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smattering of gardener's Latin, now any suburban poeticule with an itch for country loafing can lift his scrannel pipe at the odd street corners in newspaper-town, or air his motley ignorance between covers of green art-linen, generally at his own expense. It is not, however, the ordinary nature-article in the daily Press with which we have our present quarrel. Editors, at least those of the more important journals, have of late years become both wiser and warier, and it is seldom nowadays that these meretricious gentry get past the careful watch set at the redactorial gate. There is no doubt, also, that the bulk of the genuine publishing trade presents an equally impassable barrier to these singers of sick fancies about dandelions, and newts, and such small deer. It is the private publisher, the man of mammoth printing bills and microscopic sales department, who is alike the joy of the pseudo-poet-naturalist and the chief support of the remainderdealer. Turning over a heap of these derelicts, these still-born children of the literary shipyards, one is struck at first glance by their prevailing insensitiveness, their self-complacency, and their utter superficiality of vision amid wild natural things. But what chiefly impresses the town-sick looker-on at this exasperating game is the constant straining after a human interest on every page. Either writer or reader, or both, are being eternally dragged by neck and heels through every daisyfield or briar-patch that lies in the way. It was a favorite doctrine with Jefferies that no unity or sympathy was discoverable between man and wild-nature—from nature's standpoint. He constantly taught that the life of the field and the forest went on irrespective of, and often antagonistic to, the human life that traversed it at every step. Man was the hopeless lover, nature the indifferent, the uncon
scious fair. It is true Jefferies continually went back from this position, and imported the jarring human note into much of his finest work, but his most ardent admirer must concede that the Work was all the Worse for it. Yet Jefferies' human interest was always reverent and unassuming, if a trifle innocent; while that of the great tribe of fantastic dullards hobbling slip-shod in his train has an insufferable air of patronage and self-importance. In the mind of the reader the same picture is continually and inevitably rising— that of the lord of creation, with long hair and a note-book, throned on the wild-thyme bank, and receiving in turn and at his own majestic pleasure the homage of the birds and flowers and creeping things and the deep obeisance of the forest trees; while, in a respectfully distant circle without, the little hills hop their delightful appreciation, and from afar the great mountains bow their acknowledgments of his gracious presence. Londoners have long been accredited with an insatiable appetite for this kind of philandering, and, no doubt, it is a pleasant thing to imagine the jaded city worker, cooped up all day long in his stuffy office, refreshing himself at eventide with a story of blue hills and country breeezs, unattainable in Brixton or Shepherd's Bush. There is little question that any book on the free natural life of field and hedgerow—an earnest record of things seen and of thoughts arising spontaneously out of a loving study of the great primaeval underflow of creation—must always be like a cup of water in the desert to the enforced dweller in the town. It is very high and worthy art indeed to bring the delectable mountains in fancy to poor Pilgrim, stuck for the time being in his slough of bricks and mortar in default of fifty shillings a week. But, unluckily for the city worker, the otherwise adverse conditions of his life tend to breed in him an amazing intuition for the verities—at least, in regard to this kind of literature; and it is much to be questioned if the exponents of the new natural history have any following at all in the towns. They have been found out long ago. The fleeting twenty minutes in the train, and the quiet fireside evenings are too precious to be frittered away On Such an obvious counterfeit. The first taste reveals its true quality; it is sawdust, dyed, it is true, in various rich and appetizing colors, but sawdust nevertheless. Perhaps—and, be it said, with sincere condolences to the few brilliant exceptions—it is the parson amidst wild nature who presents to the latter-day reviewer of country books the most disquieting spectacle of all. The unecolesiastic sentimentalist is an incongruous figure enough in a woodland glade of primroses, yet at least he comes sounding a paean that is frankly based upon the scenes about him. But the clerical The County Gentleman.
Wanderer in the Wilderness seems never to stir abroad without taking with him his entire professional equipment. And here we tread on the fringe of a rather delicate matter. A certain monumental work on ornithology, consisting of a dozen or more volumes of the greatest interest and value, is rendered practically useless to the busy student, solely because its reverend author feels himself constrained to lay down his pen in the middle of almost every paragraph, and lift hands in fervent thankfulness for the whole creation generally, and in particular for whatever fowl of the air he happens to be describing. And the poet-naturalist-parson has the same unhappy knack of counterpointing the all-sufficient music of the open air with the thudding melody of the church organ. We cannot help the inclination to pray, like the old French courtier, that the proposition in theology may not have the effect of killing the king.
