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Page:Chesterton - Alarms and Discursions (Methuen, 1910).djvu/161

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that ignorance often has the exquisite intuitions of innocence.

* * *

Let me take one example which may mark out the outline of the contention. Open the nearest comic paper and let your eye rest lovingly upon a joke about a mother-in-law. Now, the joke, as presented for the populace, will probably be a simple joke; the old lady will be tall and stout, the hen-pecked husband will be small and cowering. But for all that, a mother-in-law is not a simple idea. She is a very subtle idea. The problem is not that she is big and arrogant; she is frequently little and quite extraordinarily nice. The problem of the mother-in-law is that she is like the twilight: half one thing and half another. Now, this twilight truth, this fine and even tender embarrassment, might be rendered, as it really is, by a poet, only here the poet would have to be some very penetrating and sincere novelist, like George Meredith, or Mr. H. G. Wells, whose "Ann Veronica" I have just been reading with delight. I would trust the fine poets and novelists because they follow the fairy clue given them in Comic Cuts. But suppose the Professor appears, and suppose he says (as he almost certainly will), "A mother-in-law is merely a fellow-citizen. Considerations of sex should not interfere with comradeship.