I was asked today where a friend should buy books, secondhand and otherwise. It goes without saying that if you have a local secondhand shop, that is the place to go for a browse, but supposing you don’t, or you are looking for something specific that you know you have to go further afield to find.
Booksandcollectibles is the best site online to find a collective of Australian sellers – not only Australian, but certainly forming the core of their database. It was set up in the late nineties to serve the Australian bookselling community and although it has grown past that, it keeps its homegrown feeling. It is a simple, not flashy interface sitting between the seller and the customer.
Biblio is the best of the international collectives. It isn’t the biggest, but it is big enough for most purposes and it’s certainly the one I go to first. It has a clean interface, it is an independent organisation run by people who really care about books and those who love them. So if you care about that sort of thing, who is running the business you are buying from and what are their values etc etc, this is absolutely a first port of call. I don’t understand why it is that they don’t have a bigger share of the pie.
ABE is not a site I recommend anymore as it is owned by Amazon.
As far as new books go, if you are in Melbourne you have some nice choices of shops, but if you must buy online I have no good options for you. We – living in Switzerland without English shops – do shop online from time to time and did use The Book Depository. I was one of their early supporters as they offered a choice to shopping at Amazon, including free shipping, which is so attractive to Australians, of course. But like ABE, the predatorial Amazon has bought The Book Depository too.
For anybody trying not to support Amazon, a good option for online purchase of new books at the moment is Wordery. It is independent, at least for now.
If anybody has other suggestions for new and old book shopping, please leave a comment!
Long ago as a teenager, I decided to sell my collection of first edition Mary Grant Bruces and Ethel Turners. I sold them to Reg O’Connell for $50. They’d cost me almost nothing, having been picked up at opshops. One could argue I’d made an nice profit.
But that wasn’t the point. You really should buy books because you like them, not because you think they are going to make you money. The Rare Book Monthly has a really interesting article about books as investment which I thoroughly recommend. It comes, of course, to the same conclusion.
My apartment in Geneva is covered in bookshelves, we have thousands of books here. Almost none of them are worth more than a dollar or two, but we love being surrounded by them. In fact when I tried, on one occasion, to suggest replacing a much loved series in the most tatty paperbacks with a nice hardcover set, I faced rebellion. ‘But these are the ones I first read, they are the ones I value.’ The value, in other words, has nothing to do with money.
So when we talk of books as investment, whilst the financial adviser is looking at whether it is better to buy a book or a share, a human being should be looking at emotional investment and emotional gains. I’d say that matters at the highest and lowest ends of the market. Buy the first edition 1945 in dust-jacket for thousands of dollars because of how it will make you feel, not because you hope it will perform better than mining shares. Buy the tatty everyman edition in the opshop for $2 because it reminds you of your first time with the book. Books should be about feelings. Should you happen to end up with a book that turns out to be a financial windfall, that’s not even the icing on the cake.
While Australians worry about the impact that local conservative politics is having on its country at the moment, being over the other side of the world I continue to marvel at the policies of the Tory govt in the UK. One of the least civilised of its many methods to make poor people pay for the rich – aka austerity – at the moment is the closure of libraries. This has been going on in a way that evokes stories we would otherwise think of as science fiction set in a barbaric future. I had been under the impressions that it was happening largely in regional centres which have more poor people to pay for the lifestyle of the city’s bankers as well as for the paypackets of the Tories themselves.
Most recently, however, there is this; first read the consultant speak:
“The change programme seeks to ensure Imperial War Museum can continue to respond to challenges and opportunities, build on our successes to date, improve and update ways of working across the organisation and reduce IWM’s net expenditure by £4million per annum to account for changes to funding and increases in pension contributions. IWM aims to achieve the expenditure change by reducing costs and increasing our income through further commercial activity.”
They added: “The consultation period for the organisational restructuring element of IWM’s change programme has now begun. We are working closely with those who may be affected by the change proposals and will continue to do so until the end of the year. Any announcements regarding changes at IWM will be made early next year (2015).” http://www.thebookseller.com/news/imperial-war-museum-library-threatened-closure
Want to know what that actually means? It means they are going to close the Imperial War Musuem’s library and 60-80 people are going to lose their jobs. That’s what ‘working closely with those who may be affected’ means. Sacking them with a Christmas card.
And what better time than in the year which has been marketed as the anniversary of WWI?
Shame, UK. Shame.
