SOME OF THE PRINCIPAL CHRISTMAS BOOKS.—Lo
It is now many years since the Spectator—first, we believe, among English journals—noticed Miss Alcott's "Little Women ;" and now this lady, whose name has since become a household word in this
country, tells us that we must bid farewell to this interesting family. Like other literary children, they have become somewhat troublesome to their parent ; and Miss Aloott humorously expresses the wish that
she could engulf them by an earthquake. Indeed, the most amusing chapter in Jo's Boys is that which describes how " Jo," now Mrs.
Professor Bhaer and a famous writer, is tormented by lion-hunters of all kinds and tastes, from the ordinary autograph-collector to the eccentric creature who is making a collection of grasshoppers from the lawns of distinguished authors. As for the " boys " whose careers are here described, they are many in number, for the term includes not only Mrs. Jo'a own eons, but sundry pupils from the college over which her husband, the Professor, presides. And many are their adventures, the most striking of all being the alarm of hydrophobia, which brings out so well the characters of the two brothers, Ted and Rob. Then there are Emil the sailor, Nat the musician—(is it of set purpose that he is made the weakest of the number ?)—and the wandering Dan, gold-hunter, cow-boy, and other
things in turn. There are "girls," too, as well as boys, the most charming among them being little Josie, who is bent upon the stage,
and makes the acquaintance of the famous Miss Cameron in the character of a mermaid. It marks a curious revolution in New- England ways of thinking when a daughter of a God.fearing family is allowed, if not encouraged, to look to the stage as a profession. Oar readers will find this last chronicle as charming as any of its predecessors.
There is something—in fact, we may say, a good deal—in M. Jules Verne's latest romance that reminds us of " Monte Cristo." The hero is treacherously betrayed ; be makes a most perilous escape from
prison ; he disappears—indeed, is commonly believed to be dead—he reappears in a different character, possessed of vast wealth, and devotes himself to exacting vengeance from the traitors. M. Verne,
however, has far too mach imagination to have to descend to copying, and though his idea, we cannot but think, is borrowed, the treatment is his own. The reader soon finds that ho is in the hands of a master.
There are many authors nowadays—how many we cannot pretend to guess—who attempt this kind of writing, and some achieve no little success in it ; but we think that none can rival M. Verne. He does not give us, it is true, in the volume before us any of his scientific romances, with their curious air of probability investing the wildest efforts of the imagination, but he is quite equal to himself. The escape from the fortress of Pisino into the ravine of the Foiba is an adventure which harries on the reader breathless, so to speak, and unable to ask whether the Count could have been strong
enough to save his companions as well as himself in what must have been very like the rapids below Niagara. (Surely the picture on p. 102 does not show enough water). All the first part, "The Con- spirators of Trieste," is a romance of the first order. The second, "The Wrestlers of the Jura," introduces the fugitive in his new character of Dr. Antekirtta, and also brings in two friends, who supply the comedy of the story besides taking part in its serious action,
—Cape Matifon, the great wrestler, and Point Peacadi, the acrobat. In this part and the third, "The Captives of Antekirtta," the Count,
alias the Doctor, pursues his scheme of vengeance through a series of adventures which happily display the author's inexhaustible fertility of resource. The vengeance itself is brought about in an • 1. Jo's Boys. By Louisa M. Aloott. (Sampson Low and Co.)-2. Matthia. Sander!. By Jules Verne. (Sampson Low and Co.)-3. The Young Carthaginian. By G. A. Henty. (blackie and Son.)-4. Lost Among the White Africans. By David Her. (Cassell and Co.)-15. The Tales of the Sixty Mandarins. By P. V. Ramsawami Rain. With an Introduction by Professor H. Morley. (Cease]. and Co.)-9. Forest Outlasts. By the Rev. R. Gilliat. (Seeley and 0o.)-7. The Orate of the' Stark Prince.'By Commander V. Lovett Cameron. (Ghetto and Windus.)-8. The Mate Squall. By John 0. Hutcheson. (Blaokie and Son.) —9. A World of Girls. By L. T. Meade. (Cassell and Co.)-10. " Bear and Porker." By Sarah Pitt. (Cassell and Co.) 1828. ingenious way which does not compel the personal interference of the Count, though we are not allowed to suppose that he would not have persisted in his intention to exact it. We do not know any of M. Verne's books that we should be inclined to put before this.
