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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Books.

Volume 14, 1903, pg. 65


Dante and His Time, by Karl Federn (Heinemann, 6/-). Dr. Federn's book is somewhat of a new departure. A German author writes a version of his book in English for an English public, and we have reason to be grateful as we should probably have missed much in translation. Indeed the author shares Dante's own sentiment:—"Therefore let everybody know that nothing that is brought (or made) to harmonise in the musical bonds of verse can be translated out of one language into another without all its harmony and sweetness being broken:" for this reason, perhaps, only one of the nineteen chapters is devoted to "The Divine Comedy." "All the treasures of beauty," says Dr. Federn, "and the most wonderful of his mysteries the reader must look for in Dante's own work." The two terms of the title are elucidated in the two parts of the book. Part 1. treats of The Time, with chapters on "The Destruction of the Antique", the "New Moral Ideal", "The Political Ideal", "Social Conditions", "Medieval Knowledge", "Italian Poetry", "The Franciscans", etc., etc. This seems to us on the whole the more valuable part of the volume. Mr. Arthur Butler, in his interesting introduction, speaks of Dante, as of all the great poets of the world, the one who takes most explaining and who appeals most to that love of solving problems which affords a motive to many of us. The reader who has little skill in, or taste for, the solving of problems, is yet aware of the need of a fit setting for the great poem of the Middle Ages, in which, as Carlyle has said, "ten silent centuries have found a voice." Therefore, some knowledge of the Thirteenth Century itself, is really a necessary condition for the understanding of the poem, a setting to hold the jewel. Dr. Federn writes modestly of his book, and says that, "especially in the first part, I have mostly worked out the result of other people's investigations." It seems to us that in this first part he has given a scholarly and philosophic, and at the same time most interesting and readable review of all those influences which, so to say, culminated in Dante. Part II deals with "Dante," his work, his youth, "Beatrice", "Dante and Florence", "Dante in Exile", and "The Divine Comedy". The author endeavours to hold the scales even between those who regard the events and persons associated with Dante's life as things "mystic, wonderful," and those others who would reduce the great world-poet to a common place among common men. Dr. Federn is both sane and sympathetic, as well as reverent. The lovers of Dante, who have not already read everything about the poet, will find this volume deeply interesting. The three existing portraits, the bronze at Naples, and the Mask in the Uffizzi are well reproduced.

Historical Essays and Reviews, by Mandell Creighton, D.D. (Longmans, 5/-). We are glad that Mrs. Creighton has thought well to collect the essays and reviews in this volume. No historical utterance of Dr. Creighton's should be allowed to drop. His sane judgment, encyclopedic knowledge, and broad outlook give unique value to even his slightest treatment of historical subjects. Perhaps the essays, and chiefly the character studies, dealing with the Renaissance are the most important part of the volume, because they illustrate a period; and this period, one of the peculiar interest to those desultory readers of history who delight in collecting their knowledge of a period from studies embodied in essays. It goes without saying that Dr. Creighton's essays afford charming reading. He is not of the dry-as-dust historians to whom human and humane interests do not appeal.

Cecilia, by Marion Crawford (Macmillan, 6/-). We need not say that Mr. Marion Crawford knows his "Rome," and his picture of Roman society, everyday, easy-going, and without plot or much intrigue, is distinctly pleasant, and is the sort of thing that could be given to us only by one who knows. The Countess Fortiguerra is a charming study. She is easy, simple, by no means intellectual, but blessed with the instincts of a nice woman and a lady. The setting, too, is quietly and delightfully Roman, the old convent garden especially lingers in one's memory; but, for the rest, what shall we say? The motif of the book is one that Mr. Kipling has treated with great delicacy and charm in The Brushwood Boy; but we have come across two or three novels lately presenting an unpleasant, even a loathsome treatment of the same theme. This theme is hypnotic self-suggestion, and Cecilia is to our mind distinctly unpleasant. The daily meeting in the land of dreams, between Cecilia and her unknown lover, the reader might have condoned, but the kiss which always accompanied this meeting is too offensive and suggestive. That way madness lies, we should like to say of the reading of many novels elucidating this dangerous theme.

