TWO PICTURE-BOOKS.* THERE are some books for which the labour
of making can never be quite repaid,—unless, indeed, the labour itself is a sufficient reward. They are, perhaps, by their very nature capable only of a very limited circulation ; they deal with some subject which has little attraction for ordinary people, and has none of the elements of widespread popularity. The present writer remembers, in the days of early journalism, being offered, with a pleasant smile by his editor, a book upon the enticing subject of the earlier Mongolian dynasties, which, as the editor blandly remarked, the author had taken ten years in writing, and which had been lying in the office for two years already, because none of the staff was capable of reviewing it. It was not a subject, perhaps, of universal attraction, and what eventually became of the work, heaven only knows. It may have had a great circulation in the Far East, but probably not in England. The book before us is entitled The Indigenous Flowers of the Hawaiian Islands, and is practically a series of plates printed from water-colour drawings executed by Mrs. Francis Sinclair. These are accompanied by short descriptive paragraphs, giving a plain account of the parts of the islands in whioh the trees, shrubs, and flowers in question are to be found, and the uses, if any, for which they are fitted. The letterpress does not attain to any literary merit, and, indeed, the interest of the book entirely centres upon Mrs. Sinclair's drawings. We confess to finding these very pleasant, though we suspect that some of our partiality for them is due to the simple, old-fashioned way in which they are executed, each spray of leaf or flower being simply painted on a white background, just as flower-drawings used to be executed in our grandmothers' time on sheets of vellum. The drawings are, in short, exactly what they profess to be, clear records of the plants in question, no attempt being made to "invest them with artistic merit." Slightly formal in their design and arrangement, with but little, if any, light and shade, and a little dull and monotonous in their colouring, they are, nevertheless, unmistakably faithful ; they seem to have been done at leisure, without desire for effect, —to have been the occu- pation, we will not say of a lifetime, but certainly of many a long month, if not year. It would be as cruel as it is needless to criticise them from the artistic point of view ; nor is it worth while for us to single out one drawing from another for special notice, since all are of about the same average merit. But if we may make one remark in connection with the way in which the drawings have been reproduced, we should feel inclined to speak of the very great similarity of the greens employed, and a peculiar blackish effect which the shadowed portions of them alike possess. We fancy that this is due not to the original
• Indigensus Flowers of the Hawaiian Island'. By Mrs. Francis Sinclair. London: Sampson Low.—Illestrations of Scott's "Bridal of Triereutin." By Percy Maintnoid. Art Union.
drawing so much as to the method of reproduction. For the rest, the question which occurs to us is chiefly the somewhat invidious one, whether it were worth while taking all this labour and embodying its results in so costly a form, for the purpose which has been gained thereby. In the main, with two or three exceptions, these Hawaiian flowers do not present any great peculiarities, and save for the purposes of a botanist, are, we should say, unusually unattractive. There are many forms of what the ordinary unlearned person would call a convolvalus ; there is an exaggerated buttercup or two, and a sort of yellow fuchsia, and something which ought to be a strawberry, only the flower is pink instead of white ; there are specimens which look like campiou, and barberry, and spirma, and a kind of improved snapdragon, and so on throughout the list. The names, however, are very delightful; there is a Will-will, and a Kokio-keokeo, and a Pohuehue, and a Koali-Eiwahia, and a Kolokolo-kuahiwi, though it must be noted with regard to these names, which seem to betray what Shake- speare calls " a certain damnable iteration," that Mrs. Sinclair explains that it is difficult to learn even the common ones from the natives themselves, owing to the plants being named differently in different places. There is, she tells us, connected with the majority of them, many graceful myths and folk-lore stories. Of these she gives us no speci- mens,—indeed, the literary portion of the book is throughout kept within the narrowest limits. We do not mean it unkindly when we say that this is essentially one of those volumes which are fitted for a dentist's or doctor's reception-room. It could offend nobody, excite nobody ; it is handsomely got-up, and the picture of the Kokio-keokeo, which adorns the cover as well as the inside, is among the best of the series.
We regret that we can say nothing in praise of the Art which is issued by the Art Union of London to their subscribers this year. It is indeed, plainly speaking, the least attractive of their publications with which we are acquainted. The subject is Sir Walter Scott's Bridal of Triermain, a poem less known than it deserves to be, owing to the fact of its not being included in all the editions of Sir Walter's poems. But the greater part of the book is, of course, supposed to be the illustra- tions; and these are, as far as we can see, without exception, so utterly and hopelessly bad, that it is really impossible to criticise. They are by Mr. Percy Macquoid, an artist who may be known to some of our readers from his pictures of maidens accompanied by dogs of various kinds. Whatever may be the merits of those works—and in the opinion of the present writer they are not great—the artist's appear- ance as an illustrator to Sir Walter Scott is that of the wrong man in the wrong place. Badly-drawn, half-clothed figures, without expression, beauty, or meaning, is really a strictly accurate description of the majority of these pictures. There is one especially, wherein Arthur has spilt the enchanted cup, the contents of which have turned to blame, which is almost a burlesque ; and another, wherein he is sitting by the side of G wendolen's couch, which appears to us vulgar in a high degree. If anybody wishes to see an example of the manner in which the present way of drawing for book illustration is conducted, and to what a pitch the abuse of body-colour is leading modern book illustrators, let him look at the landscapes in this work, and especially at the one where De Vaux is hurling his battle-axe at the rocky cliff which is all that remains of the Castle of St. John. It is not enough to say that there is not a single" value" in this drawing which is even approximately correct ; the whole illus- tration is in a kind of grey puddingy mess, with shadows thrown by limelight, and "lights of cream-soap," as Ruskin once called them. Or, look for an instance of Mr. Macquoid's figure- drawing, at the composition illustrating the lines,—
" Gently, lo the warrior kneels,
Soft that lovely hand he steals:"—
depicting the moment just before De Vaux kisses Gyneth's
hand, and rouses her from her enchanted sleep. Or, for an example of this artist's extraordinary negligence of all the values in his landscape, look at the centre of the first landscape composition, wherein Arthur is riding towards the castle. There is a. gigantic twisted bough in the middle of this picture, supposed to be coming out of a mass of trees with which it has no apparent connection, and wholly out of its place in the picture. Indeed, it is apparently supported on Arthur's spear. But it is useless to criticise work like this in detail. If any one who subscribes to an Art Union is satis- fied at receiving a book like this as the equivalent of the value of his subscription, all we can say is that he must be singularly easy to please. And if an Art Union is intended, as we used to suppose, to encourage the production and diffuse the know- ledge of good art, then the directors who put such a collection of inadequate work before their subscribers, ought to be most heartily ashamed of themselves.