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BOOK NOTICES., Issue 7910, 18 May 1889
Crmy, By Bret Harte. Macmillan and Co., London; JamesEorsburgb,George street, Dunedin.
It would be altogether supererogatory to say anything in praise of Bret Harte as a writer, There may be, and necessarily are, degrees of merit in his works, but they are merely comparative. In all there are incident artistically treated, thrilling situations, and unexpected denouements. But perhaps the chief charm of bis novels lies in his choosing for his subjects sketches of life and character altogether foreign to our experience. With Scotch and Irish characteristics and incidents we are pretty familiar. Although necessarily somewhat altered from the types chosen by Sir Walter Scott and Mrs Hall, there is, even in the present generation, sufficient similarity to recognise their delineations of national character. But the American of the Mexican border, born but of yesterday, as it were, is something new to the world. He is the mongrel product of wild life on the prairies, the gold diggings, and the Spanish ranches. Curiously mixed with these employments are the schools for juvenile education, based on present models; while border raids, founded upon family feuds after the fashion of the Sicilian vendetta, take the place of Courts of Justice, where conflicting land claims are concerned, Out of such a melange of, to some extent, diverse materials, Bret Harte has woven a deeply interesting story, involving the fortunes of Creasy, a beautiful, wild, wilful girl; yet capable of perfect selfcontrol, as well as of ardent passion. The dialect of the society amidst which she moves and has ber being is a strange patois, perfectly intelligible, but, nevertheless, semi-barbarous and in keeping with the dramatis persona of the story. It is one of love, jealousy, and stirring adventure, told in language well chosen to enchain the attention of the reader ; who, however, may chance, like Darwin, who hated tragedy, to feel disappointed with the end. Bret Harte often plays that trick with his heroes and heroines.
Bishop Selwyn, of New Zealand and Lichfield ; a Sketch M his Life and Work. By C. H. Curteis, M.A. Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co., London ; James Horsburgh, Dunedin.
The history of Christian missions, whether related in the ‘ Acts of the Apostles,’ the 1 Missionary Adventures of the Martyr of Erromanga,’ the ‘ Life of Dr Livingston, ’ the ‘ Life and Work of Bishop Selwyu,’ Bullet’s ‘ Forty Years in New Zealand,’ the ‘ Indian Missions,’ or the earlier efforts of zealous and devoted men among barbarous nations, is deeply interesting. Fiction has nothing like it. History, with the details of ambition, war, commerce, diplomacy, and rebellions, hardly deigns to notice efforts to Christianise nations, unless to record persecutions of men of whom the world was not worthy. But now, as in the days of the first missionaries, the first messengers of Christian truth to heathen nations may, like St. Paul, tell of “ jonrneyings often, perils of waters, perils by the heathen, perils in the wilderness, perils of the sea, weariness and painfulness, watches often, hunger, thirst, fastings, cold, nakedness, and in many cases the daily anxiety of care for infant churches.”
To succeed amid these difficulties the faith of the martyr, courage beyond that of the soldier, patience, forgiveness of injuries, calm self possession, highly cultivated intellect, and boundless love for mankind are needed. For though, in these modern times, some of the difficulties that the Apostles had to overcome have ceased to exist, no miraculous gifts are conferred to attest the divinity of their mission. Our modern messengers go as men to men, their only aids being the exhibition of superior knowledge and morals, and mastery over some of the powers of Nature. These seem to take the place of miracles in the untutored heathen mind. How they succeed is therefore an interesting study, to be learned only from the record of missionary doings. Especially interesting to us in New Zealand is the book before us, ‘The Life of Bishop Selwyn,’ by the Rev. G. H. Gurteis, M.A. The Bishop did not enter upon an entirely new field of labor, but in many respects it was almost more arduous. Many rude settlers and escapees from the convict colony of New South Wales had contrived to find their way to the islands; and whaling stations had been established, and frequent visits paid by British, American, and French whaling vessels forty or more years before the arrival of the Bishop; but the work of Cbristianisation of the Natives was rather retarded than forwarded through their influence. But with those roughs were Christian men, whose influence more than counterbalanced their evil example, as we learn from Mr Polack, who resided six years in New Zealand. He says “ that but for the missionaries the islands would have been wholly unsafe for commercial men. The missionaries, in the absence of regular government, are often required to exercise political and magisterial power.” Missionary work in New Zealand was not confined to Church of England efforts. Before Bishop Selwyn’s arrival other missionary societies Wesleyan, Congregational, and others—were already in the field. His work was that of organisation, and that he fulfilled his task with great ability and success is manifest in the state of the Episcopal Church of to-day. The Rev. J. Duller, a Wesleyan minister, in his * Forty Years in New Zealand,’ after sketches of the lives and works in New Zealand of the Revs. S. Marsden, S. Leigh, N. Turner, and J. H. Bumby, thus speaks of Bishop Selwyn: life in New Zealand turned up by the advent of Bishop Selwyn in 1842. . . . The new Bishop was a young man for the special work that was before him. He was about thirty-three years old. Of an athletic frame, a cultured mind, and apostolic zeal, he was well gifted for his position. He brought with him several clergymen and students, and took up his first abode at Waimate. He had with him a large and valuable library. For this he fitted up a room in a spacious stone building at the Kerikeri, that was ten miles from nis residence, over a rough, hilly pathway; but it was only a ‘ constitutional ’ before breakfast for the young bishop. He was a first-class pedestrian. Few could equal him in threading forests, scaling mountains, or swimming rivers. In his palmy days he did not care to ride, even where there was a road for a horse.”
