Books of the Month
Poetry and the Drama. Elijah the Reformer, a ballad-epic, and other sacred and religious poems, by George Lansing Taylor, D. D. (Funk & Wagnalls.) If all the words were taken out of this book which were put in to fill out measures and swell the sound, it would be a thinner and a wiser book. — Thisbe’s Lament, and other Poems, by Masson Pell Helmbold. (Lippincott.) Mr. Helmbold explains in his preface that he is still quite young, but that he is original; in some of his careful foot-notes he also indicates passages where he is not original. This conscientiousness will be highly valued by the reader. We like a poet who is truthful. — Great Tom, the Curfew Bell of Oxford, an historical ballad, by Otto Idlethorne (Baudry, Paris); a curious little story, not ill told, apparently by a young collegian.—Freya, a Saga of the Doom, by James Pearce (McCorquodale & Co., London): a section of a proposed poem, in which poetry struggles with prose, and occasionally comes off first best. — Immortality Inherent in Nature, by Warren Sumner Barlow. (Fowler & Wells Co-, New York.) Mr. Barlow disposes of his subject in thirty-eight pages of fourline stanzas. We have not fathomed the philosophy, but have fished a little in the poetry, and caught this stanza, descriptive of rocks : —
Display their type on nature’s page ;
Whose precious gems, unscathed by time,
Outlive all forms from age to age.”
— Lyrics and other Poems, by Richard Watson Gilder. (Scribners.) Mr. Gilder reprints the poems which at two previous times he has published in book form, and adds others, now first collected. We have not compared the successive issues to see if he has in any way revised the text, but the volume as it stands is a fresh gift to lovers of poetry. The beauty of paper and print, the brilliancy of the slight decorations, and the general attractiveness of the volume, in spite of its ungainly proportions, fitly belong to verse which is not commonplace, which often strikes a clear, pure note, and always possesses what we must call a personal charm of manner. — Hidden Sweetness: the poems by Mary Bradley; the illustrations from drawings by Dorothy Holroyd. (Roberts.) The poetry is marked by religious feeling, and by that, disclosure of personal experience which it is difficult to suppose assumed, and therefore is somewhat repellent to the ordinary reader. It is curious how much sentiment one can stand if it is imaginary, how little if it is real. The illustrations are chiefly flower drawings, delicately printed, but not otherwise noticeable.—Peculiar Poems, by Col. John A. Joyce. (Thomas A. Knox & Co., New York.) The only peculiarity appears to be in the absence of poetry, and that is shared by other books of verse. — Under the Pine, by M. F. Bridgman (Cupples, Upham & Co.): a small collection of interesting poems, into which some individuality of thought and sentiment has passed.—Oberon and Puck, Verses Grave and Gay, by Helen Gray Cone. (Cassell.) Here is a volume of poetry well worth reading, and the reader who goes through it slowly will laugh the more heartily as he comes with a sense of surprise upon the merry verses at the close. In looking back he will discover, however, that it is precisely this healthy sport in Miss Cone’s nature which has enabled her to write her serious poems without lapsing into dangerous moods of sentiment. The honesty of the book is one of its best notes.
Travel, Nature, and Sport. A Canterbury Pilgrimage, ridden, written, and illustrated by Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell (Scribners): a bright little sketch, which authors and publishers have had the good sense to put out without too much refinement of mechanical execution. The quaint little affectations in pictures will be lost, however, we fear, upon many readers. — The America’s Cup, how it was won by the yacht America in 1851, and has been since defended, by Captain Roland F. Coffin. (Scribners.) This volume was written and published before the recent races, but is none the less readable now in the light of that event. The facts are all there, and the writer tells the tale with spirit and genuine interest.—Lawn Tennis, as a Game of Skill, with latest revised laws as played by the best clubs, by Lieutenant S. C. F. Peile, edited by R. D. Sears. (Scribners.) If anything could alarm the timid or nerve the courageous more than looking at a game of lawn tennis, it would be reading this little book, which firmly upholds the rigor of the game. — Where to Find Ferns, with a special chapter on the ferns round London, by Frances George Heath (S. P. C. K., London; Youngs, New York): a book of most use to collectors already familiar with the subject botanically. — How to Play Whist, with the laws and etiquette of whist, and forty fully annotated games, by Five of Clubs, Richard A. Proctor (Harpers) : incidentally a criticism of Pole. — Two other numbers r>f Harper’s Handy Series relate to travel and observation, Disraeli’s Home Letters and Count Paul Vasili’s The World of London.