Books of the Month
Fiction. Uncle ’Lisha’s Shop : life in a corner of Yankee land. By Rowland E. Robinson. (Forest and Stream Publishing Co., New York.) Twenty-two sketches of homely life in Vermont, as it was a generation ago. The sketches are continuous in so far as they deal with the same characters who meet for the most part in the shoe shop of ’Lisha Peggs, and the incidents relate chiefly to hunting, whether bears, foxes, coons, or bees. So much for the mere external features of the sketches. It would be a mistake to think that the book belonged in the category of threadbare New England dialect fiction. Mr. Robinson has the art of a story-teller, and the gift of portraitpainting ; and when now and then he touches upon the tenderer side of this homely life, he does it with a sure hand. The compactness of his style is remarkable, and his eye for picturesqueness in nature is keen and sympathetic. The book is racy, but very close to the soil. It is long since we have seen so masculine a treatment, and in spite of the extreme Yankeeism of speech and phrase, the book impresses one as singularly fresh and genuine. — A Border Shepherdess, a romance of Eskdale, by Amelia H. Barr. (Dodd.) A strong, effective tale upon the somewhat worn theme of a noble house with a black sheep. Mrs. Barr’s tales are apt to be a little strained in their moral tone, and she is somewhat lacking in humor ; but this, though not likely to be popular with the ordinary reader, is well worth respectful attention by those who want something more than entertainment. — The Autobiography of a Slander, by Edna Lyall. (Appleton.) An ingenious little story, though the author has hardly art enough to take advantage of the somewhat clever conceit expressed in her title. — Fools of Nature, by Alice Brown. (Ticknor.) A painful story, in which the struggle of a woman who has become involved in the life of a divorced man, whom she loves, is told with force, but with a blurred kind of portrayal. The business of spiritualism, which plays an important part, is a repulsive feature of the book, and in general we may say that the author is so much in earnest as not to see how unreal is the total impression produced by her work. Her lack of humor leads her into unpleasant ways. — Brother against Brother, by John R. Musick. (Ogilvie.) A tale of the slavery system culminating in the war for the union. There is plenty of excitement in the hook, which is rather melodramatic, though without the shriek of the melodrama, — The Gates Between, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. (Houghton.) — South County Neighbors, by Esther Beruon Carpenter. (Roberts.) It is not a long distance, as the crow flies, from the Narragansett country to Valley Falls, but what a world of difference there is between the sleepy old country life of the South County and the hard struggle with existence at Poverty Grass! The contrast is a most striking one. For the rest, this hook has a genuine flavor of antiquated New England; and if the writer is sometimes a little too leisurely in her pictures, she may he pardoned, since she is writing of a leisurely phase of life. —Southern Silhouettes, by Jeannette H. Walworth. (Holt.) A collection of sprightly papers descriptive of life at the South in days past. There is a good deal of literary skill and a delightful freedom in the style, indicative of a genuine interest in her work on the part of the writer. If this is only practice work, we may hope for a more positively constructed piece of Action.— Free Joe, and other Georgian sketches, by Joel Chandler Harris. (Scribners.) When Mr. Harris is on his own ground he is strong and well worth reading. His mistakes are made when he borrows from literature, or from fictitious views of people and places not native to him. — The Earth Trembled, by Edward P. Roe. (Dodd.) There is something extremely distasteful to certain minds in finding a great calamity like the Charleston earthquake served up in fiction. The Lisbon earthquake is another matter. It has had time to cool But if people want their horrors hot, and are willing to see a disaster which brought desolation to many homes used as a climax in a novel, here is the novel. — Knitters in the Sun, by Octave Thanet (Houghton), is a collection of stories which have appeared in this magazine and others, the best of which are very good, and all are marked by a vigorous humanity and a quick perception of character under stress of moral weather. — Country Luck, by John Habberton. (Lippincott.) The somewhat trite story of the country young man who marries the city girl. Mr. Habberton accepts the conventional with good grace, and seems to be repressed by it, so that his story is by no means so boisterous as those he used to write. There is a good deal of cleverness in it, when one winks at the first improbabilities. — In Ticknor’s Paper Series, recent numbers are Miss Ludington’s Sister, by Edward Bellamy, and A Modern Instance, by W. D. Howells.
