Books of the Month
Fiction. The Master of Ballantrae (Scribner’s Sons) is not one of Mr. Stevenson’s unequivocal successes. We think that Mr. Stevenson handicapped himself by the method he chose to develop his narrative. There are so many episodes, so many persons brought in to tell the story, and consequently so much backing and filling, as to render the whole effect fragmentary. A single narrator would have made more of the really ingenious and powerful plot. — Alexia, by Mary Abbott (MeClurg & Co.), is an excellently planned little social sketch, in which the writer’s real cleverness shows through her newness in the art of storywriting. — Cousuelo, by George Saud, translated by Frank H, Potter, is presented to the public in four very handsome volumes by Dodd, Mead & Co. — Literary Gems is the title given to a series of six tiny books (Putnams), each containing one or more brief selections in prose or verse. There, very prettily printed, the reader will find The Culprit Fay of Drake; Dr. Brown’s Rab and his Friends, and Marjorie Fleming ; The Gold Bug, by Poe ; Goldsmith’s Good-Natured Man ; Our Best Society, by Curtis; and Arnold’s essay on Sweetness and Light. — The reader will be glad to get a choice selection from Zschökke’s shorter tales in so convenient a shape as that of the Knickerbocker Nuggets. (Putnams.) — Strange True Stories of Louisiana, by George W. Cable (Scribner’s Sons), is a volume (partly compilation) which sustains the old saying. The facts in these narrations are quite as strange as any of the inventions Mr. Cable has hitherto given us, and nearly as delightful, which is saving a great deal in praise of truth. — Standish of Standish, a Story of the Pilgrims, by Jane G. Austin. (Houghton.) Mrs. Austin intimates that this is a fragment of the Chronicles of the Pilgrims. She has attacked the material bravely, and though she keeps close to the facts of history uses her imagination cleverly to animate the figures and to supply those probabilities of life at Plymouth which are the just property of the faithful novelist. We do not know where else the reader can possess himself so well of a knowledge of the first years of the Pilgrim colony. We like especially the conscience which Mrs. Austin shows in refusing to manufacture excitement for the purpose merely of holding possibly impatient readers at the cost of fidelity to truth. — Bijou, the Foundling of Nag’s Head, by Albert P. South wick. (American News Co., New York.) A crude piece of work, in which the realism is a glittering generality, and the idealism is the reflection of other fiction. — The Dalbroom Folks, by J. Smith. (Alexander Gardner Paisley.) A wellwritten, good-natured novel of Scottish life, involving a study of theology as related to character. The writer gives a minute picture of village life, and one feels in reading such a book what an advantage English novelists have in the contrasts they are able to draw between life in a country village and life in London. The existing contrast provides them at once with material. — In the time of the Cherry Viewing, an episode in Japan, by Margaret Peale. (Putnams.) A bright little sketch, in which the adventures of an enthusiastic American woman shopping in Japan, and a cynical dealer in curios also on the same errand in a more business-like manner, end in a wedding. In the course of the lively narrative there is an opportunity to depict some of the outside of Japanese life. — Kit and Kitty, by R. D. Blackmore, is No. 663 of the Franklin Square Library. (Harpers.) We must refuse, regretfully, to read the book. Even one of Blackmore’s stories is too high a price to pay for damaged eyesight. — An Odd Matt’s Story, by Isidore G. Ascher. (Elliott Stock, London.) The story of a man who was duped by a rascal of a brother aided by a weak wife. There is no special reason for the tale, though it opens in a manner which seems to promise something a little out of the common. — Stories from Carleton, with an Introduction by W. B. Yeats. (Walter Scott, London.) A convenient little book, for Carleton’s tales have become nearly classic in their way. — The title of Mark Twain’s new book, A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Webster & Co.), tells the story. It was a delightful idea to take a Hartford man of the present day to the England of the sixth century. For an account of the pleasing and natural adventures which befall our countryman among the hardware gentlemen of the Table Round, the reader is referred to the pages of the ingenious humorist. Incidentally the feudal system gets some hard knocks, but as the feudal system is dead there is no great harm done, and the moral purpose shines. — Recent and welcome additions to the almost invariably well-selected Leisure Hour Series (Holt) are, A Crooked Path, by Mrs. Alexander, and the latest novels of Mr. W. E. Norris, Miss Shafto, and Mrs. Fenton, both, of course, eminently readable, and the latter a really striking character-study.
