On public statuary

A newspaper for a gentleman should be full broadsheet, which is to say, in the English-speaking realms, a page 24 inches deep by 18 inches wide — divided, ideally, into six 15-pica columns, in 8-point type with another point of leading to yield about ten thousand words per page (without headlines or illustrations), while allowing generous margins. This opens out to a yard wide, by two feet deep, which is the minimum a gentleman needs to cover his face and upper body, while snoozing in an armchair at his club.

John Richmond, “sketch-paddler” of fond memory, was the last to publish such a paper in Canada, to my less than certain knowledge. He did this from his residence in Claremont, Ontario. The journal was one sheet (four pages), and somewhat eccentric in character. It was launched slightly before my Idler magazine, and expired soon after launching. I was aware of at least three issues, but find only the inaugural number in my files.

It was entitled, The Bicameral Review, and announced itself as the “Official Organ of the Bicameral Society for the Stimulation of Brainwaves while You’re In, Above, or Near the Water.” An heraldic device with the title might be blazoned thus: “Twinned brainlobes, sable, affronté within a roundel, superscribed with the initials ‘B’ and ‘S’.”

Contents of the first number included a sixty-fifth anniversary commemoration of the Royal Visit of 1919; a half-page Crosshatch Puzzle with forty-five twinned clues; miscellaneous lesser contests and quizzes, in which the prize was invariably a copy of the same remaindered book; a “Plowboy” interview with Mr Significant; surgical advice to help skiers become more serious, high-minded, well-proportioned, keen; tips for rock-fishing; and street interviews with various persons on the breaking-news question, “What does the Provincial Bicentennial mean to You?”

Richmond’s elegant penmanship in captions and caricatures added dimensionally to the enchantment, and while one item was confessedly prurient (a miniature diagram of “the structure of a spermatozoon”), most were in good, or at least acceptable, taste (“Writer Brooke Salmon dressed for a border-crossing,” &c).

A “man of true genius and creative wallop,” as Richmond said of another, more than three decades ago. He was old enough when I last spied him, in white hair and beard; he disappeared from my vicinity without mentioning whether he had died. Only yesterday I discovered that he abandoned this planet in January, three years ago, having taken extended holidays from it in Mexico beforehand. I imagine him still sketching in the refreshing uplands of Purgatory, bounding about in his peculiar way, trailed by numerous small children.

“Dear John,” as one might begin a note to him, to leave at the counter of the Zanzibar, or wherever.

It struck me, after yesterday’s effusion, that in addition to artists who lived and died poor, but whose works now command millions of dollars, there are those who lived and died poor, and are utterly forgotten. In addition to the Unknown Soldier, whom I would never wish to overlook, we might want to subscribe for public monuments to the Unknown Poet, the Unknown Flautist, the Unknown Greengrocer, and so forth. Surely this city is in need of more statues, and it is a pity Richmond can’t be found to design them.