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muddle and confusion. The same method of arrangement has been adopted in the case of other foreign literatures, so that the reader finds in each case a crop of miscellaneous works all more or less out of place. This sort of classification is evidently based on the idea that all works relating to a particular nation-France, Italy, Spain, or Germany-should be placed under that head and no other, whatever the nature of the work or the language in which it
be written. This method can only result in confusion. The proper basis of classification is the subject of the work, not the country to which it relates. English works, descriptive of French or any other scenery, should be classified under “Voyages and Travels;" English historical writers, relating to France or any other country, should be classified under “History;" and works which cannot be properly classified under these or similar heads, should appear as Miscellaneous.” For instance, The Turkish Spy, a work in eight volumes, published in 1734, and purporting to be written originally in Arabic by a Turk resident in Paris to his friends in Constantinople (it was originally written in Italian by Marana, a Genoese), is at present placed on the shelves devoted to French literature. It has clearly nothing to do with French literature in any shape. If it is correctly classified as it stands, then Gil Blas should be placed on the shelves occupied by Spanish authors, seeing that the scene of his adventures is laid in Spain. A narrative of shipwreck on the Auckland Isles, by a French writer named Raynal, under the title Les Naufrages, is also ranked as French literature; its proper place should be among the works relating to “Voyages and Travels.”
Another objectionable feature in the present classification must have made itself felt by many readers. The various dictionaries of foreign languages are placed together under the head of “Linguistics,” in a separate compartment; the consequence being that, if a reader should happen to require a French or any other dictionary while reading a foreign language, he has to journey backwards and forwards to the field of Linguistics in order to get it. This consideration alone should suggest that the proper place for French dictionaries is among French authors, and so with dictionaries in every other language. Works on Linguistics are supposed to be works on the science of language, which dictionaries are not.
The French drama has claims upon the attention which could hardly be overlooked in any attempt to classify modern literature. There is a compartment in the library specially devoted to the “British Drama." If the French drama is not entitled to the same
amount of space, it should at least be worthily represented, seeing that the modern English drama is so largely a reproduction of it. But while the old French drama is sufficiently represented in good editions of Racine, Corneille, Molière and other writers, with a miscellaneous collection in several volumes of the Auteurs Comiques of the last century, there is hardly a volume on the shelves to speak for the drama of the present day-we might say, of the present century. The comedies of Eugene Scribe are there, but there is no sign of Victor Hugo's dramas, or Victor Sardou's, to say nothing of the later dramatists whose works have furnished so much occupation for the British playwright. A small collection of Vaudevilles, and a collection of pièces nouvelles entitled La Bibliothèque Dramatique, may be found on the shelves in the sub-librarian's room. Beyond these publications there is nothing to show what the French dramatists of our day have accomplished, although their works represent a really brilliant display of talent, and have served to mould the form of dramatic composition in every other language. The collection of the “British Drama” is much more complete than the French, but it is open to the objection that it does not comprise contemporary writers. The comedies, melodramas, and sensational plays produced by Dion Boucicault, Shirley Brookes, H. J. Byron Tom Taylor, T. W. Robertson, Paul Merritt, the Broughs, and W. S. Gilbert, are not on the shelves, although they represent the progress of the British drama during the last quarter of a century, and may be got at sixpence a piece in the acting editions. A collection in ten or twelve volumes, called the Acting Drama, and containing plays of rather earlier writers, may be found in a corner of the Library not open to the public, but this is the only contribution to the dramatic literature of recent times which the Library possesses.
There are one or two points in which the convenience of the public might be considered with very great advantage. The want of a catalogue raisonnée must be felt by everyone who has occasion to make use of the Library, the existing catalogue being simply an alphabetical list of authors. Again, anyone in search of a particular volume will frequently find it a more or less difficult matter to get it. The class catalogues do not refer him to the shelf on which it stands and the shelves are fitted up without any reference to the names of authors. A stranger to the Library will find his researches considerably impeded by this difficulty; and even the attendants are sometimes bewildered in their efforts to find a given volume, All this confusion might be remedied at once by simply numbering
the shelves, and giving a reference to the shelf for each volume mentioned in the class catalogue—care being taken, of course, that the volumes are kept on the proper shelves. A notice requesting readers to return their books to the exact place from which they were taken might be usefully put up on the walls.
