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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 2 (June 1, 1933)

Among The Books. — A Literary Page or Two

page 61

Among The Books.
A Literary Page or Two

I Can only infer from their literary judgments that our self appointed Court of N.Z. critics is, as an Irishman might say, intellectually, egregiously gregarious. With the secure knowledge that there is no Court of Appeal, these self appointed judges, promulgate from time to time, their disordered opinions. The trouble is that they have never heard evidence and are listened to credulously by such widely-quoted publications as the London “Bookman.” A few years ago the paper mentioned was the mouthpiece of a “literary authority,” who, summing up in learned judgment the outstanding writers of the Dominion, ignored the merits of at least a dozen of our literary stars. Fancy a “comprehensive study of N.Z. literature” passing over such names as James Cowan, Elsdon Best, Lindsay Buick, G. B. Lancaster, Fergus Hume, Dick Harris and others! Almost as if the Government Statistician were to omit from his Year Book the births, deaths and marriages summary. Such absurd omissions are common even in speakers and writers in our midst: totally unforgivable lapses when we find them aggravating the fault by casually mentioning (as a kind of charitable afterthought) such a genius as Eileen Duggan. Sad too, our finest poet, Dick Harris, is most frequently ignored.

* * *

The classic printing house of N.Z. is in Wingfield Street, Wellington. Its chief is Mr. Harry H. Tombs. It is no mercenary mind that produces so assiduously such classic publications as “Art in N.Z.” and “Music in N.Z.,” and occasional select little vols. of N.Z. poetry. Mr. Tombs will always be remembered as a literary and art prospector who has discovered rare and prodigious nuggets—that is, speaking in literary and not commercial values.

* * *

To have one's works selected for special honour by American literary organisations is a distinction having a certain publicity value. G. B. Lancaster (Miss Edith Lyttelton) therefore must derive some material pleasure from the fact that the Literary Guild of America “has chosen” her latest novel “Pageant,” and that one critic of the Land of the Note Spangled Banner, described the novel as “a corker.” The novel is being published in England by Allen and Unwin, and in Australia by the Endeavour Press.

* * *

The first edition market has flopped badly abroad, but it is gratifying to note from recent auction sales in this country that our small library of early historical writings still keeps to a fairly high level. Whereas a first edition of Galsworthy's “Forsyte Saga” recently sold in America at £11 (it sold in boom times as high as twenty or thirty pounds) we find many old N.Z. books retaining their normal value.

* * *

A few years ago when writing of an immortal tailor, to wit Tom Bohlson, the rolling basso of Wellington city, I referred to him as “being by no means the tenth part of a man, but, as the whole, with an extra part to spare for a possible future partner.” Discussing various aspects of literature with a friend recently, I was reminded strongly of Tom, who, with those of the Trade who have gone before him, has inspired two classics in the world of letters. George Meredith found his greatest literary inspiration in tailordom in “Evan Harrington” and I think I was justified in comparing Tom Bohlson to “Great Mel.” Secondly, without the maker of trousers, vest and coat, the world would never have given to it “Sartor Resartus.” Even the meanest will admit, therefore, that these two great works justify the existence of the superb gentry, to whom we are most persistently indebted. I have discovered also from our friend Tom, that, as there is poetry in motion, so there is the birth of a great poetry in the wielding of the tailors’ shears. No master conductor ever waved his baton with such noble results as does the real tailor his shears.

page 62

Mr. Bonamy Dobtree, literary critic and author of London is inquiring for unpublished information re Adam Lindsay Gordon as he is considering writing a life of the poet. There may be a literary enthusiast or two in this country who might help him.

* * *

I raise my hat to “Spilt Ink” and its indefatigable organisers, N. F. Hoggard and M. S. Nestor, who, in addition to running a most interesting cyclostyled monthly, have organised branches of the Spilt Ink Club in several parts of N.Z. Ken Alexander is president of the central Wellington body and the branches in other centres are working most enthusiastically.

* * *

Did You Know That—

A Club periodical is possible in Wellington. Incorporating the activities of several of the principle clubs in its pages, the suggested all embracing title is “The Ace of Clubs.” Mr. Alan Reeve, who published last year a clever book of Wellington caricatures, is now busy on another collection which he hopes to issue in a few months time.

* * *

Mr. W. J. Heslehurst, the advtg. will-o'-the-wisp of Australia and N.Z. was last heard of as publicity and entertainments manager of one of the intercolonial sound trip excursions. The life story of Bill Heslehurst, if it is ever secured by some enterprising publisher, may be worth a small fortune.

* * *

Mr. W. J. Kearney, for many years commercial editor of the Wellington “Dominion,” is editor of the new financial fortnightly “The Investors’ Journal.”

* * *

One of the meatiest Trade publications in the Dominion is “The Orchardist” edited by Mr. R. D. McCully—the man who has ‘eaved-out-adam in the making of mass eating of Dominion Mark Apples.