Popular Science Monthly/Volume 50/December 1896/General Notices

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GENERAL NOTICES.

The rapid march of civilization during the past fifty years has left behind many of the old economic and political ideas. The new crop which has sprung up is not, as was perhaps to be expected, of uniform goodness; and many of them, born of demagogy and ignorance, are positively bad. Ill-considered legislation and mistaken notions of trade and finance have brought about conditions entailing much hardship on the poorer classes; and popular discontent, true to its paternal-government fetich, and constantly stimulated by that persevering animal, the social agitator, is loudly clamoring for "new laws." The most striking political fact during this period has been the growth of the democratic idea, and it is not perhaps surprising that this should be blamed for much of the difficulty. Mr. Lecky's book. Democracy and Liberty[1] is a study of the growth of democratic tendencies, the effect which this growth has had on the treatment of the various economic and political questions, its dangers, advantages, and probable future, and a comparison of it with other forms of government, more especially parliamentary government with restricted suffrage. It is quite impossible in the space allowed a single review to give any adequate notion of the very wide field which is covered by these two volumes. The work opens with a consideration of English representative government in the eighteenth century, which, with a few modifications, seems to be Mr. Lecky's idea of the best form of polity. The growth of Rousseau's doctrines in France and England and a brief study of the French democracy are followed by about seventy pages on "American Democracy," which, while somewhat tinctured by the proverbial English ingenuousness regarding tales about the wild doings over here, point out the most pronounced of our political faults and weaknesses. Mr. Lecky sums up as follows: "American democracy appears to me to carry with it at least as much of warning as of encouragement, especially when we remember the singularly favorable circumstances under which the experiment has been tried and the impossibility of reproducing those conditions at home." Legislative changes in England, the Irish land question, and the various attempts to legalize attacks on property, successful and otherwise, are discussed in the second chapter. The influence of democracy on individual liberty is shown to be not uniformly favorable, and attention is especially called to the great danger of systems of class legislation, such as the income tax. Aristocracies and upper chambers are given considerable space, including an extended survey of the history of the English House of Lords. The changes which the growth of democracy has brought about in international politics are noted at some length, as is also its effect on religious liberty, Sunday legislation, and marriage laws. In commenting on socialism and labor questions, Mr. Lecky says: "But the proposed changes which conflict with the fundamental laws and elements of human nature can never in the long run succeed. . . . The essential difference of men in aptitudes, capacities, and character are things that never can be changed, and all schemes and policies that ignore them are doomed to ultimate failure." The changes which have taken place in the position and education of women are considered in the last chapter. Mr. Lecky thinks that, owing to their special interests, it is impossible to deny their claim to representation, and that if their demand for the suffrage prove growing and persistent, they will eventually obtain it. As is natural, most of the questions are considered mainly with reference to their bearing on the English polity; but they are questions common to all modem civilized societies, and Mr. Lecky's views, while not perhaps always tenable, are always deserving of attention.

 

Most of those who have tried it will remember that the study of psychology, aided by the ordinary text-books and carried on after the usual methods of the class room, was about the driest and in many ways the least agreeable of their school-day experiences. Indeed, the study was such uphill work, and had so little that was enticing about it, that the subject was usually put off until the latter part of the school or college course, when it was expected that the more mature minds, especially if backed by a fondness for the science, would be able to struggle through its puzzling abstractions. The book before us[2] is an attempt to place this study on a better footing. After teaching the subject for a number of years, the author became convinced that there are no such serious difficulties in its pursuit as has been supposed. He found that it can be made attractive, and that, when suitably presented, pupils of average intelligence have little trouble in grasping the essentials of the science. His book is the outcome of this teaching experience, and embodies the plan which the author found most successful in arousing the interest and reaching the understanding of the learner. This plan consists simply in an abundant use of familiar illustrations, with so much of anecdote and of the application of principles as will serve to hold the attention and give the mind of the pupil something tangible to work upon. The illustrative matter is drawn from a great variety of sources, and, as a rule, is very apt.

