Roger—What have we here?
Giles—There is everything under the sun set down
with some show of reason; they run atilt at the world,
and treat men and manners as familiar as an old hat.
Sir Roger—Think you they protest too much? I like
a matter disposed bravely, but—
Giles—Methinks they have a genial tongue. Will
you hear them?
Sir Roger—Well, an’ it be not too long I’ll
have some sack, and you read on.
year that has just passed has given no remarkable addition
to the world of books. But there has been much that
is very good. In verse Gilder’s “Poems of
Two Worlds,” Aldrich’s “Sister’s
Tragedy,” Helen Cone’s “Ride to the
Lady,” Miss Reese’s “Handful of Lavender,”
and Reilly’s “Old Fashioned Roses”
are probably the most notable additions to American
published verse. Mr. Gilder’s world is imbued
with the lofty ideal of a true poet. His work is both
sincere and human, with a spiritualised regard for nature
that makes his verse unique among that of the stronger
American poets. The very essence of the human soul in
its more spiritual moods is found in his work, which
is inspired by the humanity in its greater and broader
It is some
time since a boon of short stories has been published
worthy of such close and eager attention as “Main
Travelled Roads,” by Mr. Hamelin Garland. This
book has something direct and forcible about it, and
proceeds with the touch and point of the truest art;
it has something naturally inevitable about it, too,
and its tragedy is often the outcome of the old stern
laws of life. The contrast between the beauty of nature,
ever present and unconquerable, and the sometime hardness
and wickedness of the life which we men make for ourselves,
come out with new force. In fact, the only fault to
be found with these stories lies in the seeming contradictions
of a style which for the description of natural scenery
take a form elevated and poetic and for the dialogue
one as coarse as natural man. But possibly Mr. Garland
had a purpose in this, and we cannot quarrel with him
when he has given us a brilliant light on some phases
of our mixed and perplexing conditions. He has humor,
too, of a caustic kind and in “Mrs. Ripley’s
Trip” he has achieved a pathetic result by what
is in reality a method of geniality or humor. But this
book will teach us all something if we read it attentively,
and, although not written with a direct purpose, such
a tragic picture of human error, carelessness and selfishness
as “Up the Coulee” brings some earnest warning
to every heart. There is plenty of the sunshine of life
in this little book, and we commend it to those who
would like to feel once more the way young love comforts
itself. Mr. Garland’s book is a distinguished
for reading and study; summer for loafing and dreaming
and getting near to nature; spring and autumn for joyous
and active production. The mind does not mount readily
to the higher exertions during the severity of our winter
season. Most of us gain at that time in fulness and
robustness of body, while we lose in intellectual elasticity.
We are taken up in eating, digesting, sleeping and exercising.
The whole force of the constitution goes to increasing
the warmth of the body, and arming it to endure the
prolonged strain put upon it. Only with difficulty do
we address ourselves to any original or creative effort.
The routine of the hour, the intellectual labors commonly
and easily fulfilled, are as much as we find ourselves
able to accomplish; yet, undoubtedly, the general rule
has its momentary exceptions, and in some hours of these
austere winter days and nights we awaken to an unusual
intellectual light and happiness. Sitting before the
fire in the depth of the January midnight, surrounded
by uncertain shadow and penetrating warmth, when the
windows glitter in the moonshine against an atmosphere
of intense and dazzling frost, and everything is so
silent that we almost hear the blood winding in our
own veins, have we not often caught ourselves exerting
unconsciously an extraordinary swiftness and brightness
of intellectual movement? The forms of unseen things
present themselves to our imaginations with a vividness
and reality of detail rarely at other times attained.
Out on a country road, walking in a quiet and silent
downfall of snow, when distances are veiled and hidden,
and my mind seems wrapped about and softly thrown in
upon itself by a smooth and caressing influence, I become
immersed in the same depth and intensity of reflection.
But in the
main, winter is not the season of great mental activity.
