Volume 11, 1900, pgs. 59-61
Ruskin and the Religion of Beauty: Translated from the French of R. de la Sizeranne by the Countess of Galloway (Geo. Allen, 5/-).
"The judgment of one outside ourselves is valuable when we are anxious to divine the charm by which we are attracted." Ruskin is too near to us both in time and place to enable us to get the work of "the Master" into focus. Time will aid another generation; but, as Lady Galloway suggests in her preface, it is no small advantage to us to have the critical faculty of a sympathetic French mind brought to bear on the character and work of him who, it is hardly too much to say, has a large following of the best amongst us, who have been taught to think and feel, to aim and to admire, according to principles which he has laid down. But these principles are scattered in many books, and the Master had little care to systematise; so that although the inner circle of fervent disciples have, no doubt, such a definite view of Mr. Ruskin's philosophy as the scholar obtains of that of Plato, the rest of us, while we live in a more or less Ruskinian atmosphere, are content to know no more than that what-soever things are true, beautiful, and of good report, such things he taught. M. de la Sizeraune divides his work into three parts. Part I. treats of Ruskin's Personality under the heads of Contemplation, Action, and Expression. Part II. of his Words under the heads of Analysis, Imagery, Passion, and Modernity. Part III. treats of his Aesthetic and Social thought under the heads of Nature, Art and Life. It will be seen that this manner of treatment calls for thorough and exact study, sympathy, and the power of acute criticism, which sees not merely the defects or the merits of its subject, but, to use a catchword of the day, the true inwardness thereof. M. de la Sizeraune has walked in the steps of the master in a literal sense. Amiens, the Alps, Florence, Oxford, wherever Ruskin has been and has seen, the author has followed and has gazed with instructed eyes. Happily, he has brought a fairly disengaged mind to his task. He is able to laugh at the Professor, to show us his superficial inconsistencies; he does not write in the perfervid strain of a devotee, but his laughter and criticism are gentle if not tender; "e'en his failings lead to virtue's side," he would say; while the scope and power of Ruskin's teaching are brought before us in a clear and helpful way which enables the reader to realise how much we owe to the Seer of our age. We are accustomed to say that "Education is a Life," and, therefore, all vital ideas are fit and necessary to sustain parents in their work; but Ruskin's teaching is especially educational, and parents will be glad to read this intelligent and sympathetic summary as an instruction in ethics as well as in aesthetics. It is almost impossible to quote from a book, which is all living truth and vital teaching; but see, for example, how a sentence like the following offers a principle to act upon in the education of children:--"The only Psychology . . . . is one which would treat the qualities of form and colour as part of the primary and dominant qualities of natural objects, exercising their action . . . . on the most unselfish of sentiments, that of admiration." What a clean sweep would a realization of this principle make of our fond attempts to present either colour or form to children without associations, without even the interest which springs from irregularity or from downright ugliness! Lady Galloway's admirable translation gives us the crispness of French thought, added to an excellent English style.
From the Memoirs of a Minister of France, by Stanley Weyman (Cassel & Co 6 ). We are very glad indeed to welcome a popular edition of these quite delightful stories, told with a crispness, naivete, and point which only a Frenchman could have given in the first place, and which, perhaps, few Englishmen could have retained in retelling as Mr. Stanley Weyman has done. Besides their charm as independent tales, there is a thread running through The Tennis Balls, The Open Shutter, The Cat and the King, and the rest--the thread of a great minister's relations with a great king. The character of Henri IV and the manners of his court become a possession to the readers of this story-book in a way that much reading of history, so-called, would not accomplish. The stories are quite fit for the reading of young people.
French Literature of To-day, by Yetta Blaze de Bury (Constable & Co., 6/-). A collection of magazine articles seldom makes a satisfactory book, but an accomplished Frenchwoman's estimate of her fellow littérateurs is a real boon to the English reader, for whom the path of modern French literature is beset by many pitfalls. Before we read a French novel, we like, for more reasons than one, to know something about the author and Madame de Bury writes with candour as well as with literary discrimination. For example, the reader of Anatole France's delightful idyll, Sylvestre Bonnard, would feel himself safe in plunging into any other books by the same author; but, after reading Madame de Bury's article he will be aware that, except for grace of style, this work by no means represents its author. The authors treated of in these chapters are--Pierre Loti, Guy de Maupassant, Zola (as an Evolutionist), Edmond de Goncourt, Jean Martin Charcot, Paul Bourget, Eugene Melchior de Vogue, Ferdinand Brunetiere, Jules Lemaitre, Anatole France, Madame Blane Beutzon as a romance writer, &c. The style is somewhat involved, and a Frenchwoman's English is not always easy reading, but in this case the reader's profits should balance his pains.
