Essays Gardiner, A. G.: Windfalls. v1. 08 Mar 2019
#1  GrannyGrump 03-08-2019, 05:36 AM
By “Alpha of the Plough”
Pseudonym of A. G. Gardiner (1865–1946)

Windfalls was first published in 1920. Text was obtained from the Internet Archive. The text of this book is in the public domain in countries where the copyright term is “Life+70” or less, and in the USA.

Alfred George Gardiner (2 June 1865 – 3 March 1946) was an English journalist, editor and author.

From 1915 he contributed to the London Star under the pseudonym Alpha of the Plough. At the time The Star had several anonymous essayists whose pseudonyms were the names of stars. Invited to choose a nom de plume, he elected “to hitch my little waggon” to the brightest (alpha) star in the constellation the Plough (Ursa Major/Big Dipper).

His essays are highly regarded. They are uniformly elegant, graceful and humorous. His uniqueness lay in his ability to teach the basic truths of life in an easy and amusing manner. Pillars of Society, Pebbles on the Shore, Leaves in the Wind, and Many Furrows are some of his best known writings.

Join Mr. Gardiner now, as he comments on his personal doings and beliefs, on society’s public morals and private practices, and shares social commentaries, literary critiques, and views on life in general.
An excerpt from “On Superstitions”:
Spoiler Warning below

I am not sure that I could go into the witness-box and swear that I am wholly immune to these idle superstitions myself. It is true that of all the buses in London, that numbered 13 chances to be the one that I constantly use, and I do not remember, until now, ever to have associated the superstition with it. And certainly I have never had anything but the most civil treatment from it. It is as well behaved a bus, and as free from unpleasant associations as any on the road. I would not change its number if I had the power to do so. But there are other circumstances of which I should find it less easy to clear myself of suspicion under cross examination. I never see a ladder against a house side without feeling that it is advisable to walk round it rather than under it. I say to myself that this is not homage to a foolish superstition, but a duty to my family. One must think of one’s family. The fellow at the top of the ladder may drop anything. He may even drop himself. He may have had too much to drink. He may be a victim of epileptic fits, and epileptic fits, as everyone knows, come on at the most unseasonable times and places. It is a mere measure of ordinary safety to walk round the ladder. No man is justified in inviting danger in order to flaunt his superiority to an idle fancy. Moreover, probably that fancy has its roots in the common-sense fact that a man on a ladder does occasionally drop things. No doubt many of our superstitions have these commonplace and sensible origins. I imagine, for example, that the Jewish objection to pork as unclean on religious grounds is only due to the fact that in Eastern climates it is unclean on physical grounds.

All the same, I suspect that when I walk round the ladder I am rather glad that I have such respectable and unassailable reasons for doing so. Even if—conscious of this suspicion and ashamed to admit it to myself—I walk under the ladder I am not quite sure that I have not done so as a kind of negative concession to the superstition. I have challenged it rather than been unconscious of it. There is only one way of dodging the absurd dilemma, and that is to walk through the ladder. This is not easy. In the same way I am sensible of a certain satisfaction when I see the new moon in the open rather than through glass, and over my right shoulder rather than my left. I would not for any consideration arrange these things consciously; but if they happen so I fancy I am better pleased than if they do not. And on these occasions I have even caught my hand—which chanced to be in my pocket at the time—turning over money, a little surreptitiously I thought, but still undeniably turning it. Hands have habits of their own and one can’t always be watching them.
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