It is with the mind as with the soil. If you want to get the best out of your land you must change the crops, and sometimes even let the land lie fallow. And if you want to get the best out of your mind on a given theme you must let it range and have plenty of diversion. And the more remote the diversion is from the theme the better. I know a very grave man whose days are spent in the most responsible work, who goes to see Charlie Chaplin once or twice every week, and laughs like a schoolboy all the time. I should not trust his work less on that account: I should trust it all the more. I should know that he did not allow it to get the whip hand of him, that he kept sane and healthy by running out to play, as it were, occasionally.
I think all solemn men ought to take sixpenny-worth of Charlie Chaplin occasionally. And I’m certain they ought to play more. I believe that the real disease of Germany is that it has never learned to play. The bow is stretched all the time, and the nation is afflicted with a dreadful seriousness that suggests the madhouse by its lack of humour and gaiety. The oppressiveness of life begins with the child. Germany is one of The two countries in the world where the suicide of children is a familiar social fact. Years ago when I was in Cologne I christened it the City of the Elderly Children, and no one, I think, can have had any experience of Germany without being struck by the premature gravity of the young. If Germany had had fewer professors and a decent sprinkling of cricket and football grounds perhaps things might have been different. I don’t generally agree with copybook maxims, but all work and no play does make Jack (or, rather, Hans) a dull boy.
Perhaps it is true that we play too much; but I’m quite sure that the Germans have played too little, and if there must be a mistake on one side or the other, let it be on the side of too much play.
I read the other day an article by my colleague “Arcturus” which I thought was a little boastful. It referred to a bull-dog. Now I cannot tell what there is about a bull-dog that makes people haughty, but it is certain that I have never known a case in which the companionship of that animal has not had this effect. The man who keeps a bull-dog becomes after a time only fit for the company of a bull-dog. He catches the august pride of the animal, seems to think like a bulldog, to talk in the brief, scornful tones of a bulldog, and even to look fat and formidable like a bull-dog. That, however, is not an uncommon phenomenon among those who live with animals. Go to a fat stock show and look at the men around the cattle pens. Or recall the pork butchers you have known and tell me——. But possibly you, sir, who read these lines, are a pork butcher and resent the implication. Sir, your resentment is just. You are the exception, sir—a most notable exception.