1887 “At the Sign of the Ship”

January 1887 [Signed A. Lang]

Opening lines: “The Christmas number of the Psychical Society is probably the most satisfying, to an appetite for the marvellous, that has ever appeared. Phantasms of the Living,[1] by Mr. Podmore, contains a number of pages so great that arithmetic boggles at it, and offfers about eight hundred ‘cases,’ authentic cases, of phantasms, with some little ones in, in an appendix. It is a most extraordinary and, to a contemplative mind, a most puzzling thing that one never can take Psychical Research seriously. The authors of those vast quartos are gentlemen of high attainments and literary accomplishments. They have given as much pains to organizing an inquiry into abnormal occurrences as would fit out a theory of Home Rule, or of a cure for our social distresses. They have spared no labour, they have passed many hours in the most uninviting experiments with Thought Readers, they have interrogated the Aunts of the human species as to the phantasms they have beheld (it is extraordinary how great Aunts are in ghosts); and yet Psychical Research is not taken seriously.”

[1] London: Trubner. 2 vols.

Topics:

  • Psychical Research (extended discussion, 330–335), Lang begins with the Christmas number of the “Psychical Society” and notes “I cannot take Psychical Research seriously. The rest of the world seems just as flippant, and there must be some reason for the flippancy.”*
  • “One would not maintain that Psychical Research will never discover anything at all; but most persons feel it will never persuade them, nor people like them, of the truth of its discoveries. Starting from all these experiments in the influence of mind on mind, ‘telepathy,’ and the rest, we see that only individual experience, in each case, will satisfy an observer; and even he will not be as satisfied as if the experiement were in the natural sciences.” (331)
  • “if I am not allowed to believe in ghosts unless I first swallow Thought Reading, why, with a pang, but resolutely, I give ghosts up.” (331)
  • Phantasms are more interesting. Lang cites Mr. Gurney and Mr. Myers’s book, referenced above (331–32) “Making large discounts for hoaxes, for mistaken identity, and for human folly, I confess I think there is still ‘something in it.’ (332)
  • An example from Kamilaroi and Kurnai, an account of the Australian tribes (332)
  • Multiple personalities can be seen in the ghost vs. the deceased: “many of us are Jekylls, each with a tribe of Hydes. Now the mischievous ghost of a decent man is obviously only one of his Hydes, detached and on the loose” (333)
  • Discusses Walter Pollock’s sketch called ‘Dreams’—where “some one, in a dream, invented a way of communicating with the people of Mars by means of signals reflected on to the disk of the moon.” The Martians and citizens of earth fulfill one another’s dreams in their daily lives. Lang discusses whether we would take life less seriously if they were “only the nightmares of men and women in another planet” (333)
  • Lang discusses the ancient folklore of beans (he makes the transition by discussing Pythagoras’s belief that one can write on the surface of the moon by writing on the earth in bean juice) (334–35)
  • Wellerisms [A book on the origin of Sam’s sayings in Pickwick] (335)
  • A discussion of Shakespeare appears in the Elizabethan play The Return from Parnassus (1606) (335–36)

*Commentary: Lang’s Cock Lane and Common Sense was published in 1894; Lang would become president of the Society for Psychical Research in 1911. Previous presidents included Henry Sidgwick (1882–84 and 1888–92), Balfour Stewart (1885–87), Arthur Balfour (1893), William James (1894–95), Sir William Crookes (1896–99), Frederick W. H. Myers (1900), Sir Oliver Lodge (1901–1903), William F. Barrett, (1904), Charles Richet (1905), Gerald Balfour (1906–07), Eleanor Sidgwick (1908–09), and Henry Arthur Smith (1910) .

