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HARLES G. D. ROBERTS'excellence does not lie in his creative faculty, alhe can
His . His merit, whatever its degree, lies rather in his careful artistic training. He has studied poetry and prose, with all their attendant arts. He chooses always the right word, the best phrase, the proper construction; not a detail of his work but receives the closest scrutiny. He polishes every sentence with the utmost care, and every piece of work is thus as finished and as smooth as a good workman can make it. But, to my mind, he lacks the power which marks out an epochmaking writer. He will always be one of a class-although a rather high class.
After I read his new book “The Forge in the Forest,” I began to look up what the critics were saying so as to get my cue—I always do that. I found that The Bookman says:
“Let us give it a hearty welcome, and assure our readers that it is a story to shake the torpor from the brain and to keep the soul alive. It is charged with romance, and works like wine
he has written a story that will repeat itself in our dreams for many a long day.' The Forge in the Forest' is destined to an enviable popularity."
Some time last summer this same New York publication, in speaking of two books by Roberts and Scott, took occasion to remark :
“We wonder how long the poets will be in finding out that qualities which make poets may not make dramatists or tellers of stories
* Earth's Enigmas' and 'In the Village of Viger' are very well as experiments in prose
which amounts to saying: Let Professor Roberts and Mr. Scott keep to verse and continue to rejoice us."
What a change in one short year! What a stern unbending standard of criticisim they must have in New York !
Yet perhaps the change in attitude is, to some extent, justifiable. “The Forge in the Forest" is the best piece of prose work that Charles G. D. Roberts has done-although that is not saying a great deal. His previous work possessed undoubted merit, but it was decidedly, undeniably flat. The drama, the intense feeling at a supreme moment, the tragedy of events were weakly handled. The themes were well chosen, the descriptions were magnificent, the colouring excellent—but there his power ended. In this new book, however, he seems to have overcome, to a small extent, this defect, this lack of power. Yet his description of “The Fight at Grand Pré” is exceedingly weak. M. J. Katzmann Lawson has given us a rather strong poetical picture of it ; others have described it in all its details, and Roberts should have outdone them all. But he has failed. On the success of the attack might have rested some important step in the story, as there did on the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in the “Seats of the Mighty.” But Roberts is not Parker, although they have similar weaknesses.
The story is laid in the stormy days of Acadian history, a few years before the unfortunate expulsion of the tempest-tossed Acadians. The hero is Seigneur de Briart, a man true to the French cause, and as chivalrous as the best Frenchman of the early eighteenth century. The scene of the story is laid in the region about Grand Pré and Blomidon, a district which is watered by the storied Gaspereau and its four sister streams. De Briart crossed a cunning priest, the Black Abbė, and as a consequence is led into some strange adventures. A fantastic madman called Grul gives a pleasing mysticism to certain of the events. The two English ladies introduced are very interesting.
On the whole, the book may be safely recommended as one of the best of recent Canadian novels. Mr. Roberts knows the district thoroughly and has added the historic and the place interests to a rather delightful romance. Canadians, especially, will appreciate his piece of painstaking work.
The New York Independent says that it “is a romance pure and simple, told with quaint grace and diction. The characters are, most of them, Acadian creoles, and the main incidents of the story have a pleasing, melodramatic effect. Mr. Roberts' skill as a tale-teller shows well in the handling of scenes which, if presented less cleverly, would have been too savagely bloody for the taste of refined readers." The New York Sun remarks : “Mr. Roberts has woven his materials into a very charming romance.” The Tribune says: “He has a naiveté which argues inexperience in the writing of fiction like this, yet the story takes hold of the reader with the force of a much more mature production ... following the instinct of the old masters he has sought to make his men real characters, and to wrap them all in the glamour of the Acadian Peninsula.”
These comments will give the reader an inkling of the opinions of book reviewers who, unlike those on The Bookman, had nothing to retract and consequently less likely to go to extremes.
The book has a rather pretty cover design, a useful map and seven full-page illustrations. The publisher, Wm. Briggs, Toronto, is to be congratulated on the excellence of his work.
J. A. C.
“Devil's Dice,” by William Le Queux,* has its character fully indicated by its title. It is an English story, although opening in Paris, and deals with a great mystery in which a young man, while unconscious, is married to a woman who dies as the ceremony ends, a young millionaire is wounded by an unknown hand, and other equally startling events occur in rapid succession. Yet the story is exceedingly pleasing, the climax being well worked up and the reader's interest well sustained until the denouement is reached. The author's treatment of some strong happenings is such that they are neither forbidding nor ghoulish.
At times the sentiment is somewhat strained, as on the first page, where the teller of his life's story is made to say : “My gaze has been lost in the azure immensity of a woman's eyes. Again, the events are not always those most usual or most natural ; but then the world has condoned these faults in Anthony Hope, and why not in William Le Queux? The story is written for the great body of novel readers, and most of them will find it enjoyable.
Australia is supposed to have bees that have no sting, birds that have no song, flowers without perfume, fruits without flavour, animals that bear their young outside, cuckoos that sing only at night, cherries that grow inside their
* Bell's Indian and Colonial Library. Toronto : The Copp, Clark Co.
own stones, oysters that grow on trees, and trees that shed their bark instead of their leaves. To a great measure this is true, but not absolutely. Frederick S. Afalo, in a recent work* on ustralian natural history, states that “some of the birds sing remarkably well, some flowers are sweet smelling, some fruits of agreeable flavour, though of the majority in each case the verdict is unquestionably a just one. The animals do not bear their young in the pouch, but convey them to that convenient receptacle immediately after birth
finally, while the bark, and not the leaves, of Australian trees is deciduous, it is the thin outer bark only, and not the entire covering that peels off.
