Recent Literature

IF novelists and poets are not the best critics of their art, they are often the most suggestive commentators upon it; and when they have the skill to formulate and weave together their opinions they give us something rather better than mere criticism. Readers of Mr. Henry James, Jr., were for some time, and a few of them may still be, in doubt whether he is more a novelist than critic; but we think his recent volume of essays1 may go a good way towards fixing the opinion that his peculiar attractiveness in this line of writing is due in great measure to the fact that he is himself a creative artist. His reviews of other writers are not precisely criticism, but they possess a pleasant flavor of criticism, agreeably diffused through a mass of sympathetic and often keenly analytical impressions. It is saying a great deal when we admit that he reminds us more of Sainte-Beuve than any other English writer; but he is more a causeur than the author of the famous CanSeries, and less a critic in the systematic sense. We hardly know how we can fully illustrate our meaning except by more references and quotations than it is convenient to make here. But let the reader turn to the splendid chapter on Balzac, who has never before received so abundant and interesting a showing, within similar compass, as at Mr. James’s hands. In this there are to be found most of the interesting facts of Balzac’s life grouped with good judgment, a sketchy view of the character of his works, and a great many vivid statements of the impressions produced by them. But we can imagine that to a person who had read nothing of Balzac the article would have an exasperating inconclusiveness. It is a mixture of the frankest admiration and (to use Mr. James’s own word) of brutal snubbing, which continues to the very last page. The one unqualified statement — and that, by the way, is a real gain to one’s stock of well-defined perceptions—is that Balzac’s great characteristic was his “sense of this present terrestrial life, which has never been surpassed, and in which his genius overshadowed everything else.” For the rest, we are given to understand that his greatest merits were his greatest faults; that his novels are ponderous and shapeless, yet have more composition and more grasp on the reader’s attention than any others, etc. “ He believed that he was about as creative as the Deity, and that if mankind and human history were swept away the Comédie Humaine would be a perfectly adequate substitute for them,” is the writer’s witty statement of the degree of his conceit; and he quotes Taine, approvingly, as saying that after Shakespeare Balzac is our great magazine of documents on human nature; yet this he partially retracts, again, by saying that when Shakespeare is suggested we feel rather Balzac’s differences from him. The French novelist’s atmosphere, we are told, is musty, limited, artificial. In the next sentence, however, Mr. James assures us that, notwithstanding this “artificial” atmosphere, Balzac is to be taken, like Shakespeare, as a final authority on human nature. Then again he lowers him a peg by saying that he lacked “ that slight but needful thing, — charm.” “But our last word about him is that he had incomparable power.” The writer himself seems to feel, in this closing sentence, that he has given a somewhat too paradoxical summary. The same difficulty could be raised with all the other essays in this collection, excepting the one on Tourguéneff, which comes near being a masterpiece of criticism, and perhaps ought to be decidedly rated as such. In general, there is a want of some positive or negative result clearly enunciated ; and the presence of such results is what, to our mind, distinguishes the systematic critic like Sainte-Beuve or Matthew Arnold from the highly suggestive, charming talker like Mr. James.

If we are speaking of criticism, the question is whether we tire to approach as nearly as possible to an equation of conflicting views, or whether we are to work out a problem to some conclusion on one side or the other. As a matter of definition we are inclined to say that pure criticism has for its aim the latter task. In the case of Balzac, for example, there is a wonderful stimulus and surprise in the obvious inadequacy and disrelish with which Sainte-Beuve treats him. The very narrowness of his judgment has a value. Mr. James may say that he does not write either for readers who simply want information about French authors, or for those who prefer opinions that cut only one way ; and that he cultivates breadth, of set purpose. It is not necessary, however, to be narrow in taking a side : there are critics who show the finest comprehension of all the aspects of a genius, yet on the whole advocate a certain view with satisfactory unity and consecutiveness. We find fault with Mr. James’s attitude, judged as a critic, because it implies a certain nervousness that if he curtails his contradictory impressions he may not appear liberal enough. With less extreme expression and more art, liberality need not fear to be overlooked. A fault connected with this is the tone of patronage which the writer is led to take towards the larger minds among those which he discusses; and possibly attributable to the same source is a not altogether pleasant jocularity in the treatment of those dubious relations between men and women which the themes selected naturally involve.

