" IT is true to a proverb," says Dr. Davies in one of these papers, "that we English people have a knack of doing the best possible things in the worst possible way ; and that not unfrequently when we do once begin doing them, we do them to death. It takes some time to convince us that the particular thing is worth doing at all, but once persuaded, we go in for it with all our British -might and main." We will not say that in these words our author has epitomised his present work, for we do not think it was "the best possible thing," and we are sure it was not done in'" the worst possible way," and whether it took some time to convince Dr. Davies that it was worth rushing about London to hear all manner of spiritual teachers, good and bad, we have no means of judging ; but certainly once persuaded, he has gone into it with British might ; and with British main, we dare say, only we don't 4 Nystir howion. By C. Maurice Davies, D.D. 1 vol. London: Tinsley Brothers. know what that is ; and having begun, he has, in his own words, done it to death ; and highly as we esteem Dr. Davies for many excellent qualities, we should not so much have minded if he had only compassed his own, but his book has very nearly been our death also. To begin with, it weighs two pounds, and only a book whose absorbing interest withholds attention from cramped and aching muscles should exceed half that weight. Then an average of eight pages, exclusive of the last paper, brings us to the end of each subject, and obliges us to consider our verdict and brace ourselves for a new trial, and for further explorations in anything but fresh fields and pastures new ; or if we have not to gird up our loins for an ever-changing encounter—as in the case of the series of papers on Spiritualism—we only wish we had, and exclaim with a sigh, that we had " rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of." Dr. Davies will probably not believe, and will certainly not accept with any sense of very deep gratitude, our assurance that our prevailing feeling, during the perusal of his papers, has been one of pity for him in his uncomfortable position of caterer for the appetite of our modern Athenians—the London public—for " some new thing." Every one can recall the feeling, expressively described by a family of the present writer's acquaint- ance as "having the kicks," which is excited by the remembrance of some remarkably awkward and silly performance of past days, and which consists of a mixed sense of shame and amusement, with a desire to hide our memory even from ourselves. This is the sen- sation we have suffered from, whilst obliged to look on, as a learned Doctor of Divinity and a thoughtful and able clergyman of the Church of England anxiously searched the hoardings and dead walls and gable-ends of the city, and scanned the advertisement-sheets of the daily papers, and kept his ears open in omnibuses and else- where, and exhausted every other conceivable means of discovering some strange and out-of-the-way thing that might serve as subject- matter for an amusing letter. No doubt Dr. Davies would substi- tute " useful " for " amusing," but we strain our conscience in conceding the latter adjective, and can only apply the former to a very small per-centage indeed of his papers. We cannot admit that the objects attained were of sufficient importance to repay the poor Doctor for his toil ; to reward him—either directly, or indirectly through a pleased and appreciative public—for sleepless nights and weary days ; for tumbling out of bed in the dark on winter mornings to see a swimming race of the West or a weekly tub of the East-End denizens ; for untimely preparations for journeys, when his wife and family were betaking themselves to repose ; and for midnight wanderings at Epsom in the West, or Barking in the East, in order to see how things looked before the Derby, or after Fairlop Fair ; for, to say the least of it, anxious patrollings with policemen, to " inspect a seething mass " of dirty, ribald children in the slave market at Bethnal Green, or the dan- gerous encampment of gipsies on the Epsom Downs ; for a ner- vous night at Bedlam, to watch its crowd of excited or witless inmates at their Ball ; for innumerable evenings in close and crowded rooms, to listen to fruitless discussions, or to report scraps of lectures here and there, which could be read, if worth anything, in their own complete and proper form ; for days at Baby and Barmaid shows, or Tichborne demonstrations, or in miser- able wanderings to see how every one comports himself on Boxing Day ; or how a cellar looks after a murder in it, or—and here we felt full of commiseration for Dr. Davies—how Margaret Waters meets her doom ; and worse than all, for Sundays, inconceivably wretched they seem to us, cooped up in a beer-shop with betting bird-fanciers, or watching flirtations and croquet in the People's Garden, or listening in a cold, north-east wind while Mr. Ramsay edifies Bethnal Green Road with his shallow and vulgar onslaught against the Christian faith. As a matter of merely passing gossip, the letters about all these things may have been excusable, if Dr. Davies were prepared to take the trouble and endure the misery of their preparation ; but it is hardly excusable to place such matters on permanent record, and embody them in an important- looking volume ; and we are justified in complaining bitterly, both of author and publisher, for betraying the public by their well- known names and by the appearance of their book, into either the purchase or reading of so much "padding." But when we came to the miserable little paper called " Peculiar People," we stopped awhile to realise the fortitude which enabled its author to brave its appearance in print. The force of bathos could no further go ; it is an extenuating circumstance, perhaps, that its author has buried it as much out of sight as possible, in the very middle of the huge volume. If any of our readers would like to see what fortitude, or humility, or something else, can achieve, let them read this paper—it occupies only five pages—and remember
the while that it is printed in a book which is probably in every large circulating library in the British Islands.
