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BY THE SAME A UTHOR

THE YOUNG PEOPLE. Second Edition. Ex. cr.
8vo. 3s. 6d. net.

I WONDER. Essays for the Young People. Third
Impression. Ex. cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d. net.

ESSAYS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS. A First Guide
toward the Study of the War. Second Impression.
Illustrated. Ex. cr. 8vo. 5s. net.

CONFESSIO MEDICI. Third Impression. Ex. cr.
8vo. 3s. 6d. net.

THE FAITH AND WORKS OF CHRISTIAN
SCIENCE. Second Impression. Ex. cr. 8vo.
3s. 6d. net.



FRANCIS PAGET, Bishop of Oxford. By Stephen
Paget and the Rev. J. M. C. Crum. With Intro-
duction by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Illus-
trated. 8vo. 15s. net.

LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED.



I SOMETIMES THINK




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MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited

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I SOMETIMES
THINK

ESSAYS FOR THE YOUNG PEOPLE



BY

STEPHEN PAGET



"OUR AFFECTIONS AND BELIEFS ARE WISER THAN WE;
THE BEST THAT IS IN US IS BETTER THAN WE CAN
UNDERSTAND ; FOR IT IS GROUNDED BEYOND EXPERI-
ENCE, AND GUIDES US, BLINDFOLD BUT SAFE, FROM
ONE AGE ON TO ANOTHER."— STEVENSON'S VIRGINIBUS
PUERISQUE : THE DEDICATION TO HENLEY.



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON

1916






COPYRIGHT



GLASGOW: PRINTED AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
I.Y ROBERT MACLEHOSE AND CO. LTD.



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In the rush of your work this year, for the wounded, the School
for Mothers, the Hospital, tne and the children and the grand-
children, our Belgian guests, and the many lame dogs whom you
help over stiles — and all the housekeeping and letterwriting and
backgardening and planning and saving — work which often made
me feel not only a lame dog but an idle dog — still you found time
to read these essays, and to advise me over them. Here they are,
ot " the potty essays," as I used to call them : fruits of idleness,
•** slightly soured by ill-health, not ripened and warmed by the

r-i

C3 generous sun of hard work. The fruits of your work are
^ sweeter than the fruits of my leisure. But I have got some

work now, and I shall be away at it, when these essays come out.

So I have put this half-page here, just to please you : and

Oh my ! How glad I shall be to see you again.



3



I



PREFACE

Among the titles which youth bestows on age, there
is one that I covet and hope to obtain from that
fount of honour, the grandchildren. It is the title
of Old Fossil. Youth, properly impatient of all
specimens which it does not collect, specimens which
were old before it began to be young, regards fossils
as things altogether silent and indifferent to what is
going on round them. As a matter of fact, they are
aggressive, contradictious creatures, always spoiling
for a fight. It was fossils, in Lyell's days, that set
Science and the Bible at odds : they brought down the
old Biblical chronology like a house of cards : they
re-stated Creation. Fossilized skulls, with foreheads
villainous low, grin with pleasure when they hear the
anthropologists disputing over them. Fossils love
to refute popular beliefs, and to upset comfortable
theories : they are what nurses call downright aggra-
vating : that is their humour, to prove themselves
right : and their formula is / told you so, and you
wouldn't believe me. Thus, they are a type of age
informing, correcting, and scoring off youth. And



via



PREFACE



though I have not yet received my title, I reckon
myself Old Fossil designate, and give myself airs,
anticipating what I have waited so long to deserve.

A proud man I shall be, to put O.F. after my name.
Not only will I challenge youth to reconsider its
theories. I will bear witness to that remote time,
before I was fossilized, when I swam free, a little
ascidian in a vast ocean. All round me simple but
majestical forms of life, now extinct, enjoyed them-
selves, each after its kind : we had a grand time, they
and I together. From my glass-case, I will not cease
to represent that period which already, to youth, is
palaeozoic : I will tell of its greatness, and will be
thankful that I belong to it.

That is what I mean to be. What do you mean to
be ? You, who now swim free — some folk think that
you swim too free — what will you be, when the time
comes for you, even you, in your turn, to be fossilized ?
The gummed label and the glass-case are waiting for
you, and will have you at last. Quod es eram, quod
sum eris. We shall be near neighbours, you and I :
our adjacent cases will touch : I of the period before
the War, you of the period after the War. Between
us, the world's upheaval, the deluge. You will bear
witness to the changes wrought by that earthquake
and flood : to the shattering of old forms of life, the
driving of new lines of cleavage deep into the fabric
of the world.



