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of superhuman strength, sagacity, and courage; and of stupid and blundering watchmen and honest folk. Everybody always goes armed, and is ready to produce his weapons on the smallest provocation, or none at all; and the use of a pistol is invariably represented as a proof of courage and presence of mind. “Cheeky Charlie, or what a Boy can do'-the third of these romances, is an impossible tale of an outcast boy, who is rescued by a personage very appropriately called the Vagabond,' from the cruelties of the work house and the Guardians of the Poor. The story is almost abject in its silliness—many children of twelve years old could write as coherently and as well—but it enforces with great energy the theory that the constituted authorities are both rogues and fools, the fool predominating. "Green as Grass,' No. 4 of the series, might also have been written by a sharp errand boy. The tale is of a swindling attorney, who with his son victimizes a wealthy but intensely vulgar family, whose foolish son gives the title to the book. It is stupid beyond expression in conception and execution alike, the fun is intensely depressing, and the illustrations so wretched as to suggest the idea that the artist (?) must be caricaturing him. self. Turnpike Dick' is described as the true history of all the celebrated highwaymen, and appears to be a hash-up of the moral and improving biography of Dick Turpin and his 'gallant companions. The hero is always in company with a magnificent horse ; is always armed with sword and pistols, and always sumptuously dressed; he has a rich, mellow voice, in spite of his nocturnal rambles and frequently repeated .draughts of brandy ;' he is of matchless physical beauty, and is naturally beloved by the most adorable of women; and he beguiles his leisure with wine and song amidst a select crew of
knights of the road,' whom he treats in a “haughty yet affable manner.' The moon is always shining merrily on his gallant exploits, and fortune is ever on the side of the handsome hero, and as constantly unfavourable to the stupid, cowardly, and ill-looking constables and their assistants. • Jack Sheppard,' burglar and prison breaker, is the hero of the sixth romance on the list. The story is constructed on precisely the same lines as the last mentioned, and may be compendiously described as a glorification of vice and crime. The large coloured picture, presented gratis’ with the first number, emphasizes this point, representing, as the epigraph informs the reader, “Jack Sheppard commencing his career of undying fame (!) in the carpenter's shop.' The Poor Boys of London, a Life Story for the People,' is a tale of slightly loftier pretensions, in the course of which the author displays his acquaintance with casual wards, thieves'
kitchens, kitchens, and criminal resorts generally, and uses such descriptive and dramatic powers as he possesses to extenuate the offences of the poor boys' who, in his own phrase, are driven to crime. • The School on the Sea' is a tale relating the rebellion of a number of boys against an impossible sea-captain, who is the head of an equally impossible school on a ship provided by the Admiralty. The whole thing is a farrago of disgusting rubbish, but it appears to be popular. The title of. He would be a Clown, or the Pet of the Pantomime,' sufficiently explains the substance of the next serial on our list, the author of which, if he proves nothing else, demonstrates very clearly that he knows nothing whatever of the stage. • Tales of Pirates, Smugglers, and Buccaneers; 'Three-Fingered Jack, the Terror of the Antilles,' and Lions and Tigers, or the Pirates of the South Pacific, are romances, the substance of which may be guessed from their titles. The moral tone is simply deplorable. Lawlessness and violence are the subjects of the writers' fondest admiration, and the severer matter is pleasingly seasoned with love scenes of the luscious' kind, which are almost as offensive in their way as the performances of certain young lady novelists of a higher rank. Of the remaining works on this publisher's list no special mention need be made. • Broad Arrow Jack,' «Captain Macheath, the Prince of the Highway,' and · Famous Fights in the Prize Ring,' all point the same moral—that no life is so delightful as a life of roguery tempered with violence; that highwaymen and thieves are heroes; and their mistresses queens of beauty and romance, whose venal caresses are the rightful guerdon of skill, daring, and dash.
When it is remembered that this foul and filthy trash circulates by thousands and tens of thousands week by week amongst lads who are at the most impressionable period of their lives, and whom the modern system of purely secular education has left without ballast or guidance, it is not surprising that the authorities have to lament the prevalence of juvenile crime, and that the Lord Mayor and Aldermen should constantly have to adjudicate in cases for which these books are directly responsible. The story is always the same. An errand boy or an office lad is caught in the act of robbing his master—'frisking the till,' embezzlement, or forgery. In his desk are found sundry numbers of these romances of the road, a cheap revolver, a small stock of cartridges, and a black mask. A little pressure brings out the confession that those properties' have been bought by the youthful culprit with the intention of emulating the knights of the road,' the tale of whose exploits has fascinated him. It is necessary, for the sake of other lads in the same employment, to press for a conviction, and the boy is taken off to prison, to come out a passed recruit of the great army of crime.
