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

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

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

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

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





The Profession



I have been reading a little book called How to Write for the
Press. Other books which have been published upon the same
subject are How to Be an Author, How to Write a Play, How to
Succeed as a Journalist, How to Write for the Magazines, and How
to Earn œ600 a Year with the Pen. Of these the last-named has, I
think, the most pleasing title. Anybody can write a play; the
trouble is to get it produced. Almost anybody can be an author;
the business is to collect money and fame from this state of
being. Writing for the magazines, again, sounds a delightful
occupation, but literally it means nothing without the co-
operation of the editors of the magazines, and it is this co-
operation which is so difficult to secure. But to earn œ600 a
year with the pen is to do a definite thing; if the book could
really tell the secret of that, it would have an enormous sale. I
have not read it, so I cannot say what the secret is. Perhaps it
was only a handbook on forgery.

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

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

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

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

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

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





Smoking as a Fine Art



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

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

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

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

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

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





The Path to Glory



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

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

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

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

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

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

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





A Problem in Ethics



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why not? I managed to."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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