The absence of pen and ink is another point which deserves consideration. The mere loungers in the reading-room do not suffer any inconvenience in this matter; but it goes hardly with the students who use the books for specific purposes, requiring the assistance of a pen. They are obliged to content themselves with pencil notes, which have to be written out again in ink—an odious labour. There is no reason to suppose that the privilege of pen and ink would be abused, and there is the example of the British Museum in favour of the privilege. If these materials were placed on the central tables, there would be a sufficient check against any improper use of them in the immediate presence of the attendants.
These remarks will be sufficient to show that something yet remains to be done in order to complete the attractions of this most popular institution. It would be easy enough to follow up the line of inquiry into other sections of it; but enough has been said to direct attention to those points in which some reform is urgently needed.
G. B. BARTON.
It is now a hackneyed opinion in the press, and one not infrequently taken up by persons occupying leading positions in the colonies, that no practical good comes of conferences. I have taken part in several conferences at long intervals apart, and few of the floating expressions of opinion in Australia during the last twenty years have seemed to me less justified than this. It seems specially inconsistent, on the part of those who are for ever talking in general terms of the advantages of federation, to depreciate or underrate the results of intercolonial gatherings of this kind. Have we fairly endeavoured to estimate the gains to Australian progress from these meetings in past years,—what retarding influences have been kept in check or wholly softened down; what obstacles, in some instances, have been removed; what ultimate good feeling has been brought about by the interfusion of individual views, even where discord seemed to prevail at the time, from these discredited conferences? Have we tried to bring vividly before the imagination the picture of Australian progress as it would have presented itself to-day if the men ruling the destiny of these colonies had never formally met together, under a sense of representative responsibility, to compare notes on their different colonies, and to strive after grasping the higher questions of Australian concernment? It would not be difficult to fix the time-almost the day and hour-when causes were set in motion by congressional action which have been in operation ever since, giving breadth and enlightened scope to our postal and telegraphic systems, and drawing to a common policy, unconsciously promoting the efforts of the different colonies in other directions. Whatever up to this point has been done in preparing the ground for the reception of a federal constitution, has, for the most part, been done by these conferences, and there is no other means by which its advent will be so surely matured and secured.
It matters little that agreement is not arrived at when it is first sought to be attained. Perhaps it is better for the soundness of final results that questions containing a living principle should go through the softening process of that fuller and more earnest consideration which opposition and rejection, for a time, will always engender. In human affairs, nothing is more common, and nothing is more lost sight of, than the unconscious acceptance of truth from the bitter teachings of our adversary. Many a man adopts a view of things, believing it to be his own, which he fought against in another form with obstinate persistency. All this is especially true of the work to be done by conferences, and more true of that kind of working in new countries than in old states, as men engaged in the rough business of colonisation are little endowed with delicate modes of speech or with the mood of thought which discerns difficulties and gauges the forces necessary for their removal. It does not follow, therefore, that because no striking results may be embodied in recorded resolutions, the sitting of a conference will end in no enduring advantage.
Certainly, the work of our intercolonial conferences has hitherto been done-whether it has been well or ill done—under something very like uniform discouragement. Little cousideration has been given to the fact that their dry skeleton records are in no adequate degree a reflection of the course and compass of their deliberations. The reason of the thing is nowhere set forth, except in the words of some formal propositions, and not always in this or any form of words. From the nature of their proceedings it is not practicable for detailed reports to appear in the press. The business o such conferences is usually conducted not only in a conversational way, but in a conversational way often advantageously interrupted and desultory. More formality and restraint would be less likely to promote cordiality and facilitate the progress of business. Hence, therefore, it is not asking overmuch that critics should read with a liberal interpretation between the lines of the printed records of a conference. But so far from this disposition prevailing, the recorded results are viewed sometimes with a captious literalness which refuses to recognise the most obvious conditions. The critics will discuss the abstract question of a federal policy with the most liberal aspirations. A comprehensive view of the subject, above all local considerations, should be taken; it should be dealt with on elevated grounds, in the spirit of a just compromise, and with a steady regard to the interests of Australia as a whole. But the moment that any