Talking of taking over countries, as we are, whilst watching the Ukranian situation, we have a pictorial history of Australian bank-notes which includes the notes the Japanese intended to use in Australia when they took over. They were in New Guinea at the time and some combination of a compulsive need to be organised and a sense of being on a roll, I guess, led them to have these printed. Ouch. It really brings home how touch and go it all was.
On a trip to Melbourne earlier this year, I spotted these signs – I think they were at Basement Books, but I can’t swear to that.
The seller has put the spine away from the customer desperately hoping to discourage the browser from wanting to pick up the book….but clearly this wasn’t sufficient, and so this next hilarious sign.
I love that. I love the fact that being buried alive wasn’t discouraging enough, nor even ‘romance’ in red, so that there is this final addition hastily added in pen ‘bad’ above romance. Beautiful!
A little while ago a Pioneer Books publication was released to the smallest of fanfare. I believe the shop cat got extra cream that day. My father loved to plan book launches. Indeed, as a rule, the finest details of the catering for the launch might be determined before the book was even written. A date would be set. Invitations issued. Now. Let’s write that book. Without him, things have changed.
Our latest publication is a very modest book of personal recollections of her life with books by Judith.
Common: A Life Among Secondhand Books
(Oaklands Park SA: Pioneer Books: 2011) Hermit Press Pamphlet number 3. Wrappers pp. 64 $15.00
Here is an extract:
I grew up within a mile of my birthplace, in a narrow inner suburban street which had a hotel at its western end. My father cycled in that direction every week-day morning and it was some years before I learnt that it was not his place of work. He was, in fact, spending his working life at the GPO, first as a messenger boy, then a postie and then a mail sorter, until a government initiative enabled returned soldiers to be educated beyond primary school so that they could enter offices. I cannot blame my father for my career in books. Perhaps my mother, who subscribed to The Australian Women’s Weekly and The New Idea and read to me from an early age, is the culprit. Two books remain in my memory from these early years: The Polka Dot Tots and McDuff. I used the latter to astound the neighbours with my advanced reading skills. I was very good at this, provided I was careful to turn over only one page at a time and synchronise my recitations with the pictures.
I did not begin to read until I started school, and I didn’t find it a push-over. I remember the primers of which I greatly approved. I wasn’t the only one. A friend of mine was relieved to find that there were families that didn’t get into fights and threaten to kill one another. I had no traumas in my back-ground but I do remember a pet dog that the boy in the primer owned; I never did get a dog. I’m not sure if my primers were secondhand. As I have two slightly older cousins, they may well have been. Certainly I am not conscious of new books entering my life until I began to get pocket-money. At the infant school I remember lining up at the teacher’s desk before the morning bell, a real bell on a tall stand. The idea was to read a page and get it stamped; the catch was that if you made a mistake you went to the end of the line to practise for the next try. I got stuck on the word ‘that’. I went to the end of the line, worked my way up again and got stuck again; back to the end of the line and nowhere near the desk when the bell went and all bets were off.
Who is Vicki Baum, I wondered as I was listing her Falling Star. I should have known! She was a best selling novelist in her day, with her works regularly being made into movies. I guess her biggest claim to fame is as the author of Grand Hotel, which led to the following anecdote.
VICKI BAUM REFUSED ADMISSION Vicki Baum, who wrote “Grand Hotel.” has an interesting story to tell about it. She says: “Fame brought me many things, money, the ability to travel where I wanted to go when I felt like it, a lovely home, cars, and such-like. But my fame was not enough to let me watch Greta Garbo in her part in “Grand Hotel.” “When they were shooting the picture, I tried to sneak in to see her. I had always admired her, and thought I might be allowed to watch her at work. I just caught a glimpse of her yes. she was even more beautiful than I had thought–when a can came up to me and asked, ‘Who are you?’ “‘I am the author of the picture,’ I murmured, taken aback. ” ‘Miss Garbo doesn’t want any one on the set, and you know it,’ he said. “You had better get out of here quickly.’ And out I had to go.” (Launceston Advocate 5 February 1938)
I get curious, when I’m listing books. Some of them seem so utterly obscure and yet there they are, somebody took the trouble to write them. Why? Who?
