ESSAYS in Anglo - Saxon Law1 is a book that deserves more than a passing notice. The essays which it contains are four in number, and treat of The Anglo-Saxon Courts of Law (Henry Adams); The Anglo-Saxon Laud Law (H. Cabot Lodge); The Anglo-Saxon Family Law (Ernest Young) ; and The Anglo-Saxon Legal Procedure (J. Lawrence Laughlin). Besides this there are a number of selected cases, and an index. The table of works cited is five pages in length, and embraces the names of the most authoritative writers on law, and institutions of all ages and countries, from Bracton to Bluntschli, and from Fleta to Freeman.
Anglo-Saxon law is a subject almost necessarily confined to a few specialists. Researches in it can have little or no bearing on any practical questions that advocates or judges discuss in the courts, for a very simple reason: the sources of the law, as we make use of it, must chiefly come from a comparatively civilized state of society. We find such sources in the Roman law, and in the feudal system. The latter, though we are accustomed to regard it as barbarous, was, when compared with the system which it supplanted in England, civilization itself; while the Roman system (though anterior in date) was as much superior to the Saxon as our modern jurisprudence is to it. The lawyer of to-day, in his examination of English authorities, rarely mounts higher than the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, when pure Anglo-Saxon law had long ceased to exist. When he goes behind this period, he reverts at once to the digest and the pandects. The period intervening between the disappearance of the Roman Empire and the establishment of English law in the reigns of Henry III or Edward I. has been, for practical purposes, a blank. It is not difficult to see from these essays the immediate practical reason of this. We may take two cases from the appendix, cited from Saxon authorities: one set down as belonging to the year 1040, and the other “before 1038.” The last of the two is contained in these words : + Here is made
known in this writing that a shire gemot sat at Aylton in King Cnutt’s day. There
sat Bishop Aethelstan, and Ealdorman Ranig, and Eadwine [son] of the ealdorman, and Leofwine, son of Wofsig, and Thurkil White; and Tofig Proud came there on the king’s errand ; and there was Sheriff Bryning, and Aegelweard of Frome, and Leofwine of Frome, and Godric of Stoka, and all the thanes in Herefordshire. Then came there Eadwine, son of Eanwine, faring to the gemot, and made claim against his own mother for a piece of land ; namely, Wellington and Cradley. Then asked the bishop who was to answer for his mother ; then answered Thurkil White and said that it was his part [to do so], if he knew the case. As he did not know the case, they appointed three thanes from the gemot, who should ride where she was; namely, at Fawley. These were Leofwine of Frome, and Aegelsic the Red, and Winsie Shipman. And when they came to her, then asked they what tale she had about the lands which her son sued for. Then said she that she had no land that belonged to him in any way, and she was vehemently angry with her son, and called her kinswoman, Leofled, Thurkil’s wife, to her, and said to her before them, thus: Here sits Leofled, my kinswoman, whom I grant both my land and my gold, both raiment and garment, and all that I own, after my day. And she afterwards said to the thanes, Do thanelike and well! Declare my errand to the gemot before all the good men, and make known to them whom I have granted my land to and all my property; and to my own son, nothing whatever; and ask them to be witness to this. And they then did so, rode to the gemot and made known to all the good men what she had laid on them. Then Thurkil White stood up in the gemot, and asked all the thanes to give his wife clear the lands that her kinswoman granted her, and they did so. And Thurkil rode then to St. Aethelbert’s minster by leave and witness of the whole people, and caused [this] to be recorded in a church hook.” This is cited as a case of an Anglo-Saxon civil suit and will. In No. 29 we have an Anglo-Saxon criminal prosecution : . . . “He [Harthacnut] was greatly incensed against Earl Godwine and Living, Bishop of Worcester, for the death of his brother Alfred, Aelfric, Archbishop of York, and some others being their accusers. For this reason he took the bishopric of Worcester from Living and gave it to Aelfric, but the following year he took it back from Aelfric and graciously restored it to Living, who had made his peace with him. Godwine, however, to obtain the king’s favor, gave to him an admirably constructed ship which had a gilded prow, and was perfectly fitted out and manned with eighty chosen men suitably armed, each of whom had two golden armlets weighing sixteen ounces on his arms, and wore a triple coat of mail, a helmet, partly gilded, on his head, a sword with gilded hilt girt to his side, a Danish battle-axe adorned with gold and silver hanging from his left shoulder, in his left hand a shield with gilded boss and studs, in the right hand a lance which is called in English ategar. Moreover, he made oath to the king, with nearly all the chief men and nobler thanes of England, that it was not by his advice nor by his will that the king’s brother had been blinded, but that his lord, King Harold, had commanded him to do what he had done.”