But we have said that a creative artist discoursing on the works of other creators can be more entertaining than the mere critic; and Mr. James is irresistible in the ease and brilliancy of his style, and the felicity with which he calls our attention to the qualities most to be admired in his subjects and traces some of the reasons why they are admirable. Next to the Tourguéneff we like best the paper on De Musset, which differs from all the others in having to some extent the tone of advocacy, and pushing its view of the poet with a thoroughly enjoyable ardor. That on Mérimée’s Letters is almost too slight to keep company with the rest, and we do not know how to excuse, in the essay on the Théatre Français, the haste with which Mlle. Sarah Bernhard is passed by. Even with the style, too, one is occasionally dissatisfied, owing to some obscurity which seems to be due to a disinclination to correct. It is regrettable that we have not space to pay the homage of quotation to several of the searching, the humorous, the sympathetic things which Mr. James scatters copiously over his pages; and we cannot deny ourselves, in closing, the privilege of reproducing here, if only in tribute to our own appreciativeness, these fragments from the shrewd and trenchant essay on Baudelaire. “ A good way to embrace Baudelaire at a glance is to say that he was in his treatment of evil exactly what Hawthorne was not, — Hawthorne, who felt the thing at its source, deep in the human consciousness. Baudelaire’s infinitely slighter genius apart, he was a sort of Hawthorne reversed.” “The crudity of sentiment of the advocates of ‘ art for art' is often a striking example of the fact that a great deal of what is called culture may fail to dissipate a well-seated provincialism of spirit. They talk of morality as Miss Edgeworth’s infantine heroes and heroines talk of ‘ physic . . It is in reality simply a part of the essential richness of inspiration,— it has nothing to do with the artistic process, and it has everything to do with the artistic effect.” That is almost the best thing in this superior book. The point has hardly been put with so much grasp and cleverness before.

— The essays entitled Creed and Deed 2 were delivered, on various Sundays in the winter of 1877, to crowded audiences in New York, by Dr. Adler ; who, born an American Hebrew, and imbued with the latest German lore of philological and philosophical thought, declined on his return from Germany post after post of Jewish honor in this country, that he might establish a society on principles which should include the best teaching of Judaism, of Christianity, and of all religions. This society was formed not so much to hear the gospel of ethical culture preached to it by himself as to constitute a band of earnest workers, who should be pledged with him to the amelioration of society by ethical culture, by the spirit if not always by the method of cooperation, and by a “brotherhood of the common life.” Though not two years old, the society has indefatigable friends and zealous workers, who have already succeeded in placing it on a satisfactory pecuniary basis, and on one of permanent and wideextended usefulness.

The essays are marked by dignity, earnestness, and simplicity, by directness of purpose and entire absence of sensational effect. Perhaps the most valuable part of Dr. Adler’s Creed and Deed consists of the appendix, containing articles reprinted on The Evolution of Hebrew Religion, and Reformed Judaism. The first of these is a very able statement, in condensed form, of the growth of monotheism as gradually arising out of purer notions of the family relation. The Hebrew spirit, incited by prophetic inspiration, rebelled against the worship of Baal and Moloch. Not till the eighth century did the monotheistic belief become prominent; then it was evolved as a necessary consequence from the idea of a just patriarch, a faithful husband. The priesthood and its code of sacrifices arose in later times, as men required a creed and symbols for their faith. Leviticus, even in its most elementary form, held no place in Jewish literature till the time of Ezekiel. The Bible itself is a process of evolution, for each age demanded something more ; here and there it should be read backwards, for the date of much of the Pentateuch should be advanced to a thousand years after Moses, “ whose name was not even known to the elder prophets.” The distinguishing traits of Hebrew character and the belief in the closeness and purity of family life were embodied in Hebrew religion.