This book is extremely interesting, as an account of the natural history of “a fossil continent, a land which, long since cut off from the rest of the earth,
has developed certain types of plants and animals peculiarly its own; a country that has now reached a stage of development at which, roughly speaking, Europe had already arrived centuries ago."
Its mammals are very extraordinary, being divided into three classes: 1. Placentals, including dingos, rodents, bats, dugongs, whales and seals; 2. Marsupials, including kangaroos, wallabies, opossums, koolas, flying squirrels, wombats, bandicoots, dasyures, pouched moles, etc.; 3. Montremes, including the duck-billed platypus and the echidnas. The latter are the very lowest creatures in the mammalian scale, and the author thinks they will ultimately be classed separately. The birds, reptiles, batrachians, fishes and invertebrates are also fully described and scientifically classified. There are a number of helpful illustrations.
“Palladia,” by Mrs. Hugh Fraser, † reminded me very much of “The Prisoner of Zenda.” The dialogue is not so sparkling and quick-moving as that of Anthony Hope, but there is more soul in the tale. Palladia is a twenty-yearold princess, living in retirement in her father's castle, the old Schaumburg Schloss. Having arrived at years of maturity, her father, the Prince of Schaumburg, decides that she shall be married and betrothes her without her knowledge or consent. The Grand Duke of Carinthia is to be the bridegroom, he being in need of a wife at that time. A sudden, secret marriage—most romantic in its attendant circumstances—takes place at the castle, and is followed by a greater ceremony, a few weeks later, at the young Prince's castle at Sombrudja. After the ceremony, and while the wedding feast is in progress, a dynamite explosion shakes the palace, and Palladia's sister, the young Princess Saya, is fatally injured. These untoward events keep the newly-married pair apart, and there are strained relations. The young wife is taken south to recover from her shock, and finally visits England. Here her husband goes to bring her back, and, while there, is killed. Palladia returns to her late husband's dukedom and is put on trial as his murderer.
It is a striking story with many striking characters. Old Count Mouravieff and his sister Demetria are two arch schemers whose actions serve to bring out the undertones of Court life in small principalities. The Shah Jehaugire, a barbarian on a visit to England at the time of Palladia's stay there, adds the necessary light humour to a part of the story. Colonel Denzil, who has charge of the Eastern Prince, is to a great extent the hero of the book, although the author never allows him to overshadow Palladia.
There are some beautiful passages in the book, and the one at the close of Chapter V., where the author rebuts the idea that life is either a thread or a lake,
* A Sketch of the Natural History of Australia, with Some Notes on Sport, by F. G. Afalo: Macmillan's Colonial Library ; Toronto : The Copp, Clark Co.
+ Macmillan's Colonial Library ; Toronto : The Copp, Clark Co.
and explains that it is “ a daily journey for daily bread and breath, for body's life-for soul's breath
" and then goes on to elucidate this fully by means of a beautiful simile. This passage impressed me more than anything that has come under my notice for a long time. It was artistic-grand-noble, and its author won my heart at once. There are many other parts equally strong, though much different in character, thus showing Mrs. Fraser to be no narrow artist.
“The History of The Holy Dead," by James M. Gray, D.D., Philadelphia, is published at 25 cents by the Fleming H. Revell Co., Toronto.
“Hero Tales from Sacred Story, "* is the title of the Rev. Louis Albert Bank's latest book. It consists of a series of eighteen Bible stories, clothed in modern language so that they appeal very strongly to our nineteenth century sense of appreciation. Each story is complete in itself and are so entertainingly put that they cannot fail to attract and hold the attention of youthful readers, a fact which of itself ought to warrant for the book a warm reception. Under the heading “The Sword Captured from the Giant,” we have the old story of David and Goliath, and the chapter entitled " A Mark for the Archers,” contains the story of Joseph, and so on in this new and fascinating setting we have brought before our minds once more the familiar stories of the many noble and inspiring deeds from the time of Samson to the days of Paul.
The book is handsomely bound and illustrated, the cover design being by George Wharton Edwards, and the illustrations half-tone plates from famous modern paintings and sculpture.
THE MYSTERY OF A BOOK. Many persons have read with interest Zangwill's “The Master.” who summered with me last season on the shores of Minas Basin, was reading the book. When about a third of it was read she deliberately said: “This book was written by Mr. Hutchinson” (a former missionary from Nova Scotia to India, and now residing in London). She had years ago read a book written by Mr. Hutchinson, published while he was in India. She declared the style and life quality of “ The Master” to be markedly kindred with that of Mr. Hutchinson's book. The description, too, of the life and physical features about the northern shores of Minas Basin and Cobequid Bay she declared could have been written only by one personally familiar with them. Some weeks later, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia said to me : “Zangwill's Master was never written by an Englishman, for the 'swearing out of jail,' referred to in the story, was under a law peculiar to Nova Scotia. I have recently learned on trustworthy authority that Mr. George Hutchinson, the artist, resident in London, and a brother of the one-time missionary, visited Cobequid Bay last
He had with him a copy of “The Master” inscribed : “To my dear friend, George Hutchinson, from I. Zangwill.” The illustrations of the book were supplied by him, and the work itself is supposed to be a history of George Hutchinson's own life. He left Nova Scotia when a lad, for London. But what about the first statement so deliberately made by the lady referred to above? Several psychological questions, in fact, suggest themselves.
T. H. R.
12 mo. cloth, illustrated, gilt top, 295 p.p. Price
*"Hero Tales from Sacred Story." by Louis Albert Banks, D.D. 31.50. New York, London and Toronto; Funk & Wagnalls Co.