Books of the Month
Fiction. Rankell’s Remains, by Barrett Wendell (Ticknor), is a decided advance on the author’s previous novel, the Duchess Emilia. Mr. Wendell, when he gets fairly at work even seems to forget the mincing gait which fills the place of style in his writing. One may take exception very properly to travesties of political events which asperse characters easily recognized by external likeness, but Mr. Wendell has at least got his figures set firmly on the earth, and does not treat us to any fantastic shows. He is skillful, too, in the braiding of his three tales, and has come near to producing a new and effective method of handling material of fiction. — The Full Stature of a Man, by Julian Warth. (Lothrop.) Here is material for a story rather than the story itself. The anthor has some capital ideas, and in the figure of the hero has made a good study of character. If the purpose of the book, which is a humane one, could have been more distinctly embodied in the actions of the several characters, working within the bounds of a well-defined story, it would have been more forcibly presented. What the author seems to need is the power to make his figures really work out their destiny, instead of allowing them to be the convenient stalkinghorses of theories. — Roland Blake, by S. Weir Mitchell. (Houghton.) Dr. Mitchell’s success with In War Time has naturally drawn him into another novel, the scene of which is also laid in the war. Whatever else one finds in his stories, one is sure to be met by a character of noble nature and high breeding. There is an air about some books which is unmistakably the air of one who sets the highest value upon true honor. — Towards the Gulf, a romance of Louisiana (Harpers), is a story which turns upon race minglings. The tale is told with bated breath, and the author, though evidently at home in the localities of which she writes, is rather afraid of her subject. — There is no timidity about G. A. Townsend’s Katy of Catoctin (Appleton), which makes use of the John Brown raid and the assassination of Lincoln as the two foci of a romantic ellipse. The author writes as one who has had plenty of personal acquaintance with the scenes and persons of his story, and he has vitality enough of a certain sort, but the book is so noisy that one can hardly get at the story through the din that is kept up from first to last. — A Demigod (Harpers): an extravagant, fantastic tale, intended to celebrate the impossible virtues of a young Greek who goes back in part ancestry to an Englishman, and whose nobility is emphasized by its contrast with certain Yankee departures from demigodhood. The incidents among the brigands are lively, and the author is determined not to be dull, but the book does not succeed in getting beyond a galvanic simulation of life. — The Golden Justice, by W. H. Bishop (Houghton), is already known to readers of The Atlantic, and now appears in a neat volume. — Mrs. Amelia E. Barr has recently published two new books, The Bow of Orange Ribbon and the Squire of Sandal-Side. (Dodd, Mead & Co.) The former is a story of New York just before the war for independence, and the author uses very effectively the contrasting characters of Dutch and Scotch; her imagination, which is vigorous, seizes hold of details in a fashion that makes the past vivid and sharply defined. The other story deals with Cumberland folk, — even Wordsworth being introduced, — and turns upon the estrangement between the squire and his son and heir, who marries an Italian singer and has a miserable time in Italy. Mrs. Barr has a strong conception of knotty-willed people, as she has shown before, but this book has a less distinctive value than her Scotch stories. —Sir Percival, by J. H. Shorthouse. (Macmillan.) Mr. Shorthouse shows a sense of fitness in putting this story into a woman’s mouth. He appears to recognize the truth that men will hear of knightliness and devotion more readily from a woman, and will believe in it more cordially. The story itself is of a young Englishman who seeks for the Holy Grail in nineteenth-century fashion. The pictures of a refined society drawn in the early part of the book are exquisite in their beauty, and, whether true or not, are as enjoyable as old family portraits are enjoyable. One can accept the grace, and let the painter’s idealism refine the whole memory and knowledge.