Now, we know that a “ gemot ” was a court, and it is not difficult to arrive at a tolerable degree of certainty as to the functions of a “ shire gemot; ” with the titles of bishop and sheriff we are perfectly familiar, as with that of “ ealdorman.” Expurgation by oath, too, is a process which all students of English history know something of. Nevertheless, it is as difficult to imagine this suit of Eadwine against his mother, or this prosecution of Earl Godwin, being used in a modern court of justice to settle a point about a will or an indictment, as to suppose English or American judges and lawyers citing precedents in a contested election contest from the Old Testament.
It is this fact, this lack of immediate practical utility, that has retarded the study of the Anglo-Saxon law in this country. The same devotion to purely practical results which secured from the late John Stuart Mill that concise and frank description of our national life which occurs, if we remember aright, in his Political Economy, — “ dollar-hunting and the breeding of dollar-hunters,”— has until recently made all researches into the primitive institutions of the race seem, even to those who were by training and profession best qualified to make them, almost like a waste of time. In the titles of works cited, to which we have referred above, we do not notice the name of a single American inquirer into the subjects of which the volume treats, and the only American writer on the list is the learned Lewis H. Morgan, whose investigations into Indian institutions have won him already such a world-wide reputation among scholars. Indeed, we are strongly inclined to suspect that the only work on the subject of primitive law which has yet issued from the American press is to be found in these essays.
In what we have said above of the difficulty of finding a practical use for such researches, we have only aimed at placing in the strongest light the lack of appreciation with which such a book has to contend. There hardly can be said to exist any public for it in this country, and the authors must look to Germany or to England for a proper recognition of their labors. That such a work should have been produced at all in the United States is a surprise, and it is worth while to inquire how such a thing has been possible.
The volume appears, then, to be in a certain sense an academic product. It is dedicated to “Charles William Eliot, President of Hanvard College,” as a “ fruit of his administration,” and all the essays are, we believe, the work of persons connected either as students or professors with the university at Cambridge. This is not the place to discuss the present administration of that institution of learning, but it is generally understood that both in the college proper and in its school of law the last few years have developed a new spirit of learning and emulation, which promise everything for the future. In too many of the colleges of the United States is the study of the law regarded in the purely commercial spirit which likens it to any other moneymaking trade. That higher conception of the subject which regards it as an elevated branch of learning, the most interesting perhaps that can be pursued by man, calling into play his highest faculties, revealing the most precious secrets of the past, and disclosing the immutable order of the development of human societies, — this is the conception which all those who are interested in this science, or in the cause of sound education, must desire to see substituted for the sordid and groveling spirit winch sees in law nothing but a pathway for sharp wits to wealth or place. It is this spirit which it is the duty of such it university as Harvard to foster at all points. The unpractical character of such publications, to which we have already adverted, makes it to the last degree unlikely that the work will be undertaken in a country like the United States, except it be helped forward by institutions having in charge the higher education, and the appearance of a hook like these essays shows that one of them at least does not shrink from the task.
To the general reader perhaps the first and second of the essays will be found the most interesting, though to the student all are of equal value. By the “ general reader ” we mean of course that small but increasing class which has some acquaintance with the development of early institutions, rather than the reading public at large. Many topics besides those of a purely legal character will be found discussed. With regard to that most interesting question, the formation of large estates out of the early communal system, some valuable remarks will be found in Mr. Lodge’s essay (p. 81). He points out that the efforts of most writers on the subject have been to support some one special form of organization as the typical Anglo-Saxon community,— Kemble taking the mark, Professor Stubbs rejecting this and adopting the township, as the constitutional unit. Mr. Lodge, however, does not think that the authorities justify us in adopting the mark or any other community as the unit of the land system. “The mark, the township, the vicus, in certain cases the vill, the hundred, the thorpe or dorf, were all what are now termed village communities.”Throughout them all ran the great primitive principle of community of land ; in all of them it existed in its three divisions,— house land, arable land, and wild land. In its pure form the community had the title vested in itself; but in some cases it grew up on lands of which the title was already vested elsewhere, as in the king, or in some large proprietor. In the last case “ the commoners were presumably tenants of the land-owner.”This was a direct and obvious cause in hastening the downfall of the independent community. It should be observed that the community land must not be confounded with the folc or public land, and Mr. Lodge points out the difference between the two by means of an example from modern times: “Here in America exist, side by side, the lands of the United States, the lands of the States, and the lands of the municipalities and townships. The land of the State, the municipality, and the township is private, as compared with the land of the United States. As the land of the State is to that of the United States, as the land of a corporation or township is to that of the single State, so was the land of the Anglo-Saxon community to the folc land.” Again, the lands of the folc, or people, were treated as revenue-bearing lands, as a national fund to which no individual had a right of separate enjoyment. On the other hand, the communal lands were enjoyed in common and bore no revenue, every commoner having an inalienable right to the enjoyment of a specific amount of it for a definite time. The process by which these communal lands were absorbed by families and individuals in England must have been the same as that which we know went on on the Continent. First, the house land becomes private property, then the arable, last the waste. “ In strict accordance with this order, the ordinary example of the communal system which has survived is in waste or wild lands. A few cases, comparatively speaking, have also remained to us of the community of the arable land. It is perfectly clear that the hereditary right to an allotment for a term of years was easily converted into an hereditary right to a certain parcel of land.” The formation of large estates was chiefly brought about by the right of redemption from the waste There were of course always differences of rank and wealth, and it was natural that the richer members of the community, the owners of many slaves, should redeem land from the waste much faster than the poorer members. “ Conquest, too, was an important factor in the problem; for the leaders, tin; kings, and the crown obtained much larger estates in the conquered territory than the common man. Deeds of lands introduced by the church for its own purposes, and occasionally sales, help to in crease the current. The large estates once started grew rapidly. Their development wathe development of the estates of individuals, of family estates.”This process it was which gradually raised one man above another as a property holder, and “thus developed the lord of the Middle Ages, and destroyed the old Germanic community, based on the sytem of small free holds and equality before the law.”
