade me to join their school, to become one of the
white-spotted ones. I have no desire to be of their company, but
I am prepared to make a suggestion to the founder of the school.
It is that he should invent a pipe, white spot and all, which
smokes itself. His pupils could hang it in the mouth as
picturesquely as before, but the incidental bother of keeping it
alight would no longer trouble them.

The Path to Glory

My friend Mr. Sidney Mandragon is getting on. He is now one of
the great ones of the earth. He has just been referred to as
"Among those present was Mr. Sidney Mandragon."

As everybody knows (or will know when they have read this
article) the four stages along the road to literary fame are
marked by the four different manners in which the traveller's
presence at a public function is recorded in the Press. At the
first stage the reporter glances at the list of guests, and says
to himself, "Mr. George Meredith --never heard of him," and for
all the world knows next morning, Mr. George Meredith might just
as well have stayed at home. At the second stage (some years
later) the reporter murmurs to his neighbour in a puzzled sort of
way: "George Meredith? George Meredith? Now where have I come
across that name lately? Wasn't he the man who pushed a
wheelbarrow across America? Or was he the chap who gave evidence
in that murder trial last week?" And, feeling that in either case
his readers will be interested in the fellow, he says: "The
guests included ... Mr. George Meredith and many others." At the
third stage the reporter knows at last who Mr. George Meredith
is. Having seen an advertisement of one of his books, and being
pretty sure that the public has read none of them, he refers to
him as "Mr. George Meredith, the well-known novelist." The fourth
and final stage, beyond the reach of all but the favoured few, is
arrived at when the reporter can leave the name to his public
unticketed, and says again, "Among those present was Mr. George

The third stage is easy to reach--indeed, too easy. The "well-
known actresses" are not Ellen Terry, Irene Vanbrugh and Marie
Tempest, but Miss Birdie Vavasour, who has discovered a new way
of darkening the hair, and Miss Girlie de Tracy, who has been
arrested for shop-lifting. In the same way, the more the Press
insists that a writer is "well-known," the less hope will he have
that the public has heard of him. Better far to remain at the
second stage, and to flatter oneself that one has really arrived
at the fourth.

But my friend Sidney Mandragon is, indeed, at the final stage
now, for he had been "the well-known writer" for at least a dozen
years previously. Of course, he has been helped by his name.
Shakespeare may say what he likes, but a good name goes a long
way in the writing profession. It was my business at one time to
consider contributions for a certain paper, and there was one
particular contributor whose work I approached with an awe
begotten solely of his name. It was not exactly Milton, and not
exactly Carlyle, and not exactly Charles Lamb, but it was a sort
of mixture of all three and of many other famous names thrown in,
so that, without having seen any of his work printed elsewhere, I
felt that I could not take the risk of refusing it myself. "This
is a good man," I would say before beginning his article; "this
man obviously has style. And I shouldn't be surprised to hear
that he was an authority on fishing." I wish I could remember his
name now, and then you would see for yourself.

Well, take Mr. Hugh Walpole (if he will allow me). It is safe to
say that, when Mr. Walpole's first book came out, the average
reader felt vaguely that she had heard of him before. She hadn't
actually read his famous Letters, but she had often wanted to,
and--or was that his uncle? Anyway, she had often heard people
talking about him. What a very talented family it was! In the
same way Sidney Mandragon has had the great assistance of one of
the two Christian names which carry weight in journalism. The
other, of course, is Harold. If you are Sidney or Harold, the
literary world is before you.

Another hall-mark by which we can tell whether a man has arrived
or not is provided by the interview. If (say) a Lepidopterist is
just beginning his career, nobody bothers about his opinions on
anything. If he is moderately well-known in his profession, the
papers will seek his help whenever his own particular subject
comes up in the day's news. There is a suggestion, perhaps, in
Parliament that butterflies should be muzzled, and "Our
Representative" promptly calls upon "the well-known
Lepidopterist" to ask what HE thinks about it. But if he be of an
established reputation, then his professional opinion is no
longer sought. What the world is eager for now is to be told his
views on Sunday Games, the Decadence of the Theatre or Bands in
the Parks.

The modern advertising provides a new scale of values. No doubt
Mr. Pelman offers his celebrated hundred guineas' fee equally to
all his victims, but we may be pretty sure that in his business-
like brain he has each one of them nicely labelled, a Gallant
Soldier being good for so much new business, a titled Man of
Letters being good for slightly less; and that real Fame is best
measured by the number of times that one's unbiased views on
Pelmanism (or Tonics or Hair-Restorers) are considered to be
worth reprinting. In this matter my friend Mandragon is doing
nicely. For a suitable fee he is prepared to attribute his
success to anything in reason, and his confession of faith can
count upon a place in every full-page advertisement of the
mixture, and frequently in the odd half-columns. I never quite
understand why a tonic which has tightened up Mandragon's fibres,
or a Mind-Training System which has brought General Blank's
intellect to its present pitch, should be accepted more greedily
by the man-in-the-street than a remedy which has only proved its
value in the case of his undistinguished neighbour, but then I
can never understand quite a number of things. However, that
doesn't matter. All that matters at the moment is that Mr. Sidney
Mandragon has now achieved glory. Probably the papers have
already pigeon-holed his obituary notice. It is a pleasing

A Problem in Ethics

Life is full of little problems, which arise suddenly and find
one wholly unprepared with a solution. For instance, you travel
down to Wimbledon on the District Railway--first-class, let us
suppose, because it is your birthday. On your arrival you find
that you have lost your ticket. Now, doubtless there is some sort
of recognized business to be gone through which relieves you of
the necessity of paying again. You produce an affidavit of a
terribly affirmative nature, together with your card and a
testimonial from a beneficed member of the Church of England. Or
you conduct a genial correspondence with the traffic manager
which spreads itself over six months. To save yourself this
bother you simply tell the collector that you haven't a ticket
and have come from Charing Cross. Is it necessary to add "first-

Of course one has a strong feeling that one ought to, but I think
a still stronger feeling that one isn't defrauding the railway
company if one doesn't. (I will try not to get so many "ones"
into my next sentence.) For you may argue fairly that you
established your right to travel first-class when you stepped
into the carriage with your ticket--and, it may be, had it
examined therein by an inspector. All that you want to do now is
to establish your right to leave the Wimbledon platform for the
purer air of the common. And you can do this perfectly easily
with a third-class ticket.

However, this is a problem which will only arise if you are
careless with your property. But however careful you are, it may
happen to you at any moment that you become suddenly the owner of
a shilling with a hole in it.

I am such an owner. I entered into possession a week ago--Heaven
knows who played the thing off on me. As soon as I made the
discovery I went into a tobacconist's and bought a box of

"This," he said, looking at me reproachfully, "is a shilling with
a hole in it."

"I know," I said, "but it's all right, thanks. I don't want to
wear it any longer. The fact is, Joanna has thrown me--However, I
needn't go into that." He passed it back to me.

"I am afraid I can't take it," he said.

"Why not? I managed to."

However, I had to give him one without a hole before he would let
me out of his shop. Next time I was more thoughtful. I handed
three to the cashier at my restaurant in payment of lunch, and
the ventilated one was in the middle. He saw the joke of it just
as I was escaping down the stairs.

