Open main menu

Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 9.djvu/87

This page needs to be proofread.

9* S. IX. JAN. 25, 1902.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


Besides being pleasant reading, it fulfils his aim, and is " the romance of religion in Ireland."

Isopel Berners. By George Borrow. Edited by

Thomas Seccombe. (Hodder & Stoughton.) IN printing as a consecutive and integral story the chapters in 'Lavengro' and ' Romany Rye' which deal with Borrow's life in "the dingle and his association with Isopel Berners, Mr. Seccombe renders a genuine and an almost ideal service to the lovers of romantic fiction. It would be easy to assert that the words employed are inappropriate. Let them stand, however. To us the story of Isopel Berners belongs to romantic fiction of the most enchanting class. Isopel is in some respects to be numbered with the heroines who will never leave us, with much, as the author would say, of Bryn- hild and something of Tess of the Durbervilles. She is best, however, taken as herself, and as such she is far too good for her lover, who lets her go, and pules unavailingly over her loss. We thank Mr. ^Seccombe for reintroducing us to her. We were young when we made her acquaintance, and failed to estimate her aright. Now we serve her and are of her train. We thank Mr. Seccombe, too, for a delightful introduction, worthy of the story, though we disagree with every word of it. With regard to Borrow, we dissent from received opinion. As was said by a Frenchman of a woman, " She is not pretty, she is worse," we say of Borrow's descriptions they are not true, they are more alluring than truth. We have no niore idea as to what "the dingle" is like than if it were in fairyland, and we are not sure that it is not. It has no more reality than that scene in an Irish schoolroom where the master is shown us poring over a "huge Elzevir Flaccus"! or than Borrow's linguistic acquirements, whether obtained from the " emigr< of the ancien[ne] cour" or from whispered conferences with Ursula behind the hedge. Borrow has, however, a truth beyond truth, and is always to be prized and loved, though for reasons precisely different from those often advanced in his favour. As for Isopel Berners, she dwells with Di Vernon, with whom she has this in common that her creator got afraid of her, as Shakespeare is said to have done of Mercutio. Her leavetaking is not her own, however. That is all Borrow. It is a wonderful composition, but from Borrow we expect no less.

Frederick the Great on Kingcraft. From the Original MS. By Sir J. William Whittall. (Longmans & Co.)

THE story of the MS. " Les Matinees du Rpi de Prusse, crites par Lui-meme, A.D. 1764," which is here printed in its integrity for the first time, reads like a page out of one of Haggard's or Stevenson's romances. Marshal Savary, JDuke of Rovigo, the Buonapartist general, arrives at Smyrna as a desti- tute refugie in the year 1816. He and his companion General Lallimand had been picked up at sea in an open boat, with "only the clothes they were in." Happily these clothes had a pocket, and the pocket contained as his inseparable vade-mecum this re- markable MS. Having been hospitably sheltered and entertained by Mr. Charles Whittall, who was a resident factor at Smyrna, Savary, on his de- parture, presented his host with a copy of the r Matinees' as a small souvenir of his gratitude. The original MS., he said, he had surreptitiously

appropriated when visiting the palace of Sans Souci in company with the Emperor Napoleon. This autograph exemplar has disappeared, so that we have to accept the copy on the authority of Sir J. Whittall's grandfather, which, he assures us, is unimpeachable. Carlyle, however, utterly dis- credited the authenticity of the document.

These instructions of Frederick the Great, written for the benefit of his nephew and heir, in their cynical revelation of his private thoughts and the naivete of their non-morality, often remind us of the similarly ingenuous counsels of Chesterfield to his son. His ideas on religion, politics, and military affairs are set down with startling sincerity, naked and unashamed. " When I arrive at a place I always have a fatigued air, and I show myself to my people with a bad overcoat and a badly combed wig. These are but trifles, but they often make a singular impression." One poor fellow pitied him on seeing his bad overcoat: "He did not know that I had a good coat underneath." When about to review his troops he gets up beforehand the names of three or four of the lieutenants and ser- geants, which he produces as he passes along the ranks : " This gives me a singular reputation for memory and reflection." He eats and drinks sparingly in public at a dinner prepared by a German cook, but "when I am in my private apartments my French cook does all he can to satisfy me, and 1 confess that I am somewhat fastidious. I am near my bed, and that is what removes any anxiety as to how much I drink." Religion is a very good thing for one's subjects, " but a king is not wise to have any himself. " I understand by the word 'polities' that we must always seek to make dupes of others." If the picture here revealed of a libertine in morals, a sceptic in religion, a posture-monger in matters of state and government, was really drawn by his own hand, this Machiavellian monarch had little claim to be entitled " Great."

The remaining and larger portion of Sir J. Whit- tail's book has nothing to dp with Frederick. It consists partly of family reminiscences of a gossip- ing anecdotal character and partly of a collection of Turkish folk-tales and parables picked up in Asia Minor. The best of these are attributed to Nasreddin Hoja, the Eulenspiegel or Joe Miller of the Turks in the fifteenth century. The likeness of the author and his family referred to on p. 140 as forming the frontispiece of the volume non est in the copy before us.

Selections from the English Poets. The Dunbar Anthology, 1401-1508. The Surrey and Wyatt Anthology, 1509-1547. Edited by Prof. Edward Arber, F.S.A. (Frowde.)

PROF. ARBER'S admirable 'Anthology,' the best and most comprehensive we possess, has already received full recognition at our hands. It is now being reissued in a form even more attractive than that it formerly assumed, and with the agreeable addition of portraits of the most eminent poets. As the series is now complete, it is appearing in consecutive volumes, each of which maybe obtained separately. In the first volume the portraits con- sist of Geoffrey Chaucer, John Lydgate presenting a work to the Earl of Salisbury, and Earl Rivers doing the like to King Edward IV. ; in the second the frontispiece is a medallion portrait of Wyatt, other likenesses being the Earl of Surrey, Sir Thomas More, Lord Vaux, and Andrew