The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
"En hoexkens ende boexkens"
Morale Familière-Contes Récits, Souvenirs et Conseils d'un Père à ses. Enfants par P.J. Stahl (J. Hetzel et C ie. 18, Rue Jacob, Paris, 3s.) Ouvrage Couronne.
This book, which has reached a fifteenth edition, is a collection of stories sent from time to time to a children's magazine. "I have more than one little friend," says the author, "to whom much that is in this book will come home, though I may have never spoken to them about it at all. If, when they read, they find that I am very clever in having known so much about them, and if they profit by my advice in print more than they would ever have profited by any spoken word, it is enough for me." And the author has done his best to let his 'moral' run through his stories, unobtrusively, yet always present; there is, as he says, no "starch" in the book. The stories are all short, and many are gems. There is nothing (outside Andersen) prettier than "The Four Crickets," "The Adventures of the Doll and the leaden Soldier," "The Blacksmith's Grave," "The Ship of Dreams," "The Joy of Men," "The Spinning Woman carved in Stone"; while among the lighter papers we find a thoughtful array on "children's books," which ends with these singular words, "I suppose one does not want to count one's intimate friends by the thousand. If in the world's crowd we can meet some few worthy of being treated as brothers, life-long friends, let us thank God and man for them. Even so, a good book is an intimate friend. Each of us has a hundred such; let us not complain."
We should like to quote "The Joys of Men" and "The Blacksmith's Grave," but we prefer to let readers guess or read for themselves the story connected with this epitaph.
Celui qui est couché ici
We may add that the stories, though intended for children, are not in any way written 'down' to the powers of beginners.
Three books on reading: (1) "L'art de la lecture," 3s.; (2) "la lecture en action," 3s.; (3) "Petit traite de la lecture a haute voix," 1s.; all by E. Legouve, and published by Hetzel, Paris.
E. Legouve, who was quoted once or twice in the last number of the Parents' Review, is an enthusiast on the study and teaching of reading; and, by dint of his varied anecdots, his autobiographic touches and his love for his subject, he has managed to make his book as interesting as they are instructive. He prefaces his work with the official document addressed by the Government to the head-masters of France, in which the importance of the teaching of reading is fully recognized; and he dedicates his work to the pupils of his own classes who, as masters in French schools, will, in after days, be able to influence thousands of lives for good. There is no uncertain note given here. Reading is an art, and means far more than the correct enunciation of phrase, poem, or story. It is the sure guide to all true appreciation of literature, the road to thoughtful criticism, the touchstone of uncertain and unsatisfactory work.
These three books before us rather overlap one another, and there is no need to refer to each separately. Of course the writer tells us how he learnt to read, and how he still continues his studies -- reading and reciting to the birds in the woods and meadows. For the voice in the first place requires most careful training; and when you have mastered the great difficulty of pronunciation, breathing, and economy of sound. Each of these subjects has its appropriate anecdotes, and in each chapter M. Legouve has something new to say, which he says energetically.
On the subject of reading in elementary schools he is very sensible. Knowing full well that with children, as with adults, the truth is "non seulement ils lisent mal, mais ils rougiraient de bien lire," Whether the reasons he gives are sufficient, we should not like to say. Personally we should like to add a fourth to his three, and to suggest that just because good reading does not show what the man himself is, so do people shrink from attempting it, for human nature is proud of being thought vicious, but does not like to get a character for anything that savours of goodness.
A good deal of his work is given up to minute accounts of the methods of actors, and indeed he believes so thoroughly in the French Theatre that he tells us with pride of the actors who have been his pupils, and of those justly famous readers who have in some cases combined the art of acting on the boards of the theatres with the teaching of reading in the highest schools of France.
For the actor, if he is worth anything, must understand the golden rules of speech -- viz., the rule of pronunciation, the rule of the key word, the rules of breathing, of economizing strength, of quietness in word and deed. How M. Legouve enunciates and examines these rules we do not mean to tell; but if his books were adapted to the English language and put into competent hands, vast indeed would be the improvement in English reading.
The most important chapters for a Frenchman (though less important for a foreigner) are those devoted to a minute examination of certain passages from the treasures of French literature.
There is not a dull page in these three books; and if English people who are interested in reading do not care to buy the three, they ought at least to spend a shilling on the "Petit Traite," which is in the main a reprint of part of one of the other volumes; when they have bought this, they will send for the others. But English people do not care about reading; and we are so negligent of all higher intellectual training that we actually require a government to step in and say that we shall learn to speak and to read our own language. The Government has stepped in; and in twenty years time, if we are not careful, the clear, careful, good reading of the masterpieces of English literature will be an art professed, practiced, and understood only by those who have been educated not at Eton and Harrow, but -- in Board Schools. -- Nemo.
Typed by Kristina, Sept 2015
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