« AnkstesnisTęsti »
"The French give a touch of art to whatever they do. Even the drivers of drays and carts and trucks about the streets are not content with a plain, matter-of-fact whip, as an English or American laborer would be, but it must be a finely modeled stalk, with a long, tapering lash tipped with the best silk snapper. Always the inevitable snapper. I doubt if there is a whip in Paris without a snapper. Here is where the fine art, the rhetoric of driving, comes in. This converts a vulgar, prosy 'gad' into a delicate instrument, to be wielded with pride and skill, and never to be literally applied to the backs of the animals, but to be launched to the right and left into the air with a professional flourish, and a sharp, ringing report. Everything has its silk snapper. Are not the literary whips of Paris famous for their rhetorical tips and the sting there is in them? What French writer ever goaded his adversary with the belly of his lash, like the Germans and English, when he could blister him with its silken end, and the percussion of wit be heard at every stroke?"
Of a London fog he says: "It was like a great yellow dog taking possession of the world."
As one moves through the familiar scenes which Mr. Burroughs so freshly calls to mind, the question occurs: Do people realize how he comes by this faculty of broad appreciation of great, and minute scrutiny of little things? There can be but one answer: By staying at home and giving a loving study to his own fields and forests, just as Thoreau did, and as Emerson, in his own lofty and less popular way still does. Men are said to be only moving plants after all. At any rate, they must have roots, whether these be only invisible and intangible ones, and Mr. Burroughs has struck his mental roots down into the fiber of his land. The chapter called "A March Chronicle" gives one the poetical side of a sugar-maple camp, quite delightful to consider.
As a writer, Burroughs must be assigned to the comradeship of Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman. In some ways he looks at things very much as Whitmen does, and those ways are good; but he has also caught from him-we are sure it is infection and not the outcome of a like temperament--some habits that were better dropped. Even in this charming book there are unnecessary expressions which border on the coarse, and do not add strength, while once or twice we meet absolute inaccuracies of style and grammar. One, on page 95, is the use of lay for lie; and the other, an occasional dropping of the adverb, a custom which may be colloquial, but has not yet received the sanction of liter
Quite possibly these are merely errors in reading proof, and can be readily removed in the succeeding editions which such pleasing essays merit. Perhaps a well-considered pen will then pass through such few lines as mention sea-sickness, sewers, and other things of interest to no one, and which, in a book of just this quality, pain with some show of reason the fastidious.
Barron's "Foot Notes; or, Walking as a Fine Art."
THIS is a book after the Thoreau style by a Connecticut Yankee-though born, he says, in Vermont, "in Hampshire Corner, a place well known to its inhabitants," who describes himself as a quasiSpiritualist, and as either the victim of a disordered fancy, or else as walking and writing under an alien influence which he more than half believes is that of the spirit of Thoreau. There can be little doubt, we think, that it is the spirit of the Concord walker, though we are loth to believe that Thoreau has become a ghost walker, and the invisible attendant and familiar of Mr. Barron. We have known persons to write as much like Tennyson, or Emerson, who certainly are not yet dogging about poor mortals for the use of their bodies. The truth is, a great deal of genius and sensibility comes into the world without any decided form or bias-without any calcareous envelope, so to speak. We do not like to call Mr. Barron's book a soft-shelled egg, but it certainly in some way suggests the simile. There is excellent meat in it, picture and thought and suggestion-real heart and substance; but for what form and cohesion it has, he seems mainly indebted to another. And it is a silly make-shift to call in the aid of Spiritualism to explain the phenomenon. If our author had never read Thoreau, then, indeed, would there be room to marvel. He says he had thought of making a book full of "homely things" before he had made the acquaintance of the Walden recluse, and it is a pity he never set about it. When he did begin to write, which was in 1864, he says he was struck by a wave of influence that made the product of his pen quite different from anything he had ever written before.
