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Full text of "On Running After One S Hat And Other Whimsies"

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B6RKOWITZ FNVfTLOPE 00., K 



KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI PUBLIC LIBRARY 



3 1148 00918 2916 



On Running 



On Running 
After One's Hat 

and Other Whimsies 

BY 
G. K. CHESTERTON 



SELECTED BY E. V. KNOX 
EDITOR OF "PUNCH" 



New York Mcmxxxv 

ROBERT.M. MC BRIDE & COMPANY 



AFTER ONE'S HAT 

COPYRIGHT 
BY DODD, MEAD & COMPANY 

COPYRIGHT 1933 

ROBERT M. McBRIDE & COMPANY 

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES 
OF AMERICA 

FOURTH EDITION 



Reprinted through the courtesy of 

Dodd, Mead & Company 

New York 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



I. ON RUNNING AFTER ONE'S HAT . I- 

II. ON LYING IN BED . . . 7 

III. CHEESE * . . . 13. 

IV. ON PHILOSOPHY VERSUS FICTION . I& 
V. THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE . 25* 

VI. WHAT I FOUND IN MY POCKET . 53 

VII. THE PERFECT GAME ... 59 

VIII. IN TOPSY-TURVY LAND 6& 

IX. A TRAGEDY OF TWOPENCE . . 72* 

X. THE LITTLE BIRDS WHO WON'T SING 7& 

XI. THE RIDDLE OF THE IVY . . 85 

XII. THE THREE KINDS OF MEN . . Q2* 

XIII. THE SURRENDER OF A COCKNEY . 99 

XIV. THE PHILOSOPHY OF SIGHT-SEEING 105 
XV. HOW I FOUND THE SUPERMAN . 112 

XVI. THE WORSHIP OF THE WEALTHY . 1 1 8 

XVII. THE METHUSELAHITE . . .12^ 

XVIH. ON THE ENGLISHMAN ABROAD . 130 

XIX. ON CHANGE . . . .138* 

XX. A CAB RIDE ACROSS COUNTRY , 143 



vii 



I. ON RUNNING AFTER ONE ? S HAT 

I FEEL an almost savage envy on hearing 
that London has been flooded in my absence, 
while I am in the mere country. My own 
Battersea has been, I understand, particularly 
favoured as a meeting of the waters. Battersea 
was already, as I need hardly say, the most 
beautiful of human localities. Now that it has 
the additional splendour of great sheets of 
water, there must be something quite incom- 
parable in the landscape (or waterscape) of my 
own romantic town. Battersea must be a vision 
of Venice. The boat that brought the meat 
from the butcher's must have shot along those 
lanes of rippling silver with the strange smooth- 
ness of the gondola. The greengrocer who 
brought cabbages to the corner of the Latch- 
mere Road must have leant upon the oar with 
the unearthly grace of the gondolier. There is 
nothing so perfectly poetical as an island, ; and 
when a district is flooded it becomes an 
archipelago. 

Some consider such romantic views of flood 
or fire slightly lacking in reality. But really 
this romantic view of such inconveniences is 
quite as practical as the other. The true optimist 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

who sees in such things an opportunity for 
enjoyment is quite as logical and much more 
sensible than the ordinary ' Indignant Rate- 
payer ' who sees in them an opportunity for 
grumbling. Real pain, as in the case of being 
burnt at Smithfield or having a toothache, is 
a positive thing ; it can be supported, but 
scarcely enjoyed. But, after all, our toothaches 
are the exception, and as for being burnt at 
Smithfield, it only happens to us at the very 
longest intervals. And most of the incon- 
veniences that make men swear or women cry 
are really sentimental or imaginative incon- 
veniencesthings altogether of the mind. For 
instance, we often hear grown-up people com- 
plaining of having to hang about a railway 
station and wait for a train. Did you ever hear 
a small boy complain of having to hang about 
a railway station, and wait for a train ? No ; 
for to him to be inside a railway station is to 
be inside a cavern of wonder and a palace of 
poetical pleasures. Because to him the red 
light and the green light on th,e signal are like 
a new sun and a new moon. Because to him 
when the wooden arm of the signal falls down 
suddenly, it is as if a great king had thrown 
down his staff as a signal and started a shrieking 
tournament of trains. I myself am of little 
boys' habit in this matter. They also serve who 



ON RUNNING AFTER ONE'S HAT 

only stand and wait for the two fifteen. Their 
meditations may be full of rich and fruitful 
things. Many of the most purple hours of my 
life have been passed at Glapham Junction, 
which is now, I suppose, under water. I have 
been there in many moods so fixed and mystical 
that the water might well have come up to my 
waist before I noticed it particularly. But in 
the case of all such annoyances, -as I have said, 
everything depends upon the emotional point 
of view. You can safely apply the test to 
almost every one of the things that are currently 
talked of as the typical nuisance of daily life. 

For instance, there is a current impression 
that it is unpleasant to have to run after one's 
hat. Why should it be unpleasant to the well- 
ordered and pious mind ? Not merely because 
it is running, and running exhausts one. The 
same people run much faster in games and 
sports. The same people run much more 
eagerly after an uninteresting little leather ball 
than they will after a nice silk hat. There is 
an idea that it is humiliating to run after one's 
hat ; and when people say it is humiliating 
they mean that it is comic. It certainly is 
comic ; but man is a very comic creature, and 
most of the things he does are comic eating, 
for instance. And the most comic things of all 
are exactly the thing$ that are most worth 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

doing such as making love. A man running 
after a hat is not half so ridiculous as a man 
running after a wife. 

Now a man could, if he felt rightly in the 
matter, run after his hat with the manliest 
ardour and the most sacred joy. He might 
regard himself as a jolly huntsman pursuing a 
wild animal, for certainly no animal could be 
wilder. In fact, I am inclined to believe that 
hat-hunting on windy days will be the sport of 
the upper classes in the future. There will be 
a meet of ladies and gentlemen on some high 
ground on a gusty morning. They will be told 
that the professional attendants have started a 
hat in such-and-such a thicket, or whatever be 
the technical term. Notice that this employ- 
ment will in the fullest degree combine sport 
with humanitarianism. The hunters would feel 
that they were not inflicting pain. Nay, they 
would feel that they were inflicting pleasure, 
rich, almost riotous pleasure, upon the people 
who were looking on. When last I saw an old 
gentleman running after his hat in Hyde Park, 
I told him that a heart so benevolent as his 
ought to be filled with peace and thanks at the 
thought of how much unaffected pleasure his 
every gesture and bodily attitude were at that 
moment giving to the crowd. 

The same principle can be applied to every 



ON RUNNING AFTER ONE*S HAT 

other typical domestic worry, A gentleman 
trying to get a fly out of the milk or a piece of 
cork out of his glass of wine often imagines 
himself to be irritated. Let him think for a 
moment of the patience of anglers sitting by 
dark pools, and let his soul be immediately 
irradiated with gratification and repose, Again, 
I have known some people of very modern 
views driven by their distress to the use of 
theological terms to which they attached no 
doctrinal significance, merely because a drawer 
was jammed tight and they could not pull it 
out. A friend of mine was particularly afflicted 
in this way. Every day his drawer was jammed, 
and every day in consequence it was something 
else that rhymes to it. But I pointed out to 
him that this sense of wrong was really sub- 
jective and relative ; it rested entirely upon 
the assumption that the drawer could, should, 
and would come out easily. e But if/ I said, 
fi you picture to yourself that you are pulling 
against some powerful and oppressive enemy, 
the struggle will become merely exciting and 
not exasperating. Imagine that you are tug- 
ging up a lifeboat out of the sea. Imagine that 
you are roping up a fellow-creature out of an 
Alpine crevass. Imagine even that you are a 
boy again and engaged in a tug-of-war between 
French and English,' Shortly after saying this 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

I left him ; but I have no doubt at all that my 
words bore the best possible fruit. I have no 
doubt that every day of his life he hangs on to 
the handle of that drawer with a flushed face 
and eyes bright with battle, uttering encourag- 
ing shouts to himself, and seeming to hear all 
round him the roar of an applauding ring. 

So I do not think that it is altogether fanciful 
or incredible to suppose that even the floods in 
London may be accepted and enjoyed poeti- 
cally. Nothing beyond inconvenience seems 
really to have been caused by them ; and 
inconvenience, as I have said, is only one aspect, 
and that the most unimaginative and accidental 
aspect of a really romantic situation. An 
adventure is only an inconvenience rightly 
considered. An inconvenience is only an ad- 
venture wrongly considered. The water that 
girdled the houses and shops of London must, 
if anything, have only increased their previous 
witchery and wonder. For as the Roman 
Catholic priest in the story said ; c Wine is 
good with everything except water/ and on a 
similar principle, water is good with everything 
except wine. 



II. ON LYING IN BED 

EYING in bed would be an altogether per- 
fect and supreme experience if only one 
had a coloured pencil long enough to draw on 
the ceiling. This, however, is not generally a 
part of the domestic apparatus on the premises. 
I think myself that the thing might be managed 
with several pails of Aspinall and a broom. 
Only if one worked in a really sweeping and 
masterly way, and laid on the colour in great 
washes;, it might drip down again on one's face 
in floods of rich and mingled colour like some 
strange fairy rain ; and that would have its 
disadvantages. I am afraid it would be neces- 
sary to stick to black and white in this form of 
artistic composition. To that purpose, indeed, 
the white ceiling would be of the greatest 
possible use ; in fact, it is the only use I think 
of a white ceiling being put to. 

But for the beautiful experiment of lying in 
bed I might never have discovered it. For 
years I have been looking for some blank spaces 
in a modern house to draw on. Paper is mucjb 
too small for any really allegorical design ; 
as Cyrano de Bergerac says : < II me faut des 
grants.' But when I tried to find these fine 



O. K. CHESTERTON 

clear spaces in the modern rooms such as we 
all live in I was continually disappointed. 1 
found an endless pattern and complication of 
small objects hung like a curtain of fine links 
between me and my desire. I examined the 
walls ; I found them to my surprise to be 
already covered with wall-paper, and I found 
the wall-paper to be already covered with very 
uninteresting images, all bearing a ridiculous 
resemblance to each other. I could not under- 
stand why one arbitrary symbol (a symbol 
apparently entirely devoid of any religious or 
philosophical significance) should thus be 
sprinkled all over my nice walls like a sort of 
small-pox. The Bible must be referring to wall- 
papers, I think, when it says, * Use not vain 
repetitions, as the Gentiles do. 5 I found the 
Turkey carpet a mass of unmeaning colours, 
rather like the Turkish Empire, or like the 
sweetmeat called Turkish Delight. I do not 
exactly know what Turkish Delight really is ; 
but I suppose it is Macedonian Massacres. 
Everywhere that I went forlornly, with my 
pencil or my paint brush, I found that others 
had unaccountably been before me, spoiling 
the walls, the curtains, and the furniture with 
their childish and barbaric designs. 



ON LYING IN BED 

Nowhere did I find a really clear space for 
sketching until occasion when I prolonged 
beyond the proper limit the process of lying on 
my back in bed. Then the light of that white 
heaven broke upon my vision, that breadth of 
mere white which is indeed almost the defin- 
ition of Paradise, since it means purity and also 
means freedom. But alas ! like all heavens 
now that it is seen it is found to be unattainable ; 
it looks more austere and more distant than the 
blue sky outside the window. For my proposal 
to paint on it with the bristly end of a broom 
has been discouraged never mind by whom ; 
by a person debarred from all political rights 
and even my minor proposal to put the other 
end of the broom into the kitchen fire and turn 
it into charcoal has not been conceded. Yet 
I am certain that it was from persons in my 
position that all the original inspiration came 
for covering the ceilings of palaces and cathe- 
drals with a riot of fallen angels or victorious 
gods. I am sure that it was only because 
Michael Angelo was engaged in the ancient 
and honourable occupation of lying in bed that 
he ever realized how the roof of the Sistine 
Chapel might be made into an awful imitation 
of a divine drama that could only be acted in 
the heavens. 

The tone now commonly taken towards the 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

practice of lying in bed is hypocritical and un- 
healthy. Of all the marks of modernity that 
seem to mean a kind of decadence, there is 
none more menacing and dangerous than the 
exaltation of very small and secondary matters 
of conduct at the expense of very great and 
primary ones, at the expense of eternal ties and 
tragic human morality. If there is one thing 
worse than the modern weakening of major 
morals it is the modern strengthening of minor 
morals. Thus it is considered more withering 
to accuse a man of bad taste than of bad ethics. 
Cleanliness is not next to godliness nowadays, 
for cleanliness is made an essential and god- 
liness is regarded as an offence. A playwright 
can attack the institution of marriage so long 
as he does not misrepresent the manners of 
society, and I have met Ibsenite pessimists who 
thought it wrong to take beer but right to take 
prussic acid. Especially this is so in matters of 
hygiene ; notably such matters as lying in bed. 
Instead of being regarded, as it ought to be, as 
a matter of personal convenience and adjust- 
ment, it has come to be regarded by many as if 
it were a part of essential morals to get up early 
in the morning. It is, upon the whole, part of 
practical wisdom ; but there is nothing good 
about it or bad about its opposite. 



10 



ON LYING IN BED 

Misers get up early in the morning ; and 
burglars, I am informed, get up the night 
before. It is the great peril of our society that 
all its mechanism may grow more fixed while 
its spirit grows more fickle. A man's minor 
actions and arrangements ought to be free 3 
flexible, creative ; the things that should be 
unchangeable are his principles, his ideals. 
But with us the reverse is true ; our views 
change constantly ; but our lunch does not 
change. Now, I should like men to have 
strong and rooted conceptions, but as for their 
lunch, let them have it sometimes in the 
garden, sometimes in bed, sometimes on the roof, 
sometimes in the top of a tree. Let them argue 
from the same first principles, but let them do it 
in a bed, or a boat, or a balloon. This alarming 
growth of good habits really means a too great 
emphasis on those virtues which mere custom 
can ensure ; it means too little emphasis on 
those virtues which custom can never quite 
ensure, sudden and splendid virtues of inspired 
pity or of inspired candour. If ever that abrupt 
appeal is made to us we may fail. A man can 
get used to getting up at five o'clock in the 
morning. A man cannot very well get used to 
being burnt for his opinions ; the first experi- 
ment is commonly fatal. Let us pay a little 
more attention to these possibilities of the 
n 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

heroic and the unexpected. I dare say that 
when I get out of this bed I shall do some deed 
of an almost terrible virtue. 

For those who study the great art of lying in 
bed there is one emphatic caution to be added. 
Even for those who can do their work in bed 
(like journalists), still more for those whose 
work cannot be done in bed (as, for example, 
the professional harpooners of whales), it is 
obvious that the indulgence must be very 
occasional. But that is not the caution I mean. 
The caution is this : if you do lie in bed, be 
sure you do it without any reason or justi- 
fication at all. I do not speak, of course, of the 
seriously sick. But if a healthy man lies in bed, 
let him do it without a rag of excuse ; then he 
will get up a healthy man. If he does it for 
some secondary hygienic reason, if he has some 
scientific explanation he may get up a hypo- 
chondriac. 



III. CHEESE 

MY forthcoming work in five volumes, 
The Neglect of Cheese in European 
Literature,' is a work of such unprecedented 
and laborious detail that it is doubtful if I shall 
live to finish it. Some overflowings from such 
a fountain of information may therefore be 
permitted to springle these pages. I cannot 
yet wholly explain the neglect to which I refer. 
Poets have |>een mysteriously silent on the 
subject of cheese. Virgil, if I remember right, 
refers to it several times, but with too much 
Roman restraint. He does not let himself go 
on cheese. The only other poet I can think of 
just now who seems to have had some sensi- 
bility on the point was the nameless author of 
the nursery rhyme which says : c If all the trees 
were bread and cheese ' which is, indeed, a 
rich and gigantic vision of the higher gluttony. 
If all the trees were bread and cheese there 
would be considerable deforestation in any 
part of England where I was living. Wild and 
'wide woodlands would reel and fade before me 
as rapidly as they ran after Orpheus. Except 
yirgil and this anonymous rhymer, I can recall 
no verse about cheese. Yet it has every quality 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

which we require in exalted poetry. It is a 
short, strong word ; it rhymes to * breeze ' and 
c seas J (an essential point) ; that it is emphatic 
in sound is admitted even by the civilization of 
the modern cities. For their citizens, with no 
apparent intention except emphasis, will often 
say, * Cheese it ! ' or even c Quite the cheese. 5 
The substance itself is imaginative. It is 
ancient sometimes in the individual case, 
always in the type and custom. It is simple, 
being directly derived from milk, which is one 
of the ancestral drinks, not lightly to be cor- 
rupted with soda-water. You know, I hope 
(though I myself have only just thought of it), 
that the four rivers of Eden were milk, water, 
wine, and ale. Aerated waters only appeared 
after the Fall 

But cheese has another quality, which is also 
the very soul of song. Once in endeavouring 
to lecture in several places at once, I made an 
eccentric journey across England, a journey of 
so irregular and even illogical shape that it 
necessitated my having luach on four successive 
days in four roadside inns in four different 
counties. In each inn they had nothing but 
bread and cheese ; nor can I imagine why a 
man should want more than bread and cheese, 
if he can get enough of it. In each inn the 
cheese was good ; and in each inn it was 
14 



CHEESE 

different. There was a noble Wensleydale 
cheese in Yorkshire, a Cheshire cheese in 
Cheshire, and so on. Now, it is just here that 
true poetic civilization differs from that paltry 
and mechanical civilization which holds us all 
in bondage. Bad customs are universal and 
rigid, like modern militarism. Good customs 
are universal and varied, like native chivalry 
and self-defence. Both the good and bad civi- 
lization cover us as with a canopy, and protect 
us from all that is outside. But a good civiliza- 
tion spreads over us freely like a tree, varying 
and yielding because it is alive. A bad 
civilization stands up and sticks out above us 
like an umbrella artificial, mathematical in 
shape ; not merely universal, but uniform. So 
it is with the contrast between the substances 
that vary and the substances that are the same 
wherever they penetrate. By a wise doom of 
heaven men were commanded to eat cheese, 
but not the same cheese. Being really universal 
it varies from valley to valley. But if, let us 
say, we compare cheese with soap (that vastly 
inferior substance), we shall see that soap tends 
more and more to be merely Smith's Soap or 
Brown's Soap, sent automatically all over the 
world. If the Red Indians have soap it is 
Smith's Soap. If the Graud Lama has soap it 
is Brown's Soap. There is nothing subtly and 

15 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

strangely Buddhist, nothing tenderly^ Tibetan, 
about his soap. I fancy the Grand Lama does 
not eat cheese (he is not worthy), but if he 
does it is probably a local cheese, having some 
real relation to his life and outlook. Safety 
matches, tinned foods, patent medicines are 
sent all over the world ; but they are not pro- 
duced all over the world. Therefore there is 
in them a mere dead identity, never that soft 
play of slight variation which exists in things 
produced everywhere out of the soil, in the 
milk of the kine, or the fruits of the orchard. 
You can get a whisky and soda at every outpost 
of the Empire : that is why so many Empire- 
builders go mad. But you are not tasting or 
touching any environment, as in the cider of 
Devonshire or the grapes of the Rhine. You 
are not approaching Nature in one of her 
myriad tints of mood, as in the holy act of 
eating cheese. 

When I had done my pilgrimage in the four 
wayside pjiblic-houses I reached one of the 
great northern cities, and there I proceeded, 
with great rapidity and complete inconsistency, 
to a large and elaborate restaurant, where 1 
knew I could get many other things besides 
bread and cheese. I could get that also, how- 
ever ; or at least I expected to get it ; but I 
wag sharply reminded that 1 had entered 
16 



CHEESE 

Babylon, and left England behind. The waiter 
brought me cheese, indeed, but cheese cut up 
into contemptibly small pieces ; and it is the 
awful fact that, instead of Christian bread, he 
brought me biscuits. Biscuits to one who had 
eaten the cheese of four great countrysides ! 
Biscuits to one who had proved anew for 
himself the sanctity of the ancient wedding 
between cheese and bread ! I addressed the 
waiter in warm and moving terms. I asked 
him who he was that he should put asunder 
those wham Humanity had joined. I asked 
him if he did not feel, as an artist, that a solid 
but yielding substance like cheese went natur- 
ally with a solid, yielding substance like bread ; 
to eat it off biscuits is like eating it off slates. 
I asked him, if when he said his prayers, he 
was so supercilious as to pray for his daily 
biscuits. He gave me generally to understand 
that he was only obeying a custom of Modern 
Society. I have therefore resolved to raise my 
voice, not against the waiter, but against 
Modern Society, for this huge and unparalleled 
modern wrong. 



