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by [?]

The confession-book, I suppose, has disappeared. It is twenty years since I have seen one. As a boy I told some inquisitive owner what was my favourite food (porridge, I fancy), my favourite hero in real life and in fiction, my favourite virtue in woman, and so forth. I was a boy, and it didn’t really matter what were my likes and dislikes then, for I was bound to outgrow them. But Heaven help the journalist of those days who had to sign his name to opinions so definite! For when a writer has said in print (as I am going to say directly) that the daffodil is his favourite flower, simply because, looking round his room for inspiration, he has seen a bowl of daffodils on his table and thought it beautiful, it would be hard on him if some confession- album-owner were to expose him in the following issue as already committed on oath to the violet. Imaginative art would become impossible. Fortunately I have no commitments, and I may affirm that the daffodil is, and always has been, my favourite flower. Many people will put their money on the rose, but it is impossible that the rose can give them the pleasure which the daffodil gives them, just as it is impossible that a thousand pounds can give Rockefeller the pleasure which it gives you or me. For the daffodil comes, not only before the swallow comes– which is a matter of indifference, as nobody thinks any the worse of the swallow in consequence–but before all the many flowers of summer; it comes on the heels of a flowerless winter. Whereby it is as superior to the rose as an oasis in the Sahara is to champagne at a wedding.

Yes, a favourite flower must be a spring flower–there is no doubt about that. You have your choice, then, of the daffodil, the violet, the primrose, and the crocus. The bluebell comes too late, the cowslip is but an indifferent primrose; camelias and anemones and all the others which occur to you come into a different class. Well, then, will you choose the violet or the crocus? Or will you follow the legendary Disraeli and have primroses on your statue?

I write as one who spends most of his life in London, and for me the violet, the primrose, and the crocus are lacking in the same necessary quality–they pick badly. My favourite flower must adorn my house; to show itself off to the best advantage within doors it must have a long stalk. A crocus, least of all, is a flower to be plucked. I admit its charm as the first hint of spring that is vouchsafed to us in the parks, but I want it nearer home than that. You cannot pick a crocus and put it in water; nor can you be so cruel as to spoil the primrose and the violet by taking them from their natural setting; but the daffodil cries aloud to be picked. It is what it is waiting for.

“Long stalks, please.” Who, being commanded by his lady to bring in flowers for the house, has not received this warning? And was there ever a stalk to equal the daffodil’s for length and firmness and beauty? Other flowers must have foliage to set them off, but daffodils can stand by themselves in a bowl, and their green and yellow dress brings all spring into the room. A house with daffodils in it is a house lit up, whether or no the sun be shining outside. Daffodils in a green bowl–and let it snow if it will.

Wordsworth wrote a poem about daffodils. He wrote poems about most flowers. If a plant would be unique it must be one which had never inspired him to song. But he did not write about daffodils in a bowl. The daffodils which I celebrate are stationary; Wordsworth’s lived on the banks of Ullswater, and fluttered and tossed their heads and danced in the breeze. He hints that in their company even he might have been jocose–a terrifying thought, which makes me happier to have mine safely indoors. When he first saw them there (so he says) he gazed and gazed and little thought what wealth the show to him had brought. Strictly speaking, it hadn’t brought him in anything at the moment, but he must have known from his previous experiences with the daisy and the celandine that it was good for a certain amount.

A simple daffodil to him
Was so much matter for a slim
Volume at two and four.

You may say, of course, that I am in no better case, but then I have never reproached other people (as he did) for thinking of a primrose merely as a primrose.

But whether you prefer them my way or Wordsworth’s–indoors or outdoors–will make no difference in this further matter to which finally I call your attention. Was there ever a more beautiful name in the world than daffodil? Say it over to yourself, and then say “agapanthus” or “chrysanthemum,” or anything else you please, and tell me if the daffodils do not have it.

Pansies, lilies, kingcups, daisies, Let them live upon their praises; Long as there’s a sun that sets, Primroses will have their glory; Long as there are violets They will have a place in story; But for flowers my bowls to fill, Give me just the daffodil.

As Wordsworth ought to have said.