« PreviousContinue »
BOOKS WE THINK WE HAVE READ. quainted with it, from the Stock Exchange. You There are essentials of respectability which we all cannot remember a time when the tilt against the assume about our neighbors (and ourselves), as, that
windmills was not part of your consciousness, and they (and we do not lie, "unless they be so dis have lived perhaps with an engraving of the Knight posed or it stands them in good stead,” are no cow and the shepherds, or Sancho and the Duchess; it ards, except for reasons that Falstaff might approve, surely is absurb to suppose that you have not read do not pay less than a weekly minimum to the laun the book—when you have so often excused yourdress, feel no temptation to put their table-knives self, too, for ignorance of some pedantic allusion where Germans are supposed to put them, and are by saying that it is so long since you did so; and not ignorant of certain books. Not without indig- yet
yet--? nation we often detect a neighbor coming short in It is easiest for these assumptions to be made one or other requirement; more in sorrow than in about the books which are luckless enough to appeal anger we now and then have to confess the same of to youth as well as to maturity ; luckless, for nothand to ourselves. Shortcomings of the literary kind ing can save them, once stamped juvenile, from being differ somewhat from the rest; they are oftener real taken as read. What, read what we may have read ized, but the pang is less acute ; custom stales it; before? Forbid it, spirit of the century! If Homer we get to know the flash of self-reproach followed is cognizant of our England, how must he hug by the swift relieving thunder of good resolution, himself for his happy thought of writing Greek, not which so habitually rumbles away into ineffectual English; else had his been among the boys' books, silence that anything but vanum fulmen is something and his “fit audience, though few,” among the eldof a portent. Still, it is with a genuine shock of ers had been fewer. Mention of green spectacles, a vexed surprise that we surrender again and again popular ditty about Olivia, a hazy memory of the comfortable conviction that we have read all that "fudge," do for the “Vicar" what a breakfast-table decency requires of an educated man, and plead discussion of egg-cracking, and a newspaper referguilty to Mr. Frederic Harrison's indictment, "the ence to Laputa or the Struldbrugs, do for Gulliverincorrigible habit of reading the little books." Giga make us believe we have had out of them what is to dibs, the literary man, may be presumed safe against be had; and “Tom Jones " belongs to the same such shocks; the great books are very much his category. stock-in-trade; if he neglects them, he soon finds But the books which children can enjoy are not himself hampered at every turn, dare not hazard the only ones to which the delusion attaches. We some telling allusion for fear of a blunder; but alas are angry if any one doubts our intimacy with for the rest of us ! the little books, and the illiterate Shakespeare. But what proportion of the “edupains and joys of living, are too engrossing. Some cated” know the sonnets or the less read plays? To sociable athlete of five-and-twenty remarks that it is have turned half-a-dozen sonnets into elegiacs and a queer thing, but up to fifteen he was so devoted a skimmed a pamphlet on Mr. W. H. and Thorpe is reader that he could never be got out of the house. not to have read the sonnets ; the plot and the His literature now is the Sporting Life; it is queer: names of Valentine and Proteus, retained from Mary credimus quia impossibile; yet a doubt will lurk Lamb, are sorry spoils from the "Two Gentlemen of whether the pages of “Robinson Crusoe," if he Verona." And boyhood's wholesome indifference to should turn them, would not prove for him fuller of artistic canons about a whole with beginning and novelty than reminiscence. Here Mr. Froude on middle and end may have left us in the practical beBunyan, and you conclude that nearly as many peo lief that the two books of the “Paradise Lost" unple have read the “Pilgrim's Progress" as have der which we suffered at school comprised, in a read Genesis and the Gospels; but we suspect Mr. philosophic sense, the entire work; we have never Froude of having credited his own reading to a mul looked on “Milton's Adam when he awoke, child titude as fictitious as Macaulay's schoolboy. A and man at once,” but we have been in company Sunday afternoon paternal reading of the fight with with Satan and Beelzebub, and to disclaim having Apollyon, dimly recalled, and assisted by the fami read Milton would be mere punctilio. liar sound of the Slough of Despond and Vanity Well, perhaps, the