Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4
« Angela, a Messenger, » is the title of a story by Miss E. H. Searle, M.A.—her first attempt, we believe, in the line of fiction—and she is to be congratulated on her work. Most of the so-called « colonial » stories are a patchwork of worn-out London Journal properties, with a few local names thrown in at random, and a noble savage or two after the Fenimore Cooper model. « Angela, » is of quite a different type. The descriptions of bush and mountain scenery show thoughtful and loving observation of the natural features of the country. The people are such, in mode of life, in thought, and speech, as one really meets—so life-like as at times to suggest individual prototypes—and the interest which centres around the main characters is skilfully maintained from the first page to the last. The story is on decidedly original lines. Thackeray wrote « a novel without a hero » —Miss Searle is probably the first lady to write a novel without a love-story. As a character-study the book ranks high—Angela Mount and her mother are utterly unlike the stage-puppets who fill the leading parts in most modern stories; the character of Mrs Mount in particular, being admirably conceived and developed. The book is essentially a religious novel; but it is not of the average « Lily » or « Pansy » type. Angela's conversion and religious experience are not of the conventional order, and therefore seem all the truer. The male characters are well individualized but are not drawn with the force that distinguishes the outlines of the heroine and her mother. The villain—who fills a very brief but important part in the development of the story—would be simply inconceivable, but that he is insane, a consideration which removes him quite outside of the region of criticism. We have a somewhat idealized vision of the Salvation Army. There are, happily, such characters under its banner as Captains Payne and Stirling, but their very unobtrusiveness causes them to be overlooked, save by the eye of charity. Captain Brass, with his advertising abilities, his self-esteem, and his complete lack of spiritual insight, is a character that will be much more readily recognized—his prototype is to be seen (and heard) almost anywhere. The country editor is so utterly objectionable a character that we might look in vain for the original. Slurk and Potts, of Eatanswill, and Max Adeler's western editor, Colonel Bangs, were gentlemen in comparison with him. Such men are sometimes to be found in country towns, but they are not usually editors. They send their slanders anonymously to the nearest « society » paper, and they sometimes meet with just such righteous retribution as befel Slawter. By the way, Miss Searle is faithful to one of the great traditions of the English novel—the contemptible rascal comes in for a tremendous thrashing. One fault of the book—an unusual fault—is that it is in parts too concise. The writer sums up in a sentence what had better have been extended into a paragraph. The reference to « some forty years ago » at the opening has led some readers to mistake it as the era of the story, and imagine the tale to be a complete anachronism. Careful readers will not be misled; but the transition from forty years to three or four years ago might have been more distinctly marked. There does, however, appear to be a slip in including reminiscences of the by-gone era of the warriors Hone Heke and Rauparaha among Mrs Mount's « old memories » of thirty years past. There are delightful touches of shrewd observation in the book—as for example, the description of the loutish young man who adored Angela at a distance. « He came up to her side with the manner of one who felt his own bodily existence a heavy and inconvenient burden in the presence of so celestial a being. Angela sometimes wondered why he sought an interview that made him so obviously uncomfortable. » There are suggestive passages like this: « Martyrs are not always of the passionate strong-charactered type, and a subtle intellect is at a disadvantage under torture. » Readers will form different ideas as to the motive of the work. To our mind it is striking as depicting the absolute consecration to missionary work of a character and disposition quite unlike the ordinary convential religious ideal. And in the vivid contrast between the purity of the heroine and the vileness of her chosen surroundings, one is reminded of the words of Milton:
So dear to heaven is saintly chastity,
That when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried angels lackey her.
Driving far off each thing of sin and guilt,
And in clear dream and solemn vision
Tell her of things that no gross ear can hear.
We regret that the book is typographically poor and unattractive. In future editions we hope the exterior will be more in keeping with the literary merits of the work, which we cordially welcome as the first New Zealand novel of conspicuous merit.
