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A DISTINGUISHED VISITOR., Issue 7970, 27 July 1889, Supplement
A DISTINGUISHED VISITOR.
Mr D. Christie Murray, the novelist, who is expected to reach Wellington next week, and is visiting the colonies on a lecturing tour, was interviewed prior to sailing from London, and thus told his plan of campaign to the reporter : " I have prepared three lectures. I shall call one • .Reporter,' another ' Special Correspondent,' and the third * Novelist.' The first I shall begin with my old Birmingham experience. I shall have Borne dramatic I stories to tell in this connection—things j which I have seem and gone through. For instance, once I stnrted with nn exploring party, and I was the first to venture down the Pelsall Hall Mine with the man who found the first dead bodies there. We very nearly all lost our lives by venturing into a part of the works which was filled with choke-damp. Our purpose of rescue failed, and we had to return with the news that all the poor fellows lost their lives. Again, I was the witness of a tremendously dramatic scene at Black Lake, when a mine there caught fire, and a lot of devoted fellows went one after another into the flames. Then, apart from these things, I have stories of men of local celebrity, and others who are known throughout the world men like John Bright and George Dawson. I shall deal ! in the same lecture with my Parliamentary experience. I have stoiies of Isaac Butt, Mr Biggar, Major O'Gorman, and a whole crowd of that kind. I remember some very dramatic scenes. During my Parliamentary experience Irish obstruction was commenced. I recollect seeing Kennealy hang his hat upon the mace, and heard him deride the ' goblin smile' of Disraeli. I was one of the half-dozen people who saw Disraeli's installation as a peer. I have a thousand other interesting reminiscences of that period of my life. Once, in order to make myself thoroughly acquainted with the working of the poor law, I went seven weeks on tramp, living in the poorest lodging-houses, and on alternate nights putting up at the workhouse, picking oakum and breaking stones in the morning. I came at last to the conclusion that whilst the administration of the poor law failed to suppress the tramp, it succeeded altogether in breaking the honest man, the workman in search of employment. I put most of my experience to use in my first novel—'A Life's Atonement.' I have studied poverty and rascaldom in Birmingham, Liverpool, London—in pretty near all our great cities, I think," he added, with a smile of conscious pride, " I think I may claim, modestly, to know the British loafer almost as well as anybody. " In the lecture on my work as a ' special' I shall deal mainly with my experience in the Russo Turkish War. In that, as in the previous lecture, I shall recite the poems and stories which I have gathered from tho3o two passages in my career. •* As to one on novel writing, it will be less anecdotal, and more critical and literary, than either of the two I have mentioned. I shall nevertheless try to give to it some reminiscences dealing with the people I have met in my career as a writer of fiction, and shall try to show, by a number of illustrations, in what fashion a writer may get his inception of new types of character."
" How did you like your position as reporter?"—" With the kind of wo r k I had to do, it was very enjoyable. lam certain of this : that, for a man who wants to study men and manners, there is no better school than that of journalism. I began journalism at twenty-five, first going to the Police Court for the Birmingham ' Morning News.' I was eoon, however, made special correspondent. I went to a flower Bhow, of which I was told to do a paragraph. I did an article. I could not help it. I first made my mark, though, at a private execution at Worcester—the first private execution in the Midlands. My article created a considerable sensation. Mr Sala wrote to the editor about it, and spoke very warmly of the writer, whom he did not know. At that same execution I met Archibald Forbes for the first time. He introduced me to Mr Edmund Yates. I was engaged to do some articles for the ' World,' which was just then started. The articles were entitled ' Our Civilisation,' and they have been reprinted in book form under the title ' A Novelist's Note Book.' I spent only a session and a-half in the ' gallery,'" he said, j " and if it be of any interest to anyone you may tell them I was the worst reporter in the place. I never could write shorthand. I remember a peculiar experience. Mr Robert Lowe, now Earl of Sherbrooke, was one of the best speakers in the House. He was also the most difficult man to report. My turn had just come as Mr Lowe rose to speak on the Army Purchase Bill. His speech was a regular mass of literary quotations, all most wittily applied. He quoted from Father Prout, from the last new novel, from tho last society verses, from Horace, Juvenal, and Shakespeare. I tried to take the speech. I sweated; in my anxiety my book got greasy. At last I gave up the attempt as useless. I folded my arms and listened. •We want this, every word,' said my chief, tapping me on the shoulder. • For God s sake, hold your tongue,' I answered; and so I sat and listened. As the speech was over, my relief came. At the same time I saw another reporter, an Irishman—a fine fellow he was, one of the old type which seem to be almost extinct in the gallery. •By Jove!' said he, • Parliamentary eloquence is not dead yet.' He was an extraordinarily fine classical scholar. He knew all the Greek and Latin quotations; I knew all the English ones. So we wrote out our report—l doing mine from memory. The result was that the next morning I got a special letter thanking me for my report. I stood out as a shining light that morning, and got known for a time as the man who reported difficult speeches by looking upon the painted ceil- i ing."
" You seem to have a marvellous memory?" —"I have rather a good memory," he responded, and he gave a few illustrations which showed that it U a very unusual memory indeed. " There," said he, "areten novels of mine; pick out anyone you please, and I think from beginning to end I will remember almost every word." And sure enough he recited piece after piece from that probably most delightful of all hia works'A Bit of Human Nature,'word for word as it appeared in print. " Newspaper articles which I wrote seventeen years ago I can repeat to-day with equal accuracy."
A DISTINGUISHED VISITOR., Issue 7970, 27 July 1889, Supplement
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