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Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 online

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against me when I confess that I see the fair one of my dreams in the
shop-windows. Once having seen her, I become immeasurably happy, and go
on dreaming about her until we meet again. It may seem a curious
admission, but this beautiful although impalpable being is suggested by
the charming dresses, hats and bonnets displayed on the milliners'
blocks. None of our artists can paint portraits now-a-days: Art seems to
have withdrawn her gifts from them and endowed the dressmakers and
milliners instead.

It was at first difficult for me to decide on the personality of my
beloved. My earliest fancy was for a blond: at least the dress was of
pale blue silk with a profusion of lace trimmings. Her hat was of straw
faced with azure velvet, and the crown surrounded by a long plume, also
of ciel blue. I knew by heart the features of this fair young creature,
invisible although she was to others. They seemed to belong more to a
flower than to a face: her eyes were large and blue, full of appealing
love; her hair was of course golden; her smile was angelic; and her
whole expression was one of sweetness and goodness. She was my first
dream: little although she belonged to actual life, she used to trip
about by my side and sit with me in my room at home. Suddenly, however,
I became enamored of a different creature, and my dream changed. I began
to think of my lovely blond regretfully as of a beautiful creature too
good for earth who died young. It is the habit of the shopkeepers to
change the figures in their windows, and one morning I fell in love with
quite a different creature. She wore when I first saw her a long dress
of black silk and velvet sparkling with jet; over her shoulders was
thrown carelessly a mantle of cream-colored cloth; on her head was a
plush hat - what they call a Gainsborough - trimmed with a long graceful
plume, also of cream-color. Although only her back was toward me, I knew
by instinct exactly what her face was. She was dark of course, with a
low broad forehead, about which clustered little short curls; her eyes
were superb, at once laughing and melancholy; her features suggested
rather pride than softness; but her smile was enchanting, open, sunny,
like a burst of light from behind a cloud. Nothing could be more real
than this vision. At first the discovery of this magnificently-endowed
woman rendered me happy: I used to walk past the shop half a dozen
times a day to look at her. Her costumes varied, but they always
suggested the same dark but brilliant lineaments, the same graceful
movements, the same peculiarly lovely tones. She often looked back at me
over her shoulder, but had an air of evading me. All at once, with
surprise and delight, I remembered that she might be found in actual
existence, in real flesh and blood. I deserted the image for a week in
the hope of finding the reality. I paced Fifth Avenue; I went to the
dry-goods stores; I attended the theatres. Often I seemed to see her
before me - the picturesque hat, the long plume, the rich mantle and
dress. At such moments while I pressed forward my heart beat. When the
cheek turned toward me and the eyes lighted up with surprise at my
disappointed stare, it was easy enough to see that I had made a mistake.
There was the hat, the cloak, the bewitching little frippiness of lace
and net and ribbon about the bust. She had, however, copied the
masterpiece without investing herself with its soul: her face was vague
and characterless, her whole personality void of that eloquent
womanliness which had so wrought upon me. This experience was so many
times repeated that I was frightfully tormented by it. The familiar
dress seemed to reveal with appalling truthfulness the lack of those
qualities of heart and soul which I demanded. Those lovely, picturesque
outlines suggest not only rounded cheeks colored with girlish bloom, but
something more; and the graceful draping is not a meaningless husk.

I have gone back to my shop-window image. She never disappoints me. She
is as beautiful, as magnificently endowed, as full of fascinating life
and spirit, as ever. I sometimes think, unless I find her actual
prototype, of buying that Gainsborough hat, that cloth mantle and velvet
dress, and hanging them up in my room.




LITERATURE OF THE DAY.


History of the English People. By John Richard Green. New York:
Harper & Brothers.

