Books of the Month
Sociology and Political Economy. The Ethics of Freethought, by Karl Pearson (Scribner & Welford, New York), is a volume of lectures, the most important of which concern sociology. The writer aims to square society with freethought, to reconstruct the world upon a logical basis. He begins with the postulate that Christianity is dead, and by an easy exclusion of all forces but those which seem to reside in sensationalism reaches results which appear to be very remote from experience. He impresses one as a somewhat arrogant and confused thinker. — Large Fortunes, or Christianity and the Labor Problem, by Charles Richardson. (Lippincott.) The outcome of this small book is that the teachings of Christ are aimed definitely at the accumulators of wealth, and that the personal duty of every one who Would he a Christian is to be a producer, and not merely a consumer. — The Ethics of Marriage, by H. S. Pomeroy. (Funk & Wagnalls.) A rambling, discursive attack upon the abuse of the marriage relation. Like many books on intemperance, it is all true, but what good will it do ? Disease so deep is not checked by local applications; the whole system must he renewed. — Power and Liberty, by Count Leo Tolstoï, translated by Huntington Smith. (Crowell.) “ The object of history is to grasp and define the laws of human movement.” So announces Tolstoï, and lie spends his strength in asserting that as the old historians erred in making history a in ere record of dynasties, so the new historians err in making it the record of a few picked leaders; he would appear to substitute the patient study of a vast number of particulars, all to be resolved into general laws. But is he saying anything more than that all our study of humanity constantly swings between persons and laws ? It is just as unphilosophical to deny the force of leaders as it is to overlook the movements of the led. — Civilization in the United States, first and last impressions of America, by Matthew Arnold. (Cupples & Hurd.) A convenient collection of Arnold’s papers on Grant, A Word about America, A Word more about America, and Civilization in the United States. It is a pity the publishers did not date these essays. Now that Arnold cannot answer our criticisms, perhaps we shall take his judgments more generously and not too seriously ; that is, grant his limitations, hut also his clearness of sight within those limitations. A study of Arnold’s words on America in their chronological order will, we think, confirm one’s impression that he was a sincere man, for he had the manliness to disregard mere consistency. — The National Revenues, a collection of papers by American Economists, edited by Albert Shaw. (McClurg.) An interesting and valuable symposium, with a clear-headed man at the head of the table. — Is Protection a Benefit ? A Plea for the Negative, by Edward Taylor. (McClurg.) A somewhat too rhetorical presentation of the subject, and we think the author underestimates the national argument. In any discussion of the subject, trade must be held subordinate to national well-being in every regard, and it is entirely right to take the fact of national integrity as the fundamental basis upon which some agreement must be found. — The Social Influence of Christianity, by D. J. Hill. (Silver, Burdett & Co., Boston.) A volume of lectures, treating of contemporary problems, as labor, wealth, marriage, education, legislation. The writer makes liberal use of the comments of other writers, and draws also from his own observation in travel. The book is somewhat conventional in its treatment of the fundamental subjects involved. — The American Public Health Association (Concord, N. H.) has issued some prize essays in separate pamphlets, on Healthy Plomes and Foods for the Working Classes, Disinfection and Individual Prophylaxis against infectious disease and the preventable causes of disease, injury and death in American manufactories and work-shops, and the best means and appliances for preventing and avoiding them. — Taxation in American States and Cities, by Richard T. Ely, assisted hv John H. Finley. (Crowell.) Dr. Ely expresses the hope that this book may serve to bring the great subject of which it treats within the field of school work. After a general introduction, he gives a sketch of taxation as it is, and then proceeds to develop his scheme for more equitable taxation, closing with a compact presentation of constitutional provisions and statistics. The book is a straw to show which way the wind blows. Every day the old idea of a government over the people by a set of experts fades into the distance, and an administration of affairs by agents of the people who are informed, not only of the character of their agents, hut of the business which they intrust to them, rises into view.
Text-Books and Education. Practical Lessons in the Use of English, for Grammar Schools, by Mary F. Hyde. (Heath.) The third part of a work which we have previously commended. The author proceeds upon the inductive plan, and with apparently a clear perception of how far it can he followed in such work. — Wordsworth’s Prelude, with notes, by A. J. George. (Heath.) It is pleasant to find such a hook offered to schools, and Mr. George seems to have done his work with care so far as the notes are concerned. The introduction is of little value, save as it contains a cento of judgments by scholars.
