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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, October 1918

Notes on Past Students

Notes on Past Students

Dr. D. Jenness

Jenness came to Victoria College in 1904 with the reputation of being a particularly brilliant scholar. His scholastic record at Wellington Boy's College was one long series of successes, which culminated in his gaining the position of Head of the School and a Junior University Scholarship. His success at V. U. C. was similarly striking and rapid. In 1907 he passed his B.A degree gaining Senior Scholarships in Latin and Greek. The following year he gained the degree of M.A. with First Class Honours in the same two languages.

Some time was spent in post-graduate work at V.U.C. and then he proceeded to Oxford, the Mecca of students. At Balliol College (Oxford) his work was excellent. I am privileged to quote from a letter written by his professor, J. A. Smith, of Balliol College, on July 10th, 1910:

"In every way he has given satisfaction to the College . . . He as shown quite unusual power of arranging his work for himself and has kept both his subjects going without neglecting either. He has just satisfactory completed his course for Anthropology. One of his examiners writes:— "I think you will find that Jenness will do credit to Balliol, as a field Anthropology. We were very much stuck by his work in the Diploma Examination. He actually beat the two B.Sc. men; and beside struck us as remarkably observant, and level-headed, the two main qualities needed in an explorer.' . . . It is pleasant to see a man strike out a line for himself and thoughtfully prepare himself for it, I believe there is a good chance of his having an opportunity next year."

Next year the opportunity came and Jenness went out to Papua and spent twelve months working on the East Coast of the Island page 37 where he did valuable work, for which he was warmly congratulated by the Committee of Anthropology at Oxford.

A well-earned, if all too short holiday of five months was then spent in New Zealand. Then he was asked by the Canadian Government to join Stefansson's expedition to the Arctic regions. His position was that of Ethnologist to the party. This was in January of 1914, eight months before the outbreak of war.

He spent nearly three years in the Arctic, enduring many hardships; and his work took him away from most of the others of the party. In order to obtain absolutely accurate information he was adopted into an Eskimo family, living, eating and working with them. Of these periods he writes: "One might do it once, but never twice. The people were very good to me, and I found much in them to admire—but, their ways are not our ways."

Of his work in this region one can obtain some idea from the report on Mr. Anderson of the Southern party, Canadian Arictic Expedition, 29th July, 1915:

(a.)"Ethnologically, Mr. D. Jenness has been able to accomplish a great deal of work among the hitherto little known groups of Eskimo in this region."
(b.)"He has made good progress in linguistic work and vocabularies, made fifty or more gramophone records of various Eskimo songs and spoke words which he has had repeatedly reproduced for the natives so that he could get the text letter-perfect and translated for comparison with other Eskimo dialects."
(c.)"Mr. Jenness's facility in learning the Eskimo dialects and the customs of the people has been of great service to the Expedition in many ways."
(d.)"While at the station Mr. Jenness acted practically all the time as interpreter and purchasing agent of the party in trading with the natives for fresh dried meat, fish and skins and clothing. In doing this work he collected a large number of specimens of Eskimo tools, weapons and other implement, clothing of all kinds, stone lamps and pots—a collection which is pretty near complete for this region—and duplicates of many things.'

So far was he from what we previously term civilized countries, that the war had been in progress 15 months before he heard of its outbreak, and the next information he received was when he arrived at Nome, in August, 1916, when, upon asking "How did the war end?" was astonished to learn that it was still in progress.

He had then to spend six months in Ottawa writing up his notes. After many requests to the Canadian Government to be released in order to go to France, the Government at last allowed him to enlist in the Civil Service Artillery, but he had to sign and agreement to return for three years after the war is over.

