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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 3 (June 1, 1937)


As far as I can see not one of our reviewers has appreciated the romantic story wrapped up in the recent publication of “The Whalers,” a copy of which I have received from my good friend, Mr. F. W. Reed, the noted Dumas authority. Because I played an unsuccessful part in the first attempt to interest an Australian publisher in this story Mr. Reed has been kind enough to favour me with a copy. Since then the book has been published by Hutchinson's (London) and will, I am sure, meet with a big sale. However, to the story behind the story as to how two New Zealand literary authorities chanced, after the lapse of nearly a hundred years, to link up with a meeting that took place between Alexandra Dumas and a certain Dr. Maynard, a French surgeon. It was in the year 1854 that Dumas happened upon a parcel of disconnected articles dealing with the sea adventures of Maynard. He arranged to meet the French doctor and prevailed on him to enlarge on his experiences. The articles were in due course edited and probably added to and re-written in parts by Dumas and published in France in 1858. The amazing thing is that although the story intimately concerned the early whaling days in New Zealand it was not until this year of 1937 that it has been published for English readers. For this we have to thank Mr. Reed, who made the translation and who sought the help of Johannes Andersen who wrote a most interesting introduction and provided the notes. The result is no dry historical document but a thrilling story of the old whaling days, reminiscent in parts of the immortal “Moby Dick.” We must feel proud of the part this country has played in giving this remarkable book to the world. I am amazed though over the fact that the publishers have failed to make more use of the story behind the story as briefly sketched by me in this paragraph.

* * *

It was only the other day that I came across a copy of Bolitho's biography of Marie Tempest. Bolitho is very much before the public at the moment because of his King Edward biography, so a few words about his biography of a lady who still wears a crown as queen of comedy may not be out of place. Bolitho makes a success of a difficult task, mark you though, not a difficult subject, for Marie Tempest has had a marvellously full and guarded life. Bolitho's difficult task was to encourage his subject to talk of the past, for this Marie Tempest has so little regard for the past that she has destroyed letters from such a notable figure as Oscar Wilde. She received a fortnightly letter from him while he was in gaol. It was from the torn memories of her own wonderful life that our New Zealand biographer had to reconstruct his story. From the moment that Gladstone warned young Marie Tempest against the stage to her recent triumphant golden jubilee as an artist, Bolitho tells in his own delightful style the romantic life
R. A. K. Mason, the Auckland poet. (Caricature of New Zealand Writers, No. 7).

R. A. K. Mason, the Auckland poet.
(Caricature of New Zealand Writers, No. 7).

story of the famous little actress. The biography was written in close collaboration with Miss Tempest. It is wonderful what a soul revealing document it is even to intimate details of her three husbands. Although Bolitho is a young man he is a Victorian in heart and soul and therefore eminently suited as the writer of the life story of the sedate little genius of the comedy stage.

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The results of the annual short story competition held by “Art in New Zealand” are announced in the latest issue. The winning story “Understanding” by Mrs. E. D. M. Doust, is a model in economy of words. For this reason it is worth study by budding short story writers. This is only one interesting feature in the March “Art in New Zealand.” There is a fine appreciation of the Labour Government's encouragement of cultural arts, an article by J. H. E. Schroder on Cecil F. and Elizabeth Kelly (with beautiful examples of their work in colour and black and white) verse by Marie Conlan and F. H. Harris and other items of interest to the literary and art world in this country.

* * *

Noel Hoggard, editor of “Spilt Ink,” writes to me as follows:—“I noticed in the April issue of the ‘Railways Magazine’ in your book page, you referred to the fact that the Canterbury Public Library Magazine was practically the only literary journal in New Zealand. You may be interested to know that from the April-May issue of ‘Spilt Ink’ my journal will be enlarged to twenty pages, including a cover with a modern cover design by Mr. Lindsay Constable, a young Wellington artist. It will also have a coloured inset of photographic blocks and will be illustrated throughout with original line-cut blocks and wood-cuts. As ‘Spilt Ink’ has now reached Vol. 4, No. 7, and between 500 and 600 are distributed each issue, I think you will admit that it has reached the distinction of being called a New Zealand literary journal.”

page 62

The New Zealand Women Writers' and Artists' Society is doing useful work. Besides competitions held inside the Society, several members have come to the fore in outside competitions. The two lady prize-winners in the recent radio play contest, Mrs. Alice Waldie and Mrs. Isobel Andrews, are both members of the Society. The one-act play competition run by the “Taranaki Daily News” was won by Mrs. Audrey King, while Mrs. Andrews gained second place. The “Manawatu Daily Times” short story competition was won by Mrs. King, with Miss L. Morgan second. Mrs. E. D. M. Doust won the recent short story competition in “Art in New Zealand.” This is, of course, quite apart from ordinary acceptances in current publications, where many of the members are regularly represented. The Society has now adopted a new policy and instead of restricting membership to women who have actually had their work published, it is admitting affiliated members as well. That is, members who, although they have not actually had work published, are yet interested enough and promising enough to be regarded as members.