authors have no ground of Fair, suffices to give a sort of vicarious title good complaint; the testimony to their greatness is the enough for us, till one day, stranded bookless in an very fact that they have drawn their characters in inn, we learn under compulsion that the Interpre- lines firm and broad enough to be so well known ter's House and the Delectable Mountains and the that we scarce need to go to the originals. Valley of Humiliation are in truth unknown regions thors on their Parnassus may well be content; but to us; the man who hailed a new book's advent by we below are fools if we are content for our part to taking down an old had reason, we reflect; at least give them our empty worship without enjoying the this larger air, this naive simplicity, may be as good gifts they proffer. Among these gifts are healthy a change from magazines and problem plays treasures new and old : much that is new to us we as the holiday jaunt, which has brought us ac shall not fail to find : literary fame that has stood
the test of time does not lie. Such new wealth needs the double workings of self-delusion are its core, and not to be recommended; but a special charm clings the juxtaposition has all the effect of the twin-plots to the old, to the incidents and characters that we of Shakespeare : Gloster is but another spelling of knew before in some sort of reproduction. What Lear; and if the knight-errant can admit that Dulmore delightful than to find yourself face to face in cinea's qualities and existence may be imaginary, Berlin, say, with the Van Eyck“man with a pink” yet all the time hold her sacred, the squire on his whose black and white counterfeit has been upon lower plane can accept as very truth the juggling your walls for years ? So it is when Fag's transfer metamorphosis to a skipping wench of which he ence of kicks is known again in Sancho's pronuncia knows himself the author. Charming is the mingled tion lesson, Mrs. Malaprop in Dogberry, and Acres' pride and tenderness with which each comes to recourage in Sir Andrew's. But if we like to find the gard the other's strength and weakness. Yet, O original, even when the copy is from a master-hand flower of chivalry, was it well done to permit, nay, -and Sheridan is no vulgar plagiarist-how much to entreat, that another's back should bear the more when all we have else is the poor thin outline lashes of disenchantment? And, thou that didst so of common talk?
revere thy lord's wisdom, was it fit that thou And now a word upon the way to enjoy the books shouldst lay him on his back to save thine own? that we affect to have read, or have read with the Like master like man once more. To conclude is half-reading of childhood. They are not of the hopeless: we must break off, and trust our problekind that cry aloud to be swallowed, they “are to matic converts to complete the eulogium for thembe chewed and digested;" finish them at a sitting, selves.
- The Spectator.
* and you feel that you have been a spendthrift and a
NEW TESTAMENT FOR AN EMPRESS. glutton. Happy is the man who can take them as relish with breakfast bread and butter, or noonday
The poorest can now buy the New Testament in bread and cheese ; those bovine products seem to
English for a nickel and yet-strange contrast !-
perhaps the most sumptuous copy of the New Tesfill the blood with a bovine, browsing humor, apt
tament in existence is that splendid edition de luxe for chewing the cud.
presented to the dowager empress of China on the Don Quixote shall last you on such terms for a occasion of her sixtieth birthday, the presentation month or two. The elastic scheme, that might have having been made in due form by the British and shrunk to one volume, or stretched to twenty, you
The book is a royal quarto American ministers.
volume, 2x10x13 inches in size and was manufacknow before; excitement is not in question ; no toss tured by the Presbyterian press and Canton silvering off of ardent spirits, but the connoisseur's delib smitbs. It has silver covers, embossed with bamerate rolling in the mouth of some old vintage; the boo and bird designs, and is printed on the finest most poignant emotion a mild regret that Sancho's paper with the largest type, and with a border of
gold encircling each page. It was encased in a gift of Solomon-judgment should meet such poor re
solid silver casket, ornamented with symbolic designs, quital, the cream of knighthood be worsted at last
the whole weighing 10 pounds, and upon the in fair encounter, and Dulcinea keep her mysterious cover of the casket there is a gold plate which renonentity to the end. We had designed to say more lates that the book is the gift of the Christian than space will allow us of this greatest of the unread.
