WE doubt if Mr. Warner’s humor has ever appeared more winningly than in his little book about the Adirondack wilderness.1 It plays round the gross and palpable body of Adirondack fable with a lambent flame that illumines rather than burns, and must amuse even the inventors of the marvels that it burlesques. But it does not cling very strictly to that centre ; it would scarcely have been worth while to mock those adventures deliberately; they serve chiefly to give the desultory volume a sort of unity; at the most you can say it is all about the Adirondacks. How I killed a Bear, and A Fight with a Trout, are pure pieces of delicious fun which it would be hard to match. We think the latter, as a satire, the better of the two : there is something really unspeakable in such a touch as the author’s landing half a mile below the rapids, “ with whitened hair, and a boat half-full of water. . . . The guide was upset, and boat, contents, and men were Strewn along the shore.” This is the very spirit of the undaunted man of letters when meeting with adventures after the fact; the final great struggle with the fish, its ferocity, and its murderous leaps and flights through the air are depicted with a graphic audacity that might well raise the envy of former trout-fighters, who would of course have been incapable of such a stroke as the closing statement that the monster when “got in ” weighed three quarters of a pound.
But the charm of the best humor is that something better than humor goes with it; mere drollery at last makes you sorry and ashamed ; and the humorist of the highest type instinctively remembers this. There is a fine and faithful feeling for the beauty and nobleness of the place in which the scene of the lightest of these burlesques is laid; and there is honest wood-craft and fresh, keen observation. Two essays in the book are of more serious purport: the study of the woodsman Phelps, and the very touching and beautiful lesson in humanity called A-Hunting of the Deer. In the latter is a pathetic irony that seems to us quite unequaled in its way; and the thing is not to be read without rage and heart-burning at the brutal sport which it satirizes. It should be in every schoolbook, — not alone for the beauty of its literature, which is classically fine, and its sympathy for nature, which expresses itself in an exquisite picturesqueness, but for the mercy it teaches. Of all Mr. Warner’s writing, we think it in the highest way the best.
Without some closer observation than the casual reader gives to his reading, the admirable qualities of A Character Study will hardly be realized. It is very subtle art that sets before us a character like that of Phelps with such quiet perfection that we get the whole nature of the man, — a nature by less skillful hands only to be presented in caricature. But here Phelps is not caricatured; you make the acquaintance of a veritable type, quite as if you met him in person ; and a whole order of American thinking and feeling is insinuated in the process of the delineation.
— Dr. Clarke’s book,2 rightly considered, will be found to convey a valuable lesson. To enable us to appreciate its full significance, the peculiar conditions under which it was written should be understood. “ When its author,” says Dr. Holmes, in his introduction to the book, “ had read his death sentence, and knew that the malignant disease of which he was the subject would be slow in its work and involve great suffering, he felt that he must have something to occupy his mind and turn it away in some measure from dwelling only on the tortures of his body. He therefore took up the study of a question in which he had long been interested, and made it his daily occupation to write upon it. So long as his strength lasted sufficiently he wrote with his own hand. After this he employed another to write at his dictation.” The volume now before us is the result of the labor which the late Dr. Clarke thus imposed upon himself, as part of the course of treatment devised for the alleviation of his sufferings. Debarred from the further continuance of his professional work, in which his interest had been so deep and his success so gratifying ; knowing that many months must probably elapse before that respite which death alone could bring, with the calm judgment of a wise and experienced physician he recognized the necessity of creating for himself some absorbing task, which should serve to interrupt the ceaseless têteà-tête with pain which would otherwise have been his lot. He had the rare fortitude to carry out to the end this heroic plan of selftreatment. That it was successful no one who reads this book can doubt. It is clear that whatever of vitality is apparent in these thoughtful pages was so much additional life lived by one whose days seemed to have ended when, disappearing from the busy world, he retired to await death in a sick-room. Whatever of thought, of reading, of study, shows itself in this elaborate analysis of an obscure and complex subject represents so much the less attention accorded to a painful and relentless disease.