IV. ON PHILOSOPHY VERSUS FICTION 

E)OKING back on a wild and wasted life, 
I realize that I have especially sinned in 
neglecting to read novels. I mean the really 
novel novels ; for such old lumber as Dickens 
and Jane Austen I know fairly well. If instead 
of trifling away my time over pamphlets about 
Collectivism or Co-operation, plunging for 
mere pleasure into the unhealthy excitement of 
theological debates with dons, or enjoying the 
empty mirth of statistics about Poland and 
Czechoslovakia, I had quietly sat at home 
doing my duty and reading every novel as it 
comes out, I might be a more serious and 
earnest man than I am to-day. If instead of 
loitering to laugh over something, merely be- 
cause it happened to be laughable, I had 
walked stiffly and sternly on to the Circulating 
Library, and put myself under the tuition of 
our more passionate lady novelists, I might by 
this time be as intense as they. If instead of 
leading a riotous life, scrapping with Mr. Shaw 
about Socialism, or Dean Inge about Science, 
I had believed everything I was told about 
marriage by an unmarried young woman in an 
avowedly imaginary story, I might now have 
18 



ON PHILOSOPHY VERSUS FICTION 

a more undisturbed faith and simplicity. 
Novels are the great monument of the amazing 
credulity of the modern mind ; for people 
believe them quite seriously even though they 
do not pretend to be true. 

But it is really true, alas ! that I have failed 
to follow adequately the development of serious 
fiction. I do not admit that I have entirely 
failed to follow the development of serious facts. 
Not only have I discussed Labour with Social- 
ists, or Science with Scientists, but I have 
argued with myself about other things, so new 
and true that I cannot get anybody else to 
argue about them. The world-wide powr of 
trusts, for instance, is a thing that is never 
attacked and never defended. It seems to have 
been completed without ever having been 
proposed ; we might say without ever having 
been begun. The small shopkeeper has been 
destroyed in the twentieth century, as the small 
yeoman was destroyed in the eighteenth cen- 
tury. But for the yeoman there was protest and 
regret ; great poets sang his dirge, and great 
orators like Cobbett died trying to avenge his 
death. But the modern destructive changes 
seem to be too new to be noticed. Perhaps 
they are too enormous to be seen. No ; I do 
not think it can be fairly said that I have 
neglected the most recent realities of tjae real 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

world. It seems rather the real world that 
neglects them. 

Nor do I confess, thank heaven, to the more 
odious vice of neglecting funny or frivolous 
fiction ; whether in the sense of reading every- 
thing from the first story of Mr. Jacobs to the 
last story of Mr, Wodehouse ; or in that richer 
sense in which the joke consists entirely of a 
corpse, a blood-stained hat-peg, or the mys- 
terious footprints of a three-legged man in the 
garden. I have been a munificent patron of 
fiction of that description ; and have even 
presented the public with a corpse or two of 
my own. In short, the limitation of my literary 
experience is altogether on the side of the 
modern serious novel ; especially that very 
serious novel which is all about the psychology 
of flirting and jilting and going to jazz dances. 
I have read hundreds of books bearing titles 
like Socialism : The Way Out ; or Society ; the 
Way In ; or Japanese Light on the Paulus My thus ; 
or Cannibalism the Clue to Catholicism ; or 
Parricide : a Contribution to Progress ; or The 
Traffic Problem : The Example of Greenland ; or 
Must We Drink ? ; or Should We Eat ? ; or Do 
We Breathe? and all those grave and baffling 
questions. I have also read hundreds of books 
bearing titles like Who Killed Humphrey Higgles- 
wick? ; or The Blood on the Blotting-paper ; or 



ON PHILOSOPHY VERSUS FICTION 

The Secret of Piccadilly Circus ; or The Clue of 
the Stolen Toothbrush ; and so on and so on. 
But I have not read with sufficient regularity, 
diligence and piety all those other books that 
bear titles like The Grasswidowhood of Grace 
Bellow ; or The Seventh Honeymoon of Sylphide 
Squeak ; or Dear Lady Divorce ; or The Sex of 
Samuel Stubbin ; or Harold Hatrack, Soul-Thief; 
or The Hypnotist of Insomnia Smith. All these 
grave and laborious, and often carefully written 
books come out season after season ; and some- 
how I have missed them. Sometimes they miss 
me, even when hurled at my head by publishers. 
It were vain to deny that I sometimes deli- 
berately avoid them. I have a reason, of a 
reasonable sort ; for 1 do not think it is a really 
reasonable reason merely to say that they bore 
me. For I did once really try to read them ; 
and I got lost. One reason is that I think there 
is in all literature a sort of purpose ; quite 
different from the mere moralizing that is 
generally meant by a novel with a purpose. 
There is something in the plan of the idea that 
is straight like a backbone and pointing like an 
arrow. It is meant to go somewhere, or at 
least to point somewhere ; to its end, not only 
in the modern sense of an ending, but in the 
medieval sense of a fruition. Now, I think that 
many of the less intellectual stories have kept 
21 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

this, where the more intellectial stories have 
lost It. The writer of detective stories, having 
once asked who killed Humphrey Higgleswick, 
must, after all, end by telling us who did it, 
even by the mean subterfuge of saying it was 
Humphrey Higgleswick. But the serious nove- 
list asks a question that he does not answer ; 
often that he is really incompetent to answer, 
The sex of Samuel Stubbin may even remain 
in considerable doubt, in some of the more 
emotional passages, and the seventh honey- 
moon of Sylphide seems to have nothing to do 
with the probable prospect of her eighth. It is 
the custom of these writers to scoff at the old 
sentimental novel or novelette, in which the 
story always ended happily to the sound of 
church bells. But, judged by the highest stan- 
dards of heroic or great literature, like the 
Greek tragedies or the great epics, the novelette 
was really far superior to the novel. It set 
itself to reach a certain goal- the marriage of 
two persons, with all its really vital culmination 
in the founding of a family and a vow to God ; 
and all other incidents were interesting because 
they pointed to a consummation which was, by 
legitimate hypothesis, a grand consummation. 
But the modern refusal both of the religious 
vow and the romantic hope has broken the 
backbone of the business altogether, and it is 
212 



ON PHILOSOPHY VERSUS FICTION 

only an assorted bag of bones. People are 
minutely described as experiencing one idiotic 
passion after another, passions which they 
themselves recognize as idiotic, and which even 
their own wretched philosophy forbids them to 
regard as steps towards any end. The senti- 
mental novelette was a simplified and limited 
convention of the thing ; in which, for the sake 
of argument, marriage was made the prize. 
Of course marriage is not the only thing that 
happens in life ; and somebody else may study 
another section with another goaL But the 
modern serious novelists deny that there is any 
goal. They cannot point to the human happi- 
ness which the romantics associated with 
gaining the prize. They cannot point to the 
heavenly happiness which the religious associ- 
ated with keeping the vow. They are driven 
back entirely on the microscopic description of 
these aimless appetities in themselves. And, 
microscopically studied in themselves, they are 
not very interesting to a middle-aged man with 
plenty of other things to think about. In short, 
the old literature, both great and trivial, was 
built on the idea that there is a purpose in life, 
even if it is not always completed in .this life ; 
and it really was interesting to follow the stages 
of such a purpose ; from the meeting to the 
wedding, from the wedding to the bells, and 



C. K. CHESTERTON 

from the bells to the church. But modern 
philosophy has taken the life out of modern 
fiction. It is simply dissolving into separate 
fragments and then into formlessness ; and 
deserves much more than the romantic novel 
the modern reproach of being e sloppy '. 



V. THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

FLAMBEAU and his friend the priest were 
sitting in the Temple Gardens about sun- 
set ; and their neighbourhood or some such 
accidental influence had turned their talk to 
matters of legal process. From the problem of 
the licence in cross-examination, their talk 
strayed to Roman and medieval torture, to the 
examining magistrate in France and the Third 
Degree in America. 

* I've been reading/ said Flambeau, c of this 
new psychometric method they talk about so 
much, especially in America. You know what 
I mean ; they put a pulsometer on a man's 
wrist and judge by how his heart goes at the 
pronunciation of certain words. What do you 
think of it ? ' 

c I think it very interesting/ replied Father 
Brown ; * it reminds me of that interesting idea 
in the Dark Ages that blood would flow from 
a corpse if the murderer touched it.* 

* Do you really mean/ demanded his friend, 
* that you think the two methods equally 
valuable ? ' 

* I think them equally valueless, 5 replied 
Brown. * Blood flows, fast or slow, in dead folk 

25 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

or living, for so many more million reasons than 
we can ever know. Blood will have to flow 
very funnily ; blood will have to flow up the 
Matterhorn, before I will take it as a sign that 
I am to shed it.' 

* The method/ remarked the other, * has 
been guaranteed by some of the greatest 
American men of science.' 

* What sentimentalists men of science are ! ' 
exclaimed Father Brown, ' and how much more 
sentimental must American men of science be ! 
Who but, a Yankee would think of proving 
anything from heart-throbs ? Why, they must 
be' as sentimental as a man who thinks a woman 
is in love with him if she blushes. That's a 
test from the circulation of the blood, discovered 
by the immortal Harvey ; and a jolly rotten 
test too.' 

* But surely,' insisted Flambeau, c it might 
point pretty straight at something or other.* 

e There's a disadvantage in a stick pointing 
straight/ answered the other. ' What is it ? 
Why, at the other end of the stick always points 
the opposite way. It depends whether you get 
hold of the stick by the right end. I saw the 
thing done once and I've never believed in it 
since.' And he proceeded to tell the story of 
his disillusionment. 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

It happened nearly twenty years before when 
he was chaplain to his co-religionists in a prison 
in Chicago where the Irish population dis- 
played a capacity -both for crime and penitence 
which kept him tolerably busy. The ' official ' 
second-in-command under the Governor was 
an ex-detective named Greywood Usher, .a 
cadaverous, careful-spoken Yankee philosopher, 
occasionally varying a very rigid visage with- 
an odd apologetic grimace. He liked Father 
Brown in a * slightly patronizing way ; and 
Father Brown liked him, though he heartily 
disliked his theories. His theories were ex- 
tremely complicated and were held with 
extreme simplicity. 

One evening he had sent for the priest, who, 
according -to his custom, took a seat in silence 
at a table piled and littered with papers, and 
waited. The official selected from the papers 
a scrap of newspaper cutting, which he handed 
across to the cleric, who read it gravely. It 
appeared to be an extract from one of the 
pinkest of American Society papers, and ran 
as follows : 

' Society's brightest widower is -once more on 
the Freak Dinner stunt. All our exclusive 
citizens will recall the Perambulator Parade 
Dinner, in which Last-Trick Todd, at his 
palatial home at Pilgrim's Pond, caused so 
27 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

many of our prominent debutantes to look even 
younger than their years. Equally elegant and 
more miscellaneous and large-hearted in social 
outlook was Last-Trick's show the year previous, 
the popular Cannibal Crush Lunch, at which 
the confections handed round were sarcastically 
moulded in the forms of human arms and legs, 
and during which more than one of our gayest 
mental gymnasts was heard offering to eat his 
partner. The witticism which will inspire this 
evening is as yet in Mr. Todd's pretty reticent 
intellect, or locked in the jewelled bosoms of 
our city's gayest leaders ; but there is talk of a 
pretty parody of the simple manners and cus- 
toms at the other end of Society's scale. This 
would be all the more telling, as hospitable 
Todd is entertaining in Lord Falconroy, the 
famous traveller, a true-blooded aristocrat fresh 
from England's oak-groves. Lord Falconroy's 
travels began before his ancient feudal title was 
resurrected ; he was in the Republic in his 
youth, and fashion murmurs a sly reason for 
his return. Miss Etta Todd is one of our deep- 
souled New Yorkers and comes into an income 
of nearly twelve hundred million dollars.' 

* Well/ asked Usher, c does that interest 
you ? * 

' Why, words rather fail me/ answered 
Father Brown. c I cannot think at this moment 

28 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

of anything in this world that would interest 
me less. And, unless the just anger of the 
Republic is at last going to electrocute journa- 
lists for writing like that, I don't quite see why 
it should interest you either. 5 

c Ah ! * said Mr. Usher dryly, and handing 
across another scrap of newspaper. * Well, 
does that interest you ? ' 

The paragraph was headed * Savage Murder 
of a Warder. Convict Escapes *, and ran : 
4 Just before dawn this, morning a shout for help 
was heard in the Convict Settlement at Sequah 
in this State. The authorities, hurrying in the 
direction of the cry, found the corpse of the 
warder who patrols the top of the north wall 
of the prison, the steepest and most difficult 
exit, for which one man has always been found 
sufficient. The unfortunate officer had, how- 
ever, been hurled from the high wall, his brains 
beaten out as with a club ; and his gun was 
missing. Further inquiries showed that one of 
the cells was empty ; it had been occupied by 
a rather sullen ruffian giving his name as Oscar 
Rian. He was only temporarily detained for 
some comparatively trivial assault ; but he 
gave every one the impression of a man with a 
black past and a dangerous future. Finally, 
when daylight had fully revealed the scene of 
murder, it was found that he had written on 
29 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

the wall above the body a fragmentary sentence., 
apparently with a finger dipped In blood : 
" This was seif-defence and he had the gun. 
I meant no harm to him or a,ny man but one. 
I am keeping the bullet for Pilgrim's Pond 
O.R." A man must have used most fiendish 
treachery or most savage 'and amazing bodily 
daring to have stormed such a wall, in spite 
of an armed man.' 

f Well, the literary style is somewhat im- 
proved/ admitted the priest cheerfully, * but 
still I don't see what I can do for you. I should 
cut a poor figure, with my short legs, running 
about this State after an athletic assassin of 
that sort. I doubt whether anybody could find 
him. The convict settlement at "Sequah is 
thirty miles from here ; the country between 
is wild and tangled enough, and the country 
beyond, where he will surely have the sense to 
go, is a perfect no-man's land tumbling away 
to the prairies. He may be in any hole or up 
any tree.' 

* He isn't in any hole,' said the governor, 
* he isn't up any tree.' 

e Why, how do you know ? ' asked Father ' 
Brown, blinking. 

6 Would you like to speak to him ? ' inquired 
Usher. 

Father Brown opened his innocent eyes wide, 

30 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

c He is here ? ' he exclaimed. fi Why, how did 
your men get hold of him ? ' 

c I got hold -of him myself/ drawled the 
American, rising and lazily stretching his lanky 
legs before the fire. I got hold of him with 
the crooked end of a walking-stick. Don't look 
so surprised. I really did. You know I some- 
times take a turn in the country lanes outside 
this dismal place ; well, 1 was walking early 
this evening up a steep lane with dark hedges 
and grey-looking ploughed fields on both sides ; 
and a young moon was up and silvering the 
road. By the light of it I saw a. man running 
across the field towards the road ; gunning 
with his body bent and at a good mile-race 
trot. He appeared to be much exhausted ; but 
when he came to the thick black hedge he went 
through it as if it were made of spiders' webs ; 
or rather (for I heard the strong branches 
breaking and snapping like bayonets) as if he 
himself were made of stone. In the instant in 
which he appeared up against the moon, cross- 
ing the road, I slung my hooked cane at his 
legs, tripping him and bringing him down. 
Then I blew my whistle long and loud, and 
our fellows came running up to secure him.' 

c It would have been rather awkward,* 
remarked Brown, * if you had found he was a 
popular athlete practising a mile race.' 
31 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

' He was not, 9 said Usher grimly. 6 We soon 
found out who he was ; but I had guessed it 
with the first glint of the moon on him.' 

c You thought it was the runaway convict,' 
observed the priest simply, c because you had 
read in the newspaper cutting that morning 
that a convict had run away.' 

* I had somewhat better grounds,' replied 
the governor coolly. * I pass over the first as 
too simple to be emphasized I mean that 
fashionable athletes do not run across ploughed 
fields or scratch their eyes out in bramble 
hedges. Nor do they run all doubled up like 
a crouching dog. There were more decisive 
details to a fairly well-trained eye. The man 
was clad in coarse and ragged clothes, but they 
were something more than merely coarse and 
ragged. They were so ill fitting as to be quite 
grotesque ; even as he appeared in black out- 
line against the moonrise, the coat-collar in 
which his head was buried made him look like 
a hunchback, and the long loose sleeves looked 
as if he had no hands. It at once occurred to 
me that he had somehow managed to change 
his convict clothes for some confederates' 
clothes which did not fit him. Second, there 
was a pretty stiff wind against which he was 
running ; so that I must have seen the streaky 
look of blowing hair, if the hair had been very 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

short. Then I remembered that beyond these 
ploughed fields he was crossing lay Pilgrim's 
Pond, for which (you will remember) the 
cqnvict was keeping his bullet ; and I sent my 
walking-stick flying.' 

c A brilliant piece of rapid deduction/ said 
Father Brown, ' but had he got a gun ? ' 

As Usher stopped abruptly in his walk the 
priest added apologetically : c I've been told a 
bullet is not half so useful without it.' 

4 He had no gun,' said the other gravely, 
4 but that was doubtless due to some very 
natural mischance or change of plans. Probably 
the same policy that made him change the 
clothes made him drop the gun ; he began to 
repent the coat he had left behind him in the 
blood of his victim.' 

* Well, that is possible enough,' answered the 
priest. 

c And it's hardly worth speculating on, 3 said 
Usher, turning to some other papers, * for we 
know it's the man by this time/ 

His clerical friend asked faintly, * But how ? ' 
and , Greywood Usher threw down the 
newspapers and took up the two press-cuttings 
again. 

c Well, since you are so obstinate,' he said, 
4 let's begin at the beginning. You will notice 
that these two cuttings have only one thing in 

33 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

common, which is the mention of Pilgrim's 
Pond, the estate, as you know, of the millionaire 
Ireton Todd. You also know that he is a 
remarkable character ; one of those that rose 
on stepping-stones ' 

s Of our dead selves to higher things/ 
assented his companion. Yes ; 1 know that. 
Petroleum, I think.' 

c Anyhow/ said Usher. e Last-Trick Todd 
counts for a great deal in this rum affair. 5 

He stretched himself once more before the 
fire and continued talking In his expansive, 
radiantly' explanatory style. 

4 To begin with, on the face of It, there Is 
no mystery here at all It Is not mysterious, It 
is not even odd, that a jailbird should take Ms 
gun to Pilgrim's Pond. Our people aren't like 
the English, who all forgive a man for being 
rich If he throws away money on hospitals or 
horses. Last-Trick Todd has made himself big 
by Ms own considerable abilities ; and there's 
no doubt that many of those on whom he has 
shown his abilities would like to show theirs 
on him with a shot-gun. Todd might easily 
get dropped by some man he'd never even 
heard of; some labourer he'd locked out, or 
some clerk In a business he'd busted. Last- 
Trick Is a man of mental endowments and a 
high public character ; but In this country the 

34 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

relations of employers and employed are 
considerably strained. 

