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Of course, his letters were omitted, as were those of Thackeray, by request of his executors.
Naturally, in dealing with biography, Mr. Meredith expressed his views at times on the subject as well as the manner of its treatment. For instance, "Lammenais is always interesting," he says of a translation, "but forgotten by the public." In reporting on Captain Bingham's book, Recollections of Paris, he says the author "mentions General Marbot's memoirs for translation. I can tell you that Marbot's
book is the most vivid and captivating I have met for many a day."
Of J. Fitzmaurice Kelly's Life of Cervantes he reports:
Well written-by a scholarly hand. and, I should think, a very promising author, whom it would be well to attach to the firm. The objec
tions to the purchase are, however, serious. Ormsey's Memoir and Watts's Life hold the field. The former is a stylish and the latter an accomplished scholar in the subject. I have to question whether our public is open to yet another book on Cervantes. I should say not-I regret such a conclusion.
"Gregorovius," he said, in speaking of a translation of his History of Rome in the Middle Ages, " is a competent and thoughtful historian. When
you debate as to the publication of it. bear in mind that we have not in England a book treating of the Rome of that period."
"A bright and lively biography of Albert Smith," he said, in considering a manuscript life of him, "might be read-if short and in full sympathy with the small but amusing fellow he This treats him as a personage, quotes from works, &c., and is by a hand inferior to his in ability. It is very weakly done. If competently Albert done, the work would pay. Smith, the writer, should be rapidly passed over, and the successful humorous showman presented with animation."
Mr. Meredith's interest in all that concerned Germany brought his mind to bear minutely on a book on Bismarck. Apart from the value of the criticism, as such, on the book, it incidentally exhibits his knowledge of the subject of the manuscript and his times:
The anecdotal Biography of Bismarck would be promising if it were rather more put into shape. The
reader is wearied with the gossipy harking forward and back. As there is nothing else of the kind at present, it is worth while for some trouble to be taken to describe the parts currently. First, Bismarck's struggle with the Prussian Chamber to get an increase of the army; then the Bohemian campaign, rapidly, but in progression; then the difficulty with the King, to prevent him from taking his conqueror's due of Austria-in view of the His dealwar with France to come. ings with Benedetti are very interesting. Two pages might be given to his management of the Treaty of Nikolaberg. Again with Benedetti before the war of 1870-I don't know what use has been made of the book by Busch, or whether it is legally permissible to Look to that. levy contribution on it.
.. If you come to terms with the author of the Bismarck, I may be able to help with an anecdote or two, for which I can vouch.
Again, we find how thoroughly and conscientiously he had read a book by Jules Simon, perhaps one of the most painstaking of his many honest opinions. It has a peculiar interest to-day, as containing a prominent reference to the cause of women.
Against the project of the purchase of J. Simon's book is:
The large sum asked for a translation.
The fact that it is addressed directly to the French, and touching French rather than general conditions.
That such a subject chiefly interests cultivated persons, who prefer to read it in the original.
That it holds a balance, and does not prick the enthusiasm of a party. In favor. The firmly:
The writing is good, in some chapters rather lively, although too distended in some.
The conservatism will commend it to our Press, and cause favorable discussion, thus arousing interest in the public.
The tone is altogether delicate and
inoffensive. There is much good sense in it, good counsel.
New ideas-that is, a reading of the present state of things, relating to women, by the light of the past, in anticipation of their future-I do not find. J. Simon judges fairly of the women of an existing development. He does not treat of the powers they might display under better training; and of how an enlargement of their understandings must affect the great question; nor of the contraction of their understandings caused by an exclusive devotion to maternity and domesticity; nor of what is involved in it, as regards the advancement of the
A study of Walt Whitman by J. C. Smuts brought the criticism:
This writer is a thinker and can Had his give his meaning clearly. theme been Goethe, whom he justly would have appreciates, the book seized our public. Perhaps his exposition of Whitman may commend it to Americans. Here the Whitman cult He has, howhas passed for a time. ever, foundation in the enduring; the book is worth perusal and will reward reflection, though, as it is not opportune, it is unlikely for the present to Whitman causes win many readers. him to attribute too much frequency to the quoted matter. But mainly the view of Whitman's teaching is sound.
