James Leatham started The Gateway Journal in 1912 while he was living in Yorkshire. At the time he was running The Cottingham Press, but following his move to Turriff in 1916, he set up The Deveron Press (Turriff is set on the River Deveron) and published under this name for the rest of its, and his, life.
Volume 1 number 1 came out in mid July 1912 and was the start of a propagandist publishing project that ended only with his death some thirty three years later. During all this time it came out more or less monthly (at some points it was quarterly) and offers an insight not just into the opinion of James Leatham over three decades but into an important time of change for the world.
The cover price was 3d for the whole of the life of The Gateway. It was possible to buy a yearly subscription for 4s and if you felt really flush you could buy a bound yearly volume for some 6s.
The standard length of the magazine was 32 pages. The content remained fairly standard as well. The first volume comprised:
The Blight of Ibsenism By the Editor
A Chiel’s Amang Ye. By Francis Grose.
In Reply to Kind Inquiries – Hanley and After – Barren Labourism – The Minimum Wage – The Right to Work – War and Famine
The Girl Critic, A Play. By Jacobus
Things that are not what they sound
Tact and Talent. A Story by James Leatham
Over time the Editorial covered issues of culture, society and politics. Leatham wrote most of the copy for the magazine, Francis Grose wrote political pieces and Jacobus wrote on culture. Both were his nom de plumes. This was neither unusual for Leatham, nor indeed for the magazine press of the day. Leatham had written for the Peterhead Sentinel as ‘Archie Tait,’ for some years earlier in his career. The Gateway was Leatham’s personal mouthpiece, but he also accepted stories, poems and commentary from other writers/readers.
The Gateway was an unashamed Socialist propaganda paper. Before we go further I should offer an explanation of the term ‘propaganda press.’ These days we impute a totally negative meaning to the word propaganda, but in Leatham’s day it was used in a simpler way, meaning: information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause.
The more negative connotations have grown up as a result of Two World Wars and the use of ‘propaganda’ in times of war, so that today the suggestion is that propaganda is biased and misleading if not deliberately false. However, we need to return to Leatham’s understanding and use of the word when we read his work. For him propaganda is simply: the particular doctrines of principles propagated by an organization or movement. You’ll note it stems from the root ‘propagate’ which is much more nurturing and evocative of organic distribution rather than the immediate click-heeled Nazi saluting picture we get when the word is used today.
Leatham was happy to declare that his writing was propaganda. His justification for it was thus: All the organs of public opinion – press, Parliament, radio, pulpit, are in the hands of careerists who support the established order.
He sought to offer an alternative, and later in life he explained why:
It is because the newspapers do not give the material facts of social progress, and still less emphasise their significance, that I have for years maintained a propagandist press, with no advertisers, directors or shareholders to please. It is correct to say that I maintain the press; it does not maintain me. Unless a propagandist enterprise had a party organisation behind it, it never pays. Sometimes not even then.
This was then, if not a labour of love, then at least a labour of conviction. And that, I might hesitate to suggest, makes it something of a rarity in the history of magazine publishing. In picking up where Leatham left off, we want to offer something similar. But in today’s world of 24 hour news and social media overload, we do not see the need for another online magazine focussing on the events of the day. What we do see the need for is a place to visit ‘forgotten’ and ‘lost’ work. We’re committed to the writing that slipped down the back of the sofa, or was air-brushed away because it didn’t suit the concerns of advertisers, shareholders or directors. There is no party organisation behind this. Our aim is simply to be a place you can come and find out about the hidden past of our shared culture, politics and society. Our conviction is that public domain work should be much more readily accessible and available and while we are just one small voice (as Leatham was) we are shouting about some big issues.
In this commemorative issue we set the scene, offering a sort of transition between Leatham’s unfinished project and our own taking up of the reins. This month then, you can read Tact and Talent (as it was in the very first issue of The Gateway some 103 years ago) as well as dipping into some other issues, still current or blowing echoes from the past. We begin to scratch the surface of the issue of copyright. A writer retains copyright in his/her work for 70 years after their death. Offering this level of protection can, however, be a double edged sword. As in the case of James Leatham it can mean an effective gag being put on a writer for that length of time. Leatham’s copyright is lifted on 31st December 2015, and that is one reason we’re bringing The Gateway back to life, to start spreading his writing as widely as possible as soon as it becomes public domain.
Unlike writers such as George Bernard Shaw and H.G.Wells, with whom he clashed over the issue, Leatham himself was keen on his work being disseminated as widely as possible. He said: An author who believes his views are for the good of the world will want them as widely diffused as possible. For other authors, the wide distribution has more to do with money than conviction.
Leatham was a socialist. Reading his work offers an illustration and explanation of socialism in a way rarely found. I have been surprised to learn things about the emergence of the Labour party and its relationship with socialism through reading Leatham and I hope to be able to share much of this with you in the months to come.
Leatham’s commitment was co-operative collectivism(now there’s an expression you don’t hear every day any more). His brand of socialism, some might say socialism itself, has passed into history, but if you read his writing you’ll see how different things might have been if only we had listened. Today we’re obsessed with Corbynism and the fragmentation of the Labour Party, and its distance from the Labour Movement and the roots of Socialism. Leatham has plenty to say on this subject: reading his work can offer information (and advice) from the birth of a movement to what might indeed be the death of the same movement. I recently heard members of the Shadow Cabinet being described as ‘right wing Labour.’ This is a phrase that should be unintelligible and yet…
The past century has seen many changes. Who could have believed that The Berlin Wall would come down, that Russia, and China, would effectively become part of the capitalist ‘project.’ If I was to talk to Leatham today, I might feel compelled to tell him that ‘we are all capitalists now. Even the socialists.’ And see what he thought of that.
