Recent Literature

CONSIDERED as an application of the okl saying that it takes nine tailors to make a man, the most noteworthy product of the Centenary celebration of Alexander Von Humboldt’s birth is the piece of literary patchwork edited by Karl Bruhns, and styled “a life ” of the great traveller, in which four German professors have united to sketch his career, and eight more to catalogue and criticise his works, — a combination curious even in these days of literary partnership, and typical of the character of the subject. The German book was printed in three volumes last year, and the merely biographical part of it has been promptly made available to English and American readers, through a translation in two volumes by the sisters Lassell, which deserves credit for not repeating the idioms of the German language.

The first volume, compiled wholly by Julius Lowenberg, describes Humboldt’s youth and early manhood, his family, education, official service in the bureau of mines, connection with the society of Jena and Weimar, projects of travel, and presentation at the court of Aranjuez in 1799 ; and then sketches in two monographs his journeys in America (1799-1804), and preparations (1804-1S0S) for publishing their results, and his travels in Asia in 1829. The second volume opens with a monograph, by Robert Ave-Lallemant, of Humboldt’s sojourn in Paris from 1S0S to 1827, comprising brief accounts of his scientific companions at the French capital, and references to his diplomatic services during that period ; and ends with a critical narration, by Alfred Dove, of the decline of Humboldt’s life at Berlin, from 1827 to 1859, including details of his association with the Prussian kings, and the conception, preparation, and publication of the Kosmos. An extraordinary list of Humboldt’s writings, with which the second volume of the German book concludes, has been omitted by the translators ; and they have not attempted to add or even epitomize the scientific essays of the eight professors, which form the third volume.

None of the natural defects of such a work have been remedied by the supervision of Professor Bruhns. Each compiler measures Humboldt with a different guage, and describes him by a different method. Herr Lowenberg is more enthusiastic than critical ; Dr. Ave-Lallemant is uncritically statistical; and Dr. Dove is more critical than enthusiastic. This shifting of standard and style is as vexatious to the reader, as sudden changes of conveyance to a tourist. Lowenberg, for instance, says that, “ highly gifted as Humboldt was with mental power, lie was not less endowed with moral excellence ” ; while Dove denies to him “ any perceptible development of moral culture.” Nevertheless, the book is deeply interesting, and a valuable contribution to literature, for it contains much new information, and shows (especially on the part of Dr. Dove) much nice discernment. During the half century since Humboldt became a household name in the United States, the American conception of him has been derived from the effusions of popular scientists, and the fugitive correspondence of the press, and has always been remarkably vague and blindly enthusiastic. The present work, without detracting from the full measure of his glory, will do something to inform the English-reading public of the contradictions of his character, and to clarify, even if it lessens, their admiration of his virtues and achievements. And this is the more important, since he must ever be a unique and romantic figure in the history of physical science; for the almost completed exploration of the surface of the planet, and the growing tendency of the age to specialties, will render the reproduction of such a man impossible. The fact marks an epoch in the world’s progess, that no future traveller can ever reveal so much of the new and strange, nor any future intellect grasp so nearly the whole knowledge of its era. 1 )r. Dove says truly that, “ the honors profusely showered upon the author of Kosmos may, after all, be regarded merely as the homage offered by the men of the nineteenth century, proud of the grand achievements of modern science, to their own comprehensive genius, impersonated, in a manner not granted to every age, in a living representative gifted with a mind alike distinguished for power of arrangement and universality of comprehension.”