— By Ways of Nature and Life, by Clarence Deming (Putnams), is a cheap edition of a readable book of travel and observation in various quarters, published in handsomer form a year or two ago. — Two Years in the Jungle, the experiences of a hunter and naturalist in India, Ceylon, the Malay Peninsula, and Borneo, by William T. Hornaday. (Scribners.) The maps are more satisfactory than the illustrations. The author is a voluble and often entertaining rambler. — White, Stokes, and Allen’s Guide and Select Directory, what to see and where to buy in New York city, may be ever so impartial and useful, but the intercalary advertisements shake one’s confidence in the stern justice of the compiler and publishers.— Paris in Old and Present Times, with especial reference to changes in its architecture and topography, by P. G. Hamerton. (Roberts.) Mr. Hamerton’s method is to take certain salient points in Paris, and give full and intelligent talk concerning the physiognomy of the city. He writes with his frank, familiar manner, so agreeable to his readers, and when he has a prejudice, as for perpendicular against horizontal living, states it candidly. The illustrations are singularly ineffective and unpleasing. —Due South, or Cuba Past and Present, by Maturin M. Ballou. (Houghton.) Mr. Ballou writes with particularity, but with a monotonous style which is very fatiguing. He has not the power of seeing a picture and reproducing it, though he has a book-keeper’s diligence of recording every item, which makes one think it likely that everything is in the book. — Mountain Adventures in various parts of the world, selected from the narratives of celebrated travelers, with an introduction and additions by J. T. Headley (Scribners): one of the revived Library of Wonders.— Bird-Ways, by Olive Thorne Miller. (Houghton.) Readers of The Atlantic do not need to be told how genuine a biographer of birds Mrs. Miller is. In this volume she has collected her Atlantic papers and added others, and the result is a delightful addition to our small collection of humane as distinct from scientific books of natural history. Her apt quotation from Emerson characterizes her treatment of the subject she has studied; “ The Bird is not in its ounces and inches, but in its relation to nature; and the skin or skeleton you show me is no more a heron than a heap of ashes or a bottle of gases into which his body has been reduced is Dante or Washington.” — Marvels of Animal Life, by Charles Frederick Holder. (Scribners.) Mr. Holder has gone through the lower world with his eye on every queer thing, and while he has a scientific training, apparently, his idea of a museum would be not one for comparison of types, but for a Saturday afternoon entertainment. His book is a lively one, and we wish it all success among young people, who will chiefly read it, though it is not openly prepared for them. The book in parts reproduces the author’s personal adventures in story form. — Perils of the Deep, being an account of some of the remarkable shipwrecks and disasters at sea during the last hundred years, by Edward N. Hoare. (S. P. C. K., London; Youngs, New York.) The account is drawn from various sources, and thus is of unequal value. The editorial work is sometimes diffuse and unnecessary, but the reports of eye-witnesses and sufferers are often graphic and to the point. The book is rather a heavy meal of horrors, however. — We Two Alone in Europe, by Mary L. Ninde (Jansen, McClurg & Co.): a story of the grand round, told by one of the two travelers. These young ladies seem to have had a faculty for stumbling into the presence of distinguished people, and from the slight report of the conversation they appear to have given no more than they received.—The third volume of the series, by W. M. Thompson, published under the general title of The Land and the Book, is Lebanon, Damascus, and Beyond Jordan. (Harpers.) Like its predecessors it is well illustrated, and provided with maps, plans, and indexes. The special value of this series lies in the fact that it records the observations of a traveler who has really lived in the land and has absorbed the contents of the book.—Nature’s Teachings, human invention anticipated by Nature, by Rev. J. G. Wood. (Roberts.) We are not informed whether this is a new book, or one of the many works of this prolific and always interesting writer reissued in new form. Mr. Wood has an exceedingly happy faculty for taking the commonplaces of nature and showing their correspondence in human life, and in this volume he points out a great number of instances in which the reason of man seems to have done scarcely more than produce an adaptation to human needs, where the instinct or automatic faculty of lower orders has gone straight to the mark within the province of those orders.