In the course so resolutely adopted and followed out by Dr. Clarke, there is a lesson which none who read his book should fail to meditate. Therein is clearly shown the value of intellectual exercise as a distraction from the acutest physical and mental suffering; and, a fortiori, its usefulness as a refuge from the lesser degrees of unhappiness, discontent, or ennui, which find so many passive, unresisting victims among those even to whom Fortune has been most prodigal of her favors. However trite subjects the dangers of idleness and the general need of occupation may seem, we believe that few people except physicians have any idea how much chronic unhappiness and consequent ill-health are the direct results of idleness. Few individuals are gifted with such bovine natures that their highest faculties can successfully be stupefied into absolute inertia. Sooner or later, when amusement-seeking has been the chief business of life, these unoccupied faculties put in claims for attention, and make themselves heard. Just as they may, by due cultivation and exercise, be made to yield the noblest, most elevating and inspiriting joys that life can afford, so, when neglected and forgotten, they fail not to become the sources of the direst self-torture. Ennui, fastening like the vulture upon the vitals of its victim, brings self-dissatisfaction, remorse, and despair, and a well-nigh incurable condition of listless, dreamy apathy is finally engendered, in which mind and body alike suffer.
So little is the general prevalence of this morbific agency suspected that many persons, who are really suffering from chronic mental and physical depression resulting from idleness, finally imagine, and succeed in persuading others, that their troubles are really caused by overwork. Dr. Samuel Wilks,3 however, in answer to the question whether people suffer from overwork, says, “ I for one should have no hesitation in saying, No ; but, on the contrary, if both sexes be taken, I should say that the opposite is nearer the truth, and that more persons are suffering from idleness than from excessive work.” Even among those who do not professedly lead idle lives of amusement - seeking, among professional men and men of business, it is not uncommon to meet with patients who are suffering from underwork, owing to the fact that their natural faculties and energies are inadequately occupied. “I make it a custom,” says Dr. Wilks, “ to ask young men what their second occupation is, — what pursuit they have beside their bread-earning employment. They are the happiest who possess some object of interest.” We Americans are particularly fond of expatiating upon the “ high pressure ” at which we live, and cases of “ overwork ” are complacently supposed to be very common among us. Few physicians, however, will deny that idleness, absolute or relative, and ill-regulated work, into which the element of worry is unwisely allowed to enter too largely, are the agencies which are really responsible for the greater part of the injury to body and mind so commonly attributed to overwork. Provided one’s work, however laborious it may be, is done with serenity, it can but be beneficial. In proportion as worry and excitement enter into it will wear and tear result, and health become deteriorated.
Dr. Clarke’s book deals with a subject which is likely to interest many readers in this country, where the belief in supernatural apparitions is by no means confined to the grossly ignorant classes. It will, however, not prove altogether satisfactory to those whose beliefs, based upon their preference for mystery and for sensation as a relief from the monotony of every-day life, are in favor of the supernatural. These can truly say, Credo, quia absurdum. With them, attempts to reason and to prove can but be wasted. Dr. Clarke, in his dissertation, clearly demonstrates that the seeing of visions is a purely subjective illusion, and that the phenomena involved in the process are in perfect accordance with the natural functions of the human brain, as it is now known to us. Our senses may, and often do, deceive us; when it is not our senses which deceive us, we are perhaps deceiving ourselves ; and when neither our senses nor ourselves are the deceivers, then some one else is deceiving us, knowingly or unknowingly. Such are the possible and infinitely probable explanations which should suggest themselves when any very extraordinary or apparently supernatural event presents itself to our notice.
