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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4


page 109


Rarely, if ever, has a writer paid himself so left-handed a compliment as Mr Arthur Eversley, the author of « New Zealand Voices and other Poems, » has done in the couplet prefixed to his little book of rhymes:

Make of these verses, reader, what you can:
The Poetry is far before the Man.

The book is one of a class which are of use in supplying work for the printers, but beyond this have little excuse for their existence. The writer has done fairly well in a few homely sketches in the Scottish dialect; but in English verse his muse is sadly fettered. His loftiest strains only reach the level of music-hall ditties, and lyrics starting with a stanza that will pass muster, drop immediately into the baldest prose. What shall we say of a singer who warbles woodnotes wild as these:

I see friends there of affliction
Who are faithful to the last,
And these favor the eviction
Of pretentions from the past—?

Or who can perpetrate an atrocity such as the following:

I love to listen in the night
To voices subject to control,
As language of a new delight
Exuding from the heart and soul—?

« The Reign of Ungrace: a Satire, » is as ungracious as it is poor. The poet's sulphuric acid is watered down till it might pass for weak vinegar. We are not sure that there are any worse stanzas in the book than those we have quoted—there are many better, and the best complete piece probably is « A Song of Flowers. » If the author had written nothing inferior to this, there might have been some reason for the publication of the little pamphlet. It is only right to add that with the exception of some mild fire-and-brimstone in the aforesaid « Satire, » the sentiments of the volume are unexceptionable; and notwithstanding his twice-repeated assurance to the contrary, we feel convinced that « the Man » is immeasurably better than « the Poetry. »

More pretentious in appearance, and larger, is the cloth-bound volume of over two hundred pages— « The Pirate Chief, and other Poems, » by Mr W. Skey, of Wellington. To give a detailed analysis, quantitative or qualitative, of the work, is not our intention. We have gone through it in search of a piece or even a single original stanza worthy the name of literature—and the search is vain. To a large extent the book is composed of flippant parodies—seven separate parodies on Hamlet's soliloquy! and the serious pieces—if there be a serious piece in the collection—are crude and unmelodious. « The Pirate Chief, » in ballad measure, is a legend of a Norse sea-rover, and is a good story spoiled in the narration. It contains over two hundred stanzas. The writer is evidently a gentleman of education and extensive reading, but absolutely devoid of the poetic gift. In a preface he says that the book contains about one-third of his MS. verses, and that he contemplates the publication of the remainder.

A good deal of justifiable curiosity (says the Melbourne Leader) is being manifested respecting the long-delayed publication of the remaining thirteen volumes of the History of New South Wales, the compilation of which was entrusted to Mr G. B. Barton, barrister-at-law, some time ago. After a long delay, which was accounted for by the difficulty the compiler experienced in winnowing the chaff out of the musty old records of the Colonial Office, the first volume was printed at a prohibitive price, and it was announced that one of the remaining volumes, which was to bring the history of the colony up to date, would be published every six months; but up to the present time none but the initial volume has seen the light of day. Inquiry has failed to elicit the cause of delay that has taken place in the compilation of the work and the publication of the volumes. It is now stated that the Government has decided to terminate the engagement entered into with Mr Barton—for what reason is not stated—and that negociations are now proceeding with Mr Ward, who was until recently connected with the Sydney Daily Telegraph, to complete the work.

Mr Swinburne is « on the rampage. » That certain developments of Russian government should evoke burning indignation is natural enough; but for an English poet of repute to plainly counsel assassination is something new. Yet in the Fortnightly for August Mr Swinburne does this. In an ode he says that the Russian

Night hath but one red star—Tyrannicide!

And this is his advice to the party of reform:

Down the way of Czars, awhile in vain deferred,
Bid the Second Alexander light the Third!

This is one more instalment of the modern Gospel, proclaimed on many sides, from press, parliament, pulpit, and socialist platform, and now by a leading poet: « Thou shalt do evil that good may come. »

Mr Miln, an able Shaksperian actor, writes indignantly to the Auckland press on the want of appreciation of the legitimate drama in the colonies. He says:— « The genius of Shak-speare has proved ineffective in winning this adulterous generation from its lascivious penchant for the baser side of dramatic work. Let us acknowledge that we like legs better than brains. »

An English weekly writes, concerning Punch:— « We wonder how many of the public are aware that some of our most distinguished Academicians have contributed to its brilliant pages. How Sir John Gilbert sent in his first drawing in 1842, and his last, forty years later, in 1882, and how Sir Everett Millais, Mr Briton Riviere, Mr Stacy Marks, Mr G. A. Storey, and Fred Walker, have all from time to time shown what comedy there is in them to the readers of Punch. Of the professed humorous draughtsmen who have lived during the last half century only one, so far as we know, has held aloof from Bouverie Street, and that is George Cruickshank. All the rest have a finger in the comic—'Phiz,' 'Alfred Crowquill,' Leach, Fred Barnard, Dicky Doyle, Kenny Meadows, 'Gavarni,' Thackeray, W. S. Gilbert, Griset, R. Caldecott, to say nothing of such serious artists as Mr Birket Foster and Mr H. G. Hine, and the celebrated band who still keep up the fame of Mr Punch, artistically considered, throughout the world. » The writer overlooks comic artists and cartoonists of great ability who have contributed to rival publications. The name of the late Matt Morgan does not appear in the list, nor that of J. Proctor, formerly of Judy—a powerful artist, whose chief fault was that he too obviously imitated the style of John Tenniel.

The Athenæum reports that of the last work of the lamented Mr Blades, his « Bibliographical Miscellanies, » the remaining essays are almost entirely finished and ready for publishing, especially the one on « Chained Libraries. » It adds that Mr Blades had a medal struck for his trade jubilee, which would have been celebrated on May 1st, but unfortunately he did not live to see that day. It is supposed that he intended presenting it to his numerous printing and literary friends.

The name of Rusden is not beloved in these islands, and when Mr. R. was cast in heavy damages for libel the public were ready to applaud the righteous judgment. It is quite natural that Mr Rusden should think himself hardly treated, and in a little pamphlet he has lately issued, entitled « The Law of Libel: a Letter on an Article in The Times, » he pleads, with some show of justice, that he was more sinned against than sinning. On this point he says: « I shall only remind you that the peccant paragraphs were founded on information furnished by a bishop of scholarly Oxford reputation; and that, unwilling to rely upon a single statement, I sought further particulars, and obtained them in writing under the hand of the same apparently high authority » And he adds that Mr Justice Hawkins instructed a British jury « that the reputable character of an informant may, and ought to, excuse a public writer who—misled himself—writes something which, may mislead others » If Mr Rusden had confined himself to his personal grievance the pamphlet would have had little use or interest; but he has done more than this. Having been led to look into the law of libel and its operations, he has collected a number of decisions and dicta by judges of the highest standing which will give his little work a permanent value to all engaged in literary labors.

One is rarely safe in asserting that any act or thing has been done for the first time. Mr Walter Reynolds, a theatrical manager at Blackburn, has challenged Christie Murray's claim to be the first English dramatist who ever produced a play in Australia. Mr Reynolds states that as far back as 1887 he brought out in Melbourne a play entitled « Gold and Alloy, » in which Mr Fred Thome, now of the London Vaudeville, took a leading part.