Comment on New Books

Poetry and the Drama. The two volumes devoted to American sonnets, namely, Representative Sonnets by American Poets, edited by Charles H. Crandall, and American Sonnets, selected and edited by T. W. Higginson and E. H. Bigelow (Houghton), are so diverse in plan and execution that they offer an interesting example of the two uses to which volumes of selections may be put. The smaller volume is a companionable book, which one may slip into his pocket and read on a ramble, or keep at his side for the moment stolen from work or sleep. It is choice, and by its apparatus shows the scholarly care with which it has been prepared. It is a book, in fine, for one who knows literature and wishes refreshment from it. By the way, is it not something new to accent Greek words written in capitals ? Mr. Crandall’s book is addressed rather to younger readers who are to make their acquaintance with the subject. The editor’s enthusiasm and ardent love for his subject are disclosed in his readable introduction, which deals with the sonnet structurally and historically, and in his copious notes, which are almost a biographical dictionary. He is able, by his plan, to introduce a large number of examples of sonnet-writing and to give a running survey of English poetry of this form, so that his book is a pretty comprehensive one. —Poems, by Edna Dean Proctor. (Houghton.) Miss Proctor has done well to reissue, with additions, poems which she wrote and first published several years ago, for the fervor which glows in them is not of the kind which leaves only ashes after the lapse of time. —Julius Cæsar, an Historical Tragedy in five acts, by Edward Willard. (Horace Willard, Philadelphia.) It cannot be said that the author is wanting in courage when he takes up this theme, the more so that one hears a curious echo of Shakespeare in his verses. He introduces one new character, however, unthought of by his predecessor, a Nazarene prophetess, who hints at the dawn of Christianity. He appears thus to be as indifferent as Shakespeare to historical actualities. — Echoes from Dreamland, by Frederic Allison Tapper. (Shelburne Falls, Mass.) There is the shell of poetry in this book. — An Irish Crazy-Quilt, Smiles and Tears, woven into Song and Story, by Arthur M. Forrester. (Alfred Mudge & Son, Boston.) A medley of verse and prose : the verse for the most part Moorish, as often happens among Irish bards ; the prose chiefly of the rudely humorous and satirical sort. A tough palate will feel the pepper in both verse and prose. —The Dragon Yoke, Sonnets and Songs, by Elizabethe Dupuy. (John B. Alden, New York.) The title of this little book is a conundrum which we give up. The sonnets and songs are often musical, but it is a sort of music without words ; for one reads the lines and they sound melodious, but somehow they do not mean very much. — Idle Hours, by W. De Witt Wallace. (Putnams.) Quite so. — Under the Nursery Lamp, Songs about the Little Ones. (Randolph.) A pretty little collection of songs and poems, not for the child to hear so much as for the mother and nurse to enjoy, as putting into speech the maternal instinct. We like best those which are most objective, and dwell with the happier feeling upon the simple pleasures of infantile life. The worries and anxieties the mother or nurse may be trusted to know without the aid of verse. — The Franklin Square Song Collection : Two Hundred Favorite Songs and Hymns for Schools and Homes, Nursery and Fireside. No. 7. Selected by J. P. McCaskey. (Harpers.) The novel feature of this collection is the insertion on nearly every page of a prose paragraph upon some musical topic, as the history of a song or song-writer, or comment on musical customs. These notes sometimes hit the subject of the adjoining song, sometimes miss it. The editor evidently pays no heed to the couplet,

“Next to singing, the most foolish thing
Is to talk about what we sing.”

A few pages at the close are devoted to Elements of Music. The collection is miscellaneous rather than very choice.

Law. Legal Hygiene, or How to Avoid Litigation, by A. J. Hirschl. (Egbert, Fidlar & Chambers, Davenport, Iowa.) This is a transcript of lectures of interest to all persons who have property or expect to acquire any. Mr. Hirschl is a lively writer, and begins wisely by frightening the reader out of his boots, when he shows him how impossible it is for a layman to know law, and how inevitably law is entangled with the ordinary transactions of life. He cautions the reader also against the various legal nostrums which are hawked about under such alluring titles as Every Man a Law to Himself (we are not going to render ourselves liable by quoting the real title), and in this way keeps the reader on the anxious-seat while he proceeds to show him the terrors of the law for two hundred pages. We think it likely there is a good deal of sound sense in the book, but we are inclined to apply to the book as well as to the law itself, Don’t.

