« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
to be the hustings' cries. One point, however, is quite clear, that as far as the House of Commons is concerned, Mr. Disraeli stands pledged to try the great question mooted by his party, in the financial, rather than the political arena. Disclaiming all desire for protection, he demands that when the great question of taxation comes to be decided, the claims of the land to a release from undue burthens shall be considered. This, and the possible modification of the Incometax, he contends, will reduce the revenue of the country to its normal condition, when, in place of a surplus, there will appear a deficiency. To meet that deficiency, low fixed duties must be imposed on articles coming from countries that have not met our magnanimous policy of 1846 in a spirit of reciprocity more or less complete. Here is a distinct and specific proposition: we do not know that we are entitled to demand from a Party Leader an enunciation of views and principles on questions not yet mooted before the public.
As a parliamentary man, Mr. Disraeli has much advanced. To improve upon the sarcastic with power which he assailed Sir Robert Peel would have been impossible, but to have abstained in a great measure from the use of that disagreeable weapon is itself a sign of improvement. The responsibilities of his position have solidified the character of this once nebulous and comet-like crusader against the real, the prosaic, and the practical. Without
knowing the fact, we should infer that Mr. Disraeli must have studied hard in branches of political knowledge the least inviting to a man of his soaring and imaginative spirit. At all events, he carries more ballast than heretofore, and the most accomplished of debaters, the most trained of statists and publicists, find him a doughty antagonist, eve on their own chosen ground. T astonishing with what aptitu Vivian Grey of 1828 has de into the sedate and somew statesman of 1852. A the memory of his recent, follies still of the author
Commons, and exercising a direct control over debates and the fate of parties, seemed absurd enough. But so did the ascendancy of other men of the day at their outset, though now it be acquiesced in with a religious respect. Mr. Disraeli has shown himself a tactician in more senses than one. His personal demeanour has been as well calculated as his political manoeuvring; so much so, that it is not within the walls of the House of Commons that any doubt is entertained of his abilityay, or even of his soundness. Ŏne only doubts whether the advance he has made has not been too rapid to be real; whether to a fortunate concurrence of accidents must not be attributed his parliamentary successes. That is a question into which we do not desire to enter; but, in justice to this very remarkable man, we feel bound to declare that his mental and moral development has kept pace with his political advancement; that he has matured the crudities and thrown off the vicious excrescences which formerly weakened or defaced his character; that his speeches are skilful amalgamations of the useful practical matter needed in parliamentary debates, with the ornamental and graceful adjuncts which relieve discussion from dulness and dreariness; that personal display is subordinated to political duty; that pompous extravagances of imagery have vanished from his diction, and impossible party combinations from his political theories; that he no longer comes down on his contemporaries in the panoply of the middle ages with lance in rest, and some forgotten ensign for his war-cry, but is in the Commons and of the Commons, a steady-going, arithmetical, practical middle-aged gentleman of the nineteenth century, a working statesman, and, with all his brilliancy, at times a little prosaic. fact, he is so thoroughly changed that the old famihave become He has paid altar of the of rhetorical undoubtedly pontemporary
to be bombast is so completely surrendered to the practical, that passages, instinct with a lofty spirit of truth, almost seem bombastic. In this way he makes involuntary atonement for the literary and political sins of his earlier career. If in this brief retrospect we have suggested considerations tending to throw the light of truth on Mr. Disraeli's real character and career, we shall not
only have done an act of justice to an individual, but also have conferred a benefit on the public, by leading them to form a more correct judgment than that suggested by sneering and jealous rivals, of a man whose antecedents and present position point him out as likely hereafter to take a prominent part in public affairs.
SUGGESTIONS ABOUT GIFT-BOOKS.