If the test of excellence in a book is the impression of unity left upon the mind and of lofty impulse communicated to the inward life, this book ranks high in the service thus rendered ; its diction is pure, clear, and melodious, and its spirit unfettered by sarcasm. It is impossible to close the volume without feeling that religion is more than sectarianism, and that morality is both the germ and development of all right living. With morality as our aim wo can afford to leave the question of immortality unsolved ; to claim it as reward of virtue is forfeiture of that claim; to desire it as continuance of growth is, as Dr. Adler says, noble, but as we know nothing of the nature of the soul, each one will arrange his hope or belief by his individual bias. Deeds and influences are immortal. The deed remains, the creed vanishes. And yet unconsciously Dr. Adler shows how important is the creed in forming the deed. Through a series of negations we arrive at non-belief, which is almost as important an equilibrium as belief. The author plants himself on an ethical basis, acknowledging, indeed, that that basis is involved in Christianity. But is not the same basis almost the whole of Christianity to those who call themselves Christian in a historic sense alone ? The feeling of the sublime is to him the root of the religious sentiment. Is it not so also to all those who limit the realm of the sublime by the authority of inward consciousness or of the Bible ? It is very trite to declare that mental differences vanish as moral purposes meet, or that the noblest utterances are also the common property of minds untrained to self-expression; yet such a volume as this makes one realize this common brotherhood. But must there not be dogma for ourselves, coupled with freedom to others ? The world is increasing in individualism, whilst our deeds belong to humanity.

The third essay is very noble and true. The modern view of life, it save, starts with the universality of nature’s laws. “ Morality has developed outward in concentric circles.” New conceptions of the purpose of our being and the help we are to give forms the New Ideal. “ Ethics is the idealism of character, manners are its offspring, self-possession and deference their rule,”—three sentences worthy of careful remembrance. The power of the priest of the new ideal lies in his speaking what others feel. But when Dr, Adler adds that the new ideal differs from Christianity in that “ it seeks to approach the goal of a kingdom of heaven upon earth, not by the Miraculous interference of the Deity, but by the laborious exertions of men and the slow but certain progress of successive generations,” he does not recognize in words, though probably he does in thought, the fact that a large minority of Christians would agree that this goal was only to be approached by the same means. One of the best essays is that on Our Consolations. We ask more than we have any right to receive ; the conflict of the law of nature and of morality is acknowledged ; the purpose of life is worthiness, not happiness ; pain is the price humanity pays for an invaluable good, and the pain lessens as knowledge increases; the performance of duty is the solace of affliction. In the lecture on the Founder of Christianity, the beautiful humanity, sympathy, and reverence of Jesus meet with the fullest veneration.

— We have been especially struck, in late poems of Mr. Longfellow, not only by the growing simplicity of that art which makes him far the greatest poetic artist of his time, but by the freshness, the contemporaneity, of the inspirations. Kéramos3 seems to us a perfect example of what the highest skill, sympathizing with a new æsthetic mood, can do in giving form to the general sense of beauty In a certain direction. Ear removing itself from contact with what is known as “ keramics,” it yet expresses in graphic and suggestive monologue whatever charm we most subtly feel in fictile art; its lines are rich and lustrous with the hues of Delft, and Palissy, and Majolica, and Faenza, and China, and Imari; they flow in the matchless forms of the Greek vases. The poem, when you have done, seems a reverie of your own ; looked at in another way, it is a connoisseur’s rapturous description of characteristics and qualities.

The sonnets in the book are only less good than the wonderful group in the volume preceding this; and we are not sure that even that group contained anything finer than the following: —

THE POETS.

