" Let me hare audience for a word or two." —MIAKSFEIIE. Rcvenons a nos huitres. The paragraph which I wrote last week anent the confiscated oysters has, I am given to understand, wounded the amour proprt, of a very sensible official, to wit, Mr. Hill, of her Sovereign Lady tho Queen's Customs. He took my harmless jtu d'esprit, my playful bavardago quite seriously. I can hardly conceive it possible, but so I have beon told ; and I hasten to assure that worthy official that my remarks were not intended by me to bear the construction which he appears to have put upon them. I dad not even mean them to be Pickwickian ; I meant them to be jocose, But an oyster may be crossed in love, and apparently a Customs official may be deficient in a sense of humour. Ido not know Mr. Hill's nationality, but I should say he is a Scotchman. The same paragraph contained an allusion to His Excellency, whose acquaintance, like Mr. Hill's, I have notyot had the honour of making. But Sir William is an Irishman. Ho has not sent his gallant aide-de-camp to interview me. All our great; men are not sensitive ; nor do all of thorn require a surgical operation to see a joke. If they did, I fear, as alas 1 Othello's occupation would bo gone.
Mr. Hutchinson, I notice, lias come forward in defence of Captain Mail's (Hawkc's Biy) exploit, for which that officer has just received the Now Zealand Cross .No doubt Mr. Hutchinson knows a great deal more than I do of Captain Mair's military services, during a singularly anxious period in the history of the colony. But that is not the question. During the war Captain Mair gave abundant evidence of possessing plenty of pluck and grit. Nobody disputes that What 1 pointed out was that the official or semi-official record of the "distinguished" act of bravery or personal heroism for which he was to receive the New Zealand Cross was not pleasant reading, and wan certainly not calculated to induce a man liko Sir George Grey to feel any desire to bo made the recipient of such a decoration. I say so still. I am not a philo Maori, nor am I particularly squeamish. I have not an iota ot sympathy with the maudlin sentimentalism which finds fitting expression in tho drivel of Exeter Hall orators. But I say that this special exploit singled out from among all Captain Mair's military services as of surpassing noteworthi ness, and entitling him to honourable dis tinction, is a wretched story as told in the elegant phraseology of the .Press Association. The exploit itself may havo been all that is claimed for it; very likely it was but the manner of telling it is execrable.
I have read a birthday ode, written by a local rhymster, and dedicated to Sir George Grey. It has been set to music by a local composer. I shall not road it again. Life is too short to be wasted over such stuff. When I tossed aside the ode I took up my Boswell. Turning over the leaves I came across this passage : " tie [Dr. Johnson] spoke with much contempt of the notice taken of Wood house, the poetical shoemaker. He said it was all vanity and childishness, and that such objects were, to those who patronised them, mere mirrors of their own superiority. They had better, said he, furnish the man with good implements for his trade than raise subscriptions for his poems. He might make an excellent shoe maker, but can never make a good poet. A schoolboy's exercise may be a pretty thing for a schoolboy, but it is no treat for a man." I wonder what the lexicographer would have said to the ode ?
The great man who wrote a dictionary and a grammar to boot, who was the keenest of critics and the severest of literary judges, was at times shaky on the rules of syntax, if we may accept the opinion of the allsufficient Cobbett. But the eminent editor of the " Register" (by the way I know » gentleman in Auckland who has had many a controversy with Cobbett) did not confine himself to Johnson. There is scarcely a name famous in English letters that he did not fall foul of. But ho made the leading columns of the London Times his happy hunting ground for grammatical mistakes, and his example has been followed ever since. Journalists who cultivate literature on a little oatmeal, whose work is often done under trying circumstances (e.g., lam writing these lines at three o'clock in the morning, after seven hours'continuous applition at other work), are more likely than not to make a slip from classical Kngliah. All this preamble is apropos of a letter which a fair and pert correspondent has favoured me with. "As Mercutio," writes this genial critic, "is so fond of pointing out the weaknesses of other people, I have much pleasure in calling his attention to a gram rnatical mistake ('philosophers like you and 1') which appeared in hi« otherwise interesting article of Saturday last." What can a man say to such a correction couched in such language ? Albert Smith, asked fur his autograph, wrote in an album—
Mount HUnc Is the monarch of mountains ; I hey crowned hfm long »<o, But' who they got to put it on 1 don't exactly kno*. The book was sent the next day to Thackeray with a similar request, and he wroto immediately under the foregoing—
Albert, of course, wrote in ahury To criticise I sc.rce presum*; Eut yet I think that I inrlliy Murray Ins.cad of ''who" hart written "whom." When Albert heard of Thackeray's lines he swore. But you can't swear at a lady's note. 1 could not go further than a mild " blow Lindley Murray." He, at all events, is fair yame. It is not the first time 1 have " blower! " him. But Murray and my fair correspondent to the contrary, I feel inclined to stick to my phrase. Sbakspere uses it ; so does Tennyson
