6 SEPTEMBER 1879, Page 19


Till Magazines are not very rich this month. Perhaps the best, certainly the most entertaining paper in them, is. Mr. Froude'a account in the Nineteenth Century of Alexander of Abonotichue, "A Cagliostro of the Second Century," who died the most successful of minor religious impostors, but who scarcely survives now, as Apollonius of Tyana .does, even as a name: This remarkable impostor, born in humble life near Sinope, on the Black Sea, and educated by a disciple of Apollo- nine, in medicine and conjuring, after an absence of some years from- his native place reappeared there, and gave himself out as a prophet of 1Esculapius, whom he pretended, in fact, to keep in his house, in the form of a tame snake, which he had carefully trained and fitted with a linen mask like a human face. "Images" of this snake "were made in brass or silver, and circulated in thou- sands." A tube was fitted to the snake smouth, and answers spoken through it to very rich or very credulous worshippers, though usually Alexander gave the answers himself. The whole world flocked to inquire of the new oracle, and as most of the inquirers had some ailment, and Alexander, a man of unusual intellectual power, was skilled, for his age, in diagnosis, he sent inquirers away satisfied that they had been cured by miracle. His fame, therefore, rose and rose till he converted Rutilian, a Senator in high favour with the Emperor Veins, a man of real ability, but with that lurking appetite for the mar- vellous against which, as the history of Spiritualism shows, ability ie no defence. Thenceforward Alexander was a power. He declared himself a descendant of ./Esculapius, was consulted bp Aurelian, established mysteries, apparently of a Paphian character, lived in splendour and honour—the very Roman Prefects, who saw through him, declaring it im- possible to touch him— and died amidst the reverence of whole populations, It-Adieu declaring that he was still zdive, and watching from heaven over his disciples. Lucian, who went to expose him, but only convinced himself that Alexander was a scoundrel, declares him to have been a man with ability to deceive any one ; but be does not seem to have diffitsed any ideas, though he supported the Pythagoreans against both Epicureans and Christians, the former of whom he hated for their cool scepticism and the latter for their belief. Mr. Fronde has told the story charmingly, though with something of Lucian's own contempt for all who believe in anything miracu- lous. The Nineteenth Century also gives us a paper ou " Re- creation," by Mr. Romanes, which seems to us, we confess, rather a pompous attempt to show scientifically why " all work and no play " may " make Jack a dull boy ;" a dialogue on human happiness, by Mr. Mallock,—not very good, though with a striking description in it of a man who devotes himself to his duty, and especially duty towards others, without deriving any personal pleasure from doing -it, a personage who certainly exists, but has never, that we can re- call, been sketched; and a defence by Edmond About of Clause 7 in the Jules Ferry Bill, whieh amounts only to this,—that Jesuits are distinctly hostile to liberty of education. They proscribe Liberal professors. Well, grant it, is tyranny the remedy for tyranny ? True Liberals believe that liberty will either improve or paralyse the enemies of liberty. Mr. Kebbel essays to prove, in a paper on "The Political Novels of Lord Beaconsfield," that Mr. Disraeli foresaw the decay of faith in Parliamentary Government, and pointed to personal government as its probable successor ; and Mr, Caird • continues his sketches of India, which are not so good as the first chapter was, being too much in the style of an itinerary, though with fine bits of description here and there. We begin to be anxious for Mr. Caircl's conclusions.