O YE dead Poets, who are living still
Immortal in your verse, though life be fled,
And ye, 0 living Poets, who are dead
Though ye are living, if neglect can kill,
Tell me if in the darkest hours of ill,
With drops of anguish falling fast and red
From the sharp crown of thorns upon your head,
Ye were not glad your errand to fulfill?
Yes ; for the gift and ministry of Song
Have something in them so divinely sweet,
It can assuage the bitterness of wrong j
Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.
The sonnet called Moods is almost equally good; and those on Whittier and Irving are insurpassable of their kind ; those on The Two Rivers, also, are “like ” their author, and full of his peculiar charm. In the sonnet, a poet approaches his reader, perhaps, more intimately than in any other form, and Longfellow especially wears his air of friendliest confidence in it. His art redeems it from all artificiality ; it is as living and natural as something that he says to you. Here, for example, is a perfect sonnet, expressive of a profound and beautiful thought, in which the phrasing is the perfection of simplicity : —

NATURE.

As a fond mother, when the day is o'er,
Leads by the hand her little child to bed,
Half willing, half reluctant to be led,
And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door,
Nor wholly reassured and comforted
By promises of others in their stead,
Which, though more splendid, may not please him more ;
So Nature deals with us, and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends the what we know.

Mr. Longfellow’s later poetry is very observably different from his earlier, in the manner in which he leaves the reader to “moralize his song,” and forbears himself to make any application. Yet nothing is lost that long ago made him dear to his race, — that made it glad of him and better for him; and the beautiful art has still its lofty lesson. Among the pieces here which are in his best manner are The Leap of Roushan Beg,—an anecdote touched into vivid poetry one knows not how, it is so plainly done; and The Revenge of Rain-in-theFace, — in the strong, abrupt lines of which all the fierceness and sadness, and all the wrong within wrong, of the massacre of Custer and his men is remembered. As for Castles in Spain, if everything else that the poet has done were lost to us, one might say, Longfellow is not all here, but this is so wholly Longfellow that from this alone you may infer an art that was the most refined and gracious and sympathetic of its time.

The most notable of the translations, which occupy a third of the book, are the first eclogue of Virgil in hexameters, and the tenth and twelfth elegies of the third book of Ovid’s Tristia in hexameters and pentameters. These meters seem not so satisfyingly managed, quite, as the verses of Evangeline and Miles Standish, though probably they more closely approach the pace of the Latin. In all qualities of pastoral and elegiac simplicity and tenderness the versions seem to us perfect.

— We think that the highest level in Mr. Winter’s new volume of poems4 is touched in the piece called Beyond the Dark. This seems to express at their best the sincere, pensive, and tender qualities that mark his work, together with that spirit of resignation which does not despair, and which redeems his verse from the reproach of idle repining. This spirit pervades all the better part of his poetry, and touches it with a certain religious light. The book, as the name hints, is a collection of lyrics, which are more or less sombre in theme, and have the monotony inseparable from sombre moods. But through all runs a strain of meditative sweetness, a color of sympathy which wins the reader’s affectionate regard, and makes him friends with the poet. There is something in the poems — one hardly knows what to call it — as if the poet had not found full voice in them, which may be referable to a different habit of expression yet something delicately kind and gentle—■ the touch of a fine sensibility — is always felt. It is felt especially in such a poem as that written for the dedication of the monument to Poe, which fitly, perhaps, exaggerating the injustice done that poet, closes with the impressive lines: —

“ And know, with fame that cannot die,
Thou hast the world’s compassion too.”

It characterizes all the commemorative poems, deepening toward the serene close of the ode read before the Army of the Potomac with a psalm-like solemnity. In this poem is a picture all the more striking because the poems are singularly unambitious of picturesque effect; in the lines referring to the dreaming soldier : —

“ For him the cruel sun of noon
Glares on the bristling plain ;
For him the cold, disdainful moon
Lights meadows rough with slain.”

