Popular Science Monthly/Volume 51/October 1897/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.

In this fifth volume of the Memoirs of the American Folklore Society are given what might be called the book of Genesis of the Navaho Indians and the shorter legends of Natinesthani and The Great Shell of Kintyel.[1] The origin legend starts with twelve insect peoples and tells how First Man and First Woman were produced by the gods and cared for by the insect peoples as the gods directed. The history of this pair and of their descendants follows and is filled with incidents designed to explain present customs of the Navahoes and various phenomena of Nature. The last chapter of the legend, dealing with the growth of the Navaho nation, is in part traditional or historical, and many of its dates are approximately correct. The introduction of sixty pages which Dr. Matthews has prefixed to the legends, and his sixty-five pages of notes, contain much material of value to the anthropologist. The Navaho reservation lies in the northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico, and although arid is not a desert. Dr. Matthews tells us how the Indians manage to raise meager crops from its soil, and how they care for their herds of sheep and goats. He also describes the personal appearance of this rather intelligent people and the structure of their various kinds of dwellings, giving portraits of several individuals and views of typical houses. Their industries—weaving, in which they excel, basket making, pottery, silverwork, etc.—are described, with pictures of specimens and of Indians at work. Dr. Matthews gives us also some description of the Navaho religion and its ceremonies. The religion is an elaborate pagan cult, and as the tribe inclines to be democratic so does the pantheon: they have no highest chief, so they have no supreme god. There are also evil spirits whom men dread. Many of the ceremonies are of nine days' duration, while others last but a single day or a few hours. Elaborate costumes and other paraphernalia are employed in them, specimens of which are here figured. To learn one of the great rites so as to become its chanter, or priest, is the work of many years. Dr. Matthews has a good word for the medicine men that he has come in contact with among this people. Among the notes are given the words of several songs with interlinear translations, and the music of eleven melodies, the latter having been recorded on the phonograph by Dr. Matthews and noted from the cylinders by John C. Fillmore. In addition to its forty-two cuts in the text the volume contains four plates, of which two are colored.

Mr. Bellamy's Equality[2] takes up the story and the discussion of social questions from where Looking Backward ended, and continues them. It is in the year 2000, and in the conversation in the garden where Looking Backward left the pair, Edith asks Julian West about the old times of the nineteenth century, and is astonished that such things as he tells of could have been. Some of the details of the revolution that changed conditions are explained to him. He opens his account in the National Bank and learns about the new financial system, in which private estates are extinguished, the nation owns all the property, and every citizen is allowed each year an equal credit, in lieu of estate, wages, or profit. Every one is expected to choose some occupation and follow it, and all are expected to do by turns their shares of the unpleasant work which no one chooses. A remedy is described for those who refuse to take their privilege or burden. In all those things, and in dress, women are as men, and changes of fashion are no longer known. A discussion of right of property introduces an elucidation of the theory of the social fund and the doctrine that private capital is stolen from it, and the astonishing declaration that under the system prevailing in the nineteenth century, if one monopolist could have acquired title deeds to all of the earth, he might have ordered the human race off of it. The right of title by inheritance is attacked, but it is argued that the equalization of human interests achieved does not destroy the right of property. It is simply merged in the title of the state. And it is held that by this system of equalization women are delivered from a bondage incomparably more complete and abject than any to which men have been subjected by their fellow-men—the bondage of personal subjection to the husband, and to the tyranny of conventional rules. The profit system is held up as one of economic suicide. Stinkers of the nineteenth century are honored in statuary as the leaders in the revolt against capitalism and the pioneers in the new movement. Julian finds that what he had formerly thought evil has become good, and what has seemed wisdom has become foolishness. The iniquity of foreign commerce for profit and the hostility to improvement of a system of vested interests are enlarged upon. While under the old system the continued acquisition of knowledge after leaving school was prevented by the burden of cares that fell upon the man going into business for profit, in the new society the state assumes that burden, and the man can keep on learning all the time. By a constant and immediate referendum the people are able to keep their legislatures under direct and instant control. War no longer exists. The new patriotism looks to the character and purity of the people. Foreign trade is diminished and foreign travel for knowledge increased. Hygienic development has improved doctors out of their occupation. Meat is no longer eaten. Population. is distributed out of the cities over the country. The forests have been restored. Farming is done by machinery. The last chapters comprise the history of the supposed revolution, which is assumed to have begun in a revolt against the corruption and monopolies of the nineteenth century and of the solution of the problems it raised.

