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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

[miscellaneous paragraphs]

Is General Gordon dead? The direct evidence of the alleged fact seems to increase the doubt. Two Europeans only have professed to be eye-witnesses—one a Greek, and the other—whose statement has just appeared—a German. Both narratives are circumstantial, and are irreconcilable.

A good deal appears in our home contemporaries about the new American « linotype » or Mergenthaler type-casting machine, which is at some future date to supersede movable types altogether. The compositor need not fear. Practical printers, without exception, refuse to touch the speculation. The machine, we may explain, dispenses altogether with type in the ordinary sense of the word. The line is set in matrices, under the eye of the operator; they are automatically justified, and the matter is cast line by line. There are some exceedingly beautiful mechanical contrivances in the machine, and one of these is the simple method of obtaining uniform justification, which can never be attained by hand. As the words are set a double space consisting of two wedges sliding upon each other is placed between. When the line is complete these wedges are knocked up tight, thus exactly equalising the space between the words. But the work bears no comparison with ordinary printing. The letters are not so sharp, they line badly, and they are uneven in height to paper. The boasted speed of the machine is to a large extent mythical. Correcting is impossible—the omission or doubling of a letter involves the recomposition of the line, and an out or double the re-composition of the rest of the paragraph. There is no steady running on the machine—it is always being stopped for one cause or another; and the wear and tear of the matrices is such that their renewal will be a continual source of expense.

Two gifted hymn-writers of the Catholic Church have just passed away. The Rev. Horatius Bonar, d.d., « one of the pillars of the Church of Scotland, » whose ministerial jubilee was celebrated in November, 1887, has closed his earthly career. His writings on prophetic themes are dead, but he has left the world a goodly heritage of many beautiful hymns, some of which are found in every modern collection. A hymnal published some twenty years ago by Nisbet (Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship), and which is probably the finest and most representative collection in the English language, out of 521 hymns, contains the large number of fifty by Dr. Bonar. His poetical writings have been collected in a work entitled Lyra Consolationis, and in three little volumes under the title of « Hymns of Faith and Hope. » The following are lines from one of his less-known hymns, entitled « Far Better: »

O safe in port, where the rough billow breaks not,
Where the wild sea-moan saddens thee no more;
Where the remorseless stroke of tempest shakes not—
When, when shall I too gain that tranquil shore!

O freed from fetters of this lonely prison,
How shall I greet thee in that day
of days When he who died—yea, rather, who is risen—
Shall these frail forms from dust and darkness raise?

—The other writer, Sir E. Denny, Bart., of Tralee Castle, was less known, and was a less prolific writer, but he has given to the world some of the most beautiful hymns of the present century. We may name « Bright with all his crowns of glory, » « Hope of our hearts, 0 Lord appear, » « Light of the lonely pilgrim's heart, » and « Oh what a lonely path were ours. » Like Bonar, he wrote largely and unprofitably on prophetic and millennial subjects. He lived to the great age of 92. According to the newspapers, though his income was £13,000 a year, he passed the greater part of his life in a dingy cottage in Islington, in the most penurious style, the whole of his money except such as was devoted to poor relations being spent among the Plymouth brethren, one sect of which body acknowledged him as teacher.—Another name associated with English hymnology also appears in the obituaries—that of C. H. Bateman, who recently died at Carlisle, in his 77th year. We do not know that Mr Bateman was the author of any hymns, but in conjunction with Mr Inglis the publisher he compiled a Sabbath School hymnal which had a sale of some millions, and held its ground until Ira D. Sankey, the musical Yankee, corrupted the popular taste with his songs, and put all the good old hymn-books out of fashion.

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Writing on students' blunders, a correspondent of the Spectator gives a genuine and very ingenious instance of mistranslation. « Sallust says in his Catiline, that while some men can be corrupted only by great bribes, others succumb to small temptation: Multi in parva pecunia perspiciunter quam sint leves. The translation, 'Many men, when short of money, perceive of how little consequence they are,' is eminently true to fact, and not very far from a possible rendering of the Latin. I conceive that I was right in giving this young moralist a mark for the maxim which he so cleverly fathered on the historian."

