Comment on New Books
History and Biography. The second volume of J. R. Green’s A Short History of the English People (Harpers), in the new illustrated edition, follows the plan so well laid down at the start, of giving as far as possible facsimiles of contemporaneous designs. The period covered is from 1377 to 1610, and the editors have drawn upon manuscripts, psalters, paintings, local histories, old prints, and other sources for a rich collection of illustrative material. There are several brilliant reproductions in color ; costume, architectural views, portraits, title pages, scenes descriptive of manners and customs, landscapes, a great variety of most helpful designs, render the book a pleasure to the eye, and a sound aid to the student. — A new edition of Pepys’s Diary, edited by Henry B. Wheatley, is in progress. (Macmillan.) There are to be eight volumes, and the first is before us. It is based on Mynors Bright’s edition, but the editor assures us that he is able to add one fifth more matter, since so much was left unused by Mr. Bright. He avails himself of Lord Braybrooke’s notes as well as makes many of his own. He provides also a brief summary of Pepys’s life as drawn from the Diary and from other authorities ; and this volume is furnished with a portrait, an engraving of Pepys’s silver goblet, a view of the old Navy House in Crutched Friars, and a plan of part of the Tower Ward. The page is a good one, the type is clear ; and now the reader, having dispatched these accessories, may be left to the imperishable delight of the Diary itself, one of the great accidental books. — Russia under Alexander III. and in the Preceding Period, by H. von Samson-Himmelstierna. Translated by J. Morrison, M. A., and edited, with Notes and an Introduction, by Felix Volkhovsky. (Macmillan.) On the curiously arranged title page of this book, the names of the translator and editor, particularly the latter, are conspicuously given, while that of the luckless author appears in type so small that many readers will probably overlook it altogether. But this is only the beginning of the indignities suffered by him. The editor brands him as a narrow-minded German, who loves his race, and does not love the Russians, and proceeds to controvert or treat with scorn most of his opinions ; explaining by the way that the present volume is not a full translation of the original work, but a collection of sketches selected from it, a large part of the book being of no value to the English reader. In respect to some of the points in dispute, readers, English and American, will, as a rule, have a plentiful lack of knowledge, and, after the discouraging prelude, they will be agreeably disappointed in the excerpts vouchsafed to them. They will find the character studies exceedingly well done, will soon feel confidence in the author’s intelligence and acumen, and will probably be much interested, and certainly instructed. The narrative is recent rather than contemporaneous, but in regard to most of the subjects treated this is of slight consequence. The work presupposes, especially in its present disjointed and fragmentary state, reasonably well-informed readers, and to them it will prove of real value. — The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, Late Lieutenant-General in the French Army, translated by Arthur John Butler. (Longmans.) There was no need that Mr. Butler should, in his preface, give so modest an estimate of his abilities as a translator, for he has produced, on the whole, an excellent version of the exceedingly interesting volumes whose appearance in Paris, two years ago, was the cause of a veritable sensation among both students of history and general readers. Except in the most exciting episodes, the Memoirs throughout have been somewhat abridged ; and this condensation has usually been effected skillfully and with good judgment, though it is of course inevitable that readers of the original should occasionally miss some of the details which have been crowded out. The work has taken so high and assured a position that it is hardly necessary now to reiterate the fact that no other officer of Napoleon has left reminiscences at all comparable to these. That they should not have been continued beyond the Emperor’s first abdication, and have found their fitting ending in the record of the Hundred Days and Waterloo, is a cause for keen regret. But doubtless we should then have wished to learn something of Marbot’s experiences during the Restoration, and of his service under the monarchy of July. At any point we should probably have parted with him reluctantly. — Angelica Kauffmann, a Biography, by Frances A. Gerard. (Macmillan.) A new, an enlarged, and, as was sorely needed, a carefully revised edition of this memoir. Excepting good intentions, industry in collecting material, and enthusiasm for her subject, the author shows few qualifications for the task she set herself. She has small sense of literary form or comeliness, her style is commonplace, and she shows no special gifts as an art critic or a student of character. And yet so attractive is the personality of Angelica, so interesting, and in certain aspects so tragic, the story of her life, that this her first English biography, with all its shortcomings, holds the reader’s attention from beginning to end. Even the charming Miss Angel of fiction hardly appeals to us as does the sweet-natured, brave, self-sacrificing heroine of unadorned fact, who, with her extraordinary gifts and immense power of work, is always so entirely womanly in both her virtues and foibles. If her phenomenal success was largely the result of her being an excellent exponent of a passing artistic fashion, it must in its social phases have owed much to that exceptional personal charm which she never lost, and which to most readers