Books of the Month
Literature and Literary Criticism. Poets and Problems, by George Willis Cooke (Ticknor), is a consideration mainly of Tennyson, Ruskin, and Browning. Mr. Cooke says much that is good and reasonable ; but he says a great deal also which is platitudinarian, and we do not discover that fine insight which alone makes such work really desirable. What does he mean, by the way, when he says, “I do not write as a professional critic, for I have little other than feelings of contempt for that profession and the methods by which it contrives to live ”? To our thinking, amateur criticism is most to be deprecated, though it would be a pity to pour contempt upon that. — Faust, the First Part, translated in the original metres, by Frank Claudy. (W. H. Morrison, Washington.) The translator, himself a German, writes modestly of his own work, and certainly disarms the critic by the manner in which he speaks of the best known translation. His own work is well worth careful attention. — A Study of Dante, by Susan E. Blow, with an introduction by William T. Harris. (Putnams.) This study is not æsthetic, but philosophical, with a very decided theological cast. — Comparative Literature, by Hutcheson Macaulay Posnett, is the fifty-fourth volume of the International Scientific series (Appleton), and will have peculiar interest as one of the most marked attempts at gathering the results of ethnological and sociological study, and applying them to the development of literature at different periods. Whatever may be the specific value of the conclusions reached by this author, his method of inquiry is quite sure to start many new thoughts about literature in the minds of students who are not content with an æsthetic treatment.
— Our Odyssey Club, by Agnes Gragg (Lothrop), may be included here, though it might also be placed under Fiction. It is a slight book, which professes to sketch the results of study of the Odyssey by a club; one of the results, to be sure, being a wedding. The insight is not very profound, and one sometimes wonders why a writer who seems to be so clever as Agnes Gragg should after all have made so little of her opportunity. Perhaps, however, we take the book too seriously. — Specimens of English Prose Style, from Malory to Macaulay, selected and annotated, with an introductory essay, by George Saintsbury. (Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., London; Jansen, McClurg & Co., Chicago.) Mr. Saintsbury has attempted to make a collection of characteristic examples of written style, There is, of course, always a difficulty in giving any comprehensive impression of an author’s style in brief passages, and Mr. Saintsbury undertakes to illustrate some hundred authors in less than four hundred pages; but the collection is an interesting one, and is made more useful by head-notes, which help to place the author, and by foot-notes. The editor also prefixes a readable paper on English prose style, which is of the unpretentious, business-like character which belongs to much contemporaneous critical writing. —Three Americans and Three Englishmen is the title which Professor Charles F. Johnson gives to lectures read before the students of Trinity College, Hartford, on Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Hawthorne, Emerson, and Longfellow. It is the personal judgment of literature, and that is often a fine humanizing method. At any rale, college students are better off for having the forces of literature presented to them through a study of the men who have given impetus to literary movements. Mr. Johnson writes naturally and with genuine interest in his theme; the book is not a great one, but it is generous and wholesome. It shows insight, and must reach many minds that are open to the love of literature. — Essays in the Study of FolkSongs, by the Countess Evelyn Martinego-Cesaresco (George Redway, London), is a volume full of curious and interesting learning in the lines indicated in the title. The author covers a wide field in her researches,— to most readers, except philologists, a rather dry field, but she makes the subject entertaining by force of her own graceful manner. We shall probably hereafter speak of the work in detail; meanwhile, we commend it as one of the most valuable of its class. — The Epic Songs of Russia, by Julia Florence Hapgood, with an Introduction by Professor Child (Scribner’s Sons), is reserved for later notice.