The author makes a long and elaborate analysis of the physiological phenomena involved in sight, both objective and subjective. The reader is instructed in the gross and minute anatomy of the organs concerned, with all their complex apparatus of nerve fibres and cells; and he is taught to follow the visual stimulus from the retina, through the optic nerve, to the tubercula quadrigemina, and thence to the angular gyri, and, finally, to the gray matter of the convolutions. We cannot but think, however, that many readers, who will have carefully followed out and mastered all the successive details of vision, as explained by Dr. Clarke, will be somewhat disappointed at finding themselves but little the wiser for all the knowledge so gained. The natural desire and expectation of the reader is that the functions of the eye, or of the brain, should be made as clear to him as the operations of a clock or of the phonograph. But there is this difficulty in the case of the functions of the nervous system: that we have to do with phenomena of which our senses are incapable of taking cognizance, except in the way of consciousness. An example will perhaps make more clear what is meant. Electricity is vaguely familiar to all as a mighty, omnipresent power, which in one form or another is everywhere and at all times exerting great influence and producing immense effects. Yet it rarely comes under our direct observation ; until modern times its existence, even, was hardly suspected. Men have lived in the midst of it, surrounded and pervaded by its subtle influence, yet seeing it, feeling it, hearing it not, except when a stroke of lightning, smiting eye and ear, would bring the hidden power within the limited scope of their senses. Electricity eludes our recognition so long as it remains electricity. We detect its presence only when, by a transformation of forces, it is changed into some other force, such as heat, light, sound, or motion, of which we can take cognizance through the channel of one of our senses. This is the reason why our knowledge of electricity has been of such slow growth that it is only within the present century that man has learned to use this mighty, unseen force, to direct it here and there, and make it do his work. But, although our mastery over it, as exemplified, for instance, in its latest and most Striking application, the telephone, is so wonderful, we still remain in utter ignorance of electricity per se. We only know it when transmuted into a force which we have senses to perceive. Thus in the telephone the mysterious invisible force which traverses the conducting wire, when transformed by an ingenious device into sound, becomes appreciable to our ear. Such is also, in a measure, the case with the operations of the nervous system. Here, besides our five senses with which to investigate the phenomena, we have one additional sense, so to speak, namely, consciousness, which is the source of by far the greater part of what we know concerning our senses themselves and the operations of the mind. But, except in so far as the phenomena in question are subject to consciousness, or are amenable to investigation by sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell, we are, and must ever remain, ignorant of them. With regard to sight, in particular, we know that the first step in the process is the impact of rays of light focused upon the retina, and that the last step is consciousness of vision. We know what organs, some composed of fibres, others of cells, are traversed by the subtle influence, or stimulus, originated in the retina by the rays of light. But what it is that is so transmitted through the nerve fibres and cells, and finally begets consciousness of vision in the gray matter of the convolutions, we do not know, and never shall know, whatever further progress may be achieved in histology and in biological chemistry. The stimulus is something that we can neither see, nor hear, nor feel, nor taste, nor smell. Just as when electricity travels along a wire we are unaware of its presence, till, assuming another shape not its own, it betrays itself by a visible spark, or by the audible and visible motion of a lever, so we are unable by any device to become cognizant of the stimulus proceeding along a sentient nerve toward the brain, until, on reaching its destination, the stimulus is transmuted into a motor impulse whereby a visible muscular contraction is excited, or into the inscrutable phenomenon known to us as consciousness. To our senses and to consciousness we owe all the knowledge that we possess, both of the inner and of the outer world, of the ego and of the non-ego. Such knowledge as we are capable of obtaining is strictly limited to what Claude Bernard calls the determinism of phenomena; that is to say, we can know only under what determining conditions events capable of recognition through our senses or through consciousness take place. With regard to the subjective phenomena called visions, Dr. Clarke has shown that visual delusions may occur under certain conditions, as the results of disturbed action of the cerebral functions, and that they constitute phenomena which are in no wise inconsistent with the natural operations of the brain as now understood by science. Such being the case, it is clearly unnecessary and superfluous to invoke supernatural agencies as their source.
— Dr. Clarke’s Memorial and Biographical Sketches4 have to do mainly with his neighbors; they are, besides, the work of a parson, but a parson writing about his neighbors does not at once suggest provincialism in literature. As a parson he ought properly to see his subject in its broadest relations, and his neighbors may he men and women of more than local name; there has been a parson in the neighborhood of every eminent man, though the parson may not have known his neighbor save in a professional sense. The merit of this unpretending book lies in the honesty and catholicity of the author’s judgment of the men and women whom he has known. His affectionate regard for worthy people gave him entrance into their lives ; his love of truth and his candor save him from merely partial estimates of their characters, and his habits of mind lead him to look chiefly for the enduring elements. His sketches are not biographies; only in one or two instances does he intend to trace the course of a life and measure its several forces. He sketches from life, taking those views which have appeared to him personally ; so that throughout the book he carelessly discloses himself, and is not at pains to remove those direct and individual references which were natural to the first form of the several papers, as sermons, addresses, and personal reminiscences.