* That's how the whole thing looks supposing 
this Rian made for Pilgrim's Pond to kill Todd. 
So it looked to me till another little discovery 
woke up what I have of the detective in me. 
When I had my prisoner safe, I picked up my 
cane again and strolled down the two or three 
turns of country-road .that brought me to one 
of the side entrances of Todd's grounds, the 
one nearest to the pool or lake after which the 
place is named. It was some two hours ago, 
about seven by this time ; the moonlight was 
more luminous, and I could see the long white 
streaks of it lying on the mysterious mere with 
its grey, greasy half-liquid shores in which they 
say our fathers used to make witches walk until 
they sank. I've forgotten the exact tale ; but 
you know the place I mean ; it lies north of 
Todd's house towards the wilderness, and has 
two queer wrinkled trees, so dismal that they 
look more like huge fungoids than decent 
foliage. As I stood peering at this misty pool, 
I fancied I saw the faintcfigure of a man moving 
from the house towards it, but it was all too 
dim and distant for one to be certain of the 
fact, and still less of the details. Besides, my 
attention was very sharply arrested by some- 
thing much, closer. I crouched behind the 

35 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

fence,' which ran not more than two hundrted 
yards from one wing of the great mansion, and 
which was fortunately split in places, as if 
specially for the application of a cautious eye. 
A door had opened in the dark bulk of the left 
wing ; and a figure appeared black against the 
illuminated interior a muffled figure bending 
forward, evidently peering out into the night. 
It closed the door behind it, and I saw it was 
carrying a lantern, which threw a patch of 
imperfect light on the dress and figure of the 
wearer. It seemed to be the figure of a woman, 
wrapped up in a ragged cloak and evidently 
disguised to avoid notice ; there was something 
very strange both about the rags and the 
furtiveness in a person coming out of those 
rooms lined with gold. She took cautiously the 
curved garden path which brought her within 
half a hundred yards of mie ; then she stood 
up for an instant on the terrace of turf that 
looks towards the slimy lake, and holding her 
flaming lantern above her'head she deliberately 
swung it three times to and fro as for a signal. 
As she swung it the second time a flicker of its 
light fell for a moment on her own face, a face 
that I knew. She was unnaturally pale, and 
her head was bundled in her borrowed plebeian 
shawl ; but I am certain it was Etta Todd, the 
millionaire's daughter. 

36 



THE MISTAKE OF TH-E MACHINE 

* She retraced her steps in equal secrecy and 
the door closed behind her again. I was about 
to climb the fence and follow, when I realized 
that the detective fever that had lured me into 
the -adventure was rather undignified ; and 
that in a more authoritative capacity I already 
held all the cards in my hand. I was just 
turning away, when a new noise broke on the 
night. A window was thrown up in one of the 
upper floors, but just round the corner of 
the house so that I could not see it ; and a 
voice of terrible distinctness was heard shouting 
across the dark garden to know where Lord 
Falconroy was, for he was missing from every 
room in the house. There was no mistaking 
that voice. I have heard it on many a political 
platform or meeting of directors ; it was Ireton 
Todd himself. Some of the others seemed to 
have gone to the lower windows or on to the 
steps, and were calling up to him that Falconroy 
had gone for a stroll down to the Pilgrim's 
Pond an hour before, and could not be traced 
since. Then Todd cried " Mighty Murder ! " 
and shut down the window violently ; and I 
could hear him plunging down the stairs inside. 
Repossessing myself of my former and wiser 
purpose, I whipped out of the way of the 
general search that must follow ; and returned 
here not much later than eight o'clock. 

37 



O. K. CHESTERTON 

* I now ask you to recall that little Society 
paragraph which seemed to you so painfully 
lacking in interest.. If the convict was not 
keeping the shot for Todd, as he evidently 
wasn't, it is most likely that he was keeping it 
for Lord Falconroy ; and it looks as if he had 
delivered the goods. No more handy place to 
shoot a man tl^an in the curious geological 
surroundings of that pool, where a body thrown 
down would sink through thick slime to a depth 
practically unknown. Let us suppose, then, 
that our friend with the cropped hair came to 
kill Falconroy, and not Todd. But, as I have 
pointed out, there are many reasons why many 
people in America might want to kill Todd. 
There is no reason why anybody in America 
should want to kill an English lord newly 
landed, except for the one reason mentioned 
in the pink paper that the lord is paying his 
attentions to the millionaire's daughter. Our 
crop-haired friend, despite his ill-fitting clothes, 
must be an aspiring lover. 

* I know the notion will seem to you jarring 
and even comic ; but that's because you are 
English. It sounds to you like saying the 
Archbishop of Canterbury's daughter will be 
married in St. George's, Hanover Square, to a 
crossing-sweeper on ticket-of-leave. You don't 
do justice to the climbing and aspiring power 

38 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

of our more remarkable citizens. You see a 
good-looking grey-haired man in evening dress 
with a sort of authority about him, you know 
he is a pillar of the State, and you fancy he 
had a father. You are in error. You do not 
realize that a comparatively few years ago he 
may have been in a tenement or (quite likely) 
in a jail. You don't fallow or our national 
buoyancy and uplift. Many of our most 
influential citizens have not only risen recently, 
but risen comparatively late in life." Todd's 
daughter was fully eighteen when her father 
first made his pile ; so there isn't really any- 
thing impossible in her having a hanger-on in 
low life ; or even in her hanging on to him, as 
I think she must be doing, to judge by the lantern 
business. If so, the hand that held the lantern 
may not be unconnected with the hand that held 
the gun. This case, sir, will make a noise. 5 

* Well,' said the priest patiently, c and what 
did you do next ? ' 

c I reckon you'll be shocked,' replied Grey- 
wood Usher, c as I know you don't cotton to 
the march of science in these matters. I am 
given a good deal of discretion here, aiid per- 
haps take a little more than I'm given ; and 
I thought it was an excellent opportunity to test 
that Psychometric Machine I told you about. 
Now, in my opinion that machine can't lie.' 

39 



C. K. CHESTERTON 

* No machine can lie,* said Father Brown, 
' nor can it tell the truth. 5 

* It did in this case, as 111 show you,' went 
on Usher positively. * I sat the man in the 
ill-fitting clothes in a comfortable chair, and 
simply wrote words on a blackboard ; and the 
machine simply recorded the variations of his 
pulse ; and I simply observed his manner. The 
trick is to introduce some word connected with 
the supposed crime in a list of words connected 
with something quite different, yet a list in 
which it occurs quite naturally. Thus I wrote 
" heron " and " eagle " and " owl ", and when 
I wrote " falcon " he was tremendously agi- 
tated ; and when I began to make an r at the 
end of the word, that machine just bounded* 
Who else in this republic has any reason to 
jump at the name of a newly arrived English- 
man like Falconroy except the man who's shot 
him ? Isn't that better evidence than a lot of 
gabble from witnesses ; the evidence of a 
reliable machine.* 

c You always forget,' observed his companion, 
* that the reliable machine always has to be 
worked by an unreliable machine.' 

' Why, what do you mean ? ' asked the 
detective. 

c I mean Man,' said Father Brown, * the 
most unreliable machine I know of. I don't 

40 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

want to be rude ; and I don't think you will 
consider Man to be an offensive or inaccurate 
description of yourself. You say you observed 
Ms manner ; but how do you know you observed 
it right ? You say the words have to come in 
a natural way ; but how do you know that 
you did it naturally ? How do you know, if 
you come to that, that he did not observe your 
manner ? Who is to prove that you were not 
tremendously agitated ? There was no machine 
tied on to your pulse. 5 

e I tell you/ cried the American in the utmost 
excitement, ' I was as cool as a cucumber.' 

c Criminals also can be as cool as cucumbers,' 
said Brown with a smile. * And almost as cool 
as you.' 

' Well, this one wasn't,' said Usher, throw- 
ing the papers about. ' Oh, you make me 
tired ! 5 

* Fm sorry,' said the other. ' I only point 
out what seems a reasonable possibility. If you 
could tell by his manner when the word that 
might hang him had come, why shouldn't he 
tell from your manner that the word that might 
hang him was coming ? I should ask for more 
than words myself before I hanged anybody.' 

Usher smote the table and rose in a sort of 
angry triumph. 

* And that/ he cried, ' is just what I'm going 

41 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

to give you. I tried the machine first just in 
order to test the thing in other ways afterwards ; 
and the machine, sir, is right.' 

He paused a moment and resumed with less 
excitement. i I rather want to insist, if it comes 
to that, that so far I had very little to go on 
except the scientific experiment. There was 
really nothing against the man at all. His 
clothes were ill-fitting, as I've said, but they 
were rather better, if anything, than those of 
the submerged class to which he evidently 
belonged. Moreover, under all the stains of his 
plunging through ploughed fields or bursting 
through dusty hedges, the man was compara- 
tively clean. This might mean, of course, that 
he had only just broken prison ; but it re- 
minded me more of the desperate decency of 
the comparatively respectable poor. His de- 
meanour was, I am bound to confess, quite in 
accordance with theirs. He was silent and 
dignified as they are ; he seemed to have a 
big, but buried, grievance, as they do. He 
professed total ignorance of the crime and the 
whole question ; and showed nothing but a 
sullen impatience for something sensible that 
might come to take him out of his meaningless 
scrape. He asked me more than once if he 
could telephone for a lawyer who had helped 
him a long time ago in a trade dispute, and in 
42 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

every sense acted as you would expect an 
innocent man to act. There was nothing 
against him in the world except that little 
finger on the dial that pointed to the change 
of his pulse. 

c Then, sir, the machine was on its trial ; and 
the machine was right. By the time I came 
with him out of the private room into the 
vestibule where all sorts of other people were 
awaiting examination., I think he had already 
more or less made up his mind to clear things 
up by something like a confession. He turned 
to me, and began to say in a low voice : " Oh, 
I can't stick this any more. If you must know 
all about me " 

e At the same instant one of the poor women 
sitting on the long bench stood up, screaming 
aloud and pointing at him with her finger. 
I have never in my life heard anything more 
demoniacally distinct. Her lean finger seemed 
to pick him out as if it were a pea-shooter. 
Though the word was a mere howl, every 
syllable was as clear as a separate stroke on 
the clock. 

* " Drugger Davis ! " she shouted. " They've 
got Drugger Davis ! " 

* Among the wretched women, mostly thieves 
and street-walkers, twenty faces were turned, 
gaping with glee and hate. If I had never 

43 



G-. K. CHESTERTON 

heard the words, I should have known by the 
very shock upon his features that the so-called 
Oscar Rlan had heard his real name. But I'm 
not quite so ignorant, you may be surprised to 
hear. Drugger Davis was one of the most 
terrible and depraved criminals that ever 
baffled our police. It is certain he had done 
murder more than once long before his last 
exploit with the warder. But he was never 
entirely fixed for it, curiously enough, because 
he did it in the same manner as those milder 
or meaner crimes for which he was fixed 
pretty often. He was a handsdme, well-bred- 
looking brute, as he still is, to some extent ; 
and he used mostly to go about with barmaids 
or shop-girls and do them out of their money. 
Very often, though, he went a good deal 
farther ; and they were found drugged with 
cigarettes or chocolates and their whole pro- 
perty missing. Then came one case where .the 
girl was found dead ; but deliberation could 
not quite be proved, and, what was more 
practical still, the criminal could not be found. 
I heard a rumour of his having reappeared 
somewhere in the opposite character this time, 
lending money instead of borrowing it ; but 
still to such poor widows as he might personally 
fascinate, and still with the same bad results 
for them. Well, there is your innocent man, 

44 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

and there is his innocent record. Even since 
then four criminals and three warders have 
identified him and confirmed the story. Now 
what have you got to say to my poor little 
machine after that ? Hasn't the machine done 
for him? Or do you prefer to say that the 
woman and I have done for him ? ' 

' As to what you've done for him,' replied 
Father Brown, rising and shaking himself in & 
floppy way, c you've saved him from the elec- 
trical chair. I don't think they can kill 
Drugger Davis on that old vague story of the 
poison ; and as for the convict who killed the 
warder, I suppose it's obvious that you haven't 
got him. Mr. Davis is innocent of that crime, 
at any rate.' 

c What do you mean ? ' demanded the 
other. e Why should he be innocent of that 
crime ? ' 

c Why, bless us all ! ' cried the small man in 
one of his rare moments of animation, e why, 
because he's guilty of the other crimes ! I don't 
know what you people are made of. You seem 
to think that all sins are kept together in a bag. 
You talk as if a miser on Monday were always 
a spendthrift on Tuesday. You tell me this 
man you have here spent weeks and montHs 
wheedling needy women out of small sums of 
money ; that he used a drug at the best, and 

45 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

a poison at {he worst ; that he turned up after- 
wards as the lowest kind of moneylender., and 
cheated more poor people In the same patient 
and pacific style. Let it be granted let us 
admit., for the sake of argument, that he did 
all this. If that is so, I will tell you what he 
didn't do. He didn't storm a spiked wall 
against a man with a loaded gun. He didn't 
write on the wall with his own hand, to say he 
had done It. , He didn't stop to state that his 
justification was self-defence. He didn't ex- 
plain that he had no quarrel with the poor 
warder. He didn't name the house of the rich 
man to which he was going with the gun. He 
didn't write his own initials in a man's blood. 
Saints alive ! Can't you see the whole character 
is different, in good and evil? Why, you 
don't seem to be like I am a bit. One 
would think you'd never had any vices of 
your own.' 

The amazed American had already parted 
his lips in protest when the door of his private 
and official room was hammered, and rattled 
in an unceremonious way to which he was 
totally unaccustomed. 

The door flew open. The moment before 
Greywood Usher had been coming to the con- 
clusion that Father Brown might possibly be 
mad. The moment after he began to think he 

46 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

was mad himself. There burst and fell into his 
private room a man in the filthiest rags, with 
a greasy squash hat still askew on his head, 
and a shabby green shade showed up from one 
of his eyes, both of which were glaring like a 
tiger's. The rest of his face was almost undis- 
coverable, being masked with a matted beard, 
and whiskers through which the nose could 
barely thrust itself, and further buried in a 
squalid red scarf or handkerchief. Mr. Usher 
prided himself on having seen most of the 
roughest specimens in the State, but he thought 
he had never seen such a baboon dressed as a 
scarecrow as this. But above all, he had never 
in all his placid scientific existence heard a man 
like that speak to him first. 

c See here, old man Usher,' shouted me 
being in the red handkerchief, * I'm getting 
tired. Don't you try any of your hide-and-seek 
on me ; I don't get fooled any. Leave go of 
my guests, and I'll let up on the fancy clock- 
work. Keep him here for a split instant and 
you'll feel pretty mean. I reckon I'm not a 
man with no pull. 3 

The eminent Usher was regarding the 
bellowing monster with an amazement which 
had dried up all other sentiments. The mere 
shock to his eyes had rendered his ears almost 
useless. At last he rang a bell with a hand of 

47 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

violence. While the bell was still strong and 
pealing, the voice of Father Brown fell soft but 
distinct. 

I have a suggestion to make, 3 he said, c but 
it seems a little confusing. I don't know this 
gentleman but but I think I know him. 
Now, you know him you know him quite well 
but you don't know him ; naturally. Sounds 
paradoxical, I know.' 

6 I reckon the Cosmos is cracked, 5 said 
Usher, and fell asprawl in his round office 
chair. 

4 Now, see here,' vociferated the stranger, 
striking the table, but speaking in a voice that 
was all the more mysterious because it was 
comparatively mild and rational though still 

resounding, * I won't let you in. I want ' 

- 5 Who in hell are you ? ' yelled Usher, 
suddenly sitting up straight. 

* I think the gentleman's name is Todd, 9 Said 
the priest. 

Then he picked up the pink slip of news- 
paper. 

c I fear you don't read the Society papers 
properly,' he said, and began to read out in a 
monotonous voice, c " Or locked in the jewelled 
bosoms of our city's gayest leaders ; but there 
is talk of a pretty parody of the manners and 
customs of the other end of Society's scale." 



THE MISTAKE- OF THE MACHINE 

There's been a big Slum Dinner up at Pilgrim's 
Pond to-night ; and a man, one of the guests, 
disappeared. Mr. Ireton Todd is a good host, 
and has tracked Mm here, without even waiting 
to take off his fancy dress.* 
c What man do you mean ? ' 

* I mean the man with the comically ill- 
fitting clothes you saw running across the 
ploughed field. Hadn't you better go and 
investigate him ? He will be rather impatient 
to get back to his champagne, from which he 
ran away in such a hurry, when the convict 
with the gun hove in sight.' 

' Do you seriously mean ' began the 

official. 

c Why, look here, Mr. Usher, 5 said Father 
Brown quietly, ' you said the machine couldn't 
make a mistake ; and in one sense it didn't. 
But the other machine did ; the machine that 
worked it. You assumed that the man In rags 
jumped at the name of Lord Falconroy, because 
he was Lord Falconroy's murderer. He jumped 
at the name of Lord Falconroy because he is 
Lord Falconroy.' 

Then why the blazes didn't he say so ? * 
demanded the staring Usher. 

* He felt his plight and recent panic were 
hardly patrician,' replied the priest, * so he 
tried to keep the name back at first. But he 

49 



G-. K. CHESTERTON 

was 'just going to tell It you, when ' and 
Father Brown looked down at his boots 
6 when a woman found another name for 
him/ 

' But you can't be so mad as to say/ said 
Greywood Usher, very white, c that Lord 
Falconroy was Dragger Davis.' 

The priest looked at him very earnestly but 
with a baffling and a decipherable face. 

e I am not saying anything about k, 5 he said ; 
* I leave all the rest to you. Your pink paper 
says that the title was recently revived for him ; 
but those papers are very unreliable. It says 
he was in the States in youth ; but the whole 
story seems very strange. Davis and Falconroy 
are both pretty considerable cowards, but so 
are lots of other men. I would not hang a dog 
on my own opinion about this. But I think,' 
he went on softly and reflectively, c I think you 
Americans are too modest. I think you 
idealize the English aristocracy even in as- 
suming it to be so aristocratic. You see a 
good-looking Englishman in evening dress ; you 
know he's in the House of Lords ; and you 
fancy he has a father. You don't allow for our 
national buoyancy and uplift. Many of our 
most influential noblemen have not only risen 
recently, but ' 

* Oh, stop it ! ' cried Greywood Usher, 
50 



THE MISTAKE OF THE MACHINE 

wringing one lean hand In Impatience against 
a shade of irony in the other's face. 

Don't stay talking to this lunatic ! * cried 
Todd brutally. e Take me to my friend. 5 

Next morning Father Brown appeared with 
the same demure expression, carrying yet 
another piece of pink newspaper. 

6 Fm afraid. you neglect the fashionable press 
rather/ he said, ' but this cutting may interest 
you.' 

Usher read the headlines, c Last-Trick's 
Strayed Revellers : Mirthful Incident near 
Pilgrim's Pond. 5 The paragraph went on : 
* A laughable occurrence took place outside 
Wilkinson's Motor Garage last night. A police- 
man on duty had his attention drawn by 
larrikins to a man in prison dress who was 
stepping with considerable coolness into the 
steering seat of a pretty high-toned Panhard ; 
he was accompanied by a girl wrapped in a 
ragged shawl. On the police interfering, the 
young woman threw back the shawl, and all 
recognized Millionaire Todd's daughter, who 
had just come from the Slum Freak Dinner at 
the Pond, where all the choicest guests were in 
a similar deshabille. She and the gentleman 
who had donned prison uniform were going 
for the customary joy-ride.' 

Under the pink slip Mr. Usher found a strip 



G, K. CHESTERTON 



of a later paper, headed, c Astounding Escape 
of Millionaire's Daughter with Convict. She 

Had Arranged Freak Dinner. Now Safe in 3 

Mr. Greywood Usher lifted his eyes., but 
Father Brown was gone. 



VI. WHAT I FOUND IN MY POCKET 

ONCE when I was very young I met one of 
those men who have made the Empire 
what it is a man in an astrakhan coat, with 
an astrakhan moustache a tight, black, curly, 
moustache. Whether he put on the moustache 
with the coat, or whether his Napoleonic will 
enabled him not only to grow a moustache in 
the usual place, but also to grow little mous- 
taches all over his clothes, I do not know. I 
only remember that he said to me the following 
words : c A man can't get on nowadays by 
hanging about with his hands in his pockets.' 
I made reply with the quite obvious flippancy 
that perhaps a man got on by having his hands 
in other people's pockets. Whereupon he 
began to argue about Moral Evolution, so I 
suppose what I said had some truth in it. But 
the incident now comes back to nie, and con- 
nects itself with another incident if you can 
call it an incident which happened to me only 
the other day. 

