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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 5/June 1874/Literary Notices

LITERARY NOTICES.

The Land of the White Elephant. Sights and Scenes in Southern Asia. A Personal Narrative of Travel and Adventure in Farther India, embracing the Countries of Burma, Siam, Cambodia, and Cochin-China (1871, '72). By Frank Vincent, Jr. 316 pp. Price, $3.50. Harper & Brothers, New York.

The perversity by which language becomes turned to the conveyance of false ideas seems to be as universal as it is inveterate: near home, the June magazines are published in May, and journals are issued once a quarter, while in Farther India the white elephant is as "black as a coal," and of half a dozen other colors. Human nature secretes the same incongruities wherever we find it. Frank Vincent has written, and the Harpers have published, a beautifully illustrated and most readable book about the people, the products, the cities, and the temples, of a vast tract of Indian country, known as the "Land of the White Elephant." In the course of his three years' journey round the world, the author of this volume spent eleven months in the "marvelously-beautiful countries," and amid the "strange people and stranger customs" of Farther India—a country of one million square miles and twenty-five million inhabitants, with a productive soil and extended commerce. After visiting every thing of interest in Lower Burma, the writer made an excursion up the great Irrawaddy River to Mandalay, in Upper Burma, or Ava—a distance of seven hundred miles. Mandalay, the capital, is a new city. It began to be built in 1855, and in 1867 the king and court adopted it as the royal residence, while it now has a population of one million. Let Chicago hide its diminished head in presence of the enterprise of these heathen. "The city proper is a square—a mile on each side—and is surrounded by a lofty and very thick wall of loose brick (unplastered) with a notched parapet, and having a broad and deep moat filled with clear water. There are three gates on each side, and macadamized streets about a hundred feet in width, leading from them, intersect the city at right angles; then, between these are small and irregular streets and by-paths. Along the sides of the larger avenues there run channels for carrying water (which is brought from the river in a canal fifteen miles long) throughout the city. Each gate-way is surmounted by a lofty, pyramidal-shaped wooden tower with the customary terraced roof, and, at irregular intervals, there are turrets, raised a little higher than the wall, and surmounted by small wooden pavilions of the same model as those over the great gates. We crossed the moat on a massive wooden bridge, and passed through one of the western gate-ways—the only one through which corpses are allowed to be taken from the city, as my guide observed. The gates are of enormous height and thickness, and are built of teak beams, fastened together with huge iron bolts." The author says, "I determined to make this trip, to pay my respects to his majesty the king." Accordingly, on his arrival in the city, through the favor of a Chinese resident who enjoyed the friendship of his majesty, he was granted an audience. The king seems to have taken a fancy to him, and offered him good business facilities and as many Burmese wives as he wanted, if he would stay and help him; but the virtuous young man said he would see his folks about it before deciding.

Inspired by his elephant-hunting curiosity, Mr. Vincent afterward visited the King of Siam at Bangkok, and discourses upon the condition of his elephants and the philosophy of the subject as follows:

"The first animal whose stable we entered was quite small, and possessed few of the peculiar characteristics of a 'dark-cream albino,' excepting perhaps the eyes. The keeper fed him with bananas, and caused him to make a salaam (a profound salutation or bow) by raising his proboscis to his forehead for a moment and then gracefully lowering it to the ground. In another shed we saw a larger and also whiter elephant, its body having the peculiar flesh-colored appearance termed 'white.' Here there was, besides, a white monkey—'white animals are the favorite abodes of transmigrating souls'—kept to ward off bad spirits, as the attendant informed us.

"Sir John Bowring—and he is about the only person who has written at length on this subject—in a very interesting 'chapter on-elephants,' tells us that the Buddhists have a special reverence for white quadrupeds; that he has himself seen a white monkey honored with special attention. Also, that white elephants have been the cause of many a war, and their possession more an object of envy than the conquest of territory or the transitory glories of the battlefield. In the money-market the white elephant is almost beyond price. Ten thousand sovereigns (fifty thousand dollars) would hardly represent its pecuniary value; a hair from its tail is worth a Jew's ransom. 'It was my good fortune,' he says, 'to present (in 1855) to the first king of Siam (the Siamese have two kings exercising supreme authority) presents with which I had been charged by my royal mistress. I received many presents in return; but the monarch placed in my hand a golden box, locked with a golden key, and he informed me the box contained a gift far more valuable than all the rest, and that was a few hairs of the white elephant. And, perhaps, it may be well to state why the elephant is so specially reverenced.

