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Temple Bar, about fourteen years ago” and which was sung by the character of Pew in R. L. Stevenson and W. E. Henley’s unpublished play, Admiral Guinea, and was copied out by Henley for inclusion in “At the Sign of the Ship” (330–32)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 [Signed ANDREW LANG.]

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 [Signed ANDREW LANG.]

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 [Signed ANDREW LANG.]

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 [Signed ANDREW LANG.]

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)
  • Lawley says there is “nothing more exciting, nothing sweeter” than seeing a colt an owner has bred win the first race it runs (though the owner has not bet) (328).
  • Lang says “why does not everybody who races aim at the second best, the winning of a race without betting? ‘It is so easy not to write a tragedy in five acts,’ and it is so easy not to bet! We cannot all hope not to be an object of indifference to the first woman we ever loved, because she is usually thirty, while we are twelve; but we can all refrain from betting.” (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” (329) and one whose “book wrapped up the soap your book was made a bonus on” (330) (Lang says the author whose book was given as a bonus “must be a popular English author in America; and the writer whose books wrap up the soap must be an American author ruined by English unpaid competition” (329). [Copyright]
  • “Peerifool,” an Orkney fairy tale sent by Mr. D. J. Robertson, recorded “almost in the very words of the original narrator, a woman who was an Orcadian, but had been in service in England” (331). Similarities to Rumpelstilzkin” and “Whuppity Storrie,” as well as a Norfolk variety Edward Clodd recently published “in the last number of the Folk Lore Journal” (331). “Note the poverty of queens with their little ‘kail-yaird’ or cabbage garden” (331). (The giant in the tale takes the kail and the three sisters who watch it one by one, and asks them to spin his wool, but it is impossible. Only the last sister gives food to to “many peerie (little) yellow-headed folk,” and a boy of them asked to do her work in return for him finding out her name.” She does; the boy is angry, but the giant is pleased. She uses strategy to get her sisters and herself back home, and they kill the giant with boiling water.
  • “Early One Morning,” a poem by Violet Hunt (334–335)
  • “It is a question whether a man may review, or recommend, a book which is dedicated to him. Perhaps if he does openly there is no harm therein; this sin I have on my own conscience, and I may have it again. Sin or no sin, I venture to say a word about a volume dedicated to myself in Mr. J. Huntly McCarthy’s Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam, in prose” (335). Lang asks for a new and larger edition printed “in ordinary text” [rather than all capitals] and with a translation that is ‘a crib or hard and fast literal translation . . . as far as the idiom of English permits. I do believe in giving exactly what a poet said, and I do believe in ordinary type, which is easy for eyes grown dim with gazing on the books for this world. This is the usually kind of gratitude–expectation of favours to come” (335). Lang notes that he had received Fitzgerald’s translation a long time ago “it was a kind of talisman; people gave it to other people and bade them hand it on: mine came, I remember from Mr. J. Addington Symonds. I wonder where it has wandered to in these many years?” (335)

Poems printed in full:

  • “A Bonus on Soap,” by May Kendall (329–330)
  • “Early one Morning,” by Violet Hunt (334–35)

August 1889 [Signed A. LANG.]

Opening lines: “‘The Pitilessness of Angling’ has excited the indignation of the Spectator. Anglers are in a parlous state if there by pitilessness in the catching of fish. But, after all, we may answer, like Mr. Punch’s little boy, ‘Wha’s catching fish?’ Even the humane person in the Spectator will admit that there is no cruelty in not catching fish. Angling, as usually practised, is merely an innocent way of taking the air, and the water, more of the water than one wants occasionally. Angling encourages the skill of rod-makers, fly-makers, makers of lines and hooks. It also fosters the poetic imagination, as everyone knows who has listened to fishing stories” (441).


