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NOTES., Issue 8018, 21 September 1889
Was there ever a Parliamentary session in
New Zealand of wdich it was The Talking not said that the country was Shop. glad when it ended ? It eeenw as if every session opened with more or less of hope and closed in bitter disappointment. We must not take it too seriously, then, when the newspapers tell us that the session just wound up has betn the most unsatisfactory cae ever known in the colony, The colonists, who havo brought some of John Bull's grumbling spirr.. uit J i thorn, have got into dio b.ibiu ot in this way. But Ibey do not meor. exactly what they Bay. Is it possible, for instance, that every Governor's speech ci>n be more meaningless and grammarless than its predecessor. We should say not. And yet this is about the invariable verdict of the Press. From one point of view the less meaning there is in a " Speech from the Throne " the better it is; and though we will not go so far as to say that the less work done the better the session, it does not follow that a session has been exceptionally barren because few measures have been passed. In this respect, indeed, the less done the better. The New Zealand Statute Book is already an overgrown monstrosity. It is the despair of the very lawyers. Did not Mr Macandrew, the most patriotic of old identities, propose to burn it ? His opinion was that such a heap of laws, every year adding its volume to the pile, was a libel on the colonists, for whom a few simple rules and regulations should be sufficient. Not that laßt session was absolutely law barren. A fair number of Bills got through—nearly enough, in all conscience. There was little or none of the so-called policy legislation. But why should it be thought necessary for every Government to bring down every session a number of policy measures ? It is simply a bad cuslom, partly the result of our system of party government. Nor are the people without a dim conviction that this is the case. Is it not constantly said that there is nothing the colony needs so much as rest ? that it would be well if Parliament met only every third or fourth year, just to vote the Estimates and keep members' oratory from rusting? At present the only kind of policy necessary is the policy of economical government. Viewed in this light, last session was not so very unsatisfactory. The " Lords," indeed, are still unreformed, and the Hare system still waits its adoption. But the ordinary work of the session—the indispensable work, whether for good or ill —was duly performed; our patriotic and sadly underpaid representatives had their little annual outing and their annual sports —wrangling, stonewalling, want-of-oonfi-dence contests, etc.—and the colony is fortunately not much the worse.
This ia an advertising ago. Every reader of the papers knows that. Every-Adrei-tfring thing is advertised, from a aSctene*. British colony down to Wolfe's Schnapps. Infinitely various, too, and ingenious are the methods of adver rising, as the author or proprietor of the aid Schnapps has abundantly shown. We Aew Zealanders are at present trying to advertise ourselves by means of an Exhibition, Not that the colony is not known to fame. For a few years it was constantly talked about by its enemies in the London newspapers. It was held up as an awful example to the other colonies. At this New Zealaudera sometimes waxed very wroth, forgetting that all the while their country was being widely advertised—not very cheaply, perhaps; but other people have to pay for their cuts, as well as they. "The mair they clash I'm kent the better," said Robert Burns in a similar case; and if the New Zealand colonists had been philosophers they would have consoled them with that reflection when the ' Standard,'' Financial News,' and other journals kept firing off their shots at the colony. But these lefthanded compliments have now ceased. New Zealand is again in the odor of sanctity, so to speak ; and some of the papers that so persistently ran it down have for Borne time been running it up. Some people would rather be talked against than not talked about at all; but whether this is the proper thing in the case of an individual thing, there can be no doubt about it in the case of a colony. The great amount of evil speaking this colony had to endure—sometimes not undeservedly—will redound to its benefit, now that the tide has turned in its I favor, and that the whole world is speaking well of it. Oar own Exhibition is rising, as it were, as an anti-climax to the vituperation of the London Press ; and here comes a lady novelist willing and ready to write us sky-high for a consideration. Mrs Pender Cndlip, better known as Annie Thomas, has sent a letter to Mr William Courtney, a kind of immigration agent, in which she says that she has " conceived an intense desire to visit New Zealand and write a three-volume novel dealing with Bociety there, and charged necessarily with local warmth and color." She would also write two volumes of' Impressions of New Zealand made on the spot,' dealing with facts and any question? the colony might wish to have ventilated. " Can you put me," she asks, •• into communication with a responsible society which would bo likely to entertain my proposition in something like the following terms namely, my travelling and hotel expenses and those of a lady companion guaranteed from date oE my leaving Eoqland till the expiration of nine months, and a sum of LI.OOO for the entire copyright of novel and • Impressions.' " Mrs Cudhp thinks that, though an expensive, she would be a remunerative visitor, andshe would hold herself ready to start not later than October or early in the spring of 1890. Was a fairer offer ever made ? To have th* society of the coloDy dealt with in a three-volume novel, with local warmth and color, and its " facts " and aspirations made known to all the world in two volumes of * Impressions,' for the modest sum of one thousand pounds and nine-months' travelling expenses for two unprotected females. The number of " responsible societies" in the colony is unfortunately small, but we would strongly recommend Mrs Cudlip's proposal to the consideration of the Government. A threevolume novel on New Zealand would be sure to cause an influx of sentimental young ladies from every part of Great Britain—the very kind of immigration needed to temper the matter-of-factness of our colonial life.