Mr. Henty's Young Carthaginian is a story of the times of the Second Panic War, in which the author follows pretty closely the story of Livy, corrected, indeed, by other authorities, such as Polybins. One curious mistake he seems to have made. He confounds the crossing of the Apennines (Livy, xxi., 58), with the passage of the marshes of the Arno (xxii., 2). "Hannibal started by a path, hitherto nntrodden by troops, across the Apennines." But how could they have marched "knee-deep in water for four days and three nights," and how could the "obnoxious miasma from the marshes" be encountered on the mountains ? We are inclined, too—but this, of course, is a matter of opinion—to think better of the peace party in Carthage than does Mr. Henty. This does not hinder his story from being bright and successful. Young Malthus is a gallant and high-principled young fellow, who might have been born in England, so like is he to the best type of Christmas-book heroes. The anther, knowing that Carthage would hardly be the place for so honest a youth, happily disposes of him by marrying him to a Gaulish maiden —(the love-story is a very pretty one)—and even making him the ancestor of Arminius. But what will the Germans say when they find that their national hero is traced back to a Carthaginian father and Gaulish mother ?
There is a certain boldness about the conception of Lost Among the White Africans, which reaches its height when the writer describes (not, however, without first warning his readers that it is purely imaginary) a fierce fight between Mr. H. M. Stanley and the Arab slavers. Mr. Stanley, indeed, is, in a way, the inspirer of the story; and his hints, carried out as they are by Mr. Kees well-known ability as a writer of tales of adventure, have done much to make it a success. The hero goes out to join an uncle who is a missionary on the Congo, and his adventures, with the indispensable Irish boy to supply the comedy, furnish the materials for an excellent story. The " White Africans " do not actually play a very great part in it ; this is natural, for, after all, we know very little about them ; but there is no lack of striking, not to say startling, personages and incidents- The crisis of Charlie Thorne's fate occurs when he falls into the bands of the Nyam-Nyam, and runs a very great chance of being eaten. The villains of the story, Valdez, the Portuguese, and Mbazi, the African, are weirdly picturesque figures. The story is vividly coloured throughout, and is none the worse for having nothing about love in it.
Mr. Ramaswami Raja's tales are about as good a modern imitation of " The Arabian Nights " as could be found,—not containing, of course, the horrible things of which Captain Burton is determined to give the full, and more than the full, benefit
to the Western World. India, China, and the countries and races that belong in a way to both, even Persia, and the native land of the " Nights " itself, have been laid under con- tribution ; and the editor, translator, or compiler, has, if we under- stand aright Professor Morley's pleasant little introduction, done not a little for them himself. Some of them, it must be owned, have somewhat of a Western look,—at least, as they are told here. " Little Tullima " is an instance, when she sets the man-devouring giant, " Ever-Bidding "—(he devoured all who gave him a bidding when the bidding was done)—the hopeless task of catching a sunbeam. There are a good many sly bits at things of to-day,—the Positivist philo- sopher Nee Wang, for instance, who does not see that altruism fits into his theory ; but there is no reason why these should not be ancient. Many of the stories are excellent ; but we do not know that anything is better than one in which our old friend Haronn Aires- chid appears, bat in a way that is not to be found in the Arab stories. Perhaps we should except " Prince Jabal—the Man of Brevity," which might have been written by Thackeray.
