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right to speak with authority, and of birds he has
something good to say in this book, as well as of the
pleasures and the habits of many small beasts of our
woods ; but the impressions made upon him by a
short tour in ]£ngland and a flight Into France give
us reason to admire his well-trained powers of
observation in other and more complex fields. Of
the many writers on the same country no one has
i^proached England quite in the way he has. It
is the look of the land and people which he
records, the way the birds and b^ts impress a
new arriver, and all those other points which are,
to be sure, outside, but, to a sufficiently sensitive
person, not necessarily superficial. London he
finds singularly countrylike, in spite of its enor-
mous size ; Paris, pulled down, rebuilt, renovated,
and centralized, he calls the handiwork of a race of
citizens ; admires it, but tires of it soon. Especially
good are his remarks about the monotony of the
fine Parisian architecture, and the following may
give an idea of the lightness of his hand:



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CULTURE AND PROGRESS.



** The French give a touch of art to whatever they
do. Even the drivers of drays and carts and trucks
about the streets are not content with a plain, mat-
ter-of-fact whip, as an English or American laborer
would be, but it must be a finely modeled stalk,
with a long, tapering lash tipped with the best silk
snapper. Always the inevitable snapper. I doubt
if mere is a whip in Paris without a snapper. Here
is where the fine art, the rhetoric of driving, comes
in. This converts a vulgar, prosy * gad ' into a deli-
cate instrument, to be wielded with pride and skill,
and never to be literally applied to the backs of the
animals, but to be laundied to the right and lef^ into
the air with a professional flourish, and a sharp,
ringing report. » * • • Everything has its
silk snapper. Are not the literary whips of Paris
famous for their rhetorical tips and the sting there
is in them ? What French writer ever goaded his
adversary with the belly of his lash, like the Ger-
mans and English, when he could blister him with
its silken end, and the percussion of wit be heard at
every stroke?"

Of a London fog he says: "It was like a
great yellow dog taking possession of the
world."

As one moves through the familiar scenes which
Mr. Burroughs so freshly calls to mind, the question
occurs : Do people realize how he comes by this
faculty of broad appreciation of great, and minute
scrutiny of little things ? There can be but one
answer : By staying at home and giving a loving
study to his own fields and forests, just as Thoreau
did, and as Emerson, in his own lofty and less
popular way still does. Men are said to be only
moving plants after all. At any rate, they must
have roots, whether these be only invisible and
intangible ones, and Mr. Burroughs has struck his
mental roots down into the fiber of his land. The
chapter called " A March Chronicle *' gives one the
poetical side of a sugar-maple camp, quite delightful
to consider.

As a writer. Burroughs must be assigned to the
comradeship of Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman.
In some ways he looks at things very much as
Whitm;'n does, and those ways are good ; but he
has also caught from him — we are sure it is infection
and not the outcome of a like temperament — some
habits that were better dropped. Even in this
charming book there are unnecessary expressions
which border on the coarse, and do not add strength,
while once or twice we meet absolute inaccuracies
of style and grammar. One, on page 95, is the use
of lay for lie ; and the other, an occasional dropping
of the adverb, a custom which may be colloquial,
but has not yet received the sanction of liter-
ature.

Quite possibly these are merely errors in reading
proof, and can be readily removed in the succeeding
editions which such pleasing essays merit. Per-
haps a well-considered pen will then pass through
such few lines as mention sea-sickness, sewers, and
other things of interest to no one, and which, in a
book of just this quality, pain with some show of
reason the fastidious.



Barron's '* Foot Notes ; or, Walking as a Fine Art.^

This is a book after the Thoreau stxJe by a Con-
necticut Yankee — though bom, he sajrs, in Vermont,
" in Hampshire Comer, a place well known to its
inhabitants," — who describes himself as a qaasi-
Spiritualist, and as either the victim of a disordered
fancy, or else as walking and writing under an
alien influence which he more than half believes is
that of the spirit of Thoreau. There can be little
doubt, we think, that it is the spirit of the Concord
walker, though we are loth to believe that Thoreaa
has become a ghost walker, and the invisible attend-
ant and fiamiliar of Mr. Barron. We have known
persons to write as much like Tennyson, or Emer-
son, who certainly are not yet dogging about poor
mortals for the use of their bodies. The truth is» a
great deal of genius and sensibility comes into the
world without any decided form or bias — without
any calcareous envelope, so to speak. We do not like
to call Mr. Barron's book a soft-shelled eg^ but k
certainly in some way suggests the simile. There
is excellent meat in it, picture and thought and sug-
gestion — ^real heart and substance ; but for what form
and cohesion it has, he seems mainly indebted to
another. And it is a silly make-shift to call in the
aid of Spiritualism to explain the phenomenon. If
our author had never read Thoreau, then, indeed,
v^ould there be room to marvel. He says he had
thought of making a book full of *< homely things "
before he had made the acquaintance of the Waklen
reduse, and it is a pity he never set about iL When
he did begin to write, which was in 1864, he says he
was struck by a wave of influence that made the
product of his pen quite different from anything he
had ever written l)efore.

