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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 3 (June 1, 1940)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 49

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

Those who have seen the small volume, “New Zealand Poems” by Eileen Duggan, just published by Allen & Unwin Ltd., may wonder how it is that such precious verse is contained in a book of such modest format. I think I can sense the reason. Eileen Duggan is a great lover of New Zealand and its people and I feel that she wanted her New Zealand poems produced at a price that would not worry even the most slender purse. There are forty-two poems in this collection and they range from the grand, triumphant notes of the Centenary Ode, to the simple homely beauty of “The Drayman.” This comparison is only one striking example of the art of Eileen Duggan, whose songs are of uniform artistry.

Here are some of the titles: “The Whaling Master's Song,” “A Maori to Mary,” “A Maori Lullaby,” “Swampland,” “The Ewe,” “Tua Marina” and so on. There are also rare tributes to rare New Zealand people. Probably the grandest poem of all, and one that will live always, is her ode to New Zealand.

This is a book that I am sure will be treasured in every New Zealand home and for generations to come.

* * *

At an auction sale held in Wellington recently I had knocked down to me for a few shillings, a copy of George Meredith's “The Egoist,” containing a letter from the author dated 9th April, 1909. The date is of interest for it is recorded in the “The Letters of George Meredith” (Constable, 1912) that the last letter written by Meredith was to Theodore Watts-Dunton on 13th April, 1909. The only letter recorded by Mr. Meredith, junr., as having been written prior to this was on 28th March, 1909, so that it is possible that the New Zealand letter was the second to last written by the Victorian novelist. It is addressed to Mrs. W. J. Trimble of Dunedin, and states inter alia:

“As to what you gather from newspaper …… they deal in gossip and gossip gets its fee in these days. I forebear to contradict them in the Press, thinking it useless when once a tale has been started. And besides an author should not value himself so highly as to join in any temporary buzz concerning him.”

* * *

New Zealand poets will be interested in the following letter I have received from Miss Edith Fry of the British Authors’ Press (7 Broadway, Ludgate Hill):

“I should be grateful if you would kindly bring to the notice of New Zealand poets, members of the P.E.N. Club and others, an Anthology of Empire Verse we are compiling. The book will be sold for the benefit of the Red Cross, but authors are not asked to give their work free. They will be paid a royalty of ten per cent., which will be reckoned as part of the production expenses. We have already received poems from John Masefield, Lord Gorell, Mr. Ernest Rhys and Mr. Christopher Hassall.
The owner of this book plate is interested in horticulture and so the artist has introduced New Zealand native flowers—kowhai, kaka beak and manuka.

The owner of this book plate is interested in horticulture and so the artist has introduced New Zealand native flowers—kowhai, kaka beak and manuka.

There is no restriction as to theme or style, but contributors are asked to bear the object of the publication in mind, and send something not inappropriate in subject, and not too long.

“While only poems of established reputation can be invited, any writer of verse may submit work, if this is done through the competitions of the British Annual of Literature, winners of a prize or hon, mention in the short poem competition will be eligible for publication in the anthology. The last date for receiving entries in the competitions has been extended to 15th December for competitors living overseas, and owing to war conditions they may be sent in unnumbered, accompanied by the coupon from the Annual, instead of returning the coupon to receive an entry form with number. We hope to bring out the Anthology early next year.”

* * *

Two further numbers of “Making New Zealand” (Pictorial Surveys of a Century) have appeared. No. 13 is “Power,” telling the story of the steam engine, the gas engine and then the oil fuel engine, how electricity took its all-powerful place in this evolution of energy and then the tremendous force provided in hydro-electric development. The humble wind-mill and the water-wheel were the main sources of energy before electric power came into general distribution in this country. The social and economic changes brought about complete the interesting story so simply and effectively related by A. Buckinghim. page 50 J. D. Pascoe is responsible for the layout, and A. H. McLintock for pencil drawings, maps, etc.

