Popular Science Monthly/Volume 35/May 1889/Literary Notices
The Folk-Lore of Plants. By T. F. Thiselton Dyer. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 328. Price, $1.50.
Folk-lore is always a fascinating study, and no branch of it offers more of peculiar interest than that of plants. Prof. Dyer, therefore, has chosen a popular theme, one that has engaged the attention of many writers before him, and the present volume is a condensation in large part from previous books and papers upon the subject. In the author's own prefatory words it is "a brief, systematic summary, with a few illustrations in each case of the many branches into which the subject naturally subdivides itself." The book before us is, therefore, a hand-book to all who are interested in the subject upon which it treats. A mention of some of the twenty-three chapters into which the work is divided will help to present a faint idea of the scope and success of Prof. Dyer's compilation. Plants in witchcraft, plants in fairy lore, love-charms, plant language, doctrine of signatures, sacred plants, plants in folk-medicine, and mystic plants; these are suggestive of the careful systematic work done by the author. It is impossible to epitomize a work of this kind which in itself is an epitome of a vast subject. The foot-notes and references, one or more on nearly every page, illustrate how very wide has been the gleaning of the painstaking author. Open the book at any page, and a pleasing, succinct statement will be found of some ancient superstition of plant spirit, plant worship, plant witchery, plant demonology, or plant legend. Darwin, in his famous work upon "Movements of Plants," says: "Why a touch, slight pressure, or any other irritant such as electricity, heat, or the absorption of animal matter should modify the turgescence of the affected cells in such a manner as to cause movement we do not know." In the light of this frank confession of ignorance by one of the wisest of Nature's modern students it is not strange that during the early ages of the world every living thing was believed to be under the direct control of some spirit, good or evil, which was none the less real to the ignorant people because unseen. It was natural for the ancients to ascribe causes to well-established effects, and the world of plant life came in for its full share. They believed blindly in the vegetable origin of the human race—that is, man sprang from some sacred world-tree. In modem times the belief is not altogether different from this, but the method is through the gradual unfolding of the higher from the lower by the slow process of evolution. In like manner the ancients, in seeking for a divinity, ascribed superhuman power to the mighty oak, and clothed other trees as with the garb of gods. The worship of to-day is often of structures far less lofty and inspiring than the forest giants. In our time we can with profit glance back and note the growth of ideas as they broaden with the ages and see that our own idols must be broken in pieces by the relentless wheels of progress. This is one of the good features of such books as the one before us, and should make them popular, because being a history of the people in everyday life—their common thought and conversation.
We must remember that the day of folklore is not past; superstition has not given place to science, and the reign of isolated absurdities still holds sway in many minds in place of law and order. It may be no worse to attribute the hidden evil of the world to plants possessed of Satan than to believe that there is a creature with horns and a cloven foot seeking for the innocent to satisfy his capacious maw.
Some of the most charming examples of plant lore are found in that portion having to do with fairies. Of course, the fairy itself is a pleasing myth that will require many ages to eradicate from the human mind, because it adds so much of innocent beauty to a majority of the nursery rhymes and children's tales. The whole deception of Santa Claus is one born to an endless earthly life, because having only a happy and healthful influence upon both the old who practice it and the young who are so delightfully deceived. There is a perennial pleasure in the thought that a tulip-blossom is a cradle in which mother fairies lull their little ones to sleep. To this day the finder of a four-leaved clover is considered by many as a person born to good luck—a notion that has descended from an older idea, namely, that the monstrous leaf was a talisman which enabled its wearer to detect the haunts of fairies. Much of fairy lore clusters around the so-called fairy rings, that is, the green circles in old pastures within which the elfs were supposed to dance at night by the light of the moon. Modern science has extracted the last breath of poetry from this common phenomenon and left it as a dry fact in the cyclopædias.
Flowers play no insignificant rôle in lovemaking at the present day, and no schoolgirl's botany is complete unless she can discourse fluently upon the language of flowers. Some plants are naturally symbolic of certain ideas. Thus, grass readily may stand for usefulness and the cypress for mourning, the poppy for sleep, and the trembling aspen for fear. Other plants do not carry their florigraphical meaning in plain sight, but have acquired their adopted meaning in ways that are lost in oblivion while the symbol remains. Thus the rose was dedicated to Venus by the early Romans and Greeks, and now stands for love, especially the deep red varieties. The constancy of the violet and the curiosity of the sycamore are far less evident than the weeping nature of the drooping willow.
