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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 10 (February 1, 1934)

Among The Books. — A Literary Page or Two

page 62

Among The Books.
A Literary Page or Two

Browsing in a second-hand bookshop the other day I made another interesting addition to my collection of first numbers, in the initial issue of ‘“The Huia,” a New Zealand annual which made its appearance twenty-two years ago. Whether “The Huia” received a sufficiently encouraging reception to bring out a second issue I know not. The goods were there all right, but the window-dressing was dolorous, the make-up being painfully amateurish, and in the eighty-two pages never a picture was to be found.

But what he lacked in expert salesmanship, the editor, one Edward Kempe, made up in the quality of the wares presented. Kempe was evidently a good picker, for every name in the table of contents was destined to be well-known throughout New Zealand in later years. Just a few of the contributors:—G. B. Lancaster (now a prosperous novelist), Johannes C. Anderson (Librarian of the Turnbull Library and author of several works on New Zealand), Will Lawson (our nomadic poet), Alan E. Mulgan (playwright and man of letters, now on the Auckland “Star”), Miss Jessie Mackay (one of our best-known lady poets), and Miss Alice A. Kenny. Quite an imposing selection for such an unpretentious little journal as “The Huia.”

The editor's foreword is sadly interesting: “We believe” (he wrote) “that ‘The Huia’ will help to alter the popular opinion that local talent is not worth considering. As things are at present, the writer of promise in the Australasian colonies only waits his chance to migrate to the market of the world, there to be swallowed up in the host of talented men and women who feed the London press. His few distinctive notes are lost in the tumult of voices, and his native country is the poorer.”

Alas, Mr. Kempe, you wrote these lines some thirty years ago, and “public opinion” in New Zealand is still the same. And so it will remain until New Zealand editors give greater and more material encouragement to our own writers and artists.

One of the most interesting book printing jobs ever turned out in New Zealand was done by the “N.Z. Times” Office in 1908, when it produced Frank Morton's “Laughter and Tears.” One thousand and twenty-five copies were printed, quite a big figure for a book of poems in those days. In addition, 125 numbered copies were printed on special paper, each signed by the author. Although twenty-five years of progress have followed the production of the book, we can look at the work now and admit that the “Times” people made a wonderfully fine job of it. My copy is inscribed by Frank Morton to the late Dick Harris as “a slight token of appreciation and cordial comradeship.”

* * *

Writing to me recently, regretting the non-publication of the “New Zealand Artists’ Annual” this year, a leading New Zealand art critic observed: “They say that people never value a thing till they are deprived of it. I think the publication of the ‘Annual’ next year will bring a reaction in its favour.”

* * *

Discussing art in general, the same writer goes on to say: “One thing is striking and that is the number of leading Australian artists who have come from New Zealand—Elioth Gruner, Roland Wakelin, Charles Wheeler, Albert Collins, Maud Sherwood, Robert Johnston, H. Septimus Power, George Finey, Ellis, Unk White and so on. Low was one of the big cartoonists on the ‘Bulletin’ and there must be several others.”

* * *

A sweet simplicity and a deep love for Nature are revealed by Miss F. D. Chepmell in the booklet of verses recently published by South's Book Depot, Wellington, under the title of “Songs of the Unseen.” A charming little gift book.

* * *

Some time ago I mentioned the possibility of a branch of the famous P.E.N. Club being formed in New Zealand. A preliminary meeting in this respect will probably be called in the near future.

page 63

Another Annual recently made its first appearance in the “New Zealand Radio Record Annual.” Brightly written and illustrated, it has a general appeal, and is not solely designed for radio fans. It was encouraging to note the number of stories, poems and articles from New Zealand writers—all paid for, too!

