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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, pgs. 634-637


Sir Julian the Apostate, by Mrs. Clement Parsons (Heinemann) Mrs. Parsons' novel is very modern; and, as our novelists are also our moralists, it is well that an author should put a finger on the tendencies of to-day and shew us what is happening. That was how Jane Austen earned her prescriptive rights as an ethical teacher. She showed the people of her day the ways to which they were too much used to recognize their significance until a 'print book' shewed them as in a mirror. Just so, if less so, does Mrs. Clement Parsons do for us. "Sir Julian's" set are unsimple and therefore unpleasing folk. Mrs. Farrer-Hammond (no one could in her case drop one member of the double-barrelled name) is introduced to us in a London drawing-room of much elegance, with which her personal accord is scrupulously studied. Nothing is un-studied about this lady and nothing misses its intended effect; the producing of her environment; so to speak, is an easy and habitual effort; but she is never natural in the sense of spontaneous. The author strikes the key-note of her theme in presenting her heroine as a woman who manipulates life to a nicety, beginning with 'precious' surroundings, and going on to circumstances, and to events. The descent of this super-elegant personage into vicious coarseness and vulgar effrontery is a due progress and well-considered. Mrs. Clement Parsons writes, we think, with a message which she has the literary art to conceal. She would tell us that the unsimple life is as incapable of refinement as of sincerity; and that there is a distinct danger in our modern cult of aesthetic fitness. Sir Julian Borthwick, who gives title to the tale and hovers about the heroine, is, as many men are, at once too indolent and too proud to see that it is a fool's part to leave the ordering of their lives in other people's hands. Mrs. Farrer-Hammond, her invalid husband, her daughter, and Sir Julian, set up house for the husband's sake in a charming place in "Southshire." At the gates of the big house is the cottage of Dr. Sprott; and in this village doctor we get a charmingly delicate bit of characterisation; Mrs. Gaskell herself could not have produced a loveable and unusual man with fewer and finer touches. Mary Abinger, his "niece," is a delightful girl, fresh and keen-witted as behoves a girl of to-day; but we wish she had not interrupted the simplicity of the cottage life by giving that recherché supper to the fine folk of the House. We should say that Sir Julian the Apostate is especially strong in characterisation and in situations, while it is most refreshingly free from psychological analyses. The interest of the story, which we are careful not to tell, never flags. We recommend Sir Julian the Apostate to a place in the holiday luggage of our readers.

A Survey of English Ethics, being the first chapter of Mr. Lecky's "History of European Morals," edited by W. A. Hirst (Longmans, 3rd). We are exceedingly indebted to Mr. Hirst for the idea of publishing in this handy form the first chapter of Mr. Lecky's History of European Morals. Mr. Hirst prefaces the volume by an introduction tracing the history of English ethics from Hobbes to John Stuart Mill. It cannot be denied that our English moralists have belonged, for the most part, to the utilitarian school, of which it is well said that "The history of the Utilitarian principle is the history of contribution to the stock of happiness; it is the history of what has been done from time to time to improve and perfect the operations of which enjoyment is the result." Again, it is said of the Utilitarians and the philosophic radicals, "Efficiency was, in fact, their watchword. The object of efficiency, of a better system of government, morals and legislation, was happiness." At the present moment the doctrine of the man in the street, and of the thinker who represents him, is distinctly utilitarian. In religion, morals, politics and education, happiness is his aim; his altruistic aspirations are expressed in "the greatest happiness of the greatest number," and assuredly he labours for the aim he has in view. His benevolent and socialistic enterprises shew fine results, all the more so because, as compared with the intuitive moralist, his results are readily put in evidence. In face of these obvious facts, it is startling to read Mr. Lecky's statement, that "the intuitive moralist (for reasons I shall hereafter explain) believes that the Utilitarian theory is profoundly immoral." This is startling, but it is also encouraging. There are still those among us who believe in the intuitive sense of obligation which we call duty; who believe that the hope of the race lies, not in the alleviation of its discontents, but in what they are assured is the fact—that every man has in his nature a notion of right which carries with it a feeling of obligation; that when circumstances call upon a man to express this sense of obligation (though it be at the peril of life or limb or property), that man is, for the most part, ready to seize such opportunity as offering a supreme good. This is the theme which Mr. Lecky works out with singular lucidity and power, and, at the same time, with full and fair treatment of the Utilitarian position. We strongly advise the study of this "survey" as offering a key to many questions of the hour.

