Page images

most distinguished leaders, Madame Junot's recollections were full of intimate disclosures of the Emperor's prlTate life, and Mrs. Bearne's volume of four hundred pages contains not a few of the most realistic. Twenty engravings, many of them portraits, add to Its attractiveness. E. P. Dutton & Co.

The celebration of the quarter-centenary of John Knox's birthday this year promises a number of new and more or less popular biographies of the Reformer. The question of whether Knox was really born in 1505 does not, however, appear to have been definitely settled. Dr. Hay Fleming, who is preparing an elaborate biography, brings forward evidence to prove that Knox was born in 1515; and there is certainly some ground for the belief that the older biographers. In fixing upon 1505, have confused the Reformer with another John Knox. It is rumored that an eminent historian meditates the presentation of Knox from the Roman Catholic point of view. In support of that presentation ootid fide Jesuit documents preserved in the Vatican will be quoted.

In his monographs on "Historic Highways of America" Mr. Archer Butler Hulbert has reached the story of the great American canals, and the thirteenth volume of his series is devoted to the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, and the Pennsylvania canal. With these he includes a sketch of the development of the two great railway routes which follow these canals, the Baltimore and Ohio and the Pennsylvania systems. The story of the Potomac Company, and its successor, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company is especially interesting because this enterprise grew out of plans devised by Washington, and Mr. Hulbert is

able to quote from a journal which Washington wrote in 1784 recording a journey over this route, which has not been before published. There are six or seven maps and other illustrations. The Arthur H. Clark Co., Cleveland.

The gentle art of verse-making cannot justly be said to have become wholly out-of-date when from one of our minor poets,—and, by the way, who are our major poets now?—comes a collection of verse of such rare and delicate quality as is found between the pretty covers of Florence Earle Coates' "Mine and Thine" (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.) Much of it has appeared in the leading magazines, and some bits of it,—for example the poem beginning "Had Henley died"—attracted no little attention when first printed. Sincere sentiment, warm sympathy, love of nature, of childhood and of country, high aspiration and delicate fancy all find expression in the volume, and through all is a pervasive note of sweetness and spontaneity. "A Little Minister," "Socrates," "Betrothal," "Nature," "Joan of Arc" and a dozen others offer themselves temptingly for quotation, but space admits only of this, "Motherless.":

He was so small, so very small,
That since she ceased to care,

*Twas easy just to pass him by. Forgetting he was there; But though too slight a thing he seemed

Of interest to be,— One heart had loved him with a love As boundless as the sea.

1 He was so poor, so very poor,

That now, since she had died,
He seemed a tiny threadbare coat

With nothing much inside;
But, ah! a treasure he concealed,

And asked of none relief:
His shabby little bosom hid

A mighty, grown-up grief.


No harp have I for the singing, nor fingers fashioned for skill, Nor ever shall words express it, the song that is in my heart, A saga, swept from the distance, horizons beyond the hill, Singing of life and endurance, and bidding me bear my part.

For this is Song, as I sing it, the song that I love the beet. The steady tramp in the furrow, the grind of the gleaming steel, An anthem sung to the noonday, a chant of the open West, Echoing deep, in my spirit, to gladden and help and heal.

And this is Life, as I read it, and Life, in its fairest form, To breathe the wind on the ranges, the scent of the upturned sod, To strive, and strive, and be thankful, to weather the shine and storm, Pencilling, over the prairies, the destiny planned by God.

And no reward do I ask for, save only to work and wait, To praise the God of my fathers, to labor beneath His sky, To dwell alone in His greatness, to strike and to follow straight, Silent, and strong, and contented— the limitless plains and I.

H. H. Bashford.

Tht Spectator.


I saw thee in a dream of years,
I see thee in a mist of tears,
Avilion, Island of the Blest;
Ah, would that here I had my rest!

Thy apple-blossoms, balmy bright,
Were comfort to a sickly sight,
Too often hurt by inward woe
And searching things that none may
know; To linger on thy haunted knoll
And hear the sacred legends toll,
Toll with a faint and phantom chime
Across the misty meads of Time,

Would calm the spirit's tossing sea
Lulled as the Lake of Galilee
When to the surface of the deep
Was called the underlying sleep.