History and Politics. Millionaires of a Day, an Inside History of the Great Southern California “Boom,” by T. S. Van Dyke. (Fords.) The history of a craze, written by so clever an observer as the author, does not fail of being entertaining, and would be if Mr. Van Dyke reported only what he saw and heard. We are not sure but the book would have been even better if it had not the sort of sporting-paper humor which pervades it; still, the solid worth of the book as a lively and very contemporaneous account of what the author calls “ the greatest piece of folly that any country has ever seen ” is not to be gainsaid, and after one has done being amused by it he is likely to remember its moral. — Speeches, Arguments, and Miscellaneous Papers of David Dudley Field, edited by Titus Munson Coan. (Appleton.) The third volume, completing the series, and containing addresses and papers from 1844 to 1890. There is a pretty wide range taken, covering politics, sociology, jurisprudence, legislative reform, and personalia, as in his memorial addresses on Mark Hopkins and William Curtis Noyes, and other occasional tributes. — In the Story of the Nations the latest issue is Switzerland, by Lina Hug and Richard Stead. (Putnams.) The book is orderly and is well illustrated, but it seems a pity that, in treating of such a subject, the forces which make for nationality should not be dwelt upon more fully, and the reader enabled to see, what few writers undertake to show, the living Switzerland of to-day with its roots in the past. — The German Soldier in the Wars of the United States, by J. G. Rosengarten. (Lippincott.) A second edition of a scholarly little book. It is a pity Mr. Rosengarten should have allowed his book so far to retain the earliest pamphlet form as to miss the advantage which comes from division into chapters. One passes from one period to another with very little notification on the part of the author. — Battle Fields and Camp Fires, a Narrative of the Principal Military Operations of the Civil War, from the removal of McClellan to the accession of Grant, by Willis J. Abbot. (Dodd, Mead & Co.) This book appears to follow the same author’s Battle Fields of ‘61. It is written with a good deal of spirit, and keeps closely to its text. It is almost impossible to say whether the illustrations by W. C. Jackson are good or indifferent, so dimly are they reproduced. — The Greek World under Roman Sway, from Polybius to Plutarch, by J. P. Mahaffy. (Macmillan.) An independent work, but in the succession to the author’s Greek Life and Thought. This book has a peculiar interest to modern students, because, incidentally, it helps to outline the gradual amalgamation of the two great forces of the ancient world, Greek thought and art and Roman institutions, which formed the basis of modern history. Nor is there absent some hint of the relation which Judaism bore to both. Indeed, the book might be taken to illustrate the preparation for Christianity.

