« AnkstesnisTęsti »
the store, the salesman requires an assistant to handle the goods; and one of the boys is named for the service. Fortunate youth! If he is clever, he studies the shades, qualities, and prices of the fabrics; makes himself agreeable to the customer; and watches
CULTURE AND PROGRESS.
Cable's "Madame Delphine." *
It is a marked evidence of Mr. Cable's range and general force as a writer that he has constructed in this novelette an impressive tragedy without the use of the element of humor, which in the highest examples of fictitious writing, whether dramatic or narrative, has been the handmaid of tragedy. A reader, making acquaintance with this book, would have no basis from which to infer that fine sense of the incongruities which permeates his other work, and which overflows in the rollicking fun of "Posson Jone'." Conversely, one who should read "Posson Jone'"-a story without the sentiment of love,-indeed, without a female personage-would never know with what delicacy and refined suggestion of femininity Mr. Cable depicts a woman, and especially a beautiful woman, in love. However, though without a humorous character, scene, paragraph, or line, "Madame Delphine" is not a tour de force of somber plotting, but a readable and picturesque setting of a naturally
acted drama on the theme of the inductive or vicarious responsibility for sin. Mr. Cable does not assume the burden of this theme to be proved as a proposition -he is too true an artist for that-but has left it where it ought to rest-upon the characters, and has subdued it to a distinct undertone of a story which owes its main interest to characterization and action. The moral is lightly carried, and not heavily dragged by the movement of the plot: there are no détours, no superfluities, and the close construction of the story gives it a buoyancy as a book which its compactness may have led one to overlook in the always exacting and often exasperating slowness of a serial.
Considered from a literary point of view, “Madame Delphine" is an advance on any one of Mr. Cable's previous short stories and on much of "The Grandissimes," in which the scene gave more opportunities for excess of writing as background to the heroic action and large drawing. Here every word is directly in the drift of the story. The style is polished but not ornate-rather like the furniture of Père Jerome's room," carved just enough to give the notion of wrinkling pleasantry." There are more uniformly elegant writers of contemporary fiction than Mr. Cable, but we can think of none more vital, none who gives more direct evidence of genius. He
Madame Delphine. By George W. Cable, author of "Old Creole Days" and "The Grandissimes." New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. London: Frederick Warne & Co.
the market. Then, perhaps, when the salesman is out, one day, a customer comes in, to whom he makes a sale himself-and this is the first step toward the attainment of one of the best positions in commercial life. WILLIAM H. RIDEING.
reminds one of nobody. Except for a rare whiff of Victor Hugo, he has an uninvaded individuality. It would be hard to find in current literature scenes to exceed in freshness, force, and charm Madame Delphine's disavowal of her daughter, or Lemaitre's discovery of Olive in the moonlit garden-where the ground seemed to him "an unsteady sea and he to stand once more upon a deck." How aptly, too, these words heighten the situation by recalling the first meeting of the two on shipboard! The book is full of such passages appealing to the imagination and preparing the way for some telling scene. is more than good reading—it is good art.
The story is also an advance along the line of the weakest, or rather the least strong, of Mr. Cable's qualities as a writer-his sense of proportion. In "The Grandissimes," the casual reader once in a while was puzzled by the emphasis laid upon minor scenes and people. This is the fault of "Gabriel Conroy," and of most other first novels. The atmosphere is rarer than in a short story: one is deceived as to distances and forces are miscalculated. Doubtless something similar is the experience of a brigadier-general who is called for the first time to handle a corps in action. There are but slender traces of this fault in "Madame Delphine," and it is so surely a fault merely of inexperience that we may confidently look for its disappearance in Mr. Cable's (or Mr. Harte's) next novel. It is even now compensated for by the extreme vigor and clarity of his characterization-which is the most evident excellence of this book. There is, properly speaking, no hero and no heroine, but four evenly sustained characters, unmistakably human and all unmistakably different. Indeed, take any two characters created by Mr. Cable, select the two most alike, and the likeness will only be the likeness of the genus, while there will still be wide individual differences, mental and physical. This can be said of very few other writers of the day it is much to say of any writer at a time when English character-drawing is largely vague and metaphysical, when characters often stand for single forces instead of for men and women, and
when the tendencies of criticism and of creative art are to exalt the contemplative above the dramatic. Mr. Cable's work is free from the malaria of dilettanteism; it has a strong backbone of popular interest, and it may be commended to the American reader or the foreign critic as a portion of that too small body of current writing which is likely to last and be referred to as American literature.