Books for Young People. The Life of George Washington Studied Anew, by Edward Everett Hale. (Putnams.) Mr. Hale does not say that he intended this book for young people, but its appearance in some mysterious series not otherwise announced than by casual references in the introduction, and a general mode of treatment in agreement, with the needs of the young, justify us in placing the book here. Mr. Hale desires to present the human Washington, to take him down from his pedestal, but not to roll him on the ground. Accordingly, he relies on Washington’s diaries and letters, and seeks to give the figure of the man as independently as possible. The material for this work is very large, but, after all, how much of it really discloses a man whom one could know intimately ? Very little. Here and there a passing phrase or an anecdote, but nothing so considerable as to have been greatly overlooked by other writers. Why does not Mr. Hale tell the two or three good stories of Washington’s loss of temper ? They are worth a great deal. Washington was such a part of history that it is almost hopeless to separate him, as Mr. Hale has tried to do. One might as well cut a figure out of an alto-relievo, and try to persuade himself it is a statue. — A Bundle of Letters to Busy Girls on Practical Matters, by Grace H. Dodge. (Funk & Wagnalls.) The value of this book lies in the fact that it is written by a young woman who has no needs which money can satisfy to young women who are working hard for their living, and that she makes common cause with them. She says we, and not you. Though it is almost impossible not to feel a difference in writer and hearers, we respect the earnestness with which the writer seeks to make the difference disappear. The subjects discussed are those which relate to health of body, mind, and society.— Notes for Boys and their Fathers on Morals, Mind, and Manners, by an Old Boy (McClurg), is scarcely as effective for boys as the lastnamed hook is for girls. It is an English book, unobjectionable enough, but not very specific and not very winning. It can do no harm, but we fail to see how it is likely to do much good. — The Colonel’s Money, by Lucy C. Lillie, is a new variation on her old theme of English and American girl-life, self-help and happy fortune.— The Story of the Nations Series now includes Ireland, by the Hon. Emily Lawless. (Putnams.) The question may be raised by some whether or not Ireland is yet a nation, but their definition of a nation might be too mechanical, after all. It is to he said of this book that it will disappoint some by giving only a few pages to current politics, hut that makes it all the better history. It is written with a laudable freedom from passion, but with a strong affection for Ireland. — A Garland for Girls, by Louisa M. Alcott. (Roberts.) A collection of seven stories, which Carry, as all Miss Alcott’s books do, a fervent purpose to make girls the real brownies of the race. A roseate optimism makes tlie books popular with girls ; and on the whole, is n’t optimism a. little better than pessimism for girls of fourteen ? — The Young Marooners on the Florida Coast, by F. R. Goulding (Dodd), is the reissue of an old juvenile, which was old-fashioned when it was written, and is just as old-fashioned now, but also just as genuinely interesting. It is illustrated by some fearful cuts, wherein everybody appears to have been struck by moonlight. — The Giant Dwarf, by the author of The Fitch Club, and other books. (Crowell.) A plain, matter-of-fact romance, if we may so say, of German and American life, by a writer who surprises one by not being dull— White Cockades, an incident of the “Forty-five,” by Edward Irenæus Stevenson. (Scribners.) We are heartily glad to see this young author turning to history for the theme of his graphic story. Is there any way in which nobility of nature may more honorably be incited in a boy’s mind than by the recital of such scenes as are given here ? Sensationalism is redeemed by releasing it from close connection with current conditions. — Heroic Ballads, selected by the editor of Quiet Hours (Roberts), may properly he included under this head, since it is children who are most responsive to the stirring ballads by Macaulay, Scott, Aytoun, Motherwell, and the earlier minstrels. In the list are also included ballad poems by Tennyson, Browning, Longfellow, Stedman, and others. The collection is a capital one, and well annotated. — Historic Girls, by E. S. Brooks (Putnams), is a companion volume to the same author’s Historic Boys. It deals with Zenobia, Clotilda, Elizabeth, and other queenly and princely maidens ; for when one goes back to antiquity, the records cover only high birth, except in the case of the saints, and we think Mr, Brooks might have done well to give a few plebeian saints. However, his book has spirited, ehivalric pictures of noble life, and girls may better stretch their necks admiring these heroines than merely turn their heads to look at all the realistic girls of their story-books. — What the Wild Wind Told the Tree-Tops, by Mrs. A. W. Brotherton (Putnam’s Sons), is a collection of pretty fancies in prose and verse, written for children. — Drum - Beat of the Nation, by Charles Carleton Coffin. (Harpers.) This volume is apparently the first of a series of three, treating of the War of the Rebellion, and covers the time from its outbreak to the close of 1862.
