27 DECEMBER 1919, Page 8


r 1 IILERE is a wonderful fascination about children's toys. Does any one ever quite outgrow their charm ? The shop- windows of London illuminate the City and cause untold pleasure to countless passers-by, but during eleven months of the year it is the drapers alone who attract what appears to be a stationary crowd, for, though in constant flux, there are hours in the middle of the day when the number of the gazers never grows less. In the twelfth month, however, buyers loiter before almost every variety of store, and next to the fine clothes it is the toys which arrest the eye of the public. As many people stop to look at them as stop to look at new-fashioned hate, and there is a greater variety among the crowd. Working men will often pause as they pass, and men who look to be rich. Very young

girls will exclaim with pleasure, and so will old women. All sorts of people besides mothers and children, to whom they make of course a primary appeal, are pleased with them. Some of the men are perhaps thinking about presents for their children, and among the women many are grandmothers and aunts ; but half the people who stop to look, a largo proportion even of those who bring children with them, seem to be getting

independent pleasure from the sight of the pretty things. We imagine all this is even more true in Continental capitals than in London. The child is still alive in us all, whatever our age or nationality. Still, of course it is the real children who are the most pleased, and it is interesting to watch what it is that

appeals most directly to their fancy, for their natural delight is the key to our strange satisfaction. They seem all, especially the youngest, to have an intense joy in miniature. Long before bats or balls or games of any sort offer any attraction something small which is like something large awakes longings after possession. First and foremost comes the primeval toy, the miniature child. The doll is as old as man, or anyhow as old

as his soul, as old as idolatry. Next in favour come miniature animals, boats, houses, trees, utensils, dishes of food, and flowers, all in miniature, and all out of proportion with each other. The doll is just now in its zenith. Artists design dolls with real expressions—so to speak—on their make-believe little faces. We doubt whether they will give any more pleasure than their bright-checked, blank-faced, beady-eyed little fore- runners. It does not do for playthings to be too real. A life- sized waxwork of a little boy or girl would not have the faacina- tion of a toy, which should be a little thing frankly fanciful and impossible. Louis Stevenson's " Unseen Playmate," who is supposed to companion all happy children playing alone, always pretends to be small •- " He loves to be little, he hates to be big, 'Tis he who inhabits the caves that you dig."

He it was who was with the hero of the Garden of Verses in " The Fairy Land afar Where the Little People are, Where the clover-tops are trees And the rain-pools are the seas."

Correct proportions are not desirable. As is the candle to the

Christmas-tree, so is the doll's house to the doll. Her cup of tea may be as large as her whole table and her cake as big as her chair. It is all of no consequence so long as the whole picture is pretty, and each several item and detail reminiscent of an agreeable reality. For children scale—that horrid symbol of reason and care--does not exist.

The grown-up person who looks around him in a toy-shop feels as though he had fallen asleep for a few minutes and gone back to his childhood. Dreams get in common speech a better

character for beauty than they deserve. The explanation is not to be sought for in the fiction of their loveliness, but in the fact that they are untrammelled. The dreamer is no longer subject to the tyrannies of likelihood. He is free of all pre- judices about probability. He may in his dream jump out of the window or over a precipice only to feel himself poised in soft air as warm and sustaining as his mattress and his sheets, or he may take a canoe at the bottom of his own garden and land in New York within ten minutes. When a child is among toys he dreams as easily as if he were in bed. The power of his imagination carries him beyond time and space, so that he may " by mere playing get to Heaven."

The world was a pleasant place when we were too young to compare, before that awful perception of proportion came upon us to belittle us ! It was the child in the poet which made him say : " A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday." He succeeded as children succeed in rising above the crushing thought of his tiny span dwarfed and rendered contemptible by the great stretch of history. He knew that right must conquer but for those miserable disabilities which belong to the prosaic present. The little boy who said to his mother as he came out of church on Good Friday : " It never could have happened if I had been there," was also a poet. He and the psalmist had caught, the one from the shore and the other from "inland far," a glimpse of Wordsworth's " immortal sea which brought us hither." No great man who brought to the younger world a new sense of material proportion was ever much welcomed. The world turned on Galileo like an angry sleeper waked. Still bemused from their sleep, they knew that the seer spoke the truth, knew that they must put away childish things, but they longed to silence the man who made the unwelcome discovery.

There is proverbially more of the child in grown-up men than in women. It is not what one would expect, because women have so much more to do than men with the care of children and play with them so much more. Perhaps the explanation lies in the words " care of." They are the protectors rather than the real playmates of their children. They are only pretending to pretend, however sympathetically they seem to bear a part in the romances of childhood. No woman has written any fairy-stories of any fame, nor any remarkable tales of extravagant and imaginary adventure. She has made no contribution to theology. Her humour is always the humour of real life, of proportion rather than disproportion. She has added nothing to farcical literature and little to rollicking song. The power to write these things and of these things belongs to the child in man. He has also a simplicity which she is without. The world has always said, and it may be true, that women adore men largely because they see that they are des grant& enfants and they themselves women, because, like children, they turn instinctively in trouble and joy to some one who is not a child or is less a child, for we are all children to some extent—at any rate at Christmas.