28 SEPTEMBER 1867, Page 19


Tars is a jolly little book. We have not the slightest idea who wrote it, but we are quite sure the author, or authoress, has a touch of genius, as well as plenty of playfulness and fancy. When a stiff old mind tries to bend its stiff old bones into the attitudes of childish playfulness, you know by the heavy way it drops on its knees to play with the imaginary toy, and the heavier way in which it picks itself up again to moralize on the gratitude that a good child should feel after playing with such a toy, that it is a rheumatic old mind, which should content itself with benignant

affection for children, and not try to enter into sympathy with them. But it is worse yet, when a fast, cleverish, punning litterateur, without any genius for child-play, tries to adapt his smartness to the capacity of children. There is nothing in the world that children understand lees or love less than the smart- ness of a sharp writer,---epigram made easy for little minds. What they want and love is the gaiety of true simplicity, with a touch of earnest humour, if it be possible, and a farther touch of the simplest order of poetry, if it be, again, possible. We have all this,—and no one knows how rare it is so well as an editor accustomed to look at the children's books which pour in towards Christmas time,— in the simple, and humorous, and often poetical little verses before us, which have, moreover, the true ring of that nonsense which only children who are not foolish love,—that nonsense of the heart, of which Mrs. Eliot

truly says :- Sense may be all true and right, But nonsense, thou art exquisite !

We have not room to extract the capital little introduction, called "Lilliput Levee" (which has a sound to us, by the Way, as of some rhymes we reviewed and appreciated years ago on "Grand- papa-Little-Boy," but are of a higher class), describing the Pro- visional Government set up by the children when they subverted the tyrannical rule of the old folks, and proclaimed that "Order reigns in Lilliput town." But for any one who wants to appre- ciate the good hearty nonsense of the nonsensical part of the book, the following piece may serve for a fair specimen :—

TOPSY-1'131117NY Wow).

If the butterfly courted the bee,

And the owl the porcupine ; (Chorus.) If churches were built in the sea,

And three times one was nine ; Ba-ba, black wool,

If the pony rode his master, Have you any sheep ?

If the buttercups ate the cows, Yes, air, a pack-full, If the cat had the dire disaster Creep, mouse, creep !

To be worried, sir, by the mouse ; Four-and-twenty little maids If mamma, air, sold the baby Hanging out the pie, To a gipsy for half-a-crown ; Out jumped the honey-pot, If a gentleman, sir, was a lady,— Guy-Fawkes, Guy !

The world would beUps ide wn ! Cross-latch, cross-latch, If any or all of these wonders Sit and spin the fire, Should ever come about, When the pie was opened, I shonldnot consider them blunders, The bird was on the brier ! For I should be Inside-Out!

Now, that is an exercise in moral logic for children as well as a very jolly little bit of absolute nonsense. There is a deal more * Lillipst Leas: Poems of Childhood, Child Fano!, and Childlike Moods. Strahan.

philosophy in teaching a child that if the order of everything were inverted he would not know it, because the disorder would then be his notion of order, than in teaching him that if twice two is four, then half four is two,—besides the advantage that the one can be taught in nonsense verses, and the other only in technical lan- guage. And what a delightful and perfect sense of anarchy is pro- duced by taking the trouble to revolutionize the old nonsense verses on "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie," "cross patch," and other equally important subjects ! Derange time- honoured nonsense, and it shakes the foundations of things far more than any attempt to dispute the authenticity of time- honoured truths. Even a lunatic would usually keep his nonsense verses as he learned them, and it is anarchy going down to the very depth of things, when you turn the four and twenty black- birds into the little maids that were in the garden, and make them hang out their own pie, instead of—but we must break off, our head already whirls with the unwonted chaos, and we can only say, with the mother of the Modern Gracchi, that "if indeed there be, 0 gasping One !" any real pie, or birds, or maids, "is a ques- tion soul-entrancing, light-abandoned, and far too vast to enter on at present, at this unlooked-for crisis."

Butif the pure nonsense of this little book is good, the merry little tales are quite as good, if not better. "The Wonderful Toy of the WhisperingBoy " is a most creditablelittle mystery, which is of that kind that children will think and think about it and neverfuld it out, for the excellent reason that there is nothing to find out. And yet there are plenty of details to excite the imagination, a good deal of dramatic action, and a very effective e'claircissement, which throws no light, at the end, when the whispering boy is caught whispering

