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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 4 (July 1, 1939)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 45

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

Over six years ago I referred in these notes to a visit I had from Hugh Smith, “the Bard of Inangahua.” Full of poetry and cheerful vitality, the West Coast poet left with me on that occasion a book of his poems and an ineradicable memory that I had met an endearing and unique personality. He was then over eighty years old and looked like topping the century mark. By all accounts Hugh Smith is set on establishing an age record for New Zealand, for his 88th, birthday was celebrated on 10th June last, and he is still writing verse. A most interesting and appreciative biography of Hugh Smith has recently been written by Mrs. Bertha Sinclair Burns. It is obtainable for the small amount of fifteen pence from the author, c/o Box 189, Te Aro, Wellington, and it is well worth sending for. In it we learn much of a remarkable man and his simple human verse. In his verse is recaptured much of the early history of the Coast and the gold-digging days. Although mostly written in the “braid,” his lines are understandable by all in their sincere homely music.

I am proud of the fact that when I first paragraphed him, Hughie wrote for me a long poem, the final verse of which I reprint here:—

But, ‘Bagarag’ man, here's my han',
For weel I ken—an’ un'erstan',
The forces that compel a pen
Tae sing the praise o'mice or men.
To tell a tale that cheers a he'rt,
An’ plays a noble, glorious pairt.
I would be pleased to shake the han',
That spread the tale ower a the lan';
So till we meet—an’ till I dee,
My dearest hopes will be for thee;
My fondest wishes gang herewith.
Yours—young as ever—

And to you, the “Bard of Inangahua” my wish is that I am here to record your hundredth anniversary.

* * *

I had a long letter from Robin Hyde recently, in which she mentions that she may be returning to New Zealand shortly. The page proofs of her Chinese book “Dragon Rampant,” had been finished and the book was due to be published in the near future. She mentions that she also has prospects in quite another direction in that she was completing the dramatisation of “Wednesday's Children,” for Heron Carvic, and his wife, Phyllis Neilson-Terry (Ellen Terry's daughter), who want to produce it, and act in it.

* * *

“Bohemia” is the title of a new literary weekly published in Melbourne. The paper is well-written and well-printed and boasts of a host of well-known Australian writers as contributors. Linked with the paper is a recently-formed organisation which under the picturesque title of “The Bread and Cheese Club” is out to encourage and popularise Australian literature.

The Club is preparing a list of Australian books for free public circulation, and is at present distributing a “sticker” for use on correspondence, with the legend: “Combine Pleasure and Patriotism. Read Australian Books.”

Amongst the members are Mr. J. K.
Mateship Art Letters The “Coat of Arms” of the Bread and Cheese Club. (See letterpress above).

Mateship Art Letters
The “Coat of Arms” of the Bread and Cheese Club.
(See letterpress above).

Moir (the promoter of the literary and Australian memorials), who is president; E. J. Brady, Edward Harrington, John Shaw Neilson, Thomas Tierney, Roderick Quinn, Victor Kennedy and other poets; Steve Ford (Lawson Society); J. M. Neild (of the “Record”), who is vice-president; and Ted Turner (hon. secretary). Mr. Gartner (of the “Hawthorn Press”) is also a member, and is co-operating in the publication of literary works. The club is publishing an anthology with contributions from members, as a Christmas effort; and is making prizes available for literary—especially poetical—compositions amongst juveniles.


“Reaching for the Stars,” by Nora Waln (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is the Australian edition of a book on Nazi Germany. We are fortunate in having available in such a reasonably priced and well-printed edition a work that has attracted much favourable comment in other parts of the world. Because her story is told with such insight and sincerity this book must make a tremendous impression. In it we see the true Nazi character revealed, and of the effect it is having on the people of Germany. For four years Mrs. Waln lived a friendly life among people of all classes in Germany. She shared their joys and their fears, their trusts and their suspicions. To have such a picture conveyed in gentle, cultured words and in a spirit of charity, is no mean achievement.

* * *

“In Ben Boyd's Day” by Will Lawson (“New Century Press,” Sydney) is worthy of everybody's attention. It is a novel of engrossing interest and is a page 46 page 47 fairly faithful historical record of a famous and picturesque figure. It is also a sample of fine writing. In short I think it is Lawson's best prose work to date. Ben Boyd was an arresting figure in the early days of Australia. From London he went to Australia determined to conquer and build lasting monuments with his manipulations of men and money. The trouble was, however, that he paid no heed to the many enemies his schemes created and they eventually proved more powerful than Ben himself. The story of his efforts to build a city, his triumphs and his failures, his unusual attitude in love affairs, his ships, and his many schemes—all complete a colourful picture from real life. Will Lawson has told a fine story and, of course, he is never better than in scenes at sea. A book to keep and to read more than once.

* * *

“Fools’ Harvest” by Erle Cox (Robertson & Mullens, Melbourne) will at the moment interest everybody because it concerns war. It is an imaginary and, I hope, not prophetic story on an invasion of Australia by a foreign power. How an ill-prepared nation faces terrible attacks from air, sea and land is told in a story of action. Shift the same possibilities to New Zealand and the average reader will be faced with a fearsome picture.

