Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3


page 97


With the second number of Zealandia there are signs of improvement. Some of the press criticisms have borne fruit, and the grim design on the cover has given place to a typographic page, which, though cramped and poorly displayed, is a great advance on the last. As before, the presswork is sharp and clean; but in the composition and arrangement of the matter nearly all the canons of bookwork are ignored. These rules are not arbitrary—they are the outcome of four centuries of experience; they allow full scope for individual taste and originality of style; and they cannot be neglected without injury to the work. The lines of this serial being now laid down, no real improvement in this respect can be looked for till a second volume is begun, when—if the venture is so far successful—we hope to see some attempt at unity of structure and uniformity of style. The old fault of self-consciousness is again present. In a two-page article the editor most unnecessarily makes his acknowledgments and advertises his plans for the future. We are sorry to see that more departments are in contemplation. We find already more than in any other magazine of our acquaintance, even though containing five or six times the matter. The editor accuses unfavorable critics of « journalistic immorality. » This is nonsense. He also resents the insinuation that the magazine is a « commercial speculation, » and says that its « patriotic aim and intention » have been ignored. As a matter of fact, it is a commercial undertaking, pure and simple—the property of a joint-stock company, and ushered into existence with a prospectus which made extravagant promises, and which cast really unjust and unpatriotic reflections upon previous literary work in the colony. The leading serial « The Mark of Cain, » is again the best feature, and is written with considerable ability. But it is prefixed with a monstrosity—a « synopsis of previous chapters » ! We have seen this kind of thing in low-class Yankee weekly « dreadfuls, » which are not considered worthy of preservation; but never before in a literary monthly, and we hope never to see it again. No greater disfigurement could be introduced into a work intended for preservation than this—it is even worse than the advertisements mixed up with the reading matter. Sir Robert Stout's article on « The State » is a strange production. We fail to find an original idea or a practical suggestion in the essay. He says that « the State as an organism is an idea born of the past and present century. » On the contrary the idea is as old as human society, pervades the most ancient literature, and has left its indelible trace on the very roots of language. The short story « The Burning of Kororareka » has one good point—it is brief. It is too flimsy for criticism. « Zealandia's Fair » (what a title!) does not refer to the coming show in Dunedin, but is a page devoted to tea gowns and evening dresses. There are two brief poems, and some fragments to fill the spaces at the bottom of pages. One of these « The Faery Palace, » possesses some merit, but has neither beginning nor end. A reviewer writes with great reverence of a trashy « inspirational » pamphlet published in Christchurch, which teaches the doctrine of transmigration of souls. « The Corner Cobweb » should be swept away. It is a page of bad jokes. We would like to find something worthy of hearty commendation—something better than schoolboy essays and schoolgirl rhymes and stories. As we have said, the leading serial shows signs of careful workmanship, and promises to be a good story; but the author's self-respect should make him insist upon the omission of the wretched « synopsis. » « Wanderings in Lakeland » is a very good piece of descriptive writing, and deals with Lake Wakatipu. We would like to see equally good descriptions of some of our northern lakes. « Out in the Open » contains a very interesting note on the native Peripatus, « a caterpillar-like creature, found usually in decayed tree-stumps or logs, » and another upon a pet lizard of the species Naultinus. « Our University » is an article recommending on various good grounds a central university at the capital instead of four expensive colleges in different parts of the colony. The writer indulges in some banter about the Empire city which leaves it partly doubtful whether he is wholly in earnest. But some allowance must be made for an Aucklander, who, after reading in his own local papers daily for the past twenty-five years that Wellington is remarkable chiefly for gales and earthquakes, may be excused for supposing that there is some ground for the idea. We hope that Zealandia will succeed, and that it will become a magazine of which the colony will be proud. But, if this end is to be obtained, it must reach a higher standard, both literary and typographical, and the articles must be of a more manly type. All the trifling of boys' and girls' pages, fashions, and games, should be left to their proper place, the weekly newspapers. The essays should not be dreamy discourses on vague abstract questions, but should deal in a direct manner with practical themes. If they raise debatable matter, so much the better—they would be of little value indeed if they did not supply material both for thought and discussion. And editorial advertisements, even in the disguise of « To our Readers » should be rigorously shut out, or relegated to the advertising pages. One of the fragments of poetry (?) ends with the original sentiment « Heaven save me from success. » We trust that this does not represent the real feelings of the promoters.