One omission in Dr. Dove’s summary of Humboldt’s character is remarkable. He refuses to attempt a definition of Humboldt’s religious faith, “ leaving it,” he says, “ to the hyenas of orthodoxy to drag from the grave of the dead that which he, to some extent, kept concealed from himself,” — an unfortunate expression, unjust alike to the memory of the dead and to the natural and reasonable desire of mankind to be instructed by the opinions of a great intellect, which was devoted, throughout a life of extraordinary length, to studying the manifestations of an Intelligence in Nature. All the world knows that the abstinence of the evangelical clergy ( with a single exception) from any share in the ceremonies of Humboldt’s funeral was, perhaps, its most remarkable feature ; and this fact is duly chronicled by Dr. Dove, who elsewhere alludes to the assertion by “an authority otherwise trustworthy,” that Alexander von Humboldt confessed to a “ heresy,” similar to his brother William’s, in that, besides two things that passed his comprehension, namely, romantic love and music (which last Alexander was accustomed to style the catamite sociale), there was a third, namely, orthodox piety. Granting that the opinions of historical personages on all matters of belief are not rightful property of the public, yet a book is defective which undertakes to tell the whole story of a life, and expressly leaves its religious faith to doubtful inference. It is no definition to describe it generally as a “ System of Pantheism or Naturalism,” nor any excuse that the subject of the biography “held himself aloof from any attempt to reduce it to formula.” When so much is hinted, it is better to ascertain and tell the whole. If the religious opinions of Humboldt were nowhere positively asserted by himself, they are nevertheless discoverable by any willing biographer from his criticisms of the beliefs of others. It is pitiful to see a writer who does not scruple to unveil a hundred petty instances of the sarcasm and vanity of his hero, nor even to recount all the sorry correspondence with Uliland about the Order of Merit, pretend that delicacy forbids a disclosure of his honest theory of the sustaining principle of the U niverse.

— As Mr. Pater several times explains, both in the preface and the body of his work, his Studies in the History of the Renaissance do not relate merely to that period when Gothic art in Italy yielded to the reviving taste for the classic forms. The Renaissance he thinks a process so gradual, and of such vague limits, that it may be traced far back into the dark ages, when the sense of beauty first began to stir after the fall of Greek art and letters. In this he seems right enough; but it is only giving a more general meaning to a word which was specifically used before. Nothing new is established ; and we doubt if the cultivated reader of Mr. Pater’s agreeable essays will learn from them to see the Renaissance in a light different from that in which it had already appeared to him; while we think he will feel that Air. Pater has strained some points in making Dn Bellay and kindred French poets active elements of the Renaissance, though it undoubtedly found its literary consummation in Winckelmann and Goethe. We do not undervalue the particular services that Mr. Pater renders the student of the Renaissance ; there is hardly a page which does not suggest or present some acceptable view of some phase of the subject. Perhaps this is all that he hoped to accomplish ; at any rate it is a very great deal; and his essays are written with so much toleration and decency that he might seem to be treating of anything but matters of art, which inflame controversy as nothing else but matters of religion can. Imagine a manner as unlike Ruskin’s as possible, and you have Mr. Pater’s manner. His essays are on the old French poem, Aucassin and Nicollette, in the gay sensuousness of which he fancies the beginning of a return to the Greek spirit ; on Pico della Mirandula, the first of the Italian Platonists, who dreamed of identifying the truth and beauty of paganism with those of Christianity; on Sandro Botticelli, in whose paintings the love of unreligious beauty is manifest; on Luca della Robbia, whose place in art is midway between the system of the Greeks and that of Michael Angelo, who partakes of the universalizing tendency of the former and the individualizing tendency of the latter ; on Michael Angelo, on Lionardo da Vinci, and on Winckelmann, whose relation to the Renaissance is evident, and on Joachim du Bellay, who is not so evidently related to it, though he may be claimed for it, if one likes.

One of the best of these essays is that on Da Vinci, It is constant enough to all the known facts of Lionardo’s career, and where those are wanting it supplies them by reasonable conjJeture, or, rather, question. Vet much is to be forgiven to all writers on art, who oblige themselves to see ihore in the great chefs d'oeuvre than the honest old masters ever put there; and Mr. Rater requires clemency in this way with the rest. Here, for example, is what he writes of one of the most famous of Da Vinci’s pictures.

“ ‘ La Gioconda ’ is in the truest sense Lionardo’s masterpiece, the revealing instance of his mode of thought and work. In suggestiveness, only the Melancholia of Dilrer is comparable to it; and no crude symbolism disturbs the effect of its subdued and graceful mystery. We all know the face and hands of the figure, set in its marble chair, in that cirque of fantastic rocks, as in some faint light under the sea. The presence that thus so strangely rose beside the waters is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years men had come to desire. Hers is the head upon which all “ the ends of the world are come ” ; and the eyelids are a little weary. It is a beauty wrought out from within the flesh, the deposit, cell by cell, of strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and exquisite passions. Set it for a moment beside one of those white Greek goddesses or beautiful women of antiquity, and how they would be troubled by this beauty, into which the soul with all its maladies has passed ! All the thoughts and experiences of the world have etched and moulded therein that which they have of power to refine and make expressive the outward form, the animalism of Greece, the lust of Rome, the reverie of the middle ages with its spiritual ambition and imaginative loves, the return of the Pagan world, the sins of the Borgias. She is older than the rocks amidst which she sits ; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave ; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen days about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments and tinged the eyelids and hands. The fancy of a perpetual life, sweeping together ten thousand experiences, is an old one ; and modern thought has conceived the idea of humanity as wrought upon by, and summing up in itself, all modes of thought and life. Certainly, Lady Lisa might stand as the embodiment of the old fancy, the symbol of the modern idea.”