Mr. Halleck presents his subject from both the introspective and the physiological side, and does not make the mistake of pinning his faith exclusively to one while sneering at the other. He begins by describing "the nervous mechanism at the disposal of the mind," for he regards an elementary knowledge of the action of brain and nerves as a necessary groundwork for the pupil's images of mental action. He then takes up the faculties of mind in succession—consciousness, presentation, representation, imagination, thought, emotion, and will. The several ideas that he sets forth under each subject are contained in distinct paragraphs, each with its own heading.

 

The scope of the book includes applied as well as pure science. The consideration of each of the faculties above mentioned is followed by a chapter or part of a chapter on the cultivation of that faculty. "Laws are of little use," Mr. Halleck believes, "unless they are applied; hence these chapters are of the utmost importance to all who have not passed the plastic age." He aims not only to show his pupils how the mind acts, but to aid them in making their own minds act more efficiently. The volume is indexed, and the chapter on the nervous system is illustrated with several well-executed wood-cuts.

 

There can hardly be a volume in the Library of Useful Stories that will touch everyday life more closely than The Story of a Piece of Coal does.[3] In telling this story the author has so mingled scientific, technological, and general information about a familiar substance as to produce a remarkably readable little book one that is instructive without being oppressively learned. He begins with an outline of what has been learned about the formation of coal from plants, and then tells how the coal beds lie among other rocks and what sort of animal remains are found between them. In the next chapter he shows the relationship between peat, lignite, bituminous and anthracite coals, graphite, and the diamond. Passing to the industrial side of his subject, Mr. Martin describes the coal mine and its dangers, the making of gas, and the preparation of those many valuable products derived from what was formerly the waste of the gas works. The derivatives of petroleum, which is closely related to coal, are also dealt with. How long the coal supply of the world is likely to last is a question that has been anxiously asked, and we find some interesting computations of the time in a chapter describing the distribution of the deposits. The closing chapter is devoted to the coal-tar colors, which were briefly referred to earlier in the volume. The thirty-eight illustrations show many of the plants and animals of the coal formations, and some of the structures and apparatus used in mining and gas-making.

 

President Jordan, of Leland Stanford Junior University, has collected into a volume[4] seventeen addresses relating to higher education which were delivered at college commencements and on other occasions. Several of them have already appeared in print in this magazine and other periodicals. In his address to the class of 1895 of Stanford University, which gives the title to the volume. President Jordan declares emphatically in favor of individual education. "A misfit education," he says, "is no education at all." A training that enables each man to give play to his strength is the best safeguard against the seeming predominance of the weak and ignorant in democracies. Among the subjects whose broad aspects are presented in one or another of these addresses are The Nation's Need of Men, The Higher Education of Women, The Training of the Physician, and The Practical Education. We find in these pages stimulating and luminous thoughts following each other in rapid succession. Thus in one place Dr. Jordan says, after giving words of encouragement to the poor student: "It is not poverty that helps a man. . . . It is the effort by which he throws off the yoke of poverty that enlarges the powers." In another place he warns against mistaking the cant of investigation" for the true thing. As to a young man's chance for a career, he affirms: "If he can do well something which needs doing, his place in the world will always be ready for him." To any teacher or student who has native vigor to be aroused, the volume can hardly fail to be an inspiration.

 

Mr. Brown's book[5] is a revision of his practical taxidermy, published some years ago, plus the results of his work at the Leicester Museum, which includes "new methods, most of which are absolutely novel and at present confined to the Leicester Museum." Although many of the processes are somewhat difficult, the aim has been to so arrange the work as to make its practical application by the learner as simple as possible. The introduction treats of the origin and progress of taxidermy, and the founder of taxidermy certainly Pleistocene in age, is shown to have been the man who first appropriated an animal's hide as clothing, the wearing of skins necessitating some sort of preparation, which may be fairly called taxidermy. The tools and methods used in taxidermy and modeling and the collection of specimens occupy the first four chapters. Then follow special chapters, one on mammals, one on birds, and one on reptiles. The remaining three chapters deal with modeling and artistic mounting. A number of excellent illustrations and a bibliography of the subject add value to the volume.

