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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4



The Poet deals in truths, the Scientist in facts, and the experimentalist is inclined to disparage the man of insight. It would not be easy to name a triumph of science that has not been foreseen by literary genius. When the phonograph was invented, the most wonderful thing it disclosed was the fact that no one recognized his own voice. Only a few weeks ago an Italian tenor at Edison's listened to a number of solos repeated by the instrument—one of his own among the number. « Zat, » he said, « ees ze best zat I hear—who was ze artist? » and only the mirth of the company revealed to him that he had been admiring his own voice. Long since the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table wrote (chap. iii) « No man knows his own voice; many men do not know their own profiles. » And still more explicitly (chap, ix.)

—I wish you could hear my sister's voice,—said the schoolmistress.

If it is like yours it must be a pleasant one,—said I.

I never thought mine was anything,—said the schoolmistress.

How should you know?—said I. People never hear their own voices,—any more than they see their own faces. There is not even a looking-glass for the voice. Of course there is something audible to us when we speak; but that something is not our own voice as it is known to all our acquaintances. I think, if an image spoke to us in our own tones we should not know them in the least.—

—Thirty years later the « looking-glass for the voice » is an actual fact, and the truth of the poet's vision is demonstrated to the letter—though to the matter-of-fact mind his suggestion must have appeared simply absurd. When one reads Bacon's New Atlantis, the great marvel of the book is lost—so many of the things which he describes solely from the inner vision are familiar to us as elements in our daily life and work, that it is difficult to realise that they had no tangible existence in the author's time.

And here we have a clue to the imperishable quality—leaving sacred books out of the question—of the works of literary genius. They deal with things that being true are eternal, and therefore never out of date. The scientists might (though they do not) say:—

Our little systems have their day—
They have their day and cease to be.

Fifty years hence many of the accepted hypotheses of to-day will be out of date; and the scientific catchwords that embody the wisdom of the age will have gone the way of Phlogiston and Bathybius, and be the jest of the college-student; but the world will still prize The Voiceless and The Chambered Nautilus.

The Monthly Review for September opens with a florid article by Mr W. D. Burn on a recent volume of poems, « Unspoken Thoughts. » It would scarcely be fair to judge the whole book by Mr Burn's quotations, as the most outrageous passages seem to afford him the most delight; but sufficient is quoted to show the gross materialism of the work. It is something to be deplored when a writer possessing the poetic gift in a high degree should devote it to the advocacy of the pagan ethics of Tolstoi and Ibsen. The thoughts to which the reader is introduced in this article had better have remained « unspoken. » —Mr Gudgeon writes an interesting chapter on Maori Longevity, and continues the subject of supposed Prehistoric Inhabitants.—Mr Helliwell writes an able, but somewhat diffuse article, on Compensation as a Principle. The particular compensation is that sought by licence-holders when a renewal is refused; and the author takes the line that no other class in the community have such claims allowed, or even dream of making them.—Mr R. H. Gibson has a chapter on Mourning Customs, as the outcome of the particular views held regarding a future existence.—Mr Junor writes on the Modifications of Organisms, his object being to challenge the suggestion in a late work by Mr David Syme, that « the directing power in every instance must proceed from the organism itself, the external conditions being only the occasion for, and not the cause of the variations. » All Mr Junor's quills are at once erected. He « submits » that « the directing power of existence and the factor of all its perambulations, combinations, and variations, is the active principle of motion. » Having thus left the subject where he found it, he calls into his support « a contemporary critic, » who makes the suggestion that « apparent acts of discrimination and contrivance » are « in reality governed by non-intelligent forces, » as the magnet selects iron-filings and rejects brass. Mr Junor's article certainly throws no light on the subject; but he is about to publish an essay revealing the Law of Universal Existence, in which he will explain the source of creation or its first principle. We are obliged to add, however, that Mr J. candidly admits that his theory leaves « an unincluded residuum, » and that though he is prepared to show that all things are the result of the Principle of Unequal Motion, it is impossible to explain how this principle primarily originated! Until he can include the residuum—which he treats as of such little consequence—his Law of Universal Existence will be about as sound as Don Quixote's pasteboard visor. These dreadful « unincluded residuums »! The schoolboy smarts for them when his figures fail to balance—the perpetual motion theorist finds them continually interfering with the perpetual action of his model. If Mr Junor would have his theory accepted—or even have his book read—he must leave no unincluded residuum. He has adjusted the universe on the elephant's back—he has thoughtfully provided a tortoise to support the elephant—and he appears to regard it as the height of impertinence to ask him to do more. The Irrepressible Questioner wants to know what the tortoise stands upon. Mr J. in effect replies: I have reduced the problem of unlimited extension to an area of 3 × 2 feet—an Unincluded Residuum so small that it is not worth taking into account; and for all practical purposes my theory is complete.— The usual reports of the Philosophical Society's meetings are given; there is a little original poem—good verse, but somewhat fictitious in sentiment, entitled « Renunciation, » and some extraordinary doggrel about a picnic. The latter would have infallibly been waste-basketted in a newspaper office, and it is not without surprise that we find it in the grave pages of the Review.

The oldest printed book in Germany has lately been acquired by the royal library in Berlin. It is an early edition of the Chinese art treasury, « Po-ku-t'u-lu, » printed from metal blocks, and dating from 1300-1303. The impression, both of text and illustrations, is beautifully clear and distinct.