Fine Arts and Holiday Books. Baby’s Kingdom, wherein may be Chronicled as Memories for Grown-Up Days the Mother’s Story of the Progress of the Baby, designed and illustrated by Annie F. Cox, (Lee & Shepard.) An oblong, old - gold-covered book, containing, besides rhymes and texts and pretty designs illustrative of babyhood, blank leaves and spaces for the record of the first year, as regards name, christening, gifts, date of first tooth, and the like. Fortunately, we are spared the grim suggestions which similar records sometimes contain of sickness. The book supposes the baby to be the first, plainly. — Manual of Archæology, by Talfourd Ely. (Putnams.) A compact presentation, with cuts of varying excellence, of the results chiefly of the latest investigations in prehistoric, Egyptian, Oriental, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art. It is a convenient summary of information to be found after considerable search in a great number of books, and especially journals, and in unpublished lectures as well. So condensed a statement can do hardly more than point out the directions in which one may study, but in a field so wide and so rich it offers itself a serviceable guide. — Glimpses of Old English Homes, by Elizabeth Balch. (Macmillan.) A series of readable papers on Penshurst, Arundel Castle, Chiswick House, Osterley Park, and as many more places, which afford the student of the picturesque a lively pleasure in the seeing and a secondary delight in reading about. There are fifty-one excellent illustrations, and any one reasonably familiar with English history would pass a pleasant hour looking through the book. The style of the text is animated, but not especially elegant. — Strolls by Starlight and Sunshine, by W. Hamilton Gibson ; illustrated by the Author. (Harpers.) The contents of this handsome volume give a pretty good notion of the themes treated, — A Midnight Ramble, Night Witchery, Bird Notes, Bird Cradles, Prehistoric Botanists, The Wild Garden. Mr. Gibson’s most interesting, because most novel, ventures are in the textual and pictorial descriptions of night scenery. Such a picture, for example, as that of Misty Moonlight, or the tailpiece to Night Witchery, is like a piece of news from nature. It is amusing to see how a bird lover will, in his compositions, make a portrait of his little partridge or whitethroated sparrow or bobolink, with a whole piece of woods for a background. The affectionate spirit of the book is very attractive. One readily grants that, however much such a book may be produced on demand, it has a genuine spontaneity. — The December number of The Portfolio (Macmillan) contains a second paper by its editor, Mr. Hamerton, on National Supremacy in Painting, in which he continues his clever comparisons of France and England. He makes the shrewd observation that there is a change coming over the French race. “ The age of passion, the youth of the race, is passing away as the nation enters upon its scientific or positive stage.” He is speaking more distinctly, it is true, of the artists, but is it not reasonable to suppose that the necessity for self-determination forced upon the French by the political exigency is really affecting character ? So long as men are taken care of by the state, and do not themselves take care of the state, character must be imperfectly developed in the direction of positivism. Mr. McCarthy continues his readable sketch of Charing Cross to St. Paul’s with a number on Ludgate Hill, so he may have reached the end, and Mr. Clark Russell has one of his papers on The British Seas. The etchings are one of The Wind and the Rain, by C. O. Murray after McWhirter, Yarmouth after Turner, and St. Paul’s Churchyard by Mr. Pennell. — L’Art for November 15 and December 1 (Macmillan) has for etchings Alma Tadenia’s Silence, and La Science by Lurat after Paul Veronese ; and for text the completion of H. Meren’s paper on Le Dôme d’Orvieto, and a continuation of Paul Leroi’s on the Salon of 1890. The abundant illustrations in the text are mainly memoranda of pictures, but there is a delightful border designed for the Salon article, wherein the free, bold execution is a most agreeable change from the refinement sought by finesse of line.

Travel. The Pine-Tree Coast, by Samuel Adams Drake. (Estes & Lauriat.) Mr. Drake is an accomplished antiquarian, and his interest in the seacoast of Maine is less that of a tourist in search of the picturesque than of a student of early New England history. He has made his book a good commentary on the life which has been led in the parts he visits, and if he throws in a good deal of enthusiasm for nature, the reader will remember that the new discovery of Maine is made by lovers of nature. The cuts are pretty rude; none the worse for that when they reproduce objects, but decidedly the worse when their function is to repeat the loveliness or the strength of natural beauty. — Travel, a Series of Narratives of Personal Visits to Places famous for Natural Beauty and Historical Association. (W. M. Griswold, Cambridge, Mass.) A serial of which two volumes have been published, composed of reprints, either in full or abridged, of papers which have appeared in a variety of periodicals and books. The personal element gives a special flavor to this serial, and the editor, who is also the publisher, has a keen scent for the interesting, as well as a good faculty for leaving out the superfluous. The English Lakes, Vallombrosa, the Engadine, Lake George, Quebec, the Black Forest, the Pyrenees, Heidelberg, the White Mountains, are among the subjects treated. The editor has annotated the text judiciously and sparingly.