A small book by Edward Salmon, entitled Some Men of To-day, he described Lord Salisbury, A. as "well written. Froude thoughtfully Balfour, and am among sketched. I see that I them and he gives me criticism."
Nature books appealed to Mr. Meredith, but only if of real distinction. He appreciated Charles Dixon's ornithological books up to a point, but latterly complained that he wrote too much. He had admiration for the works of A Sea Painter's Log; Robert C. Leslie. A Waterbiography; Old Sea Wings, Ways and Words; The Sea Boat-all met with
his full appreciation. pleasantly suggestive
"Excellent and you are safe in this writer's hands," he wrote of Old Sea Wings; and of The Sea Boat, "I have an esteem for this writer's work. The present one has permanent value, and is interesting, besides useful, to read by yachtsmen and the general public"; and of A Waterbiography, "I find it interesting and readable Mr. Leslie writes of fresh or salt water and of boats in a way to create interest in all classes of readers, young or old."
He delighted in W. H. Hudson's nature books, and recommended A Naturalist in La Plata as "Excellent, well observed or gathered-instructive"; of Birds in a Village he wrote, "Instructive and pleasant to read. There is a taste for books of this kind the present writer has a manner of his own and a known name."
Mr. Hudson-a fact not generally known, I believe-joined the ranks of the novelists during the "three-volume" days, and two of his novels were submitted to Mr Meredith, neither of which he could recommend, although one, which was published by the firm under a pseudonym had "good points -shows an observer of exterior London life. But he is not a creator. (The heroine) is a good girl, too good. Some scenes of the tempers' of women are true to life. A long work, with a mass of dialogue, little incident." The chief character of the other, who gave the title to the story, appears in a recent and clever book of the author, at any rate so far as the name is concerned, and sets one wondering if the books are identical.
Mr. Meredith was very partial to books relating to the sea, and even the unpretentious stories of Captain Lindsay Anderson, such as The Cruise of an Opium Clipper, Among Typhoons and Pirate Craft, pleased him, although he saw "no literature" in them. But they
were "honest and interesting." In the latter book, "the captain's name is 'Gulliver,'' he says; "still, it seems honest." A neat little touch.
Books of travel, and those concerned with foreign countries and peoples, attracted his special attention. This applies particularly to Antonio Gallenga's books, most of which Chapman and Hall published at his suggestion. Major Ellis's books I have already alluded to. The first book of Harry de Windt's From Pekin to Calais received careful consideration, as his report shows:
The writer seems really to have made the journey as he describes it. . . In the absence of literary skill there is an honest transcript of his experiences. The looseness of the style and the jarring repetition of potent phrases might be corrected. If accepted, a stipulation to begin the start from Pekin with a more condensed account of that city would be well. Also request him to quash exclamations in narrative. I have an impression that his dates when crossing the desert of Gobi are once incorrect. He puts July without the day, when, if I remember, it is August.
Of Across the Border; or, Pathan and Biloch, by E. E. Oliver, he said:
I like this. It is genuine, interesting, and instructive. The best accounts of the mountains known to me. It should have readers in India, and many here, from deserving them, in England. Style rather dry, but with the quality of its honesty.
Germany and the Germans, by W. H. Dawson, he considered was
Written with knowledge and a proper sympathy under sound judgment. The Germany of the present time, in all departments, is well presented. The book is lengthy, a fault deriving from its pretensions to fulness. Whether such a book is wanted by the public I cannot say. English readers would profit by it.
But it is not possible to deal with a tithe of the interesting and valuable criticisms he passed on the hundreds of books he read for the firm. Everything he said was well said, and many of his laconic reports were not only to the point, but amusing too. "Is there anything clever in Meredith's reports this week?" was a common question in the office. And invariably there was no disappointment. Here are a few pithy comments, culled at random, on what was often the first novel of now fairly popular novelists or, as each indicates, a valueless book:
Old-fashioned kind of playful narrative of a good creature with prankish cousins.
In charity to the author it should not be published.
Apparently by a muddle-headed beginner, bothered by the expression of his views and ideas.
An infernal romance.
It has cleverness, but of the old school. . . . If there were any need to publish a novel, this would serve as a piece of trade ware.
