Page images
PDF
EPUB

BOOK NOTICES.

When, about a year and a half ago, there were taken from us at almost the same time Whittier and Dr. Thomas William Parsons, it was thought by some, particularly by those who knew him best, that the latter was, in a somewhat different way, almost as much of a loss as the former. Dr. Parsons had done but little to bring him before the public. He had written a few poems of rare and finished beauty, and had published a translation of the Inferno, and in a magazine translations of single cantos from the Purgatorio. But there was about all his work the mark of the true poet's hand. and his death was a real loss to American letters. We now have given to us the work of the main portion of his life, his translation from Dante,* including the Inferno, almost all of the Purgatorio, and fragments of the Paradiso. The translation is in alternately rhymed verses of five feet, and it shows just how far the plainness and simplicity of Dante can be reproduced in English, with the restriction and the hamperings of rhyme. It is not closely literal, not even as much so as the difference between the geniuses of the languages allows. The thought of Dante remains unchanged, but the expression is often considerably altered. The translator, himself a poet, allowed himself freedom, intending to make his work a poem as well as a translation, and he has succeeded, for it can be read with pleasure, independently of the original, and with little thought of there being any original to burden the poet. There are many fine and beautiful passages in the version. Qualities which particularly commend it, and give it some of the spirit and flavor of Dante, are its terseness, its severity and freedom from rhetoric and gratuitous ornamentations, its use of plain homespun words, its tone of serious simplicity. But, as Professor Norton points out in the introduction, the style is not Dante's but the translator's, and the translator's style, fine as it often is, is necessarily far below Dante's. The translator can follow the great Italian on his ordinary levels, but when he takes his eagle flights he follows him only with his eyes. Nevertheless, after this is admitted, it remains true that Dr. Parsons' translation is a work of permanent value, and as good as any rhymed version in English. It will always be cause for regret that so fine a poet and so faithful a student of Dante as he was did not live to finish his translation.

The author of The New Minister disclaims a purpose for his novel, and insists that it has only "a certain significance," which is to reflect certain drifts or tendencies in American church life, and record the development of a plastic mind and soul under the pressure of ecclesiastical surroundings, which are peculiarly representative of the genius of our democratic form of

*The Divine Comedy of Dante: Translated into English Verse. By Thomas William Parsons. With a Preface by Charles Eliot Norton and a Memorial sketch by Louise Imogen Guiney. pp. 353. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company.

The New Minister. By Kenneth Paul. pp. 342. New York: A. S. Barnes and Company.

government." Notwithstanding this assertion, the reader will be inclined to say that it is a severe case of the novel with a purpose. The purpose is, in fact, too much for the novel, and the latter is more or less extinguished, The "plastic mind and soul" whose experiences are described is the Reverend Charles Clayton, who comes fresh from Phonoville Seminary to take charge of an important church in Weavington, a large manufacturing town. He at once wins the love of the daughter of the leading manufacturer of the town, and in consequence arouses the hate of an admirer of her, the district attorney of Weavington, and the villain of the story, who lays various direful plots against the minister, all of which are foiled. This however is not the serious business of the book. The minister, of course,—no minister in a strictly modern novel can do aught else—comes to see the inadequency of the old views on questions of Christian belief, and he stirs up a strife in his church by openly proclaiming some advanced views. He also gets into trouble by preaching a fiery sermon on the relations of capital and labor, which angers several prominent manufacturers, who are members of his church. This part of the book introduces, and relies for its success on exaggerated pictures of the amount of "advanced thought" among clergymen to-day, of the venom and virulence of the conservative element in the churches and in religious journalism, and of the cruelty and selfishness practised on week-days by men who are pillars of the church on Sundays and at church meetings. Although the writer says that he does not wish to serve the interests of any movement, or demonstrate any peculiar theory of religion, it is very evident that he is a zealous, though not always very intelligent supporter of the latest and most radical views in theology and economics. Not content, however with burdening his book with the new theology and socialism, he attempts at some length to describe hypnotism and telepathy, and their use in medicine, in a way to be understanded of the people.