Mr. Winter’s literary attitude in these poems is curiously unmodern ; nothing is here to remind one of any great contemporary poet or his school; so far as he has had models, the author of Thistle-Down has formed himself upon singers of an olden time, and recalls the meditative, verse of the first Charles’s age. The difference, we confess, from nearly all recent poetry is a grateful and prepossessing one, and Mr, Winter has great advantages in his repose, his sane English, his simple and decent manner. He does not remind you, even in his epithets, of the prevailing taste, bat chooses phrases now growing a little quaint from long disuse in poetry. Perhaps he persists in them too much. There is here and there an illchosen word and a trace of hasty unfinish, which verse so sober-hued can ill afford, and which show in it as they never would in a gaudier fabric.

— The student of poetry will find in Allan Ramsay’s Poems, of which a new and complete edition 5 has lately been issued in the Paisley series of reprints, a most interesting illustration of certain historic movements in literature, while the general reader who is gifted with the art of skipping will be grateful for the touches of nature and homely beauty which keep alive in other places than Scotland the memory of a poet who justly holds a rank at home second only to that of Burns. Burns himself, coming a generation later, had a genuine admiration for Ramsay, and with his instinctive sense of poetic beauty touched the secret of Ramsay’s poetic power: —

“ Thou paints auld nature to the nines,
In thy sweet Caledonian lines ;
Nae gowden stream through myrtles twines
Where Philomel
While nightly breezes sweep the vines,
Her griefs will tell!
“ In gowany glens thy burnie strays,
Where bonnie lasses bleach their claes;
Or trots by hagelly shaws and braes
Wi’ hawthorns gray,
Where blackbirds join the shepherd’s lays
At close o’ day.”

This is an account rather of the true poetry in Ramsay than of all which he actually wrote, for the student cannot fail to discover how much he was affected by just that artificiality of a pseudo-classic style which Burns condemns, and how singularly the genuine struggles out of the meshes in which Ramsay’s deference to fashion would at times fain have bound it. He was half ready to introduce an attitudinizing Philomel and a golden stream amongst the birds and burns of Scotland. In a clumsy poem, The Quadruple Alliance, he celebrates his praise of Swift, Pope, Young, and Gay, and one constantly discovers the shadow of these men falling across his pages. It is curious to see how much more he yields to these influences in his English than in his Scottish poems. Whenever he attempts English verse he falls a prey to literary rules, and is frigid and uninteresting; a return to the Scottish dialect and to Scottish scenes is accompanied by a freedom and a spirit which admirably illustrate the value in poetry of a native element. Even here he is not wholly free from the touch of conventionalism, as when, in one of his songs, he says,—

“ If she Love mirth, I ’ll learn to sing ;
Or likes the Nine to follow,
I'll lay my lugs in Pindus’ spring
And invocate Apollo.”

Yet if the skirts of the Nine are still getting a little in Burns’s way, we can only wonder that Ramsay, nearer to an artificial period, should have escaped bald classicism as well as he has. His Gentle Shepherd is a delicious pastoral. There is just enough of the conventional about it to give it an operalike character, and suggest singing in costume; but the natural, both in the conception of character and in the sketches of pastoral life, is so charming that we easily endure what with an inferior poet would be tiresome big-wiggery. It sings itself as one reads, and the songs, which run through it like rippling brooks, make their own music even to an English ear. “ My Peggy is a young thing,” “By the delicious warmness of thy mouth,” “Jock said to Jenny, ‘Jenny, wilt thou do ’t ? ’ ” have an echoing laughter in them which makes mirth in the heart. One is not surprised to learn that this pastoral is still popular in Scotland as a country-side entertainment. There is an amusing story told in the introductory note which may be taken as a companion piece to the familiar sketch of the actor who, in his enthusiasm, blacked himself from top to toe when he was to appear as Othello: “ A few years ago, when arrangements were being made by an Ayrshire gentleman with one of these companies for a performance in his drawing-room, he objected to the presentation of a real haggis on the scene, and with difficulty obtained the concession that an imitation one, stuffed with bran, should be substituted. To his consternation, he discovered, while the play was in progress, that several of the actors considered it their duty to eat the bran as if it had been savory haggis.”

