SOME OF THE PRINCIPAL CHRISTMAS BOOKS.—V.* Da. PORTER, a well-known
authority on Holy Land topography, has given us in his Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Bethany, a book of con- siderable value. The illustrations, nearly a hundred in number, without being as highly finished, or presenting as remarkable effects tta some of the wood-engraving of the day, are appropriate and fall of interest—show us, in fact, just what we want to see. The gtPanorama of Jernewlem," a view taken from the Mount of Olives, though not, of course, claiming any particular artistic merit, gives a view of the 'city which helps one mach to realise the scene. The figures, again—viz., of the "Bethlehem Women," the "Seller of Bracelets in the Court of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre," and the " Fellahah in Holiday Attire "—are good. Dr. Porter's accounts of the places and persons thus pictured are just what is wanted. He has studied the country and its inhabitants thoroughly, and his descrip- tions and sketches, while studiously plain and without pretence, are really effective. We may mention that of Bethlehem as particularly good.
Miss E. S. Phelps sounds in her not very happily entitled story, A Madonna of the Tubs, a familiar note with all her accustomed power. It is a simple tale of a New England fisherman's home. Henry Salt is a-plain, brave, hard-working fellow, apt to use his tongue too freely, and not wholly free from the foible of sometimes taking too much to drink ; Ellen Jane, the fisherman's wife, who makes a few dollars in the summer by washing for the boarders who come to Fairharbor, is the "Madonna of the Tabs." She, too, has a temper, as most good women have, it is said, and a tongue, which, happily, some good women have not. Henry has to go to the "Banks," a dangerous voyage in winter, and the two part in anger. Then comes the news that he is drowned. The quarrel, the sorrow of widowhood, embittered by poverty, the coming home, for, as the reader will guess from the frontispiece, Henry Salt does come home,—all this is described with tear-compelling pathos by Miss Phelps. Nor must we forget to mention how Miss Helen Ritter, of Boston, "a Brahman, and a beauty, member of Trinity Church and the Brain Club," finds her own happiness in befriending the bereaved family. For she also has quarrelled with the man she loves, and is reconciled to him in the same hour that brings the fisherman back to his wife. A very touching story, this.
The idea of Mr. Page's book is so excellent that we do not hesitate to give it a high place among the Christmas volumes. The new principle followed has been this,—not to arrange the "animal anecdotes" under the heading of the various animals, to give, for instance, a siting of stories, more or less wonderful, about the elephant, the dog, the cat, ilzc. ; but to take the qualities or charac- teristics, mental or moral, and to give illustrations of the way in which they have been exhibited, in well-authenticated instances, in animals of all kinds. In this way the whole question of animal Intelligence gets a great deal of light thrown upon it. When we find, far instance, that snails have the feeling of benevolence, the fact is far more-significant in its way than any number of curious stories about such highly developed animals as the dog and the horse. Mr. Page has been at a great deal of trouble to collect his stories (many come, we are glad to see, from our own columns), and, we strongly believe, has not given his trouble in vain. One of the most significant features in modern life is the development of the sense of man's duty towards the lower creatures. Books of this kind help it forward in a praiseworthy way.
