Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/719

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LITERARY NOTICES.

struction without a test-book. This looks fair, but it is delusive. The method does not remove the book that the pupil may come at the phenomena, but it removes the book that the teacher may take its place. Oral teaching is class instruction, in which information is imparted in a familiar manner, with the view of awakening the interest of the class. But, so far as real science is concerned, it is doubtful if this method is not worse than the one it replaces. , . . The value of educational systems consists simply in what they do to incite the pupil to help himself. Mechanical school-work can give instruction, but it can not develop faculty, because this depends upon self-exertion. Science, if rightly pursued, is the most valuable school of self-instruction. From the beginning, men of science have been self-dependent and self-reliant because self-taught; and it is a question whether they have been most hindered or helped by the schools."




LITERARY NOTICES.

The Eulogy of Richard Jefferies. By Walter Besant. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. Pp. 384. Price, $2.

The name of the subject of this book may not be familiar to all the readers of the "Monthly." An insight of the quality of the man may, however, be given by the fact that Mr. Besant started to write his life without ever having seen him, and ended by calling the biography a eulogy. Mr. Jefferies was born in 1848, and died in 1886, only thirty-eight years old, and in only ten of those years did he do work suitable to his powers and fitted to bring him recognition; but the work of those ten years has given him a place among students of Nature and masters of English writing alongside of Gilbert White and Thoreau. We doubt if he has ever had a rival as an accurate describer of Nature in her various aspects and minute details, who could at the same time command the sympathies of the reader in what almost runs into "cataloguing." His early surroundings and training were most favorable to the cultivation of those habits of close observation which he brought into play in his later writings, and it was his misfortune that he spent so many of his few years in vain efforts to do what he was not fitted for. Mr. Jefferies was born, being descended from a long line of independent farmers, at the farm-house of Coate, near Swindon, in Wiltshire, in a country of downs and abounding in ancient monuments. Of the territory around the old house he knew "every inch of ground, every tree, every hedge," and the land of it which lies within a circle of ten miles radius "belongs to his writings," The family "seem to have inherited, from father to son, a love of solitude and a habit of thinking for themselves." Richard's father, who is drawn in his books as Farmer Iden, and a man of this sort, "took him into the fields and turned over page after page with him of the book of Nature, expounding, teaching, showing him how to use his eyes, and continually reading to him out of that great book." He early showed an inclination to literature, and the position as reporter on two or three of the local newspapers enabled him to make a kind of a living while he tried to write novels, work for which he had none of the essential qualifications. The account of his life for several years is a record of ambitious attempts, high hopes, and bitter disappointments, as story after story was submitted to publishers and refused. His first success came in 1872. The relations of the farmer with the agricultural laborer had become a living question, and Jefferies, feeling that he knew all about the subject, wrote a long letter upon it, which was published in the "Times," with an accompanying "leader," and was answered and commented upon in other journals. In the next year he published an article in "Eraser's Magazine " on "The Future of the Farmer," and that attracted attention. It was followed by two other papers of similar character; and in 1876, Jefferies, having discovered his true field, began that series of papers which, afterward published in books, bid fair to give him a permanent place among the most famous descriptive writers of rural nature and of animal and plant life. The first book, "The Gamekeeper at Home," secured him recognition at once, and brought proposals from publishers. Among others, Mr. Longmans invited him to write a book