WHEN the men of the present generation were little children -say, some forty years ago-they were wont to regale their eyes at the windows of the stationers' and booksellers' shops with the wonderful flush of gaudily-coloured pictures, which used to make their appearance in as great profusion towards Christmas time and New Year, as the dainty cakes and their daintier devices that announce the approach of Twelfth-Night. These pictures ran across the top of a very large sheet of paper, and down the sides, and across the bottom, leaving an open white space in the centre for the insertion of the name, in the choicest round hand, of the little boy who was fortunate enough to obtain one of them as a prize or a present. The subjects embraced every variety of astonishing trees and figures, and were chiefly selected from Scripture. You could see Daniel, in a bright-green cloak, sprawling down the lions' den, on one side of the sheet; and the terrible lions, in blue, and yellow, and red, sprawling up the other; or, perhaps, there was a draught of fishes, up and down, and everywhere, a hundred times more miraculous than the original; or a blazing sun, looking terribly alarmed out of a pair of round chocolate eyes at a stalwart Joshua, who seemed to throw the whole celestial system into convulsions by the herculean vigour with which he brandished a great, long, light-blue sword up in he violet and amber skies. Never were there seen such gnarled roots of trees, such prodigious foliage and such lusty sheep, and rain
XLV. NO. CCLXVI.
bow landscapes, as distinguished those prints, which were affectionately known amongst the juvenile population of this kingdom under the name of Christmas pieces. It was a glad and exulting Christmas that saw three or four of these sheets spread out on a table, with the names of the owners magnificently inscribed in the middle, and the owners themselves making a great clatter over them comparing notes amongst the incredible apples that hung down out of labyrinths of boughs, and the antediluvian animals that looked as if they were able and ravenous enough to gobble them all up at a single mouthful!
Then there were the Story Books, and the Illustrated Alphabets, folded up into half-a-dozen thick pages, with a ceremonious cover, tinted and gilt like gingerbread, at the price of one shilling and sixpence each. In those days there was no cheap literature even for children. You had to pay handsomely for the paint; but you got a gorgeous supply of it-vermilion, lake, gamboge, and all the browns, and blues, and greens in Ackermann's Repository-dashed in with a munificence of hand that flung the colour far beyond the outlines of the drawing, frequently blending two colours together wherever they happened to meet. You got the worth of your money in this way, at all events, and something over; to say nothing of that prodigal exaggeration in the design which lifted up the imagination of the young to the seventh heaven of wonder and curiosity. And the stories! Such miracle-stories of beautiful princesses and cannibal ogres ;
such enchantments of palaces, and dreamy woods filled with genii; such Little Red Riding Hoods; such astonishing beanstalks; such sweet Cinderellas and their glass slippers; such giants, and dwarfs, and fairies; and such rhymes of Old Mother Hubbards and their marvellous cupboards, that used to sing themselves into the ears of their own accord, and leave their music in the heart for years and years afterwards!
Well, all this is gone by, and the new race of children growing up hear of these things only as traditions. Books are cheaper now than they were formerly,-art has made great strides,-knowledge is more diffused,-the world is wiser,-and little children are older, somehow, than they used to be forty years ago. They are not brought up in pleasant fancies and loving delusions; do what you will, you cannot prevail on a child of your acquaintance to believe in Fortunatus's wishing-cap, or the lamp of Aladdin ; they bring a sort of instinctive sagacity to bear upon these matters that disperses the golden haze of sorcery at once; and they will insist upon putting plaguy questions, which you cannot honestly answer without confessing that the whole library of child-romance, notwithstanding the charming moralities that run wild like sunbeams through it, is only a fantastical illusion after all, with nothing real in it but its beauty.
The difference between that time and the present is much the same as the difference between allegory and fact. The heart and the conscience of the young were reached through their imagination; their feelings were awakened by imagerial representations of the virtues and the vices; and practical lessons of wisdom and charity, esteemed by the old teachers to be less attractive in their original forms, were veiled in fascinating marvels, so that they learned them unconsciously. There is much to be said on both sides of the question; but at whatever conclusion we may arrive, it is certain that we can never return to the literature of good Mr. Newberry, of St. Paul's Churchyard.