Ramsay anticipated Scott in his enthusiasm for Scottish ballads, many of which he slightly remodeled in the same spirit. The most notable thing in this way was his continuation of the old comic piece Christ’s Kirk on the Green, the first canto of which, in its original form, was said to have been written by King James I. of Scotland. The picture of life drawn by Ramsay is vigorous and lusty, and something of the same power appears in other verses, — a power that seems heightened by the audacity with which the poet paints grossness. That is to say, Scottish life is described with a cruel fidelity to fact, and the calling of a spade a spade gives a nervous force which makes the reader suspect that Ramsay in his dialect verse suffered a reaction from the refinement of his attempted classicism. Some of the verses fairly reek with the earth. It would be worth one’s while to read the two volumes carefully and mark the few pieces to which he would wish to return again and again. The work is accompanied by the original glossary, which might well have been discarded for a new and thorough one.

— We owe to the enthusiasm of a provincial Scottish publisher an edition of Alexander Wilson’s writings,6 containing poems not before collected, and a more complete series of his letters than has hitherto appeared. Wilson’s Ornithology has never been forgotten in America, and is not likely ever to be forgotten, both because of its historical interest and because it is intrinsically valuable; his poems are not so likely to be valued, although the Scottish ones have enjoyed a continuous lease of popularity in Scotland ; but the student of American literature and manners will be glad to read again and again the letters which tell so much of life here in the first decade of this century. Above all, Wilson himself, as a character, is a precious legacy; his life has often been written, but nothing can show it quite so well as the record which he himself has given in his letters and in his Ornithology.

The essays contained in the Ornithology are not all reprinted in this edition, but only such as the editor chose for their literary value. We are sorry that the number was not extended to take in others quite as characteristic and as entertaining. The Great Heron, the Stormy Petrel, the Great Horned Owl, the Mocking Bird, the Crow, are all well worth the general reader’s perusal. Indeed, it would be safe to say of the entire work that it appeals quite as forcibly to the general reader as to the ornithologist, for Wilson’s own interest was human rather than professional or strictly scientific, He gives the necessary scientific descriptions, but it is plain that he looked upon every bird which he watched, or mounted, or drew, as an individual, and not as a “ specimen ; ” and therefore his interest was strong in its habits, manners, appearance, and history, In one of his letters he tells a tender little story of a mouse, which points at the sympathy which he had with humble life. “ One of my boys caught a mouse in school, a few days ago, and directly marched up to me with his prisoner. I set about drawing it that same evening, and all the while the pantings of its little heart showed it to be in the most extreme agonies of fear. I had intended to kill it, in order to fix it in the claws of a stuffed owl, but happening to spill a few drops of water near where it was tied, it lapped it up with such eagerness and looked in my face with such an eye of supplicating terror as perfectly overcame me. I immediately untied it, and restored it to life and liberty. The agonies of the prisoner at the stake, while the fire and instruments of torment are preparing, could not be more severe than the sufferings of that poor mouse; and, insignificant as the object was, I felt at that moment the sweet sensations that mercy leaves on the mind when she triumphs over cruelty.” How charming, too, is his naive discovery of the reason for the cruel prejudice against the cat-bird, and his playful defense of his favorite! “ After ruminating over in my own mind all the probable causes, I think I have at last hit on some of them; the principal of which seems to me to be a certain similarity of taste and clashing of interest between the cat bird and the farmer. The cat-bird is fond of large ripe garden strawberries ; so is the farmer, for the good price they bring in market. The cat-bird loves the best and richest early cherries; so does the farmer, for they are sometimes the most profitable of his early fruit. The cat bird has a particular partiality for the finest ripe mellow pears; and these are also particular favorites with the farmer. But the cat-bird has frequently the advantage of the farmer by snatching off the first fruits of these delicious productions; and the farmer takes revenge by shooting him down with his gun, as he finds old hats, windmills, and scarecrows are no impediments in his way to these forbidden fruits ; and nothing but this resource — the ultimatum of farmers as well as kings—can restrain his visits. The boys are now set to watch the cherry-trees with the gun; and thus commences a train of prejudices and antipathies that commonly continue through life. Perhaps, too, the common note of the cat-bird, —so like the mewing of the animal whose name it bears, and who itself sustains no small share of prejudice, — the homeliness of his plumage, and even his familiarity, so proverbially known to beget contempt, may also contribute to this mean, illiberal, and persecuting prejudice ; but, with the generous and the good, the lovers of nature and of rural charms, the confidence which this familiar bird places in man by building in his garden, under his eye, the music of his song, and the interesting playfulness of his manners will always be more than a recompense for all the little stolen morsels he snatches.”

