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IN BRIEF REVIEW
T is, as Professor Richard Swann Lull points out, fitting that a paleontologist write on evolution, because the strongest evidence for organic evolution and against direct creation consists in the fossils and other remains of earlier life that have been found in different strata of the earth. This evidence is prominent in "The Ways of Life" (Harper), which is, however, as complete as it is a lucid statement of what the scientist knows of the origin and history of living things.
When the poet approaches the territory of the medieval, there is apt to be a plenitude of rigorous phrases and pungent words, seldom used expressions and strange spellings. The love of the picturesque is only too often the misstepping stone of the unwary narrator. "The Drums of Yle" by J. U. Nicolson (Covici) is a point in case. It purports to be a story of old England when the not unlustful barons claimed their rights in matters of love. There is considerable movement in the narrative; the picture of the lovely heroine, born to be a queen yet reared as a peasant girl in an alien land, is not without charm. Unfortunately, neither the employment of backward-reading verses, in versimilitude to old English, nor the vigor of the poetic form in which the poet chooses to clothe his tale, makes what simpler treatment could effect-a truly fine poem.
A thick sprinkling of specific instances changes Leon Nelson Flint's "The Conscience of the Newspaper" (Appleton) from an extended essay on journalistic ethics to something almost
as spicy as "The Brass Check". Mr. Flint has applied the case system to his subject matter. As any reader of that splendid example of the case system, "Advice to the Lovelorn", knows, the problems presented are frequently more interesting than the solutions. The book offers no cure for journalistic evils. The codes of newspaper ethics, a long series of which forms the appendix, sound as impotent as official statements in the face of a crime wave. Mr. Flint merely touches on such important influences on newspaper policies as the dominance of syndicated features, the growth of newspaper chains, and the demand that newspapers be amusing which is making picture book dailies so successful. But the book does show clearly how the "human element" rather than deliberate skullduggery is responsible for many journalistic derelictions. Whether a contemplation of newspaper ethics such as this will help editors elevate their profession is doubtful, but it will help the average reader interpret the news he reads.
Jeanne Bordeux's intimate biography, phy, "Eleonora Duse: The Story of Her Life" (Doran), although inclined to be over-eulogistic, gives none the less a comprehensive, detailed history of the celebrated tragédienne. The author succeeds in completely effacing from her pages all references to her own friendship with the subject of her work, thus achieving an effect of perfect detachment. But Madame Bordeux is unable, in estimating Duse's artistic genius, her high nobility of character, her exalted idealism and her poignant loneliness, to transcend her
own excessive admiration and enthusiasm. Apart from this tendency toward a worshipful and sentimental attitude, the book has authentic value.
When Boni and Liveright printed Alexander Berkman's "The Bolshevik Myth", they insisted that the final chapter be eliminated as a literary anti-climax. So Mr. Berkman proceeded to publish that chapter privately as "The Anti-Climax". It is easy to see why the publishers felt that so theoretical and analytical a chapter harmonized poorly with the matter that was to have preceded it. "The "The Bolshevik Myth" as now printed is the diary of Alexander Berkman from the time of his deportation from America until he broke with the Bolsheviks. The book is probably the most vivid description of Russia under Leninism we have yet had. It is more objective than Emma Goldman's "Disillusionment" and not so tragically despondent. But without "The AntiClimax" the book would be more significant than the run of anti-Soviet denunciation only from a literary point of view. That last chapter points out how the methods of a conspirators' steering committee, imposed on Soviet forms, have resulted in a new despotism, as yet untempered by assassination. It points out how terrorism, originally used as a weapon of liberty, develops and strengthens an oligarchy of those who wield it. Mr. Berkman's observations and conclusions hold as true of the French Revolutions of '89 and '70 as they do of the Russian revolt.
For the general reader who desires an insight into the difficulties of the immigration inspector, it would be hard to discover a more satisfactory volume than Victor E. Safford's "Im
migration Problems" (Dodd, Mead). Mr. Safford's book is the fruit of years of personal experience; it abounds in reminiscences and anecdotes that lend life and color to the exposition; it is entertaining at the same time as it is authentic, and informative at the same time as it is soberly critical. The author's conclusion will prove of particular interest, for Mr. Safford maintains, among other things, that we must have a Secretary of Immigration if there is ever to be an efficient immigration service; and he believes that such a Secretary can be effective only if we "get back to the unpopular idea of a Government of laws and not of men".