  • Is angling cruel? “Speaking for myself, I can call witnesses who will swear, on a copy of the Spectator, that never catch anything. . . . For my own part, I can fancy no recreation in which a Buddhist might participate with a conscience more void of offence” (441).
  • Lang, by his pronouns, assumes the Spectator writer is a woman who “when she herself landed her first fish . . . put her fingers in her ears, ran away, and screamed” (441), but claims that the fish will die quickly if hit in the right spot by the angler. “The veal cutlet of the Spectatorial dinner, the bacon of breakfast, nay the mutton, the beef, and the chicken suffer infinitely more. . . than the salmon or trout” (442).
  • Wonders why trout are so quick to take a line again if they suffer greatly: “Clearly . . . trout do not feel like men and editors. . . . trout are often hooked in parts of their gills which are made of a transparent horny substance, and which feel nor more than your shirt collar” (442), claims that the hooked salmon, who at first swims leisurely about, becomes upset not because “he is in pain, but because he wishes to regain his liberty” (442–43).
  • Spectator author says trouts sulk after being hooked; Lang claims this “does not prove that they have been hurt. . . . It only shows that they resent having been duped (443).
  •  Spectator horrified that “Mr. John Bright was a fisher” (443). “What would William Wordsworth have said?—William who ‘never mixed his pleasure or his pride with suffering of the meanest thing that breathes,’ which is blank verse, if not argument. Why, like Mark Twain’s bad boy, William Wordsworth would have ‘said it was bully’ (444).
  • “Shelley pitched into Wordsworth about fishing. Shelley thought it pitiless. Probably he thought that young ladies don’t feel. He would make love to them, make fools of them, and leave them, and laugh at them, and call them vulgar school-girls. I prefer the pitilessness of old William Wordsworth, and of Walton, sage benign” (444)
  • Lang wonders what men at Regent’s Canal are catching: “They may have been dace or roach, and, as I have no ambition to capture these, nor the idiotically gullible greyling, I will make a concession to the Spectator, and admit that dace, roach, and greyling fishing is horribly cruel. But salmon and trout do not feel. (444)
  • “Meadow-sweet,” a poem by Frances Wynne (444–45)
  • “Orcadian correspondent sends . . . anecdote of  ‘How a Minister encouraged Superstition'” (445). (Minister has his man play the part of the devil in order to get stolen collection box money returned) (445–46)
  •  “A Warning to New Worlds,” a poem by May Kendall (446–48)
  • “Mr. Oscar Wilde’s theory, in Blackwood, that the Mr. W. H. of Shakespeare’s Sonnets was a Mr. William Hughes, an actor of female parts, is ingenious, and to some extent convincing. The twentieth sonnet, in the first edition (1609), is, I am sure from the peculiar typography, addressed to a Mr. Hughes, and other sonnets prove that he was a Will” (448). Dowden doesn’t agree that Hews is a pun. Lang writes, “I, for one, believe in Mr. Hughes, but not in any inferences that have been drawn as to his character, conduct, personal charms, and profession” (448).

Poems printed in full:

  • “Meadow-sweet,” by Frances Wynne (444–45)
  •  “A Warning to New Worlds,”  by May Kendall (446–48)

September 1889 [Signed A. LANG.]

Opening lines: “Whether Bank Holidays at the Crystal Palace are as hideous exhibitions of ‘imbecile joviality’ as Mr. Gissing declares in The Nether World,* (*Smith, Elder, & Co.) is not a question which one can answer. But when you ask Mr. Gissing how people are to attain better pleasures, and better powers of enjoying them, he says, ‘Destroy, sweep away, prepare the ground; then shall music, the holy, music the civiliser, breathe over the renewed earth, and with the Orphean magic raise in perfected beauty the towers of the City of Man.'” (553)