Some boys, those, for instance, whose favourite amusement is to take a watch to pieces, demand something more solid for their literary food than "moving incidents by flood and field." To such may be recommended Colonel Thomas Knox's Life of Robert Fulton, amabjeot * L Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Bethany. By Dr. Porter. Illustrated. (Cassell and 0E4)-2. A Madonna of the 71abs. ByEliarabetlr•Stuart ehelve. -(8. Low wad 0o.)-8. Animal Anecdotes. By H. A. Page. (Chatto and Windne.)— 4. Life of Robert Fulton. By Thomas Knox. P. Putnam's Sona.)—S. Father Aldur. By Agnes Giberne. (Seeley and. Co.)-6. Gatos of Eden. By Annie Swan. (N:abet and Co.)-7. 'With Wolfe in Canada. By G. A. Henty. (Mackie andSonj-8 In AU Time of Our Tribuiation...By E./Holt. (dhaw.)-9. Pearl of the Sea. By K. E. Winchester. (Seeley and Co.)--B). A Search for the Mountain of Gold. By G. Murohy. .(OrdEth,Tarran. and ■00.)-11. The Tale of Troy. By•Aobrey.Stewartd&A. (Macmillan and-.Co.) naturally expanded into "A History of Steam Navigation." Fulton was not the inventor of the steamboat ; but the claim is set up for him that be was the first who made a practical success in this direction. One Jonathan Hall, for instance, as far back as 1736 made a tow-boat, which is surprisingly like what one sees every day on the Thames with a string of barges behind it ; bat the invention did not come into use. The Clermont,' which made its first trip in 1807 between Albany and New York, and made it in thirty hours, was a success, and the first of successes without number in all parts of the world (we say the " first " not without fear, for there never is a claim of this kind that is not questioned). One of the curiosities of Colonel Knox's volume is a letter from a venerable inhabitant of Exeter, New Hampshire, who was on board the Clermont' in her first voyage with passengers, very nearly eighty years ago. Fulton's ingenuity was not confined to this adaptation of steam-power. He was a man of great fertility of thought, who accomplished much in a life impeded by ill- healthpand prematurely closed before he had completed his fiftieth year. The supplementary history of steam navigation is excellent. The illustrations, especially those of early attempts and models, are full of interest. Altogether, this is a good book of the solid kind.
Miss Giberne—already favourably known to many readers for her popularisation of astronomy—has written a charming book, fall of both fact and fancy, in Father Aidur. It is, so to speak, the story of a river, the Alder, by the side of which certain children live. In one way or another, they learn a good deal of his history—" his," we say, for the river is personified all through—as children that have keen and sympathetic minds and observant eyes will personify. They have amusements and adventures—sometimes very exciting—connected with this new friend that has come into their lives, as they observe him closely in all his moods and under the changing aspects of Nature. One merit of the book is that it will help to develop the imaginative side of science. The mind to which a river presents nothing bat a great mechanical power on the one hand, or a chemical formula on the other, is but poorly equipped. Father,Aldwr has better things to teach, and the text is helped not a little by the excellent illustrations.
The subject of Miss Swan's Gates of Eden is one which demands, and receives from her hand, a skilful treatment. John Bethune rears his motherless boys in accordance with a preconceived plan. The elder is to be a minister, the younger is to follow the plough. Circumstances seem to favour his scheme; for the future minister has, it appears, the advantage in appearance, in manners, and in ability. But the real truth is different. The depth of character and the best mental gifts really belong to the latter. How the young man, conscious of his power, yet steadfastly walka along the appointed path, till he is free to choose, and how, once free, he enters on his own way, and overcomes all its difficulties, is very well told in these pages. We have not often seen a better portraiture than is that of the two brothers. Miss Swan is too skilful to make the weaker of the two a mere foil to the stronger. He, too, with all his faults, has virtues of his own, and the reader is glad to see them reaching their tree development before the story is finished. The episode of the recovery of Willie Lorraine, a repentant prodigal, is fall of pathos ; as is also the love-story of Mary Campbell. The Gates of Eden is a worthy successor to the author's " Aldersyde."
Mr. Henty's story finds its de/Ileums/din Wolfe's great exploit, the defeat of Montoalm and the conquest of Canada. This is a narrative which will bear retelling, and to which Mr. Henty, whose careful study of details is worthy of all praise, does full justice. But the greater part of Harry Walsham's career as a soldier belongs to a history less creditable to us, and naturally less familiar. He is present at Braddock's defeat, and he narrowly escapes the massacre at Fort Henry, one of the most discreditable events in Montcalm's history. His adventures are told with much spirit ; the escape, when the birch canoes have been damaged by an enemy, is especially well described. Of course, Harry has a domestic as well as a public career. This is of the usual kind that we are accustomed to see in tales of this sort. The irascible but good-hearted squire, the villainous nephew, the true heiress discovered in a lowly girl, and, of course, in due time rewarding the hero's courage and faithfulness with her hand, are familiar characters. The old serjeant with his peep-show has, however, a touch of novelty about him. The book, as a whole, is.not unworthy of Mr. Henty's reputation.