In his chapter called "Impressions," he explains the matter quite satisfactorily. "I notice," he says, "that my word has a flavor at times which indicates that the taste of some book I had eaten had not gotten out of my mouth when I spoke. May be I am like butter, which is so easily tainted by positive odors like those of leeks, or tobacco, or smoked herrings. Yet I think I am not without a certain fierce individuality. I am quite implacable when I think of one person selfishly violating the sacred personality of another who is weaker in magnetism. I have always lived a little one side, just because I did not care to have even the good enter my sphere with their influence. Still, when I look into things closely, I am compelled to admit that it is the rule of nature that the strong shall penetrate and move the weak." His "sphere," as he calls it, is a very sensitive one, and is more apt to take than to give impressions. Some of the Western towns, he says, almost tortured him with their influence. He frequently walks to New Haven, and, in a certain hollow, two and one half miles distant, his sphere and the sphere of the town invariably come in collision. He feels the town, and, perhaps, if the town knew itself, it would feel him. But the impression which the city makes upon him at that range is a good one. He says he knows that New Haven is much given to looking between the two shells of an oyster, etc.,
yet, by the aid of Yale College, it sends out an intellectual and religious influence which he can feel two and one half miles off. There is a good deal of this kind of sensibility, or impressibility, in the book, which one is at a loss whether to call a morbid and preternatural sharpness, or real poetic delicacy and spirituality. There are, undoubtedly, marks of both. Now and then we come upon crude places; our walker has not uniform good taste; we do not, on the whole, feel quite sure of him. Some parts of his experiences and confessions are not set in just the right light. It requires a very steady nerve and a certain robustness and unconsciousness for a man to talk so freely about himself without at least a slight letting down of his dignity, and Mr. Barron does not go through the ordeal with as much grace as Montaigne does, or as his own prototype Thoreau does. Perhaps he is too much of a walker, too genuine a "tramp," as he announces himself in the first sentence of his book, and makes too much of sleeping in barns and under hay-stacks.
But, after every qualification, "Foot Notes" is a valuable contribution to the literature of walking. No writer ever took more easily or naturally to the path or the open road. He has the true lightheartedness, the true walker's gait. He says he walks chiefly to visit natural objects, "but I sometimes go on foot to visit myself. It often happens when I am on an outward-bound excursion, that I also discover a good deal of my own thought. He is a poor reporter, indeed, who does not note his thought as well as his sight." He is a close and almost infallible observer of nature. We doubt if he can be detected in a single error in this direction. When he speaks of bird or beast, or of any of the lesser shows, or phases, or sounds, or odors of nature, he always has a word or two, or a whole sentence, that hits the mark fairly. True, his eye is microscopic, rather than telescopic, as was Thoreau's. magnifies the little, the common, the near-at-hand, but nearly always shows the smallest, homeliest fact surrounded by the prismatic hues of the spirit. He has none of his master's asperity and misanthropy, and he never belittles other things, the better to show off his woodchucks and muskrats. He says: "People talk a good deal as if progress in civilization meant but little more than the moving out of a hut into a palace, or the substitution of a silver fork for a steel one;" and yet he adds, that he believes the truest civilization will include a silver fork for him and his.
As an evidence of the firm and steady gaze which our walker turns upon things, note the chapter on "Winter Colors." How surely his eye picks out all the subtle shades and tints in the naked woods and in the different trees-garnet and amaranth, pearl and maroon. He says the limbs of the white birch seen against a dark background show like chalk lines on a black-board. The chapter on "Lichens" is a good sample of the beauty his microscopical eye everywhere reveals. Other chapters that have given us especial pleasure are on "Night Walking," "The Legs," "Walking in the Rain," "Dirt," "Men," "Ox-Teamsters," and "The Creed of a Wood
chuck." In this latter he drops into poetry, as he does in several others.
"I deem it very good luck
On stormy roads and gravel,
Nor a King with taxes
I keep no crust upon a shelf;
I shut my doors
To stop the bores
And sleep the while
To save my stores," etc.
This will at once recall Thoreau's "Old Marlborough Road."
There is a deal of quiet humor in the book, a warm, steady sunshine of the heart that seems native to the author. There is wisdom, too, that he has not learned of some one else. "I notice," he says, "that a man, whether he be riding or walking, is always enveloped in a cloud of thoughts and impressions which touch him only by their finest points, and which can scarcely be said to make a part of his conscious feeling, and much less of his conscious thought. All these may affect him badly, or they may be as soothing to him as any melody. Among other conclusions, I have inferred from this, that a man may have, and does have, a great deal of latent happiness; something very different from active pleasure-seeking and conscious enjoyment. I find that all our gains and victories are gradually turning themselves into this latent happiness, and that we have to make an effort from time to time in order to know just how happy we are. This is a kind of invested happiness I like."
Now and then we come upon a bit of landscape, or a group of figures, or an attitude in the book that is clearly and strongly sketched. This drawing of the "Piney-Woods Woman" of North Carolina, whither the author seems to have done some walking as a soldier, is as good as can be found anywhere:
"She was tall, lean, and sallow; her dress was made of some dingy cotton stuff; on her head she wore a sun-bonnet without starch; on her shoulders she bore the gun always so ready to bring aid to the slave-owner; she was barefooted, and when she walked she did it manfully, her heels lifting her scanty skirt behind, and her knees making vigorous thrusts against it before. She was preceded by two dogs and followed by a horse and cart which carried her husband,—a little sallow man, who looked a good deal frozen-and-thawed by the fever and ague, -two or three children, a chest, a few rude chairs, some slight tokens of bedding, and a few cooking utensils."
