"Pitcher" and Posterity . , The Works of Arthur Binstead (The Pitcher).
With a Forewc;r4. by 3. B. Booth: Two vols. (Werner Laurie. 7s-. 6d. each.) This collected edition of " Pitcher's" stories is welcome. ?or, despite the fact (as we learn from the wrapper) that Lord Rosebery • called• Binstead " a modern Thucydides," and Mr, E. V. Lucas " pronounced Pitcher in Paradise the Most authentic guide to the Bohemia of the 'eighties and 'nineties that we have," and declared that it would endure, very few people in the present writer's experience seem actu- ally to possess any: of the books as they were separately ; published.
For Gals' Gossip or A Pink 'lin and a Pelican one hunted laboriously through the dust _ of second-hand bookshops, and when one did find them somebody borrowed them and never gave them back. Whether they were actually out of print or not is immaterial. But the truth is " Pitcher's tales were in danger of lapsing into obscurity simply because the younger generation had not heard of their existence. r" Pitcher " wrote for The Sporting Times week by week, and he had to " make it lively." This doesn't sound like a recipe for the preparation of enduring literature. He Worked often in a hurry, he used a great deal of slang, and he was, to say the least, sophisticated : but he was not, on the other hand, a mere• retailer of amusing gossip from the bars and lounges where sporting' kentlenien forgithered. He* was a keen obserVei of life, a born storyteller, and undoubtedly a?first-class humorist. Some of his incidental descriptions- of faces, women's hats, interiors of saloons and so on-are superb. And although the language employed is not always' to be readily understood nowadays when the peculiar Victorian World, symbolized by a curved top-hat and a buttonhole, out of which it grew, has vanished, to find the equal of such character-sketches and dialogues as " Pitcher" was in the hhbit of scribbling off -at the "last moment for press one Must go to the acknowledged writers of great literature. This is the astonishing truth. • In his Interpretation of the old Pink 'Un world, Binstead was a genius.
• To thoSe who have never read any of these old Pink 'Un etitertaininentS; it is quite impossible to convey an idea of "'Pitcher's " exuberant fancy exeCpt by quoting a whole' story, for which there is not space ;- but one _ or:two short extracts from Pitcher in Paradise may be given as examples of the varied style sustained with such surprising vigour* through all the " wOrks.'' " Pitcher" is writing of a " mis-' guided genius who used to dress at night as a .high7church' curate," to " cover the presenee of his confederates in the hotel billiard-rooms of the cathedral cities." " Like so many- ok his kidney," we read, " he seemed to cheat only for the pleasure of sqiiiiiidering his plunder foolishly : he was like the beneficent honey-beetles of joyful Yucatan, that distil hOney on their shining, transparent little backs till they given to the size of a glass marble ; yet so susceptible to pleasantry and familiarity are they, that one has only to tickle them under the fore-shoulder for them to part with all their stock, and then go meekly off to fill up again." None of " Pitcher's " colleagues would have thought of comparing a race-crook with is honey-beetle of Yucatan.- Nor, again, could they have described .a bookie 'like this ; " Six feet tail, and 'fieefY of build, he usually affected a ciirnbination of black coat and waistcoat with a straw hat and white flannel trousers, giving one the impression that he was' a; butcher' who longed to be a 'cricketer, • but couldn't quite:- Make it. These are mere random quotations : but they suffice to show perhaps why. " Pitcher " survives to-day' the ,book-paradise, of a collected edition, whilst the work1 o his fellow sporting journalists was,longago used for wrapping, ham sandwiches. A hundred years hence " Pitcher " may be coast dere& the: Pepys of the Victorian Age when the great names 'of to.-day' are and forgotten, historians scholiasts; may write monographs on his philosophy, style; sociological. sentiments, or the barmaids that he knew. _ ; ,