Comment on New Books
History and Biography. Life in Ancient Egypt and Assyria, from the French of G. Maspéro ; with one hundred and eightyeight Illustrations. (Appleton.) An admirable example of the use and function of imagination in scientific research. The eminent author of this work has not sought, like Ebers, to cast the results of his investigation into the form of fiction, but he has drawn upon the great store of his knowledge of antiquity to give minute and vivid pictures of the life, both courtly and common, which is revealed by monuments and inscriptions. There is something extraordinary in this rehabilitation of ancient life, and its very smoothness and certainty do not greatly imperil one’s confidence in the accuracy of the work. — The third and closing volume of H. Morse Stephens’s A History of the French Revolution (Scribners) takes up the narrative at the meeting of the Legislative Assembly in October, 1791, and carries it forward to the close of the Reign of Terror. There is a studied temperateness of tone, for the most part, but the narrative is by no means colorless ; a vigorous characterization attests the author’s independence of thought, and the reader commits himself to Mr. Stephens’s guidance with the confidence that his leader is not a mere raconteur, nor so philosophical in his bent as to have arranged the French Revolution upon a neat ground plan. — The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, the Story as told by the Imperial Ambassadors resident at the Court of Henry VIII., by J. A. Froude. (Scribners.) Mr. Froude calls this a volume supplementary to his History ; it is in effect a recapitulation and reassertion of the points made by him which were most severely criticised. He uses material not at his hand when writing the History, but he finds it now reinforcing the positions he then took. — History of the Buccaneers of America, by James Burney. (Macmillan.) A reissue of Captain Burney’s book published seventy or eighty years ago. He relies, of course, a good deal on Dumpier, but he uses also the French narratives. There is a British hostility to Spain latent in the book, but the author himself plainly makes an effort at impartiality, and writes with a capital eye to good narrative effect. The personal tales of the buccaneers themselves are often very racy. — Spanish Institutions of the Southwest, by Frank W. Blackmar. (Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore.) A most welcome work, for while it is scarcely more than a full sketch of the subject treated, it opens the way for students into a very inviting field, and not only suggests lines of investigation, but inspires with a wise spirit. Professor Blackmar shows a keen appreciation of the interests involved in his pursuit, and does not stop with any near-sighted view of the existing remains of Spanish civilization in the southwest, but seeks to trace their origin beyond the immediate origin in Spain to the primitive source in Rome. The book ought to stimulate other minds. — The Afghan Wars, by Archibald Forbes. (Scribners.) The two wars which Mr. Forbes recounts took place, the first in 1839-42, the second in 187880. The first, springing out of British complications with Persia, ended in disaster, and was relieved only by some signal acts of heroism ; the second, arising from the desire of the English to interpose the force of an independent state between their possessions in India and the Russian frontier, was attended by more satisfactory conduct, and resulted practically in the accomplishment of what was aimed at. The volume has plans and some good photogravure portraits. — The Battle of Gettysburg, by S. A. Drake. (Lee & Shepard.) A small volume in the author’s series of Decisive Events in American History. It is rather a popular than a scientific military piece of work, and gives in animated fashion a summary of the battle, with some criticism on the parts played by Lee, Meade, Halleck, and others. — Life of Benjamin Harris Brewster, with Discourses and Addresses, by E. C. Savidge. (Lippincott.) It was scarcely necessary for Dr. Savidge to assume such a majestic tone in his biography, nor was it expedient, for the reader almost inevitably confuses the subject with the author, and thinks of Mr. Brewster as taking fine attitudes at every turn. Yet the material out of which this biography is constructed is most valuable and interesting, and the student who wishes to remind himself of the stirring scenes which accompanied the opening of Garfield’s administration will find this book a useful aid in recalling the particulars of the great Star Route trial. — Life of General Oglethorpe, by Henry Bruce. (Dodd, Mead & Co.) In the series Makers of America. Mr. Bruce has hunted his subject down with diligence, and availed himself, apparently, of all the printed material bearing upon it, and possibly also had access to unpublished documents, though he appears to have made little or no direct use of such material. As a mosaic, the book seems to offer one a ready reference to pretty much everything that has been said about the hero, and by means of his varied extracts the author has added a borrowed liveliness to his own rather slap-dash comments. The effect is somewhat crude, as though the material needed to be worked over, and there is considerable that is remotely relevant and needs to be adjusted by the reader to its true relations, but the faults are at least not those of dull and uninterested book-making. — Mark Hopkins, by Franklin Carter. ( Houghton.) A volume in the series American Religious Leaders. Dr. Hopkins can never be left out of account in any study of American religious life during the second and third quarters of this century, and, whatever our colleges may be in the future, the country college of New England was so distinctly the model of a great many colleges elsewhere, especially in the northwest, that a study of one of the most characteristic is essential to any clear understanding of our educational system. Dr. Carter has made his book at once an inquiry into the sources of Dr. Hopkins’s power and into the force resident in the college over which he presided. He is often penetrating, always candid, and sometimes, as in his story of Dr. Hopkins and the manikin, in his account of the college rebellion, and in his presentation of the American Board issue, he shows himself a picturesque and impressive writer.