In his chapter called ** Impressions," he exf^ains
the matter quite satisfactorily. <' I notice," he says,
" that my word has a flavor at times which indicates
that the taste of some book I had eaten had not got-
ten out of my mouth when I spoke. May be I am
like butter, which is so easily tainted by positive
odors like those of leeks, or tobacco, or smoked
herrings. Yet I think I am not without a certain
fierce individuality. I am quite implacable when I
think of one person selfishly viplating the sacred
personality of another who is weaker in magnetism.
I have always lived a little one side, just because I
did not care to have even the good enter my sphere
with their influence. Still, when I look into things
closely, I am compelled to admit that it is the rule
of nature that the strong shall penetrate and move
the weak." His *^ sphere," as he calls it, is a very
sensitive one, and is more apt to take than to give
impressions. Some of the Western towns, he says,
almost tortured him with their influence. He fi-e-
quently walks to New Haven, and, in a certain hol-
low, two and one half miles distant, his sphere and the
sphere of the town invariably come in collision. He
feels the town, and, perhaps, if the town knew itself;
it would feel him. But the impression which the
dty makes upon him at that range is a good one.
He says he knows that New Haven is much given
to looking between the two shells of an oyster, etc.



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yet, by the aid of Yale College, it sends oat an intel-
lectual and religious influence which he can feel two
and one half miles ofiL There is a good deal of this
kind of sensibility, or impressibility, in the book,
which one is at a loss whether to call a morbid and
preternatural sharpness, or real poetic delicacy and
spirituality. There are, undoubtedly, marks of both.
Now and then we come upon crude places; our
walker has not uniform good taste; we do not, on
the whole, feel quite sure of him. Some parts of his
experiences and confessions are not set in just the
right light. It requh-es a very steady nerve and a
certain robustness and unconsciousness for a man to
talk so freely about himself without at least a slight
letting down of his dignity, and Mr. Barron does
not go through the ordeal with as much grace as
Montaigne does, or as his own prototype Thoreau
does. Perhaps he is too much of a walker, too
genuine a " tramp," as he announces himself in the
first sentence of his book, and makes too much of
sleeping in bams and under hay-stacks.

But, after every qualification, ** Foot Notes" is a
valuable contribution to the literature of walking.
No writer ever took more easily or naturally to the
path or the open road. He has the true light-
heartedness, the true walker's gait. He says he walks
chiefly to visit natural objects, " but I sometimes go
on foot to visit myself. It often happens when I am
on sm outward-bound excursion, that I also discover
a good deal of my own thought He is a poor
reporter, indeed, who does not note his thought as
well as his sight." He is a close and almost infalli-
ble observer of nature. We doubt if he can be
detected in a single error in this direction. When
he speaks of bird or beast, or of any of the lesser
shows, or phases, or sounds, or odors of nature, he
always has a word or two, or a whole sentence, that
hits the mark fairly. True, his eye is microscopic,
rather than telescopic, as was Thoreau's.^ He
magnifies the little, the common, the near-at-hand,
but nearly always shows the smallest, homeliest fact
surrounded by the prismatic hues of the spirit. He
has none of his master's asperity and misanthropy,
and he never belittles other things, the better to
show ofi* his woodchucks and muskrats. He says :
** People talk a good deal as if progress in civilisa-
tion meant but little more than tiie moving out of a
hut into a palace, or the substitution of a silver fork
for a steel one ; " and yet he adds, that he believes
the truest civilization will include a silver fork for
him and his.