Books of Reference. The fourth volume of The Century Dictionary (The Century Company) begins with the letter M, and ends with the last word which can be found under P ; and if any one tries to produce a more final combination of letters beginning with p than “pyx-veil ” he has our sympathy. One interesting feature of the dictionary is the comparative study of the characters themselves, and the full account of the meanings involved in the letters as symbols. One cannot turn the page of such a work without meeting old friends and forming new acquaintances, but as for characterizing the company in a paragraph, one might as well hope to give a notion of Broadway at four o’clock in the afternoon. As a serial work the dictionary has a special charm, for one has a chance to read in a scattering way a sixth of the alphabet, when he would despair of doing anything with the whole. We are struck again with the special value of the architectural illustrations, as in such words as “ machicolations; and with the hospitality which admits such a disgraceful but useful term as “masher.” — The sixth volume of Chambers’s Encyclopædia (Lippincott) runs from Humber to Malta, and covers thus a number of interesting topics in biography, in literature, and in history ; for Lincoln, Longfellow, Lowell, and Luther all begin with L ; Ireland is so much of a subject as to call for three writers on it ; and the Inquisition, besides being written by nobody, is revised by Cardinal Manning. This last article is a pretty good example of the hottest manner in which a difficult subject is handled. We wish the historical fact cited in the article on Lowell, that he wrote a Life of Hawthorne in 1890, could he verified. The strength of the work lies in its compactness, and the editor’s instinct for selecting the salient points of each topic. The maps, too, are excellent and abundant. A capital device was to give ancient Italy on the reverse of modern Italy. — A second edition appears of Bellows’s French-English and English-French Dictionary (Holt), a work which has already established a reputation, and which combines, we venture to say, more ingenious devices in lexicography than any dictionary of its size. The printing of the two vocabularies side by side is one ; the discrimination of feminine from masculine words by the style of type is another ; the printing of substantives in capitals, the pointing of letters to indicate silent or liquid letters, and distinction of type as prepositions are used before nouns or before verbs, all these contribute to compactness and readiness of reference. The type is for the most part small ; we wish it were clearer. There is much useful apparatus, also, in lists of irregular verbs, equivalent values in French, English, American, and German moneys, the metric system variously applied, the comparison of thermometers, hints about idioms, geographical names, and, lastly, blank leaves for addenda. Altogether the book is a model of compactness and convenience, and the compiler shows himself a delightfully independent thinker.

Books on the Stage. The Autobiography of Joseph Jefferson (The Century Company) will have an attraction for many through its portraiture of a very kindly nature, and the opening chapters, relating to the childhood of the actor, are charming ; but the permanent value of the work is in the occasional comment on his profession in which Mr. Jefferson indulges. He does not stray much beyond the limits of his own experience, and inasmuch as he is a master within those lines, one listens with attention to the hints which he lets fall. Such, for example, are his account of the manner in which Burke and Burton played up to each other, his reminiscence of Boucicault’s criticism upon his first assumption of the part of Caleb Plummer, his observations on the acting at the Théâtre Français, and his very clever distinction of style required in acting in small and large theatres. For the rest, there are many entertaining adventures of a roving life, and some admirable engravings. We wish the publishers had not thought it necessary to build this light piece of literature as if it were a cyclopædia of the mechanic arts. — Curiosities of the American Stage, by Laurence Hutton. (Harpers.) There is a certain method in Mr. Hutton’s book, — that is, he groups his anecdotes and memoranda about certain tolerably well-defined subjects, as The Native American Drama, The American Stage Negro, The American Burlesque, Infant Phenomena of America, A Century of American Hamlets ; but there is not much system, so that, though he has occasion to mention casually one person or another, he touches but lightly on them, and gives little notion of their place or scope. The plan of the book forbids this, and its title contains good warning. It is, therefore, rather a miscellany for one already well up in the history of the American stage, and needing reminders only of persons and plays. As such it is marked by the thoroughness and accuracy which belong to Mr. Hutton’s work, and by a lightness of touch which sometimes passes on into humor. Its illustrations are exceptionally good.