Gosse's Selection of "English Odes."'*
WHAT is an ode?
The word, as employed by the English poets, is greatly in need of definition. It is not a verse-form like the sonnet, nor does it imply any particular kind of theme or treatment. Metrically, it may vary from the simplest stanza, as in Cowper's "Boadicea," to the elaborate harmonies of "Alexander's Feast," or "The Progress of Poesy." Why should not any lyrical poem whatever be called an ode? And yet, in fact, a difference is recognized between the ode and simpler forms of the lyric. No one would think of calling the songs of Shakspere, or of Burns, odes. The distinction is one to be felt rather than stated, though it may be affirmed in a general way that the ode carries with it the notion of a more formal, artificial, and less spontaneous expression than the song.
The difficulty of supplying a definition of the word seems to have been appreciated by Mr. Gosse, in making his little collection of English odes. Twentyeight poets-from Spenser to Swinburne-contribute to fill a volume of some two hundred and sixty pages, and the editor gives us an introduction, written with that nice scholarship and sureness of taste which have already placed him high on the list of English critics. In discussing the history of the ode, he reminds us that the word had almost the same looseness of meaning in Greek as in English. Two forms of the Greek ode, however, developed into a certain fixity of structure, and this by reason of their musical accompaniments: namely, the Ætolian, which was set to simple airs, and written, therefore, in simple measures; and the Dorian, which was married to the more elaborate "Dorian mood." The Ætolian ode is popularly known to modern readers as the Horatian, the Latin poet having reproduced the Sapphic, Alcaic, and Anacreontic meters of the originals. The triumphal odes of Pindar are the best representatives of the complicated Dorian ode.
It is manifest that the effect to a Greek ear of one of the odes of Simonides or Pindar cannot be furnished by any modern imitation. To say nothing of that fatal difference between quantity and accent which separates all ancient from all modern verse, the measures of the Dorian ode depended, in a peculiarly intricate way, upon the Dorian musical system. The musical clew is lost, and, though the poet may imitate the triple construction of the Pindaric ode in strophe, antistrophe, and epode, and may reproduce the measure, line for line and foot for foot, the effect will be merely mechanical. And, in fact, there is apt to be something mechanical about the best English Pindarics. Cowley, who began the fashion, had not learned the secret of Pindar's verse, but he tried to produce a similar effect by a certain abrupt irregularity and variety of meter. "The odes of Pindar," says Mr. Gosse," so far from being, as used to be supposed, utterly licentious in their
• English Odes, selected by Edmund W. Gosse. London: C. Kegan Paul & Co. 1881.
irregularity, are more like the canzos and sirventes of the medieval troubadours than any modern verse. In each case the apparent looseness and actual rigidity of form depend upon the exigencies of the music, which strained the poet's art to its utmost, yet never released him from its bondage."
Without this guide, Cowley floundered helplessly. Nothing can be more wooden than his odes, unless it be the odes of some of his followers, like Addison and Pope. The verse is teased into a sound and fury, the diction tortured into a kind of spurious grandeur. In a period when all English poetry was artificial, the Pindaric ode was most emphatically so. Its lawlessness offered a convenient cover for all manner of poetic incompetence. 'They that could do nothing else," complains Dr. Johnson, "could write like Pindar." Dr. Johnson said many fatuous things about Gray, and yet we must confess to having shared, in some degree, his feeling about "the wonderful wonder of wonders, the two sister odes." "His art and his struggle are too visible"; he sustains himself at that great height, not with the steady impulse of "the Theban eagle,” but by rapid and laborious beatings of the wings. The best odes have, perhaps, been written by those who wrote with most forgetfulness of Pindar.