In the Contemporary Review, Sir Walter Medhurst's paper on "The Future of China" will attract some attention, though it reads, to us, a little dreamy. He regards the Empire as in a state of permanent decline, expects the fall of the existing dynasty, and fears that China may be disintegrated, each bit warring with the rest. The only remedy he sees is in European conquest, and he decides that this can be undertaken only by Russia, whose rule would, he thinks, be, on the whole, beneficial to the Chinese and the world. We doubt the willingness of the Chinese to submit to any foreign rule, and the ability of the Russians to govern her, except through a regime of repression, almost as injurious as that of the Mandarins. We should rather expect, or at least hope, that the present dynasty may be succeeded by one vigorous enough to bring the Mandarins under the control which must once have existed, or China could not have been so prosperous or so thickly inhabited. With a renovated official class, China might continue unbroken, for years, though its rulers, might not see the advantage- of appointing Europeans everywhere. The remaining -articles do not strike us as very readable. N. Kasasis, on "Political and Intellectual Life in Greece," writes too much like a pamphleteer pleading the Greek cause, and repeats information as to Greek popular instruction with which all who have at- tended to the subject are already familiar. Nothing, moreover, is said, when we are told that "the University of Athens is the most brilliant star which directs • the nation in. the way-s of civilisation and progress." That is only a phrase, and a bad one. That the University sends out 200 Doctors of Science a year, who go all over the East, may be a big fact; or a very mean- ingless one. What we want to know is what manner of men these doctors are ? Do they know and teach anything except words-? The sentences,—" We teach. and teach," "We do not concern ourselves with philosophical, theological, or social dis- cussions," "Debate has not yet disturbed the peace- of our intellectual arena,"—are not, to our minds, very hopeful. Karl Blind continues his onslaught on Russia, and Mr. Vernon Lee pleads• eloquently that the antique perfected but did not corrupt- the art of the Italian Renaissance, which rotted- of itself ; but neither "-The Problem of the Great Pyramid," though cleverly solved by Mr. Proctor, who believes each pyramid so built as to mark the astronomical events of the builder's life, nor Mr. Francois, Lenormant, on "-The First Sin," interests us much. Nothing comes of proving that the early creeds had legends of the first sin, or suggesting that the idea of the tree of life-in. Genesis is Assyrian, and the plant itself is drawn on their representations from the Aeelepias (reidiT; it is true that "nothing obliges us to understand the third chapter of Genesis literally. Without any departure from orthodoxy, we are justified in. looking upon it as. a figure, intended to convey a fact of a purely moral order." And that being so, the history of the figure loses even the importance it might have, if the account were intended to be literal.

In the Fortnightly, Mr. J. Kinuaird Bose-gives- a harrowing account of Macedonia, where the people, in the insecurity of life and property, pray that they may be conquered by Rus- sians, Austrians, English, anybody, so only that they may be protected; where even in Salonica no Mussulmau murderer has ever been punished, where the authorities share the profits of brigandage, and where any Mussulman landowner of influence holds the neighbouring villages, and the men and women in them, absolutely at his mercy. This is one of the provinces which, had the Treaty of San Stefano been carried out, would have been rescued from Turkey, and for the misery of which, therefore, Lord Beaconsfield is directly and solely responsible. Mr. Boyd Kinnear sends a suggestive paper on the Land Laws, in which he advocates the total abolition of the power of mort- gage. The landowner wanting money should be compelled to sell. We do not see it. A strong case can be made out, no doubt, against burdened estates ; but an Encumbered Estates Act would remove most of that evil, and the right to grant a full title, whatever the burdens on the land, would extinguish the remainder. Unless land, is to cease to be property at all, it must be capable of being placed in pledge, though there should be a power of sale, on the satisfaction of an equivalent part of the mortgagor's claim. It is not the existence of mortgages, but the want of power to give title, which keeps land so long in impover- ished hands. Mr. Tuttle gives us a valuable though pessimist sketch of the recent change in German politics, in which he sees evidence of a desire among the people not so much to prostrate themselves at the feet of Bismarck, as to prostrate themselves before an individual, in preference to a deliberating body. He thinks, in fact, that the principle of Ctesarism has penetrated Germany, and this, although he perceives that the popular apathy is partly produced by weariness :— "The Government have even another ally, a passive one, it is true, yet not the less efficient, in what may be called the political ennui of the country. I believe I do not mistake the phenomena of public feeling in Germany ; I have observed them for a considerable time and with no little care. It seems to me that the frequent parliaments and the copious legislation of the peat few years have brought the Germans to that stage of exhaustion where disgust and nausea are easily aroused, and that a reaction is setting in, which may seriously impair the utility, if not change the outward form, of the Diet. A symptom like this is reported even from America, where the people breathe a sigh of relief at the end of every session. In Germany the feeling is less intense, and is rather negative than positive. The Diets are not regarded as dangerous, otherwise they would be abolished at once; but merely as superfluous, since they have only to accept the measures prepared for them by a superior intelligence. If they wore hostile to Bismarck they would be enemies of the State, but since they only form his chorus, they are burdens upon the people. This is the alternative with which the easy-going, good-natured, dull country Philistines puzzle their brains when they find their newspaper full of debates, or when their member comes down for his annual speech ; to them its logic is faultless. But it is a question whether its appearance at so early a date was foreseen even by the Prince himself."