If this limitation is regarded, and the reader does not go to this book for rounded lives of the several persons included in it, he will find interesting and suggestive memorabilia, and oblique lights will sometimes be thrown upon the portraits which will discover new points of value. For instance, Governor Andrew was a man whose national fame is sure to grow steadily in historical perspective ; but he was one of Dr. Clarke’s parishioners, and the parson sets him before us in a new and very delightful aspect. James Freeman was a man intimately connected with a religious and theological movement in Massachusetts that will always have an interest for students, and his grandson here supplies us with some of those touches of familiar life which help to make history real. His familiar intercourse, too, with persons having no extended renown, but strong personal characteristics, has enabled him to sketch agreeable pictures of life, as in what he has to tell us of George Keats, of Dr. Gannett, and Walter Channing. Throughout the book one never escapes the reminder that character rules life. This is partly incidental to the occasion of many of the papers, but principally to the habits of mind of the writer, who is what we may term a parson without a parish. That is, as there are preachers whom we never identify only with the pulpit from which they preach, so there are parsons who may have a very distinct local care of souls, yet owe their reputation rather to the unlimited character of their personal charge. Dr. Clarke in this book seems to us such a parson. He had a governor for a parishioner, and that was not wholly accidental; but he would inevitably have adopted the governor into his universal parish, as he has adopted Jean Jacques Rousseau and Washington and Theodore Parker. These and all the characters treated in the book pass under the eye of a man who is not thinking of literature or in the first place of history, but of personal character and personal influence. There are petty parsons and catholic parsons, and we think Dr. Clarke, by the breadth of his sympathy and the courage of his speech, belongs to the latter class.
— Mr. Holly, as a matter of business perhaps, has considered it worth his while to open his portfolio to the inspection of the public, and to give us the best fruits of his practice as an architect in the work entitled Modern Dwellings in Town and Country.5 It is with the rural branch of the art that this book is chiefly concerned, for the single exception on page 139 does not suffice to justify the promise of its title in respect to city architecture. Our press has in late years given us abundant evidence, more or less empirical, of a desire to illustrate, if not to inaugurate, “the American style of architecture,”but the vulgar appetite for this most doubtful of the fruits of civilization has not been yet appeased. When a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects makes his appearance upon the field with his contribution to the swelling literature of the subject, he is entitled, prima facie, to a more respectful consideration than most of his competitors. Mr. Holly would perhaps be one of the first to tell us that the only proper function of the architect is to illustrate, not to invent, a style. For probably we already have as distinctive an American style as we are ever likely to have Tradition and practice, the peculiar necessities of material and climate, the condition of mechanic arts relating to building processes, and the restrictions of economy in the art of living, as compelled by our national and natural conditions,— all these influences have concurred to give us a distinct architectural expression, especially in our country houses, where we are less constrained by conventionalities and have larger scope for the development of architectural forms than in the city. Ever since Downing first taught our young intelligence how to develop a national art in the building of country houses, and we began to emerge from the stately and spacious comfort contained in the foursquare colonial mansions, and from the pretentious formality and stiffness of the Greek temples, which in the early part of the century were strangely translated into the vernacular for our domestic use, the architectural mind has applied itself to the task of constructing out of wood a system of forms better adapted to our many-sided needs.
We have thus formulated by experience a characteristic art of house-building ; and now that the profession of architecture has become better instructed and more thoroughly trained, it is interesting to note how and in what direction it is working upon this theme. The only European precedents which are capable of affording any direct hints for our use in wooden construction are from Switzerland, and these seem to have been long since exhausted. Neither to France nor to Germany have the architects been indebted, apparently, for any prevailing influence, but the gradual developments of English fashions in domestic architecture for the last twenty-five or thirty years, as copiously illustrated in the professional journals, have been promptly echoed on this side of the ocean. Thus the various features of the Gothic revival in the old country have found a corresponding expression here, although subject to modifications suggested by our different habits of living, different climate, and different materials; so that, save in a few very exceptional cases, our rural architecture has been kept consistent with itself and with our needs, and, in the main, free from affectations.
