Two years ago this month we embarked upon the revival of James Leatham's work.
The Commemorative edition of The Gateway was published in time for the re-launch of The Deveron Press on what would have been James Leatham's 150th birthday on December 19th 2015.
The launch event was held in the Municipal Buildings, Turriff - in the very room Leatham served as Provost. Like Leatham's reputation, it had fallen into a parlous state.
We have played our part in restoring both place and reputation. The Municipal Buildings is now a community owned Museum and Heritage Hub, managed by the Turriff and District Heritage Society.
The Deveron Press has also published 'The Centenary Collection' of 10 Leatham related works including first publication of Leatham's unfinished autobiography as well as becoming a voice for contemporary North East and Scots writers.
And every month we have brought you a selection of Leatham (and other writers) works in the New Gateway, free online.
Leatham's Gateway ran for 361 editions over 30 volumes. We knew we could never compete with this. Our goal has been, and remains, to make Leatham's work as available as possible as widely as possible. On this, the second anniversary of the 'relaunch' we have taken the decision that we will bring out a total of 30 editions of the New Gateway. This will take us to June next year. (Volume 3) It's a small tribute to Leatham's prolific masterwork, but hopefully it has whetted the appetite of a few to read further and deeper.
We have made hundreds of public domain articles available free on the internet and they will remain here. We will also list the complete index of all Gateway articles from all 361 editions of the magazine so that interested people can seek them down - at present complete sets are held at Special Collections, Aberdeen University Library, British Library and incomplete but extensive holdings at Aberdeenshire Library HQ in Old Meldrum.
We will then focus on bringing 'compilations' of some of Leatham's political and cultural works together for publication as well as continuing our commitment to local and Scots contemporary writers - keeping the 'radical' view alive well into the future.
So - there's another 6 editions to go... we hope you will enjoy them. And for our publications, please go to the Leatham Centenary Collection at www.unco.scot and the Contemporary unco authors section.
The Dirty work of Data Mining is a Brave New World of Confusion.
You might not even know what Data Mining is. I didn’t. Time to live and learn!
One of the highlights for me this year was the publication of Cally Phillips work Discovering Crockett’s Edinburgh. Following on from the 2 Volumes Discovering Crockett’s Galloway already published, I knew it would be a well-researched, informative and interesting work. I believe there is currently no better way to find Crockett ‘places’ and to relate them back to his literary works.
For the uninitiated, Crockett first went to Edinburgh in 1876 as a bursary student and he lived there, on and off for the next decade. Edinburgh features in around a third of his seventy plus literary works and Phillips’ book takes the reader on a number of journeys through place and time in this work. With it you can explore and re-tread the steps of the young Crockett and his characters throughout five centuries of Edinburgh – either for real if you’re in Edinburgh, or virtually if you’re not.
What a brilliant thing to be able to do.
So what about Data Mining? A text, by any other name does NOT smell as sweet, believe me. I was recently made aware of an app which claims to offer people the opportunity to do a similar thing to Discovering Crockett’s Edinburgh, not just for Crockett, but for a plethora of Scots writers with Edinburgh connections. Right on your smartphone (or computer – I don’t have a smartphone!) The Barrie aficionado who alerted me to the app warned me though, telling me the Barrie links were far from accurate. I went to look at the shiny new toy. Amazed to find Crockett on the ‘app’ – since he’s barely known of in Edinburgh – I went straight to his author name.
Massive disappointment. Now I know how Cally Phillips felt when she first started the Crockett ‘project.’ In 2012 she ‘discovered’ Crockett in the realms of project gutenberg. The quality of the digital texts were so poor (mostly unreadable) that she turned to and produced newly edited versions for ebook and paperback. In the process she became a publisher and is now one of the leading scholarly authorities on Crockett.
The Litlong app (yes, time to name and shame) sadly relies on both Wikipedia – which is horribly inaccurate regarding Crockett – and project gutenberg texts. It is, dear reader, worse than useless, at least for Crockett. I haven’t had the heart to check it out for other authors.
But I did have a look at how it is compiled. It’s called Text Mining. Which is effectively data mining. (I leave you to draw analogies to other forms of data mining)
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Here is the description from the app:
You can use LitLong to explore Edinburgh as a literary setting. Browse the map and zoom in and out to see how locations around the city have featured in literature. As you zoom further in, more pins will appear.
Click on a pin to see excerpts of literature that mention that location. From there you can select a particular excerpt, save it to your library, add it to a path, or read more about the selected book and its author.
Sounds great. Except you really can’t. Not if you want accuracy. Not with Crockett.
LitLong uses natural language processing technology informed by literary scholars’ input in order to text mine literary works set in Edinburgh and to visualise the results in accessible ways.
The problem is: There appears to be no literary scholars’ input in the Crockett selection.
The explanation continues:
What have we made?
We have created a very large database of place-name mentions in more than 600 books that use Edinburgh as a setting. We have then extracted the sentences immediately surrounding each mention and included those as an excerpt in our database. The data has then been mapped onto the city via the place-name mentions, and can be explored through a mobile app and online interface. With LitLong, you can walk your own paths through the resonant locations of literary Edinburgh.
Except you really can’t. Not with meaning. Not for Crockett. It’s more like a super drunken stumble at best.
Our aim in creating LitLong was to find out what the topography of a literary city such as Edinburgh would look like if we allowed digital reading to work on a very large body of books. Edinburgh has a justly well-known literary history, cumulatively curated down the years by its many writers and readers. This history is visible in books, maps, walking tours and the city’s many literary sites and sights.
Do we feel that perhaps they have just over-extended. Crockett isn’t really mainstream now, is he. But for me this is no excuse when they claim their desire to go beyond the mainstream:
But might there be other voices to hear in the chorus? Other, less familiar stories? By letting the algorithms do the reading, we’ve tried to set that familiar narrative of Edinburgh’s literary history in the less familiar context of hundreds of other works.
Failed on that score. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Well, you know, a vast amount of random words are even more dangerous.
How did we do it?
To create LitLong:Edinburgh we have used text-mining and georeferencing on extremely large and diverse collections of digitised books made available to us by – among others – the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and the Hathi Trust. In addition, some publishers and authors have shared their lists with us. We searched these collections for texts which, in the range and frequency of their use of place-names, showed all the signs of making Edinburgh their setting. A combination of algorithmic and manual curation then filtered these texts for ones that matched our criteria, giving us a dataset of hundreds of narrative works which explore the city or use it as a backdrop for their action. The Edinburgh places mentioned in these texts were then georeferenced using a bespoke gazetteer created to register the very different ways in which place might be named in fiction or memoir.[i]
Sound great? But it hasn’t worked. There’s is nothing like enough ‘human’ or literary input into this project.
Issues with the Crocket entries include:
Texts are sometimes inaccurately labelled (with the American editions being used -these often have different titles from the British versions)
Crockett biographical information is very incomplete. Wikipedia editing is not a skill I possess, and until more Wiki-editors know more about Crockett it will not be updated accurately or comprehensively. Don’t hold your breath. Academics are still well out of step with Crockett, holding on to outmoded and ill-conceived notions of ‘Kailyard’ etc. Crockett needs a Wiki-advocate.