It will be seen from these extracts that the book is by no means confined to purely technical matter, but ranges over those wide fields of investigation which writers like Sir Henry Maine have already laid open to us. We trust that this pioneer effort may lead to others, and that it may help to prove that American legal scholarship no longer lags behind that of Germany and England.
— In a small volume2 of four hundred and thirty-two pages, of rather large type, Dr. Quackenbos has undertaken to give a compact history of Oriental and classical literature, omitting obscure names and wearisome details,giving “some of the most interesting facts of comparative philology,” and explaining “the principles of the Egyptian picture-writing.” Moreover, “ the labors of European scholars during the last quarter century have thrown a chain of living interest around the subject [Sanskrit and Persian literature], and awakened on this side of the Atlantic as well a thirst for further knowledge, which it is here attempted to satisfy.” This is undertaking a good deal in a single book, and a small one at that, and the execution is just what one would expect. There is a fluent stream of comment on all the great works of classical and Oriental literature, brief examples, in translation, are given of the different writings mentioned, and all the proper names are divided into syllables, and in every case the accented syllable is marked, for the greater convenience of readers.
“ The present volume,” Dr. Quackenbos tells us, “ has grown out of the author’s experience in the lecture-room ; and in the belief that it is of a scope and grade that will meet the popular want he now offers it to high schools, academies, and colleges. From such institutions he feels that no class should graduate in ignorance either of the Greek and Roman classics ... or of those precious remains of once great Oriental literature,” etc. Of the scope of this book there can be no question, but the wisdom of supplying the young with the merest smattering of necessary knowledge is more open to doubt. It is like feeding day-laborers with toast-water, by means of a salt-spoon, this giving young men, students by name, the meagrest intellectual fare, the correct pronunciation of well-known proper names (Achilles=a-kil-leez), “ the latest authorities ” in “ critical views,” and, in a word, this shameless collection of platitudes, in the place of sound education.
— Mr. White, by his admirable translation of Schmidt’s Introduction to the Rhythmic and Metric of the Classical Languages,3 has earned the gratitude of all who are interested in Greek and Latin poetry. The labor of translation has not been confined to an accurate reproduction of the German in good English, but quotations from our wellknown poets have been introduced, where German poems came in the original. The most useful additions which have been made are certainly the three indexes, of which there are absolutely no traces in the German book. Finally, the very artistic form of the book contrasts agreeably with the repulsive look of the German publication. To appreciate Dr. Schmidt’s researches it is indispensable to notice what views had been entertained on Greek rhythmic before him. A well-known German authority has said, “The great fault in Greek rhythmic is that it distinguished only one long and one short time. Now every motion involves several kinds of longs and shorts, and even the recitation of a poem, not to speak of singing, in which this is not recognized is unnatural and wearisome.” This condemnation of Greek rhythmic came before Dr. Schmidt had written the laborious works of which this volume is a summary. But now since Hermann’s plan of determining the laws of Greek rhythm by a discriminating application of Kant’s Categories has been given up, there is a very simple answer to the accusation above quoted. The Greeks did not confine themselves to the distinction between long and short, but, as Dr. Schmidt shows, had notes of six different values, ranging from five eighths to a sixteenth, — the ordinary short being the eighth. This removes the terrors of scanning, which, as ordinarily practiced, seems rather suited to the capacities of a phonograph than to those of a human being.