The degree of credence given by many to the strange stories of fabulous plants is one of constant surprise to those whose knowledge shows up the traditions in their true light. The barnacle-tree is an instance to the point, and the following is a sixteenth-century description of it: "There are found in the north of Scotland and the isles adjacent, called Orcades, certain trees whereon do grow small fishes of a white color, tending to russet, wherein are contained little living creatures; which shells in time of maturity do open and out of them grow those little living things which, falling into the water, do become fowls whom we call barnacles, in the north of England brant geese, and in Lancaster tree geese; but the others that do fall upon the land perish and do come to nothing." There is more foundation in fact for this exaggeration of trees which, overhanging and dipping into water at high tide, may bear barnacles than in the wonder-working moonwort which would open locks, and unshoe horses treading upon it—certainly a very unsafe herb in the hands of unscrupulous house-breakers—providing the fable were true. Under the "doctrine of signatures" the author brings together a large amount of interesting matter illustrating the old idea that each medicinal plant has some sign of color, shape, etc., which indicates its healing power either for the whole body or for some particular organ. For example, red juice is for the blood, yellow for jaundice, the liver leaf—shaped like a liver—for the liver, etc. This doctrine was carried to an almost amusing excess. Thus, the shell of walnut, which resembles a human skull somewhat, was used for troubles of the brain. The aspen was employed for palsy; and mistletoe, a plant that grows in a suspended position, was good for dizziness.
Young people even could find much amusement in the chapter upon games, having plant lore as the basis and often set to rhyme.
Folk-lore in medicine is a vast subject receiving its full measure of treatment. Strange are many of the rhymes in this section of the subject. A single couplet is here indulged in:
"Eat an apple going to bed,
which is only a striking way of saying—
That apple eaten upon retiring
a statement that may not be in accord with the teaching of the theory and practice of modern medicine.
The book before us is full of weird things that cast a peculiar light upon the past, and add new luster to the present. The human mind in the early centuries was saturated with unaccountable notions of the wildest sort. Prof. Dyer has shown a master's hand in dealing with the occult theme. He has been happy in his selections, conscientious in treatment, and clever in the grouping of the otherwise almost isolated and independent fables, superstitions, and legends.
International Law. By Henry Sumner Maine, K. C. S. I. New York: Henry Holt & Co. Pp. 234. Price, $2.75.
The series of twelve lectures here published was delivered before the University of Cambridge in 1887, by the late Sir H. Maine, then Professor of International Law on the foundation of Dr. Whewell. In speaking of the sources of international law the author says that a great part of it is Roman law spread over Europe by a late stage of the process by which the general body of Roman law had obtained authority over the same territory. It was the part of Roman law which had been called "Law of Nations," or "Law of Nature," and which was originally a collection of rules and principles common to the institutions of the various Italian races. The author next considers the history of the conception of sovereignty, and how a state acquires unappropriated territory, also what degree of occupancy constitutes a valid claim over a given area. A consideration of the law in regard to jurisdiction in territorial waters, and on board merchant ships on the high seas, leads up to the subject of naval or maritime belligerency. The Declaration of Paris occupies part of the chapter on this subject and also a separate chapter. The author thinks that the condition on which the United States offered to assent to the prohibition of privateers in this document, namely, that all private property be exempt from capture, would be a very favorable arrangement for Great Britain, whose food supplies and the goods sent to pay for them have to travel such long distances by sea. The mitigation of war is next taken up, and the means of injuring an enemy commonly prohibited are named, the subject of spies and stratagems is discussed, and the disposal of the wounded and other prisoners is treated. Certain relations of belligerents on land, comprising military occupation, capitulation, and flags of truce, together with the subjects of captures and requisitions, occupy the next two chapters. In the statute regulating his professorship, Dr. Whewell enjoined upon the occupant of the chair that he should make it his aim, in all parts of his treatment of the subject, to lay down such rules and suggest such measures as might tend to diminish the evils of war, and finally to extinguish war among nations. Accordingly, the professor devotes his closing lecture to the measures for the abatement of war proposed within recent years. In this chapter are considered the opposition to war on religious grounds, the substitution of arbitration for war, touching upon the defects of international courts, with a mention of De Molinari's proposal that it should be one of the duties of neutrals to combine to thwart the spirit of belligerency. These lectures were not prepared for publication by the author, but have passed through the press under the direction of Mr. Frederic Harrison and Mr. Frederick Pollock.