  • If Gissing is “in earnest,” Lang disagrees with him. Destruction will leave “Starvation, death, pestilence, war, and then a stage comparatively clear, occupied by white savages. Now it plain enough that their music will be what savage music has always been–not a holy civiliser, but the drums of barbaric strife, and of cannibal ceremonial. However evil our attempt at civilisation may be (I don’t attempt to make excuses for it), at least it has produced music which is said to be ‘civilising.’ But how likely is it that when you have destroyed things in general, and the educated classes in particular, civilised music will survive the wreck of things?” (553).
  • Lang would not be consoled if music did survive. Other art forms may be ignored “But music there is no escaping if it is on the spot” (553). “And this music, ‘the least pleasant and most expensive of noises,’ is alone to survive our ruined effort at civilisation! If we are to destroy everything, pereat ars musica first” (553–54).
  • But Lang says, for all his objections, “this is no reason why Mr. Gissing’s studies of ‘the Nether World,’ should not be read and meditated” (554).
  • “Of all pleasant brief biographies, of all good books for men weary of towns, truly Angling Songs, by Thomas Tod Stoddart, with a Memoir by Anne M. Stoddart, is the best among new books” (554). Book “full of pleasant anecdotes of Christopher North and the Shepherd” (556).
  • Discusses literary anglers, especially poets, but “Sir Walter was looking for his tackle. . .  when he found his lost MS. of Waverly, and all the kingdom of of Romance. Had Scott not wanted some hooks and horse-hair, there would have been no Waverly Novels” (555). However, “the professional poets of England have been no great anglers” (556).
  • Discussion of the existence of Vodoo in Hayti and its investigation by a Boston Herald reporter. (556–57). Lang ridicules the reporter’s language: “‘Followers of every false god. . . have ever turned with longing eyes to the shores of this great republic where freedom of thought,’ and all the rest of it As if the negroes came to the shores of the great republic that they might enjoy ‘freedom of thought, speech, and action in all matters of religion.’ That was not precisely why the negroes came to old Virginny” (557).
  • “Has an inspired poet whose rhymes are accepted by a ‘high-class magazine’ a right to expect to be paid for them?” (557). Charles Boyd hired a solicitor in order to make Harry Quilter, editor of the Universal Review pay for his poems. (Quilter accepted them for publication without noting that “he did not pay, as a rule, for short poems” (557). Editors should let authors know. “American magazines pay very well for short poems. This is not a kind thing to say, but the temptation to make American editors a sort of lightning-conductor is too strong to be resisted” (558).
  • “The Singing Reeds,” a poem by G. R. Tomson (Rosamund Marriott Watson) (558–59)
  • “As the better part of a holiday is not to see the weekly papers, I have not had the chance of reading the Spectator‘s rejoinder on the cruelty of angling. But fragments of it have bee republished in Rod and Gun. From these it appears that my argument has been taken a little more seriously than was necessary” (559).
  • “I still maintain that a fish which, after escaping a blue dun, rises and is caught on a Wickham’s fancy, ‘cannot have suffered very much.’ (559). “It is very true that we do not know what passes in a fish’s mind; but this we know, that he will exercise his judgment on an artificial fly or minnow, will come up to it, look at it, hesitate, and go away without rising. This indicates a good deal of common sense. As to pain, and speaking seriously, I fear a fish hooked internally with part of a trolling tackle does feel very much like other creatures. But with a tiny black gnat in part of his horny mouth? . . . . Like the little American girl who went to bed without saying her prayers, ‘I guess I’ll chance it,’ and sin with Wordsworth, Walton, Kingsley, rather than be virtuous with Byron, Shelley, and the Spectator” (559–60).

Poems Printed: 

  • “The Singing Reeds,” by G. R. Tomson (Rosamund Marriott Watson) (558–59)
  • Selections of Thomas Stoddart’s angling verse are also printed (554, 556)

October 1889 [Signed ANDREW LANG.]

Opening lines: Among the sayings of Pelham (Sir E. Lytton Bulwer’s Pelham) which Mr. Carlyle took on him to controvert was this: ‘There is safety in a swallow-tailed coat.’ The revolutionary spirt of the age appears to have struck even at that time-honoured survival. An agreeable but far from earnest writer, Mr. James Payn, is for ever attacking the amenities of evening dress. Apparently he has made converts, for one remarks that the young and more or less smart men of this world now sometimes appear in a kind of black jacket, shorn of tails. The details have no artistic merit, and yet a round jacket seems even more unbecoming than the conventional attire. Quite stout young men, arrayed in these, look like ‘Eton boys grown heavy,’ heavy, and irresistibly attractive to the rod of authority. Some there by who daringly display themselves in a kind of smoking coat, like what haughty nobles wear in Guy Livingstone’s novels and in the artless tales of Ouida’s early period. . . . Speaking as a relic of ancient years, a kind of elderly fragment, one may hint that smoking coats are not very decent togs for the evening meal. . . . In this confused age we cannot dress beautifully. People in vain desire colour and fantasy. Flannels and fustian are the only appropriate wear, and the wise cling to the antiquated decorum of evening dress. The barque of society is going down; let it be with swallow-tails flying, and not in round jackets or smoking jackets with purple collars.” (657)