The Monthly Review maintains its high standard. In the July number, Mr J. E. FitzGerald contributes the first instalment of an article on Shakespeare and the Cypher alleged to be concealed in the Folio of 1623. The fourth instalment of « A Lone Land, and those who lived in it, » is of unusual interest. It is from a manuscript by the late H. B. Sterndale, revised by Major Gudgeon; and we cannot but regret that the writer, possessing so vast a fund of exclusive information regarding the less-known isles of the Pacific, their antiquities and their history, has not left fuller memoranda on the subject. The series of articles in the Review show that he brought to the subject great intelligence and a store of curious erudition; his writings possess a strong fascination, notwithstanding occasional flippancy, and a besetting habit of flying off at a tangent to introduce some anecdote or reflection bearing very remotely upon the subject immediately in hand. He has much to say of the cyclopean architectural remains on many of the Pacific islands, and his idea is, that in most cases they are sepulchral in character. His descriptions of these structures—especially those on mountain-tops—recal Mr Colenso's account of the singular « rampart » on the summit of the Ruahine range (which probably no other European has ever seen), and which, together with certain other vast formations suggestive of human handiwork in that lofty and frigid region, « caused strange thoughts to arise. » * Many details are given of the wild and lawless men who took up their abode in Suwarrow, Ualan, Tinian, and other isles. A superstitious race they were, too, and students of « the night-side of nature » will find some narratives to interest them. Less credible than the dream-and ghost-stories is the tale of the four Church missionaries of Penrhyn Island, who sold their flock to Spanish slave-ships at $5 a head, and three of whom « took passage to Callao with their wives, having engaged themselves as interpreters and overseers at $100 per month besides their keep. » Mr Sterndale narrates this as an absolute fact. These articles (completed in the August issue), are well worthy of republication in an independent form. Lieut-Col. McDonnell continues his articles on the West Coast campaign. They are full of exceedingly interesting particulars, and contain many anecdotes and incidents probably known to himself alone. There is perhaps a little too much of Lieut.-Col. McDonnell, and the certain disaster that followed whenever his advice was neglected.—Mr W. B. Hudson completes his little narrative of « A Holiday Ramble in the North Island, » and gives some vivid and charming descriptions of inland scenery.—Mr D. W. M. Burn (readers of Zealandia will have a dread remembrance of the name) writes « A Sonnet and its Import. » Mr Burn's article in the May number on Archibald Lampman, if a little rhapsodical, was readable, and was brightened by the lovely verse it enshrined; but here he is at his worst again. A reviewer generally tells us something of the author of the thing reviewed—Mr Burn simply dumps down the Sonnet, and does not even give the writer's name or address. (Not that we want it, by any means!) The Sonnet is supposed, in its fourteen lines, to interpret Shakspeare's Tempest, and is itself so unintelligible that Mr Burn takes up three pages in trying to explain it. It begins:
In the still-vext Bermoothes of God's mind
Lies this enchanted Isle of ours—
« Only a small but worthy band, » the writer tells us, will take the trouble, « with patient earnestness to find the wherefore of its being. » The Tempest, it appears, is « Shakspeare's prophecy, Shakspeare's eternal verity, and like all such, susceptible of four interpretations according to the various phases of our humanity—the Material, the Astral, the Personal, and the Cosmic. » Mr Burn is merciful, and develops only the fourth of these. Personally, we prize The Tempest more than anything else Shakspeare has bequeathed us—but we do not believe in its Plenary Inspiration; and the critic, by intimating that it was a kind of Enigma, in which the author has concealed a system of Blavatskyism, has done his best to destroy its perennial charm. We shall next expect to have the Folklorist, demonstrating that Prospero is a Solar Hero, and that Miranda is the Dawn. Mr Burn says the Sonnet is religious in tone. If so, a new definition of the adjective is needed. It is really an expression of self-idolatry, which is at the opposite pole to religion.