February 1887 [Signed ANDREW LANG]

Opening lines: “In Mr. Hayward’s Letters[1] there are various entertaining passages, and among them what some moralists would call a dreadful example of ‘log-rolling.’ Mr. Thackeray (by the way he is called ‘Mr. Thackeray’ in the table of contents) was not a very well known man in 1845. Mr. Macvey Napier, not a very well remembered man in 1887, was then editing the Edinburgh Review. To him Mr. Longman recommended Mr. Thackeray, ‘thinking he would be a good hand for light articles.’ Mr. Longman was not mistaken in this judgment. There was never a better hand at light articles. But Mr. Macvey Napier had not heard of the proposed contributor, and, as he said, ‘in a journal like the Edinbro’ it is always of importance to keep up in respect of names.’” (440)

[1] Murray. London: 1886.

Topics: [Unlike most months, the February 1887 number includes a list of topics at the beginning of the article. I quote these in italics below. However, as these headings are not very descriptive, a more thorough list of the February topics follows.]

  • Of Log-Rolling.
  • A Desperate Case.
  • Startling Revelations!
  • The ‘Hayward Letters.’
  • Mr. Hayward Exposed.
  • Of Criticism.
  • An Enemy hath done this thing!’
  • Of Misprints.
  • Of the End of the World.
  • Lines on the ‘Destiny of the Universe,’ by a Young Lady
  • Of Books and their Prices
  • Of Arrow-Release
  • Of Unknown Correspondents
  • A Poem
  • Poor Needlewomen

Topics (more fully described):

  •  Lang begins with the anecdote quoted above, that Mr. Macvey Napier, editor of the Edinburgh Review in 1845, hadn’t heard of Thackeray when he was proposed as a potential contributor and therefore thought Thackeray was not a well known enough name for the Review. Lang then transitions into a facetious charge of log-rolling against the Edinburgh Review for its review of Vanity Fair (440).
  • Of Log-Rolling: “Mr. Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair was actually praised (hideous and incredible as it may seem) by his personal friend, Mr. Hayward, in the Edinburgh Review, a journal in which he himself wrote, or may have thought of writing, being esteemed a good hand for light articles” (440).
  • An Enemy hath done this thing!’—Starting by praising Hayward’s letters on the subject, Lang discusses how writers are too apt to confuse negative reviews with personal enmity (441–42)
  • Of Misprints. [in the book Hayward Letters] (442)
  • Of the End of the World. “Taking Long Views”—a poem by May Kendall in which a character wonders, “Oh, shall we wander into space, or fall into the sun?” (443–44)
  • Of Books and their Prices: booksellers usually sell rare books too high; if they sell them too low, should the buyer say anything? Foolish booksellers who rebind old books, lowering their value, reprimanded (444–45)
  • Of Arrow-Release: varying releases by various people groups discussed (445–46)
  • Of Unknown Correspondents [Lang’s poem complains of the people who write him] (446–47)
  • Poor Needlewomen: Their inability to get paid a proper wage because there are so many of them; a “Co-operative Society, still on a very small scale” formed. Address given to which readers can send work or orders. (447–48)

Poems printed in full:

  • Taking Long Views” M.K. [May Kendall]
  • “To Correspondents” [Andrew Lang]

March 1887 [Signed ANDREW LANG.]

Opening lines: “There seems reason to fear that a Virgin will be presently sacrificed by a company of infuriated novelists, as Jodelle and his friends, when a play was accepted, offered a goat to Dionysus. for some reason the novelists are very self-conscious at this moment, and keep inquiring into the health, and feeling the pulse of the Muse of Romance, with an interest shared by the general public. Mr. Rider Haggard has been deciding, in the Contemporary Review, that fiction is in a bad way, and he speaks of some American writers and of M. Zola in a style which is almost a casus belli. On the other side of the Atlantic, Mr. Boyes, in the Forum, also thinks that fiction is in a valetudinarian state. One point on which Mr. Haggard and Mr. Boyes agree is in holding that blushing Maidenhood is the real cause of distress.” (552)

Topics:

