Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

The Romance of Trifles


During the fifties I occasionally lectured for mechanics' institutions and political societies, on three subjects particularly, which were respectively entitled "The Romance of Trifles," "Ways and Means," and "They who Rock the Cradle Rule the World." In the first-mentioned subject, which I refer to as a sample, I showed that big things were composed of little things ; that the mole-hill, the mountain, the globe, the solar system, and the starry universe consisted of a finite number of atoms; that the character and quality of the greatest things depended on the character and quality of their smallest component parts; that years, ages, and aeons were divisible into minutes; that as it was with material things and time, so with human life; that universal humanity-past, present, and to come-has been, and will be, made up of so many individuals, and the life of each individual is mainly built up of little things. The passing minute often governs succeeding minutes and hours. How desirable, then, that minutes, for their own sake and for that of their successors, should be well utilised! "Take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves." It may be said with equal propriety: Take care of the minutes, and the hours and days will take care of themselves." Selden says "Syllables govern the world." Trifles light as air not only carry on their wings the seeds of big consequences to individuals, but sometimes assist in giving a new direction to national life. It is recorded that during the early and unpopular days of Mahomet he had to fly from his pursuers, who threatened to take his life. In his flight he entered and found shelter in a narrow-mouthed cave, over which a spider, during the following night, spun its web. His pursuers the next morning, seeing the web, did not enter and search the cave. If they done so, and found Mahomet, the history and destiny of many Eastern nations might have been different to what they have been. It is also recorded that Oliver Cromwell, not liking the storm brewing condition of things in England preparatory to the Commonwealth, made preparations to join his emigrant friends in America. But a dream diverted his thoughts, altered his purpose, and induced him to stay in England. But for that dream, British history might have assumed a different aspect. It is also recorded that Christopher Columbus, after many unsuccessful efforts to get help to go and discover another continent which he felt sure existed on the other side of the world, was about to abandon the project in despair. One day, in one of his wanderings, he lost his way, and,. not knowing in what direction he should go, at last decided to follow the direction of a flying flock of birds. After a long walk he came to a monastery, where he found refuge and a friend in the father abbot, who gave him an introduction to Queen Isabella ofSpain. The Queen encouraged Columbus, championed his enterprise, and, it is said, went so far as to pawn her jewels to expedite his immortal voyage of discovery. Had the birds referred to been shot, or otherwise slaughtered, to gratify some sporting passion, the fate and fame of Columbus might have been different, and the condition and prospects of the Old World and the New World might not have undergone such rapid development.
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003