Other issues also still dominate, though in changed ways. Reading Leatham I often think that if we’d only listened to his advice we’d not be in the mess we are now, but it’s important also to remember that he lived in a time which was vastly different. The article in this edition ‘Do Banks Make Money’ is a good example of this. The questions may be the same, but the landscape has significantly changed. And keeps changing. Reading Leatham with the benefit of hindsight, offers us the opportunity to challenge him, and our own pre-conceptions, and to think hard about the paths we are taking – both those we can see and those hidden from us. It helps engage us with a world – not just one that is lost, but one that we may have given away in favour of what I call ‘gilded cage syndrome.’ Leatham can help you open the doors to that cage and flap your wings.
For me personally, reading Leatham is a stark reminder at how much society has changed, and how little human nature has changed. It makes me think that we are all pawns in the game of society. But lest we get too downhearted in the political maelstrom which seems ever more Orwellian the older I get, Leatham also had plenty to say on the issue of culture. And let’s remember, he died before Orwell’s classic novel was written. I consider 1984 a real watershed in political fiction. I wonder what Leatham would have made of it?
Leatham is not shy in talking about literature or culture. And his ideas are sometimes unusual, and initially can seem almost bizarre. He offers a seventeen part view of Shakespeare’s plays from a socialist perspective. We’ll dip into these over the months to come. He didn’t like Ibsen but he did like Barrie’s ‘The Little Minister.’ Yet he railed against mass market publishing and championed high literature. I find his attitudes complex, challenging and supremely interesting. I believe they force us onto a kind of meta level of retrospective criticism where we have to understand the time in which they were written as well as the psychology and politics of the man who was writing. For those who like to challenge literary norms and conventions, I warn you, this can become an obsessive game. It’s certainly the diametric opposition of the spoon-fed commentary posing as critical authority we find most commonly today. I know that in taking over the editorship of The Gateway I am standing on the shoulder of a giant. I hope he would approve. They are big boots to fill, and by some accounts (there are still a few who remember Provost Leatham from their childhood’s in Turra) he wore spats. I cannot compete with his sartorial elegance and I will not try to compete with him. I am, I suppose, a Leatham Lamb. He will always be the master.
In this edition we offer a gentle introduction to all things Leatham. His article on ‘The Best of Friends’ shows a man who may genuinely be described as a ‘Bookman.’ He’s not the greatest fan of novels, finding history much better. He writes: ‘Novels are good enough for people who can’t assimilate an idea unless it is presented in a pictoral or dramatic setting, or for those who don’t want ideas at all, but read merely to kill the time in life which they don’t know how to use. To those who read to learn, Green’s History is vastly more entertaining than the best society novel; and as regards the great majority of novels of all sorts, it is only the sober fact to say of them that truth is especially stranger to that sort of fiction.’
I disagree with him fundamentally on this point, but he does put up an argument which I feel compelled to engage with. Leatham is often provocative and it’s the kind of provocation which I find positive, challenging one out of the ‘comfortable’ position and making one think about the very nature and justification of all we think we know.
Leatham wasn’t precious about his work. Many of his pamphlets ran to numerous editions over the years, and while he may not have fundamentally changed his views, he was not averse to adding knowledge gained through experience into the mix. This was possible with penny pamphlet production – more ephemeral than ‘real’ book publishing. What we now have as ‘legacy’ of Leatham, through old pamphlets and the bound volumes of The Gateway which still survive in a very few academic libraries, may seem to over-position him into one time or one view. I believe his writing was more evolutionary than this might suggest. One day someone (and I fear it won’t be me) may make a serious in depth study of the progression of Leatham’s views and ideas through his own writing – there is an absolute gold-mine to be explored – but the explorer will have to dig deep – Leatham was a prolific writer and re-writer.
It is almost fitting that his autobiography remained unfinished at his death, ironic that it stopped just at the point when he moved to Turriff and set up the Deveron Press, and it ends like an unfinished project. It would be ridiculous to suggest that Leatham, who died just shy of his 80th birthday, suffered a life cut short, but it is not ridiculous to note that only his death could stop his life’s work, which was the expression of his convictions. Many of us settle down, or sell out, long before this time. Leatham kept going because while he might change his views, he never changed his commitment. One cannot help but see a note of irony on his unobtrusive gravestone at St Machar’s Cathedral (Leatham was not a religious man) which reads ‘His works liveth for evermore.’ To me this suggests a wry smile at the world. And that’s one reason I was happy to get involved with this project which seeks to bring some truth back into that perfect Leatham ‘one liner.’ I like to think that Leatham would enjoy the idea of us bringing him Lazarus like, back into the world. Especially in a world where his writing can be disseminated for free to a huge potential readership.
The new Deveron Press will be publishing Leatham’s unfinished ‘60 Years of World-Mending’ in May 2016 to mark the 100th anniversary of The Deveron Press itself. We will also be bringing out other of his seminal works in paperback format. But I am tasked with making sure that there’s something new for you to read every month, mostly Leatham but also other important lost public domain works. Leatham wrote ‘Publishing is an adventure.’ I hope you’ll join me on this adventure on a month by month basis.
The small team behind the New Gateway cannot promise you a run of 30 years to rival Leatham, but we’re determined to give it a good 5 years – and if all goes well a decade – by which time we hope not only that we will have shared a lot of important public domain work, but that such sharing might have become so ubiquitous that we no longer need to do so, because all of you out there have learned how to seek it out for yourselves and that open access becomes a reality not just a pleasant theory. And you can quote me on that – without fear of copyright!
Rab Christie , December 2015.
‘Well, what sort of meetings?’
The question was asked by Mrs Ainger, a slight, bright-eyed woman on the sensible side of forty, and was addressed to her sister, Dr.Mary Marshall, who had just returned from the provinces, where she had been lecturing during the week-end. She was one of the propagandists of the Fabian Society.