Perhaps you point me to the long, quiet winter evenings,
and inquire whether these do not lend themselves obediently
to the current of intellectual labor. Nay, you are mistaken.
If you are like me you will spend most of the long quiet
winter evenings with your feet disposed upon an opposite
chair, a long-stemmed pipe between your teeth and some
entertaining book of travels placed comfortably upon
your knee. No, if you have proposed to yourself an intellectual
task, calling for high inventive effort, attack it when
the long September days grow golden and the first elm
leaves fall, or wait in patience till you have heard
the shore lark soar and twitter over the first bare
hummocks of March.
from some of the recent acts and utterances of the German
Emperor we had been inclined to believe that one of
the things that that excellent man most seriously lacked
and most seriously needed was the sense of humor. For
our comfort and reassurance a writer in The New York
Critic informs us that Wilhelm II not only possesses
the sense of humor, but is a conversational humorist
of much power and geniality. He is moreover an enthusiastic
admirer of Mark Twain, and is particularly fond of the
April next Mr. W.D. Howells will assume the editorship
of The Cosmopolitan, and the editor’s study in
Harper’s Magazine will be conducted by Mr. Charles
Dudley Warner. Mr. Howells’ connection with The
Cosmopolitan will doubtless lead to the development
of more interesting features in that magazine, which
seems to us to have been hitherto a rather unattractive
sort of publication.
is probably the last poem of Victor Hugo which remained
unknown to the world has just been published. It was
announced at the time when “Les Contemplations”
was issued; it was never finished and is published in
that form. The title “Dieu,” fixes the profound
and sublime subject which Hugo chooses with his usual
daring. Mr. Swinburne, who of all appreciators is the
most appreciative, and who expresses himself as the
years go by with more and more adjectival weight, introduces
this poem to the English reader in the last number of
The Fortnightly, or rather he judges it for them and
commands their immediate submission. Mr. Swinburne has
a way of making his reader feel rather ashamed of himself,
as if he was the bad boy who did not know his lesson.
For instance, he says:—“It is hardly necessary
to transcribe any of the parallel passages which no
probable reader can be supposed not to know by heart.”
Observe that word “probable” and then imagine
the feelings of some poor sciolist who had passed over
the very passage without any considerable tremor of
the heart, much less the active interest which would
lead him to memorise it for the comfort of his weary
hours. Then Mr. Swinburne has a defiant way of making
his comparisons which throws his reader into a state
bordering on alarm. The lesser English gods are treated
with the respect due them, but he bows the knee to none
so adoringly as the great French supreme, who is above
either the faults or trivialities of his brother deities.
Such furious utterances come well from one who has dwelt
so long in the very flames of inspiration; and in viewing
as a whole the critical work of this great poet it cannot
be gainsayed that he has touched the literature of England
at least with an insight and interpretive power which
have put the whole race in his debt.
class distinction on the continent of America has developed
further than we have realised. The concentration of
wealth into the control of a few, and the gradually
growing poverty of the working classes, is becoming
more apparent every day. Here in Canada as in dying
out as the result of the absorption of capital. The
liberty and safety of the State has so far mainly depended
on the influence of this class. When it goes, then may
come the long-prophesied struggle of the rich and poor.
For selfish ends of their own men many deny this state
of things, but it is heart-rending to go into some of
our large cities and see the immense amount of wealth
squandered on personal aggrandizement and selfish luxuries
and then to note the corresponding amount of destitution,
degradation and misery both within the shadow of the
same church spire or within the sound of the same Sabbath
bell. Religionists may cry out about the hopelessness
of mere humanity as a religion, but it would be better
did they put a little more hope into the anguish of
this world by putting more of the humanities into their
notable volumes of short stories have appeared in 1891.
