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Aug 23 1902


The Montreal Herald, Saturday, August 23, 1902

The Recorder's Gown

The renovation of the Recorder's Courtroom will be completed in a week or two, and then it is understood that the presiding genius of this tribunal intends to carry out his threat for assuming the venerable robes worn by members of the higher judiciary. The event is anticipated with smiles of quiet amusement by most of the members of the local bar, who have been magnanimously excused from appearing similarly attired, owing to the lack of wardrobe accommodation While the practice exemplified in the summary treatment dealt out to the ambitious jackdaw, who appeared among his fellows decked out in peacock's feathers, does not prevail in polite human society, this tendency on the part of the minor officials to appropriate the outward symbols of their superiors is most regrettable. The unfortunate feature of this grasping after titles and badges of office by those to whom they do not rightfully belong is that while it fails to bring to the person who appropriates them the distinction craved for, it must ultimately rob the symbols themselves of their distinctiveness and peculiar significance. To miscall a police magistrate a judge, cannot have the effect of the bench, nor can a primary school teacher be raised to the rank of an occupant of a university chair by nearly dubbing him 'professor.' And any attempt to do so can only result in the vulgarizing of the particular title so misused.

Mental Absinthe

One day this week I asked the proprietor of one of the best patronized news stands of the city, which of the more expensive magazines he found to be in the greatest demand among his customers. I expected that he would name Harper's or Scribners' or McClure's, most probably the last.

Instead of that he mentioned a new and much advertised periodical, whose most prominent, and I am afraid most attractive characteristic, is its unwholesomeness; and he informed me that he sold four of it to one of any of the other three, although the price was the same.

Its alleged specialty is a boasted cleverness, and its stories have undoubtedly, a certain amount of that quality. It is a curious fact that even amongst many men of intellect, a somewhat clumsy jest, which is off color seems funnier than a really cleverer bit which is free of any suggestion of the unclean. And so I cannot help feeling that it is their artistically served and cleverly disguised taint, which gives the peculiarly pleasing flavor to this chronicle of the doings of the smart set. It is quite true that there is plenty of society scandal and marital intrigue in real life, but the contemplation of them is by no means edifying, nor any more so when served up in the enticing form of these smart storiettes. Literature of this type is a sort of mental absinthe, which if indulged it gives a diseased view of life and spoils the natural appetite for wholesome reading. It is on a par in its effects with the "penny dreadful" of the schoolboy. Its cleverness does not excuse it any more, than cleverness in the execution of a crime, palliates its heinousness, and admiration of both is to be equally condemned. And the difficulty with this fermented brand of literature is that while it in time creates even disgust for itself, the effect of its use is to so vitiate the mental taste that all wholesome food, no matter how bright and clever seems flat and unpalatable beside it.

The Nobler France

T.P. O'Connor pays a notable tribute to the whole French-Canadian race in the enthusiastic description of Sir Wilfrid Laurier which appeared in a recent number of 'M.A.P.' "Here," he says, "is a man who is a British subject to his finger tips; who has shown a very ardent form of British patriotism; whose every word is intended to cement in closer bonds the different races of his own country; and yet never was there a man who was more unmistakably un-English. Wherever you saw him you must have recognized in him the strain of that brilliant race across the channel, whose sons have done so much for letters, liberty and civilization." "But Sir Wilfrid Laurier is French rather of the eighteenth than of the twentieth century. Like his own people, who still retain in their language expressions that are archaic to the ear of the modern Parisian, Sir Wilfrid strikes one as rather an old-world type of Frenchman. He has less ebullient vivacity, less expansiveness, more slowness of movement and ceremoniousness of manner than one finds in the present day Frenchman. You think of him rather as the companion of Talleyrand and Chateaubriand than of Waldeck-Rousseau and M. Henri Rochefort. "Nobody," said Tallyrand, "knew the real charm of life in France, who did not live before the Revolution." What, doubtless, he was thinking of was the stateliness of manner, the brilliancy of conversation, the romance of gallantry, the ease of fortune and superiority to ordinary cares, which were the characteristics of that wonderful aristocracy that robbed and enslaved and trampled on France but meantime enjoyed itself in a grand manner, and did everything with a noble air. One thought of the France of the pre-revolutionary times as one gazed at the long, beautiful fingers of the delicate hands of Sir Wilfrid Laurier--at the perfection of every little gesture--at the apparent ease and open frankness, and yet the unmistakable tact and discretion with which he discussed everybody and everything. It is no wonder that he has such a hold over the hearts of his people; he is the flower of their stock."

Surely this eulogism not only of the man, but of the race must come as a sharp rebuke to those English-speaking Canadians who are inclined to belittle their French compatriots as if they were an inferior branch of the people of France, seeming to forget that while the fever of the revolution is still running riot in the veins of the Frenchmen of France, and persistent irreverence is hardening into atheism, the Frenchmen of Canada combine the simplicity and hardihood of the Gallic peasant with the dignity and stateliness of the "grand seigneur" of the eighteenth century, and still retain their ancient devotion to the God of their fathers.

Oldest Working Locomotive

One of the original locomotives, writes a correspondent to the London Railway News, built by George Stephenson in 1822 for the opening of the line of the Hetton Colliery, near Durham (England), between their works, a few miles northwest of Durham, and the shipping staithes on the Wear at Sunderland, is still employed hauling the trucks at Hetton, and is now, after eighty years' continuous service, claimed to be the "oldest working locomotive in the world." The weight of the engine is 15 tons, and it has a haulage capacity of about 120 tons at a speed of 10 miles an hour on a fairly level track. Its general design (excepting the cab) remains as originally constructed, while some parts, notably the steam dome, are actually portions of the engine as constructed in 1822. After this long and faithful service, it is not surprising to learn that the engine is at last becoming unequal to the ever-increasing demands made upon it, and the directors of the Hetton Colliery, therefore, shortly intend to withdraw the relic from Hetton, and it will in course of a few weeks find a permanent "resting-place" at the Durham College of Science, Newcastle-on-Tyne, where it will be preserved to this and future generations as a worthy example of the earliest period of locomotive engineering.

Bogus Antiques

The remarkable disclosures that one of the ancient Roman statuettes in the Museum at Vienna is found to be rich in tobacco products, and to be, in fact, indisputably made from the worn-out mouthpieces of pipes and cigar-holders, will send a shock through all the cabinets in Europe. It is now asserted that the majority of the antique works of art of this description are the work of contemporary Greeks, who appear to have made this unsavory industry theirs. As Lord Macaulay has it in a well known Lay:

Such cunning they who live on high

Have given unto the Greek.

We may even adapt another line from the same source, by the utterance of one word, to form a motto for the collector of such curiosities:

Leave the Greek his amber nymphs!


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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
Please direct questions and comments to Mary Anderson, Ph.D.

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