CONTENTS

PAGE

i. The World, Myself, and Thee i

2. The Beauty of Words - - - - 16

3. Handwritings - - - - - 33

4. The Way of Science - - - - 50

5. Moving Pictures - - - - - 68

6. London Pride - - - - - 86

7. Unnatural Selection - - - - 113

8. Si Monumentum Requiris - - -125

9. The Next Few Years - - - - 141



IX



THE WORLD, MYSELF, AND THEE

These five words have been wandering, hand in
hand, ever so long, up and down the paths of my
brain : they got in before my brain was out of the
nursery. Perhaps that is why they still seem to me
young: as if, like Peter Pan, they could not grow
up. Some words age quickly and die soon, or
become invalids, useless to society : but these have
kept their youth, though they are more than two
hundred years old, and have walked my mind for
fifty, like children in country lanes where no traffic
disturbs them. Only, as Peter Pan reveals to the
astonished Hook, all of a sudden, the whole kingdom
of everlasting youth, so these five words reveal the
whole kingdom of all thought and all things : all
that we have, all that we believe, and all that we are.
Plainly, this is going to be a mighty serious essay.
Let me say, first, what bit of the world, at this
moment, is just in front of myself.

I am in a garden, which goes down to the sea.

I.S.T. A



2 I SOMETIMES THINK i

By the calendar, May is not yet come : by the sun-
shine, June is here. The green of the leaves, the
slope of the lawn, the light and shade, outline and
colouring, of a near oak, the pattern of its shadow
over the grass, the delicate network of branches, now
moving, now still — all these, in the quiet and sun-
shine, make a foreground too good for words. The
garden hides from me a road and a strip of shingle :
I look straight through branches at headlands, islands,
and sea. No need here for guide-book talk : adjec-
tives are of no use at all : Fadjectif^ cest Vennemi
du substantif. I will only say that this bit of the
world is very beautiful.

I cannot analyse its beauty : nor could anybody.
But the point is, that I cannot fully enjoy its beauty.
Nor could anybody. You might roll all the world's
artists and poets together, all its prophets and saints
and visionaries, roll them all into one ; and that one
magnificent creature would still be unable to take-in
the full beauty of the view from this garden. In the
very act of giving itself to him, it would go on,
somehow, holding itself back from him. He would
stop somewhere: it would stop nowhere. And, what
is more, he would not be ashamed of saying that he
could not take it all in. Ordinary mortals might be,
but he would not : indeed, he would find pleasure in
declaring that it was altogether beyond him.

Fools, and fools only, think that they see all that
there is to be seen, when they are looking at a flower-



i THE WORLD, MYSELF, AND THEE 3

bed or a wood or a sunset. If you want to pay a
compliment to the beauty of Nature, a compliment
equal to the occasion, you ought, really, to die of the
shock of it : just say Oh my and expire. Nothing
less counts for anything. Nature is tired of hearing
people say What a fine sunset, What a pretty wood,
We mustn't be late for dinner. But if you could
manage to fall dead at her feet, struck by her beauty
as by lightning, it would be a fine way out of life.
But it would puzzle a coroner's jury to have to bring
in their verdict, Died by the direct visitation of the
beauty of Nature.

From this end we are saved not by self-control,
nor by commonsense, but by our blindness, our
impotence to see what is staring us in the face.
You know the story of Turner and the old lady.
Mr. Turner, says she, I never can see those beautiful
colours in things, which you put in your pictures.
No, ma am, says he, and dorit you wish to God you
could? But Turner himself could neither paint all
the beauty that he saw, nor see all the beauty that he
desired to see : and when we think that we are most
enjoying the beauty of Nature, we are still trying to
empty the Atlantic by dipping into it with a teacup.

