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26 Works of Robert Lynd

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“Do they have as much fun at the Derby as they used to?” I heard an old gentleman in a white hat, canary gloves, and buttoned boots asking a fellow-passenger in a London train. Fun? No; one would hardly call it that. Looking back on it after forty years one will no doubt call it […]

Everything has begun to have a blasted look till the sun shines. The ferns have been beaten down by the wind and the rain, and lie withered and broken-backed among the brambles, waiting till some poor man thinks it worth his while to go off with a load of them on his back for bedding. […]

Almost any man can make a joke, but it sometimes requires a clever man to see one. It is said that a Scotsman “jokes wi’ deeficulty.” What we really mean is that it is often difficult to see a Scotsman’s jokes or even to know whether he is joking or being serious. As a matter […]

As a rule, there is nothing that offends us more than a new kind of money. We felt humiliated in the early days of the war when we were no longer paid in heavy little discs of gold, and had to accept paper pounds and ten-shillingses. We even sneered at the design. We always sneer […]

“Nine bean-rows will I have there,” cries Mr Yeats in describing his Utopia in The Lake Isle of Innisfree. I have only two. They run east to west between the second-early potatoes and the red-currant bushes. They are broad beans. They are in flower just now, and every flower is a little black-and-white butterfly. That, […]

A weed, says the dictionary, is “any plant that is useless, troublesome, noxious or grows where it is not wanted.” The dictionary also adds: “colloq., a cigar.” We may omit for our present purpose the harmless colloquialism, but the rest of the definition deserves to be closely examined. Socrates, I imagine, could have found a […]

The train was crowded with jurymen. Every one of them was saying something like “It’s a disgrace,” “It’s a perfect scandal,” “No other nation would put up with it,” and “Here we all are grumbling; and what are we going to do about it? Nothing. That’s the British way.” They were not complaining of any […]

One would imagine from the way in which some people are talking that this is an early spring. I do not think it is. The daffodils certainly came before the swallows dared, but they came reluctantly and in less generous profusion than usual–at least, in one county. As for the swallow, it may have arrived […]

To roll over Niagara Falls in a barrel is an odd way of courting death, but it seems that death must be courted somehow. Danger is more attractive to many men than drink. They prefer gambling with their lives to gambling with their money. They have the gambler’s faith in their lucky star. They are […]

Having decided to write on Easter, I took out a volume of The Encyclopædia Britannica in order to make up the subject of eggs, and the first entry under “Egg” that met my eye was: “EGG, AUGUSTUS LEOPOLD (1816-1863), English painter, was born on the 2nd of May, 1816, in London, where his father carried […]

It was an old belief of the poets and the common people that nature was sympathetic towards human beings at certain great crises. Comets flared and the sun was darkened at the death of a great man. Even the death of a friend was supposed to bow nature with despair; and Milton in Lycidas mourned […]

Curiosity is the first of the sins. On the day on which Eve gave way to her curiosity, man broke off his communion with the angels and allied himself with the beasts. To-day we usually applaud curiosity; we think of it as the alternative to stagnation. The tradition of mankind, however, is against us. The […]

In The Train

Story type: Essay

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It is said that travelling by train is to be made still more uncomfortable. I doubt if there is a man of sufficient genius in the Government to accomplish this. Are not the trains already merely elongated buses without the racing instincts of the bus? Have they not already learned to crawl past mile after […]

On Feeling Gay

Story type: Essay

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Gaiety has come back at least to parts of London. There never were greater crowds of people eating with bottles at their sides in public places. On the whole, however, there has been little down-heartedness at the restaurants during the past four and a half years Even while the housewife in the red-brick street was […]


Story type: Essay

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There is always a cuckoo that stays out later than the other cuckoos…. Two goldfinches came and sang in the catalpa-tree in the garden…. It is difficult to decide with which sentence to begin. There are so many pleasures. The goldfinches have not come back again, however. They and the faint blue flowers of the […]


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There is grave danger of a revival of virtue in this country. There are, I know, two kinds of virtue, and only one of them is a vice Unfortunately, it is the latter a revival of which is threatened to-day. This is the virtue of the virtuously indignant. It is virtue that is not content […]

Horse-racing–or, at least, betting–is one of the few crafts that are looked down on by practically everybody who does not take part in it. “It’s a mug’s game,” people say. Even betting men talk like this. There is a street called Mug’s Row in a north of England town: it is so called because the […]

It has been said that the characteristic sound of summer is the hum of insects, as the characteristic sound of spring is the singing of birds. It is all the more curious that the word “insect” conveys to us an implication of ugliness. We think of spiders, of which many people are more afraid than […]

It was only the other day that I came upon a full-grown man reading with something like rapture a little book–Ships and Seafaring Shown to Children. His rapture was modified however, by the bitter reflection that he had already passed so great a part of his life without knowing the difference between a ship and […]

It makes all the difference whether you hear an insect in the bedroom or in the garden. In the garden the voice of the insect soothes; in the bedroom it irritates. In the garden it is the hum of spring; in the bedroom it seems to belong to the same school of music as the […]


Story type: Essay

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May is chiefly remarkable for being the only month in which one does not like cats. June, too, perhaps; but, after that, one does not mind if the garden is full of cats. One likes to have a wild beast whose movements, lazy as those of Satan, will terrify the childish birds out of the […]


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The Champion Cat Show has been held at the Crystal Palace, but the champion cat was not there. One could not possibly allow him to appear in public. He is for show, but not in a cage. He does not compete, because he is above competition. You know this as well as I. Probably you […]

The Betting Man

Story type: Essay

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If The Panther wins the Derby,[He didn’t] as most people apparently expect him to do, his victory will carry more weight among frequenters of race-courses as an argument for Socialism than any that has yet been invented. For The Panther is a Government-bred horse, born and brought up in defiance of the laissez-faire principles of […]

The last spectacle of which Christian men are likely to grow tired is a harbour. Centuries hence there may be jumping-off places for the stars, and our children’s children’s and so forth children may regard a ship as a creeping thing scarcely more adventurous than a worm. Meanwhile, every harbour gives us a sense of […]

It is impossible to take a walk in the country with an average townsman–especially, perhaps, in April or May–without being amazed at the vast continent of his ignorance. It is impossible to take a walk in the country oneself without being amazed at the vast continent of one’s own ignorance. Thousands of men and women […]

Some people are surprised at the daring with which compilers of prophetic almanacs forecast the details of the future. The most astonishing thing of all is that nearly everybody still regards the future as a mystery. As a matter of fact, we know a great deal about the future. We know that next year will […]