Education and Text-Books. The School Room Chorus, a collection of two hundred songs for public and private schools, compiled by E. V. De Graff. (Bardeen.) The grade is not very high, neither do there appear to be many puerile pieces; the book is of an average second-rate character. — Manual Training, the solution of social and industrial problems, by Charles H. Ham. (Harpers.) We are entering upon a new mode of education, and such books as this indicate the direction. It is natural that the apostles of the new gospel should be zealous and have faith, but the day will come when there will be a reaction, not to the too exclusively intellectual methods of the past, but at any rate to a juster view of the fundamental importance of abstract intellectual exercise than the prophets of the new school are quite ready to accept. Theoretically, the combination of manual and mental modes is admitted, but, practically the manual is brought to the front. — Though not professedly a text book, the translation by Sarah Frances Alleyne and Evelyn Abbott of Zeller’s Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy (Holt) will serve an excellent purpose as an introduction to the study. The treatment is chronological, with a preliminary essay upon the origin, sources, and development of Greek philosophy.— Delsarte System of Dramatic Expression, by Genevieve Stebbins. (Edgar S. Werner, New York.) It is a little difficult to determine just where this book comes from. Delsarte is at the bottom of it, but the intermediary processes to Genevieve Stebbins are not clear. Is it a translation from the Abbé Delaumosne ? — The Report of the Commissioners of Education for 1883-84 has been received from the Government Printing Office. It has the customary full statistical information. — Harper & Brothers have issued a very carefully prepared Index to Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. The work, which is compiled by Charles A. Durfee, is brought down to June, 1885. — Primary Phenomenal Astronomy for teachers and general readers, how to study and how to teach it, by F. H. Bailey. (Northville, Wayne Co., Mich.) A pamphlet mainly designed to set forth the author’s scheme in his Cosmosphere. — The second volume of Gray’s Botanical TextBook (Ivison) is Dr. Goodale’s Physiological Botany in two parts, Outlines of the Histology of Phænogamous Plants and Vegetable Physiology. The precision and lucidity of this writer are everywhere apparent, and the book bears the mark of great thoroughness of execution, but we are surprised at the inferiority of the diagrams and other illustrations. It may be that the harsh and unsympathetic paper is responsible, but we hardly think the paper only is at fault. — Outlines of Universal History, designed as a text-book and for private reading, by George Park Fisher. (Ivison.) When one considers the scope of this book, its compactness is remarkable. The judicious mind of the author, his fairness and catholic spirit, make the book very valuable. Of course the plan of the work is the most important feature. Nobody looks to an outline for details; it is the proportion and the distribution of parts that is chiefly to be considered, and in this respect the book is likely to wear well.—Ticknor & Co. have published numbers two and three of The Olden Time series, a selection from old Boston and Salem newspapers, arranged and annotated by Henry M. Brooks.
Religion and Philosophy. Eventful Nights in Bible History, by Alfred Lee. (Harpers.) A curiously arbitrary basis for historical narrative, but it results in bringing together a good many picturesque scenes and incidents. Bishop Lee writes with fervor and not without literary grace. — Messianic Expectations and Modern Judaism, lectures delivered by Solomon Schindler, of the temple Adath Israel, in Boston, with an introduction by Minot J. Savage. (Cassino.) An interesting exposition of American Judaism by an educated man. The book will serve as a corrective of many indolently held traditional notions; it will also set some to reflecting upon the extraordinary solvent of ecclesiasticism which modern democracy presents. One would infer from some passages in this book that what the wind of persecution could not do the sunshine of indifference was doing, in making the Jew throw aside his cloak. — Religious Progress, the Practical Christianity of Christ. (Trübner, London.) A somewhat feeble and not very definite attempt on the part of an anonymous writer to reconstruct organic Christianity upon a basis which shall exclude the supernatural. The earnestness aud sincerity of the writer may be granted without denying his failure to conceive the historic meaning of Christianity. If Christ and his disciples held the faith as our writer supposes, and yet the present state of things has been historically developed, is there reason to suppose that a return to primitive Christianity, if possible, would be followed by any other development; and if by another, then is not the variation to be accounted for by the very growth of Christianity which the writer deplores? — German Psychology of To-Day, the empirical school, by Th. Ribot, translated by J. M. Baldwin, with a preface by President McCosh. (Scribners.) The new school of physiological psychology aims at careful observation, external and internal, as the basis of its deductions, and excludes, as far as possible, all metaphysical speculation, and, as the science is most advanced in Germany, this work may be taken as the latest survey of the field.—The Lepers of Molokai, by Charles Warren Stoddard (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana), while from one point of view a sketch of travel, is more properly a record of devotion on the part of certain religions persons to the unfortunate lepers of the Hawaiian Islands. The book, as a piece of literature, is a little curious; it affects one like a strong smell of musk. — The Book of the Foundation of St. Bartholomew’s Church in London, some time belonging to the Priory of the same in West Smithfleld, edited, from the original manuscript, by Norman Moore. While a spiritual history, this pamphlet also contains a glimpse of life in London in the time of Henry II. — The World and the Logos is the title of the Bedell Lectures for 1885, delivered by Bishop H. M. Thompson. (Putnams.) A somewhat rhetorical and fervid argument for a moral purpose in the universe.