  • The state of fiction / Novelists and their female readers [Rider Haggard’s and Mr. Boyes’s contention that fiction would be better “if the standard of popularity were not set by girls, and by notions of what girls may read” (552); Lang disagrees that separating novels from women readership is either possible or a good idea: “I only wish young girls would read my worksmy little excursus on the Evolution of Ritual, or my favourite study, The Modification of Cannibalism by Cookery. But the Young Girls neglects these edifying essays, and they ‘wilt’ on the dusty shelves. To be read by Young Girls should be an author’s joy.” (552–53)
  • “The Restoration of Romance” (a poem by Andrew Lang) “(To H. R. H. and R. L. S.) (554-55)
  • Advertisements in The Princess of Cleves, a 1679 English translation of La Princesse de Clèves: “what more takes me than the novel itself is the number of advertisements, wherein we learn how our grandmothers read, and what books the ingenious Mr. Bentley put forth, ’tis now two centuries since” (555–56)
  • “the scraps from Mr. Thackeray’s waste-paper basket called ‘Sultan Stork, and other Papers” [Lang does not approve of publishing them] (556)
  • On “clever people’s” undervaluing the works of Charles Dickens
  • “The Ballad of Claverhouse’s Sweetheart” (V. H.) (558–59)
  • Ballads on Books, Mr. Brander Matthews and Mr. Combes
  • The ‘Blind Fisherman of Tweedside,’ William Rankin, dead

 Poems printed in full:

  • “The Restoration of Romance” (Andrew Lang) “(To H. R. H. and R. L. S.) (554-55)
  • “The Ballad of Claverhouse’s Sweetheart” (V. H.) (558–59)

April 1887 [Signed A. LANG.]

Opening lines: “The amusement of drawing up imaginary lists of an imaginary Academy was invented perhaps, by Mr. Matthew Arnold. Some members of the British Public have lately tried their hands at it—their hands already expert at making amateur Cabinets, ideal Elevens of All England, lists of the best places to buy groceries at, of the best schools, the best doctors, the best parsons, and so forth.” (658)

Topics:

  • an Imaginary Academy—Lang believes it would be more interesting to think about who might have belonged to such an Academy of the English had had one as long as the French than to think about who should belong to one in the present. (658)
  • Ménage, or Ægidius Menagius (1663) and his love of his publisher and their books (Elzevirs)
  • “A Pure Hypothesis,” poem by May Kendall (661–63) (signed M.K.) / in Lang’s words “the unexplored regions of moral mathematics.” Lang comments “According to a geometrical enthusiast, it is only by ‘the casting out of self’ that we can even conceive of Four-dimensional Space, and, if mankind could universally cast out self, how happy we might all become! But what a terrible planet that would be which was peopled (like Ulster) by ‘an evil colony’ of our expelled selves—a colony of Mr. Hydes!” (663)
  • “M. Henri Beraldi: “Neither the late Mr. John Hill Burton, nor the ‘dreadful Dibdin,’ as an American amateur calls him, had even the beginnings of such a pleasant style of causerie as M. Henri Beraldi” (663); Lang repeats quote almost word for word on the rare bookseller who offer too good of a deal from his February “Ship” in the new context of Beraldi.
  • M. Jules Lemaître praised as an excellent French critic; his essays recommended; his writing on ballades quoted (664–65)
  • The American Mr. Clinton Scollard’s ballade, “For Me the Blithe Ballade,” of which Lang writes, “I copy it from a pleasant book, With Reed and Lyre” (665–66)

Poems printed in full:

  • “A Pure Hypothesis” M.K. [May Kendall] (661–63)
  • “For Me the Blithe Ballade” Mr. Clinton Scollard

May 1887 [Signed ANDREW LANG]

Opening lines: “The present Ship, I regret to say, is a woful barque, with black sails. From the poop you may ‘see the sad pageants of men’s miseries,’ and lament over the Sorrows of Authors. Perhaps they do not mind it very much themselves, but they are suffering (if they happen to notice this whimsical circumstance) from critics who forbid them to sell their own wares, and from critics who accuse them of selling wares that are not their own.”