Actual texts. If you are happy reading online it’s not too bad. When you try to download the problems commence. OCR is poor on many of the titles.
The excerpts rarely give any real flavour or reason as to why they are attributed to a particular place – in stark contrast to Phillips’ work which integrates and weaves the stories, characters, places and Crockett himself into one meta-narrative.
Sometimes you get what you pay for. The Litlong app is free. Which simply disproves a cliché – the best things in life are NOT always free. You may have to pay for Discovering Crockett’s Edinburgh. It’s well worth it. Beyond that, I would recommend if you want to read Crockett you read from a reputable source. Like Ayton Publishing’s ‘Galloway Collection’ available from www.unco.scot, Amazon and elsewhere.
I am now looking out for a digital version of Discovering Crockett’s Edinburgh. It won’t be free but it will be worth every penny. And it’s what I will carry with me when I go Crocketeering in Edinburgh.
So, Data mining. What do we think? It may (or may not) be a clever way to chew up and spit out industrial levels of words. But words without meaning… where is the point?
The lesson to be learned is that keywords are not the same as literary analysis, critique or research. Data mining of this level cannot take the place of a human being. And that as humans we should be very wary of this kind of activity. We have got used to the idea that there are apps for everything. Please think twice when you
If this represents a wonderful new way of ‘mining’ data then I fear for us all. Obviously as far as literature goes, dredging up data from the inner workings of digital archives leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps we can take some solace in the fact that the Litlong app proves there is a definite need for the kind of skilled, painstaking research that Cally Phillips undertook in Discovering Crockett’s Edinburgh. But if you are introduced to Crockett (or Barrie, and doubtless others) via this app, I’d suggest neither does what it says on the tin, nor does credit to some unco Scots writers.
Lest you think I’m just being shirty, here is a wee comparative analysis:
I’ve picked an ‘average’ map point.
Place your pin on The Pleasance.
Lit Long credits 4 Books to this location
BOG-MYRTLE AND PEAT Samuel Rutherford Crockett, 1895
CLEG KELLY, ARAB OF THE CITY Samuel Rutherford Crockett, 1896
THE STICKIT MINISTER Samuel Rutherford Crockett, 1893
THE DEW OF THEIR YOUTH Samuel Rutherford Crockett, 1910 (actually 1909)
The excerpts are of variable use and interest. But at least all books can be read online- if that’s your thing.
In Discovering Crockett’s Edinburgh (DCEd) you have a whole chapter dedicated to the Pleasance (and Cowgate) since it is one of the most important of Crockett’s Edinburgh locations. It provides excerpts as well as critical analysis and reflection from Kit Kennedy, Lads’ Love, The Stickit Minister’s Wooing, Cleg Kelly and Kid McGhie.
The Dew of their Youth and Bog Myrtle and Peat references found in Litlong are dealt with in Chapter 6 of DCEd titled ‘Student Characters.’
The Stickit Minister excerpt is from a Cleg Kelly story – given in more detail in DCEd
The Litlong app doesn’t even mention nearby St Leonard’s Street which is perhaps one of the most important locations in Crockett’s Edinburgh. Not least because it’s where he lived for 10 years!
DCEd has another complete chapter set here and guides the reader or explorer to walk from St Leonards down to the Old Town in the company of Crockett and his characters. This is considerably more enlightening and entertaining than that offered by the app. Should I term the phrase ‘an app is only as good as its map’ and the ‘map’ offered by LitLong for Crockett’s work is, I’m sorry to say, feeble! In DCEd St Leonard’s Street is hub from which you can go in many directions to find Crockett locations.
I haven’t been comprehensively through all the LitLong listings, but there are many which are misplaced – one places a ‘South Side of Edinburgh’ in the middle of the Meadows when it is a Sunday School ‘southside’ of the Pleasance.
In conclusion though, I suggest you don’t rely on data or text mining and georeferencing combined to experience Crockett’s literary Edinburgh. For some things, real human beings, putting in real hours of work will offer a much better result. 10/10 to Cally Phillips book 2/10 to the Lit Long app.
[i] I have quoted ACCURATELY from Lit Long website – if only they could quote as accurately from Crockett’s work!
A Labour Wave Succeeds a Crime Wave.
Glasgow as seen by a Friendly Outsider
It is not for nothing that Glasgow is the Second City. One is not an admirer of big business or big populations. Quality and size are often in inverse ratio. But the majority does admire big things, and if other cities are not big it must be because they can’t help it. They may have done their best, and it just hasn’t been good enough.
Glasgow is saturated with the spirit of business. It is probably the only city in Britain where there is a deliberate emulation of what we think of as the American spirit. Glasgow men are like Americans in respect of a fondness for novelties and long words. I knew one elderly man who liked to say he had ‘unified’ himself with a party when he joined it. Another man liked to call a soda-water bottle a gasogene. Yet another had got hold of a good work but he had evidently read it hurriedly; he referred to a meeting as having been ‘a b---y fissaco!’ A small political body just after the Russo-Japanese war, headed its advertisements ‘Banzai! Banzai!’ which I suppose most people have forgotten is Japanese for ‘Hurrah!’
One would be disposed to say that there are exceptionally few idealists in Glasgow. Glaswegians take up with ideals but their feeling for them would appear to be like Mrs Bardell’s admiration for Mr Pickwick – it is admiration at a distance. When a Glasgow lady returned from a visit to a married friend, the first question her people asked her was whether her friend’s husband ‘had a good business.’ A few people stood watching a poor man feeding the birds and squirrels in a public park. They r remarked as they turned away that the man seemed to enjoy the confidence the wild creatures had in him, and that he must be a kind man. But a Glasgow woman remarked, ‘He doesn’t seem to have made much by it!’ He looked, indeed, little better than a tramp; but his poverty was not deepened by the few handfuls of crumbs he dispensed, and it did not seem an aspect of the matter that would occur to one readily.
Some months ago a Glasgow lady reader of The Gateway sent me a longish clipping from a newspaper. The article discussed Glasgow ‘Men and Manners’ with some point and wit, and, turning to the other side of the two-column strip to see if there was any indication of the name of the newspaper, I found the stop-press column blank save for a longish pencilled sum in simple addition which had four ha’pennies in it, and totted up to 3/9!
We are amused by a thing so characteristic as that the Glasgow Labour M.P’s should already have raised the question of the inadequacy of their salaries. Dozens of lower-middle class Labour men –English, Irish, and Welsh, have managed to rub along on £400, even through the dear war years. £8 a week should enable a Glasgow man to live well in London, especially if he has recently been drawing ‘the dole’ in Glasgow, as one at least of the new M.P’s was doing up to the time of his election. Davie Kirkwood (as they have begun to call him) smokes a clay pipe, as Mr Robert Smillie does also. £8 would go some way to Swinyerds or Burns Cutties and the appropriate tobacco. However, Glasgow is a town of the cash nexus and it may well occur to even Labour men (if they come from Glasgow) that being an M.P.should have its commercial value also.