The Economic Interpretation of History. By James E. Thorold Rogers. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 547. Price, $3.
Prof. Rogers develops English history from the standpoint of an economist, and brings to his task a rich mine of records hitherto neglected. As readers of his "Six Centuries of Work and Wages" are aware, he has been a diligent delver into the elaborate accounts kept in England since the thirteenth century by farmers, builders, and landlords. These and the court rolls of manors have enabled him to ascertain the variations for six hundred years in prices, wages, rents, and taxes. We are told what people ate and drank, how they were housed and clothed, and what some of them were able to save. This new light shed upon the hearth, wardrobe, and dinner-table evidences in a very striking way how progress and retrogression have succeeded one another in England. Prof. Rogers's work is a notable contribution to the modern view of history, which looks not so much at the conspicuous and picturesque elements of national life, the contests of courts and battle-fields, as at the daily life of the common people; which busies itself with their progress in the arts and sciences, their success in translating justice into law, and the consequences due to change of conviction as to the rights of the citizen and as to truth in religion.
Prof. Rogers shows that in many ways the common people in the middle ages were better off than they are now. Although the standard of living was low, want was rare. The best workmen, associated together as guilds, purchased lands and houses throughout England for charitable service to their order, and so in a spontaneous, wholesome way effected an insurance for old age and infirmity. In the fifteenth century skilled workmen, such as carpenters, and masons, worked but eight hours a day; this, too, without invoking legislation for the purpose. So skilled were some of these men that they combined the talents of both design and execution, and planned the churches, guild-halls, and cathedrals they afterward helped to build.
Rent was at first a tax imposed by the lord for the protection he extended. For arable land in six centuries rent has been multiplied tenfold in comparison with the price of grain. Competitive rents were of very gradual introduction by the landed classes, who in the main have been grossly unjust in evading taxation and in increasing privileges while ignoring the responsibilities originally attached thereto. Once, property was almost universally diffused, and at that time Prof. Rogers believes the respect for property, still so characteristic of Englishmen, to have been implanted. Because its sheep-pastures were secure from the invader and untouched by the thief, England for three centuries enjoyed a monopoly of wool production in Europe, enormous in value. Prof. Rogers is of those who accord a supreme molding potency to circumstances and conditions; he holds the drunkenness and unthrift of the English working people to be largely chargeable to the demoralization of unjust poor-laws, and the oppressions of a landlordism which at last extorted famine rents. While he has devoted his life to the study of political economy, he feces that that science takes but a partial view of man and not the highest view; and that no one can understand political economy who does not take some trouble to understand human nature—its sentiments, affections, passions, and hopes. It is refreshing to find an economist who has had the expanding experience of a long parliamentary career and a varied knowledge of men and things the world over. Such a man, possessed of a new and rich store of fact, brings a new treatment to the well-worn themes of currency, pauperism, colonial policy, and the extension of the sphere of government into the field of business. His chapters, delivered as lectures at Oxford, have the freedom if albeit the dogmatism of a veteran discoursing to his juniors. Still they have a ring of manliness and humanity which much heightens the effect of his teaching. He has some plain words for the economists of the arm-chair who give verbal symmetry to incomplete and second-hand impressions—men who are plainly in sympathy with those who have wealth and comfort rather than with those who create these tilings.
Beauty, Health, and Strength for Every Woman. By Oscar B. Moss, M. D. Ann Arbor, Mich.: The Register Printing and Publishing House. Pp. 376.