We wake from the reading of the book to find that we are still in the nineteenth century, suffering from all its faults.

The popular idea of Russia is that of a country inhabited by two classes: first, the military and civil minions of the Czar, who carry out the oppressive edicts of their master with fierce satisfaction; and, second, the people, who submit to this tyranny in constant sullen fear, the brightest among them being generally occupied with plots of assassination. A moment's reflection ought to convince any intelligent person that there is another side to the shield, but everybody does not stop to reflect. The book before us shows the other side.[3] Mr. Logan had a good time in Russia, and he saw many thousands of Russians having a good time. He attended the coronation ceremonies as one of the diplomatic party from the United States, and, although this brought him in contact only with the official and noble class, who have reason to be contented, one could not go about as much as he did at a time when the common people thronged to the splendid ceremonials without seeing a great deal that throws light upon the real condition of "Ivan," the peasant. Mr. Logan recounts the incidents of travel, and describes the stores, streets, conveyances, and other things that one sees in passing with a humor and unconventionality that are delightful. He has grouped many of his observations by subjects. Thus, in a chapter on The Breaking of Russian Bread, he describes the diet and the dishes of both nobles and peasants, with digressions on hunting and fishing. There is much French cookery in Russia, and there are also many distinctively native dishes, some of which Mr. Logan is able to praise enthusiastically. Other chapters describe a village of peasants, Russian horses, the Russian church, Slavic art and literature, and tell "How we kept house" and "How we washed in Russia." The bath-tub of America is a stranger to Russian domiciles, but there are public establishments where the real Russian bath is enjoyed by all classes of the population. In every village there is a bath-house in which the peasants steam themselves at least once a week. But the chief subject of the volume is the coronation ceremonies. Mr. Logan portrays for us the splendid processions, the impressive ceremonies, and the magnificent banquets, balls, and performances. He and his friend "G——" were blest with a courier who was constantly making mistakes that brought them into better positions than they were entitled to. In this way they saw the imperial infant and passed through the throne room, where the crown jewels were displayed, on the day of the coronation. They were put out of this room with a courtesy that they found everywhere unfailing among Russian officials—an officer chatted with them a few moments, and then politely offered to send some one to show them the way to the diplomatic tribune. Mr. Logan tells also of the feast, the juggling shows, and other things suited to their tastes that were provided for the common people. He finds that the lower classes have many privileges and a great deal of liberty, and that they have as intense a loyalty as their heavy natures are capable of. The occurrence at the people's féte on the Khodynskoe Plain, which threw the only cloud over the joyousness of the coronation, was not an unmixed evil, for it gave Nicholas II an opportunity to show kindness to his people that justified them in calling him "the Little Father." There is much more in this book than we have space to enumerate. The illustrations deserve more than the word we can give them. There are nearly fifty pictures of buildings, interiors, distinguished personages, and types of the population, besides which there are colored portraits of the emperor and empress and views of the cathedrals of St. Basil and of the Assumption in Moscow.

  1. Navaho Legends. Collected and translated by Washington Matthews, M. D., LL. D. Boston; Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Pp. 299, 8vo. Price, $6.
  2. Equality. By Edward Bellamy. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 412. Price, $1.25.
  3. In Joyful Russia. By John A. Logan, Jr. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 275, 12 mo. Price, $3.50.