" the selfsame blunder Pope has got, Ati'l careless Drj-den. " Ay, but Pyc lias not." lud-ed !—its grante'l, faith—hut what care I ? Better to err with Pope ilian shine with Pyo." I would willingly shine with my gentle critic and her Murray, but Sh»kspere, Tennyson—no, let me blunder along in their company. (N. B. I do not promise to take notice of the communications which other fair or foul grammarians may think fit to send me. J
As usual, the census forms lately distributed, and now being collected, have come in for some criticism and remark. The Irish Roman Catholics are very angry because in the pattern schedule there is given, " Bridget Flynn, Irish, domestic servant, Roman Catholic, cannot read or write." This is a recurring complaint, as we had the same three years ago. Ihe Tablet calls upon the Hon. Mr. Buckley, Colonial Secretary, who is an Irishman and a Roman Catholic, to peremptorily and instantaneously dismiss the civil servant who has been guilty of such an insult to his nation and faith. But no doubt the reply of the Registrar General would be this .--Statistics shew that the largest proportion of those who are domestic servants, and who cannot read and write, are Irish and If Oman Catholics, therefore it is fairer to put it on them, when wo want an example of a parson who cannot read or write, than on any other class. But, as the greater the truth the greater the libel, so perhaps it is in this case ; and as the example would do quite as well with any other name, I would propose that the example be altered to this form, or something like this :— " Margaret -cott, Presbyterian, native of Scotland, domestic servant, cannot read or write ; " or perhaps it reconcile some of our Mary Janes to their lot to have it put thus :—
"Clara Vere de Vere, condescends to aid in housework, English, highly accomplished, plays the piano."
Some people, I learn, have been very much exercised over the column in which the " head of household" is enjoined to enter any "live stock." which he may have on the premises. A Southern paper says that one " head of household" aolemnly put down "one cat," while another, anxious to be scrupulously correct, and yet not knowing well how, put, " What of rats?" Another placed, under the head of "Poultry," the entry, "one canary." A good many have had very serious misgivings as to what was meant by "live stock," caused by a certain popular use of the phrase.
We in Auckland were altogether in too serious a mood to do much jocularity over All Fools' Day. Some of us had to attend to the Sir George Grey birthday address, and to compose odes for the occasion, a,nd set them to music ; others had to appear in the Court of Reviewers as objectors to the scandalous valuations for the property tax ; while others were absorbed by His Excellency the Governor, Admiral Kuorr, and the officers of the German squadron. In other towns they seem to have been possessed of
more fun, or more leisure. la Wanganui a telephone exchange has lately been instituted, and one wit succeeded in hoaxing an editor, by Bending him an intimation that , naming a citizen well known for certain peculiarities, had joined the telephone exchange. In Wellington, an enthusiastic amateur naturalist, who has been studying katipos lately, received an intimation by telephone to forward some katipos for the inspection of the Mayor and Councillors. He hastened to oomply, thinking that his scientific eminence would be published abroad at last, and astonished the corporation officials by appearing in the Council Chambers with several specimens of the katipo in a bottle.
The presentation of an address to Sir George Grey on his seventy-fourth birthday, will be an occasion of interest in several other ways than the principal. In the first place, the signatures to the address have enabled us to identify the old identities, and it is wonderful to see ho* many of these aro still amongst us—men who wore in New Zealand before it was proclaimed a colony, and who have lived in it all their lives, They were residents here when the vast majority of those who now crowd our streets were yet unborn ; when the few Europeans lived at the mercy of the thousands of savages by whom thoy were surrounded ; when cannibal orgies were still perpetrated. They themselves never dreamt that they would live to see half-a-million of people here; nor a 'Frisco service, nor direct steamers, nor a debt of thirty millions. Verily, thoy have beheld a revolution ! Can we not do some honour to those men, our fathers, although not after the flush ? Fine npecimens of men some of thOin still are. I have seen the signature of one who is now 95 years of age—l think the only signature of so old a man I have over soon. It was written without spectacles, anil in a firm, good hand. It has been, suggested that on the occasion of the presentation, the platform beside Sir George Grey should be reserved for those who were in New Zealand before 1555. Thus would we do honour to those reverend fathers ! Mkrcdtio.
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New Zealand Herald, New Zealand Herald, Volume XXIII, Issue 7608, 10 April 1886
LOCAL GOSSIP. New Zealand Herald, Volume XXIII, Issue 7608, 10 April 1886
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