"I am not able to recall," says Miss Catherine E. Beecher, "in my immense circle of friends and acquaintances all over the Union, so many as ten married ladies, born in this century and in this country, who are perfectly sound, healthy, and vigorous." A large share of the women in any one's acquaintance in America are delicate, or have frequent fits of sickness, or general poor health, or are chronic invalids. There is little of this disease that is not preventable by faithful use of the medical knowledge that we now possess. To make this knowledge known to the women of America, and to impress them with the importance of guiding their mode of life by it, are the objects of Dr. Moss's volume. The first practical subject which the author treats is diet, and this is followed by achapter on the dress of young girls. In the next chapter the physiological and psychological changes that occur when the girl attains the age of puberty are described. Mental and physical culture are the next two subjects considered, and under the latter Lead certain gymnastic exercises adapted to develop various parts of the body are specified. Woman's dress, the hygiene of the monthly period, marriage, the hygiene of pregnancy, and the change of life, are treated in a simple practical fashion. The last chapter is devoted to beauty, and tells women the most effective ways of securing beauty for themselves, and of transmitting it to their children. The treatment is plain, practical, and popular throughout.
Mental Evolution in Man. Origin of Human Faculty. By George John Romanes, M. A., LL. D., F. R. S. 8vo. Pp. 452. D. Appleton & Co. Price, $3.
This is the most important scientific work that has appeared in many months. It follows in logical sequence upon the author's former book, "Mental Evolution in Animals," and is intended to be the first installment of a series which the writer says will deal with the intellect, emotions, volition, morals, and religion. The present volume is concerned chiefly with the origin of human faculty, as distinguished from its development, and is mostly limited to the psychology of the subject, postponing anthropological evidences for the nest installment.
Dr. Romanes takes for granted the general theory of evolution, including the evolutional doctrine of descent "as regards the whole of organic nature, morphological and psychological, with the one exception of man." Even with man this assumption is continued so far as his bodily organization is concerned; it being thus only with reference to the human mind that this exception is allowed. The effort is then made to show that the same doctrine is applicable also to the mind of man, or to "human faculty."
In the last number of "The Popular Science Monthly" extracts were given from the work before us sufficient to indicate the main positions taken and the line of argument pursued, which circumstance renders it unnecessary for us to give in this place even an outline of the course of exposition. One thing, however, ought to be observed, which did not appear in the article referred to. The controversy centers around the problem of language and the mental acts involved in predication. The task of proving that these require and exemplify nothing more than higher and more perfect developments of powers the same in kind as those found lower down in the scale of animal life, is pursued with great ability and thoroughness, and with a conclusiveness which will impress itself upon every thoughtful and candid mind. The greater part of the volume is taken up with this examination of language and the mental processes involved therein. The result is to bring out in a manner never hitherto accomplished that language itself, its formation and constitution, furnishes a demonstration of the necessary continuity of development from the animal intelligence, to explain the "origin of human faculty."
This splendid work of scientific achievement brings forward into full view of the world of science a second Darwin. No doubt such an assertion is a bold one, but we are persuaded that it is just. Not only is the work done a continuation of that of the author of "The Descent of Man"; but in his single-mindedness in the search for truth, in his careful, conservative judgment, in the thoroughness of his analysis, in his readiness to hear and patiently examine objections, in his plain, clear style of expression. Dr. Romanes more nearly approaches Darwin than has any other scientific writer. The present work is a magnificent one, and we shall await with eagerness the others that are to follow.
Days and Nights in the Tropics. By Felix L. Oswald. Illustrated. Boston: D. Lothrop Company. Pp. 186.
The young or old reader who takes up this book can not fail to be charmed with the vivid scenes of animal life which it portrays. It contains the experiences of the author in a trip through the forests of Brazil to collect native natural history specimens for a national museum in Rio Janeiro. Both entertainment and information are afforded by its accounts of the doings and habits of monkeys, boas, various members of the cat family, birds, manatees, insects, ant-eaters, and the scarcely more domesticated children of the forest—the Indians. The surprising toleration which pet-keepers and pet-dealers exercise for the mischief and impudence of their charges is well portrayed in several places. The text is not burdened with technical names, and the many spirited illustrations, together with the tasteful cover, add to the attractiveness of the book.
Social Progress: An Essay. By Daniel Greenleaf Thompson. London and New York: Longmans, Green & Co. Pp. 161. Price, $2.