Books for Young People. Two Friends, by S. M. Sitwell (S. P. C. K., London; Youngs, New York): a little English story, of a readable kind, in which children may read of adventures and a kind of life impossible in America, and so all the more interesting to them. The little boy of the story is an English gentleman’s son, who commits the dreadful crime of making friends with a boy not in his class. — Winter Fun, by William O. Stoddard (Scribners), is the story of two city children who spent the winter in the country and shared country sports. It is a capital book when one has agreed to accept the dialect and lack of grammar, and all the better for having no pictures. — The Satin-Wood Box, by J. T. Trowbridge (Lee & Shepard): a story in which the accused boy comes out all right. — Driven Back to Eden, by E. P, Roe (Dodd, Mead & Co.), is an interesting story of a family that was going to destruction in the city, and escaped into the country for life, and found it. Despite much unnecessary delay in getting the family into the country, the story is an alluring one, and ought to set some parents to thinking. — The very desirable practice of bringing the great literature within the reach of boys and girls is illustrated by several new books. The Boys’ and Girls’ Pliny, being parts of Pliny’s Natural History, edited for boys and girls, with an introduction by John S. White (Putnams), who did Herodotus and Plutarch in the same fashion, is a case in point. Mr. White does not say whose translation he uses, but it appears to be clear, though not always without a foreign clumsiness. He has also added notes from the works of naturalists. Pliny was an observer and story-teller, and naturally uses the form most suitable for young people. It is thus of comparatively little importance whether as natural history the work is up to date. —Another volume of the same class is The Travels of Marco Polo for Boys and Girls, with explanatory notes and comments, by Thomas W. Knox. (Putnams.) Mr. Knox, however, has proceeded on a somewhat different plan, for he has elaborated a system of comment by which a club of boys and their elder supply the necessary notes and illustration. It is really too much of a good thing. The editor stuffs the book full, and Marco Polo himself is often wholly lost to view. — The Boy Travellers in South America, by Mr. Knox, describes the adventures of two youths in a journey through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentine Republic, and Chili, with descriptions of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, and voyages upon the Amazon and La Plata rivers (Harpers): a cyclopædia of information, which makes one’s head reel, but which appears to be calmly assimilated by Mr. Knox’s youths. Boys are cormorants, however, and, after swallowing Marco Polo and Pliny, we have no doubt they would make a moderate luncheon of this book. — Davy and the Goblin, or what fallowed reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Charles E. Carryl (Ticknor), is so flagrantly an imitation of its famous model that one has a sort of nightmare in reading it. The pictures are cleverer than the text, but the whole work implies a singular willingness on the part of the bright author to play echo to a joke. — The Two Elsies, by Martha Finley (Dodd, Mead & Co.): a stiff, rather unnatural tale of school life. Even if the main incident of the story were true, it would not save the book from being an unnecessary and unprofitable story.—Pepper and Salt, or Seasoning for Young People, prepared by Howard Pyle. (Harpers.) Mr. Pyle furnishes both text and illustration, but he is more at home in drawing than in writing. That is to say, the drawing is often positively good, the writing is negatively good. The fun in the book is a little violent at times, and the affectation of quaintness is a little wearisome, but there is much cleverness anti dexterity in the use of old material in new forms. It is curious to see how the refinement of the day leads Mr. Pyle to veil the devil under the name of the red man. — Rose-Buds, by Virginia Gerson. (White, Stokes & Allen.) The printing in colors of this little book of jingles and pictures is delicate and good, the conceits are happy, the general effect is pleasing. The drawing is rather amateurish, and the verses and subjects are sometimes a little loud. — The Joyous Story of Toto, by Laura E. Richards. (Roberts.) Mrs. Richards has evidently dared to be as funny as she could, and her courage and zeal have run beyond her judgment. Very likely some children may be entertained, but we doubt if they remember the book, or care much for the fun five minutes after they have laughed. — Children’s Stories in American History, by Henrietta Christian Wright. (Scribners.) We wish we could praise a book of such good intentions as this, but it will not do to give children erroneous notions in history, and the matter is not helped by the book being written in the childese dialect. The facts are loosely stated, and the whole effect is not to give children precise information, or even interesting information, but merely general ideas, which as we said are sometimes erroneous. — The bound volume of Our Little Ones and The Nursery (Estes & Lauriat) is, as usual, one of the handsomest of holiday books for very young readers.—Four Feet, Two Feet, and No Feet, or Furry and Feathery Pets, and How They Live, edited by Laura E. Richards (Estes & Lauriat), is a collection of pictures and stories which most children will find very attractive. The excellent illustrations have already appeared in Our Little Ones.