There is a curious parallel which might be drawn between the earlier part of Wilson’s life spent in Scotland, and the latter part spent in America, in Scotland he was known as a poet, and his Watty and Meg, attributed to Burns, has always been popular. In America his reputation rests on his Ornithology, though he continued to write verse, both in Scottish brogue and in English tongue. Yet his poetry and his bird-hunting may both be referred to a genuine, almost child-like love of nature, and each pursuit was accompanied by a business venture. He was bred as a weaver, but took up the pack as peddler, and wandered thus through Scotland, selling tapes and needles and Other small wares with one hand, while he asked for subscriptions to his book of poetry with the other, using the time of his jaunt besides for studying nature and human nature. Wordsworth’s peddler, who seems to most a philosophical projection, finds a fairly concrete representation in Wilson. So when he undertook his Ornithology, he traveled throughout the territory of the United States, soliciting subscriptions and using every opportunity to discover birds for treatment in forthcoming volumes. In both cases the poetry was uppermost. He has left a record of his travels as a peddler, and though he recites the rather forlorn experience which he endured us a tradesman, one can read also of the joy he took in sunrise and sunset and mountain view. His letters give his fortune in securing subscribers ; and, while his sensitiveness was often wounded by the rebuffs or discourtesy which he met, one feels that all was forgotten in the enthusiasm with which he plunged into the woods in quest of some bird not hitherto described. It is this enthusiasm, hearing him up above the vicissitudes of a somewhat depressing life, which makes the atmosphere in which we now see Wilson’s fine Spirit. A weaver, a peddler, an engraver, a school-master, a homeless man,— the ma terial facts of his daily life are narrow and mean; he lived in communities which were either hard or indifferent to what he most cared for, and the beauty of his life is in its struggles after the upper air in a divine discontent which troubled itself little about the restrictions of his common pursuits. The birds which he loved with so natural and genuine an ardor seem lit emblems of a life which alighted on the earth only for necessary food and rest.

The editing by Mr. Grosart is careful and apparently thorough, although there are signs of some change in his work, since he refers the reader in two instances to his Memorial-Introduction for what is not to be found there. His own contributions are brief and slightly pungent. Heaven has favored him and us in not casting him in the mold of an exhaustive commentator.

— In the recently published Reminiscences of Froebel7 there is a passage which has an interest for those who arc desirous of incorporating the kindergarten with the public-school systems of America. “ The kindergarten,” says Froebel, “ is the free republic of childhood ; ” and the phrase is further explained as indicating the absence of whatever is dangerous to morality, the freedom being the state in which childhood is developed. Froebel would remove whatever would impair the free development of the individual child. It was charged upon him in 1848 and the years immediately following that his educational views were revolutionary and dangerous, and in 1851 the Prussian government prohibited kindergartens. The specific ground for the prohibition was the publication by Carl Froebel, a nephew of Friedrich, of a pamphlet entitled High Schools and Kindergartens. It was in vain that Froebel disowned the authorship of the pamphlet and begged for an examination of his school; the answer came that “ concurrence with that objectionable pamphlet consisted in laying at the foundation of the education of children a highly intricate theory.”

