The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
"En hoexkens ende boexkens."
Mr. Edward Salmon's "Juvenile Literature as it is" was referred to in a late number of the Review to show that some attempt had been made to classify the best books for the young. The book is a mine of facts as regards authors, and is a pretty safe guide to those whose pleasing duty it is to select prize books and gift books; but there are so many changes in juvenile literature every year that Mr. Salmon's 1888 edition is even now a little antiquated. As the author himself allows, more space should be given to R. L. Stevenson and Rider Haggard, and less perhaps to Mayne Reid; and there are one or two good books of verse which have been published in the last year or two. Mr. Salmon has been at the trouble of taking a rough plébescite as to favourite books, and the result appears to be that Dickens, Kingston, Scott, and Jules Verne head the boys' list, and Dickens, Scott, Kingsley, and Yonge the girls' list, while among the magazines the Boys' Own Paper and the Girls' Own Paper stand out first favourites. We should like to take a very much fuller set of votes than we find here, and, by means of schoolmasters, get some thirty or forty thousand answers to the following questions:--What is your favourite book? What are your six favourite characters in fiction? What sort of adventures do you prefer to read about? What part of a book do you generally like best; do you skip descriptive pages? Do you dislike poetry, and if so, why? Mr. Salmon has got together a number of curious answers which book writers would do well to consider.
If we may judge from his lists of historical stories, school stories, and romances, we should say that boys' books fail where they ought least to fail, in the description of school life. No one has been able to write up to the level of Tom Brown, and most school stories have a hot-house air about them which is far from healthful. We long for the appearance of a writer who will combine good story-telling with athletics and books, that is, who will make boys interested in his story, give them good hints on their games, and speak just seriously enough about their work to deter them from deriding it. The modern schoolboys' literature is too one-sided.
There is a chapter on literature for girls, and another on literature for the little ones, but it seems that boys' books are girls' books too, and that small children have had no magazine really suited to their wants since Aunt Judy died. As a guide Mr. Salmon's book is excellent. Should it be necessary to bring out another edition, we hope the author will add lists of the more important writers, giving their books, with the prices. An excellent chapter might be given too on foreign literature for the young. The price of the book is 6s.
We are glad to see that the "Letters of Dorothy Osborne (6s., Griffith and Farran) have reached a third edition. No too warm a welcome could be given to this, the most sensible collection of love letters ever published. Mr. Parry, the editor, vouches, in a short and excellent editorial note, for the accuracy of his work; but he fails to give the student the quaint spelling and abbreviations which would add to the old-world look of this strange correspondence. However, we only grumble at his having given us not even a specimen, for we know that the ordinary reader would be shocked at Dorothy's orthography. The history of the editing is curious; for it appears that Macaulay's few lines in his essay on Sir William Temple led Mr. Parry to a sight of these treasures. The story is contained in the one line, "The course of true love never did run smooth." Dorothy never lacked suitors; indeed she seems to have been always refusing some one or other; but there was a wicked brother who would have none of her lover, and years and years of trial and of sickness stood between Dorothy Osborne and Lady Temple. The old English gardens, the formal visits, the slow carriers of those days, the pompous wooing, are all vividly before us as we read; but clearer than all is the demure but firm Dorothy holding her own against the world and railing so prettily at fortune. Extracts we cannot give; and the book is well-known already. If we were rich enough to buy twenty thousand copies we would present them willingly to twenty thousand households, taking the last novel in exchange; and the households would thank us. On the title page of Mr. Parry's book are these words from Cymbeline:
"Iach.: Here are letters for you.
Nay, Mr. Parry, 'tis very sure; their tenor, tone, and teaching are Dorothy's, and therefore they are good. NEMO.
Best Stories for Children.--I do not know any stories that come so near perfection as Mrs. Ewing's. Any household which has not got them is depriving itself of incalculable aid and enormous pleasure. They are unsurpassed in interest and in way of telling, without the least sensationalism or false morality, and they make for the children a personal friend of one of the most amiable of women who ever wrote (as I judge from her books)--a great acquisition in itself. They are also so wise that a child learns something from them every time if they are read ever so many times, as they always are, and the reading of them by the parents is a delight to them instead of a nausea. The shortest and easiest of them are the volumes of short stories entitled "The Brownies" and "Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances." Another book, containing many good stories well told, but with a little too much preaching, is Waugh's "Children's Sunday Hour." H.D. PEARSALL.
Why are not Mrs. Prentiss's "Little Susie" books (Ward & Locke) better known? If they were republished with more modern illustrations they would be charming. The "Six Teachers" (better than the "Little Servants") is quite delightful. "Mr. Ought," "Mrs. Love," "Miss Joy," "Mr. Pain," "Aunt Patience," and the "Angel Faith" are teachers that fit the needs of all children as well as "Little Susie." E.V.
Stories from Spenser's Fairie Queen, by Miss Mackleshouse (published by Macmillan & Co.).--In this delightful book some of the most familiar of the stories from the Fairie Queen are told in prose. It would be perhaps be more exact to say only that they are not told in rhyme; for in their quaint simplicity there still lingers a subtle flavour of the mystical poetry of the original. It is remarkable how naturally children are charmed by the best in literature. I read this work to three children--eight, seven, and six years of age respectively. They all listened with intense interest. The younger ones did not quite follow it, I feel sure; but, if I may use the expression, they liked the taste of it, and were never ready for me to stop reading. The book throughout is a pleasure to the book lover, from its dull green canvas covers to the beautiful type, delicately-tinted paper, and correctly-proportioned margins. All these attractions combine to render it expensive, but the 10s. paid for it is well expended. In no sense is it a nursery book, and the feeling that it is too dainty and costly for them to have in their own possession but adds to the mysterious charm which it must have in the lives of many children. C.M.B.
Quite as good, in a very different way, are two American books. "Four Feet, Two Feet, and No Feet," edited by Laura E. Richards, and published by Estes & Lauriate, of Boston, is a most amusing and interesting collection of stories about all kinds of animals. One that took my children's fancy was about two cats. One, a pet cat, belongs to Somebody, and will not allow a poor vagrant cat, which belongs to Nobody, to enter the house. So Nobody's cat has to live outside and catch mice, while Somebody's cat does nothing but eat and sleep. "So," concludes the story, "Nobody's cat did good to somebody, but Somebody's cat did good to nobody!" The other book, "Little Folks in Feathers and Fur," by Olive Thorne Miller, published by E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, is also all about animals, but written, perhaps, for rather older children. It is, however, quite as entertaining as "Four Feet, Two Feet, and No Feet," and both are profusely illustrated. In my opinion such books as these are among the best for children. They not only interest and amuse, but lead them to find interest and amusement for themselves in observing the many curious phases of animal life. C.M.B.
Typed by cobweb, Apr 2016
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