She might, but does she ? There is really nothing to prove that Lionardo, who lived before the modern thought, had the old fancy in his mind. In fact, there is nothing to show that he had any purpose, save to make the most beautiful picture he could of a strangely beautiful woman. But modern art-criticism is attributive when it supposes itself interpretative. The sight of an old painting inspires the critic with certain emotions, and these he straightway seizes upon as the motives of the painter. It may happen that both are identical ; or it may happen that the effect produced was never in the painter’s mind at all. Very likely it was not ; but this vice, which Mr. Ruskin invented, goes on perpetuating itself; and Mr. Pater, who is as far from thinking with Mr. Ruskin as from writing like him, falls a helpless prey to it. Yet, as Mr. Pater deals more with the general character of the painter than with his intentions in particular works, his offence is far less than that of his original in this respect, and he does really give us an almost satisfactory impression of a genius as grand as it was fine, as profound as it was various, in his study of 1 .ionardo.

His theory of Michael Angelo, as the last rather than the first of his kind, has also much to support it; and the idea that he is to be understood through those sculptors who went before him, and some modern authors and artists, and not through his immediate successors or his school, is quite acceptable. Ilis “professed disciples are in love with his strength only, and seem not to feel his grave and temperate sweetnesss. Theatricality is their chief characteristic ; and that is a quality as little attributable to Michael Angelo as to Mino or Luca Signorelli. With him as with them, all is passionate, serious, impulsive... . That strange interfusion of sweetness and strength is not to be found in those who claimed to be his followers, but it is found in many of those who worked before him, and in many others down to our own time,—in William Blake, for instance, and in Victor Hugo, who, though not of his school, and unaware, are his true sons, and help us to understand him, as he in turn interprets and justifies them. Perhaps this is the chief use in studying old masters.”

It is Mr. Pater’s delicate suggestiveness in this place and in other places that makes him useful in the study of a subject which, if you do not limit it by the exactest statement, has no limits. Itis Renaissance is a larger affair than the Renaissance of most writers and thinkers, but it is also vastly vaguer, and his thoughts about it partake in general of this vagueness. One follows him well pleased with his style, and grateful for his clear perception of particular aspects and characteristics ; yet doubtful after all whether much that lie calls Renaissance was not merely ripe and perfect Gothic in literature and art. That it is at least as much the one as the other may be safely maintained. In fact, until we come to Winckelmann, we are not certain that it is the Renaissance which we have had to do with. But Winckclmann became so truly Hellenic that there can be no question but we lay fast hold upon the Renaissance in him. Coming long after the mystical middle ages, he is no more of them than if he had gone before them with the other Greeks ; and as Mr. Pater says in one of the finest passages of his book, “ with the sensuous element in Greek art he deals in the pagan manner ; and what is implied in that ? It has sometimes been said that art is a means of escape from the tyranny of the senses. It may be so for the spectator ; he may find that the spectacle of supreme works of art takes from the life of the senses something of its turbid fever. But this is possible for the spectator only because the artist in producing these works has gradually sunk his intellectual and spiritual ideas in sensuous form. He may live, as Keats lived, a pure life ; but his soul, like that of Plato’s false astronomer, becomes more and more immersed in sense until nothing else has any interest for him. How could such a one ever again endure the grayness of the ideal or spiritual world . . . To the Greek the immersion in the sensuous was indifferent. Greek sensuousness, therefore, does not fever the blood ; it is shameless and childlike. But Christianity, with its uncompromising idealism, discrediting the slightest touch of sense, has lighted up for the artistic life, with its inevitable sensuousness, a background of flame. ‘ I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and lb, 1 must die ! ’ It is hard to pursue that life without something of conscious disavowal of a spiritual world; and this imparts to genuine artistic interests a kind of intoxication. From this intoxication Winekelmann is free ; he fingers those pagan marbles with unsinged hands, with no sense of shame or loss. That is to deal with the sensuous side of art in the pagan manner.”

