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MORRIS'S ATALANTA's RACE, ETC.*_In a study of the Greek myths Ruskin
“You may obtain a more truthful idea of the nature of Greek religion and legend from the poems of Keats and the nearly as beautiful and, in general grasp of subject, far more powerful recent work of Morris, than from frigid scholarship, however extensive." Independent of the influence of Ruskin's opinion, for a course in English to be followed by young students of a Greek or Latin classic, who could overlook judicious selections from Morris? The student really needs something of the kind in his own language to teach him that there is more than grammar and vocabulary in his Homer or Vergil. The methods of to-day, perhaps, do not deserve the criticism which one of the greatest poets of this century gave of his own education :
It is a curse
To comprehend, but never love thy verse.” But none the less one feels like pleading earnestly for the extensive use of such books as the one under review. Every one who has the good fortune to study this book with his Iliad ought to be a far better Greek scholar, with an increased power to get the best out of all that he reads. A large number of college students hardly know how to read because of the way they have been led to treat literature in the preparatory course.
Mr. Adams, the poet and scholar, whose classes in Morris were so deservedly successful in Boston a year or so ago, has done his work admirably. The notes are sufficient without being intrusive, and are designed to foster a taste for literature rather than for pedantry. The book, like those of Dr. Rolfe's series, is most attractive in form, with clear type and appropriate illustrations.
MASTER VIRgil.f—There is no need of the somewhat elaborate apology which prefaces this work. The author says that he supposed himself to be “one of the few among men of letters who
* Morris's Atalanta's Race, Etc. Edited by Oscar FAY ADAMS, with the cooperation of W. J. ROLFE, Litt. D. Boston: Ticknor & Co., 1888.
+ Master Virgil. The author of the Aeneid as he seemed in the middle ages. By J. S. TUNISON. pp. 7 + 230. Cincinnati, O., Robert Clarke & Co., 1888.
lacked knowledge” concerning the curious legends of all kinds attributed to Vergil during the middle ages, and therefore fell to studying the subject. The conclusion which he might soon have reached is that there are very few who do not lack this knowledge. So we have to thank what he is pleased to call his "inexcusable” ignorance for a book which will probably not be financially profitable to its author, but which can hardly fail to interest all students of the middle ages.
The study of folk-lore seems now to be going through a sort of Renaissance, and its real importance in the study of man is being better appreciated. Nothing throws more light on the character and customs of times and countries than the tales and legends current among the mass of the population. No writer of antiquity enjoyed so great popularity during the middle ages and was so thoroughly brought into both student and folk-lore as Vergil, and the legends connected with his name add not a little vividness to our appreciation of the credulity and superstition of the learned and unlearned of that period.
The bulk of the book before us is made up of eight chapters, each a complete essay, on Virgil and the Devil, Virgil in Literary Tradition, Virgil's Book of Magic, Virgil, the Man of Science, Virgil, the Saviour of Rome, Virgil, the Lover, Virgil, the Prophet, and Virgil in Later Literature. In each of these chapters the author has outlined a careful and well arranged analysis of the principal legends falling under that particular head. The result is that we get a clearer idea of the different aspects of the subject, than is possible by any other arrangement, although this method has certain minor disadvantages. Many exceedingly interesting stories and notes are found in all these chapters, but perhaps the most interesting and best worked-out essay is the eighth, on Vergil, the Prophet. There is no better illustration of the absurd method of strained allegorical interpretation so often resorted to in times past, particularly by the theologians, than the manner in which the fourth eclogue of Vergil was made over into a clear case of Messianic prophecy. But then, even that is not much worse than the modern fashionable method of interpretation so vigorously denounced by Andrew Lang in a recent paper. So far, then, as the principal part of this volume is concerned, we can commend it highly, but something must be said about the author's main thesis. This is stated on page 191. “The Virgilian legends so far as they concerned the poet himself, had only a secondary connection with what is scientifically known as folklore. They were the product throughout of the literary spirit of times clouded by superstition. The popular element in them is the element which antedated their relation to Virgil.” The author on reading Comparetti's Virgilio nel Medio Evo came to the conclusion that the Italian professor overdrew “the indebtedness of the literature of the twelfth century to Neapolitan folk-lore,” and himself asserts that the “facts point to a literary rather than a popular genesis for the special fiction in which the name of Virgil figures.” Comparetti, to whom Mr. Tunison acknowledges that he is indebted for most of his material, argued with great learning and acuteness for the opposite thesis, that the basis of the Vergilian legend was found in Neapolitan folk-lore, although this original germ was taken up and elaborated by the scholars and chroniclers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Mr. Tunison expressly disclaims all pretensions to learning or to a scientific method in the treatment of this subject ” but still casts aside Comparetti's theory as wholly untenable and claims to have proved his own. We think that one who reads the two books at all carefully, will hardly grant this claim. It would be too long a task to reproduce here the arguments on both sides with any degree of completeness. Suffice it to say that no sufficient evidence is produced to show that there were no traces of Vergilian folk-lore in Naples until after they had appeared in the learned literature of Western Europe. On the contrary, we think Comparetti has shown that there were such traces. Even if there were no mention of such folk-lore in Italian literature before the close of the twelfth century, this could not justify one in maintaining that it did not exist among the people, as Comparetti is careful to point out. No one would question the fact that a large part of the Vergilian legend was the work of scholars inspired by a certain kind of superstition, but to cast out the basis of real folk-lore is too rash a proceeding, contrary to precedent and antecedent probabilty. Mr. Tunison's error lies in confusing the two elements of the legends. This view, however, does not materially detract from the value of the rest of the book as an excellent presentation of the curious stories which clustered around the poet's memory during that strange period. It is published in attractive form, and we have noticed only one misprint,-virtutibis, on page 167. It is a pity that the modern spelling of the poet's name was not adopted, and that no index is provided, so that one is compelled to get along as well as may be with only the table of contents.
