Books of the Month
Religion and Philosophy. The Unknown God, or Inspiration among Pre-Christian Races, by C. Loring Brace. (Armstrong.) An interesting study in ancient and modern faiths, with a view to disclosing the less fully developed yet common faith in God. Mr. Brace, following the example of S. Paul, would have the modern missionary build upon the existing imperfect faith of heathendom rather than sweep it aside and lay new foundations. In this he is in accord with a growing conviction of Christian thinkers. Maurice was one of the first to set this forth in his little volume of missionary sermons, — Three Sevens, a Story of Ancient Initiations, by the Phelons. (Hermetic Publishing Co., Chicago.) “It has always been the petted weakness of my family to have ancestors. ” So begins the tale, and the reader stops to ponder what would have been the consequence if there had been a break somewhere in the line, and any one of the family had absolutely refused to have an ancestor. He resumes the tale, and a page or two later discovers that one of the authors of the story solves in the affirmative the question, “ Can a man be his own grandfather ? ” After this anything is possible ; and as the story is of the entirely impossible, it becomes necessary for the reader to leave his ordinary reason behind. The authors of the book left theirs. — The Exegesis of Life. (Minerva Publishing Co., New York.) The writer of this philosophical study professes to be an unlettered man and one who is unfamiliar with the English language, but there is little in the book itself to betray this. It is a closely reasoned and intelligible argument to prove the infinity of creation as coexistent with the infinity of the Creator. “ Our final conclusion is,”says the writer, “that there is a God, and that the nature of God is eternal existence.” — An Essay in Refutation of Agnosticism, and the Philosophy of the Unknowable. A review with an analogy. By Rev. Simon Fitz Simons. (Post Express Printing Co., Rochester, N. Y.) — Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, by W. Robertson Smith. (Appleton.) This is the first series, and is devoted to the fundamental institutions. In accordance with a growing tendency among students, the Hebrews, with their most thoroughly exploited history, are grouped with the Arabs, the Phœnicians, the Aramæans, the Babylonians and Assyrians, and the inquiry is carried back of the separate records into the region of a common religious tradition. The Subject is a fascinating one, and the increasing knowledge which we possess of other Semitie tribes makes it possible to tread the ground with greater confidence. The reader who may have a misgiving regarding the method, and a special distrust of Robertson Smith, has this protection, that the documents for a large part of the study are in his possession and quite intelligible in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. — Man and his World ; or, The Oneness of Now and Eternity. A series of imaginary discourses between Socrates and Protagoras. By John Darby. (Lippincott.) The form of this book is Platonic, and the author has now and then shrewdness of speech ; but the likeness to Plato is rather superficial, and the reader suspects he is paying attention to whimsey rather than to philosophy. — An Epitome of the Synthetic Philosophy, by F. Howard Collins, with a preface by Herbert Spencer. (Appleton.) This work is professedly a statement, in condensed form, of the general principles of Mr. Spencer’s Philosophy, and largely in the original words. With an amusing, unconscious reflection upon the Philosophy itself, it is stated that the reduction is to about ten per cent. of the original. — Evolution. Popular Lectures and Discussions before the Brooklyn Ethical Association. (James H. West, Boston.) A composite book, in which the subject of evolution is approached from several quarters ; as in the sketches of Spencer and Darwin, the consideration of solar and planetary evolution, the evolution of the earth and of vegetal life, proceeding thus to evolution as related to religious thought, the philosophy of evolution, and the effects of evolution on the coming civilization. At the close of each lecture is a brief report of the discussion which followed the reading. — Unitarianism, its Origin and History. A course of sixteen lectures delivered in Channing Hall, Boston, 1888—89. (American Unitarian Association.) Although the first three lectures seek for the traces of Unitarianism in early Christian history, the bulk of the book is devoted to the exposition of the faith as it has been held in its stronghold in this country. The speakers are all interested in their themes, but they are all more or less conscious of their geographical position. — Review of Colonel R. G. Ingersoll’s Attacks upon Christianity, by Mrs. Ottilie Bertron. (The Author, 3929 Locust St., Philadelphia.) An earnest, somewhat rambling reply to the oratorical antagonist. — The Proposed Revision of the Westminster Standards, by William G. T. Shedd. (Scribners.) Dr. Shedd enters the arena with a polite bow to his antagonists. You are all good men and true, he says, but your doctrines are all wrong. Once undertake to revise the creed, and you are upon an inclined plane, down which you will slide. It is the old cry, and to those who are