THE year from the literary point of view is chiefly noteworthy as having been that which closed the record of the Victorian period by the death of three of its chief exponents. Swinburne, George Meredith and Theodore Martin in their several ways were protagonists of the thoughts and emotions, as well as of the trend of mental activity, which characterised the latter part of the nineteenth century, notwithstanding the divergency of their modes of expression. All of them wrote in prose as well as in poetry, and although one expressed himself more copiously in the former, it will probably be by his poetry, as in the case of the others, that he will be most appreciated and remembered in future years. All three had reached an age when further work could not be expected from them, nevertheless English Literature felt itself the poorer by their departure.


If the number of books published in the course of the year may be accepted as an index of its literary activity, the year 1909 will show an increased output on the part of publishers, meaning thereby greater diligence or haste on the part of authors and compilers. cannot, however, be claimed for the year that it saw more than the rising of a few writers whose merits may wax or may wane in the course of time. On the other hand the work of scientific investigation and discovery achieved during the year holds out the promise of an attractive harvest in the near future. Nevertheless the year's record of geographical exploration has been remarkable, showing a revival of the spirit of enterprise and love of travel which was more marked in the last century than in the present. It has been shown by travellers in the centres of Asia, Africa and America that there are still districts as untrodden and in spots as inhospitable as even the Antarctic Polar Sea. The greatest increase of the year, however, is claimed for books dealing with theology and science, bearing witness to the direction in which thoughtful minds are working. The Modernists, who at one time seemed to have claimed a monopoly in the rights of

research, find the Traditionalists equipped from the same source ready to give battle and to hold their own ground. In Biographies, and to a large extent in so-called Histories, the attempt to familiarise persons and events by graphic descriptions and interpolated incidents has been carried further-and the limits of romance in many cases have been reached, and in some overstepped. At the same time much solid work has been achieved in this direction, and conscientious students have occasionally unearthed buried secrets, and thrown fresh light upon obscure or misread incidents. Essay writing has grown in favour, thanks in great measure to the capable writers who have found this method of expression congenial; and the reception by the public of such work has been most friendly. On the other hand poetry seemingly suffers, and of the new-comers in the field none has riveted the public attention, unless it was the novelist Thomas Hardy, who having turned towards poetry the talents of which he had so many convincing proofs in prose, seemed destined to step into the place left vacant by George Meredith.

Writers of fiction have, as usual, been the most fertile contributors to the year's literary harvest, and having ransacked all possible-and often impossible-corners of the earth and of men's and women's minds on this side the grave, extended the range of their imagination beyond the bounds of space. Had this been their only lapse from conventional restraints, they might have escaped the somewhat tardy intervention of the managers of circulating libraries. For years these caterers for a wide and ever-extending public have been urged to exercise greater discretion in distributing works of fiction of which lubricity was the dominant characteristic. This year a sudden sense of their duty towards society seized the circulating libraries, though how and why aroused at this particular time, remained obscure. Still more unintelligible was the action of the librarians in apologising for a course which had all along been open to them to take-especially by such as had attached the word "select" to their business. It was only natural that the public should criticise somewhat freely the line adopted by the librarians, who as the largest purchasers and distributors of books had in their power the making or marring of a rising author, by the exercise of a secret censorship. In the first instance such control was probably intended to apply only to works of fiction; but there was no guarantee that its operation was to be so limited, and the self-constituted censor of the press might have power in doing irreparable wrong to views or opinions which he did not share. If, on the other hand, the action of the librarians was merely commercial, and their refusal to purchase books for which there was very little demand was intended to be a hint to authors as to the supply required, the correspondence which sprang up around the librarians' letter can only be regarded as an astute advertisement. Throughout the controversy which ensued it was never urged that the fiction of a period reflects, though often in muddy pools, the society which it attempts to depict, and possibly we gain a truer glimpse of what occupied men's time and women's thoughts in the eighteenth century from the pages of Fielding and Smollett, Sterne and Richardson, and even of Maturin and Mrs. Radcliffe, than from the most laborious essayist or acute historian.


