14 DECEMBER 1844, Page 16


WHEREVER an unsupplied want exists in a numerous portion of the public, there is occasion for a periodical work ; and certainly the Joint-stock Companies of this country are not only a numerous and important but a very singular class. They require and can surely support a magazine, as well as the United Services, the Lawyers, or any single section of the community ; and to some future his- torian of the Decline and Fall of the British Empire, the history, character, condition, and capital of our joint-stock companies, will form as elaborate a chapter in a review of our epoch as that of wars and Parliamentary orations. The capital invested in public under- takings for public purposes, which individual resources could not carry on so effectively or at all, and worked with some benefit or hope of benefit to some part of the shareholders, would form a list such as no previous portion of history could even approach, and to which the only fitting pendant in amount would be our National Debt, though a very different opposite as regards utility. The scientific principles really involved in the foundation of all or any of these companies—the sagacity which has applied that science to the practical wants of the day—the new glimpses of society which a picturesque account of some of their processes, as mining, open up to us—and the general progress of the companies in pros- perity, adversity, birth, and abortion—are just as well worth record as any other branch of the res humans ; and a good deal better than that particular portion of it that fills so large a space in the papers during the " sitting " season.

The elaborate title of the monthly magazine before us will ern- _ brace every thing joint-stock except bridges ; but the subjects of the ....aresent number are, by " unexpected circumstances incident to a (mew publication," limited to railways. This limitation is as inju-

r rious to the undertaking for a sample number as any thing well can be; for people cannot agreeably diet on nothing but railways, except those persons who embark their souls as well as their sub- stance in that description of security. The limitation has another disadvantage besides that of producing satiety in the reader : all periodicals confined to one topic are compelled to adopt a species of advocacy—to " do what they can" for the interests of certain leading bodies—to flatter the views of all those who are already engaged in the pursuit, and to beat up for fresh recruits for the sect. This will possibly induce some compromise of independ- ence; it is totally destructive to sturdy and unpalatable criti- cism ; it may perhaps go still further. In consequence of the pre- dominance of railway subjects in the number before us, there is some appearance of the taint we speak of, besides the inevitable uniformity. The history of the Atmospheric principle, highly re- commendatory of the plan—Hydraulic Railways, which seems to have been done after the Atmospheric, for it is announced as a still better thing—and the account of the benefits to be expected from the proposed West Cornwall Railway—all smack of professional advocacy, and have a sniff of the prospectus. There are some other touches that had been as well avoided. The London and York line—perhaps one of the most required, but, to existing com- panies, most competing lines in the kingdom—is instanced with a depreciating effect, whatever the object may be ; and the panegyric upon the "enlightened managers" of the Midland Railway comes at an unlucky time, when some half-a-dozen accidents in a week, a ver- dict of manslaughter against one of their officers, a recommenda- tion of dismissal against another, a deodand of 1,0001. on the Com- pany, and a total want of regularity, method, or organization, proved upon oath, have displayed a considerable disregard of the public life, limb, or convenience, on the part of the said "enlight- ened " personages. Nothing can remove the inevitable fault of uniformity of subject ; but it has been skilfully remedied by as much variety of handling a as may be. The articles already alluded to, on the use of air and 3, water as the moving power of railway locomotion, give a good idea t of the history and rationale of the subjects ; though the mod= a, operandi is not, perhaps, sufficiently explained for the general etreader. "Railway Extension," and its probable effects, con- imsiders the whole subject of railways in one of its practical points ; as tad though we agree with the writer that many new lines will be mezecuted, and, from greater experience, at a less expense, we sus- tinpect their profits will not be so large and sure as he would seem to *anticipate. A review of several publications on Railway Construc- tion expounds some practical questions of a more technical kind; and the peculiar circumstances of several railways, old and new, are discussed. " Share Speculation," an article on the true prin- ciples of the subject, with some anecdotes of share-gambling and share-gamblers, exhibits the living character of the question ; and a variety of lesser papers and lists complete the details of Railways. The general character—the mind of the work—exhibits a good deal of economical knowledge, and both soundness and sagacity in its application. The style is generally that which is called par ex- cellence the " forcible.' For periodical writing this is doubtless effective, especially with " the general"; but, even to those who have no literature and are " wise without the rules," it conveys the idea of writing ; and in a critical sense, it rather resembles the flourishes of a posture-master than the gait and gestures of a man. Still, it is forcible, though exaggerated and coarse ; but it was per- haps more effective before the example of numbers showed that it was easily acquired. The following is not the strongest specimen of what we mean, but is one that best will answer for our extract.