The "gusty music" of Ireland, ranging from Goldsmith to James Stephens, from Congreve to Padraic Colum, has been swept together into one little book "A Golden Treasury of Irish Verse" (Macmillan). The compiler, Lennox Robinson, has succeeded in his effort to arrange the poems so that, "whereever the book is opened, some connection of thought or mood will be found to link poem to succeeding poem". By this method the reader is borne along on a swelling tide of song that seems, not the singing of many poets, but the voice of the eternal Gaelic heart. This impression is especially strong when we discover that much of the song in this book is preserved from the old Gaelic by the sympathetic modern Irish poet. The stream is thereby enriched by a fountainhead that will never go dry. Dierdre and Sidhe, the leprechauns and the fairy ring — all the deathless symbolism of a race comes alive again in their minstrelsy. Scarcely any poetry in the world is so passionately racial, so deeply rooted in the primal earth. Because Mr. Robinson's collection demonstrates this fact more strikingly
than any other we have seen, and because it comes nearest to our ideal of "pure poetry" in the largest sense, we have no hesitation in recommending the book to all poetry lovers.
The physical wreckage of the Great War has been cleaned up; the machinery of production has been rebuilt; populations ravaged by battle and hardship are again on the increase and yet the plight of the world now is worse than it was in 1914. It is the social fabric of mankind that has not been reconstituted; it is humanity itself that requires reconstruction. This is the well supported thesis which comprises the first part of J. D. Whelpley's "Reconstruction" (Funk and Wagnalls). The second part of the volume might have been called an appendix, did it not make up more than three quarters of the whole. It is full of aimless information on international trade, on emigration and on the nations of Europe page on page of dull reading, facts that are not new nor vital. It is unfortunate that a book which starts out so bravely should end so inconclusively.
Readers interested in the life and work of John Addington Symonds will find in "Out of the Past" (Scribner) by his daughter, Margaret Symonds (Mrs. W. W. Vaughan), an intimately revealing biography of the man told largely in the hitherto unpublished letters of his friends, his family, and himself. Mrs. Vaughan attempts no critical tribute to the well known essays and poetry of her father, the object of the book being to recall him rather in the light of her own memories, as he existed for herself and others, apart from his writing. In this she has been completely successful, if at times a trifle dull.
The verses of Arthur Guiterman are the candy of poetry, with the virtues and faults of sweetmeats. “A Poet's Proverbs" (Dutton) are delicious bits, but it is necessary to warn the unwary that he who essays to consume the entire contents at a sitting will spoil his stomach for them. These "mirthful, sober and fanciful epigrams on the universe" and "certain old Irish proverbs" are rendered in sparkling couplets frequently the heroic couplet that centuries of English poets have found handy when brilliancy of expression rather than depth of emotion was the requisite quality. The poems are arranged subjectively a device which makes the volume an excellent source for the person who has exhausted the pages of Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations". Let these two couplets serve as representative examples of some two hundred odd:
The Past's a Book wherein some Truths are found,
But not a Chain by which Men's Feet are Bound.
I threw a Stone in the Turnip Field;
In 1788 Andrew Kippis, D.D., F.R.S., and S.A., dedicated to the king his narrative of "Captain Cook's Voyages, with an Account of His Life, during the Previous and Intervening Periods". It is a definitive biography, detailing in full, as if it were an expanded log book, the course of Cook's three voyages, and setting forth his discoveries in New Zealand, Australia, the Society Islands, and many other strange lands and seas. Its style is classic, unruffled, stately, scholarly. Though the author omits nothing nor extenuates anything, he is at pains to justify every act of the explorer (as well as to laud the liberality of George III). He even includes a set "eulo
gium"; yet he does leave one with a greatly increased respect for the spirit and achievement of the now almost legendary Captain Cook. It is this book which Knopf has had beautifully printed and illustrated in England for the 1925 market.
The golden mean has been achieved very skilfully by Sylvia Lynd in "The Mulberry Bush" (Minton, Balch), a volume of sketches of English life which cannot possibly offend the sentimental and is unlikely to outrage any of the intelligentsia into whose hands it may fall. There is nothing new in it, but the materials have been handled with considerable grace. The author possesses a fund of mild irony, some rather conventional whimsicality, and a fairly large amount of insight. Her word sense is good and occasionally she achieves a really telling bit of characterization, as in the following: "Then would come silence, a long, choking silence, in which he seemed to lie in ambush waiting for her to blow her nose." Mrs. Lynd's subjects range from youth to age and from bounding health to serious sickness. She is perhaps at her best with a humorous subject. "Tact" and "Romaunt de la Rose" are the best pieces in the book, with "Journey's End" and "The Sybarite", studies of age and childhood respectively, not far behind.