‘I had only one meeting,’ replied the doctor indifferently, as she settled down to warm her hands at the fire.
‘Nothing interesting at all to tell me?’ pursued Mrs Ainger, with the natural curiosity of the one who has stayed at home. ‘Meet anybody in particular?’
‘No, nothing very interesting.’ And the Fabian doctoress warmed her hands on both sides, raising them from the wrists and letting them fall again.
‘Been comfy?’ inquired the stay-at-home sister.
‘Oh, quite. Just a little overpowering, in fact. I was with some kind of wholesale merchant on the Sunday night till this morning. Stodgy people, stodgy house, stodgy food. Very substantial and that; but certainly stodgy.
‘On Sunday night! But where were you on Saturday night?
‘I had a silly sort of experience rather on Saturday night,’ said Mary.
‘A local editor turned out for me. In their frugal Woolshire way these people can’t think of sending one to a hotel. This man went off somewhere to make room for me, and left an absurd note making me free of his rooms.’
‘Well,’ said the older sister, ‘it was kind to leave a note anyhow. And as for the frugality, he would probably go to a hotel where he went to, and would have his railway fare besides. A bachelor?’
‘I expect so. At any rate the house was in charge of his landlady, not his wife.’
‘And were the rooms not right? Why did you change on the Sunday?’
‘Oh, the rooms were all right. Let alone a man in digs to have things all right. And this one especially,’ said the propagandist a trifle superciliously. ‘You should see his letter. He finicks about every little thing in it.’
‘Let me see it,’ said Mrs Ainger.
The note was produced and handed over.
Mrs Ainger reads: ‘Dear Doctor- I hope you will make yourself very much at home in these rooms in my absence. You will have no one in the house with you except my landlady Mrs Hirst. You will find the bath roomy and clean, with plenty of hot water; and if you will slip into the dressing-gown hanging on the back of the bedroom door I shall be glad. Should the Yorkshire pudding sit heavy on your spirit, there is a medicine in the sideboard which I can commend; and if after your lecture you find yourself worked up and not inclined for sleep at bedtime, a nightcap of the same may not come amiss. I trust you will have good meetings and a pleasant visit – Yours truly, Maurice Mindon.’
‘Maurice Mindon!’ exclaimed Mrs Ainger on coming to the signature. ‘Why that’s the name of the man who used to write for the dear old Commonweal in Morris’s day. He has done several novels, and wrote the very first book about Morris that appeared. I shouldn’t have expected to find him in Ramsford. He owned a newspaper in Scotland, I understood. Did you say he was an editor now?’
‘Yes, editor of the Ramsford Herald. It’s the same man.’
‘Well, it’s a very kind letter; and he is quite a literary swell in a way. I hope you left him a nice message?’
‘No,’ said the lady-doctor coolly. ‘It seemed to me a very old-bachelor letter. In fact I left word that I hadn’t used the dressing-gown and hadn’t looked to see what the medicine was.
‘How could you?’ protested Mrs Ainger, flushing. ‘It’s perfectly obvious that the man wanted you to feel at home. He wasn’t obliged to be so kind to you. I don’t suppose you ever met him; perhaps never will. You public women are awful. And you a doctor too!’
‘What did I want with his old dressing-gown? Said the offender impatiently.
‘I’m sure it was a very nice dressing-gown,’ said Mrs Ainger. ‘A man like that is not the kind of person to have or to do shabby things. He would understand that you wouldn’t be likely to carry a dressing-gown on a week-end visit, and nothing else is at all handy or right for slipping on to go to one’s bath. As for the whisky – for that is what he means by medicine – it would be what he takes himself. He was lecturing long before you left school, and he knows. He points out what the medicine is good for. You evidently don’t know that these are the kind of pains that a royalty or a great nobleman would take to put a guest at his ease. And you have just been rude to him… I’m sure Mary, I hope you will be a success as a doctor; but you are not very human, after all. Why, I can read a purpose and consideration in every word of that letter. Baths are often cramped and often discoloured and dirty-looking. Where there are a lot of boarders the water is often cold for the late risers. Nothing is better for a lecturer, they say, than a bracing bath; yet when people go from home they are apt to shirk the bath. So he wants to encourage you to have one… He even calls you just ‘doctor.’ Most men would have called you ‘Miss,’ but he would know that you feel you have as much right to be called doctor as if you were a man. It was really too bad of you.’
‘Oh, bother,’ said the Doctor peevishly. You would have had me write a flirtatious letter. People who have a lecture before them don’t think about those things.
‘Evidently not,’ persisted the elder sister. ‘And you left to go to another house on the Sunday night. Why did you go?’
‘Because they asked me.’
‘And you didn’t leave any message about it?’
‘No, why should I?’
‘Didn’t you ask why they wanted you to change like that?’
‘No. Again why should I? They seemed to think it was all right. I didn’t think anything about it. He would know the reason.’
‘I don’t believe he would. But didn’t you explain to the landlady why you were leaving her house for one night when you were not leaving town?’
‘No, I tell you. Why should I? He would learn and would tell her. There was nobody to speak to at his rooms, and this other merchant had a wife and daughters. They were at the meeting.’
‘And so you left this poor landlady to think, no doubt, that her vision for you was not good enough?’ said Mrs Ainger, looking steadily at her sister.
‘they would sort it out among themselves afterwards, I dare say,’ replied the off hand medico.
Mrs Ainger clucked despairingly. At last she found her voice.
