20 MARCH 1880, Page 15


Xas. ChTTY was one of those wise, but not too numerous, Tenons who, being more or less notable in their time, have yet begged their friends to let them go out of the world without .coramemoration, or as Carlyle pathetically puts it, with "no biography, and silence:" She was a woman of considerable and 'very justly earned influence, combining, as she did, with con- -sillerible vigour of mind and n good deal of imaginative power, a very large and accurate -knowledge of branches of natural science rarely pursued by amateurs of either sex with anything like her steadiness or diligence. The result, , besides other stories for children, was a number of slight , .and fanciful, but both humorous and poetical pieces, which ' she nailed "Parables of Nature," but which are often not very well described by that name,—pieoes charming after their kind, and instructive, alike to the young and the mature, for the information which they so pleasantly con- vey. Mrs. Ewing has not violated the spirit of her mother's wish by the graceful and very reserved notice of her which is prefixed to this edition of the Parables from Nature. it suffices simply to give some insight into the -eager -genius of this thoughtful and interesting woman, without going into details of her private life. Mrs. Ewing says of the secret • of her mother's originality in telling tales to the young, that not a little of it was due to her -resolute, or rather, not so mph ;resolute as involuntary, candour "rt is, of coarse, very difficult for me to express any opinion on the value of ally mother's writings, and still more so to speak of her qualities; but of her most marked personal +characteristic I may say, that I believe it is the key to what is most valuable in her work, and is whet, if any of them do last, will make them lasting. Everybody who ithiew herwill probably agree that this Was innate truthfulness of every 'kind: -candour, about little things as well as great, that was sometimes almost comical; .a ,fidelity, and an impossibility of social manceuv-ring or affectation which now and again led to funny scenes, but Which founded her friendships as upon a rock. And (perhaps the rareat kind Of truthfulness, because it demands the power to think for oneself as well as the wish to be true), so absolute a genuine- ness of convictions, and of caring for things, that her studies and hobbies 'were entirely apart from fashion, and whatever it was that 'she worked at, she could net help putting her heart into her work. I 'find it difficult to state -with needful brevity my intense convietion of -the value of this quality in writers for the young, or rather, in those who teach at-all—and when it is set down it seems a truism. But, if one comes to think of it, some of the worst effects of want of truth ,----truth in fact and 'truth in feeling—are not found as the immediate handiwork of the father of lies. The world would perhaps have less to unlearn, and mot be so chary of its reverence, if all books of devo- tion, pious tales, religions memoirs, missionary records, charity re- ports, tracts for the poor, teachings for children, and sermons for grown-up people, were based upon neither more nor less than strict fact and genuine feeling. Nov, -when to a conscience which cannot, for any aim or cause, exaggerate, warp, or withhold, is added that robnstmess of mental power which saves from self-deception,—because it makes a person with strong convictions and enthusiasms to con- -timely check them before his own soul by truth, and common-sense, and sense 'of lammur,—such an one's teaching is likely to be healthy, and to have originality, and to prove satisfying to the pertinacious thoroughness Of children's desire to know ; and when this conscien- tiousness extends to tastes and pursuits, so that they are works and not whims, the lessons of such a teacher are very valuable in an age when one is in much less danger of being uncultttred than of being veneered by a cultivation too skin-deep to give much happiness to .oneself or help to others. One result of her mental candour-in my mother's child-books was that the 'morals' of her tales were so rarely conventional, and the lessons never (what children particularly hate) could be felt to be unfair.' "

And no doubt Mrs. Getty was candid, but she was not candid in the sense in which we are chiefly accustomed to candour in

-the world,—i.e., the sense of saying everything disagreeable 'which it occurs to you to say to your friends, and keeping all the agreeable things to yourself. In the very admirable little parable—if parable it be—culled "Purring when you are pleased," Mrs. Gatty enforces -upon kittens and little girls alike -what a very unfortunate defect it is to have something that * Parables from Natuee, *Margaret Getty. With Notes on the Natural History, -rad Illustrations by W. Holman Hunt, Otto Speokter, L. Prdlidh, E. Burns Jones, Harrison 'Weir, J. Tenniel, J. Wolf, and others. New and Oomplete Edition. With Illemoirof the Author by her Daughter, Juliana Horatla Ewing. London : George Bell and Soon

rises in your throat whenever you would otherwise express your pleasure at the treatment the world gives you., and how much happier for every one it is to purr frankly when pleased. If Mrs. Gatty was at times almost awkwardly candid in her relations with her friends or her audience of children, she was certainly quite as candid when the candour was by no means awkward, but only gracious. She had no sympathy with her dignified puss, who tried to teach her kittens not to purr when they were pleased :—