What is the case generally ? A young man, little educated, has some three or four thousand pounds, perhaps a little more, left him on a sudden by an uncle or distant relative; he comes upon town, he forms connexions of his own calibre. Among what he considers the gentlemanly dissipations in which he is engaged, it is an equal chance whether he hears of the wonders done at Tattersall's and Newmarket or whether of those on the Stock Exchange. Perhaps of the latter. He is told by his new acquaintances of Augustus Softley, who by sheer good luck made some hundreds by dabbling in Spanish; of George Speckett, another very good fellow, who got a hundred London and York, and what a mighty good thing he made of them; while some elder, claiming a longer experience with life, favours him with some legends founded on soliSfacts, but by the elision of time and circumstances converted into miracles—how Mr. X. ten years ago kept an ironmonger's shop, and is now worth half a million ; and how Mr. Y. once drove his own cart, and at present holds a thousand hundred pound shares in such a line; and how Mr. Z., from as small a beginning, shells out new Companies as fast as a Covent Garden market-woman does peas, and how fast he pockets the accumulated premiums. Our youngster is tempted to try his fortune; writes perhaps for fifty shares in some new line, which cannot do him much harm, and gets them. He is in- troduced to a sharebroker's office, sells his stock off in two or three days at one premium, pockets the money, and his fate is sealed. From that moment he becomes a haunter of the City ; you will always find him from twelve to four at his broker's, either sitting in the office, or leaning on the desk, talking with congenial spirits as to the price of this share and that, stock and bonds, coupons, ex div., and new thirds, scrip, transfers, and commission, par, pre- mium, and dis ; leading a lazy, lounging life, half-excitement and half ennui; going to his club to think of the City, and rising from dreams of fortune to go through his daily career. These gentry may be seen by any curious student of natural history, in nearly all the brokers' offices, and their habits may be easily studied. Sometimes they may be witnessed engaged in killing flies with the office-ruler, sometimes catching them off the wall, nearly always betting; and sometimes we have seen them for hours together—so strong is the spirit of gambling—tossing shillings, head and tail, though it is evident on the doctrine of chances that they never could, at the end of a long contest, come off win- ners of more than a shilling or two. Yet in this intellectual and useful pastime will they sometimes be engaged day by day. Our friend is now in the thick of it; he buys the Railway Tones, Record, and Journal, tosses up for which he shall believe, swallows all the errors and misstatements for facts, writes continually for new shares, carries Wetenhalts Daily List in his pocket, sends it to the laundress as the list of his washing, puts his finger on West York or Chester and Holyhead, instead of sole frite or filet de beeuf sauté, in the bill of fare, or perhaps, mistaking it for the carte des rains, orders Spanish Fives or Specklebacks for Sauterne or Lftffitte.

There are some useful hints in the following passages for those who may think they can gamble in a safe and quiet way.

"Some of the most efficient means of ruin are time-bargains of various kinds, particularly the petty gambling of puts and calls. Buying for time is as cer- tain destruction, in the long run, as roulette or the hazard table; for there are always chances, as it may be said, in favour of the bank. Although one specu- lator may be perfectly on a per with regard to another, and although, appa- rently, what one loses another must gain, yet it is not the fact that the gains on time-bargains go into the hands of the speculators, but they are eaten up by the constantly accruing commissions of the brokers and continuations of the lenders; and between these two classes the capital of the speculator is certainly dissipated, for he who once begins never leaves off till he is ruined. Just in the same way that the bank at roulette pares off two per cent each time the game goes round, so does the commission of the broker pare off the money of the speculator at each operation. Another most excellent way of losing money is, with a small capital, to buy shares or stock on the prospect of its rising, mort- gage, buy new, and carry out the operation as far as possible. You may gain in an individual transaction, but in the long run you will try it once too often, get caught in a panic. and lose every sixpence. We knew the case of a person, who some time ago, having 1,3001., purchased Great Western shares, then at a reduced price, mortgaged, and bought up as fast as he could, and in the end sold out with a profit of 15,0001. He then engaged largely in London and York, and other things, following up the same plan of operation • and the result is that calls, the panic, interest, and the banker's claw will finally beat him as they have beaten others. " If, however, it is a dangerous thing for a man without money to speculate, it is often still worse for those who have money. Of all classes of fools, com- mend no to those whose constant rule it is to buy in when things are at a pre- mium and sell out when they are at a discount. This is a more prevalent in- fatuation than would generally be believed; and it is not done once only, but repeated in each successive time of speculation, till the patient has nothing to lose. After pointing out clearly to such parties how they had acted, and ob- taining their acquiescence, we have sometimes, during a panic, shown some de- pressed stock, which was at its lowest, and, being beneath its intrinsic value, sure to rise with an improved state of the money-market. No; they would not touch such a thing for the world; but they have afterwards bought it at a premium, held it until another panic, and sold at a discount, though in no want of money and able to hold on. We recollect, in particular, a young solicitor of considerable property, who had this mania, and had not the common sense to keep his breeches-pocket closed ageing speculations for which he was totally incompetent. We believe he is now in the third fit of the kind; and if he tries a fourth he will finish his remaining capital."