The Crock of Gold, by S. [Sabine] Baring-Gould (Methuen. 6/-). Mr. Baring-Gould, or rather "Jeremiah Toop," knows how to tell a fairy tale as it should be told, in the plain simple straightforward way that carries conviction; for what is a fairy tale if you are not "certain sure" that it is every bit true? Jeremiah lost his way on the moors one night, fell among the Pixies, to the great disturbance of the queen, who burst into a storm of tears, whereupon the king commands Jeremiah to cheer her majesty's grief by telling her stories. "I will do my best," answered Jeremiah, "but I can tell only a number of old-fashioned tales, and tell them in my own way." The king is satisfied, and promises the story-teller a golden crock which lies buried beneath the tor, if he is able to cheer the queen. The stories that follow are old and also new. We do not all know about Patient Helen, Generides and Princess Rosalind; we all think we know about Jack Horner, but we wonder how many children really know about the gold-leaf shadow which made Jack Horner's fame. It is pleasant to think how many children will have happy hours in chimney corner or window seat, peering into The Crock of Gold.
The Drummer's Coat, by the Hon. J. W. Fortescue, with illustrations by H. M. Brock (Macmillan & Co., 4/6). Thring's "my Queen" sits too securely on her throne to fear a rival. We shall never have another Jackanapes, but, truth to say, there is a great deal of the delicate charm af Jackanapes in Mr. Fortescue's tale, together wit a touch of greater strength and shrewdnesss, which reminds one of Thackeray. The Drummer's Coat is a simple tale of a Devon village. A soldier's widow and her two children occupy the Hall, a beautiful little Henry VI. house in the shape of an H. The anniversary of Salamanca is kept in honour of the dead father, whose friend, Colonel Fitzdenys, comes to assist. Another soldier's widow comes on the scene, whose idiot boy owes his misfortune to the terrible privations and distresses of the Peninsular war. Then there is the Corporal, who looks after Elsie and Dick, and there are Mrs. Mugford and Sally Dart and other village folk not very engaging or very good, but all the more convincing for that. Out of these simple materials Mr. Fortescue has, as we have said, woven a tale (for children or grown-ups) of singular grace and literary power. H. M, Brock's illustrations are dainty and expressive, almost as much so as those by the same artist in Cranford.
The Princess: A Medley, by Alfred Lord Tennyson, with Notes and an Introduction by Elizabeth Wordsworth (Methuen & Co., 1/6). A very pleasing little book, which as a birthday present might well be a little girl's first introduction to Tennyson. Miss Wordsworth considers The Princess to be one of the most truly representative of Tennyson's works.
The Romany Rye, by Geo. Borrow (Murray, 2/6). All lovers of the "Scholar Gypsy" will greet with pleasure a new edition of George Borrow's works. In Romany Rye, which is a sequal to Lavengro, we are introduced at once to the dingle and tent, to the forge and to "Bell," to the man in black (who is rather a bore, by the way), and the inimitable Petulengro. There is probably nothing in literature like the way in which Borrow makes his people produce themselves without any explanation in very quaint and simple talk. We are told that Borrow's gypsies are not the real gypsies, and that the etymological knowledge on which he prides himself is mostly wrong. It may be so; there are spots on the sun, but these are the gypsies we shall always know, and we are grateful to Mr. Watts Dunton for reproducing the type in Aylwin, though we doubt if his typical gypsy is at all equal to her prototype, Isopel Berners.
The Englishwoman's Year Book and Directory, edited by Emily James (Adam & Chas. Black, 2/6), contains an amazing fund of information on all matters concerning the education, professions and employments of women; a really practical guide-book, containing names and addresses of the secretaries of every sort of association for the service of women, together with full, and in the main correct, information. Women interested in public work should possess themselves of this useful hand-book, edited by the Secretary of the Conference of Women-workers, whose experience fits her well for the task. Miss Louisa M. Hubbard was the first to perceive the importance of such an annual for women.
Bo-Peep (Cassell & Co.) This popular Children's Magazine still holds its own, as why should it not, with its pretty pictures, pleasant tales verses and nice pleasant type, some pages blue, others red.
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