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LITERATURE, SCIENCE AND ART IN 1899.
LITERATURE. If there was nothing specially striking in the literary output of 1899, it yet showed no falling-off from that of 1898; and in making this comparison it must be borne in mind that, whilst in 1898 the book world may have been slightly depressed by foreign disturbances, it suffered in the winter of 1899 a decided discouragement from the anxiety caused by the progress of the Boer war, which undoubtedly caused publishers to hold back some books of importance from publication. At the same time in one department, that of biography, reminiscences, and collections of letters, last year was certainly more productive of works of importance than its predecessor. Works of criticism and books about artists or schools of art continue to hold a prominent place, both in quantity and quality, in the publishers' lists. The temper of the time is rather to look backwards than forwards, to express itself rather in works of reflection and industry than in works of high imagination or bold speculation. This is illustrated by the immense number of reprints of English classics, the publication of which has marked the last few years and which continue to issue from the press with unabated persistence.
POETRY. The twentieth century is not, it would appear, to be like the nineteenth ushered in by any new poetic voices. We noted last year the apparent pause in poetic utterance, and 1899 has been even more barren than 1898. The Poet Laureate, Mr. Meredith, Mr. Kipling and Mr. William Watson have published nothing in book form. Among the small band of poets whose work has aroused interest and expectation Mr. Davidson and Mr. Francis Thompson have been silent. Mr. Swinburne has in Rosamund (Chatto & Windus) added another to his poetic plays. It is more strictly dramatic in quality than his earlier plays, but is not equal to them either in conception or expression. One event of interest was an excursion into poetic drama made by Mr. Stephen Phillips, a young poet whose verse, though small in quantity, had already attracted a good deal of attention. His play, which was called Paolo and Francesca (Lane), was received by the critics with a chorus of approbation. The plot is founded strictly on Dante, and the most noticeable feature of this first attempt by a young writer in poetic drama is that he manages to instil the true note of tragedy into a style kkkkkkkkk,,,,,,, ,,??,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,??,,, ,,,,,, , stage, and may be regarded as an honest attempt to revive the literary drama. Its merit lies not so much in its dramatic construction as a whole, as in the distinction which almost always marks its style, and in two or three finely conceived situations.
Two other poets who are likely to claim more than a passing interest have published new work. Mr. W. B. Yeats cultivates a poetic field of his own. He is the exponent of Celtic thought, mystery and legend. He issued in the spring a volume called The Wind among the Reeds (Elkin Mathews), and, a little later, a volume called Poems (Unwin), containing, as he said in his preface, all of his published poetry which he cares to preserve. It contains melodious verse, even when the thought is vague and shadowy, and revives the mystical regretful dreams of the old Irish folklore. The Poetical Works of Robert Bridges (Smith, Elder) have been published, and in them the poet inserted some new poems of much beauty.
BELLES LETTRES. In the way of imaginative prose literature, apart from fiction, there is, for 1899, nothing to report. The periodical press now-a-days absorbs the energies of those whose gifts lie in this direction, and even critical essays are seldom given to the world for the first time in book form. The only volumes which come under this head, therefore, consist of reprinted and collected articles. Of these there have been a good many of interest, but only two which, from the standing of their writers and their own interest, demand a mention. One is Mr. Austin Dobson's A Paladin of Philanthropy and Other Papers (Chatto & Windus), containing essays ranging over a large variety of subjects, full of eighteenth century lore, conveyed in the writer's elegant and scholarly style. The subject of the essay which gives the book its title is the General Oglethorpe who founded Georgia, and who figures in Boswell's “Johnson.” The other collection is Mr. Frederic Harrison's Tennyson, Ruskin, Mill and Other Literary Estimates (Macmillan). Our description of this book as a volume of reprinted papers must have one important qualification, for it contains an original study of Tennyson which had not previously been published, and in which Mr. Harrison challenged discussion on the subject of Tennyson's martial and patriotic verse. In this he contends that the late Laureate often produced “not poetry but journalism."