* * *

“Three Went West” by Gilbert Anstruther (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is a strange tale of hatred between two brothers. The six central figures are mostly people with souls and hearts of flint and their final tragedy of revenge and murder is fought out in the appropriate atmosphere of the Australian desert. Out of the tragedy of it all, two emerge human beings. In the case of one, the man, love performs a miracle, melting the granite heart and cold as steel cynicism and leaving him the surviving hero of the piece. Much of the action of the story takes place in a remote mining camp in Central Australia.

* * *

“The Awakening” by Captain D. G. Mitchell, M.C., D.C.M., is an Australian war novel that has attracted widespread interest and has been issued by Angus & Robertson Ltd. in a cheap 1/6 edition. It is a vivid futurist picture of what might happen to Australia if attacked by a foreign foe. The book has been described as “a warning to Australia.”

* * *

“The Art of Debating” by J. B. Baggaridge and P. Masel has just been issued in a third edition by Robertson & Mullens, Melbourne. This is a valuable book for public speakers and is a concise guide in the art of debating. It contains forty subjects suitable for debate, with detailed arguments pro and con.

* * *

“Essential Christianity” by Professor S. Angus of St. Andrew's College, Sydney, is described as one of the three most distinctive religious books of 1939 issued to date. In a much worried world which seeks almost frantically for light and guidance in its troubled and disaster-threatened existence, such a book as this will be widely read and discussed. Professor Angus argues for Christian spiritual unity and claims that Christian character does not rely on any particular orthodoxy—that it should be known by its fruits rather than by its dogmas. Christianity, he claims, must not be competitive but must be co-operative so that concerted action might help to cure the ills of the world.

* * *

“Blue Bowl,” a small collection of poems by Mary Hedley Charlton is, to date, the best printing job from the persevering Handcraft Press. The author must certainly feel flattered over the trouble taken to dress her poems so nicely. The verse itself is sincere and simple but not outstanding. The thoughts have been penned in an apparently effortless manner and because of their unaffectedness must be pleasing to the reader.

* * *

“Locomotive Management—Cleaning—Driving—Maintenance,” by Jas. T. Hodgson, M.I.Mech.E., and the late John Williams. Revised by Chas. S. Lake, M.I.Mech.E., M.I.Loco.E., London: “The Railway Gazette,” 33 Tothill Street, Westminster, S.W.1. 8 ½ in. by 5 ½ in. by 1 in. 500 pp. 105 half-tone illustrations and 195 line drawings. Price 6/- net.

The seventh edition of this text book on the management of locomotives has been revised and brought thoroughly up-to-date. As its title indicates, the work is a manual intended for the use of locomotive enginemen and those in training for the responsible duties associated with that calling. It will be found also of considerable assistance to members of the running shed and shop staffs whose work brings them into daily contact with the preparation and maintenance of locomotive engines.

Shibli Listens In.

“Castles in the Soil” by Beryl McCarthy, to be published any day now by A. H. & A. W. Reed, is being awaited with interest. It is spoken of as a striking New Zealand novel.

The recently-formed “Friends of the Turnbull Library” organisation is growing rapidly in membership.

“Such Things Were” by C. W. Vennell, with a foreword by James Cowan, is to be published shortly.

page 48
page 49
The well-equipped main workroom of Messrs. Matheson and Wilkinson Ltd., Wellington.

The well-equipped main workroom of Messrs. Matheson and Wilkinson Ltd., Wellington.

Buy New Zealand Goods.

(Continued from page 13)

resource, and we ought to hald all the world's records.

I was delighted with my survey of this widespread industry, the most important from many points of view in our whole country. There is one thing that can be said with assurance: the “overwear” industry is absolutely proof against the traditional criticism that “New Zealand manufacturers cannot afford to instal the latest plant—the output is not large enough.” I have found this postulate to be false in every factory I have so far seen, but it is false in a peculiar degree of intensity in the clothing industry.

The machines used in New Zealand are identical to the last small wheel with those used in the best factories in New York, London, or Berlin. In general, our equipments are ahead of most of the countries of the world; the whole range of world patterns and designs is open to us; our systems of measurement, fitting, and making are modelled exactly on the latest methods obtaining in the leading establishments of the world. In every factory I visited, I was impressed with the meticulous care of the examination and checking departments, always manned by men of skill and experience.

Our methods have to be adapted to the very great differences that exist in the average physical make-up of the New Zealander. Perhaps it is a matter for pride, but we are invested as a race with a thickness of arm and shoulder and a certain sturdiness of body that makes its own problem for the New Zealand clothing manufacturer.

However, the industry is in the charge of competent men, mostly with many decades of experience, and we are only in the second generation and approaching the third, of craftsmanship and managerial skill. New Zealanders can and do make clothes as well as any other folk. There is no excuse for a New Zealander to wear anything but a New Zealand-made suit, overcoat, sports suit or any other garment made by his own fellow citizens.