Mr. Gosse has been fortunate in his selections. A few amendments might, however, be suggested. Spenser's "Epithalamium" is given, but not the equally beautiful "Prothalamium." Drayton's spirited "Ode to the Cambro-Britons on their Harp" might well have been included. Prior's "Ode on the Taking of Namur" deserves no place in such a collection. Mr. Gosse's definition of an ode is worth giving: "We take as an ode any strain of enthusiastic and exalted lyrical verse, directed to a fixed purpose, and dealing progressively with one dignified theme." Perhaps this answers the question with which we began, but we imagine that the plain, blunt man, when asked what an ode is, will still answer, “It is a poem to something or on something."
Bastian on "The Brain as an Organ of Mind."*
THE adaptation of the acts of animals to their needs can be observed, described, and estimated independently of any theory as to the way in which it is brought about. It is a relation between purely material things-muscular contractions on the one side and certain physical requirements of the animal or its offspring on the other. We are, however, in the habit of inferring from such acts as these the conscious processes of the animal, putting ourselves in his place, as it were, and forming an estimate of his mental powers conceived in terms of our own feelings. But while the word "mind" usually directs attention straight to the conscious intelligence, and not to the physical relation from which it is inferred and estimated, it seems in these days sometimes to be used simply for this latter. And there is some ex
The Brain as an Organ of Mind. By H. Charlton Bastian, author of "Evolution and the Origin of Life," etc., etc. D. Appleton & Co. 1881.
cuse for this, since this relation is a very common and very important one. In this altered or denuded sense we understand the title of Dr. Bastian's book, "The Brain as an Organ of Mind." The group of questions here discussed relate to the part which the brain plays in bringing about the adaptation of the acts to the need of animals.
The play of physical forces constituting the physiology of the central nervous system is so complex and delicate that it is of all things perhaps the least known, and the general ways of looking at these processes, coming as they do from evidence that is scattered, remote, and, after all, scanty, are not the same for all men, and it be comes important to understand the point of view of the author. He does not regard the soul as occupying a gap between sensory impressions coming in and motor impulses going out. He denies the existence of such a gap, and regards all the changes which take place as in harmony with the generalizations of chemistry and physics from phenomena taking place outside of the living body. The chain of physical cause and effect is complete, and behind the voluntary actions of man lie no exceptions. This is materialism. But it is of the affirming, not the denying, kind. It may be oversanguine for science, for the possibility of expressing in general terms the succession of physical states, but no one has ever been able to show that there is any incompatibility between such materialism as this and the positive teachings of well-accredited orthodoxy. This being the general view taken in this volume of the nature of the material phenomena, those of consciousness take their place easily as the attendants of certain parts of the material succession. And there are two kinds of questions: first, those of pure nerve mechanics, the explanation of the effects of pure physical causation; and second, the determination of the correspondences between consciousness and nervous activity. But as the results of introspective psychology give us here and there valuable hints in the investigation of cerebral physiology, it is unwise to keep them entirely separate, and the reader will find in this book a rather easy turning from one kind of considerations to the other.
The plan of the book takes in a very considerable amount of comparative anatomy-somewhat more than a third of the book; and it is rather dull, and to a certain extent it seems misplaced.
