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I TOWN TOPICS. II

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I TOWN TOPICS. II (From Our London Correspondent.) I Immediately the House of Commons re- assembles after the Easter vacation, proceedings in Parliament should become absorbingly interesting, for not only is there the introduce tion of the long-promised Licensing Bill, which it is stated will be in the personal charge of the Prime Minister—in itself an indication of the importance attached to the measure-but the Budget will follow within two or three days, and in view of the revealed deficit in the national income for the financial year just ended, amounting to several millions sterling, together with the prospect of an expensive time in the current financial twelvemonth, a good deal of anxiety is being expressed as to the nature of the proposals that Mr. Austen Chamberlain may decide upon in order to make two ends meet. For so young a Chancellor, a truly splendid opportunity is presented of showing himself to be a great financier; but, on the other hand, the particular circumstances of the forthcoming Budgst will furnish anything but a Primrose path for him to tread, and the way will be studded with pitfalls, into which, besides falling himself, he might perchance cause the Ministry to stumble. The Income-tax payer, with the impost at elevenpence in the pound in a time of peace, had some months ago looked forward to a reduction in this particular burden happy will he be now if it is not increased, as is sug- gested in certain quarters is likely to be the case. The coal-tax, Mr. Chamberlain has re- cently intimated, will net be raised, and whether it would be advisable to reimpose the Corn Registration duty, taken off by Mr. Ritchie lasb April, is a matter that the new Chancellor and his colleagues in the Cabinet have, doubtless, very carefully considered. Numerous suggestions for new methods of raising revenue are being freely proposed, one of the most notable of which is that there should be a thorough revision of the rates for publicans' licenses, coupled with an increase in the small uniform fee paid by brewers for the privilege of being allowed to brew beer for sale, as well as with the imposition of a somewhat light tax on what are termed temperance drinks." Taxes on cats, bicycles, and bachelors—the last named* put forward quite seriously-are among the other hints offered to the Chancellor by amateur Budget-framers. The war in the Far East has now lasted a couple of months, and after the excitement of the opening days when the Japanese fleet struck their great blow at Port Arthur the interval has proved comparatively quiet, save for the regular attacks on the same place, and, latterly, the skirmishes in Northern Korea. The Japanese have so skilfully screened their movements on land that even yet it is not clear what their real intentions are. Russia is fast pouring more men into Manchuria; but not content with the huge forces already there General Kuropatkin has called for four more Army Corps, or an additional total of nearly a quarter of a million troops, because unlike our Army Corps, which number about thirty thousand men, a Russian Army Corps on a war footing consists of sixty thousand of all arms. The struggle, it is increasingly ap- I parent, is bound to be a prolonged one, and the vital question for the Eastern "Island Kingdom" is-can she stand the strain F British interest in the East is not exclusively confined at the moment to the Russo-Japanese conflict, for the long-threatened trouble in Thibet has at last come to a head, and on Good Friday morning the papers contained the news that the inevitable collision had occurred, and had resulted in considerable bloodshed. History was again repeating itself, as it was on a Good Friday six years ago that the telegrams arrived announcing Lord Kitchener's victory over the Dervishes at Atbara-the battle which preceded by a few months the final "smashing of the I Khalifa at Omdurman. t, The progress already made with the Queen Victoria national memorial outside Bucking- ham Palace and in the arrangement of the pro- cessional route along the Mall, which is an essential part of the scheme, serves as a re- minder of the extensive process of renovation now being carried out on the Albert Memorial in Kensington-gardens. The lofty and imposing Eleanor Cross that so strikingly commemorates the virtues and activities of our late Sovereign's Consort had suffered somewhat severely from the effects of the London atmosphere, while the figure of Prince Consort which forms the in- ternal feature of the monument was obliged to be restored only some two years ago. During the last eighteen months the whole of the lower part of the structure, including the statue, has been completely enshrouded with scaffolding, behind which workmen have been busily engaged in the process ot reguilding and in thoroughly restoring the mosaic work, the latter proving a tedious and difficult opera- tion, requiring the exercise of much care and patience. By some ultra-aesthetic people the Memorial has been sarcastically dubbed a gilt monstrosity," and in a successful play now holding the boards at one of the chief London theatres it is unkindly referred to as "barbaric," but the ordinary individual, who has an almost Pagan weakness for a little brightness, will not be inclined to gird at thA resplendent appearance that the edifice will