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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 8 (November 1, 1935)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 51

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

For years past I have been collecting old New Zealand magazines, preferably No. 1, Vol. 1. I am told I have one of the best collections in the Dominion. Many more of these publications have to come my way, however, before my collection is complete. I think, therefore, I may interest my readers if, from time to time, I refer to the more interesting of these periodicals. My selection for this issue is that fine old magazine of many years ago, “The New Zealand Illustrated Magazine,” the first number of which appeared at the latter end of the 'nineties. Let us peep into Vol. 2, No. 4. The feature item is the winning story in the New Zealand Literary and Historical Association's Competition. Miss Edith Lyttelton is the unanimous selection of the judges out of eighty-six competing stories. Her pen name then was “Keron Hale.” To-day she is known throughout the world as “G. B. Lancaster.” We come to the interesting personal feature, “In the Public Eye,” where we see a laudatory reference to the Hon. W. P. Reeves, “the best Agent-General New Zealand has ever had”; a stressing of the “love of country” of “that able politician, the Hon. Mr. J. G. Ward”; a reference to the fact that “Mr. Alfred Paterson, otherwise ‘Banjo,’ war correspondent and poet, has just completed a successful New Zealand lecturing trip”; congratulations offered to “Editor W. K. Triggs, who has broken the record for penny papers in New Zealand with the Jubilee number of the Christchurch ‘Press.’ It contains twenty-four pages.” Passing over a few articles of general interest we reach a further instalment of a serial by “Alien,” “Another Woman's Territory.” Part 2 of “Australian Poets and Their Works,” by Edith G. Woolcott, is an interesting survey of the great verse writers of the Commonwealth of that period. Those were the days when Henry Lawson, Victor Daley, Will Ogilvie, “Banjo,” Barcroft Boake and others were singing in all the glory of youth on the slopes of Parnassus.

I could go on for pages commenting on this one issue, but space, and conceivably the patience of my readers, would not allow. I will return to my subject with another old-time magazine at a later date.

* * *

The thought arises: How is it that, to-day, New Zealand cannot or will not, support a magazine of the style (modernised, of course) of the one I have quoted? The only real literary magazine in the Dominion to-day is the one I am writing for. Possibly New Zealand Authors' Week activities may make our reading—and advertising—public sufficiently literary-minded to lend the necessary support to such an undertaking.

* * *

“The New Zealand Journalist,” the official journal of the New Zealand Journalists' Association, is developing into a sturdy child. The ninth issue, recently published, is full of excellent copy. Of course this is only natural, for is not the presentation of readable matter the duty of every ink slinger?

* * *

The New Zealand Authors' Week organisation continues to move along on the well-oiled wheels of excellent organisation. Keen interest has been aroused from North Cape to the Bluff. The public is already rubbing its eyes and awakening to the fact that such an animal as a New Zealand author does exist.

Here is a book-plate designed by a 15-year-old reader of the “Railways Magazine.” “I love drawing birds and flowers,” he states in a letter to “Shibli.” “I have a negative of the drawing and whenever I want a book-plate I print them from the negative myself.”

Here is a book-plate designed by a 15-year-old reader of the “Railways Magazine.” “I love drawing birds and flowers,” he states in a letter to “Shibli.” “I have a negative of the drawing and whenever I want a book-plate I print them from the negative myself.”

* * *

It is for such publications as “Art in New Zealand,” as well as for New Zealand books in general, that New Zealand Authors' Week must do a power of good. The attention of our reading public must be focussed on the strong-hearted endeavour of this classic quarterly. The latest issue to hand celebrates the entrance to its eighth year of being. Of the struggle for existence only the editor and publisher can tell, and they have won through without any lowering of the high artistic worth of the magazine. What a sad reflection on the appreciativeness of the artistic public of the Dominion to know that only once in its seven years of existence has “Art in New Zealand” shown a balance on the right side, and that of £6!

Two beautiful colour plates and eleven full-page illustrations in black and white complete the art side of the latest issue. The literary section is representative of the work of several of our leading writers. My copy comes from the publisher, Harry H. Tombs, of Wellington.

* * *

If there is one thing that annoys me it is the habit of some New Zealand publishers of failing to print the title of a book on its back, or, to be technical, the spine of the book. Sometimes they aggravate the offence by printing the title along, instead of across the back. This, of course, is unavoidable in slender volumes. Surely, though, where a book has the necessary amplitude of pages, the title should be printed so that it may be read decently as the back stands on the book-case.

* * *

In the catalogue of Bethune's last sale were included four interesting bundles of New Zealand pamphlets in prose and verse, the collecting of which is a favourite hobby of mine.

page 52

page 53 Full of golden expectations I attended the sale and found myself seated next to a keen bibliophile. We eyed each other anxiously and then came the mutual confession that we were after the same bundles. We agreed that it would be futile to attempt to “cut each other's throats” in the bidding. Accordingly, the booklets, about fifty in number, were knocked down to us for a matter of a few shillings. We adjourned quickly to my office nearby and shared up the literary booty, spinning the coin when we were both over-keen on a particular booklet.

