Story type: Essay
How strange it is that human endeavour is, for the most part, always expended upon accomplishing something for which no one has any particular use, while the things which, as it were, are simply begging to be done, are usually among the great “undone” for which we ask forgiveness every Sunday morning in church–that is, presuming we go to church. While there is a world shortage of cooks, the earth is stuffed with lady typists far beyond repletion. Whereas you can always buy a diamond necklace (if you have the money), you can hardly find a tiny house, even if you throw “love” in with the payment. Where you may find a hundred people to do what you don’t want, you will be extremely lucky if you come across even one ready and willing to do what you really require done. Nobody seems to like to be merely useful; they would far sooner be ornamental–and starve. Where a man can have the choice of a thousand girls who can’t even stitch a button on a pillow-case, the feminine expert in domestic economy will go on economising all by herself, until the only man who takes any real interest in her is the undertaker! It is all very strange, and very unaccountable. But I suppose it will forever continue thuswise until the world ceases to lay its laurels at the foot of Mary and to give Martha the “go by.”
I never can quite understand why the bank clerk who marries a chemist’s “lady” assistant is not considered to marry very much beneath him, whereas if he elopes with a cook we speak of it as a complete mesalliance. But the cook would, after all, prove extremely useful to him, whereas the chemist’s “lady” assistant could only make use other knowledge to poison him one evening without pain. In the same way, if a bankrupt “Milord” takes in “holy matrimony” a barmaid with a good business head, the world wonders what heaven was doing to make such an appalling match. Should, however, he marry “a lady of title” who is entitled to nothing under the will of her late father, the Duke of Poundfoolish-pennywise, and can’t earn anything herself, the marriage is spoken of as a romance, and the Church blesses it–and so does the most exclusive society in Balham. Utility seems never to be wanted. The world only asks for ornaments.
It is the same in the drama, where Miss Peggy Prettylegs of the Frivolity Follies will draw the salary of a Prime Minister for showing her surname, while Miss Georgiana de Montmorency, the actress who knows Shakspere so intimately that she mutters “Dear old Will” in her sleep, is resting so long in her top flat in Bloomsbury that if she lived on the ground floor she would inevitably take root.
It is the same in literature, where “Burnt Out Passion” runs through sixty editions and dies gloriously in a cheap edition with a highly-coloured cover on the railway book-stalls, while Professor I. Knowall’s wonderful treatise on “What is the Real Origin of Life?” has to be bought by subscription, with the Professor’s rich wife as principal purchaser.
It is the same in love, where the worst husbands have the most loving wives, and a good wife lives for years with a positive “horror,” and is never known really to smile until she lies dead in her bed!
It is the same in art . . . and yet it is not quite the same here, because the picture which “sells,” and is reproduced on post cards, generally inculcates a respectable moral, even though the sight of it sends the artistic almost insane. And yet, where you can find a hundred houses the interiors of which are covered in wallpapers which make you want to scream, you will find only a comparative few who prove by their beauty of design just exactly why they were chosen–and these rooms, in parenthesis, are never let as lodgings.
Not that there seems any cure for this world-wide rage for the useless. We have just to accept it as a fact–and wonder! Meanwhile we have to make the best of the men and women who, metaphorically speaking, would far sooner sit dressed in the very latest fashion, underclothed in cheap flannelette, than buy dainty, real linen “undies,” and make last year’s “do-up” do for this year’s “best.”