Nerves in Disorder, by A. T. Schofield, M.D. (Hodder & Stoughton, 3/6). We are greatly struck by the common sense and kindliness, as well as by the wide knowledge of the subject, displayed in Dr. Schofield's Nerves in Disorder. We are unable to judge of the work from a professional standpoint, and we have undefined shrinking from any method of treatment which invades the personality of another, whether by way of suggestion, sympathy, or what not; but we may be wrong in thinking that mental therapeutics fall under this disqualification. Anyway, there is no question as to the bracing sanity of the author; for example, "Next to worry as a cause of nerve disease, or perhaps bracketed with it, we should be inclined to place sudden mental idleness, such as school girls' experience when all at once transformed at the close of the last term into 'young ladies.' The sudden change from working every day through a long time table containing a perfect olla podrida of more or less useful subjects, to the peaceful occupation of arranging flowers in the drawing room for half-an-hour daily, has a very marked effect on some natures, and they readily become a prey to nerve disorders from the abrupt cessation of brain work. If one might for a moment play the part of adviser here, one would suggest, when school days are over, six or twelve months of modified work in those essentials that are invariably left out of the school time table." We are grateful for Dr. Schofield's mention of the House of Education in this connection, and we think that the atmosphere here is, as he says, entirely prophylactic; but we hope the readers of this book will understand that by prophylactic, preventive is meant, as nervous patients would not be suitable inmates. One more invaluable advice of the author we must add, "I must here add one word about religion. While it is true that the morbidness and over-introspection that accompany various sorts of fanaticism form one of the greatest emotional causes of hysteria, on the other hand true Christianity, in its Divine simplicity as taught by its Founder, is most beneficial to the mind. Dr. Ormerod may be quoted here. He says: 'Few things are more opposed to hysteria than the trustful, patient, altruistic spirit inculcated by Christ; and few things more conductive to it than the excitement seen in revivals, or the mysticism or self-conceit which sometimes poses as religion.' "

To Girls: A Budget of Letters, by H. E. Hersey (Ginn & Co., 4/6). American girls are to be congratulated in having found a mentor in Miss Hersey. She is, we should say, a wise woman, and has learned that most difficult of all sciences: the science of the proportion of things. This little book deals with education, social relations, and personal conduct. Many matters are discussed—the duty of health, telling lies, the suffrage of women, the art of speech, the virtue of reticence, the reading of fiction—and every subject is treated with simplicity and, we were going to add, sympathy, but so much cant is talked in the name of sympathy that we substitute—naturalness: naturalness is the way of approach to each other, and, therefore, is sympathy. The delightful freedom of the chapter on courses of reading is good to come across. "Not to listen to the voice of one's own judgment, taste, curiosity, is to lose the chance of becoming oneself. I am sometimes afraid of all the club-life which leads the women of a town to read the same books and talk about them the whole winter through . . . Not only should your reading be general, but it should be varied . . . Give me ten pages of history and ten minutes to squeeze out from its pages five facts that I want and I shall do it easily. Give me, on the other hand, a single page of one of Shakespeare's plays and I will spend an hour over it." But there is hardly a page from which we should not be glad to quote some saying of admirable common sense. We cordially recommend this handbook for American girls as a birthday gift for any English girl in her teens.

Towards the Rising Sun: Sketches of Life in Eastern Lands (Ginn & Co., 1/-). Shall we say that Messrs. Ginn & Co. have "struck 'ile" in their Youth's Companion Series? Towards the Rising Sun contains a number of eastern sketches by travellers in the east who know how to write. The reader becomes fairly intimate with life in China, Japan, Korea, Borneo, etc. This is the sort of intimate knowledge of eastern lands this remarkable little book offers:—"In battle, Korean generals are always accompanied by their servants. When he rides on horseback, a general has a servant on each side of his war horse to hold him in position, and a third stands at the horse's head to hold the animal during the fight, or to lead it to the advance or retreat."

Under Sunny Skies (Ginn & Co., 1/-) treats, on the same lines, chiefly of the countries of southern Europe, and has the same tone of intimacy so delightful to the young student of any geography book. Think of reading this:—"At this dinner there was a peculiar entertainment. The hostess looked out into the courtyard, into which the room opened, and suddenly called something like 'Janoska!' In marched, with a dignified, dainty step, a large tame stork."

Hero Stories from American History, by A. Blaisdall and F. Ball (Ginn & Co., 2/6) English children who feel an intelligent curiosity about the history of our American cousins would enjoy this little book.

The Triumphs of Science, edited by M. A. Lane (Ginn, 1/6), describes simply such matters as the Atlantic Cable, Astronomical Photography, Artesian Wells, etc., etc.

Trees in Prose and Poetry, by G. L. Stone and M. G. Fitchett (Ginn & Co., 1/4;). We are not much in sympathy with this book, which, assuming that knowledge is naseous, sweetens it for children by such devices as "Mr. Maple," "Mr. Pine," etc.

History for Graded and District Schools, by E. W. Kemp (Ginn & Co, 4/6). Here is another well-intentioned volume in which great subjects are peptonised for the consumption of children. This is the sort of thing—"I want to tell you now about a great man who lived in Athens at this time . . . His name was Pericles."



Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Hana 'ia i Hawai'i, October 2008