By mid-1905, Lang had a regular Friday column in the Morning Post. In 1904 and the beginning of 1905, Lang’s dates are more irregular: Some months seem to feature only one Lang column each [if there are not OCR problems with the British Newspaper Archive searches]. March has, the most, with four, and two columns per month seems typical. Columns most often appeared on Saturdays, but were also printed on Mondays or Tuesdays. As I cannot link scans to the British Newspaper Archive here, in many cases I include a brief summary and/or interesting quotation.
“Art and Civilization.” Saturday, 23 Jan. 1904, p. 4. (BNA). [“Nothing can be more difficult than to estimate the relations of cause and effect between civilisation and art. It would be necessary to define civilization, which certainly does not mean only the possession of such material advantages as steam, electricity . . . . But civilisation as such, a large, ordered, and comfortable life, with established means of substinence, is not necessarily fatal to art; indeed, only one school of art of great natural merit [the production of a race of hunters] has ever existed outside of such conditions of comparative well-being and security.” Discusses. Discusses art of Australian aborigines after contact with Europeans. Contrasts with Greeks. Concludes that militarism destroys art.]
“Confessions of a Novelist.” Monday, 29 Feb. 1904, p. 10. (BNA). Mentions the Sweet Singers, or Gibbites who ‘confessed to such sins as the world had not heard of before’ and George Moore‘s “Avowals” in the Pall Mall Magazine and his “literary opinions of which the world has hardly heard before.” Lang also writes, “When a novelist preaches openly, as Fielding and Kingsley and Thackeray do, I can stand it: nay, I often enjoy it. But when I merely suspect a moral (and I often do in the fiction of our more powerful and daring modern romancers), then I am horribly bored.”
In this same 29 Feb paper, a writer notes that the most recent Idler “contains nothing more delightful than the editor’s amusing reference to one of Mr. Andrew Lang’s Morning Post articles” (4).
“Light on Western Slang.” Saturday, 5 Mar. 1904, p. 8. (BNA). [“To these columns I lately contributed a paper called ‘Studies in Slang.'” Lang was responding to Mr. George Ade’s Fables in Slang. Lang supposed the slang was specific to Chicago or Illinois but an American correspondent assures him, ‘Every word in Mr. Ade’s books is a househould word in the United States . . . . which every American child learns with its alphabet.” Lang discusses the meaning of several American slang words. Lang claims that Brits “have no right to throw the first stone, except that we, in general, do not think this kind of slang humorous, and that children do not universally learn it with their alphabets. The statement that in America they do, I think, must be based on a misconception.”]
“Swift on the Unspeakable Scot.” Saturday, 12, Mar. 1904, p. 9. [Swift’s marginalia shows he strongly disliked Scots: “His marginalia are too angry to be witty, and his fury against people and things in general, and the Scots in particular, finds relief in a monotony of curses.”]
“‘The Slump in Poetry.'” Saturday, 19 Mar. 1904, p. 8. (BNA). [Many young poets send Lang their published and unpublished work; it is bad. No one should give up their profession to write poetry. It helps to have friends in the press or to be a “university man with friends to trumpet his merits,” but Tennyson and Keats would not have stood for the new type of journalism with interviews and photographs of the poet. Current poetry is subjective, all about subjective, unimportant subjects or “nothing in particular.” Kipling mentioned, and George Sterling. Poems with a story, like Homer’s, would mean no slump in poetry.]
“Educational Paradoxes.” Tuesday, 29 Mar. 1904, p. 3. (BNA). [What constitutes being educated? Lang discusses how much the educated do not know–that he, until recently, thought Korea an island, for instance. He suggests perhaps educating all until 15 and then turning loose those who are not clever, as reading examination papers has shown him that the writers had no interest in their topics. He suggests, as elsewhere, that it is better to begin teaching Greek with Homer than with vague grammar about a people boys have not heard of. Professor Ramsay (Glasgow) “The Classics and Popular Education”]
“Odd Fish.” Saturday, April 9, 1904, p. 4. (BNA). [James Caulfield’s Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters of Remarkable Persons (1820). Lang mainly discusses various convicted eighteenth-century criminals, including Thomas Blee, who induced young men to rob members of a gang and then turned the young men in and shared the reward money with the gang, the robbers being hanged, and a young woman, Anne Greene, who was hanged for half an hour and pardoned [and later said not to have committed the crime, child murder]).
“The Drawbacks of Golf.” Saturday, 30 Apr. 1904, p. 4. (BNA). [On golf at St Andrews, comparison with cricket, the slowness of new developments in the game.]