And this was the true, the perfect Renaissance. But it came in a critic, it seems, and not in an artist.

— Mr. Bryant’s Orations and Addresses were delivered on a variety of occasions, such as commemorative observances in honor of eminent authors and artists, the dedications of statues and institutions, and the celebration of great public interests, like the electric telegraph, Italian unity, and the reform of city government. But the greater part of the volume into which they are now collected is filled by the orations on Cole the painter, on Cooper, Irving, Halleck, and Verplanck ; and it need not disparage the rest to say that these are altogether the best. 'They are longer and more complete, and they form the most intelligent' and intelligible sketch we have of the main intellectual and social features of our first great literary epoch. Mr. Bryant, of course, must speak of those times with something of a contemporary’s slight of detail ; but on the whole the reader of his criticisms (for such in a high and generous sense they are) cannot very well fail of a true conception of tlye period which we have called a great one. Our literature has since vastly increased in variety, and it has no doubt gained in depth and subtilety ; but the men who first made it known — the Knickerbocker School, as it has been called—were masters in their art, and in their several ways remain unsurpassed. Irving is still the first of American writers in ease and grace, and if we could but lilt the veil of the large popular world, which is so remote from the critic, we suspect that we should still find him first in the general favor and admiration. The publishers multiply editions of Cooper, and the translations of his works continue to introduce the American name to readers who know nothing and care nothing for our later literature. That school underwent and overcame more than any since, and gave us fame abroad when English criticism was as maliciously inimical as it is now mischievously fond. Indeed, it is doubtful if even Mrs. Stowe’s great novel has made us more widely known than Cooper’s romances ; and it is a satisfaction to have the work he accomplished so heartily recognized by a contemporary who was himself a great part of the literary epoch of which lie speaks. Mr. Bryant does not stint his praise ; neither docs he fail to trace the limitations, or to point out the faults of the author he praises ; and whatever may be thought of his estimate of them, it must be allowed that his analyses are models of criticism, in temperance, discrimination, and liberality. The discourse on Cooper is particularly interesting, because of the approval given by a life-long journalist to Cooper in his contests with the newspapers. The press had aspersed his motives in attacking his works, and Cooper sued his unfair critics in the courts. Mr. Bryant doubted the policy, not the justice of the proceeding. “ I said to myself,

* Alas I Leviathan is not so tamed !1

As he proceeded, however, I saw that he understood the matter better than I. He put a hook into the nose of this huge monster, wallowing in his inky pool, and bespattering the passers-by ; he dragged him to the land and made him tractable. One suit followed another ; one editor was sued, I think, half a dozen times; some of-them found themselves under a second indictment before the first was tried,” and he beat every one who did not retract his libels. “ The occasion of these suits was far from honorable to those who provoked them, but the result was, as I had almost said, creditable to all parties : to him as the courageous prosecutor, to the administration of justice in this country, and to the docility of the newspaper press, which he had disciplined into good manners.”

The orations on Irving and Halleck are of the same general character as that on Cooper, and unite biographical notices with a sketch of their times and an examination of their work. Irving’s world has been kept present with us by the vitality of his writings ; but Halleck’s world, and that of Verplanck, are curiously lost and forgotten. One splendid dramatic lyric and one exquisite elegy are nearly all that remain of a poet who wrote satires, and laughed at fashions, and mocked magistrates, and made the town talk of him. Of Verplanck—the eminent citizen, the friend of letters, the conscientious politician— there is even less left; but if it is mournfully instructive to recall the faded glories of the poet, it is also useful to consider, in Mr. Bryant’s tribute to his friend, how very little time it is since public men in Hew York had liberal culture, and combined social worth with popular influence. He does full justice to the valuable qualities of such a man, and he gathers with a generous tenderness the remnants of Halleck’s fame around an amiable figure ; but it seems to us that Irving is more affectionately touched than either of the others. One of the closing passages of the discourse on him embodies so much that is characteristic of Mr. Bryant’s warmer strain in these commemorations of his old friends, and so much that is true concerning the endurance of all good literature, and its elevating anti consoling influence, that we cannot render his admirable volume a less service than to quote it: —

