The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Matthew Arnold, by Professor Saintsbury (Blackwood, 2/6). Again we congratulate Messrs. Blackwood on putting their Matthew Arnold into fit hands. An exquisite critic himself, Arnold fares as he would choose to fare at the hands of so nice a critic as Professor Saintsbury. "I have endeavoured," he says, "in dealing with the Master of all English critics in the latter half of the nineteenth century to 'help the reader who wants criticism." The author recognises that Matthew Arnold so entirely lived in his literary work that a critical study, and not a biography is what is wanted just now. A quarter of a century ago, all educated people delighted in the Essays, few knew the Poems; now, people read the Poems, but it is surprising how many well-read persons do not know the Essays. It is to their grievous loss, for is there any more fascinating prose written in English than is to be culled freely from the Essays in Criticism? It may be true that the Essays "owe not a little of their value to their faults," but Professor Saintsbury fully recognises the extraordinarily stimulating effect they had, and should still have, upon literary taste. The Poems meet severe criticism at the hands of this critic, but also with generous appreciation, not only of the greatest poems, but of the occasional flash and gleam that nearly always illumine the poet's lesser work. "They sound the poetic note, they give the poetic flash and irridescence, they cause the poetic intoxication." For a sentence like this we forgive Professor Saintsbury any irritation we may have felt at occasional ruthless criticisms. Indeed, the irritation is wholesome; reading the poems and the prose again under the safe guidance of this little manual, we shall come to a juster and therefore a keener and more loving appreciation of an author who laboured to deliver us from "Philistinism."
Robert Louis Stevenson, by L. Cope Cornford (Blackwood, 2/6). Mr. Cope Cornford again appears to be the right man for the task. He gives us a critical appreciation of Stevenson as moralist, artist, novelist, limner of landscape. Mr. Cornford shews insight when he discovers generations brought up on the "Shorter Catechism" as a factor in the making of Stevenson. If so, all power to the Shorter Catechism say we; for moralities so hale, wholesome, and breezy, as Stevenson has left us, are a possession for the English tongue and for English-speaking people everywhere. Mr. Cornford does delicate justice to Stevenson as a Romantic: therein lies the secret of R.L.S.--
"It rains on the umbrella here,
That's it--the world is wide, and stone walls do not a prison make "There is a writer,' says Mr. Kipling, "called Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson, who makes most delicate inlay work in black and white and files out to the fraction of a hair." That is the text upon which Mr. Cornford enlarges. "Out of his studies in the English classics, Stevenson taught his generation new lessons in the plastic qualities of prose diction." Notwithstanding our grateful sense of the achievements of Stevenson, we are inclined to agree with a sentence in the epilogue to this Stevenson handbook. "But with all Stevenson's brilliant endowment and all his amazing cleverness, the sane, serenely humorous vision of the great masters is deemed him. Stevenson was no 'natural force let loose.'"
[Robert Louis Stevenson died in 1894 -- just six years before this book review was published.]
Bell's Great Master Series: Rembrandt, by Malcolm Bell (5/- each, net). We have in the volume on Rembrandt a valuable addition to an extremely valuable series. The life of the painter is rather sorrowful reading, for the great prosperity (possible at a time when Evelyn records that many a Dutch farmer had pictures in his house to the value of two or three thousand pounds), failed him early, for the painter had little skill in the conduct of life; but art triumphs over circumstances, and his greatest picture "The Syndics of the Drapers," was painted in dark days. By the way, we are glad to see this picture quoted as the painter's masterpiece; the palm is usually given to the wonderful Anatomy Lesson at the Hague, or to the so-called "Nightwatch" in the Ryks Museum; but these half-dozen common-place tradesmen, in their broad hats and deep collars, gathered round a table against a background of grey-green wall, has always seemed to us a triumph of the painter's art, and especially typical of the "tender" Rembrandt: you go out from it with reverence for the man in the street. There are over forty admirable illustrations, but we wish the Saskia in the Cassel Museum had been included.
Giotto, by F. Mason Perkins. Many readers of the Great Master Series will think that Mr. Mason Perkins has been appointed the most delightful of all fields for his labours. Giotto's is a name to conjure with; for do we not see him standing with Dante in the streets of Florence, watching the erection of his superb Campanile. By the way, we are glad that Mr. Perkins allows us to believe that the wonderful series of bas-reliefs on the walls of the first story are without doubt the designs of the master, even if Andrea Pisano and his school did much of the chiselling, because "in their concise simplicity of conception, in their directness of expression, and in their deep significance of thought, these designs nearly approach the famous Allegories in the Paduan Arena." Besides these characters "bright loveliness of colour," and the power of "modelling," which was a new thing in art and added the third dimension to the flat picture, and we perceive why Giotto made a new epoch in painting. Potent a figure as he was, little is known of his life, and if we are intimate with Giotto it is because his works declare him. Mr. Perkins' treatment is satisfying. He examines in turn the frescos at Assissi, the Arena Chapel, the Campanile, and the final works. The forty illustrations are especially good because Giotto's statuesque work lends itself to photography.