Literature and Criticism. The fifth volume of Mr. Crump’s edition of Landor’s Imaginary Conversations (Macmillan) completes the Dialogues of Literary Men, gives the Dialogues of Famous Women, and enters on the section Miscellaneous Dialogues. An etching of Alfieri prefaces the volume. The notes, as before, are judicious, and not excessive.— Under the title The New World and the New Book (Lee & Shepard) Colonel T. W. Higginson has collected twenty-eight brief essays, all having a bearing more or less direct upon American life as affecting not only American literature, but the judgments passed by Americans upon the literature of other countries. The book is almost conversational in tone, using felicitously a great variety of illustration from contemporary men and books, and making the sort of comment which a good talker will draw forth from a larger experience and wider reflection than the particular occasion may suggest. If there be a shade of irritability in the talker, it may be taken as the flickering last movement of that candle of selfconsciousness which once was a noticeable contribution of America to sweetness and light. — Writers and Readers, by George Birkbeck Hill, (Putnams.) Five lectures upon revolutions in literary taste and the study of literature as a part of education. Dr. Hill’s familiarity with the writers of the eighteenth century shows itself not only in his constant reference to them, but in a certain impatience with mysticism, and a downright good sense in judgment. There are no remarkable opinions in his lectures, and there is no charm of style, but the reader takes satisfaction in listening to one who is steeped in strong English literature, and delivers himself emphatically of sane, robust literary sentiment. — Wells of English, by Isaac Bassett Choate. (Roberts.) A collection of forty brief studies in the byways of English literature from Thomas of Erceldounc to John Evelyn. Mr. Choate writes out of a mind in pleasant sympathy with his subjects, and his tone is that of a friendly commentator, and not that of a pedant or pedagogue. — Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Select Passages from her Letters, edited by Arthur R. Ropes, M. A. (Scribners.) That ingenuous lady who, as Mrs. Piozzi relates with much humor, declared that she had once read a book, and found it so vastly entertaining that she begged her clever friend to lend it to her for a re-perusal, and, on being asked what the book was, confidently replied, “ An Abridgment,” would not in our day have far to seek for every possible variety of her favorite work. Perhaps it was too much to hope that the letters of the ever-delightful Lady Mary would escape the general doom ; and though we do not find the editor’s reasons for his work very convincing, yet we will own that his selections have been made with judgment and good taste, considering the space at his disposal. The introductory sketch and running comments are carefully done, but might easily have been more vivid and picturesque. The portraits, generally from well-known engravings, sometimes have but slight connection with the subject of thie work ; but the excellent photogravures, after Kneller, of Lady Mary and Mr. Wortley Montagu are welcome and valuable additions to the book. — A Primer on Browning, by F. Mary Wilson. (Macmillan.) A handbook of Browning’s poems, divided into chapters on his literary life, his characteristics, and a full analysis of each of his poems, — this last division filling about two hundred pages. The author has avoided the finical criticism, over - analysis, and adulation on which most Browning “ guides ” go to pieces. The result is thoroughly successful, — a simple, sensible, thoughtful book, which will be a real help to the reader or student of Mr. Browning’s poetry.