The discussion of instinct occupies some space, and is interesting. We apply the word instinctive to such purposeful acts of animals as are not directed by individual experience. They are innate tendencies to activity. But not all such innate tendencies are instinctive-only such as are very special and complicated, and unmodified by circumstances. And instinct is not marked off by any sharp line from things that are not instinct-from such things as the human belief in universal causation, for example. There has been, doubtless, a tendency to overrate the instinctive character of the innate tendencies of brutes-that is, to make them somewhat too special, and too little modifiable by circumstances and experience-too stiff, as it were. Under the title of plas
ticity of instinct, this subject is discussed, and the following instance is quoted from "Romanes," page 232:
"Three years ago, I gave a pea-fowl's egg to a Brahma hen to hatch. The hen was an old one, and had previously reared many broods of ordinary chickens with unusual success even for one of her breed. In order to hatch the pea-chick, she had to sit one week longer than is necessary to hatch an ordinary chick. The object with which I made this experiment, however, was that of ascer. taining whether the period of maternal care subse. quent to incubation admits under peculiar conditions of being prolonged; for a pea-chick requires such care for a very much longer time than does an ordinary chick. As the separation between a hen and her chickens always appears to be due to the former driving away the latter when they are old enough to shift for themselves, I scarcely expected the hen in this case to prolong her period of maternal care, and, indeed, only tried the experiment because I thought that, if she did so, the fact would be the best one imaginable to show in what a high degree hereditary instinct may be modified by peculiar individual experience. The result was very surprising. For the enormous period of eighteen months, this old Brahma hen remained with her ever-growing chicken, and throughout the whole of that time she continued to pay it unremitting attention. She never laid any eggs during this lengthened period of maternal supervision, and if, at any time, she became accidentally separated from her charge, the distress of both mother and chicken was very great. Eventually the separation seemed to take place on the side of the peacock.
I may observe that the peacock reared by this Brahma hen turned out a finer bird in every way than did any of his brothers of the same brood which were reared by their own mother; but that, on repeating the experiment next year with another Brahma hen and several pea-chickens, the result was different, for the hen deserted her family at the time when it was natural for ordinary hens to do so, and, in consequence, all the pea-chickens miserably perished."
The question arises whether we have also been led into the converse mistake with regard to man, and have not recognized the large amount of instinct, or inheritance of very special tendencies of action, which obtains in him. It is a difficult thing to discriminate between what is learned and what is inherited, especially as what is inherited by no means necessarily appears at once after birth, but also in the course of the child's development. The following story, page 606, if it can be believed, seems to point to much more extended special inheritance by man than we are accustomed to admit :
"In the year 1877, the writer was consulted concerning the health of a boy, the son of a leading barrister, who was then twelve years old, and had been subject to 'fits' at intervals.' The first fits occurred in infancy, when the patient was about nine months old. Toward the end of the second year these fits seemed to have ceased, and the child appeared suffi. ciently intelligent-to be well, in fact, in all respects except that he did not talk. When nearly five years old the little fellow still had not spoken a single word, and about this time two eminent physicians were consulted in regard to his dumbness. But before the expiration of another twelve months, as
his mother reports, on the occasion of an accident happening to one of his favorite toys, he suddenly exclaimed, 'What a pity!' though he had never previously spoken a single word. The same words could not be repeated, nor were others spoken, not. withstanding all entreaties, for a period of two weeks. Thereafter the boy progressed rapidly, and speedily became most talkative. When seen by the writer he spoke in an ordinary manner, without the least sign of impediment or defect."
It seems extremely difficult to believe that the practical knowledge of the way to make the different sounds recognizable by the ear should be inherited in its entirety, instead of being acquired by individual experiment, as it usually seems to be. Yet this is what this story directly testifies to, and Mr. Bastian assures us of its thorough reliability. This is one of the most remarkable, not to say incredible, evidences of human instinct that we have met.
The book as a whole is not marked by any great originality or profundity, but it is a useful compilation by a competent man-a man of work and of dis
Preble's "History of the Flags of the United States."*
THE title of this book deserves to be given in full, for, comprehensive as it is, its contents completely justify it. The work is remarkable both for its scope and completeness, and in another respect is still more remarkable. It is a book that grew,-not made with a preconceived purpose, from previously acquired knowledge,—but one that literally grew like the acquisition of a science or an art, where the student is led from some small beginning to climb up, step by step, from pure love of the pursuit, till the top and the end is reached. Its germ was a newspaper article; its first bud, another newspaper article; this expanded into a pamphlet; that, at last, increased to this large octavo volume of near eight hundred and fifty pages. It is quite probable that when Midshipman Preble first stepped upon the quarter-deck of a ship he may have glanced aloft with a lurking thought somewhere at the bottom of his heart that the day might come when Admiral Preble's signal should fly from the main-mast. It was not in the least probable that, when he sent his first little letter on the American flag for a corner in a newspaper, he thought his name would ever stand upon the title-page of a book like this, to take its place in literature as an historical authority. Yet the authorship has come as certainly as the admiralship, and come as naturally and almost as inevitably. The book is as the end and outcome of a voyage wherein the globe was circumnavigated, all its oceans trav. ersed, all its nations visited, all its coasts surveyed, but which at the beginning was only meant to be a sail down the harbor.