 

A magazine entitled Public Libraries, devoted to library management and news, was started in May with M. E. Ahern as editor and a strong list of contributing editors. It is to be issued monthly for ten months of the year from the Chicago office of the Library Bureau ($1 a year). Part of the first draft of a Library Primer, to be issued by the American Library Association, is printed in the first number for criticism and suggestions. Other features are news of libraries, library schools, and librarians; notes on reference books for library work; and practical hints.

 

Prof. McMaster's special qualifications, both as a historian and a writer, make his With the Fathers (Appletons, $1.50) not only very readable but exceedingly instructive. The volume consists of a series of studies in the history of the United States, all of which have appeared separately in the magazines. The topics treated are The Monroe Doctrine, The Third-Term Tradition, The Political Depravity of the Fathers, The Riotous Career of the Know-Nothings, The Framers and the Framing of the Constitution, Washington's Inauguration, A Century of Constitutional Interpretation, A Century's Struggle for Silver, Is Sound Finance possible under Popular Government? Franklin in France, How the British left New York, The Struggle for Territory, and Four Centuries of Progress.

 

Betrachtungen cines in Deutschland reisenden Deutschen (Reflections of a German traveling in Germany), by P. D. Fisher, is a small book but full. It presents in a succession of brief, terse essays outline descriptions of the various attractions which Germany offers to the traveler and student. These accounts are given under the headings of "How we travel in Germany," "What we can see in Germany" (scenery, people, industries, cities, estates, universities, authors, etc.), "Economical, Moral, and Social Conditions." (Published by Julius Springer, Berlin.)

 

The thirty-first number of the Standard Teachers' Library contains the Questions and Answers in Drawing given at the uniform examinations of the State of New York since June, 1892 (Bardeen, 50 cents). The large number of sketches to be copied with various modifications that are presented in these questions forms a notable feature of the book. The regulations concerning teachers' certificates in force August 1, 1896, are prefixed to the volume.

 

Prof. F. Berger claims as an element of superiority of his French Method (1896) over its rivals most in vogue that it takes up the verbs and the grammar at the beginning, introducing the pupil at once to the construction and phrasing of the language, as well as to the use of individual words. It does not, however, make the grammar predominant or teach it in a mechanical way like the old systems that lie unlamented in their graves, but, taking up the idea that inspired the systems that followed these, weaves it in with the life of the language as the pupil learns to use it in informal exercises or the informal turning of well-chosen and familiar phrases. The book is not large, and will not carry the pupil very far; but, as far as he goes with it, he will be on a solid foundation, and will know what he has learned. (The Author, New York.)

 

Guns and Cavalry, by Major E. S. May, R. A. (Roberts, $1.25), may serve as a text-book for military schools or find a place in the library of any one who has an interest in military affairs. Much of the matter that it contains has been given by the author in lectures at the famous English military school at Woolwich, but little, if any, of it is too technical to be appreciated by the civilian. The work is mainly devoted to the employment of horse artillery, and especially its cooperation with cavalry. The teachings of the book are illustrated by many details of historic battles, some of which are accompanied by maps, and there are sketches of the careers of noted European artillery officers, with portraits of several. In a closing chapter, on machine guns, the author cautions his readers not to expect from any mechanical contrivance what can be accomplished only by courage and skill.

 

The thirty-eighth volume of the International Education Series is a description of The School System of Ontario, prepared by the Hon. George W. Ross, Minister of Education for the province (Appletons, $1.50). It includes the general organization of the system, the regulations in regard to school premises, the training and qualifications of teachers, inspection, religious instruction, text-books, libraries, and the special rules concerning high schools and the provincial university. The book is far from being a mere compilation of laws. Thus, in the chapter on the general organization, the policy of having an educational system under the control of a political head is freely discussed, and in various cases the purpose of a regulation or the way in which it has proved to operate is given. Criticisms that have been made upon some features of the system are stated and answered. Since Roman Catholics are more numerous than Protestants in some localities in Ontario and in most parts of the adjoining province of Quebec, denominational schools are a part of the system. The first chapter and the last are historical, describing the rise and growth of Ontario's schools. The volume is offered to educators in the United States in the belief that they will be aided by a study of the plan for popular education that has been worked out by a people of similar origin with ourselves, but who have had a different history.

