29 OCTOBER 1892, Page 23



Maggie Steele's Diary. By E. A. Dillwyn. (Cassell and Co.)— The outside of Maggie Steele's Diary suggests that Cassell and Co. regard this short and lively story as a Christmas book. It is got up in the small quarto fashion of Christmas books, though with- out illustrations, and might well be purchased as a Christmas present for a child. Nor do we say that children would not be interested in it. It is probable that they would be, for the children who are introduced in it are delineated, so far as they are delineated, with vivid and vigorous touches. Lydia Thurston, who is only fourteen, and her brothers, are, for instance, admirably sketched, but it is a very slight sketch indeed. The story really con- cerns Maggie Steele herself, who is a sharp, conceited, good girl of twenty-two, and Mrs. West, the governess in the Thurston family, and very little else. Nor can we say that the chief interest— namely, the development of the character of this self-confident, rather domineering girl—is one which is likely to be particularly attractive to children. However, there is no sort of assertion that the story is meant for children, and it is certainly one which would make a very welcome present to a young lady of Maggie Steele's own age, though there is no love-making in it at all. Indeed, the rather slight plot turns upon the blackmailing of a lady who had had some connection with a gang of burglars, and had hoped that she had set herself free from their clutches, and had started herself in a respectable career of her own. Miss Dillwyn, as all of us know who are familiar with "Jill," is rather fond of burglars, and greatly prefers narratives of the kind which turn on invasions of the law of property, to pure love- stories. And in this case, thaugh the character of Mrs. West, as she calls herself, is painted to us only in a letter of her own, making confession of her former misdeeds, she is extremely well presented, and the whole incident of the story is skilfully and pithily constructed. At the same time, its chief interest is no doubt the half-shrewdness, half-blindness of Maggie Steele herself, and her extreme unconsciousness of her own leading foible, the disposition to domineer. There is only one farcical touch which seems to us a mistake, in the assertion made by Maggie Steele that for her own sake she should have pre- ferred staying in London in order to attend at South Kensington a course of lectures on lunar metaphysics, a subject of which she candidly expresses her perfect ignorance. That is meant, of course, for a hit at the ambitiousness of the South Kensington courses of lectures. But it rather overshoots the mark. No lec- turer at South Kensington would profess to lecture on a subject on which knowledge of any kind is impossible ; and Maggie Steele is a great deal too shrewd to have been ignorant that such a sub- ject did not and could not exist. But there is no other touch of farce in this little story, which is extremely clever and amusing, and shows Miss Dillwyn's realism in its very best aspect. Maggie Steele, though a very conceited, is really a very brave and Shrewd and good young lady, whom it might perhaps be difficult to love. but whose early death it is certainly not at all difficult heartily to regret