‘Well, Mary, if you are to have as little consideration for your patients as you showed for Mr Mindon and his landlady I don’t expect you’ll have many. What’s the good of lectures, what’s the good of social changes themselves, if people are not going to be nice to each other? And you a woman too! I daresay you talked to these people very cleverly about hygiene and good houses and suitable food and higher wages and shorter hours; but kindness and good breeding are of more moment than even these; for with kind feeling and kind words people can be happy in a poor home; but without kindness they will be miserable in a palace. You may be clever and learned, Mary; but it was just silly and nasty to behave as you have done.’
And Mrs Ainger left the room with an offended backward glance at her handsome sister. That self-contained lady yawned, and continued to warm her hands.
By James Leatham 1893
For him was lever han at his beede’s hed
A twenty bokes, clothed in black or red,
Of Aristotle and his philsophie
Than robes riche, or fidel, or sautrie.
Chaucer’s ‘Prologue’ (Tyrwhitt’s Text)
You will find on my shelves neither Elzevirs nor Baskervilles, neither black letter folios nor Shakespearian quartos. I have but few books containing plates of Bewick’s, and none at all in the bindings of Zaensdorf or Riviere. Editions de luxe are forbidden fruit, and the radiant reprints of the Kelmscott Press are equally beyond me. Here and thre is to be seen a Pickering; and when I get a good book specially bound for myself I confess to a weakness for half-morocco, gilt tops, and a profusion of hand tooling. But for the most part I am utilitarian in regard to both the paper and the bindings of my books; though many men with a thousand a year are much worse friends to the bookseller.
I do not regard as a brother the man who keeps his books hidden away in boxes and presses. And yet, among those who use books, even he is not the worst. I have heard of literary and scientific men – mostly the latter – who look upon their books as tools merely; and, after they have used them on a given piece of work, dispose of them – keeping practically no books beside them at all. Such creatures are beyond the pale of humanity. They ought to be denied the fellowship of the mediocre living till they learn perforce to value the companionship of the mighty dead. Your true lover of books, your genuine friend of the humanities, wants to have his authors ranked out and sized off around him in shelves of not more than the due depth – the titles and authors’ names looking serenely out upon him as he sits in mid-room able at a glance to apprehend what a goodly company he has gathered under his roof.
A man does not want to be always hobnobbing with his friends; but it is half the good of friendship to know that Tom, Dick and Harry are there, and are your friends when you want them. As we never miss the water till the well runs dry, so we do not realise how much to us is even the sight of books till one day we find ourselves stranded somewhere away from the resources of civilisation for six weeks with no more numerous company than Henry’s Bible, Boston’s ‘Fourfold State,’ ‘The Saints Everlasting Rest,’ ‘Grace, Abounding,’ and one or other of Cassell’s compilations.
When the average Philistine looks round your walls and asks ‘have you read all these?’ he is puzzled and sometimes contemptuous if you answer, ‘No, and never shall.’ To a person of ideas a library is a dictionary; and even a Philistine would admit that one is not expected to read one’s dictionary through. It is not enough that we have as many books as we can read. One does not want to sit down to dinner at a table which bears only the number of dishes and the quantity of food on each which he can eat. As regards both the food of the mind and that of the body, man wants alternatives – the power of choice. Apart from works that are chiefly valuable for purposes of reference, there are other books which we want to dip into only occasionally -such as Boswell’s ‘Johnson’ and Coleridge’s ‘Table Talk’ which one can open almost anywhere and read on with profit. These you want to have by you in abundance. Others, again, have their texture so closely woven that you must begin at the foremost end of the web and follow their fabric, not only inch by inch, but thread by thread, or, to drop metaphor, not only paragraph by paragraph – taking in the contents of a page, as Carlyle said, with a sweep of the eye – but line by line; in short, reading your author, and not merely skimming him. Such books can only be properly tackled at times and seasons. Whether one shall read or not in a spare half-hour depends so much on whether the book for the mood is there that one must have a large choice. Johnson was eminently right when he insisted on the benefits of promiscuous borrowing in a library. Even the bee – type of industry as she is – does not gather all the honey from every flower she visits. There is something quite formidable about the person who can sit down to a book like ‘The Decline and Fall’ and clear off thirteen centuries of Roman history with the mechanical persistency of a bricklayer piling his cubes.
I am prepared to admit to the collector’s weaknesses for broad margins, hand-made paper, deckled edges, eighteenth century woodcuts, quaint head and tail pieces and the sometimes absurd chapter initials of our grandfathers’ grandfathers. Yet no one pretends to deny that the subject and style of a book are not more than its mechanical get-up, and much more than such adventitious circumstances as its age, its being a first edition, or its having belonged to a great man whose autograph it bears. To show that a book is more to me than its incidentals, I may tell you that, economy apart, I don’t mind a book remaining in the publisher’s covers. Sometimes the machine stamped case is more artistic and better finished than the hand work of the binder. For first editions, moreover, I care less than nothing at all. As second thoughts are better than first, so subsequent editions are better than first ones. One can never judge of one’s work either in MS or in proof-sheet. The joy and pride of creation takes months to wear off even after they have begun to abate, and that process does not properly set in till one has seen one’s thoughts duly printed and sent forth to the world. What man is there who, having published a book or pamphlet, has not found dozens of ideas occur to him after his first edition is away, and wants a second in order that he may get these in, as also that he may improve defects of grammar and syntax that he did not notice in reading the proofs? You can’t thoroughly criticise your writing till it is at least a year old. It takes the four seasons to wean us from the conceit of proprietorship. Indeed, it often happens that an author does not get outside one piece of work till he had undergone the throes of parturition with another. And so first editions move me not.
Somebody must read new books. In fact, that is what we feed and tame the reviewer to do; although ‘tis said he scamps his work. For my own part, I prefer to read old and famed books, as Emerson advises, ‘Be sure, then, to read no mean books,’ says he. ‘Shun the spawn of the press on the gossip of the hour. Do not read what you shall learn, without asking, the street and the train.’