On this question Dr. Schmidt agrees with Rossbach and Westphal, whose work, as he acknowledges, first made him sure that there was in Greek rhythm something more than the monotonous clattering of a forge. The absurd theory that all Greek metres were made up of long and short syllables was handed down to us by the industrious grammarians of Alexandria. Dionysius, the writer on music, contradicts them, however, and contrasts prose, which makes only this distinction, with rhythmic, which “fits syllables to time and not time to syllables.”
The points where Dr. Schmidt does differ from his predecessors, and particularly from Westphal, arE these : he does not allow one syllable to be indefinitely extended over many feet, protesting against this as suggesting too forcibly the comic word ϵἱϵι-eUtϵιϵιϵιϵιλἱσσϵτϵ, made for Euripides by Aristophanes. The violence which modern composers of songs do to the rhythm of a poem is well illustrated by the translator, who instances Mendelssohn’s music for “ Oh, wert thou in the cauld blast.” So far the Greeks did not go. Other points of difference are that Dr. Schmidt rejects as impossible a pause in the middle of a word, and the suppression in a foot of the thesis to be supplied by the musical accompaniment. Thus far all his points are well taken. However, his use of the terms choree, trochee, and iambus seems needlessly confusing. The iambus, which plays so great a part in Greek poetry, he banishes entirely, while he speaks of iambic trimeter, but represents it in his notation as trochaic with anacrusis. When hard pressed he alludes to the iambus as an “ inverted choree.”
The great merit of this book is that it gives an interest to the subject of classical metres by showing that in this form of art, as well as in the other forms which the Greeks have left for the admiration of posterity, may be traced the same harmonious combination of perfect parts in a perfect whole which Plato so vividly expressed by saying that no sculptor would try to make the eyes of a statue beautiful by putting all his brightest colors on them, but would strive to make them beautiful eyes with due regard to the other parts of the statue. Moreover, in this book, as in no other suited for the use of beginners, the dry nomenclature of metrical forms has its true meaning infused into it, and no longer appeals to the memory alone.
— The preface tells us that this book4 “ is designed mainly for students at our universities and public schools, and for such as are preparing for the Indian Civil Service or other advanced examinations; ” and there is no doubt that these persons will find here exactly what they seek, for it would be hard to name an English history of Roman literature that in anything like the same space treats its subject with more thoroughness and exactness. Naturally, the author has taken Teuffel’s work for the basis of his own, and since that is unequaled on its own ground even by other German treatises, this slighter production secures accuracy and the last results of scholarship. Brief examples taken from here and there cannot prove the completeness of the book, which has stood well the examination we have given it, for this quality is one that will be best tested by actual use. The literary criticism is very fair, so far as it goes, and is certainly without the dull commonplaces which generally fill up books of this kind. The abstracts of different writings are full and satisfactory. It is not by studying Teuffel alone that the book is made what it is; the author has wisely used the works of other scholars, as his frequent notes show, in preparing this excellent hand-book.
— First, we believe, among the series of hand-books for students and general readers projected by Henry Holt & Co. is a little volume of one hundred and sixty pages, entitled The Studio Arts, by Elizabeth Winthrop Johnson.5 It seeks to give a general view of the theory, practice, and history of art, with brief biographies of the ancient and modern masters so arranged as to illustrate the natural divisions of art and the main characteristics of its development in the several schools. There is also an outline bibliography of art, a wellarranged table of contents, and a full index of artists. This very comprehensive scheme is prepared, not for students, but for the public, and in the main its nature is such that, without making any great demand upon the time or the intellect of the reader, it is capable of making him, not a critic, perhaps, but certainly a more intelligent observer of such forms of art as are accessible to him. Part First, covering the large division of definitions, theory, and technique, is of course exceedingly elementary. Twenty-five pages can scarcely include all that even the general reader would find it convenient to know on these subjects. The author is thus compelled by her limit of space to confine herself to what is little more than a bald statement of commonplaces and truisms. As such, we must needs scrutinize it jealously, for fear the popular comprehension of art may be poisoned at its sources. It is not captious, therefore, to take exception to the arbitrary general division of her subject into decorative art, pictorial art, and sculpture. Decorative art she defines as “ art applied to the ornamenting of objects of practical use.” Now, as sculpture and painting are themselves, in their highest uses, decorative arts, whether applied to small or great things, to ornamenting pottery or completing architecture ; as architecture itself is an art, and the main inspiration of the decorative arts; and as all three are interdependent, there seems to be no good reason why the ordinary division of the arts into architecture, sculpture, and painting should not be adhered to.
Our author consistently carries her system of exclusion into the second part, and in her “ sketch of the progress of art " takes no note of architecture or of its indissoluble connection with the other arts in their decorative capacities. She treats, moreover, successively of the antique or classic, the Renaissance, the intermediate, and the modern arts, but does not recognize the important expressions of art which occupied the grea area of time between the classic and the Renaissance periods, and which, although the Renaissance was ostensibly a revival of classic art, formed a vast body of precedent, whether Romanesque or mediæval, which had its inevitable and important influence upon every subsequent work.