I have only once in my life picked a pocket, 
and then (perhaps through some absent- 
mindedness) I picked my own. My act can 
really with some reason be so described. For 

53 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

in taking things out of my own pocket I had at 
least one of the more tense and quivering 
emotions of the thief; I had a complete 
ignorance and a profound curiosity as to what 
I should find there. Perhaps it would be the 
exaggeration of eulogy to call me a tidy 
person. But I can always pretty satisfactorily 
account for all my possessions. I can always 
tell where they are, and what I have done with 
them, so long as I can keep them out of my 
pockets. If once anything slips into those 
unknown abysses, I wave it a sad Virgilian 
farewell. I suppose that the things that I 
have dropped into my pockets are still there ; 
the same presumption applies to the things 
that I have dropped into the sea. But I regard 
the Tich.es stored in both these bottomless 
chasms with the same reverent ignorance. 
They tell us that on the last day the sea will give 
up its dead ; and I suppose that on the same 
occasion long strings and strings of extra- 
ordinary things will come running out of my 
pockets. But I have quite forgotten what any 
of them are ; and there is really nothing (ex- 
cepting the money) that I shall be at all 
surprised at finding among them. 



Such at least has hitherto been my state of 

54 



WHAT I FOUND IN MY POCKET 

innocence. I here only wish briefly to call the 
special, extraordinary, and hitherto unpre- 
cedented circumstances which led me in cold 
blood, and being of sound mind, to turn out 
my pockets. I was locked up in a third-class 
carriage for a rather long journey. The time 
was towards evening, but it might have been 
anything, for everything resembling earth or 
sky or light or shade was painted out as if with 
a great wet brush by an unshifting sheet of 
quite colourless rain. I had no books or news- 
papers. I had not even a pencil and a scrap 
of paper with which to write a religious epic. 
There were no advertisements on the walls of 
the carriage, otherwise I could have plunged 
into the study of them, for any collection of 
printed words is quite enough to suggest 
infinite complexities of mental ingenuity. When 
I find myself opposite the words ' Sunlight 
Soap ' I can exhaust all the aspects of Sun 
Worship, Apollo, and summer poetry before I 
go on to the less congenial subject of soap. But 
there was no printed word or picture anywhere, 
there was nothing but blank wood inside the 
carriage and blank wet without. Now I deny 
most energetically that anything is, or can be, 
uninteresting. So I stared at the joints of the 
walls and seats, and began thinking hard on the 
fascinating subject of wood. Just as I had 

55 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

begun to realize why, perhaps, it was that 
Christ was a carpenter, rather than a brick- 
layer, or a baker, or anything else, I suddenly 
started upright a and remembered my pockets. 
I was carrying about with me an unknown 
treasure. I had a British Museum and a 
South Kensington collection of unknown curios 
hung all over me in different places. I began 
to take the things out. 

The first thing I came upon consisted of piles 
and heaps of Battersea tram tickets. There 
were enough to equip a paper chase. They 
shook down in showers like confetti. Primarily, 
of course, they touched my patriotic emotions, 
and brought tears to my eyes ; also they 
provided me with the printed matter I required, 
for I found on the back of them some short but 
striking little scientific essays about some kind 
of pill. Comparatively speaking, in my then 
destitution, those tickets might be regarded as 
a small but well-chosen scientific library. 
Should my railway journey continue (which 
seemed likely at the time) for a few months 
longer, I could imagine myself throwing myself 
into the controversial aspects of the pill, com- 
posing replies and rejoinders pro and con upon 
the data furnished to me. But, after all, it was 
56 



WHAT I FOUND IN MY POCKET 

the symbolic quality of the tickets that moved 
me most. For as certainly as the Cross of St. 
George means English patriotism, those scraps 
of paper meant all that municipal patriotism 
which is now, perhaps, the greatest hope of 
England. 

The next thing that I took out was a pocket- 
knife. A pocket-knife, I need hardly say, would 
require a thick book full of moral meditations 
all to itself. A knife typifies one of the most 
primary of those practical origins upon which 
as upon low, thick pillars all our human civi- 
lization reposes. Metals, the mystery of the 
thing called iron and of the thing called steel, 
led me off half dazed into a kind of dream. 
I saw into the entrails of dim, damp woods : 
where the first man, among all the common 
stones, found the strange stone. I saw a vague 
and violent battle, in which stone axes broke 
and stone knives were splintered against some- 
thing shining and new in the hand of one 
desperate man. I heard, all the hammers on 
all the anvils of the earth. I saw all the swords 
of feudal and all the wheels of industrial war. 
For the knife is only a short sword ; and the 
pocket-knife is a secret sword. I opened it and 
looked at that brilliant and terrible tongue 
which we call a blade ; and I thought that 
perhaps it was the symbol of the oldest of the 

57 



G. K* CHESTERTON 

needs of man. The next moment I knew that 
I was wrong ; for the thing that came next out 
of my pocket was a box of matches. Then I 
saw fire, which is stronger even than steel, the 
old, fierce female thing, the thing we all love, 
but dare not touch. 

The next thing I found was a piece of chalk ; 
and I saw in it all the art and all the frescoes of 
the world. The next was a coin of a very 
modest, value ; and I saw in it not only the 
image and superscription of our own Caesar, 
but all government and order since the world 
began. But I have not space to say what were 
the items in the long and splendid procession 
of poetical symbols that came pouring out. 
I cannot tell you all the things that were in my 
pocket. I can tell you one thing, however, that 
I could not find in my pocket. I allude to my 
railway ticket. 



VII. THE PERFECT GAME 

WE have all met the man who says tha* 
some odd things have happened to him? 
but that he does not reaEy believe that they 
were supernatural. My own position is the 
opposite of this. I believe in the supernatural 
as a matter of intellect and reason, not as a 
matter of personal experience; I do not see 
ghosts ; I Only see their inherent probability. 
But it is entirely a matter of the mere intel- 
ligence, not even of the emotions ; my nerves 
and body are altogether of this earth, very 
earthy. But upon people of this temperament 
one weird incident will often leave a peculiar 
impression. And the weirdest circumstance 
that ever occurred to me occurred a little 
while ago. It consisted in nothing less than my 
playing a game, and playing it 'quite .well for 
some seventeen consecutive minutes. The ghost 
of my grandfather would have astonished me 
less. 

On one of these blue and burning afternoons 
I found myself, to my inexpressible astonish- 
ment, playing a game called croquet. I had 
imagined that -it belonged to the epoch of 
Leech and Anthony Trollope, and I had 

59 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

neglected to provide myself with those very long 
and luxuriant side whiskers which are really 
essential to such a scene. I played it with a 
man whom we will call Parkinson, and with 
whom I had a semi-philosophical argument 
which lasted through the entire contest. It 
is deeply implanted in my mind that I had the 
best of the argument ; but it is certain and 
beyond dispute that I had the worst of the 
game. 

* Oh, Parkinson, Parkinson ! ' I cried, patting 
him affectionately on the head with a mallet, 
6 how far you really are from the pure love of 
the sport you who can play. It is pnly we 
who play badly who love the Game itself. 
You love glory ; you love applause ; you love 
the earthquake voice of victory ; you do not 
love croquet. You do not love croquet until 
you love being beaten at croquet. It is we the 
bunglers who adore the occupation in the 
abstract. It is we to whom it is art for art ? s 
sake. If we may see the face of Croquet 
herself (if I may so express myself) we are 
content to see her face turned upon us in anger. 
Our play is called amateurish ; and we wear 
proudly the name of amateur, for amateurs 
is but the French for Lovers. We accept all 
adventures from our Lady, the most disastrous 
or the most dreary. We wait outside her iron 
60 



THE PERFECT GAME 

gates (I allude to the hoops), vainly essaying 
to enter. Our devoted balls. Impetuous and 
full of chivalry, will not be confined within the 
pedantic boundaries of the mere croquet 
ground. Our balls seek honour in the ends of 
the earth ; they turn up in the flower-beds and 
the conservatory ; they are to be found in the 
front garden and the next street. No, Parkin- 
son ! The good painter loves his skill. It is 
the bad painter who loves his art. The good 
musician loves being a musician ; the bad 
musician loves music. With such a pure and 
hopeless passion do I worship croquet. I love 
the game itself. I love the parallelogram of 
grass marked out with chalk or tape, as if its 
limits were the frontiers of my sacred fatherland, 
the four seas ofBritain. I love the mere swing 
of the mallets, and the click of the balls is 
music. The four colours are to me sacramental 
and symbolic, like the red of martyrdom, or the 
white of Easter Day. You lose all this, my 
poor Parkinson. You have to solace yourself 
for the absence of this vision by the paltry 
consolation of being able to go through hoops 
and to hit the stick. 5 

And I waved my mallet in the air with a 
graceful gaiety. 

* Don't be too sorry for me,* said Parkinson, 
with his simple sarcasm. ' I shall get over it in 
61 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

time. But it seems to me that the more a man 
likes a game the better he would want to play 
it. Suppose the pleasure in the thing itself 
does come first, doesn't the pleasure of success 
come naturally and inevitably afterwards ? 
Or, take youi* own simile of the Knight and 
his Lady-love. I admit the gentleman does 
first and foremost want to be in the lady's 
presence. But I never heard of a gentleman 
who wanted to look an utter ass when he was 
there.' 

c Perhaps not ; though he generally looks it/ 
I replied. ' But the truth is that there is a 
fallacy in the simile, although it was my own. 
The happiness at which the lover is aiming is an 
infinite happiness, which can be extended 
without limit. The more he is loved, normally 
speaking, the jollier he will be. It is definitely 
true that the stronger the love of both lovers, 
the stronger will be the happiness. But it is 
not true that the stronger the play of both 
croquet players the stronger will be the game. 
It is logically possible (follow me closely 
here, Parkinson !) it is logically possible, to 
play croquet too well to enjoy it at all. If you 
could put this blue ball through that distant 
hoop as easily as you could pick it up with your 
hand, then you would not put it through that 
hoop any more than you pick it up with yout 
62 



THE PERFECT GAME 

hand ; it would not be worth doing. If you 
could play unerringly you would not play at 
all. The moment the game is perfect the game 
disappears/ 

s I do not think, however, 5 said Parkinson, 
'that you are in any immediate danger of 
effecting that sort of destruction. I do not 
think your croquet will vanish through its own 
faultless excellence. You are safe for the 
present. 9 

I again caressed him with the mallet, knocked 
a ball about, wired myself, and resumed the 
thread of my discourse. 

The long, warm evening had been gradually 
closing in, and by this time it was almost twi- - 
light. By the time I had delivered four more 
fundamental principles, and my companion 
had gone through five more hoops, the dusk 
was verging upon dark. 

* We shall have to give this up,' said Parkin- 
son, as he missed a ball almost for the first 
time. ' I can't see a thing.' 

' Nor can I, 5 I answered, * and it is a comfort 
to reflect that I could not hit anything if I 
saw it.' 

With that I struck a ball smartly, and sent it 
away into the darkness towards where the 
shadowy figure of Parkinson moved in the hot 
haze. Parkinson immediately uttered a loud 

63 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

and dramatic cry. The situation. indeed^ 
called for it. I had hit the right ball. 

Stunned with astonishment, I crossed the 
gloomy ground, and hit my ball again. It 
went through a hoop. I could not see the 
hoop ; but it was the right hoop. I shuddered 
from head to foot. 

Words were wholly inadequate, so I slouched 
heavily after that impossible ball. Again I hit 
it away into the night, in what I supposed was 
the vague direction of the quite invisible stick. 
And in the dead silence I heard the stick rattle 
as the ball struck it heavily. 

I threw down my mallet. c I can't stand 
this/ I said. c My ball has gone right 
three times. These things are not of this 
world/ 

6 Pick your mallet up,' said Parkinson ; 
* have another go.' 

' I tell you I daren't. If I made another 
hoop like that 1 should see all the devils 
dancing there on the blessed grass. 5 

' Why devils ? ' asked Parkinson ; * they may 
be only fairies making fun of you. They are 
sending you the " Perfect Game," which is 
no game.' 

I looked about me. The garden was full of a 
burning darkness, in which the faint glimmers 
had the look of fire. I stepped across the grass 



THE PERFECT GAME 

as if it burnt me, picked up the mallet, and hit 
the ball somewhere somewhere where another 
ball might be. I heard the dull click of the balls 
touching, and ran into the house like one 

pursued. 



VIII. IN TOPSY-TURVY LAND 

RECENTLY, In an idle metaphor, I took 
the tumbling of trees and the secret 
energy of the wind as typical of the visible 
world moving under the violence of the in- 
visible. I took this metaphor merely because 
I happened to be writing the article in a wood. 
Nevertheless, now that I return to Fleet Street 
(which seems to me, I confess, much better and 
more poetical than all the wild woods in the 
world), I am strangely haunted by this acci- 
dental comparison. The people's figures seem 
a forest and their soul a wind. All the human 
personalities which speak or signal to me seem 
to have this fantastic character of the fringe of 
the forest against the sky. That man that talks 
to me, what is he but an articulate tree ? That 
driver of a van who waves his hands wildly at 
me to tell me to get out of the way, what is he 
but a bunch of branches stirred and swayed by 
a spiritual wind, a sylvan object that I can 
continue to contemplate with calm ? That 
policeman who lifts his hand to warn three 
omnibuses of the peril that they run in en- 
countering my person, what is he but a shrub 
shaken for a moment with that blast of human 

66 



IN TOPSY-TURVY LAND 

law which Is a thing stranger than anarchy ? 
Gradually this impression of the woods wears 
off. But this black-and-white contrast between 
the visible and invisible, this deep sense that the 
one essential belief is belief in the invisible as. 
against the visible, is suddenly and sensation- 
ally brought back to my mind. Exactly at the 
moment when Fleet Street has grown most 
familiar (tha tis, most bewilderingandbright) , my 
eye catches a poster of vivid violet, on which 
I see written in large black letters these remark- 
able words : * Should Shop Assistants Marry ? ' 



When I saw those words everything might 
just as well have turned topsy-turvy. The men 
in Fleet Street plight have been walking about 
on their hands. The cross of St. Paul's might 
have been hanging in the air upside down. 
For I realize that I have really come into a 
topsy-turvy country ; I have come into the 
country where men do definitely believe that 
the waving of the trees makes the wind. That 
is to say, they believe that the material circum- 
stances, however black and twisted, are more 
important than the spiritual realities, however 
powerful and, pure. c Should Stop Assistants 
Marry ? * I am puzzled to think what some 
periods and schools of human history would 



O. K. CHESTERTON 

have made of such a question. The ascetics 
of the East or of some periods of the Early 
Church would have thought that the question 
meant, * Are not shop assistants too saintly, 
too much of another world, even to feel the 
emotions of the sexes ? ' But I suppose that is 
not what the purple poster means. In some 
Pagan cities it might have meant, * Shall slaves 
so vile as shop assistants even, be allowed to 
propagate their abject race ? ' But I suppose 
that is not what the purple poster means. We 
must face, I fear, the full insanity of what it 
does mean. It does really mean that a section 
of the human race is asking whether the primary 
relations of the two human sexes are particularly 
good for modern shops. The human race is 
asking whether Adam and Eve are entirely 
suitable for Marshall and Snelgrove. If this is 
not topsy-turvy I cannot imagine what would 
be. We ask whether the universal institution 
will improve our (please God) temporary 
institutions. Yet I have known many such 
questions. For instance, I have known a man 
ask seriously, * Does Democracy help the 
Empire ? ' Which is like saying, * Is art 
favourable to frescoes ? 3 

I say that there are many such questions 
asked. But if the world ever runs short of 
them, I can suggest a large number of questions 
68 



IN TOPSY-TURVY LAND 

of precisely the same kind, based on precisely 
the same principle. c Do Feet Improve Boots? * 
* Is Bread Better when Eaten ? ' c Should 
Hats Have Heads in Them ? ' ' Do People 
Spoil a Town?' ' Do Walls Ruin Wall- 
papers ? ' * Should Neckties Enclose Necks ? 5 
' Do Hands Hurt Walking-sticks ? ' c Does 
Burning Destroy Firewood ? ' * Is Cleanliness 
Good for Soap ? ' fi Can Cricket Really Im- 
prove Cricket-bats ? ' ' Shall We Take Brides 
with Our Wedding Rings ? ' and a hundred 
others. 

Not one of these questions differs at all in 
intellectual purport or an intellectual value 
from the question which I have quoted from 
the purple poster, or from any of the typical 
questions asked by half of the earnest econo- 
mists of our times. All the questions they ask 
are of this character ; they are all tinged with 
this same initial absurdity. They do not ask 
if the means is suited to the end ; they all ask 
(with profound and penetrating scepticism) if 
the end is suited to the means. They do not 
ask whether the tail suits the dog. They all 
ask whether a dog is (by the highest artistic 
canons) the most ornamental appendage that 
can be put at the end of a tail. In short, 
instead of asking Whether our modern arrange- 
ments, our streets, trades, bargains, laws, and 

69 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

concrete Institutions are suited to the primal 
and permanent ideal of a healthy human life, 
they never admit that healthy human life into 
the discussion at all except suddenly and 
accidentally at odd moments ; and then they 
only ask whether that healthy human life is 
suited to our streets and trades. Perfection 
may be attainable or unattainable as an end. 
It may or may not be possible to talk of im- 
perfection as a means to perfection. But surely 
it passes toleration to talk of perfection as a 
means to imperfection. The New Jerusalem 
may be a reality. It may be a dream. But 
surely it is too outrageous to say that the New 
Jerusalem is a reality on the road to Bir- 
mingham. 



This is the most enormous and at the same 
time the most secret of the modern tyrannies of 
materialism. In theory the thing ought to be 
simple enough. A really human human being 
would always put the spiritual things first. A 
walking and speaking statue of God finds him- 
self at one particular moment employed as a 
shop assistant. He has in himself a power of 
terrible love, a promise of paternity, a thirst 
for some loyalty that shall unify life, and in the 
ordinary course of things he asks himself * How 
70 



IN TOPSY-TURVY LAND 

far do the existing conditions of those assisting 
in shops fit in with my evident and epic destiny 
in the matter of love and marriage ? s But 
here, as I have said, comes in the quiet and 
crushing power of modern materialism. It 
prevents him rising in rebellion, as he would 
otherwise do. By perpetually talking about 
environment and visible things, by perpetually 
talking about economics and physical necessity, 
by painting and keeping repainted a perpetual 
picture of iron machinery and merciless 
engines, of rails of steel, and of towers of stone, 
modern materialism at last produces this 
tremendous impression on the human imagin- 
ation, this impression in which the truth is 
stated upside down. At last the result is 
achieved. The man does not say as he ought 
to have said, * Should married men endure 
being modern shop assistants ? ' The man says, 
' Should shop assistants marry ? ' Triumph has 
completed the immense illusion of materialism. 
The slave does not say, s Are these chains 
worthy of me ? ' The slave says scientifically 
and contentedly, * Am I even worthy of these 
chains ? * 



IX. A TRAGEDY OF TWOPENCE 

MY xelations with the readers of this page 
have been long and pleasant, but 
perhaps for that very reason I feel that the 
time has come when I ought to confess the one 
great crime of my life. It happened a long 
time ago ; but it is not uncommon for a 
belated burst of remorse to reveal such dark 
episodes long after they have occurred. It has 
nothing to do with the orgies of the Anti- 
Puritan League, That body is so offensively 
respectable that a newspaper, in describing it 
the other day, referred to my friend Mr. Edgar 
Jepson as Canon Edgar Jepson ; and it is 
believed that similar titles are intended for all 
of us. No ; it is not by the conduct of Arch- 
bishop Crane, of Dean Chesterton, of the Rev. 
James Douglas, of Monsignor Bland, and even 
of that fine and virile old ecclesiastic, Cardinal 
Nesbit, that I wish (or rather, am driven by 
my conscience) to make this declaration. The 
crime was committed in solitude and without 
accomplices. Alone I did it. Let me, with the 
characteristic thirst of penitents to get the worst 
of the confession over, state it first of all in its 
most dreadful and indefensible form. There is 

72 



A TRAGEDY OF TWOPENCE 

at the present moment in a town In Germany 
(unless he has died of rage on discovering his 
wrong) a restaurant-keeper to whom I still owe 
twopence. I last left his open-air restaurant 
knowing that I owed him twopence. I carried 
it away under his nose, despite the fact that 
the nose was a decidedly Jewish one. I have 
never paid him, and it is highly improbable 
that I ever shall. How did this villainy come 
to occur in a life which has been, generally 
speaking, deficient in the dexterity necessary 
for fraud ? The story is as follows and it has 
a moral, though there may not be room for that. 



