1889 “At the Sign of the Ship”

January 1889 [Signed A. LANG.]

Opening lines: “Sailors’ songs appear to be the mode at present, and it is rather a pity that Miss Smith’s Music of the Waters has not been, if one may say so, more scientifically compiled. The subject, to be sure, is arduous, especially for a lady, and a collector should have much experience in discerning traditional and truly popular songs from modern attempts and from the ditties of the music hall. Somehow or other a piece of Mr. Henley’s Book of Verses has got into this volume, and has deceived the very elect. But Mr. Henley was aided, as he acknowledges, by a traditional refrain, and by one verse derived from tradition out of four.” (328)


  • Sailors songs, Miss Smith’s Music of the Waters
  • The Cornish song “Come and I will sing you!” in two different variations and the song’s supposed symbolism (328–30) Lang discusses the “theory that this ditty is ‘a survival of some creed taught by priests in a form easy to remember.'” (330)
  • A slavers song, “Time for us to go” “which was published in Mr. Leland’s ‘Captain Jonas Fisher,’ in Temple Bar, about fourteen years ago” and which was sung by the character of Pew in R. L. Stevenson and W. E. Henley’s unpublished play, Admiral Guinea, and was copied out by Henley for inclusion in “At the Sign of the Ship” (330–32)
  • Lang wrote a piece in which Hessiod “die[d] once, returned to life, and die[d] again. Now he discovered an “epigram attributed to Pindar” which tells of this event: “Conceive one’s astonishment on finding that Hessiod actually did this, and that one had plagiarised from Fact!”
  • “However, to return to the sea-songs.” Lang prints a poem, “The Fine Pacific Islands” that was sent from “Taiohae Taiti.” (333–34)
  • Mr. Dana’s Two Years before the Mast. Lang recommends to the collector of sea songs Marryat’s Dog Fiend, Snarleyow’s “Port Admiral, You be d—d,” “Lord Love You,” and “Our Cap’ stood on the Carronade,” ‘the best sea-ditty ever made by anybody” (334). “These are examples of songs which help the roughest life to ‘pass more easily,’ like that of the Cyclops in Theocritus.” (334)
  • “To My Violin” (a song)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet praised. “For a railway story, to beguile the way, few things have been so good, of late, as Mr. Conan Doyle’s Study in Scarlet. It is a shilling story about a murder, unluckily, for the horrors of recent months [Jack the Ripper murders, August–November 1888] do not dispose one to take pleasure in the romance of assassinations. However, granting the subject, this is an extremely clever narrative, rich in surprises; indeed I never was more surprised by any story than when it came to the cabman.” (335–36)
  • “Chess: a Christmas Masque, by Mr. Louis Taylor also praised. (336)

Songs printed in full:

  • “Come and I will sing you!” (Cornish) (329–30) [Two versions]
  • “Time for Us to Go” (W. E. Henley) (331–32)
  • The Fine Pacific Islands” (333–34)
  • “To My Violin” (334–35)

February 1889 [Signed ANDREW LANG.]

Opening lines: “Last month we published two curious versions of a traditional sailor’s ditty, somewhat recalling the duet of ‘The Merry Man and his Maid’ in ‘The Yeomen of the Guard.’ It may be remembered that the chant was explained as a confused memory of some Catholic creed, while parts reminded myself of Celtic tradition. Before the article was published, but when it was too late to alter it, Mr. Alfred Nutt kindly drew my attention to a very elaborate, mystical, and ‘Druidical’ chant of the same kind, printed by the Marquis de la Villemarqué.”