—By Woman’s Wit, by Mrs. Alexander (Holt), is one of that writer’s clever stories, but the cleverness is nearly all that one can praise in this case. The plot is disagreeable, and the trouble one takes to come at the necessary explanation seems hardly worth while in the end. — The Silent Workman, by Clinton Ross. (Putnams.) Mr. Ross gains nothing by introducing his story as if told by one man to another, for there is nothing whatever in the treatment to correspond with such a fiction. He has concerned himself chiefly with the psychological experience of a workman who has nearly murdered his employer. The book might almost be taken as a parable. There is a good deal of rude force in the work, but there is also much more which is merely melodrama. — In the Wrong Paradise and other stories, by Andrew Lang. (Harpers.) Mr. Lang is a curious product of the period, a classical scholar who is ambitious to materialize his classical, spirits in contemporaneous savages. There is an abandon about his stories which is pretty well simulated, and a general free and easy manner which is almost his own. — Irene, or the Road to Freedom, by Sada Bailey Fowler. (H. N. Fowler & Co., Philadelphia.) Over six hundred pages of literary lunacy devoted to the redemption of the world through the abolition of marriage. — The Sentimental Calendar, by J. S. of Dale. (Scribners.) A collection of a dozen stories, told with a gritty kind of force and general contempt for sentiment, — a contempt which is apt to be a somewhat transparent mask. — Count Xavier, by Henry Gréville, translated by Mrs. Mary C. Robbins. (Ticknor.) A bright little story, in which the lightness of touch is not for anything base or ignoble. The experience of the young count with his dynamite charge is cleverly told, and the relation of the servants to their master reminds one that fidelity is not extinct — in stories, at least. — Homespun Yarns, by Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney. (Houghton.) Eleven of Mrs. Whitney’s characteristic stories, in which the weak things are made to confound the mighty. — Recent numbers of Harper’s Handy Series are : In Scorn of Consequence, or My Brother’s Keeper, by Theodora Corrie; Between Two Loves, by Amelia E. Barr; The Bright Star of Love, by B. L. Farjeon; Golden Bells, by R. E. Francellon; A Modern Telemachus, by Charlotte M. Yonge; Cashel Byron’s Profession, by George Bernard Shaw. — Recent numbers of Harper’s Franklin Square Library are: Mohawks, by M. E. Braddon; A Wilful Young Woman; The World Went Very Well Then, by Walter Besant; John Westacott, by James Baker; The Girl in the Brown Habit, by Mrs. Edward Kennard ; Dorothy Forster, by Walter Besant.
Books for Young People. — In The Story of the Nations Series (Putnams) two new volumes have been received : The Story of the Moors in Spain, by Stanley Lane-Poole, and The Story of the Saracens from the Earliest Times to the Fall of Bagdad, by Arthur Gilman. They supplement each other, and while the former has the advantage of a more localized treatment and a closer connection with what is familiar in history and travel, the latter tells a story which centres mainly about a great historical personage. Both are discreetly illustrated, and Mr. Gilman’s has an excellent bibliography attached to it. — The Life of Robert Fulton and a History of Steam Navigation, by Thomas W. Knox (Putnams), is especially interesting because it connects the romance of Fulton with the later development of the application of steam to navigation. The book is one which may well be given to young people as relating the history of an idea, and emphasizing the fact of a man behind the idea. — Silent Pete, or the Stowaways, by James Otis (Harpers), is one of those stories of gamins which cover the realism of life with a veneer of sentiment. It is not necessary, however, to believe the story in order to extract from it a certain amount of manufactured sunshine. — Uncle Sam’s Medal of Honor; some of the noble deeds for which the medal has been awarded, described by those who have won it, 1866-1886 ; collected and edited by T. F. Rodenbough. (Putnams.) Although not professedly a boy’s book, this volume, by its style and general treatment, will be most acceptable to boys, and may well be read by them. General Rodenbough. recognizing the fact that the medals have not been given publicly, yet are witnesses to real bravery and daring, has taken pains to get at the stories which tell why in each case the medal was given. The result is a spirited and worthy book of heroic deeds.