“ Since he began to write, empires have risen and passed away ; mighty captains have appeared on the stage of the world, performed their part, and been called to their account; wars have been fought and ended which have changed the destinies of the human race. New arts have been invented and adopted, and have pushed tire old out of use ; the household economy of half mankind has undergone a revolution. Science has learned a new dialect and forgotten the okl ; the chemist of 1S07 would be a vain babbler among his brethren of the present day, and would in turn become bewildered in the attempt to understand them. Nation utters speech to nation in words that pass from realm to realm with the speed of light. Distant countries have been made neighbors ; the Atlantic Ocean has become a narrow frith, and the Old “World and the New shake hands across it; the East and the “West look in at each other’s windows. The new inventions bring new calamities, and men perish in crowds by the recoil of their own devices. WTar has learned more frightful modes of havoc, and armed himself with deadlier weapons ; armies are borne to the battle-field on the wings of the wind, and dashed against each other and destroyed with infinite bloodshed. We grow giddy with this perpetual whirl of strange events, these rapid and ceaseless mutations ; the earth seems to reel under our feet, and we turn to those who write like Irving, for some assurance that we are still in the same world into which we were born; we. read and are quieted and consoled. In his pages we see that the language of the heart never becomes absolete; that Truth and Good and Beauty, the offspring of God, are not subject to the changes which beset the inventions of men.”

—No just novel-reader can complain that he (or she) has not full measure of most delicious love-making, in the very pretty story called, A Pair of Blue Eyes. In fact, there is no stint of that mental sweet (if it is mental), and the quality is so delicate that it does hot cloy. But the author had need to lavish it with a generous hand, for he brings his romance to but a sad close at last, of which we feel it our duty to forewarn all tender-hearted readers, who do not want character, or life, or subtile analysis, but marriage, and marriage, and again marriage, in a novel. To be sure, there is a marriage in A Pair of Blue Eyes ; but it is not the marriage of the two people who ought to marry ; the author effects a compromise : the heroine marries — the wrong person, and dies. We try to carry it off lightly, but we will privately own that poor, pretty Elfrida’s fate has been an affliction to us, and that we would willingly have had her innocent guile, her simple duplicity bring her to a happier if less probable end than they do. Her character is nearly all there is of the book, though neither of her lovers is drawn with a touch wanting in distinctness. Of the two, Stephen Smith, on whom she first tries her romantic and adventurous heart, is the better piece of work, his gentle, negative, constant nature being studied to admiration; yet Knight also is a genuine man, and it is not his fault if he is uninteresting in proportion as he is literary. Since Pendennis and Warrington, many personages of our calling have figured in fiction, and they have nearly all been bores ; and some blight of tiresomeness seems in novels to fall upon a class who in life are so delightful. It is to be said of Knight, that he is something more than the conventional literary man of fiction ; but he at no time gives us the sense of entire projection from the author’s mind that Stephen Smith does, mid that, in a vastly more triumphant way, Elfrida does. He remains more or less dependent, more evidently a creature of the plot; but lie very imaginably serves as the object of Elfrida’s adoring love, after her heart has helplessly wandered from its first ignorant choice. She is as fresh in fiction as she is lovable and natural. With all her little complexities of action, she is essentially very simple. Sire desires to love and to be loved, and when her father forbids the thought of Stephen Smith, she runs away with him “to make sure” and when afterwards she falls more profoundly in love with Knight, the sense of having first loved some one else oppresses her as a wrong to him, which she longs to have redressed by some former love affair on his part; she would like to show him how much she could forgive him, but she has nothing to forgive in that way, and this makes it impossible for her to tell of her own former engagement. She has no pride, she has only love ; she has no arts save in love, and thrusts herself a helpless victim into the power of the wretched woman, Jethway, whom she had never wronged. Slie pursues Knight to London, when he breaks off the engagement in the same blindly loving way that she runs off with Stephen. We cannot give any just idea of how gracefully and modestly all this pure analysis of character is managed by the author, whose knowledge we ask the reader to compare with the knowingness of Mr. Charles Reade, for example, in similar performances. The charm, the sweetness, the tenderness of the story are not excelled by its truth ; and for a good, solid, intolerable bit of tragedy, we commend the close of the story as something that may almost stand beside the close of TurgeniefPs Liza. The meeting of Smith and Knight, and their mutual explanations; their going down to Elfrida’s home together in open rivalry, on the same train that carries her lifeless body thither, — is a passage of such gloom that a dark shadow falls retrospectively from it over all the book, and solemnizes every part of it. We shall probably not have a hand in parcelling out the laurels of posterity, but we would fain see A Pair of Blue Eyes decked with a durable leaf or two.

