Books of the Month
Fiction. A Princess of Java, a Tale of the Far East, by S. J. Higginson. (Houghton.) Merely to lay the scene of a novel in an unfamiliar reg’ion does not insure originality or attractiveness in a novel; but Mrs. Higginson, though she has written out of a full knowledge of Java, and succeeds in transporting the reader to the East Indies, uses her material so skillfully that the effect is very bright and novel. The mingling of races does not shock the reader, partly, perhaps, because the Caucasian element, is chiefly Dutch, and the Dutch in the East Indies always seem half naturalized. There is a good deal of humor in the portraits of the two grandmothers and the old Tamung’gung, and the chase of the runaways is very spirited. The reader must not be disturbed by the strangeness of the East Indian words ; let him imitate the wisdom of the darky when he came upon similar difficulties in Deuteronomy, — call them all Moses, and let ’em go. — Run Away from the Dutch, or Borneo from South to North, by M. T. H. Perelaer, translated by Maurice Blok, and adapted by A. P. Mendes. (Dodd, Mead & Co.) Under the form of a story of adventure, this book, which also lays open the East Indies, gives a picture of life in Borneo amid the perils of the interior from natives, mosquitoes, and other wild beasts. There is not the art that Mrs. Higginson shows, and it is in effect rather a boy’s book than a veritable novel. — Love and Theology, by Celia Parker Woolley. (Ticknor.) A young man brought up in the straitest sect and intended for the ministry becomes engaged to a young woman similarly brought up, and foreordained to be a minister’s wife.
Theological study brings about a change in the young man’s views, and the consistent young woman disentangles herself from an unholy alliance. So the book begins. At the end the two have married: the man still a very liberal preacher, but the woman permitting her love to subordinate her theology. It is not wholly easy to accept the rather weak young man at the beginning as the ultimate hero, but the author has managed to keep the interest up to the end, and to make the relations of the various people reasonable. There is no little skill in characterization, but we warn readers that the material out of which the story is hewn is chiefly theological and ecclesiastical. The relation of the Episcopal rector to his wife is quite entertainingly described. He certainly is very much married. — Button’s Inn, by Albion W. Tourgée (Roberts), is a novel in which Judge Tourgée has used the Mormon delusion in its earlier phases as the occasion for tracing an involved web. He rightly recognizes that the Mormonism of Smith had a romantic and poetic element in it quite wanting in the later development, and in following the narrative the reader will not find himself facing the unpleasant, sordid features of a wasted faith, as he does when he encounters the ordinary Mormon novel. — The Romance of the Canoness, by Paul Heyse, translated by J. M. Percival. (Appleton.) Romantic enough, and of course interesting; the situations are not such as the realists would devise, and a melancholy air pervades the whole, as if the narrator did not quite expect to be believed, but it is conceived with poetic thought, and taken as a lyric of the stage is not without a certain beauty. — Thraldom, by Julian Sturgis. (Appleton.) The thraldom in this short story is of an uncanny sort, and a lover comes near being separated from his love by her slipping into the power of a new-style witch; but though Mr. Sturgis has given us sturdy Englishmen and serpentine tropical people for contrasting figures, he has not produced more than a teaspoonful of real horror. We think he can be at better business than manufacturing agonies. — With the King at Oxford, by Rev. A. J. Church (Dodd, Mead & Co.), is not so simple a tale as the Children of the New Forest, but it enlists the interest somewhat in the same way. Mr. Church has taken great pains with the lifelikeness of his story, and he has used a moderate tone throughout, which comports with the scholarly and historic mind. — An Operetta in Profile, by Czeika. (Ticknor.) We may as well own at once, before we are found out, that we don’t understand this book. It is a piece of fooling, but even fooling should be, if not obvious, yet amusing on the surface. This book may be funny in its depths, but our lead brings up nothing but an occasional thin joke. — In Ticknor’s Paper Series a new number is E. W. Howe’s The Story of a Country Town. — Recent numbers of Harper’s Franklin Square Library are Prison Life in Siberia, by Fedor Dostoïeffsky, translated by H. Sutherland Edwards, and In Bad Hands, and other Stories, by F. W. Robinson. — In The Bee-Man of Orn, and other Fanciful Tales (Scribner’s Sons), Mr. Stockton addresses himself to his younger audience, with whom he is as great a favorite as with their elders. — Knickerbocker Nuggets is the title given to a series of neatly printed and tastefully bound little books issued by the Putnams. The volumes at hand contain Gulliver’s Travels, tales from the Gesta Romanorum, and T. L. Peacock’s stories of Headlong Hall and Nightmare Abbey. — The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane, by Mark Rutherford (Putnams), is an ill-coustructed novel, portions of which are written with a certain kind of power. Most of the characters are either hanged or shot, or otherwise killed, the instant they become interesting. The second half of the story has little or no connection with the first part, and is rather tough reading. — The Putnams have issued a new edition of Mayo’s ever-delightful Kaloolah, with many spirited illustrations by Fredericks. We commend the book to old and new readers.
Poetry. A Blot in the ’Scutcheon, and other Dramas, by Robert Browning, edited by W. J. Rolfe and Heloise E. Hersey (Harper & Brothers), is an excellent companion volume to the Select Poems of Browning, by the same editors. The present collection embraces, in addition to the initial piece, Colombe’s Birthday and A Soul’s Tragedy, with a variety of critical comment. Mr. Lawrence Barrett’s letter, relating the history of his production on the stage of A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon, is an interesting contribution to the matter in hand. — A new edition has been issued of The Old Garden, an I other Verses, by Margaret Deland (Houghton), with a few more poems than the first edition contained ; but the same pretty exterior remains, and the verses which at first sight might strike readers as quaint fancies and the pastime of a dilettante prove of more lasting worth. Their fragrance is not evanescent. It returns as one makes fresh excursions. — Songs of New Sweden, and other Poems, by Arthur Peterson, U. S. N. (E. Stanley Hart & Co., Philadelphia.) Carefully written, with but few lapses into the cheap commonplace, these poems rarely rise to any high level, and sometimes the passion is pretty well divorced from ideas, as in the poem Recognized. — Songs and Song Legends, by Edward Lippitt Fales. (The Author, St. Paul, Minn.) Easy-going-verse, fluent, decorous, and charged with some personal feeling. — Wind Flowers, by J. Luella Dowd Smith. (C. H. Kerr & Co., Chicago.) Arranged under the months of the year, and including translations from the German as well as original verse. A religious vein runs through much of the verse. —The Unseen King, and other Poems, by Caroline Leslie Field. (Houghton.) A book of simple, unpretentious verses, with a refinement about them which disarms criticism.