Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/578

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

with which all the other marvels recorded are the merest commonplace. The gifted narrator tells us how, shortly after the sun had sunk in the west, there came a glow in the east, and presently "the crescent moon peeps above the plain and shoots its gleaming arrows far and wide." What do our astronomers say to this—the crescent moon rising in the east shortly after sunset? It won't do, Mr. H. Rider Haggard! We will believe your elephant stories, if you like, follow you into ghostly caves, and accept with a reasonable discount what else you tell us that is remarkable; but we don't believe that in South Africa, or anywhere else on this planet, the crescent moon rises in the east shortly after sunset. It can't be done as the solar system is arranged, and you should have left that out. Speaking seriously, it does seem extra-ordinary that a man who all his life has seen the crescent moon setting in the west shortly after the sun, should, even for a moment, imagine that he could see it rising in the east at the same time of day. Tom Hood has described a somewhat similar case for us in his "Love and Lunacy," where "Ellen" drives her astronomer-lover distracted by announcing that the moon is at the full, and that she is thinking of him; the fact being that the moon had been full just three weeks before, and that the object she took for the full moon was "the new illuminated clock." Of poor "Ellen" Hood tells us that—

"As often happens when girls leave their college.
She had done nothing but grow out of knowledge."

But here we have the same thing over again fifty years later, and on the part of a really clever writer; the only difference being, that whereas "Ellen" saw the full moon (or said she did) at a date when it was not to be seen, Mr. Haggard affirms that he saw the "crescent moon" rising about the hour when, if visible at all, it must really I have been setting. Popular education has been advancing during these fifty years; but it is still, we fear, the exception for people to be taught to interest themselves in even the more important phenomena of the physical world. If it could once be realized to how large an extent the intelligence of the community must depend upon the assimilation of true scientific knowledge, and how increasingly important it is becoming from year to year that the public mind should be fortified by intelligence against ill-digested and revolutionary theories, we believe a new impetus would be given to scientific instruction everywhere. We do not wish to make too much of the careless blunder into which the author of "Solomon's Mines" has fallen; but, seeing that such blunders are possible in such a quarter, teachers might well take some special pains to draw attention to the facts in this simple matter. Here, we may say in conclusion, a book like Miss Bowen's "Astronomy by Observation" is an excellent guide. As its title partly indicates, it summons the student to a close personal observation of the movements of the heavenly bodies, and thus brings the facts home to him more vividly than could be done by any amount of purely theoretical dissertation.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

History of the Pacific States of North America. By Hubert Howe Bancroft. Vol. XXIV. Oregon, Vol. I. San Francisco: The History Company. Pp. 789.

The more remote events in Oregon affairs have already been given in the "History of the Northwest Coast." The later volumes, to which this one belongs, deal with events that occurred within the memory of men now living. They have been wrought out from original sources, and contain a large proportion of facts which have never before appeared in print. The author has found it more difficult to treat fully and fairly this comparatively modern epoch, from crude material, than earlier ones which had been worked over by scholars. Of hundreds of