Art is a great thing. But it is not the greatest. The most

important of all perceptions is the continual perception of cause

and effect--in other words, the perception of the continuous

development of the universe--in still other words, the perception of

the course of evolution. When one has thoroughly got imbued into

one's head the leading truth that nothing happens without a cause,

one grows not only large-minded,
but large-hearted.

It is hard to have one's watch stolen, but one reflects that the

thief of the watch became a thief from causes of heredity and

environment which are as interesting as they are scientifically

comprehensible; and one buys another watch, if not with joy, at any

rate with a philosophy that makes bitterness impossible. One loses,

in the study of cause and effect, that absurd air which so many

people have of being always shocked and pained by the curiousness of

life. Such people live amid human nature as if human nature were a

foreign country full of awful foreign customs. But, having reached

maturity, one ought surely to be ashamed of being a stranger in a

strange land!

The study of cause and effect, while it lessens the painfulness of

life, adds to life's picturesqueness. The man to whom evolution is

but a name looks at the sea as a grandiose, monotonous spectacle,

which he can witness in August for three shillings third-class

return. The man who is imbued with the idea of development, of

continuous cause and effect, perceives in the sea an element which

in the day-before-yesterday of geology was vapour, which yesterday

was boiling, and which to-morrow will inevitably be ice.

He perceives that a liquid is merely something on its way to be

solid, and he is penetrated by a sense of the tremendous, changeful

picturesqueness of life. Nothing will afford a more durable

satisfaction than the constantly cultivated appreciation of this.

It is the end of all science.

Cause and effect are to be found everywhere. Rents went up in

Shepherd's Bush. It was painful and shocking that rents should go

up in Shepherd's Bush. But to a certain point we are all scientific

students of cause and effect, and there was not a clerk lunching at

a Lyons Restaurant who did not scientifically put two and two

together and see in the (once) Two-penny Tube the cause of an

excessive demand for wigwams in Shepherd's Bush, and in the

excessive demand for wigwams the cause of the increase in the price

of wigwams.

"Simple!" you say, disdainfully. Everything--the whole complex

movement of the universe--is as simple as that--when you can

sufficiently put two and two together. And, my dear sir, perhaps

you happen to be an estate agent's clerk, and you hate the arts, and

you want to foster your immortal soul, and you can't be interested

in your business because it's so humdrum.

Nothing is humdrum.

The tremendous, changeful picturesqueness of life is marvellously

shown in an estate agent's office. What! There was a block of

traffic in Oxford Street; to avoid the block people actually began

to travel under the cellars and drains, and the result was a rise of

rents in Shepherd's Bush! And you say that isn't picturesque!

Suppose you were to study, in this spirit, the property question in

London for an hour and a half every other evening. Would it not give

zest to your business, and transform your whole life?

You would arrive at more difficult problems. And you would be able

to tell us why, as the natural result of cause and effect, the

longest straight street in London is about a yard and a half in

length, while the longest absolutely straight street in Paris

extends for miles. I think you will admit that in an estate agent's

clerk I have not chosen an example that specially favours my


You are a bank clerk, and you have not read that breathless romance

(disguised as a scientific study), Walter Bagehot's "Lombard

Street"? Ah, my dear sir, if you had begun with that, and followed

it up for ninety minutes every other evening, how enthralling your

business would be to you, and how much more clearly you would

understand human nature.

You are "penned in town," but you love excursions to the country and

the observation of wild life--certainly a heart-enlarging diversion.

Why don't you walk out of your house door, in your slippers, to the

nearest gas lamp of a night with a butterfly net, and observe the

wild life of common and rare moths that is beating about it, and

co-ordinate the knowledge thus obtained and build a superstructure

on it, and at last get to know something about something?

You need not be devoted to the arts, not to literature, in order to

live fully.

The whole field of daily habit and scene is waiting to satisfy that

curiosity which means life, and the satisfaction of which means an

understanding heart.

I promised to deal with your case, O man who hates art and

literature, and I have dealt with it. I now come to the case of the

person, happily very common, who does "like reading."