It is but fair to add, however, that we know of no book which so directly answers the questions which are most apt to be asked by those ignorant of the principles and history of sculpture and painting, — of none which so conveniently presents the generally accepted character, position, and influence of the principal masters of art.
— Mr. Camille Piton. principal of the National Art Training School at Philadelphia, has contributed his quota to the flood of literature on ceramics, for a better knowledge of which we have reason to infer the public mind is still athirst, in a little treatise entitled China Painting in America.6 It is curiously made up of a brief discussion on the theory of color, followed by a practical elementary account of the natures of hard and soft porcelain and faÏence, especially as regards their capacity to receive colors over and under the glaze; then ensue three pages on heraldry, somewhat grotesquely introduced, and a detailed account of the manipulations of palette, colors, and brushes in the transfer to the porcelain or faÏence of certain decorations according to models given in the accompanying album ; and these exercises are devoted wholly to mechanical processes, and do not touch upon the artistic qualities of the work. If properly used the book will be useful to the amateur, and may save the artist, who would express his inspirations in perdurable pottery, a world of preliminary trouble in experimenting under the unfamiliar conditions of material.
— Every one who writes of Rufus Choate from actual knowledge speaks of his indefinable, rare personal charm, and those who can remember his voice and manner will find the pages animated by much that is lost to those born too late to hear him speak. Rut there is in his addresses7 a quality that survives the accidents of mortality, — that something which is the mark of genius, to which the orator’s presence gave emphasis, but which yet fills the printed page with an undying glow. It seems as if in speaking of Choate’s wit, presence of mind, eloquence, etc., one was actually blinded, by the number of qualities that claim the attention, to the poetical nature that underlay them all, and added so much to them all.
Choate’s facile, buoyant style was but the fit representative of his rich imagination. When another man would have used a single, shivering, dimly descriptive epithet, Choate’s imagination saw every detail and flooded it with a brilliant light, and his command of language enabled him to set tlie scene clearly before his hearers or his readers. A most noteworthy instance is the passage from the oration entitled The Heroic Period of our History, in which he describes, as an example of military heroism, the feeling that inspired Leonidas and his three hundred as they awaited the Persian onset at Thermopylæ. We have not space to quote in full the eloquent passage, but this final sentence fitly sums up the whole : “ When morning came and passed, and they had dressed their long locks, and when at noon the countless and glittering throng was seen at last to move, was it not with rapture, as if all the enjoyment of all the sensations of life was in that one moment, that they cast themselves, with the fierce gladness of mountain torrents, on that brief revelry of glory ? ” This “ fierce gladness of mountain torrents ” seems just the one concentrating expression, the poetical and picturesque embodiment, of the whole scene, and it is in these frequent, swift images that Choate’s style is particularly rich.
Of course, the beauty of language depends on the ideas to he expressed, and statesmanship is by no means the only quality to be found within this volume; there is always a generous appreciation of the importance of literature and study, such as has not been found in the speeches of all eminent orators. The same zealous interest in literary matters is to he found, not merely in the abundant signs of wide reading, lint in the earnest pleas for sound cultivation which are to be met in some of the earlier speeches; and when we remember that these are but examples of Choate’s many-sidedness, that hard reading and deep study were but the relaxations of a man busy in his profession and in politics, the impression of his greatness is only strengthened.
Of his eloquence fame speaks too loudly for further words to be needed. Take his Eulogy on Webster, for instance ; happy the statesman who merits such glowing recognition as is contained in this touching tribute of one great man to another. To extract any one brief passage would be unjust, since no sentence, thus detached from its place, could be fairly judged. The reader must take up the book, and as he turns from one page to another, he will fall under the charm of the richly endowed man, with his many sympathies, his ardent, poetical nature, that seems like a plant of tropical luxuriance amid our New England coldness and aridity.
— Mr. Adams’s book on Railroads8 is divided into two very different parts, the first being a somewhat facetious history of the early days of railway travel in this country and abroad, while the second is a very serious discussion of what may be called the social relations of railroads at the present time. The historical part is well done, and, brief though it is, it may be regarded as the most exact, and thorough account written of the establishment of this means of locomotion, and as such is of permanent value to the curious. It sinks into insignificance, however, in comparison with the immediate importance to us all of the treatment of the “ railroad problems.”