The library of literary histories which the past few years have produced has received more additions. There has recently been much effort to kindle public interest in the old literature of Ireland. As a result of this movement, we have Dr. Douglas Hyde's A Literary History of Ireland (Unwin). The author does not include in his survey the later Anglo-Irish writers who have added so many distinguished names to the record of English literature. Apart from them
many English readers no doubt hardly realised that there was enough material for such a history as this. Dr. Hyde's study of the old Irish literature is therefore not only valuable to Celtic scholars but reveals a new world of study to many other literary students. Work of a similar kind among literatures little known or entirely ignored has been done in the series of “Short Histories of the Literatures of the World" (Heine. mann) by Mr. W. G. Aston in his excellent book, A History of Japanese Literature, and in a not quite so complete History of Bohemian Literature, by Count Lützow. Two books have been added to the series of “Periods of European Literature” (Blackwood)-The Fourteenth Century, by F. J. Snell, and The Augustan Ages, by Oliver Elton, both works of merit, but suffering somewhat from the rather mechanical delimitation imposed by the conditions of the series. A special aspect of the development of English literature is ably dealt with by Mr. H. A. Beers in A History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century (Kegan Paul).
The issue of two important reprints has now been finished. The great edition of The Diary of Samuel Pepys (G. Bell), which Mr. Henry Wheatley began many years ago, has been completed with a ninth volume containing an index, and a tenth containing “Supplementary Pepysiana”; and The Biographical Edition of Thackeray (Smith, Elder), edited by his daughter Mrs. Richmond Ritchie, has also been completed; while an edition of the Brontë novels, which is to be on a somewhat similar plan—the editors being Mrs. Humphry Ward and Mr. C. K. Shorter-has been begun under the title of The Haworth Brontë (Smith, Elder).
One book of much interest containing a work of old English literature is The Complete Works of John Gower, vol. i. (Clarendon Press), edited by G. C. Macaulay. It can hardly be described as a reprint in the ordinary sense, because the work contained in this first volume is new to modern readers. Gower wrote three works : one in English, one in Latin and one in French. The two first have been printed; the MS. of the third, “The Speculum Meditantis,” was not known to exist until it was recently discovered in the Cambridge University Library, and this is now edited by Mr. Macaulay.
Lastly we may single out of a good deal of recent Dante literature another volume from the pen of one of the most distinguished of English Dantists, Dr. E. Moore. It is called Studies in Dante, second series (Clarendon Press). Among other subjects the author discusses, with his well-known skill and authority, Dante as a religious teacher, eighteenth century opinions on Dante, and the reality of Beatrice.
HISTORY. Although during the past year one or two of our most learned historians have been silent, it cannot be said to have been a period unproductive of good, and even great, work. It has been signalised by the publication of two volumes-the seventh and eighth--completing Dr. Thomas Hodgkin's Italy and Her Invaders (Clarendon Press). These bring the story up to the death of Charlemagne, and are respectively entitled “ The Frankish Invasions” and “The Frankish Empire.” The
whole work, thus completed, is one of the most notable contributions of our time to historical literature. In the large extent of ground covered, and the breadth of view which is displayed throughout, Dr. Hodgkin's work may almost be ranked in the same category as that of Gibbon ; and in trustworthiness and historical insight he may certainly claim to rank with Freeman. The history he has now finished has occupied him for nearly a quarter of a century, and he has done more than any one else has done, or is at present likely to do, to raise the obscurity which has enveloped the “dark ages.” Of a different type is the political history of England which came across the Atlantic from the vigorous pen of Professor Goldwin Smith. Its title is The United Kingdom (Macmillan), and it traces the story from the period when England first became a kingdom to present times. It cannot claim the place assigned to the works of such writers as Bishop Stubbs or Dr. Gardiner. Professor Goldwin Smith does not aim at a close and original investigation of facts. Nor does he satisfy the other requirement of the “scientific historian” by observing a strict impartiality. He has ardent sympathies and strong personal likes and dislikes, and he allows a strenuous rhetoric to heighten the lights and deepen the shadows. But such a history, viewing the development of the constitution in a spirit of freedom and breadth, has great value at the present moment, when an almost exaggerated importance is attached to the accumulation of documents, and to the minute study of particular periods. Professor Goldwin Smith regards the story as a whole, and shows a masterly grasp of the bearings of each epoch. If his pronouncements are overconfident, he is always eloquent and impressive and these qualities, together with the largeness of view which prevents him from being confused by the mass of conflicting evidence, give a very high value to “The United Kingdom.”