It is a fair general rule for those travelling on 
the Continent that the easiest way of talking in 
a foreign language is to talk philosophy. The 
most difficult kind of talking is to talk about 
common necessities. The reason is obvious. The 
names of common necessities vary completely 
with each nation and are generally somewhat 
odd and quaint. How, for instance, could a 
Frenchman suppose that a coalbox would be 
called a * scuttle ' ? If he has ever seen the 
word scuttle it has been in the Jingo Press, 
where the * policy of scuttle ' is used whenever 
we give up something to a small power like 
Liberals, instead of giving up everything to a 

73 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

great power, like Imperialists. What English- 
man in Germany would be poet enough to 
guess that the Germans call a glove a * hand- 
shoe ' ? Nations name their necessities by 
nicknames, so to speak. They call their tubs 
and stools by quaint, elvish,., and almost 
affectionate names, as if they were their own 
children. But any one can argue about abstract 
things in a foreign language who has ever got 
as far as Exercise IV in a primer. For as soon 
as he can put a sentence together at all he finds 
that the words used in abstract or philosophical 
discussion are almost the same in all nations. 
They are the same, for the simple reason that 
they all come- from the things that were the 
roots of our common civilization. From Chris- 
tianity, from the Roman Empire, from the 
medieval Church, or the French Revolution. 
* Nation 5 , c citizen *, c religion ', c philosophy ', 
c authority ', ' the Republic ', words like these 
are nearly the same in all the countries in 
which we travel. Restrain, therefore, your 
exuberant admiration for the young man who 
can. argue with six French atheists when he 
first lands at Dieppe. Even I can do that. But 
very likely the same young man does not know 
the French for a shoe-horn. But to this 
generalization there are three great exceptions. 
(i) In the case of countries that are not 

74 



A TRAGEDY OF TWOPENCE 

European at all, and have never had our civic 
conceptions, or the old Latin scholarship. I do 
not pretend that the Patagonian phrase for 
' citizenship 5 at once leaps to the mind, or that 
a Dyak's word for c the Republic ' has been 
familiar to me from the nursery. (2) In the 
case of Germany, where, although the principle 
does apply to many words such as c nation * 
and * philosophy 9 , it does not apply so generally, 
because Germany has had a special and 
deliberate policy of encouraging the purely 
German part of its language. (3) In the case 
where one does not know any of the language 
at all, as is generally the case with me. 



Such at least was my situation on the dark 
day on which I committed my crime. Two of 
the exceptional conditions which I have men- 
tioned were combined. I was walking about 
a German town, and I knew no German. I 
knew, however, two or three of those great and 
solemn words which hold our European civi- 
lization together one of which is c cigar *. As 
it was a hot and dreamy day, I sat down at a 
table in a sort of beer-garden, and ordered 
a' cigar and a pot of lager. I drank the lager, 
and paid for it, I smoked the cigar, forgot to 
pay for it, and walked away, gazing rapturously 

75 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

at the royal outline of the Taunus mountains. 
After about ten minutes, I suddenly remem- 
bered that I had not paid for the cigar. I went 
back to the place of refreshment, and put down 
the money. But the proprietor also had for- 
gotten the cigar, and he merely said guttural 
things in a tone of query, asking me, I suppose, 
what I wanted. I said * cigar \ and he gave 
me a cigar. I endeavoured while putting down 
the money to wave away the cigar with gestures 
of refusal. He thought that my rejection was 
of the nature of a condemnation of that 
particular cigar, and brought me another. I 
whirled my arms like a windmil^ seeking to 
convey by the sweeping universality of my 
gesture that my rejection was a rejection of 
cigars in general, not of that particular article. 
He mistook this for the ordinary impatience of 
common men, and rushed forward, his hands 
filled with miscellaneous cigars, pressing them 
upon me. In desperation I tried other kinds 
of pantomime, but the more cigars I refused 
the more and more rare and precious cigars 
were brought out of the deeps and recesses of 
the establishment. I tried in vain to think of 
a way of conveying to him the fact that I had 
already had the cigar. I imitated the action of 
a citizen smoking, knocking off and throwing 
away a cigar. The watchful proprietor only 



A TRAGEDY OF TWOPENCE 

thought I was rehearsing (as in an ecstasy of 
anticipation) the joys of the cigar he was going 
to give me. At last I retired baffled : he would 
not take the money and leave the cigars alone. 
So that this restaurant-keeper (in whose face a 
love of money shone like the sun at noonday) 
flatly and firmly refused to receive twopence that 
I certainly owed him ; and I took that twopence 
of his away with me and rioted on it for months. 
I hope that on the last day the angels will break 
the truth very gently to that unhappy man. 



This is the true and exact account of the 
Great Cigar Fraud, and the moral of it is this 
that civilization is founded upon abstractions. 
The idea of debt is one which cannot be con- 
veyed by physical motions at all, because it is 
an abstract idea. And civilization obviously 
would be nothing without debt. So when 
hard-headed fellows who study scientific socio- 
logy (which does not exist) come and tell you 
that civilization is material of indifferent to the 
abstract, just ask yourselves how many of the 
things that make up our Society, the Law, or 
the Stocks and Shares, or the National Debt, 
you would be able to convey with your face and 
your ten fingers by grinning and gesticulating 
to a German innkeeper. 

77 



X. THE LITTLfi BIRDS WHO WON'T SING 

ON my last morning on the Flemish coast, 
when I knew that in a few hours I should 
be in England, my eye fell upon one of the 
details of Gothic carving of which Flanders is 
full. I do not know whether the thing was old, 
though it was certainly knocked about and 
indecipherable, but at least it was certainly in 
the style and tradition of the early Middle 
Ages. It seemed to represent men bending 
themselves (not to say twisting themselves) to 
certain primary employments. $>ome seemed 
to be sailors tugging at ropes ; others, I think, 
were reaping ; others were energetically pour- 
ing something into something else. This is 
entirely characteristic of the pictures and 
carvings of the early thirteenth century, per- 
haps the most purely vigorous time in all 
history. The great Greeks preferred to carve 
their gods and heroes doing nothing. Splendid 
and philosophic as their composure is, there is 
always about it something that marks the 
master of many slaves. But if there was one 
thing the early medievals liked it was repre- 
senting people doing something hunting or 
hawking, or rowing boats, or treading grapes, 



THE LITTLE BIRDS WHO WON T SING 

or making shoes, or cooking something in a pot. 
' Quicquid agunt homines, votum, timor, ira, 
voluptas.' (I quote from memory.) The Middle 
Ages is full of that spirit in all its monuments 
and manuscripts. Chaucer retains it in his jolly 
insistence on everybody's type of trade and toil. 
It was the earliest and youngest resurrection of 
Europe, the time when social orderwas strength- 
ening, but had not yet become oppressive ; the 
time when religious faiths were strong, but had 
not yet been exasperated. For this reason the 
whole effectof Greek and Gothic carving is differ- 
ent. The figures in the Elgin marbles, though 
often rearing their steeds for an instant in the 
air, seem frozen for ever at that perfect instant. 
But a mass of medieval carving seems actually 
a sort of bustle or hubbub in stone. Sometimes 
one cannot help feeling that the groups actually 
move and mix, and the whole front of a great 
cathedral has the hum of a huge hive. 



But about these particular figures there was 
a peculiarity of which I could not be sure. 
Those of them that had any heads had very 
curious heads, and it seemed to me that they 
had their mouths open. Whether or no this 
really, meant anything or was an accident of 
nascent art I do not know ; but in the course 

79 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

of wondering I recalled to my mind the fact 
that singing was connected with many of the 
tasks there suggested, that there were songs for 
reapers reaping and songs for sailors hauling 
ropes. I was still thinking about this small 
problem when I walked along the pier at 
Ostend ; and I heard some sailors uttering a 
measured shout as they laboured, and I 
remembered that sailors still sing in chorus 
while they work, and even sing different songs 
according to what part of their work they are 
doing. And a little while afterwards, when my 
sea journey was over, the sight of men working 
in the English fields reminded me again that 
there are still songs for harvest and for many 
agricultural routines. And I suddenly won- 
dered why, if this were so, it should be quite 
unknown for any modern trade to have a ritual 
poetry. How did people come to chant rude 
poems while pulling certain ropes or gathering 
certain fruit, and why did nobody do anything 
of the kind while producing any of the modern 
things ? Why is a modern newspaper never 
printed by people singing in chorus ? Why do 
shopmen seldom, if ever, sing ? 



If reapers sing while reaping, why should not 
auditors sing while auditing and bankers while 

80 



THE LITTLE BIRDS WHO WON ? T -SING 

banking ? If there are songs for all the separate 
things that have to be done in a boat, why are 
there not songs for all the separate things that 
have to be done in a bank ? As the train from 

Dover flew through the Kentish gardens, I tried 
to write a few songs suitable for commercial 

gentlemen. Thus, the work of bank clerks 
when casting up columns might begin with a 
thundering chorus in praise of Simple Addition. 

Up, my lads, and lift the ledgers, sleep and ease are o'er. 

Hear the Stars of Morning shouting : * Two and Two 

are Four.* 
Though the creeds and realms are reeling, though the 

sophists roar, 

Though we weep and pawn our watches, Two and 
Two are Four. 

And then, of course, we should need another 
song for times of financial crisis and courage, a 
song with a more fierce and panic-stricken 
metre, like the rushing of horses in the night : 

There's a run upon the Bank 

Stand away ! 

For the Manager's a crank and the Secretary drank, and 
the Upper Tooting Bank 

Turns to bay I 
Stand close : there is a run 

On the Bank. 

Of our ship, our royal one, let the ringing legend run, 
that she fired every gun 

Ere she sank. 



81 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

And as I came Into the cloud of London I 
met a friend of mine who actually is in a bank, 
and submitted these suggestions in rhyme to 
him for use among his colleagues. But he was 
not very hopeful about the matter. It was not 
(he assured me) that he underrated the verses, 
or in any sense lamented their lack of polish. 
No ; it was rather, he felt, an indefinable 
something in the very atmosphere of the society 
in which we live that makes it spiritually 
difficult to sing in banks. And I think iie must 
be right ; though the matter is very mysterious. 
I may observe here that I think there must be 
some mistake in the calculations of the Socia- 
lists* They put down all our distress not to a 
moral tone, but to the chaos of private enter- 
prise. Now, banks are private ; but post 
offices are Socialistic : therefore I naturally 
expected that the post office would fall into the 
collectivist idea of a chorus. Judge of my 
surprise when the lady in my local post office 
(whom I urged to sing) dismissed the idea with 
tar more coldness than the bank clerk had done. 
She seemed, indeed, to be in a considerably 
greater state of depression than he. Should 
any one suppose that this was the effect of the 
verses themselves, it is only fair to say that the 
specimen verse of the Post Office Hymn ran 
thus : 

82 



THE LITTLE BIRDS WHO WON T SING 

O'er London our letters are- shaken like snow, 
Our wires o'er the world like the thunder-bolts go. 
The news that may marry a maiden in Sark, 
Or kill an old lady in Finsbury Park. 

Chorus (with a swing of joy and energy) : 
Or kill an old lady in Finsbury Park. 

And the more I thought about the matter the 
more painfully certain it seemed that the most 
important and typical modern things could not 
be done with a chorus. One could not, for 
instance, be a great financier and sing ; because 
the essence of being a great financier is that 
you keep quiet. You could not even in many 
modern circles be a r public man and sing ; 
because in those circles the essence of being a 
public man is that you do nearly everything 
in private. Nobody would imagine a chorus 
of moneylenders. Every one knows the story 
of the solicitors' corps of volunteers who, when 
the Colonel on the battlefield cried e Charge ! * 
all said simultaneously, * Six-and-eightpence/ 
Men can sing while charging in a military, but 
hardly in a legal sense. And at the end of my 
reflections I had really got no further than the 
subconscious feeling of my friend the bank 
clerk that there is something spiritually suffo- 
cating about our life ; not about our laws 
merely, but about our life. Bank clerks are 
without songs not because they are* poor, but 

83 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

because they are sad. Sailors are much poorer. 
As I passed homewards I passed a little tin 
building of some religious sort, 'which was 
shaken with shouting as a trumpet is torn with 
its own tongue. They were singing anyhow ; 
and I had for an instant a fancy I had often had 
before : that with us the super-human is the 
only place where you can find the human. 
Human nature is hunted, and has fled into 
sanctuary. 



XI. THE RIDDLE OF THE IVY 

ONE day, as I was leaving London for a 
holiday, a friend walked into my flat in 
Battersea and found me surrounded with half- 
packed luggage. 

* You seem to be off on your travels/ he said. 
* Where are you going ? ' 

With a strap between my teeth I replied, 
6 To Battersea. 3 

6 The wit of your remark, 5 he said, c wholly 
escapes me/ 

c I am going to Battersea,* I repeated, * to 
Battersea via Paris, Belfort, Heidelberg, and 
Frankfort. My remark contained no wit. It 
contained simply the truth. I am going to 
wander over the whole world until once more 
I find Battersea. Somewhere in the seas of 
sunset or of sunrise, somewhere in the ultimate 
archipelago of the earth, there is one litde 
island which I wish to find : an island with 
low green hills and great white cliffs. Travellers 
tell me that it is called England (Scotch 
travellers tell me that it is called Britain), and 
there is a rumour that somewhere in the heart 
of it there is a beautiful place called Battersea. 5 

4 1 suppose it is unnecessary to tell you/ 

85 



G. K. GHESTERTOH 

said my friend, with an air of intellectual 
compassion, c that this is Battersea ? y 

' It is quite unnecessary,' I said, c and it is 
spiritually untrue. I cannot see any Battersea 
here ; I cannot see any London or any England. 
I cannot see that door. I cannot see that chair ; 
because a cloud of sleep and custom has come 
across my eyes. The only way to get back to 
them is to go somewhere else ; and that is the 
real object of travel and the real pleasure of 
holidays. Do you suppose that I go to France 
in order to see France ? Do you suppose that 
I go to Germany in order to see Germany ? 
I shall enjoy them both ; but it is not them 
that I am seeking. I am seeking Battersea. 
The whole object of travel is not to set foot on 
foreign lands ; it is at last to set foot on one's 
own country as a foreign land. Now I warn 
you that this Gladstone bag is compact and 
heavy, and that if you utter that word * para- 
dox ' I shall hurl it at your head. I did not 
make the world, and I did not make it para- 
doxical. It is not my fault, it is the truth, that 
the only way to go to England is to go away 
from it.' 

But when after only a month's travelling I 

did come back to England, I was startled to 

find that I had told the exact truth. England 

did break on me at once beautifully new and 

86 



THE RIDDLE OF THE IVY 

beautifully old. To land at Dover Is the right 
way to approach England (most things that are 
hackneyed are right), for then you see first the 
full, soft gardens of Kent, which are, perhaps, 
an exaggeration, but still a typical exaggera- 
tion, of the rich rusticity of England. As it 
happened, also, a fellow-traveller with whom I 
had fallen into conversation felt the same 
freshness, though for another cause. She was 
an American lady who had seen Europe, and 
had never yet seen England, and she expressed 
her enthusiasm in that simple and splendid way 
which is natural to Americans, who are the 
most idealistic people in the whole world. 
Their only danger is that the idealist can easily 
become the idolater. And the American has 
become so idealistic that he even idealizes 
money. But (to quote a very able writer of 
American short stories) that is another story. 

* I have never been in England before,' said 
the American lady, e yet it is so pretty that I feel 
as if I have been away from it for a long time.' 

c So you have/ I said ; e you have been, away 
for three hundred years.' 

' What a lot of ivy you have/ she said. ' It 
covers the churches and it buries the houses. 
We have ivy ; but I have never seen it grow 
like that.' 

* I am interested to hear it/ I replied, * for 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

I am making a little list of all the things that 
are really better in England. Even a month 
on the Continent, combined with intelligence, 
will teach you that there are many things that 
are better abroad. All the things that Mr. 
Kipling calls English are better abroad. But 
there are things entirely English and entirely 
good. Kippers, for instance, and Free Trade, 
and front gardens, and individual liberty, and 
the Elizabethan drama, and hansom cabs, and 
cricket, and Mr. Will Crooks. Above all, there 
is the happy and holy custom of eating a heavy 
breakfast. I cannot imagine that Shakespeare 
began the day with rolls and coffee, like a 
Frenchman or a German. Surely he began 
with bacon or bloaters. In fact, a light bursts 
upon me ; for the first time I see the real 
meaning of Mrs. Gallup and the Great Cipher. 
It is merely a mistake in the matter of a capital 
letter. I withdraw my objections ; I accept 
everything ; bacon did write Shakespeare.* 

e I cannot look at anything but the ivy,' she 
said, * it looks so comfortable. 5 

While she looked at the ivy I opened for the 
first time for many weeks an English newspaper, 
and I read a speech by Mr. Balfour in which 
he said that the House of Lords ought to be 
preserved because it represented something in 
the nature of permanent public opinion of 
88 



THE RIDDLE OF THE IVY 

England, above the ebb and flow of the parties. 
Now Mr. Balfour is a perfectly sincere patriot, 
a man who, from his own point of view, thinks 
long and seriously about the public needs, and 
he is, moreover, a man of entirely exceptional 
intellectual power. But alas ! in spite of all 
this, when I had read that speech" I thought 
with a heavy heart that there was one more 
thing that I had to add to the list of the specially 
English things, such as kippers and cricket ; 
I had to add the specially English kind of 
humbug. In France things are attacked and 
defended for what they are. The Catholic 
Church is attacked because it is Catholic, and 
defended because it is Catholic. The Republic 
is defended because it is Republican, and 
attacked because it is Republican. But here is 
the ablest of English politicians consoling every- 
body by explaining that the House of Lords is 
not really the House of Lords, but something 
quite different, that the foolish, accidental 
peers whom he meets every night are in some 
mysterious way experts upon the psychology of 
the democracy ; that if you want to know what 
the very poor want you must ask the very rich, 
and that if you want the truth about Hoxton 
you must ask for it at Hatfield. If the Con- 
servative defender of the House of Lords were 
a logical French politician he would simply be 

89 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

a liar. But being an English politician he is 
simply a poet. The English love of believing 
that all is as it should be, the English optimism 
combined with the strong English imagination, 
is too much even for the obvious facts. In a 
cold, scientific sense, of course, Mr. Balfour 
knows that nearly all the Lords who are not 
Lords by accident are Lords by bribery. He 
knows, and (as Mr. Belloc excellently said) 
everybody in Parliament knows, the very names 
of the peers who have purchased their peerages. 
But the glamour of comfort, the pleasure of 
reassuring himself and reassuring others, is too 
strong for this original knowledge ; at last it 
fades from him, and he sincerely and earnestly 
calls on Englishmen to join with him in 
admiring an august and public-spirited Senate, 
having wholly forgotten that the Senate really 
consists of dunces whom he has himself de- 
spised and adventurers whom he has himself 
ennobled. 

* Your ivy is so beautifully soft and thick/ 
said the American lady, * it seems to cover 
almost everything. It must be the most poetical 
thing in England.* 

* It is very beautiful/ I said, * and, as you 
say, it is very English. Charles Dickens, who 
was almost more English than England, wrote 
one of his rare poems about the beauty of ivy. 

90 



THE RIDDLE OF THE IVY 

Yes, by all means let us admire the ivy, so 
deep, so warm, so full of a genial gloom and a 
grotesque tenderness. Let us admire the ivy ; 
and let us pray to God in His mercy that it 
may not kill the tree.' 



XII. THE THREE KINDS OF MEN 

RDUGHLY speaking, there are three 
kinds of people in this world. The first 
kind of people are People ; they are the largest 
and probably the most valuable class. We 
owe to this class the chairs we sit down on, the 
clothes we wear, the houses we live in ; and, 
indeed (when we come to think of it), we 
probably belong to this class ourselves. The 
second class may be called for convenience the 
Poets ; they are often a nuisance to their 
families* but, generally speaking, a blessing to 
mankind. The third class is that of the Pro- 
fessors or Intellectuals ; sometimes described 
as the thoughtful people ; and these are a 
blight and a desolation both to their families 
and also to mankind. Of course, the classifi- 
cation sometimes overlaps, like all classifica- 
tion. Some good people are almost poets and 
some bad poets are almost professors. But 
the division follows lines of real psychological 
cleavage. I do not offer it lightly. It has been 
the fruit of more than eighteen minutes of 
earnest reflection and research. 