Fiction. A Ranchman’s Stories, by Howard Seely. (Dodd, Mead &Co.) Ten stories which belong to the mixed drinks of literature. Sentiment, swagger, slouch, reminiscences of Bret Harte, red-shirts, indifference to life and grammar, are all mingled, and to be taken hot. — A Daughter of Fife, by Amelia E. Barr (Dodd, Mead & Co.), is a Scottish story, in which the severer virtues which figure in most Scottish stories are well represented. The story is the work of a writer who respects her work, but the class to which it belongs is apt to be most popular with readers not quite ready to appreciate an excellent piece of art. — Atla, a tale of the lost island, by Mrs. J. Gregory Smith (Harpers), is one of the painfully unreadable attempts at reconstructing Atlantis, and at the same time reading a lesson to modern civilization. — The Sphinx’s Children and other People’s, by Rose Terry Cooke. (Ticknor.) Mrs. Cooke is without doubt the best narrator of New England country life, after Mrs. Stowe, and she has more delicacy of touch than Mrs. Stowe. She is unequal, — who is not ? — but her best is very good, and her poorest is rarely without a redeeming touch. In this volume she has collected a number of short sketches, which, taken together, make a singularly rich gallery of New England portraits. — The Lost Name, by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren (Ticknor), has for its foundation the emigration of a French family to America after the French Revolution. The author, however, if she had a good basis of facts, has no skill in building a romantic structure. — Tales of Eccentric Life, by W. A. Hammond and Clara Lanza. (Appleton.) Ten short stories which bear something of the relation to normal human life, or to honest fiction, that description of lusus naturæ do to plain natural history. — The Prelate, by Isaac Henderson. (Ticknor.) A novel of life in Rome, with sub-reference to the explication of theological contentions. The book is apparently carefully studied, but it lacks spontaneity. — Salammbô of Gustave Flaubert, Englished by M. French Sheldon. (Saxon & Co., London and New York.) This historical romance has been called the “ resurrection of Carthage,” and the English and American reader may now possess the history and the romance, but at the cost, we regret to say, of idiomatic English. — Love’s Martyr, by Laurence Alma Tadema. (Appleton.) A story of the early part of the century, pitched in a somewhat high key, and straining the reader’s sympathy. — Recent numbers of Harper’s Handy Series are, Our Sensation Novel, by J. H. McCarthy: In Shallow Waters, by Annie Armitt; Tulip Place, a story of New York, by Virginia W. Johnson; With the King at Oxford, a tale of the great rebellion, by the Rev. Alfred J. Church; and Sea Life Sixty Years Ago, a record of adventures which led up to the discovery of the relics of the long-missing expedition commanded by the Comte de la Perouse. — In Harper’s Franklin Square Libraryhave appeared The Strange Adventure of Captain Dangerous, by G. A. Sala, and the Mystery of Allan Grale, by Isabella Fyire Mayo. — Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. (Scribners.) A striking story, very clever in manipulation, but suggesting certain questions which one finds it somewhat difficult to answer, when once away from the fascination of the book. Of course, we know that the whole book is one interrogation mark, but the questions we would ask are such as may be put to Stevenson, the story-teller; for example, why should Mr. Hyde, the incarnation of evil, be troubled by any remorse at all ? Was the drug anything more than whiskey?—Under the titles A Vital Question and What’s to be Done we have two translations of a novel by Tchernychewsky, the Nihilist. The former translation (Crowell & Co.) is the work of Messrs. Dole and Skidelsky, and the latter is from the pen of B. R. Tucker, who appears on the title-page as publisher. Whatever the novel may be in the Russian, it is inexpressibly tedious in English.
Biography and History. — Cassell & Co. have issued the first three volumes of their Actors and Actresses, edited by Brander Matthews and Laurence Hutton. The work, which is to be completed in five volumes, consists of a series of brief sketches, biographical and critical, of the leading stage folk of Great Britain and the United States from the day’s of Garrick to the present time. The editors have enlisted some clever pens in their enterprise, besides doing valuable service themselves. — Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, collected and edited by Allen Thorndike Rice (N. A. Publishing Co.), is a volume of very interesting personal recollections, of which we shall hereafter speak more fully. — Massacres of the Mountains, by J. P. Dunn, Jr. (Harpers), is a well-written and exciting history of Indian wars in the western wilds of the United States. The book is profusely illustrated.
Poetry, Edgar Fawcett’s third volume of serious verse, Romance and Revery (Ticknor & Co.), is a great advance on Song and Story, though the new volume contains nothing so original and artistic as a certain group of lyrics in his earliest collection, Fantasy and Passion.