Here I am saying again what I have said else-
where : but this fact, that the world is beautiful, is
for me the fact of all facts. I build my faith on it :
not on the bare fact that the world is here, but on the
fact that the world is so delightful to look at, now



4 I SOMETIMES THINK i

that it is here. I can imagine, if I try hard, a world
of dull tints and stupid outlines, with no more claim
to good looks than a house in Portobello Road might
care to make : without fantasy of shapes, without riot
of colours ; its mountains all smooth like Primrose
Hill, its valleys as flat as pavement and gutter. In
this nightmare of a world, all the singing-birds have
the same note, all the men and women are plain, and
all the flowers smell of nothing. This world not
being here, I can say without profanity that, if it
were, it would afford us no evidence of God, none
whatever. It would be just the sort of world that
could and would come of itself. Happily, it did not
come. What did come, is a world positively reeling
and blind-drunk with beauty. I can imagine some
sort of a world coming of itself, spinning itself solid
out of gases which had come of themselves : but I
cannot imagine such a world adorning itself as a bride
for the bridegroom, which is what the real world is
always doing : still less can I imagine it getting drunk
on its own beauty.

Some people think of the world in such a poor-
spirited way, as a big geological specimen, with a
central cavity, and a surface hard and flat for us to
live on. It was got ready for us by the slow expendi-
ture of physical forces : it was stocked with vegetables
and animals, in a very tentative way, by the methods
of natural selection and survival of the fittest. So
soon as it was fairly prepared for our habitation, a



i THE WORLD, MYSELF, AND THEE 5

notice was put up, To Let Furnished : and we came
and took the premises on a long lease. The accom-
modation was ample : and we had the produce from
the farm, the dairy, and the kitchen-garden. We
have found this arrangement satisfactory : we have
got quite fond of the place, and shall be sorry to
leave it : and it suits the dear children remarkably well.
Of all wrong ways of regarding the world, this
surely beats the record, to think of it as if it were
lodgings or apartments. The reason why it had to
be made for us is that we had to be made for it.
The world has something to say to us, and we had
to be made, so that the world might have somebody
to say it to. The world has something to be done,
and we had to be made, so that the world might have
somebody to do it. The world has something to be
learned, to be suffered, to be won : and we had to
be made, so that we might learn, suffer, and win. It
bears the marks of its intentions toward us. And
one of these marks is its beauty, repeated in a million
ways, over and over again, in its colours, outlines,
forms, and contrasts.

Here this essay was hung-up for some days, and I
take it down and set it going again, for I have a new
text : indeed, I have two. Where I am now, every-
thing is so beautiful that I sit and stare, instead of
writing. Devonshire, both places : but here is a
vision of such beauty that a man just looks and



6 I SOMETIMES THINK i

looks, and says to himself, To think of being here,
while better men are wounded or dying, thousands
of them. It is more than drunk with beauty, it is
mad with beauty. To define true madness, what is't
but to be nothing else but mad ? No man in his
senses could say how beautiful this bit of Devonshire
is. That is one of my texts : the other is the kind-
ness of the friends who have lent me their house
here, and the kindness of the doctors, whose care
and skill have been given to me with generosity as
extravagant as Nature herself.

Do not be offended by all this talk in the first
person. Every library is full of descriptions of the
beauty of Nature and the loving-kindness of man :
besides, if you want more, you can write them for
yourself. But so many of these descriptions are
impersonal : they look outside self, not into self.

Consider the facts of the case. To begin with,
mark me down at the lowest possible figure. If
there be anything less than a point, let me be that
irreducible minimum. Whittle me down as near as
you can to nothing : one of the millions of millions
of living things which now happen to be here : some-
thing which is only just not nothing. That is a
true estimate of my importance to the universe —
and of yours. Have you done it ? The lower you
value me, the better it will suit my argument. Have
you got me so small that you cannot get me smaller ?
Well now, see what comes of your whittling.



i THE WORLD, MYSELF, AND THEE 7

Here is one of the least of little things : an atom,
a dot, a cipher, a microscopic something : there are
millions of them. On this one point, the beauty of
the world is concentrated. To me it is addressed and
adjusted : in me it is created and maintained. From
this verandah at this moment — nobody else here, and
no sound but the wind blowing and the birds singing
—I receive into myself, and put together in myself,
all these random consignments of light and shade,
colour and outline and contrast, nearness and mid-
distance and horizon, which become, in me, the view
from the verandah. It is I, who put them together.
They could no more put themselves together than
the letters at the General Post Office could sort them-
selves and tie themselves in bundles. I must be
here, to arrange and unite this chaos into a view. It
is nothing, till I make it something. In a field, on
my right hand, are three cows. I confess that they
seem to imperil the strength of my argument. All
animals are an everlasting and impenetrable mystery
to all of us. Are they, like me, arranging and uniting
in themselves their own view of Devonshire? I
believe that they are. But I feel sure that they are
not admiring, as I am, the near apple blossom, and
the far hills of Dartmoor against the sky. It is all
for me : it for me, and I for it. Really and truly,
this bit of Devonshire, if it be indeed mad with
beauty, has gone mad for love of me : not for love
of the cows. Even if I were positive that the cows