—In the August number, Mr George Robertson gives a very interesting account of the boracic acid lagoons of Lardarello, Italy, and the highly scientific and economical method by which the volcanic vapors of the soil are made to yield their minute proportion (3 per cent.) of boracic acid, in a district without fuel, the vapors themselves supplying all the necessary heat. The writer suggests that some of the volcanic vapors in New Zealand might be similarly utilized.—Mr FitzGerald, in his second article, deals more fairly and rationally with Mr Donnelly's theory than any other critic whose comments we have read. Rejecting altogether the gross, incoherent, and trivial narrative, to the compilation of which Mr Donnelly has devoted such enormous labor, he says: « But I am far from sneering page 98at the idea that there may be a Cypher History of the Folio of 1623. It has been frequently noticed that there are strange eccentrictities in the typography of that volume —words hyphenated, in italics, with the initial letter in capitals, words in brackets, and so on, where there is no apparent need for such peculiarities, and where they are not used in similar places elsewhere, and which are not accounted for by the state of typographic art at the time. If there be any Cypher History it is here that it must be sought, and not in the direction in which Mr Donnelly has wasted so much time and labor. » With this we fully coincide. We have a copy of the facsimile of the folio, and after many years of proof-reading, and a wide experience of the vagaries of the « intelligent compositor, » we feel sure that the monstrous typographic freaks in question are not errors of the press, but are the result of deliberate design.—In Chapter xi of « Nga Tangata Maori, » Major Gudgeon speculates as to « Pre-historic Inhabitants » of these islands. A lady contributes anonymously « A Note on the Teaching of Literature, » complaining of the « over-editing of plays and poems for examination purposes, » as defeating its own object. She says: « The moral which I wish to point is this:—That criticism learnt off and repeated at second-hand has no educational value whatever. »
The Rev. Theodore Wood has written a bright and vivid account of the life of his late father, the Rev. J. G. Wood, the popular writer on natural history, who died in March of last year. The interesting fact is mentioned that the late naturalist was the original of « Little Mr Bouncer, » in Verdant Green. It is noteworthy that the author of that humorous work, the Rev. Edward Bradley (Cuthbert Bede), died last December—in the same year as his fellow-collegian.
The National Publisher and Printer says that Richard Henry Stoddard, the poet-editor, one evening found some difficulty in completing a poem; and as he mused over it, his thoughts, wandering from the subject, found expression in the following simple and graceful lines:
Birds arn singing round ray window,
Sweetest songs you ever heard;
And I hang my cage there daily,
But I never catch a bird.
So with thoughts my brain is peopled,
And they sing there all day long;
But they will not fold their pinions,
In the little cage of song.
Literary knowledge seems to be somewhat deficient in newspaper offices. The Bookmart quotes an edifying list of blunders from the report of a book-sale in the New York Sun. « Marguerite de Valvo, » « Boccaccio's Dreamerone, » « Diana of Portiers, » « Amaioli binding, » and « Stultifird Navis, » is not a bad collection for a single article.
Another important dictionary is in hand. Mr John L. Farmer is about to publish a comprehensive dictionary, on scientific and historical principles, of English slang. The work will be in three foolscap quarto volumes, on thick paper with large margins. Five hundred copies for England and half that number for America will be printed, and the price of the work will be five guineas.
The tercentenary of the death of Christopher Plantin will be celebrated during the coming summer at Amsterdam. Bibliophiles from all parts of the world will be invited to attend the festivities. Mr Vanderpeereboom, the Minister of Commerce, and one of the greatest collectors of old books in Europe, will be at the head of the affair.
Mr Whittier writes to a correspondent: « I have reached a time of life when literary notoriety is of small consequence, but I shall be glad to feel that I have not altogether written in vain; that my words for temperance, charity, faith in the Divine goodness, love of nature and of home and country, are welcomed and approved. »
Under the title of « Recollections, » Mr G. W. Childs, the worthy editor of the Philadelphia Ledger, has published a very interesting volume of personal reminiscences. Mr Childs is one of the most successful, as well as one of the most liberal, men in the United States. « I owe my success, » he says, « to industry, temperance, and frugality. »