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LONDON. THURSDAY, 1 NOVEMBER, 1888.
IN spite of all that the representative of Bethnal-green vestry could say, the action of the vestry in regard to Sunday morning trading was emphatically condemned at last night's meeting of Bethnal-green traders. As far as we can see there is nothing to be said for the vestry. They are not professing to act on religious grounds. Even if this were, the day is gone by when the obsolete Act of Charles II can be enforced in London. The cry of "obstruction" at a time when all other traffic is at a standstill is absurd. The streets are only regulated for public convenience, and in this particular case public convenience requires that the costers and stall-keepers should be left alone.
In the opinion, probably, of the majority of people, Mr. Vizetelly may consider that he has done very well to have escaped from an English court with merely a moderate fine. The very able defence which Mr. Vizetelly put forth some time ago was only calculated to obscure the issue. It is true that Rabelais is obscene, that Chaucer is coarse, and that Boccaccio's ladies and gentlemen are all too frank. But M. Zola's "La Terre" has none of the charm, the humor, the style which redeem the works of the authors we have named. It is simply unrelieved and morbid filth. Even were it elevated by the undoubted power and realistic skill of some of the writer's earliest efforts, it is impossible to excuse its reproduction in English. Mr. Matthew Arnold once said of a translation of Homer that there was no justification for its existence. Still less could a hastily and slovenly written translation of a filthy French novel justify its existence. Some translations, notably those of Schiller's "Wallenstein" and Carlyle's "Wilhelm Meister," have been literature in the best sense. But indifferent translations are not literature, and there is an end to the matter from the standpoint of art.
At the same time we are doubtful of the expediency of such prosecutions as that which has just taken place. They emphasise in far too great a degree the sensual and sensuous element which pertains to so much classical literature, and to much which is unclassical. To those who seek it, a mud-bath such as M. Zola provides will still be possible. No amount of censorship will prevent the circulation of literature, its only effect is to increase its value. Only a short time ago a man of some repute, who in his younger days had been a great collector of books of this character, found it desirable to sell his treasures, and sent them to Paris, where they fetched a great price. It is to the really great works of literature, ancient and modern, that we look as the most effective antidote to M. Zola's lubricity. "La Terre" is indeed not a literary work at all. It is a morbid, crapulous study in sociology. It will not be read by anybody who is not either a sociologist or a hopelessly depraved person. It has no attraction or lure about it. Now, it does not behove the law to step in and protect sociologists or the hopelessly depraved.
At the St. Pancras Vestry meeting, last night, the report of the special committee appointed to inquire into the alleged body snatching in Finchley Cemetery was adopted. The conclusions arrived at are to the effect that the bodies of paupers and non-paupers were removed from graves in one portion of the cemetery to graves in another portion, but always on the order of the Home Secretary or by a faculty of the Bishop of London, or on a coroner's warrant. But the report adds also that some of the bodies had been removed by order of the superintendent, and that two bodies had been removed which were not returned. It was natural for the men to suppose, seeing the laxity with which things had been carried out at the cemetery, that something wrong had taken place. The removal of bodies on the order of the superintendent is illegal, but the committee had been unable to discover any evidence of body snatching.
The costermongers and small shopkeepers of Bethnal-green are a truth-loving and humbug-hating people. Last evening they held an indignation meeting. The handle of the chairman's hammer was broken early in the evening. The object was to protest against the vestry stopping Sunday shopping in Slater-street and the district. Mr. Hay, in the middle of a rather inchoate speech, interrupted himself to shout that a red flag displayed at the end of the room should be removed. The owner thereupon jumped on a bench, and began a counter address at his end of the room, and uproar ensued. When silence was restored Mr. Hay finished his speech. He proposed a resolution censuring the prosecution by the Bethnal-green Vestry of the shopkeepers and costers for exhibiting their goods on Sundays after eleven o'clock a.m. Mr. Smithers, a vestryman, did not hesitate to call the Vestry a "bad gang." Some of these men, these lumps of putty and miserable cuckoos, who rolled into the vestry drunk, wished to starve the bodies of the poor in order to save their own souls. A verbal war began between Mr. Smithers and Mr. Bedford and other members of the Vestry, someone shouting, "Turn him out." - Mr. Bedford thereupon calmly took off his coat, and invited the instigator to "Come and do it." - After a deal of interruption, uproar, and finally riot, the resolution was carried.
A Policeman Finds Two Knives in Kensington - One Bloodstained.
Plain-clothes officers have recently been watching certain houses in Kensington. A discovery they made while engaged in making investigations has just leaked out. On Sunday night, 21 Oct., the policeman on duty in Harrington-gardens observed something bright upon the ground in the front garden of one of the houses. Entering to satisfy himself, he discovered a case containing a couple of
which had been deposited near some shrubs. One of the knives was much stained with blood, but the other had evidently not been used. The case also had bloodstains upon it. The knives are of the best make and quality, and as sharp as a razor, but the manufacturer's name does not appear. Opinions differ as to whether they are known as the "kreese" or Malay knife, or the "Ghoorka" knife called "korokee." The shape of the blade favors the latter.
A Paddington doctor has expressed the opinion that
are a month or two months old.
Whether this is in any way connected with the East-end remains to be seen, but the police are said to be following up a clue to a suspected clerical-looking gentleman, of whom strange things are said. The popular theory is that a murder was contemplated in Harrington-gardens, but the would-be assassin was disturbed, and flung the knives away.