  • Based on the evidence of the Marquis de la Villemarqué’s chant, Lang weighs whether or not last month’s Cornish sailor song is of “Breton and Celtic” origin: “the Marquis’s Breton countrymen regard him, not exactly as a James Macpherson, yet as an editor whose Celtic poems owe too much to literary handling, too little to tradition.” (439)
  • A correspondent Mr. A. Raphael sends in lines from a similar Hebrew song “sung on the eve of the Passover”: “Hebrew Version”
  • Other correspondents’ theories are discussed: “The ‘lily-white maids’ may be men as well as girls in very old English . . . and so may denote our Lord and the Baptist.” A. J. Butler writes, “the song, or a shape of it, is a favourite at King’s College, Cambridge. Mr. Thomas Hardy is acquainted with a very odd nonsensical variant from Dorsetshire. On the whole, the history of a chant which, appearing modified in a comic opera, proves to have analogues in Hebrew and Breton, is curious enough, but here we say no more about it.” (441).
  • Lang gives the tale of “Cap o’ Rushes” (441–44, the tale is signed A.W.T.) Lang prefaces the story with, “Folklore bores many just persons so terribly that one must apologise for the following legend.” (441)
  • “How many thousands of years has this legend wandered from mouth to mouth of alien men?” Lang begins with the Scottish Cinderella, discusses the many variants of the tale and ends by saying, “Certainly there must be more English märchen, if people happy enough to live in the coutnry would only take a little trouble to collect them.” (444–45)
  • “Grant Allen’s new book about ‘Force and Energy’ is used to introduce a poem by May Kendall, “Ether Insatiable” (445–46)
  • “Can nothing be done to stop people, strangers even more than acquaintances, from sending presentation copies of their books? As I write the post brings in eight presentation copies—eight by one post. Two from India, one (very welcome that one, but anonymous) from Vienna, one from Canada, one from New York, the rest of British origin. Do the authors know what it is for a busy man to have eight letters of evasive thanks and indistinct compliment to write? Do they remember what postage to Benares or Ottawa costs? Go to, ye authors; if one wants your books one buys or borrows them, and one does not want minor poetry. That can be supplied, on the premises, in any quantity. Nobody should be allowed to present his own books, except to ladies who do not so much mind. But books or articles on folklore, or any other special topic, which appear in thy foreign reviews, these are welcome, and this exchange of ideas between English and foreign antiquaries is blameless and serviceable.” (446–47)
  • Brief mention of Mr. Owen Seaman’s “clever and melodious volume, ‘On Double Pipe'” (447)

March 1889 [Signed ANDREW LANG.]

Opening lines: “The most valuable information, from the most distinguished sources, is occasionally neglected. For example, the news that the celebrated house in Berkeley Square is not haunted has of late been published abroad in Messrs. Cassell’s Saturday Journal, and has been welcomed rapturously by Mr. James Payn in the Illustrated London News. . . . I, for one, knew it all long ago. It was, indeed, communicated to the world by nobody less than a spectre himself, in a treatise called Castle Dangerous, and published in the Cornhill Magazine, edited by Mr. James Payn, who is now so pleased and surprised by the information.”


  • The house in Berkeley Square (which is not haunted), news accounts, fiction, ghosts as witnesses, the psychical society, and dogs as witnesses of ghosts. “Dogs have a splendid smell for ghosts, but there is a difficulty in taking their evidence.” (554–55)
  • “The food of fiction, as the author says, is often excellent.” A poem, “The Food of Fiction,” follows, signed J. G.  (555–56)
  • “A large number of correspondents have kindly sent variants of a numerical song.” (556)
  • “Speaking of English fairy tales, one has often marvelled why they are so scarce and so dull, just like the ballads of England. Both ballads and tales have suffered horribly from chapbook editions. . . . Mr. G. L. Gomme has published certain chapbook stories for the Villon Society, with notes.” (557)
  • “Mr. Leland writes that he is not the author” of “the capital sea-song, Time for us to Go.” [See the January 1889 “Ship”.] “He picked it up in Philadelphia before the war, and only made one or two slight corrections.” A stanza of a pirate song he cobbled together but thinks ‘too devilish to publish’ is printed. (558)
  • Graham R. Thomson’s poem, “The Quick and the Dead.” (558)

Poems printed in full:

  • a verse of a pirate song “Mr. Leland has patched together . . . from floating fragments” (558)
  • “The Food of Fiction” Signed J. G. (555–56)
  • “The Quick and the Dead.” Signed G. R. T. (Graham R. Thomson [Rosamund Marriott Watson].) (558–59)

April 1889

Opening lines: “Dinna press,” says the discreet caddie, when the eager golfer tries to hit with more muscle than the gods have given him. He who ‘presses’ never hits hard, and wastes time, and temper, and even money, if has half-a-crown on the round. This is the morality of Golf, and surely the Rochefoucauld of the game, Mr. Horace Hutchinson, might make it a parable of life.” (657)


