Table of Contents
On Seriousness
Lamp-posts
The Spirits
Tennyson
The Domesticity of Detectives
George Meredith
The Irishman
Ireland and the Domestic Drama
The Japanese
Christian Science
The Lawlessness of Lawyers
Our Latin Relations
On Pigs As Pets
The Romance of Rostand
Wishes
The Futurists
The Evolution of Emma
The Pseudo-Scientific Books
The Humour of King Herod
The Silver Goblets
The Duty of the Historian
Questions of Divorce
Mormonism
Pageants and Dress
On Stage Costume
The Yule Log and the Democrat
==>More Thoughts on Christmas
Dickens Again
Taffy
"Ego Et Shavius Meus"
The Plan for A New Universe
George Wyndham
Four Stupidities
On Historical Novels
On Monsters
 

More Thoughts on Christmas

Most sensible people say that adults cannot be expected to appreciate Christmas as much as children appreciate it. At least, Mr. G. S. Street said so, who is the most sensible man now writing in the English language. But I am not sure that even sensible people are always right; and this has been my principal reason for deciding to be silly--a decision that is now irrevocable. It may be only because I am silly, but I rather think that, relatively to the rest of the year, I enjoy Christmas more than I did when I was a child. Of course, children do enjoy Christmas--they enjoy almost everything except actually being smacked: from which truth the custom no doubt arose. But the real point is not whether a schoolboy would enjoy Christmas. The point is that he would also enjoy No Christmas. Now I say most emphatically that I should denounce, detest, abominate, and abjure the insolent institution of No Christmas. The child is glad to find a new ball, let us say, which Uncle William (dressed as St. Nicholas in everything except the halo) has put in his stocking. But if he had no new ball, he would make a hundred new balls out of the snow. And for them he would be indebted not to Christmas, but to winter. I suppose snowballing is being put down by the police, like every other Christian custom. No more will a prosperous and serious City man have a large silver star splashed suddenly on his waistcoat, veritably investing him with the Order of the Star of Bethlehem. For it is the star of innocence and novelty, and should remind him that a child can still be born. But indeed, in one sense, we may truly say the children enjoy no seasons, because they enjoy all. I myself am of the physical type that greatly prefers cold weather to hot; and I could more easily believe that Eden was at the North Pole than anywhere in the Tropics. It is hard to define the effect of weather: I can only say that all the rest of the year I am untidy, but in summer I feel untidy. Yet although (according to the modern biologists) my hereditary human body must have been of the same essential type in my boyhood as in my present decrepitude, I can distinctly remember hailing the idea of freedom and even energy on days that were quite horribly hot. It was the excellent custom at my school to give the boys a half-holiday when it seemed too hot for working. And I can well remember the gigantic joy with which I left off reading Virgil and began to run round and round a field. My tastes in this matter have changed. Nay, they have been reversed. If I now found myself (by some process I cannot easily conjecture) on a burning summer day running round and round a field, I hope I shall not appear pedantic if I say I should prefer to be reading Virgil.

And thus it is really possible, from one point of view, for elderly gentlemen to frolic at Christmas more than children can. They may really come to find Christmas more entertaining, as they have come to find Virgil more entertaining. And, in spite of all the talk about the coldness of classicism, the poet who wrote about the man who in his own country home fears neither King nor crowd was not by any means incapable of understanding Mr. Wardle. And it is exactly those sentiments, and similar ones, that the adult does appreciate better than the child. The adult, for instance, appreciates domesticity better than the child. And one of the pillars and first principles of domesticity, as Mr. Belloc has rightly pointed out, is the institution of private property. The Christmas pudding represents the mature mystery of property; and the proof of it is in the eating.

I have always held that Peter Pan was wrong. He was a charming boy, and sincere in his adventurousness; but though he was brave like a boy, he was also a coward--like a boy. He admitted it would be a great adventure to die; but it did not seem to occur to him that it would be a great adventure to live. If he had consented to march with the fraternity of his fellow-creatures, he would have found that there were solid experiences and important revelations even in growing up. They are realities which could not possibly have been made real to him without wrecking the real good in his own juvenile point of view. But that is exactly why he ought to have done as he was told. That is the only argument for parental authority. In dealing with childhood, we have a right to command it--because we should kill the childhood if we convinced it.

Now the mistake of Peter Pan is the mistake of the new theory of life. I might call it Peter Pantheism. It is the notion that there is no advantage in striking root. Yet, if you talk intelligently to the nearest tree, the tree will tell you that you are an unobservant ass. There is an advantage in root; and the name of it is fruit. It is not true that the nomad is even freer than the peasant. The Bedouin may rush past on his camel, leaving a whirl of dust; but dust is not free because it flies. Neither is the nomad free because he flies. You cannot grow cabbages on a camel, any more than in a condemned cell. Moreover, I believe camels commonly walk in a comparatively leisurely manner. Anyhow, most merely nomadic creatures do, for it is a great nuisance to "carry one's house with one." Gipsies do it; so do snails; but neither of them travel very fast. I inhabit one of the smallest houses that can be conceived by the cultivated classes; but I frankly confess I should be sorry to carry it with me whenever I went out for a walk. It is true that some motorists almost live in their motor-cars. But it gratifies me to state that these motorists generally die in their motor-cars too. They perish, I am pleased to say, in a startling and horrible manner, as a judgment on them for trying to outstrip creatures higher than themselves--such as the gipsy and the snail. But, broadly speaking, a house is a thing that stands still. And a thing that stands still is a thing that strikes root. One of the things that strike root is Christmas: and another is middle-age. The other great pillar of private life besides property is marriage; but I will not deal with it here. Suppose a man has neither wife nor child: suppose he has only a good servant, or only a small garden, or only a small house, or only a small dog. He will still find he has struck unintentional root.

He realizes there is something in his own garden that was not even in the Garden of Eden; and therefore is not (I kiss my hand to the Socialists) in Kew Gardens or in Kensington Gardens. He realizes, what Peter Pan could not be made to realize, that a plain human house of one's own, standing in one's own backyard, is really quite as romantic as a rather cloudy house at the top of a tree or a highly conspiratorial house underneath the roots of it. But this is because he has explored his own house, which Peter Pan and such discontented children seldom do. All the same, the children ought to think of the Never-Never Land--the world that is outside. But we ought to think of the Ever-Ever Land--the world which is inside, and the world which will last. And that is why, wicked as we are, we know most about Christmas.