— A very beautiful, adorably inconsequent, empty-headed young lady, who laces herself almost to death, but abandons her corsets just in time to marry the brilliant young medical genius who forbids them, and then to bring him to the verge of ruin by her extravagance; the gifted young doctor in question, who drives his own carriage as a public vehicle at night, to repair her ravages in his fortune, who goes to sea in charge of an epileptic young lord,— epileptic, but noble-hearted, — and falls overboard, and saves himself on a raft manned by an unknown corpse with a pocketful of precious stones, which the newcomer secures and then goes mad with mental and physical suffering, and stavs mad above a year, and comes to himself in the home of a good English farm wife, living in South Africa ; the wicked, worthless husband of this good woman, who loved Mrs. Staines before she married, who goes with Dr. Staines to the diamond fields and profits by the doctor’s knowledge of everything but human nature to carry their common findings to Capetown to sell, and then concludes to push on to England, where he reports Staines dead, wooes Mrs. Staines, and, by the guilty facility of her father, has the banns twice cried in the church, and has brought the lady to the extremity of buying a phial of poison when Dr. Staines returns and throws him out of the window, and he falls on the spikes of the area railing, and goes with a very bad limp ever after ; a statuesque young noblewoman full of good offices to the Starneses, and incapable of pronouncing the letter r ; who gets rid of dyspepsia by marrying an Irishman, an old Dr. Staines, uncle to the young doctor and every bit as miraculous (would to heaven they cured diseases as promptly and dramatically in real life as those doctors of Mr. Reade’s always do !), who prescribes the Irishman ; these, with a few Boers, Hottentots, lionhunts, and a trifle of storms and childstealing, arc the simple and unambitious elements out of which Mr. Reade constructs his story of A Simpleton. Its prime qualities are uniform probability, moral elevation, modest unconsciousness of the author of any good points made, profound medical science, and encyclopedic grasp of general information. These characteristics are so conspicuous that we think it all the more our duty to call the preoccupied reader’s attention to the skilful study of a lightish sort of womanhood in Mrs. Staines. The story would have been better as a play ; but it is a prodigiously entertaining story.


IT is always with pleasure that we hear of a novel by M. Cherbuliez; for, with all his faults, he has certainly the merit of being entertaining whenever lie puts pen to paper, whether it be to write about German literature, or to keep us for three months in a state of fierce uncertainty about the result of some sensational novel. And we are willing to call him always entertaining, in spite of some disappointment at finding Le Prince Vitale and Le Chevdl de Phidias anything but plain works of imagination. If one goes to them for information lie will be entertained as well ; if he goes for entertainment alone he will be disappointed. But no one will ever fall asleep over his novels. Not only is the plot puzzling enough, in general, to keep one awake even on Sunday afternoons in midsummer, but every page, every paragraph has a snap to it which is more interesting at the time than words of weightier wisdom are apt to be. Over some of his novels one is not tempted to ponder; there is no deep lesson to be found in such a melodramatic novel as La Revanche de Joseph Noiret; or if any is intended to be given, its whole effect is lost in the whirl and excitement of the story. One is satisfied with the great interest of the novel ; he gets no moral instruction from it any more than from an opera. No rake was ever reformed by seeing Don Giovanni well given.

