June 23, 2002
'The Toys Of Peace'

Andrea Harris of Ye Olde Blogge quotes a story from the Christian Science Monitor (1998) by a silly hippie who refused to give her nephew a toy gun for Christmas. She got the URL from a comment by Moira Breen of Inappropriate Response on an entry on Horologium. How's that for incestuous blogrolling, malicious trolls? I prefer to call it giving credit where credit is due.

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, H. H. Munro, better known as "Saki", said the last word on war toys and pacifist toys in his short story "The Toys of Peace" (1923). There is a rather ugly text at the Gutenberg site. If you want to use the search function to skip over all the legal rigamarole and get to the beginning of the story, you should know that the first word is "Harvey" (the name of the pacifist uncle). Here is a sample:

A quantity of crinkly paper shavings was the first thing that met the view when the lid was removed; the most exciting toys always began like that. Harvey pushed back the top layer and drew forth a square, rather featureless building.

"It's a fort!" exclaimed Bertie.

"It isn't, it's the palace of the Mpret of Albania," said Eric, immensely proud of his knowledge of the exotic title; "it's got no windows, you see, so that passers-by can't fire in at the Royal Family."

"It's a municipal dust-bin," said Harvey hurriedly; "you see all the refuse and litter of a town is collected there, instead of lying about and injuring the health of the citizens."

In an awful silence he disinterred a little lead figure of a man in black clothes.

"That," he said, "is a distinguished civilian, John Stuart Mill. He was an authority on political economy."

"Why?" asked Bertie.

"Well, he wanted to be; he thought it was a useful thing to be."

Bertie gave an expressive grunt, which conveyed his opinion that there was no accounting for tastes.

Now go read the whole thing. This is not even the best part.

Update: (6/24 11:20 PM)

I have reformatted the entire story for easier reading and uploaded it to this address. It seems to be out of copyright. I may add a few more favorite stories as I find the time.

If the curly brackets and long dashes come out wrong on anyone's browser, I would appreciate hearing about it. I would prefer to use the prettier typography throughout my site, but don't know whether it will work for all readers.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 23, 2002 10:20 PM

I assume that l923 reference was to the publication date, since Munro was killed in WWI. (And would it be possible for you to make your comments links function for Opera lovers? Or is it just me. I hate having to go to IE just to make a trivial comment like this one.)

Posted by: Kenneth Burke on June 24, 2002 12:12 AM

Yes, the publication is posthumous, as Munro was killed in action in 1916. This is actually the first story in the 1923 collection of the same name. I don't know when it was written. I'm thinking of formatting the whole thing and putting it on my site, along with a few other favorites.

As for Opera, I thought getting Movable Type would take care of the technical problems. In fact, there is at least one bug each in IE and Opera, not counting comments, and it doesn't work at all in Netscape 4.x (the right-hand column turns up below the left-hand one). I'm not sure I can fix it, though I'm trying to learn CSS, which may help. I'd go back to plain HTML except that I really like having the comment function, and I wouldn't be able to program that myself.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on June 24, 2002 01:06 AM

Monroe volunteered for military service in WWI, although he was a successful and popular writer, and well over age for service. He was killed by a sniper, while in the trenches: supposedly his last words were "Put out that bloody cigarette."

Posted by: JDH on June 24, 2002 03:46 PM

A John Stuart Mill doll? ROTFL. When are we going to hear about attempts to give tykes little Noam Chomsky dolls...

Comments on my site used to work in Opera 5. (I use MT.) I haven't used the program for a while because of all the css fiddling I've been doing and I need to upgrade that browser anyway.

Posted by: Andrea Harris on June 24, 2002 10:32 PM

Not quite the same thing, but Tim Blair recently linked to Portable Matthew, whose owner claims to produce Noam Chomsky voodoo dolls: "Hey Noam, remember that sudden back pain you felt while speaking at Berkeley last month? That was me, buddy. There's more to come."

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on June 25, 2002 11:59 AM

I have no problems with the long dashes, but the entire piece appears (to me, using IE6) to be written in Arial, a perfectly acceptable, but by no means exceptional, font.

Did you intend for us to see something different?

Posted by: timekeeper on June 25, 2002 09:53 PM

Thanks for the warning. I hadn't thought about the font, which comes out as Times New Roman on my monitor. I don't actually specify any font preferences in the file, so I think we're each seeing our default font. I'll be out of town for the next four days, but will fix it when I get back. I do think a nicely formatted 'reading text' of Saki would be worth having on the web. I also need to add the publication date -- not to mention his real name -- somewhere on the page.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on June 25, 2002 10:39 PM

I am a HK student. I am going to have an Eng Lit. exam. the syllabus covers this story, could you provide more notes on this stoy? by doing this, you will help all Hong Kong Eng Lit. students a lot! all of us will be grateful if you do this. thank you!

Posted by: kiki on November 29, 2002 06:19 AM