Education and Text-Books. Board-School Laryngitis, by Greville Macdonald. (A. P. Watt, London.) A curious commentary on the condition of the children in the elementary schools of England. Dr. Macdonald, called upon to treat many cases of throat trouble among teachers in these schools, has drawn the inference that the disease is produced by overwork and mental strain among ill-clad, ill-fed. and ill-washed children in ill-kept schoolhouses, and he states on the authority of Dr. Fayette Smith, a member of the New York Board of Education, that throat troubles are unknown amongst the teachers in that city. — Selections from Wordsworth, with notes by A. J. George. (Heath.) An admirable selection with notes, which are not only useful as giving the young student Wordsworth’s own matter of fact bases for his poems, but also interpretative and stimulating. The little note on “ Nutting ” is an example of what, a true annotator may do for his poet. — Victor Hugo’s Bug Jargal, edited by James Boïelle, and Holberg’s Niels Klim’s Wallfahrt in die Unterwelt, edited by E. H. Babbitt, are two additions to Heath’s Modern Language Texts. — The World and its People is a little work in three books, forming volumes five, six, and seven of the Young Folks’ Library, edited by Larkin Dunton. (Silver, Burdett & Co.) The design is to supplement the study of geography with simple dialogues, of a progressive kind, regarding the subjects treated in geography, the lessons proceeding from the familiar to the less known. The simplicity is often quite attractive, though the effort at simplicity is sometimes a little too apparent, and there is the stiffness of a conscious purpose. Pieces of verse are interspersed to break the monotony. — An Introduction to the Study of Shakespeare, by Hiram Corson. (Heath.) This book is interesting as a prolonged protest against a linguistic, æsthetic, or historic treatment of Shakespeare, in place of one which regards his art from the ethical and the transcendental point of view. Professor Corson brings to the study of Shakespeare a wealth of knowledge and a great deal of philosophic insight. He has many admirable passages on the technique, but the value of the book lies mainly in the spiritual mind which is at work on the dramas. — Autobiography of Friedrich Froebel, translated and annotated by Emilie Michaelis and H. Keatley Moore. (C. W. Bardeen, Syracuse, N. Y.) This volume, which contains two autobiographic letters and some supplementary matter, is altogether the most attractive and satisfactory book we have yet had upon the personality of Froebel, and it is well appointed with notes, bibliography, and chronology. It is interesting to notice that the kindergarten is becoming more common in America than it is in Germany, though we suspect the philosophic study regarding it has entered more decidedly into educational literature there than here. — A General History for Colleges and High Schools, by P. V. N. Myers. (Ginn.) Mr. Myers’s book is not so useful to the student as that of Professor Fisher, for it does not make any pretense at bibliographic details, but it is a clear summary, fresher and more readable than such books are apt to be. The maps partake of the character of the text; all subordinate details are excluded, and one is given only the broad features. There is a certain commonplaceness about the characterization of persons and events, and some venerable anecdotes, but the book strikes us as an unusually serviceable text-book. — A German Reader for beginners ; with notes and vocabulary, by H. C. G. Brandt. (Allyn & Bacon.) The introductory notes, which are to the point, appear to have been written to stand at the head of the several poems and prose papers, but have all been placed at the end of the book without any change of style. — Natural History Object Lessons ; a manual for teachers, by George Ricks. (Heath.) The first part of this book is occupied with information regarding plants and their products, and animals and their uses ; the second part is devoted to specimen lessons. A convenient and suggestive book for teachers who have already had a careful training in the study of botany and zoölogy ; but it can hardly supply the lack of such training. — Fact, Fancy, and Fable, Compiled by Henry Frederic Reddall (MeClurg & Co.), is a hand-book of ready reference, in which the results of the editor’s personal researches are combined with the salient features of several works in the same kind,—for example, Wheeler’s Noted Names in Fiction and Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. The list of pseudonyms in the present volume is fuller than that given in either of the two books mentioned. Mr. Reddall’s articles on the Iron Mask, the Wandering Jew, and Casper Hauser add special value to his ingenious and, on the whole, careful compilation.