Such a load would be very heavy even for a most skilfully managed novel. But the technique of The New Minister is sadly at fault. The plot which is used as an instrument for the presentation of the purpose is feeble and improbable. Long and awkward sermonizing conversations, or conversational sermons are used to set forth the manner in which the Reverend Charles Clayton is gradually won over to the more excellent way of thinking. His character is somewhat interesting, but the others in the book are not of much consequence. Helen Block, the most important character after the minister, is altogether too inconsistent and perplexing. As for the style of the book, the following specimen, being a description of the villain's hands, will be sufficient comment: "His hands were as white and delicate as a girl's, to which he gave many leisure moments in paring and polishing the nails."

Mr. Putnam's Authors and their Public in Ancient Times,* is stated in its preface to be intended as a kind of preliminary chapter to the history of the development of the idea of property in literature. It is really an account of all matters connected with the making and publishing of books,

* Authors and their Public in Ancient Times. By George Haven Putnam. pp. 309. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.

beginning with the earliest books of which we have knowledge, the writings of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Hindoos, Persians, and Chinese, and extending down through the Byzantine school of writers in the eleventh century. The manner of the preparation of the manuscripts, the business of the ancient publishers, the libraries of Greece, Rome, and Alexandria, and the book terminology of classic times, are all described, and particular attention is, as would be expected, given to any evidence of compensation received by the author for his writings or right enjoyed by him in them. The history of literature is of course closely connected with the subject in hand, and some matter on this topic is introduced where it can be useful. In such a limited space as the book allows, a complete, scientific treatment of the subject is, of course, impossible. But the main facts are given, and with them a great deal of curious detail. All is set forth in a succinct, agreeable manner. The author has treated a most interesting subject, to which he has given a good deal of enthusiastic and earnest study, both learnedly and interestingly, and the result is a book very attractive in every way. It appears that authors, even in these days when international copyright is obtained with much tribulation, have a better time of it than they once did. The great authors of the ancient world, down to the time of Cicero, were philanthropists as well as authors, for they seem to have received no return at all from the sale of their books, and what compensation they did get for their work came in the shape of gifts from wealthy patrons. Cicero and Horace, however, seem to have had some definite arrangement, according to which they received a portion of the profits from their books, and later on we find Martial driving as sharp bargains as any Yankee could with his publisher. From his time on the idea of literary property became more fixed in the public mind, so that authors thenceforth expected a share of what their books brought.

Those who heard Protap Chunder Mozoomdar, the champion of the Brahmo-Somaj, at the world's congress of religions last summer, will find an old friend in the little bookt recently published by Mr. Ellis. It is well named, Heart Beats,-for the contents are no doubt as true an epitome of the man's life and character as the interesting biographical sketch at the beginning. The book consists of stray thoughts written from time to time on all the varied themes that concern daily living. It reads like the "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius or the "de Imitatione Christi." He proves himself in its pages to be a man who has learned how truly to live and truly to worship; a man of strength and purity of character and depth of spirituality seldom to be found. In point of literary merit too, the book is remarkable and combines a clear and forcible style with pure and simple diction, slightly tinged by the imagery of the East.

President Thwing's Within College Walls,* consists of a number of papers upon various features of college life. What they are is shown by the titles

* Heart Beats. By P. C. Mozoomdar, with a biographical sketch of the author by Samuel J. Barrow. Boston: Geo. H. Ellis.