The class called People (to which you and I, 
with no little pride, attach ourselves) has 



THE THREE KINDS OF MEN 

certain casual, yet profound, assumptions, 
which are called * commonplaces *, as that 
children are charming, or that twilight is sad 
and sentimental, or that one man fighting 
three is a fine sight. Now, these feelings are 
not crude ; they are not even simple. The 
charm of children is very subtle ; it is even 
complex, to the extent of being almost contra- 
dictory. It is, at its very plainest, mingled of 
a regard for hilarity and a regard for helpless- 
ness. The sentiment of twilight, in the 
vulgarest drawing-room song or the coarsest 
pair of sweethearts,, is, so far as it goes, a subtle 
sentiment. It is strangely balanced between 
pain and pleasure ; it might also be called 
pleasure tempting pain. The plunge of im- 
patient chivalry by which we all admire a 
man fighting odds is not at all easy to define 
separately ; it means many things, pity, 
dramatic surprise, a desire for justice, a delight 
in experiment and the indeterminate. The 
ideas of the mob are really very subtle ideas ; 
but the mob does not express them subtly. In 
fact, it does not express them at all, except on 
those occasions (now only too rare) when it 
indulges in insurrection and massacre. 

Now, this accounts for the otherwise 
unreasonable fact of the existence of Poets* 
Poets are those who share these popular 

93 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

sentiments, but can so express them that they 
prove themselves the strange and delicate 
things that they really are. Poets draw out 
the shy refinement of the rabble. Where the 
common man covers the queerest emotions by 
saying, * Rum little kid *, Victor Hugo will 
write c L'art d'etre grandpere 5 ; where the 
stockbroker will only say abruptly, c Evenings 
closing in now/ Mr. Yeats will write * Into 
the twilight ' ; where the navvy can only 
mutter something about pluck and being 
* precious game ', Homer will show you the 
hero in rags in his own hall defying the princes 
at their banquet. The Poets carry the popular 
sentiments to a keener and more splendid 
pitch ; but let it always be remembered that 
it is the popular sentiments that they are 
carrying. No man ever wrote any good poetry 
to show that childhood was shocking, or that 
twilight was gay and farcical, or that a man 
was contemptible because he had crossed his 
single sword with three. The people who 
maintain this are the Professors, or Prigs. 



The Poets are those who rise above the people 
by understanding them. Of course, most of the 
Poets wrote in prose Rabelais, for instance, 
and Dickens. The Prigs rise above the people 

94 



THE THREE KINDS OF MEN 

by refusing to understand them : by saying 
that all their dim, strange preferences are pre- 
judices and superstitions. The Prigs make the 
people feel stupid ; the Poets make the people 
feel wiser than they could have imagined that 
they were. There are many weird elements in 
this situation. The oddest of ail perhaps is 
the fate of the two factors in practical politics, 
The Poets who embrace and admire the 
people are often pelted with stones and 
crucified. The Prigs who despise the people 
are often loaded with lands and crowned. In 
the House of Commons, for instance, there are 
quite a number of prigs, but comparatively 
few poets. There are no People there at all. 

By poets, as \ have said, I do not mean 
people who write poetry, or indeed people 
who write anything. I mean such people as, 
having culture and imagination, use them to 
understand and share the feelings of their 
fellows ; as against those who use them to rise 
to what they call a higher plane. Crudely, the 
poet differs from the mob by his sensibility; the 
professor differs from the mob by his insensibility. 
He has not sufficient finesse and sensitiveness 
to sympathize with the mob. His only notion 
is coarsely to contradict it, to cut across it, 
in accordance with some egotistical plan of 
his own ; to tell himself that whatever the 

95 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

ignorant say, they are probably wrong. He 
forgets that Ignorance often has the exquisite 
intuitions of innocence. 



Let me take one example which may mark 
out the outline of the contention. Open the 
nearest comic paper and let your eye rest 
lovingly upon a joke about a mother-in-law, 
Now, the joke, as presented for the populace, 
will probably be a simple joke ; the old lady 
will be tall and stout, the hen-pecked husband 
will be small and cowering. But for^all that, 
a mother-in-law is not a simple idea. She is a 
very subtle idea. The problem is not that she 
is big and arrogant ; she is frequently little and 
quite extraordinarily nice. The problem of 
the mother-in-law is that she is like the twi- 
light : half one thing and half another. Now, 
this twilight truth, this fine and even tender 
embarrassment, might be rendered, as it really 
is, by a poet, only here the poet would have t6 
be some very penetrating and sincere novelist, 
like George Meredith, or Mr. H. G. Wells, 
whose Ann Veronica I have just been reading 
with delight. I would trust the fine poets a$d 
novelists because they follow the fairy clue given 
them in Comic Cuts. But suppose the Professor 
appears, and suppose he says (as he almost 

96 



THE THREE KI&0S OF MEN 

certainly will), * A mother-in-law is merdy a 
fellow-citizen. Considerations of sex should 
not interfere with comradeship. Regard for 
age should not influence the intellect. A 
mother-in-law is merely Another- Mind. We 
should free ourselves from these tribal hier- 
archies and degrees. 5 Now, when the Pro- 
fessor says this (as he always does), I say to 
him, c Sir, you are coarser than Comic Cuts. 
You are more vulgar and blundering than the 
most elephantine music-hall artiste. You are 
blinder and grosser than the mob. These 
vulgar knockabouts have, at least, .got hold 
of a social shade a.nd real mental distinction, 
though they can only express it clumsily. 
You are so clumsy that you cannot get .hold of 
it at all. If you really cannot see that the 
bridegroom's mother and the, bride have any 
reason for constraint or diffidence, then you 
are neither polite nor humane ; you have no 
sympathy in you for the deep and doubtful 
hearts of human folk.' It is better even to put 
the difficulty as the vulgar put it than to be 
pertly unconscious of the difficulty altogether. 
The same question might be considered 
well enough in the old proverb that two is 
company and three is none. This proverb is 
the truth put popularly : that is, it is the truth 
put wrong. Certainly it is untrue that three is 

97 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

no company. Three is splendid company : 
three is the ideal number for pure comrade- 
ship : as in the Three Musketeers. But if you 
reject the proverb altogether ; if you say that 
two and three are the same sort of company ; 
if you cannot see that there is a wider abyss 
between two and three than between three and 
three million then I regret to inform you that 
you belong to the Third Class of human beings ; 
that you shall have no company either of two 
or three, but shall be alone in a howling desert 
till you die. 



XIII. THE SURRENDER OF A COCKNEY 

TJ 1 VERY man, though he were born in- the 
JL-^ very belfry of Bow and spent his Infancy 
climbing among chimneys, has waiting for him 
somewhere a country house which he has never 
seen ; but which was built for him in the very 
shape of his soul. It stands patiently waiting 
to be found, knee-keep in orchards of Kent or 
mirrored in pools of Lincoln ; and when the 
man sees it he remembers it, though he has 
never seen it before. Even I have been forced 
to confess this at last, who am a Cockney, if 
ever there was one, a Cockney not only on 
principle, but with savage pride. I have 
always maintained, quite seriously, that the 
Lord is not in the wind or thunder of the waste, 
but if anywhere in the still small voice of Fleet 
Street. I sincerely maintain that Nature- 
worship is more morally dangerous than the 
most vulgar man-worship of the cities ; since 
it can easily be perverted into the worship of 
an impersonal mystery, carelessness, or cruelty. 
Thoreau would have been a jollier fellow 
if he had devoted himself to a greengrocer 
instead of to greens. Swinburne would have 
been a better novelist if he had worshipped a 

99 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

fish-monger Instead of worshipping the sea. I 
prefer the philosophy of bricks and mortar to 
the philosophy of turnips. To call a man a 
turnip may be playful, but is seldom respectful. 
But when we wish to pay emphatic honour to 
a man, to praise the firmness of his nature, the 
squareness of his conduct, the strong humility 
with which he is interlocked with his equals in 
silent mutual support, then we invoke the 
nobler Cockney metaphor, and call him a 
brick. 

But, despite all these theories, I have sur- 
rendered ; I have struck my colours at sight ; 
at a mere glimpse through the opening of a 
hedg$. I shall come down to living In the 
country 5 like" any common Socialist or Simple 
Lifer, I shall end my days in a village, in the 
character of the Village Idiot, and be a 
spectacle and a judgment to mankind. I have 
already learnt the rustic manner of leaning 
upon a gate ; and I was thus gymnastically 
occupied at the moment when my eye caught 
the house that was made for me. It stood well 
back from the road, and was built of a good 
yellow brick ; it was narrow for its height, like 
the tower of some Border robber ; and over 
the front door was carved in large letters, 
" 1908." That last burst of sincerity, that 
superb scorn of antiquarian sentiment, over- 
100 



THE SURRENDER OF A COCKNEY 

whelmed me finally. I closed my eyes In a 
kind of ecstasy. My friend (who was helping 
me to lean on the gate) asked me with some 
curiosity what I was doing. 

* My dear fellow/ I said, with emotion, * I 
am bidding farewell to forty-three hansom 
cabmen. 5 

* Well,' he said, * I suppose they would think 
this country rather outside the radius.' 

* Oh, my friend,' I cried brokenly, c how 
beautiful London is ! Why do they only 
write poetry about the country? I could 
turn every lyric cry into Cockney. 

" My heart leaps up when I behold 
A sky-sign in the sky," 

as I observed in a volume which is too little 
read, founded on the older English poets. 
You never saw my " Golden Treasury Re- 
gilded ; or, The Classics Made Cockney " it 
contained some fine lines. 

" O Wild West End, thou breath of London's being/ 9 
or the reminiscence of Keats, beginning 
" City of smuts and mellow fogfulness." 

I have written many such lines on the beauty 

of London ; yet I never realized that London 

101 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

was really beautiful till now. Do you ask me 
why ? It is because I have left it for ever.' 

6 If you will take my advice/ said my friend, 
* you will humbly endeavour not to be a fool. 
What is the sense of this mad modern notion 
that every literary man must live in the 
country, with the pigs and the donkeys and the 
squires ? Chaucer and Spenser and Milton 
and Dryden lived in London ; Shakespeare 
and Dr. Johnson came to London because they 
had had quite enough of the country. And as 
for trumpery topical journalists like you, why, 
they would cut their throats in the country. 
You have confessed it yourself in your own last 
words. You hunger and thirst after the 
streets ; you think London the finest place on 
the planet. And if by some miracle a Bays- 
water omnibus could come down this green, 
country lane you would utter a yell of joy.' 

Then a light burst upon my brain, and I 
turned upon him with terrible sternness. 

c Why, miserable aesthete,' I said in a voice 
of thunder, ' that is the true country spirit ! 
That is how the real rustic feels. The real 
rustic does utter a yell of joy at the sight of a 
Bayswater omnibus. The real rustic does 
think London the finest place on the planet. 
In the few moments that I have stood by this 
stile, I have g^own rooted here like an ancient 
102 



THE SURRENDER OF A COCKNEY 

tree ; I have been here for ages. Petulant 
Surburban, I am the real rustic. I believe 
that the streets of London are paved with gold ; 
and I mean to see it before I die.' 

The evening breeze freshened among the 
little tossing trees of that lane, and the purple 
evening clouds piled up and darkened behind 
my Country Seat, the house that belonged to 
me, making, by contrast, its yellow bricks 
gleam like gold. At last my friend said : ' To 
cut it short, then, you mean that you will live 
in the country because you won't like it. 
What on earth will you do here ; dig up the 
garden ? ' 

* Dig ! ' I answered, in honourable scorn. 
* Dig ! Do work at my Country Seat ; no, 
thank you. When I find a Country Seat, I sit 
in it. And for your other objection, you are 
quite wrong. I do not dislike the country, but 
I like the town more. Therefore the art of 
happiness certainly suggests that I should live 
in the country and think about the town. 
Modern nature-worship is all upside down. 
Trees and fields ought to be the ordinary 
things ; terraces and temples ought to be 
extraordinary. I am on the side of the man 
who lives in the country and wants to go to 
London. I abominate and abjure the man 
who lives in London and wants to go to the 
103 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

country ; I do it with all the more heartiness 
because I am that sort of man myself. We 
must learn to love London again, as rustics 
love It. Therefore (I quote again from the 
great Cockney version of The Golden Treasury) 

" Therefore, ye gas-pipes, ye asbestos stoves, 
Forbode not any severing of our loves, 
I have relinquished but your earthly sight, 
To hold you dear in a more distant way. 
I'll love the 'buses lumbering through the wet 
Even more than when I lightly tripped as they. 
The grimy colour of the London clay 
Is lovely yet.' 9 

because I have found the house where I was 
really born ; the tall and quiet house from 
which I can see London afar off, as the miracle 
of man that it is.' 



104 



XIV. THE PHILOSOPHY OF SIGHTSEEING 

IT would be really Interesting to know exactly 
why an intelligent person by which I mean 
a person with any sort of intelligence can and 
does dislike sight-seeing. Why does the idea of 
a charabanc full of tourists going to see the 
birthplace of Nelson or the death-scene of 
Simon de Montfort strike a strange chill to the 
soul ? I can tell quite easily what this dim 
aversion to tourists and their antiquities does 
not arise from at least, in my case. Whatever 
my other vices (and they are, of course, of a 
lurid cast), I can lay my hand on my heart 
and say that it does not arise from a paltry 
contempt for the antiquities, nor yet from the 
still more paltry contempt for the tourists. If 
there is one thing more dwarfish and pitiful 
than irreverence for the past, it is irreverence 
for the present, for the passionate and many- 
coloured procession of life, which includes the 
charabanc among its many chariots and trium- 
phal cars. I know nothing so vulgar as that 
contempt for vulgarity which sneers at the 
clerks on a Bank Holiday or the Cockneys on 
Margate sands. The man who notices nothing 
about the clerk except his Cockney accent 
105 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

would have noticed nothing about Simon de 
Montfort except his French accent. The man 
who jeers at Jones for having dropped an h 
might have jeered at Nelson for having dropped 
an arm. Scorn springs easily to the essentially 
vulgar-minded ; and it is as easy to gibe at 
Montfort as a foreigner or at Nelson as a cripple, 
as to gibe at the struggling speech and the 
maimed bodies of the mass of our comic and 
tragic race. If I shrink faintly from this affair 
of tourists and tombs, it is certainly not because 
I am so profane as to think lightly either of the 
tombs or the tourists. I reverence those great 
men who had the courage to die ; I reverence 
also these little men who have the courage to 
live. 

Even if this be conceded, another suggestion 
may be made. It may be said that antiquities 
and commonplace crowds are indeed good 
things, like violets and geraniums ; but they 
do not go together. A billycock is a beautiful 
object (it may be eagerly urged), but it is not 
in the same style of architecture as Ely Cathe- 
dral ; it is a dome, a small rococo dome in 
the Renaissance manner, and does not go with 
the pointed arches that assault "heaven like 
spears. A charabanc is lovely (it may be said) 
if placed upon a pedestal and worshipped for 
its own sweet sake ; but it does not harmonize 
106 



THE PHILOSOPHY OF SIGHT-SEEING 

with the curve and outline of the old three- 
decker on which Nelson died ; Its beauty Is 
quite of another sort. Therefore (we will 
suppose our sage to argue) antiquity and 
democracy should be kept separate, as Incon- 
sistent things. Things may be Inconsistent in 
time and space which are by no means Incon- 
sistent In essential value and Idea. Thus the 
Catholic Church has water for the new-born 
and oil for the dying ; but she never mixes oil 
and water. 

This explanation Is plausible ; but I do not 
find It adequate. The first objection Is that the 
same smell of bathos haunts the soul in the 
case of all deliberate and elaborate visits to 
6 beauty spots \ even by persons of the most 
elegant position or the most protected privacy. 
Specially visiting the Coliseum by moonlight 
always struck me as being as vulgar as visiting 
It by limelight. One millionaire standing on 
the top of Mont Blanc, one millionaire standing 
in the desert by the Sphinx,, one millionaire 
standing In the middle of Stonehenge 3 Is just 
as comic as one millionaire is anywhere else ; 
and that is saying a good deal. On the other 
hand. If the billycock had come privately and 
naturally into Ely Cathedral 3 no enthusiast for 
Gothic harmony would think of objecting to 
the billycock so long, of course,, as it was not 
107 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

worn on the head. But there is indeed a much 
deeper objection to this theory of the two 
incompatible excellences of antiquity and 
popularity. For the truth is that it has been 
almost entirely the antiquities that have nor- 
mally interested the populace ; and it has been 
almost entirely the populace who have sys- 
tematically preserved the antiquities. The 
Oldest Inhabitant has always been a clod- 
hopper ; I have never heard of his being a 
gentleman. It is the peasants who preserve all 
traditions of the sites of battles or the building 
of churches. It is they who remember, so far 
as any one remembers, the glimpses of fairies 
or the graver wonders of saints. In the classes 
above them the supernatural has been slain by 
the supercilious. That is a true and tremen- 
dous text in Scripture which says that * where 
there is no vision the people perish '. But it is 
equally true in practice that where there is no 
people the visions perish. 

The idea must be abandoned, then, that this 
feeling of faint dislike towards popular sight- 
seeing is due to any inherent incompatibility 
between the idea of special shrines and trophies 
and the idea of large masses of ordinary men. 
On the contrary, these two elements of sanctity 
and democracy have been specially connected 
and allied throughout history. The shrines and 
108 



THE PHILOSOPHY OF SIGHT-SEEING 

trophies were often put up by ordinary men. 
They were always put up for ordinary men. 
To whatever things the fastidious modern artist 
may choose to apply his theory of specialist 
judgment, and an aristocracy of taste, he must 
necessarily find it difficult really to apply it to 
such historic and monumental art. Obviously, 
a public building is meant to impress the public. 
The most aristocratic tomb is a democratic 
tomb, because it exists to be seen ; the only 
aristocratic thing is the decaying corpse, not 
the undecaying marble ; and if the man wanted 
to be thoroughly aristocratic, he should be 
buried in his own back-garden. The chapel of 
the most narrow and exclusive sect is universal 
outside, even if it is limited inside ; its walls 
and windows confront all points of the compass 
and all quarters of the cosmos. It may be small 
as a dwelling-place, but it is universal as a 
monument ; if its sectarians had. really wished 
to be private they should have met in a private 
house, Whenever and Vherever wQ k erect a 
national or municipal hall, pillar, or statue, we 
are speaking to the crowd like a demagogue. - 

The statue of every statesman offers itself for 
election as much as the statesman himself. 
Every epitaph on a church slab is put up for 
the mob as much as a placard in a Genera] 
Election. And if we follow this track of 
109 



O. K. CHESTERTON 

reflection we shall, I think, really find why It 
is that modem sight-seeing jars on something 
in us, something that is not a caddish contempt 
for graves nor an equally caddish contempt for 
cads. For, after all, there is many a churchyard 
which consists mostly of dead cads ; but that 
does not make it less sacred or less sad. 

The real explanation, I fancy, is this : that 
these cathedrals and columns of triumph were 
meant, not for people more cultured and self- 
conscious than modern tourists, but for people 
much rougher and more casual. Those leaps 
of live stone like frozen fountains, were so 
placed and poised as to catch the eye of 
ordinary inconsiderate men going about their 
daily business ; and when they are so seen they 
are never forgotten. The true way of reviving 
the magic of our great minsters and historic 
sepulchres is not the one which Ruskin was 
always recommending. It is not to be more 
careful of historic buildings. Nay, it is rather 
to be more careless of them. Buy a bicycle in 
Maidstone to visit an aunt in Dover, and you 
will see Canterbury Cathedral as it was built 
to be seen. Go through London only as the 
shortest way between Croydon and Hampstead, 
and the Nelson Column will (for the first time 
in your life) remind you of Nelson. You will 
appreciate Hereford Cathedral if you have 
no 



THE PHILOSOPHY OF SIGHT-SEEING 

come for cider, not if you have come for archi- 
tecture. You will really see the Place Vendome 
if you have come on business,, not if you have 
come for art. For it was for the simple and 
laborious generations of men, practical, troubled 
about many things, that our fathers reared 
those portents. There is, indeed, another 
element, not unimportant : the fact that people 
have gone to cathedrals to pray. But in dis- 
cussing modern artistic cathedral-lovers, we 
need not consider this. 