To be short, he crossed to England and subsequently to France just after the middle of last year. "Here he was with the mules, orderly for an officer"; and now he is working three days in an O.P. and three days with guns alternately. The orderly for an officer is a delightful task and characteristic of our so-called Democratic army. But we know hat whatever Jenness may do, he will do it well, as a gunner, as a batman, or n whatever capacity he may act. May he see a speedy end of the war and a safe return to his work. Victoria University College is proud of him

page 38

Mr. B. E. Murphy

We are very pleased to record the appointment of Mr. B. E. Murphy as lecture in Economics. Mr. Murphy, who was a Junior University Scholar, and later a Senior Scholar, gained his M.A. with 1st class honours in 1906, his LL.B. in 1906, and his B. Com. In 1915 in 1906, Mr. Murphy represented Otage University in the Interuniversity Debating Contest, and in 1907 he represented V.C., and during this year the Joynt Debating Scroll was won by V.C. We are fortunate in having Mr. Murphy here once more—already he is taking a live and helpful interest in all the college activities. We wish to extend to him a very hearty welcome.

* * * *

New Zealanders is Samoa

Those of us who experienced the pleasure and exhilaration of Mr. Leary's acquaintance in the days before the war, will doubtless feel as they read with gusto "New Zealanders in Samoa," that they are listening once again to his entertaining talks, with their zest, their relish of the unconventional, their genuine feeling, and also a good deal said with the tongue in the cheek. Take the book with its obvious weaknesses—its passages of unadulterated journalese; its occasional inaccuracies, and the somewhat haphazard arrangement of chapters—yet, acknowledging these, one must acknowledge too the "go." the enjoyment of life, the eye for beauty and colour, the humour, the excellent sketches of different types of colonial character, that the book affords, and one reads it all with a sense of enjoyment, and takes away from it many a sunlit picture. Every New Zealander owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Leary for having written this unofficial account (very airily sometimes, very seriously other times) of the occupation of Samoa by our troops—a little bit of history with its humours and its drama.

Few indeed are our opportunities or reading in a bound book that "the hero walked thoughtfully down Willis Street, crossing at the corner of the bank," etc., but here the scene opens on very familiar ground—the Victoria College Tennis Courts on an August afternoon, 1914. The first chapter is the one where we feel that Mr. Leary wrote at times with his tongue in his cheek—but perhaps we wrong him. On page 238, near the end of the book, he says (referring to a description of Somes Island I the English Press) "As a journalistic effort this is good. As a statement of truth this is lamentable." We should like to quote these remarks against Mr. Leary himself regarding page 15 and "the monument at the land entrance to the principal dock of the City."

A very good sailor might be able to read without a qualm the story of the first night at sea on the troopship. In sheer unpleasantness it rivals Rupert Brook's "Channel Passage." All soldiers who have been "there and back," rapturously received at ports en route and perfunctorily at their destination, will appreciate the contrast in emotion felt at friendly Noumea and apathetic Suva. To quote—

"Although when at Noumea they'd ta'en the place by storm,
No Suvan crowd came cheering down, as motley giddy swarm;
No Suvan optic kindled at a Terrier uniform—
The Suvan looked anaemic—complained that it was warm."

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Samoa, naturally, was not demonstrative—more warmth of a hostile variety would have been welcome; but, as the Governor's signal read—"The Germans refuse to surrender, but will offer no resistance." Mr. Leary "took to" Samoa straightaway, and we perforce must follow as we read. In spite of his sympathetic accounts of sickness and suffering and mosquitoes, he paints so vividly his picture of green palms, luscious fruits, cool bathing pools, kindly pleasant people, that we revel in it all by proxy.

The conductor of the Capping Carnival peeps out in Mr. Leary's appreciation of the Samoan's gift of harmony. Poulter and Stumpy, strolling near the Mission Church, hear a big organ booming forth. "Stumpy, that's no organ—that's the men's voices," says Poulter. "Like a mighty diapason rolled forth the melody. Countless dusky throats, deep and vibrant, were singing the bass of a grand old hymn. Over against them stood the women, their sweet voices pouring out in the joy of life the air of the treble. . . . . Never was there sound to compel the human heart like the sound of the human voice. None of your flat-chested, wheezy sparsely-scattered congregations of the Old World, scarcely opening their months to emit the sound they seem ashamed of. This was a congregation that sang for the love of singing. No wonder in the distance it sounded like the rolling of some mighty organ! That bass—a sound that had in it the vastness of the ocean and the echo of eternity."

