Their mockery and their heroism still remain, heaven knows; but they no longer thus combine in the mock heroic. I was pleased, and not displeased, when I discovered that the magic figures could be moved by three human fingers. I have begun with this fragment of a fairy play in a toy-theatre, because it also sums up most clearly the strongest influences upon my childhood.
One of my first memories is playing in the garden under the care of a girl with ropes of golden hair; to whom my mother afterwards called out from the house, "You are an angel;" which I was disposed to accept without metaphor. His den or study was piled high with the stratified layers of about ten or twelve creative amusements; water-colour painting and modelling and photography and stained glass and fretwork and magic lanterns and mediaeval illumination.
I regret that there was nothing in the range of our family much more racy than a remote and mildly impecunious uncle; and that I cannot do my duty as a true modern, by cursing everybody who made me whatever I am. If my father had been some common millionaire owning a thousand mills that made cotton, or a million machines that made cocoa, how much smaller he would have seemed.
His people were of the sort that were always sufficiently successful; but hardly, in the modern sense, enterprising.
And in the same way I am now incurably afflicted with a faint smile, when I hear a crowd of frivolous people, who could not make anything to save their lives, talking about the inevitable narrowness and stuffiness of the Victorian home.
It is exercising the rest of the mind; now an almost neglected thing. But I prefer to believe that common sense is something that my readers and I have in common; and that they will have patience with a dull summary of the facts.
That is, I held the whole idea of repentance and absolution implicit but not unfolded in my mind. I do not remember her dying; but I remember her falling off a rocking-horse. But when I was a child I had a sort of confident astonishment in contemplating the apple-tree as an apple-tree.
It is rather more definite than the difference between pitch dark and daylight, or between having a toothache and not having a toothache. But the real child does not confuse fact and fiction. For he knew, as a house-agent, that Lord Airlie's house was actually quite close to Argyll Lodge; and that nothing was more likely than that there might fall about a great dispute, directly affecting his own line of business.
Nobody can correct anybody's bias, if all mind is all bias. But for that very reason, this image has remained and memory has constantly returned to it; and I have even done my best to deface and spoil the purity of the White Horse by writing an interminable ballad about it.
With all possible apologies to the freethinkers, I still propose to hold myself free to think.
I remember once walking with my father along Kensington High Street, and seeing a crowd of people gathered by a rather dark and narrow entry on the southern side of that thoroughfare. Beyond was a road named after the house of Russell, to the south another with the name of Cromwell.II.—THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN KEY.
The very first thing I can ever remember seeing with my own eyes was a young man walking across a bridge. He had a curly moustache and an attitude of confidence verging on swagger.
Autobiography, by G.K. Chesterton, free ebook. IV.—HOW TO BE A LUNATIC. I deal here with the darkest and most difficult part of my task; the period of youth which is full of doubts and morbidities and temptations; and which, though in my case mainly subjective, has left in my mind for ever a certitude upon the objective solidity of Sin.Download