+ Within College Walls. By Charles F. Thwing, pp. 187. New York: The Baker & Taylor Co.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of the chapters: "The College and the Home," The Good of Being in College," 'The College Forming Character," "Certain College Temptations," "College Government," Play in College," "Simplicity and Enrichment of Life in College," "The College and the Church," "The College Fitting for Business," The Preeminence of the Graduate." The ideas of the author seem to be drawn in the main from experience of life in a small Western college, where life is narrower, simpler, more religious, and, superficially at least, more earnest than in the larger Eastern institutions. For this reason he is inclined to take a more favorable view of some things in college life than the condition of life in these larger institutions warrants. There is not as little drinking and vice of various kinds in college as he seems to think. Nor is it true, as far as the ordinary observer can see, that "the intellectual earnestness of students is increasing. "Certainly it is not true that "poor scholarship, which once would have been regarded with indifference, is now despised, and the man who 'tails' his class, even though he be the crack oarsman or the best 'rusher,' is the object of either pity or ridicule."

But notwithstanding these rather restricted views, there is a great deal of sound, straightforward sense all through the book, particularly in the chapters on "Simplicity and Enrichment of Life in College, "College Government," and "Play in College." The chapter on "The College and the Church" well emphasizes some facts which are occasionally lost sight of nowadays. And lastly, the statements throughout the book, especially in the last two chapters, about the uses and advantages of college education are most true and timely.

Very appropriately chosen is the title of Mr. Crandall's volume of poems,* for they are almost invariedly musical throughout, running on with melodious, free and natural rhythm. And well are they called music of the wayside, too, for they are concerned mainly with the common things of everyday life. There is not much on subjects which are remote from ordinary thought and feeling, and appeal only to a few. Mr. Crandall writes of these familiar things in the main in musical verse, with tender and true feeling, with pretty fancy, occasionally with high imagination. His poetry is all meditative and quiet. His love poems, of which there are a considerable number, are poems more of steady, serene affection than of ardent passion. There are, it is true, sometimes jarring verbal infelicities, sometimes the sentiment is rather commonplace, and sometimes the poet's touch on the feelings is not sure, but these defects do not overbalance the large amount of good poetry in the book. There is about almost all Mr. Crandall's writing the mark of a genuinely poetic mind. Some of his best work is in his sonnets, and one is here given as a specimen of his poetry.

* Wayside Music. By Charles H. Crandall. pp. 119. New York: J. P.

Putnam's Sons.

"WOMAN.

Fairer than all the fantasies that dart

Adown the dreams of our most favored sleep,
Thy lovely form since Eden's day doth keep
The constant pattern of a perfect art!
Yet more do we admire thy better part,

The spirit strong to smile when others weep;
And well know we who sail life's ocean deep
There is no haven like a woman's heart.

Thus, often weary ere my task is done,

Tired with my task, my head I fain would lay

In some good lady's lap as did the Dane,
And watch the action of the world go on,
Knowing 'tis but a play within a play,

The fleeting portion of an endless plan."

Another volume* has been added to the “Story of the Nations" series. Mr. Rawlinson's name is so well known that any words of praise seem almost unnecessary. The important rôle played by the Parthians as the "Second Empire of the World" in connection with Rome, the tragic fate of the ill-starred expedition of Crassus, and the equally unsuccessful one of Marc Antony, all go to make the book a particularly interesting and attractive one. The volume is furnished with illustrations and maps.

The Christmas stories which were contained in the December number of the Dartmouth Lit., have been reprinted in a small volume entitled X-Mas Sketches. The small pen-and-ink illustrations which appeared in the magazine are presented in the reprint. The binding of the book is tasteful and appropriate to the season, but the contents are hardly what would be expected from the literary magazine of Dartmouth college.

RECEIVED.

Morceaux Choissis d'Alphonse Daudet. Edited by Frank W. Freeborn. Boston: Ginn & Company.

School Management. By Emerson E. White. New York: American Book Company.

The Strike at Shane's. A sequel to Black Beauty. Written for and published by the American Humane Education Society, Boston.

*The Story of Parthia. By George Rawlinson, M.A., F.R.G.S. New York. G. P. Putnam's Sons. London: T. Fisher Unwin.

X-Mas Shetches. From the Dartmouth Literary Monthly. Edited by Edwin Osgood Grover. Concord, N. H.: Republican Press Association.

« PreviousContinue »