The book is handsomely printed and bound by the Wallingford Printing Co., and well deserves and will repay the attention of every lover of the manly art of walking.
Browning's "Inn Album."*
THERE is a wide range of readers who utterly repudiate and taboo Browning. His name is an offense, and his continued existence as an author odious to their sense of literary justice. These had best pass over any notice of Browning's later work as thoroughly as they avoid the work itself; but to the other few, who can stand his peculiarities, and by practice have learned to unravel the curious stitches of his mind, it will be proper to speak of "The Inn Album."
On a general view "The Inn Album" is a novel in blank verse, with characters such as Browning can draw, and much of the less important material which belongs to the ordinary novel, left out. With these omissions, however, go hand in hand omissions of the most important, so that, noticeably toward the end, whole pages have to be added by the nimble wit of the reader, or he is left floundering in darkness and exasperation of mind. At the same time there is the old verbosity; whole pages are used to amplify, turn and twist, shift and reverse, some simile, until one swears the man is only doing it to show how smart he can be, and meanwhile in the following of these useless twists the current of the story manages to be lost. There is a noble excitement in sliding down a rapid river, especially if one dreads a cataract below; but ceaseless eddies now this way, now that, distract and weary most minds to such extent that they are glad to seize a dull moment to push their boat ashore.
Perhaps it is well that the audience of the "Innful Album" is a small one, for the undeniable cleverness which is found in all Browning's work hardly compensates for other and startling things. The bitterness and hollowness of "the world"-gambling, profligacy, lies, seduction, sharping, suicide certainly, perhaps murder, are brought out by the three actors in the quiet parlor of the "Inn," of which the following gives an idea:
"Except the red-roofed patch
Of half a dozen dwellings that, crept close
loved in vain, and the older has met and loved too successfully, who has married meanwhile a narrow country parson, and is ignorant of what old friends she is about to meet at the inn-is thus described by her startled betrayer:
The Duke's brother, "refinement every inch, from brow to boot heel," is an elaborate Faust, who is engaged in plucking a young millionaire, “the polished snob," and gets plucked himself. The woman in the case, whom the younger man has met and
The low wide brow oppressed by sweeps of hair,
Not asleep now! not pin-points dwarfed beneath,
How they protrude and glow immense with hate!
Sense-free, sense-frighting lips clenched cold and bold
This woman is certainly not very English. The only English are the "polished snob" and his cousin; the other two are Italians in all they do and say, that is to say, they are not English, and are Italian in as far as they are not Browning. For each and every character in the book, from the novelistic highly carved noble villain, to the snobs laughed at for their poetical ventures in the album of the inn, is Browning himself. And yet there is a strong effort at versatility, at being up to the times, modern, full of society spirit. Bismarck, Wagner, Tennyson, Browning himself, are alluded to in play
terms, and possibly with a purpose to make it all seem very real. But it is like the dancing of an elephant. One cannot but feel that here is strength enough to move a mountain, and instead, we find nothing but antics which do not even amuse the crowd. Among the waves of commonplace Browning shoulders up like a rock, always himself, always formidable, often grand. He seems to despise his surroundings, but now and then one fancies he has a certain satisfaction in the waves and likes them; but whether it be for their own sake, or because they furnish a becoming foil to his strength and loftiness, it were hard to determine.
French and German Books.
Un Mariage dans le Monde. Octave Feuillet. New York,Christern.-"Madame Fitz-Gérald and daughter, although little accustomed to walking, advanced down the boulevard with a firm and sure step, dividing the crowd with a sovereign indifference, and exchanging a few words in a short, high voice, as if they had been tête-à-tête in their park. They left on their passage a perfume of hot-house flowers and seemed to sweeten the asphalt which they trod. Foreign ladies studied with jealous eyes the toilet, movements, and royal gait of these two Parisians traversing their own empire, and with very good reason despaired of ever imitating them."
It is this daughter whom M. de Rias, the regular
The Inn Album, by Robert Browning. J. R. Osgood thirty-year-old Frenchman of wealth, social position, and personal distinction, is advised to marry. He
has had his fling, and now wants a "femme d'intérieur." Mr. Feuillet, however, shows what folly it is in him to expect such a thing. His wife, who has been brought up in the French manner, is fresh to balls, theaters, and worldly delights, while he has tired of them long ago. His ideal of life consists in some desultory writing and a good deal of philosophical observation of Paris and outside life in general; but for his "interior" existence he wants a quiet home. He is a model lover even before the young lady sees him, and his perfections appear to have run before him. For when she has stolen out to catch a glimpse of him before he enters her house, and while she stands concealed on a terrace which he must pass:
"On the dry clay of the road one could hear distinctly the supple and raised steps of a horse, which must be a horse of a fine breed, and could not carry any one but a rider of distinction."