"Hi!" he said, "this shilling has a hole in it."

I went back and looked at it. Sure enough it had.

"Well, that's funny," I said. "Did you drop it, or what?"

He handed the keepsake back to me. He also had something of
reproach in his eye.

"Thanks, very much," I said. "I wouldn't have lost it for worlds;
Emily--But I mustn't bore you with the story. Good day to you."
And I gave him a more solid coin and went.

Well, that's how we are at present. A more unscrupulous person
than myself would have palmed it off long ago. He would have told
himself with hateful casuistry that the coin was none the worse
for the air-hole in it, and that, if everybody who came into
possession of it pressed it on to the next man, nobody would be
injured by its circulation. But I cannot argue like this. It
pleases me to give my shilling a run with the others sometimes. I
like to put it down on a counter with one or two more, preferably
in the middle of them where the draught cannot blow through it;
but I should indeed be surprised--I mean sorry--if it did not
come back to me at once.

There is one thing, anyhow, that I will not do. I will not give
it to a waiter or a taxi-driver or to anybody else as a tip. If
you estimate the market value of a shilling with a hole in it at
anything from ninepence to fourpence according to the owner's
chances of getting rid of it, then it might be considered
possibly a handsome, anyhow an adequate, tip for a driver; but
somehow the idea does not appeal to me at all. For if the
recipient did not see the hole, you would feel that you had been
unnecessarily generous to him, and that one last effort to have
got it off on to a shopkeeper would have been wiser; while if he
did see it--well, we know what cabmen are. He couldn't legally
object, it is a voluntary gift on your part, and even regarded as
a contribution to his watch chain worthy of thanks, but--Well, I
don't like it. I don't think it's sportsmanlike.

However, I have an idea at last. I know a small boy who owns some
lead soldiers. I propose to borrow one of these--a corporal or
perhaps a serjeant--and boil him down, and then fill up the hole
in the shilling with lead. Shillings, you know, are not solid
silver; oh no, they have alloy in them. This one will have a
little more than usual perhaps. One cannot tie oneself down to an
ounce or two.

We set out, I believe, to discuss the morals of the question. It
is a most interesting subject.

The Happiest Half-Hours of Life

Yesterday I should have gone back to school, had I been a hundred
years younger. My most frequent dream nowadays--or nowanights I
suppose I should say--is that I am back at school, and trying to
construe difficult passages from Greek authors unknown to me.
That they are unknown is my own fault, as will be pointed out to
me sternly in a moment. Meanwhile I stand up and gaze blankly at
the text, wondering how it is that I can have forgotten to
prepare it. "Er--him the--er--him the--the er many-wiled
Odysseus--h'r'm--then, him addressing, the many-wiled Odysseus--
er--addressed. Er--er --the er--" And then, sweet relief, I wake
up. That is one of my dreams; and another is that I am trying to
collect my books for the next school and that an algebra, or
whatever you like, is missing. The bell has rung, as it seems
hours ago, I am searching my shelves desperately, I am diving
under my table, behind the chair ... I shall be late, I shall be
late, late, late ...

No doubt I had these bad moments in real life a hundred years
ago. Indeed I must have had them pretty often that they should
come back to me so regularly now. But it is curious that I should
never dream that I am going back to school, for the misery of
going back must have left a deeper mark on my mind than all the
little accidental troubles of life when there. I was very happy
at school; but oh! the utter wretchedness of the last day of the

One began to be apprehensive on the Monday. Foolish visitors
would say sometimes on the Monday, "When are you going back to
school?" and make one long to kick them for their tactlessness.
As well might they have said to a condemned criminal, "When are
you going to be hanged?" or, "What kind of--er--knot do you think
they'll use?" Througout Monday and Tuesday we played the usual
games, amused ourselves in the usual way, but with heavy hearts.
In the excitement of the moment we would forget and be happy, and
then suddenly would come the thought, "We're going back on

And on Tuesday evening we would bring a moment's comfort to
ourselves by imagining that we were not going back on the morrow.
Our favourite dream was that the school was burnt down early on
Wednesday morning, and that a telegram arrived at breakfast
apologizing for the occurrence, and pointing out that it would be
several months before even temporary accommodation could be
erected. No Vandal destroyed historic buildings so light-
heartedly as we. And on Tuesday night we prayed that, if the
lightnings of Heaven failed us, at least a pestilence should be
sent in aid. Somehow, SOMEHOW, let the school be uninhabitable!

But the telegram never came. We woke on Wednesday morning as
wakes the murderer on his last day. We took a dog or two for a
walk; we pretended to play a game of croquet. After lunch we
donned the badges of our servitude. The comfortable, careless,
dirty flannels were taken off, and the black coats and stiff
white collars put on. At 3.30 an early tea was ready for us--
something rather special, a last mockery of holiday. (Dressed
crab, I remember, on one occasion, and I travelled with my back
to the engine after it--a position I have never dared to assume
since.) Then good-byes, tips, kisses, a last look, and--the 4.10
was puffing out of the station. And nothing, nothing had
happened. I can remember thinking in the train how unfair it all
was. Fifty-two weeks in the year, I said to myself, and only
fifteen of them spent at home. A child snatched from his mother
at nine, and never again given back to her for more than two
months at a time. "Is this Russia?" I said; and, getting no
answer, could only comfort myself with the thought, "This day
twelve weeks!"

And once the incredible did happen. It was through no
intervention of Providence; no, it was entirely our own doing. We
got near some measles, and for a fortnight we were kept in
quarantine. I can say truthfully that we never spent a duller two
weeks. There seemed to be nothing to do at all. The idea that we
were working had to be fostered by our remaining shut up in one
room most of the day, and within the limits of that room we found
very little in the way of amusement. We were bored extremely. And
always we carried with us the thought of Smith or Robinson taking
our place in the Junior House team and making hundreds of runs.

Because, of course, we were very happy at school really. The
trouble was that we were so much happier in the holidays. I have
had many glorious moments since I left school, but I have no
doubt as to what have been the happiest half-hours in my life.
They were the half-hours on the last day of term before we
started home. We spent them on a lunch of our own ordering. It
was the first decent meal we had had for weeks, and when it was
over there were all the holidays before us. Life may have better
half-hours than that to offer, but I have not met them.

Natural Science

It is when Parliament is not sitting that the papers are most
interesting to read. I have found an item of news to-day which
would never have been given publicity in the busy times, and it
has moved me strangely. Here it is, backed by the authority of
Dr. Chalmers Mitchell:--

"The caterpillar of the puss-moth, not satisfied with Nature's
provisions for its safety, makes faces at young birds, and is
said to alarm them considreably."

I like that "is said to." Probably the young bird would deny
indignantly that he was alarmed, and would explain that he was
only going away because he suddenly remembered that he had an
engagement on the croquet lawn, or that he had forgotten his
umbrella. But whether he alarms them or not, the fact remains
that the caterpillar of the puss-moth does make faces at young
birds; and we may be pretty sure that, even if he began the
practice in self-defence, the habit is one that has grown on him.
Indeed, I can see him actually looking out for a thrush's nest,
and then climbing up to it, popping his head over the edge
suddenly and making a face. Probably, too, the mother birds
frighten their young ones by telling them that, if they aren't
good, the puss-moth caterpillar will be after them; while the
poor caterpillar himself, never having known a mother's care, has
had no one to tell him that if he goes on making such awful faces
he will be struck like that one day.