8 I SOMETIMES THINK i

are doing what I am doing, they certainly are not
doing it so well.

Now, if I were the Creator of the Universe, it
would be natural enough that Devonshire should
wish to please me. But you have been saying, with
perfect truth, that I am only just not nothing. And
I ask you, Is it likely that any bit of the world would
fall madly in love with next to nothing ? You know
it is not. Then why is Devonshire behaving in this
extraordinary way?

Please follow me .closely here : you easily can : you
and I are equally wise, when it comes to a matter of
faith. Catch hold of my argument anywhere, by its
head or its tail or its skirts : only, catch hold of it.
I say that the popular phrases about God and Nature
are shot wide of the mark which they ought to hit.
" There must be a God, because the world is beauti-
ful." Never use a phrase like that : say always,
" There must be a God, for here am I admiring the
beauty of the world." Nothing in the world is
beautiful, till somebody comes along who is able to
admire the beauty of it. When that happens,
Nature says to her Maker, Do introduce him to me.
As in a ball-room you and your partner are intro-
duced to each other, so Nature and Man are intro-
duced to each other by the Master of the Ceremonies
of the Universe. He so creates and maintains us that
it is possible for the beauty of Nature to be created
and maintained in us.



i THE WORLD, MYSELF, AND THEE 9

Dear brother or sister, this is one of my old
sermons : I fear that you may have heard it before :
and I still have to expound my other text, which is
the kindness of my friends.

There are many people who fail to be surprised at
the existence of friendship. They are glad of it on
occasions of high intensity — some friend sees them
through a difficulty or helps them out of a disgrace,
and they say that a friend in need is a friend indeed —
but they take for granted the amazing fact that friend-
ship does exist. They seem to think that a man is
bound to have friends, as he is bound to wear clothes,
because he is always meeting other men : there are
friends to be had, as there are clothes to be had : it is
not a man's way to go naked in London, nor to go
friendless through life : there is no mystery about
friendship, no more than there is about a lounge suit :
they get both when they want them, and go leaping
and praising God neither for the one nor for the
other. It is possible, though it is not probable, that
some of them, at home, keep up the old fashion of
grace before meals. What can be in the mind of a
man who takes friendship for granted, but formally
acknowledges the Hand of Providence over a dish of
cutlets for dinner? Not that the existence of the
cutlets is not amazing : it is altogether amazing, if
you contemplate it in the spirit of philosophy : but
a man has no right to give thanks over his food
unless he gives them over his friends.



io I SOMETIMES THINK i

Imagine it possible to set a friendship, as we set
a cutlet, under a dish-cover. What form of grace
would you say over it ? There it is, in front of you :
and of course you must say your grace before you
lift the dish-cover. I invented, some years ago, an
excellent grace for solitary meals : it was thoroughly
pious, without committing me to say more than I
was really feeling. You cannot use it at big dinner-
parties, nor at breakfast : but you could not have a
better grace for lunch all by yourself. Thank
Heaven, whatever it is, it's not mince with an egg on
the top. Of course, if you like that combination,
you must name some other dish, abhorrent to you :
the principle remains the same. But we could hardly
apply it to our friendships. Of course, we can if it
pleases us. Somebody is in the dining-room : would
not give his name : said that he wanted to surprise
you. Then you say grace. Thank Heaven, who-
ever it is, it's not So-and-so : he never comes here now.
But how grudging and stupid, to say no more than
that. Go down to the dining-room with some form
of words more alert and less flat-footed. For what I
am going to receive, make me truly thankful. Surely
you can say that much without sacrifice of common-
sense. Or again, Non nobis, Domine. What is
wrong with Non nobis ? Unhappy scrap of Latin,
fallen on evil days : I have heard it chanted, at a City
dinner, by four singers : they sang the grace, I ate the
dinner : therefore, it was not they who were taking



i THE WORLD, MYSELF, AND THEE 1 1

the Name of the Lord their God in vain, it was I.
Read Lamb's essay on Grace before Meat : read it
again and again, till you wellnigh have it by heart :