Sentimental poets should not dabble in
satire. It is not in their line, Ahont Rome As a rule, they fail miserably Poets, when they try to make their verses sting. They should be content with making them sing, which some of them find hard enough to do. Milton's attempts at satire disfigured 'Paradise Lost,' and gave us one very harsh sonnet. Wordsworth, who thought he resembled Milton, both in look and character, was as poor a satirist as the great epic poet. He seldom dips his pen in gall, but when he does he omits to blend the bitterness with wit. His satire is mere sour ill-nature, as witness the 'Poet's Epitaph.' In these verses he swears at his fellow-creatures all round ; the only exception being the idle sentimentalist who spends his life in mooning about the beauties of Nature. The statist, lawyer, physician, philosopher, moralist, are all naught, and all come in for a share of his spleen.
Physician art thou ? one all eyes; Philosopher! a fingering slaveOne that would peep and botanfse Upon his mother's grave. This kind of thing is not satire at all; but, as we have said, mere ill-nature, expressed in appropriate doggerel. Why, in the name of common sense, should a botanist not respect his mother's grave as much as a sentimental poet ? Wordsworth's successor in the laureateship has also tried his hand at what he thinks satire; but the two copies of verses addressed respectively to Christopher North and Bulwer Lytton, who had been wicked enough to laugh at young Alfred's muse, are no more satirical thai} the Lake poet's 'Epitaph.' They are just the kind of thing a schoolgirl in a passion would write, if she had a turn for rhyme. We have not seen either of the two poems, if poems they can be called, for years (they are not in his volumes); but we remember that he rails very angrily at "fusty, crusty Christopher," and calls Bulwer a "bandbox," in allusion to his dandyian. Indignatio facit vermm, Bays the greatest, oi Roman satirists; but if indignation makes verses (Juvenal o% 'course means moral indignation), anger anger,
at least, as sentimental poets feelonly makes the versifier ridiculous. An o ' ll ** proof of this has just been given by Robert Browning. Browning is net only a poet himself; he has hail tne supreme happiness to have a poetess fr.r hia wife. It is the only instance the world has yet been of such a remarkable ewjuuotion— i.e, if there is a distinction between the poet and the mere rhymer. The grey mare, according to some judges, wa< -Ik- letter horse—we mean from the poetic,-,! -Jut of view. Whether Browning was alau'of this opinion we know not, but ul\ (.he wori - 1 . kr.o-.is that lie adored his wifs, »,a shi' deceived to be adored, both as ■j. woman and <■ But she is gono years ago. indeed what was mortal of her, which was never very much, had almost evaporated into spirit before what we may call the formal dissolution took place. Hawthorne said she was scarcely embodied at all, and Mrs Hawthorne that " the smallest possible amount of substance enclosed her soul." The wonder is that such a tiny fragile creature should have produced so much poetry. One reader, indeed, seemed to think she produced too much. The late Mr Fitzgerald, author of ' Omar | Khayyam,' jotted down in his diary that he was glad to hear she was dead, as there there would be no more' Aurora Leighs.' There was not a bit of harm in the remark. It was not ill-natured. Fitzgerald was not in the least glad Mrs Browning was dead. He only meant to say that he did not much admire ' Aurora Leigh,' and we should like to know who would care to read another 'Aurora.' But it was a mistake to print the remark in Fitzgerald's • Life.' Pity at any rate that it ever caught Mr Browning's eye. Some men can stand a joke at their wives' expense. A few cannot; and of these the author of * Sordello' is evidently one. He reads what his fellow rhymer had said about his deceased saint, and is instantly all ablaze. For the moment he is reveuge embodied. But what can he do against a dead man? He cannot call him out or horsewhip him, now that he is snug under ground. He must, however, do something desperate to relieve his feelings, so he writes two of the most execrable stanzas ever penned by an irate bard. They were printed in the supplement to the Evening Star the week before last, and they are really so bad that they would not bear reprinting. Suffice it to Bay that Mr Browning fumes and stamps like a madman upon poor Fitzgerald's grave, wishes he could kick such a cur, and would spit is his face—dead though he be—were it not " that spitting there from lips once sanctified by hers" would be honor rather than disgrace. So does a great poet make a fool of himself—all for want of a little humor!
NOTES., Issue 8018, 21 September 1889
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