It is an article of faith with Glasgow men and women that Aberdonians are the last word in greed. The theory has extended to London, and has doubtless been disseminated by the numerous Aberdonians on the London press, who are themselves the authors of the jokes embodying the Glasgow (and English) view of their fellow-citizens. It is a fine thing to have a currency for these japes and catchwords; the people to whom they are applied have to live them down, and that is good for the world, since they have to be generous to the people who jibe at them.
It is probably from this cause that an Aberdeen woman of humble means gave the maid half-a-crown at the end of her short visit, without saying anything about it, while the well-off Glasgow woman discussed whether sixpence or a shilling was the proper tip to give. Which is probably the reason why the one is poor and the other ‘comfortable.’
The other day the Glasgow papers had the common-form remarks about Aberdeen’s modified generosity a propos of a students’ collection. Glasgow raised, with much whooping, £3000 and Aberdeen, I forget what – over £3000 anyhow. Had Glasgow given in the same ratio to population her contribution should have been nearer £20,000. Aberdeen had two separate universities, one of them with the full continental curriculum, four hundred years ago, when not another university in Britain had it. But the typical Glasgow man is a careful spender – careful of his property in every way. When the idealists of the rest of the country were smashing images and ‘dinging down kirks’ whose architecture savoured of Popery , the canny Glaswegians mustered to the defence of their cathedral, which still stands as Andrew Fairservice says –
A brave kirk – nane o’ yer whigmaleeries, and curliewurlies, and open-sneck here about it – a’ solid, weel-jointed, masonwark that will stand as lang as the warld, keep hands and gunpowder aff it.’
The author of ‘The Wealth of Nations,’ was a Kirkcaldy man, but he taught in Glasgow University, which may thus be said to be the cradle of modern political economy. Robert Owen was a Welshman; but he married Davie Dale’s Glasgow ‘dochter,’ and made his only successful experiment at New Lanark, near by.
Owen had the Glasgow man’s conviction that life is a matter of business; that any given social phenomenon can be separated from its antecedents and surroundings and dealt with by ad hoc methods. This is the Ford method, as it was, albeit more indirectly, the Carnegie method. It succeeds up to a point; but it did not carry very far with Robert Owen, nor is it carrying very far with the administrators of the Carnegie schemes. It is also the method of the Glasgow man who wanted to ‘smash that atmosphere’ – as if an atmosphere were a plate or a window pane. The atmosphere that was surrounding Black Rod, Goldstick, the Beefeaters, the King in his state coach, and the peers and peeresses in their robes. I daresay something needs to be done about it; though smashing is less a characteristic of good citizenship than building. ‘Nothing is destroyed until it is replaced,’ and the only way to expel the false is to instil the true. Men in the arms and dress of the Tudor period are out of date. Trunk hose and starched ruffs would not be comfortable. But the would-be smasher probably wasn’t thinking of that at all. I agree that the atmosphere is unreal. But there are bigger things to trouble about than a harmless piece of pageantry which at least serves to suggest how old and august the Mother of Parliaments is.
The writer in the Glasgow paper, dealing with ‘a wave of crime,’ repudiated on behalf of the average Glasgwegian, all sympathy with Bolshevism, and respectfully washed his hands of John M’Lean, Bob Smillie, and Citizen Shinwell. He claimed that Glasgow men – the veriest wearer of a hooker-doon – borrowed a reflected dignity from the knowledge that Glasgow had ‘made’ the Clyde, and had an Orpheus choir, a Scottish Orchestra, and a Rangers football team, innocent as he might be of any personal share in these achievements.
There ought to be something to account for the very good conceit Wullie Paterson has of himself. Aberdeen has twice shifted the bed of the Dee, and is the best-built city in Britain; but the Aberdonian is modestly personified.
There are three Glasgows – at least. There is first, the appallingly depressing city, with the barbaric flummery carving on its grimy buildings, the hurrying crowds of distraught citizens, its black, fat, truculent-looking policemen, and its barefooted squaws that sell newspapers on the sloppy bridges. I never saw barefooted women till I went, a young man, to Glasgow. There are Glasgow men who don’t mind giving women votes and don’t mind seeing them barefooted even in winter time. The first results of giving the women the Parliamentary vote have been the return, twice over, of reactionary governments, many women having voted Tory while their husbands voted Labour. I would have kept the power to do mischief from them, but seen that they had boots.
Then there is the kind, sprightly Glasgow, its banter a little prickly perhaps, its speech of corrugated cadences, up and down, up and down, like the furrows in a field, with sometimes a note of vehemence that to the couthy north-countryman or well-bred Englishman suggests anger. Dr Johnson objected to a certain Scotsman ‘Because he has no animation, no!’ He couldn’t have objected to the Glaswegion on that score.
A Glasgow audience is the quickest in Britain. They have the habit of going to meetings, are trained listeners, and no audience could be more pleasant to speak to. Without shyness, they get up and speak, sometimes awful blethers, often good enough book stuff, sometimes really tactful, pleasant speech, despite the corrugations of the accent; and on jolly feature of a big Glasgow meeting is that a man may talk nonsense at it, but he will not do it for long; the audience will laugh him off or ruff him down. Even those who themselves talk nonsense recognise it when it comes from another. For it often happens that a Glasgow man whose talk is absurd will have read a great deal of capital stuff.
There was Sandy Whiting, repeatedly a candidate, and at last an elected person of some sort. During an election campaign he would swear and threaten from the platform and once at least he did go down and chastise and interrupter. Sandy would say ‘He says says he,’ and he would invoke aphorisms of ‘the weyver o’ Kirkintilloch,’ and he would mis-attribute sayings, such as ‘As the Prophet Isaiah says, He that does not work, neither shall he eat.’ And when you protested sotto voce, that it was not Isaiah who said that, he would reply, aloud ‘Ach, what does it matter? It’s a’ in the ae book onywey.’
But going home with Sandy, you found he had a complete set of Ruskin’s books at a time when Ruskin was still copyright, and his books dear, and that he had read in them if he had not read them all. Sandy would mix metaphors – I have heard him describe a proposal as a ‘Rid herrin’ draws across the trail to blindfold people!’ But when you pointed out that red-herrings would not make good eye-bandages, none laughed more heartily than Sandy himself.
He was nearly always a little absurd in public speech, but never so in private; and his heartiness and jolly laughter made him welcome wherever he came. Be it said, he would never be anywhere for very long without your knowing he was there. He had the quick, black eyes and quick temper so common in the west. ‘I’ll gie ye a slap in the mooth, an’ there it is!’ is an established pleasantry about Glasgow. Sandy illustrated Glasgow in respect of the tartness of his tongue, the carefulness of his habits, and the carelessness of his dress. He worked in a rolling mill and earned big money, while his wife ran a shop and made money too. Yet he wore hobnailed boots which struck fire from the pavement; on his head a black silk cap; and round his neck never a collar, always a muffler.
Sandy abounded in the local free-flowing chaff. One Sunday night at a busy crossing he was addressing a crowd when some young dudes interrupted with banter.
‘There’s some fowk hae mair sterch in their collars than beef in their bellies!’ was his riposte.
The cross-fire continued, however, Sandy with the advantage of position making good against the power of numbers. As the young men at last cleared out, Sandy’s parting shot was; ‘Ye needna be in ony hurry; the doss doesna close till twelve o’clock!’