Commentary: Lang is referring to Margaret Oliphant, the then unrecognized anonymous author of the “Old Saloon,” a review of recent books, in Blackwood’s. Oliphant did not think that Stevenson should collect and republish short stories contributed to periodicals so soon after their original writing. The second charge refers to the controversy over Rider Haggard’s alleged plagiarisms that had been argued in the press, most notably in the Athenaeum and the Pall-Mall Gazette. Lang would publish one of his best-known essays, “Literary Plagiarism,” in the Contemporary Review in June.]

Topics:

  • “The Sorrows of Authors” who are harangued by “critics who forbid them to sell their own wares, and from critics who accuse them of selling wares not their own” (105)
  • Lang complains of Margaret Oliphant’s complaint in April’s “The Old Saloon” of Stevenson repackaging his own periodical short stories in book form. (Interestingly, Lang may not know this “The Old Saloon” number, and others, were written by Oliphant (105–06); see the September 1887 “Sign of the Ship,” p. 558–59. See also Schroeder, “Lasting Ephemera” in the summer 2017 VPR.) Lang gives a defense of reprinting stories “scattered in divers out-of the-way periodicals, and others not so out of the way,” noting also that republication is common for serialized novels such as Mr. Besant’s Children of Gibeon or Mrs. Oliphant’s The Wizard’s Son: “There is no logical reason why a three-volume novel and its author should have privileges denied to the authors of short stories and even of essays” (107).
  • “If short stories are not to be republished till the author has one foot in the grave, we should have to do without most of a famed French wit’s books” (107).
  • Lang mocks the current debate on plagiarism by quoting from and summarizing Charles Reade, A Memoir: “George Eliot was the culprit, and the victim was—one would offer a dozen guesses—the victim was the late Mr. Charles Reade” (109)
  • Lang criticizes the “parallel column trick,” shifts to discussion of Haggard’s She and Moore’s Epicurean, summarizes the latter, discusses that Haggard accused of cribbing Moore and Moore accused of “cribbing Alethe and Alciphron and the whole idea of the tale from Chateaubriand, a ridiculous accusation” (111)
  • Lang mocks another parallel column incident in Literary World, in which a paragraph from Haggard’s She [Ayesha’s sudden aging and shrinking] and a Japanese fairy tale published in the Century of June 1886.

June 1887 [Signed ANDREW LANG.}

Opening line: “By the time this somewhat tardy cruiser arrives at the haven of publication, everyone will have forgotten all about the Pictures of the year.” (216)

Topics:

  • Pictures of the Year at the Academy and the Grosvenor are interesting; though people may feel this notice is too late for them to be interested in reading it. Lang gives brief opinions on Sargent, Burne-Jones, and Strudwick (112)
  • Benedetta Ramus’s portrait discussed last summer, more information on the original given, including details from Mrs. Papendiek’s Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte (217–18)
  • Lang wonders if readers can supply him with the source of an overheard remark: “Is it part of a true and actual adventure, or is it the conclusion of some romance, which must be poignant, but is unknown to us? Would it be wrong to plagiarize it, and write a story filling up the unknown background? Would any two novelists conduct that story in anything like the same way?” Quotation: “So a month later, they went back to the Island, and they found the Doctor and the Slave both Dead.” (218)
  • M. Joseph Boulmier’s Villanelles (1878 and his Rimes Loyales (1857) (218–20)
  • Copyright, National and International, a pamphlet by ‘A Publisher’; Gibbon’s account with his publishers reprinted from the above (220–221)
  • Lang’s opinions on copyright in America: American authors have no recourse
  • May Kendall’s poem, “The Conscientious Ghost” (221–23)
  • Lang disapproves of Oxford’s School of Modern Languages also being called a School of Literature, doesn’t believe literature can be taught, but certain it won’t be taught at Oxford
  • Lang is annoyed at receiving manuscripts that ought to go to the editor of Longman’s

Poems printed in full:

  • *Lang prints two stanzas from Boulmier’s “Vieux Livres, Jeunes Fleurs” and one more poetic stanza by the same author 219, 220
  • “The Conscientious Ghost,” M.K. [May Kendall] (221–23)

July 1887 (Signed ANDREW LANG.)