This book was a case in point:
Bowen, Robert George Incidental Memoirs; or, Poetical Musings on Passing Events (London: Alfred Boot: 1855) First Edition. Decorated cloth (that is, hard covers) pp. 98. Judith added this commentary: These ‘scattered thoughts, on various matters wrought From time to time; now in one compass brought’ reflect the beliefs and preoccupations of an early pioneer who was, as Depasquale points out, one of the evangelically-minded minority in a settlement in which ‘intense religious conviction was not widespread’. Bowen writes of personal sorrows, early deaths of offspring and of his first wife, and public celebrations, hymns for the opening of Sabbath School building; of the Russian war and its implications for the Australian colonies; of Gold rushes; all recounted in terms of his religious convictions; a sequence of eight poems written in 1854 ‘on Board the Royal Shepherdess, while on a Voyage from South Australia to England’ sees Madagascar in terms of ‘martyrs of Jesus’ and St Helena as a lesson in the limitations of temporal power. A gift inscription dated 1941 from one descendant to another on front free endpaper.
And if you are an Adelaide person thinking ‘huh? What’s this got to do with me?’…the answer is ‘You might not know the name, but you undoubtedly know his work.’
With an appetite whetted for more information, I discovered that Bowen was an important early SA builder, responsible for some of the most notable landmarks in the city.
From My Pioneer Ancestors I found out more. I quote:
Robert George Bowen, born and raised in Great Torrington, Devon, was trained as a CARPENTER. He was married to Mary Ann Frost in St Andrew, Holborn, London. Their first child, Robert George, was born in London but died almost 12 months later in Devon. Three more children were born in Devon, then a fourth in London.
On 19 February 1839, Robert George, Mary Ann and four children departed London on the sailing ship ‘HOOGHLY’ with Captain G Bayley,bound for Australia. The ship arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia on 17 June 1839.
Daughter Ann died not quite a month after their arrival and another son Henry was born to them in Adelaide.
Robert George’s occupation is listed as a BUILDER & GRAIN MERCHANT. He had a wheat and grain store in Waymouth Street, Adelaide which was taken over in 1867 by John Darling, a grain exporter.
In 1844, the Holy Trinity Church on North Terrace, which had been enlarged, was declared unsafe and closed for repairs. It was then partially rebuilt by R G Bowen – the building was modified with higher walls, a new octagonal church turret and with a colonial slate face for the clock.
One of the earliest Roman Catholic buildings to survive in South Australia is the Bishop’s Palace, the most historical association of this building being with the initiation and consolidation of the Catholic Church. R G Bowen was the builder and construction began on 30 March 1845 and was finished on 19 December 1845. It is situated at 91-100 West Terrace, Adelaide.
In August of 1847 the first suggestion to build an imposing Supreme Court was heralded, as up until that time these activities had taken place in private residences or in the New Queen’s Theatre in Gilles Arcade. Tenders were called and on 17 September 1847 a contract was signed by Mr R G Bowen to build what eventually became the Adelaide Magistrates Court in Victoria Square. Construction began on 10 November 1847. He soon encountered difficulties and delays due to deviations from the original design and the problem of obtaining a sufficient number of large blocks of stone. He proposed to substitute stuccoed brickwork, but was held to his contract, and, it appears, obtained the stone from several quarries including one at Beaumont which was opened in about 1838. Other building stones which may have contributed to the impressive facade include Mitcham, Finniss River or Stirling sandstones. R G Bowen’s problems did not end there, as by mid 1850 when the building was nearly complete, the government’s lease on the Queen’s Theatre expired and officials forcibly occupied the unfinished courthouse. There was public outrage at this act of official burglary. However, building was properly completed in February 1851 and the grand structure became one of the sights of the city.
It was also in that year that a contract was signed for the erection of the General Post Office and a police courthouse opposite the government office in King William Street. Another of his buildings was the first Bank of South Australia in North Terrace.
He had residences in North Terrace & Franklin Street, Adelaide.
His religion was Congregational.
After the early death of his wife Mary Ann, he was re-married in 1849 to 23 year old Harriet Elizabeth Poole and produced a second family of seven children…
After only a few hours’ illness, Robert George Bowen died at his residence at the age of 65 years and is buried in the West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide. [end of quote]
So, yes. Obscure book, maybe, and yet his influence is all around us in Adelaide.
And as for the title of this entry: life really isn’t what it used to be, is it?
I was listing an early nineteen century hunting book the other day and wondered if I might find out something more about it. I discovered the following review in The Tatler. It struck me that nothing has changed so much in attitudes towards hunting, both on the part of its supporters and detractors. The review is both entertaining and illuminating. Hope you enjoy it too. There is the occasional point as which I was not sure if I was transcribing this correctly. Corrections welcome.