One day we entered a restaurant together, and were waited upon by a smart, even stern young man. ‘Bring us two welsh rabbits, ‘ordered Sandy, ‘an’ bring them good – they’re for eat’n.’
Sandy is now quiet enough – at last – and there can be no harm in telling of an incident that concerns him and the damsel who became his wife and was grannie by the time I knew him. They were at the back of a dyke one night in their courting days and Sandy had one hand aloft vowing eternal fealty. The hand must have remained in position some time; for presently a man grasped it and shook it cordially from the other side!
I detail such absurdities because instead of regarding Glasgow as a seat and centre of crime, one’s prevailing memory of it raises a smile rather than a shudder. Mr J.J.Bells Mrs McLeerie, the kindly old body who deranges her epithets, but, when corrected pleads that ‘It’s a’ yin,’ seems to an outsider the most typical of Glasgow characters.
There is a third Glasgow of which I have little knowledge and would fain have less. I refer to the Philistine business world, which I knew chiefly from the bagmen it sends out. These people go to church, are keen on climbing, and have hardly, in my experience, one idea to rub on another on any matter apart from business. Of course it is the travellers who call. One does not meet the principals. It often happens that the great man is much more pleasant to meet than the great man’s man. But one has so little respect for the qualities that win success in huckstering that one is very willing to let the limited circle of acquaintances in the west end stand as it is – very nearly at zero.
The writer on ‘Men and Manners’ already referred to is concerned about what an American author says of Glasgow’s underworld. The full sordor of Glasgow’s drunkenness and crime would not strike a native as it does a visitor. It never does.
Travelling down to Glasgow one Saturday night from Yorkshire, the last stages of the journey were made with a carriageful of seafaring men returning from a trip, their vessel having been put into the Mersey instead of the Clyde. They all seemed to be sober; but with the best desire of a returning exile to be favourably impressed with the men of my mother country, it was impossible to resist a feeling that in looks and talk they were a very low set – oh, a memorably low set! Let us not dwell upon it. The sea has its own codes of morals and manners.
The young trawling skipper was taking his boat up ‘the burn,’ and as he came within sound of his home he tooted his horn. An old skipper was on the boat. ‘That’s for the wife?’ he half-queried. ‘I used to dae that,’ he continued. ‘But I dinna dae’t now. I gang to the front door and gae twa lood knocks. Then I rin roond immediately tae the back. I meet him comin’ awa every time. In thirteen year I’ve never missed him yince.’
One Saturday night long ago I did a round of some of the Glasgow slums with Bruce Glasier, Keir Hardie and Cunninghame-Graham. We saw sights which I hope are not to be witnessed in any other town in Britain. It was after eleven, which was at that time the closing hour, and repeatedly we were asked, in the explosive gutterals of St Mungo’s ‘D’ye want a boattle o’ beer?’ the askers evidently having the liquor planted about them. Under the aegis of a stalwart bobby we were given one short horrific glance into an awful ken where, amid smoke and fetor, we could see on a seat an old grey-haired woman rocking in drink and perhaps in pain, the blood lying fresh upon her unreverend forehead from a recent wound, while wretched men and women swarmed around unheeding. In a side-street towards midnight a piper blew with the vigour of mid-day, while several prostitutes danced and whooped around him, their petticoats pulled up for the freedom of an abanadoned dance. A swarthy policeman stood gravely looking on.
I have never had my pocket picked (except in the regular way of trade) but once, and that was in Glasgow another Saturday night, when for a little I got lost from my friends. So that I am naturally impressed with the idea that Glasgow’s underworld is something rather special.
One Sunday night thirty years ago a Socialist speaker was addressing a thin crowd at the Jail Square entrance to Glasgow Green. When the crowd got even thinner than usual the speaker halted and looked around as if contemplating a full stop. A policeman standing by gave his advice. ‘Oh, man,’ said he, ‘what need ye waster yer wind on thae lads?’ Man, they a’ practise what you’re only preachin’!’
They would be mostly thieves. It was criticism as well as advice.
It is of vast significance that this most commercialised of all British cities should have gone over to the party which stands for the negation of Commercialism, in motive and practice alike; and I shall return to the subject in further papers. For the rest, one has many pleasant memories of the Second City.
PART TWO NEXT MONTH
The general tendency of Stevenson’s writing, the spirit, if any, as apart from the letter, of his essays and romances is a tempting topic; although it does not necessarily belong to a consideration of his style.
Stevenson had the stock ideas of romance. Kidnapping, wrecking, piracy, mutiny at sea, treasure-hunting – these elements and elements such as these represent his stock-in-trade. Other novelists might write with a reforming purpose; Stevenson, well aware of what he was doing, was content to be an entertainer. Goldsmith, Dickens, Victor Hugo, Kingsley, George Eliot, Charles Reade, Thomas Hardy, all wrote with a social aim, and contrived to be entertaining as well. Walter Scott sought to illustrate life in various epochs. Save in ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ – a very absorbing and highly ‘moral,’ if also a very unpleasant tale – Stevenson is content to describe the adventures of pirates, smugglers, kidnappers, wreckers, beach-combers; Alan Breck, fighting Highlander of the eighteenth century; John Wiltshire, fighting trader in the South Seas; Dick Shelton, wholesale slayer of men in the fifteen century. He frankly admitted that he cared more for incident than for any other element of romantic interest. ‘Eloquence and thought, character and conversation,’ he says,
Were but obstacles to brush aside as we dug blithely after a certain incident like a pig for truffles…
Certain dank gardens cry aloud for a murder; certain coasts are set apart for shipwreck.
With him the society or domestic novel represents ‘the clink of teaspoons and the accents of the curate.’
Stevenson does not appear to realise that, to a grown man, there may be as much high zest in fighting an election and facing up hostile crowds, in engineering a seemingly desperate but laudable business undertaking, in furthering the public weal against the fierce hostility of a vested interest, in making forlorn experiments, and bringing an invention to a successful issue through many difficulties, as there is any of the boyish escapades in which he takes delight.
His common sense and humanity made him espouse the cause of the Samoan as against German official muddling; and the speech to the Samoan chiefs in which he commended the making of roads and deprecated inter-tribal fighting was a triumph of the man over the romancer. But he is ashamed and apologies over these lapses into what he calls politics.
Probably he himself realised that his work represented little beyond entertaining story-telling and fine English (though these, of course, represent a very great deal.) In a letter to Mr Colvin he comments bitterly on a statement made by a reviewer that he (Stevenson) is read chiefly by boys. His romances are typical boys’ books; but the fathers read them and enjoy them, it is to be feared, more than the sons, however little they may profit by them in any high sense.
However Stevenson was latterly making four thousand a year; and it is not easy to make so much and still be doing the highest kind of literary work – the books that the public needs, but which it probably will not buy to any extent till the author is comfortably dead. Stevenson could not expect to have the solid pudding of public favour and the sounding praise of the discriminating reviewer as well.