 

The Fifteenth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey covers a year following one of reduced appropriations. In the preceding year field work was almost stopped, and the energies of the force were devoted to preparing accumulated material for permanent record or publication. The advanced condition of office work thus obtained and an increase of funds made it possible to prosecute a large amount of field work in the year 1893–’94, nearly all of which was tributary to the preparation of the geologic atlas of the United States. The reports of the director and the chiefs of divisions are accompanied by six papers: On the geology of common roads, by Nathaniel S. Shaler; the Potomac formation, by Lester F. Ward; the geology of the San Francisco peninsula, by Andrew C. Lawson; the Marquette iron-bearing district, by Charles R. Van Hise and William S. Bayley; granitic rocks in the Piedmont plateau, by G. H. Williams; and central Maryland granites, by C. R. Keyes. At the close of the year covered by this volume Major J. W. Powell retired from the direction of the national geologic work which he had carried on for a quarter of a century.

 

It is an unflattering illustration of the tone of our civilization that President Eliot should have felt called upon to argue seriously in his address at Chautauqua last summer and in the Atlantic Monthly that war is not desirable. The unreasoning outburst of indignation against Great Britain which we have witnessed during the past year does not speak well for the American balance of mind. These facts make peculiarly timely the publication by the Putnams in their Questions of the Day Series of America and Europe: A Study of International Relations, which contains three papers bearing directly upon these points by three eminent American publicists. In the first of these papers. The United States and Great Britain, Mr. David A. Wells shows—to our shame that it should be thought necessary! — that we ought not to hate England, and why; in the second — The Monroe Doctrine — Mr. Edward J. Phelps explains precisely what that doctrine is, and how it does not justify the vaporing which has recently filled our atmosphere; and in the third — Arbitration in International Disputes — Mr. Carl Schurz makes a powerful plea in favor of that principle which President Eliot makes the first among the five great American contributions to civilization.

 

The Home and School Atlas, by A. E. Frye, is intended as a reference book for both the student and the general reader. Its extension maps are well engraved and seem accurate. The relief maps, of which there is a full set, give one an unusually clear notion of topography. The differences in temperature, wind, rainfall, and agricultural products between various sections in the United States are also illustrated by means of maps. A useful pronouncing gazetteer and a list of "statistics of the world" add value to the volume. (Ginn, $1.15.)

 

The Oswego Method of Teaching Geography is the title of a little teachers' manual by A. W. Farnham. The method seems to consist in the main of suggestions to the teacher for interesting the children and expedients for making clear the chief elementary difficulties of the subject. Most of them seem such as any bright teacher would think of, and some are calculated rather to hinder than aid her work, as when, for instance, she is directed to explain the meaning of "down" by the phrase "in a descending direction," or "between" by "in the intermediate space of." The book, at the best, seems not a very necessary one. (Bardeen, 50 cents.)

 

A new edition of Bardeen's Common-School Law is at hand. The book is a valuable one for reference, the frequent reissues keeping it up to date. For this last edition the book has been entirely rewritten, some changes being made in the arrangement, and a new chapter on rules and regulations has been added. (Bardeen, $1.)

 
  1. Democracy and Liberty. By William Edward Hartpole Lecky. New York and London: Longmans, Green & Co. 2 vols., 12mo. Price, $5.
  2. Psychology and Psychic Culture. By Reuben Post Halleck. New York: American Book Company. Pg. 368. 12mo. Price, $1.25.
  3. The Story of a Piece of Coal. By Edward A. Martin, F.G.S. Pp. 168, 16mo. London: George Newnes, Ltd. Price, 1s. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, 40 cents.
  4. The Care and Culture of Men. By David Starr Jordan. Pp. 268, 12mo. San Francisco: The Whitaker & Ray Co. $1.50
  5. Artistic and Scientific Taxidermy and Modeling. By Montague Brown. Pp. 452, 8vo. New York: Macmillan & Co. London: A. &C. Black Price, & 6.50.