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Appreciating the national popularity of reading clubs and circulating libraries, the Editor of the Bookshelf has compiled a list of the most prominent books, fiction and non-fiction, that have appeared in the last twelvemonth. This list has been selected from the suggestions of the nine librarian advisers of the Atlantic; it will be sent with our compliments to committees and members of reading clubs and other interested persons. Requests should be addressed to the Editor of the Bookshelf, Atlantic Monthly, 8 Arlington Street, Boston (17), Mass.

Memories and Reflections, 1852-1927, by

the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, K. G. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1928. 8vo. xv+663 pp. 2 vols. $10.00.

It was known some time before his death that the late Earl of Oxford was engaged upon the composition of an autobiographical work which should at once extend and amplify his previous reminiscences and include material relating especially to the years of the war, and it is needless to say that, in the usual phrase, these 'revelations" were awaited with the greatest interest and curiosity. The appearance of these two handsome volumes in no small degree justifies the expectations which were raised; yet it was not to be expected that the Earl of Oxford could or would gratify the audience which was accustomed to the more spicy style of his wife or of his latest rival. Indeed, as one begins these volumes, unless his patience persists, he is apt to be disappointed. If he stops with the first volume, he will conclude that what we have here is only the random reflections of a once eminent but never very 'magnetic man on the events and, in particular, the characters of an age now as dead as that of Rameses. It is as if he had sat down by the fire and remembered aloud those figures of the Victorian past, summing up to himself the abilities and traits of a multitude of men with whom he was brought into contact, but whose names and achievements will be strange to many if not most of his readers outside that narrow but important circle in which they played their parts. Many, if not most, of those readers will find it dull, for it requires a good deal of rather specialized knowledge of circumstances and events to appreciate its quality.

But if the reader is patient or if he skips these 'Tales of a Grandfather,' as he is very apt to do - and goes on to the second volume, he enters not only another age, but another atmosphere. He seems to be reading the work of another man. He comes at once into a narrative of great events, vigorous, entertaining, even enthralling; lively, 'revealing,' even at times more humorous than one conceived the author, and of the highest significance to the history of the Great War. Mr. Asquith did not keep a diary in the

formal sense of the word, but he did, as he says, jot down from time to time a series of memoranda, and these 'Contemporary Notes' as they are here printed offer one of the most vivid and illuminating series of side lights - and even more than side lights upon events and characters on the English side of the Great War which one reader, at least, has seen. Nor does it detract from their interest that much of the contents was already known or suspected, for the impressions made on a mind like that of Mr. Asquith are in themselves of the highest interest and importance. The impact of those events on such a mind as his, legal, parliamentary, logical, rather detached, and as these memoirs prove fair beyond most men, at once raises one's opinion of the man and reveals the gulf which yawned between him and the politicians of the new generation.

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Nowhere is that more evident than in the chapters which deal with the years since the war. The Coupon Election,' the Marconi episode, the Contemporary Notes' of 1920-1924, provide a comment on what are almost current events of the greatest interest. From the break-up of the first coalition to the virtual break-up of the Liberal Party will undoubtedly form a period in history of critical importance to British politics, and when that history comes to be written its historian will find here material of first-rate importance, as its readers now find it of first-rate interest. Yet, even so, historian and reader alike will find here little of that spirit of 'now it can be told' which has disgraced so much of these writings of recent years. For Mr. Asquith was not merely a great statesman of a passing school; he was a great gentleman of - shall we say? also a passing school of politics.

WILBUR C. ABBOTT The Children, by Edith Wharton. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1928. 12mo. 347 pp. $2.50.

IN novels dealing primarily with situation, the reader asks first of all, and quite rightly expects. that the outcome, the solution, or perhaps only the conclusion, as the case may be, convey the unmistakable impression of inevitableness. Mrs.

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2

the most important novel of the year

SWAN
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by John Galsworthy

"In his Forsyte canvas John Galsworthy has painted a masterpiece that will endure."-Percy Hutchison in the New York Times.

Charles Scribner's Sons, New York

$2.50

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Wharton, who years since admirably proved her mastership of such a novel, has especially in The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence, and Old New York established a reputation for excellence in this outstanding feature reputation which her more thoughtful readers hate to see marred. Laurence Selden at the bedside of the dead Lily Bart, Newland Archer gazing from the Place des Invalides at the Countess Olenska's drawn curtains, Ethan Frome coming into the shabby sitting room and into the querulous presence of Mattie Silver, now old these closing chapters, satisfying, convincing, inevitable, are immortal in American letters. They mock the last pages of this new story, The Children, just as they mocked the chimerical complications of Twilight Sleep.