of to-day will make the artist a far more interesting study than her works. — Studies by a Recluse in Cloister, Town, and Country, by Augustus Jessopp, D. D. (Putnams.) To all who share with the author, in however humble and ineffective a fashion, the love of historical research, or even to those who have merely a taste for historical reading, a new volume from Dr. Jessopp is sure to be heartily welcome. Modest as is the estimate he puts upon his attainments, — the modesty of the true and enthusiastic student who feels that “ the most difficult of all the sciences ” demands the devotion of a lifetime rather than the spare hours of a hard-working clergyman, — yet it is given to few to revivify so successfully the dry bones of monastic chronicles, to divine so clearly the life of our mediæval ancestors, while his temperate judgment, quick sympathies, unfailing geniality, and humorous perception make him a delightful raconteur. The principal paper in this collection is the admirable article on St. Alban’s and her Historian, first printed in the Quarterly Review ; and second only to this are the at once interesting and suggestive essays, The Land and its Owners in Past Times, and The Origin and Growth of English Towns. Most of the studies were first given as lectures, and, wisely on the whole, the original form has been retained. The volume closes with an earnest plea for the extension and popularizing — in the best sense of the word—of the study of English history, so that the masses can have some conception of the great past of their country ; and the writer instances the success of his impromptu address to his weather-bound rural parishioners on the history of their own church. Why, he asks, should not this thing be done in a hundred churches ? Perhaps it might be, if many of the clergy thereof possessed the historical, archæological, and antiquarian knowledge, and the imagination and insight that alone can make such knowledge attractive and vital, which are the good gifts of the rector of Scarning. — Formation of the Union, 1750-1829, by Albert Bushnell Hart. (Longmans.) Dr. Hart is not only a master of the art of condensation, in this small volume, the second in the series Epochs of American History, edited by him ; he is what is of even greater importance, an interpreter of history. He perceives the logic of historic events ; hence, in his condensation, he does not neglect proportion, and more than once he gives the student valuable clues to the solution of historical problems. The book is well furnished with maps, index, and bibliographical details. — A New England Boyhood, by Edward E. Hale. (Cassell.) Readers of The Atlantic need only to be told that this volume is a collection of the charming papers which were read first in the last two volumes of the magazine, no matter whereabouts in the numbers they happened to be placed. An agreeable introduction adds some details of family history which one is glad to have.
Fiction. Strolling Players, a Harmony of Contrasts, by Charlotte M. Yonge and Christabel R. Coleridge. (Macmillan.) Miss Yonge has shown in more than one of her later novels that she fully comprehends the changed or changing conditions of the time as they affect that section of English life of which she has so long been a faithful chronicler. This is rather strikingly evident in this story, which, notwithstanding such assistance as may have been given by her co-worker, must be regarded as in the main hers. One of the heroines, distinctly a girl of to-day, is a gentlewoman who thoughtfully and deliberately decides to go upon the stage, not from necessity, but because she feels it to be her vocation. The book is a record of the haps and mishaps of a company of well-born amateurs, who, owing to the pecuniary reverses of the family to which their leading performers belong, endeavor for a while to make a serious business of what has been an amusement, and are aided thereto by a clever and distinguished young actor, who finally, as perhaps the most important result of the summer’s work, becomes the fiancé of the prospective actress. It need not be said that this pleasant and readable tale does not adventure far into the land of Bohemia, or that it is marked by good sense, refinement of tone, quiet humor, and touches of delicate discrimination in the character drawing. — After Twenty Years, and Other Stories, by Julian Sturgis. (Longmans.) Mr. Sturgis, who has a friendly interest in himself as well as in his readers, advises us that the first story in the volume was his maiden effort in publication; the last, his latest. Both have an element of freshness, almost of boyishness, about them, and impress the reader with a sense of Mr. Sturgis’s vivid interest in his subjects, — an interest which he conveys to the printed page. — Cosmopolis, by Paul Bourget. Translated by Hettie E. Miller. (Charles H. Sergel & Co., Chicago.) A wearisome book, in which the few incidents are invented by the author only as illustrations of his theory, and his characters have their being only as exponents of a predetermined scheme of literary color. The attempt to construct a round world out of a few examples of race tendencies, and to discover thereby the logic of life, repeatedly breaks down, and all that the reader gets for his pains is to see a number of persons sadly bemired in a sort of French Inferno. Better the whirlwind of Dumas than the soft breezes of Bourget, which merely spin a few dead leaves about in the pale sunshine. — A Cathedral Courtship and Penelope’s English Experiences, by Kate Douglas Wiggin. With five illustrations by Clifford Carleton. (Houghton.) Mrs. Wiggin has added to the gayety of nations by this little book. Readers of The Atlantic know the delightful frivolity which characterizes it ; do they not also remember one or two passages, like