  • Fashion: swallow-tail coats preferred by Lang to smoking jackets or round jackets for evening dress, though advice is given tongue in cheek. (657)
  • “MM. Erckmann-Chatrian have parted company.” On literary partnerships: “In all, or almost all, literary partnerships, one of the men does the work, the looking on is done by the other. When they quarrel (as they always do, if they live long enough) each avers that he was the worker. There are exceptions. I have collaborated where did the work, and where the other fellow did the work, and where we both did it. Every sort of combination is possible, even that in which neither does really any work, but both look on. To young men entering on the life of letters one may say, find an ingenious, and industrious, and successful partner, stick to him, never quarrel with him, and do not survive him. As a rule collaborations are happy arrangements, because the worker likes working, and the looker-on likes the idea that he is at work. The elder Dumas defined the collaborator’s duty as ‘making objections’ and so acting the critic while criticism was still serviceable, still not too late. One would gladly collaborate with any really successful romancer, on these terms, and at half profits. It would be so much more lucrative, and easy, than making objections after publication, in reviews. If Mr. Marion Crawford or Mr. William Black wants a collaborator, either of them may hear of something to his advantage by applying at The Sign of the Ship! Objections offered on moderate terms.” (657–58)
  • In France the beginner offers the idea and the “expert . . . knocks it into shape. In this kind of partnership, one decidedly prefers supplying the idea. Taht is delightfully easy. I have an idea for a Great American Novel. . . . The idea will not suit Mr. W. D. Howells (it is an historical novel) nor the author of Mr. Barnes of New York . . . . It would have fitted Mr. Hawthorne: but where is the Hawthorne of to-day? . . . . Nobody is quite the right person to work out my idea of a Great American Novel, while I look on” (658).
  • “Is Culture Pessimist?” (discusses M. Daudet, M. Paul Bourget, Ibsen; objects to A Doll’s House, called “strong,” as someone might say the same thing (without a compliment) of rancid cheese.
  • Claims Becky Sharp “is not a better woman than [M. Daudet’s] Sidonie, but how her character is lightened and brightened by her humour, and by her rare relapses into humanity! . . . [Sidonie] has no moments like that in which Mrs. Rawdon Crawley was proud of her husband, or was moved on her return to Queen’s Crawley, or was sorry to leave the stupid, kind, domestic life there. But in modern, cultivated, analytic, and scientific novels, a much higher standard of general badness and sordidness prevails. Even the characters with whom and for whom we are meant to feel are, somehow, disagreeable people, harsh in manner, hostile, not to be liked or admired. Yet nobody can aver that human nature is really like this; we are no so consistently unpleasant as Dr. Ibsen’s persons (659).
  • M. Bourget’s Le Disciple is “very ingenious, if long and rather tedious,” and Bourget “has guarded against this tendency to blacken everything” (659). Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment mentioned in passing as also showing “psychology is a bad study for the young” (659).
  • “Perhaps the modern pessimism as to goodness in ‘cultured’ novels is really a testimony to the truth of Theology. We are all miserable sinners, though on a superficial examination it does not appear. But the psychological novelist uses a microscope, and lo, he quite unconsciously agrees with the Prayer-book, and makes all his characters profoundly miserable. The old simple scheme in which you had a real unmitigated villain, a heroine as pure as snow or flame, and a crowd of good ordinary people, gave us more agreeable reading, at least; and reading not, I think, much more remote from truth than is found in such a play as Dr. Ibsen’s Ghosts, or in his Pillars of Society. However art, like every other activity, must go on making experiments. (660)
  • Supposes “modern psychological novels may one day be as forgotten as Mrs. Radcliffe’s, which once had a vogue like theirs. Who reads the Mysteries of Udolpho now, or The One-Handed Monk? We take them up, and have the best will in the world to be frightened, but they do not frighten us.” (660). Matthew Arnold and Wordsworth’s views related to Radcliffe (660).
  • “In the Gallery” by May Kendall (660)
  • A correspondent writes about the sensitivity of fish to pain, giving the instance of a salmon who, though “hooked. . . foully” soon returned again to the bait. Lang writes, “Certainly, a return to the bait does not prove an absence of pain. Does not the author who cries out loudest about the anguish inflicted on him by criticism come back with punctuality and take his chance again?” (661)
  • Responds to Professor Knight in the Nineteenth Century, who “complains that a critic will take the measure of a book in as many minutes as the book was years in writing” (661). Lang says “the measure of a book can really be taken very quickly, by an expert.” However, Lang also objects to calling “short notices” criticism: “Criticism cannot be written in that way, nor at that price.”
  • However, he says such writers “display a rapid but universal good nature. When true enmity comes in it is really useful to an author. Enmity is sharp-sighted and will detect your weak places and blunders in a way for which authors ought to be grateful. They are never grateful. . . . It once befell myself to write a book which was kindly spoken of—by critics who did not pose as specialists in a dull topic. But one of the critics had been bantered in the book, and his remarks were of value. He had not gone blamelessly to sleep over it.” (661–62)
  • Pointing out another author’s blunders is not impertinent, but just (662). “Criticisms by specialists where actual knowledge is concerned are the best of all” (662).
  • However, Lang doesn’t think it fair that unsuccessful novelists and romancers criticize successful ones: “They must be very noble men and women if they, who sell 500 copies of a book, can be rigidly fair to a fellow-craftsman who sells 50,000.  Similar remarks apply to poets; but as only two poets are successful, the case is not quite the same. The failures may prey upon each other and do very little harm” (662).
  • Keats’s “clever and forgotten friend, John Hamilton Reynolds . . . was an admirer of Wordsworth’s before he wrote the parody of Peter Bell” (662).
  • Mentions Thomas Todd Stoddart, the angling poet’s The Death Wake, a Necromancer in Three Chimæeras, which Lang says is a difficult book to procure. Normally Stoddart only good on angling, but his The Mythologist is “carelessly done, yet with passages of curious charm, and a touch of Edgar Allen Poe” and shows that Stoddart has “versatility enough to win Stoddart a modest place in teh long gallery of English poets” (662–63).

