The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Book of Romance, edited by Andrew Lang (Longmans, 6/-). We are inclined to think that the last is best, though, remembering the multi-coloured fairy books which have visited us year after year, it is not quite easy to decide. Anyway, The Book of Romance is altogether delightful, and provides for those boys and girls in their teens who have the gift of dreaming just the right transition from faëry world to the common high roads of life. The Book of Romance does something more. These old-world tales are part of the knowledge of all people who know; and what is more, such knowledge must come at the right time; you cannot get it when the prison gates are closed. We elders may read with appreciation Tennyson's rendering of the Arthurian legends, but they do not take hold of us as do these, "taken mainly from Malorey's compilation from sources chiefly French." We are glad to meet with the story of Roland again, "from the French epic, probably of the eleventh century, but resting on earlier materials, legend and ballad." The ancient Irish story of Diarmid; the old English legends of Robin Hood, most elusive of heroes; the Norse stories of Wayland the Smith and Grettir the Strong, these are all tales of delight, nourishing to the soul. Mr. Lang's preface is, as usual, very interesting, all the more so because he inclines to think that these same stories with various modifications are common to all nations, to be found in their oldest and least corrupted forms among savages. It is profoundly interesting to think that, as in fairy lore so in romance, the imagination of the world seeks the same sorts of outlets. Of course the chivalric colouring belongs to the Middle Ages, and the romances as they stand "are a mixture of popular tales of literary invention and of history as transmitted in legend." All the romances, with one exception, are, we are told, written by Mrs. Lang and we are grateful to her for giving us a presentation uncoloured by her own personality. The pictures are by Mr. A. J. Ford. The delicately coloured picture of Guinevere brought to King Arthur by Lancelot, and the Black Barget containing Elaine, are, perhaps, out favourites. But eyes will darken and deepen over Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake, over Sir Galahad at the Tomb, and others.
The Burges Letters, by Edna Lyall (Longmans, 3/6). Two charming little girls, alive "in the sixties," conceive the notion of writing letters to their "Dear Descendants," telling about their home, their gardens, Sundays, holidays, visits, and what not. "This record of our home life," says the author in her dedication to Elise and Kenneth, "cannot pretend to be a story, but we can vouch for its truth"; the reader can vouch for its charm. "Auntie Elfie's" tales of "when I was a little girl," will, we think, please many little people besides those of her own family party. The ways of these children were simple ways; a joke occurs now and then, a treat now and then, and, now and then, somebody is naughty; we are persuaded that children prefer serious and simple records of child-life of this kind to the most extravagant fun. The morals, of course, come by the way, as every child's day carries its moral. The delicate art with which Edna Lyall sketches in character and incident should make this little book a child's classic. The illustrations by Mr. W. S. Stacy are worthy of the letterpress. "We used to stand at the window" reminds is, could we give it higher praise, to the frontispiece to "Two Flat Irons for a Farthing."
The Visit to London, pictures by F. D. Bedford. Rhymes by E. V. Lucas (Methuen, 6/-). We hail with delight a child's book bearing the signature of E. V. Lucas. Mr Lucas, also, perhaps better than any other living maker of children's books, understands the mind of a child. He, too, knows how seriously the little people take life, how hard they work to remedy their immeasurable ignorance and how, though an occasional joke is delightful, "I want to know" is the refrain of their thoughts. Dorrie and Theodore are invited to London by their cousin Minnie for a whole delightful fortnight. They go to the Tower, they see the river, they delight in London's birds, they do everything that is proper for country cousins to do in London; and everywhere Mr. Lucas catches with great delicacy the note of a child's feeling and the direction of an intelligent child's interest. We wish we had space to quote a specimen of the simple unlaboured thymes. The pictures are delightful; one rarely sees coloured pictures so well drawn, and the grace of the childish attitudes is charmingly caught. "London sparrows at dinner" is an especially pleasing picture.
Little Black Quibba (James Nisbet, 1/6). Little Black Mingo was so good that we believed the author, like Browning's thrush, never could recapture that first fine careless rapture; but is Quibba better or only every bit as good? That is the question. Quibba goes to get mangoes for his sick mother in a big basket, bigger than himself; and Little Black Quibba goes along "a very long weary road" (the picture of Quibba along the weary road is delicious), and he meets a snake and an elephant, both mighty cunning and mighty strong, who try to get the better of him, but Little Black Quibba is too much for both, and they come to a bad end, and Quibba gets his mangoes and cures his mother and on the last page they both dance for joy. That is all that can be said about it, for the little book tells its own tale in its own inimitable way.
The Hut on the Island: The Story of a Week's Holiday, by Mr. Fred Reynolds (Bembrose, Leeds). A little party of four, by great good fortune, find themselves in sole possession of a little hut on an island for a whole happy week. They take with them:--"6 loves, 2 punds of butr, 12 sossidges" and various other matters. They bathe, they cook, they are besieged by a swan, and have many adventures and no great misadventures, and we think that every child will like to share that happy island week. "The fires was nice, and the punt and getting firewood and having picnics, and getting dirty, and sleeping on shelves, and sitting on a flowerpot. But the gipsies' was the lover-li-est soup," said Lord Bobs of five.