Flowers of the Cave, edited by Laurie Magnus and Cecil Headlam (Blackwood, 5/-). "The greatest fact," say the editors, "the most inevitable, is death, and life after death, are topics from which in all ages the noblest minds never shrank. We attempt here to gather some of the most beautiful fruits of their communings with death, some of the loveliest flowers of the cave." The "cave" is, we gather from the quotation, the cave of Macphelah, wherein Abraham buried his wife Sarah. Those of us, who have enjoyed singular pleasure in the constant companionship of the Prayers from the Poets by the same editors, will expect much from Flowers of the Cave. Prose extracts are not excluded, and poems and prose alike are marked by "high and excellent seriousness." The editors "have been surprised, afresh," they say, "by the unexpected quantity of religious verse extant marked by true poetic sentiment," and this is a surprise shared by the reader. A wide field is included in the selection. We have Henry Vaughan's perfect poem, "They are all gone into the world of light," we have also Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality. A charming feature of the book is a selection of Fleurs de la Tombe, from the French, and another of translations from the Ancients, singularly well chosen. We commend the volume to the friendship of such as are that way minded.
Songs of Childhood, by Walter Ramel (Longmans, 3/6). Mr. Ramel knows what children think, and how they think, and the wilful and wayward manner of their dreamings. As we turn the pages and read The Grey Wolf, Captain Lean, The Isle of Lone, John Mouldy, I saw Three Witches, we see an imaginative boy in the twilight stretched on the floor, his hands under his head, dreaming these dreams and singing these songs, if he did not give them rhyme and metre. The spontaneousness, the singing character of the little poems is delightful. We wish we had space for quotations--
"'Bunches of grapes' says Timothy;
[Walter Ramel was the pseudonym of Walter de la Mare.]
Stories from Froissart, by Henry Newbolt (Gardner Darton, 6/-). Mr. Henry Newbolt knows what goes to the making of English men and women. It was he who gave us Lyra Heroica, and now he edits for us thirteen episodes, each entire, of the Chronicles of Froissart. No one of British breed should grow up without being at home in Froissart. The young churchman, Jaen Froissart, was tame about the Court of Queen Phillipa and has left of her an undying portrait:--"Tall and upright was she, wise, gay, humble, pious, liberal and courteous, decked and adorned in her time with all noble virtues beloved of God and of mankind; and so long as she lived the kingdom of England had favour, prosperity, honour, and every sort of good fortune." Froissart was equally at home in the French court, and learned from the knights of Edward III. and the Black Prince, the story of the French wars; and who but he can tell the tales of Cressy and Poitiers! The chronicles are so charming and so instructive in morals and manners, because the writer could see that the prolonged French wars were a school for all gallant and knightly behaviour, for magnanimity, pluck and courtesy, where men learned tenderness for suffering, sympathy for courage and fortitude in disaster. But Mr. Henry Newbolt sets all these matters forth in his charming introduction. The illustrations, mostly reproductions from old prints, are delightful.
The Castaways of Meadow-Bank, by Thomas Cobb (Methuen, 2/6). All hail to Mr. E. V. Lucas. The Little Blue Books for Children take us back to the best of that which was in the past, and which has vanished from the present. Not since Robinson Crusoe have we come across anything to compare with Mr. Cobb's Little Castaways. Four children find themselves in a flooded house, and there are great opportunities for pluck and resource, and for good temper. One of the four manages to rescue the rest; and there is never a word in the book about being good or being naughty, or being brave; in fact the subjective element is entirely absent. The children do the thing that comes to hand, and nobody acclaims, and nobody blames.
The Life of a Century, by Edwin Hodder (Newnes, 10/6). Mr. Hodder has produced a capital book. In such a survey as he offers us we can scarcely look for literary treatment, or for anything in the nature of a final historical pronouncement, but if we want to refresh our memories as to the beginnings of a thousand things that make part of our daily life, not merely steamships, railways and telegraphs, but Christian Missions, Night Schools, Sunday Schools, painters, pictures, sport and pastimes, wars and treaties, books and men--Captain Cook, John Wesley, Pitt, Raikes, Humbolt, Shaftesbury, Jenny Lind, Taglione, the Salvation Army. Paul Kruger--here we find, not a bald, but a satisfying, interesting and fairly complete account of the matter or the person. This should be a family book, at the command of the children. There are over five hundred illustrations, and the child who turns them over and knows them, will have some command of the history of his age, and of the persons who have made the century illustrious.
Typed by happi, Apr 2020; Proofread by LNL, Apr 2020
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