XV. HOW I FOUND THE SUPERMAN 

RiADERS of Mr. Bernard Shaw and other 
. modern writers may be interested to know 
that the Superman has been found. I found 
him ; he lives In South Groydon. My success 
will be a great blow to Mr. Shaw, who has 
been following quite a false scent, and is now 
looking for the creature in Blackpool ; and as 
for Mr. Wells s s notion of generating him out 
of gases In a private laboratory, I always 
thought it doomed to failure. I assure Mr, 
Wells that the Superman at Croydon was born 
in the ordinary way, though he himself, of 
course, is anything but ordinary. 

Nor are his parents unworthy of the wonder- 
ful being whom they have given to the world. 
The name of Lady Hypatia Smythe-Browne 
(now Lady Hypatia Hagg) will never be for- 
gotten in the East End, where she did sueh 
splendid social work. Her constant cry of 
* Save the children ! * referred to the cruel 
neglect of children's eyesight involved in allow- 
ing them to play with crudely painted toys. 
She quoted unanswerable statistics to prove 
that children allowed to look at violet and 
vermilion often suffered from failing eyesight 

112 



HOW I FOUND THE SUPERMAN 

In their extreme old age ; and it was owing to 
her ceaseless crusade that the pestilence of the 
Monkey-on-the-Stick was almost swept from 
Hoxton. The devoted worker would tramp the 
streets untiringly, taking away the toys from 
all the poor children, who were often moved 
to tears by her kindness. Her good work was 
interrupted, partly by a new interest in the 
creed of Zoroaster, and partly by a savage blow 
from an umbrella. It was inflicted by a dis- 
solute Irish apple-woman, who, on returning 
from some orgy to her ill-kept apartment, found 
Lady Hypatia in the bedroom, taking down an 
oleograph, which, to say the least of it, could 
not really elevate the , mind. At this the 
ignorant and partly intoxicated Celt dealt the 
social reformer a severe blow, adding to it an 
absurd accusation of theft. The lady's ex- 
quisitely balanced mind received a shock, and 
it was during a short mental illness that she 
married Dr. Hagg, 

Of Dr. Hagg himself I hope there is no need 
to speak. Any one even slightly acquainted 
with those daring experiments in Neo-Indivi- 
dualist Eugenics, which are now the one 
absorbing interest of the English democracy, 
must know his name and often commend it to 
the personal protection of an impersonal power* 
Early in life he brought to bear that ruthless 

113 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

Insight into the history of religions which he had 
gained in boyhood as an electrical engineer. 
Later he became one of our greatest geologists ; 
and achieved that bold and bright outlook 
upon the future of Socialism which only geology 
can give. At first there seemed something like 
a rift, a faint, but perceptible, fissure, between 
his views and those of his aristocratic wife. For 
she was in favour (to use her own powerful 
epigram) of protecting the 'poor against them- 
selves ; while he declared pitilessly, in a new 
and striking metaphor, that the weakest must 
go to the wall. Eventually, however, the 
married pair perceived an essential union in 
the unmistakably modern character of both 
their views ; and in this enlightening and 
intelligible formula their souls found peace. 
The result is that this union of the two highest 
types of our civilization, the fashionable lady 
and the all but vulgar medical man, has been 
blessed by the birth of the Superman, that 
being whom all the labourers in Battersea are 
so eagerly expecting night and day. 



I found the house of Dr. and Lady Hypatia 

Hagg without much difficulty ; it is situated 

in one of the last straggling streets of Ooydoa, 

and overlooked by a line of poplars. I reached 

114 



HOW I FOUND THE SUPERMAN 

the door towards the twilight, and it was 

natural that I should fancifully see something 
dark and monstrous in the dim bulk of that 
house which contained the creature who was 
more marvellous than the children of men. 
When 1 entered the house I was received with 
exquisite courtesy by Lady Hypatia and her 
husband ; but I found much greater difficulty 
in actually seeing the Superman, who is now 
about fifteen years old, and is kept by himself 
In a quiet room. Even my conversation with 
the father and mother did not quite clear up 
the character of this mysterious being. Lady 
Hypatia, who has a pale and poignant face, 
and is clad in those impalpable and pathetic 
greys and greens with which she has brightened 
so many homes in Hoxton 5 did not appear to 
talk of her offspring with any of the vulgar 
vanity of an ordinary human mother. I took 
a bold step and asked if the Superman was 
nice looking. 

c He creates his own standard, you see/ she 
replied, with a slight sigh. c Upon that plane 
he is more than Apollo. Seen from our lower 

plane, of course ' And she sighed again. 

I had a horrible impulse, and said suddenly, 
* Has he got any hair ? ' 

There was a long and painful silence, and 
then Dr. Hagg said smoothly : c Everything 
115 



G. X. CHESTERTON 

upon that plane Is different ; what he has got 
is not . . . well, not, of course, what we call 
hair . * . but ' 

* Don't you think,' said his wife, very softly, 
* don't you think that really, for the sake of 
argument, when talking to the mere public, 
one might call it hair ? ' 

* Perhaps you are right/ said the doctor after 
a few moments' reflection.' ' In connexion with 
hair like that one must speak in parables.' 

c Well, what on earth is it,' I asked in some 
irritation, " if it isn't hair ? Is it feathers ? ' 

* Not feathers, as we understand feathers,' 
answered Hagg'in an awful voice. 

I got up In some irritation. * Can I see him, 
at any rate ? ' I asked. c I am a journalist, and 
have no earthly motives except curiosity and 
personal vanity. I should like to say that I had 
shaken hands with the Superman.' 

The husband and wife had both got heavily 
to their feet, and stood, embarrassed. 

* Well, of course, you know,' said Lady 
Hypatia, with the really charming smile of the 
aristocratic hostess. * You know he can't 
exactly shake hands . . . not hands, you know. 
. . . The structure, of course ' 

I broke out of all social bounds, and rushed 
at the door of the room which I thought to 
contain the incredible creature, I burst it 
116 



HOW I FOUND THE SUPERMAN 

open ; the room was pitch dark. But from in 
front of me came a small sad yelp, and frdm 
behind me a double shriek. 

6 You have done It, now ! ' cried Dr. Hagg, 
burying his bald brow in his hands. * You have 
let in a draught on him ; and he Is dead/ 

As I walked away from Groydon that night 
I saw men in black carrying out a coffin that 
was not of any human shape. The wind wailed 
above me, whirling the poplars, so that they 
drooped and nodded like the plumes of some 
cosmic funeral. * It is, indeed, 5 said Dr. Hagg, 
* the whole universe weeping over the frustra- 
tion of its most magnificent birth. 5 But I 
thought that there was a hoot of laughter in 
the high wail of the wind. 



XVI. THE WORSHIP OF THE WEALTHY 

THERE has crept, I notice, into our 
literature and journalism a new way of 
flattering the wealthy and the great. In more 
straightforward times flattery Itself was more 
straightforward ; falsehood itself was more true. 
A poor man wishing to please a rich man simply 
said that he was the wisest, bravest, tallest, 
strongest, most benevolent and most beautiful 
of mankind ; and as even the rich man 
probably knew that he wasn't that, the thing 
did the less harm. When courtiers sang the 
praises of a King they attributed to him things 
that were entirely Improbable 3 as that he 
resembled the sun at noonday, that they had 
to shade their eyes when he entered the room, 
that his people could not breathe without him, 
or that he had with his single sword conquered 
Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. The safety 
of this method was Its artificiality ; between 
the King and his public image there was really 
no relation. But the moderns have invented a 
much subtler and more poisonous kind of 
eulogy. The modern method is to take the 
prince or rich man, to give a credible picture of 
his type of personality, as that he Is business-like, 
118 



THE WORSHIP OF THE WEALTHY 

or a sportsman, or fond of art, or convivial, 
or reserved ; and then enormously exaggerate 
the value and Importance of these natural 
qualities. Those who praise Mr. Carnegie do 
not say that he is as wise as Solomon and as 
brave as Mars ; 1 wish they did. It would be 
the next most honest thing to giving their real 
reason for praising him, which Is simply that 
he has money. The journalists who write about 
Mr. Pierpont Morgan do not say that he is as 
beautiful as Apollo ; I wish they did. What 
they do is to take the rich man's superficial life 
and manner, clothes, hobbles, love of cats, 
dislike of doctors, or what not ; and then with 
the assistance of this realism make the man out 
to be a prophet and a saviour of his kind, 
whereas he is merely a private and stupid man 
who happens to like cats or to dislike doctors. 
The old flatterer took for granted that the King 
was an ordinary man, and set to work to make 
Mm out extraordinary. The newer and cleverer 
flatterer takes for granted that he Is extra- 
ordinary, and that therefore even ordinary 
things about him will be of interest. 

1 have noticed one very amusing way In 
which this Is done. I notice the method applied 
to about six of the wealthiest men in England 
in a book of Interviews published by an able and 
well-known journalist. The flatterer contrives 
119 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

to combine strict truth of fact with a vast 
atmosphere of awe and mystery by the simple 
operation of dealing almost entirely in nega- 
tives. Suppose you are writing a sympathetic 
study of Mr. Pierpont Morgan. Perhaps there 
is not much to say about what he does think, 
or like, or admire ; but you can suggest whole 
vistas of his taste and philosophy by talking a 
great deal about what he does not think, or 
like, or admire. You say of him c But little 
attracted to the most recent schools of German 
philosophy, he stands almost as resolutely aloof 
from the tendencies of transcendental Pan- 
theism as from the narrower ecstasies of 
Neo-Catholicism.' Or suppose I am called 
upon to praise the charwoman who has just 
come into my house, and who certainly deserves 
it much more. I say c It would be a mistake 
to class Mrs. Higgs among the followers of 
Loisy ; her position is in many ways different ; 
nor is she wholly to be identified with the 
concrete Hebraism of Harnack.' It is a splen- 
did method, as it gives the flatterer an oppor- 
tunity of talking about something else besides 
the subject of the flattery, and it gives the 
subject of the flattery a rich, if somewhat 
bewildered, mental glow, as of one who has 
somehow gone through agonies of philosophical 
choice of which he was previously unaware. 

120 



THE WORSHIP OF THE WEALTHY 

It Is a splendid method ; but I wish it were 
applied sometimes to charwomen rather than 
only to millionaires. 

There is another way of flattering important 
people which has become very common, I 
notice, among writers in the newspapers and 
elsewhere. ' It consists in applying to them the 
phrases 'simple', or * quiet ', or 'modest', 
without any sort of meaning or relation to the 
person to whom they are applied. To be 
simple is the best thing in the world ; to be 
modest is the next best thing. I am not so sure 
about being quiet. I am rather inclined to 
think that really modest people make a great 
deal of noise. It is quite self-evident that really 
simple people make a great deal of noise. But 
simplicity and modesty, at least, are very rare 
and royal human virtues, not to be lightly 
talked about. Few human beings, and at rare 
intervals, have really risen into being modest ; 
not one man in ten or in twenty has by long 
wars become simple, as an actual old soldier 
does by long wars become simple. These 
virtues are not things to fling about as mere 
flattery ; many prophets and righteous men 
have desired to see these things and have not 
seen them. But in the description of the births, 
lives, and deaths of very luxurious men they 
are used incessantly and quite without thought. 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

If a journalist has to describe a great politician 
or financier (the things are substantially the 
same) entering a room or walking down a 
thoroughfare, he always says, * Mr. Midas was 
quietly dressed in a black frock coat, a white 
waistcoat, and light grey trousers, with a plain 
green tie and simple flower in his button-hole. 3 
As if any one would expect him to have a 
crimson frock coat or spangled trousers. As if 
any one would expect him to have a burning 
Catherine wheel in his button-hole. 

But this process, which is absurd enough 
when applied to the ordinary and external lives 
of worldly people, becomes perfectly intolerable 
when it is applied, as it always is applied, to 
the one episode which is serious even in the 
lives of politicians. I mean their death. When 
we have been sufficiently bored with the 
account of the simple costume of the million- 
aire, which is generally about as complicated 
as any that he could assume without being 
simply thought inad ; when we have been told 
about the modest home of the millionaire, a 
home which is generally much too immodest 
to be called a home at all ; when we have 
followed him through all these unmeaning 
eulogies, we are always asked last of all to 
admire his quiet funeral. I do not know what 
else people think a funeral should be except 

122 



THE WORSHIP OF THE WEALTHY 

quiet. Yet again and again, over the grave of 
dvery one of those sad rich men, for whom one 
should surely feel, first and last, a speechless 
pity over the grave of Beit, over the grave of 
Whiteley this sickening nonsense about mod- 
esty and simplicity has been poured out. I 
well remember that when Beit was buried, the 
papers said that the mourning-coaches con- 
tained everybody of importance, that the floral 
tributes were sumptuous, splendid, intoxicat- 
ing ; but, for all that, it was a simple and 
quiet funeral. What, in the name of Acheron, 
did they expect it to be ? Did they think there 
would be human sacrifice the immolation of 
Oriental slaves upon the tomb ? Did they 
think that long rows of Oriental dancing-girls 
would sway hither and thither in an ecstasy of 
lament ? Did they look for the funeral games 
of Patroclus ? I fear they had no such splendid 
and pagan meaning. I fear they were only 
using the words * quiet ' and * modest ' as 
words to fill up a page a mere piece of the 
automatic hypocrisy which does become too 
common among those who have to write 
rapidly and often. The word e modest ' will 
soon become like the word * honourable ', 
which is said to be employed by the Japanese 
before any word that occurs in a polite sentence, 
as * Put honourable umbrella in honourable 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

umbrella-stand ' ; or * condescend to clean 
honourable boots '. We shall read In the future 
that the modest Bang went out In his modest 
crown, clad from head to foot In modest gold 
and attended with his ten thousand modest 
earls, their swords modestly drawn. No ! If we 
have to pay for splendour let us praise it as 
splendour, not as simplicity. When next I 
meet a i^ch man I intend to walk up to him 
in the street and address him with Oriental 
hyperbole. He will probably run away. 



124 



XVII. THE METHUSELAHITE 

I SAW in a newspaper paragraph the other 
day the following entertaining and deeply 
philosophical incident. A man was enlisting 
as a soldier at Portsmouth, and some form was 
put before him to be filled up, common, I 
suppose, to all such cases, in which was, among 
other things, an inquiry about what was his 
religion. With an equal and ceremonial gravity 
the man wrote down the word c Methuselahite ' . 
Whoever looks over such papers must, I should 
imagine, have seen some rum religions in his 
time ; unless the Army is going to the dogs. 
But with all his specialist knowledge he could 
not * place 9 Methuselahism among what Bos- 
suet called the variations of Protestantism. He 
felt a fervid curiosity about the tenets and 
tendencies of the sect ; and he asked the soldier 
what it jneant. The soldier replied that it was 
his religion * to live as long as he could '. 

Now, considered as an incident in the 
religious history of Europe, that answer of that 
soldier was worth more than a hundred cart- 
loads of quarterly and monthly and weekly and 
daily papers discussing religious problems and 
religious books. Every day the daily paper 
125 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

reviews some new philosopher who has some 
new religion ; and there is not in the whole 
two thousand words of the whole two columns 
one word as witty as or wise as that word 
* Methuselahite '. The whole meaning of liter- 
ature is .simply to cut a long story short ; that 
is why our modern books of philosophy are 
never literature. That soldier had in him the 
very soul of literature ; he was one of the great 
phrase-makers of modern thought, like Victor 
Hugo or Disraeli. He found one word that 
defines the paganism of to-day. 

Henceforward, when the modern philo- 
sophers come to me with their new religions 
(and there is always a kind of queue of them 
waiting all the way down the street) I shall 
anticipate their circumlocutions and be able to 
cut them short with a single inspired word. 
One of them will begin, c The New Religion, 
which is based upon that Primordial Energy 
in Nature . . .' ' Methuselahite, 5 I shall say 
sharply ; ' good morning.* * Human Lile, 5 
another will say, * Human Life, the only ulti- 
mate sanctity, freed from creed and dogma 
. . .' ' Methuselahite ! ' I shall yell. * Out 
you go ! 5 e My religion is the Religion of 
Joy, 5 a third will explain (a bald old man with 
a cough and tinted glasses), * the Religion of 
Physical Pride and Rapture, and my , . .' 
126 



THE METHUSELAHITE 

* Methuselahite ! ' I shall cry again, and I shall 
slap him boisterously on the back, and he will 
fall down. Then a pale young poet with 
serpentine hair will come and say to me (as 
one did only the other day) : * Moods and 
impressions are the only realities, and these are 
constantly and wholly changing. I could 
hardly therefore define my religion. . . .* I 
can/ I should say, somewhat sternly. * Your 
religion is to live a long time ; and if you stop 
here a moment longer you won't fulfil it.' 

A new philosophy generally means in prac- 
tice the praise of some old vice. We have had 
the sophist who defends cruelty, and calls it 
masculinity. We have had the sophist who 
defends profligacy, and calls it the liberty of 
the emotions. We have had the sophist who 
defends idleness, and calls it art. It will almost 
certainly happen it can almost certainly be 
prophesied that in this saturnalia of sophistry 
there will at some time or other arise a sophist 
who desires to idealize cowardice. And when 
we are once in this unhealthy world of mere 
wild words, what a vast deal there would be to 
say for cowardice ! * Is not life a lovely thing 
and worth saving ? * the soldier would say as 
he ran away. ' Should I not prolong the 
exquisite miracle of consciousness ? s the house- 
holder would say as he hid under the table. 
127 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

e As long as there are roses and lilies on the 
earth shall I not remain there ? ' would come 
the voice of the citizen from tinder the bed. 
It would be quite as easy to defend the coward 
as a kind of poet and mystic as it has been, in 
many recent books, to defend the emotionalist 
as a kind of poet and mystic, or the tyrant as 
a kind of poet and mystic. When that last 
grand sophistry and morbidity is preached in 
a book or on a platform, you may depend upon 
it there will be a great stir in its favour, that 
is, a great stir among the little people who 
live among books and platforms. There will 
be a new great Religion, the Religion of 
Methuselahism : with pomps and priests 
and altars. Its devout crusaders will vow 
themselves in thousands with a great vow to 
live long. But there is one comfort : they 
won't. 

For, indeed, the weakness of this worship of 
mere natural life (which is a common enough 
creed to-day) is that it ignores the paradox of 
courage and fails in its own aim. As a matter 
of fact, no men would be killed quicker than 
the Methuselahites. The paradox of courage 
is that a man must be a little careless of his life 
even in order to keep it. And in the very case 
I have quoted we may see an example of 
how little the theory of Methuselahism really 
128 



THE METHUSELAHITE 

Inspires our best life. For there is -one riddle in 
that case which cannot easily be cleared up. 
If it was the man's religion to live as long as 
he could, why on earth was he enlisting as a 
soldier ? 