that describing the preacher in the park, which turn the humor into a sudden pathos, as genuine as it is moving ? — Voodoo Tales as told among the Negroes of the Southwest, collected from Original Sources by Mary Alicia Owen. Introduction by Charles Godfrey Leland. Illustrated by Juliette A. Owen and Louis Wain. (Putnams.) Miss Owen has borrowed a hint from Mr. Harris as to the plan of her book, and provides a little group of old negresses and half Indians for the story-tellers, and a small girl for chief listener. The figures are well sketched, and the stories are cleverly told. They are marked variations from the Uncle Remus stories, with more of the sorcery element in them ; but if one can stand the almost unrelieved negro dialect, he will be entertained, or, if he chooses, be folk-lored seriously. The pictures have a rudely amusing character, in keeping with the tales. — The Shadow of Desire, by Irene Osgood. (Cleveland Publishing Co., New York.) The only original thing about this story is the author’s trick of winding up each chapter with a poetical quotation. The book itself is a weak piece of literary erotics. — Mrs. Harry St. John, by Robert Appleton. (Morrill, Higgins & Co., Chicago.) Silly. — The latest volumes added to the new edition of William Black’s novels (Harpers) are : the clever Irish story, Shandon Bells, parts of which are in the author’s best manner ; Yolaude, an agreeable tale, wherein the characters voyage in a P. and O. steamer, and hunt deer in the Highlands, after the well-known fashion ; and Adventures in Thule, three spirited stories for boys. — To Leeward, first published ten years ago, and which remains one of the writer’s strongest and most impressive novels, has been issued, after careful revision, in the uniform edition of Mr. Crawford’s works. (Macmillan.) — Two recent additions to the Franklin Square Library (Harpers) are, In a Promised Land, by M. A. Bengough, and A Wasted Crime, by David Christie Murray.
Travel and Nature. Baedeker’s United States, with an Excursion into Mexico (Imported by Scribners), has a curious effect upon the traveled American. He is used to Baedeker. He trusts him implicitly in his European journeys, and now he has a chance to test the Baedeker principle by considering its application to his own country, which he knows as a native, and therefore by a thousand trifling, almost incommunicable modes. The book stands scrutiny well. In its appearance, without and within, it falls into the compact style so well known. Here are the asterisks,—but no double ones, by the way,—the small-type introductory notes, the abbreviations, the condensed statements, the clear, frequent maps and full index. On looking more closely, one discovers the same authoritative but not dogmatic tone, the accurate sense of proportion, the frugality of epithets, the precision of statement, which have created confidence in the remarkable series of which this is the latest and, considering the difficulties attending it, the most conspicuous example of skill in guidebook-making. — Under Summer Skies, by Clinton Scollard. (Webster.) These pleasant sketches in unambitious prose touch upon light scenes in Egypt and Palestine, Italy, Arizona, and Bermuda. They are true to the comprehensive title, for both writer and reader feel the leisure, the long shadows, the ease, and the languor which belong to nature and humanity when the traveler is loitering in warm places, and not actively engaged in accomplishing something important.
Literature. A delightful little edition of the novels of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte has been begun with the issue of Jane Eyre in two volumes. (J. M. Dent & Co., London.) The book is 16mo in size, with a close yet readable page, and attractively bound. A portrait of Charlotte Brontë and six other photogravures illustrate the two volumes ; there is a brief sketch of the author ; the original prefaces and dedication are reproduced ; and then there is the story itself, with its power and its crudity, its stormy passion and its frank avowal of woman’s weakness. One reads it first as a bit of life, and then goes back to it as an exercise in pathology. — The Beauty Spot, and Other Stories, by Alfred de Musset. Translated by Kendall Warren. (Charles H. Sergel & Co., Chicago.) Besides the title story, the volume contains Frederic and Bernerette, Titian’s Son, Croisilles, and the famous Adventures of a White Blackbird. The translation, though not marked by special grace, is not marred by special blemishes. The delicacy of the telling, nevertheless, is what preserves an otherwise fading interest, and the English reader accustomed to current French tales is a little puzzled to account for the vogue of De Musset. — Chapman’s Homer’s Iliads is reproduced in three volumes in Knickerbocker Nuggets. (Putnams.) The form is handy, but it was unwise to repeat Flaxman’s designs in reduced and inartistic line. They require the most careful engraving and printing to save them from the nakedness of commonplace. — The Complete Angler of Izaak Walton. (McClurg.) In this little edition of the Angler Walton’s text is given intact, but the voluminous notes of modern editors are omitted, as is also the essay by Cotton which usually follows Walton’s work. The necessary editing has been done by Edward Gilpin Johnson, who has prefixed an introduction to the volume, in which most of the familiar anecdotes and stock allusions to Walton and his work are rehearsed. Is it with conscious humor that Mr. Johnson remarks that “ this edition of Walton’s masterpiece is designed chiefly for those who wish to enjoy it as a piece of literature rather than to consult it as a manual in fishing ; and indeed we fancy that in the latter capacity it is largely superseded ” ? In this diverting passage the italics are our own.