women in China. It is churlish to end a feast of delight and say no
Not long after the presentation of this magnifi
cent volume the eunuchs were sent from the palace grace, to close a book whose every page is luminous
to the book-store to ask for a common copy, so that without an effort to spread the light; "something the empress and her ladies might compare the two may be said or written—a word be spoken-that texts. Surely the circulation of such a book is one may help, in some infinitesimal proportion,” not the
of the wonders of the world! “Age cannot wither,
nor custom stale, its infinite variety.” fame of the famous, but the knowledge of the half
AT THE TOMB OF CARLYLE. It may be something for the timid undertaker of
Hail and farewell! for thee, pathetic ghost, stories long and old to be assured that here is no
The doors of the great darkness are unbarred fine scheme tailing off in the sequel into monotony The darkness that the Gods of silence guard : and weariness. The material of all sorts is as inex Oh! tell us, Pilgrim, what we yearn for most, haustible as the amazing flood of Sancho's proverbs, How fares it with the pale, evanished host ? which are more apposite than the fastidious Don
Wear they for garment yet the shadow unstarred
The shadow of night with all its music marred ? (who “must sweat, as if he were delving, to speak
Say, are they darkling down the Stygian coast? but one and apply it properly") will allow. Master Nay, bind with double-dark the perilous theme, and man develop as we read, the Knight from un Lest we could not the fateful tiding bear: conscious to conscious humorist, from his simple Some longer yet we need the world-old dream self to Cervantes and himself in one, the squire from
To shine along the sea-reefs of despair
The starry dream that, all dark travels done, butt to buffoon and from buffoon to Solomon ; yet
Sweet Love will crown all sad hearts with the sun. neither so that the earlier elements evaporate. And
CHARLES EDWIN MARKHAM, the bond between them is ever stronger and easier;
in Californian, August, 1881.
POETS ON THEIR OWN POEMS. Some years ago, before most of the great poets were dead, I conceived the idea of making a volume of selections from their poems, the poets themselves to do the selecting. This, I confess, was not so much because I thought that they would be the best judges of their work, but because of the novelty of the idea, and because the volume could not but have a certain unique value. The poets responded courteously to my call, but not as eagerly as the cynic might imagine. Some of them almost declined at first to accept my invitation to immortality, and only by hard coaxing did I induce them to respond. What I asked them was to name four or five of their poems that they thought best represented their
Not their “favorite,” because I did not suppose that they had favorites, but I wanted them to be satisfied with the selections in the book, and I could think of no better way of getting at this desired end than the one I proposed. I shall not quote from all the letters that I received ; that would make a 'book, and this is merely an article. I will only give a few extracts from the letters where they seem to me to be particularly characteristic. To make them alphabetically, Matthew Arnold was the first poet to respond to my call. Either he did not understand my request or he begged the question. "I cannot,” he wrote, “undertake to select the three or four poems of mine most likely to suit the general public in America. All I can say is that the poem most liked by the public here is, I think, The Forsaken Merman ;'" so this is the only one of this poet's poems printed in my book. Sir Edwin Arnold wrote: “It is very difficult for me to say by what poems I would be represented. I forget what I have written-being a most careless author in this respect, seldom preserving a copy of my own books." He asked me to make the selection, stipulating, however, that “He and She" be included. But in another letter he named "A Home Song,” “The Rajah's Ride,” and “A Serenade.” Our own Mr. T. B. Aldrich wrote: “If I were to select four lyrics from the writings of that middle-aged young poet whom you mention in your note, I should take 'On Lynn Terrace,' 'Identity,' 'Prescience,' and 'Unsung. If I wanted his best sonnet, I'd take 'Sleep.''
I don't know just how I got it into my head that Mr. John Burroughs was a poet, unless by much reading of his prose; but I wrote to him for his selection, and he thought that I was "poking fun" at him.
“When and where have you read any poems of mine?” he asked; but he confessed to a little one, printed years ago in the Knickerbocker Magazine, and republished in Whittier's “Songs of the Centuries.” It is called “Waiting,” and a very pretty poem it is. The late Mr. H. C. Bunner wrote that I asked him an embarrassing question.