"Because it is believed that Buddha, the divine emanation from the Deity, must necessarily, in his multitudinous metamorphoses or transmissions through all existences, and through millions of æons, delight to abide for some time in that grand incarnation of purity which is represented by the white elephant. While the bonzes teach that there is no spot in the heavens above, or the earth below, or the waters under the earth, which is not visited in the peregrinations of the divinity—whose every stage or step is toward purification—they hold that his tarrying may be longer in the white elephant than in any other abode, and that in the possession of the sacred creature they may possess the presence of Buddha himself. It is known that the Cingalese have been kept in subjection by the belief that their rulers have a tooth of Buddha in the temple of Kandy, and that on various tracts of the East impressions of the foot of Buddha are reverenced, and are the objects of weary pilgrimages to places which can only be reached with difficulty; but with the white elephant some vague notions of a vital Buddha are associated, and there can be no doubt that the marvelous sagacity of the creature has served to strengthen their religious prejudices. Siamese are known to whisper their secrets into an elephant's ear, and to ask a solution of their perplexities by some sign or movement. And, most assuredly, there is more sense and reason in the worship of an intelligent beast than in that of sticks and stones, the work of men's hands.

"'And yet,' continues Sir John, 'after all, the white elephant is not white, nor any thing like it. It is of a coffee-color; not of unburnt, but of burnt coffee—dull brownish yellow, or yellowish brown—white only by contrast with his darker brother. The last which reached Bangkok was caught in the woods. The king and court went a long way out into the country to meet him, and he was conducted, with a grand procession, much pomp, music, and flying banners, to the capital. There a grand mansion awaited him, and several of the leading nobility were appointed his custodians. The walls were painted to represent forests, no doubt to remind him of his native haunts, and to console him in his absence from them. All his wants were sedulously provided for, and in his "walks abroad," when "many men he saw," he was escorted by music and caparisoned by costly vestments. His grandest and farthest promenades were to bathe in the river, when other elephants were in attendance, honored by being made auxiliaries to his grandeur. Now and then two sovereigns sought his presence; but I did not learn that his dignity condescended to oblige them with any special notice. But he wanted no addition to his dignity. Every thing associated with majesty and rank bore his image. A white elephant is the badge of distinction. The royal flags and seals, medals and moneys—on all sides the white elephant is the national emblem, as the cross among Christians or the crescent among Turks; and the Siamese are prouder of it than Americans, Russians, Germans, or French, are of their eagles, or Spaniards of the golden fleece. The Bourbon oriflamme and the British Union-Jack show but faintly in the presence of the white elephant.'"

What is Darwinism? By Charles Hodge. 178 pages. Price, $1.50. Scribner, Armstrong & Co.

The title of this book is a little misleading, although it cannot mislead very far when it is remembered that it emanates from a distinguished Professor of Divinity at Princeton College. A book that should plainly and clearly answer the question "What is Darwinism?" as a matter of pure exposition, and which should also state what it is not, would be extremely useful at the present time. But such a book could only be made by a man of science, free from prejudice, and familiar with the history and bearings of the whole question. The term "Darwinism" is now vaguely used to represent a whole body of doctrines with which it is associated, and of which it is itself but a part; and a book, professing to answer the question implied in this title, should make the discrimination and dispel the vagueness. If the question were given with its ominous implications, as, "What is this horrible Darwinism?" the reader would be set on the right track by the title; for the book is actually an essay on the relations of Darwinism and orthodoxy, and its aim seems to be to establish the position that Mr. Darwin's theory excludes design in Nature, and is therefore atheistic. Dr. Hodge cites various authorities who hold to this view, and he cites others against it. He admits that Mr. Darwin recognizes the agency of the Creator in originating the first germs of life, and he says, "it is conceded that a man may be an evolutionist and yet not be an atheist, and may admit of design in Nature." And yet he is unwilling to let the matter rest here, and the drift of his book seems to be to show that the whole tendency of the inquiry is irreligious and pernicious. He could make out exactly the same case with the doctrine of gravitation as with the doctrine of evolution. The theory of Newton was objected to in its time as dispensing with God, and explaining the movements of matter by a self-sufficing law of inherent attraction. That question is passed by, and men are left at liberty to interpret it in the way they choose. Why not deal with evolution in the same way? The real question is, "What is the truth of the case?" and, until that is worked out and established, it is premature to complicate it with theological difficulties. Nothing is more certain than that it must be investigated by scientific men, on its own merits.