The value of Mr. David Hogarth's lectures on Ionia and the East (Clarendon Press) will be recognised by a large body of readers who are not trained archæologists. In a carefully condensed form Mr. Hogarth offers the results of recent discoveries-especially of those of the Artemision at Ephesus, of which he had the personal direction. The outcome of Mr. Hogarth's research, tentatively put forward, is that we must look back to a strong non-maritime Power-presumably Hittite or Hattidominating Western Asia Minor, by which the ground was prepared for the subsequent influence of Assyrian and Egyptian art and thought, and eventually submerged by the former. The next step according to Mr. Hogarth was the rise of Phrygia and afterwards of Lydia out of the materials organised and prepared for the earlier and wholly inland civilisation. The flood of empire would then seemingly have reversed its customary course. The coast lands of Asia Minor tempted the more adventurous colonists from the Balkan districts, who, having in their course assimilated the inhabitants of Western Hellas, turned eastward and settled in Ionia, and, having become subject to Phoenician and other Oriental influences, gave birth to Hellenic civilisation.

The views of Colonel Conder on the much discussed topography of The City of Jerusalem (Murray) were awaited with curiosity by many archæologists and Biblical scholars, for no one of recent years has been more prominent in the explorations of the Holy City. It must be confessed that Colonel Conder throws considerable doubt upon many accepted traditions as to the sites now specially honoured. His survey of the history of Jerusalem as recorded from earliest times is naturally sure to raise discussion; and his assumption that certain of his conclusions are beyond dispute will not be generally endorsed. That he speaks with authority, earned by personal investigation, will be admitted. by all.

It is to be regretted that Baron de Belabre in his study of the art of Rhodes of the Knights (Clarendon Press) should have kept in the background his intimate acquaintance with the history of the period to which this sumptuous volume is devoted. The traces of Christian rule left in the art and architectural buildings of the island are well worthy of preservation; and the compliment paid to this country by the publication in English of his researches will be fully recognised. The story of the Hospitallers in Rhodes is full of incident, and the quarrels of French and English knights among themselves, and of both with the Jews, Greeks and Moslems, might furnish incidents for romance or poetry. M. de Belabre's description of the monuments of the island, where he was for many years Consul, throws a good deal of light upon the rapid subordination of architectural principles of the original designs to surrounding influences and possibly to actual requirements.

Mr. Royall Tyler's Spain (Grant Richards) is primarily intended to supplement existing information on Spanish art. He had as predecessors writers as competent as Stirling Maxwell on painting and George Street on architecture, but he has found that there was much still to be gleaned in fields where they had gathered so rich a harvest. Mr.

Tyler unfortunately is not gifted with the art of condensation, and the result is a volume too ponderous for the every-day traveller, whilst the absence of any definite motif will lessen its value in the eyes of critics. The sub-title of his work, however, to some extent explains and excuses his position. It is a study of Spanish life as well as of Spanish art that he had in view-and his aim has been to throw the bearing and influence of one on the other. His acquaintance with the people and the literature as well as with the buildings and art treasures of Spain will give an exceptional value to his volume in the eyes of readers.

Although much more limited in its scope, Señor de Bernete's School of Madrid (Duckworth) is an equally interesting contribution to the study of Spanish Art. Señor de Bernete's contention is that Velasquez not only had imitators in his own day, but founded a school which aimed at perpetuating his style. With the exception of Mazo, however, none of its members achieved distinction. To Mazo the author attributes not a few important pictures ascribed to Velasquez, including the portrait of the Admiral Pulido Pareja now in our National Gallery, for which a very large amount was paid under pressure from clamorous outsiders.