In the library of a wise man there is one department of literature that should be but sparingly represented: I mean prose fiction. Life is short, and in novels one must read much to learn little. Modern novelists have mostly forgot – if they ever knew – the original purpose of the novel. As conceived by Richardson, the first novelist, it was to convey information and ‘moral reflections’ through the medium of a story – the plot to stand in the same relation to the solid, informative part of the work as the string of a necklace does to the beads. To make the social and psychological value of the early novels still greater, the types of character brought together in them were always distinct, illustrating the thought, speech, and manners of a whole class. Now, however, the novel is all string and no beads. The favourites are writers who give no information, who never generalise, who have no discernible social or psychological purpose in view, whose characters are not types, but simply people to whom things happen. A novelist is esteemed by the average reader to-day, not for how much he can teach through the medium of his art, but for the directness of his narrative and its exclusion of everything except the dialogue, incidents, and ‘situations’ strictly needed to help on the plot. Meredith, George Eliot, and Mrs. Humphrey Ward are among the shining exceptions to this rule; but the fact that they are not as popular as Rider Haggard shows that their writing is not the kind of thing the public wants and is accustomed to.
Walter Scott is an example of the old useful school. Scott tells us about feudalism, chivalry, the chase, and the tilt-yard; about the architecture and ecclesiastical institutions of the Middle Ages, the methods of tillage practised then, the beasts that roamed wild in the forests, the customs of the people, their food, their dress, their rude houses and furniture, their minstrelsy, their outdoor sports. He gives us historical portraits which, if not always full and fair, at least have a tendency to send the reader to sources where he will get them both full and fair. In these Waverley Novels we get glimpses of monastic life and the medieval secret societies and tribunals, such as the Vehmgericht; also of the practice of handfasting as it obtained among the borderers, and according to which a man and woman lived together for a short probationary period before marriage, to test their mutual fitness for the conjugal traces. Something of all this is to be learned from Scott. The beads are strung upon a thread of narrative usually absorbing,* written in a certain loose but sonorous style, and characterised by fine dry humour, bold delineation of character, and description not less spirited for being faithful. For a boy to know Scott is the beginning of a liberal education. I know of no writer who does so much to beget and foster intellectual interest. But in spite of all this, Scott is not generally in favour. Young whipper-snappers sneer at him because he wrote ‘Rob Roy’ and ‘Count Robert of Paris,’ and are prepared to uphold against him the authors of ‘She’ and ‘The Mystery of a Hansom Cab.’ Which tells its own tale.
*(the plot of a novel like ‘The Antiquary’ is as subtle, and the upshot as unexpected, as any entanglement I have met with in the whole range of fiction, ancient or modern.)
The fault of the novel is that it is so largely concerned with ‘machinery.’ In literature one wants life experiences clarified and concentrated. To read of railway journeys and sea voyages, to eat other people’s dinners over again in black and white, to wade through pages upon pages of non-didactic dialogue or descriptions of faces and postures – all this is too tiresome even if it were not to unprofitable. Novels are good enough for people who can’t assimilate an idea unless it is presented in a pictoral or dramatic setting, or for those who don’t want ideas at all, but read merely to kill the time in life which they don’t know how to use. To those who read to learn, Green’s History is vastly more entertaining than the best society novel; and as regards the great majority of novels of all sorts, it is only the sober fact to say of them that truth is especially stranger to that sort of fiction.
Emerson is exceedingly felicitous in his statement of what it is we get in real literature. In the essay (on ‘Books’) from which I have already quoted he says:
‘Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a thousand years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is here written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.’
With such associates, the wonder is that the bibliophile is not more jealous of his time and more exclusive as to the company he keeps. Not every person can meet on terms of equality with the man who has assimilated the best thoughts of Plato and Shakespeare, of More and Bacon, of Locke and Johnson and Adam Smith and Goethe.
These friends are like no others in that they give so much in return for your mere attention. The theatre goer pays five shillings for a stall and two hours’ amusement; though he has no guarantee that he will not be bored. For the same sum well expended I may go home with a month’s good reading and have something to enliven the walls of my room and give it an individuality, to say nothing of getting part of my money back again if I want to sell the book. The friendship of the immortals costs little to gain and less to retain. My every-day friends talk and I must listen, though the best of their news may be that they had new potatoes for dinner to-day. The friends of the intellect are silent till you bid them speak; they do not talk small beer (or new potatoes); and they are dumb again if you do but withdraw your attention from them. Shakespeare never stays too long; More is never prosy; Goldsmith and Elia are never dull. They don’t tilt over your chairs to the hazard of the connection between back and seat; neither do they sit with your hearthrug doubled up under their muddy boots or chair leg. With all the virtues of your most brilliant friends they have none of the defects of your dull ones.
Let no collector of stamps or coins, no ‘bringer together of useless posts and crocks’ uprear his head and attempt to justify his hobby as against the love of books. To the student sail argosies from all lands and from all times laden with treasures that thieves do not break through and steal, for knowledge is the least coveted of all forms of wealth. To the book-lover time and space and seasons hardly count. In one day he may in spirit be in all four corners of the globe without stirring beyond his own room. While ‘icicles hang by the wall’ and frost-work landscapes cover his window, he may sail beneath a tropic sun among islands that ‘lift their fronded palms in air.’ With Plato he may listen to Socrates winding a cocksure opponent round his finger in the market-place at Athens. With Flaubert he may wander through barbaric Carthaginian streets or look shudderingly on the ghastly rites of the worship of Moloch. On a sultry summer afternoon he may lie, pipe in mouth, behind a hedge, while his fancy follows the Turkish host in its last deadly-desperate assault on Constantinople – may read of that line of attack whose composition and movements are described by Gibbon with all the pomp of his stately style:
The foremost rank consisted of the refuse of the hose, a voluntary crowd who fought without order or command – of the feebleness of age or childhood, of peasants or vagrants, of all who had joined the camp in the blind hope of plunder and martyrdom. The common impulse drove them to the walls; the most audacious to climb were instantly precipitated; and not a dart, not a bullet of the Christians was idly wasted on the accumulated throng. But their strength and their ammunition were wasted in this laborious defence. The ditch was filled with the bodies of the slain, and of this devoted vanguard to death was more serviceable than the life.