BOOKS AND AUTHORS.
“Plant-Breeding,” by Prof. Hugo de Vries, is a review of the experiments of Mr. Luther Burbank and Dr. Hjalmar Nilsson and is intended for botanists and those interested in botany rather than for the farmer or the amateur, but it includes many interesting descriptions and comparisons and parts of it may be read with pleasure by any one whose attention has been attracted by recent magazine articles on Mr. Burbank's work. Its pictures are chiefly scientific, but among them are a few showing the products of Mr. Burbank's skill and portraits of him and of Dr. Nilsson. Students of the Darwinian theories will here find the latest word
on one branch of their subject. Open Court Publishing Co.
Mr. Alfred Tressider Shepard's “Running Horse Inn” is a story of rural England at the unhappy moment when the glow of the contest with Napoleon had departed and the refreshment of peace had not yet been felt; the days when the drain of death, duties and taxation had not ceased, yet there was no certainty anywhere except in the minds of those who despaired. Two brothers, sons of an innkeeper, the wife of one of them, and her father, a man of good family deeply angered by her marriage, divide the action of the story among them. The soldier brother returns from the wars the very morning of his brother's wedding to the girl whom he has regarded as his own sweetheart, but the bridegroom is unconscious of the position and urges him to remain in his old home. Little by little, the soldier yields to his affection for his sister-in-law, and, fancying that she is unhappy, begs her to elope with him. Almost at the same time, the inn ceases to prosper, and foreclosure impends over both brothers and the tale moves swiftly to the final tragedy. The book is admirably written and its quiet excellence should make it a favorite for many seasons to come. J. B. Lippincott Co.
In Edwin Asa. Dix's “Prophet's Landing” (Charles Scribner's Sons), the attempt is made to apply certain processes of combination and high finance to business as carried on in a small town. The central figure in the story is a village merchant with unusual initiative who adds department after department to his store, regardless of the consequences to more humble competitors; becomes in a small way a railway promoter; uses his secret information to buy up land; gets special rates on his freight; and manipulates the stock of a small local railroad after the most approved Wallstreet methods. The story is told with simplicity and directness; but the characters and even the slender love story which runs through the book are subordinate to the author's main purpose of exhibiting the essential selfishness of the processes described. At points, there is a confusion of standards, practises which are quite legitimate being classed with those which are clearly wrong; and there is now and then a touch of the melodramatic, as when a stroke of lightning during a December thunder storm destroys the new house which the successful speculator has
built at the cost of the ruin of the contractor. But it was a happy thought to cause the young son of the ruthless capitalist to bring his father to repentance by reproducing his qualities in miniature.
Edinburgh, both the Old Town, “mine own romantic,” and the New, so completely belongs to Scott that one can hardly see why “Edinburgh under Sir Walter Scott” has waited so long for. Mr. W. T. Fyfe to write it. Perhaps the reason may be that every Scottlover has a similar work in his imagination and wanders happily through the ancient burgh, in fancy following the kindly ghost of the Great Unknown, but there are few who will not find Mr. Fyfe a welcome companion in such a pilgrimage. He has used not only Scott and Lockhart, but many a contemporary of the Shirra in turning the stones of the streets into bread for the imagination, and Edinburgh looms before the inward eye as a realm of such originality and individuality as the three kingdoms could not equal. What with the real persons, the extraordinary dignitaries of bench, and bar, and session, and the equally real companies from the Minstrelsy, and the novels, the half real and half imaginary beings who flock from the house of Ambrose, and from the abode of the Blue and Yellow, Edinburgh is as populous as Pekin. Mr. R. S. Rait, who has given the book a wisely appreciative introduction, says that even those who read the “Letters” and the “Journals” once a year may learn something from the work, and this is true, but even greater is its value to those to whom it introduces Scott, and at once compels them to perceive his sovereignty. Lockhart himself is not so good a herald, not so clear voiced in proclaiming the great deeds of the monarch of the pen and the permanence of his glory. E. P. Dutton & Co.