No. 14 has the simple title, “Bread,” and here A. H. McLintock (layout by J. D. Pascoe) tells us of the sowing, harvesting and milling of the grain that gives us the flour for our daily bread. The first wheat growing in New Zealand, the Maoris and wheat growing, the evolution of harvesting methods and the vital part played by scientific research are all dealt with interestingly. Some of my readers wish to know if back numbers of the surveys are available, and details as to binding, etc. A letter to the Centennial Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs will elicit all such information.

* * *

The March issue of “Art in New Zealand” features in picture and letterpress the art of the late Mrs. M. E. R. Tripe. Four beautiful colour plates and several in black and white show some of the best work of this distinguished New Zealand artist. Other art features are devoted to the work of Elsie White and of Dr. A. H. McLintock. The letterpress includes a final pathetic poem by the late Robin Hyde, also verse by Helen Brookfield and a number of interesting articles on art and literature.


“The Fishes of New Zealand,” Vol. 1, by W. J. Phillipps (Thomas Avery & Sons Ltd., New Plymouth) is an important addition to our natural history library because of the reason that, until 1927, only two books had been issued on this subject. The book is published at a moderate price and is after the manner of a handy guide to the Dominion's fishes. Mr. Phillipps has, for some years past, built up in the Dominion Museum, to which he is attached, a valuable reference collection covering most of the fishes found in New Zealand waters. His twenty years’ experience on this subject has enabled him to write this work which will be completed in two or three volumes. The descriptions, habits, distribution, etc., of each fish, are clearly set out under separate headings, with illustrations.

* * *

“History of North Otago” by K. C. McDonald, is the official centennial book for that district in the South, of which Oamaru is the presiding town. It is written in a thorough and interesting manner by one who has apparently searched every available record for his history. No record in book form has been published about North Otago since W. H. S. Roberts’ “History of Oamaru,” published in 1890, and now a collector's item. Mr. McDonald acknowledges his indebtedness to this book for the period 1853–89. Other valuable information was secured from local newspaper files and the whole was checked by Mr. G. L. Grenfell, an old resident of the district. The history of North Otago really opens with the colourful early days of Moeraki and its whaling activities, a period of adventure. The establishment of John Hughes’ whaling base there in 1836 marked the beginning of European occupation of the district. Pastoral settlement followed, but it was not until 1858 that Oamaru could boast of its first store. The gradual progress of the village to the picturesque and prosperous town of to-day is described with great detail and yet with the necessary story-telling ingredients. Milestones in this progress include the inauguration of the Oamaru-Moeraki railway, the Oamaru Breakwater and finally the great work of the Waitaki Hydro-Electric Works.

The illustrations are good and the appendices helpful. The format is old-fashioned but no doubt many of the old settlers will view this with pleasure.

* * *

The gold lettering and Maori design on the red cloth cover of a centennial book, “Historic Maketu,” written by Enid Tapsell and printed by the Rotorua “Morning Post,” make the volume look interesting and attractive. The book carries a definite sales appeal. Inside is a collection of stories and historical incidents bound up with the Arawa people, tales of Tama-te-Kapua, of many other famous Maori people, legendary and otherwise, of the redoubtable old Danish sailor, Captain Tapsell, of the Maori Wars and of other exciting and romantic events wrapped up in the colourful history of Maketu, the first home of the Arawas. This book has a special value in that it has been written by one of Tapsell's descendants. Has not Mr. James Cowan paid his fine tribute to the famous old whaler-trader? “There was not a man or a well-grown youth of ‘Tapihana’ who failed to answer Britain's war call in 1914–1918.” Mr. Cowan also states that “to-day the ‘Whanau-a-Tapihana’ (Tapsell's children), are more than a hundred in number.”

Here, then, is a book rich in associations. The illustrations by H. Dansey, junior, are good, but are worthy of reproduction on a larger scale. Much of the detail is lost, however, because of the thumb-nail blocks.