Hut there is something depressing in the sight of mere cleverness, — one is too strongly reminded of rich young men of thirty who spend their days in carving cherry-stones to hang on ladies’ watchchains, — and the more fascinated by it we are at the time, the greater is our subsequent dissatisfaction. But in some of Cherbuliez’s novels we find something better than a delectation of our curiosity, namely, a careful study of character. In Prosper Randoce, for instance, a translation of which is announced, there is a very careful delineation of an interesting man, one of a complex nature, modified in a way that perhaps marks the present time as strongly as any. For it is the impression made by his period upon the inactive man of thought by which that period is known to posterity. A busy worker is not annoyed with doubts,—he does what is set before him without troubling himself about the meaning of hidden things ; but it is his introspective brother who gazes at the reflection of the times in his own soul, and who records it for the delight of his contemporaries and the amazement of his grandchildren. We now-a-days read Goethe’s Werther with a very definite feeling of wonder, but yet few books have ever been written that were so successful at the time as that. Its predecessor, Rousseau’s Nouvelle HtloYse, again, as is well known, created an immense excitement, which is only partly explained to us by the grace with which it is written. The same man who, a hundred years ago wfiuld have bedewed Werther with his tears, and under slight provocation have added one to the long list of names which caused Madame de Stall to say that that book had been the cause of more suicides than any beautiful woman, would now smile at such unreserved emotion, and content himself with a vague feeling of wonder as to whether after all it made much difference if he were not Successful in his love making. It is the worst thing about pessimism that it creates indifference. Such a man is painted in Ditlier in Prosper Randoce. Chcrbuliez has caught an image of the times and drawn him in that book. In this his new novel he lias drawn a being who, if faith can be given to older writers, is not a product of the nineteenth century alone, we mean, namely, a crafty woman.

The story is told by a young man in letters to a friend of his, a lady living on the shores of the Rhine, who asks him to visit her, and who adds to her ofler the statement that she has chosen for him the young woman —a lovely creature with eyes of heavenly blue — whom he is to marry. In answer to this proposition he gives her an account of his past life, which has had the effect of putting him on his guard against the fascinations of such eyes. W hen about twenty-five he made up his mind, much against his plain-speaking father’s will, to devote himself to painting rather than to business, and in accordance with this plan he sets out for Dresden. On his way he stops at Geneva, where he makes the acquaintance of the 1 loldenis family. 1 he father is a venerable German, who very probably corresponds to the Frenchman’s idea of Emperor William, inasmuch as beneath a mask of piety he hides a very dishonorable nature. He wheedles the young man, Tony Flamerin, out of the greater part of the little sum with which he had started in the great world. But before this was discovered, Tony had fallen in love with his eldest daughter Meta, who was kind to the rest of the children, who wept over German poetry, whose blue eyes attracted him, while he was kept from flagging in his attentions by the presence of an aged lover, a baron, on whom she never frowned. One fine day he finds her in silent and apparently joyous contemplation of her name as baroness, which fills him with sudden wrath, and drives him from the house. The next moment he hears of M. lloldenis s failure, and a visit to that gentleman gives the assurance that he is a swindler, and he does not derive any consolation from the texts of Scripture which the old gentleman quotes for his comfort. He leaves at once for Dresden with the scanty remnants of his small fortune, and a heart full of bitterness against the false-hearted Meta. In that new home he devotes himself to painting, and by his success he attracts the attention of M. de Mauserre, the French minister, This gentleman is in love with a woman who is unfortunately married to a worthless man, and he meditates throwing over his diplomatic career in order to live with her in retirement, and await either separation from her husband or his muchlonged-for death. Soon he yields to that plan, and in a few years we find them living in France with their daughter, a little girl about five years old, for whom a governess is needed. Much to Tony’s surprise Meta Holdenis comes to take that place. She succeeds in conquering the temper and winning the love of the spoiled child, she delights them all with her singing, she makes herself invaluable to the child’s mother, and Tony soon finds the iciness he liad assumed melting away before her explanation of her apparent faithlessness; in Geneva, and her charmingness at the time, lie even goes so far as to tell her his love, but without any definite answer from her. lint this young woman does not content herself with such small game, she begins to' make herself of service to M. de Mauserre, artfully to flatter him, both about his youthful appearance and the possibilities of success if lie were to re-enter active life ; lor he had, not unnaturally, been thinking in his cooler moments of what he might have clone if he had stayed in the diplomatic service. Tony overhears more or less of her conversations with M. de Mauserre, and the complications of the novel grow thicker. For the reader to follow them in this brief analysis would be as wearisome as to trace a journey on a map instead of taking it one’s self. It is with great skill that the author acts before us Tony’s love, as well as M. de Mauserre’s, the blindness of Madame de Mauserre, and the great wiliness of Meta. Meta fascinates every one ; Tony knows her to lie crafty but he cannot help loving her, and even in this his confession, when,’naturally enough, he tries to make it out as slight as possible on his part, it is easy to see how interested he was, and partly, too, from jealousy of M. de Mauserre. At last she is beaten at every point; she comes very near marrying M. de Mauserre, but she fails. Tony frees himself, and she leaves the house. Later, Tony sees her again in the dress of a Protestant sister, decrying the vices of the French, and recounting her version of her adventures as a governess in that country in confirmation of her statements.