A mere wisp of a tale. Feebler stuff than this might be written, but would tax an ape.
Suitable for the smallest of boys phenomenal in their power to give attention to matter dealt out by a man who seems to have just acquired it. A splendid knave. speaks lines that scan and are empty as the ring of a glass.
According to the dates given this was done in a month. It has no other merit.
Written in a queer old maundering style, poor stuff, respectable in the mouth of one's grandmother. He may have something to say, but he harps on the platitudes familiar to the ears of infancy.
No. It comes through a friend. I have the task of writing to her.
It reads like a boy's nightmare dream and written by a boy.
Verse which has the merit of flummery and nothing more. Vaporish stuff.
Dreariness of verse has hardly ever surpassed this collection.
I should think it would be rejected by a farthing magazine.
Elaborately done, with index to contents of chapters. After going through some and running over the others, I found the index to be preferable.
By a homely imitator of Haggard. He may know Van Diemen's Land well, but he is a stranger to composition.
Weak wild stuff. MS. looking as a survival of a dozen shipwrecks. Apparently by a boy-probably a very precocious boy of tender years.
Dedicated to Mr. Gladstone with permission. Mr. G. can hardly have read the verses. In any case, no one not under constraint would do so. Stated to be "for a magazine." I do not know of a magazine that would accept it.
The dulness of vapid liveliness marks the style of this work. It has no quality.
Anstey might have made the subject amusing. This writer is an elephant. Such themes can only be made interesting when they are treated airily.
A pale piece of work.
Good of its kind-very readable for Americans. The author is an acquaintance of mine, and I should be glad to say more if I could. He has ability and much earnestness; is too honest to embroider on his souvenirs.
A provincial maiden aunt of the old time had about the same notions of humor and horror. A similar manner of narrating.
This is laughable enough in MS. But in print the ridicule would fall upon the publishers.
Might gain a prize for dulness.
If the previous works of the author, praised by certain reviewers, resemble this, then I am at a loss; for this would just suffice to carry small boys along.
Rather better than the average of bad novels.
When we come to the sunken treasure the credulity of boys would be shaken.
There are thoughts in it, but mudded. It offends the orthodox and does not satisfy the infidel.
Rather pretty frail piece of young lady's work.
Poor story of the French Terror. Historical portraiture befitting the pen of an urchin fifty years back.
This is the vocabulary of a boy of fourteen.
Must be accused of every defect that goes to make a work of fiction unreadable... it is cursed with an itch at times to try the rhetorical swell upon the lowest vernacular.
Would seem to be written in sighs of languor.
Called humorous by the author. Cockneyish dialogue, gutter English, ill-contrived incidents done in daubs, maintain the assertion.
A tale reading as if told by a romantic grandmother of the present generation.
Absurd in point of style, which is that of a child.
A manuscript with the title The Mystery of the Pigeon Holes brought the report:
Melancholy stuff to see and smell.
The Autobiography of a Donkey was considered to be
Faithful only to the donkey's dul
The Fortnightly Review.
Of a so-called humorous book which ultimately had a fairly notable success he said:
The humor of it is deadly. Reject.
Of a history of bread he observed:
The subject could hardly be lively, but the writer might have given it more yeast.
Of a series of family letters and papers he said:
They are not edited but stitched together, and they are as dry as the chemist's powder.
The interest in the foregoing would be enhanced and become more pointed if names were appended. But that would hardly be cricket, as most of the authors of the MSS. are alive today. Many more, of course, could be quoted; indeed, pages might be filled with them. But enough for the present.
My object in the whole article has been merely to attempt "to prick the enthusiasm," and perhaps the curiosity, of Mr. Meredith's many admirers in a special phase of his work during thirty-five years' association with his publishers.
B. W. Matz.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE GENIUS: A STUDY OF
This book is a study in comparative biography, and may be said to point the way to a new field of investigation. Prof. Ostwald was prompted to write it, as he tells us in his first sentence, by an ingenuous question put
"Grosse Männer." By Prof. Wilhelm Ostwald. (Leipzig: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1909.)
to him by one of his Japanese students as to how budding geniuses could be recognized. Much money, his student went on to say, is spent by various Governments in attempting to discover those people whose thorough education may be expected to bring in a return of value to the State, and