Early in the year appeared Sir George Otto Trevelyan's The American Revolution, Part I. 1766-1776 (Longmans). The genesis of this work was somewhat curious. Sir George Trevelyan had already published an instalment of his life of Charles James Fox, and had shown in it. as in his life of Macaulay, the possession of some of the best qualities of the biographer. In pursuing his theme he found that “the story of Fox between 1774 and 1782 is inextricably interwoven with the story of the American Revolution. That immense event filled his mind and consumed his activities; while every circumstance about him worth relating may find a place in the course of a narrative which bears on it.” The present volume is therefore, in reality, a continuation of the life of Fox. But it was generally felt that the change of method was hardly justified by its success, and that Sir George Trevelyan's brilliant literary gifts were utilised with much better effect in biography than in history-a field where political prepossessions are more likely to interfere with the trustworthiness of the narrative. As a Whig historian, dwelling on the too familiar theme of the mistakes made by George III, and his ministers, Sir George Trevelyan does not do much to illuminate the point of view of the two parties in the conflict, or observe quite the impartiality required from a sound historian. So far as the volume is biographical, however, the author shows to the full his power of graphic and interesting portraiture. As we recall Sir George Trevelyan's work, another historical book published last year inevitably suggests itself-the first venture in the world of letters of his son, George Macaulay Trevelyan, who proves himself worthy of the two distinguished names which he bears. His England in the Age of Wycliffe (Longmans) deserves far more than a succès d'estime, and ranks with the chief historical works of the year. The Peasants Rebellion of 1381, the early years of Lollardry, and that great literary period whose names redeem from gloom one of the least glorious periods of our national annals--these are the subjects closely investigated by Mr. Trevelyan. If in this first book the writer does not show the vitality and fully developed power of some more experienced historians, he certainly reveals a genius for taking pains, and has produced a work well balanced, complete and interesting.
The late Sir William Wilson Hunter's History of British India, vol i. (Longmans), began a work of great importance which unhappily cannot now be completed. During the author's career in India he had exceptional opportunities for the collection of materials. It had been his intention to start from the early Aryan period, but the unfortunate loss by shipwreck of a large part of the memoranda prepared for the history compelled him to modify his plans, and to pass over the time before India had come into contact with modern Europe. The first volume carries the story down to 1623, and is occupied mainly with the early Indian expeditions of the English, the Dutch and the Portuguese. It is understood that Sir William Hunter left materials for a second volume, but his original scheme was to produce five volumes.
An important contribution to Asiatic history is The Heart of Asia (Methuen) by Francis H. Skrine and Edward D. Ross. Professor Ross explores the obscure early history of Central Asia-a subject in which he is to some extent a pioneer—with great care and learning ; and an equally able and accurate account of the present position of Russia in Asia is given by Mr. F. H. Skrine. Another gap in the historical literature of the countries of the world has been filled by Mr. Budgett Meakins' very exhaustive work on The Moorish Empire (Sonnenschein).
Among other historical works which deserve mention are Mr. H. G. Graham's Social Life in Scotland in the Eighteenth Century (Black), which gives a vivid description, drawn from contemporary records, of Scotch life during its period of revival after the Union; and Mr. J. H. Round's learned investigations into the early history of London and the origin of the corporation, contained in The Commune of London and Other Studies (Constable).
County histories increase in number rapidly. One of the best is Sir George Douglas's History of the Scottish Border Counties (Blackwood), a work in which the mass of legend surrounding the history of Roxburgh, Selkirk, and Peebles is carefully sifted and tested by the light of the most recent antiquarian researches.
Two notable School Histories deal with the ancient foundations of Winchester and Shrewsbury. Mr. A. F. Leach has done more than any one to unearth the early history of English schools. In his History of Winchester College (Duckworth) he throws much light on the origin