The latest change in English forms witnessed within the last three or four years has been by no means the least remarkable; this is the revival of the so-called Queen Anne or early Georgian style, including, in fact, a certain free treatment of classic forms prevalent in the domestic architecture of England from 1650 to 1750, belonging mostly to constructions in brick and stone, but transferred bodily into wood in this country for the use of the colonial aristocracy. The pages of our contemporary, The American Architect, show with how different a spirit the revival of the style has been received in this country, and Mr. Holly’s book is mainly occupied with studies indicating how he would adapt the style to our modern American wants. In undergoing this process, however, the style loses its most distinctive and quaintest features ; but Mr. Holly is to be commended for avoiding the temptation of giving us imitations of the stepped and broken gables, the great consoles, the high-peaked, pedimented windows, the brick details, and the other interesting characteristics of the style, which, however, are inconsistent with wooden materials and wooden methods of construction. But why he does not give us a rendering of the style in our native brick, which would have been hospitable to these characteristics, does not appear. Mr. Holly is also to be commended for not sacrificing to this new fashion the broad American veranda, which is unknown in the damp, foggy climate of England, and which has therefore never had the benefit of an interpretation by the architects of the time of James II., William III., Queen Anne, or George I., who have given us stately terraces instead. Mr. Holly has contented himself with using out of this English style certain balustered posts, balustrades, big chimneys, tiled or shingled wall surfaces, a few coned cornices, and a certain painted, or carved, or incised decoration,— the conventional sunflower growing stiffly in a pot, — which, after his modern English brethren, he considers essential to insert in his panels in order to give to his design the old-fashioned twang, without which, perhaps, his conformity to the style could hardly be recognized. Indeed, an Englishman would find it difficult to recall the image of the historic period in the presence of these works. There is, in fact, much more of the very respectable Americanized neoGothic than of this neo-classic in them, and much more of the pure American than of either. In frame and substance they are native carpenter’s American architecture, enriched with certain adventitious devices borrowed from the old country and refined by technical study. They are certainly not of Queen Anne, nor yet are they “old colonial ; ” but they are none the worse for that.
Mr. Holly’s designs have a basis of common sense not uninformed with ingenuity and skill, and his plans are excellent. But among the twenty-three architectural designs which make up the bulk of interest in this volume, we do not detect any marked contrasts of treatment; they are all variations on one theme, and we see certain tricks or characteristics of design reappearing with slight changes throughout the series. His masses, however, are well managed; his roofs are interesting, and in some cases bold; and his favorite hooded balconies and corner windows and staircase bays are introduced with a persistence which is never wearisome and rarely unreasonable.
The first part of the book, which is illustrated by these designs, contains also a series of sensible discussions on such subjects as Site, Plans, Materials, Architects’ Duties and Charges, Plumbers’ Blunders, Heating and Ventilation. But the second part, treating of Furniture and Decoration, is made interesting principally by the illustrations which are borrowed from authorities, recognized, indeed, frequently in the text, but never noticed in the titles, and forming part of the “ One Hundred Original Designs” which are conspicuously trumpeted in the title-page; and the text of this part of the work is, for the most part, apparently the work of an amateur rather than of the architect, the ruler of the building, the man of knowledge, convictions, and principles, whose ideas are based upon reason and distinguished for breadth of view and largeness of scope. There is no exposition of the philosophical principles of decoration, but there is an abundance of the commonplaces of the literary folk, who of late have devoted themselves to this subject; plenty of detached rules and notions, which are well enough for professional decorators and upholsterers, but which, as it seems to us, are hardly worthy to form the stock-in-trade of a professional architect. If, as Mr. Holly intimates, it is important for the architect to justify his claims as the only proper person to finish his building with interior embellishments of color and design, it is not by such writings as this that such an object is to be accomplished.