confident that God has a “plan of redemption,”and that this plan is succinctly stated in Calvinism, it is an effectual one. — Dr. Briggs’s now famous book, Whither ? a Theological Question for the Times (Scribners), has been overlooked by us, though we have noted some of its parasitical growth. The value of the work lies in its clear presentation of the historical growth of the creed as held by the Presbyterian church, and in the fearless facing of the difficulties which have risen. It is inspiriting to hear a theologian say, as Dr. Briggs does in his preface : " The process of dissolution has gone on long enough. The time has come for the reconstruction of theology, of polity, of worship, and of Christian life and work. The drift in the church ought to stop. Christian divines should steer directly toward the divine truth, as the true and only orthodoxy, and strive for the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” History also is with him in this position, for although external pressure has always had its effect upon the church, reform has come from within. The note of permanence in the church is struck when its representative leaders do not go outside and set up a new church, but remain within and reconstruct the edifice upon truer lines. — Christian Theism, its Claims and Sanctions, by D. B. Purinton. (Putnams.) The first volume of a work which in its entirety is designed to state the grounds of belief in the existence of God and in the authority of the Bible. One is struck, in glancing through this part, which is devoted to the being of God, with the almost angry note of the writer. He can scarcely listen with patience to the objections which he cites. It is hard to see how any minds which are troubled with doubts can submit themselves to the teaching of so unsympathetic a mental disciplinarian. — Jesus the Messiah, by Alfred Edersheim (Randolph), is an abridgment of the author’s well-known larger work. Something of the color of the original is taken out in the process, but, in spite of lavishness in the use of material, Dr. Edersheim’s work is marked by sobriety of tone. He is, in truth, an exact and painstaking and learned archæologist, who brings the wealth of his learning to enrich a plain narrative which follows the customary lines of orthodox interpretation. — Creed Revision in the Presbyterian Churches, by Philip Schaff. (Scribners.) Dr. Schaff makes his contribution to the stirring question, and looks forward with the eagerness of younger men to such confession and such organic life as shall bear in mind the reunion of Christendom in the creed of Christ.—An Old Religion, a study, by J. C. P. Grumbine. (C. H. Kerr & Co., Chicago.) Mr. Grumbine asserts the decay of church ideas and the rapid spread of freethinking, and falls back upon the essentials of religion in love to God and man as the foundation of a new order. It is a little difficult to see any constructiveness in his views, and it would not be hard to show that the church itself is eagerly insisting everywhere on just these essentials. — Religion and Science as Allies, or Similarities of Physical and Religious Knowledge, by James T. Bixby. (C. H. Kerr & Co., Chicago.) An attempt at demonstrating the common basis of both religion and science in faith and experiment. — Beneath Two Flags, by Maud B. Booth. (Funk & Wagnalls.) A semi-official narrative, apparently, of the work of the Salvation Army. It is difficult for one to read such a narrative dispassionately. He is brought face to face with iniquity, and asked if he can condemn the men and women who are fighting it. No, it is not necessary to condemn them; neither is he called on to surrender his judgment on the spot. — Belief, by George Leonard Chaney. (Roberts.) Eight discourses on the fundamentals of Christianity in its doctrines and its organization; written in a kindly spirit, and with a desire to restate the matter in terms which shall satisfy a mind at variance with traditional definitions, but ready to accept a reasonable form not opposed to the findings of current philosophy and science. — The Way out of Agnosticism, or the Philosophy of Free Religion, by Francis Ellingwood Abbot. (Little, Brown & Co.) Mr. Abbot’s little book is so italicized and small-capitalized that it would seem as though he questioned, after all, the willingness of the student to read deliberately and with attention the solution which he proposes of the doubts which assail men. Nevertheless, no one can read far into it without perceiving how earnest Mr. Abbot is in pleading for his positions; ;and this earnestness will doubtless attract readers who might otherwise be bewildered by the way in which he rams his words into their involved order, with the intent that they rush out upon the intelligence with an insane force. — Studies in Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion, with a chapter on Christian Unity in America, by J. Macbride Sterrett. (Appleton.) An earnest, sometimes headlong, and often brilliant series of notes arid essays, thrown together with little regard to unity of design, and affecting one rather as a long tract than as a studied treatise. The writer has taken hold of one or two genetic principles, and works them industriously. His studies constantly bring him face to face with the ecclesiastical questions which interest the Episcopal church in America. — Why I am a New Churchman, by Chauncey Giles. (American New Church Tract and Publication Society, Philadelphia.) A small book, of a little over a hundred pages, in which the writer answers a question which he has been asked, probably, either directly or indirectly, a great many times. As a matter of personal history, the doctrines of Swedenborg solved the doubts which had assailed the writer, and confirmed him in that faith in God to which he had clung in the midst of his doubts. Answer enough, therefore, for him; and what man but wishes his personal faith to be the universal one?