None other way the weary soul
Shall leave the sound and sight of
dole, Than here in fancy to refashion
Far ages of a purer passion
Than any that now moves the heart
In camp or council, church or mart:
To pour again the mystic mere
Round Arthur's grave; again to hear
The monks their solemn psalms intone
In dim arcades of carven stone
To seek again, ere faith shall fail,
Achievement of the Holy Grail.

Such was my vision of the years,
Now shadowed by a mist of tears,
Avilion, Island of the Blest;
Ah, would that here I had my rest
F. B. Money-Coutts. The Saturday Review.


The robin sings in the rain and the first leaves fall;

Withering sunflowers fling their tarnished gold by the wall;

Hedge-fruits ripen and drop in coppice and lane;

And I am glad from my heart that the years return not again.

Mayflowers fade with May and are

past and gone; Butterflies live their day and the year

goes on; Yet the heart that was blithe with the flower and the butterfly Lingers and lives and outlives while the years go by.

The end of the tale is best and the close of the song, For the heart that has beat too fast,

that has beat too long; And my heart is glad that the years return not again— Glad that the first leaves fall and the robin sings in the rain.

Rosamvnd Marriott Watson.

The Athenaeum.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Disraeli has not yet been awarded the fruits of his work as a man of letters. Here and there, notably by Sir Leslie Stephen, tribute has been paid, but no place has been assigned to him by Mr. John Morley among English Men of Letters, nor by Professor Eric Robertson among Great Writers. The general mass of readers who, so far as concerns works of real literary merit, are undoubtedly swayed by authority, noticing the general neglect, incline to relegate to a secondary place the books in question. In this case, however, it is not necessary to combat opposition or adverse criticism, so much as to present the claims of the novels to be ranked as literature worthy to be enrolled among the classics of the language.

The neglect of Disraeli's writings may be in part due to the fact that most people think it is below the dignity of a statesman, or of any man following what is called a "serious" profession, to compose works of fiction. Certainly, many do not yet understand that the man who writes novels may be a very

wise man; they do not realize that accurately to portray human nature, and to present pictures of life, is not only a most worthy but also a most difficult task, requiring for its performance an intelligence far above the average, acute powers of observation, and a keen sense of humor. Indeed, there are still some—happily, fewer and fewer every year—who sneer at novels and regard them as works of supererogation, all unknowing of the opportunity they throw away to learn something of the nature and habits of their fellow-creatures. For, surely, the great novelist is the observer, sounding the depths while others glance at the surface, and examining the mysteries of life, while others are content to overlook even the obvious. Those who dabble in ink often wade deep in human nature; and, apart from all else, every good novel indirectly teaches humanity, humility, and a deeper understanding of the heart

Be the cause what it may, by the vast majority Disraeli is regarded as a statesman who wrote novels. The alternative view, that he was a man of letters who became a statesman, is accepted only by those who place literature before statecraft, and who realize that while the triumphs of the politician and the diplomatist are fleeting, a great book is, so far as anything on this earth can be, eternal.

Disraeli's first book, Vivian Grey, met with instantaneous success. Like Byron, its author went to sleep an unknown lad and awoke to find himself famous. This roman-a-clef, in which were introduced all the principal statesmen and well-known society folk of the day, set all the world talking and laughing—except the few who frowned and were silent. The motto was impudent:—

Why, then the world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open,

and the dedication characteristic:—

"To the best and greatest of men I dedicate these volumes. He for whom it is intended will accept and appreciate the compliment; those for whom it is not intended will—do the same."

The novel has all the faults of youth. It contains apostrophes to Experience, to Music, and to many other objects (the names of which can be written with a capital initial letter), in a style which Lytton was presently to popularize, and caricatures of many contemporaries; such caricatures as are never very difficult to draw, requiring, as the author admitted subsequently, only a small portion of talent and a great want of courtesy. Though there is no sustained plot the story possesses a central idea; to trace the development of the character of a youth of great talents, whose mind has been corrupted by the artificial age in which he lives. Alike when dealing with the intrigues of the Carabas party, or of the mediatized Prince of Little Lilliput, or of Beckendorff, the book is interesting; but the

love story is weak. Vivian is an entertaining fellow, with his impudence, and his improvised quotations, and his philosophy, which is a curious mixture of extravagance and sound commonsense. The self-satisfied, conceited Lord Carabas is a well-drawn character, and so is the disappointed politician, Cleveland; and the card-sharper, Konigstein (for whom, in spite of all, there is a tinge of pity in the reader's mind); and Essper George; and the subtle statesman Beckendorff; but when the book is laid aside, the only female portrait that lingers in the memory is that of the intriguing Mrs. Felix Lorraine. In spite of its defects, Vivian Grey keeps a place by virtue of its brilliance, the smartness of its dialogue, its audacious social satire, and its general freshness and unconventionality.

