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

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

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

No Flowers by Request

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unfairness of Things

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

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

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

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

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

I think we, we others, have a right to complain. However lucky we
may be in other ways, if we have not this luck of inanimate
things we have a right to complain. It is pleasant, I admit, to
win œ500 on the Stock Exchange by a stroke of sheer good fortune,
but even in the blue of this there is a cloud, for the next œ500
that we win by a stroke of shrewd business will certainly be put
down to luck. Luck is given the credit of all our successes, but
the other man is given the credit of all his luck. That is why we
have a right to complain.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Wordsworth ought to have said.

A Household Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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