—The Nature and Method of Revelation, by G. P. Fisher. (Scribners.) There is a pleasure in reading the calm, confident, and reasonable sentences of Professor Fisher. He is so much at home in his subject, and has traversed the ground from so many approaches, that he needs only to consider the form in which he will present his thought, and this form is always that of a sane writer. The courtesy of his manner toward those who disagree with him is unfailing, and the book is a model of what a popular work on apologetics, not aiming to be a systematic treatise, should be. — The Philosophy of Preaching, by A. J. F. Behrends. (Scribners.) Lectures given before the Divinity School of Yale College, by an accomplished preacher, who is not formulating a system, but recording an experience. It is plain that he values theology in proportion as it lies behind and gives the word to preaching, and that he is eager to persuade the young men who listen to him that they have a vital message to deliver, and are not first of all to be critics and analysts. — A Primer of Darwinism and Organic Evolution, by J. Y. Bergen, Jr., and Fanny D. Bergen. (Lee & Shepard.) A reissue of a book which, under the title of The Development Theory, appeared half a dozen years ago. The authors have taken the opportunity to go over their work anew, and revise it here and there. The book is written in a style which is clear, interesting, and agreeable. — The Psychology of Attention, by Th. Ribot. (Open Court Publishing Co., Chicago.) A series of essays intended to establish and prove that there are two well-defined forms of attention: the one, spontaneous, natural : the other, voluntary, artificial. The former, it is maintained, is the true primitive and fundamental form of attention ; the latter, the result of education, of training, and of impulsion. An interesting, closely reasoned analysis of the mechanism of the subject.
History. Mr. Fyffe’s admirable History of Modern Europe is brought to a conclusion in the third volume, just issued. (Holt & Co.) This section of the work begins with the Revolution of ’48, and ends with the Treaty of Berlin, 1878; a very important period, covering, as it does, the unification of Germany, the unification of Italy, and the fall of the Second Empire. We know of no other history in which the reader will find these notable events so clearly and compactly set forth. — The Negro in Maryland, a Study of the Institution of Slavery, by Jeffrey R. Brackett. (N. Murray, Baltimore.) This is an extra volume in the series of Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, and is at once a very full study from a scientific point of view, and, incidentally, a most interesting sketch of society under the old régime. Mr. Brackett writes, not as a partisan, but as a scholar with humane instincts.—Mr. James Schouler, whose History of the United States of America under the Constitution has been appearing at irregular intervals in the decade just closed, has now brought out his four volumes with Dodd, Mead & Co., and promises to complete the work with a fifth, when a more thorough estimate of his contribution to United States history can be made; but no one who has read his volumes carefully will withhold credit for great industry and independence of judgment. The work is individual, and is likely to attract more attention as the study of our history increases and readers wish to get a uniform point of view from one or another writer. The very idiosyncrasies of Mr. Schouler’s style, though sometimes obstructive, take their place as effective forms of presenting his opinions. He proposes to close his work with 1861, and the period of 1783-1861 is a natural period. — In the Story of the Nations Series, a recent volume is The Story of the Barbary Corsairs, by Stanley Lane-Poole, with the collaboration of Lieutenant J. D. Jerrold Kelley, U. S. N. (Putnams.) The brilliant action of a few American sailors early in this century has given the Barbary States a special interest for American readers ; and though the portion of the volume devoted to Decatur and his fellows is necessarily small, the whole story will be read with attention, as giving the causes of the apparently inexplicable tyranny exercised by a few pirates over the commerce of Christendom. — History of New England, by John Gorham Palfrey. Volume V. (Little Brown & Co.) A melancholy interest attaches to this volume through the death, just before its publication, of the editor, a son of Dr. Palfrey, who had taken up the manuscript left by his father and prepared it for the press. The work, whose preface is dated in 1876, ends with the battle of Bunker Hill and the appearance of General Washington on the scene.