Opening lines: “‘Then, are we Critics of no use in the world?’ Mr. Howells has been asking in Harper’s Magazine. He does not appear to be very certain that we are. ‘Perhaps criticism does some good we do not know of,’ he says, in a spirit of agnosticism. ‘They say it does one good,’ murmured Nicholas of ancient days, when he was crossing the Channel in a gale. ‘But,’ he added, ‘I’d rather be done good to some other way.'” (329)

Topics:

  • The value of critics
    • Discusses Mr. Howells in Harper’s Magazine on whether critics are of any use in the world; claims that critics can be helpful in stopping authors “in their first rush (which is always wild, like a salmon’s) and turns them from a business in which they are of no avail” (329)
    • Critics also are “on a watch-tower, and the public . . . is below, anxiously awaiting some new genius. . . . once and again, the Critic does see somebody coming, somebody not yet visible to the public below” (330).
    • The Critic “induces [the author] to improve his work,” gives example of Tennyson’s first and last edition of the Palace of Art, though he also criticizes these same critics for their “slumberous and stupid” response, overall, to the 1833 volume (330)
  • Graham R. Tomson’s poem (printed in full) “Ballad of Asphodel” [Rosamund Mariott Watson]
  • “Among the many good deeds of the Critic (which really enable him, far from desponding like Mr. Howells, to enjoy an approving conscience) might be mentioned his practice of introducing people to books they would not otherwise meet” (332)
  • Treatises on Second Sight by Theophilus Insulanus (1763, reprinted 1819 in Glasgow) often quoted by Sir Walter Scott, recommended to the Psychical Research Society (332–34). Lang describes stories of brownies and of second sight, claiming “Most of the people who had second sight were named Macleod. . . . the people of Skye . . . treasured up the memory of their visions till (not matter how long after) something of the same sort happened” (333). The story of Greadach Munro told, who threw up her meal after seeing a vision of a corpse in the trough; small child buried in it a few days later as no wood available for a coffin (333–34)
  • M. Joseph Bolmier’s (see June 1887) French translation of Austin Dobson’s villanelle, “When I saw you last, Rose” printed. (334)
  • Miss Constance Naden’s A Modern Apostle, &c., recommended, or at least the “amusing light verse in ‘&c.’, Lang has “not yet read the Modern Apostle”, selections of the verse printed (335)
  • Short notices of information received from Correspondents:
    • The Doctor and the Slave continued—“several Correspondents write, ‘See Sandy’s story in Warburton’s Darien, chapter ix.” (335)
    • “Another Correspondent has read a tale called ‘A Wife’s Revenge,’ in the Christmas number of Good Words, 1873; and he has also read Charles Reade’s ‘Single Heart and Double Face.’ He wants to know how those two pieces come to be so very like each other. People interested in coincidences may seek an explanation for themselves” (335–36)
    • “An anonymous Correspondent from St. Andrews is respectfully informed that, in the words of Artemus Ward, ‘The spirit said NO, with one of the most tremenjous knocks I ever experienced” (336)

Poems printed in full:

  • “Ballad of Asphodel” Graham R. Tomson [Rosamund Mariott Watson] (331–32)
  • “Rose” (French translation of Austin Dobson’s “When I saw you last, Rose,” translated by M. Joseph Bolmier

August 1887 [Signed ANDREW LANG.]