"But if you want to know by what I should desire to be reprepresented as a writer of verses, I will name "The Way to Arcady,' and let it go at that. Only, I pray you, don't use any of my light and humorous iniquities. I would fain put them behind me.” I need hardly say that his wishes were respected; nor need I add that he could scarcely have made a better choice.
The late George William Curtis seemed to be almost as much surprised as Mr. Burroughs that I had his name among my poets. “How you must delve in obscure literature," he wrote, “to know that I ever wrote verses ! I never did write many, and you can put all your selections from my lyre upon a page.' He then named some lines that had found their way into Dana's “Household Book of Poetry," and added, “I send also some lines to Theodore Winthrop which I wrote in June, 1861, sitting on Grymes's Hill, where we used to sit together, looking at the ocean." Now, both are dead,
, the brave young soldier who died for his country, and the equally brave writer, who did battle with his pen and served his country just as devotedly and died when he could least have been spared.
Mr. Austin Dobson thought that I could make a better selection than he could ; but as that would have been against the design of my book, he kindly selected “Good-night, Babette," "The Dead Let
” “The Sick Man and the Birds," "The Ballad of Prose and Rhyme,” “A Ballad of Queen Elizabeth,” and “The Paradox of Time.” “Forty years ago," wrote the late Charles A. Dana (this was in 1885), “I wrote perhaps eight or ten sonnets and short poems. The whole of them would not fill two columns of The Critic. I had once manuscript copies of them, and lost them, and I could not possibly reproduce them. Three or four maintain a dodging existence in collections of verse, where they owe a place to the kindness of friendly hearts.” Most of these were published in the Dial and the Harbinger. I hunted them up and found them. “One of them,” wrote Mr. Dana—“I can't remember its title—began, 'Utter no whisper of thy human speech ;' that was written at Brook Farm." I found it and have it in my book. It was called “Eternity.”
Mr. Edmund Gosse was good enough to get Browning for me. He doubted his ability to succeed when I asked him, but he won a victory, for of all men Browning was the least likely to bother himself with anything of that sort. He did it, however, and most gracefully, as the following letter shows. It is dated 13 Warwick Crescent, and reads:
MY DEAR Gosse: “Your poems of moderate length, which represent the writer fairly:" if I knew what “moderation" exactly meant, the choice would be easier. Let me say-at a venture-lyrical,“ Saul” or “ Abt Vogler;" narrative, “A Forgiveness; ” dramatic, "Caliban upon Setebos;' idylic (in the Greek sense), “Clive." Which means that,
being restricted to four dips in the lucky-bag, I should not “Songs Unsung,” “The Flower of Love-Liesobject to be judged by these samples—so far as they go, for
Bleeding,” and “The Flight of Youth." The late there is somewhat behind still !
Robert Louis Stevenson, then at Bournemouth, “Of my own 'stuff,' as Matthew Arnold would
wrote: “No, I find that I cannot select any of my say," wrote Mr. Gosse, "print, if you please, 'Lying
own verses. I have tried, and it won't do. I like in the Grass,' To My Daughter,' 'The Mænad's the trio ‘Northwest Passage' in ‘The Child's GarGrave,' Timasitheos.'»
den.' That for a first. But I can say no more.” Dr. O. W. Holmes said: "If I named a few pieces Mr. Stedman thought that I showed tact in “conthey would be 'The Last Leaf,' 'Old Ironsides,' sulting the poets as to selections.” He advised me among the earlier ones, "The Chambered Nautilus,'
not to use such pieces of his as “Pan in Wall and 'The Voiceless.'” Mr. Bret Harte, then United Street, " "Toujours Amour," etc., as they were States Consul at Glasgow, suggested “An Idyl of 'too hackneyed.” Then he names me a list from the Road” and “Wind Over the Chimney," as he which I chose and submitted to him for final approcalled it, though in his published poems it is called val. It was “The Discoverer," "The Hand of “What the Chimney Sang.” He considered them Lincoln," "Kearny at Seven Pines," "The Lord's characteristic of his work. He said that I might Day Gale," " Mine," "The Old Picture Dealer," take the “Heathen Chinee,” as it is called, if I and “The World Well Lost." wanted to, but I did not. Colonel John Hay's letter
J. G. Whittier wrote that he scarcely remembered is marked “confidential, for which I am very what he had written, and that he had no time just sorry, as it is particularly characteristic and amus
then to look over his verses, but he did mention, ing.