I own that I am disposed to say grace upon twenty other
occasions in the course of the day besides my dinner. I want a
form for setting out upon a pleasant walk, for a moonlight
ramble, for a friendly meeting, or a solved problem. Why have
we none for books, those spiritual repasts — a grace before Milton —
a grace before Shakespeare — a devotional exercise proper to be
said before reading the Fairy Oueen ?

It is here, just here, that Non nobis comes in. All
occasions for thankfulness are an occasion for this
grace, this bare statement, in so many words, that
all our happinesses — all that are worth having — are
made not by us, but in us : prepared outside us, and
worked-up inside us. They are introduced into us,
that they may come to life in us. Even my share
of that City dinner, its meats and sweets and wines,
was created outside me, and was put inside me, and
came to life in my bodily life. But take Lamb's
nobler instance. Shakespeare is a repast not bodily
but spiritual ; it was created, centuries ago, in the man
Shakespeare ; it is put into us, and it becomes part
and parcel of our spiritual life. So with the beauty
of the view from the verandah : all the chaotic
elements of it were put into me, and I arranged them
into one beautiful view : but I did not create them.
I put them together, but they had to be got into me
to begin with. So with the kindness of my friends :



12 I SOMETIMES THINK i

it was created in them : and I happened to be about :
and it was put into me, and lives in my life. Non
nob'u^ Domine. For my food, my books, my view,
my friends, to Thy Name be the praise.

And now — I am so sorry : you thought it was the
end of the sermon — And now, without fear, weigh
the answer to all this talk. There is food that is
unwholesome ; and there are people starving for want
of food. There are books that are rubbish, or
downright vile ; and there are people who are
not able to read. There are places and things that
are altogether ugly ; and there are people who never
get away from them. There are friendships which
fail and come to nothing ; and there are people who
have been ruined by bad friends. You are living in
a Fool's Paradise : you have shut your eyes against
all that is unsightly, and your mind against all that
is horrible, and your heart against all who are suffer-
ing : you dare not look at the world as it is, the real
world, full of evil. Do you never read the papers,
do you never think of the War ? It is charitable, to
say that you are a fool : it would be nearer the truth
to say that you are a hypocrite.

Call that an answer! It is no sort or kind of
answer. It challenges faith ; but it does not dispute
facts, nor touch the reality of them. The great
poets are what they are, and they sit on their thrones,
untouched by the flood of rubbishy books. The
beauty of the world is what it is, and sits on its



i THE WORLD, MYSELF, AND THEE 13

throne, untouched by the ugliness which disfigures
the world. And the kindness of friends is what it is,
and its throne is from everlasting to everlasting,
though innumerable friendships break and come to
nothing, or worse than nothing. All the trash that
has ever been printed cannot interrupt the music of
one line of Shakespeare : all the known ugliness of
the world, all happening at once, could not take the
colour out of a rose-petal : all the cruelties ever
perpetrated, from the death of Abel to the ill-treat-
ment of British prisoners in Germany, cannot undo
one kindly act or thought. Some days ago, in the
Tube, a young man, seeing me strap-hanging, and
me old enough to be his father, gave me his seat.
Not all the sins of the world make any difference to
this plain fact, that he did. The Gods themselves
cannot turn what has been into what has not been.
The young man's courtesy descendit de ccelo : it took
upon itself the familiar conditions of time and space :
it was put into him, and from him into me : it was
and is as real as real can be : no words can say how
real it is. Yesterday, on a long journey, I travelled
with an ill-bred ass who made everybody uncom-
fortable. He also was real, painfully real. Only,
thinking it over, I find myself able to believe that his
bullying, somehow, was not so real as the young
man's courtesy, not so really real. At the time, he
was horrid : but in what we call eternity I believe
that his behaviour is explained away by some process



i 4 I SOMETIMES THINK i

which is no concern of mine : and I am sure that the
young man's behaviour finds itself at home in
eternity, and is not in need of any explanation.

We do feel, all of us, when we think steadily about


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