Such was the man whose doings in the cause of Christianity in New Zealand Mr Cartels narrates. Many will remember his address in Dunedin some twenty or more years ago, when time had lightly laid her handsuponhim. Mr Cartels has written, in an easy, pleasant style, a most interesting memoir of nls life, which, in the estimation of those who know him, prematurely closed. He has gone, bat the work which he did was but seed cast into the earth, which has borne abundant fruit, destined to increase and flourish when in the remote future his work in Hew Zealand would hardly, but for these and like records, be associated with his namp.
Reuben Sachs. By Amy Levy, of London, Horaburgh and Go., Dunedin.
This is a story of family life in Mayfair, London, and is supposed to be typical of Hebraic culture of an advanced order in modern Babylon; bat we have our doubts whether the authoress is qualified to speak with authority. She may have a passing acquaintance with Belgravian drawingrooms, but it is hardly credible, to onr thinking, Hhsib the ftdvantageg of higher education, so largely used and so much appreciated by the well-to-do Jew of to-day, have only resulted in making their communities more clannish or in strengthening racial prejudices, as the authoress wishes her readers to believe. Apart from this blemish the story is well told. .Reuben Sachs Is the hope of a family, the heads of which are financiers and have prospered exceedingly on the Stock Exchange. They looked to him to follow the family traditions, bat his tastes lay in another direction. With a decided penchant for politics, he became a busy man in promoting social and philanthropic reforms in his quarter, and was ultimately marked for promotion to a wider sphere of usefulness. But his health gave way under the strain, and a lengthened visit'to the Antflodes' was ordered. He arrived Horte just i n time to be accepted as the Tory candidate for one of the London subdivisions, and was returned, but did not enjoy hie
legislative honors long, as heart disease carried him off immediately afterwards. His love affair was equally unfortunate. His heart went out to his beautiful but poor cousin, while his family had schemed to mate him with a girl with a heavy dower, but mentally bankrupt. He permitted his affection to be misunderstood, with the result that the object of it, yielding to the influence of the family, married a renegade Christian, who was intoxicated by her peerless beauty, and cared as little for her as he did for the religion he had adopted for convenience. The authoress’s style may be gauged by this sketch of some of the principal characters she pourtrays: —
Old Solomon Sachs was a short, sturdy man, with a flowing white beard, which add.d aiz i to a head already out of all proportion to the rest of him. The enormous face was both powerful and shrewd. There was power too in the coarse, square hands; iu the square, firmly planted feet. You saw at a glance that he was blest with that fitness of which survival is the Inevitable reward. He wore a skull cap, and at the present moment was pacing the room, performing what seemed to be an incantation in Hebrew balow bis breath. As a matter of fact, he was saying hia prayers—an occupation which helped him to get rid of a great deal of his time, which hung heavi y on his hands now that age had disabled him from active service on the Stock Exchange. . . . ‘‘Grandpapa saying his prayers " was an everyday phenomenon. . . . Montague Cohen, Ads aide Sactss husband, belonged to that rapidly dwindling section of the community which attaches importance to the observation of the Mosaic and Rabbinical laws in various minute points. He would hive starved himself sooner than eat meat killed according to Gentile fashion, or leavened bread iu the Fas lover week. . . . Ho was an auremic young man, destitute of the more brilliant qualities of his race, with a rooted belief in himself and everything that belonged to him. He was proud of his house, bis wife, and his children. He was proud (Heaven knows why) of his personal appearance, his mental qualities, and his sex ; this last to an even greater thau most men of his race, with whom pride of sex is a characteristic quality. " Blessed art Thou, 0 Lord ray God, who hast not mado me a woman.” No prayer goes up from the synagogue with greater fervor than this. This fact, notwithstanding, it must be acknowledged that, save in the one matter of religious observation, Montague Cohen was led by the nose by his wife, whose intelligence and vitality far exceeded his own, . . . The old man, who had finished his prayers and taken off his cap. gteeted the new ■ comer with something like emotion. Solomon Sachs, if leport be true, had been a bard man in his dealings with the world: never overstepping the line of legal honesty, but taking an advantage wherever he could do so with impunity. But to his own kindred he had always been generous; the ties of race, of family, were strong with him. His love for his children had been the romance of an eminently unromantic life.
The Riven Cloml. By William Ross, Dunedin. Horsburgh and Co., Dunedin. This is, we believe, the first effort of a, young aspirant for literary honors, and it is in many respects an honorable attempt. We prefer to let our renders follow the development of its plot, which is well designed and not inartistically worked out, there being just enough of sensationalism introduced to bring it within the “ shocker ” category. The Rev. R. Waddell, to whom the little work was submitted before being sent to the publisher, encourages the author quite paternally, and the public will haveno hesitation in accepting him as an authority. He went to tho perusal of it expecting to find crudities, but he rose “ quite pleased with it. . . - It_ is possible to find faults in this novel, but it is always pleasanter to praise where praise is due; and, to much in this book, praise, I think, is distinctly due. It is a book of promise. This and that may be incomplete, but it is the incompleteness of spring, and so alike for its promise and performance I am glad to give it my welcome word.”
BOOK NOTICES., Issue 7910, 18 May 1889
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