In one aspect this was the end of New England. After that, its history is on one hand resolved into the history of States, on the other merged in the history of the Union. Dr. Palfrey was the representative of a strong New England idea, and his work, though it is likely to be superseded in parts by more special treatises, will remain as one of the best examples of a school which had dignity and preserved the traditions of a great era.
Poetry. Spring and Summer, or Blushing Hours, by William T. Washburn. (Putnams.) Some three hundred poems, of varying length. It would seem possible to find some good ones among them, and we do find occasional lines that belong to poetry, but we have not chanced upon any poem which we should like to commit to memory. Many begin with promise, but end ineffectively. — Lays of Middle Age, and Other Poems, by James Hedderwick, LL. D. (Blackwood), is a revised and enlarged edition of a book of meditative verse which attracted much attention when it was first issued, in 1859. Mr. Hedderwick’s poems possess many rare qualities, and were well worth reprinting. They are of a kind which is now, perhaps, not in fashion, but they will be warmly liked by thoughtful readers. — Wordsworth’s Grave, and Other Poems, by William Watson (Fisher Unwin), is a volume of very fresh and striking verse. William Watson is a new name to us, but it is the name of a poet. — Easter Gleams, by Lucy Larcom. (Houghton.) Miss Larcom is so careful a workman, and holds poetry in so high esteem, that when she comes to express religious feeling in verse she avoids the pitfalls into which amateur religious poets fall. Her work is strong and artistic as well as fervent and prayerful. — Beads of Morning, by William S. Lord. (University Press Co., Evanston, Ill.) Still within the sound of poetry just read. — The Beautiful City in Song, and Other Poems, by the Rev. Dwight Williams. (Phillips & Hunt.) O Religion, how many poetic crimes are committed in thy name ! — The Legend of a Thought, and Other Verses, by Martha Agnes Rand. (Chicago.) Pleasing, unpretentious verses. The poem Bleaching has a pretty air about it. — Gettysburg, and Other Poems, by Isaac R. Pennypacker. (Porter & Coates.) Mr. Pennypacker’s poems have in their favor an objectivity which takes them out of the common class in which the minor key prevails. There is an infusion of incident which makes them readable as poetical anecdotes. Occasionally there is a happy poetical figure, so that a few lines are very effective. The rhymes are natural, and there is some dash and spirit about the more important poems ; but the rhythm is defective, and there is a hopelessly prosaic character to some of the verses. — Gems from Walt Whitman, selected by Elizabeth Porter Gould. (David McKay, Philadelphia.) There can be less objection to snatches from Whitman than from poets not so radically fragmentary. Yet these lines, taken apparently at random, give a more unfortunate impression of Whitman than a collection of selected poems might. The Tupper element seems to come to the front, and there is a sort of St. Vitus dance to the lines which affects one as if the poetic motion were spasmodic.—Cleopatra, by J. C. J. (The Bancroft Co., San Francisco.) Two brief poems, presenting Cleopatra at the height of her ambition in capturing Antony, and at her death. The writer has some vigorous lines and a good deal of dramatic ardor, though her ear does not seem to be always in perfect tune. — In the Morning, by Willis Boyd Allen. (Randolph.) A pleasing fancy lies in several of these poems, and the author takes a genuine pleasure in his work. The sentiment is pure and generally unaffected, but the author trusts a little too much to his sentiment, and neglects sometimes to give the ground of it, as in My Cross. — Lord Healey, and Other Poems, by Sylvester Graham Vance. (The Author, Marshalltown — but he does n’t say what State.) — In Divers Tones, by Hubert Wolcott Bowen. (Cupples.) About a hundred short poems, some of them quatrains, none of them much more than a breath long. The subjects are light, for the most part, and altogether one looks naturally for daintiness and delicacy of touch. — Poems, by John Hay. (Houghton.) A new issue of Mr. Hay’s poems, with a few in the former edition dropped out of sight, and the collection reinforced by some not before gathered. Such a poem as Little Breeches clings to an author’s name, for it is easily remembered; but the poet’