These delvings into natural history bring back my youth very
vividly. I never kept a puss-moth, but I had a goat-moth which
ate its way out of a match-box, and as far as I remember took all
the matches with it. There were caterpillars, though, of a
gentler nature who stayed with me, and of these some were
obliging enough to turn into chrysalises. Not all by any means. A
caterpillar is too modest to care about changing in public. To
conduct his metamorphosis in some quiet corner--where he is not
poked every morning to see if he is getting stiffer --is what
your caterpillar really wants. Mine had no private life to
mention. They were as much before the world as royalty or an
actress. And even those who brought off the first event safely
never emerged into the butterfly world. Something would always
happen to them. "Have you seen my chrysalis?" we used to ask each
other. "I left him in the bathroom yesterday."

But what I kept most successfully were minerals. One is or is not
a successful mineralogist according as one is or is not allowed a
geological hammer. I had a geological hammer. To scour the cliffs
armed with a geological hammer and a bag for specimens is to be a
king among boys. The only specimen I can remember taking with my
hammer was a small piece of shin. That was enough, however, to
end my career as a successful mineralogist. As an unsuccessful
one I persevered for some months, and eventually had a collection
of eighteen units. They were put out on the bed every evening in
order of size, and ranged from a large lump of Iceland spar down
to a small dead periwinkle. In those days I could have told you
what granite was made of. In those days I had over my bed a map
of the geological strata of the district--in different colours
like a chocolate macaroon. And in those days I knew my way to the
Geological Museum.

As a botanist I never really shone, but two of us joined an open-
air course and used to be taken expeditions into Kew Gardens and
such places, where our lecturer explained to his pupils--all
grown-up save ourselves--the less recondite mysteries. There was
one golden Saturday when we missed the rendezvous at Pinner and
had a picnic by ourselves instead; and, after that, many other
golden Saturdays when some unaccountable accident separated us
from the party. I remember particularly a day in Highgate Woods--
a good place for losing a botanical lecturer in; if you had been
there, you would have seen two little boys very content, lying
one each side of a large stone slab, racing caterpillars against
each other.

But there was one episode in my career as a natural scientist--a
career whose least details are brought back by the magic word,
caterpillar-- over which I still go hot with the sense of
failure. This was an attempt to stuff a toad. I don't know to
this day if toads can be stuffed, but when our toad died he had
to be commemorated in some way, and, failing a marble statue, it
seemed good to stuff him. It was when we had got the skin off him
that we began to realize our difficulties. I don't know if you
have had the skin of a fair-sized toad in your hand; if so, you
will understand that our first feeling was one of surprise that a
whole toad could ever have got into it. There seemed to be no
shape about the thing at all. You could have carried it--no doubt
we did, I have forgotten--in the back of a watch. But it had lost
all likeness to a toad, and it was obvious that stuffing meant
nothing to it.

Of course, little boys ought not to skin toads and carry
geological hammers and deceive learned professors of botany; I
know it is wrong. And of course caterpillars of the puss-moth
variety oughtn't to make faces at timid young thrushes. But it is
just these things which make such pleasant memories afterwards--
when professors and toads are departed, when the hammers lie
rusty in the coal cellar, and when the young thrushes are grown
up to be quite big birds.

On Going Dry

There are fortunate mortals who can always comfort themselves with a
cliché. If any question arises as to the moral value of Racing, whether
in war-time or in peace-time, they will murmur something about
"improving the breed of horses," and sleep afterwards with an easy
conscience. To one who considers how many millions of people are engaged
upon this important work, it is surprising that nothing more notable in
the way of a super-horse has as yet emerged; one would have expected at
least by this time something which combined the flying-powers of the
hawk with the diving-powers of the seal. No doubt this is what the
followers of the Colonel's Late Wire are aiming at, and even if they
have to borrow ten shillings from the till in the good cause, they feel
that possibly by means of that very ten shillings Nature has
approximated a little more closely to the desired animal. Supporters of
Hunting, again, will tell you, speaking from inside knowledge, that "the
fox likes it," and one is left breathless at the thought of the altruism
of the human race, which will devote so much time and money to amusing a
small, bushy-tailed four-legged friend who might otherwise be bored. And
the third member of the Triple Alliance, which has made England what it
is, is Beer, and in support of Beer there is also a cliché ready. Talk
to anybody about Intemperance, and he will tell you solemnly, as if this
disposed of the trouble, that "one can just as easily be intemperate in
other matters as in the matter of alcohol." After which, it seems almost
a duty to a broad-minded man to go out and get drunk.

It is, of course, true that we can be intemperate in eating as
well as in drinking, but the results of the intemperance would
appear to be different. After a fifth help of rice-pudding one
does not become over-familiar with strangers, nor does an extra
slice of ham inspire a man to beat his wife. After five pints of
beer (or fifteen, or fifty) a man will "go anywhere in reason,
but he won't go home"; after five helps of rice-pudding, I
imagine, home would seem to him the one- desired haven. The two
intemperances may be equally blameworthy, but they are not
equally offensive to the community. Yet for some reason over-
eating is considered the mark of the beast, and over-drinking the
mark of rather a fine fellow.

The poets and other gentlemen who have written so much romantic
nonsense about "good red wine" and "good brown ale" are
responsible for this. I admit that a glass of Burgundy is a more
beautiful thing than a blancmange, but I do not think that it
follows that a surfeit of one is more heroic than a surfeit of
the other. There may be a divinity in the grape which excuses
excess, but if so, one would expect it to be there even before
the grape had been trodden on by somebody else. Yet no poet ever
hymned the man who tucked into the dessert, or told him that he
was by way of becoming a jolly good fellow. He is only by way of
becoming a pig.

"It is the true, the blushful Hippocrene." To tell oneself this
is to pardon everything. However unpleasant a drunken man may
seem at first sight, as soon as one realizes that he has merely
been putting away a blushful Hippocrene, one ceases to be angry
with him. If Keats or somebody had said of a piece of underdone
mutton, "It is the true, the blushful Canterbury," indigestion
would carry a more romantic air, and at the third helping one
could claim to be a bit of a devil. "The beaded bubbles winking
at the brim"--this might also have been sung of a tapioca-
pudding, in which case a couple of tapioca- puddings would
certainly qualify the recipient as one of the boys. If only the
poets had praised over-eating rather than over-drinking, how much
pleasanter the streets would be on festival nights!

I suppose that I have already said enough to have written myself
down a Temperance Fanatic, a Thin-Blooded Cocoa-Drinker, and a
number of other things equally contemptible; which is all very
embarrassing to a man who is composing at the moment on port, and
who gets entangled in the skin of cocoa whenever he tries to
approach it. But if anything could make me take kindly to cocoa,
it would be the sentimental rubbish which is written about the
"manliness" of drinking alcohol. It is no more manly to drink
beer (not even if you call it good brown ale) than it is to drink
beef-tea. It may be more healthy; I know nothing about that, nor,
from the diversity of opinion expressed, do the doctors; it may
be cheaper, more thirst-quenching, anything you like. But it is a
thing the village idiot can do--and often does, without becoming
thereby the spiritual comrade of Robin Hood, King Harry the
Fifth, Drake, and all the other heroes who (if we are to believe
the Swill School) have made old England great on beer.

