Short summary - The Napoleon of Notting Hill - Gilbert Keith Chesterton

British literature summaries -

Short summary - The Napoleon of Notting Hill
Gilbert Keith Chesterton

In our times, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the prophets are so divorced that, you see, you inadvertently fulfill someone’s prediction. Yes, just spit somewhere - and it turns out that you spit on the prophecy! Nevertheless, the majority of humanity, consisting of normal people who prefer to live their own minds (which the prophets have no idea about), will certainly be able to arrange themselves in such a way that all the prophets get their nose pulled. Well, what will London be like a hundred years later or, say, eighty?

In 1984, imagine, it turns out to be the same as it was. Nothing, in essence, has changed; the nation has become swampy and covered with duckweed. And the whole boring and gray world by that time was streamlined and was divided between the great powers. The last small independent state - the freedom-loving Nicaragua - has fallen, and the last rebellion - the Indian dervishes - has long been crushed. The British monarchy finally turned into an indifferent phenomenon for real life, and to emphasize this, its hereditary character was abolished and a system was introduced according to which the king was determined by lot in the alphabetical book.

And once, two tall gentlemen, in frock-coats, top hats, and perfect collars, were moving along a London street. These were respectable officials, about whom it can be said that they differed from each other only in that one of them, being a stupid person, was definitely a fool, but the second, very clever, could certainly be defined as an idiot, an idiot. So thinking, following them, a man named Oberon Queen - small, round, with owl eyes and a bouncing gait. The further course of his thoughts took a completely unexpected turn, as suddenly a vision opened up to him: the backs of his friends appeared with two dragon's muzzles with muddy button eyes on the straps. Long frocks of frock coats fluttered, dragons licked their lips. But the most striking thing was what was then determined in his mind: if so, then their carefully shaved, serious faces were nothing more than dragon-assed assaults raised to heaven!

In less than a few days, the one in whose head such discoveries were made became the king of England by lot. King Oberon set his goal to amuse himself to fame, and soon a happy thought dawned on him. A Magna Carta of Suburbs was proclaimed everywhere and loudly. According to this landmark document, all London areas were declared independent cities, with all duties, laws and privileges in line with medieval customs. North, South, West Kensington, Chelsea, Hammersmith, Bayswater, Notting Hill, Pamplico, Fulam and other areas received their Lord Mayors (elected, of course, by lot among citizens), coats of arms, mottos, heraldic colors and squads of city guards - halberdiers dressed in strictly seasoned national colors. Someone was annoyed, someone laughed, but, in general, London quirks took the quirks of the king for granted: after all, their philistine life continued along the mainstream.

Ten years have passed.

The Lord Mayors of most parts of West London turned out to be decent and businesslike people. But their carefully coordinated and mutual interests plan to lay a new highway convenient for the city met an obstacle. Adam Wayne, Lord Mayor of Notting Hill, did not agree to demolish the old buildings of Pumping Lane. At a meeting in the presence of King Oberon, the mayors offered Wayne a good fee, but the ardent Notting Hill patriot not only refused to sell Pumping Lane, but vowed to protect every inch of his sacred native land to the last drop of blood.

This man took everything seriously! He considers Notting Hill his homeland, entrusted to him by God and the Great Royal Charter. Neither good - reasonable mayors, nor the king himself (for whom such an attitude to his invention, although pleasant, but completely unexpected absurdity) can do nothing about this crazy. War is inevitable. And meanwhile Notting Hill is ready for war.

However, is it called a war? City guards will quickly clean up the rebellious Notting Hill. However, as they progressed along Portobello Road, Hammersmith's blue halberdiers and Bayswater's green protazanans were suddenly attacked by the Nottinghills dressed in bright scarlet mantles. The enemy acted from the lanes on both sides of the street and utterly defeated the superior forces of sane mayors.