Most readers interested in English history have long felt the need of
such a work as this, in which the results of recent research among
original sources and of the critical examination of earlier labors are
gathered up and summarized in a narrative at once clear and concise,
free from disquisition, minuteness of detail and elaborate descriptions,
without being meagre or superficial, devoid of suggestiveness or of
animation. In calling his work a _History of the English People_, Mr.
Green has not undertaken to deviate from the beaten track, devoting his
attention to social development and leaving political affairs in the
background. What he has evidently had in view is the fact that English
history is in a special sense that of the rise and growth of free
institutions, exhibiting at every stage the mutual influence or combined
action of different classes, permeated even when the Crown or the
aristocracy was most powerful by a popular spirit, and contrasting in
this respect with that of France and Spain, in which during many
centuries the mass of the people lost instead of gaining ground,
representative bodies analogous to the English Parliament were deprived
of their rights or swept out of existence, and liberty was sacrificed to
national consolidation and unity. Whence this difference came need
hardly be pointed out. The Angles, Saxons and Jutes were neither freer
nor more enterprising than the Franks and other Teutonic families; but
the fortune which carried them to Britain saved them from inheriting any
onerous share of the great legacy of the Roman Empire - with the task of
absorbing and transmitting its language and civilization - secured them
against the risk of being either merged in a more numerous race or
submerged by a new influx, and thus preserved an identity and continuity
which link their latest achievements with their earliest exploits, and
stamp their whole career with the same character.

With such a subject, Mr. Green has had no difficulty in so marking its
divisions as to concentrate attention on successive epochs without
dropping the thread that runs through the whole. The earlier portions of
his work are naturally the most instructive and the fullest of interest.
The last volume, indeed, which covers the ground from the Revolution to
the battle of Waterloo, besides including the index to the whole work,
gives far too rapid a survey of momentous and familiar events to afford
profit or satisfaction. One feels that, while the style retains its
fluency, the tone has lost its warmth, and that much of the writing must
have been perfunctory: the reading, at all events, cannot but be so. But
scarcely any one, however well acquainted with the ground, can follow
without pleasure and an enlargement of view Mr. Green's account of
"Early England," "England under Foreign Kings," "The Charter" and "The
Parliament" (from 1307 to 1461), which form the subjects of the first
four books; while the next four, occupying the second and third volumes,
and entitled "The Monarchy," "The Reformation," "Puritan England" and
"The Revolution," are marked by a grasp of thought, a fine sense of
proportion, a thorough knowledge and well-balanced judgment of men and
events, and not unfrequently a dramatic force, which sustain the
interest throughout, and which make them a valuable addition, and
sometimes a necessary corrective, to the fuller and more brilliant
narratives in which the same periods and subjects have been separately
treated.

Mr. Green does not appear to have gone deeply into the study of original
sources, but it is only in his incidental treatment of continental
history that his deficiencies in this respect become palpable. Here he
is often inaccurate, and even when his facts are correct his mode of
stating them shows that he is not master of the whole field, and has
little appreciation of mingled motives and attendant circumstances. Such
a sentence as this: "The restoration of the towns on the Somme to
Burgundy, the cession of Normandy to the king's brother, Francis, the
hostility of Brittany, not only detached the whole western coast from
the hold of Lewis, but forced its possessors to look for aid to the
English king who lay in their rear," could not have been written with
any clear ideas of either the political or the geographical relations
of the places mentioned. What is meant by the "western coast"? Not,
certainly, the towns on the Somme, which lie in the north-east, nor
Normandy, which has indeed a western coast of its own, but cannot be
said to form part of the western coast of France. Nor does Brittany
include "the _whole_ western coast," or even the larger portion of it,
while it could not have been "detached from the hold of Lewis," inasmuch
as he had never held it. As little will that remark apply to the other
provinces on the western coast, as these were still in his possession.
Who are meant, therefore, by the "possessors" of this misty coast, and
why the English king is said to have lain "in their rear," can only be
conjectured. It is a small blunder that the French king's brother is
called "Francis" instead of Charles, since we must not suspect Mr. Green
of confounding him with the duke of Brittany, who bore the former name.
But the whole passage, in connection with what follows it, indicates
that the author has mixed up the state of affairs at two very close, but
very distinct, conjunctures. Many similar instances of defective
knowledge might be cited, nor are they confined to this early period.
The remark, in regard to Charles of Austria (the emperor Charles V.),
that "the madness of his mother left him _next heir_ of Castille" is
nonsense: he was her heir in any case, while through her madness he
became nominally joint, and virtually sole, ruler of the kingdom. His
son Philip had not been "twice a widower" when he married Mary of
England, and the assertion that "he owed his victory at Gravelines
mainly to the opportune arrival of ten English ships of war" is
patriotic, but foolish. That "Catholicism alone united the burgher of
the Netherlands to the noble of Castille, or Milanese and Neapolitan to
the Aztec of Mexico and Peru," would be an incomprehensible statement
even if Peru had been inhabited by the Aztecs. Such errors, however,
cannot seriously impair the value of Mr. Green's work. Its merits, as
regards both matter and form, are solid and varied. The scale on which
it was planned adapts it admirably to the gap which it was intended to
fill, and, except in the latter portions, its comparative brevity of
treatment excludes neither important facts nor modifying views. No
shorter work could give the reader any adequate knowledge or conceptions
in regard to English history, and no longer work is needed to make him
fully acquainted with its essential features.