But to doubt the spiritual virtues of alcohol is not to be a
Prohibitionist. For my own sake I want neither England nor
America dry. Whether I want them dry for the sake of England and
America I cannot quite decide. But if I ever do come to a
decision, it will not be influenced by that other cliché, which
is often trotted out complacently, as if it were something to
thank Heaven for. "You can't make people moral by Act of
Parliament." It is not a question of making them moral, but of
keeping them from alcohol. It may be a pity to do this, but it is
obviously possible, just as it is possible to keep them--that is
to say, the overwhelming majority of them--from opium. Nor shall
I be influenced by the argument that such prohibition is outside
the authority of a Government. For if a Government can demand a
man's life for reasons of foreign policy, it can surely demand
his whisky for reasons of domestic policy; if it can call upon
him to start fighting, it can call upon him to stop drinking.

But if opium and alcohol is prohibited, you say, why not tobacco?
When tobacco is mentioned I feel like the village Socialist, who
was quite ready to share two theoretical cows with his neighbour,
but when asked if the theory applied also to pigs, answered
indignantly, "What are you talking about--I've GOT two pigs!" I
could bear an England which "went dry," but an England which
"went out"--! So before assenting to the right of a Government to
rob the working-man of his beer, I have to ask myself if I assent
to its right to rob me of my pipe. Well, if it were agreed by a
majority of the community (in spite of all my hymns to Nicotine)
that England would be happier without tobacco, then I think I
should agree also. But I might feel that I should be happier
without England. Just a little way without--the Isle of Man, say.

A Misjudged Game

Chess has this in common with making poetry, that the desire for
it comes upon the amateur in gusts. It is very easy for him not
to make poetry; sometimes he may go for months without writing a
line of it. But when once he is delivered of an ode, then the
desire to write another ode is strong upon him. A sudden passion
for rhyme masters him, and must work itself out. It will be all
right in a few weeks; he will go back to prose or bills-of-
parcels or whatever is his natural method of expressing himself,
none the worse for his adventure. But he will have gained this
knowledge for his future guidance--that poems never come singly.

Every two or three years I discover the game of chess. In normal
times when a man says to me, "Do you play chess?" I answer
coldly, "Well, I know the moves." "Would you like a game?" he
asks, and I say, "I don't think I will, thanks very much. I
hardly ever play." And there the business ends. But once in two
years, or it may be three, circumstances are too strong for me. I
meet a man so keen or a situation so dull that politeness or
boredom leads me to accept. The board is produced, I remind
myself that the queen stands on a square of her own colour, and
that the knight goes next to the castle; I push forward the
king's pawn two squares, and we are off. Yes, we are off; but not
for one game only. For a month at least I shall dream of chess at
night and make excuses to play it in the day. For a month chess
will be even more to me than golf or billiards--games which I
adore because I am so bad at them. For a month, starting from
yesterday when I was inveigled into a game, you must regard me,
please, as a chess maniac.

Among small boys with no head for the game I should probably be
described as a clever player. If my opponent only learnt
yesterday, and is still a little doubtful as to what a knight can
do, I know one or two rather good tricks for removing his queen.
My subtlest stroke is to wait until Her Majesty is in front of
the king, and then to place my castle in front of her, with a
pawn in support. Sometimes I forget the pawn and he takes my
castle, in which case I try to look as if the loss of my castle
was the one necessary preliminary to my plan of campaign, and
that now we were off. When he is busy on one side of the board, I
work a knight up on the other, and threaten two of his pieces
simultaneously. To the extreme novice I must seem rather

But then I am an old hand at the game. My career dates from--
well, years ago when I won my house championship at school. This
championship may have carried a belt with it; I have forgotten.
But there was certainly a prize--a prize of five solid shillings,
supposing the treasurer had managed to collect the subscriptions.
In the year when I won it I was also treasurer. I assure you that
the quickness and skill necessary for winning the competition
were as nothing to that necessary for collecting the money. If
any pride remains to me over that affair, if my name is written
in letters of fire in the annals of our house chess club, it is
because I actually obtained the five shillings.

After this the game did not trouble me for some time. But there
came a day when a friend and I lunched at a restaurant in which
chess-boards formed as permanent a part the furniture of the
dining tables as the salt and mustard. Partly in joke, because it
seemed to be the etiquette of the building, we started a game. We
stayed there two hours ... and the fever remained with me for two
months. Another year or so of normal development followed. Then I
caught influenza and spent dull days in bed. Nothing can be worse
for an influenza victim than chess, but I suppose my warders did
not realize how much I suffered under the game. Anyhow, I played
it all day and dreamed of it all night--a riot of games in which
all the people I knew moved diagonally and up and down, took each
other, and became queens.

And now I have played again, and am once more an enthusiast. You
will agree with me, will you not, that it is a splendid game?
People mock at it. They say that it is not such good exercise as
cricket or golf. How wrong they are. That it brings the same
muscles into play as does cricket I do not claim for it. Each
game develops a different set of sinews; but what chess-player
who has sat with an extended forefinger on the head of his queen
for five minutes, before observing the enemy's bishop in the
distance and bringing back his piece to safety--what chess-
player, I say, will deny that the muscles of the hand ridge up
like lumps of iron after a month at the best of games? What
chess-player who has stretched his arm out in order to open with
the Ruy Lopez gambit, who has then withdrawn it as the
possibilities of the Don Quixote occur to him, and who has
finally, after another forward and backward movement, decided to
rely upon the bishop's declined pawn--what chess-player, I ask,
will not affirm that the biceps are elevated by this noblest of
pastimes? And, finally, what chess-player, who in making too
eagerly the crowning move, has upset with his elbow the victims
of the preliminary skirmishing, so that they roll upon the floor-
-what chess-player, who has to lean down and pick them up, will
not be the better for the strain upon his diaphragm? No; say what
you will against chess, but do not mock at it for its lack of

Yet there is this against it. The courtesies of the game are few.
I think that this must be why the passion for it leaves me after
a month. When at cricket you are bowled first ball, the
wicketkeeper can comfort you by murmuring that the light is bad;
when at tennis your opponent forces for the dedans and strikes
you heavily under the eye, he can shout, "Sorry!" when at golf
you reach a bunker in 4 and take 3 to get out, your partner can
endear himself by saying, "Hard luck"; but at chess everything
that the enemy does to you is deliberate. He cannot say, "Sorry!"
as he takes your knight; he does not call it hard luck when your
king is surrounded by vultures eager for his death; and though it
would be kindly in him to attribute to the bad light the fact
that you never noticed his castle leaning against your queen, yet
it would be quite against the etiquette of the game.

Indeed, it is impossible to win gracefully at chess. No man yet
has said "Mate!" in a voice which failed to sound to his opponent
bitter, boastful, and malicious. It is the tone of that voice
which, after a month, I find it impossible any longer to stand.