129 



XVIII. ON THE ENGLISHMAN ABROAD 

IT was an old objection to the Englishman 
abroad that he made himself too much at 
home. He was accused of treating a first-class 
foreign hotel as if it were only a fourth-class 
English hotel ; and of brawling in it as if it 
were a bad variety of public-house. If there 
was a truth in the charge, it has since been 
transferred to a more vigorous type of vul- 
garian ; and compared with a certain sort of 
American traveller, the English tripper might 
be mistaken for a civilized man. He has even 
taken on the colour of his Continental sur- 
roundings ; and is indistinguishable from what 
he himself would once have described as c the 
natives 5 . It might almost be regarded as a 
form of going fantee. But there is one particular 
aspect of the old accusation, which seems to me 
much more curious and puzzling than any 
other. It is that when the Englishman did 
blunder or bully, in demanding certain things 
merely because they were familiar, they were 
not really the things that had long been familiar 
to him ; or to his fathers. I can understand 
the Englishman asking for English things ; the 
odd thing is that it was not for the most English 
130 



ON THE ENGLISHMAN ABROAD 

things that he asked. Some of the most English 
things he had already lost in England, and 
could hardly hope to find in Europe. Most of 
the things he did hope to find in Europe, he 
had only recently found even in England. 
When he asked for a drink, he asked for a 
Scotch drink ; he even submitted to the 
intolerable national humiliation of calling it 
Scotch. When he asked for a game, he asked 
for a Scotch game ; he looked to see whole 
landscapes transformed by the game of golf ; 
which he himself had hardly played for ten 
years. He did not go about looking for cricket, 
which he had played for six hundred years. 
And just as he asked for Scotch links instead 
of cricket-fields and Scotch whisky instead of 
ale, so he expected a number of appliances and 
conveniences which were often much less 
English than American ; and sometimes much 
less English than German. It would perhaps 
be pressing the argument fantastically far to 
say that even tea is originally a thing as oriental 
as hashish. But certainly an Englishman de- 
manding tea in all the cafes of the Continent 
was as unreasonable as a Chinaman demanding 
opium in all the public-houses of the Old Kent 
Road. He was at least comparably to a 
Frenchman roaring to have red wine included 
in his bill in a series of tea-shops in Tooting, 



O. K. GHBSTERTON 

But I am not so much complaining of the old- 
fashioned Englishman who asked for something 
like the- * five o'clock 3 which was recognized as 
English. I am rather complaining of a new- 
fashioned Englishman who would insist on 
American ice-cream sodas in the plains of 
Russia, while refusing tea because it was taken 
with lemon or served in a samovar. This 
bizarre contradiction and combination of the 
blind acceptance of some foreign things and the 
blind refusal of others, does seem to me a 
mystery to be added to what is perhaps the 
most mysterious national character in Christen- 
dom. That a man from Market Harborough 
should miss the, oldest things in Old England, 
when travelling in Lithuania, may be intelli- 
gible and pardonable enough. That a man 
from Market Harborough should miss the 
newest things in New York, and be seriously 
surprised not to find them among Lithuanian 
peasants, is even more extraordinary than that 
he should want them himself. 

But there goes along with this English eccen- 
tricity an even more serious English error. The 
things of which England has most reason to be 
proud are the things which England has pre- 
served out of the ancient culture of the Christian 
world, when all the rest of that world has 
neglected them. They are~at once unique and 
132 



ON THE ENGLISHMAN ABROAD 

universal triumphs and trophies of the national 
life. They are things that are English in the 
sense' that the English have kept them ; but 
human in the sense that all humanity ought to 
have kept them. They are European in the 
sense of really belonging to the whole white 
civilization ; they are English in the sense of 
having been largely lost in Europe. And I have 
heard Englishmen boasting of all sorts of 1 absurd 
things, from the possession of German blood to 
the possession of Jewish politicians ; and I have 
never heard a single Englishman say a single 
word about a single one of these really English 
things. 

One obvious case, for example, is that of 
having a fire in the old Latin sense of a focus. 
The idea of the hearth is one to be found in 
ancient Roman culture, and therefore in all the 
European cultures that have come from it. 
The idea of the hearth is to be found every- 
where ; but the hearth is not to be found 
everywhere. It is now most easily and univer- 
sally to be found in. England. And it is a strange 
irony that the French poet or the Italian orator, 
full of the splendours of the great pagan past, 
naturally speaks of a man fighting for his hearth 
and his altar ; when he himself in practice has 
as much neglected hearths as we have neglected 
altars. And the only man in Christendom who 

*33 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

really retains a hearth Is one who has unfortu- 
nately rather dropped out of the habit of 
fighting for it. I do not mean, of course, that 
there are not really firesides scattered every- 
where throughout Europe, especially among the 
poor, who always retain the highest and 
proudest traditions of the past. I am talking 
of a matter of proportion ; of the prepon- 
derating presence of the custom in one place 
rather than another ; and in this sense it is 
certain that it preponderates in England more 
than in any other country Almost everywhere 
else the much more artificial and prosaic insti- 
tution called the stove has become solidly 
established. In every eternal and essential 
sense, there is simply no comparison between 
that open domestic altar, on which the visible 
flame dances and illuminates, and the mere 
material habit of shutting'up heat in a big box. 
The comparison is as sharp as that between the 
wild but splendid pagan custom of burning a 
dead man on a tower of timber, so that he went 
up to the sky in a column of fire and cloud, 
and the paltry paganism of our own time, Which 
is content with the thing called cremation. 
Similarly there is about the stove all the essen- 
tial utilitarian ugliness of the oven. There 
must always be something more magnificent 
about an open furnace, even from the stand- 

'34 



ON THE ENGLISHMAN ABROAD 

point of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 
Theirs was perhaps a rather heroic form of 
affection for the fireside. But, in comparison, 
we can all feel that there is something cold and 
desolate about the condition of the unhappy 
foreigner, who cannot really hope to sit in the 
glow of a fireside except by the extreme 
experiment of setting his house on fire. 

Now I appeal to all those who have sung a 
hundred English songs, heard a hundred 
English speeches, read a hundred English books 
of more or less breezy or bombastic patriotism, 
to say whether they have ever seen the con- 
tinuity of this Christian custom properly praised 
as a matter of pride among the English. And 
this strange gap in our glory seems to me 
another example of something that I noted 
recently in this place ; the dangerous lack of 
an intensive national feeling in this country ; 
and above all a much too supine surrender to 
other influences ; from Germany ; from Scot- 
land ; and above all from America. 

I have taken only one domestic detail here, 
for the sake of clearness ; but of course the 
principle could be extended to any number of 
larger examples of the same truth. The 
English inn, although a most Christian institu- 
tion, was something more than an institution 
of Christendom. It was in its day a thing very 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

specially English. I say it was ; for I very 
much fear that capitalist monopoly and prohi- 
bitionist madness have between them turned it 
into something historical. It may be that the 
public-house will soon be dead enough to 
become a glorious historical monument. But 
the point to be noted here is the comparison 
with other countries 3 which had similar institu T 
tions, yet never had exactly the same institution. 
Sometimes, as in the case of the open hearth 
or fireside, they really had the same institution ; 
and yet never had it so long. But any one 
travelling in foreign countries can note that the 
new things are not erected on the basis of this 
particular old thing. We have spoilt the 
English inn ; but at least we had it to spoil ; 
and many national traditions, admirable in 
other ways, have had something much less 
admirable to spoil. In Europe, especially in 
outlying parts of Europe, we may see the latest 
modern machinery introduced without any of 
that intermediate type of comfort and con- 
venience. The new American barbarism is 
applied direct to the oldest European barbarism. 
That interlude of moderate and mellow civi- 
lization has never been known. Men of many 
countries, both new and old, could only see it 
by coming to England ; and even then they 
might come too late. The English might have 
136 



ON THE EMGLISHHAN ABDBAD 

already destroyed the last glories of England. 
When I think of these things, I still stand 
astounded at the strange quality of my country- 
men ; at their arrogance and especially at their 
modesty. 



137 



XIX. ON CHANGE 

A PROFESSOR, filled with the spirit, has 
**> delivered an oracle on the subject of The 
Future. I do not know what he was a professor 
of, but I suppose he was a Professor of Prophecy, 
Anyhow, he belonged to that band of en- 
thusiasts for evolution who seem to know much 
more about the future than they do about the 
past or even the present. For he was quite as 
scornful of the present as of the past. We are 
still, he said, only half-baked savages. Anyhow, 
some of us are still rather half-baked philo- 
sophers ; and no philosopher of this school has 
ever yet answered the question that must have 
been put again and again, and which I, for 
one, have often put. If everything changes, 
including the mind of man, how can we tell 
whether any change is an improvement or no ? 
To take a simple and even crude example. 
One evolutionist, like Mr. Bernard Shaw, will 
say he has evolved a higher morality by refusing 
to eat the flesh of animals ; but he does so 
because he has retained the old ideal of pity. 
Another evolutionist might just as well say that 
ht had evolved a larger morality in being free 
to eat the flesh of human beings ; though even 
138 



ON CHANGE 

In talking of being free he would still appeal 
to the old ideal of liberty. But he could easily 
talk, in quite a modern manner, about the 
ancient horror of cannibalism being a mere 
prejudice, a tribal taboo, an irrational limita- 
tion of human experience. The professor's own 
phrase will be found charmingly apt. He 
complains that we are still half-baked savages. 
He may well look forward to the happy day 
when we shall be completely baked savages. 

Now, nobody can possibly say which of these 
two evolutionary changes is the better, unless 
he keeps some standard that cannot be 
changed. He cannot tell whether he ought to 
evolve into the higher morality or into the 
larger morality, unless he has some principle 
of pity or of liberty that does not evolve at all. 
The professor gave, among his rather random 
examples, the suggestion that we must be 
changing for the better because women were 
burned three hundred years ago. Suppose I 
tell him that women will be vivisected three 
hundred years hence. I have as much right 
to tell him that as he has to tell me anything 
else ; I also can roll myself in the prophet's 
mantle ; I also can mount the tripod and 
deliver the oracle. In other words, I know as 
much about the future as he does, or as any- 
body else does ; which is nothing at all. But 

139 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

suppose It were true, as It is most certainly 
tenable, that some of the vivisectionlsts" do 
eventually "propose to extend vivisection from 
beasts to men ; just as I have pictured the 
Intellectuals of the New Cannibalism extending 
their diet from beasts to men. It will be just 
as easy to use a scientific jargon In defence of 
that vivisection as of any other vivisection. It 
will be just as easy to argue, as men In all ages 
have argued., that a minority must suffer for the 
sake of a community, or that such sacrifice is a 
sort of martyrdom* for mankind. What I want 
to know Is, how Is the evolutionist to tell 
whether this Is a forward step or a-retrogade 
step, If his ethics are always changing with his 
evolution ? The Vivlsectionlsts will say then, 
as they say now, that true progress demands a 
painful but necessary investigation. The Anti- 
Vivisectlonists will say then, as they say now, 
that true progress is found In Increased sensi- 
bility to suffering and renunciation of force. 
But how Is the unhappy doubter to decide 
which of these two versions of true progress Is 
really true ? He can only do it if he has the 
test of some truth that remains true. But it is 
the very essence of this extreme evolutionary 
notion of thought that no truth can really 
remain true. The mind Is fluid and changing, 
as the body is fluid and changing. On this 
140 



ON CHANGE 

principle we may be able to say of the future 
that It will be a change. But we cannot say it 
will be an improvement ; for that implies that 
there will always be something in common 
between us and our descendants ; something 
that we are all trying to improve. Why should 
that something not change like everything ? Is 
that outside the laws of evolution ? Is that a 
special creation? Is that a- miracle? Is that 
common standard of conscience a thing of 
divine origin ? Dreadful thought ! 

I need not say much here of the actual 
prophecies of the professor. They sound very 
like a skit or burlesque on the romances of Jules 
Verne or the earlier romances of EL G. Wells. 
Only they contain absurdities that nobody 
would put into a romance, or even into a 
burlesque. The professor was, of course, burst- 
ing with hope and progressive optimism. He 
thinks that everything is going very well indeed, 
and the world improving v*ith wonderful 
rapidity. As an example of this, he says that 
men are losing their eyes, teeth, hair, and sense 
of hearing with a rapidity that raises the hap- 
piest anticipations in a humane lover of his 
kind. He explained that when we have got 
rid of all these rude and extinct organs, we 
should have mechanical scientific substitutes. 
In the simple language of our fathers, we shall 
141 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

have false hair, false teeth, false eyes, false ears, 
and everything else suitable to our false philo- 
sophy. He did not explain how soon it will be 
possible to manufacture that minor part of the 
machinery which has hitherto escaped so many 
inquiring mechanics ; I mean the little thing 
that actually sees, hears, smells, speaks, and 
thinks. For, strange and exasperating as it 
seems without that one little thing (which 
nobody can find anywhere) it will generally be 
found that telescopes cannot see by themselves, 
telephones cannot hear by themselves, books 
cannot write themselves or read themselves ; 
and a man cannot even talk entirely without 
thinking. Though he sometimes comes pretty 
near it. 



142 



XX. A GAB RIDE ACROSS COUNTRY 

SOWN somewhere far off in the shallow 
dales of Hertfordshire there lies a village 
of great beauty, and I doubt not of admirable 
virtue, but of eccentric and unbalanced literary 
taste, which asked the present writer to come 
down to it on Sunday afternoon and give an 
address. Now it was very difficult to get down to 
it at all on Sunday afternoon, owing to the inde- 
scribable state into which our national laws and 
customs have fallen in ^connexion with the 
seventh day. It is not Puritanism ; it is simply 
anarchy. I should have some sympathy with 
the Jewish Sabbath, if it were a Jewish Sabbath, 
and that for three reasons. First, that religion 
is an intrinsically sympathetic thing ; second, 
that I cannot conceive any religion worth 
calling a religion without fixed and material 
observances ; and third, that the particular 
observance of sitting still and doing no work is 
one that suits my temperament down to the 
ground. 

But the absurdity of the modern English con- 
vention is that it does not let a man sit still ; it 
only perpetually trips him up when it has forced 
him to walk about. Our Sabbatarianism does 

143 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

not forbid us to ask a man In Battersea to come 
and talk In Hertfordshire ; it only prevents his 
getting there. 1 can understand that a deity 
might be worshipped with joys, with flowers, 
and fireworks In the old European style. I can 
understand that a deity might be worshipped 
with sorrows. But I cannot imagine any deity 
being worshipped with Inconveniences. Let the 
good Moslem go to Mecca, or let him abide in 
his tent, according to his feeling for religious 
symbols. But surely Allah cannot see anything 
particularly dignified in his servant being 'misled 
by the time-table, finding that the old Mecca 
express is not running, missing his connection 
at Bagdad, or having to wait three hours in a 
small side station outside Damascus* 

So it was with me on this occcasion. I found 
there was no telegraph service at all to this 
place ; I found there was only one weak thread 
of train-service. Now if this had been the 
authority of real English religion, I should have 
submitted to It at once. If I believed that the 
telegraph clerk could not send the telegram 
because he was at that moment rigid In an 
ecstasy of prayer, I should think all telegrams 
unimportant in comparison. If 1 could believe 
that railway porters when relieved from their 
duties rushed with, passion to the nearest place 
of worship, I should say that all lectures and 
144 



A GAB RIDE ACROSS COUNTRY 

everything else ought to give way to such a 
consideration. I should not complain if the 
national faith forbade me to make any appoint- 
ments of labour or self-expression on the 
Sabbath. , But, as it is, it only tells me that I 
may very probably keep the-,Sabbath by not 
keeping the appointment. 



But I must resume the sad details of my tale. 
I found that there was only one train in the 
whole of that Sunday by which I could even 
get within several hours or several .miles of the 
time or place. I therefore -went to the tele- 
phojrie, which is one of my favourite toys, and 
down which I have shouted many valuable, but 
prematdrely arrested,, monologues upon art and 
morals. I remember a mild shock of surprise 
when I discovered 'that one could use the tele- 
phone on Sunday ; I did not expect it to be 
cut off, but I expected it to buzz more than 
on ordinary days, to the advancement. of our 
national religion. Through this instrument, in 
fewer words than usual, and with a compara- 
tive economy of epigram, I ordered a taxi-cab 
to take me to the railway station. I have not a 
word to say in general either against telephones 
or taxi-cabs ;. they seem to me two of the purest 
and most poetic of the creations of modern 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

civilization. Unfortunately, when the taxi-cab 
started, it did exactly what modern scientific 
civilization has done it broke down. The 
result of this was that when I arrived at King's 
Cross my only train was gone ; there was a 
Sabbath calm in the station, a calm in the eyes 
of the porters, and in my breast, if calm at all, 
if any calm, a calm despair, 

There was not, however, very much calm of 
any sort in my breast on first making 'the dis- 
covery ; and it was turned to blinding horror 
when I learnt that I could not even send a tele- 
gram to the organizers of the meeting. To 
leave my entertainers in the lurch was suffici- 
ently exasperating ; to leave them without any 
intimation was simply low. I reasoned with 
the official. I said : c Do you really mean to 
say that if my brother were dying and rny 
mother in this place, I could not communicate 
with her ? ' He was a man of literal and 
laborious mind ; he asked me if my brother was 
dying. I answered that he was in excellent and 
even offensive health, but that I was inquiring 
upon a question of principle. What would 
happen if England were invaded, or if I alone 
knew how to turn aside a comet or an earth- 
quake? He waved away these hypotheses in 
the most irresponsible spirit, but he was quite 
certain that telegrams could not reach this 
146 



A GAB RIDE ACROSS COUNTRY 

particular village. Then something exploded 
in me ; that element of the outrageous which 
is the mother of all adventures sprang up un- 
governable, and I decided that I would not be 
a cad merely because some of my remote an- 
cestors had been Calvinists. 1 would keep my 
appointment if I lost all my money and all my 
wits. I went out into the quiet London street, 
where my quiet London cab was still waiting 
for its fare in the cold and misty morning. I 
placed myself comfortably in the London cab 
and told the London driver to drive me to the 
other end of Hertfordshire. And he did. 



I shall not forget that drive. It was doubtful 
whether, even in a motor-cab, the thing was 
possible with any consideration for the driver, 
not to speak of some slight consideration for the 
people in the road. 'I urged the driver to eat 
and drink something before he started, but he 
said (with I know not what pride of profession 
or delicate sense of adventure) that he would 
rather do it when we arrived if we ever did. 
I was by no means so refined ; I bought a 
varied selection of pork-pies at a little shop 
that was open (why was that shop open ? it is 
all a mystery) , and ate them as we went along. 
The beginning was sombre and irritating* I 
147 



G. K, CHESTERTON' 

was annoyed, not with people, but with things, 
like a baby ; with -..the motor for breaking 
down and with Sunday for being Sunday. And 
the sight of the northern slums expanded and 
ennobled, but did not decrease, my gloom : 
Whitechapel has an Oriental gaudiness in its 
squalor ; Battersea and Camberwell have an 
indescribable bustle of democracy ; but the 
poor parts of North London . . . well, perhaps 
I saw them wrongly under that ashen morning 
and on that foolish errand. 

It was one of those days which more than 
once this year broke the retreat of winter ; a 
winter day that began too late to be spring. We 
were already clear of the obstructing crowds, 
and quickening our pace through a borderland 
of market gardens and isolated public-houses, 
when the grey showed golden patches and a 
good light began to glitter on everything. The 
cab went quicker and quicker. The open land 
whirled wider and wider ; but I did not lose 
that sense of being battled with and thwarted 
that I had felt in the thronged slums. Rather 
the feeling increased, because of the great diffi- 
culty of space and time. The faster went the 
car, the fiercer and thicker 1 felt the fight. 

The whole landscape seemed charging at 
me and just missing me. The tall, shining 
grass went by like showers of arrows ; the vfery 
148 



A GAB RIDE ACROSS COUNTRY 

trees seemed like lances hurled at my heart, and 
shaving It by a hair's breadth. Across some vast, 
smooth valley I saw a beech-tree by the white 
road stand up little and defiant. It grew bigger 
and bigger with blinding rapidity. It charged 
me like a tilting knight, seemed to hack at my 
head, and pass by. Sometimes, when we went 
round a curve of road, the effect was yet more 
awful. It seemed as if some tree or windmill 
swung round to smite like a boomerang. The 
sun by this time was a blazing fact ; and I saw 
that all Nature is chivalrous and militant. We 
do wrong to seek peace in Nature ; we should 
rather seek the nobler sort of war ; and see all 
the trees as green- banners. 



I made my speech, arriving just when every- 
body was deciding to leave. When my cab 
came reeling into the market-place they 
decided, with evident disappointment to 
remain. Over the lecture I draw a veil. 
When I came back home I was called to the 
telephone, and a meek voice expressed regret 
for the failure of the rnotor-cab, and even said 
something about any reasonable payment. 

* Payment ! * I cried down the telephone. 

* Whom can I pay for my own superb experience? 
What is the usual charge for seeing the clouds 

*49 



G. K. CHESTERTON 

shattered by the sun ? What is the market 
price of a tree blue on the sky-line and then 
blinding white in the sun ? Mention your price 
for that 'windmill that stood behind the holly- 
hocks in the garden. Let me pay you for . . .* 
Here it was, I think, that we were cut off. 



150 




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