There are more books written for the young than ever. They come flooding upon us in shoals. The
difficulty of choice amongst them is perplexing; and the quality of judgment it demands, seeing the infinite diversity of the materials, is rare. Some of the most skilful writers amongst us divide the honours of catering for children with the mere inventors of pageants and nursery rhymes. The paintboxes of Newman are no longer in requisition, breaking prisms over the embellishments; and the first artists do not hesitate to devote their pencils to the illustration of the new juvenile lore. Instead of imaginary young ladies eaten up by fabulous wolves, or fallen in love with by impossible princes, we have narratives of the actual life about us, of poverty and suffering, of the strug. gles for bread, and the domestic triumphs of patience and humility; interiors with grown-up living people in them, reflecting in their lives and characters the tone of the social circumstances by which they and we are surrounded; novels in little of the world as it is, touched with a picturesque and dramatic truthfulness, that appeals less to the fancy than to the sympathies and the reason of their readers. These books are not felt, we believe, to be too mature for the class to which they are addressed. They would not have suited the children of forty years ago; but the children of today seem to anticipate the gravity of experience, and to come into a knowledge and a sense of realities all at once. There is hardly any fairy-land for them, and such as there is, must have a great deal of palpable philosophizing and vital economics in it, or it goes for nothing. All this is in accordance with the change that has passed over society in the interval. We travel faster than of old. We arrive sooner at the goal, whatever it may be, in science, in morals, in statistics, in knowledge of every kind. We cannot afford to wait leisurely for the training of the faculties and the slow discoveries of time; and children, like men, are whirled on in the irresistible and universal progress, and before they have had their holydays fairly out in the realms of talking waterfalls and singing trees, they are carried, brains and heart, into the region of work and
It is of no use to protest, in the name of the happy memories of our delightful Bluebeards and never-tobe-forgotten Sinbads, against the altered condition of children. The alteration is inevitable, and we must provide for it in the best way we can, by seeing that our children's books under the new régime are of the soundest and sunniest qualities the nature of their contents will permit. Let them, then, be as real as they can be made; but let them not be so exclusively real as to shut out the play of fancy. Children must be amused as well as taught. There must be gladness and brightness in the book as well as sense. There must be something which they can clap their hands over, as well as something to set them thinking. The union of both is the perfection of what is wanted-the combination, as far as it is practicable, of the gay and fantastical with the serious and the true.
Of a heap of Gift-Books now upon our table, there is but one that can be strictly said to come within this description. It is curious enough that, notwithstanding the modern spirit which has crept into these publications, the bulk of the decorated volumes of the present year take up new ground between Mother Bunch and the Christmas Carol. But we will come to that presently.
The exception to which we have alluded is a clever little tale, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called Mr. Wray's Cash-Box. Here we have a snatch of life neatly moralized, with just enough of dramatic interest to create excitement and suspense (once or twice rising to a palpitating height), and the character of a charming little girl, sweet as a fall of light in the hour of tranquillity, but capable of great heroism, as all true hearts are, in the time of trouble. cannot help thinking that there is something sacrificed to an artificial standard of sentiment in giving away this pretty flower to that lumbering, but honest and simple-minded carpenter, Julius Cæsar; but it will be felt, perhaps, by young readers usually very generous in their con cessions and rewards to kindness and manliness-as a proper compensation for his unselfish devotion. The story is founded on a singular
fact which occurred at Stratfordupon-Avon, where a stone-mason, who was employed in repairing the church, managed to take a mould from the bust of Shakspeare, and was so frightened at the threats of punishment, that he ran away. Discovering afterwards, however, that he had incurred no penalty, he set about making masks from the mould, and sold them in great numbers in this country and America. Mr. Collins has improved upon the incident, by converting the stone-mason into a poor, old, superannuated working actor, and making him carry about the precious mask in a cashbox, which excites the felonious curiosity of a professional burglar, who happens to catch a glimpse of it under his arm. The robbery and the rescue the restitution of the mask by the courageous resolution of granddaughter Annie-the providential interposition of a jolly squire, who seems to have nothing to do in this world but acts of eccentric be nevolence the nuptials in prospect, and the happy Christmas dinner that winds up the whole, furnish the materials of an attractive tale. We like the book all the better because it does not pretend to evolve a set moral. It enlists the sympathies in favour of the good and gentle who have been dealt harshly with in their pilgrimage; which is something more likely to take root in the heart, and bear honest fruit, than the best of your cut-and-dried precepts. But what becomes of the two housebreakers ? breakers? Young people, whose sense of justice is strong, will miss the balance of punishment which they intuitively look for in these