“The Last of an Old Order.” Saturday, 14 May 1904, p. 3 (BNA). Discusses how Scottish women writers in the past, unlike English women writers [such as the “matchless Orinda,” or, more recently, “Miss Rossetti, Mrs. Browning, or even. . . Miss Ingelow”], shunned publicity and were in horror of having their verses published. Lady Nairne, Mrs. Cockburn, Miss Eliot, and Lady Louisa Stuart are mentioned. The last of the old order in the title is Lady John Scott (1810–1900).
“The Philosophy of Fly Fishing.” Saturday, 21 May 1904, p. 8. “When first, at about the age of fourteen, I saw Mr. Herbert Spencer he was crouching beside a water in Morvern, which he calls ‘The Aline’ in his Autobiography. Mr. Spencer had a true Briton’s frank dislike of languages not his own, whether ancient or modern; in fact, this philosopher was typically the British schoolboy in many ways. The river, if it has a name, is the Avon dubh, or ‘Black Water,’ which is hardly a name at all. ‘Aline’ (in Gaelic ‘beautiful’) is the well-deserved title of the sea loch into which the stream falls, beneath an ancient castle. In the alders, to return from philology, was Mr. Spencer fishing, with a light, one-handed rod; at that time, and in that place, a heretical rod, for as there were salmon in the stream, light rods were at a discount. My younger brother and I were driving past, on the way to fish in the fresh water loch whence the river issues, and in hopes of a casual wild duck we had guns. ‘Shall we shoot the philosopher sitting?’ one of us asked, for we only knew of the angler that he was called ‘the philosopher,’ held heterodox opinions about fly hooks, and caught trout enough to make us envious.
“This incident came back to my memory when reading Mr. Spencer’s reflections on flies in his Autobiography. He always loved to dash at any received opinion (except the current opinion that to study the classics is a waste of time), and when he came to a river or loch where there were favourite flies he attacked the belief in them just as he attacked any other belief.” [Lang doesn’t disagree with Spencer that one fly is much like another, but states that “To change flies when fish won’t take fills up time and suggest a flicker of hope renewed. But a true philosopher will not talk this wisdom to a gillie on a strange stream any more than he will argue against the man’s faith in the second sight or in the fairies. Belief in the local favourite flies is part of the gillie’s unconscious poetry.”
“The Hundred Not Best Books.” Monday, 13 June 1904, p. 5. (BNA). [Lord Avebury’s list of the 100 best books, which is highly subjective and includes some books ad populum, while excluding others, or includes books such as the Koran and the works of Confucious because they are significant to people in other cultures. (Lang does use the phrasing “The Yellow Peril threatens literature,” referring to Avebury’s inclusion of the Sheking and the Analects, which do not win Lord Avebury’s person affection, but . . . appear because the Chinese think well of them”). “Miss Austen is actually turned out, and what really is incredible, Fielding, Smollett, and Charlot Brontë are not included. Conceive an English list of the Best Hundred books without the author of Tom Jones and Pride and Prejudice,” but with Westward Ho! and The Last Days of Pompeii. We have not Keats or Shelley or Coleridge, but we have the egregious Self Help of Mr. Smiles.” James Payn is also mentioned as critiquing the list.
“The Struggles of an Optimist.” Saturday, 25 June 1904, p. 5. (BNA). [An eclectic column. Winston Churchill mentioned and Oxford essay contests on Ruskin and the Old Pretender (James Francis Edward Stuart). Madame Yvette Guilbert’s views on the “nursery”-level “moral and intellectual level” of the theatre, Lang’s printers who printed “”the commission of some cat which she has forbidden” when Lang had written act, and Mrs. Penuell’s complaints (as an American) about England, in the Cornhill.]
“The Common Vampire.” 11 July 1904, p. 8. (BNA). [Dracula, New England vampires as reported about by ‘Mr. George R. Stetson, in the American Anthropologist (1896)’]
“Breeding Intelligence.” Saturday, 16 July 1904, p. 9. [Eugenics, Dr. Karl Pearson: Some parts of the BNA scan are illegible, but Lang discusses that while healthy parents tend to have healthy children, “The decent of intelligence is a mystery.” However, the “clever man’s child grows up in a clever environment, and so has a better chance than the child of an ordinary man.” “Mr. Pearson writes of England to-day: “The mentally better stock in the nation is not reproducing itself at the same rate as it did of old: the less [able?] and the less energetic are more fertile than the [better stocks?],” meaning the mentally better stocks. But this is not a novelty: this is the customary rule. Napoleon was the mentally better stock, and where are the offspring of Napoleon? . . . . If a despot could make all the cleverest men marry all the cleverest women, the results would be fertile in documents akin to those bequeathed by Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle; and fertile in nothing else worth mentioning. . . . But we have observed that the most intellectual individuals do not reproduce intellect. . . . Solitary children are apt to be the cleverest of all: if the intellectual classes, whatever these classes may be, had very large families, they might be less successful in breeding intelligence than if they only had a solitary ‘ugly duckling’ like R. L. Stevenson. . . . Intelligence cannot be bred, but young people might, perhaps, be made, with the birch or otherwise, to use their intelligence, ‘instead of which’ they go about the country in motors.”