We somewhat prematurely wrote of the new Libel Bill as having « passed both Houses. » It had passed the House of Representatives (except the third reading), and had passed the ordeal of the Legislative Council. But the House, towards the close of the session, was so engrossed in resisting the audacious attempt of the Supreme Court to attach an impecunious member's « honorariums » for a just debt which he was either unable or unwilling to pay, that the Libel Bill and several other measures of public importance were allowed to lapse, through mere neglect of matters of form. Had the Libel Bill become law, it would have effectually stopped more than one frivolous and vexatious suit now pending.

A New Zealand printer who has tried his luck in Sydney and has made up his mind to return, gives a gloomy account of the state of the printing trade in the New South Wales capital. Writing under date 7th September, he says « it is in a most stagnant condition—ten times worse than in New Zealand. There is a large number of compositors out of work in Sydney, and when the Parliamentary session concludes it is said that at least sixty more will be thrown out of employment. I came over a week ago in search of work, but there is not the slightest prospect of getting it. A big printing company, on the co-operative principle, with a capital of £25,000, is about to start business in the suburbs, and expects to be at work in about a fortnight."

An old-fashioned practice to which all newspapers adhere is that of publishing a useless and troublesome consecutive number. We are quite safe in saying that there is not a colonial paper where that number reaches four figures that has it correct. We have known a daily make three mistakes in one week in the figures—one was only a thousand ahead, after which the count went on as usual. Some papers begin again with « No 1 » every year, reducing the chance of error—but what is the use of knowing that a given number is, say, the 21st of a given volume? The consecutive number is only appropriate to a monthly magazine, or quarterly review. We have been led to this line of thought by a country contemporary, now in its thirteenth year. For some years it appeared weekly, it is now a semi-weekly, and it has reached « No. 11,750 » !

A theological crank, lecturing on « the beast, » extracts the mystic number 666 from Vicarivs Filii Dei. Whereupon a society paper up north displays its stupendous ignorance thus: « If he placed the numerals in a row, as anyone but a Chinaman would do, he would make the number amount to the respectable figure of 5,110,015,150,115,001. Mr —— also makes U do duty for V. » Can this ingenious critic read a clock-dial? According to his notation, VIII represents 5111, and XII is equal to 1011, while the familiar anno domini on a title-page would run to hundreds of quadrillions. As to U and J, not only are they unknown in Latin, but they have not yet attained full recognition in English. The alphabet, in schoolbooks less than fifty years old, is said to consist of 24 letters, as the printer's alphabet does still. He treats these two letters as extra sorts, and to this day arranges his types « X Y Z Æ Œ U J. » And in Old English founts he has to dispense with them altogether.

Printers will naturally like to know how their fellow-craftsmen fared in the great Pennsylvania floods. The Printer's Circular says: « In Johnstown, the three principal newspaper establishments—the Tribune, Democrat, and Freie Presse—escaped with little loss; but the proprietor of the latter, C. T. Schubert, was one of the unfortunates who were swept away and drowned. His widow, however, has resumed the publication of the paper, and has the best wishes of all for success in her brave undertaking. The Herald Publishing Company lost its entire office—newspaper and job—the building and contents having been washed away. The Democrat office, located in the second story of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad depot, escaped injury, except that a floating car struck and carried away a corner of the building, and with it a Gordon job press that happened to be placed in that angle of the room. One of the Barclay Brothers, of the Altoona Sun, made a narrow escape. He was visiting in Johnstown, and was carried away with the building he was in, but reached the roof as it floated off, and made his way to the shore by clambering over the other houses that had lodged in the eddy.