  • Lang applies the golf advice “dinna press” to life and claims it is what Mr. Burnham is doing in his work, “Economy in Intellectual Work,” where Burnham writes, “‘Unessential ideas should be excluded from consciousness.’ This is all very well; one should not encourage unessential ideas, any more than one should eat too much, but what ideas are essential? These are not; the world could get on at least as well as usual without them. But it is true that such ideas as we cherish ‘in extreme pessimistic anxieties’ are unessential enough, if we could only dismiss them, and lighten our pressure by saying, ‘Get out, I deem you are unessential!” (657)
  • The Hurons as described by the Jesuits (657–58)
  • On golf as teaching “moral prudence”: “Golf is like gambling or opium-eating; you cannot give it up when once it has lured you. Therefore the best way is to make golf a moral discipline” (658).
  • “Among the sorrows of the literary life (when it comes to be written) housemaids are thought to inflict the direst” (659)
  • Poem “Tidied Away” by L. C. (659–60)
  • Lang was sent two Scotch märchen by a lady, tales which he has not seen elsewhere, and he prints the first in the magazine, “The Story of Kate Crackernuts” (660–63)
  • “As to the Draigling Hoguey (or Hoggey, or Hoggie) he may keep to another time” (663)
  • “Amongst the Rushes,” a poem sent from New Zealand by Mary Colborne Peel (663–64)
  • Lang mocks an American plagiarism hunter who, in Notes and Queries, claims that “a certain incident in a certain novel is pilfered from ‘the Persian’ but got the geography wrong, failing to consider “how it came about that a Persian baby was doomed to ‘exposition’ in Sparta, of all improbable places” (664)
  • “Speaking of plagiarism, does not taste suggest some kind of limits to the horrors of shilling novels?” Lang objects to a recent story which involve tickling women to death and gouging out their eyes, and the ghost of one woman who then tickles him to death. “As for the tickling villain, the writer in the American Notes and Queries may plausibly maintain that he is borrowed from the Old Curiosity Shop” (665).

Poems printed in full:

  • “Tidied Away” by L. C. (659–60)
  • “Amongst the Rushes,” sent from New Zealand, by Mary Colborne Peel (663–64)

Tales printed in full:

  • “The Story of Kate Crackernuts” (660–63)

May 1889

Epigraph: ‘Mr. Pickwick was a fool, an exceeding fool.’ —A. K. H. B.

Opening lines: “It was ‘with or,’ as Jeames says, that I read these words in the April number of Longman’s Magazine. The writer who so boldly shakes the faith of a lifetime is not to be differed from lightly” (105).

  • Lang believes A. K. H. B. as great an iconoclast as John Knox and compares Pickwick to Socrates (105).
  • Pickwick criticized for proposing to fight when reminded that he was old; Lang agrees with Pickwick: “These are personal remarks, and Alice in Wonderland justly rebuked the people who make them” (105).
  • Lang cannot recall the exact instance to which A. K. H. B. was referring, but he will “never forget how good, how kind, how chivalrous, how tender Mr. Pickwick was” (106).
  • Lang and A. K. H. B. realize that A. K. H. B. meant Tupman, not Pickwick: “mutual apologies have been made and received. . . . The character of Mr. Pickwick has thus been vindicated, and Peace dwells in the hearts of the Faithful” (106).
  • Lang comments on dialog from a “novel” sent him by a young writer: It is the kind of novel which most of us have written at an early period. Boys are requested not to send any more, as one is quite enough to show the style. They are also advised to read Mr. Conan Doyle’s Micah Clarke, which is the best boy’s book since Kidnapped in the opinion of a rather elderly student” (107).
  • Lang prints the novel, “A Story about Gold-Fields” (107–08), signed W.R.R.
  • Lang discusses Scotticisms, including the Scottish thrift with prepositions, where at can replace with, for, of, in or about (108).

June 1889

Opening lines: It is not everybody who has ‘The Eagle of the Upper Regions’ on his chimney-piece. This deity, one of the most justly respected among the Pueblo Indians, has arrived in London, and is occupying, with perfect decorum, the position already mentioned” (217).