One of the pleasant chapters in the books is "Echoes of R. L. S.," though the frequent references to "Steve" jar a little. That chapter prompts a re-reading of the "Vailima Letters" and the desire to glimpse again the daily life of him who "gave myriad hearts delight."

One feels grateful to Ocott, the Scout, for in sketching him Mr. Leary gives us one of the best bits in the book-the description of bush—life in New Zealand-life of which Mr. Leary had first-hand knowledge.

Only those who have been gloriously drunk; those who cherish the memory of some hilarious "jag" can appreciate fully the account of palolo-fishing—and I (alas!) am not of these. Still even I can appreciate the American skipper.

In the chapter given up to the "Pull-thro.'" Perhaps Mr. Leary had in mind the quotation—

"For never anything can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender it."

But I think even that did not warrant the inclusion of those very inferior verses on Lord Roberts. However, "Chacuná son gout." The Hiawatha excerpt from the Pull-thro' appealed more.

"Tofa ma Faleni" closes the book. And so "Farewell to Samoa." A friendly book and we say good-bye to it as to a friend, reluctantly. And to quote Stumpy, "Well, that's that!"

* * * *

"A Venture in Verse"

(Published by Whitcombe & Tombs)

It was, I think, in "The Spike" of 1911 that I first became acquainted with the verse of M.L.N. (Miss Marjory Nicholls); and since that time I have been a humble but enthusiastic admirer of all her verse. Consequently I was greatly pleased to learn that a collection of her work had been made for publication in volume form.

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Slender though the volume is, yet it serves to give one is insight into the fresh and placid flow of her verse. Freshness is the keynote of all her work; and placid as the flow of her stanzas usually is, there is here and there an angry swirl or an unexpected depth which stairs one with pleasurable but surprised emotion. Yet it is all so simple that one cannot but admire. There are no great strivings to penetrate the mystery of life, death and the hereafter, for the which our thanks to Miss Nicholls, and "whatever Gods may be."

For the most part, then, Miss Nicholls's verge is placid but facile, thoughtful but never prosy seldom impassioned and never by any chance hysterical. It is balm to the soul of the wearied one, inclined, "under the bludgeonings of chance," to fight no longer.

Here and there is a line which annoys one or jars one's nerves. For example, take the last line in "From the Deck." After the preceding lines, it is banal. I have often wondered was it inserted merely for the sake of a rhyme.

In the sonnet (Red Hibiscus in a Sydney Street) Miss Nicholls fails to reach the high level which she usually attains in that form of versification. When I compare it with such sonnets as To M.F., June Evening at Beaconsfield, In a Theatre Queue, or A soldier Dying, I find it difficult to believe that it is the work of the same writer as the author of these others. It is difficult to select one which one can say with certainty is the best (they are all of high level), but I quote one which is great favourite of mine—

"A Melbourne Rescue Home."

"There stood a house square-built of warm brown stone,
And over it the sky was stainless blue—
While in the dainty garden round it, grew
Thin holly-hocks, an olives, lanky grown.
The spirit of the place I thought was shown
By the sad flowers, and the grey dust too,
And when the open door I entered through
My soul was heavy and my heart made moan.

But when a mother face there shone on me,
And when I saw a little sleeping child,
My bitterness fell from me suddenly:
And then a golden glancing sundeam smiled
In at a window, and there seemed to be
Hope smiling with it, strong, serene and mild."