A Neglected Field
Why have we no novelist to do for modern Scottish life – the life of the common people – what Zola has done for the French? That passionately serious and much misunderstood writer set out to illustrate the lives of certain industrial and professional classes in the Rougon-Mcquart series, being ‘the natural and Social History of a Family under the Second Empire’
This he did in a score of tales, tracing his ‘family’ down through four generations and through many callings well into contemporary times under the Republic. To mention a few of his titles is to indicate the wide and fruitful fields of life-study opened up to survey. Thus ‘Germinal’ deal with the life of the miners, ‘La Terre’ (the land) with the life of the French peasantry, ‘L’Argent’ (money) with stock-exchange gambling, ‘L’assommoir’ (The Dram-shop) with the life of the Parisian working class, ‘Nana’ with the theatre and the demi-monde, ‘La Debacle’ (the Downfall) with the corruption and inevitable fall of the Empire as preparation for the Repubclis and a better future for France, ‘Rome’ and ‘Lourdes’ with the quackery and obscurantism of the Church, ‘Paris’ with the life of the workman touched at last by the redemptive influences of popular education, skilled and self-respecting craftsmanship, and the revolutionary spirit directed to social and economic ends rather than vague political strife.
What is Done.
Nothing of this kind has been done for Scotland, prolific in novelists as Scotland has been, and many of these with an artistic equipment much superior to Zola’s. The author of ‘The House with the Green Shutters’ has pourtrayed with somber power some phases of lower middle-class life in a small Scots town; and in one or two unique sketches Mr Cunninghame-Graham has flashed momentarily if vivid sidelights on the same unlovely existence. But George Douglas’s tragic tale stands alone, and Mr Cunninghame-Graham does not profess to be a novelist. Mr J.M.Barrie has shown himself capable, though all too rarely, of something beyond making good-natured game of his fellow-townsmen. One recalls a true and touching picture of the Scottish farm-hand and his Jean, made reckless and riotous by the conditions of life in which there is so little to lose. Crockett expends his best work on the Covenanters. Ian Maclaren does not get beyond consumptive students, lachrymose widows, and sedulous country doctors.
The Scottish romancer usually avoids any period later than the ’45. Stevenson gets as near modern life as the times of Braxfield; but he discusses that execrable judge, and his shamed and resentful son, without reference to the field in which Braxfield earned his chief claim to infamy. He has nothing to say of those heroes of the Reform movement in Scotland whom ‘Braxie’ delighted to badger and insult before he sentenced them to transportation for life.
The times of Thomas Muir, of Fyshie Palmer, and of Baird and Hardie were stirring and momentous days. Midnight meetings, pikemen drilled in secret in the fields around Edinbugh, stirring speeches, flight, pursuit, arrest, sensational trial, transportation, the pathos and romance of failure, all gather round the Scottish movement for political rights, long since won by other means.
The modern Scottish writer of fiction shows no grasp of broad social phenomena, and nothing distinctively Scottish except the use of dialect, the gawkiness or pawkiness of some of their characters, and an occasional preachiness, as in the case of George MacDonald. But even in MacDonald’s case much that is manly and beautiful in his art and ideas appears in association with the traditional romanticisms, in the shape of the hidden staircase, the secret chamber, a demon horse, and that discovery of a blue-blooded origin for lowly situated characters which Gilbert satirised in the lines –
When everybody’s someone else, The no one’s anybody.
As a genuine, good-natured true picture of Scottish life and manners ‘Johnny Gibb o’ Gushetneuk’ still stands alone. But ‘Johnny Gibb’ and the excellent tales of Galt, Miss Ferrier and Neil Munro take no note of life in our squalid Scottish towns and cities. Imagine a Scottish Dickens doing for Glasgow what Charles did for London, a Scottish Thackeray exposing the snobbery of Edinburgh, a Scottish Zola or Mrs Gaskell lifting the lid off the domestic life of the miners, shipyard hand, and factory operatives, a Scottish Hardy, Hugo, George Eliot, or Tolstoy doing justice to rural society, including the inhabitants of hinds’ houses , farm kitchens and cottar houses as well as the folk of the manses and mansions with whom Scottish fiction has heretofore been so much concerned.
If it be said that other countries have not had their common life depicted in this way, I can only say that England, France and Russia have had such service rendered to them to an extent far in excess of what has been done for Scotland. The point is that Scotland has produced many writers of prose fiction, and that they have devoted their powers to the dishing up of an unreal, effete romanticism, have dallied with lords and ladies and a limited set of adventures and ‘situations’ that are no longer novel. If it be the business of the novelist, as Shakespeare said it was of the dramatist, to hold the mirror up to nature, to show the very age and body of the time his form and pressure, what Scottish novelist has ever performed this service for his own time and countrymen?
Out of the experiences of a Socialist and trade union secretary, Mr Pett Ridge has made (in ‘Erb’) a realistic, amusing, and really novel story of London life. Are there no Scottish workmen, none of the devoted workers in the Labour movement who give their evenings to reading and committee work, their meal hours to correspondence, their week-ends and holidays to un-fee’d public speaking, their scanty means for election expenses and political publications, their working time to occasional canvassing and to service on public boards – are there none of those whose adventures, comic and tragic and useful, could be made similarly attractive in a fictitious narrative? ‘Wee MacGregor,’ the precocious boy; ‘Mrs M’Learie,’ the housewife who deranges her epithets, pleading that ‘it’s a’ yin!’ ‘Erchie,’ the waggish old waiter, who has a warm hert but a flet fit,’ are all of them sketches showing what fun can be made with the Glasgow dialect. But is the Second City such a paradisical spot, are the ‘lands’ of Edinburgh, the lanes of Dundee, and the ‘raws’ of the mining districts so entirely perfect as regards their surroundings and the life lived in them that they suggest nothing but ‘funniosities?’ The Scots workman, in his huddled two-row tenement, with his low wage, his poor food badly cooked, his Saturday-afternoon football match, his Saturday night ‘drunk,’ his Sunday-morning spell in bed, with a headache, a ‘cutter’ of whisky, and a ‘football’ edition – is he merely amusing?
We require a writer of fiction who shall be passionately in love with fact, absorbingly interested in his own time and people, who shall write with art indeed, but with an art that holds the mirror up to contemporary life, a writer profoundly impressed wit the veracity of the saying that truth is stranger than fiction who has the heart and hand to show that there is romance and heroism in the mean street, and absorbing human interest in lives apparently commonplace.
Importance of the Matter
The matter is the more important because a hundred people will read even an indifferent novel for one who will tackle a similar body of facts and ideas brilliantly presented in a work not cast in the form of fiction. Stevenson himself recognised the importance of this aspect of the novelist’s art. Commenting on Victor Hugo’s great prose epic ‘Les Miserables,’ he says: -
It is the moral intention of the great novel to awaken us a little, if it may be- for such awakenings are unpleasant – to the great cost of this society that we enjoy and profit by to the labour and sweat of those who support the litter Civilsation, in which we ourselves are so smoothly carried forward. People are all glad to shut their eyes; and it gives them very simple pleasure when they can forget that our laws commit a million individual injustices to be once roughly just in general; that the bread we eat, and the quiet of the family, and all that embellishes life and makes it worth having, have to be purchased by death – by the death of animals, and the deaths of men wearied out with labour, and the deaths of those criminals called tyrants and revolutionaries, and the deaths of those revolutionaries sometimes called criminals. It is to something of all this that Victor Hugo wishes to open men’s eyes in ‘Les Miserable’; and this moral lesson is worked out in masterly coincidence with the artistic effect. The deadly weight of civilisation to those who are below presses on our shoulders as we read. A sort of mocking indignation grows upon us as we find Socity rejecting, again and again, the services of the most serviceable; setting Jean Valjean to pick oakum, casting Galileo into prison, even crucifying Christ.
