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TOWN TOPICS. (From Our London Correspondent.) With the Easter holidays so closely here, it is borne in upon all of us how quickly the first quarter of the New Year has gone; and in no place is this felt more keenly than at West- minster. It was only natural that after the pro- longed sittings of Parliament in 1902, the Ses- sion of this year should commence later than usual; but it is with some sense of shock that our legislators have realised that the Easter recess in now so near, for that adjournment always marks a distinct period for those who have to frequent the Houses of Parliament. The Session, as far as these are concerned, is divided into three distinct sections-one from the opening until Easter, a second from the resumption after Easter until Whitsuntide-, and a final one, in normal circumstances, from the meeting after Whitsuntide until the prorogation. As a rule, these three periods may be described as those of legislative, explanation, elaboration, and ex- pedition, for in the first the greater Government measures are accustomed to be introduced, in the second to be dealt with in some detail, and in the third to be completed, and passed into law. Owing to the relative lateness of the original assembling this year, the first period has not been as marked as usual in its accus- tomed characteristic and this is bound to have its effect upon the two other periods yet to come. It has been noted in various quarters that, owing to the exceptional interest aroused by the provisions of the new Irish Land Bill, the number of private telegraphic messages despatched from the House of Commons Post-office on the day of its introduc- tion was almost as great as that usually sent on a Budget night. This is to et up a high standard in point of number; but it may safely be prophesied that that stan- dard will be even higher on the occasion of the opening of this year's Budget than for a long time previously, owing to the exceptional interest which is being taken in its provisions in advance. In that regard, a word to the wise may be sufficient, and that word will be one of warning to disregard the very confident fore- casts of the detailed contents of Mr. Ritchie's first Budget, which are certain to be prevalent 'between now and the date of its introduction, when the House of Corn mons resumes work after the Easter recess. Every practised politician is well aware that no ministerial secret is more jealously preserved than that of the Budget, and that it is not accustomed to be revealed even to the Chancellor of the Ex- chequer's colleagues in the Cabinet until the last council before it is opened. Consequently, although there may be shrewd guesses in ad- vance as to its contents, no one outside the Cabinet and the highest Treasury officials can possibly know anything until the Chancellor of the Exchequer has spoken. Ever since the days of the Wars of the Roses the Temple has been famous for its gardens, for therein Shakespeare laid the scene of the plucking of the red and white roses, which af ter- wards led to so much. None of its fame in this respect is likely to depart, for not only are the Temple Gardens more carefully attended to than ever, but a narrow slip of waste ground in ifront of the Master of the Temple's residence, Tan field-court, has just been transformed into a small garden and planted with rose trees, appropriately enough, as well as jasmine and waPflowers. A considerable number of the bulbs recently set in the Temple Churchyard have also come up and blossomed, imparting a bright appearance to this sacred and ancient •spot, and giving a spring-like touch to the venerable Temple. It is always a keen delight to any of contemplative habit to leave the busy whirl of Fleet-street and wander into the Temple; and one somewhat sympathises with those who do not realise the wonderful charm of one of the quaintest and most picturesque portions of all London. Now that the electric tramway system in the South of London is very near completion-and it is to be inaugurated by the Prince of Wales early in May, when he has promised to keep the first ticket issued as a memento of the event—it is of special interest to note an un- expected development from a similar system a little further south, with which this one may at no distant date be connected. On the face of it, there is no relation between electric cars and free libraries, but the committee of the Croydon Public Libraries has discovered how to effect one. That borough possesses a central library, with branches at South Norwood and Thornton Heath; and it is now arranged that when a borrower at one of the branch libraries wants a book of which there is but a single copy at the central, the local librarian will telephone to the central, a messenger from which bands the volume to the conductor of the next tram- car that passes, and the conductor delivers it at the branch. Much time and trouble are thus saved; and the idea is so capital that it may be considered certain to be extended to other uses. The assertion, which is now current, that a Chelsea pensioner has discovered, by means of recondite researches at the British Museum and the Public Record Office, that the Vandyke portrait of Charles I., which has long been one of the glories of the Windsor Castle art collection, is a copy, and not as has always been supposed, the original, has caused some degree of fluttering in artistic dovecotes. It has derived an added piquancy, indeed, from being put forward just at the moment when there is much talk about suggested forgeries and imitations in the Louvre and not unnaturally all this has been followed by broad hints that certain art frauds are constantly practised in London and Eng- land generally. It is roundly asserted that there must exist a sort of manufactory of spurious pictures, whence emanate copies or imitations of works of the great masters, which are to be found accepted as originals even in well-known collections. There may, of course, be some exaggeration in this but there can be no mis- taking that the circulation of such rumours has had the effect of seriously alarming various collectors, with the consequence that experts are being called in to determine the rightful authorship of certain pictures which possessed what up to now had been considered an unim- peachable pedigree. "Show Sunday" is not quite the social institution it once was, but it is always interest- ing to a large section of that semi-fashionable, semi-artistic world which forms a considerable portion of all London." As far as outsiders are concerned, it has now taken place for 1903, but that for the members and associates of the JRoyal Academy has yet to come, these latter always being allowed a further week's grace. It would seem, from what has already been seen as well as from what is hinted as likely to be witnessed, that we have not to expect a sensa- tional show at Burlington House this spring. There may be something in the suggestion that the world is becoming blase in matters of art; but the more sensible view would appear to be that, if anything really striking were to be placed on the walls of the Academy, the world would rise to it as it always has done. Whatever: may be the cause, it is a day of small things for us in the world of art as it is in the world of literature. Only in the world of science do we find anything which strikes us in ,the light of a new discovery, but there are cycles in these things, and the time may well ome when in both literature and art we shall bp startled into ecstatic admiration once again. In the matter of science, of course, the talk of the moment is the wonderful discovery which has just been made of the marvel- lons properties of the substance known as radium. M. Curie, a French savant, lias the distinction of making this dis- covery, and London has promptly answered unto Paris, Sir William Crookes, the eminent scien- tist, making it generally known here. It is claimed that radium goes on indefinitely, giving off etheric vibrations, which take the forms both of heat and light, while there is no apparent chemical change. On the face of it, and according to all previously accepted scientific theory, this is impossible; but it is vouched for by very high authorities, and may therefore be accepted by the general. If radium possesses this power, it may work a wonderful change in various directions but as at present it is somewhat more valuable than diamonds, there is no immediate necessity for considering what will happen when it is j brought into general use. R. I





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X40,000 FOR THE R.S.P.O.A.


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