As an evidence of the firm and steady gaze which
our walker turns upon things, note the chapter on
•* Winter Colors. " How surely hb eye picks out all
the subtle shades and tints in the naked woods and
in the different trees — garnet and amaranth, pearl
and maroon. He says the limbs of the white birch
seen against a dark background show like chalk
lines on a black-board. The chapter on «• Lichens "
is a good sample of the beauty his microscopical eye
everywhere reveals. Other chapters that have given
us especial pleasure are on " Night Walking," " The
Legs," "Walking in the Rain," "Dirt," "Men,"
"Ox-Teamsters," and "The Creed of a Wood-



chuck." In this latter he drops into poetry, as he
does in several others.

** I deem it very good luck
That I'm ooly a woodchuck.
For I never have to tzavd.

All the world over.
On stonny roads and gravel,
To get my beans and clover.
I've no inends with axes

To grind.
Nor a King with taxes

To bind.
I keep no crust t^n a shelf;
For in the winter I can nurse rayadf :
I shut my doors
To slop the bores

And sleep the while
To save my stores," etc.

This will at once recall Thoreau's "Old Mart-
borough Road."

Thertf is a deal of quiet humor in the book, a
warm, steady sunshine of the heart that seems native
to the author. There is wisdom, too, that he has
not learned of some one else. " I notice," he sa3rs,
" that a man, whether he be riding or walking, is
alwa3rs enveloped in a doud of thoughts and impres-
sions which touch him only by their finest points,
and which can scarcely be said to make a part of his
conscious feeling, and much less of his conscious
thought All these may affect him badly, or they
may be as soothing to him as any melody. Among
other conclusions, I have inferred from this, that a
man may have, and does have, a great deal of latent
happiness; something ytxy different fi>om active
pleasure-seeking and conscious enjo3rment. I find
that all our gains and victories are gradually turning
themselves into this latent happiness, and that we
have to make an effort from time to time in order to
know just how happy we are. This is a kind of
invested happiness I like."

Now and then we come upon a bit of landscape,
or a group of figures, or an attitude in the book that
is clearly and strongly sketched. This drawing of
the "Piney- Woods Woman" of North Carolina,
whither the author seems to have done some walk-
ing as a soldier, is as good as can be found any-
where;

" She was tall, lean, and sallow ; her dress was
made of some dingy cotton stuff; on her head she
wore a sun -bonnet without starch ; on her shoulders
she bore the gun always so ready to bring aid to the
slave-owner; she was barefooted, and when she
walked she did it manfully, her heels lifting her
scanty skirt behind, and her knees making vigorous
thrusts against it before. She was preceded by two
dogs and followed by a horse and cart which car-
ried her husband, — a little sallow man, who looked a
good deal frozen-and-thawed by the fever and ague,
— two or three children, a chest, a few rude chairs,
some slight tokens of bedding, and a few cooking
utensils."

The book is handsomely printed and bound by
the Wallingford Printing Co., and well deserves and
will repay the attention of every lover of the manly
art of walking.



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752



CULTURE AND PROGRESS.



Brownlnc'B «'Iim Albom.***

There is amde range of readers who utterly
repudiate and taboo Browning. His name is an
offense, and his continued existence as an author
odious to their sense of literary justice. These had
best pass over any notice of Browning's later work
as thoroughly as they avoid the work itself; but to
the other few, who can stand his peculiarities, and
by practice have learned to unravel the curious
stitches of his mind, it will be proper to speak of
"The Inn Album."

On a general view " The Inn Album " is a novel
hi blank verse, with characters such as Browning
can draw, and much of the less important material
which belongs to the ordinary novel, left out With
these omissions, however, go hand in hand omis-
sions of the most important, so that, noticeably
toward the end, whole pages have to be added \yf
the nimble wit of the reader, or he is left floundering
in darkn^s and exasperation of mind. At the same
time there is the old verbosity; whole pages are
used to amplify, turn and twist, shift and reverse,
some simile, until one swears the man is only doing
it to show how smart he can be, and meanwhile in
the following of these useless twists the current of
the story manages to be lost. There is a noble
excitement in sliding down a rapid river, especially
if one dreads a cataract below ; but ceasdess eddies
now this way, now that, distract and weary most
minds to such extent that they are glad to seize a
dull moment to push their boat ashore.