This work forms a part of the same series of philosophical discussions to which the author's earlier volumes belong. Its special object is to present the principles that control the progress of society, a knowledge of which will enable men to direct their movements as social units so as to produce the most useful work with the least friction. The essay is substantially the introduction to a longer work, on which the author is engaged, entitled "The Fundamental Rights of Man." The two chief topics of this book are the conditions and the promotion of social progress. Every individual desires his own advancement, says the author, and closely bound up with this ideal of individual betterment is an ideal of social improvement. If there be either individual or social progress, there must be liberty for action. But the conflicting efforts of antagonistic individuals will neutralize each other if they are not restrained. This restraint is furnished by law. But too much restraint is as destructive as none. Hence the general condition essential to social progress is the establishment of an equilibrium between liberty and law. Men dwell together in the organic relations of society because this state allows each individual to attain a greater number of desires than he could in a solitary and hostile existence. The existence of society requires a social liberty—that is, the recognition of rights due each member of the community, and the limitation of the acts of every one by those rights. The nature of men makes necessary the defense of social liberty by positive law, with machinery to enforce it unfailingly and consistently. No government can be stable that does not insure equality in rights at least between those of the same class, and a government which depends upon the existence of classes tends to instability as knowledge becomes diffused among the least favored classes. Inequality of power, whether political or ecclesiastical authority or wealth, is dangerous to security and should be resisted. One more condition essential to the progress of society is fraternity—a disposition to prefer the good of the whole to the selfish interest of the individual.
In the part of the volume devoted to discussing the promotion of social progress Mr, Thompson calls attention to the fact that in every community there are observable two opposed tendencies with regard to the existing order of things: one toward change, the other resistance to change. The terms radicalism and conservatism have been used to express these antagonistic forces. Men unfortunately tend to range themselves as adherents of one tendency or the other, and any idea which bears the name of one party is scouted by the other. In the social organism, as in the human body, change is essential to life, and, when the changes which constitute the vital processes stop, death ensues and disintegrative changes begin. Mr. Thompson states as the general principles governing the promotion of social progress, that opportunity should be afforded for the action of evolutionary forces; that changes favoring the common freedom should be aided; and that equal enjoyment and security of life, liberty, and property are the test of common freedom. Further, in order to decide whether to aid or oppose a given change, we should examine the motives of its proponents and its opponents, estimate both the immediate and the remote consequences of the proposed change, consider the result of leaving things as they are, and calculate the probabilities of accomplishing the change and the results of failure. For the formation of opinions that will be reliable guides to conduct, self-knowledge and self-control in individuals are prime necessities. The habit of being suspicious of the correctness of one's positions and of the justice of one's sympathies and antipathies ought to be systematically cultivated. Opinions should be expressed freely though judiciously, in order to get the benefit of criticism, upon them. Action should be controlled by an extension and more careful application of the same rules which ought to govern expression of opinion. Compromise and forbearance are sometimes the most effective action. While Mr. Thompson in his opening chapters insists on the necessity of regulation for the world as it now exists, he says in closing: "As we draw nearer to perfect social conditions positive law will grow less necessary. If all men had the true altruistic disposition, there would be no need of government. The course of progress is from the anarchy of the primitive state through law and government to the anarchy of the perfect state. We should aim, then, to diminish the restraints of authority, and, though working cautiously and tentatively, should seek ever to contract the sphere and minimize the duties of government. Only thus can that City arise into which the glory and honor of all the nations may be brought." Mr. Thompson's "Social Progress" will be a very helpful book to the student of public affairs who desires to look below the foaming, eddying surface of the stream of events, and see the strength and direction of the currents that determine the course in which society may advance.
A Study of Man, and the Way to Health, by J. D. Buck, M. D. (Clarke, $2.50), may be described as a series of essays philosophical in character, though popular in style. The body of the work opens with a chapter on the nature of evidence; then follow sections on the relations of matter and force, the universal ether, the character of phenomena, polarity, the matter of life, the forms of life, and the functions of organisms; or a brief outline of the principles of biology. An important chapter is devoted to a concise outline of the structure and functions of the human body, from which is deduced the philosophy of physiology, and upon which is laid the foundation of the science of psychology. Then follows a section on consciousness and psychic phenomena in general; a chapter on health and disease; a section on sanity and insanity; and the work closes with a section on the higher self, the archetypal man. The author is not at war with either science or religion, though he aims to get rid of both ignorance and superstition.