Opening line: “Among persons who suffer from overwork, and too prolonged and assiduous attention to business, may be mentioned the Invisible Palpable Ghost.” (442)

Topics:

  • “The Invisible Palpable Ghost” mentioned as “suffer[ing] from overwork.” Lang doesn’t know when this being first appeared in fiction. He first saw him “in a short story by an Irish-American author, FitzJames O’Brian, which was published before 1860,” also appeared in an English magazine, and in a Wilkie Collins short story, “Mrs. Zant and the Ghost,” also seems to have haunted the mother of Guibert de Nogent, and the fiction of M. Guy de Maupassant [Le Horla]; Lang prefers the first ghost to the others and thinks this particular story element (the Horla) “should be allowed a holiday” (442–44)
  • Mr. Rutherford Clark’s translation of Horace (though Lang says the feat is impossible, still this “pretty pocket volume should be in the library of all lovers of Horace” (444)
  • Austin Dobson’s Poscimur (444–45)
  • Polygnotus’s painting of the Delphian Leschê, complete with “fishes so shadowy that they seem rather like the ghosts of fish”; poem “The Very Last Chance” printed in reference to this (445)
  • Graham Tomson’s “Ballade of a Fair Impenitent” (446–47)
  • The terrible weather in June: “After nearly total darkness, mitigated only by white fogs, till the first week of June, the climate rushed into the opposite extremes. As in Mrs. Browning’s poem, it was ‘blindingly bright by’ all that was left of the river”—trout fishing nearly impossible (447)
  • Miss May Kendall’s “The Moon” which “attempt[s] to show the scientific, without neglecting the poetic, attitude of mind towards our satellite” (447–48)

Poems printed in full:

  • Austin Dobson’s Poscimur (444–45)
  • “The Very Last Chance” (445)
  • Graham Tomson’s “Ballade of a Fair Impenitent” (446–47) [Rosamund Mariott Watson]
  • “The Moon” (448), May Kendall

 September 1887 (Signed ANDREW LANG.)

Opening lines: “Mr. George Robbins, the auctioneer, has been laughed at for his description of an estate where the only drawbacks were ‘the litter of the rose leaves, and the noise of the nightingales.’ The roses and bubuls would have been the paradise of Persian poet, but I am inclined to agree with the auctioneer. When one goes to bed one wants to sleep, not to listen to music, even if that music be not, as in Théophile Gautier’s definition, ‘the most expensive of noises.’ The music of the nightingale is inexpensive, which perhaps is a reason for regretting that we do not hear him north of the Tweed. Whether it be enjoyable is a question of taste. That it is preferable to Sleep, ‘of all Gods,’ quoth Pausanias, ‘the dearest to the Muses,’ I deny.” (553)

Topics:

 [As in February 1887, there is a list of topics at the beginning of the article. I quote these in italics below. I add page numbers, along with further descriptions in brackets when useful.]

  • The Nightingale, an Over-rated Bird [553]
  • Sappho an Over-rated Poet, according to Mrs. Piatt [553]
  • Poets on the Nightingale, their recklessness of Natural History [554] [It is the male who sings, Lang says]
  • [If the nightingale laments,] What does the Scythe say? [555]
  • Answers to this Question in Immortal Numbers [“Scythe Songs”, “two variations on one rendering, by two hands” signed B. and A. 555–56]
  • Whence did William Wordsworth Steal his Ode to Duty? [556­–57]
  • The Orphic Hymn to Law [The answer to the above—though Lang believes it’s more likely that Wordsworth “happened to hit on the same set of ideas” (556–57)]
  • Why are Johnians called by an undesirable Nickname? [557] [Claims that St. John’s, in Cambridge, “is a Lady Margaret’s foundation. Trinity men would first call the students ‘Margarets,’ then ‘Megs,’ then ‘Pegs,’ then they would go to the full breadth of the present expression, by the mere change of a vowel. I cannot put it more delicately than that; and the argument seems well worthy of the attention of the Cambridge philologists. But perhaps these ideas are hesternæ rosæ, and have all been invented, and exploded, long ago. Such is the history of philological discoveries.”]
  • Rondeau, by Mr. Austin Dobson [“Albi, Ne Doleas” (558]
  • The Old Saloon and Vernon Lee on Botticelli [558–59]
  • Peasantry of Picardy, an idyllic people, more or less [559: introduction to the poem listed in the quotations]
  • Petit Chanson Picard [559–60, a poem signed C.]
  • Note on Mephistopheles by Mr. Walter Pollock [560, Lang praises “the part interpreted by M. Edouard de Reszke at Drury Lane in Gounod’s opera]

Poems printed in full:

  • Scythe Songs (555–56), signed B. and A.
  • part of an Orphic Hymn, in Greek (556)
  • “Albi, Ne Doleas” Austin Dobson (558)
  • Petit Chanson Picard, signed C. (559–60)

October 1887 (Signed A. LANG).