* * *

I am sure my readers will be interested in some of the items that came my way: “The Road to Muritai” (by O. N. Gillespie, with a delightful cover design by D. H. Souter), “A Venture in Verse” (the late Marjory Nicholls), “Poems from the Port Hills” (Miss B. E. Baughan), “A Little Anthology of Mary Colborne-Veel” (edited by Jessie Mackay), and “Tramps in the Far North” (Hector Bolitho). Many of the booklets are out of print. The printing of such “ventures” seldom runs to more than two or three hundred copies so they are often very rare and well worth following up.

* * *

At the same sale I bought two of Thomas Bracken's earliest books of verse, “Behind the Tomb” (1871) and “Lays of the Land of the Maori and Moa” (1884). The former copy is autographed. These are rarities and although they cost me £1 for the two, I am well pleased with the bargain.

* * *


“The Brierley Rose” by Leslie Haylen (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is one of the best Australian novels I have read. The plot is essentially Australian but the delicate subtlety of style is indubitably English. Haylen is a writer. The scope of the story is ambitious, extending from the close of the convict period to the Boer War, the Great War and after. We meet the Brierley Rose's parents, then Rose and her children. Brierley Rose is a woman who steps from the pages and asks us to love her, and we do, and I believe that people will go on loving her for many years to come.

“Human Drift,” by Leonard Mann (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is one of the most powerful yarns yet written of the old goldmining days in Victoria. It is handicapped by a sordid sex streak. I revelled in the rollicking story of those furious days, but ever and anon sex would obtrude. The reading and picture-going public are sick to death of sex, and the sooner writers and film producers realise it the better. At times, also, the story is profane. What a pity! I would have revelled in the blue pencilling of certain passages and I think I would have left a story that would be read and enjoyed for many a long day—for Leonard Mann can write.

“The Doctors are Doubtful,” by Authory Weymouth (Arthur Barker, London) is a worthy addition to detective fiction. Once more we meet the very human and astute detective, Inspector Treadgold, who was first introduced to us in the same author's novel, “Frozen Death.” It is usually almost a sacrilege to quote the final paragraph of a book, but here it may be done with safety. Observes our hero, the Inspector: “Five deaths … and all for one sin …” He folded the confession and carefully placed it in an inner pocket. “Heigho! What a life!” And I might add: “Heigho! What a yarn!” The diabolical ingenuity with which the murderer removes his victims is revealed after a maze of mysterious complexities. The reader is kept guessing until the last few pages. My copy from Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd.

“1001 Wonderful Things” (Hutchinson, London) is a pictorial record of the wonders of the world and is uniform with the Century Omnibus Series of volumes to which I have referred in previous issues. Here is a vast treasure house of knowledge in which new and old wonders of the world are shown in picture and described in tabloid paragraph. Just the ideal book for these rushful days. It is a valuable reference work and it is pleasing to note that New Zealand has not been forgotten in the kaleidoscopic survey of this amazing world of ours. Sold by Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd., all centres.

“Explosion,” by P. C. Wren (John Murray, London) is, as one would expect from the author of “Beau Geste,” capable of holding you fast in its grip, whether you be in home, hospital, or travelling. It is the story of an unscrupulous Indian agitator who schemes to overthrow British rule in India. The network of intrigue through which is woven an appealing love story, culminates in a colossal explosion that is to bring success to the conspirators. To the reader it may appear incredible that the explosion back-fires, as it were, killing the nest of desperados. In an author's note at the conclusion of the novel it is explained how a similar explosion actually occurred. Whitcombe & Tombs, all branches.

* * *

Shibli” Listens In.

John Barr is now running a witty, full-page, weekly feature in “The World's News” under the characteristic title of “The Shanty On The Rise.”

Winton Keay, who, although a young man, has edited three or four New Zealand country newspapers, has lately turned to novel writing. He has been advised by a London publishing house that his mystery novel, “The Juryroom Murder,” has been accepted.

In connection with the Anzac Festival Competitions (1935–36) in Australia, prizes are offered for poetry, short stories, playwriting and art. Entries close on November 30th. Full details may be had from the secretary, Scot Chambers, Hosking Place, Sydney.

Messrs. A. H. and A. W. Reed, of Dunedin and Wellington, are becoming quite an important factor in the publishing world in New Zealand. In addition to having several interesting Mss. under consideration they have in the press “A Trader in Cannibal Lands,” by James Cowan, and “Recollections and Reflections of an Old New Zealander,” by E. Maxwell.

The interest in New Zealand books, old and modern, has never been so apparent. The latest catalogue of interest to collectors comes from F. I. Jones, Box 183, Wanganui. It contains the names and prices of a big collection of New Zealand literature. The catalogue is free on application.