A Doubtful Character

I find it difficult to believe in Father Christmas. If he is the
jolly old gentleman he is always said to be, why doesn't he
behave as such? How is it that the presents go so often to the
wrong people?

This is no personal complaint; I speak for the world. The rich
people get the rich presents, and the poor people get the poor
ones. That may not be the fault of Father Christmas; he may be
under contract for a billion years to deliver all presents just
as they are addressed; but how can he go on smiling? He must long
to alter all that. There is Miss Priscilla A---- who gets five
guineas worth of the best every year from Mr. Cyril B---- who
hopes to be her heir. Mustn't that make Father Christmas mad? Yet
he goes down the chimney with it just the same. When his contract
is over, and he has a free hand, he'll arrange something about
THAT, I'm sure. If he is the jolly old gentleman of the pictures
his sense of humour must trouble him. He must be itching to have
jokes with the parcels. "Only just this once," he would plead.
"Let me give Mrs. Brown the safety-razor, and Mr. Brown the
night-dress case; I swear I won't touch any of the others." Of
course that wouldn't be a very subtle joke; but jolly old
gentlemen with white beards aren't very subtle in their humour.
They lean to the broader effects--the practical joke and the pun.
I can imagine Father Christmas making his annual pun on the word
"reindeer," and the eldest reindeer making a feeble attempt to
smile. The younger ones wouldn't so much as try. Yet he would
make it so gaily that you would love him even if you couldn't

Coming down chimneys is dangerous work for white beards, and if I
believed in him I should ask myself how he manages to keep so
clean. I suppose his sense of humour suggested the chimney to him
in the first place, and for a year or two it was the greatest
joke in the world. But now he must wish sometimes that he came in
by the door or the window. Some chimneys are very dirty for white

Have you noticed that children, who hang up their stockings,
always get lots of presents, and that we grown-ups, who don't
hang up our stockings, never get any? This makes me think that
perhaps after all Father Christmas has some say in the
distribution. When he sees an empty stocking he pops in a few
things on his own account--with "from Aunt Emma" pinned on to
them. Then you write to Aunt Emma to thank her for her delightful
present, and she is so ashamed of herself for not having sent you
one that she never lets on about it. But when Father Christmas
doesn't see a stocking, he just leaves you the embroidered
tobacco pouch from your sister and the postal order from your
rich uncle, and is glad to get out of the house.

Of his attitude towards Christmas cards I cannot speak with
certainty, but I fancy that he does not bring these down the
chimney too; the truth being, probably, that it is he who
composes the mottoes on them, and that with the customary modesty
of the author he leaves the distribution of them to others. "The
old, old wish--a merry Christmas and a happy New Year" he
considers to be his masterpiece so far, but "A righte merrie
Christemasse" runs it close. "May happy hours be yours" is
another epigram in the same vein which has met with considerable
success. You can understand how embarrassing it would be to an
author if he had to cart round his own works, and practically to
force them on people. This is why you so rarely find a Christmas
card in your stocking.

There is one other thing at which Father Christmas draws the
line; he will not deliver venison. The reindeer say it comes too
near home to them. But, apart from this, he is never so happy as
when dealing with hampers. He would put a plum-pudding into every
stocking if he could, for like all jolly old gentlemen with nice
white beards he loves to think of people enjoying their food. I
am not sure that he holds much with chocolates, although he is
entrusted with so many boxes that he has learnt to look on them
with kindly tolerance. But the turkey idea, I imagine (though I
cannot speak with authority), the turkey idea was entirely his
own. Nothing like turkey for making the beard grow.

If I believed in Father Christmas I should ask myself what he
does all the summer--all the year, indeed, after his one day is
over. The reindeer, of course, are put out to grass. But where is
Father Christmas? Does he sleep for fifty-one weeks? Does he
shave, and mix with us mortals? Or does he--yes, that must be it-
-does he spend the year in training, in keeping down his figure?
Chimney work is terribly trying; the figure wants watching if one
is to carry it through successfully. This is especially so in the
case of jolly old gentlemen with white beards. I can see Father
Christmas, as soon as his day is over, taking himself off to the
Equator and running round and round it. By next December he is in
splendid condition.

When his billion years are over, when his contract expires and he
is allowed a free hand with the presents, I suppose I shall not
be alive to take part in the distribution. But none the less I
like to think of the things I should get. There are at least half
a dozen things which I deserve, and Father Christmas knows it. In
any equitable scheme of allotment I should come out well. "Half a
minute," he would say, "I must just put these cigars aside for
the gentleman who had the picture post card last year. What have
you got there? The country cottage and the complete edition of
Meredith? Ah yes, perhaps he'd better have those too."

That would be something like a Father Christmas.

Thoughts on Thermometers

Our thermometer went down to 11 deg. the other night. The
excitement was intense. It was, of course, the first person down
to breakfast who rushed into the garden and made the discovery,
and as each of us appeared he was greeted with the news.

"I say, do you know there were twenty-one degrees of frost last

"Really? By Jove!"

We were all very happy and talkative at breakfast--an event rare
enough to be chronicled. It was not that we particularly wanted a
frost, but that we felt that, if it was going to freeze, it might
as well do it properly--so as to show other nations that England
was still to be reckoned with. And there was also the feeling
that if the thermometer could get down to 11 deg. it might some
day get down to zero; and then perhaps the Thames would be frozen
over again at Westminster, and the papers would be full of
strange news, and--generally speaking--life would be a little
different from the ordinary. In a word, there would be a chance
of something "happening"-- which, I take it, is why one buys a
thermometer and watches it so carefully.

Of course, every nice thermometer has a device for registering
the maximum and minimum temperatures, which can only be set with
a magnet. This gives you an opportunity of using a magnet in
ordinary life, an opportunity which occurs all too seldom.
Indeed, I can think of no other occasion on which it plays any
important part in one's affairs. It would be interesting to know
if the sale of magnets exceeds the sale of thermometers, and if
so, why?--and it would also be interesting to know why magnets
are always painted red, as if they were dangerous, or belonged to
the Government, or--but this is a question into which it is
impossible to go now. My present theme is thermometers.

Our thermometer (which went down to 11 deg. the other night) is
not one of your common mercury ones; it is filled with a pink
fluid which I am told is alcohol, though I have never tried. It
hangs in the kitchen garden. This gives you an excuse in summer
for going into the kitchen garden and leaning against the fruit
trees. "Let's go and look at the thermometer" you say to your
guest from London, and just for the moment he thinks that the
amusements of the country are not very dramatic. But after a day
or two he learns that what you really mean is, "Let's go and see
if any fruit has blown down in the night." And he takes care to
lean against the right tree. An elaborate subterfuge, but
necessary if your gardener is at all strict.