It would have been too much perhaps to expect that the son of the well-to-do engineer and a cosseted only son at that, should have done for his own countrymen what Hugo, Zola, Upton Sinclair and others have done in their several times and places. But the work remains to be done nevertheless. There is in letters no work of greater moment.
First published in the Westminster Review 1892.
SOME NEW THOUGHTS ON A WELL-WORN THEME.
That the Press should now be so frequently placed in opposition and contrast to the Pulpit, and that it should be supposed the two institutions have enough in common to justify comparisons being made between them, indicates a new view of the functions of the pulpit at least. Until comparatively recent years it was generally considered that people went to church, not so much to be regaled with highly intellectual fare, as to join in praise and prayer and to hear passages of Scripture more or less passably expounded, and an application of the text given to one or other of a limited number of religious and moral questions-the homily being, as a rule, very general in its terms alike of reprobation and commendation. In short, people were supposed to go to church "to worship God."
That this idea, with all it implies; is not yet wholly extinct is shown by the fact that laymen, and even clerics, possessed of learning, dialectical skill, and oratorical power, will attend a church in which the regular minister is much inferior to them in all of these qualifications. Those who regard the church in this now old-fashioned light may be said to consider it as a place where certain ceremonies have to be 'performed ; that it is necessary to have a master of those ceremonies- a fugleman to say the word at the proper time; that it is well to have a class of men specially trained for this work ; but that no very high standard of intellectual power is required of the fugleman, since all the worshippers know pretty well what they are likely to hear, how they are expected to feel, and what they are expected to do on a given occasion.
The function of the press, on the other hand, surely is to chronicle events, to discuss politics, economics, art, science, literature, philosophy, commerce, and industry, and, in the doing of all this, to be informing, amusing, instructive, and improving. That the pulpit should be brought into comparison with an agency whose work is of this nature means that the critics of the pulpit as it is desire that it should perform more of the species of work done by the press, while 'doing it, of course, in the different manner necessitated by different circumstances. A newspaper or magazine is read in private: a sermon or lecture is heard in public-the hearer being one of a congregation through which the preacher, if master of his art, causes something like an electric current to run, uniting the listeners into an organic whole by the subtle sympathy born of unity of thought and feeling. The thought that you form one of 500 who are simultaneously listening to the same ideas and arguments as yourself lends a heightened dignity and adventitious importance to those ideas and arguments; so that a discourse which, if printed, would be read with but languid interest, may, when spoken with fitting accompaniment of look, gesture, and intonation, be followed with pleasure by a large assemblage. The church thus brings into play a social feeling which the press cannot possibly command, and, properly conceived and ordered, occupies an important place in the economy of society; but the question at present to be considered is whether the church makes as good use as it might do of this advantage which it possesses over the press. That it does not is shown by the circumstance that while everybody patronises and supports the press, comparatively few people patronise and support the church.
A church connection brings a business connection: church membership gives a certain status of respectability. A church brings men and women together for social work, setting up many interests in common between the parties, apart from their interest in certain specific theological doctrines. There are mission agencies, meetings of matrons, meetings of young men and maidens, choir practisings, Bible classes, and literary societies-all having a tendency to bring people together and increase their attachment to the central institution around which these various activities are carried on: notwithstanding all this, however, church attendances, church membership, and church funds are relatively on "the down grade." While the religious sentiment is as strong as ever-probably stronger than ever-the clergy as a class are more and more subjected to unfavourable criticism; gatherings of a secular order-such as concerts and political and trade union meetings-are becoming more and more common on Sunday; and last, but not least, comparisons are more frequently drawn between the pulpit and the press.
All this has doubtless to be attributed largely to the decay of religious belief; but the decay of religions belief has, in turn, to be attributed very largely to the failings and shortcomings of the pulpit. So long as literature was an expensive luxury, and the great body of the people were either absolutely unable to read, or had no taste and no time for reading, it was not remarkable that they should put up with a low standard of pulpit eloquence. That they were satisfied to dispense with literary grace and reasoning power on the part of the preacher is attested by the objection to "read " sermons which for a long time existed, and by the value placed upon mere fluency and fervour. But in these days of half penny papers and sixpenny magazines the humblest church-goer may, and often does, have a higher ideal of what a sermon should be than even well-to-do people had fifty years ago. For the masses not only have their judgment and taste cultivated by reading, but they attend the lecture-room and the theatre as well as the church; and, accustomed as they are to hear accomplished actors and brilliant platform lecturers, they are coming to expect from the pulpit entertainment and instruction as well as exhortations to "trust in God and do the right," which must always carry with them a certain platitudinarian sameness.
Now, it is because the pulpit does not come up t0 the standard of excellence already attained by the press, the platform, and the stage, each after its own manner, that men stay at home and read on Sundays, go out and stroll while the morning service is being held, and go to some secular or semi-secular lecture hall at night.
But, it will be asked', how should the pulpit be so behind other civilising agencies? Are not the clergy specially trained for the work of the church before entering upon their ministerial duties? and have they not the means of culture and refinement at command after they enter upon those duties ? Have they not a sound basis of scholarship to start with, and plenty of time to prepare for their Sunday ministration? Nay, the champions of the pulpit, warming to their theme, may say, are not clergymen better equipped intellectually than either press-men or platform speakers, to say nothing of actors, who may well be left out of account as persons who only patter other people's ideas?
To this we reply that many of our clergymen of the Nonconformist churches have had no University training; that, besides a common school education, the only training they have had has been obtained at one or other of the Divinity Halls; and that even in the case of those who have attended college it has to be pointed out that men are not necessarily sound scholars, sagacious thinkers, or brilliant writers or speakers because they have had a University education. The only thing you can be moderately sure 0f with respect to a University degree is that it represents fees paid, and even that does not, of course, hold good of honorary degrees.
It may readily be admitted that the clergy have abundant opportunities of storing their minds with ideas and cultivating literary graces, of doing their work of sermon-writing with care and finish, and embodying sound materials in that work. But do they avail themselves of these their opportunities? Before answering this question there are a few considerations I want to note.
It must be borne in mind that while the professional journalist has to devote his undivided attention to journalism, the professional preacher has to baptise, marry, and bury; has to visit and gossip with the members of his flock; has to take part in mission work and the business procedure of his church; has to serve in church court, attend sick-beds, and take a share in the work of running charities.. He may have a Bible class, a weekly prayer meeting, a Sunday school, a seat on the School Board or the Board of Guardians. Yet despite the formidable appearance of this list or possible and probable pastoral duties, I do not believe that ministers as a class are hard worked. They are oftener to be seen taking a side at tennis or a hand at whist than are most professional men. They take more and longer holidays than professional men do. They are not under the same obligation as professional men are to devote steady and unremitting attention to their work. Country parsons may, and sometimes do, farm and raise stock without apparent interruption to their clerical duties. Parsons, whether in town or country, can, and do frequently, exchange pulpits-making an old sermon suffice, and so saving themselves of what ought to be a considerable amount of work if well-written sermons were the rule. After having held a charge for a number of years they may get a transfer, and they will then use up in the new pulpit the sermons written for the spiritual well-being of their former flock. If they are incapacitated for duty by sickness, there are always plenty of students, lay preachers, and unplaced clerical brethren to take their place. But while it cannot, I think, be contended that clergymen as a class are hard worked, yet, that they have so many matters to look after besides their chief work-the work of the pulpit-is often made an excuse for doing that work in a makeshift manner.