present when the entire work is completed and the wooden encasement finally removed. It may be recalled that Parliament voted fifty thousand pounds to the Albert Memorial, and though no similar grant has so far been made by the Mother Country for the Queen Victoria Memorial, it is not unlikely that the precedent will sooner or later be followed, especially as the self-governing colonies have already sent or promised handsome subventions from their public resources towards the present scheme. Some degree of success has already attended the latest innovation introduced by the Post Office, that being the provision of little cases, holding twenty-four penny stamps. The case consists of cardboard bearing on the front the royal cypher, and inside an amount of postal information which would often prove of con- siderable value. The stamps are. arranged in four pages of six stamps each, and the whole makes a neat little booklet just the proper size for the waistcoat pocket. Of course nothing is saved by purchasing the twenty-four stamps at a time; as a matter of fact, the buyer pays 2s.. d., or a halfpenny over and above their value in order to defray the cost of the cardboard covers. Handy and useful as the new arrangement undoubtedly is, might I be allowed to point out to the postal authorities that it could be even improved upon ? Why not, instead of twenty-four penny stamps, make up the amount with eighteen penny and twelve halfpenny ones P This would increase the utility of the booklet and tend to popularise it, because the ordinary individual frequently needs a halfpenny stamp, and it is irritating then only to find oneself with penny ones. Two halfpenny stamps can always be used in lieu of a penny one for postage and receipt purposes; but it is not permissible to cut a penny stamp in half in order to obtain halfpenny ones. I notice that the Kaiser William in some o the accounts published here of his trip to the Mediterranean is being referred to as the Emperor of Germany," which is, of course, a misdescription. Apparently it is thought that the term German Emperor is in no way diffe- rent from that of Emperor of Germany., This confusion arises froro a forgetfulness of the character of the German Empire and the circumstances under which it was pro- claimed thirty-three years ago this month. With its various States and Sovereign Princes, Germany is not an empire in the same sense as is Austria, or as France was j under the last Napoleon, but, according to the Constitution of April 16, 1871, it is a Con- federate League under the hereditary presi- dentship of the King of Prussia, who bears the title of German Emperor (Deutscher Kaiser). Bismarck, in his interesting" Reflections and Reminiscences," mentions that in the discus- sions which took place at Versailles during the siege of Paris regarding the assumption of the Imperial title, he carefully explained the difference between the adjectival form German Emperor and the genitival Emperor of Germany, pointing out that the latter involved a sovereign claim to the non-Prussian dominions, which the German Princes were not inclined to allow. The old King William was hostile to any Imperial designation, but if it had to be adopted pre- ferred the more ambitious style 01 Emperor of Germany, and Bismarck was in temporary disgrace owing to his insistence on the other title, which was the one employed in the Decree of the Reichstag. The Iron Chancellor further tells us that at the proclamation of the Empire in the Galerie des Glaces at the Palace of Versailles the Grand Duke of Baden, know- ing the King's objection to the chosen title, called for cheers, not for the German Emperor, but for the Emperor William, and thus neatly avoided offending his Majesty. Perhaps the most notable point about the Eastertide football was the louder than ever protest against Good Friday matches, but at a time when gate money is the dominant con- sideration it is improbable that any practical steps will be taken by the authorities of the game in the matter. The struggle for supremacy in the First Division of the League continues as keen as ever, and while Sheffield Wednesday appears likely to bear off the palm the position is by no means assured, and an equally good fight is being made for second place. The famous West Bromwich Albion team—"the Throstles"—are destined to descend to the Second Division, while it is practically certain that Preston North End and Woolwich Arsenal will obtain the coveted promotion to the premier class. The closing proceed- ings in connection with the determina- tion of honours in the Southern League this season also retain their interest, and the Eng- lish Cup foal promises to afford football lovers a thoroughly strenuous contest. But with the approach of the month of May one naturally thinks of the prospects of the great summer game, and there is every indication that the season of 1904 will be a very full, and, let us hope, prosperous one. True, we shall not have the opportunity of welcoming a return visit from our Australian kith and km, and the pro- jected tour of an Indian contingent has fallen through but, on the other hand, a strong com- bination is coming over from South Africa, including several of the men who were members of the 1901 team. County cricket should prove quite as good as last year, when Middlesex wrested the championship from the grasp of Yorkshire. R. j

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