Theology and Philosophy. The New Theology, by John Bascom. (Putnams.) A book of importance rather to the student than to the general reader ; for, though the study is one by a layman, and proceeds upon general and philosophical lines, the author’s style supposes a closer application to the thought than most lay readers are likely to give. Whoever masters the book, however, will be impressed by the insight shown and the far-reaching significance of the author’s positions. The several divisions are headed Naturalism, The Supernatural, Dogmatism, Pietism, Spiritualism. — What is Reality ? an Inquiry as to the Reasonableness of Natural Religion, and the Naturalness of Revealed Religion, by Francis Howe Johnson. (Houghton.) From its first page this book impresses the reader as the work of an honest and a courageous thinker. His courage does not disclose itself in the declaration of results which imply a loneliness of position,— on the contrary, in his final outcome he will be found at one with a great body of men, — but in the manly way in which each step in the process of his thought is taken, as if the author found satisfaction in frankly facing whatever might be the consequences of his step. The whole argument is fresh and full of vitality, — far removed from merely scholastic exercise. — Horse Sabbaticæ, by Sir James Stephen. First and Second Series. (Macmillan.) These papers were originally contributed to The Saturday Review, and, roughly speaking, are devoted to a consideration of English and French theologians and philosophical writers of the seventeenth century. The subjects are chosen often because they furnish opportunities for administering unpalatable advice alike to friend and foe, to whom it is irritating chiefly because it usually happens to be true. Thus the author possesses a mind which would hit him to be either a legal-minded bishop or an ecclesiastical lawyer, His essays are scholarly, shrewd, incisive, but saturated with a legal weighing of evidence uniformly calculated to confuse the reader, who would like to penetrate the diplomatic silence of Sir James Stephen as to his own views on the questions he suggests. Thus the essays form, as a whole, an interesting and clever though peculiarly baffling and inconclusive book.
Science and Travel. The Horse, a Study in Natural History, by William Henry Flower. (Appleton.) The first of a series — Modern Science Series — edited by Sir John Lubbock, in which the design is “ to give on each subject the information which an intelligent layman might wish to possess.” Mr. Flower considers the horse’s place in nature, its ancestors and relations ; then its nearest existing relations, like the tapir, wild ass, zebra, and quagga ; and in the latter half of the volume analyzes the structure of the horse, chiefly as bearing upon its mode of life, its evolution, and its relation to other animal forms. The illustrations are to the point, but ineffective as the result of process work. There is a running reference to the bibliography of the subject.—My Canadian Journal, Extracts from my Letters Home written while Lord Dufferin was Governor-General, by the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava. (Appleton.) Lady Dufferin abstains from political comment, but, writing in diary form, gives a great many details, some petty, some piquant, of the social life, sports, and occupations of Canadians, with much description of scenery. She made a flying visit to Boston, and some of her Boston readers will be mildly grieved at learning that she went to King’s Chapel for service and supposed herself in a Universalist church. The book has the liveliness of good nature about it. — Glimpses at the Plant World, by Funny D. Bergen. (Lee & Shepard.) A pleasantly written series of sketches, in which one who is at home out of doors sets forth in untechnical language, yet not wholly at random, some of the features of plant life which might attract the notice of a good observer. One of the merits of the book is in its attention first to particular plants rather than to general. — The Chinese, their Present and Future, Medical, Political, and Social, by Robert Coltman, Jr. (F. A. Davis, Philadelphia.) Dr. Coltman has recently returned from a few years’ residence and travel in north China as a missionary physician, and records his experience and observation in a lively, readable book, in which there is some technical matter relating to his profession, but which is for the most part taken up with a free and easy narrative of light adventure and classified reflection. His enthusiasm and frankness make him a good companion. — A Song of Life, by Margaret Warner Morley. Illustrated by the Author and Robert Forsyth. (McClurg.) A little volume, its pages decorated with copies of fauna and flora, which may be described to those who know Mrs. Barbauld as a sort of scientific hymn in prose. From flowers, through fishes, frogs, and birds, the development of life into the human form is traced, and the common as well as the distinctive elements of physical life are pointed out. The book is suggestive, and is conceived in a reverent spirit, with due restraint also when once the halfrhythmical style is accepted.
