16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 11


Sir Rowland Hill: the Story of a Great Reform. By his Daughter. (T. Fisher Unwin. 5s. net.)—Mrs. Smyth, after an "introductory" sketch of Rowland Hill's anoestry, his father, Thomas Wright Hill, of various contemporaries and friends, and of his times iu general, proceeds to give an account of the " Old Postal System," and of various attempts which were made from time to time to reform it, and then takes up the main subject of her book, the long and finally successful struggle of her father to make it what it is,—a service which for cheap efficiency has positively no rival anywhere. The system which Rowland Hill's reforms superseded had certainly some curious anomalies, and it is not easy to realise how it was worked. As almost all letters, to take one case, were paid for on delivery, professional men and merchants had monthly accounts. What an impossible complica- tion this suggests ! Still, the subject might have been treated a little more philosophically, now that it has become a matter of history. A reformer in the heat of the straggle may well talk of " odious taxes on knowledge," and of the franking system as "a hoary iniquity," but such language is out of place in such a book as this. It is a mistake to apply to the past the standards of the present. When Mrs. Smyth proceeds to tell her father's story her indignation has better excuse. His dismissal- " Britannia presenting Rowland Hill with the sack," as Punch put it—was in the highest degree discreditable to the Tory Government of 1843, and especially to its chief, Sir Robert Peel. It was a most serious thing for a man of forty-seven to find himself without employment. A public subscription was, indeed, raised, and Peel made a handsome contribution to it, putting on sticking-plaster, as Punch had it, after stabbing. Happily for him and for itself, the London and Brighton Company availed itself of the opportunity. He took its affairs in hand as general manager and soon restored prosperity. In 1846 Lord John Bagwell came into power, and the reformer was put in his right place, not indeed as chief, for this post was still occupied by the hostile Colonel Maberley, but as Secretary to the .Postmaster-General. In 1S54 Maberley resigned, and Rowland succeeded him as Secretary to the Post Office. He held this -office for ten years, when the hostility of the. Postmaster-General of the time compelled his resigirition. It is a curious thing that to the end of his life Rowland Hill disliked the postcard. Even so great a man as he had his weaknesses. It is a, pity that Mrs. Smyth insists on airing certain notions of her own which have little or nothing to do with her subject,—that, for instance, _flogging did not diminish the crime of garrotting, and that the "all-red route" is a mistake. We welcome a clear statement of the, origin of the adhesive postage-stamp.