“The Slave of Martinique," "The Two Angels," There was no one who helped me more in getting “The Pageant,” and “My Playmate.” up my book than the late Arthur Locker-Lamson.
I confess that I was put in a rather embarrassing He not only sent me a list of his own poems, but he position by Mr. Swinburne's selections, which his enabled me to get a selection from the late Lord friend Mr. Theodore Watts (this was before he Tennyson, who was even harder to induce to go into added Dunston to his name) was kind enough to get an anthology than Mr. Browning, much less to take
They were too long to go into my book an interest in the making of one. Of his own poems and leave room for any others, so I was obliged to Mr. Locker-Lamson selected “An Invitation to
use heroic measures and leave them out, much to Rome," "The Unrealized Ideal," "To My Grand
my annoyance, for the book hardly seemed complete mother," "Beggars," and "At Her Window." without him. What he selected were “Hymn of Mr. Andrew Lang wrote: 'I cannot pretend to say
Man," "Hertha" (in “Songs Before Sunrise"), which of my lines are most representative, and much
“Off Shore,” and “ By the North Sea.”
In looking over my letters I am shocked to find prefer, like the cabman, to ‘leave it to you.' I have
how many of the poets have joined the majority. a sneaking liking for ‘Almæ Matres,' but no one can
- JEANETTE L. GILDER, in The Outlook. be a judge of his own attempts.” In another letter
* he mentioned, besides this, “Twilight on Tweed,"
THOSE BOOKS OF MINE. "Homer," and "Romance," adding, "I feel un
Ah! well I love those books of mine comfortable at these scraps being in the same volume
That stand so trimly on their shelves; with real poets. I only aim at versifying, and make With here and there a broken line no pretense of poetry.” Certainly Mr. Lang has For "quartos" jostling modest "twelves," the modesty of the true poet.
A curious company, I own;
The poorest ranking with their betters, Poor, dear Mr. Lowell misunderstood the number
In brief-a thing almost unknown, of poems that I asked for, and thought that I said
A pure Democracy-of letters. forty-five, so he sat down and wrote me out a list of
If I have favorites here and there, that many titles. He was in Boston when my first
And, like a monarch, pick and choose, letter reached him, and he wrote, “The list of my I never meet an angry stare, offenses is at Southboro.' The truth is, I have no That this I take, and that refuse; choice, but 'hate 'em all without distinction.'
No discords rise my soul to vex
Among those peaceful book relations, Really, you must put 'em into a hat (if you can bor
No envious strife of age or sex row one), and take 'em out by lot.” Women did
To mar my quiet lucubrations. not wear hats as commonly in those days as they do
I call those friends those quiet books, to-day, and I suppose he thought that I wore a bon And well the title they may claim, net. His final selection was for “A Parable,” “The Who always give me cheerful looks Present Crisis," "What is so Rare as a Day in June," (What living friend has done the same?) “The Courtin',” and an extract from “The Com
And for companionship, how few,
As these, my cronies, ever present, memoration Ode." Mr. R. H. Stoddard wrote:
Of all the friends I ever knew “Let us talk, not write. I hate pot-hooks." And Have been so useful and so pleasant. so we talked, and he named “ Abraham Lincoln,"
John G. Saxe.
