A speaking tube in Canterbury’s Victoria Park. Not too practical at 300 miles (480 km) distance! E Morris.
Charles Lamb is in London, writing to Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the Lake District. Lamb is overseeing the publication of a volume of his friend’s collected poetry and wants to inform Coleridge of what he has decided, with the advice of the publisher, Longman, and Wordsworth, a great friend of Coleridge. He has changed a line in one poem, so that:
… Here is a new, independent, and really a very pretty poem. In fact … I have even dared to restore [the words] “If ‘neath this roof thy wine-cheer’d moments pass,” for “Beneath this roof if thy cheer’d moments pass.” “Cheer’d” is a sad general word; “wine-cheer’d” I’m sure you’d give me, if I had a speaking-trumpet to sound to you 300 miles. But I am your factotum, and that (save in this instance, which is a single case, and I can’t get at you) shall be next to a fac-nihil—at most, a fac-simile.*
I have ordered “Imitation of Spenser” to be restored on Wordsworth’s authority; and now, all that you will miss will be “Flicker and Flicker’s Wife,” “The Thimble,” “Breathe, dear harmonist” and, I believe, “The Child that was fed with Manna.”
From The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, 1796-1820, edited by E. V. Lucas.
Coleridge was not happy with all that his factotum did, and reversed some of the changes in later editions. We live in a different world! Corrections and changes can be made from 300 miles away – and much further – instantly, onto the computer application that the printer can manipulate in all sorts of ways. The 300 mile speaking tube exists as well. We should be grateful, and we should use these technologies wisely.
* Facere, Latin for make or do; fac-totum, do everything; fac-nihil, do nothing; fac-simile, make or do something similar.