Mr. Francis Bumpus, who has shown himself an indefatigable guide to the ecclesiastical buildings in England and Italy, has added an instructive volume on the Cathedrals and Churches of Belgium (Werner Laurie) the "Cockpit" of styles as well as of armies. The wealth and piety of the inhabitants of the Low Countries afforded abundant opportunity to the architects, native and foreign, who were invited to adorn the cities and villages of a prosperous country. Mr. Bumpus is a careful observer as well as a competent authority upon church architecture, and little has escaped his notice between Ypres in West Flanders and St. Hubert, the shrine of the patron of hunters, in the Ardennes.

There was still room for another book on Rubens (Methuen) as planned by Mr. E. Dillon, who recognises that besides the painter there was the diplomatist who deserves attention. With regard to his art Mr. Dillon discusses its psychological side rather more fully than has been the habit of previous biographers, but he is somewhat less precise than they about Rubens' attitude toward his contemporaries. The chief interest in the volume, however, is the careful survey of the political situation, and of Rubens' ineffectual efforts to patch up a peace between Spain and Great Britain as the agent of the Regent of the Netherlands. It is to be feared that Professor C. J. Holmes's Notes on the Science of Picture-Making (Chatto & Windus) will meet with scant courtesy from artists and art-critics. On the other hand, they deserve the full attention of art-students, who desire to gain insight into the thoughts and feelings which should or do influence the painters of pictures. Professor Holmes insists upon the primary point that painting is not only the art of expression, and that to produce pictures merely expressive of emotion is not the whole duty of the painter, who has to give effect to a twofold aim-expression and decoration.

There is a numerous body of readers by whom Mr. B. de Selincourt's William Blake (Duckworth) will be cordially welcomed. He has weighed the extravagance of Blake's admirers and the intolerance of his detractors,

with the result that we get a level-headed appreciation of a poet and a painter who could not claim to be described as great as one or the other. From an early period the bias of Blake's mind was towards mysticism, and like many others he fell on the side to which he leaned. A mystic in imagination, he naturally expressed himself as a symbolist when translating his thought into form; and as Mr. de Selincourt acutely observes in Blake's case, "the discovery of the infinite in all things is liable to end with a contempt for the finite."

Sir Hubert Parry has succeeded in placing before his readers the personality of Johann Sebastian Bach (Putnams) in such a way as to make his volume attractive not only to musicians but to all who care for music. He traces Bach's development under influences which to others might have been insurmountable, and the gradual substitution of "Teutonic" aspects of art and religion for the dominant Italian influence. Sir Hubert Parry as one composer speaking of another maintains that Bach's personality in his musical ideas was slow and progressive; and that in common with Beethoven's and Wagner's Bach's genius shows that time not only matured it but developed it in fresh ways.

Mr. R. A. Streatfield takes the more popular Handel (Methuen) as the subject of treatment, and hopes "to revive a new Handel from the ashes of the old." He would even go so far as to set up his hero against Bach, and claimed for the former a "poetic basis" to his arias and melodies, whilst Bach set his own ideas to music.


The reputation left by the general to whom we owed British supremacy in North America is so unique that it might have been anticipated that the Life and Letters of James Wolfe (Heinemann) would have been of special interest. Mr. Beckles Willson has done his best with the materials at his command, but they fail to throw much light upon the influences under which a profound pessimist became an inspiring leader. Wolfe's opinion of the condition of the British Army under George III. was very low, and his efforts, as he slowly rose in regimental rank, to improve the condition of his men, met with little encouragement from his chiefs. The main interest, however, of this volume is in the letters in which Wolfe reveals himself as a son, a lover, and a friend.

It has long been a matter of surprise that more has not been made public of the friendship between John Cam Hobhouse and Lord Byron. The expectation of any startling revelations will not be realised by the publication of Recollections of a Long Life, by Lord Broughton (Murray) which his daughter Lady Dorchester has edited. To make up for any disappointment on this score, the two volumes abound with criticisms and anecdotes of the leaders of political and social life in London and on the Continent. Hobhouse was not only a good listener, taking notes of what he saw and heard, and able to retail his stories with humour, but he kept diaries and copies of his correspondence. As the present volumes deal only with the earlier years of Hobhouse's life,

« VorigeDoorgaan »