The Fall of Constantinople had its advantages to European science and philosophy; but the lover of books will read of occurences more directly serviceable to human progress which were yet unattended by any of the horrors depicted by Gibbon.
But probably enough has been said. Book-lovers are, perhaps, seldom made. I fancy they are mostly born. I think it would be noted that the boy who is to love and cherish books in after life has already a way of his own of handling them. This passion will be the only one he will never regret. In health and in sickness, in summer and winter, in wet day and dry, books, the choicest heritage of the ages, will be to him the best of friends. He may love a woman to be jilted, and he may live to see her the drudge and slattern of another. He may rear daughters to hand them over to young fellows whom he despises. He may see his chiefest chum take to drink and become a blear-eyed, prematurely aged wretch, with shaky hand and fetid breath, impoverished in means, feeble in mind, and foul in body. Without being selfishly careless or stupidly absorbed through all this, books may still afford him a joy that never palls, a bliss without alloy, a gain that has no offsets. In youth they will open and furnish his mind, lifting him clear-eyed, from out the ruck of mortals. In his prime they will tone down the vanity of success in him by presenting ideals and exemplars that beggar his little local achievements. In old age they will be his consolation amid failing powers and the neglect of the young world. Death alone need separate him from these best of friends.
Do Banks MAKE Money?
Gold-Production and currency.
Russia the second largest producer.
Who financed the Nazis?
By James Leatham.
The Elgin correspondent (Mr Jefferson) whose communication suggesting a return o the Gold Standard as a cure for Inflation set us discussing that subject, writes once more: -
You state: ‘Before Britain went off the Gold Standard in 1914 it was said that the Scots banks had a note issue of £90,000,000 on a total gold reserve of £4,000,000.’ Now, there is no doubt whatever that the banks all over the world issue on loan money that they have not got, nor, in fact, does it exist. This means that they lend (Nothing) for a payment (in gold), and in time they must get all the gold in existence.
What is Credit?
The truth is, of course, that gold does not figure in the transaction one way or the other. Minted gold once played in England the part that bank notes have always filled in Scotland. But a sovereign has for long had a curiosity rather than a currency value; you take it to the jeweller and get 70 to 80 per cent more than its face value for it. Instead of ‘all the gold in existence’ finding its last resting-place with the banks ,there never was a time when the banks held so little of it. They do not need it. The wealth of a bank lies in its investments, its interest-bearing advances, and the commission on cheques and bills discounted. A good draft or cheque is sound money, and more portable than gold sovereigns. A pound note is a certificate of value, and that is all that any currency need be.
It is said by the Social Creditors that the banks manufacture and also restrict credit. There is a certain amount of truth in that claim; but the banks cannot manufacture unlimited credit as the Douglasites suggest should be done. If the banks could call wealth into existence merely by giving an order to the lithographers to print notes irrespective of whether or not there were real assets behind them, then we should quickly have a repetition of all the phenomena of inflation as seen in Germany in the 1920’s. The banks themselves are anxious to avoid this.
Currency is being Hoarded.
In the second week of August a scarcity of so-called Treasury notes, now issued by the Bank of England under Parliamentary regulation, was reported. A fortnight later under the reflux of holiday spendings raised the supply of currency notes in the hands of the banks from 12 to only 14 millions still. Five months ago the fiduciary issue was raised by £50,000,000, and now stands at £680,000,000. This means that these notes are being hoarded by people who have no bank account. They are helping to cause inflation, apart from the risks they run of losing the money by bombing, fire or other mishap.
What the banker gives and gets is mostly credit. He gets and gives a certain amount of silver and copper currency; but the great bulk of the assets standing in his ledgers represents credit, of which only a small part has, or needs, cash cover. This should not require statement; but a school of currency theorists has arisen whose views are not inaptly stated in the following passage from our correspondent’s letter: -
The producer is often compelled to borrow (nothing) from the banks, on repayment of (gold) and interest (also in gold.)
Nothing of the kind really happens in this country nowadays, since gold has disappeared from currency. A bank’s paper is at least as good as the paper bought by the ‘producer’ whether it be notes, cheques or crossed postal orders. The Douglasite theory that the banks can literally make money is based on the experience acquired in the last war, when there was undoubted inflation, the great monument of which is the National Debt. Banks shareholders were not the only people who profited, and still profit, by large scale bonding of future earnings to meet a present emergency. The National Debt to all stockholders was increased two-fold. And when the rates of interest were reduced there were protests, in which Bernard Shaw and H.G.Wells joined. It is not enough that the banks and the Treasury take care of the saver’s money for him. He wasn’t to be paid by them in addition, for putting the money to a use which, apparently, he could not or did not put it himself.
In a capitalist system we are all less or more interested directly or indirectly in this taking of something for nothing. Even I, who have no investments apart from the Deveron press, receive dividend warrants for a number of charities whose funds are invested in war stocks.
Banks Sometimes Break.
If banks could create credit to an unconditional extent, why don’t they do it? Why should they occasionally fail? Wherever human nature enters into business practice there will always be variations between the very cautious bank manager who will take no risks and the good-natured enterprising man who will stretch a point to oblige a customer. The latter may sometimes get bit, and may or may not make good the losses out of his own resources. There are favoured industries. In textile towns manufacturers used to be allowed to overdraw, in farming areas both landlords and farmers got rope, and in the fishing towns one bank was nearly brought down by its advances its agents had given to herring-curers. When two northern banks were amalgamated it was found that the same men had overdrafts in both.