Then we come to the papers on spiritualism, and the kindred subjects of mesmerism, phrenology, psychology, astrology, &c., and if these are more attractive as subjects than singing-bird matches and barmaid-shows, we cannot say that we find them more in- structive. They tell us over and over again, through upwards of 150 large pages, what we have heard till we are sick, about the various ' spiritual' phenomena ; rising from simple table-rapping and tilting, through all the gradations, to spirit forms and faces; and about the various theories that have been propounded to attempt their explanation ; and all that is new—notwithstanding that Dr. Davies is, as he tells us over and over again, ad nauseam, a veteran inquirer—is the occasional individual case that has come under Dr. Davies's notice, and not anything in the nature of the illus- tration, for whenever he records any curious revelation of what he agrees to call "the spirits," that is coincident with fact, he records in close juxtaposition, with a candour which we thoroughly respect, but which does not increase the value of his papers, some equally remarkable failure. So that this series -of papers about spiritual experiences is as pointless and profitless as the rest, excepting that in as far as Dr. Davies reveals the -strictly personal nature of his experience, he adds a few new bits of evidence to existing data. These, however, are almost comprised in the two following extracts :- " The very day after my boy's death, I got his mother to sit, and found she was writing a little loving message purporting to come from him. This, a sceptic would say, was natural enough under the circum- stances. I said no word, but sat apart, and kept writing, ' Who is it that communicates? write your name.' Suddenly the sentence was broken off, and the child's name written, though I had not expressed my wish aloud Last year, whilst sitting at Mrs. B—'s, I was touched by a hand which seemed to me that of a small girl, and which attracted my attention by the way it lingered in mine—this would amuse Professor Pepper—and the pertinacity with which it took off my ring. However, I never took any steps to identify the owner of the hand. Some few months ago, my wife and I were sitting, and a com- munication came ostensibly from our child. It was quite unexpected ; and I said, I thought you could not communicate." I could not before,' was the reply, ' but you have not tried me for two years.' This we found was true, but we actually had to look into dates to ascertain it. He added that he always was present at sdances where I went, and especially at Mrs. B—'s. It will, I daresay, sound strange to non- spiritualists, but the uninitiated can understand the conversational tone we adopt. I said, ' But, Johnny, that was not your hand that touched me at Mrs. B—'s. It was too large.' The answer was, ' No ! it was Charlie's turn.' I said, What do you mean by Charlie's turn ?' The word was rewritten with almost petulant haste and remarkable plainness, Charlie's twin.' Charlie is my eldest boy, and his twin-brother was still-born. He would be between thirteen and fourteen years of age, and that was precisely the sized hand I felt. This was curious; as the event had occurred a year before, and such an explanation had never even crossed my mind."
These little bits of experience are given modestly and seriously, and evidentlywith effort, and in obedience to a conscientious desire to aid the search after truth ; but the general tone of these papers is that of banter and ridicule, with a constant joking reference to pretty mediums and the details of their physique and dress, and to their exact opposite, his " sable majesty," who plays a con- spicuous part in some of the spiritual papers of the volume. 'Though Dr. Davies still holds the attitude of an inquirer on the subject, and seems to us to speak much more reasonably about it than men like Professor Huxley and Mr. G. H. Lewes, who treat it as if the alleged facts did not even deserve examination, yet we cannot often feel much sympathy with his mode of treating the subject, which is not sufficiently coherent and pertinacious.
There remains a small residuum of papers that are of some value. Amongst these are those that direct attention to the benevo- lent efforts of Miss Macpherson and her friends for the young- -which are, however, pretty well known through other channels— and to those of Ned Wright for the adults, and to the institutions of industrial homes, ragged schools, and creches, where philan- thropic effort does its best for the infant and child population of what Dr. Davies calls " Arabia Petrisa." But these papers are very slight and short indeed, comprising less than the first forty pages, and leave on us a vague and unsatisfactory impression of not knowing exactly where we have been or what it was for. A few others drop useful scraps of information,—" A Night in a Bake- hoture " describes, after personal inspection, the pros and cons of the journeyman bakers' case ; " Utilising the Young Ladies " tells us of an institution where neglected education is supplemented and useful trades are taught to women ; " A Psychopathic Institution" introduces us to a worthy magnetiser, who is wonderfully suc- cessful in spiriting away rheumatism ; " Penny Readings " suggests some wise rules ; and " Breaking-up for the Holidays " gives some pleasant hints. But the only impressive result of this very big, very rambling, very unconnected, very egotistical book, is to give us a complete picture of its author, and as to the importance of such a result, opinions may differ. In one chapter we have his physique and his admirable health minutely described, in another his phrenological developments and qualities of mind. We get a touch of sentiment about an early love, we gather something of his wife and children, we find that he has had words with his sister-in-law, we learn incidentally that he has an early tub, that he is fond of his breakfast in bed, that he appreciates a glass and a smoke, and we read in every paper, as plainly as if it were there in words, that he is courageous, sociable, good-natured, philanthropic, broad in religion and politics, somewhat too much given to jortosity—particularly about serious subjects, with a very excellent opinion of himself, and not over-fastidious or squeamish in matters of refinement. But we hardly know whether such a big book need have been written to tell us of this excellent and able divine. Is there not some danger that so restless an occupation, which, like poverty, makes its servants acquainted with strange bed-fellows, may, in widening the sympathies, rub off too much of the reverence and spiritual refinement which should be the distinguishing characteristics of a Christian minister.