IN the wake of larger and more sumptuous books destined to at- tract many a hand and eye on the table of many a drawingroom this season, a modest instalment reaches us in the Christmas week. The first volume before us touches feelings other than those ap- pealed to by its companions, and its lease of life is far different, although, as being an ornamental edition, it may for the present moment find its lot cast among the gift-books : the rest owe their chance of vogue less to costliness of exterior or beauty of illustra- tion than to the entertainment they promise--mostly to the young.
The first is the poetical works of that strange mad American, Edgar Allan Poe, prefaced by the only appreciative estimate of his
genius within our knowledge.* Mr. Hannay gives a strong but feeling picture of his antagonistic, unbridled, fatal life ; his death, which he made as ignoble as the uprooting of a weed ; the power and passion of his mind ; and those truly singular manifestations of it now remaining with us, whioh blend so peculiar a love of analysis, the Defoelike faculty of deceptive narration which an almost in- sane craving for the preternatural led him to apply to conceptions so wild and ghastly, and the grace, unfieshliness, and remote charm of his lyrics. The "notice ' is a finished and artistic piece of com- position sparkling with bright sallies, as well as a penetrative and sympathetic critique: Equally true and comprehensive, and un- deniable, though by no means tritely obvious, is this remark on Poe's quite spiritual poem "To Helen," written in his earliest youth— "Now Poe may have done this and done that ; there are hundreds of youths as 'wild' as Poe but this one wrote the above poem. That is the interest- ing fact. A fragment of song like this comes out of the inner being of a man, and the capability of producing it is the fact of his nature." The present is a very nice and tasteful edition—the only one of the poet that is so. But the illustrations fall altogether short of their subject. It is a characteristic of Poe's genius, as developed in his poems, that his leading idea was distinguished either by intensity, or by largeness, generally vague ; that he refined on the idea till it almost became a conceit ; and again redeemed it from that condition by imaginative or fanciful beauty of execu- tion. The poems "To .Annie," "Annabel Lee," and " Ulalume," may be cited as examples. Not any one of these phases is em- bodied by the artists. Mr. Weir alone avoids the merely pretti- fied and unmeaning ; and he not by rising with his author, but by taking counsel, as is his wont, of solid apse and artistic efficiency. However this may be we cordially recommend the volume is a gift-book. It will satisfy the admirers of Poe by reason of Mr. Hannay's criticism; of others, many a one who has not yet under- gone the spell of the poet, and who may now read him in the ex- piring days of 1852, will retain so vivid an impression of the first reading of Poe that he may say hereafter, in the author's own words,
" Ah ! distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December."
Its title vouches that (Jhristrnastidef is germane to the time. Mr. Sandys has brought together, in an octavo of some 300 pages, a great deal of often interesting information beyond the stale gos- sip about "Christmas in the olden time," and the threadbare make- believes of jollity and geniality which furnish forth most books on the subject. His carols too, which include some in old French and Provençal, are selected from numerous sources, and comprise many of the less known and more worth knowing. His materials are presented with good feeling and mastery of his theme, al- though -without much literary method. The lithograph illustra- tions by Mr. Stephanoff are commonplace the wood-cuts not al- ways commonplace, but disiguied by unskilful engraving. For excellent taste and appropriateness in binding, without extreme costliness the book is a model; the design being by the writer's brother,
costliness, Sampson Sandys. On the whole, the volume deserves and shouM anticipate a welcome.
Our batch ends with a fourfold provision for children. The authoress of " Olive " and other fictions of recognized merit is in the field with A Hero—Philip's Book ; a title of rather myste- rious propensities, which the introduction clears up by intimating that the tale is written especially for the writer's godson, Philip Bourke Marston. There is an amount of style about it which we are entitled to expect from the authoress, but which it would be hopeless to look for in most children's books ; the story is well made out, and the moral, that of the heroism of quiet self-sacri- fice, clearly enforced in incidents of boyhood and school-life in Scotland. The tone is free from the puling sentimentality which
infects too many books of the same description. -Yet we question
whether the more obvious heroism of physical courage, a contempt of little difficulties, and frank heartiness, is not the better moral for the boy, however inferior as morality for the man. Mr. Godwin's designs are promising—chiefly as showing that he likes to fill his space—rather than particularly meritorious in themselves.
Mr. Gilbert, the illustrator of The Little Drummer, is, as usual, at the head of the wood-cut designers; though, indeed, none of the books on our list claims much commendation for its prints. The story, whose author, it seems, is exceedingly popular among German children is tolerably invented and composed; its object, beyond that of showing off a "model boy," appearing to be the inculcation of a horror of war.
Mr. Weir reappears in The Adventures of a Beard with some designs clever and laughable in some respects, but on the whole not very pointed. We have before remarked that he is not bene- fited by translation through wood-engraving. The author makes his bear undergo various semi-human adventures : it would have been more difficult, but also more ingenious and satisfactory, to express the meaning through the medium of incidents possible to an actual bear, in the manner of a fable or apologue. The mo- ral is the evils of "bearishness."
• The Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe ; with a Notice of his Life and Genius, by James Hannay. With twenty Illustrations, by E. H. Wehnert, James Godwin, F. W. Hulme, and Harrison Weir. Published by Addey and Co.
Christmastide, its History, Festivities, and Carols. By William Sandys, F.S.A. Published by J. R. Smith.
t A Hero : Philip's Book. By the Author of "Olive," fc.c. With Illustrations by James Godwin. Published by Addey and Co.
I The Little Drummer, or Filial Affection : a Story of the Russian Campaign Translated from the German of Gustav Nieritz, by H. W. Dulcken. With four Il- lustrations by Gilbert. Same publishers.
II The Adventures of a Bear, and a great Bear too. By Alfred Ewes. With nine Illustrations by Harrison Weir. Same publishers.
4 Day of Pleasure ¶ brings us again face to faoe with certain etchings by the familiar "Phis," ,of which it has been our fate to write these two Christmas seasons already; and which really seem to have a deal more work in them than their ricketty organization and flimsy exterior bespeak. They have passed from "Home Pic- tures" to "Home and its Pleasures": now it is "A Day of Plea- sure "; and we suppose they will run through "The Adven- tures of a Day," "A Catalogue of Adventures," and so on ad infinitum. Mrs. Myrtle has always something pleasant to say ; and here especially there are two or three pretty little childish episodes.
A Day of Pleasure: a Simple Story for Young Children. By Mrs. Harriet Myr- tle. With eight Illustrations by Hablot K. Browne. Same publishers.