Chesterton famously said in his essay The Diabolist that “there is one real difference between men and women; that women prefer to talk in twos, while men prefer to talk in threes.” I’m not sure I agree with this, but everyone seems to think this is some profound insight. It’s about as scientific as the stupid expression that people die “in threes”. Yeah, you can count them 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, if you want. Wow. Profound numerology.
I do like the longer paragraph though from which the quote is taken: “I value that time [at an art school], in short, because it made me acquainted with a good representative number of blackguards. In this connection there are two very curious things which the critic of human life may observe. The first is the fact that there is one real difference between men and women; that women prefer to talk in twos, while men prefer to talk in threes. The second is that when you find (as you often do) three young cads and idiots going about together and getting drunk together every day you generally find that one of the three cads and idiots is (for some extraordinary reason) not a cad and not an idiot. In these small groups devoted to a drivelling dissipation there is almost always one man who seems to have condescended to his company; one man who, while he can talk a foul triviality with his fellows, can also talk politics with a Socialist, or philosophy with a Catholic.”
I confess I don’t quite undestand the ending of this essay. Would someone please explain it to me. To what was it he referred in the closing line: “God help him, I know the road he went; but I have never known, or even dared to think, what was that place at which he stopped and refrained.” What was the road he went? What was the place at which the Diabolist stopped and refrained?
This why I hate poetry, and dislike lots of English prose. Meandering, vague, faux-deep, hide the ball all the time. Just SAY IT!