The Customs authorities, finding that they had gone too far in the circular referred to in our last number, have issued one dated 3rd September, which in effect cancels it altogether. The new manifesto sets forth that « Post-entries may be accepted as usual in all cases of merely clerical errors or obvious mistakes discoverable on the face of an entry …. Importers and agents …. have nothing to fear so long as ordinary care is taken in correctly making out entries, and whenever in doubt about an article, the marking of the words 'for examination' against it on the entry will be sufficient protection. »

All readers of fiction will regret to hear of the death of Mr Wilkie Collins, one of the most original and popular novelists of the Victorian era. Mr Collins, who was born in January, 1824, had been in failing health for some time past, but the later telegrams had recorded an improvement. He was not only a novelist, but a sucessful dramatist, and his stories, of which the most popular is The Woman in White, are marked more by skilful plot and dramatic situations than by portrayal of character. One of his stories, Armadale, has, we believe been oftener reprinted in New Zealand weeklies than any other serial. Collins was a friend of Dickens; and was often associated with him in literary work; but there is a well-marked difference in the work of the two writers. A story by Wilkie Collins is now current in the Illustrated London News, and the author's admirers will be glad to know that the MS. is complete.

One by one the noted writers who flourished in the early Victorian era are passing away, and few now remain. The latest to join the majority has been the kindly poet Eliza Cook, a prolific and at one time exceedingly popular author. Her verses appeared in many periodicals, and her contributions for a long time formed a regular and highly-prized feature of the radical weekly Dispatch. Her first volume of verses appeared in 1840, and had a large sale. From 1849 to 1854 she published Eliza Cook's Journal, a literary weekly, which failing health obliged her to discontinue. Her poetry, while not distinguished by brilliant genius, was simple and unaffected, and her themes were of common and domestic interest, and appealing to that spirit of English patriotism, the outcome of storm and struggle, which of late years has become somewhat rare. Some of her lyrics—such as « There's a land that bears a world-known name, » « I'm afloat, » set to music and sung by the gifted Henry Russell, are universally known, and have secured a permanent place in English song. The four Uncle Tom's Cabin songs were once immensely popular, but do not possess the same quality of permanence. Many of her verses are as homely as anything in « John Ploughman's Talk, » and she had, like Spurgeon, the faculty of clothing her thoughts in language that all might comprehend. As for instance, in her song « The Happy Mind: »

Out upon the calf, I say,
Who turns his grumbling head away
And quarrels with his feed of hay
Because it is not clover!
Give to me the happy mind
That will ever seek and find
Something fair and something kind,
All the wide world over!

In her lines to the memory of W. Jerdan, she reveals the secret of her power:

If my poor harp has ever poured
A tone that truth alone can give,
Thou wert the one who helped that tone
To win the echo that shall live.
For thou did'st bid me shun the theme
Of morbid grief or feigned delight;
Thou bad'st me think and feel; not dream,
And « look into my heart and write. »

A beautifully-finished and simple poem of three stanzas entitled « The Village Church, » is to our mind, one of her finest pieces of work. In her memorial lines to Cobden and Thomas Hood, and her stirring verses of welcome to Garibaldi, she touched the heart of the English nation, and embodied its feelings in worthy form. English to the core, she tried her skill in both Scottish and Irish songs, and with considerable success. Among the latter is the popular « Norah McShane, » which win bear comparison with anything of the kind written by a native. She attempted one long poem and one only, and appears to have realized that it was not a success. Her strength lay in her shorter pieces. As might be supposed, she wrote well for children, and « King Bruce and the Spider » is in every school reading book. Her collected works till a large-sized volume, now little read, as the fashion in poetry, in patriotism, and even in the old English home-feeling, has changed somewhat in the past twenty-five or thirty years. For a long time past she had abandoned active work, suffering greatly from neuralgia, and living in close retirement at Wimbledon. She had passed the limit of three-score years and ten, and though she is practically unknown to the younger generation, the name of the author of « The Old Arm-Chair » will ever stand upon the splendid roll of English poets.

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