  • The “Eagle of the Upper Regions,” a Zuni deity, represented in stone, which was sent to Lang by an American (217).
  • That same American also sent Lang a ‘Maiden Killer,’ for securing the affections of the fair . . . . Probably it mesmerises the fair, as the other deity mesmerises the wild turkeys, and makes them come at call. As they would all bring manuscripts with them if they did come, this fetish is the reverse of convenient for a man of letters, and perhaps it had better be handed on to a gallant officer of other service” (218).
  • Based on these artifacts, Lang does not think much of what he calls the “few and tottering steps in the development of religion” among the Pueblo Indians (218).
  • “Sweetheart Daisy” (218–219), by Frances Wynne, “which has the bad luck to be a ballade, but that is so much more its misfortune than its fault, that it may escape the iron law, ‘No Ballades need apply'” (218).
  • Lang defends John Payne, at the request of some of his descendants, from the charge of owing his mother money, noting that the dates of the money-owing John Payne don’t fit with the John Payne who is “the hero of ‘A Queen Anne’s Pocket Book'” (219).
  • Lang comments on the great variation in how families treat their forbears, some not caring, some strongly resenting aspersions cast against their ancestors, and some being proud of their ancestors’ misdeeds: ‘Evan, third Earl, burned Kirwall Cathedral, and made the excuse that ‘he fancied the Bishop was inside,’ etc. (219–220).
  • M. Lemaître’s criticisms amuse Lang like no one else’s: his “malice is so entertaining, and so fine, that one reads him with smiles of pleasure and sighs of envy” (220). However, Lang believes that all who write in England know and read French “and perhaps know its literature better than our own. M. Lemaître, on the other hand, has only looked at our literature ‘in cribs.’ Chaucer and Shakespeare come to him through translations only” (221). “Why should we squabble in literature? Are not politics wide enough for our hatreds? Perhaps, if we could all read the best books of foreign nations, we might understand each other better, and be on happier terms all round” (221).
  • “The Legend of J. J. Jackson, the Self-Made Man,” a ballad by May Kendall (221–23)
  • Broke from the song in [chapter six of] Tom Brown’s Schooldays and the song’s War of 1812 context: the Bulletin of the Essex Institute claims it was a parody of an American song. Lang wishes to know why the introduction to this information has “so much asperity. . . . We don’t bear a grudge, though we had the worst of the rubber–nay, though we were probably in the wrong. Why do you?  (223–24)

Poems printed in full:

  • “Sweetheart Daisy” (218–219), by Frances Wynne
  • “The Legend of J. J. Jackson, the Self-Made Man,” a ballad by May Kendall (221–23)

July 1889

Opening lines: “The following heartless case of plagiarism has only today come within my knowledge. The criminals are beyond the reach of public opinion, perhaps, though we do not know for certain, for they died some three thousand years ago. But if there is an Amenti, as they probably believed, where the souls of bad Egyptians are devoured by serpents and mocked by monkeys, in that Amenti they should be expiating their offenses. The victims of this plagiarism are two English novelist [Lang and Walter Herries Pollock] who, with admired modesty, did not sign their names to a romance called He (Longmans, 1887). In that instructive volume occurs this confession by an Egyptian princess: I made the man into a mummy ere yet his living spirit had left him,’ the man in question being the magician Jambres. Will it be credited that some Egyptian actually plagiarised this notion (truly original) and acted on it thirty centuries ago? The glaring exposure will be found in the Academy (June 1, 1889), where Miss Edwards gives an account of M. Maspero’s new book on the Royal Mummies of Deir-el-Bahari. When M. Maspero unrolled these royal dead he found that one of them had been mummified alive! ‘He was a person of high rank and the victim of some unspeakable tragedy,’ says Miss Edwards. No critic can doubt that the whole idea was pilfered, without acknowledgment, by the unscrupulous Egyptian author from the modern work of pure imagination. So little respect for copyright and priority of invention was displayed by the people of ancient Khem. It may be added that Miss Edwards, while recording the facts, does not point out the ‘unintended coincidence’ (as the partisans of literary theft will style it) with the fiction.” (327)


  • Lang cries plagiarism on an ancient Egyptian who used his idea (327)
  • Horse gambling very bad odds–animal uncertain and may be “‘got at’ in countless ways, by countless people,” and it’s usually impossible to prove. Lang notes that these are discussed in Mr. Lawley’s pamphlet, The Bench and the Jockey Club (328)
  • Cricket is a much purer sport because there is “hardly any betting” (328–29)
  • May Kendall’s poem, “A Bonus on Soap,” which discusses the fate of two authors, one “whose book is given away as a bonus on soap” (Lang says this “must be a
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