At first De Rias is a model husband. But the before-mentioned ideas gradually get the upper hand and lead to serious differences of opinion between him and his wife. It comes at last to a tacit alienation, and at Trouville the wife almost succumbs to a compromiser of her honor. Here the peculiar French "institution of an interventor comes in under the guise of a young married woman and her brother. The French seem to need and take kindly to the good offices of a third person under the most delicate circumstances. Either because their passions are more on the surface, or because the "interventor" has a natural, national tact of arranging matters without wounding the feelings of either. The reconciliation of the couple is only delayed by the wife falling in love with the male interventor, but she soon gets over this folly, and M. de Rias, resigning his own weaknesses, gets a wife, who, if not exactly the "femme d'intérieur" of his ideal, is, according to Feuillet, all the better for her experience.
A book by Octave Feuillet is sure to be read, and although "Un Mariage" cannot be considered quite up to that very high mark which this artist has attained, its success will be deserved. It is true that it handles the usual and much reprobated topics of a French novel, but we must remember the pub
lic for which it is written, and decide whether its influence on that public is for good or evil. Surely and emphatically for good. It may be affirmed that in this book at least Feuillet is working toward a purification of morals and a solidifying of the loose ideas on the marriage question in France. He is in the front rank of his time, which holds more seriousness, more regret at past folly, more preparation for a purer future than outsiders are apt to imagine. This is what the mutual lady friend writes to De Rias :
more capable than he of domestic virtue. And I am going to tell you why; it is because women possess in a higher degree than you the crowning virtue of marriage, which is the spirit of sacrifice; but it is hard for them to renounce everything when the husband renounces nothing, and yet that is what he asks them to do."
Nevertheless Feuillet delights himself and his readers in picturing the Arcadian innocence of Mlle. Fitz-Gérald on the eve of her marriage. His solution is that a husband should instruct a young wife, rather than that young girls before marriage should know the world and what there is in it to take and to avoid.
"Mon Dieu! I know women are too lightly brought up in France; their education is superficial, frivolous, exclusively worldly, prepares them very badly for the serious profession of a married woman. I grant you all that; but, in spite of all that, I dare affirm, that, to speak generally, there is not one who is not morally superior to the man she marries, and
Contes du Lundi. Alphonse Daudet. New York, Christern. A new and augmented edition of these exquisite little tales recalls vividly the sad days of the recent German-French war. Some of them are of the most moving nature, and their pathos is skillfully blended with simplicity in a manner to delight a writer and hold a reader's attention fast. It is hard to choose a favorite, the cabinet pictures are all so good. Les mères, Le siége de Berlin, Le porte-drapeau, are particularly pathetic; La pendule de Bougival, La partie du Billard, ironical and witty; La défense de Tarascon, witty and malicious. Tarascon has to suffer for the whole of Southern France, whose lukewarmness in the late war was only too evident. Almost all tend to keep alive in French hearts a horror of Germans and a hope for revenge. It is safe to say that no one in Germany, England, or America, can write such seeming trifles so full of power.
Paris à travers les ages. 12 livraisons. New York, Christern. An exhaustive treatise on the French capital is to be issued by Firmin, Didot & Cie. in twelve parts, and is to contain the successive appearance of the monuments and principal quarters of Paris from the thirteenth century up to the present time. Old maps, old pictures, and bird's-eye views of the city are reproduced, and where these are wanting, plans are drawn up according to the most authentic documents. The text is to be furnished
by a number of writers of good standing, and fullpage colored engravings support the pictures in the text. Some, if not all, of these engravings are well worth framing. Text and pictures are folio size and come in a case especially fitted for them. Each livraison is to cost ten dollars.