— In his Chronicles of the St. Lawrence 6 Mr. Le Moyne has done for the region adjoining the lower part of that river, and for some coasts of the maritime provinces, what he had already so pleasantly done for Quebec in his Maple Leaves, and his Quebec Past and Present. In those books or collections of essays he preserved a body of tradition and anecdote nowhere else accessible to the traveling reader, or indeed to the stationary general reader. History, too, whenever it could lend interest to localities mentioned, was intelligently and skillfully adduced, and there was a vein of agreeable and sympathetic comment running through the work. The present volume has the same characteristics, and the same desultory form. It is the record of three excursions from Quebec, — one reaching as far as Halifax, — and including the Saguenay and all other tributary regions of interest. Whoever has traveled in French Canada — the real Canada—has had provoked at every turn a curiosity which this book is admirably adapted to satisfy ; and it is charming to find that every picturesque and romantic spot, which looks as if it ought to have its legend, really has it. The sportsman, also, who resorts to Canadian waters, will be glad of what Mr. Le Moyne has to tell him; and we can honestly commend the book to people who cannot visit the region of which it treats, as a treasury of curious reminiscence and tradition, very interesting to turn over. The chapter on leprosy at Tracadie is especially remarkable.
— Two smaller books on pottery follow the number of elegantly gotten-up volumes (Jacquemart, Prime, Elliott) with which we have recently been favored. They will possibly close, for a time, the procession. They correspond somewhat in size to Mr. Beckwith’s Majolica and Fayence, with which it was opened. A great deal has been told, but, as we had occasion to say in speaking of the others, not all, as yet, in the most perfect manner. It is not because there are no conspicuously open interstices into which they might aptly fit that these two minor publications can be found fault with. Mr. Lockwood’s7 professes to be published because the commonest information on the subject is the kind that is most often needed and very seldom at hand, and the valuable books already issued are for the most part too costly for the greater number of readers. This is an admissible object. It is only a question of how it is carried out. There are two ways of reducing a mass of material to a reasonable compass: one is by expressing the essence, the other by presenting fragments. It is needless to say that the former is what is wanted. There must be a knowledge of what constitutes essence, and a capacity for distributing the matter with the space at disposal in view. It is not fair to ask ten dollars’ worth of ceramic information in a dollar book. If it could be had it would probably be hardly more useful than the result of the labors of those ingenious persons who transcribe the Declaration of Independence on a threecent piece. But what is just is that we should have the whole document, if only in short-hand. Mr. Lockwood seems to have a mention of everything, including the familiar opening of how man, from the moment when he first observed his foot-print in the moist clay and the hardening of the earth under his camp-fire, was induced to reflect, and the existence of pottery was assured, and the familiar inspiring incidents of Palissy and Wedgwood. There are other anecdotes not so common, like the view of Dr. Samuel Johnson experimenting at Chelsea, with the idea that he could improve the manufacture, and finding, with a disgust it is amusing to imagine, how his specimens came out in ruins every time, while those of the company remained imperturbably perfect. A wide range of reading is indicated in the quotations, and the explanations of things are lucid. Still the presentation of the subject, while well enough, cannot be called vivid. It was the more necessary that it should have a certain vividness because there are no illustrations. Those persons having an interest which an encyclopædia article could not content will probably not stop here, but be led on to the further expense of one of the fuller volumes.
The other small book8 brings together a number of important matters related chiefly to the technique of the art. There is no historical sketch, but a brief statement, without dates or periods, of the development of pottery in the order of excellence. The most primitive is the soft, unglazed earthenware. This is improved by the use of various glazes: first a vitreous lustre, then a lead varnish, both transparent; and finally a tin enamel, which is opaque, covers the original color, and opens a great scope for fanciful treatment. The second division and advance is in the materials, the invention of a finer paste, constituting faience and stoneware, — the last the very delicate paste of porcelain. A quotation from the report of Mr. Arnoux, of the English Minton Manufactory, in the appendix, explains how pottery is made, the components that enter into it, and the “ throwing ” on the potter’s wheel, the pressing, and casting in plaster molds by which it comes to its various shapes. In the matter of painting, the make-up of palettes, etc., Mr. Nichols’s directions are a little fuller in some departments, but not quite so straightforward, on the whole, as Miss McLaughlin’s, of Cincinnati. His suggestions for decoration, in the plates, are taken from Japanese sources. They seem “skimpy” and trivial, being mainly comic frogs and birds among a scattering of thin blades of grass, and do not do this large resource justice. One of the more novel portions is that which calls attention, after Charles Blanc, to the laws of proportion in pottery. It is generated, it appears, from a few simple forms, — the cylinder, the cone, the sphere, and the egg; and some of its most delicate curves, in the best examples, are the product of conic sections.