It may be stated, in the first place, that there is no person more competent than Mr. Adams to write about these questions. They concern us all, it is true : the business man has to estimate the uncertain chances of a railroad war; the man who has invested in railroads has every reason to follow the course of those who have charge of iiis money with considerable attention; those who control the railroads certainly seldom show indifference to meeting the difficulties that continually beset them, hut none of these persons possess the combination of thorough knowledge and impartiality that Mr. Adams, by virtue of Inks position as railroad commissioner in this State, possesses. Eur many years now he has been dealing with the questions that continually come up about railroads, and every word that he says is of the utmost importance. It is only too seldom that an expert will expound difficult matters so fully anti so clearly.
Mr. Adams’s description of the recent railroad troubles — since 1873, that is — is particularly noteworthy. Eor once we have a succinct and impartial account of the granger movement, with full justice done to what was reasonable, or, possibly, what had some elements of reason, in that extraordinary outburst. He tells us what have been its consequences, and he states what we may look for in the future. Competition in railroads, which has long been regarded as the protection of the public, he sltows to he a dangerous thing, and lie illustrates this by mention of the different results of competition between two railroads running northward from Boston, and of the monopoly enjoved by another well-known road in a different part of the State, and certainly the facts hear him out. The recent struggles between the principal roads have brought only a temporary settlement of the troubles ; so that, Mr. Adams says, '‘taken as a whole, the American railroad system is in much the same condition as Mexico and Spain are politically. In each case a Ctesar or Napoleon is necessary. When, however, the time is ripe and the man comes, the course of affairs can even now be foreshadowed; for it is always pretty much the same. Instead of the wretched condition of chronic semi-warfare which now exists, there will be one decisive struggle, in which, from the beginning to the end, the fighting will be forced. There will be no patehed-up truces, made only to be broken. . . . The result, expressed in a few words, would be a railroad federation under a protectorate. The united action of the great through lines is necessary to bring this about; and how to secure that action is now the problem.” That there is something of the kind imminent, he does not doubt. This is but one of the shrewd remarks to be found in the book, very little of which is of a kind to give unalloyed satisfaction to any of the numerous contestants in railroad strife. Nor will the theorists who desire to put everything under the charge of a paternal government — which is to visionaries of the present day very much what nature was a century ago — get much encouragement from Mr. Adams.
FRENCH AND GERMAN.
The second volume of Sainte-Bouve’s9 Correspondence, which includes the letters of the last four years of his life, is of the same somewhat disappointing quality as the first one. There are more of the formal notes of thanks to critics who had been civil to him ; business notes to his friends and others on the work that he was busy about at the time, asking for dates, the corroboration of uncertain statements, etc.; and here and there a letter that it is a pleasure and a satisfaction to find printed. But the reader feels continually that Sainte-Beuve was too indefatigable a writer to spend much time in correspondence, so that his letters, for the most part, have hardly more literary interest than a business man’s telegrams; and then we know that all of those more intimate remarks, those frank expressions of opinion, those revelations of the real feeling which make the charm of letters as contrasted with the printed page, have all found their place in his deadly footnotes, and his pensées, where he would concentrate his whole censure in one winged shaft of criticism devoid of compliment. Even with these serious drawbacks the book has considerable value; it is only in contrast with what every one has hoped for that it seems uninteresting.
Often we find him defending his views on religion from various forms of attack, and, at the time the incident occurred, setting right malicious false reports about the dinner on Good Friday, an event which created the most disproportionate excitement. He was by no means a believer, in the usual acceptation of the term, but he was far from making his lack of belief obnoxious to others, while he had to endure a good deal of misrepresentation from those who considered it necessary to remonstrate with him. In this volume are to be found two or three letters in which he takes pains to state his position very clearly.
These vague words of comment must suffice, and lack of space must explain our giving but one example of Sainte-Beuve’s letters. It was written ten years ago to M. Émile Zola (the author, it will be remembered, of L’Assommoir), about his book, Thérèse Raquin. This novel is one of a good deal of what is called force, that is to say, no one can read it without receiving a very violent impression, and, except that it lacks the enormous amount of technical preparation which distinguishes the RougonMacquart series, it is hard to see why it is not fully equal to any of them. It certainly has to a very great degree all their faults. Here is the letter, dated June 10, 1868.
DEAR SIR : I am not so sure that I shall send you this letter, for I do not feel that I have any right to criticise privately your Thérèse Raquin. . . . Your work is remarkable, conscientious, and in some respects it may mark an epoch in the history of the contemporary novel. But yet in my opinion it exceeds the limits, it abandons the conditions, of art viewed in any light; and by reducing art to pure and simple truth, it seems to me to lack this truth.
And in the first place, you choose a motto that is not justified by anything in the novel. If vice and virtue are only products like vitriol and sugar, it must follow that a crime explained and accounted for like this one is no such miraculous and monstrous thing; and one cannot help asking why, in that case, there is all this machinery of remorse, which is but a transformation and transposition of ordinary moral remorse, of Christian remorse, and is another sort of hell.