Even where the literature offered for the consumption of this class of boys is not directly criminal, it is often dangerously foolish, and even vicious. One publication boldly announces itself as • The Bad Boys' Paper;'and though the editor, who adopts the pseudonym of Guy Rayner, ostentatiously announces that his one aim and object is to provide a healthy and entertaining journal, it is impossible to say that he has attained it. The hero of one is a boy who runs away from school after getting drunk with his comrades on smuggled punch in the dormitory; another relates the adventures of an English boy of fifteen in India, whose favourite companion is a tame tiger, and who does wonderful things with a bow and arrow; another is a story of low life, with all the vulgarity retained, and the humour carefully left out. The remainder of the paper fully comes up to the level thus indicated. An even worse specimen of this class of paper is a shabby and ill-printed rag which has for title • The Boys of London and Boys of New York. This sheet is printed in London from stereotyped plates, which are very obviously manufactured in America, and appears to have been issued for many years past, the number for the week ending 29th September, 1889, being 647. The staple is of course fiction, the character of which may be judged from the titles of the stories, instalments of which appear in this number :-The Haunted Glen, a Story of Mystery (with an illustration of appalling hideousness); the Steam Catamaran, a Legend of the North-West; the Shorty's Trip around the World ; Johnnie Burgoo, or the Mystery of a Boy's Life; the Maniac Engineer; Mad Anthony Wayne; Cale Loring and his Demon Dog, and the Wreck of the Columbus.' • The London Story Paper,' which is almost as old an undertaking as that just mentioned, is of much the same type, printed, like it, from American stereotypes, with illustrations a shade better.
The English papers for boys are almost as foolish, but there is an improvement in the external appearance of most of them. The oldest is the • Boys of England,' now in the fourteenth year of its existence. The editor and proprietor announces somewhat conspicuously that this journal of travel, sport, fun, and instruction' is subscribed to by H.R.H. Prince Arthur and Count William Bernstorff.' Why those distinguished persons should honour the paper it is not easy to see. There is certainly nothing in its contents to induce tutors and governors to recommend it, though it may be admitted that there is nothing
flagrantly offensive. The chief failings of the paper are its weakness and curiously second-hand' air. The American reprinted matter is especially thin and poor. Much the same thing may be said of two other publications of the same class which are issued by the same publisher—' Boys of the Empire' and • The Boy's Comic Journal.' Other papers of a similar but slightly lower type are: Ching Ching's Own,' «The Boy's Champion Journal,'• The Boys' Leisure Hour,' and “The Young Folks' Paper.' They present no feature of special interest, and call for little remark. The best that can be said of them is, that they are comparatively harmless; the worst, that no boy is likely to be the better for reading them. He will derive neither information nor instruction from them, and it may be doubted whether the time spent over them would not be infinitely more usefully employed in cricket and football or some lighter games. Boys cannot, of course, be invariably engaged in athletic exercise, but they would certainly be far wiser, if they devoted themselves to chess or draughts, or even dominoes, than if they indulged in the intellectual debauchery which a constant study of books of this class implies.
For children of a larger growth enterprising publishers cater with great liberality and with corresponding profit to themselves. The number of penny weekly papers, leaving newspapers, trade journals, and professedly religious organs wholly out of account, is literally enormous, and their circulation almost fabulous. There is probably no family of the classes rather absurdly described as working' and lower middle' in which one at least of these prints is not bought as regularly as Saturday night comes round. In many such families three, four, and even more are taken by various members and lent from one to another. Including such as may be seen on the counters of public houses and the tables of coffee taverns and cheap restaurants, we are probably well within the mark in saying that every copy sold is read by six persons. Now as one of these prints boasts a circulation of 334,000 a week (?), another modestly announces its sale as a little under half a million' (?), a third claims a quarter of a million, and several are known to sell over 100,000 weekly-it is obvious that the family penny papers combined must be one of the greatest social forces in the kingdom. Whether they are worthy of their vocation is a question which it may be worth while to investigate.
The first point which strikes the inquirer is the obvious niggardliness with which most of these prints are managed. The American cheap press is drawn upon largely and unblushingly. More than one of the weekly prints, to be mentioned hereafter, is composed almost exclusively of reprints of this kind, while several of the remainder obtain from one-third to one-half of their matter from the same source. Two methods of procedure are open to the enterprising publisher. In one case he simply cuts the story out of the American journal and reprints it as it stands, trusting to the printer's reader to correct the eccentricities of American orthography. This method may be commended for its comparative honesty. The author, it is true, receives no compensation for the use that is made of his work, but he is served no worse than the hundreds of English authors of infinitely greater pretensions, whose work is similarly conveyed' every day in the United States.
The English reader, too, is not plundered. The story presents itself for what it is-a tale of American life by an American writer--and as such he gets it at a very cheap rate. Greater ingenuity is required for the second method, which is, however, less popular with publishers on account of the greater expense which it entails. Under this system the publisher hands over a copy of the work which he wishes to have edited for the English market to one of the hacks in his employment. Pen in hand, this latter goes over the whole book, altering, striking out, writing in, and generally transmogrifying it. The title of the book is changed, as are the headings of the chapters; over-long chapters are divided ; two short chapters are run into one; the dramatis personæ are re-baptized, names that are familiar to the students of English fiction being substituted for American names and titles; the brown stone mansion on Fifth Avenue' becomes a stately edifice in Belgravia or Grosvenor Square; Saratoga or Long Branch becomes Brighton or Scarborough : the trip to Europe' is a Continental tour or a visit to Scotland ; and the millionaire's country-house on the Hudson River becomes a hunting-box in the Shires, or a fishing lodge in the West of Ireland. The people are similarly changed. The Senator is transformed into a Duke or an Earl at the least—titles are very cheap in fiction of this character—the M. C. blossoms out into an N.P. ; the Pittsburg ironmaster into a Manchester cotton lord, and the Wall Street operator into a prototype of the Rothschilds or the Barings. When a little more care is thought desirable, the style is modified in accordance with English notions of the fitness of things, and the more obvious Americanisms * are suppressed. The book thus becomes an English
* It must not be forgotten that some Americans assert-not altogether without reason—that the · American language' is totally different from English. In this light what we consider solecisms become simply American idioms. Thus in a