The purpose of Perry Belmont's volume on "National Isolation an Illusion" (Putnam) is plainly indicated in the title. The author endeavors first of all to show that the United States has not been and never can be isolated from Europe; and, secondly, he attempts to prove that the Democratic party, "created at the birth of our democratic Republic, preponderant when our foreign policy was formu
lated . . . derives its indestructible vitality from the principles upon which it was instituted principles which
lie at the foundation of the Government of the Republic". In the course of his argument, Mr. Belmont reviews our entire history from the time of the formation of the earliest parties; and he goes into such detail and documents his contentions so heavily as to make out a case which, at the very least, definitely challenges attention.
The light verse of the earlier years of this century has come in for much justifiable abuse. Yet Houghton Mifflin Company have bravely reissued Curtis Hidden Page's twenty year old translation of the "Songs and Sonnets of Pierre de Ronsard" — and omens to the contrary, it is well worth reading in this day. in this day. Possibly the translation might not have remained so fresh if Mr. Page had employed, unflavored, the poetic idiom of his day. But he had the excellent judgment to translate Ronsard, not in the diction" of 1900, but in the speech of the Elizabethan contemporaries of the French poet. The original edition of the translation was a limited one, designed by Bruce Rogers. The occasion of this edition is the four hundredth anniversary of the poet's birth. It makes no pretensions to the elaborateness of Mr. Rogers's production, but it is an excellent example of handsome typography. The volume includes an interesting biographical sketch and some rather technical notes.
"When he was young he was too young." Thus does Max Eastman characterize the early achievements of "Leon Trotsky" (Greenberg). Though born to the name of Bronstein, of well to do and enterprising parents, the boy who was later to figure so spectacularly
in the eyes of the world soon changed his name to Trotsky. It was under this name that he moved through the ever changing, hazardous circles of revolutionary Russia. The book is a rapid, interesting narrative of his experiences, both mental and physical, during those years of early youth which led up to his final triumph as military head of the Bolshevist party. Its pictures, especially of Trotsky the boy, are clear and colorful. They supply a graphic history of the early pioneers of revolutionary thought. Of the action that finally came as a result of these endeavors, Mr. Eastman has little to say. He declares in his introduction: "The chief thing to be gained by visiting Soviet Russia is a feeling of the characters of the Bolshevists. To a simple man that makes Bolshevism intelligible." He has, therefore, made a sincere effort to paint the portrait of Trotsky's youth, to show the forces that converged to make a Bolshevist possible. If this If this study does not satisfy the casual reader, we can only conclude that even so careful a characterization and chronicle of events as Mr. Eastman's book leaves a hundred questions about present day Russia still unanswered. Probably they cannot now be answered satisfactorily by anybody, and recent changes in Trotsky's status can only serve to lessen the effectiveness of some of Mr. Eastman's comments.
Fridtjof Nansen was only twenty when he made his first Arctic expedition in 1882. Woodsman, hunter, and fisherman, he was very naturally interested in zoology, and decided to study the life and physical features of the Arctic. He took passage aboard a sealing vessel, and his book, "Hunting and Adventure in the Arctic" (Duffield), is a bold and enthusiastic account of the "Viking's" maiden voyage. There
is the gripping tale of icebound adventure, of navigation among the drifting floes, of hunting and killing the saddleback and the curious, hooded bladdernose seals, of encounters with the bottlenose whales, polar bears, and man eating sharks. Glints of humor, grave dangers gamely weathered, abounding details of deep sea creatures of the North, and many drawings by the writer acquaint one with the Nansen who was later destined to become a famous explorer and author.
The "Dream Tapestries" of Louise Morey Bowman (Macmillan) are charming fragments of prettiness. They are like figures painted on tissue paper, faint, perishable, and without connection. One misses the pattern of these poems which are, for the most part, merely an expression of conventional thoughts about the "icy fingers of the rain", the "bare black branches", moonlight on beautiful ladies swooning on marble benches with apple green scarfs around their necks. But one likes the things she writes about apples
even apple green scarfs on marble benches. It is a book for wistful girls and maiden aunts. It is charmingly recommended on its green jacket by Amy Lowell and Harriet Monroe.
Dr. Geraldine Hodgson's "The Life of James Elroy Flecker, From Letters and Materials Provided by His Mother" (Houghton Mifflin) strikes us as uncommonly searching, balanced, concise, yet affectionate biography of an uncommonly human genius masquerading at times a bit insufferably perhaps, but most of the time shyly, austerely, spontaneously himself. This greatest Keatsian's tempestuous childhood, schooldays, Oxford, Cambridge, teaching days, Near East vice consular service, family loves, and death are