The little book entitled Living Matter, by C. A. Stephens (The Laboratory Company, Norway Lake, Me., $1), is an attempt to explain the constitution of the universe on the supposition that matter is sentient. The author credits to matter only "a sentience of low degree, in quantity far, very far beneath that evinced by even the lowest forms of life." Biogen, or living matter, forms all tissues of the animal body. Mr. Stephens gives an explanation of the method in which animal organisms are developed on the biogen hypothesis. He accounts for aging and death as resulting from changes in biogen, every one of which "is of the nature of an ordinary physical cause fairly within human power to avoid or remedy, and many of which in fact we are every day avoiding and remedying." This leads up to a suggestion of the possibility of learning how to prevent death altogether.
There has been printed A Classified List of Mr. S. William Silver's Collection of New Zealand Birds, with short descriptive notes by Sir Walter L. Buller (London, E. A. Petherick & Co.). A part of this collection, which is one of the most complete in Europe, formed a very attractive feature in the New Zealand Court, at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London, in 1886, and was awarded a diploma and medal. To the eight cases then exhibited, four have since been added, containing many of the rarer birds of New Zealand. Many of the genera and most of the species are strictly confined to New Zealand and the neighboring islands. The volume is copiously illustrated with heads, and in many cases full figures, of the typical species, besides many cuts of nests. An interesting object included in this collection is a frame of feathers of the moa, discovered in a cave in New Zealand by Mr. Taylor White in 1874.
The Forty-first Report on the New York State Museum of Natural History contains the reports of the trustees and the director, which relate the general progress and changes in the museum during 1887. In the report of the botanist it is stated that since the summer was unusually favorable to the production of fleshy fungi, the hymenomycetes, special attention was given to the collection and sketching in colors of these plants. The document is accompanied by reports of finding a large number of plants in various localities; by a paper on "Fungi destructive to Wood," contributed by P. H. Dudley, C E.; and by a botanical index to the museum reports Nos. 22-28. The report of the entomologist occupies the greater part of the volume, and contains more or less extended notes on a large number of insects of economic importance. The report of the geologist is brief. It is accompanied by an account of the finding of the bones of mastodon associated with charcoal and pottery at Attica, and by descriptions of new species of Fenestellidæ of the lower Helderberg, with Plates VIII to XV.
Part II of the Report of the Chief Signal Officer for 1887 (War Department) consists of a "Treatise on Meteorological Apparatus and Methods," by Prof. Cleveland Abbe. The subdivisions of the subject are: the measurement of atmospheric temperature, of atmospheric pressure, of the motion of the air, of aqueous vapor, and of precipitation, all of which are treated with great fullness. Plates containing ninety-eight illustrations are appended to the volume.
A Star Atlas, with explanatory text by Dr. Hermann J. Klein (E. and J. B. Young & Co.), has been issued, containing maps of all the stars from 1 to 6·5 magnitude between the north pole and 34° south declination, and of all nebulae and star-clusters in the same region which arc visible in telescopes of moderate powers. The volume contains a little preliminary text, followed by descriptions of the more interesting fixed stars, star-clusters, and nebulæ contained in the maps, arranged in order of right ascension. Of the eighteen double-page maps, twelve are devoted to stars and six to the other objects. The atlas is finely printed on heavy paper.
A little volume of Chemical Lecture Notes has been published by Prof. Peter T. Austen (Wiley, $1), which the author says is "simply a collection of notes and observations on certain topics which experience as a teacher has shown me often give the student more or less trouble." Explanations are given of most of the principles of chemical philosophy, and about one fourth of the volume is devoted to an essay on "The Chemical Factor in Human Progress."