But whether your thermometer hangs in the kitchen garden or at
the back of the shrubbery, you must recognize one thing about it,
namely, that it is an open-air plant. There are people who keep
thermometers shut up indoors, which is both cruel and
unnecessary. When you complain that the library is a little
chilly--as surely you are entitled to--they look at the
thermometer nailed to the Henry Fielding shelf and say, "Oh no; I
don't think so. It's sixty-five." As if anybody wanted a
thermometer to know if a room were cold or not. These people
insult thermometers and their guests further by placing one of
the former in the bathroom soap-dish, in order that the latter
may discover whether it is a hot or cold bath which they are
having. All decent people know that a hot bath is one which you
can just bear to get into, and that a cold bath is one which you
cannot bear to think of getting into, but have to for honour's
sake. They do riot want to be told how many degrees Fahrenheit it

 The undersized temperature-taker which the doctor puts under
your tongue before telling you to keep warm and take plenty of
milk puddings is properly despised by every true thermometer-
lover. Any record which it makes is too personal for a breakfast-
table topic, and moreover it is a thermometer which affords no
scope for the magnet. Altogether it is a contemptible thing. An
occasional devotee will bite it in two before returning it to its
owner, but this is rather a strong line to take. It is perhaps
best to avoid it altogether by not being ill.

A thermometer must always be treated with care, for the mercury
once spilt can only be replaced with great difficulty. It is
considered to be one of the most awkward things to pick up after
dinner, and only a very steady hand will be successful. Some
people with a gift for handling mercury or alcohol make their own
thermometers; but even when you have got the stuff into the tube,
it is always a question where to put the little figures. So much
depends upon them.

Now I must tell you the one hereditary failing of the
thermometer. I had meant to hide it from you, but I see that you
are determined to have it. It is this: you cannot go up to it and
tap it. At least you can, but you don't get that feeling of
satisfaction from it which the tapping of a barometer gives you.
Of course you can always put a hot thumb on the bulb and watch
the mercury run up; this is satisfying for a short time, but it
is not the same thing as tapping. And I am wrong to say "always,"
for in some thermometers--indeed, in ours, alas!--the bulb is
wired in, so that no falsifying thumb can get to work. However,
this has its compensations, for if no hot thumb can make our
thermometer untrue to itself, neither can any cold thumb. And so
when I tell you again that our thermometer did go down to 11 deg.
the other night, you have no excuse for not believing that our
twenty-one degrees of frost was a genuine affair. In fact, you
will appreciate our excitement at breakfast.

For a Wet Afternoon

Let us consider something seasonable; let us consider indoor
games for a moment.

And by indoor games I do not mean anything so serious as bridge
and billiards, nor anything so commercial as vingt-et-un with
fish counters, nor anything so strenuous as "bumps." The games I
mean are those jolly, sociable ones in which everybody in the
house can join with an equal chance of distinction, those
friendly games which are played with laughter round a fire what
time the blizzards rattle against the window-pane.

These games may be divided broadly into two classes; namely,
paper games and guessing games. The initial disadvantage of the
paper game is that pencils have to be found for everybody;
generally a difficult business. Once they are found, there is no
further trouble until the game is over, when the pencils have to
be collected from everybody; generally an impossible business. If
you are a guest in the house, insist upon a paper game, for it
gives you a chance of acquiring a pencil; if you are the host,
consider carefully whether you would not rather play a guessing

But the guessing game has one great disadvantage too. It demands
periodically that a member of the company should go out by
himself into the hall and wait there patiently until his
companions have "thought of something." (It may be supposed that
he, too, is thinking of something in the cold hall, but perhaps
not liking to say it.) However careful the players are,
unpleasantness is bound to arise sometimes over this preliminary
stage of the game. I knew of one case where the people in the
room forgot all about the lady waiting in the hall and began to
tell each other ghost stories. The lights were turned out, and
sitting round the flickering fire the most imaginative members of
the household thrilled their hearers with ghostly tales of the
dead. Suddenly, in the middle of the story of Torfrida of the
Towers--a lady who had strangled her children, and ever
afterwards haunted the battlements, headless, and in a night-
gown--the door opened softly, and Miss Robinson entered to ask
how much longer they would be. Miss Robinson was wearing a white
frock, and the effect of her entry was tremendous. I remember,
too, another evening when we were playing "proverbs." William,
who had gone outside, was noted for his skill at the game, and we
were determined to give him something difficult; something which
hadn't a camel or a glass house or a stable door in it. After
some discussion a member of the company suggested a proverb from
the Persian, as he alleged. It went something like this: "A wise
man is kind to his dog, but a poor man riseth early in the
morning." We took his word for it, and, feeling certain that
William would never guess, called him to come in.

Unfortunately William, who is a trifle absentminded, had gone to

To avoid accidents of this nature it is better to play "clumps,"
a guessing game in which the procedure is slightly varied. In
"clumps" two people go into the hall and think of something,
while the rest remain before the fire. Thus, however long the
interval of waiting, all are happy; for the people inside can
tell each other stories (or, as a last resort, play some other
game) and the two outside are presumably amusing themselves in
arranging something very difficult. Personally I adore clumps;
not only for this reason, but because of its revelation of hidden
talent. There may be a dozen persons in each clump, and in theory
every one of the dozen is supposed to take a hand in the cross-
examination, but in practice it is always one person who extracts
the information required by a cataract of searching questions.
Always one person and generally a girl. I love to see her coming
out of her shell. She has excelled at none of the outdoor games
perhaps; she has spoken hardly a word at meals. In our little
company she has scarcely seemed to count. But suddenly she awakes
into life. Clumps is the family game at home; she has been
brought up on it. In a moment she discovers herself as our
natural leader, a leader whom we follow humbly. And however we
may spend the rest of our time together, the effect of her short
hour's triumph will not wholly wear away. She is now established.

But the paper games will always be most popular, and once you are
over the difficulty of the pencils you may play them for hours
without wearying. But of course you must play the amusing ones
and not the dull ones. The most common paper game of all, that of
making small words out of a big one, has nothing to recommend it;
for there can be no possible amusement in hearing somebody else
read out "but," "bat," "bet," "bin," "ben," and so forth, riot
even if you spend half an hour discussing whether "ben" is really
a word. On the other hand your game, however amusing, ought to
have some finality about it; a game is not really a game unless
somebody can win it. For this reason I cannot wholly approve
"telegrams." To concoct a telegram whose words begin with certain
selected letters of the alphabet, say the first ten, is to amuse
yourself anyhow and possibly your friends; whether you say, "Am
bringing camel down early Friday. Got hump. Inform Jamrach"; or,
"Afraid better cancel dinner engagement. Fred got horrid
indigestion.--JANE." But it is impossible to declare yourself
certainly the winner. Fortunately, however, there are games which
combine amusement with a definite result; games in which the
others can be funny while you can get the prize--or, if you
prefer it, the other way about.

When I began to write this, the rain was streaming against the
window-panes. It is now quite fine. This, you will notice, often
happens when you decide to play indoor games on a wet afternoon.
Just as you have found the pencils, the sun comes out.

Declined with Thanks

A paragraph in the papers of last week recorded the unusual
action of a gentleman called Smith (or some such name) who had
refused for reasons of conscience to be made a justice of the
peace. Smith's case was that the commission was offered to him as
a reward for political services, and that this was a method of
selecting magistrates of which he did not approve. So he showed
his contempt for the system by refusing an honour which most
people covet, and earned by this such notoriety as the papers can
give. "Portrait (on page 8) of a gentleman who has refused
something!" He takes his place with Brittlebones in the gallery
of freaks.