Humor and Sports. Mark Twain’s Library of Humor (Webster) is a stout octavo of over seven hundred pages, in which American humor in its varieties is fairly exhibited. It must he said that the more refined variety is less conspicuous, but there is also a commendable absence of the gross. Those who like their humor thick will find it here, and there is an astonishing amount of really funny stuff, tried by any standard. Nevertheless, humor and fun suffer more when given in bulk than any other species of literary exercise. The illustrations by E. W. Kemble make one think that most of them were good when drawn. — Ethics of Boxing and Manly Sport, by John Boyle O’Reilly. (Ticknor.) Mr. O’Reilly has made a book full of varied and interesting material, drawn from his own experience and observation and from history. His hearty love of manly sport makes him a good advocate, but the importance attached to rules restraining brutality in boxing leads one to think that boxers should be trained in self-respect before they study boxing ; that boxing itself is not a very good training-school in morals. — Befo’ de War, Echoes in Negro Dialect, by A. C. Gordon and Thomas Nelson Page. (Scribners.) A small volume of verse, mostly humorous, but sometimes with the obverse pathos. We are not quite sure of the use of the term “ echo,” but we may take it as indicating that the writers claim no originality for their themes or forms ; only that they have rendered familiar themes in negro language. It strikes us that there is not very much of the negro himself in the book, but only his speech; in fact, that we are treated to a negro minstrel quite as much as to a real plantation darky. The test of dialect poetry is in evaporating the dialect; if when that element disappears, the poetry is left, all is well. This book hardly stands the test. — Negro Myths from the Georgia Coast, told in the Vernacular, by Charles C. Jones, Jr. (Houghton.) This little book might properly stand in a division of folk-lore, but to the general reader it will he entertaining by reason of its matter. Colonel Jones has plainly taken great pains to make his recital a strict reproduction of actual stories. There is no apparatus, as in Uncle Remus, and the book thus has not the literary flavor and charm of Mr. Harris’s classic ; but one is all the more impressed, for this reason, with the fidelity of the transcript. A very little practice enables one to translate the soft dialect into intelligible English, and the stories have a delicious drollery. — The Laws of Euchre, as adopted by the Somerset Club of Boston, March 1, 1888, with some suggestions about the play, by H. C. Leeds and James Dwight. (Tieknor.) A little hook of less than eighty pages, worthy to take rank with Field’s International Code.
Science and Art. Hand-Book of the Lick Observatory of the University of California, by Edward S. Holden. (The Bancroft Co., San Francisco.) The fact of this book is the most interesting thing about it. Here is a great academic observatory, and the head of it actually prepares a book, with close attention to particulars, for the use and encouragement of visitors. The candor of the hospitality is remarkable. Instead of “ No admittance,” the motto seems to be “Walk in.” The book contains a great deal of curious information, which will answer many questions likely to be put by visitors. —Ten O’Cloek, by J. A. M. Whistler. (Houghton.) A sermon on art. It is singular that a preacher who has so high a conception of the serenity of art should make his sermon a succession of gasps. — Three Introductory Lectures on the Science of Thought, delivered at the Royal Institution, London, by F. Max Müller. (The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago.) In effect an introduction to the author’s larger work on the Science of Thought. An appendix contains an interesting correspondence on thought without words, held between Galton, Romanes, Argyll, and Müller, reprinted from Nature. — The fiftyeighth volume of the International Scientific Series (Appleton) is on Weather; a Popular Exposition of the Nature of Weather Changes from Day to Day, by Ralph Ahercromhy. The author aims to bring into one volume a popular account, of all the principal results which have been discovered in recent years by means of synoptic charts. — Trees and Tree Planting, by Gen. James S. Brisbin, U. S. A. (Harpers.) The somewhat florid introduction to this volume scarcely prepares one for finding it a practical detailed work, with observations on a great variety of trees and their adaptation to various soils. — Sunlight, by the author of The Interior of the Earth. (Trübner, London.) “ The present school of physics and cosmic action,” says the author, H. P. Malet, “ is on its trial. All that is wanted is a true beginning; and in the confusion now existing there is ample room for the serious consideration of my simple suggestion, that light was the first cause of the creation of this earth, acting on a nebulous mass that held in it gases or material sensitive to, absorptive, and retentive of that light.”
Manners. Good Form in England, by an American resident in the United Kingdom. (Appleton.) An instructive and entertaining book. Besides an abundance of compact information on the government, universities, railways, and the like, there is a great deal more about those things, ignorance of which makes a man or a woman flush. One may be indifferent to the comparative rank of Balliol, but he is covered with confusion if he mispronounces the word, and most English proper names appear to he capable of mispronunciation. The unwritten codes of society, correspondence, and language are here reduced to some sort of order, and the book becomes a vade meeum to the American, not only when about to travel in England, hut when engaged in fireside travels in contemporary fictitious literature. — The Principles of the Art of Conversation, by J. P. Mahaffy (Putnams), we have already commented on in its English form. Its main value is in calling attention to the subject.— The ingenious little Don’t (Appleton) has passed to its two hundred thousandth, and the writer, in bringing out a boudoir edition, adds a section for young people. It is a kind of do-do to the earlier part, with specific reference to the needs of the young animal.
Literature and Criticism. Richard Wagner’s Poem, The Ring of the Nibelung, explained and in part translated by George Theodore Dippold. (Holt.) Dr. Dippold pays little attention to the Wagnerian music, hut occupies himself with a study of the myths which have taken form in Wagner’s poem, and of the poem itself. By means of parallel columns he aids the student greatly, enabling him, as he does, to see the German original side by side with the translation. It is an interesting feature of our current intellectual life that art, music, and literature combine in the construction of high imaginative forms.