Fiction. The Tragic Comedians, a Study in a Well-Known Story, by George Meredith ; with an Introductory Note on Ferdinand Lassalle, by Clement Shorter. (Roberts.) The ordinary objection to an historical introduction to a novel disappears when one considers how closely Mr. Meredith has followed the actual facts of the personality of Lassalle and his relations to Helene von Dönniges. With a hero so marked as Lassalle and a Romeo and Juliet tragedy in real life, all the novelist’s art is roused to enriching and vivifying, not idealizing, the scenes. — A Modern Aladdin, or The Wonderful Adventures of Oliver Munier, by Howard Pyle. (Harpers.) Mr. Pyle takes the suggestion of the mysterious Count of St.-Germaine, recalls Raymond Lulli and the Count of Monte Cristo, catches a hint from mesmerism, and proceeds in a racy, good story-telling fashion to make up a tale of marvels. He saves himself from serious criticism by calling his tale an extravaganza in four acts, and he adopts a scheme by which a slight dramatic form is given to his work. The outcome is a halfmelodramatic, half-grotesque tale, in which old stuffs are patched cleverly so as to make a cloak to throw over a well-jointed lay figure. It is, without being so in form, a book to entertain a lively boy. — The Princess Tarakanova, a Dark Chapter of Russian History, translated from the Russian of G. P. Danilevski by Ida de Mouchanoff. (Macmillan.) An historical romance having to do with the secret history of the Russian throne near the close of the last century. — Winifrede’s Journal, by Emma Marshall. (Macmillan.) A story of English life in the time of Charles I. The heroine, whose journal the book purports to be, shares to a large degree the fortunes and misfortunes of the saintly Bishop Hall of Exeter and Norwich, under whose protection she is. While possessing no great power or originality, the book gives an interesting picture of its period, and is well written.— Adventures of a Fair Rebel, by Matt Crim. (C. L. Webster & Co., New York.) The fair rebel, who tells her story herself, went through her adventures in the South during the war, managing always to keep within the neighborhood of some fierce battle, and marrying, as in duty bound, a Northern soldier. The book opens with good promise, and whenever the author is describing what may be taken as actual scenes which have come under her eye, and touches them with imagination, she achieves a fair success. The plot, however, is as rambling as the heroine, and the construction is inferior to single scenes. — The Grandmother, a Story of Country Life in Bohemia, by Bozema Nemec. Translated from the Bohemian, with a biographic sketch of the author, by Frances Gregor. (McClurg.) A pretty tale, with much incidental folk lore and custom. The story may be classed with Auerbach’s Black Forest tales. — The Lesson of the Master, by Henry James. (Macmillan.) Although this title suggests a volume of sermons, it is only a book of short stories, some of which (if not all) have already been printed in the magazines. Mr. James’s English is becoming more and more mannered and involved, and yet in spite of this, at the end of each story the reader feels that it has served him well ; for with it he has produced the precise effect that he intended. All the stories are clever, — Mr. James is always immensely clever, — but The Pupil and the tale which gives its title to the volume are little masterpieces.
Books for Young People. Looking Forward for Young Men, their Interest and Success, by Rev. G. S. Weaver. (Fowler & Wells Co.) Practical talk by an aged clergyman who has a healthy interest in life, and who illustrates his discourse by familiar examples. There is a kindly tone which leads one to be patient in listening, even though some of the advice may seem a trifle commonplace.—That Stick, by Charlotte M. Yonge. (Macmillan.) The latest of Miss Yonge’s novels will hardly take more than a middle rank in the long list of her works. But it is interesting and readable, and has the usual truthful characterization, unfailing good sense, and fine taste, which not too common qualities make it an excellent book for the young girls to whom it will chiefly appeal. — Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth. (Scribners.) No writer’s name is given to this book, which is marked as second edition, revised, but the copyright is taken out by Robert Bird. It is composed of a series of incidents and descriptions of scenes, addressed in form to a listening child. The writer seeks to make vivid the separate pictures, turning the passage from the gospels into a narrative in which all the Oriental circumstance is explained and amplified, and the words of the Saviour are treated in brief paraphrase where the text is not preserved exactly. The temper in which this book is prepared is reverent, and yet we wish some of the scenes had been more reserved ; the silence of Scripture is not without its deep force. Each scene has a brief application at the close, addressed almost with an affectation of quaintness to the listening child. The author plainly desired his book to be read aloud to the young, and with the interpretation of a mother’s voice such reading doubtless would often be effective.