So acute and cultivated a mind as that of Dr. Hodge could not deal with the question without giving interest to it, and his book will well repay perusal. The author evidently aims to be just, and his volume is measurably free from the denunciatory spirit which is too characteristic of controversy. But it must still be said that he is evidently too little familiar with the subject, and some of his statements will surprise the well-informed reader. For example: "When the theory of evolution was propounded, in 1844, in the 'Vestiges of Creation,' it was universally rejected; when proposed by Mr. Darwin, less than twenty years afterward, it was received with acclamation. Why is this? The facts are now what they were then; they were as well known then as they are now. The theory, so far as evolution is concerned, was then just what it is now. How, then, is it that what was scientifically false in 1844 is scientifically true in 1864?" This statement of Dr. Hodge that the doctrine of evolution, as now understood, was propounded by the author of the "Vestiges of Creation" in 1844, is about as correct as the statement of Drs. Burr and Dawson, that it is a plagiarism from the old Greek atheists, Anaxamander, Anaxagoras, Democritus, and Epicurus. The theory of the "Vestiges" was nothing more than a restatement, in popular form, of that of Lamark, and there was no pretension that its author had contributed any thing to it of scientific importance. The real reason, undoubtedly, why the new statement was caught at with such avidity, was the growing conviction that the prevailing explanation of the origin of living forms, by special creation, was indefensible. The "Vestiges" was widely read, but the theory was not accepted, because it did not offer any rational or probable scientific solution of the difficulty. There was, however, a kind of indefinite feeling that the inquiry was in the true direction, and that its fundamental conception might be strengthened and verified by further investigation. This apprehension is well shown by the following extract from a letter of Principal James D. Forbes to Dr. Whewell, in 1846: "You have read, of course, the sequel to the 'Vestiges'.... the author of the 'Vestiges,' who is generally believed to be a denizen of modern Athens, has shown himself a very apt scholar, and has improved his knowledge and his arguments so much since his first edition, that his deformities no longer appear so disgusting. It was well that he began to write in the fullness of his ignorance and presumption, for, had he begun now, he would have been more dangerous." In 1859, Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace, working independently of each other, developed the principle of Natural Selection, which was the most important single step that had yet been taken to account for the origin and diversities of living forms. That conception, which Professor Helmholtz pronounced "an essentially new creative idea," was soon generally recognized by philosophical naturalists as a valid principle, or natural law, and this gave a new aspect to the whole question. Dr. Hodge's statement, therefore, is one which an instructed scientific man would hardly venture to make.

The Expanse of Heaven. A Series of Essays on the Wonders of the Firmament. By R. A. Proctor, B. A. 305 pages. Price $2.00. D. Appleton & Co., New York.

