The Dial/Volume 15/Number 169/Briefs on New Books
Briefs on New Books.
Guide-book. By the publication of the long-promised Baedeker's "United States" (imported by Scribner), American makers of guide-books are afforded a much needed object-lesson in compactness, in arrangement of material, and in beauty of cartography. In none of these respects has the Baedeker standard of excellence ever been approached by a guide-book of American production. Mr. J. F. Muirhead is the author of the book, and his work has been done with great care and thoroughness. We have noticed no considerable inaccuracies, and but few misprints, in spite of the Leipzig typography of the work. The special introductory features are an account of our political history, by Professor McMaster; a study of our political institutions, by Professor Bryce; North American physiography, by Professor N. S. Shaler; chapters on the fine arts in America, by Messrs. W. A. Coffin and Montgomery Schuyler; and essays upon our climate, our aborigines, our sports, and our social institutions. All the regular Baedeker features are included — the introductory hints on railways, money, hotels, postal arrangements, etc.; the specimen tours, convenient arrangement of routes, diagrams and plans for ready reference, asterisks to denote excellence or importance, and the many other features that have made the Baedeker guides models of their kind. Two or three points of special interest call for a word of mention. In comparing the railway trains of Europe and America, the author reaches the conclusion of most travellers, — that the European system is probably the better for short journeys, but that our system "reduces to a minimum the bodily discomfort and tedium of long railway journeys." We are also told that in the South and West the railway conductor is generally addressed as "captain." (Why not "colonel"?) The following are hints to hotel-keepers desirous of European patronage: "The wash-basins in the bedrooms should be much larger than is generally the case. Two or three large towels are preferable to the half-dozen small ones usually provided. A carafe or jug of fresh drinking-water (not necessarily iced) and a tumbler should always be kept in each bedroom. If it were possible to give baths more easily and cheaply, it would be a great boon to English visitors." The statement that "restaurants which solicit the patronage of ‘gents’ should be avoided" is excellent, but should have been extended to include tailors who offer to provide mankind with "pants." We are given a glossary of the American language, with such definitions as these: "Boss, master, head, person in authority." "Bug, beetle, coleopterous insect of any kind." "Mad, vexed, cross." "Chicken, fowl of any age" ( the note of sarcasm should not escape an attentive listener). The author has learned, with evident surprise, that in America "weddings frequently take place in the evening, and are managed by a set of ‘ushers’ chosen from the bridegroom's friends." As for Chicago, those who object to the pronunciation (Shekdhgo) given the word, will forgive the author when they read, further down upon the page, that "great injustice is done to Chicago by those who represent it as wholly given over to the worship of Mammon, as it compares favorably with many American cities in the efforts it has made to beautify itself by the creation of parks and boulevards, and in its encouragement of education and the liberal arts."
The author of
Year Mr Walter Lock's recent biography of John Keble (Houghton) is an adequate presentment of a man whose life was in every way interesting and inspiring. The book is not a large one, but it is well planned and well written. Mr. Lock has evidently worked con amore. Such a life as Keble's demands sympathetic interpretation as well as accurate chronicling, and this biography really interprets its subject. Keble's early life, is importance in the Oxford Movement, his influence as a preacher and as an adviser, these phases of his life are faithfully portrayed; his limitations are dwelt upon as distinctly as are his points of strength. Keble's attitude toward the Church of England and the Church of Rome in the stirring times of half a century ago is of course fully set forth. The book presupposes some knowledge of Tractarianism, but anyone who knows the main facts of the movement will readily learn here its true spirit. And yet, has not Mr. Lock taken for granted something it would have been better not to assume? Many a man and many a woman, ignorant of Church history, have loved Keble through his work, and would gladly know him as he lived. For this large class of readers the present biography might have been made complete by a brief and explicit statement of the points at issue. "The Christian Year" is a term more familiar than Puseyism. In regard to Keble's literary career, it is not strange that one thinks of it last. "The Christian Year" is poetry, and its author was Professor of Poetry; but writing was to him only a means to diviner things than literature. Yet not the least interesting chapter in the book is one on the Prælectioner Academicæ, the lectures on poetry that Keble delivered at Oxford. These lectures have never been translated into English, so Mr. Lock's careful abstract of them is especially valuable. In the present stage of criticism, we look to these discourses for loftiness of conception rather than for authoritativeness. Keble had one ultimate criterion: a poet is in the first class or not, according as he possesses or lacks some one life-long potent feeling that appears in his work again and again. It is needless to comment on this theory further than to say that Mr. Lock successfully applies the test to Keble himself, and shows that throughout his poetry there is a "love of innocency" which may be taken as the keynote of all he wrote. It was indeed the underlying principle of Keble's life.