VERITAS ET VARIETAS.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1830.
NOTICES OF NEW BOOKS.
Field Sports of the North of Europe, comprised in a Personal Narrative of a Residence in Sweden and Norway, in the Years 1827-8. By L. Lloyd, Esq. Second Edition, with Additions. 2 vols. 8vo. (pp. 430—pp. 420.) Colburn and Bentley. 1830.
“Animated,” says the advertisement, “by the success of the First Edition, the Author has taken increased pains in the preparation of the present, and the reader will accordingly find a considerable portion of additional matter in the volumes before him, relating not only to the chase of the Bear, as well in skalls as in individual adventure; but to the natural history, scenery, and manners and customs of Sweden and Norway. Two new plates are also added.”
…We always feel strongly interested in works of this description, the authors of which, besides furnishing us with new information, have become native in a manner to the scenes they describe, by passing among them a familiar and domestic portion of their existence. We cannot find room for an account of the skulls, or chases on a large scale, which occupy a considerable portion of the first volume, and with which the public are probably best acquainted through the medium of other journals. We shall give a miscellaneous selection of other matter, equally entertaining to readers in general, if not to sportsmen,—a race of men whom we neither expect nor are desirous to gratify. If our author’s work were not calculated to gratify the public at large, we should not speak of it as we do. We regard sportsmen in general as a dullheaded race of men, who are merely in search of a sensation, because they cannot procure one by humaner or more intellectual means. They will disappear with the progress of education, as hares and partridges do from under their pursuit. We consider them dull-headed, not only because in ninety-nine instances out of a hundred, they are notoriously reckoned so among their neighbours, but because nothing in general but sheer want of reflection and imagination could induce them to confound the hunting of agonised and inoffensive animals, and the splintering of the legs and thighs of birds, with a ” manly sport.” Where an intelligent man sophisticates on the subject, he does it in the avowed teeth of his understanding, and upon principles which he would not allow to apply to his own case; and where a humane as well as intelligent man sophisticates, he only shews the marvellous effect of habit. Propose to him a new piece of cruelty, unconnected with his sport, though perpetrated for the sport of another, and he recoils from it. You often see this inconsistency in the pages of sportsmen. Among other arguments which we never knew hare-hunters, and fowlers, and anglers, to get over, is this:—that they permit themselves to treat animals as they do, not because the latter are unsusceptible of the feelings of pain and anguish, but simply because they cannot express them. If a hare or a stag could remonstrate in words, nay, if they went toiling their hearts out over hill and dale, with a continued doleful sound, or if tench and carp shrieked as they came out of the water, those creatures would never be killed for sport. The very reason, therefore, which furnishes an additional inducement to people in general to spare what is emphatically called a ‘poor dumb creature,’ becomes with these people an instinctive ground for tormenting them. If effeminacy be added to this cruelty, or a boasted love of ease, and superiority of intelligence, and if habit did not account for everything, there is no set of men whom we should hold in greater loathing and contempt than anglers: and yet there are unquestionably many amiable men among them, who, as the phrase is, would not ” hurt a fly,”—that is to say, on a window. At the end of a string, the case is altered. So marvellous are the effects of custom and education. Consoling thought, nevertheless! For if custom and education have been so marvellous in reconciling intelligent men to absurdities, and humane men to cruelty, what will they not effect, when they shall be on the side of justice; and when reason, humanity, and enjoyment, shall become the .three new graces of the civilized world. It has been said that absurdities are necessary to man; but nobody thinks so, who is not their victim. With occupation, leisure, and healthy amusement, all the world would be satisfied.
Little disposed, however, as we are, to regard sportsmen in general with respect, and in a country like England, we entertain different feelings towards those like Mr Lloyd, who can leave their snug homes and easy neighbourhoods, to grapple with the snow and ices of the north, and with bears in their dens. It is true, even he has not escaped the indiscriminate contagion of ” excitement.” He kills birds as well as bears, and condescends to fish. But he encounters danger: he endures cold, toil, and watching: and when he does kill his bear, he has probably delivered a community from a terrible neighbour. He is also far from thinking that hares are to be killed only for amusement, or by one set of people: and the Swedes, it appears, think with him. The following is his account of their game laws :—
‘Neither license nor certificate is required in Sweden to carry a gun, and no qualification is necessary; every person has the right to kill game on his own land, or on that of another by permission, and to dispose of thesame, at the period of the year prescribed by law.
