The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

Volume 10, 1899, pg. 329

A First Book in Writing English, by Professor [Edwin Herbert] Lewis (Macmillan & Co. 3/6). They have a rapid way of doing things in America, and we are glad to see what Professor Lewis has to say about writing English. He speaks of spelling, punctuation, the structure of sentences, the choice of words and various other subjects. The first chapter gives some thirty-four marks to be used by the teacher in correcting faults; as S for "solecism," T for "too loose structure, rambling," A for "ambiguous," and so on down to the thirty-fourth, B T "in bad taste"; an excellent plan, we should say, if either teacher or pupil is likely to remember so extensive a code of signals. "Bad spelling," says the author, "should practically be a thing of the past for each student by the end of his first High School year." This is reassuring, but the experience of some of us makes us less hopeful. We agree with the author, however, in thinking that the best way to learn to spell is to learn to read, giving every vowel its true value and cutting no syllables short. The review of punctuation seems to be practical and reasonable, but we do not think that "the semi-colon is a kind of weak full stop." The pupils who read this would be misled and would give the falling, instead of the rising, inflection of the voice. Professor Lewis' book has many suggestive hints, but we think a little more care would have been well bestowed.

Music and Manners in the Classical Period. Essays by H. E. Krehbiel (Constable, 6/-). The poet Gray, as a collector of music, will be new to many of us. We read "the chief and almost the only one of Gray's amusements (if we except the experiments he made on flowers in order to mark the mode and progress of their vegetation) was music." He appears to have been thoroughly conversant with the Italian masters and to have himself played on the harpsichord. His collection was considerable and important. In the manuscript volumes collected by Gray is an alphabetical list of 22 singers, hardly one of whose names would be known by even musical people. Remarks upon Haydn's note-book occupies a considerable part of the volume. It is curious to read "The Trial of Hastings, last week, May 25th , 1792, was the ninety-second meeting in Westminster Hall . . . . the case had its beginning four years ago," and again, "On June 15th , I went from Windsor to Slough, to Dr. Herschel, where I saw the great telescope." Chapters containing a good deal of curious information are devoted to Mozart, Beethoven, and Liszt. This is a book to interest lovers of music and musicians, but it is not easy reading, whether the difficulty be in the style or the arrangement.

The Adventures of Ulysses, by Chas. Lamb, edited by E. E. Speight, M.A. (Marshall, 10/d/.) Why is it that we all know Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare so much better than his version of the Adventures of Ulysses? To say that Lamb tells the story is to say that it is told with precisely the quaint grace which should make us content with an English version of the Odyssey; it has a literary value of its own and does not provoke comparisons with the original. "My own observation," says Dr. Birdwood, who writes the introduction, "leads me to believe that the Odyssey is a more general favourite than the Iliad, but chiefly on account of its marvellous fairy tales . . . Certainly the Odyssey has inspired more painters and poets, and our most enduring and fruitful inspirations throughout life are derived from the happier associations of youth." The illustrations are informing and reliable.

New English Series: Wordsworth, edited by E. E. Speight, M.A. (Marshall, 6/d/.) We congratulate Mr. Speight on the productions of an inviting volume of selections. To present children with such an open, well-printed, page is an act of respect which has in itself an educational value. The introduction, written by the master of Balliol, adds practical value to the work, but he also thinks it worth while to write for boys and girls a criticism of real value. The Wordsworth lover turns over these eighty pages with pleasure. Of course, he wishes for many things that are not here but, on the other hand, all that is here is in its right place. The selection is guided by Mr. Speight's always excellent literary taste, and "dull would he be of soul" whose love of poetry and whose love of Wordsworth is not enkindled by these selections.

The Works of Chaucer (Macmillan & Co., 3/6). We are told in the preface that it is exactly a third of a century ago since the publishers brought out their Globe edition of Shakespeare, and that it was their intention to follow it by a similar edition of Chaucer. It is interesting to read the tale of how, through "the steady persistence of the publishers," this popular edition of Chaucer has been produced despite the very great difficulties in the way. Gratitude is not always indigenous in human nature, and it is well that we should be occasionally reminded of the enormous educational debt we owe to publishers of cultured and liberal thought. Mr. Pollard, one of the editors, writes of his collaborators, "Dr. Heath and myself, like Chaucer, are Londoners; Professor McCormick is a successor of the Scottish poets and students who, in the 15th century, did so much for Chaucer's honour; and Professor Liddell is an American." The four editors have given the world a popular edition, edited with extreme scholarly care. The type is wonderfully good and clear and the 745 pages, plus 55 of introduction, are compressed into a volume, easy to read, pleasant to handle, and light to hold.