Of the other verses, all are fairly good, some distinctly good; but there is, to me, one hateful exception—the first three verses of A Would-be Wanderer. The others are well above the average verses that appear in a University College Magazine. Here and there a particular phrase, line or peculiar aptness of expression, or the general handling of a theme; or it may be that one feels a certain intimate application. For example, for this last reason I like the second stanza in "Depression," which, at times, appeals to me with great force:

"My thoughts are like the beetles black
That creep along the floor,
Scurry and hide in yawing crack
In wall and door."

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There are two very fine verses (the last two in "Carpe Diem") which express perfectly a state of mind not uncommon to most of us:

But I read till night, and then
Flung aside my book and pen,
Saying: "I shall go to-morrow, pluck my fruit to-morrow morn."
While I tried in vain to sleep,
Came a storm with thunder deep.
And that night, amid its moaning, winter, wailing child, was born.

Not a fruit was there to see
When I came unto my tree—
Wile the garden shivered round me in its scarecrow winter suit;
And the wind so piercing cold
Mocked me crying: "You are old!"
And I turned away so slowly, sans my flower, sans my fruit.

Three—may one call them Vignettes?—are excellent, though "Poppies," true and telling though it is, savours just a little of popular magazine verse. The other two, "When I am Old" and "A Fleeting Dream," are very good. I quote the former, purely from personal preference:

"I shall be glad when I am old
To go to some quiet place
And sit with folded hands and know
That none will chide my resting so
For then I shall be old."

Here then is a book of verse worth while, which we recommend to all lovers of good verse.


* * * *

"Service v. Robbery"

Mr. Fitzherbert is one of the few of our University men who have directed their attention to that ever-present and ever more complex problem: the future relations between capital and labour. The need for a solution of the problem has long been apparent; but the upheaval which has rent the whole fabric of the world has rendered that need appallingly urgent. Unless some solution be found, the chaos of war between nations may become the inferno of a seething hatred and discontent within a nation.

Any such work as "Service versus Robbery" is therefore, to be welcomed as an effort to assist the bringing about of a better system of economic organisatio than that which the civilised peoples of the world now labour under.

One of the fundamental ideas underlying Mr. Fitzherbert's somewhat obscurely expressed thought is that the highest ideal for mankind is that of service of all for the good of all, and not for the good of the individual. It is an ideal which has found expression all down the ages in all manner of forms, and which to-day is as true as ever. But in his endeavour to reduce this ideal to practical methods, the author of "Service versus Robbery" is no more successful than have been all his predecessors in that endeovour.

The book, to a certain extent, is dangerous, in that many of its fallacies are so attractively camouflaged as to require close scrutiny to strip them of their appearance of truth. So stripped, however, the outline of Mr. Fitzherbert's work is after the following fashion.

page 42

He commences with an ingeniously complicated and totally unnecessary classification of various kinds of capital. The group of persons controlling capital he regards as parasites; capital is in the nature of a fungoid growth which it has sprung. It is a mere dull, inert thing, for the sue of which no reward should be given or taken. Interest in organised robbery: rent is blackmail sanctioned by the law: dividends are legalised theft. To liberate society from the suffocating grip of this evil system, Mr. Fitzherbert has a charming faith in the efficacy of the sovereign remedy of legislation.

To usher in an industrial millennium, all that is required is that a Parliament elected by and enlightened people shall forthwith proceed to legislate:

(1)Repudiating all national and municipal debts;
(2)Destroying all rights of landlord and tenant;
(3)Prohibiting payment or receipt of interest in any shape or form;
(4)Dispossessing all shareholders in companies and transforming all the companies into workers' co-operative concerns.

In this manner would Mr. Fitzherbert have us believe that the ideal of service will be effectuated.

Alas, he in his own fanatical belief in the omnipotence of legislation, cannot see that his proposed remedy involves the State in an orgy of robbery and plunder.

A more reasonable portion of the book, however, contains a series of practical suggestions for present day reform—suggestions which the author regards as mere palliatives to be applied only until his drastic remedy is finally used to cure (or kill) the body politic.