Among which the work of James Lane Allen, Miss Wilkins,
H.B. Bunner, Octave Thanet and R.H. Davis are especially
strong and subtle.
has a touch in some senses similar to that of Hawthorne,
and in the “White Cowl,” which first appeared
in The Century, he gives a beautiful but sombre picture
of American monastic life. Miss Wilkins, who is regarded
now with favor in England, has a fine and subtle insight
into New England everyday life, which she, perhaps,
attenuates to a perceptibly painful extent in showing
its poverty of animation and hopefulness.
who is a well-known poet and journalist of a delicate
type, has given us examples of his realism and idealism
in “Zadoc Pine.” He sometimes writes with
a freer hand than his compeers, but there is a simplicity
and naturalness about some of his types that make them
realistic and yet good reading. He has a knack of making
short and well balanced sentences, and there is an atmosphere
about his work that hints of its being the prose work
of a poet, who can charm in a serious as well as in
a lighter vein.
has been for some time a writer for Scribner’s,
and in her short stories shows a freshness of landscape,
a masculine vigor and fineness of touch that mark her
out as prominent among the later writers of the South.
Mr. Davis, who is a professional journalist, has garnered
some of his experiences in that line. He has a strong
and nervous grasp, and is akin to Kipling in his observation
of society; but perhaps his work should be regarded
rather as that of promise than achievement.
Sister’s Tragedy” shows more of the dramatic
element than any of Aldrich’s former works—and
contains some strong and occasionally remarkable work.
“The Ship Master’s Tale,” which first
appeared in Harper’s, is startling in its direct
and simple mastery of style and conception.
Ride to the Lady,” by Miss Cone, contains some
of the most subtle and delicate verse written by a woman
in late years.
verse shows a kinship with Rossetti’s, but she
has a genuine lyrical touch that shows much promise.
work is the antipodes of that of Mr. Aldrich, in that
it is intensely American and of the times. He is assuredly
a poet of the every-day life and of the common people.
He has an intense sympathy with childhood, which he
celebrates with a pathos and humor that is irresistible.
He is probably the most sincere and natural of the younger
generation of American singers.
Adolphe Guillot, a magistrate of Paris, has written
two histories, one of the morgue, “The Temple
of Suicide,” as he calls it, the other of the
“Prisons and Prisoners of Paris.” The morgue
is a low building planted by the edge of the Seine,
just behind that other temple, the great Cathedral of
Notre Dame, where the sufferer seeks the peace not of
death, but of God. There each day on the damp marble
slabs, always tenanted, lie the voiceless remains of
the saddest and most desolate of Paris, and its history,
could it be written by one having the eye of omniscience,
would indeed be a narrative of strange and sickening
pathos and unimaginable horror.
gloomily interesting would be the history of the old
prisons of Paris, the Chatelets and La Force, haunted
by the hideous and gigantic spectre of the butcheries
of September, 1792; Sainte Pelagie, that saw the last
tragic hours of Madame Roland; the Temple, where Louis
“Capet,” the prisoner, lay, and the little
Dauphin died, the victim of half-revealed brutalities;
the Conciergerie with its three towers, one of the picturesque
sites of Paris; For l’Eveque, the Bicetre, and
the ever-memorable Bastile, dead these hundred years
with all its villainous memories. But what human soul
would dare to penetrate, even if it could, the horrid
secrets of these dreadful abodes.
Australian poet whose work was lately published in England
made a strong stand for the pervasion of local color
in his verse, and has turned the seasons topsy-turvy
to let us know how a poet must feel in the Antipodes.
After all is said and done it amounts to the same thing:
flowers are fair and sweet no matter whether they bloom
in August or December, and ice is ice even if it comes
in June, or, as Mr. O’Hara says,
June upon the meadow pools
building icy bridges.
we have a decent, old-fashioned climate, which corresponds
in all essential points to that which has bronzed the
poets of old England, and our poets can sing of the
seasons in their old round and cannot fail to be understood.
Our skies are higher and brighter, the tints of our
forests are more varied, our winter comes with greater
snows and frosts. Once and a while the critics across
the water may look perplexed and ask our poets what
they mean by “timothy,” or some other colloquial
term, but in the main we must depend for local color
on whatever there is of real difference in our manner
of looking at the old world with its changeful beauty.