The subject for essay has frequently been given, "If a million
pounds were left to you, how could you do most good with it?"
Some say they would endow hospitals, some that they would
establish almshouses; there may even be some who would go as far
as to build half a Dreadnought. But there would be a more
decisive way of doing good than any of these. You might refuse
the million pounds. That would be a shock to the systems of the
comfortable --a blow struck at the great Money God which would
make it totter; a thrust in defence of pride and freedom such as
had not been seen before. That would be a moral tonic more needed
than all the draughts of your newly endowed hospitals. Will it
ever be administered? Well, perhaps when the D.W.T. club has
grown a little stronger.

Have you heard of the D.W.T.--the Declined- with-Thanks Club?
There are no club rooms and not many members, but the balance
sheet for the last twelve months is wonderful, showing that more
than £11,000 was refused. The entrance fee is one hundred guineas
and the annual subscription fifty guineas; that is to say, you
must have refused a hundred guineas before you can be elected,
and you are expected to refuse another fifty guineas a year while
you retain membership. It is possible also to compound with a
life refusal, but the sum is not fixed, and remains at the
discretion of the committee.

Baines is a life member. He saved an old lady from being run over
by a motor bus some years ago, and when she died she left him a
legacy of £1000. Baines wrote to the executors and pointed out
that he did not go about dragging persons from beneath motor
buses as a profession; that, if she had offered him £1000 at the
time, he would have refused it, not being in the habit of
accepting money from strangers, still less from women; and that
he did not see that the fact of the money being offered two years
later in a will made the slightest difference. Baines was earning
£300 a year at this time, and had a wife and four children, but
he will not admit that he did anything at all out of the common.

The case of Sedley comes up for consideration at the next
committee meeting. Sedley's rich uncle, a cantankerous old man,
insulted him grossly; there was a quarrel; and the old man left,
vowing to revenge himself by disinheriting his nephew and
bequeathing his money to a cats' home. He died on his way to his
solicitors, and Sedley was told of his good fortune in good legal
English. He replied, "What on earth do you take me for? I
wouldn't touch a penny. Give it to the cats' home or any blessed
thing you like." Sedley, of course, will be elected as an
ordinary member, but as there is a strong feeling on the
committee that no decent man could have done anything else, his
election as a life member is improbable.

Though there are one or two other members like Baines and Sedley,
most of them are men who have refused professional openings
rather than actual money. There are, for instance, half a dozen
journalists and authors. Now a journalist, before he can be
elected, must have a black-list of papers for which he will
refuse to write. A concocted wireless message in the Daily Blank,
which subsequent events proved to have been invented deliberately
for the purpose of raking in ha'pennies, so infuriated Henderson
(to take a case) that he has pledged himself never to write a
line for any paper owned by the same proprietors. Curiously
enough he was asked a day or two later to contribute a series to
a most respectable magazine published by this firm. He refused in
a letter which breathed hatred and utter contempt in every word.
It was Henderson, too, who resigned his position as dramatic
critic because the proprietor of his paper did rather a shady
thing in private life. "I know the paper isn't mixed up in it at
all," he said, "but he's my employer and he pays me. Well, I like
to be loyal to my employers, and if I'm loyal to this man I can't
go about telling everybody that he's a dirty cad. As I
particularly want to."

Then there is the case of Bolus the author. He is only an
honorary member, for he has not as yet had the opportunity of
refusing money or work. But he has refused to be photographed and
interviewed, and he has refused to contribute to symposia in the
monthly magazines. He has declined with thanks, moreover,
invitations to half a dozen houses sent to him by hostesses who
only knew him by reputation. Myself, I think it is time that he
was elected a full member; indirectly he must have been a
financial loser by his action, and even if he is not actually
assisting to topple over the Money God, he is at least striking a
blow for the cause of independence. However, there he is, and
with him goes a certain M.P. who contributed £20,000 to the party
chest, and refused scornfully the peerage which was offered to

The Bar is represented by P. J. Brewster, who was elected for
refusing to defend a suspected murderer until he had absolutely
convinced himself of the man's innocence. It was suggested to him
by his legal brothers that counsel did not pledge themselves to
the innocence of their clients, but merely put the case for one
side in a perfectly detached way, according to the best
traditions of the Bar. Brewster replied that he was also quite
capable of putting the case for Tariff Reform in a perfectly
detached way according to the best traditions of The Morning
Post, but as he was a Free Trader he thought he would refuse any
such offer if it were made to him. He added, however, that he was
not in the present case worrying about moral points of view; he
was simply expressing his opinion that the luxury of not having
little notes passed to him in court by a probable murderer, of
not sharing a page in an illustrated paper with him, and of not
having to shake hands with him if he were acquitted, was worth
paying for. Later on, when as K.C., M.P., he refused the position
of standing counsel to a paper which he was always attacking in
the House, he became a life member of the club.

But it would be impossible to mention all the members of the
D.W.T. by name. I have been led on to speaking about the club by
the mention of that Mr. Smith (or whatever his name was) who
refused to be made a justice of the peace. If Mr. Smith cared to
put up as an honorary member, I have no doubt that he would be
elected; for though it is against the Money God that the chief
battle is waged, yet the spirit of refusal is the same. "Blessed
are they who know how to refuse," runs the club's motto, "for
they will have a chance to be clean."

On Going into a House

It is nineteen years since I lived in a house; nineteen years
since I went upstairs to bed and came downstairs to breakfast. Of
course I have done these things in other people's houses from
time to time, but what we do in other people's houses does not
count. We are holiday-making then. We play cricket and golf and
croquet, and run up and down stairs, and amuse ourselves in a
hundred difierent ways, but all this is no fixed part of our
life. Now, however, for the first time for nineteen years, I am
actually living in a house. I have (imagine my excitement) a
staircase of my own.

Flats may be convenient (I thought so myself when I lived in one
some days ago), but they have their disadvantages. One of the
disadvantages is that you are never in complete possession of the
flat. You may think that the drawing-room floor (to take a case)
is your very own, but it isn't; you share it with a man below who
uses it as a ceiling. If you want to dance a step-dance, you have
to consider his plaster. I was always ready enough to accommodate
myself in this matter to his prejudices, but I could not put up
with his old-fashioned ideas about bathroom ceilings. It is very
cramping to one's style in the bath to reflect that the slightest
splash may call attention to itself on the ceiling of the
gentleman below. This is to share a bathroom with a stranger--an
intolerable position for a proud man. To-day I have a bathroom of
my own for the first time in my life.

I can see already that living in a house is going to be
extraordinarily healthy both for mind and body. At present I go
upstairs to my bedroom (and downstairs again) about once in every
half-hour; not simply from pride of ownership, to make sure that
the bedroom is still there, and that the staircase is continuing
to perform its functions, but in order to fetch something, a
letter or a key, which as likely as not I have forgotten about
again as soon as I have climbed to the top of the house. No such
exercise as this was possible in a flat, and even after two or
three days I feel the better for it. But obviously I cannot go on
like this, if I am to have leisure for anything else. With
practice I shall so train my mind that, when I leave my bedroom
in the morning, I leave it with everything that I can possibly
require until nightfall. This, I imagine, will not happen for
some years yet; meanwhile physical training has precedence.