Rossija. Erzählungen aus der Geschichte und Sage Russlands. Oskar Urban. New York, L. W. Schmidt.—Oskar Urban, who appears to be a teacher in a Russian Governmental school in Mohilew on the Dnjepr, strives to inform the youth of Germany of some of the most picturesque and important events in the history and antiquity of Russia. The scenes are drawn with much fire and succeed well in just what they set out to do, namely, in interesting the reader in the people and country, without raising the question of how much is strictly historical, how much modern addition, and how much mythical figment. The book is an appeal, not a history, and meant to inoculate boys and girls
with the same enthusiasm the writer feels. folks, are however, by no means debarred, for there are few if any puerilities. We are bound to make a few allowances of strict fact where a subject looks so arid as the history of Russia. Singularly interesting are the allusions to the old beliefs of the Russians-the wild women, the beast-man who is a robber and lives in the woods, where he allures travelers by singing like a nightingale. The legends of the first introduction of Christianity read like parallels to other similar events in other nations, and among the myths and heroic legends one is continually reminded now of Indian tales from the Mahabharata, now of Arabic fairy stories like Hatim Tai, and then again of Norse and German traditions handed down from heathen times. Not that they at all lack individuality or a local taste and color, but the same general idea pervades them, the same legend rises up in a different guise, the same gods and demons speak in a different language. | And it would be strange if it were otherwise, for the Russians are not only of the same primitive stock with Hindoos, Germans, and Celts, but from their geographical position have suffered inroads and intermarriages with more than one distinct race of
Hauff's Mürchen. Revised for young folks by A. L. Grimm. New York, L. W. Schmidt.-Hauff's fairy tales never grow old, and cannot be too often republished. The present edition contains the seven stories told by Selim Baruch and the five merchants of a caravan, namely, Kalif StorkGhost-ship-Cut-off-hand--Fatima's Rescue-Little Muck-False Prince. Also the four tales related | by the slaves of the Sheik of Alexander, among which is the celebrated satirical story of the Englishman who, in place of an eccentric nephew, imposes an educated baboon upon the foolish inhabitants of a small German town. The third part consists of the tales told at the tavern in the Spessart, the second being that called "The Cold Heart." It seems almost superfluous to praise fairy stories, for unless they are good they are not apt to exist at all, or, at any rate, they do not come to the honor of a second edition. But these are especially good.
The New President of the Board of Education.
THAT New Yorkers may know who the new President of their Board of Education is, and understand how thoroughly based in fitness is his elevation to his present position, we have collected the principal points of his history, and present them here:
William Wood was born at Glasgow, Scotland, October 21st, 1808. His education was begun
in 1815 at the celebrated school of William Angus in Glasgow. Two years later he entered the Grammar School for a four-years' Latin course under David Douie. In 1821 Mr. Wood entered the Junior Latin and Greek classes in the University of Glasgow. At the end of the session of the Senior class (1823) he went, on the introduction of the celebrated Dr. Chalmers, to reside as a pupil with the Rev. Dr. Duncan of Ruthwell, the founder of savings banks. In 1825 Mr. Wood returned to the University of Glasgow and finished his college course in the winter of 1827-28.
After his graduation, Mr. Wood entered the mercantile house of his father and grandfather, J. & A. Dennistoun of Glasgow. In November, 1828, he arrived in New York, having become a partner of a branch of the Glasgow house, then carried on here under the firm of Dennistoun, McGregor & Co. He returned to Scotland in 1829, and again visited New York, and was married to Miss Harriet A. Kane of this city. Remaining but a short time in America, he returned to Glasgow, and shortly afterward went to Liverpool to take charge of the house of Alexander Dennistoun & Co. Here he lived until 1844, taking a deep and active interest on the liberal side of politics. He was one of the vice-presidents of the Liverpool Anti-Monopoly Association, which was, in fact, only another name for the Liverpool branch of the Anti-Corn-Law League. Mr. Wood moved the adoption of a resolution in favor of, and presented the address to, Daniel O'Connell at the great public meeting held at the Amphitheater on the 28th of March, 1844, after O'Connell had been convicted of sedition in Dublin, and had appealed to the House of Lords, which appeal resulted in his favor. In December, 1844, Mr. Wood once more sailed for New York, and, on his arrival, established the well known house of Dennistoun, Wood & Co., from which he retired in 1860. He was married a second time in New York, in 1847, to Miss Margaret Law. rence, who died in 1871. Mr. Wood became an Elder of the New York Collegiate Dutch Church in 1860, which position he is now holding. He finally retired from business in 1869. In May of the same year he was appointed by Mayor Hall as one of the twelve Commissioners of the Board of Education, which position he held until April, 1873. He was re-appointed in May, 1875, and was elected presiding officer for the year 1876. It is only necessary to add that no member of the Board is his superior in education, knowledge of the New York schools, thorough devotion to the interests of popular education, and personal enthusiasm. He is an honest, strong-headed, good-hearted, thoroughly cultivated, gentlemanly Scotchman, whose wise and intelligent offices in the Board of Education, New York is most fortunate in possessing.,