" Wretched little creature !'" she would say to poor Puss Missy, who, even after the the meal was over, would lie purring with plea- sure in front of the fire ; 'what in the world are you making all that noise and fuss about ? Why are you to be always letting yourself down by thanking people for what they do for you, as if you did not deserve it, and had no right to expect it ? Isn't it quite right of them to feed you and keep you warm ? What a shame it would be if they left you without food or fire ! I am ashamed -to see you make your- self so cheap, by showing gratitude for every trifle. For goodness' sake, have a little proper pride, and leave off such fawning ways. Loot at your brother, and see how differently he behaves!—takes everything as a matter of course, and has the sense to keep his feel- ings to himself ; and people are sure to respect him all the more. It keeps op one's friends' interest, when they are not too sure that one is pleased. But you, with your everlasting acknowledgments, will be seen through, and despised very soon. Have a little more esteem for your own character, I do beg ! What is to become of self-respect, if people are to purr whenever they are pleased ?"

At the same time, Mrs. Gatty's candour led her to think of delicate excuses whether for cats or human beings found wanting in this sort of graciousness, and she was by no means willing to accept their own ungracious account of the matter. The kitten which does not purr frankly when it is pleased, confesses to the kitten which does, that the truth is that when it begins to purr" there's something that chokes a little in my throat." And Mrs. Gatty proceeds to explain that, though nothing could have induced the mother cat to give such an account of the matter herself, yet, if the truth must be told, puss had herself experienced that sensation of choking when she had been betrayed into purring because she was pleased. Nay, Mrs. Gatty goes on to suggest that something analogous in human beings may be the explanation of much unlovely and apparently ungrateful reserve. So that Mrs.

Gatty's candour evidently did not consist so much in confessing disagreeable opinions of other people, as in confessing the ex- cuses she saw for the apparent disagreeableness of other people, —a very much more attractive kind of candour than the other.