White Wings: A Yachting Romance. By William Black. New York: Harper
& Brothers. - Roy and Viola. By Mrs. Forrester. Philadelphia: J.B.
Lippincott & Co. - The Wellfields. By Jessie Fothergill.
(Leisure-Hour Series.) New York: Holt & Co. - Troublesome Daughters.
By L.B. Walford. (Leisure - Hour Series.) New York: Holt &
Co. - Brigitta. By Berthold Auerbach. (Leisure - Hour Series.) New
York: Holt & Co.

There is a time appointed to read novels - a time which belongs, like
that of other good things, to youth, when the real and the ideal merge
into each other, and even the most practical beliefs turn upon the
notion that the world was created for ourselves, and that the general
system of things is bound to furnish circumstances and incidents which
shall flatter our unsatisfied desires. It seems a pity that it should
not fall to the lot of the critic to write down his impression of new
books at this epoch, when he is most fitted to enjoy them. When romance
and other delights have blankly vanished - "gone glimmering through the
dreams of things that were" - he is scarcely fitted to trust the worth of
his own impressions. Reading from mere idle curiosity or with critical
intentions, and reading with delight, with eager absorption in the story
and an eager desire to know how it turns out, are two different matters.
The loss of this capacity for enjoyment of the every-day novel is not a
subject for self-gratulation, coming as it does from our own absence of
imagination and from narrowing instead of increasing powers. That period
of our existence when we could read anything which offered should be
looked back upon with a feeling of purely admiring regret, and in our
efforts to master the novel of to-day we should endeavor to bring back
the glory and the sweetness of the early dream.

It is not so very long ago that Mr. William Black's novels began to
charm us. He did not take Fame at a single leap, but wooed her
patiently, and suffered many a repulse. His first book, _Ion; or,
Marriage_, was probably the very worst novel ever written by a man who
was finally to make a great success. _The Daughter of Heth_ achieved
this result, and _The Strange Adventures of a Phaeton, A Princess of
Thule_ and _Macleod of Dar_ deepened, one by one, the witchery the
first threw over us. The author's power was especially shown in
investing his maidens with glamour and piquancy: Coquette and Sheila led
their captives away from the suffocating dusts and the burning heats of
life. Then his backgrounds were so well chosen - those mysterious reaches
of the far northern seas, the slow twilights over the heaving ocean, the
swift dawns, the storms and the lightnings, and the glad blue skies.
Even the music of the bagpipes inspired lamentations only less sweet
than notes of joy. Mr. Black still has lovely girls; his yachts still
pitch and roll and scud over the tossed and misty Hebridean seas; there
are the same magical splendors of air and sky and water and shores; the
wail of the pibroch is heard as of yore -

Dunvegan! oh, Dunvegan!

Why, then, is it that his last book fails to do more than arouse dim
memories of some previous enjoyment? Why are his violets without
perfume? Why is his music vacant of the old melodies?

In _Roy and Viola_, on the contrary, Mrs. Forrester is seen at her best,
and has given us a book of lively interest. The situation in some
respects suggests that of _Daniel Deronda:_ D'Arcy is a sort of
Grandcourt cheapened and made popular, acting out his instincts of
tyranny and brutality with more ostentation and less good taste. What is
subtly indicated by George Eliot is given with profuse effect by the
present writer. Viola, if not a Gwendolen, is yet an unloving wife. Sir
Douglas Roy plays a somewhat difficult rôle - that of friend to the
husband and undeclared lover to the wife - without losing our respect. He
is in many ways a successful hero, and acts his part without either
insipidity or priggishness. A genial optimist like Mrs. Forrester, as
her old readers may well believe, sacrifices to a hopelessly unhappy
marriage no lot which interests us. Disagreeable husbands die at an
auspicious moment, and everybody is finally made happy in his or her own
way, which includes the possession of plenty of money. The conversations
are piquant, and the interest of the story is well kept up.