November 1889 [Signed A. LANG.]

Opening Lines: There is no new thing under the sun, and the New Journalism (now much attacked and vehemently defended ) is, in one aspect, but the old Grub Street. Concerning its political merits or demerits, its social aims and intentions, this is not the place to speak. . . . It is not of politics . . . that one is thinking, nor even about prominent politicians and its treatment of them, but about the raids of the New Journalism on perfectly private life and private concerns” (106).


  • The New Journalism’s tendency to report both unnecessary and incorrect information (people on holiday in two different places at once) and “disadvantageous tales, utterly false, about private persons, and that often, I verily believe, without malice, but from pure ignorant incontinence of tongue” (106, 107).
  • A lady, an American writer, who complained of being characterized, along with her children, “with unblushing mendacity and heartless unkindness” (107).
  • calls the New Journalism “a reversal, a relapse, a degradation, a ‘throwing back,’ as breeders say, to barbarism”: “the late President of the United States, displayed an emotion not unmanly when he publicly complained that the New Journalists of the States swarmed about his home and his person like the Masai round Mr. Thomson. This kind of base and brazen curiosity is indeed a quality of savages; thus do they beset and pry upon missionaries and explorers” (107). “There is no novelty about it, except in the slipshod slang of the style, except in the frequent badness of paper, type, and grammar. Moral distinctions have no meaning at all, if the careless bearing of false witness against your neighbour, even if only about his taste in dress, is a pecadillo or a merit” (107).
  • Blames the market as well as the “scribblers” (107).
  • “nothing of this is new”: quotes Leigh Hunt (108)
  • “Why do the people scribbled about read such stuff? it may be asked. The question should be put to the judicious friends who mark those wounding paragraphs and send them by post to the victims” (108)
  • Stevenson’s new novel The Master of Ballantrae (Cassell), which Lang calls a “much more pleasant theme,” though he criticizes the lack of relief to the “sombre tale.” He says “the perfection of the language may be admired” and is “almost without a blemish or an anachronism [and then points out those that exist]. The characters “are true with a scientific precision; but what a woeful set they are, and how one wishes dear old Alan Breck Stuart had done more than merely traverse a single page and challenge the Master!” (108)
  • “Mr. Brander Matthews, in an article in Cooper in the Century, admits that British criticism was once ‘even more ignorant and insular’ than it is to-day. This is a comfort. We are advancing” (109).
  • Lang disagrees that Cooper was the first to write literature about Native Americans, remarking on Chateaubriand (109) and discusses further the terms of “ignorant and insular,” claiming Britons’ competence in Greek and Latin, and claiming that Voltaire, too, wrote about “a Huron gentleman” (109–110). (Lang’s own language in this paragraph includes racial slurs.)
  •  “A Hypnotic Suggestion,” a political poem about “the wily Democrat” who influences his hearers. Lang introduces by mentioning St. Augustine, babes, nurses, and animal instinct” (110).

Poems Printed in Full

“A Hypnotic Suggestion” (pp. 110–111).

December 1889 [Signed A. LANG.]