Biography. The Two Spies, Nathan Hale and John André, by Benson J. Lossing. (Appleton. ) We should hesitate a little about applying the term spy to André, though it was the honorable title worn by Hale. Mr. Lossing has brought together the facts regarding the two men, and presented them in his customary manner, which is that of a man unfailingly interested in historic anecdote and generously devoted to his country’s honor. — Memoirs of the Rev. J. Lewis Diman, D. D., compiled from his letters, journals, and writings, and the recollections of his friends, by Caroline Hazard. (Houghton.) Miss Hazard has fulfilled an important task in combining that fine influence which Dr. Diman’s personality effected during his lifetime. The familiar yet not too intimate narrative of a scholar’s life, while it does not stir one with trumpet notes, bears a most gracious lesson and stimulus to those who, regardless of fame and worldly applause, are faithful to that call which bids them work in the upper air of philosophy and theology. Dr. Diman at the time of his death was just beginning to receive from the public that recognition which his fine powers and scholarly work had won from his peers, and had he lived a longer life the portion narrated in this book would still have had the greatest interest. Miss Hazard has shown good taste and decorous reserve in her part of the work. — Susanna Wesley, by Eliza Clarke (Roberts), a volume in the Famous Women Series. The mother of the Wesleys did not belie the common saying that mind is from the mother. She lived so long into the fame of her sons that their life is reflected somewhat in hers, and thus this volume, besides portraying the character of an uncommon woman, throws some light also on her more noted sons. The glimpses one gets of English middle-class life in the eighteenth century are very interesting, and it may be said in general that the author has shown good judgment in selecting those incidents which show the Wesleys in all their relations, and not only on the strictly religious side. — Memoir of William Henry Charming, by Octavius Brooks Frothingham. (Houghton.) The absence for many years from America of W. H. Charming, as well as the overshadowing influence of his uncle’s name, have served somewhat to obscure the general fame of a notable man, and Mr. Frothingham has done well in recording his life, both for what it was in itself and for its representative character, since Channing was an important person in many social and religious reforms here and in England. The narrative contains incidentally many interesting pictures of life in Cambridge, Boston, Cincinnati, and other places during a very formative period of American society, and for this reason, if no other, will reward the reader who may have slight interest in theological matters.
History and Biography. Character Portraits of Washington, selected and arranged by W. S. Baker (R. M. Lindsay), is an admirably conceived compilation, the purpose of which is to present, Washington as he was seen and known by his contemporaries, and to indicate the impression which his character has made upon later writers and students of history. The period covered is from 1778 to 1885, the first selection being from James Thacher and the last from Robert C. Winthrop. There are eighty selections in all, each of which is accompanied by a brief and carefully prepared biographical note touching the writer. The volume is handsomely printed, and completes Mr. Baker’s valuable trilogy, the two previous works being Engraved Portraits of Washington and Medallic Portraits of Washington.—Dorothy Wordsworth, The Story of a Sister’s Love, by Edmund Lee (Dodd, Mead & Co.), is an appreciative collection of reminiscences of an amiable and interesting woman. Unfortunately for her and us, and for Mr. Lee himself, he writes second-class English. — The Chief Periods of European History, by Edward A. Freeman (Macmillan & Co.), embraces the six lectures delivered by Mr. Freeman before the University of Oxford in 1885, supplemented by his paper on Greek Cities under Roman Rule.
Poetry. Brander Matthews’s Ballads of Books (Coombes) is a delightful edition of original and selected verse on bibliographical themes; delightful so far as it goes, but it by no means exhausts the field. Every verse-lover will think of ten or twenty poems that should have place in such an anthology. For instance, there is nothing in Mr. Matthews’s volume so good as Lowell’s The Nightingale in the Study. -An Introduction to the Study of Robert Browning’s Poetry, by Hiram Corson, LL. D. (Heath & Co.), is a book that will commend itself to every lover of the greatest living English poet. Professor Corson, however, is a critic to whom even Browning’s faults are so many evidences of genius. —White, Stokes, and Allen have issued an exquisitely printed little volume containing the poems of Sir John Suckling, with preface and explanatory notes by Frederick A. Stokes.