The charm of the curious little lessons in natural and moral history which Mrs. Getty called Parables from Nature is, however, certainly not due to her involuntary candour alone. She had a playful imagination, which relieved the otherwise didactic character of all such conceptions as these, and filled them with a sense of ease and life. It is charming to hear her caterpillars talk. They talk in just the kind of way in which the sleepy common- sense of the world talks, professing an unlimited amount of deference to authority, but beginning to cavil at what authority tells them the moment it requires even a tiny stretch of their own common-placeness to accept it. They take credit for their limited imagination as a sort of humility, but find out that true humility involves a certain active disbelief in their own capacity for assigning limits to the possibilities of nature and life, so that what they take credit for as humility soon blossoms out in dog- matism. It would be hard to make a caterpillar talk more cun- ningly than in the following passage :— " News, news, glorious news, friend Caterpillar !' sang the Lark ; but the worst of it is, you won't believe me!'—' I believe every- thing I am told,' observed the Caterpillar, hastily. 'Well, then, first of all, I will tell you what these little creatures are to eat,"—and the Lark nodded his beak towards the eggs. What do you think it is to be ? Guess !'—' Dew, and the honey out of flowers, I am afraid,' sighed the Caterpillar.—' No such thing, old lady ! Something simpler than that. Something that you can get at quite I can get at nothing quite easily but cabbage-leaves,' murmured the Caterpillar, in distress.—' Excellent! my good friend,' cried the Lark, exultingly ; you have found it out. You are to feed them with cabbage-leaves.'—' Never !' said the Caterpillar, indignantly. It was their dying mother's last request that I should do no such thing.'—' Their dying mother knew nothing about the matter,' per- sisted the Lark ; 'but why do you ask me, and then disbelieve what I say ? You have neither faith nor trust.'—' Oh,! believe everything I am told,' said the Caterpillar.—' Nay, but you do not,' replied the Lark; you won't believe me even about the food, and yet that is but a beginning of what I have to tell you.'—' Why, Caterpillar, what do you think those little eggs will turn out to be ?'—' Butterflies, to be sure,' said the Caterpillar.—' Caterpillars !' sang the Lark, 'and yt,u'll find it out in time ;' and the Lark flew away, for he did not want to stay and contest the point with his friend.—' I thought the Lark had been wise and kind,' observed the mild green Caterpillar, once more beginning to walk round the eggs, 'but I find that he i8 foolish and saucy instead. Perhaps he went up too high this time. Ah, it's a pity when people who soar so high are silly and rude, nevertheless ! Dear ! I still wonder whom he sees, and what he does up yonder.' —'I would tell you, if you would believe me,' sang the Lark, descend- ing once more.—' I believe everything I am told,' reiterated the Caterpillar, with as grave a face as if it were a fact.—' Then I'll tell you something else,' cried the Lark ; 'for the best of my news re- mains behind. You will one day be a Butteyly yourself.'—' Wretched bird !' exclaimed the Caterpillar, 'you jest with my inferiority,—now you are cruel, as well as foolish. Go away ! I will ask your advice no more.'—' I told you you would not believe me,' cried the Lark, nettled in his turn.—' I believe everything that I am told,' persisted the Caterpillar ; that is '—and she hesitated—' everything that it is rea.onable to believe. But to tell me that butterflies' eggs are cater- pillars, and that caterpillars leave off crawling and get wings, and become butterflies !—Lark ! you are too wise to believe such non- sense yourself, for you know it is impossible.'—' I know no such thing !' said the Lark, warmly. 'Whether I hover over the corn- fields of earth, or go up into the depths of the sky, I see so many wonderful things. I know no reason why there should not be more. Oh, Caterpillar ! it is because you crawl, because you never get beyond your cabbage-leaf, that you call any thing impossible?— ' Nonsense !' shouted the Caterpillar, I know what's possible, and what's not possible, according to my experience and capacity, as well as you do. Look at my long, green body, and these endless legs, and then talk to me about having wings and a painted feathery coat ! Fool!—'—' And fool you! you would-be-wise Caterpillar!' cried the indignant Lark. Fool, to attempt to reason about what you cannot understand ! Do you not hear how my song swells with rejoicing as I soar upwards to the raysterous wonder-world above ? Oh, Caterpillar ! what comes to you from thence, receive as I do, upon trust.'—' That is what you call—'—' Faith,' interrupted the Lark.—' How am I to learn Faith ?' asked the Caterpillar— At that moment she felt something at her side. She looked round— eight or ten little green caterpillars were moving about, and had already made a show of a hole in the cabbage-leaf. They had broken from the Butterfly's eggs ! Shame and amazement filled our green friend's heart, but joy soon followed ; for, as the first wonder was possible, the second might be so too. Teach me your lesson, Lark !' she would say ; and the Lark sang to her of the wonders of the earth below, and of the heaven above. And the Caterpillar talked all the rest of her life to her relations of the time when she should be a Butterfly."

Those who can enjoy such airy and playful imaginings as these, illustrated often by a great deal of true natural history, will be glad to possess this new and complete edition of the late Mrs. Gatty's Parables front Nature, with its numerous and pretty illustrations, and its very interesting account of the author.

This is, however, though a most handsome and admirably printed book, too heavy for children to hold in their hands, and we should like to see it succeeded by a little edition in five small volumes, which would be all the dearer to children's hearts fcr being in a miniature shape. We doubt if publishers —who are usually, and perhaps fortunately, grown-up persons —remember how dear to the hearts of children are all small books, especially if they are in several volumes. A child's book in two small volumes is twice as dear to a child as two single- volume books ; and as for a child's book in three volumes or more, these are the inexpressible treasures of the child's litera- ture,—the visible multiplicity in unity and unity in multiplicity causing him a distinct literary delight, which is inappreciable to the grown-up reader, though the same taste is revived in a spurious form, and for a very different reason, in the demand of the circulating library for three-volume novels.