Opening Lines: “Much as critics are despised of men, it is fair to remember that, in some sort, we are all critics. Everyone who reads a novel or sees a play, and gives his opinion of either performance, is a critic, although he does not publish his ideas in print” (216).


  • The high opinion of Jane Austen held by the American critic Mr. Howells, who claimed in the November Harper’s Magazine: “‘The art of fiction, as Jane Austen knew it, declined from her through Scott, and Bulwer, and Dickens, and Charlotte Brontë, and Thackeray, and even George Eliot, because the mania of romanticism had seized upon all Europe, and these great authors could not escape the taint of their time’ But is is fair to regard Scott, for example, as a writer who started from the ideal of Miss Austen, and then was corrupted by ‘the taint of Romanticism’?” (216).
  • “Miss Austen is supreme in her own dominion, but there are other dominions; in this house of art there are many mansions” (217).
  • Hawthorne as a counterpoint to the discussion: “How did America, once familiar with the refinement and perfection of Hawthorne, ‘come to enjoy anything less refined and less perfect?’ . . . It is vain for criticism to demand that, having once found what is exquisite in one style, we shall rest and be thankful, declining to enjoy what is less perfect or what is different, but good in some other manner” (217–218).
  • Howells’ “very flattering” reference to Lang as “an ingenious English magazinist” and vexation that “I have spoken of the pleasure and consolation which the old age of George Sand found in Alexandre Dumas. I had asked whether Madame Sand would have found ‘this anodyne and this stimulus in the novels of M. Tolstoi, M. Dostoiefsky, M. Zola, or any of the scientific observers whom we are actually requested to hail as the masters of a new art, the art of the future.’ Well, I still think that neither anodyne nor stimulus would have been discovered–given the circumstances of the reader–in the works of those masters.” (218)
  • Flaubert, Madame Bovary, L’Education Sentimentale, Sand, Dumas, M. Borie, Anna Karénine [sic],* Matthew Arnold. “Yet we may admire [Anna Karenina] even though we are acquainted with the qualities of Miss Austen. One merely denies that these admired authors are ‘to have the whole world to themselves, and all the time, and all the praise.’ (218–219) [*Anna Karénina, the title as given in Nathan Haskell Dole’s 1886 translation (New York’s Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1889 from London’s Walter Scott Publishing company), is misspelled throughout, and once listed as Anne Karénine. This might be the fault of the compositor–it is possible that Lang’s a’s were misread as e’s].
  • Señor Valdes, whom Mr. Howells quotes, and Mr. Howells himself, seem, as foreigners, to misunderstand the taste of ‘the higher classes of society,’ of ‘smart people’ (as Mr. Howells puts it) in France and England” (219). Valdes believes M. Arsène Houssaye and M. Georges Ohnet popular with “the higher classes”; Lang disagrees.
  • Lang objects to Howell’s portrayal of truth and smart people as being what Howells himself particularly enjoys: Tolstoi. However, he claims that “if intense approval of M. Tolstoi’s works be a sign of civilisation (as it certainly is of ‘culture’), let Mr. Howells be comforted. ‘Smart people’ in this benighted isle are on the right path. They prefer Anna Karénine to The Fortunes of Nigel [Sir Walter Scott, 1822]. I am not ‘smart’ enough for that in any sense of the term ‘smart.'” (219).
  • Lang reacts to Howell’s digs at the immorality of George Sand, claiming “on the whole one may prefer Mrs. Browning’s to Mr. Howelll’s criticism of Madame Sand’s character [with a ‘past of unedifying experiences’]; one may like better to remember her masculine virtues than her unfeminine faults. But, by a cruel Nemesis, Mr. Maurice Thompson, in America, says much the same unkind things, and I think as inapproporiately, about Mr. Howells’s favorite, Madame Karénine. . . . Madame Karénine, as Mr. Thompson very plainly says, broke the seventh commandment. Are we to agree with him that she is, therefore, no fit heroine of a novel? This . . . seems to be pushing morality rather far. Nobody is likely to be led, by the example of the unhappy Anne Karénine [sic], into ‘unedifying experiences.’ However, Mr. Howells and Mr. Thompson may be left to settle between themselves the precise amount of error which is interesting in a heroine and unedifying in an author” (219–220).
  • Lang objects to Howells’ idea that he’s looking for novels to lull him to sleep: “If I really thought that fiction should be a soporific I should be thankful, for novels of a sleepy quality are not far to seek even in American literature” (220). Instead, Lang looks in fiction for the “charm of nepenthe which the wife of Thon of Egypt gave to Helen” (220).
