11 DECEMBER 1909, Page 23


[Under Otte heading we notice such Books of the week as have not been reserved for review in other forms.] Broken Earthenware. By Harold Begbie. (Hodder and Stoughton. 6s.)—Mr. Harold Begbie describes his book by the sub-title. It is "A Footnote in Narrative to Professor William James's Study in Human Nature, 'The Varieties of Human Experience." His object is to bring home to his readers "this fact concerning conversion : that, whatever it may be, conversion is the only means by which a radically bad person can be changed into a radically good person." In order to do this he went in search of experience; he went among the "broken earthenware," human vessels which had "come to grief." And in this volume he records what he found. We are wholly in sympathy with his aims ; we thoroughly believe in the central fact which he sets forth; we are convinced that the claim of Christianity that it, and it alone, .speaking generally, can turn the bad into good is its title to the homage of mankind. But the inquiry which Mr. Begbie proposed to himself requires qualifications of discernment and caution. A sympathy, however vivid and deep, will not suffice. And here he seems to fail. He has been tolling the story of a certain "Danny," an habitual criminal; and he says : "Like others I have questioned, this man tells me that never once in all the long record of his prison experience did a chaplain enter a cell or speak to him." Did it not occur to him that "Danny," whom he has already described as "of liars the most lying," was deceiving him ? For what are the facts, facts which Mr. Begbie could easily have ascertained for himself? The chaplain sees every prisoner at his admission and at his discharge. He visits daily every one who is sent to the infirmary and every one under punishment. And, when time allows, he visits the cells. But we read a little further on that "once only did Danny ever have private words with a chaplain." He asked for a suit of clothes provided by the Prisoners' Aid Society, and the chaplain replied : "Not for you. You'll be back again in a week or two." It would be interesting to hear something from the prison chaplains of the Metropolitan district.