We can certainly commend this book as entertaining. To be sure, it has a tendency to put the Germans in an unfavorable light, but no one can imagine that M. Chcrbuliez thinks all Germans are hypocrites. There are swindlers iu Prussia as well as in France or America; a German was taken probably because the contrast between the saintly exterior and the evil heart within was more marked, and would he felt more strongly by the reader. At any rate, we can read it without looking upon it as a political tract. And then, no country will be able to point at Meta IToldenis, and rejoice that there are no such intriguing women within its boundaries as there are in Germany, or if there he any, it speaks highly for the craftiness of the women. But, jesting aside, every one will be interested in this picture of the wily woman. In the first place, she is really ingenious ; often when men undertake to give us a representation of such a character they set before us a clumsy person with no device, who is no more to be feared than is a beetle-browed conspirator upon the stage. But Meta is fully armed and equipped, she pleases every one, not only until she is found out, but even after she is found out, which seems to be the truest touch in the description of such a person.

Then, too, the question of her moral guilt is left in a certain obscurity. There are many who judge such a character with absolute severity, they are unwilling to hear a word in its defense, and, in fact, one may Very soon.get into deep water in apologizing for such a fault as distinguished Meta; but she is shown to have half believed in herself, to have been able to persuade herself to whatever she pleased. There is no apology for her, nor, indeed, any perfectly satisfactory explanation of her conduct ; we have simply a study of a character such as is not unknown in other parts of the globe than those in which the scene is laid. Some of the devices which Meta employs, as, for example, that of the letter towards the end of the book, are very much like the epistolary complications we see oftener in a theatre than elsewhere ; but throughout the boolc we find Meta herself, as well as all the others, including the clear-sighted people who disbelieve in her from the first, admirably described. Especially is this true of Mdme. de Mauserre, whose simplicity and perfect honesty, as well as her confidence in M. de Mauserre, are set in broad contrast with the conduct of Meta. We sec her perfect frankness and her inability to act with any deceit at a time when, if Meta were in her shoes, M. de Mauserre would have been speedily brought back to his allegiance by a little coquetry. Probably, Mdme. de Mauserre coukl have easily advised any friend of hers how to act under similar circumstances, but she was incapable of acting in that way herself.

As for M. de Mauserre he is well-drawn ; we see him as an ardent lover first, then somewhat regretting all the opportunities he had given up on account of the scandal of his life, and then succumbing to flattery, and open to jealousy in a very human way. 'Pony, without going into self-analysis, gives us a very definite notion of his own character, and shows himself far removed from dulness. It is pretty to see,” to use Pepys’s phrase, the way in which he softens the account of his love for Meta, as if he were conscious, as he undoubtedly was, of the folly of Ms love, and that is a quality that a man finds it hard to pardon in an old love.

To our thinking, this novel is one of the best, if not the best, that Cherbuliez has yet written. But too careful comparisons are idle. Every one will find it entertaining, and from a young writer, who is so far from showing any signs of exhaustion, we arc justified in expecting a great deal in the future. We await another novel from him with considerable impatience.

  1. Life of Alexander Von Humboldt. Compiled in Commemoration of the Centenary of his Birth, by J. LOWENBERG, ROBERT AV^-LALLEMANT, and ALFRED DOVE. Edited by Professor KARL BRUHNS. 2 Vols. Translated from the German by Jane and “Caroline Lassell. London : Longmans, Green, & Co. Boston : Lee and Shepard. 1S73. Studies in the History of the Renaissance. By WALTER H, PATER. London : Macmillan & Co., I373-
  2. Orations and Addresses. By WIITIAM CULLEN BRYANTNew York : G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1873.
  3. A Pair of Blue Eyes. A Novel. By THOMAS HARDY. New York : Holt and Williams. 1873.
  4. A Simpleton. By CHARLES READE. Boston : J. R. Osgood & Co, 1S73.
  5. All books mentioned under this head are to be had at Schanhof and Muller’s, 40 Winter St., Poston, Mass.
  6. Meta Holdenis. Par Victor Cherbuliez, Paris: 1873-