  • “Really there is room for all sorts of fiction” (220).
  • Lang criticizes Howells for writing about “Thackeray as if he were mainly a ‘caricaturist,’ as if the passages n which the author comes forward exactly like the Greek chorus were unmannerly interruptions. Others cannot achieve this feat; it is better for them not to try it. Fielding and Thackeray had this art” (220).
  • Lang discusses Howell’s kinder claim that “Mr Thackeray produced works ‘whose beauty is surpassed only be the effect of a more poetic writer in the novels of Thomas Hardy.’ To have a greater than Thackeray here is no trivial consolation. Mr. Hardy, fortunately, may long be more poetic than Mr. Thackeray in his later works” (220–21).
  •  The poem “Retrospective Review” by J. M. G., accolades “the books we read this summer.” Lang comments that “most of the works she celebrates are unknown to me, but I dare say they are all entertaining”: The Open Door  [probably Blanche Willis Howard’s novel from 1889 rather than Margaret Oliphant’s excellent 1881 ghost story], Japoneries [Pierre Loti–Worldcat lists German and Spanish translations of this French novel, all languages published in 1889, but no English translation is given], The Country Cousin (Frances Mary Peard, 1889), Marooned (William Clark Russell, Macmillan, 1889), My Story of the War: A Woman’s Narrative of Four Years Personal Experience as Nurse in the Union Army, and in Relief War at Home, in Hospitals, Camps, and at the Front, During the War of the Rebellion with Anecdotes, Pathetic Incidents, and Thrilling Reminiscences Portraying The Lights and Shadows of Hospital Life and the Sanitary Service of the War [Mary A. Livermore, A. D. Worthington, 1889], The Master of Ballantrae (Robert Louis Stevenson, 1889), and Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne’s The Wrong Box (1889).
  • Marie Bashkirtseff’s Diary, which Lang received in the early spring of 1888 and didn’t particularly enjoy. Lang calls her ‘That Muscovite Minx’, a “young genius who, at twelve or so, fell in love with not the most possible of dukes; who had such an appetite for life, such a famine for fame, and who died young” (222). He is nonetheless interested that the diary is now enjoying a delayed success “is reviewed by Mr. Gladstone and by many ladies of culture, and is talked of everywhere. Certainly it is a wonderful book, ‘very curious,’ and edifying too in its own way” (222).
  • “It cannot be plagiarism, it must be coincidence that furnishes Mr. Fletcher’s shilling novel, Andrewlina, with a scene that had already been published in The Sign of the Ship. Research in back numbers, about May or June, will discover a romance in one page, by a very young author indeed. Like the Chevalier Bourke, ‘I cannot remember his name,’ but there is the story, which I fear Mr. Howells might think improbable [finding “a subterranean hall, stuffed full of gold and precious objects”–in the former story, in Australia, in Andrewlina, in California.
  • A Vigil (a poem, Mr. Mallock’s Enchanted Island is mentioned in Lang’s preface to the poem)
  • The “discussion of unsigned newspaper articles in the New Review,” which Lang claims is not likely to make much difference in the conduct of journals. If anybody signs a political article it should be the man who wrote it, the editor who altered it, the persons with whom he discussed the subject–perhaps politicians who do not write, perhaps the owner of the paper–and then the proofreader–and the compoistors should sign too, for they all have a stroke, occasionally a bewildering stroke, in the performance. No single person is responsible for the article, and it is absurd, and would be misleading, if one of them put his name to it. It is natural that a clever journalist should dislike being anonymous and missing his chance of reputation; but he can try his hand in literature during his spare time. Naturally, too, a man may be vexed when he is declared to have written an article he never saw or heard of, and is called all manner of names because o a matter in which he had no part or lot. Yet here the fault lies with the noisy persons who pretend to know things of which they know nothing at all, and who make assertions which it is impossible for them to verify. These broils are quite unimportant, and do nobody much harm. Journalists can generally take as good care of themselves as their neighbours, whether their articles are signed or anonymous” (224).

Poems printed in full:

  • “A Retrospective Review” (J. M. G.) (221–22)
  • “A Vigil” Graham R. Tomson (Rosamund Marriot Watson) (223)


  • See the 1890 “At the Sign of the Ship” summaries.
  • Return to the “At the Sign of the Ship” Table of Contents.