A grand volume, in blue and gold, by Mr. Miller, called The Village Queen, can scarcely be considered as a book for children, although its handsome exterior and its rich plates entitle it, as far as they go, to be admitted amongst gift-books. Like most of Mr. Miller's publications, its chief merit lies in its descriptions of the country and country life, through which a thin thread of love is woven, as improbable as need be, for the delectation of pastoral readers. We fear this bucolic passion comes a little too late in the day; and that, whatever effect it might
have produced in Shenstone's time, it will have but an indifferent reception in the present condition of the agricultural population. Even the most credulous of rustics will smile at the notion of a young gentleman from college, the son of the clergyman, falling in love with the sister-in-law of a poacher who had been transported for fourteen years, discovering all the virtues under the sun in her, and marrying her amidst a triumphant jubilee of church-bells, with the squire's daughters for bridesmaids. Apart from the absurdity and faded simplicity of the story, is the extreme tediousness of its treatment. The action is hidden almost out of sight under a mass of country pictures and sketches, like a pebble buried in a drift of foliage. Nor are these monotonous views of the woods and the corn-fields, these golden visions of an extinct age of innocence, redeemed by any special novelty of aim or expression. At best, they are only dull reproductions of scenes which have been more freshly and naturally depicted over and over again by Mr. Miller's predecessors in this line.
Kindness and Cruelty, a slender tale with pretty illustrations, belongs to that class of story-books which vindicate moral truths by narratives constructed expressly for the purpose. The worst of these narratives is, that their object is transparent, and their logic false. Nothing is easier than to invent a circumstantial case leading to a particular conclusion; but in such instances the moral is enforced by so arbitrary a process, that it runs the risk of being rejected altogether, like any other piece of pure sophistication. Kindness and Cruelty is a translation from the German of Dr. Perner, the founder of a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and bears all the characteristics of a tract issued by such an institution. Here are two boys trained up together, one of them very kind, the other very cruel, to animals. We follow them to the sequel of their adventures, and find the usual distribution of rewards and punishments, meted out, however, with a severity which the premises hardly justify. The story, nevertheless, is interesting, and told in a plain and un
affected manner, that gives it, in spite of its extra-judicial spirit, an air of reality.
Much more in the genuine taste of unmistakeable child-books are two stories, or series of stories, called Home and its Pleasures and The Little Sister, written by Mrs. Harriet Myrtle, whose very name, coming out of the geraniums and the shrubs, gives a foretaste of English homesteads. These are juvenile histories that unfold the lives of children in language which children can understand, full of the sort of conversations and movements in which children take an interest, and admirably adapted, by the general purity of their tone, to strengthen good resolutions and correct a thousand little errors of character. The illustra tions of one of these books are by Brown, of the other by Schneider. There is a wide difference and contrast between them, and we are not quite satisfied with the gaudy colouring of either. The points chosen by the latter are not always selected with the best possible taste; for although new-born infants just deposited in their cots, and the process of the children's wash-tub, may sug gest available hints to the storyteller, in the hands of the artist they become ridiculous or offensive. In some of his plates, M. Schneider exhibits a delicacy and ideality which make these errors of judgment only the more surprising.
The best part of a book entitled, Aunt Effie's Rhymes for Little Children, is contributed by the artist, whose fanciful pencil strays up and down the pages, through all manner of gambols, with a most enlivening faculty of invention. It is Brown, or Phiz, again, happier in this book than in Mrs. Myrtle's, because it affords a wider scope to his humour and to the poetry that flowers up out of it. As for the rhymes which he so successfully eclipses by his brilliant outlines, they must be dismissed as a sorry substitute for the old nursery jingles, which we suppose they are intended to improve upon. The charm of the nursery jingle was partly in its rhythm, which was like a snatch of a wondrous melody that seized upon you at once, partly in the sly truth or slier comicality it convey and partly in the spell of