4 JANUARY 1868, Page 28


A BELATED BATCH OF GIFT-BOOKS.—In spite of our pre-Christmas efforts, some of the books of that season remain to be noticed. They wear a rather dejected appearance, coming in so late, and we are tempted to liken them to the indigestion and need of medicine which follow close on too much turkey and plum pudding. Moreover, we think that we have done our duty towards such books already. It seems to us as if for the last month our literary columns had been full of holly berries, and the- only mental food we had put before our readers consisted of the mince pies of fancy. We looked forward to almost a year's respite. But we' are undeceived, and all we can do is to put as good a face as we can on the matter. We begin with a handsome book called Poetry of the Year„ or, Pastorals from our Poets illustrative of the Seasons (Griffin). The selections are chiefly taken from poets of a bygone age, and are, as they could hardly fail to be, happy. But the illustrations form the feature of the volume. They are chromo-lithographs from drawings by Birket Foster, Harrison Weir, Creswick, David Cox, E. V. B., and others.- Viewed at a little distance, some of them are very pretty, and reproduce the effect of good water-colour drawings. But they must not be looked into too closely, or their charm is apt to vanish. The Women of the Gospels (Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday) is the mono given to a book of "meditations on some traits of feminine character recorded by the- Evangelists." These meditations are taken from the old divines, and are accompanied by photographs of the works of the old painters. Some of the photographs are aptly chosen and are extremely beautiful, "The Virgin and Child," from Raphael's San Siete, forming the frontispiece, and another exquisite Raphael, a grand, sombre Rembrandt, and a fine Veronese facing some of the later pages. Our other books are for children. Routledge's Coloured Scrap-Book (Routledge) is a very curious assortment. There are pictures in it of all kinds and of all qualities. They have no natural connection with each other, and the connection created for them by the text is purely arbitrary. However, some of them are vigorous, some are comic, and all are gaudy. These merits will, perhaps, reconcile children to the mixture of Jack and Jill with Joseph and his Brethren, and show them that there is some bond of unity between cats playing at croquet and the Little Boy Blue and his horn. The History of Prince Perrypets, a' Fairy Tale, by L. S. K. (Saunders and Otley), is rather insane. Non- sense is all very well in its way, indeed, we sometimes prefer it to what is too manifestly sense. But this story is often nonsense run wild, and good ideas are spoiled by being passed over too quickly in search of others which look still more promising when they are seen at a distance. The conception of one night in the year on which all the large animals become small and the small ones grow large is highly amusing, and the- picture of a microscopic dog running away from a gigantic mouse fully Carries out the intentions of the text. Nor is this the only fun in the book by any means. But many other funny parts are laboured, and there is such an evident desire to be extravagant that we fancy an anxious face appearing from behind the puppet show and asking why we do not laugh louder. Schnick Schnack, Trifles for the Little Ones. (Routledge), is an unpretending book of rhymes and coloured illustra- tions. The pictures are pretty, and seem to bear faint traces of the signature of Oscar Pletsch, while the marks of his hand are much stronger. Some of them, too, are better than the drawings in former publications by the same artist. Stories from French History: a Book- for Children, by A. M. Lushington (Saunders and Otley), cover almost every reign, and give the youngest historical students a fair knowledge of the chief incidents marking the life of each French monarch. Briefly and simply told, the accounts of Clovis and Charle- magne, of the Sicilian Vespers and the Massacre of St. Bartholomew,. of Joan of Arc and the Man in the Iron Mask will please youthful readers. Silver Lake; or, Lost in the Snow, by R. M. Ballantynn (Jackson, Watford, and Hodder), is a most adventurous story, the scene of which is laid in the backwoods of America. A fight with a tribe of Indians and the massacre of several whites would seem sufficiently exciting for the central interests of the book, but more space is devoted to the fate of two children who are carried off by the Indians, and who make their escape without assistance. If we aro expected to believe that two young children, a boy and a girl, made their way through the backwoods, lived on fish and game of their own catching and shooting, killed a bear in a trap, and finally returned home after a year's absence, we must say that Mr. Ballantyno counts on our possessing considerable credulity. Perhaps, however, he does not care about his story being believed as long as it is read. Wo can recommend it for reading. Told in the Twilight ; or, Short Stories for Long Evenings, by Sidney Daryl (Jackson, Walford, and Hodder),•do not bear a strong light. Most of the incidents seem familiar to us already, and their present dress does not improve them. The Little Oxley& by Mrs. W. Dinzey Burton (Routledge), is the name of the last book on our list, and the least in size, which led to its being put to the top of the pile, and to our beginning with the bottom. But our last book is one of our best ; the children are thoroughly natural, and children's nature implies a copious fund of interest and amusement. We can hardly find a better phrase to describe Mrs. Dinzey Burton's story, but we almost hope some of our readers will not believe us. It will be pleasanter for them to light on the merit of the book themselves than to take it on trust from a critic.