In the beginning, you describe the Passage du Pont Neuf. . . . Well, this description is not true : it is fantastic ; it is like Balzac’s Rue Soli. The Passage is flat, dull, ugly, and very narrow, but it has none of the blackness and of the Rembrandt-like tints that you ascribe to it. That is another way of being inaccurate.
Your characters, too, if it was on purpose that you made them dull and vulgar (excepting the young woman who is something like an Algerian), are life-like, well drawn, conscientiously analyzed, and honestly copied. To tell the truth, little as I am of an idealist, I cannot help asking if the pencil or the pen must necessarily choose vulgar subjects, void of all charm (f asked the same thing about Germinie Lacerteux, by my friends the Goncourts). I am convinced that a touch of something agreeable, of something pathetic, is not wholly useless, even if only on one or two points, — even in a picture that one wishes to make perfectly gloomy and dark. But I will say nothing more about that. There is one place in which I find a good deal of talent in the way of invention: it is in the boldness of the rendezvous. The page about the cat, about what it might say, is charming, and does not fall into pure and simple copying. I find, too, great analytic skill and vraisemblance (the kind of novel being accepted) in the scenes before and after the drowning.
But there I stop, and the novel seems to me to go astray. I maintain that here observation, or divination, fails you. It is done with the head, and not from nature. And, in fact, passion is ferocious. Once unchained, it continues so long as it is not gratified. . . . .So I do not understand your lovers with their remorse, and their sudden cooling before they had accomplished their ends. As to what might have happened later I say nothing. When the main passion is satisfied reflection commences, the inconveniences are seen, and remorse begins.
You see my objections, my dear sir. But they do not blind me to the technical merit in the execution of many pages. I can only wish that the word vautrer was used less frequently, and that that other word, brutal, which continually appears, did not come to enforce the dominant note, which has no need of this reminder to escape being forgotten.
You have done a bold thing : you have in this book defied the public and the critics. Do not be surprised at considerable wrath ; the fight is begun ; your name is connected with it; such contests end, when an author of talents wishes it, by another book, equally bold but somewhat more moderate, in which the public and the critics imagine that they see a concession such as they wanted, and it all ends with one of those treaties of peace which establish our reputation more.
When one recalls the amount of criticism that Zola’s books have provoked, these words, which hit the very faults that have since made this author famous, are well worth consideration.
— Comte de Gobineau’s La Renaissance10 is a book that will be pretty sure not to tempt the reader who opens it and merely turns over the pages. A series of dramatic sketches demands pretty constant attention to be appreciated properly, and this form of writing has, in the course of time, gone very much out of fashion. The reader prefers being told something to finding it out for himself, and he has become distrustful of the necessary inaccuracy, or at least the formal inaccuracy, of even the cleverest attempts at dramatic writing. But Gobineau nowhere comes near a theatrical representation in what he has here written. He has rather told a series of slightly connected stories about the period of the Renaissance by means of a number of scenes, written with more resemblance to the manner of the stage than is to be found in Landor’s Imaginary Conversations, for instance, but hardly so much as we see in Alfred de Musset’s Lorenzaccio, which surely could never be acted without a good deal of clipping and filling-out. It is easy to see that a book of this sort is not likely to attract every one, but Gobineau has already shown himself so distinctly one of the most cultivated and thoughtful of contemporary authors -that this is not exaggerated praise those who know will doubtless be willing to affirm — that a new book of his cannot fail to attract attention.
The scenes he has chosen for illustration in this volume are most interesting. What one sees in looking at a great period like the Renaissance is apt to be what one looks for, and Gobineau has pictured here specimens of both the artistic and the political life of that time. The first division consists of Savonarola’s career, which may be said to belong to the political life, and contains an account, put, of course, in dramatic form, of the career of that celebrated reformer. It sets him in no very favorable light, and brings out his fanaticism much more than any other of his qualities. But that is a small part of the author’s performance ; by a number of well-contrived scenes be brings before us the busy life of Florence and its relations with other cities, the whirl of political strife, the feelings of the artists, and all the complicated civilization of that day. And this is the way Gobineau has treated the whole history that he has chosen to illustrate. The headings of the different divisions are of only slight importance; they are the merest pegs on which hangs a sympathetic and tolerably thorough exposition of the Renaissance. The Popes Julius II. and Leo X.; Raphael, Titian, Leonardo, and Michael Angelo; Machiavelli, Cæsar Borgia, Aretino, and Bembo, are but a few of the many figures that appear in the pages, and in their talk, which is based on the author’s careful research and inspired by his keen sympathy, they live again, as it were, the main incidents of that stirring epoch.