Here, as well as in most other constructions the sense of grace and the best utilitarian policy unite. For instance, the base of a wine-glass spread out to a diameter equal to that of the top not only gratifies the eye, but best preserves the requisite equilibrium.
The section to which one turns with as much interest as any is that described in the table of contents as “Advantages favorable to the manufacture of pottery in the United States.” These are the existence, as shown by the reports of numerous state geologists, of valuable beds of kaolins and all the clays, and cheap fuel. A very notable beginning has already been made. Trenton, New Jersey, alone has ninety kilns in operation, with an annual production of two millions of dollars. But the particular basis for a brilliant future in this line, on which the author rather chimerically insists, is that we may be able to secure the secrets of Oriental workmanship, which have defied the scrutiny of Europeans, owing to our closer proximity to the Asiatic shores. He hopes that the Chinese immigrants can be induced to go into ceramic industries as they have into shoemaking and washing. We are inclined to think that something pretty abject in the way of a “ hoodlum ” apology would be a necessary preliminary to this. Still there is very good ground for a cheerful feeling about our pottery apart from the Chinese. The addition of the artistic element to our substantial plain work of the present is all that it needs to make a large reduction in the table of imports. A race of skilled decorators cannot be created in a moment, but they can be in part imported and in part trained. The improved public taste must be now every day manifesting to manufacturers the necessity of this final step on their part.
— We are so accustomed to taking Mr. Ruskin’s titles as riddles to be guessed that we are surprised to find The Ethics of the Dust9 to be as exact and descriptive a title as could be desired. The topic of his lectures actually is crystals, he does deliver them to little housewives, and we have both audience and lecturer in the book; and as for ethics, the reader may be assured that the dust is not only the occasion for ethics, but is itself highly ethical. We are told of crystal virtues, crystal quarrels, crystal caprice, crystal sorrows, and the crystal rest; and so far are these from being merely allegorical that the children who listen to the lectures express the reader’s bewilderment as to whether the lecturer really believes the crystals to be alive, and the lecturer answers that he is himself puzzled to say whether they are or not.
It will easily be understood that Mr. Ruskin finds no difficulty, then, in bringing his lectures home to his hearers. He even proposes to transform them into crystals, for the better illustration of his subject; and once having marshaled and deployed them in representation of crystal activity, he is able to apply the crystal lessons with as much directness as Æsop himself, when he drew from human weakness to enforce lessons in animal life. We are not certain that any one would learn a great deal about crystals from this book, and he would no doubt be sorely mystified by some of the erudite playfulness; but he will get, in a fragmentary way, at a good many of Mr. Ruskin’s favorite beliefs and favorite antipathies. It can hardly be called a successful book, in a literary sense; the young housewives do not succeed in giving the lightness at which the dialogue aims, but like all of Mr. Ruskin’s later works it is the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Repent ye, for the kingdom of Satan is all around you.
- In the Wilderness. By CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER. Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co. 1878.↩
- Visions: A Study of False Sight (Pseudopia). By EDWARD II. CLARKE, M. D. With an Introduction and Memorial Sketch by OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, M. D. Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co. ; The Riverside Press, Cambridge. 1878.↩
- See the London Lancet, June 26, 1875, page 886.↩
- Memorial and Biographical Sketches. By JAMES FREEMAN CLARKE. Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co. 1878.↩
- Modern Dwellings in Town and Country. Adapted to American Wants and Climate. With a Treatise on Furniture and Decoration. By H. HUDSON HOLLY. With One Hundred Original Designs. New York : Harper & Brothers. 1878.↩
- The Chronicles of the St. Lawrence. By J. M. LE MOYNE. Montreal and Quebec : Dawson & Co. Rouse’s Point, N. Y. : John W. Lovell. 1878.↩
- Hand-Book of Ceramic Art. By M. S. LOCKWOOD. New York : G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1878.↩
- Pottery: How it is Made. By GEORGE WARD NICHOLS, author of Art Education applied to Industry. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1878.↩
- The Ethics of the Dust. Ten Lectures to Little Housewives on the Element of Crystallization. By JOHN RUSKIN, LL. D. Second edition, with new preface and added note. New York : John Wiley and Sons. 1878.↩