The Children is from beginning to end an unconvincing novel. How reluctant is one whom Mrs. Wharton has so profoundly stirred to write the words! And yet a second reading sheds no kinder light. The events so fraught with significance and tragedy only dawdle; they do not march on toward any inevitable close. One tries in vain to sympathize with the seven children, who illustrate in their incredibly mixed relationships and in their crass discussions of the liaisons of their various parents the cruelty of nonchalant divorce. They are not real like Margaret Kennedy's consummate creations in The Constant Nymph, of which one discerns here not a little influence. Nor, with the exception of Judith, their mothering elder sister who is keeping them together at any cost, are they appealing. One cannot, of course, in the absence of reality expect appeal.

Martin Boyne, one feels, should be pitied. By force of circumstances and by virtue of his own kindliness he is drawn into the position of guardian and father confessor to the seven children on their journeyings and sojourns about Europe. In spite of his satisfaction with his engagement to a woman whom he has long loved, but who because of her own unhappy marriage has been virtuously unattainable, he finds himself overwhelmingly in love with Judith, thirty years his junior. A situation, surely, which should command our sympathy! But dutiful pity is a sad and sorry emotion, whether it be demanded by books or by life, and we cannot share Boyne's loneliness on the closing page. If only, as in former days, Mrs. Wharton had compelled our pity instead of merely asking for it!

We miss, too, in this new novel, scenes which by reason of their own truth and strength might be stamped on our memories forever. We recall Lily Bart sewing spangles in Mademoiselle Regina's millinery shop and seeing the distorted image of the New York world she knew in the mirror of the working girls' minds; Newland Archer and the Countess Olenska gazing at each other across the red-covered table at Point Arley; Mattie Silver at the breaking of the pickle dish in the farmhouse kitchen; the old maid at the marriage of her daughter. No one scene in any

sense comparable to these strikes flame to run along the pages of The Children.

Mrs. Wharton, incapable as always of bad workmanship, writes easily and well. Her style, although for the most part undistinguished in this latest book, is never actually at fault. There are paragraphs of good description which in a measure atone for certain overdone figures. But we look in vain for unforgettable characters, for scenes which, lending experience and wisdom, make us wise and pitiful, and for a conclusion which is inevitable and hence satisfying. MARY ELLEN CHASE

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Goethe: the History of a Man, by Emil Ludwig. Translated from the German by Ethel Colburn Mayne. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1928. 8vo. v+647 pp. Illus. $5.00.

Is this book an adequate exposition of the life work of a great master of literature? How could it be, when not even an attempt is made to analyze, for instance, the style or the characters of The Sorrows of Werther? Is it an authoritative interpretation of the intellectual message of a world-embracing sage? How could it be, when there is hardly a hint in it about Goethe's relation to other great intellectuals, such as Plato or Spinoza, or Voltaire or Kant?

And yet, to those of us who delight in the portrayal of living beings, this is not only a fascinating but a great book. No other writer on Goethe, not even Hermann Grimm or Gundolf, has succeeded as Emil Ludwig has in what he himself calls 'reconstructing the genuine man who really lived from the aesthetic divinity' or in making us eyewitnesses of the 'sixty years' battle which his Genius fought with his Dæmon and from which he finally wrested a kind of tragic victory.' Here indeed is the first book in which Goethe has been brought out, not primarily as an author, or a type of a particular age or race, but as a unique and enigmatic individual swayed by elemental, timeless, and supraracial emotions. It is not an accident that this book should have been written by an internationally-minded Jew.

As an emotional biography, it is a product of supreme workmanship. Ludwig has steeped himself in the whole of Goethe's soul life. He has himself lived over all of Goethe's moods, illusions, frivolities, strivings, passions, disappointments, despairs, cynicisms, longings, exultations, ravings, inspirations, aspirations, visions of the infinite. Every circumstance, every situation that called forth all these conflicting outbursts of feeling, are present to him as if they were a part of his own experience. Every word of Goethe's about himself, every observation of contemporaries about him, seem to be stored up in his mind, ready to leap forth spontaneously at the right moment. Thus there is produced an organic whole which in unity, rhythm, and intensity of effect can be compared only to some great orchestral masterpiece.

