A.A. Milne.

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are they who know how to refuse," runs the club's motto, "for
they will have a chance to be clean."

On Going into a House

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ideal Author

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

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

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

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

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

End of Not That it Matters.


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