2 DECEMBER 1911, Page 9

A Book of Noble Women. By C. C. Cairns. (T.

C. and E. C. Jack. 7s. eal. net.)—Though the women of whom Mrs. Cairns writes are as far apart in time and temperament as Vittoria Colonna and Miss Beale, the reader would, indeed, be inattentive who failed to see the thread of purpose which the author speaks of as running through this very interesting book. Besides making clear that it is the love of duty, honour, and truth that unite an eleventh-century queen with the women of our own time, Mrs. Cairns has known how to rouse and maintain her readers' interest by the wise choice and arrangement of her material. These sketches, which, as she tells us, are compiled from other books, are not lifeless copies of copies, but vivid studies of the fire characters she has set before us. Lest such a collection of good finalities should be cloying in its sweetness, she has brought a sense of humour to bear on her subjects, and it is no exaggeration to say that there is not a dull page in the book. She does not, as do some writers of what we may perhaps call "intimate" history, make merry in the doubtful by-paths of old records, but her work is not wanting in reality, and in poignancy, for all that. The first sketch is of Margaret of Scotland, who, we are told, left such an impress of her character on her adopted country that it "owes its stern regard for the Sabbath in the first instance to this English queen. When she discussed this point in council the Culdoes, of the old Celtic Church, made no defence, 'for the arguments of the Queen were unanswerable ; so from this time forward those prudent men paid sada respect to her earnestness that no one dared on these days either to carry any burden himself or to com- pel another to do so.'" The chapter on Catherine of Siena begins with a lively account of everyday life in the twelfth century, and then tells the story of all the saint achieved by the strength and beauty of her character. In the pages on Vittoria Colonna and Jean d'Albret we get interesting glimpses of the lives of the great people of Italy and France. We learn how Michelangelo talked to the Marchese and her friends in the sacristy of the Church of San Silvestro at Rome, as recorded by Messer Francesco d' 011anda, and of Jean's childish happiness, a restful contrast to the noisy wars and pageants of the time, by which the lives of most people were made or marred. The stories of Lady Rachel Russell and Lady Griscll Bailie take us into English and Scotch country houses, while Queen Louisa of Prussia brings us to more modern times. Here we take leave of high politics to follow Mrs. &Mons and Jenny Lind in their wonderful careers. Then come accounts of Miss Alcott, Mrs. Booth, and Miss Beale, all very interesting and well written if lacking in the romance of the earlier heroines' lives. The dignified photogravure portraits with which the book is illustrated are very welcome in these days of the garish "throe- colour process."