An useful book on
Persian Literature The literature of Persia, ancient and modern, offers several distinct fields, each of a good deal of interest to us Occidentals of the present day. The study of the Cuneiform Inscriptions, besides giving us one of the most interesting chapters in the history of scientific research, connects directly with our recollections of the Old Testament and of Herodotus. From another point of view the student of Comparative Religion and of Folklore finds, of course, in the "Avesta" the original sources for acquaintance with one of the earliest and most characteristic religions in mythological systems known to us. And in modern Persian Literature there is much of fascination for one of more general interests. With Fitzgerald's "Omar Kháyyám," Matthew Arnold's "Sohrab and Rustum," and Sir Edwin Arnold's "With Sa'di in the Garden" still fresh in mind, we need not be reminded of the strangely charming literary characteristics which mark the work of Firdausi, Omar, Sa'di, Hafiz, and Attar. A History of Persian Literature especially for English readers is thus an opportunity worthy of the scholar and the literary critic alike. Of this opportunity, Mrs. Elizabeth A. Reed, in her "Persian Literature, Ancient and Modern" (Griggs), has taken advantage, and has produced a popular manual of the somewhat discrete subject described by the title. Our chief criticism upon the work must be that it slights the modern Persian literature of which most of us mainly think when the subject is mentioned. But it is, on the other hand, very full in its treatment of the earlier periods, and includes an important section upon the "Koran." Mrs. Reed's acquaintance not only with her special subject but also with other ancient literatures, notably the Sanskrit, enables her to compose an account of the Cunieform Inscriptions and the "Zend Avesta" which stimulates curiosity and satisfies the interest. The work is beautifully printed, and has a gorgeous frontispiece in gold and colors, reproducing a portion of an illuminated "Shah Nameh" manuscript. It is published uniform with the author's admirable manual of "Hindoo Literature."
of Jane Welsh
Carlyle Miss Jewsbury's Letters to Jane Welsh Carlyle" (Longmans) make up a bulky volume that does not call for extended notice. Miss Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury was Mrs. Carlyle's most intimate friend and corresponded with her for a long time. The two agreed to burn each other's letters, but Mrs. Carlyle did not fulfil her part of the agreement, while Miss Jewsbury did. So we have only the latter's share of the correspondence. What Mrs. Carlyle's letters may have been we can partly guess and perhaps will not wholly regret their destruction. As to the letters before us, their value is not intrinsically great; they are diffuse, occasionally bright, occasionally witty, and always tender. They show the writer to be a woman of large capacity to love and to be loved, and of disappointment in the attainment of her ideals. Miss Jewsbury wrote novels and reviews, but her letters are not literary. The only reason for publishing them is the light they might throw on the life of the Carlyles. But in the first place, from this selection we learn little that is new, and in the second place that little is materially dimished by the irritating mode of editing, which prints a dash for almost every proper name. Not only should names be given, but there should be an abundance of notes, which the editor, Mrs. Alexander Ireland, is able to supply. Her very readable life of Mrs. Carlyle showed her to be a capable worker in the field of Carlyle literature. This last volume in that field should be brought up to the level of her former volume. The sympathetic sketch of Miss Jewsbury's life is the most interesting part of the book.
Social Science Seven lectures delivered last summer before the Plymouth School of Applied Ethics appear now in a volume entitled "Philanthropy and Social Science" (Crowell). The first and second of the essays, by Miss Jane Addams, entitled "The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements" and "The Objective Value of a Social Settlement," are interesting sermons in behalf of this new form of social organization in cities, with Hull House in Chicago as a text. The third, by Robert A. Woods, discusses the "University Settlement Idea" from the point of view of the Andover House in Boston. Father James O. S. Huntington contributes the fourth and fifth, which deal with the general principles of modern philanthropy in an incisive manner. The sixth is by Prof. Franklin H. Giddings, on the "Ethics of Social Progress," and is by far the most valuable and original contribution in the book. The last, by Bernard Bosanquet, on the "Principles and Chief Dangers of the Administration of Charity," is a brief statement of some of the commonplaces of scientific charity. While this volume contains much that is true and sensible, it lacks somewhat in continuity and originality. These were undoubtedly interesting and profitable lectures, but they touch only very superficially a few phases of the philanthropic problem. They do not go deep enough for the scientific student, while the general reader can do better by devoting himself to manuals more specific and extensive in information.
Studies of Democracy
in Poets Mr. Oscar L. Trigg's "Browning and Whitman: A Study in Democracy" (Macmillan) is a book that is more suggestive than conclusive. Democracy is defined as "self-government," the "absolute and free control of one's self." All that tends to develop the soul to its freest, fullest limits, and all that tends to band together self-controlled individuals, is in its essence democratic. To point out these principles in the two poets is the object of Mr. Trigg's analysis. Not a difficult task, surely; for Browning stands for the independence and preëminence of the soul, and Whitman stands for the independence and fellowship of man. Other writers are grouped with the two who name the book,—Lowell, Emerson, Wagner,—and the author says a great deal about them all that is penetrating and sympathetic. But he writes with the air of one who has a thesis to prove and a world to persuade, and the result is something partly one-sided and partly rhapsodical. The former effect is produced by his seeming lack of sympathy with poets like Wordsworth; the latter effect by the extremely large number of poetical citations. Out of 140 pages there are hardly a score that are not broken into by quotations. After a while this produces a monotony which materially and unjustly detracts from the author's prose. All in all, the book is spirited and thoughtful, and if it does not persuade everyone to its wide-reaching optimism, it is because America is still far from being democratic in our author's sense.