Then I suddenly stood up and roared with laughter, again and again, so that the cows stared at me and called a committee. Imagine a man in the Sahara regretting that he had no sand for his hour-glass. Imagine a gentleman in mid-ocean wishing that he had brought some salt water with him for his chemical experiments. I was sitting on an immense warehouse of white chalk. The landscape was made entirely out of white chalk. White chalk was piled more miles until it met the sky. I stooped and broke a piece off the rock I sat on; it did not mark so well as the shop chalks do; but it gave the effect. And I stood there in a trance of pleasure, realising that this Southern England is not only a grand peninsula, and a tradition and a civilisation; it is something even more admirable. It is a piece of chalk.
From this paragraph we get to see that Chesterton tried to have a balanced view of not only himself, but mankind in general. We say: “he didn’t take himself too seriously” and we mean that in a positive way about humility. The “something more even more admirable” about Chesterton is that he makes the jaw dropping discoveries of life through many of his essays because of that humility. That is one of the small gems we learn about Chesterton from his essay “A Piece of Chalk” from Tremendous Trifles.
There are central facets to the character of Chesterton that remain delightfully the same. He repeats them in various essays throughout Tremendous Trifles enough that it leads into the pleasurable deceit of thinking we know him. For instance, in “A Piece of Chalk” he foreshadows a later essay: “What I Found in My Pocket” (Also Tremendous Trifles) where in both he talks about his pocket contents one summer morning in the one essay and talks about them again one rainy evening on a train in another. If we were to meet him today, curious about what he had in his pockets, we know from his own admission that he would be just as curious to know as we, and that we would both likely find a pocket knife, matches, and a piece of chalk in them. What we wouldn’t find would be his train ticket.
We hope to discuss and compare more of Chesterton’s Tremendous Trifle essays in future as we get to know this very admirable man.