A former zealous propagator of Volapük, Prof. George Bauer, has invented what he deems a still better universal language, which he calls Spelin. A pamphlet giving a sketch of this language, translated and abridged from an exposition of the system by the author, has been issued by Charles T. Strauss, 424 Broadway, New York. The principal advantages claimed for Spelin over Volapük are that it contains no sound not occurring in all three languages, English, German, and French; it has no declension, no subjunctive mode, only five tenses, nearly twice as many monosyllabic words in flowing sentences as Volapük, fewer letters for expressing the same thoughts by seventeen per cent, more frequent vowel termination, and no words of five, six, or more syllables. The brief summary of its grammar in this pamphlet shows that Spelin is well worth examination by any one who is in search of the best universal language.
The Patriotic Reader, compiled by Henry B. Carrington (Lippincott, $1.20), is a large collection of "utterances that inspire good citizenship," in prose and verse. The selections are classified in sixteen parts, the first referring to the Hebrew and related nations, the second to the Greeks and Romans, and most of the others to different periods in American history. One division is composed of national hymns, songs, and odes, both of America and other countries. None of the grand and eloquent utterances in behalf of freedom for the slaves and the preservation of the Union, spoken before and during our civil war, are included. A biographical index of authors and persons whose deeds are celebrated is appended. The mechanical features of the volume are substantial and tasteful.
A book which is being very widely read is Max O'Rell's latest production, Jonathan and his Continent (Cassell, $1.50). The author gives hurried glimpses at a multitude of subjects, as if himself entered on the frantic race which he accuses Jonathan of running. His comments are light and entertaining, though many of his impressions have evidently been gathered from the funny columns of American newspapers,
Lessing: Ausgevalte Prosa und Briefe ("Selected Prose and Letters"), edited, with notes, by Horatio Stevens White, is the sixth of Dr. J. M. Hart's series of "German Classics for American Students" (G. P. Putnam's Sons). It presents typical specimens of the works of one of the most catholic and versatile of German authors—the one, perhaps, who stands on a level with Goethe. The editor describes him as having been of "multifarious activity as fabulist, literary and dramatic critic, philosopher, and theologian." His "Laocoon" is one of the recognized classics in the literature of art. He was eminent as a classical scholar, archæologist, antiquary, poet, and dramatist—"a pioneer in the development of modern German literature." And there has been no figure in that literature "whose life is more laborious and fruitful, no character in an age of sentimentality which was more sane, stalwart, and manly." The selections present him in these various aspects, and the letters reveal features of his personality.
A translation of Testa, an instructive book for boys, by Paolo Mantegazza (Heath, $1.25), has just been issued. Its character may be quickest indicated by comparing it to "Sanford and Merton," though it has the advantage of being written for the present generation. Before this book appeared nothing of note, except De Amicis's "Cuore," had been written for children in Italy. "Testa" is a story of a boy who was sent to live for a year with a sagacious old uncle, a retired sea-captain, who, by telling anecdotes and by commenting upon various incidents, teaches his nephew many lessons in regard to the operations of nature, the ways of the world, and especially manners and morals. There is also some good counsel on the choice of a profession. In an early chapter is given a set of model resolutions for a month, and succeeding chapters contain blank pages for the young reader to fill with his own good resolutions for each remaining month of a year. The great variety of the book, and its Italian and, therefore, unfamiliar flavor, are enough to make it interesting to the average American boy, though only serious-minded boys will appreciate its full meaning.
The treatise on The Psychic Life of Micro-organisms, by Alfred Binet (the Open Court Publishing Company, 50 and 75 cents), has for its object to prove the existence of psychological faculties in the simplest organisms, and to describe their modes of manifestation. The sensibility and power of reacting possessed by these simple creatures is commonly called irritability. But M. Binet asserts that, "in these inferior beings, which represent the simplest forms of life, we find manifestations of an intelligence which greatly transcends the phenomena of cellular irritability." The author describes in successive chapters the psychic phenomena connected with the use of motory organs and organs of sense, with nutrition and fecundation, and he treats also the physiological function of the nucleus. He even goes further than is indicated above, and ascribes psychic faculties to the cells which make up the tissues of higher animals. He states that "the faculty of seizing food and of exercising a choice among foods of different kinds—a property essentially psychological—appertains to the anatomical elements of the tissues just as it does to all unicellular beings." In his views on the subject of this volume the author takes issue especially with M. Richet, and also with Prof. Romanes.