Philosophy and Theology. Outlines of Practical Philosophy, dictated portions of the lectures of Hermann Lotze, translated and edited by George T. Ladd (Ginn): one of an interesting series, and independently valuable. Such topics as Marriage, Society, and the State are discussed after the groundwork is laid by an investigation of ethical principles, the simple moral ideals, and the freedom of the will.—Two numbers of the Biogen series, edited by Dr. Elliott Coues (Estes & Lauriat), are The Dæmon of Darwin, by the editor, and A Buddhist Catechism, by Henry S. Olcott. Dr. Coues has a philosophy of his own, and his Dæmon is a fantasy, or mystical anagogic, — we think that is the word,— also of his own, based upon his philosophy. He supplies Colonel O1cott’s catechism with notes. The catechism aims to present the main facts in the life of Gautama Buddha and the essential features of his doctrine, and is intended for infant believers. — Modern Science and Modern Thought, by S. Laing. (Chapman & Hall, London.) “ The object of this book,” says the Preface, “is to give a clear and concise view of the principal results of Modern Science, and of the revolution which they have effected in Modern Thought.” The most individual part of the work is the second part, in which the author gives his views as to the amount of religion which can be saved from the shipwreck of theology. The writer, however, takes no very profound view of theology, but contents himself with knocking down Mumbo Jumbo and dancing on him. He is satisfied himself with stoicism, as a practical philosophy, but most modern practical stoics are like Dr. Holmes’s contented man. —Movements of Religious Thought in Britain during the Nineteenth Century, by John Tulloch. (Scribners.) Principal Tulloch’s book is in the main a collection of papers which he has been publishing in the Contemporary and elsewhere. We are glad he has given this permanent form to them, for he is a wise, catholic, and stimulating writer, who from his vantage ground gives a more just statement of English theological movements than an English churchman usually is capable of giving. —History of Christian Doctrine, by Henry C. Sheldon, in two volumes. (Harpers.) Professor Sheldon follows the method of making almost a mosaic of passages of successive writers, by which he aims to keep his work free from an apologetic tone. At the same time, he seems to make the current systematic theology the basis of the division of his work, so that we appear to be continually reading the comments of early writers upon modern theology. The result is that the whole subject of theology has the air of being a mechanical contrivance. — Observations on the Growth of the Mind, by Sampson Reed. (Houghton.) This new edition of a little book which has had a noteworthy history is provided with a brief biographical sketch of the author by his son. We wish more had been told of Sampson Reed, yet the essay remains, suggestive, fruitful, and stimulating. — Philistinism, plain words concerning certain forms of modern skepticism, by R. Heber Newton. (Putnams.) Mr. Newton is gradually working out of the somewhat self-conscious position of his earlier books, and writes in a less belligerent but no less forcible manner. We expect that one of these days he will mellow into a writer of no less fidelity to truth, but with a fuller recognition of the limitations of any one man’s knowledge of truth.
Religious and Devotional. Time Flies, a reading diary, by Christina G. Rossetti (S. P. C. K., London), is a book as much beyond the customary “daily foods” as Miss Rossetti is of a higher order of intellect than the writers or compilers of such works. She is no less religious, but she is more thoughtful, and if inclined to mysticism, that is better than weak sentimentalism, which cannot be charged upon her. — Harper & Brothers issue an edition of the Revised Version of the Bible, in a thin volume, apparently uniform in size of page and paper with their Franklin Square Library, but in cloth covers. — The Book of Psalms has been edited by John G. Lansing, upon the principle of reversing the relations of the American and the English committee of revision. The readings and renderings of the American committee are incorporated into the text, while those of the English are thrown into the appendix. There is a delightful spirit of justice in this. — Why we Believe the Bible, by J. P. T. Ingraham. (Appleton.) We fear Dr. Ingraham’s short method will convince only those who are already convinced.— Heaven Revealed, being a popular presentation of Swedenborg’s disclosures about heaven, with the concurrent testimony of a few competent and reliable witnesses, by B. F. Barrett. (Porter & Coates.) The witnesses are chiefly a few theological writers, whose writings appear to be in accord with Swedenborg’s views. Mr. Barrett also takes special pains to show the harmony of the Swedish seer’s views with the revelations of the Bible. — The Discipline of Sorrow, by William G. Eliot (American Unitarian Association): a little work which was first published thirty years ago, and is now revived in a new edition; a sensible, moderate, and practical treatment of the subject. — Sermons on the Christian Life, by John De Witt. (Scribners ) Mr. De Witt when he preached these sermons was a city pastor ; he is now a professor of church history. But the professor was in him when he was a preacher, and these sermons show it. They imply doctrinal truth; they are thoughtful, compact, and stimulating to the intellectual as well as to the spiritual man. They ought to help many a minister by their suggestion of a sound preaching style.
Society and Minor Morals. English Home Life, by Robert Laird Collier (Ticknor), is a little volume of essays by an observer who has the advantage of having been at home both in England and America. His discussion of house and home, courtship and marriage, food and cooking, parents and children, and other themes is sensible and discriminating, and is useful to the American, both for encouragement and reproof. There is nothing singularly good in the book, but there is also no twaddle. Why did the publishers print it on such thick skim-milk paper?
Science. The Intelligence of Animals and the Phenomena and Laws of Heat are two volumes in the reissue of the Library of Wonders by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Both of the books belong to a class which it is hard to characterize fairly. They are based on scientific facts, and are not intentionally misleading, but the intention of the writers to collect the curious and unique facts leads to throwing all the facts out of true perspective.— Other volumes in the same series are The Wonders of the Heavens, by Flammarion, which has a good deal of ready-made sentiment, and The Wonders of Optics, which sticks more closely to its subject.