THE ARCHÆOLOGY OF NURSERY CLASSICS. The king, struck with horror, immediately repu
diated Bertha, and subsequently wedded one ConIt will be a sorry day for the rising generation if
tance, the daughter of a Count of Toulouse. those nineteenth-century realists who are continu
Now, the divorced wife was reported to have a ally clamoring for "Facts ! facts !” succeed in ban
foot shaped like that of the hissing fowl, so the ishing from juvenile literature all the dear, more or
credulous populace bestowed upon her the nickless imaginative tales and rhymes which have been
“Goose-footed Bertha" and “Queen the joy of whole armies of little men and women for
Goose.” From this, then, arose among the French mauy a century past. “Down with all fairies and
a proverbial saying that any incredible tale belongs hobgoblins," they cry; "Santa Claus is a myth de
to the time when “Queen Bertha spun," and they signed to fill the youthful mind with falsehoods and
call such a fable " foster unbelief; and Mother Goose is a nursery witch
one of Queen Goose's or Mother
Goose's stories." who deserves to be burned at the stake."
In all the vignettes, too, which illustrate the first Heaven defend the poor children from such icon
editions of Perrault's “Contes de ma Mére l'Oye,” oclasts! For, Heaven knows, the prosaic side of
the garrulous dame is represented as using a distaff life comes soon enough, and more than dolls are
and surrounded by a group of children whom she found to be stuffed with sawdust. Surely we need
holds entranced by her wondrous recitals. It is exnot begrudge our boys and girls the few radiant
tremely doubtful, however, if our poetess laureate of years when bright Fancy spreads her enchanting
the nursery ever even heard of her French counterglamour over land and sea, -when, for them, the
part, and the fact is introduced here only as a curmoon is really made of green cheese, each flower is
ious coincidence. home of a dainty fay, and the genial spirit of
Certain nursery rhymes Mr. Halliwell classes toChristmas love and good will is personified in the
gether as historical. Among these appearperson of a generous old gentleman who owns the
What is the rhyme for porringer? fleetest racers on record.
The King he had a daughter fair, Parents, however, who have any qualms of con
And gave the Prince of Orange herscience on the subject may satisfy themselves by re
which is believed to have been written on the occasmembering that most of the fables and “Melodies”
sion of the marriage of an English princess with the have a substratum of truth underlying them, while others boasted a lengthy and distinguished pedigree
young Prince of Orange; and long before that good old lady of Boston town,
Little General Monk Dame Goose—or Vergoose, as was her proper cog
Sat upon a trunk.
Eating a crust of bread. nomen crooned to her children and grandchildren
There fell a hot coal, the rhymes and ditties learned during her own
And burnt in his clothes a hole; childhood in the English fatherland over the water,
Now General Monk is dead which her printer son-in-law preserved by gathering referring to George Monk, Duke of Albemarle, who them into a volume published under the title “Songs was a famous parliamentarian general during the for the Nursery, or Mother Goose's Melodies for Commonwealth and Protectorate, and later noted Children ; Printed by T. Fleet at his printing house, for the part he took in bringing about the restoraPudding-Lane, 1719. Price two coppers,” and with tion of the Stuarts. a long-necked goose with open mouth for frontis Another, which with some slight and vulgar varpiece.
iations appears in “The Jacobite Minstrel,” isSince then antiquarian societies have not consid
William, Mary, George and Anne, ered the origin of these fantastic verses beneath their Four suc'ı children had never a man. attention, but have devoted to them much research They put their father to flight and shame, though I believe they have decided it was purely
And called their brother a shocking bad nameaccidental that in 1697, twenty-two years before the and is evidently a hit at William III. and George, American nursery classic appeared, Charles Perrault Prince of Denmark. published in France a collection of French fairy Old King Cole was, likewise, a very ancient tales as the “Contes de ma Mére l'Oye” (“Tales of British sovereign who flourished in those dark ages my Mother Goose''). Collin de Plancy thus ex about the third century, when fact and fancy seemed plains the adoption of this name:
so bewilderingly commingled. That he a "King Robert II. of France took to wife his rela “merry old soul” we can well believe, and it may tive Bertha, but was commanded by Pope Gregory have been within the great earthwork or amphiV. to relinquish her and to perform seven years of theatre still shown at Colchester as “King Cole's penance for marrying within the forbidden degree of Kitchen” that he retired to take his ease, calling for consanguinity.” He was excommunicated, and his bowl, and calling for his pipe, and calling for shortly after a child was born to the royal pair-a his fiddlers three. This receives more credence Lusus nature-resembling a deformed duck or goose. when we note that very early editions read