24 JUNE 1899, Page 11

A Shuttle of an Empire's Loom. By Harry VandervelL (William

Blackwood and Sons. Gs.)—There is a distinct need of such a book as this might have been—a plain record of a seaman's life on board a cargo-steamer of to-day—but we cannot conscientiously say that Mr. Vandervell has supplied it. Nevertheless, it is but fair to admit that, remembering his limitations, he has done that which he promised to do in his preface,—recorded his experiences faith- fully. The ' Pleiades' (under which nom de theatre it is quite easy for an expert to recognise the actual vessel) was a far more comfortable ship in every respect than the ordinary " tramp," while the wages scale noted is enough to make the crews of such vessels as the latter turn green with envy. And yet the author is at once struck with the miserable conditions of food and lodgment. His observations go far to justify the sailor against the ignorant sneer so often raised,--,tbat he seems to think of nothing but his belly. What the author's remarks would have been had he been unfor- tunate enough to get shipped in a regular " tramp " can only be faintly imagined. But his pluck and perseverance in carrying out his original intention cannot be too highly commended, and we have no doubt that he will be able to make excellent use of the knowledge that his five months' sympathetic insight into the life of a modern sailor has endowed him with. This latter, indeed, is one of the pleasantest features about the book,—the good spirit of comradeship, the utter absence of any assumption of superiority manifested by the writer. Coupled with the evident sincerity of his effort to set down the naked facts, these things go far to reconcile us with the absence of much that we could have wished to find in the pages of Mr. Vandervell's breezy book.