his secret in his sleep, though not telling it. There is a chorus in it of

four-and-twenty little men and four-and-twenty little women, as in old Greek plays ; indeed, it might fairly be called the Supplices, for the double chorus of forty-eight are all engaged in suppliance to the whispering boy to reveal his secret, which he does not do ; and there is a fine artistic touch in the shadowy hint given of the figure of the choregos, or chorus-leader, "Artful Alice," quite exciting to the reader's imagination. There are other tales, too, quite as good. " Frodgedobbulum's Fancy" is excellent in its way, containing a very fine lesson on the advantages of early education, as illustrated by the great self-possession and sang-froid which little Marjorie's perfect command of the French language gives her in the presence of Frodgedobbulum. Better still, perhaps, is the poetical legend of the origin of the coloured Admirals, Admiral of the Red, and Admiral of the Blue; while "Shock-Headed Cicely and the Two Bears" is a completely fresh form of the Cinderella type of legend, and one that will go straight to the heart of that healthy childish public opinion that is always so strong in favour of untidy infancy,—the infancy which is not self-conscious enough, and does not care enough for elderly praise, to wish to look " nice " and pretty in the eyes of drawing-room opinion. The scene is really dramatic :-

Just then there was heard a double roar, That shook the place, both wall and floor; Everybody looked to the door ;

It was a roar, it was a growl ; The ladies set up a little howl, And flapped and clucked like frightened fowl.

Sir Hildebrand for silence begs—

In walk the bears on their hinder legs, Wise as owls, and merry as grigs!

The dark girls tore their hair of sable ; The fair girls hid underneath the table ; Some fainted ; to move they were not able.

But most of them could scream and screech— Sir Nicholas Hildebrand made a speech- " Order! ladies, I do beseech" The bears looked hard at Cicely Because her hair bung wild and free- " Related to us, miss, you must be ! "

Then Cicely, filling two plates of gold As full of cherries as they could hold, Walked up to the bears, and spoke out bold :—

" Welcome to you! and to you, Mr. Bear !

Will you take a chair ? will you take a chair? This is an honour, we do declare ! "

Sir Hildebrand strode up to see, Saying, "Who may this maiden be ? Ladies, this is the wife for me !"

Almost before they could understand, He took up Cicely by the hand, And danced with her a saraband.

Her hair was as rough as a parlour broom, It swung, it swirled all round the room— Those ladies were vexed, we may presume. Sir Nicholas kissed her on the face, And set her beside him on the dais, And made her the lady of the place.

The nuptials soon they did prepare, With a silver comb for Cicely's hair: There were bands of mask everywhere.

And in that beautiful bridal show Both the bears were seen to go Upon their hind legs to and fro!

Shock-Headed Cicely's sudden and frank assumption of the attitude of a hostess to Sir Nicholas Hildebrand's bears, and her generosity with his golden plates of cherries, will take even the generous imagination of children by surprise.

But there is in this little book a still rarer element of attrac- tion than even the gay buoyancy of its movement in narrative, and one quite as sure to be permanently and deeply fascinating to children ;—we mean the touches of real poetry in the short pieces on nature. What can be simpler, truer, and more graphic in flower-painting than this?


The wind to the west is steady, The solid Gaelder roses The weather is sweet and fair ; Are white as dairy cream ; Laburnum, slender lady, The hyacinths fade, like posies ; Shakes out her yellow hair. The cloud hangs in a dream,

No picture of a magnolia could be more characteristic. But the most beautiful thing of this kind in the book is this exquisite little bit on Autumn :—


I wondered this year,—for the harvest was in, The acacias were dark and the linden leaves thin, And the south wind in coming and going was loud, And odorous, and moist like the breath of a cloud,—

I wondered, and said, "Then the Autumn is here,— God knows howl love the sweet fall of the year ; But the joy of the Autumn is not on my brain— My God, give me joy in thine Autumn again!"

I woke in the morning, and, out in the air, I beard the sweet robin his ditty declare, And my passion of Autumn came down from the skies, And I leapt from my bed with the tears in my eyes.

0 Robin, sweet Robin ! do you know the power That comes to the heart with the fall of the flower, The odour of winds, and the shredding of trees, And the deepening of colour in skies and in seas ?

There may, perhaps, be a touch more of older sentiment in that, than all children will quite like. It may make them feel un-

comfortable and shy, if they are told to learn it or repeat it aloud, but if they are left to their own reading, it is a piece which

will make its impression, and of which even Wordsworth would not have been ashamed.

And the South wind in coming and going was loud, And odorous and moist like the breath of a cloud,

is in his happiest manner, as is, indeed, the whole poem. A jollier little volume of children's poems we have not read for many years. We dare not say that it is up to the poems of our own youth. There is a sacred place in the elderly heart for " Jem and the Shoulder of Mutton," and "Little Anne and her Mother," and,

rye got a plum cake, and a rare feast I'll make, . ru eat, and I'll stuff, and I'll cram,

which no modern poem can ever occupy. But we will say for this little volume that it is more playful and poetical, though less quaint and grotesque, than the poems of our own invaluable 'childhood.

Magnolia, like a stranger, Stands stiffly all alone ; I think a word would change her Into a flower of stone. And dreams of light and shadow The sleeping meadow shake, Bat the king-cup shines in the meadow, A gold eye wide awake.