Broken Stalks, by Lily H. Montagu (Brimley Johnson, 6/-). Miss Lily Montagu's style is a little unequal, neither plot nor incidents are noteworthy, and though some of her dialogues are sparkling and charming, others are, perhaps, rather dull. But, all the same, Broken Stalks has distinct literary value of an unusual kind. Like Mr. Barrie in Sentimental Tammy, Miss Montagu presents us with a new character in fiction (or, at any rate, a new development in character), so convincing that we feel we have been intimate with her all along. This is "Mrs. Carey," who appears as the mother of the heroine, but does in truth herself fill that character, and is a very delicate, psychological study. We have her excited and restless in her anxiety about "Millicent," the beautiful crippled girl, to whom she and her family owe their home; but an operation restores Millicent to vigorous health; and savage jealousy, on behalf of her plain daughter Joan, awakes in Mrs. Carey's heart. The phases of this passion, the poor woman's distress and distressfulness, and her restoration to her right mind when both Millicent and Joan are safely married, form an interesting and profitable study. We hope Miss Montagu will do more work of the careful and artistic quality she has put into "Mrs. Carey" even if she must eliminate what is practically padding; for example, "Ellis" and his up-to-date views.

The Boy's Iliad, by Walter C. Perry (Macmillan, 6/-). Mr. Copeland Perry amply justifies the production of The Boy's Iliad, if so capital a book needs justification. He gives us many of the charming legends and fables connected with the Trojan war, which are not to be found in The Iliad of Homer. Among these are:—the judgment of Paris, the birth and education of Achilles, the sacrifice of Iphigenia, the story of Aenone, the building of the Wooden Horse, the fate of Laocoon, the burning of Troy. "These events, the importance of which will be seen at once, I have had," says the author, "to cull from the whole range of the classic literature of Greece and Rome." Everyone should know stories which have been appropriated by modern as well as classic art and literature, and we are happy to have Mr. Copeland Perry as raconteur. How boys and girls will enjoy the tale of the horses "who incessantly wept hot tears" for the loss of their master Patroklos! We think outline illustrations would have been more suggestives than Mr. Jacomb Hood's pictures.

The Natural History of Selborne, by Gilbert White, with Notes by R. Kearton and 123 illustrations from photographs taken direct from Nature, by C. and R. Kearton (Cassell, 6/-). It was truly a happy thought to publish The Natural History of Selborne, with Notes by Richard Kearton, and photographs by Cherry and Richard Kearton. We could wish for the biographical notice, which appeared in some of the earlier editions, wherein we were told that a Selborne cottager had summed up the praises of Gilbert White in the phrase, "He had no harm in him," We could wish, too, for a larger, though not a clearer type; but, having put in a caveat on these two points, we have nothing but praise for this beautiful and quite delightful volume. "Selborne" is a household word in every English home that has even a bowing acquaintance with Nature, and those of us who have been on pilgrimage and know the Plastor, the Short Lithe, the Hanger, and the brick path leading thereto from Gilbert White's house, and the swallows to be seen from his study windows in their hundreds—these will hail with delight Mr. Kearton's photographs. While for the naturalist who has not been thither on pilgrimage (is there such an one?) there is the squirrel on page 257, the young screech owls on page 155, the starling on 148, the skylark on 144, things of delight upon every page, and an introduction by Mr. Kearton, which vindicates his fellowship with Gilbert White.