I cannot understand the feeling entertained against banks by people who are not politicians and who are not even in favour of nationalising of banks. What seems to be wanted in a bank is philanthropy. As it is, the banks do a lot of work for nothing, such as cashing crossed postal orders. The Post Office has drawn poundage on them, but will not cash them to the payee. The bank cashes them (something missing … the deal) For the rest, I have been swindled by individuals , but never lost a penny by a bank.
Not the Medium, but its Sharing.
So far as currency is concerned, what is important is not the medium, but the share of it one gets, whether in paper, cows, cowries, or coins, all of which have served as currency. Gold itself is not what it pretends to be. Even a new sovereign had an alloy, and after eighteen years in circulation it was under weight. It is not, too, as if there were any fixity or permanence about the value of gold bullion. Under the Soviets immense quantities of gold are mined, and it belongs to the state. Russia’s gold production is said to be the second largest in the world. The Transvaal is the largest, with an output in one recent year of 10 ½ million ounces of pure gold, being rather less than a third of the world’s output. There are, I find, thirty-one gold-mining companies combined into four groups, with offices in Johannesberg. Their published Declarations Dividend for the past year show profits running up to 91 per cent. So that there is still plenty of demand for this metal.
With the price around 166s an ounce – it used to be 34s – we are still a long way from the state of affairs described in More’s Commonwealth of Utopia, where ‘of gold and silver they make chamber pots and… great chains, fetter, and gyves wherein they tie their bondmen. Finally, whosoever for any offence be infamed, by their ears hand rings of gold, upon their fingers they wear rings of gold, and about their necks chains of gold and … their head be tied about with gold.’
Real Wealth and Credit.
Credit is normally a genuine entity, not a book-keeping figment. The bank makes an advance to a farmer on the value of his live stock and growing crops, to the trader on good book debts for work done or goods supplied, to the proprietor of lands or houses having a rental revenue, even to the hard-up salaried man whose only portable property is an insurance policy. A bank will normally take any ‘good risk.’ It is not interested in speculative finance; there are only too many gilt-edged securities, as the taxpayer knows to his cost. But the spoil from the public is well spread over a large rentier class. I would have banking nationalised; but if it were there would be an end of bank loans. As in the case of our only existing State Bank, the Post Office, you could only draw out what you had put in, plus a little interest, and that only for a time, until socialisation was complete. I have never had an overdraft.
Who Financed the Nazis?
What I have written as to credit is true of normal times. In war time there may be deliberate inflation, the creation of a paper currency which has no present material value behind it. In the last war people in some business standing lent their names to the floatation of War Loan Stock who could not have put down cash or cashable assets for it. For the redemption of this stock (if it is ever to be redeemed) the earnings of the whole body of the nation’s workers were pledged to an unknown future. The standing memorial of it is the National Debt, multiplied tenfold in four years and now rising much faster than ever. That Debt is a liability to the nation that pays interest on it, but an asset to the millions who draw dividends on it. There have been wholesale repudiations of external debts, as in the case of the debts to America, and the rates of interest have been reduced to our own stockholders. There will be repetitions of both repudiation and the scaling down of interest payments. The capitalist system is impossibly top heavy. In real wealth – heavy industry, cultivated fields, and usefully employed people, Germany and Russia are far richer than plutological Britain, with her stocks and shares in concerns situated all over the world. Germany has spent too much money on guns, but even in this she has been helped by American and European investors to the extent of 16,623 million reichmarks. It is no wonder if Fritz scoffs at the pluto-democracies as he wrecks their citiies with bombs they have themselves paid for.
By much the heaviest contributors to German re-armament have been the capitalists of the United States, who weighed in with 8,391,9000,000 reichmarks. After them came the moneylenders of the Netherlands who provided 3,575,000,000, for which they could find no more tempting use. Little Switzerland was third on the list. Britain, in the fourth place for enormity, contributed 2,415,000,000. It is a necessity of the capitalist system that the fleecings should be invested somewhere!
This article was originally published in Gateway in the 1940's.
For the last seventy years James Leatham's work has been subject to copyright restrictions. In practical terms that means that unless someone paid money to publish his work (and no one wanted to) it remained hidden from view. This restriction is lifted on 31st December 2015.
Copyright is often considered a vital thing for an author. It's certainly a site of many a battle over the years. It's also a double edged sword. Protecting one's 'intellectual property' may seem fair enough, but preventing people from reading a writer's work half a century after their death (unless they are 'popular' enough to be a 'money-spinner' or have been turned into an icon or cash-cow 'classic') seems a bit less laudable.
Copyright has been an issue of dispute for a long time, and is currently undergoing scrutiny once more given the possibilities of digital technology. The issue of copyright is absolutely embedded in publishing history and practice. It reflects political and social systems and aims. The arguments are many and complex. We’ll visit them from time to time in The New Gateway which launches next month, but if you want to do some work on your own, there’s some starter points at the bottom of this article.
Alastair J. Mann points out that ‘Copyright term is crucial to the potential for commercial exploitation of literary property.’ This alerts us straight away to the suggestion that copyright is a politico-social issue, and therefore one of great interest to Leatham, and to us.
On the most basic level there is on the one hand an argument that the labourer is worth his hire and that recompense should be made to the author of a piece of writing. On the other hand, once a writer is dead, a system that says 70 years must pass before his work is freely available in the public domain can work to effectively silence voices which are not promoted by a mainstream culture.