It is not our purpose to review the course of the reactionary party at this time, but only to point out that the real peril apprehended by the authorities lay in the close connection between popular education and the kindergarten system. The kindergarten suffered then and has suffered since from being identified with the extreme liberal party, but reactionists and liberals alike were right in looking upon it as especially the school of the people. As such, there is a peculiar significance attaching to it when made a part of the public-school system of a state which rests for its final authority upon the voice of the people. Superficially, there is something laughable in connecting a school which precedes the primary school with republican institutions, but an examination of the principles of the kindergarten will show that the connection is a substantial one.

The theory of the kindergarten is a twofold one : regarding the development of the child in harmony with the law of universal development as discovered in nature and human history, and regarding the child as one of a community. It is of this latter phase that we wish to speak. A child’s life finds its chief expression in play, and in play its social instincts are developed. Now, the kindergarten recognizes the fact that play is the child’s business, not his recreation, and undertakes to guide and form the child through play. It converts that which would otherwise be aimless or willful into creative, orderly, and governed action. Out of the play as guided by the wise kindergartner grows a spirit of courtesy, self-control, forbearance, unselfishness. The whole force of the education is directed toward a development of the child which never forgets that he is a person in harmonious relation to others. Community, not competition, is the watch-word of the school.

It is claimed, with good right, that the organization of our public schools tends to discipline and order; that the drill of the school room, the marshaling in ranks, the prompt answer, the evolutions, are all forces in education as well as helps to government, and that principles of public life are thus taught. But we claim higher ground in this respect for the kindergarten. Obedience as taught by the system of the public schools is an obedience to rules ; it is to be likened more closely to the obedience of the soldier, —a noble thing, but not the highest form of human subjection of the will. Obedience as evolved in the true kindergarten is a conscious obedience to law. In the one case the will is broken ; in the other it is guided into subordination to a higher will asserting itself in reason. It is not asserted that in the public-school system there is often given a training which issues in selfgovernment; the good teacher is always better than the best system, and many a teacher in our primary schools is a true gardener ; so the system of the kindergarten will not prevent play from degenerating into purposeless mechanism under the hand of a foolish teacher. It is claimed that government in the public schools is far more a matter of rule and regulation, and therefore incapable of developing the highest power of order and self-government; that government in the kindergarten is made an essential part of the education of the child ; and that the art of living with others is sedulously cultivated. The unity of life in the school with entire freedom of development in the individual is the aim of the kindergarten ; in the public school the highest perfection seems by many to be attained when the unity of life is best represented by a closely fitted machine, and the individual is most entirely separated by a system of keen competition and rivalry.

If this comparison is a just one, then, so far as primary education goes, the principle at the basis of the kindergarten is most in accord with the principles of a free republic. The emphasis which is laid upon the need of special training for teachers in the kindergarten is justified by the theory of the kindergarten itself. That rests on law, and not on routine; and it is essential that the teacher should comprehend the law before she can govern in it. But once possessed of this truth she becomes the visible representative of law, guiding, forming, developing in accordance with the law which she obeys as well as administers. In her the children learn to see the reasonableness of the authority under which they act. They respect and love her as intelligent men and women in a republic use an honest deference toward their rulers. Doubtless, there are such teachers in public schools, and the same relation springs up between them and their scholars, but the system of the public schools makes authority, discipline, government, to have more or less a despotic and arbitrary meaning.

It is not to be wondered at, then, that the kindergarten should have been looked upon with suspicion in its early days by those who had just witnessed a revolution ; nor is it to be wondered at that this germ of free and intelligent institutions should then and there have been planted. Equally true is it that in no country has the kindergarten so strong a right to flourish as in the United States, where the education which the kindergarten offers is precisely that most vitally necessary to the maintenance of freedom, reciprocal rights, order, and self-control.

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  1. French Poets and Novelists. By HENRY JAMES, JR. London Macmillan & Co. 1878
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