Kilgorman. By Talbot Baines Reed. (Nelson and Sons.)—Mr. Reed's speciality
as a tale-writer was, perhaps, the story of school- life. "His boy-heroes" are, as the writer of the short memoir which is prefixed to this book remarks, " neither prigs nor milk- sops," nor, to mention a third alternative, are they actors in one of the tragedies which some writers are wont to construct, hoping doubtless to purify the hearts of their young readers with emotions of pity and terror. Si/german does not belong to this class. It is a story of adventure, of "moving accidents by flood and field," skilfully constructed, and told with unfailing vivacity and freshness of style. The sub-title of the book describes it as " a story of Ireland in 1798," but it really consists of two parts, the first and longer of the two belonging to a time earlier by some years. In this the scene is laid in Ireland, stirred as it then was, more perhaps than any country in Europe, by the agitation of Revolutionary France, and in France itself, where the Red Terror that was ended by the fall of Robespierre is pictured with vivid colours and in bold outline. The hero escapes from Paris and the guillotine, is shipwrecked, rescued from drowning by the pinnace of an English man-of-war, and pressed into his Majesty's service. The incidents of the next six years are compressed into a few pages, and the actual " Story of Ireland in 1798" begins when not more than two-fifths of the tale remain to be told. The author wisely avoids the mistake of giving, too, the squalid details of the miserable struggle of 1798, the ferocious cruelties of the rebels, the savage severities with which they were avenged. In fact, he keeps almost clear of actual history. We come, it is true, across the gay and gracious figure of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the blithest and most generous of all conspirators that ever have been ; and Mr. Reed's portrait of him is admirably lifelike. But here, as elsewhere, whenever actors in the events of the time, be they friends or enemies of the rebel cause, are introduced, the story is kept close to the personal interests of the hero. These are made to dominate everything. Our attention is always fixed not on the emcees or failure of the move- ment, but on Barry Gallagher's own fortunes,—will he find his brother, will he thread his way through the dangers of animosities public and private, will he be happy in the love which impels him and encourages him through all ? Another judicious digres- sion from what might seem the proper subject of the tale, is to be found in the Dutch scenes, among which is introduced the " Famous Fight " of Camperdown, There is a quite admirable account of the battle from the sailor's point of view. Barry Gallagher is told off to help in taking charge of the helm of the Venerable,' and describes his experiences in a very vivid and real way. A pathetic interest attaches to the story, not only because it was the author's last work, scarcely completed indeed when all writing became impossible, but because of the special attraction which the subject had for him. " To him," says his biographer, " Ireland was a land of romance." There he found his wife ; thither he habitually turned for holiday and rest. From his last visit, made within a few weeks of his death, in the vain hope that in Irish air he might recover his failing health, he came home to die. It is easy to see a cer- tain sympathetic touch whenever his subject brings him near to Irish aspirations after independence. He had no liking, however, for Nationalists, and the English policy which has backed it up. No man could be more firmly Liberal, both by inheritance and by personal conviction ; but in this matter he went with the minority of his party. The world of letters has lost a singularly gifted and attractive personality in Talbot Baines Reed. It seems a duty to add that the literary work which he himself most highly valued, was not the fiction, excellent and popular as it was, with which nineteen out of twenty readers identify his name, but a very careful and learned book on English typography.