History. Under the general title of Universal History (Lippincott) we have four volumes, devoted to Geological History by Edward Hull, Ancient History by George Rawlinson, Mediaeval History by George Thomas Stokes, and Modern History by Arthur St. George Patten. They are the skeletons of history, and can be used only as reference books, but they are supplied with tables, charts, chronologies, and other useful apparatus. — Cupples & Hurd have brought out in an exceedingly handsome form a new edition of Rambles in Old Boston, N. E., by the Rev. Edward G. Porter, a work of immediate and prospective value. The volume, with Mr. Tolman’s careful illustrations of ancient houses and sites, for the most part now removed or rendered unrecognizable, is absolutely necessary to any one who wishes to acquaint himself with the topography and architectural characteristics of the Boston of past times. The letterpress deals very charmingly with persons as well as places. — Greek Life and Thought, from the Age of Alexander to the Roman Conquest, by J. P. Mahaffy (Macmillan), is a companion work to the author’s Social Life in Greece, from Homer to Menander. — Pioneers of France in the New World, by Francis Parkman. Twenty-fifth edition revised, with additions. (Little, Brown & Co.)
Text-Books and Education. The English Language, it grammar, history, and literature, with chapters on composition, versification, paraphrasing, and punctuation, by J. M. D. Meiklejohn. (Heath.) It is not often that one finds in a single volume so comprehensive a treatment of a complex subject. Of course, in three hundred and eighty pages one cannot tell all that is to be told of the English language and literature, but Mr. Meiklejolm is very successful in his choice of points, and very compact in his setting forth. Not students only, hut readers generally, will find this handbook serviceable. — Mr. Rolfe bas added to his annotated series of English poetry for schools a volume on Milton’s Minor Poems. (Harpers.) These convenient little books, though possibly making a premium on laziness bysupplying the reader with what he ought to hunt out for himself, are serviceable by directing the student to minute observation. — Sobriquets and Nicknames, by Alfred R. Frey (Ticknor & Co.), is a work that occupies quite new ground. The title of the hook, whieh is a storehouse of curious and interesting matter, indicates its purpose. Several of the longer articles are especially admirable ; that, for instance, on the Man of the Iron Mask.
Miscellaneous. The Book of English Ballads, edited by S. C. Hall, and illustrated by Gilbert, Creswick, and others (Putnam’s Sons), is the latest addition to Knickerbocker Nuggets, a particularly infelicitous name for an especially delightful series of little hooks. — Memories and Portraits (Scribner’s Sons) is a charming collection of miscellaneous essays, by Mr. Stevenson. The same publishers issue a new edition of Yirginihus Puerisque, and Other Papers. — Wild Animals in Captivity, by J. Fortune Not.t (Dodd, Mead & Co.), though set forth in holiday attire, is a work of permanent interest. The excellent letterpress is illustrated with thirty or forty full-page pictures. —Engravings on Wood, with Text, by W. M. Laffau (Harper & Bros.), is a notable example of the perfection to which the art of wood-engraving has been brought in this country. We shall have occasion later to speak in detail of the work. — The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, translated from the Italian by Abby L. Alger (Roberts Bros.), will be new to the English reader, though these fanciful legends have long been popular in Italy and France. — The Saone, a Summer Voyage, by Philip Gilbert. Hamerton (Roberts Bros.), is the record of an enviable experience, delightfully told with pen and pencil. Mr. Joseph Pennell has some of his most effective work in this volume.