If a newspaper editor goes on scamping his work-inserting weak, ill -digested, or plagiarised leading articles and stale news day after day, week after week-his circulation will fall, the directors to whom he is responsible will shortly bring him to book, and, if he cannot or will not render his employers more efficient service, he must make room for one who can and will do so. The same commercial principle will be applied to reporters and sub-editors, as well as to contributors on the staff of a magazine. But while the commercial principle is thus in active operation among the representatives of the press, it scarcely operates at all among the occupants of pulpits. A minister may for years go on gradually emptying a church by the feebleness of his hebdomadal performances; but unless matters get quite desperate, or our feeble brother gets implicated in some scandal, his employers do not suggest that he should make room for another. There are, as has been indicated, so many interests, associations, attachments connected with a church-there is, to put it bluntly, so much to be got out of a church besides religion-that a congregation will undergo a long-continued course of indifferent pulpit ministrations without breaking into open rebellion, and without its members individually leaving "the venerable house their fathers built to God." As a result of this indulgence the clergy have got spoiled. They do not feel called upon to keep up the high standard of excellence in their pulpit work which the press-man knows he must maintain in the columns of his paper, if it is to succeed, and he himself to keep his situation. And so, while I am not an admirer of all the results attending the operations of commercial principles, still I think it tolerably certain that if the ministerial calling were to a greater extent brought under the influence of those considerations which regulate the ordinary relations of employer and employee, it would tend to improve the quality of pulpit work.
I do not say, however, that the introduction of this principle would accomplish all that is required for the reformation of the pulpit. To make the pulpit anything like the social force it once was- a result which I do not say I am desirous to see attained-a different class of men would be required, as well as different conditions of pulpit tenure. The clergy are largely drawn from the class of '' good young men," and the members of that class are not remarkable for either physical or mental vigour. There are, of course, many robust men amongst those who beat the "pulpit drum" ; but it is undeniable that a large proportion of the clergy come from the quarter indicated. Moreover, clergymen as a class are so removed from that ''storm and stress " of work-a-day life which give tone and fibre to other men, and they come so much in contact with women, both within their own domestic circle and in their pastoral work, that they show a tendency to develop very many of the traits of character usually supposed to be the distinctive attributes of the female mind.
This want of robustness does much to lower the quality of pulpit work, and to lessen the influence of the Church. Knox and Latimer,Channing and Chalmer, were strong men, in touch with the life of their time, and capable of moving the multitude at will. In the struggle against abuses, shams, and tyranny, they took sides, as their Master did, and spoke out with fire and fervour, with manly strength and reason. You knew their position and intent: that they were with you or against you. But in these days when disputes between capital and labour are rife, and when great political movements are abroad in the land, the clergy take no side, show no colours. Although there is always one of the parties pretty surely in the right and the other just as surely in the wrong, the clergy sit on the fence. Assuming the role of Mr. Facing-both-ways, they pray that peace may be restored between the opposing factions ; but not one word is said as to the issues over which the conflict is being waged.
It is true, there are journals that profess no political creed and advocate no fixed socioeconomic principles. But even if these were not, as they are, the exceptions to a 'Very general rule, they are not to be tried by the standard we apply to the pulpit. It is not necessary that a newspaper should have a "policy," or advocate a particular set of opinions. Its first and chief function is to record news; and if it does that fairly and faithfully we shall not grudge being left to form our opinions for ourselves on the evidence it supplies. On the other hand, it seems impossible that a religious teacher should have no "policy " on all questions involving the great moral issues at stake in important political and social controversies. Though it is extremely unlikely that we shall ever get rid of party journalism, it is, all the , same, a very qualified blessing. But if the pulpit has no pronouncement to make on the question of the hour, it is not easy to see what function of public benefit the pulpit has to discharge. With respect to the press again, whether partisan or non-partisan, one further advantage which it possesses over the pulpit deserves to be remembered. The correspondence columns of newspapers and the pages of the Reviews are open to all who have anything interesting to say and who can preserve the amenities of discussion.
It may be said that the discussion of political differences and labour disputes lies outside the province of the clergy ; but if, as is usually the case, fundamental principles in the religion for which they stand are being violated on the one hand and upheld on the other, their duty and their province would seem to be alike tolerably clear.
The fact is, the Church is behind the times. She has always something to say about the duties of her children as men and women, as son and daughters, as husbands and wives, as masters and servants, and especially as church members; but nothing to say about their duties as citizens, although the duties and powers of citizenship form one of the most important trusts given into human hands. The discussion of political, social, and economic questions is in most churches reckoned contraband.
Jesus scourged the money-changers out of the Temple; but they are welcomed in today. Their contributions are wanted for the Sustentation Fund, their gold and notes for the church-door collections. The clergy invest their savings in a brewery or a death dealing match-factory as eagerly as if Jesus had not advised the rich young ruler to sell his superfluities and give to the poor. Or is it that there are no poor nowadays? And was Cardinal Manning proved to have been merely careless and improvident by the fact that he left but a beggarly £100? Jesus denounced the Scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites who devoured widows' houses, but made long prayer for a pretence. There are surely no lineal descendants of the scribes and Pharisees in the world today; for I have attended church twice a day for years, yet I never heard any attempt made to apply the passage to any class of men alive at the present time. Or is it that the Scribes and Pharisees of today are not within hearing of the pulpit? It was Jesus who told the parable of the vineyard; but how often do we hear any effort put forth to apply that parable to the labour problem?-an application which it will undoubtedly bear.
The average church-goer inclines more and more to note these thing , and observation tends to increase his weariness with the pulpit. So far do the clergy carry their injunction of ''peace, peace," where peace is a wickedness, that they often fear to denounce publicly, or even admonish privately, the wealthy sinner who gives generously to church funds, and keeps an excellent table; although he grinds the faces of his workers, or rack-rents the tenants in his slum property, bullies his family and domestic servants, and inflames his body and besots his mind with drink. Of this, also, the average man takes note; and it disgusts him to find that the shepherd of souls lives at peace with this incarnation of iniquity. He compares the clergyman's practice with his precepts, and throwing many another grudge into the balance on the same side, he finishes not infrequently by absenting himself from churches and ministers, good or bad, altogether.
The influence of the pulpit wanes because the preacher does his work in a slipshod manner ; because, while the pews are agitated by the questions of the hour, the preacher talks yet says nothing for fear he should offend the partisans of the side he happens to oppose. The influence of the pulpit wanes because its occupants are tied up to speak on old and outworn themes ; because the interest in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob pales before the interest in Tom, Dick, and Harry ; and Palestine is less to us than the most prosaic town in Britain where the tragi-comedy of life is now day by day enacted.