London, by Mrs. E.T. Cook: Highways and Byways Series (Macmillan, 6/-). Mrs. Cook seems to us to have performed an astonishing and delightful feat. The notion of one of the Highways and Byways Series dealing with London is overwhelming. Thought staggers before the incalculable mass of detail which it would be possible to crowd into such a book; or, before the task of selecting and presenting with any degree of persuasiveness and literary charm. But Mrs. Cook has done this impossible thing. Almost every one of her 472 pages is delightful in itself; and because, somehow or other, the author has hit upon the very thing you wish to be told in that particular connection. The modern Earl's Court and the associations of Old Kensington, the Venetian Gothic of the Crown Insurance Office, and Old St. Saviour's, Southwark; Charles Lamb and the Temple, Lord Beaconsfield and the Mayfair, A. B. C. shops, and the Edward Passmore Settlement, Ruskin and Denmark Hill, the flotsam and jetsam of the streets,—nothing has eluded the author's seeing eye and under-colloquies, now humorous, now pathetic, in the British Museum, the A.B.C. shop, on the Omnibus, and that delightful criticism of life in the scene in Mudie's. The charming sequence, easy and natural, which Mrs. Cook has arrived at, is one of wonders of the volume. As for the illustrations, we can only say they are worthy of the text. It is good to be introduced to unknown bits of vanishing London and to humorous street scenes of to-day, by Mr. Hugh Thomson and his colleague, Mr. Griggs. Every Londoner will hug his book of Highways and Byways, and every Briton, at home and over seas, will find in it the primer of his imperial education.

The Fairchild Family, by Mrs. Sherwood (Wells, Gardner, Darton, 6/-). The Fairchild Family, in this very dainty edition, is a gift from the publishers which we elders, at any rate, who have grown up upon The Family, will heartily appreciate. First published in 1818 (the first part, that is), it has nearly counted its century, and has long ago taken its place as a classic. The Fairchild Family is not only a record of family life, fascinating in its simplicity, directness and, (greatest charm of all to the young mind), endless detail, but it is a child's vade mecum [go-with-me pocket reference].

Pondering the fortunes of the three young Fairchild's, he will learn how to conduct his own life and how to manage himself. The charming episode of the ring and the doll illustrates what we mean. Emily had found Lady Noble's lost ring, and the lady had given her a beautiful doll, with which Lucy was not inclined to play. "Then Mrs. Fairchild called Lucy to her and said, 'My dear child, you are crying. Can you tell me what makes you unhappy?' " and then follows the talk in which Lucy learns that she is suffering from envy, ending with—"'Do you ever feel any envy now, mamma?' said Lucy." In this easy way, in the natural course of the day's living, the sins which most easily beset us, the virtues most to be desired of us, are displayed as in a mirror, and the child who reads The Fairchild Family all by himself in his pet corner, who has read it as the young Butts (Mrs. Sherwood's maiden name) read their Robinson Crusoe, beginning again when they had reached the last page, well, that child will have got out of his book a moral and religious education for himself. But we think it is one of the books that children should read by themselves and for themselves. If it is read to them, or even talked over with them, they will begin to suspect preaching. Certainly our children would be the better for a tincture of the piety and moral purpose of the pre-Victorian days which produced Henry Martyn (who was a friend, by the way, of Mrs. Sherwood's). The pictures, by Miss Florence Rudland, are charmingly quaint. The demure little trio walking to church before mamma and papa is delightful; so, too, is the picture of little Marten peeping into the kitchen; but, indeed, all the pictures are sympathetic and charming, and so is the cover, and so is Miss Mary Palgrave's introduction containing a sketch of Mrs. Sherwood's life. We hope no parents will think that, in praising The Fairchild Family, we endorse all the methods of the Fairchild parents!

The Sunday Pleasure Book (Gardner, Darton & Co., 2/6), will afford special interests and pleasures for many a Sunday. There are outlines to colour, pictures wanting words, scripture characters, houses, palaces, plants, trees of the Bible, texts to colour, and much besides.

Agathos: The Rocky Island, by Samuel Wilberforce, D.D. (Seeley 1/6). It was a happy thought to bring out once again Bishop Wilberforce's well-known allegory. We of an older generation have had the deep waters stirred within us by this beautiful story. The author's preface is especially interesting to parents:—"The following allegories and stores have been actually related by the author to his children on successive Sunday evenings. He began the practice with the earnest desire of combining some sort of occupation suitable to the Lord's Day, with something which might amuse his little ones. Few parents can, he thinks, have failed to feel the want which he would here hope in some measure to supply."

