The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 10 (February 1, 1928)
Curious Hobbies. — Model Railways and Old Castles. — Unfinished Literary Masterpieces
It is surprising how many famous men to-day seek relaxation in hobbies far removed from their ordinary everyday life.
Particularly is this noticeable in the case of men who earn their living by their brains, for often one finds that their private hobbies are entirely manual in form.
For instance, Mr. Roland Oliver, K.C., the well-known English barrister-at-law, has two hobbies — wood-carving and the making of model battleships. In his house he has some fine panelling, every inch of which he has hand-carved himself; he also having a small fleet of model ships built to scale by himself in his leisure moments.
King George's hobby is philately, and at Buckingham Palace he has a wonderful collection of postage stamps, many of which are extremely valuable.
The late Tsar of Russia, too, was an ardent stamp collector, and he even went out of his way to take his collection with him when he was forced to flee to Tobolak. This collection, when offered for sale last year, was valued at £50,000.
Model railways exercise a great fascination for many famous men, and, amongst others, the Marquis of Milford Haven, Lord Howard de Walden, Sir Aubrey Brocklebank, Bart., and Sir Berkley Sheffield, Bart., have large tracks running round parts of their homes and gardens. In Sussex, Exgland, at the home of Captain J. E. P. Howey, the racing motorist, is actually constructed a small gauge railway which he intends to run as a commercial proposition (taking golfers to the links) in his spare time.
Sir William Bull, M.P., has a passion for genealogy, he, himself, having traced his own pedigree back to the Norman Conquest of England. As none of his ancestors were landowners, his was an exceedingly difficult task and it has been rumoured that he spent over £1,000 in making inquiries alone.
A very queer hobby was that of the late Baron Rothschild, who made a wonderful and priceless collection of fleas. Before his death he gave the whole collection to the South Kensington (London) Museum, where it has been of the greatest use to students of parasite life.
Another collector with curious tastes was the late Marquis Curzon of Kedleston, who actually collected castles. During his lifetime he bought no less than five medieval castles, and at the time of his death he was engaged in writing monographs about each of them.
Sir Charles Cust, Bart., G.C.V.O., C.B., C.M.G., Naval Equerry to the King of England, is a lifelong collector of old prints, and, as might be expected, specialises in naval prints. Indeed, his prints of old-time warships are said to be the finest in the world.
Sir Neville Wilkinson's hobby is the making of tiny craft, and thousands of people have seen his “Titaonia's Palace,” a wonderful fairy palace, every detail of which he himself made and which was sent all over England on exhibition for the collection of funds for charity.
Perhaps the strangest hobby of all is that of a man well-known to the writer of this article, for his is the collection of unfinished literary masterpieces, and he has—so he informed me—upon the book-shelves of his library, a copy of every unfinished literary work of importance in the English language.
Not only is he in possession of this unique collection, but he boasts that he has read every volume on his shelves.
“Could I inspect this collection!”—the writer questioned him one day.page 13
“With the greatest of pleasure”—he replied. And, later, I found myself gazing at perhaps one of the most interesting of bibliophilic collections in the world.
Next to Joseph Conrad's great unfinished romance “Suspense” stood the well-known and famous “Mystery of Edwin Drood,” which Dickens had only half-written when death came to him so suddenly.
Thackeray's “Denis Durval's” next door neighbours on either side were Alexander Dumas' unfinished “Isaac Laquedin,” and “Weir of Hermiston” by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Of this unfinished work of Stevenson's, an authoritative critic has said “it stands a full head and shoulders above any other of its author's longer writings.”
It was a surprise to the writer to find Henry James doubly represented in this collection, he not having knowledge of any unfinished works by his pen. Yet here they were—“The Sense of the Past,” which my friend informed me was commenced some years before he died and then laid on one side, and “The Ivory Tower,” which Henry James was writing when war broke out and was held up because the author found he could no longer work upon fiction supposed to represent contemporary life.
Another surprise the writer had was to find Macaulay's “History of England” incomplete; Buckle's “History of Civilisation” unfinished, and Marlowe's “Hero and Leander,” both unfinished and imperfect in many ways.
The collection of match-boxes, snuff-boxes, smoking pipes and historic banknotes are other curious hobbies.
An issue of the “New Zealander” seventy-five years ago describes Queen Street as the “least built upon, but in other respects the best and most considerable street in Auckland. It is about half a mile long, nearly level, and almost straight and terminates at its northern extremity in a pier or quay, which runs into the harbour; and alongside of which small craft can land, on this stage, their cargoes. At its southern extremity it is overlooked by the Wesleyan Seminary, or boarding-school for the education of the children of the missionaries in these seas—a spacious brick-built and substantial structure.
The Gaol is badly situated and is by no means a conspicuous building; but by a diligent search it may be found on the west side of Queen Street, partly screened from view by the Courthouse and public office, which abut immediately upon the street. Several shops of superior description, two and three stories high, have recently been erected; and Queen Street, as well as being the longest, is certainly just now one of the most improving streets in Auckland.”
(It is interesting also to note “the windmill on the hill” which is still an imposing landmark of the city of Auckland.—Ed., N.Z.R.M.)