24 JUNE 1899, Page 11

Charles XII. of Sweden. By Oscar Browning. (Hurst and Blackett.

6s.)—We doubt if it was wise to preface this "pedestrian" narrative by Dr. Johnson's matchless poetical epitome of the Life of " Swedish Charles," whereby the reader's mind is filled with imaginative yearnings which the average biography cannot satisfy. Mr. Oscar Browning's excellent volumes on the Italian Guelfs and Ghibellines, and the Condottieri, suggested the hope that they marked the inauguration of a useful, perhaps a brilliant, historical career. The present book is not of classical calibre, and thus, like its subject, illustrates the " vanity of human wishes." It is, of course, well designed and written, there is a surplusage of moving dramatic incidents, the explanations suffice, and the reflections are generally sound. But a scientific record of " the vanquish'd hero " it is not : Dr. Johnson is the sole authority quoted ; not a word is said of materials, or of native authors like Fryxel and Landblad ; while the " contents " do not deserve that name. Mr. Browning rightly sees in Charles a paladin of romance, a wrecker, rather than a builder, of empire ; and he admits that " through him Sweden lost her place as mistress of the North." We hesitate when we are told that the hero of the lion hunt personified "the virtues which his country loves,—piety and firmness, simplicity and strength." This formula may fit the author's portraiture of Charles, but we are not sure that it is an accurate diagnosis of the moral characteristics of the Swedish nation.