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Impressions and Comments   By: (1859-1939)

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For many years I have been accustomed to make notes on random leaves of the things in Life and Thought which have chanced to strike my attention. Such records of personal reaction to the outer and inner world have been helpful to my work, and so had their uses.

But as one grows older the possibilities of these uses become more limited. One realises in the Autumn that leaves no longer have a vital function to perform; there is no longer any need why they should cling to the tree. So let them be scattered to the winds!

It is inevitable that such Leaves cannot be judged in the same way as though they constituted a Book. They are much more like loose pages from a Journal. Thus they tend to be more personal, more idiosyncratic, than in a book it would be lawful for a writer to be. Often, also, they show blanks which the intelligence of the reader must fill in. At the best they merely present the aspect of the moment, the flash of a single facet of life, only to be held in the brain provided one also holds therein many other facets, for the fair presentation of the great crystal of life. So it comes about that much is here demanded of the Reader, so much that I feel it rather my duty to warn him away than to hold out any fallacious lures.

The fact has especially to be reckoned with that such Impressions and Comments, stated absolutely and without consideration for divergent Impressions and Comments, may seem, as a friend who has read some of them points out, to lack explicit reasonableness. I trust they are not lacking in implicit reasonableness. They spring, even when they seem to contradict one another, from a central vision, and from a central faith too deeply rooted to care to hasten unduly towards the most obvious goal. From that central core these Impressions and Comments are concerned with many things, with the miracles of Nature, with the Charms and Absurdities of the Human Worm, that Golden Wire wherefrom hang all the joys and the mysteries of Art. I am only troubled because I know how very feebly these things are imaged here. For I have only the medium of words to work in, only words, words that are flung about in the street and often in the mud, only words with which to mould all my images of the Beauty and Gaiety of the World.

Such as they are, these random leaves are here scattered to the winds. It may be that as they flutter to the earth one or another may be caught by the hand of the idle passer by, and even seem worthy of contemplation. For no two leaves are alike even when they fall from the same tree.



July 24, 1912 . I looked out from my room about ten o'clock at night. Almost below the open window a young woman was clinging to the flat wall for support, with occasional floundering movements towards the attainment of a firmer balance. In the dim light she seemed decently dressed in black; her handkerchief was in her hand; she had evidently been sick.

Every few moments some one passed by. It was quite clear that she was helpless and distressed. No one turned a glance towards her except a policeman. He gazed at her searchingly as he passed, but without stopping or speaking; she was drunk, no doubt, but not too obtrusively incapable; he mercifully decided that she was of no immediate professional concern to him. She soon made a more violent effort to gain muscular control of herself, but merely staggered round her own escaping centre of gravity and sank gently on to the pavement in a sitting posture.

Every few moments people continued to pass within a few inches of her men, women, couples. Unlike the priest and the Levite in the parable, they never turned away, but pursued their straight course with callous rectitude. Not one seemed so much as to see her. In a minute or two, stimulated perhaps by some sense of the impropriety of her position, she rose to her feet again, without much difficulty, and returned to cling to the wall... Continue reading book >>

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