George Eliot, by Leslie Stephen ("English Men of Letters" Series, Macmillan 2/-). Mr. Stephen's appreciation of the great novelist is an especially welcome contribution. In Mr. Croas's life all that was spoken of her was spoken with bated breath. The people who came to see her came as to an oracle, then men who loved and served her did so on bended knee, and, as for them, they had no other purpose in life. We feel defrauded; we feel there must be a live woman somewhere, one who can smile and even laugh, witness Mrs. Poyser, but no, not one in the two volumes, is there more than a "sincere grave smile." It is true that George Eliot does not belong to either of the two classes of society accustomed to laugh. The poor laugh sometimes, and the well-born laugh, but the strenuous middle class, to which George Eliot belonged, is perhaps essentially grave. Then, too, the misadventure of her life (to call it by its mildest name) must perforce have added to constitutional seriousness. Mr. Stephen does not make the author of Adam Bede laugh, but he treats her naturally, discusses herself and her work with insight, sympathy, and comprehension, divested of glamour; and George Eliot is great enough to gain immeasurably by this simple treatment. It is good to be permitted at last to acknowledge to oneself that the essence of Adam Bede for us is Mrs. Poyser, that Dinah Moddis lacks the flesh and blood of a living woman, that the masterly picture of the sordidness of the sisters Dodson hardly makes for art. Mr. Leslie Stephen's study of Maggie Tulliver is delicate and convincing, and when he says, "'Do,' I mentally exclaim, 'save this charming Maggie from damning herself by this irrelevant and discordant degradation'" (the "Stephen Guest" episode), he expresses the feeling of most of us, for Maggie is our personal acquaintance, friend it may be, certainly more than a character in a book. The last chapter seems to us entirely just and discriminating. What is here called the element of "implicit autobiography," together with "the combination of an exquisitely sympathetic and loving nature with a large and tolerant intellect" manifest throughout her work, account for George Eliot's enduring charm and fix her place among the classics.
Lake Country Rambles, by W. T. Palmer (Chatto and Windus, 6/-). Mr. Palmer has written a delightful book, and he knows that whereof he speaks. He knows the life of the fells as well as the look of the fells. Shepherding in Winter and Skating on Windermere are especially interesting chapters. The chapter on Mountain Birds, too, is exciting reading to a bird lover, but it is the stonechat for the wheatear that wears a gray and white uniform, and is it not the sedge-warbler and not the white-throat which is known as the "fisherman's nightingale?" We ask with diffidence, for Mr. Palmer knows--knows, too, how a kestrel hunts and how a sparrow hawk. Lake Country Ramblesre that "coterie of genius," to whose efforts he attributes the popularity of the Land of the Lakes. "At Rydal Mount the great Wordsworth lived and died"--died, yes, but lived, in the sense of his working life, at Dove Cottage. "Colridge lived at Nab Cottage," true, a Coleridge lived there, but it was Hartley"; while "Arnold, Hemans, and Martineau all at one time lived in the district." Does this mean Dr. Arnold or Matthew Arnold, and will the outsider know that Mrs. Hemans and Miss Harriet Martineau are intended? Our private opinion is that, though the author makes his bow to the literary interests of the Lake country, fell-walking, crag-climbing, shepherding, angling, and the like are the matters which interest him.
Where Rotha Runs, by A.M.H. (Middleton, Ambleside, 1/-). Here is another lake book that will please lovers of the Lakes. "The greyness of a mountain mere," "the stream that like a cord hangs from, the hill," "the little pied bird that sang the shy song so few people heard"; the village children coming home from school as "blown together by some gust of thought, they gather in a little group to talk"; "flowers that love the mountain air"; "the little wren with golden crest"; "the solitude of Ennerdale":--such matters as these Mrs. Harris sings of; and be it noted, she sings--a willow warbler's note--a clear sweet echo of the sounds and sights and sweet impressions that come to dwellers in the Rotha valley. People who go to the Lakes should make room in their knapsacks for this little book.
Bell's Miniature Series of Painters: Raphael, Correggio, Alma Tadema (1/- each). These little books, as we have had the occasion to say before, are, for such unpretending volumes, wonderfully fresh and interpretive. Each of them as eight photographs, generally very clear and good, of typical works of the several masters, accompanied by a critical description of each of the eight pictures. Besides, we have a careful appreciation of the art of the master, an interesting and well-informed sketch of his life, a chronology of his chief works, and a list of such works according to locality. Each of the three books before us treats of an artist for whom the presentation of beauty, may we say, obviously beauty, is the be-all and end-all of his art. Raphael gives us exquisite compositions, where details are kept in abeyance, that the eye may rest without distraction on the beauty and grace of the subject. Correggio presents us with rounded outlines and tender shadows and a world of more joyous beauty; while Alma Tadema sets off beauty with endless details of elegance and luxury (classic, and therefore restrained, luxury), and defies the laws of composition upon which the dignity of Raphael's pictures would seem to depend. This manner of helpful and discriminating criticism should make these little books of use to the advanced student as well as to the mere tyro in pictures.
Typed by Noella M. April 2021
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