Getting up to breakfast means something different now; it means
coming down to breakfast. To come down to breakfast brings one
immediately in contact with the morning. The world flows past the
window, that small and (as it seems to me) particularly select
portion of the world which finds itself in our quiet street; I
can see it as I drink my tea. When I lived in a flat (days and
days ago) anything might have happened to London, and I should
never have known it until the afternoon. Everybody else could
have perished in the night, and I should settle down as
complacently as ever to my essay on making the world safe for
democracy. Not so now. As soon as I have reached the bottom of my
delightful staircase I am one with the outside world.

Also one with the weather, which is rather convenient. On the
third floor it is almost impossible to know what sort of weather
they are having in London. A day which looks cold from a third-
floor window may be very sultry down below, but by that time one
is committed to an overcoat. How much better to live in a house,
and to step from one's front door and inhale a sample of whatever
day the gods have sent. Then one can step back again and dress

But the best of a house is that it has an outside personality as
well as an inside one. Nobody, not even himself, could admire a
man's flat from the street; nobody could look up and say, "What
very delightful people must live behind those third-floor
windows." Here it is different. Any of you may find himself some
day in our quiet street, and stop a moment to look at our house;
at the blue door with its jolly knocker, at the little trees in
their blue tubs standing within a ring of blue posts linked by
chains, at the bright-coloured curtains. You may not like it, but
we shall be watching you from one of the windows, and telling
each other that you do. In any case, we have the pleasure of
looking at it ourselves, and feeling that we are contributing
something to London, whether for better or for worse. We are part
of a street now, and can take pride in that street. Before, we
were only part of a big unmanageable building. It is a solemn
thought that I have got this house for (apparently) eighty-seven
years. One never knows, and it may be that by the end of that
time I shall be meditating an article on the advantages of living
in a flat. A flat, I shall say, is so convenient.

The Ideal Author

Samuel Butler made a habit (and urged it upon every young writer)
of carrying a notebook about with him. The most profitable ideas,
he felt, do not come from much seeking, but rise unbidden in the
mind, and if they are not put down at once on paper, they may be
lost for ever. But with a notebook in the pocket you are safe; no
thought is too fleeting to escape you. Thus, if an inspiration
for a five-thousand word story comes suddenly to you during the
dessert, you murmur an apology to your neighbour, whip out your
pocket-book, and jot down a few rough notes. "Hero choked peach-
stone eve marriage Lady Honoria. Pchtree planted by jltd frst
love. Ironyofthings. Tragic." Next morning you extract your
notebook from its white waistcoat, and prepare to develop your
theme (if legible) a little more fully. Possibly it does not seem
so brilliant in the cold light of morning as it did after that
fourth glass of Bollinger. If this be so, you can then make
another note--say, for a short article on "Disillusionment." One
way or another a notebook and a pencil will keep you well
supplied with material.

If I do not follow Butler's advice myself, it is not because I
get no brilliant inspirations away from my inkpot, nor because,
having had the inspirations, I am capable of retaining them until
I get back to my inkpot again, but simply because I should never
have the notebook and the pencil in the right pockets. But though
I do not imitate him, I can admire his wisdom, even while making
fun of it. Yet I am sure it was unwise of him to take the public
into his confidence. The public prefers to think that an author
does not require these earthly aids to composition. It will never
quite reconcile itself to the fact that an author is following a
profession-- a profession by means of which he pays the rent and
settles the weekly bills. No doubt the public wants its favourite
writers to go on living, but not in the sordid way that its
barrister and banker friends live. It would prefer to feel that
manna dropped on them from Heaven, and that the ravens erected
them a residence; but, having regretfully to reject this theory,
it likes to keep up the pretence that the thousand pounds that an
author received for his last story came as something of a
surprise to him--being, in fact, really more of a coincidence
than a reward.

The truth is that a layman will never take an author quite
seriously. He regards authorship, not as a profession, but as
something between au inspiration and a hobby. In as far as it is
an inspiration, it is a gift from Heaven, and ought, therefore,
to be shared with the rest of the world; in as far as it is a
hobby, it is something which should be done not too expertly, but
in a casual, amateur, haphazard fashion. For this reason a layman
will never hesitate to ask of an author a free contribution for
some local publication, on such slender grounds as that he and
the author were educated at the same school or had both met
Robinson. But the same man would be horrified at the idea of
asking a Harley Street surgeon (perhaps even more closely
connected with him) to remove his adenoids for nothing. To ask
for this (he would feel) would be almost as bad as to ask a gift
of ten guineas (or whatever the fee is), whereas to ask a writer
for an article is like asking a friend to decant your port for
you--a delicate compliment to his particular talent. But in truth
the matter is otherwise; and it is the author who has the better
right to resent such a request. For the supply of available
adenoids is limited, and if the surgeon hesitates to occupy
himself in removing one pair for nothing, it does not follow that
in the time thus saved he can be certain of getting employment
upon a ten-guinea pair. But when a Harley Street author has
written an article, there are a dozen papers which will give him
his own price for it, and if he sends it to his importunate
schoolfellow for nothing, he is literally giving up, not only ten
or twenty or a hundred guineas, but a publicity for his work
which he may prize even more highly. Moreover, he has lost what
can never be replaced-- an idea; whereas the surgeon would have
lost nothing.

Since, then, the author is not to be regarded as a professional,
he must by no means adopt the professional notebook. He is to
write by inspiration; which comes as regularly to him (it is to
be presumed) as indigestion to a lesser-favoured mortal. He must
know things by intuition; not by experience or as the result of
reading. This, at least, is what one gathers from hearing some
people talk about our novelists. The hero of Smith's new book
goes to the Royal College of Science, and the public says
scornfully: "Of course, he WOULD. Because Smith went to the Royal
College himself, all his heroes have to go there. This isn't art,
this is photography." In his next novel Smith sends his hero to
Cambridge, and the public says indignantly, "What the deuce does
SMITH know about Cambridge? Trying to pretend he is a 'Varsity
man, when everybody knows that he went to the Royal College of
Science! I suppose he's been mugging it up in a book." Perhaps
Brown's young couple honeymoons in Switzerland. "So did Brown,"
sneer his acquaintances. Or they go to Central Africa. "How
ridiculous," say his friends this time. "Why, he actually writes
as though he'd been there! I suppose he's just spent a week-end
with Sir Harry Johnston." Meredith has been blamed lately for
being so secretive about his personal affairs, but he knew what
he was doing. Happy is the writer who has no personal affairs; at
any rate, he will avoid this sort of criticism.

Indeed, Isaiah was the ideal author. He intruded no private
affairs upon the public. He took no money for his prophecies, and
yet managed to live on it. He responded readily, I imagine, to
any request for "something prophetic, you know," from
acquaintances or even strangers. Above all, he kept to one style,
and did not worry the public, when once it had got used to him,
by tentative gropings after a new method. And Isaiah, we may be
sure, did NOT carry a notebook.

End of Not That it Matters.

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