Lassitude is always a temporary condition, and we cannot believe that the Germans will ultimately be false to their own highest ideals. They may follow another individual, after Bis- marck, but it will be because he secures them freedom, as Bis- marck secures them internal security and external power. The remainder of the number is rather heavy, though we may quote the final paragraph of Mr. Courtney's account of "The New Psychology," as one which will take many readers to his very vigorous sketch of the way in which, as he thinks, English philosophy is tending :— " It is a question if Ethics can survive at all as an independent science, if the psychological assumptions of the Materielists be realised. For if Conscience be, as Dr. Mandsley assures us, only a function of the physical organisation, it is more than ever difficult to see whence will be derived the power of ethical sanctions. Either the doctrine itself must be held as an esoteric one, and then we must frankly avow the necessity of two sorts of Ethics,—one for the initi- ated and one for the vulgar, or else the ordinary sanctions must be reinstated by the stress laid on the subjective aspects of objective organic facts. Here again, however, compensating advantages are to be found. It is much to get rid of superstition ; it is much to be quit of the notions of Hell and Devil ; possibly, it is of still greater ethical value to know that sin is never remediable, that Nature never forgives. In all these matters, to look for all the advantages on the one side, and all the drawbacks on the other, is unreasonable and absurdly unhistorical. Progress is not continuous and rectilinear development ; it is a tide made up of several divergent currents, a vast system of action and reaction, systole and diastole. And the end is not yet."

But if Materialism is true, what is sin ?

Fraeur, under its new management, is not yet a success. It is dull, and lacks any feature calculated to excite new interest. Mr. Froude sends a description of Cheneys, the ancient home of the Russells, which is noteworthy for the intense belief it evinces in the aristocratic idea,—he actually conceives France to have lost by the Revolution, and especially by the equality it has introduced ; there is a delicate and accurate criticism, in the pleasant review of recent books of travel, called "Holiday Travel-Books ;" there is a sensible and temperate account of the causes of the new anti-rent agitation in Ireland ; and there is a

most vigorous description of "Hungarian Gypsy Music," but that is almost all, Mrs. Brassey's "Journal in the Holy Laud" being so far entirely deficient in originality. It is an ordinary description of scenes already sufficiently well known, though the style is picturesque. We must, however, make an extract, an account of a feat in swordsmanship which is, we believe, quite new :—

"Presently one of the crowd asked permission to show us a curious trick. Of course, we signified our willing consent, through Karam, whereupon the man proceeded with all a conjuror's gravity to place two common wine-bottles, filled with water, on the ground, a few inches apart. On the top of these he balanced nicely two tumblers, also filled to the brim with water. Then he laid a short, stout oak stick across, with an end just resting on each tumbler, and drawing his sword, cut the stick in two in two places with two strokes, and without spilling a single drop of the water. It was very cleverly done, and a real feat of skill, not a mere trick, with a substituted stick."

Does that mean that the stick was cut twice through before the ends had fallen under the first stroke ? if so, it beats the well- known feat of cutting an orange held on the palm without hurting the hand, quite hollow ; but it sounds a little incredible.