After a very successful lecturing tour in this country, in which he spoke nearly a hundred times, Mr. Proctor has gone back to England, but he has left us a legacy in the shape of a beautiful little book, "The Expanse of Heaven," which will enable us to go on with the subject, though the living teacher is absent. If Mr. Proctor is not a discoverer in astronomy, and even if he fails to take the highest rank as a lecturer, he is certainly a very able and attractive popular writer upon the subject. That he is thoroughly master of its modern questions there is no doubt, and he certainly possesses in a very marked degree the faculty of presenting them in a pleasing and instructive way. "The Expanse of Heaven" is his latest book, and we think is certain to be his most popular one. It deals with the larger views and grander themes of the science in a very easy and readable manner, and with many touches of poetic feeling that are kindled by the sublimities of the subject. A careful examination of the volume shows that it covers the ground very fully of his lectures in this country, but the statements are far more finished and perfect than any reports of oral discourses could possibly be. We heard his lecture upon the Nebular Hypothesis, but neither the delivery nor the printed sketch will bear comparison for a moment with the two papers in this volume entitled "How the Planets grew." Of the thirty topics considered in the book, and selected with reference to their general interest, "The Sun," "The Evening Star," "The Ring-girdled Planet," "Visitants from the Star Depths," "The Earth's Journey through Showers," "Worlds ruled by Colored Suns," "The Depths of Space," and "The Drifting Stars," are perhaps the most attractive, although different readers will have different opinions upon this point.

The Philosophy of Herbert Spencer: Being an Examination of the First Principles of his System, By B. P. Browne, A.B. 283 pages. Price, $1.25. New York: Nelson & Phillips.

This is a swaggering polemic, designed to be in the interests of religion, and written by a man equally and eminently self-conscious and unscrupulous. It will be regarded as a masterly reply to Mr. Spencer by those who know nothing of that thinker's doctrines, for, by the aid of misrepresentation and setting up men of straw, he achieves a succession of the most brilliant logical victories. In the last Bibliotheca Sacra, Prof. Mears, of Hamilton College, gives an article to the adverse criticism of Mr. Spencer; but of the man he says: "It is a long time since purely English philosophy has produced so able, so comprehensive, and so daring a thinker as Herbert Spencer." In his works "we have some of the clearest and most forcible statements of opinion upon great and abstract topics to be found in the English language. If the truth must have opponents, it is just such opponents we prefer to see and to meet—frank, outspoken, unreserved." This is the general judgment that is passed upon Mr. Spencer by eminent thinkers who have studied him, whether they agree with his views or not. But Mr. Browne is of a different opinion. His pages are filled with expressions of contempt, from which we gather that Mr. Spencer is such a transparent fool, and such an obvious knave, that his critic's task is a very light one; and we wonder that he condescended to bring his intellect down to such trifling work. Buffoonery, puerility, absurdity, thimble-rigging, jugglery, sleight-of-hand, are samples of the terms used to characterize Mr. Spencer's reasoning, while his philosophical method is said to be "a purely hap-hazard system," "a miracle of confusion and absurdity," which "takes an insane delight in knocking out its own brains." We observe that the theological press commends this book to its readers as putting an end to Spencer. Can it be that they are really in such a desperate way in that camp?

Annual Record of Science and Industry for 1873. Edited by Spencer J. Baird. New York: Harper & Bros. 714 pp., 12mo. Price $2.00.

This volume presents a very large amount of valuable and interesting information in compact form, being in fact a history of progress in science and art for the year. The main part of the book is prefaced with a brief summary of the year's progress. The matter is presented in divisions named according to their nature, in general scientific terms, as Mathematics and Astronomy, Terrestrial Physics, and Meteorology, etc. Much important knowledge bearing directly on the ordinary affairs of life is to be gleaned from the divisions on Agriculture and Household Economy. For instance, the latter contains some valuable facts about lightning and lightning-conductors. Chimneys should be kept clean, as one lined with a thick layer of soot is dangerous, being apt to conduct the current of electricity into the house. The costly copper rods now so popular are condemned, and the ordinary galvanized iron wire, No. 4, recommended instead. A conductor, to be effective, should have no joints nor acute angles, and the lower end should rest in the ground, while the upper should be tipped with a gilded or polished point. Conductors are also likely to become impaired from use, and therefore need occasional examination and repairing. In the division of Materia Medica, a simple and effectual method is given for distinguishing real from apparent death. This is in simply tying a tight ligature around a finger of the supposed corpse; if death is only apparent, the end of the finger will shortly become red.