Fiction. The Beverleys, a Story of Calcutta, by Mary Abbott. (McClurg.) A brightly written story of life among English officers in India. There is a good deal of naturalness in the characters, though the conventional plot does not greatly encourage naturalness. The writer evidently knows the life she portrays, and has borrowed only her situations from books. — Martha Corey, a Tale of the Salem Witchcraft, by Constance Goddard Du Bois. (McClurg.) The writer has imposed a plot on colonial ground, rather than allowed colonial incidents and characters to suggest a story. Charles Beverly, a young man in England, son of a wealthy father, is required to marry the daughter of an earl, for whom he cares nothing. Rendered pessimistic by the miscarriage of a youthful love affair, he consents to carry out his father’s scheme, and is married to Beatrice. A young army officer, who is infatuated with the earl’s daughter, connives with the Alicia who was Beverly’s early love to bring about a misunderstanding between husband and wife, as a result of which all hands cross the Atlantic, and keep the ball rolling in Salem and Boston, with the Coreys and the Rev. Mr. Parris to introduce the witchcraft delusion. It is a sort of historical masquerade, and not especially edifying either as a story or as a history. — Myths and Folk-Tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and Magyars, by Jeremiah Curtin. (Little, Brown & Co.) This is a companion volume to the author’s capital Myths and Folk-Lore of Ireland, but in drawing it up Mr. Curtin has had recourse to collections already made and printed in Russia, Bohemia, and Hungary. His linguistic attainments, added to his general familiarity with the whole subject, have enabled him to make a valuable selection. It is to be hoped that he will contribute further from his first-hand knowledge of Indian folklore.— The Bridge of the Gods, a Romance of Indian Oregon, by F. H. Balch. (McClurg.) The writer has taken for the central incident of his romance the fall of a natural bridge over the Columbia, which an Indian legend, partly confirmed by science, avers once to have existed. The narrative turns upon the adventures of a New England minister who, two hundred years ago, left New England as an apostle to the Indians, and made his way across the continent. The author has expended a good deal of pains upon the Indian portion, availing himself both of material gained at first hand and of the work of other authors. The result is a bookish book, in which the spirit is very modern and the body ancient in a sort of scholarly fashion. — News from Nowhere, or An Epoch of Rest, being some Chapters from a Utopian Romance, by William Morris. (Roberts.) Mr. Morris’s book differs from the many dreams of a new world in two respects : it gives details of the revolution by which commercialism was destroyed and socialism took its place, and it emphasizes the end of beauty in life as the goal toward which man’s struggles point. It is like many dreams when the imagination has full play unchecked by judgment, and his earthly paradise appears to have no devil whatever in it. The difficulty which one finds with all these books is, that the authors attempt to see a world, when from their very relation to it they can see but an arc. One is uneasy about the other side. Mr. Morris has lived so persistently, in his imagination, in a society of the Morris wallpaper pattern that what strikes most people as fantastic archaism in his new social order probably seems to him fit and consistent. — My Uncle Benjamin, by Claude Tillier ; translated from the French by Benjamin R. Tucker. (B. R. Tucker, Boston.) Mr. Tucker has called back to such life as he can give it in good English a bit of pleasantry written about fifty years ago by a French author, who seems almost then to have been masquerading in the dress and thought of the eighteenth century. The superficial reader sees only a clumsy, allusive sort of wit, which derives its sting chiefly from its audacity, and requires for appreciation a mind that has been trained in artificiality of thought and is breaking its bonds. — Sweet William, by Marguerite Bouvet ; illustrated by Helen and Margaret Armstrong. (McClurg.) A story of Mont St. Michel, with a cruel Duke William, his daughter Constance and his hated nephew Sweet William, twin cousins, as the author calls them. As a reproduction of Norman life, the story is not unlike the pictures, which give a background of pasteboard castle, and for figures have recourse to the little Lord Fauntleroy of contemporaneous nobility. In truth, there is a languorous sweetness about the whole creation which almost reconciles one to the less dainty current literature for the young, where the imagination dresses the street Arab as a knight in disguise. —Log of the Maryland, or Adventures at sea, by Douglas Frazar. (Lee & Shepard.) A good old-fashioned yarn of salt-water experience, when a captain sailed his vessel from an eastern port to China, kept his log, crossed the line, met Chinese pirates and squirted hot water over them, and did all the things which could be asked fairly of an old salt. The book reads like ancient history now, hut ancient history is often picturesque. — Gyppy, an Obituary, by Helen Ekin Starrett ; with an Introduction by Frances Power Cobbe. (Searle & Gorton, Chicago.) An affectionate sketch of a terrier that had the intelligence of his class. Every one who owns — perish the word ! every one in whose family there is one of these little three-quarter-human creatures will recognize their own favorite in Gyppy. He would have behaved just so. —The Strange Friend of Tito Gill, by Pedro A. de Alarcón ; translated from the Spanish by Mrs. Francis J. A. Darr. (A. Lovell & Co., New York.) A grotesque tale, in which Death is the principal figure. The reader is always on the verge of feeling clammy, but reassures himself from time to time with a laugh.

Sociology. In Darkest England, and the Way out, by William Booth. (Charles H. Seigel & Co., Chicago.) A book which is depressing, almost as much from the proposed lighting as from the pictures of the darkness. Somewhere in the book Mr. Booth likens his scheme for the regeneration of the submerged tenth to a great machine. He is seeking merely to express in powerful language the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of his purpose, but his word goes farther. He has in truth learned so to admire the working of the great organization which he has set in motion that he thinks in terms of the Salvation Army, whereas nature has another word to man, and the kingdom of God is not best typified by an army with banners. Its best exemplification to-day may be seen in the noiseless, sleepless vigilance of thousands of Christian workers in Darkest England, practically ignored by Mr. Booth.