Perfai^ it is well that the audience of the ** Inn
Album" is a small one, for the undeniable cleverness
which is found in all Browning's work hardly com-
pensates for other and startling things. The bitter-
ness and hoUowness of <^the world" — gambling,
profligacy, lies, seduction, sharping, suicide cer-
tainly, perhaps murder, are brought out by the
three actors in the quiet parlor of the *^ Inn," of
which the following gives an idea :

" Except the red-roofed pfttch
Of half a doten dwdlings that, crept close
For hill-sde shelter, make the viUage-cluinp,
Thii inn b perched above to dominate—
Except such sign of human neighborhood.
And thb iiinnierd rather dtan aenwblr,
There is nothing to disturb absohite peace.
The reign of Eng&h nature— which means art.
And ciriHsed existence. WSdness* self
Is just the cuhured triumph. Presently
Deep solitude, be sure, reveals a " Place **
That knows the right way to defend itself:
SOenoe hems round a burning q>ot of Kfe.
Now where a Phce boms, must a viOage brood ;
And where a TBUge broods, an inn shook! boast
Qoae and convenient: here you have diem both."

The Duke's brother, *< refinement every iqch, &om
brow to boot heel," is an elaborate Faust, who is
engaged in plucking a young millionaire, " the pol-
ished snob," and gets plucked himself. The woman
in the case, whom the younger man has met and



* The Inn Album, by Robert Browoiaf. J. R. Os good
ft Co. Boacon, 1876.



loved in vain, and the older has uMt sod loved
sucoessfuUy, who has married meanwhile a on
country parson, and is ignorant of what old 6ie
she is about to meet at the inn-^is tkns
by her startled betrayer :

"See
The low wide brow eppieaied by aweepa of !■■;
Darker and daiker as they oofl and swrntii
The crowned corpse-whiteness wbcoce the eyes I

black
Not asleep now ! not pin-points d w aifeJ 1
Either great bridging eye-brow, poor faloDk 1
Babies, I've pleased to pity ia my liow :
How Uiey protrude and glow immcnae viik hairt
The long triumphant nose attains — r e t ai a s
Just the peifectton; an<! there's scarlet skein
My ancient enemy, her Ep and fip,
Seass^koe, aenae-fiicbting Kps dencbed c^d asd hM
Because of chin, that base resolved hrnrMh T
Then the columnar neck completes the ahuli
Greek.sculpture-baflUng body 1 **

This woman is certainly not very English. The
only English are the ** polished snob** and ks
cousin; the other two are Italians in all they do
and say, — that is to say, they are not English, and
are Italian in as &r as they are not Browning. For
each and every character in the boek, from the
novelistic highly carved noble villain, to the snobs
laughed at for their poetical ve n tur e s in the t&oi
of the inn, is Browning himself. And yet there b a
strong effort at versatility, at being up to the (lBe^
modem, full of society spirit Bismarck, Wa^ttct,
Tennyson, Browning himself, are alluded to in pby-
fiil terms, and possibly with a purpose to make it iB
seem very reaL But it is like the dancing of aa
elephant One cannot but feel that here b stieBfth
enough to move a mountain, and instead, we iad
nothing but antics which do not even amnse die
crowd. Among the waves of commonpUoe Brows-
ing shoulders up like a rock, alwajrs himself^ alwayi
formidable, often grand. He seems to despise his
surroundings, but now and then one fimcies be bM
a certain satisfaction in the waves and likes diem;
but whether it be for their own sake, or becanse they
furnish a becoming foil to his strength and kA>>
ness, it were hard to determine.

Preoch and Qannan B(



UnMariagtdamUMmdi. OcUve FeuiQet. New
York,Christem.— *< Madame Fitx-G^raid and damjh-
ter, although little accustomed to walking advaacad
down the boulevard with a finn and sure stcp« divid-
ing the crowd with a sovereign indidcrenoe, aad
exchanging a few words in a short, higb voice, as if
they had been tdte-4^t«te in their park. They Ml
on their passage a perfume of hot-boose flowos
and seemed to sweeten the asphalt whi^ ikcf
trod. Foreign ladies studied with jealovs eyes the
toilet, movements, and royal gait of tli»e two
Parisians traversing their own empire, and vikh
very good reason despaired of ever imitnring Aaa^"

It IS this danghter whom M. de Rias» the rqgakr
thirty-year-old Frenchman of wealth, social pori tin a.
and personal distinction, is advised to many. Be