* * *

That well-known Sydney publishing house, Messrs. Angus and Robertson Ltd., have of late been specialising in children's gift books. Two charming examples reached me recently. “A Bunch of Wild Flowers” is both written and illustrated by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. The spirit of the child rambling through the fields and murmuring sweet little poems to those rare flowers of Nature's own garden, has materialised in this book like a daisy chain built by the fairies themselves. If I were a millionaire I would give a copy of this book to every child in New Zealand. And now to be mathematical. There are twenty-one poems in the book, four beautiful plates in colour, nineteen full page drawings and other illustrations, and the price is only 4/6.

* * *

The other book is just as delightful. A story this time, “Blinky Bill the Quaint Little Australian.” Blinky is an Australian bear, and the authoress, Dorothy Wall, tells in a captivating manner all his wonderful adventures. Being an artist as well as a writer, Miss Wall gives us the real pictorial aspect of her story, in many delightful illustrations in colour and black and white. This book is also moderately priced at 4/6.

* * *

I heard a good yarn the other day about a bookseller's representative who called on an up-country farmer.

“Do your children go to school?”

“Yairs,” said the cocky.

“Well, you should buy them an encyclopaedia.”

“Danged if I will,” said McMutton. “Just let ‘em pad the hoof, like their dad did afore them.”

* * *

S. G. August, of Invercargill, is one of the keenest literary enthusiasts in New Zealand. When he is not busy with a growing business in books, old and new (Sam is a keen first edition enthusiast), he is either writing poems or articles on spurring on literary endeavour in other directions. His verses, written under the pen name of “Southerner,” are well known, and certainly many of them deserve to be preserved ‘tween covers. Several years ago his Stewart Island verses appeared, and now we have his “Oreti Anthology,” being the best of his poems published in the “Southland Times.” The author's facility in verse is demonstrated in a wide range of subjects—from compositors to kingfishers. Living so close to Stewart Island, “Southerner” should, under the right inspiration, give to the world one of these days another book, “Odes to an Oyster.”

* * *


“For Those That Love It,” by Myrtle White (Angus and Robertson, Sydney). The title of this fine novel of Australian station life is inspired by Banjo Paterson's lines:

For those that love it and understand The salt bush plain is a wonderland.

Mrs. White “understands.” She proved it in her earlier novels, notably “Sheepmates,” and now we have her engrossing story of “Tarra-watta,” and the romance and adventure it held for those who lived on the Darling Station. Price 6/-.

* * *

“Pat of Silver Bush,” by L. M. Montgomery (Angus and Robertson, Sydney). It is claimed that over two million of the Montgomery books (“Anne of Green Gables,” “Anne of Avonlea,” etc.) have been sold. This story of Pat should add further to this substantial total. It is a story of youth and romance on Prince Edward Island. Price 6/-.

* * *

Shibli Listens In.

Robert Desmond Tate, the author of the recently published Australian novel, “The Dough-man” (Endeavour Press, Sydney) was educated in New Zealand.

William Moore, the well-known art critic, is publishing shortly his “Story of Australian Art,” in two sumptuous volumes (edition 1000, subscription £2 2s.). The author's wife is Dora Wilcox, the well-known New Zealand poetess.

Amusing to read in the papers letters from amateur financiers and reformers embodying wild schemes to cure depression. Some of these effusions would make a cat laugh. One Auckland correspondent proposes a further tax on cigarettes of 2d. per packet, and a similar additional tax on tobacco. Smokers objecting are counselled to smoke less so that the increased prices of tobacco won't matter to them! This genius ought to be made Finance Minister right away! It is a fatuous idea. Surely it should be obvious that any further taxation of tobacco must result in a largely lessened demand, with a corresponding drop in customs’ revenue—to say nothing of the inevitable increase of unemployment occasioned by the decreased production of tobacco. Smoking is not necessary, argues this correspondent. Isn't it? Pure, soothing, and nerve-calming tobacco, such as Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog), Cavendish, River-head Gold, and Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead), are more necessary than ever just now. Practically free from nicotine they are a boon and a blessing unspeakable when times are hard and things go wrong.