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Leaves in the Wind (1917)

de Alpha Of The Plough

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More of Gardiner's short newspaper essays - again, just comments on what was going on around him. The fact that what was going on around him included a World War and the disruption that inevitably brought to English life and customs...doesn't directly impinge on the essays - these are not critical essays, or deep thought about Meaning, they're just short pieces about what was going on around him. There's a couple here about the effort of producing these daily pieces - not coming up with ideas for them, but choosing from the profusion available. He starts to write one about habits, and it turns into an essay about writing an essay about habits...as far as I can see, he never did write the one about how awkward it is to put on the other boot first, instead of the one you habitually put on first (at least, it's not in here or in Pebbles on the Shore). It's a fascinating look at everyday life (ok, of a reasonably privileged white Englishman in England - not universal) in 1919 ('17, '18...not sure when the essays themselves were written). Worth reading, and I expect I will reread and get different things out of it every time. Oh, by the way - several of his books, including this one, are on Project Gutenberg (that's where I got this). ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Sep 9, 2020 |
This collection of delightful essays, originally written for a British evening newspaper called The Star, was published in 1919 as a followup to Pebbles on the Shore, another collection by this British author who was very popular in his day. Although they were written while the slaughter in the trenches of World War I was still going on, and is often referred to, Gardiner's writes with a light hand and a wish to be uplifting. The war is a necessary evil, with a noble aim. In the meantime, it is possible, and necessary, to see the beauty in nature and in life. So writes Gardiner. Many of the pieces are nicely humorous (I should say "humourous.") "On a Distant View of a Pig," for instance, or "In Defense of Ignorance," from which . . .

"When I was young I was being driven one day through a woodland country by an old fellow who kept an inn and let out a pony and chaise for hire. As we went along I made some remark about a tree by the wayside and he spoke of it as a poplar.'Not a poplar,' said I with the easy assurance of youth, and I described to him for his information the characters of what I conceived to be the poplar. 'Ah,' he said, 'you are thinking of the Lombardy poplar. That tree is the Egyptian poplar.' And then he went on to tell me of a score of other poplars--their appearance, their habits, and their origins--quite kindly and without any knowledge of the withering blight that had fallen upon my cocksure ignorance. i found that he had spent his life in tree culture and had been forester to a Scotch duke. And I had explained to him what a poplar was like! But i think he did me good, and I often recall him to mind when I feel disposed to give other people information that they possibly do not need.

And the books I haven't read, and the sciences I don't know, and the languages I don't speak, and the things I can't do--young man, if you knew all this you would be amazed. But it does not make me unhappy. On the contrary I find myself growing cheerful in the contemplation of these vast undeveloped estates. I fell like a fellow who has inherited a continent and, so far, has only had time to cultivate a tiny corner of the inheritance. The rest I just wander through like a boy in wonderland. Some day I will know about all these things. I will develop all these immensities. I will search out all these mysteries. In my heart I know I shall do nothing of the sort. I know that when the curtain rings down I shall be digging the same tiny plot. But it is pleasant to dream of future conquests that you won't make."

Many of the essays are gentle paeans to British country life, with a rueful foreknowledge of the changes to come and the damage sure to be done to that lifestyle in the decades to follow the war. And not all of the pieces seem particularly meaningful 101 years after their original writing. But overall, I found the essays to be happily good-willed and calming.

According to Gardiner's wikipedia page, "He was also Chairman of the National Anti-Sweating League, an advocacy group which campaigned for a minimum wage in industry." ( )
  rocketjk | Aug 20, 2020 |
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