_The Wellfields_ is a falling off from _Probation_, which in its turn
was a distinct falling-off from Miss Fothergill's initial story, _The
First Violin_. The characters are dim, intangible, remote, possessing no
reality even at the outset, and as they progress becoming even more
estranged from our belief and sympathy. Jerome is too feeble to arouse
even our resentment, which we mildly expend on Sara instead for
displaying grief for so poor a creature. When an author publishes one
successful book, it should be a matter of serious thought whether it is
not worth while to make such a triumph the crowning event of his or her
destiny, lest Fate should have in reserve the tedious trials which await
those who are compelled to hear that their sun has set.

Mrs. Walford's last book has, in a measure, retrieved a certain
reputation for interest which her _Cousins_ had lost. In _Troublesome
Daughters_, however, one looks in vain for the fulfilment of the promise
of _Mr. Smith_ and her delightful _Van: A Summer Romance_.

In _Brigitta_ we find enough of Auerbach's charm to like the story,
simple as it is. It recalls his greater books only by the fidelity of
the tone and the clearness of the pictures. Xander is well drawn, and
the tragedy of his life, portrayed as it is by those few strong touches
which reveal the real artist, is profoundly impressive.

- - -

_New Books Received._

Geo. P. Rowell & Co.'s American Newspaper Directory, containing Accurate
Lists of all the Newspapers and Periodicals published in the United
States, Territories and the Dominion of Canada, together with a
description of the towns and cities in which they are published. New
York: George P. Rowell & Co.

The Skin in Health and Disease. By L. Duncan Bulkley, M.D. (American
Health Primers.) Philadelphia: Presley Blakiston.

The Confessions of a Frivolous Girl. Edited by Robert Grant. Vignette
Illustrations. Boston: A. Williams & Co.

The Life and Public Services of James A. Garfield. By Major J.M. Bundy.
New York: A.D. Barnes & Co.

The Mystery of Allanwold. By Mrs. Elizabeth Van Loon. Philadelphia: T.
B. Peterson & Brothers.

Political and Legal Remedies for War. By Sheldon Amos, M.A. New York:
Harper & Brothers.

Mary Anerley: A Yorkshire Tale. By R.D. Blackmore. New York: Harper &
Brothers.

A Selection of Spiritual Songs, with Music for the Sunday-school. New
York: Scribner & Co.

[Footnote 1: I use here the official nomenclature of Pennsylvania: by
whatever title the local officials are known in the various States, the
general fact is of course the same in all.]

[Footnote 2: In some tests given in Richards' _Treatise on Coal Gas_ (p.
293) the following results were shown: Obstruction of light by -

A clear glass globe, about 12 per cent.
An engraved " " " 24 "
Obscured all over " " " 40 "
Opal " " " " " 60 "
Painted " " " " " 64 " ]

[Footnote 3: There is a recent method of adding carbon to the gas which
is not liable to the objection of clogging the pipes. By a small
apparatus a stick of naphthaline is attached to the burner so as to be
slowly vaporized. It is not yet in the hands of dealers in
gas-fixtures.]

[Footnote 4: Our narrative is drawn from the _Libra del Passo Honroso,
defendido por el excelente caballero Suero de Quiñones, copilado de un
libro antiguo de mano por Fr. Juan de Pineda, Religiose de la orden de
San Francisco. Segunda edicion_. Madrid, 1783, in the _Crónicas
españolas_, vol. v.]

[Footnote 5: In modern French, _Il faut délivrer_ - "It is necessary to
release," referring to the chain worn by Quiñones.]

[Footnote 6: "If it does not please you to show moderation, I say, in
truth, that I am unfortunate."]

[Footnote 7: Prosper Mérimée, in a note to his _History of Peter the
Cruel_ (London, 1849, vol. i., p. 35), says, referring to the above
episode, "I do not think that at that period an example of similar
condescension could be found anywhere except in Spain. A century later
the _chevalier sans peur et sans reproche_, the valiant Bayard, refused
to mount a breach in company with lansquenets."]

[Footnote 8: Beginning, "Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna," etc.]

[Footnote 9: The Church as early as 1131 (Council of Rheims) endeavored
to prevent these dangerous amusements by denying burial in consecrated
ground with funeral rites to those who were killed in tournaments.]

[Footnote 10: Puymaigre explains this almost total absence of Frenchmen
by the fact that in 1434 the wars between Charles VII and the English
were being waged. The English pilgrims to Santiago (the large number of
whom we have previously mentioned) were probably non-combatants.]







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Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 → online text (page 20 of 20)