Leatham expressed his views on copyright in his unfinished autobiography ‘60 Years of World-Mending.’ The autobiography was unfinished because he died part way through the writing. It has never been published because it exists only as a serialised episodic text in volumes of The Gateway Magazine. And this has been subject to copyright until now. . Deveron Press will be bringing out the first edition of this book in May 2016. .
Here's what Leatham wrote about copyright in '60 Years of World-Mending'
‘No Rights Reserved.’
Count Tolstoy’s books sometimes had printed on them the express declaration, ‘No rights reserved,’ and Byron, hard up as he occasionally was, was very generous are careless about copyrights of his, valuable as they were. An author who believes his views are for the good of the world will want them as widely diffused as possible. The old fashioned, natural way of reviewing a book included the reproduction of extracts from it – samples of the bulk. The new style is to write a few slogan-like superlatives about it, the idea being that some of these may be reproduced in the subsequent advertisements of the book. This advertises the complaisant reviewing organs as well as the book praised. To be forbidden to reproduce ‘in part’ means that you cannot fairly and specifically impugn the style and ideas of the writer as Macaulay did in the famous and deadly review of Robert Montgomery’s ‘poems,’ which the obliging reviewers had boosted into an eleventh edition by sounding generalities till Macaulay cited and analysed particular passages such as: -
The soul, aspiring, pants its source to mount,
As streams meander level with their fount.
What could the critic say but that streams did not meander level with their fount, but that if they did, no two motions could be less like each other than that of meandering level and that of mounting upwards?
Montgomery wrote to Macaulay begging to be taken out of the pillory; but he had himself placed himself in the pillory. He ought to have interdicted quotation from his book. He was convicted by his own written words.
Shaw and Wells, jealous about their copyrights, boasting of their earnings, grumbling about the deprecation of their investments, are behaving like the other money-worshippers, when all the time the need is for sacrifice, a well-directed public spirit. The great and increasing lack of the age is public intelligence and goodwill, the spirit of giving rather than taking. To think of a childless man of fourscore and four, and married to a rich wife, still putting past money for no conceivable good purpose, is depressing, exasperating, incomprehensible. It does not even appear to be senile decay. Though the Shaw of fifty years ago was, indeed, morally quite different.’
The rebirth of the Deveron Press (and Gateway) is undertaken in the belief that Leatham would be more than happy at once more being in print to a wide audience. The lifting of copyright restrictions and his promotion into the public domain makes this possible. Digital technology makes it affordable, though of course there is a cost in the undertaking which must be mitigated, especially in the print production. But making Leatham’s work available as a reading choice is not primarily about money. It’s about voicing the unvoiced. A good act in an unprincipled world if you like. It’s an example of working outside the market driven economic model.
If you would like to explore a bit more about copyright, and the history of the debate (and why wouldn’t you?) we’ve put together a few links for you.
Finding reading matter on this subject can be a frustrating affair, and indeed does suggest that the extreme commercialisation of published material does not work in the best interests of the reader.
To access ‘real’ out of print books isn’t easy. For example, David Saunders ‘Authorship and Copyright’ (Routledge 1992) is available from Amazon second hand for a mere £999. But it resists attempts to be found elsewhere
Ian Purson ‘Copyright and Society’ in ‘Essays in the History of Publishing’ ed Asa Briggs, (Longman 1974) can be picked up very cheaply as print second hand suggesting that there's not always a perceived value in older scholarship.
Both of these books can be accessed through University libraries, but not so easily for the general public. Restrictions of physical books can be understood to some degree, but it is harder to justify with digital works and especially those in the public domain.
For example, Matthew Arnold ‘On Copyright’ in The Fortnightly Review 1888, while public domain is incredibly hard to find unless you have academic library privileges.
We aim to publish this online in a future edition of Gateway. But here’s the citation for those who are happy to try their luck!
COPYRIGHT. Arnold, Matthew Fortnightly Review, May 1865-June 1934; Mar 1880; 27, 159; British Periodicals pg. 319
We live in very interesting times as regards copyright and public domain, as The Public Domain manifesto suggests:
'The public domain, as we understand it, is the wealth of information that is free from the barriers to access or reuse usually associated with copyright protection, either because it is free from any copyright protection or because the right holders have decided to remove these barriers. It is the raw material from which new knowledge is derived and new cultural works are created.
After decades of measures that have drastically reduced the public domain, typically by extending the terms of protection, it is time to strongly reaffirm how much our societies and economies rely on a vibrant and ever expanding public domain. The role of the public domain, in fact, already crucial in the past, it is even more important today, as the Internet and digital technologies enable us to access, use and re-distribute culture with an ease and a power unforeseeable even just a generation ago. The Public Domain Manifesto aims at reminding citizens and policy-makers of a common wealth that, since it belongs to all, it is often defended by no-one. In a time where we for the first time in history have the tools to enable direct access to most of our shared culture and knowledge it is important that policy makers and citizens strengthen the legal concept that enables free and unrestricted access and reuse.' (http://publicdomainmanifesto.org)
It’s good that the virtual doors are being thrown open. As an example of good practice, have a look at:
Open Book Publishers ‘Privilege and Property,’ Ronan Deazley, Martin Kretschmer and Lionel Bently (eds.) This is a 2010 book. There are various ways of reading this, online and downloading as well as print copy. The key point is that you can access it for free easily enough. It’s then your choice to buy or not.
This is the link to the whole text
The Chapter on Scottish copyright http://books.openedition.org/obp/1064 is particularly interesting as is John Feather’s chapter http://books.openedition.org/obp/1087
Hopefully this gives you enough scope and whets your appetite to start looking at copyright and public domain for yourself. Gateway will be coming back to this again and again.
A great, ongoing place to find Public Domain work is http://publicdomainreview.org/ and we’ll feature regular links to articles we find particularly interesting here in the months to come.
To find past articles please use monthly archives.