‘In principle, therefore, the Swedish game laws are equitable, and, in my opinion, just what laws ought to be. They form, however, a striking and favourable contrast to those which exist in England upon the subject: ours, indeed, are only intended for the benefit of one class of society ; and are, as I believe it is now generally admitted, no little disgrace to our Statute Book.
‘The sentiments of many of the first men of Sweden on the subject of the game laws differ very materially from those usually entertained on the like subject by our aristocracy. This may be inferred from the following speech made by Baron Springporten, a nobleman holding the first office under the crown, in regard to the woods and forests, as president of a society recently established in that kingdom for the encouragement of the science of Natural History, as well as the better protection of the birds and beasts of the forest. He says—” Our object cannot be to assist in the revival of the ancient game laws, which are hostile to the spirit of the age, and which, by a system of exclusion, rendered sporting a monopoly in the hands of the higher classes of society.” It is a pity that our aristocrats do not follow, and succumb with a good grace to what will otherwise be inevitably wrested from them at no very distant day. These are not times to trifle with the feelings of the people.’ —Vol. I, p. 86.
Bears occupy the chief portion of Mr Lloyd’s book, but he treats also of wolves, lynxes, and indeed of every species of game to be found in Sweden, great and small. He pauses much of his time in the woods, with a native attendant, and has sometimes perilous work of it with the bears, but comes off with equal success and gallantry. We have heard it objected, that he speaks too complacently of his exploits, and his courage. It might have been as well if, in speaking of encountering bears single-handed, he did not say that he ” never went on these expeditions, without experiencing something of what the lawyers call ‘ bodily fear.’ ” He might as well also call a chasse, a chase. But he does not conceal that he did feel the fear; and upon the whole, the manner in which he has related his achievements, affords evidence of his natural candour, as well as undeniable proofs of great and habitual courage. We cannot, nevertheless, sometimes repress a smile at his love of excitement, and the grim circumstances with which it is invested. The bear is sometimes shot in Sweden by a sportsman who has planted himself on a “gall,” or stand among the trees. On one occasion, an immense bear had killed a cow, not far from the place where Mr Lloyd resided. Our author erected a gall near the carcase, consisting of interwoven branches of pines, at about twenty feet from the ground:—
‘I was always quite alone, and generally armed only with one gun; but I did not, I apprehend, incur much risk, as I never heard of a bear making an attack upon any man under similar circumstances. On the contrary, indeed, the beast is always said to run, if he be able, the moment a shot be fired from the gall.
‘I was in the habit of taking post in my gall, which was situated in the wilds of the forests, and at a considerable distance from any habitation, as the shades of evening were setting in. At that time, I used to proceed with all imaginable silence and caution towards the carcase, which was shrouded in a densely thick brake, in the hopes that the bear might be feasting upon his victim, and that I might then be enabled to steal upon him. Had I come in contact with the fellow at these times, I should have had my own battle to fight; I trusted, however, to John Manton to get me out of the scrape.
‘There was something interesting in being perched up in my gall. The gloomy solitude of the forest in the night season—the melancholy hootings of the great horned owl, which were to be heard every now and then in the distance—the slaughtered cow lying in a small brake before me, mungled in a dreadful manner by the fangs of the bear; and lastly, the excitement kept up by momentarily expecting the rugged monster himself to make his appearance.’—p. 122.
‘Bears in attempting to carry away horses, are sometimes themselves carried along to a little distance. ” I have heard it asserted,” says Mr Lloyd, ” that the bear, when thus carried along by the horse, and when in his attempts to retard the progress of the poor animal, by grasping with one of his paws at the surrounding trees and bushes, not uncommonly tears them up by the roots. Should the bear succeed, however, in catching hold of a tree that is firmly embedded in the soil; it is then all over with his victim, for, owing to his enormous muscular strength, the career of the horse is at once stopped and he is quickly brought to the ground.
‘ It seems rather extraordinary that so clumsy and ill-shaped a looking brute as a bear should be able to run down a horse; but such, whether owing to the fears of the animal, is beyond doubt of every day occurrence. Until he has brought his victim down, it is said, the bear seldom makes use of his teeth, but strikes his prey on the back and sides with his terrible paws, as if with a sledge hammer. Sometimes, I take it, the horse by flinging out behind, makes his escape; for it is not an uncommon circumstance for a bear to be killed, wanting an eye or a fang, which the peasants suppose, and with some reason, has been caused by the heels of the horse.’—Vol. 11, p. 28.
