June IS, 1912
THE LITEEAEY DIGEST
distinguished library, but Mr. Widener seemed to be born totbe purple:"He was a frequent attendant at the important auction saleswhere, for all his liberality as a collector, he would never let theexcitement of the moment get the better of his judgment. Whenat the dispersal last year of the Robert Hoe Hbrary his family'sbid for the Gutenberg Bible was out-soared by Mr. Huntington'sbid of $50,000, the record price ever paid for any book, few inthat large audience realized that the young man who quietlyjotted down the price on the margin of his catalog was himself the possessor of volumes not less famous, among which hismagnificent first folio of Shakespeare may, in the course of time,become even more valuable than is the Gutenberg Bible to-day."
A SATIRE ON THE " TITANIC " INQUIRY
HATEVER SATISFACTION such journals as
of London can take inLord Mersey's investigation of the
disaster isnot shared by England's younger insurgent men of letters. Mr.Chesterton is particularly of this group, and has produced amasterpiece in satire, published in
The Eye Witness
(London),which is ostensibly an inquiry into the death of
the man upon whom the "succession" falls after theclean sweep of the royal house, conducts the inquiry, with
friend and confidant, as the chief witness.The matter is tried before a royal commission on the Englishmodel. This satirical exploitation of Lord Mersey's court isthe only way during the course of the inquiry that a publicprint could comment on the proceedings; but previous to thesitting of the court Mr. Chesterton, quoted in our ForeignDepartmei^t, gave warning that the inquiry might result in"hushing things up." Mr. Chesterton presents what he calls"a fragment of the testimony"pertaining to the
case,adding, by way of introductoryparagraph:"The only account (whichwe print) may be a contemporary skit, or a dramatized anddistorted legend, or even (thothis seems absm-d) a true account of a procedure once possible among men. There seemsto be no doubt that the fragment begins in the middle of aspeech by
Then follows the transcriptfrom the court records:
appearance,purporting to be the late EangHamlet, proceeded to deny thestory generally given of hisdeath in the orchard, as described in the Danish press atthe time. He said that noserpent stung him, and addedthat the serpent who stunghim "FoBTiNBRAS (sharply)—"What's that?"
wore hiscrown, or words to that effect."FoKTiNBRAS—'' Really, youare a most confusing Avitness.First you say the serpent didnot sting him; then you saythe creature did sting him, andmoreover contrived in someway to wear his crown. I amnot a naturalist. [Laughter.]What sort of a serpent was it? "
THACKEBAY'S COPY OF COWPEB.
Embellished by his writing: "A very fine and true portrait. CouldArtist possibly choose a better position than the above, W. M. Thacii-eray," Willed to Harvard by Mr. "Widener.HoHATio (impatiently)—"No sort of serpent, my Lord. Hemeant that his brother had killed him to get "FoBTiNBBAs—"We Can not go into that. It would be mostimproper to go into that. That is a criminal allegation, andshould be tried before a criminal court. We can not have anything about crime or the causes of death "HoHATio—"But the whole story is death and crime, I tellyou—the whole blest, beautiful yarn. What are we playing at? "FoBTiNBBAS—"We are investigating the dynastic calamityof the House of Hamlet, but we can not go into these individualdeaths."HoBATio—"But aU deaths are individual deaths."FoBTiNBRAS (angrily)—"If you think a court of justice is aplace to be clever in "HoKATio (with a deep groan)—!'No, my Lord. I can see itisn't."FoETiNBBAS—"When did you next see the Prince? "HoEATio—"About a week after; he told me he had failed tokill his uncle "FoETiNBBAS—"Now keep to the point, witness, keep to thepoint!"HoEATio (in a grating voice)—"0, very weR! About a weekafter, he told me his crocuses were coming on nicely, but his olddog had got the mange, and—Oh! look here! He had a talk tohis inother about—you know what—heard some one behindthe curtain, and drew his sword "FoBTiiJBBAS (shaking a finger of menace)—"Witness!Witness!"HoEATlo (talking as fast as he can)—"And stuck it throughthe curtain, saying: 'A rat, dead for a ducat,' or some suchwords. He thought he'd killed his uncle, but '!FoBTiNBRAS—"How much is a ducat?"HoBATio—"Oh hell! . . . I'm sorry, my Lord; a favoritephrase of my friend's. I don't know how much a ducat is,and nor did he. It's some Italian thing."FoBTiNBBAs (very seriously, indeed)—"I should like you tounderstand, witness, that every indulgence is being shown you.If you will make sensational allusions to the life and death ofindividuals, allusions of which this court can take no cognizance,all I must do is to charge the jury to dismiss such irrelevant suggestions from their minds. Buthere is a matter on a verydifferent plane from merelycriminal allegations. Mattersof finance and commercial contract are very serious matters;they are fully within the purview of this court, and thiscourt is bound to take actionin them, and if Prince Hamletdefinitely claimed a sum ofmoney for killing the rat, butstipulated for it in Venetiancurrency "HoBATio (wearily)—!'Hedidn't stipulate anything—hefound he'd killed Poloni "FoBTiNBRAS—" Once and for
I tell you this is not a criminal court. The court can notreceive your evidence touchingthe alleged murder, but thecourt can receive any evidence you can give about therat. (More good-humoredly.)Come, come, witness—let usget back to the rat."HoBATio (wildly) — "Butthere never was any rat, youold "FoETiNBRAS — "You distinctly said that the Princethought it was a rat "HoBATio—"No! No! No!He said it was a rat; he thoughtit was his uncle; and he foundit was Poloni "FOETINBBAS — "Your evidence on this matter is so confused and valueless that I willpass on to another point. Wereyou present at the fencing matchthat has been described? "