About meteors and comets, we are told, Prof. Proctor has concluded that comets are detached masses of matter thrown off by planets like Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus, while in a molten condition. Meteors are fragmentary parts of disintegrated comets. The inflammatory character of meteors has also been established. In May, 1873, two men in North Germany observed a falling meteor strike against a church-tower, and rebound with loud detonation to a housetop. The house soon became enveloped in flames, which spread and destroyed several adjoining buildings. The most startling statement, probably, comes from Secchi, the great Italian astronomer. This is that the sun varies in size. Secchi's hypothesis is, that the sun's photosphere as seen by us is a gaseous envelope, continually, and perhaps periodically, changing in apparent

The Kindergarten Messenger. Edited by Elizabeth P. Peabody. Monthly, 24 pages, $1.00 per year, 19 Follen Street, Cambridge, Mass.

The name of Froebel is becoming as familiar in connection with a method of child-culture called the Kindergarten, as was the name of Pestalozzi a few years ago in connection with the method of school instruction by objects. Froebel's course, like the college curriculum, runs through four years, from three to seven, of the child's life. His idea is not only to furnish objects so as to influence early impressions, but to combine action with observation, and make play-studies available in the first steps of education. Froebel, motherless from his earliest recollections, and then having the experience of a step-mother who neglected him, was drawn by a powerful sympathy to children, whom he thought are generally neglected, and was moved to do something to beautify and enrich their opening lives. That his devices were ingenious, and his own practice probably successful, may be freely admitted, and it must be acknowledged also that he dedicated himself to a noble work; but to what extent he struck the true principles of the management of children is not so clear. Certain it is that many of his followers made but sorry work in their endeavors to carry out his system. Long interested in this question of the first steps in education, and having heard much of Froebel's new dispensation, we sought out a Kindergarten school in London several years ago which was conducted by teachers trained at the feet of the master. The method was there in all its novelty, and it was obvious enough that it contained many excellent features; but, alas! the trail of the school-room was over them all. It had become a routine, and although marching, singing, and various activities, were a part of it, there was the same mechanical listlessness with which we were familiar under the old ways. We do not generalize from this single instance, but we gather from an examination of Miss Peabody's tracts that there has been not a little rough and crude work in the attempt to carry out Froebel's plan. But the merit of this reformer is independent of the perfection of his method. He has done the world incalculable service by fixing its attention, first and clearly, upon a subject of the greatest importance, and the attempts to carry out his method can hardly fail to lead to something better. Miss Peabody is among the pioneers of the movement in this country, and she has worked like a saint in the cause. Her little periodical deserves to be liberally sustained. Kindergarten schools are springing up in various places, and their managers will need all the enlightenment they can get. But, whether schools be established or not, the literature of the subject abounds in valuable suggestions that may be made available in home education. For it is here after all that the main interest must centre, and to us the highest value of the movement is its possible result in giving us more competent and better-instructed mothers. We note not without apprehension the growing disposition to invoke State agency in the establishment of this new order of educational institutions. Should this plan succeed, and the new schools be, moreover, subjected to the principle of "compulsory education," as by the logic of the case they must, the situation will become interesting. To the extent in which the Kindergarten idea becomes the rival of family nurture and is resorted to by mothers to escape their responsibilities, it will be injurious; but, in so far as it has the contrary effect and educates mothers as well as children, it will prove a boon to society.

First Lessons in the Principles of Cooking. By Lady Barker. London: Macmillan & Co. 101 pp., 18mo, price 50c.

This little book treats of the chemical composition of food; the effect on the human body of the different substances used as such; of the modes of preparing certain kinds of food in conformity with their action; and of the principles of diet. In the first part is shown what elements are necessary to make animal or vegetable substances fit for food, and what substances possess those elements in the highest degree. The second part explains easy and economical methods of making bread, cooking vegetables, meats, etc., and building and keeping up kitchen-fires. The third part enforces the truth that the body is benefited not by the quantity of food eaten, but by the quantity digested, and goes on to show what kinds of diet are best adapted to the digestive organs of persons in different occupations. The book contains much information that is valuable to the housekeeper.

Fuel. By C. William Siemens, D. C. L., F. R. S., and John Wormald, C. E. New York: D. Van Nostrand. 81 pp., 18mo, price 50c.