Manuals and Textbooks. An Adventure in Photography, by Octave Thanet. Illustrated from Photographs by the Adventurers. (Scribners.) A lively account of the experience of two ladies in learning to take photographs, with many practical hints and direct recipes. Incidentally, the reader receives a number of impressions of Arkansas life, for the scene is laid chiefly in that country. We can readily fancy that the amateur photographer will read not only for entertainment, but for profit. — Spanish Literature, an Elementary Handbook, by H. Butler Clarke. (Macmillan.) Mr. Clarke is the Taylorian teacher of Spanish in the University of Oxford, and he ought to speak with authority. His book is, however, a rather wooden and lifeless review of Spanish literature from the twelfth century to the present day. Merely as an introduction and as a brief survey of Spanish writers it possesses some value. It is not exhaustive ; and if it be throughout as inadequate as it is in the account given of modern Spanish writers of fiction, it will leave a good deal for the reader to find out for himself. As some attention is called to the indexes, we may add that they are perhaps as poor as any it has ever been our ill fortune to be obliged to consult.
Theology. The Sacramental System, Considered as an Extension of the Incarnation [Bishop Paddock Lectures for 1892], by Morgan Dix. (Longmans.) Whatever Dr. Dix writes is worth reading, although his standpoint is one unpopular with the general public to-day. This volume is an elaborate defense of the system commonly known as sacramental, held among English-speaking people at the present time, chiefly in the Church of Rome, the Church of England, and the Episcopal Church in the United States. Dr. Dix first considers the sacramental character of God’s workings in nature and in man, and then extends these considerations to his workings in the kingdom of grace. He endeavors to show that sacramentality is to be found in all created things, and deduces from this an argument in favor of the reasonableness of such manifestations to the soul of man through the sacraments and sacramental ordinances of the historic churches of Christianity. It is at this point, where the author becomes really definite, that his words will form “an hard saying” for some persons. His book will be prized chiefly by those who already in some sort agree with it. It may be added that it is clearly and delightfully written. — The Blood Covenant, a Primitive Rite, and its Bearings on Scripture, by H. Clay Trumbull. (John D. Wattles, Philadelphia.) Eight years after the first, a second edition of this interesting study is published, with a supplement, in which the author uses his opportunity to reply to some of the criticisms made upon the book, and to add further facts which have come to his knowledge.
Bibliography and Book-Making. The Great Book Collectors, by Charles and Mary Elton, and Book Plates, by W. J. Hardy (Imported by Scribners), are the first two numbers of a series entitled Books about Books, edited by Alfred Pollard. Mr. Pollard is himself to follow with a volume on the Decoration of Books, while Herbert P. Horne will consider Book Bindings ; F. Madan, Books in Manuscript; and E. Gordon Duff, Early Printed Books. The scheme seems to be an excellent one, and the books before us are well planted, very profusely illustrated, and contain good indexes. Having said this, we confess that we are disappointed in the volumes themselves. That entitled Great Book Collectors covers an enormous field, beginning with the classical bibliophiles, and bringing down the race of book lovers through England, Italy, France, and Germany almost to our day. To do this in two hundred and thirty pages is of course difficult, and it is not strange if the notice of each collector is brief ; but even after this allowance is made, the work is unsatisfactory. The text is full of dates, proper names, and titles, which pass before the reader in such rapid succession that they leave no serious impression, and it gives a good deal of entertaining information in a way which does not inform and does not entertain. The subject of book plates is much more special in character, and Mr. Hardy’s book seems to cover the ground very well. He traces the early use of book plates in England, and the various styles in vogue there ; gives some account of German, French, and American book plates, and sketches of the best engravers of them; and adds to this a varied knowledge in regard to the subject not easily come at elsewhere. At the same time, we must say, in regard to this volume, that it is not, to our mind, as satisfactory as an earlier and slighter book by the Hon. J. Leicester Warren, now Lord He Tabley. We are glad to see that Mr. Hardy mentions in the preface the strikingly beautiful work of Mr. W. C. Sherborn, of London, whose marvelous book plates for the Duke of Devonshire, the Rothschild family, and other well-known collectors are among the best specimens of modern work, and whose efforts in this direction ought to be better known to American book collectors.