“Red-Faced Nixon.” Tuesday, 9 Aug. 1904, p. 5. (BNA) [A prophet alternatively said to have lived under Edward IV or James I. The oldest printed account of him dates to 1714. Merlin and Thomas the Rhymer also discussed briefly.]
“Walking Through Fire.” Tuesday, 30 Aug. 1904, p. 3. [“The strange old practice by which certain persons walk unhurt through furnaces, or over heated stone, or burning wood has for some time received scientific attention. . . .]
“What Has Become of Grammar?” Saturday, 1 Oct. 1904, p. 6. (BNA). [Grammar, Lady Frances Balfour’s “The Case of the Free Church,” the Free Church vs. the United Free Church, David Hume, Augustine Birrell, Sir J. F. Maurice, Sir Walter Scott, Dumas.]
“Where is Truth?” Saturday, 15 Oct. 1904, p. 8. (BNA). [Histories of Waterloo, historian claims of 1644 and 1651 massacres of women in Scotland, biased histories of John Knox–Knox first discounts and then cites the same biblical text when deciding how flexible a Protestant should be under the changing religion of English monarchs. “Historical truth, one is inclined to think, does not live in a well: a better comparison might liken truth to the radium in a ton of pitchblende or to the water in a sponge. Truth exists in many tons of books and manuscripts, and must be extracted by processes of crushing and squeezing. Now, it is the universal tendency of seekers to crush the monstrous masses of raw material till they have extracted just as much as suits their purpose and favours their bias.]
(On Thursday, 20 October, “University Intelligence” reports that during a Wednesday afternoon meeting, University of St. Andrews students “consider[ed] the election of a Rector for the University in place of Mr. Andrew Carnegie, whose term of office ends next month. A long discussion followed. It is understood that a large majority was in favour of Mr. Carnegie being elected for another term, while some were favourable to the election of Mr. Andrew Lang” (4).
“The End of Jeanne de la Motte.” Saturday, 22 Oct. 1904, p. 5. (BNA). [Discusses a ms source and newspaper accounts of the woman involved in the Diamond Necklace Affair that, in part, precipitated the events of the French Revolution.]
“Immortality and Morality.” Saturday, 5 Nov. 1904, p. 4. (BNA). [The Fragments of Prose and Verse” by the late Mr. F. W. H. Myers, Spiritualism, the Society for Psychical Research, mediums, the afterlife (and whether one’s beliefs about it influence conduct): “A boy who, at the age of six, broke his heart over a dead mole because, as he was informed, the mole is a soulless thing, and cannot expect to be immortal, was the reverse of an ordinary boy. . . . The thirst for immortality was stronger in this child than in the majority of mankind, as it was in Tennyson, and proved the master passion and the main impulse of his life. He credited people with more interest in an eternal future life than as a matter of fact they possess, and believed that a scientific certainty of endless existence after bodily death would influence conduct in a highly-improbable degree. . . .”]
“As Mad as a Monarch.” Saturday, 26 Nov. 1904, p. 9. (BNA). [On the absurdity of Italian criminologist Professor Lombroso‘s findings about English monarchs and madness, which is full of historical inaccuracies and strange conclusions.]
“Sir Walter and a Novel.” Saturday, 24 Dec. 1904, p. 7. (BNA) Andrew Lang proposes that Sir Walter Scott may have once thought of a novel on the Gowrie Conspiracy, in light of his uncovering some correspondence from 1824 between Scott and the anonymous author of St. Johnstoun, or John, Earl of Gowrie and Restalrig (Mrs. Logan). Lang points out that Logan was right on a point that Scott assured her she was not and that her novel has all the facts as they were known at the time. Scott wrote her that “‘a friend of mine has long since made some progress on the same subject’ but the friend ‘will allow you full time to try your lot with the novel-reading public.'” Lang suspects the friend was Scott himself, who had not yet owned the authorship of the Waverly novels.
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- Return to the Morning Post introduction.
This page was last edited on 12 Feb. 2020.