The Bertrams of Ladywell, by B. Marchand (Wells, Gardner, Darton, 2/-). Sarah Beaufort Bertram, aged eleven, writes the story of how she and her brother and sisters "try to do good" at Ladywell, their house in the country. Pleasant reading.

The Cape Cousins, by E.M. Green (Wells, Gardner, 2/-). Molly goes out to visit her Cape cousins at the Residency, and Molly's experiences in surroundings interesting to everyone just now form very good reading.

The Noisy Years, by Mabel Dearmer (Smith, Elder, 6/-). Mrs. Dearmer has a gift of delicate irony worthy of Jane Austen, and that is why she has been able to write a book for parents which is also a story book for children, who have, happily, no perception of irony. The first part is said to be for parents only, but we believe children would read it in good faith and would not perceive that the mother in the story was brought to book for letting her little boys become enamoured of the Salvation Army and of Rome, as the tastes of their nurses chanced to fall. Nor would they see that the Kindergarten Transition School, with its system and its object lessons, and its Miss MacTavish, who scorned books and got all the learning out of her own head, who also scorned Adam and Eve and Abraham, and was modern and instructive, and gave "lovely lessons," is also being laughed at a little. There is nothing better in the book than the description of how the helpless and charming young mother has discovered for her by a friend the school "good enough for them." "It's so delightful, a sort of extension of the kindergarten system, if you know what that is"; and then—she superintends their "preparation"! Toby, the younger of the little boys, is a delicately sketched character, sensitive, imaginative, loving and very truthful, notwithstanding his inventions re how the world was made. And in the second part he is sent to Great Aunt Maria, who begins with the notion that the little boy has to be taught to speak the truth. Most of us can be made to look as if we were lying by the person who believes that we are doing so, and poor little Toby fell into many such snares and went through troubled waters till his "pet-lamb, tulip" mother came to fetch him away. Then comes part three, "In Green Fields", where the children have a good time with bad days now and then. Every page shows delicate observation of children, and a sense of the two things few of us comprehend—the illimitable ignorance of children and their unlimited Ithuriel-like intelligence. Mrs. Dearmer's sermons will go home because she does not preach them.

Bells Miniature Series of Painters—Hogarth and Gainsborough (1/—net, each). We gladly welcome two more volumes of this useful little series. Each volume has eight excellent illustrations, a list of the painter's chief works, and where each is to be seen, and a bibliography. The art criticisms in each case seem to us sound and helpful, and the story of the life is brightly told.

The Master of Ballantrae, by R.L. Stevenson; edited, with notes, by R. Cartwright (Cassell & Co.) This is an excellent example of how not to introduce a classic. The introduction tells us how to read "the Master," gives us the dramatis personæ and a sketch of the plot, with remarks upon the language, style, and incidents which should save the reader the trouble of thinking; not but that these remarks contain some valuable criticism, but that to our thinking a book should be allowed its own chance with the reader. Neither should it be explained to him that "romantical" means romantic, and that "cadet" is a "younger son," that "ribaldry" is "obscene language," and that "imminent" means "threatening," and so on for some sixteen closely printed columns. The type is bad, and the page uninviting.

(Dent & Co., 5/-). The Knight of La Mancha is always welcome, but this edition has special claims on our attention. "The present edition," the editor tells us "is one specially adapted for young people," the lengthy disquisitions on Knight Errantry, on the classics, etc., have been omitted, and, a fact for which we are especially thankful, some of the coarser passages have been excised. But the Knight and Sancho Panza, Rozinante and Dapple, the ineffable Dulcinea, the Barber and the Curate, the brisk movement of Sixteenth Century life with the grotesque and magnanimous annotations and interpretations of the Errant Knight, these things glide by in living pictures never to be forgotten. Type and paper are inviting, and the pictures are in character, many of them spirited and entertaining.



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