The press is not perfect; but, with all its faults, it represents the people. Forced by the conditions of its existence to please those for whom it caters, it reflects every mood of the public. It is all things to all men. It finds out everything ; it tells everything it finds out. You go to the preacher, who is usually the same man, and you have to endure him for an hour at a time. The newspaper comes to you; it contains the thoughts of many men, and discusses many themes; you can change the man and the theme at will, or dismiss the press altogether if you tire of it, or other matters demand your attention. Yon hear the preacher, if you go to church, one day in seven. The press comes to you morning and evening, wet day and dry, in health and sickness, six days out of the seven. The press has accomplished much in a short space of time. The pulpit has accomplished less in a long career. 'What the press has done it has done despite the hostility of princes and the repression of Parliaments. What the pulpit has failed to do it has failed to do notwithstanding the favour of princes and the subsidies of Parliaments. In influence for civilisation and enlightenment, the press, with all its faults, leaves the pulpit helplessly, hopelessly, ignominiously in the shade.
It was bitterly cold in the neighbourhood of the Pripet Marshes. A nipping wind slanted rain and sleet across the openings in the woods, and the ragged man who pushed out from under the trees laid down his gun, and flapped his arms to keep himself warm. He was a dejected figure, limping and dishevelled, wan and dirty. His uniform, rent and besmirched, fluttered its torn ends about his shrunken body and let in the cold air upon his feverish skin. For a year now he had been in the forest, fighting an enemy he had rarely seen. Now this way, and now that, his regiment had crept through the trees, and man after man had fallen, struck by bullets which seemed to come from the ground itself. It was wearisome work, and, footsore, he had fallen out during the past two days. Where he was he did not know, for he had lost all sight of his comrades, and had seen nothing of the enemy. The thought uppermost was the desire to warm himself by a fire; so long as he came to a fire he little cared where his wanderings took him. On and on he trudged for miles, and he now despaired of getting anywhere. He looked, through the sleet and the rain, across the opening into which he had come, and half made up his mind to go back into the trees and there lie down and die, when he saw a soldier, ragged as himself, approaching towards him. The other man was one of the enemy, and yet the first man did not take up his gun, but calmly waited the other’s coming. He held up his hand, and, when the enemy had come within speaking distance, shouted, ‘All right, I’m your prisoner.’
He sat down on the wet grass, and abandoned all responsibility. He had surrendered, and, so far as he was concerned, the war was over. No more would he have to tramp, tramp, on his burning blistered feet through the bitter cold; he would be taken away to warmth and food. Happily and childishly he hummed softly a little air to himself.
The enemy came and stood over him.
‘Confound you,’ he said, ‘Why the devil were you so quick? I was about to surrender to you.’
The first man looked up with a smile.
‘Sorry, old man,’ he said pleasantly, ‘but I stole a march on you. I surrendered first.’
‘That may be, but consider myself your prisoner.’
‘You are very good, but I have no intention of availing myself of your surrender.’
The enemy sighed. ‘But I’ve had enough of this. I’m starving and I want some food. I’ve got a wound in my leg, and I can hardly walk. Please take me prisoner,’ he begged.
‘I’ve a fever and sore feet. I’m your prisoner.’
The enemy sat down by the other’s side.
‘This isn’t fair,’ he grumbled.
‘Oh yes it is,’ said the other. ‘I had put down my rifle and had not time to pick it up before you were upon me. It’s quite fair.’
A wistful look came into the enemy’s face.
‘Curse your luck!’ he said. ‘If you’re my prisoner you’ll be sent back to safety, and there you’ll live like a fighting cock. You’ll have food and fire, and games to amuse you. And you’ll be able to hold your head up without any fear that a shot’ll take it off. And they’ll tie up your feet in clean lines, and put them in slippers. Oh, the devil! You’ll have a jolly time of it and I shall go on dodging bullets in this cruel cold. Perhaps I shan’t dodge every bullet; one, perhaps, will make a mess of me. No, it isn’t fair. I’m hanged if I’m going to take you prisoner and send you back to luxury, when I shall have to go on fighting and risking my life.’
The other had taken off his boot, and held his foot up for the enemy to see.
‘I’ve lost my regiment, and I can’t go fast enough on a foot like that to find it. You must take me prisoner.’
The enemy drew up his trouser, and displayed an ugly wound in his leg.
‘How the devil can I take you prisoner when I’ve got a wound like this in my leg! I’m a helpless man. If you had a logical mind you’d see that I’m your prisoner.’
‘Look here, I’ve no more desire to send you back to luxury than you have to send me. I’ve had a year of this and enough. I want to get out of it.’
‘I want to too. I’ve had eighteen months of it.’
‘Sorry, but you can’t surrender to me after I’ve surrendered to you.’
‘Well, I set you free, and now you can take me prisoner.’
‘That would be ingratitude, and I’m hanged if I do it.’
‘I’ve got a wife and two children at home. I don’t want to be killed; I want to get back to them.’
‘I’ve got a sweetheart and I want to see her. And I may point out to you, seeing that I have lost my comrades, it is quite useless for me to take you prisoner. If you want a rest, go into hospital. You could with that wound. I couldn’t with merely a sore foot.’
The enemy shook his head.
‘They just discharged me as cured,’ he said.
‘And directly you are discharged you cover yourself with glory by taking a prisoner. They’ll make you a corporal.’
‘No thank you; that would increase the time I must stay in the army. One war is quite enough for any man. It knocks the martial spirit out of him. It makes him begin to think that arbitration is not quite so stupid as men say it is.’
The other man began to flap his arms again.
‘We’re wasting time,’ he said. ‘March me to your camp.’
‘My leg’s too bad.’
‘Then I could never take you to our camp. It’s miles away. I’ve lost it. I don’t know where it is.’ He hummed gaily and put his boot on again. ‘Come, I’m ready. March in your dejected prisoner.’
‘With your foot so bad as that I ought to carry you,’ said the enemy. ‘But I’m too weak to carry you, so I can’t take you prisoner.’
‘Oh,’ said the other cheerfully, ‘I’ll hobble ten miles to see a fire.’
‘I could walk twenty if you would make me prisoner.’
‘I surrendered first.’
They thought it over a bit.
‘We’ll toss to see who’s whose prisoner,’ the enemy said.
The other demurred. ‘That’s not altogether regular, is it?’ he asked.
‘Regular be blowed. It’s only fair.’
The enemy drew a coin from his pocket. He tossed and lost.
‘Damn!’ he said, and then cried, ‘Threes.’
‘You might give a fellow a chance – a fellow with a hole in his leg, and a good wife and two children at home.’
‘Very well,’ said the other.
The enemy tossed again and won. He tossed a third time and lost. He cursed loudly and rose to his feet. ‘Here, give me your gun,’ he said irritably. The other handed over his rifle. ‘Come along, prisoner.’
The other got upon his sore feet. He winced with pain as he stepped on, but he answered, ‘with pleasure.’
‘I’m sorry, old fellow, he said, as they limped away together, ‘but really I was the first to surrender.’
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