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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 4 (July 2, 1934.)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 37

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

Writing to me recently from Sydney, a well-known literary and art critic observed that “a miracle had happened in Australia,” people were not only talking Australian books but were buying them. Certainly there have been remarkable developments in the publishing world. The number of books published is surprising. The standard, too, is high. A small indication is in my review section. Here I refer to four new Australian volumes, at least three of which are really outstanding. It is great comfort for Australian writers, and for New Zealand writers also, for the publishing houses over the Tasman are keen to have anything that is marketable. One of the greatest successes has been “Pageant,” by G. B. Lancaster. Although only published last year the Australian and New Zealand sales have run into thousands.

Quentin Pope has the honour of having inspired the title of one of the latest of these Australian books, “Blue North,” by H. Drake-Brockman (Endeavour Press, Sydney). The thought is in these lines, written by Pope some years ago:

There's blood in me'd be leaping
Across the sea's salt plain,
Would churn the waves to tropic wakes
And see the blue north again!

“Blue North” is a striking romance of the West Australian pearling grounds. The sort of novel that you feel you want to finish in one sitting.

Some of the most artistic printing I have seen, either in Australia or New Zealand, has come from a recently established printing company in Auckland, The Griffin Press. The presiding genius is a young University student named Ronald Holloway. He is a real craftsman. A sample of his work reached me recently in a chastely printed booklet entitled “Modern Poetry and the Ideal.” This is the last of a series of eight broadcast lectures on the subject given by Mr. W. D'A. Cresswell from 1Ya, Auckland. Mr. Cresswell laments what he describes as the downward trend of English poetry. He claims that when the boy Tennyson carved on a tree the words “Byron is dead” he might as well have gone on to say “so is man, so is the ideal; long live the machine.”

Under the auspices of the Council Against War, Margaret Macpherson, the well known New Zealand writer and lecturer, is acting as honorary editor and producer of “A Golden Book of Peace,” which is to be compiled and issued on a national scale. One thousand well known New Zealanders are being approached to give their favourite quotation bearing on the question of peace and war. George Bernard Shaw will be among the contributors.

An interesting literary find was made by Newbold's, the big Dunedin second-hand bookshop, recently. It is a book published about 1782 under the title of “The Trial of Lord George Gordon for High Treason at the Bar of the Court of King's Bench” (Monday, Feb. 5th, 1781). Who has not read Barnaby Rudge? Here is the sequel to the Gordon Riots, in which the prisoner at the bar was acquitted, thanks to Erskine's brilliant defence, by a jury consisting chiefly, to judge by the appended panel list in the book, of vintners and brewers. For some reason the prisoner or the Crown appear to have challenged any other trades. This book is a find because, after Lord George's second arrest, the Government of the day banned the book, and hunted up such copies as they could find and destroyed them. Poor Gordon—to finish in the madhouse—and the record of his misfortune to lie on the shelf of a New Zealand bookseller!

Several pleasant surprises have come the way of writers represented in Dent's anthology of New Zealand short stories. Republication rights have been sought by papers in England, America and the Continent, and in due course payment has come to the writers concerned through the compiler of the anthology, Mr. O. N. Gillespie. I do not know of any New Zealand anthology that has attracted so much interest as the one under notice.

I always look forward to the annual Capping Book or Sketcher of the Otago University. The 1934 issue just to hand is one of the best on record. The clever coloured cover design is by Russell Clark, who is also represented in the book with black and white work of high standard. Another Dunedin artist, Gordon McIntyre, who is usually the mainstay of the “Sketcher,” contributes only two or three drawings to the latest issue, but it is the best and most finished work I have seen from his pen. The letterpress is immensely clever. Most of the advertisements are written in humorous vein, giving the whole publication a hundred per cent. reading value.

It was certainly a brilliant idea to publish in booklet form the newspaper utterances of George Bernard Shaw, following on his New Zealand visit. I understand that the book has already run into a second edition. No Shavian enthusiast at home or abroad would be without this interesting record.

An artistic bookplate design by Stuart Peterson.

An artistic bookplate design by Stuart Peterson.

page 38

Miss Mary Blair, of Gisborne, reports brisk sales for her waltz song “Lilac, the Night and You.” The song has been presented by the Southern Song Service.

When I wrote a paragraph in last months issue announcing the fact that the “New Zealand Artists' Annual” would be published this year, there were definite indications in this respect. However, subsequent developments have postponed the reappearance of this journal until next year. It is not an unusual thing for an annual such as this to discontinue publication for a year or two. I might instance the case of “Printers Pie,” which has suspended publication for many years and is to reappear again shortly.

I was not aware until the other day that Anthony Trollope wrote, in 1873, a book entitled “Australia and New Zealand.” I have not seen it quoted in any catalogue or included in any of our book auction sales.

Further indication of the rapid development in the art of the book plate in New Zealand was furnished at the annual meeting of the New Zealand Ex Libris Society recently. The president, Mr. Johannes C. Andersen, stated that the year had shewn marked activity in book plate production, quite a number of new and striking designs being completed. Outstanding artists in this respect are Russell Clark, of Dunedin, Miss Hilda Wiseman, of Auckland, Leo Bensemann, of Christchurch, and M. Matthews, of Wellington. The total number of New Zealand plates designed to date is nearly 300.

“Priestly, who wrote 'The Good Companions,' can enthuse about his latika, and J. M. Barrie rave about his wonderful 'mixture,”' said an old smoker at a little social gathering (men only) at Auckland the other night, “but give me Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog)! Yes, it's New Zealand, and toasted New Zealand at that! Been smoking it for a dozen years, and never smoke anything else. It's unique! The flavour fascinates, the aroma captivates! It's as soothing as the recovery of a bad debt! Joking apart, when you start a pipe of Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog) (a blend of extra choice leaf, and of medium strength), you don't want to put your pipe down! There's pleasure in every whiff!” This enthusiast didn't mention the other toasted brands: Riverhead Gold, Cavendish, and Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead) but they are equally good. They are all toasted, and all comparatively free of nicotine. That makes them safe to smoke, even if you smoke them to excess. You can't buy any other toasted tobaccos, because none is manufactured.*

I was anxious to secure biographical details of a well known Australian, so repaired to the Wellington Public Library. The only Australian “Who's Who” they had was dated 1929! The name I sought was not in it. I only hope that this lack of interest is not reciprocal on the other side of the Tasman.