Tremendous Trifles

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G. K. Chesterton


These fleeting sketches are all republished by kind permission of the Editor of the DAILY NEWS, in which paper they appeared. They amount to no more than a sort of sporadic diary--a diary recording one day in twenty which happened to stick in the fancy-- the only kind of diary the author has ever been able to keep. Even that diary he could only keep by keeping it in public, for bread and cheese. But trivial as are the topics they are not utterly without a connecting thread of motive. As the reader's eye strays, with hearty relief, from these pages, it probably alights on something, a bed-post or a lamp-post, a window blind or a wall. It is a thousand to one that the reader is looking at something that he has never seen: that is, never realised. He could not write an essay on such a post or wall: he does not know what the post or wall mean. He could not even write the synopsis of an essay; as "The Bed-Post; Its Significance--Security Essential to Idea of Sleep--Night Felt as Infinite--Need of Monumental Architecture," and so on. He could not sketch in outline his theoretic attitude towards window-blinds, even in the form of a summary. "The Window-Blind-- Its Analogy to the Curtain and Veil--Is Modesty Natural? --Worship of and Avoidance of the Sun, etc., etc." None of us think enough of these things on which the eye rests. But don't let us let the eye rest. Why should the eye be so lazy? Let us exercise the eye until it learns to see startling facts that run across the landscape as plain as a painted fence. Let us be ocular athletes. Let us learn to write essays on a stray cat or a coloured cloud. I have attempted some such thing in what follows; but anyone else may do it better, if anyone else will only try.

Contents Chapter I Tremendous Trifles II A Piece of Chalk III The Secret of a Train IV The Perfect Game V The Extraordinary Cabman VI An Accident VII The Advantages of Having One Leg VIII The End of the World IX In the Place de la Bastille X On Lying in Bed XI The Twelve Men XII The Wind and the Trees XIII The Dickensian XIV In Topsy-Turvy Land XV What I Found in My Pocket XVI The Dragon's Grandmother XVII The Red Angel XVIII The Tower XIX How I Met the President XX The Giant XXI The Great Man XXII The Orthodox Barber XXIII The Toy Theatre XXIV A Tragedy of Twopence XXV A Cab Ride Across Country XXVI The Two Noises XXVII Some Policemen and a Moral XXVIII The Lion XXIX Humanity: An Interlude XXX The Little Birds Who Won't Sing XXXI The Riddle of the Ivy XXXII The Travellers in State XXXIII The Prehistoric Railway Station XXXIV The Diabolist XXXV A Glimpse of My Country XXXVI A Somewhat Improbable Story XXXVII The Shop of Ghosts XXXVIII The Ballade of a Strange Town XXXIX The Mystery of a Pageant


Tremendous Trifles

Once upon a time there were two little boys who lived chiefly in the front garden, because their villa was a model one. The front garden was about the same size as the dinner table; it consisted of four strips of gravel, a square of turf with some mysterious pieces of cork standing up in the middle and one flower bed with a row of red daisies. One morning while they were at play in these romantic grounds, a passing individual, probably the milkman, leaned over the railing and engaged them in philosophical conversation. The boys, whom we will call Paul and Peter, were at least sharply interested in his remarks. For the milkman (who was, I need say, a fairy) did his duty in that state of life by offering them in the regulation manner anything that they chose to ask for. And Paul closed with the offer with a business-like abruptness, explaining that he had long wished to be a giant that he might stride across continents and oceans and visit Niagara or the Himalayas in an afternoon dinner stroll. The milkman producing a wand from his breast pocket, waved it in a hurried and perfunctory manner; and in an instant the model villa with its front garden was like a tiny doll's house at Paul's colossal feet. He went striding away with his head above the clouds to visit Niagara and the Himalayas. But when he came to the Himalayas, he found they were quite small and silly-looking, like the little cork rockery in the garden; and when he found Niagara it was no bigger than the tap turned on in the bathroom. He wandered round the world for several minutes trying to find something really large and finding everything small, till in sheer boredom he lay down on four or five prairies and fell asleep. Unfortunately his head was just outside the hut of an intellectual backwoodsman who came out of it at that moment with an axe in one hand and a book of Neo-Catholic Philosophy in the other. The man looked at the book and then at the giant, and then at the book again. And in the book it said, "It can be maintained that the evil of pride consists in being out of proportion to the universe." So the backwoodsman put down his book, took his axe and, working eight hours a day for about a week, cut the giant's head off; and there was an end of him.

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