Fine Arts. L’Art for January 15 and February (Macmillan) has less range than usual. The customary etchings are here, including a vigorous one, La Paie des Moissonneurs, after the painting by Lhermitte. There is a bright series of character and life sketches accompanying the last of a series of papers entitled Un Coin de la Bibliothèque Nationale, a number of portraits in the paper Les Sociétés des Beaux-Arts des Départements à Paris, and, what should not be overlooked, a sharp, short, and stirring protest by F. Lhomme upon the degradation of dramatic art, under the title La Comédie d’Aujourd’hui, in which names are used without reserve. — L. Prang & Co. send us two examples of photo-color prints ; that is, as we understand it, pictures produced by printing in color from plates prepared for lithography from a photographic negative. The interest is in the process. The result does not strike us as differing greatly from that obtained by chromo-lithograpliy. — Introductory Studies in Greek Art, by Jane E. Harrison ; with Map and Illustration. (Macmillan.) The author of this book has already won a claim upon respectful attention, and in the exact and full learning which she has shown passes here into systematic and well-thought-out consideration of the origin and the permanent characteristics of Greek art. It is the lesson of idealism enforced by the undying example of the most perfect expression of idealism. Constant use is made of Plato as the philosophic exponent. — Studies in the Wagnerian Drama, by H. E. Krehbiel. (Harpers.) A systematic and intelligent account of Wagner’s principles and their illustration in his great operas. The author’s discrimination is shown especially in his treatment of Parsifal. The criticism, though sometimes technical, is seldom beyond the comprehension of the ordinary laic, who will find his notions of Wagner’s purpose tested by a clear and readable account.
Education and Textbooks. In Heath’s Modern Language Series, a recent number is immensee, by Theodor Storm ; with English notes and a German-English vocabulary, by Dr. Wilhelm Bernhardt. (Heath.) It is an idyl of a somewhat romantic turn. — The Literature of France, by H. G. Keene (Scribners), is one of the rather nondescript University Extension manuals, not exactly a textbook, and not exactly a treatise. Under somewhat fantastic titles, The Age of Infancy, of Adolescence, of Glory, of Reason, and of Nature, with a couple of chapters on the Sources of Modern French Literary Art, the author, or rather lecturer,— for he always seems to have an audience of both sexes and all ages and conditions before him,—makes a running comment on names and works ; always bearing in mind that it is not facts which his hearers want, but facts tricked out in a system with a ready-made scheme of rewards and punishments.
Economics and Sociology. Economic and Industrial Delusions, a Discussion of the Case for Protection, by Arthur B. and Henry Farquhar. (Putnams.) The chief author of this work was a Republican until Cleveland formulated the Democratic low tariff doctrine, when he took his place in the Democratic, party. The explanation might appear unnecessary in view of Mr. Farquhar’s earnest assertion that his study of political economy is unaffected by party consideration, but the book is so strongly impregnated with party feeling that the reader, though he does not impugn Mr. Farquhar’s honesty, does come to have some doubt about his scientific treatment. He has some admirable words on the question of free silver.
Sports. Duplicate Whist, its Rules and Methods of Play, by John T. Mitchell. (McClurg.) The appendix to this little volume contains, amongst other things, The Laws of American Whist, but the title is misleading. American whist is the game which has been thoroughly laid down by G. W. P. This body of laws is simply the code of rules adopted by the first American Whist Congress at Milwaukee in the spring of 1891.