‘ Mr Nilson, a native professor, relates, that ” a bear has been seen walking on his hinder feet along a small tree (stock) that stretched across a river, bearing a dead horse in his fore paws.’ ‘
It is a pity the name of the gallant subject of the following anecdotes is not known:—p.4
‘Whilst a man was working in the forest a few miles from Gefle, he was attacked and desperately wounded by several wolves. His companion, who was at some little distance, on hearing his cries, immediately ran to his assistance, and with his axe fortunately succeeded in beating off the ferocious animals. He then took the wounded man on his back, and was conveying him to a place of safety; but after awhile fatigue obliged him to set down his burden. This he had hardly done when the wolves came on again more furiously than before; and it was not until he had cut down several of them that he succeeded in driving away the remainder. He then once more took up his wounded companion, whose life he had twice saved by his gallantry, and fortunately succeeded in conveying hiin to a place of safety. Though the poor man was terribly mauled by the wolves, he finally recovered from his wounds.’—p. 86.
The approach of the wolf, in the following story, is detailed in a very striking manner.
‘Wolves are very fond of swine, and generally attack those animals if they be at large during the winter. Lieutenant Oldenburg once witnessed a circumstance of this nature.
‘He was standing near to the margin of a large lake, which at the time was frozen over. At some little distance from the land a small aperture had been made in the ice for the purpose of procuring water: at this hole a pig was drinking. Whilst looking towards the horizon, Lieutenant Oldenburg saw a mere speck ; or ball, as it were, moving rapidly along’ the ice: presently, however, this increased considerably in size, and he then discovered it to be a wolf making for the pig at top speed.
‘Lieutenant Oldenburg now seized his gun, which was immediately at hand, when he ran to the assistance of the pig; but before he got up to the spot, the wolf had closed with the poor animal, which, though of a large size he tumbled over and over in a trice; the wolf, however, was so agreeably occupied with his prize, that he allowed Lieutenant Oldenburg to approach within a few paces of him; that gentleman then fired, and so desperately wounded the beast in the body, that, though he went off for the moment, he was presently enabled to come up with him a second time, and dispatch him.
‘The pig was still alive, though the wolf had torn a piece of flesh as large as a man’s foot (I use his own words) out of its hind quarters ; but the poor creature was so terribly frightened, that it followed him home like a dog, and would not leave his heels for a moment.’—p. 87
At page 89 we have an account of a poor fellow who perished by wolves in consequence of a singular mischance, which could only happen in a frozen region:—
‘Whilst a poor soldier was one day crossing a large lake, called Stor-sjon, it then being the depth of winter, he was attacked by a drove of wolves. He was armed only with a sword, but defended himself so gallantly, that he not only either killed or wounded several of his assailants, but he succeeded in driving off the remainder. Some short time afterwards, however, the same drove of wolves again beset him; but he was now unable to extricate himself from his perilous situation in the same manner as before; for when he laid his hand upon his sabre, and attempted to draw it, he found it firmly frozen into the scabbard. This was in consequence of his having neglected to wipe the blood from the blade after the desperate conflict in which he had been engaged. It is almost needless to add, that as he was then defenceless, the ferocious beasts quickly killed and devoured him.’
Mr Lloyd has given a story of an atrocious criminal, which may be added to the numerous proofs of the unfeelingness connected with mere ” good looks” and the proportion of features. This handsome bad face, standing blind and dead in the wilderness, for the contemplation of the traveller, presents a truly appalling spectacle.
‘ In the course of my fishing excursions, (says Mr Lloyd) I not unfrequently directed my steps past the place devoted to the execution of criminals for the surrounding district. This, which was situated at two or three miles to the northward of Stjern formed an open area of some little extent, the trees having been cleared from that part of the forest for the purpose.
‘ Here, a few years previously, two men had been decapitated, the usual manner of putting criminals to death in Sweden; and their carcasses were subsequently left a prey to the birds and beasts of the field.
‘The remains of each culprit were nailed to the stumps of three several trees of about’seven feet in height. The head was fastened to the first; the body after being placed over a wheel, to the second: and the right hand which had been chopped off at the same time as the head, to the third. Beneath, lay the blocks on which they had been decapitated, as well as the ladder that had subsequently been made use of in affixing their dissevered members to the trees.