Mr. Gilliat, in his Forest Outlaws, has cleverly contrived to avail himself of several picturesque personages and incidents. We have a vivid description of life in the great monastery of St. Albans towards the close of the twelfth century, one of his young heroes becoming a pupil in the Abbey School, and another being a novice, while his heroine is put under the care of the Sopwell nuns. Then we have Robin Hood and his merry men. And, best of all, we have the great St. Hugh of Lincoln, of whose striking personality there exist such complete contemporary portraits. Mr. Gilliat has studied the Magna Vita to some purpose, and the great Bishop really seems to live in his pages. Nor must we forget to mention with praise two other creations, or rather revivals, which we owe to his pen, Walter Mapes, the witty and convivial Archdeacon of Oxford, and Giraldus Cambrensis. The story shows mach ability as well as research. Still, there are care- lessnesses. Surely Mervyn, a young country lad, could have felt no impulse to shoot a stag, even though it was a " hart of grize," in the month of May. He would as soon have shot his father,—nay, sooner, for there was no close time for fathers. And did they really say in the learned Abbey of St. Albans, at its best age, " Benedic nos et tun done" ?
The Cruise of the Black Prince' is more of a distinct literary effort than most of the books which come to us at this time. Com- mander Cameron lays the scene of his story in the England of the middle of the last oentury. This necessitates, of coarse, a good deal of care in the study of accessories and in style, and in both of these respects the author achieves, we think, a decided success. Perhaps the most spirited part of the story is that where the scene is laid at Sierra Leone. The hero is looking for slaves, and Commander Cameron does not commit the anachronism of making him at all squeamish about it. There is a very curious picture, which we can well imagine to be pretty faithful to more than one reality of those times,—Andrew McCallum, the headman of the Colony. A more cunning and more villainous slave-dealer never existed ; and as Com- mander Cameron has made him a Scotchman, we may add that some national characteristics are contrived very well to fit in to his character. But the Black Prince' does better things than trading in slaves,—fights the French, for instance, in a most spirited fashion, and gathers a fine crop of laurels, handsomely gilded, too.
The author of " The Wreck of the ' Nancy Bell,' " is one of our best tellers of sea-stories, and he has not been inferior to himself in The TVhtte Squall. Of course our old friend the shark is caught once more, with the usual formalities ; a common form for this inevitable episode might be agreed upon, and the critic might " take it as read." But the story, on the whole, has plenty of freshness about it. It has, too, more unity than these tales commonly have. After a few prelimininary sketches of West-Indian life, we accompany the Josephine' on her voyage, and follow her through a variety of ad- ventures, which culminate in the vividly described incident which gives a title to the tale. The ship capsizes in a sudden squall, lying " with her decks submerged up to the hatches, and her masts lying horizontal on the surface of the sea." How the hero and his com- panions extricate themselves from this situation, our readers must discover for themselves. We take, of course, the seamanship for granted ; this done, we may say that the narrative of pp. 206-256 is as good as anything that we have come across for a long time. Miss Meade is not quite as original as usual in her World of Girls, and she leaves the field in which we have always found her most successful, —the life of the poor. Heater Thornton, left motherless by an accident, is sent to school, much against her will. And this unwillingness, working along with her pride and self-will, brings her, as may be supposed, into no small trouble. Of this trouble, of her friendships and hatreds, her errors and her repentance, the story is the record. It does not lack incident ; bat it seems to us somewhat overcrowded with figures, and to need more unity. It most be difficult to manage rightly such a crowd of little puppets,—not to use the expression with any disrespect to Miss Meade's girl-figures, for, indeed, they are sufficiently lifelike.
No one can doubt which is the central figure in Bear and Forbear. Miss Pitt's little hero, Ruff, is a " Scotch of the Scotch." A little seller of newspapers, he sets his heart upon being Lord Provost, and is quite one of the lads who seem likely to realise even loftier ambitions Miss Pitt does not, indeed, commit the mistake of bringing him any- where near the coveted eminence. He has not got further on the way than a post in the office of the newspaper which he had once been con- tent to sell ; bat this post is the rob' 0-1*(0 whence he is going to bring a very powerful lever of resolution and self-control to bear upon the world. Huff's career, his self-assertion, his self-mastery, and his self-denial, not the less heroic and affecting because it is discovered to be all for nothing, are admirably described. Bear and Forbear is one of the good things of the year.