Travel. Bright Skies and Dark Shadows, by Henry M. Field. (Scribners.) Dr. Field has added to his several volumes of European and Asiatic travel one devoted to the Southern States. There is nothing impersonal about it. At every step he has a good word for his companions, who, luckily, are generally so well known as public men that there is no intrusion on their privacy. There is also more or less study of the color line ; and through all there is a kindly, jocular spirit which can even jest over the fatal result of the performance of a simple act of duty, as in the case of the postal agent, who was destroyed by a man-eating shark. — Farrar’s Illustrated Guide Book to Moosehead Lake, Katahdin Iron Works and Vicinity, the North Maine Wilderness, and the head waters of the Dead, Kennebec, Penobscot, Aroostook, and St, John rivers ; with a new and correct map of the Lake region ; also contains the game and fish laws of Maine (as revised by the last legislature), railroad, steamboat, and stage routes, time-tables, table of fares, list of hotels, prices of board, and other valuable information for the sportsman, tourist, or pleasure-seeker. By Captain Charles A. J. Farrar. (Lee & Shepard.) We have given the title-page quite fully, as it contains a summary of the contents of the volume. It is a hearty sort of book, crammed with detail, from which the sportsman, tourist, or pleasure-seeker will select what is of any use to him; and it is a pity that the author had not himself done more of this work of selection. — Around and About South America, Twenty Months of Quest and Query, by Frank Vincent. (Appleton.) Mr. Vincent’s journey covered about thirty - five thousand miles, and permitted him to visit all the capitals, chief cities, and important seaports, and to make long journeys into the interior and up the mighty rivers of the continent. Mr. Vincent is an experienced traveler, and in this book he moves swiftly from one subject to another, noting those points to which a person making the journey for the first time would like to have his attention called. There is little attempt at going below the surface of observation, but the results attained are not indifferent in worth.—Lake Champlain and its Shores, by W. H. H. Murray. (De Wolfe, Fiske & Co., Boston.) Mr. Murray opens his book with a fervid and wholesome appeal for outdoor life, and then presents the attractions of nature and history which gather about Lake Champlain. The book has practical points, but its best use is in a glowing address to ingenuous youth to stir them to a natural life. — The League of American Wheelmen (Matthews, Northrup & Co., Buffalo, N. Y.) is doing a good service by issuing a little collection of papers on Improvement of Highways, in which practical advice is given as to the formation of roads, the pavement of cities, the nature and use of asphalt, and similar subjects. It has also submitted a memorial on the same subject to the People of Rhode Island. The railroad has done a great deal for the United States, but it has done much mischief by retarding the construction of good roads in the country. — Costa Rica and her Future, by Paul Biolley; translated from the French by Cecil Charles. (Judd & Detweiler, Washington.) Mr. Biolley, who has long been a resident of Costa Rica, makes a careful study of the state and its resources under the several captions, The Country, The Inhabitants, Lands and Cultures, Industries, Commerce and Finances, The Future. If the work is to be trusted, it will dispel many false notions regarding it. " One can,” says Mr. Biolley, “without slightest danger traverse alone and unarmed the most remote and isolated sections of the republic.” To be sure, sixty per cent. of the whole number of deaths, which is one to every thirty-nine inhabitants, is of children under ten years of age ; but most persons who are seeking a new home are over ten years of age. Earthquakes are not very frequent, and the police regulations, though they do not affect this kind of disturbance, are excellent. Prices are high, but so are wages; and altogether, if one can adjust a Yankee thrift and impatience to the demands of a pretty hot but not necessarily insalubrious climate, if he will be sparing in his use of bananas and lead a temperate life, he may hope to do very well indeed in Costa Rica.