History of the Flags of the United States of America, and of the Naval and Yacht-club Signals, Seals and Arms, and Principal National Songs of the United States, with a Chronicle of the Symbols, Standards, Banners, and Flags of Ancient and Modern Nations. By George Henry Preble, Rear-Admiral, U. S. N Second Revised Edition. Illustrated with Ten Colored Plates, Two Hundred Engravings on Wood, and Maps and Autographs. Boston: A. Williams & Company.
In reading the volume, one has the pleasant picture always before him of the old sailor, his cruises and his battles all over and well finished, rounding out his life in completing the history of a subject the first thought of which came to him as he looked up from the deck of his ship to the flag floating over his head, and wondered where it came from. He was put there for its defense; to him it was the symbol of personal honor and love of country; whatever interest might in time gather about it as a subject of historical research and literary labor, this first interest had its root in a deep personal and professional love for the flag of his country, intrusted to his keeping and never for a moment forgotten. Charming as it is to see the unaffected pride and patriotic affec tion which illuminate so many pages of the book, it is no less notable that the perfect impartiality of the historian is never missing.
A considerable portion of the volume is devoted to the flag in the Rebellion of 1860-65. The incidents of that time are recalled with the deepest, and often with an impassioned, fervor. And yet these pages, where between the lines can be read the intense feeling of twenty years ago, are as impartial as a mathematical treatise. The facts are given with the precision of mathematical lines and figures, and nothing can be more refreshing than the perfect unconsciousness with which it is taken for granted that two and two still make four. Clearly it would be hopeless for anybody to ask this old sea-king to believe that they ever can make either three or five.
But, putting aside the characteristics, intellectual and moral, of this work, as a mere history of flags, and especially of the American flag, both loyal and rebel, in the war of the Rebellion, it is one of great value, and one which leaves nothing more to be said upon the subject.
Three "Round Robin" Novels.*
SHOULD judgment be made from the first specimens of the series announced under the motto, 'Perhaps it may turn out a song, perhaps turn out a sermon," it will appear that the Round Robin Series is to belong to the safe class of eminently respect. able novels of the American type, neither so long as their ordinary English cousins, nor so dull, yet with less chance of including, by one of those mistakes which the safest publishers sometimes make, a work of actual genius. The opening for such literary ventures is immense in this country, the propor tion of readers who enjoy the feebly ideal or upper mediocre class of fiction being to all appearance greater in the United States than in any other land. Such readers demand nice type and pretty covers; they want sentiment, it is true, but sentiment of that vague and improbable kind that does not make them "think of things." They want harsh facts and grim actualities in the experience of nearly every man and woman covered deep under those layers
* A Nameless Nobleman. Round Robin Series. Boston: James R. Osgood & Co. 1881. The Georgians. The same. A Lesson in Love. The same.
of conventionality in literature which are so easy to make, so pleasant to feel, but, to those who are forced to read novels in and out of season, so utterly unintelligent and hopeless. Like a poor stone in a fine setting, many of these novels attract the eye by their neat and sometimes tasteful outward look, only to prove mere husks-the nerveless imaginings of people who have had no experience in life, or the smart echoes of great writers, or the hypocritical enthusiasms of those who know what life can be, and, in the process of learning, have discovered that nothing is so salable as untruth.