This work comprises two addresses delivered before the Council of the British Association. The first part discusses the nature of fuel, the source whence it is derived, the best methods of using it economically, the coal question of the day, and solar heat. Fuel is defined as any substance capable of entering into combination with another substance and giving rise to heat in the act, and it is shown to be derived from solar energy acting upon the surface of our earth. The subject is handled in a scientific manner, and has a direct practical bearing on economy of the use of fuel in manufactures, transportation, and the household. The second part ostensibly compares the value of artificial fuels with coal, but is little more than an enumeration of the various attempts that have been made within the past hundred years to produce an artificial fuel.

We are informed by the Boston Globe that the forthcoming work of Mr. John Fiske, to be simultaneously published in England and this country, is nearly completed, and will be issued early next autumn. Those who have been interested in his lectures will be gratified to learn that these are to be reproduced in a carefully-revised form, with much new matter which will give his work a comprehensive character. It will be in two volumes, comprising nearly a thousand pages, under the title of "Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy based on the Doctrine of Evolution." It is a much less exhaustive and more popular treatise than Mr. Herbert Spencer's yet unfinished "System of Synthetic Philosophy," upon which it is mainly founded; but it embraces a wider range of subjects than is discussed by Mr. Spencer. Those who are familiar with Mr. Fiske's remarkable powers of exposition and grasp of thought will need no assurance as to the interest of the work, and to others we may say that it will undoubtedly be the most valuable introduction to modern scientific philosophy that has been yet produced. Mr, Fiske is expected to return from Europe about the last of June.

A Popular Key to the Birds, Reptiles, Batrachians, and Fishes of the Northern United States, east of the Mississippi River. By Prof. David S. Jordan, M.S., and Balfour H. Van Vleck. Appleton, Wis. 108 pages. Price, 75 cents in paper covers; $1.25 in flexible cloth.

This is a convenient pocket manual, designed to enable collectors readily to ascertain the names of the birds, reptiles, and fishes, occurring in the region indicated.

 

 
PUBLICATIONS RECEIVED.

Diffractive Spectrum Photography. By Henry Draper, M. D. Pp. 9.

Notes on Microscopic Crystals, and Observations on Unionidæ. By Isaac Lea, LL. D. Pp. 24.

The Protoplasm Theory. By Edward Curtis, A. M., M. D. Pp. 23.

The Medical Colleges, the Medical Profession, and the Public. By Standford E. Chaillé, A. M., M. D. Pp. 24.

Materialism, its History and Influence on Society. By Dr. L. Büchner. New York: Asa K. Butts. Pp. 28.

The Essence of Religion. By Ludwig Feuerbach. New York: A. K. Butts. Pp. 75.

The Vermiculetes. By Josiah P. Cooke, Jr. Pp. 32.

Review of "Darwin on Expression." By Alexander Bain. London: Longmans, Green & Co. Pp. 18.

Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Pp. 50.

Seizing Books and Papers under the Revenue Laws. Published by the New York Chamber of Commerce. Pp. 56.

Report on the Incurable Insane in Illinois. By Fred. Wines. Pp. 11.

Community of Disease in Men and Other Animals. By W. Lauder Lindsay, M.D. Pp. 37.

Lecture on Buddhist Nihilism. By Max Müller. New York: A. K. Butts. Pp. 16.

Thirteenth Annual Report of the Brooklyn Park Commissioners. Pp. 47.

A Third Catalogue of Seventy-six New Double Stars. By S. W. Burnham, Esq. Pp. 14.

The Money Problem. By Henry Bronson. Pp. 28.

Bulletin of the Minnesota Academy of Natural Sciences. 1874. Pp. 150.

The Anatomical, Pathological, and Surgical Uses of Chloral. By W. W. Keen, M. D. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1874. Pp. 19.

Epidemic Delusions. By Frederic R. Marvin, M. D. New York: Asa K. Butts. Pp. 28.

The Rules of Evidence, as applicable to the Credibility of History. By William Forsyth, Q. C., LL. D., M. P. London: Robert Hardwicke, 1874. Pp. 22.

Intellectual Culture. By Edward Palmer, M. D. Louisville, 1874. Pp. 20.