The next production was PopanUla, a satire on the English Constitution. This is a sort of Inverted Gulliver's Travels. Instead of an Englishman finding an undiscovered island, an inhabitant of the unknown Isle of Fantasle finds on the shore a sea-chest with books. These he studies, and as his newly-acquired knowledge seems likely to revolutionize the island, he is put into a canoe, and drifts until he arrives at Hubbabub, "the largest city, not only that exists, but that ever did exist, and the capital of the island Vraibleusia, the most famous island not only that is known, but that ever was known." The satire is always good-humored, but nothing is safe from attack. The best chapter is that devoted to the Anglican Church. The skits on the Constitution, on government by party (with the motto, "something will turn up"), on political economy, on the commercial system, on selfmade millionaires (for the completion of whose education the author asserts that "fashionable" novels are written), and on the colonial system (which fortifies a rock in the middle of the sea, and crams it with clerks, lawyers, and priests), make amusing reading, as well as providing food for reflection, even in these enlightened days. Ixion in Hmven is a social satire, based upon the story of the King of Thessaly, who was carried to Olympus, where he fell in love with the Queen of the Gods. In this George IV. is represented as Jupiter, Byron as Apollo, and many figures prominent at Court and in society are introduced. The Infernal Marriage is a political squib, taken from the story of Proserpine, who is carried to Elysium, and there becomes a great lady. The Giants and the Gods are the Tories and the Whigs; Encleladus is the Iron Duke, and Hyperion is Sir Robert Peel. The author is at his best both in style and in manner in these three short sketches; his humor is more unfettered and his fancy is permitted to run riot. Little read as they are, they form a worthy addition to the all too short list of really clever satires in the English language.

Disraeli's second novel was The Young Duke. It was written before the accession of William IV., and is a picture of "high life," which in later days the same hand was to paint again in more vivid colors and in a much more striking manner. The dialogue is not so bright as that of Vivian Grey, but the story is more concise. A sincere attempt is made to depict a man with all his faults and redeeming virtues. The result is not conspicuously successful, and part of the book might have been written by the "fashionable novelist." But there is a description of a gambling episode when the Duke and his friends play cards for two whole days and nights, that is worthy to rank with almost anything in the later novels.

Disraeli was slowly but surely learning his art, and his next novel, Contarini Fleming, is on a higher plane

than either of its predecessors. It called forth the praises of no less a literary personage than Goethe; while Mllman, who, reading for John Murray, recommended it for publication, declared that it was in no way inferior to Childe Harold. The original title of the story was The Psychological Romance, and, though it was reluctantly changed by the author in deference to the publisher's opinion, this very clearly denotes the nature of the work, the chief study of which is the development and formation of the Poetic Character. The plot is slight to a degree; but the character-drawing is excellent, and the love scenes are unusually tender and poetic. There is less humor than in the earlier books, but that is probably only because there is but little scope for it. Yet the proposal of marriage made by little Contarinl to Christiana at the very moment that he declares his intention "to roam, a pirate on the far waves of the iEgean," is exquisite; and there is nothing more delicious than the scene when the boy, hating the petty domestic restrictions, points out "in mad heroics" to his mother "the exact situation." "The Baroness was terrified out of her life. The fall of the chair was the perfection of fear. She was one of those women who have the highest respect for furniture. She could not conceive a human being, much less a boy, voluntarily kicking down a chair. If his feelings were not very keen indeed. It was becoming too serious. She tried to soothe me, she would not speak to my father. All should be right, all should be forgotten. If only I would not commit suicide, and not kick down the chairs." How far this study of the growth and development of a human soul was founded upon the author's experience, it is dangerous to speculate. There is undoubtedly a tendency to regard it as, in great part, a faithful transcript from life.

« PreviousContinue »