FiskE'S “CRITICAL PERIOD OF AMERICAN HISTORY."*_We have become accustomed to expect that any writing of Mr. Fiske's, in all the wide range of subjects with which he has dealt, will be found very suggestive and will set us thinking in new lines. However widely we may disagree with the conclusions reached we rarely fail to see facts in a new light, or to find the relations of things to one another, the lines of cause and effect-the really important meanings of facts-made so plain that we cannot miss them. This book is no exception to the rule.
It is a matter of congratulation, too, that a book of this kind, on a period so full of political lessons, should be given us at a time when events seem to promise a new era of thoughtfulness and painstaking in the settlement of political questions. To be sure the specific problems of that age are very different from those of ours. But the most important lesson which the men of that time had to teach themselves is the same that we must learn. It is a good thing to have it made clear to us from the experience of our fathers that a great political problem is not to be settled by an apostrophe to liberty or by a torch-light procession, and that a man who appeals to passion or prejudice instead of to reason in the face of a serious national difficulty, comes dangerously near the moral guilt of treason. There is no "preaching" in the book however, its lessons are left to plain and easy inference and are in no wise obtruded on the reader.
One further impression which the book leaves upon the mind should be noticed. Some prominent accounts of the period dwell almost exclusively on the difficulties which beset the central government, on the discord and jealousies between the different States, and on the confusion, almost anarchy, which seemed to reign everywhere. One closes the reading of Von Holst's incisive chapter, for example, with a feeling that the Americans were in some way very blameworthy for the condition of political disorder into which they had fallen and that if they had been such wise statesmen as we are accustomed to think them they would, long before they did, have established a strong central government and brought order out of chaos. It is, of course, to be expected that such an impression will be made by a chapter written with the perhaps half-unconscious motive of showing our national pride in the work of that time to be hardly well-founded—a mo
* The Critical Period of American History, 1783-1789. By John FISKE. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1888.
tive to which Von Holst gives virtual expression in his concluding paragraph. But although such a judgment is not without its justification and its beneficial influence it is nevertheless only a partial and one-sided one. No doubt the constitution “ extorted from the grinding necessity of a reluctant people.” The point is a necessary one to keep in mind but it is only balf the truth. The real matter of surprise should be that under the circumstances a government meriting the high praise it has received could be even extorted. In this book the author quotes his earlier judgment that the work of the convention is "the finest specimen of constructive statesmanship that the world has ever seen " and fortifies it with the identical opinion of Mr. Gladstone. He might now add that of Mr. Bryce. Such estimates do not seem extravagant when we look at the circumstances. When we remember that the American people bad had no experience whatever of a strong national government that all real government had been up to that time local, and that all their past history had been training them to look for serious danger in any government interference from without; when we remember these facts we may insist that we have a just right to be proud that a government which was to prove itself so successful in almost every way was formed so early. It could have been done by no people who had not thoroughly acquired the habit of self-government, and that indefinable sense which guides a really self-governing people, the sense which is continually evolving from the chaos of wbat seems to be only selfish and ignoble party or personal wrangling an orderly and successful government; which tells when to insist upon a point and when to compromise, and above all how to make a compromise ;--that instinct which the foreign observer often finds it difficult to understand, in cases of its practical working if not in theory, and of which it is easy to say, as is somewhat the fashion in Germany just now, that its possession by any people is an expensive luxury.
The book makes the political confusion of the time as clear as possible but in such a way that we see it to be the unavoidable result of the past, and close the account with a feeling that the making of such a government at all is a ground for our pride in the work of the convention, equally with the character of the government made. It is even more justly a ground of hope for the future, provided we can retain or increase such willingness as then existed, to be convinced by argument and to yield local or personal interests, however important they may seem, to general considerations.
GEORGE B. ADAMS.