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has had his fling, and now wants a " ferame d'int^
near." Mr. FftuiUet, however, shows what folly it
is in him to expect such a thing. His wiie, who has
been brouf^t up in the Freadi manner, is fresh to
balls, theaters, and woridly delights, while he has tired
of them long ago* His ideal of life consists in some
desultory writing and a good deal of philosophical
observation of Paris and outside life in general ; but
for his ''interior*' existence he wants a quiet home.
He is a model lover even before the young lady
sees him, and his perfections appear to have run
before him. For when she has stolen out to catch
a glimpse of him before be enters her house, and
while she stands concealed on a terraoe which he
must pass :

^ On the dry day of the road one could hear dis-
tinctly the supple and raised steps of a horse, which
must be a horse of a fine breed, and amid not carry
any one but a rider of distinction,^*

At first De Rias is a model husband. But the
before-mentioned ideas gradually get the upper hand
and lead to serious differences of opinion between
him and his wife. It comes at last to a tacit aliena-
tion, and at Trouville the wife almost succumbs to
a compromiser of her honor. Here the peculiar
French "institution of an interventor '* comes in
under the guise of a young married woman and
her brother. The French seem to need and take
kindly to the good offices of a third person under
the most delicate circumstances. Either because
their passions are more on the surface, or because
the *'interventor" has a natural, national tact of
arranging matters without wounding the feelings of
either. The recondliatfon of the couple is only
delayed by the wife falling in love widi the male
interventor, but she soon gets over this folly, and
M. de Rias, resigning his own weaknesses, gets a
wife, who, if not exactly the ^'femme d%t^eur"
of his ideal, is, according to Feuillet, all the better
for her experience.

A book by Octave Feuillet is sure to be read, and
although " Un Mariage" cannot be considered quite
up to that very high mark which this artist has
attained, its success will be deserved. It is true
that it handles the usual and much reprobated topics
of a French novel, but we must remember the pub-
lic for which it is written, and decide whether its
influence on that public is for good or evil. Surely
and emphatically for good. It may be affirmed that
in this book at least Feuillet is working toward a
purification of morals and a solidifying of the loose
ideas on the marriage question in France. He is in
the front rank of his time, which holds more serious-
ness, more regret at past folly, more preparation for
a purer future than outsiders are apt to imagine.
This is what the mutual lady friend writes to De
Rias:

"Mon Dieul I know women are too lightly
brought up in France ; their education is superficial,
frivolous, exclusively worldly, prepares them very
badly for the serious profession of a married woman.
I grant you all that ; but, in spite of all that, I dare
affirm, that, to speak generally, there is not one who
is not morally superior to the man she marries, and



more capable than he of domestic virtue. And
I am going to tell you why ; it is because women
possess in a higher degree than you the crowning
virtue of marriage, whidi is the spirit of sacrifice ;
but it is hard for them to renounce everything when
the husband renounces nothing, and yet that is
what he asks them to do."

Nevertheless Feuillet delights himself and his
readers in picturing the Arcadian innocence of Mile.
Fitz-G^rald on the eve of her marriage. His solu-
tion is that a husband should instruct a young wife,
rather than that young girls before marriage should
know the world and what there is in it to take and
to avoid.

Contes du LundL Alphonse Daudet New York,
Christem. — A new and augmented edition of these
exquisite little tales recaUs vividly the sad days of
the recent German- French war. Some of them are
of the most moving nature, and their pathos v^
skillfully blended with simplicity in a manner to
delight a writer and hold a reader's attention &st
It is hard to choose a favorite, the cabinet pictures
are all so good. Les mires^ Le siige de Berlin^
Le porte-drapeaUf are particularly pathetic ; La pen-
dule de Bougival, La pariie du BiUard^ ironical and
witty ; La defense de Tarasconp witty and malicious.
Tarascon has to suffer for the whole of Southern
France, whose lukewarmness in the late war was
only too evident Almost all tend to keep alive in
French hearts a horror of Germans and a hope for
revenge. It is safe to say that no one m Germany,
England, or America, can write such seeming trifles
so full of power.

I^ris d trovers les ages, 12 livraisons. New York,
Christem. — An exhaustive treatise on the French
capital is to be issued by Firmin, Didot & Cie. in
twelve parts, and is to contain the successive appear-
ance of the monuments and principal quarters of
Paris from the thirteenth century up to the present
time. Old nuqM, old pictures, and bird's-eye views
of the city are reproduced, and where these are
wanting, plans are drawn up according to the most
authentic documents. The text is to be furnished



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 133 of 163)