It is very much the fashion nowadays to write about the Renaissance, and every one who has a grudge against the present time avenges himself by praising that period at the expense of these degenerate days; and there is a good deal of misplaced subtlety in the investigation of its literary and artistic excellence. The new crop of English æsthetic writers, who hold in scorn the old saying about the Italianized Englishman, outdo one another in decorative writing in the interpretation of old paintings and poems. By the side of these authors Gobineau seems simple and manly. He does not give way to “tall” writing, but sets forth his notion of a few of the main peculiarities that marked that era. These historical scenes will well repay those who will overcome their repugnance to the form in which they are written, and will take them up. The translation of a single detached scene would not give the reader a satisfactory notion of the merit of the book, or we should give some proof of our words; as it is, the reader can only be urged to examine the way the history of the Renaissance strikes a man like Gobineau, and he will be pretty sure to be interested, even if it is hard to discriminate between interest in the events themselves and interest in the author’s way of writing about them.
— Although philology is in the main a Garman science, and all the workers in it have to go back to that country for precise and definite information, France, even if at a long distance, may be said to hold the second place. England shines mainly with a borrowed light; Italy contains hut few
students, of whom only one has a wide reputation ; while Bréal, it is not too much to say, is a real ornament to French erudition. His masterly translation of Bopp’s comparative grammar, which really has the value of a carefully revised and much-enlarged edition of the original work, has given him a very high position. His scattered essays and monographs have always found admiring readers, so that the publication of his various papers in a single volume 1 gives an excellent opportunity to form some sort of conclusion about his merit.
Doubtless the most important of the essays in this volume is the one upon the myth of Hercules and Cacus ; it appeared some fifteen years ago in separate form, and although it did not actually lay open an unknown path to investigators, it was at the time recognized as a most remarkable unfolding of a very difficult matter. The study of myths had not then proceeded very far, and Bréal’s investigation, of one widespread and obscure myth has always been a model of the way in which such work should be done. Without making invidious comparisons between the two nations, it is notorious that while German work is often graceless, French research produces flawless results, as complete as the multiplication table, which excite, the suspicions of the cautious. But Bréal is a thorough scholar, while at the same time he is a delightful writer, — a rare and fascinating combination. This is not the place for an abbreviation of his excellent work, which, moreover, is no longer new, but it may be allowable to call attention to the way in which the fable of Hercules and Cacus is shown in the various modifications it underwent among different peoples, and the solution that explains all the incidents of the story. Every one who has paid any attention to the study of myths will at once recall the foundation underlying this, as so many other similar once incomprehensible legends. The clouds, with their corning and going, which so deeply impressed our early Aryan forefathers, inspired the original form which has cropped up in various literatures, notably in the Æneid. Nothing could be neater than Bréal’s careful exposition, and those who are dabbling in some of the most interesting of modern stories cannot fail to be fascinated by this specimen of good workmanship. The essays on linguistics are also very instructive.
- Essays in Anglo-Saxon Law. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.; London • Macmillan & Co.↩
- Illustrated History of Ancient Literature, Oriental and Classical. By JOHN D. QUACKENBOS, A. M., M. D., author of Illustrated School History of the World. Accompanied with Engravings and Colored Maps. New York : Harper and Brothers. 1878.↩
- An Introduction to the Rhythmic and Metric of the Classical Languages. To which are added the lyric parts of the Medea of Euripides and the Antigone of Sophocles, with Rhythmical Schemes and Commentary. By DR. J. H HEINRICH SCHMIDT. Translated from the German, with the author’s sanction, by JOHN WILLIAMS WHITE, PH. D., Assistant Professor of Greek in Harvard University. Boston : Ginn and Heath. 1878.↩
- A History of Roman Literature : From the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius. By CHARLES THOMAS CRUTTWELL, M, A., Fellow and Tutor of Merton College, Oxford. With Chronological Tables, etc., for the use of Students. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1878.↩
- The Studio Arts. By ELIZABETH WINTHROP JOHNSONo. New York : Henry Holt & Co. 1878.↩
- A Practical Treatise on China Painting in America. With some Suggestions as to Decorative Art. By CAMILLE PITON. With folio album of plates. New York : John Wiley and Sons. 1878.↩
- Addresses and Orations of Rufus Choate. Boston : Little, Brown & Co. 1878↩
- Railroads: Their Origin and Problems. By CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, JR. NeW York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1878.↩
- Sainte-Beuve. Correspondance. 1825-69. II. Paris: Lévy. 1878.↩
- La Renaissance. Scènes Historiques. Par LE COMTE DE GOBINEAU. Paris : E. Plon & Cie. 1877.↩
- Mélanges de Mythologie et de LinguiStique. Par MICHEL BRÉAL, Membre de l'Institut, Professeur de Grammuire Comparée au Collége de France. Paris : Hachette. 1878.↩