Poetry. The Hermitage and Later Poems, by Edward Rowland Sill (Houghton). We have already attempted an assay of Sill’s ore, and will only add here that this volume will be acceptable to all who know Sill already, for once a poet takes possession of the affection of his readers, his variations of song become dear to them. The longer poem will have a special interest to those who desire to trace Sill’s growth. There is a good portrait prefacing the volume. — Florecita, by Bella French Swisher (John B. Alden, New York). A novel in verse. — Celestial Scenes, by Franz Ludwig Nagler (Cranston & Stone, Cincinnati). The first part only of this poem has appeared, and embraces only The Universe. Other parts are to follow. — Forest Leaves, and Three ; or Genevra’s Tower. By Mary Hulett Young. (Printed at the Riverside Press.) A collection of poems, some narrative, some religious, some based upon historical incidents. They are fluent, and appear to be the result of reading good verse. — Day Lilies, by Jeanie Oliver Smith (Putnams). There is rather more variety, and a homely sort of poetic feeling, in this volume, than in some of more distinct poetic value. — Poems, by Anna Alcott Commelin. (Randolph.) It is singular how unconsciously a poet may fall into hyperbole. Here is this writer, in a poem called Atmospheres, saying to a friend,
Well for those who own thee nearest;
And, if any know thee not,
Drear must be their earthly lot.”
Now, would the writer honestly say in prose that the unfortunate people who do not know her friend, necessarily, thereby, and in consequence thereof, other friends to the contrary notwithstanding, have a dreary earthly lot ?
Biography. Every-day Biography; containing a collection of brief biographies, arranged for every day in the year, as a book of reference for the teacher, student, Chautauquan, and home circle. By Amelia J. Calver (Fowler & Wells Co., New York). This is an expanded birthday book or calendar, without the blank space for accessions to the ranks of immortals. The biographical data are brief and to the point. The compiler has forborne wisely to comment much on her subjects. — Portraits of Friends, by John Campbell Shairp (Houghton). Principal Shairp’s best work was in such papers as that on Keble, in which he described a movement in religious life and the persons engaged in it, as known to him by personal acquaintance. His sympathy and his strong religious nature made him ready to take a lively interest in such subjects, and his poetic nature made him quick to penetrate surfaces. This little book has kindly portraits of Erskine, Cotton, Dr. John Brown, Macleod, Campbell, Mackintosh, and Clough, besides a very agreeable sketch of Shairp himself, by Professor Sellar. — Louisa May Alcott; her Life, Letters, and Journals. Edited by Ednah D. Cheney (Roberts). It will be a great pleasure for the many who have learned to care for Miss Alcott through her books, to know her now by her own report, for the abundant letters and passages from diaries set vividly before the reader the personality of this brave, cheerful woman. The book is, besides, a bit out of the history of New England social life. —John Davis, the Navigator, by Clements R. Markham (Dodd, Mead & Co.). The first of a series of The World’s Great Explorers and Explorations. Mr. Markham’s qualifications for his task are well known, and this book bears the marks of his patient investigation and careful statement. The maps are good, but the reproductions of wood-cuts are inferior.
Books for Young People. Ready for Business ; or Choosing an Occupation. A series of practical papers for boys. By George J. Manson. (Fowler and Wells Co.) This is a sensible little book, for though it cannot tell a boy a great deal in its few pages, it does in various ways enforce the principle that success in any calling is founded on steady work. — The Golden Days of ’49, a tale of the California Diggings, by Kirk Munroe. (Dodd, Mead & Co.) A tale full of adventure in California at the time of the discovery of gold. Almost anything might happen then for the benefit of the story-teller. — Margaret Ellison, a story of Tuna Valley, by Mary Graham. (Miss M. G. Connell, La Grange, Philadelphia.) A story of the life of a young girl growing up in the oil region. The story is an artless one, but somehow draws upon the reader’s interest and respect. It has a positive religious tone, there are signs of a close reproduction of actual life, and, though conventional and not the work of a trained mind, it has qualities of honesty and simplicity which commend it to the reader. — The Mossback correspondence, together with Mr. Mossback’s views on certain practical subjects, with a short account of his visit to Utopia, by Francis E. Clark. (Lothrop.) A volume of short, blunt letters on minor morals, under the assumption of age and experience. Perhaps too fine an edge to Mr. Clark’s weapon would weaken its sawing power.
Literature and Criticism. English Lands, Letters, and Kings, from Celt to Tudor, by Donald G. Mitchell. (Scribners.) Apparently the first of a series in which Mr. Mitchell uses a familiar, kindly speech with which to set forth in a desultory yet chronological manner the England of our literary lore ; the land and the kings are only background for the poets and other writers. The readers, or listeners, for the book has the form of talk, are supposed to be young rather than juvenile, and a certain general acquaintance with history and geography and literature is understood. There is a very agreeable sympathy in Mr. Mitchell’s mind with his subject. — Sesame and Lilies, by John Ruskin. (McClurg.) A pretty reprint of Ruskin’s famous lectures, with the preface which he wrote for his purple calf edition. We notice that the numbering of paragraphs employed by Mr. Ruskin is retained, but the chief value of the numbering is for purposes of inference in an index, and no index is given.