Opening lines: “If one may judge by the American magazines, no literary topic is more interesting than the theory and practice of Fiction. What is Realism? How realistic is it right to be? Can a book that is popular be Literature (with a capital L)? or is Literature a manner of writing so refined and tormented that very few people want to read it, and they, for the most part, reviewers? What manner of thing is the Great American Novel to be, and when are we to look for its coming? With these and similar questions the critics divert themselves and their more philosophic readers.” (659)*

*”Realism and Romance” would come out in the November 1887 Contemporary Review. As was true with the May number (which was published a month before “Literary Plagiarism” in the Contemporary Review),  Lang here appears to be trying out ideas that he would expand on in a unified essay a month later.

Topics:

  • American Magazines’ interest in “the theory and practice of fiction” (659)
  • The Great American Novel: “why should the States expect to have a Great American Novel, and to be blessed above other people’s in this matter?” (659)
  • Sir Walter Scott on writing fiction (659–61)
  • American copyright problem and Mudie’s Select Library (661–62)
  • A flower girl’s throwing all her goods onto the bare coffin of one out of four men who had died in a fire, and Graham Thompson’s poem on the subject (662–63)
  • The Angler’s Vade Mecum (1681) (663–64)
  • women’s work and wages in ancient Greece as seen in poems in the Anthology Pal. Anathematica (664–65)
  • Richard Jeffries’s death (665–66)
  • poem to Robert Louis Stevenson that complains of Stevenson’s poem on Lang’s brindled hair (666)

Poems printed in full:

  • “After the Fire” (G.R.T.) [Rosamund Mariott Watson]
  • “To R.L.S.” Lang’s rejoinder to Stevenson’s poem on his “brindled hair”

November 1887 [No signature on the final page.]

Opening lines: “Piracy is not a failing peculiar to America. In the New Princeton Review (Sept. 1887) Mr. Brander Matthews alleges that certain English publishers can also run up the ‘Jolly Roger’ on occasion, and sail under the Black Flag. I am delighted to see Mr. Matthews (vir lepidissimus et amicus meus) with his eye on persons who steal from American authors. But neither Mr. Matthews nor any other writer on his side explains why the books of Mr. Henry James, Mr. Howells, Mark Twain, Mr. Frank Stockton, and others, are quite safe here, while Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Besant are invariably pirated over there. Mr. Matthews asserts that some English booksellers pirate some American authors. This may be so, but what I want to know is how Mark Twain can protect such a popular book as Huckleberry Finn from being stolen in England. He does protect it, stolen it is not; and if popular English authors could only be as safe in America as Mark Twain is in England, they would be fairly contented.” (105)

Topics:

  • Piracy of American works by British publishers, according to Mr. Brander Matthews, and complaints on American pirates of British works (105–106)
  • Lang himself an unconscious pirate of Edgar Allan Poe’s Poems “not, to be sure, from greed of gold, but because ‘I wished to see him look respectable’ . . . . I was not then aware that copyright in Poe’s Poems still lived, and his heirs or assigns are very welcome to my share in the gains of an unconscious piracy. They have only to apply at the Sign of the Ship” (106)
  • A supposed letter from a woman about to be married, who complains of the wedding gifts of her friends, including “thirteen pairs of silver ‘muffineers,’ . . . . eleven gongs. . . . sixteen travelling clocks, and no fewer than one hundred and forty-four apostles . . . those large spoons headed with the effigies of the Disciples” (107)
  • “In the Toy Shop,” a poem by May Kendall (108)
  • The covers of cheap editions of novels sold at railway stations (108–9)
  • Statistics on books bought in ‘a wholesale book store in the Upper Mississippi Valley’ published in the New York Critic, but “the popularity of English novelists in America cannot be estimated, as the cheap piratical editions are not counted. Now, when there are thirteen cheap piratical editions of one English novel, not to count them is to leave much out of the reckoning” (109)
  • Discussion of the names on the list, Mr. E.P. Roe, Dickens, Mrs. Mary J. H. Holmes, Miss Louis M. Alcott (282) “with whose works I am not fortunate enough to be acquainted. But next, not bad considering, is Sir Walter, with 232” . . . . (109)
  • Charles Stewart Swindells the name of the secretary of the Trinity Historical Society, Dallas, Texas, to which Lang had evidently been “unanimously elected a non-resident member” and asked to contribute a photo and autograph (110)
  • Ballade “A Man and a Brother” by Miss Werner
  • Seeking information on Mother Goose
  • part of the Greek Anthology “dedicated to the Manes of pets” / “Tymnes’ lines on his dead sea-mew (Epitumbia 199) (111–12)

Poems printed in full:

  • “In the Toy Shop” May Kendall (108)
  • “A Man and a Brother” Miss Werner (110–11)

December 1887 (Signed A. LANG.)

Opening lines: “December used to be the time when people drank punch and told of ghosts and dreams. Ghosts have been caught into the great scientific movement lately. In M. d’Assier’s book, ‘Posthumous Humanity’ (G. Redway), which Col. Olcott has translated, the terms of physical science are copiously applied to apparitions.” (234)

Topics:

  • M. d’Assier’s book Posthumous Humanity, Trans. Col. Olcott, “the terms of physical science are copiously applied to apparitions”; “mythology is not a series of ‘great palpable lies,’ but a collection of valuable facts. . . . Vampires do exist . . . . and, if all dead bodies were burned, why, there would be no vampires” (234–35)
  • Dreams
    • and Robert Louis Stevenson
    • The dream of a woman correspondent in which she is “appointed to meet and discuss with a Board of people the abolition of all existing religions”; she awakes, satisfied because one religion cannot be abolished (235)
    • Another woman correspondent writes, “A very common dream-experience of mine is that of producing verses, which are, not doubt, very admirable, but unfortunately not reproducible in waking hours” / also has dream of seeing published poems under her name that she doesn’t remember writing (236)
    • Two of Lang’s dreams, one in which he was a good magician fighting the vampire of a bad magician, one in which he meets a “fairy lady” who will come to him three times in his life when he plucks “a sprig of white heather. ‘But do not pluck it for the third time,’ she said, ‘till your death is approaching, and then I will come to you, and be your guide and comfort through the lonely way of death.’ Unfortunately, he accidentally breaks it off a third time, and “must go alone down the ways of death” (236–37)
  • Gibbon’s style monotonous because of his habit of ending sentences “in the genitive case. . . with ‘of’ so and so” (237)
  • “Mr. Gleeson White’s collection of ballades, rondeaus, villanelles and the rest”: “these ancient French forms seem decidedly most serviceable for light and humorous verse. There is very little poetry that can be cast in these quaint moulds, and genuine poets have used them very seldom” (238)
  • “Where to find the whole legend of Mr. Warburton’s Cook, ‘that unhappy Betty Barnes,’ who burned and destroyed a large collection of old quarto plays and MSS, many of them unique?” (239)
  • “Ballade of Betty Barnes, the Book-Burner” by Graham R. Tomson
  • Captain Hawley Smart’s The Great Tontine and the idea of keeping “harmless old gentlemen” to impersonate Kaisers long dead (240)

Poems printed in full: “Ballade of Betty Barnes, the Book-Burner” by Graham R. Tomson [Rosamund Mariott Watson] (239)

 

  • See the 1888 “At the Sign of the Ship” summaries.
  • Return to the “At the Sign of the Ship” Table of Contents.