Then Mr. Buck, the Lord Mayor of North Kensington, a successful businessman, more than anyone else interested in laying a highway, took over the command of the new combined army of citizens, four times the strength of Notting Hill. This time the evening offensive was provided by prudent blocking of all the lanes. The mousetrap slammed shut. Troops cautiously advanced towards Pumping Lane - the center of lawless resistance. But suddenly all the light disappeared - all the gas lights went out. Out of the darkness, the Nottinghills fell upon them violently, able to shut off the city gas station. The Allied warriors fell as if mowed, a clang of weapons and shouts rang out: «Notting Hill! Notting Hill! »

The next morning, however, the businesslike Mr. Buck pulled up reinforcements, the siege continued. The indomitable Adam Wayne and his experienced General Tarnbull (a toy merchant in peacetime who loved to play the battles of tin soldiers on his desk) staged a horse sortie (they succeeded because they harnessed the horses from the cabs prudently ordered the day before in different parts of London). The brave men, led by Wayne himself, made their way to the water tower, but were surrounded there. The battle was in full swing. From all sides crowds of warriors pressed in the colorful robes of guards from various London suburbs, banners with golden birds fluttered over West Kensington, with Hammersmith’s silver hammer, Bayswater’s golden eagle, and Chelsea’s emerald fish. But the proud scarlet banner of Notting Hill with a golden lion did not bow in the arms of the mighty hero Adam Wayne. Blood poured down the drains of the streets, corpses cluttered the intersections. But in spite of everything, the Nottinghills, having occupied the water tower, continued fierce resistance.

Obviously, however, their situation was hopeless, because Mr. Buck, once again showing his best business qualities and remarkable talent as a diplomat, gathered warriors from all areas of South and West London under his banner. A myriad of troops slowly pulled toward Pumping Lane, filling the streets and squares. Incidentally, King Oberon was also in his ranks, who took an unusually active part in the events as a war correspondent, delivering very enthusiastic and colorful, though not always accurate reports to the «Court Herald». His Majesty was thus lucky to witness the historical scene: in response to a decisive and final offer to surrender, Adam Wayne calmly replied that he himself demanded that his opponents immediately lay down their arms, otherwise, it will blow up a water tower and furious streams of water will pour on South and West London. Terrified eyes turned to Mr. Baku. And the businessman-leader bowed his sane head, recognizing the unconditional victory of Notting Hill.

Another twenty years passed. And London in 2014 was already a completely different city. He truly was amazing. Colorful clothes, noble fabrics, battlements, beautifully decorated buildings, the nobility of speeches and the posture of the glorious townspeople were pleasing to the eye, dignified barons, skillful artisans, wise warlocks and monks made up the population of the city. Majestic monuments marked the places of past battles for Pumping Lane and the Water Tower, colorful legends set forth the heroic deeds of the Nottinghills and their opponents. But ... twenty years is enough for the inspired ideas of national independence to turn into the dying standards of imperial thinking, and the freedom fighters to become desperate despots.


The suburbs reunite against the tyranny of the mighty Notting Hill. Once again, Kings Road, Portabello Road, Piccadilly and Pumping Lane are stained with blood. In the apocalyptic battle, Adam Wayne and King Oberon, who fought with him shoulder to shoulder, die, almost all participants in the legendary events also die. The history of Notting Hill ends, and for unprecedented new times, unknown new times come.

In the silence and foggy dawn of Kensington Gardens, two voices sound, both real and long, at once alien and inseparable from life. These are the voices of a mocker and fanatic, the voices of a clown and a hero, Oberon Quinn and Adam Wayne. "Wayne, I was just joking." «Quinn, I just believed.» «We are the beginning and end of great events.» «We are the father and mother of the Charter of the Suburbs.»

Taunt and love are inseparable. Eternal man, equal to himself, is power over us, and we, geniuses, prostrate ourselves before him. Our Notting Hill was pleasing to the Lord, as he pleased everything genuine and unique. We presented today's cities with that poetry of everyday life, without which life loses itself. And now we are leaving together in unknowable lands.