It is gratifying indeed, in these days of imitation and plagiarism, to find a well-conducted periodical which is in every way « out of the rut. » Such is Mr Harry Quilter's Universal Review, now in its second year. The editor is a well-known art critic, but quite without experience in the thorny ways of periodical literature. But he had some original ideas, and ample means to carry them out, and as the ideas were good, the venture is proving a commercial success. The new review is a large octavo, printed in large type, in the best style; its articles are signed, and it is profusely illustrated. The pictures are of many kinds, in every case illustrative. Some are the merest outline sketches; others delicate process blocks; but the style of wood-engraving in microscopic detail, after the American school, is absent. The cuts in the text often transgress upon the broad margins, after the French style; in fact, there is a « Frenchy » aspect about the magazine which will be objectionable to some. At the same time, the French taste in book-printing and book decoration is better than the English, and Mr Quilter has caught its best features. The articles are ably and vigorously written, and the art-criticisms are sound. The last two numbers, 13 and 14, contain articles of interest to the craft. No. 13 opens with a very readable article (anonymous) on The Times: « The Aunt, the Nieces, and the Dog, » by Samuel Butler, is a curiosity of type-composition, the irregularity of illiterate writing being imitated by setting in a large- and small-faced ionic, and the crookedness of the lines managed by intricate leading. There are several pages of this work, which must have been worse to set than algebraic equations. No. 14 contains the first part of an article by Alfred Pollard, on « The History of the Title-Page, » liberally illustrated with fac-similes; and Mr E. Glode Ellis writes advocating the simplification of musical notation by the abolition of the clefs.

Life-Lore is a beautifully-printed, well-written, and well - illustrated fourpenny monthly magazine of natural history, a copy of which has been sent to us through our home agent. It has just entered upon its second year. The design on its cover is a model of emblematic decoration. It is more popular in its style than Nature, and as it occupies a somewhat different field from its contemporaries, ought to be very successful. Oliver Wendell Holmes has sent to a Scottish admirer a stanza which he wrote on Burns as long ago as 1856. These lines have appeared in a Glasgow paper, accompanied by the remark that « nothing better has been said on the same subject in a briefer space. » Here is the stanza:—

The lark of Scotia's morning sky,
What voice may sing his praises?
With heaven's own sunlight in his eye.
He walked among the daises,
Till through the cloud of fortune's wrong,
He soared to fields of glory,
But left his land her sweetest song,
And earth her saddest story.

We rejoice to see that the Quarterly Review has some trenchant remarks on « the purveyors of literary husks on which numbers of swine are content to feed. » It specially singles out the Hansom Cab, and remarks: « Bad as are all the shilling dreadfuls, most of them are high works of art compared with this detestable production. It is a tale of commonplace murder, written in the vilest English, in which the criticisms on life and manners would argue abnormal stupidity in a boy of fourteen, in which there is not even an attempt to portray a character, and in which the plot is as uninteresting as the style is vulgar. »

Only two reviewers—those of the Daily News and the Spectator—have had a word in favor of Sir Julius Vogel's book. The former spoke of it as « the day-dream of an amiable and accomplished statesman, » and the latter says that making allowance for all shortcomings the author « has done that which is the sovereign test of merit: he has produced a readable book. » The Melbourne Argus describes the book as « a wild and incoherent dislocated extravaganza, which has not imagination enough to keep it afloat, or art to make it readable. » It thinks it will probably serve one useful purpose, in keeping its author permanently from office.

Referring to the forthcoming work by Mr Benzon, in which he is to relate how he gambled away a great fortune, the Marlborough Express says: « No wise man's book was probably ever looked for more anxiously than a book which a superlative fool has just promised us. »

page 98

According to a floating paragraph from some American paper, a humble marble slab in a secluded corner of Otterbein cemetery, about twelve miles north of « this » (which?) city, marks the grave of Benjamin Russell Hansby, the author of the famous ballad, « Darling Nellie Gray. »

The favorite Scottish song, « There's nae luck about the hoose when our guidman's awa', » says a contemporary, was written by a poor seamstress, Jean Adams, who never knew what it was to have a guidman of her own, for all the cheering ring of welcome in her song.