Miss Holt has added another to her carefulhistorical studies in her new book. In All Time of Our Tribulation is a story of King Edward II., or, as she prefers torcall it, " A Story of Piers G-aveston." It is for the King, however, that our sympathies are demanded. His weak- ness and folly are fully conceded ; bat Miss Holt has been led by her study of tlrepenrenal,records of the King and of those about him to believethat there-was a substratum of real goodness in him. How- ever this may be, there can be no doubt about the pains which she
has expended on her subject. Her pictures of the social life of the time, of all its aeoessories and surroundings, -is most careful-end elaborate. Work so conscientious demands an ample recognition, though we cannot honestly say that we found the story very in- teresting, or the personages very lifelike. The furniture and the draping seemed better than the figures. Is Miss Holt right when she implies (as she seems to do on p. 216) that the Earl of Lancaster was actually canonised P We are under the impression that though the request was made, it was entirely neglected by the Pope.
We cannot congratulate Miss Winchester on having accomplished a great success in her latest tale. We would sooner hear of the "sparrows" living under city eaves, and picking up a precarious livelihood in city streets. This is a subject on which she is always at home, and always effective. And it is very noticeable that when in Pearl of the Sea she gets to the familiar scenes, she at once resumes her old power. The last third of the book is, in our judgment, by far the best. The earlier parts seemed to drag somewhat. Mies. Winchester, indeed, should put some check on her fluency. This tale would, we think, have been distinctly better if it had been shorter by a hundred pages. With that deduction, there would still have been ample measure for the reader. We feel it to be somewhat ungracious thus to complain of a writer who always does her best, and whose best is so good. We have here, as in her other books, grace and tenderness, combined with honest literary work. But they might have been better employed than in a story which, with its surprises and coincidences, at once improbable and commonplace, fails to rouse any strong interest in the reader.
It is difficult to classify by merit the almost numberless tales of adventure which appear at this season. Still, we are inclined to give a good place to Mr. Murphy's Search for the Mountain of Gold. The author's name is new to us, and no previous authorship is claimed on the title-page. If this is a first effort, it is a decided success. Its opening scene, a station of the "Pony Express Company "—for the time is before the great Pacific lines were made—attacked by Indians, will make a strong impression on the reader, if we may judge from the interest which it aroused in a reviewer jaded with the perusal, daring the last few weeks, of more books than he can easily count. And after this the story never flags in excitement. Jack Wheeler, the young hero of the story, develops into a first-rate fighter and scout with extraordinary rapidity ; but this is unavoidable. There must be some "foreshortening" of this kind, so to speak, if the tale is to be brought into reasonable compass. But, nevertheless, we do not feel him to be impossible. We cannot say as much for the two villains of the book. But then the villain of a story is generally its weakest point. As for the "Mountain of Gold" itself, it is a good surprise. Mr. Murphy, who must pardon us if we have not done justice to his reputation, ought to do well hereafter.
Mr. Stewart tells the whole story of the Tale of Troy, not precisely ab ovo, but from the wooing of Helen, and carries it down to the sack of Troy. Homer, Sophooles, Virgil, Ovid, and writers less known, as Quintus Smyrnteas, thus contribute to it. Mr. Stewart does his work well. A purist in language might perhaps object to a word here and there as not belonging to the time to which the style, as a whole, seems to belong, but the general effect is satisfactory. It scarcely snits the dignity of the narrative to say that Nestor was drinking a goblet of Pramnian wine, "with an onion for a relish." Among the portions which will be new to many readers is the account of the funeral games of Achilles, with the contest between Ajax and Odysseus for the arms of the dead hero. Here Mr. Stewart has availed himself of what is one of the finest pieces of ihetoric in Latin poetry, the speeches of the two competitors in the Metamorphoses. Readers of Sophocles will recognise the story of Philoctetes in the next chapter, and the second book of the tEneid in the last, and will acknowledge that Mr. Stewart has made a good use of his materials