Ah, no; I did not mourn the years’
Fell work upon those poor old dears,
Nor Pitt nor Venus drew my tears
And set me slowly sobbing;
I hailed them with a happy laugh
And slapped old Samson on the calf,
And asked a member of the staff
For “Officers Demobbing.”
That evening, being then dispersed
I swore (as I had sworn it first
When three of us went on the burst
With Aunt, or Great-Aunt, Alice),
“Although one finds, as man or boy,
A thousand pleasures to enjoy,
For happiness without alloy
Give me the Crystal Palace!”
V. HOME NOTES
THE WAY DOWN
Sydney Smith, or Napoleon or Marcus Aurelius (somebody about that time) said that after ten days any letter would answer itself. You see what he meant. Left to itself your invitation from the Duchess to lunch next Tuesday is no longer a matter to worry about by Wednesday morning. You were either there or not there; it is unnecessary to write now and say that a previous invitation from the Prime Minister—and so on. It was Napoleon’s idea (or Dr. Johnson’s or Mark Antony’s—one of that circle) that all correspondence can be treated in this manner.
I have followed these early Masters (or whichever one it was) to the best of my ability. At any given moment in the last few years there have been ten letters that I absolutely must write, thirty which I ought to write, and fifty which any other person in my position would have written. Probably I have written two. After all, when your profession is writing, you have some excuse for demanding a change of occupation in your leisure hours. No doubt if I were a coal-heaver by day, my wife would see to the fire after dinner while I wrote letters. As it is, she does the correspondence, while I gaze into the fire and think about things.
You will say, no doubt, that this was all very well before the War, but that in the Army a little writing would be a pleasant change after the day’s duties. Allow me to disillusion you. If, years ago, I had ever conceived a glorious future in which my autograph might be of value to the more promiscuous collectors, that conception has now been shattered. Four years in the Army has absolutely spoilt the market. Even were I revered in the year 2000 A.D. as Shakespeare is revered now, my half-million autographs, scattered so lavishly on charge-sheets, passes, chits, requisitions, indents and applications would keep the price at a dead level of about ten a penny. No, I have had enough of writing in the Army and I never want to sign my own name again. “Yours sincerely, Herbert Asquith,” “Faithfully yours, J. Jellicoe”—these by all means; but not my own.