English Grammar, Past and Present, by J. C. Nesfield, M.A. (Macmillan & Co., 4/6). Part I. deals with modern English grammar; Part II. deals with the idiomatic use of English parts of speech; Part III. deals, by far the most considerable part, with historical English and derivation, and the appendices deal with Prosody, Figures of Rhetoric, &c. The late Director of Public Instruction in the N.W. Province of India makes good use of his experience, and a work on English grammar, prepared for home use, is all the more practical because the writer is conversant with the difficulties of foreigners. He begins well, with a sentence, but goes all too soon to parts of speech, of which he gives clear and simple definitions. Again, in his chapter on the analysis of sentences, Mr. Nesfield gives definitions of subordinate and co-ordinate clauses, of the noun clause and the adjective clause, which whoso runs may read and understand. He is careful, too, to give that best part of grammar--abundant illustrative exercises. There are various little notes and comments, scattered up and down the volume, which we are glad to come upon; for instance, we are allowed to say, "It is me," and are petrified by the fact that the phrase is a translation of the French phrase, "C'est mau." Again, it is good to read that "initial H, if the word is emphatic or the syllable accented, is sounded; otherwise it is weak, so as to be practically silent . . . We do not sound it at all in such sentences as, 'I saw her yesterday' " We recommend Mr. Nesfield's practical and useful book, which is free from the pedantry that is apt to spoil works on English grammar.

Flashlights on Nature, by Grant Allen ([publisher] George Newnes, 6/-). In one handy volume are gathered together the main facts, as now known, about such common creatures as spiders, wasps, earwigs, ants, gnats and horse-flies. Everyone who cares for the various life-stories that are going on always and all around us will run through this lively book with pleasure. There are some 150 illustrations by Frederick Enoch, most of them are drawn under a powerful lens or microscope, by means of which we get glimpses, or flashlights--as the up-to-date title runs--into the more striking scenes or phases, the tragedies of birth and death, of multitudinous tiny creatures. There is the tilted up back of a minute spider as she, holding on by her legs to the edge of a leaf, spins and sends forth the first thread of her life, on the chance of a favouring breeze wafting it to some secure anchorage where it may glue itself automatically by its inherent stickiness. The different strands she weaves are shown, each with its own sort and size of viscid beads for the catching and holding of larger or smaller insects. Again, we see the spider dexterously dropping out of one suit of clothes after having grown a new one underneath. We can watch the complicated folding of the beautiful wings of the "horrid earwig" in twelve consecutive drawings, made of an operation that takes about half as many seconds; we see the earwig again sitting brooding over her eggs and young ones in the forsaken tunnel of some earthworm which she has made her home. There are ants fighting, building, nursing, carrying huge burdens many times their own size; there are the very combs and brushes of the ants, and the far more elaborate ones of the wasps; there is a raft afloat made of gnats' eggs, and the perfect insect carefully balanced upon the dead and floating case from which she has just emerged, and without which she would drown before the drying of the new wings into capacity for flights. Interspersed are some chapters on plants--clover, pondweeds, gorse, etc.; all their processes of growth, their habits--dodges as they are termed--are described in vivid language, too vivid perhaps, since it seems to presuppose intention, conscious purpose, and action on the part of the plant. Therefore let the readers, young people and older ones, get all the pleasure and knowledge possible from the forcible words of these perfectly true life stories, remembering at the same time that there is no consciousness discoverable in the vegetable kingdom: that plants and flowers are quite unaware of the insects that use and fertilize them. Plant-nature responds and grows according to the stimulus of its surroundings, and fades or dies as the stimulus is withdrawn, but without knowing, in the true sense of the word, anything of what is exterior to itself. In the chapter on the frozen pond, the author shows clearly a case where the animals and plants therein share the same danger, that of death from freezing, and how the escape for both is brought about by precisely the same means.

Volcanoes: the Structure and Significance, by T. C. Bonney, D.Sc., I.L.D., F.R.S. (John Murray, 6/-). This is a volume of the Progressive Science Series, which excuses itself for adding to the literature of a difficult subject by the plea that nature has in the last two decades been not unlavish in the supply of new material. It opens with a description of the living volcano, following all its phases from birth to death; Vesculous, with its early and late eruptions, and the upheaval of the region west of Naples, make pages of pleasant reading. They are followed by accounts of more distant volcanic phenomena, Krakatoa, Kilauea, gas volcanoes, sand volcanoes, water volcanoes in all parts of the world. There are chapters on the building of volcanoes and the materials of which they are made. Another one enters fully into the ancient fire-vents of Great Britain. In conclusion, the various theories of the causes of volcanic action are discussed without coming to any novel or convincing conclusion.

Proofread by LNL, June 2020