It is only fair to "A Nameless Nobleman" to point out that the above is general in its application, and refers to classes of novels, not to the individual. For "A Nameless Nobleman " has undeniable merit
of its gentle kind, that raises it above the ruck of passing fiction without removing it entirely from the breed. Descriptions of manorial gardens of
fair Provence alternate with seasonable sketches of life on the New England coast in the days when it appeared as if the French were more firmly settled in North America than the English. There are pretty scenes between the exile in hiding and the hostess who becomes his wife. The fate of the young girl whom Paris attracts from her quiet life in Provence as a candle a moth, forms the antithesis of that of her cousin and lover, who becomes, under a plain name, a physician in the New World. Should none of the "Round Robins" fall below this in merit, the cry of pessimism against the critic were indeed in order. But that the standard cannot be held, is proved in "A Lesson in Love," the second venture, a feeble performance in every way, and not calculated to reflect credit on the writer to whom reports give the authorship.
With "The Georgians," however, the standard again rises, and to a point higher than it has reached hitherto. For "The Georgians," though it does not read like the work of a skilled hand, proceeds from what is even better, a thoughtful mind, on which the world and its lessons have not failed to make a solid mark. The scenes are laid in new land, the State of Georgia since the war; and the sympathetic treatment of Baptists and revivals is both courageous and novel. Yet the best of the book is the worst-the moral of it. The Countess Orlanoff, whose husband is in an insane asylum abroad, yields to her new love for Laurens, a manly young Georgian, before the news arrives that her husband is dead. This mars their wedded life, as we are distinctly left to infer, although coldness similar to that which exists between Félise and her second husband might easily spring from twenty other grounds. Yet the assumption that her guilty conscience, and perhaps a lurking contempt on his part, should always keep them unhappy, is excellent in its way and forms an admirable close to a story that has much that is good otherwise. It is the one of the three novels of the series which shows distinct mark of promise in the authoress.
Francillon's "Under Slieve-Ban." *
It is a curious fact that the talent for constructing intricate plots is rarely coupled with acute observation and a pure and graceful style. Tourguéneff, whose faculty of observation is as minute as it is profound, selects a few commonplace incidents as the groundwork of his tales, but never attempts to construct an ingenious entanglement of circumstances and events. George Eliot and Thackeray, whose psychological insight was unsurpassed, placed as little reliance upon the mere external complica. tions of incidents, and in fact valued an incident chiefly for its typical quality, its liability to occur in any life, rather than for its rarity and exceptional character. We are inclined to think that the rule holds good in all the more conspicuous cases in modern literature. Novelists of the Wilkie Collins
type, who search police records and biographies of criminals for hysterical sensations, who select by preference murderers, lunatics, and other abnormal
creatures as their heroes, are rarely persons of delicate perceptions or masters of style. Mr. Francillon, who, we regret to say, belongs remotely to this school, shows, however, his taste for the abnormal not so much in the character of his hero as in the invention of curious adventures. Michael Fay, in "Under Slieve-Ban," is an Irishman who, for aught we know, may have several counterparts on the Emerald Isle. He has an 66 "Irish heart," "Irish blood," and various other Celtic peculiarities; though. one cannot help wondering in what respect the anatomy of an Irishman differs from that of the rest of mankind. Michael Fay, who is otherwise not very strikingly individualized, performs a series of noble and heroic acts, and after having been knocked about on land and sea for many years, returns to his native isle, and reaps the reward of his fidelity to the woman of his choice. It seems at first sight as if the catalogue of the wonderful had been exhausted in the narrative of Michael Fay's adventures; we have no doubt, however, but that Jules Verne might possibly "go one better."
To those who enjoy an old-fashioned novel of the thrilling sort we can heartily recommend "Under Slieve-Ban." It is so full of surprises that the reader is forced to hold his breath from the beginning of each chapter to its very end. And those who enjoy the factitious excitement attendant upon this kind of exercise will undoubtedly feel repaid for their labor. For the plot, disbelieve it as we may, is very skillfully constructed, and the incidents (though told in a bald and unpretentious style) are yet sufficiently unhackneyed to save one's self-respect and furnish one with an excuse for being so cheaply entertained. The only attempt at characterization in the book is the school-master Dennis, alias Dionysius, Rooney, whose classical learning and indomitable poetic conceit are very cleverly combined and vaguely point to a living prototype. Kate Callan and Phil Ryan, on the other hand, are thoroughly conventional and commonplace.
Under Slieve-Ban: A Yarn in Seven Knots. By R. E Francillon. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 1881.