Grist and Mills
All Is Grist. By G. IC. Chesterton. (Methuen. Os.) Essays in Little. By Eden Phillpotts. (Hutchinson. Os.) Visibility Good. By E. V. Lucas. (Methuen. 6s.) ALL is grist for the essay-writer, as Mr. Chesterton observes ; but the mills differ. Mr. Chesterton on Condiments has nothing in common with Mr. Lucas on Custard; and Mr. Phillpotts laments that logic has destroyed the fauns, while Mr. Chesterton growls that without it the world seems to be drifting into an intellectual dissolution and destruction, which is at its very wildest when some wild voice shrieks out of the chaos, ' Be logical.' " Three such different collections prove how much more important is the mill than the grist : the mind than the matter. An essay may be almost any short com- position that has neither a plot nor a regular metre ; but what its writer must do is to give you a piece of his mind.
Mr. Chesterton does so with vehemence. He grinds axes for choice. When he says On he means Against, and his sub-title should be On—or Against—the Way of the World. For whatever is, is wrong. We should stay at home and study logic and have babies, he says, as if no one .did these things already. We should eschew business education, behaviourism, sightseeing, sophistication, novel-reading (detective stories allowed), and top-hats. We should Think. Mr. Chesterton can make us think. He will have none of Mr. Lucas' after-dinner urbanity. He must go out and saddle Rosinante. He shouts at us, and reasons at us (having studied logic), and is very witty. But he is not optimist enough to be a reformer. He must just have his grumble. He must make his point, too, even at the expense of accuracy. " The newspapers are all God and no devil. The novels are all devil and no God" ; though he can hit straighter than that : as, on the Renaissance :
" The fact that the vision of a superb and many-sided human culture did not disturb the fundamental ideas of these late mediaeval Christians has a simple -explanation : that the ideas are true."
Mr. Phillpotts turns towards humanism and away from the twentieth century as eagerly as Mr. Chesterton, but with none of his clatter. Essays in Little are the quiet statement of a full philosophy. Most of them are an artist's meditations upon his craft. The ground has been often covered : but each writer must think out for himself the problems of style and the relations of art to science and criticism and religion. Mr. Phillpotts has had a lifetime of various and distinguished practice, and his thoughts are worth overhearing, both on these matters and on his own Dartmoor country. " Most of the great artists were humanists," he says. He certainly is a humanist.
And Mr. Lucas ? He is indefinable : he is himself : and in Visibility Good he is at the top of his form. No one but Mr. Lucas could know so many facts and not be a bore. -Unlike Mr. Chesterton, he loves sightseeing, and he has no quarrel with 1931 ; and he goes sightseeing, in London squares or museums or in inn parlours, for his own delight and ours. He is a looker-up of unconsidered trifles, and can make magic from the Dictionary of National Biography or an out-of-date encyclopaedia. He enjoys committees and getting wet through. He knows who sat for Britannia on our coins, and how to cable in code from mid-Atlantic " Crew are all drunk." He is prepared for all emergencies : and as a connoisseur he would appreciate the subtle flavour