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And what a world it is—this soul life of Goethe as reproduced here! How infinitely superior to the traditional conception of the youthful Apollo and the aged Zeus, of the sacrosanct incarnation of harmony and beauty, is this life tossed about from first to last by the tempests of passion, but also 'forever dedicated' as in one of his early letters he said he wanted to be 'to that sacred thing called Love which gradually drives out, by its own pure influence, the alien elements within, so that at last the whole is pure as virgin gold'! To have shown how this man of turbulent spirit, a Faust and Mephisto in one, ever at war with himself, ever conscious of the 'two souls within his breast,' often succumbing to the lower instinct, derived from this very duality of his nature not ennui, despondency, or distrust of the world, but an abiding and ever loftier enthusiasm, an ever wider conception of humanity and the universe, and an ever more ardent zeal for constructive activity, is to have done a service to an age still suffering from the paralyzing effects of a world catastrophe.

This book rises far above the level of mere scholarship into the realm of creative art. KUNO FRANCKE

The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution, by H. G. Wells. Garden City: Doubleday, Doran & Co. 8vo. xii+200 pp. $2.00.

MR. WELLS has at last given definite form to his long-cherished vision of a world commonwealth which shall bring order and plenty to harassed humanity. He does not make clear his reasons for calling his political and economic aspirations a religion; but he is probably aware that the word was never so popular as now, when secular writers proclaim in the press instead of in the pulpit, where they belong the worth of their own creeds, and the futility of their neighbors'. The first chapter of The Open Conspiracy is entitled 'Necessity of Religion to Human Life,' which sounds like Matthew Arnold. In the twelfth chapter Mr. Wells boldly christens his exposition a 'modern Bible.' But no sooner have we attuned our minds to this point of view, believing that so long as man has a soul he is open to some sort of religious conviction, than we find ourselves thrust out from all partnership in the world's redemption. The 'Conspiracy,' we are told, involves 'a skeptical and destructive criticism of personal-immortality religions, and also of the sacred formula of Communism. It can work and may go far in certain ways with Christians or Communists; but it cannot incorporate them so long as they are Christians or Communists.'

So there goes spiritual liberty to the wall. Freedom, as of old, unfurls her banner on the 'mountain heights,' and we poor mortals down in the streets live under a fresh compulsion.

Three things are absolutely essential to the new order. The control of the world's loyalties,

which means the abolishment of nationalism; the control of the world's industries, which means the abolishment of private 'business directorates'; and the control of the world's population, which means a regulated birth rate from Pole to Pole. The first condition is made difficult by 'a vast degrading and dangerous cultivation of loyalty.' France honors her army, England honors her navy, America honors her flag; and it is hard to make these seemingly intelligent nations understand that the 'traditional honorableness' of their defenders is but a disguise for an 'essentially parasitic relationship.' The second condition seems to Mr. Wells to bear a more promising aspect. He is sure that the day will come when men who seek to handle for their own gain the supplies of the world will be looked upon as 'quaint characters,' a phrase which is far from fitting them to-day. As for universal birthcontrol (and anything less would be more dangerous than helpful), it is still so purely problematic that speculation and argument are a waste of words.

Nobody doubts that life as we know it can bear mending, and nobody should deny a hearing to one who seeks to mend it. To be satisfied with conditions that are good for the few and bad for the many is an ignoble contentment. To take the world as we find it has the selfishness of sound philosophy. But it is not unreasonable to suppose that the forces which have helped in the past are worth preserving for the future, that the secret thinking of humanity is an imperishable heritage. "The established spiritual values,' says Mr. Aldous Huxley, 'are fundamentally correct and should be maintained.'

Otherwise we have been the sport of the gods. AGNES REPPLIER

All Kneeling, by Anne Parrish. New York: Harper & Bros. 1928. 8vo. 323 pp. $2.50.

As smooth, soft, and alluring as a lady's taffeta boudoir is this story of Christabel, the angelfaced egotist. Against a background of gently adoring parents, equally adoring and opulent great-aunts, and one quizzical, but quiet, greatuncle, the exquisite child Christabel felt herself a 'flower in a November garden.' Only, unfortunately, that was the sort of thing one could n't say about one's self: sturdy Germantown lacked sufficient poetic imagination to realize fully how poetic her rare spirit was against its substantial mundane setting. At an age when she should have been relishing pepper pot, scrapple, and Philadelphia ice cream, Christabel began to draw her chief nourishment from the dangerous nectar of adulation. Her addiction took her far, and her skill in satisfying it brought her much. It impelled her to write slender volumes of verse, exotic novels; it led her through the giddy playground of New York's Bohemia to a marriage so safely insulated with wealth that she might play with fire as she pleased without endangering the

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