‘In this situation (of which the author has given a sketch) their remains were then bleaching in the wind. The criminals bore, when alive, the relative situations to each other of master and servant. Both were quite young men; and they were executed for one of the most cold-blooded crimes I ever remember to have heard of.
‘The master, who was a peasant, owed another person in the same rank of life with himself, thirty rix-dollars, or as many shillings : not having the wherewithal, or perhaps the inclination, to repay it, he one evening, after it was dark, took his servant along with him, and proceeded to the house of his creditor, with the deliberate intention of committing both murder and arson. On entering the house, he exclaimed, ” Here are your thirty rix-dollars,” and at the same instant he fell upon the poor man, who was in bed, and quickly despatched him.
‘The wife, who was in the same bed, succeeded, in the confusion that naturally took place, in making her escape from the house. But it was only for a few moments that she was enabled to elude the blood-thirsty pursuers, for they quickly came up with her and cut her down with their axes.
‘A well-grown boy also slept in the same room with the poor peasant and his wife: during the commencement of the butchery, however, he managed to slip out of his bed unperceived, and crept under it; and when the murderers were in pursuit of the woman, he took advantage of their absence and made his escape from the house. This was well, as, had he remained, he would doubtless have shared the dreadful fate of the others, for on the villains returning to the room, and knowing he ought to be there, they searched, as they subsequently confessed, every hole and corner, in hopes of finding him ; but their endeavours proving ineffectual, they robbed the house of whatever valuables it contained, and then set it on fire; and as it was composed of combustible materials, it was soon burnt to the ground.
‘Though for a time their crime escaped detection, suspicion soon fell upon them. This was in consequence of the expression the master had made use of when entering the house. ” Here are your thirty rix-dollars!” which the boy hail fortunately overheard: they were then token up, tried, condemned, and executed.
‘This horrible crime took place in the parish of Oustaf Adolf, situated at a few miles from the north east of Stjein, where also the murderers resided.
‘ When I first saw the remains of these criminals, the features were in a most perfect state of preservation, the skin having dried upon them in much the same manner as on a mummy. The countenance of the master was one of the very handsomest I had ever seen in my life; but it resembled that of a woman rather than of a man. It was a perfect Grecian face; and the long hair such as the peasants usually wear in Sweden, flowing over it in the wind, rendered it still more interesting. Though there was an innocent and pleasing expression depicted in the face of this man, he appears to have been as hardened a villain as ever lived; for, if report said truly, he confessed to the clergyman who attended him in his last moments, that he had, on different occasions, robbed and murdered several other persons besides those for whom he suffered.
‘To show still farther his hardened character, the very day after he committed the murders for which he was committed, he actually stood godfather in a church to a neighbour’s child. His servant indeed, seems to have been as bad as himself; for he officiated as fiddler at a dance that was given the same evening, on occasion of that ceremony taking place.—P. 260.
‘ We are sorry we have not room to say more about the bears. The figure they make in this book, would form an interesting volume of itself, though there is plenty of entertainment besides. It is natural in the author, who has witnessed the bear’s ravages, and felt the peril of his approach, to call him a ferocious animal, and gift him at times with other epithets of objection: but we who sit in our closets, far removed from the danger, may be allowed to vindicate the character of the bear, and to think that Bruin who is only labouring in his vocation, and is not more ferocious than hunger and necessity make him, might with at least equal reason, have advanced some objections against his invader. He might have said, if he possessed an Aesopean knowledge of mankind, ” Here now is a fellow coining to kill me, for getting my dinner, who eats slaughtered sheep and lobsters boiled alive; who, with the word ferocity in his mouth, puts a ball into my poor head, just as the highwayman vindicates himself by accusing the man he shoots; and who then writes an account of his humane achievement with a quill plucked from the body of a bleeding and screaming goose.” Or knowing nothing of mankind, he might say, ” Here comes that horrid strange animal to murder us, who sometimes has one sort of head and sometimes another (hat and cap), and who carries another terrible animal in his paw, a kind of stiff snake, which sends out thunder and lightning; and so he points his snake at us, and in an instant we are filled with terrible burning wounds, and die in agonies of horror and desperation.”
We cannot help thinking there is much resemblance to humanity in the bear. We do not wish to make invidious comparisons; but travellers as well as poets, have given us beautiful accounts of the maternal affections of the bear: and furthermore the animal resembles many respectable gentlemen whom we could name. When he wishes to attack anybody, he rises on his hind legs, as men do in the House of Commons. He d Continue reading