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BOOK NOTICE., Issue 7977, 5 August 1889
lie Who Dinged a Pit, and other stories. By William Freeman. Dunedin: J. Wilkie and Co.
We in the colonies have had our favorable consideration bespoken for so many literary failures that it is with a of genuine relief that we regard a work which earns our heartiest commendation upon the ground of its intrinsic merit alone, and which does not draw upon that reserve of clemency with which we are prone to receive—and perhaps rightly bo—the efforts of our young novelists. 'Ho Who Digged a Pit' gives evidence of the possession of no ordinary power on the part of its author, and the delineation of the character of i Count Le?.za is worthy of one of the masters. Li'&U is not individualised in the mechanical way with which wo are all familiar—namely, by grinding out catch-words and phrases like a barrel organ—nor by attributing to him an arbitrary set of mannerisms. This is a beggarly device from an artistic point of view. In Lezzi it is studiously avoided. The Count is an extraordinary character, with extraordinary powers ; but he is vital, recognisable, and, above all, human. The delineator of character must ever bo classed above the narrator of incident or the fabricator of plotf. We do not say this because our author is a New Zealander, nor because our esprit dt corps is enlisted on behalf of a book emanating from our own town ; but because wo feel that our colonial literature—embryonic as it is—cannot be too strictly conserved, and because we recognise and welcome in this effort of Mr Freeman a worthy addition to that literature, Considered} as a story, 'He Who Digged a Pit' is plainly and effectively told in good narrative English. There is a tragedy involved, but there is none of that artificial br.arre element; none of that atmosphere of blood, mud, and gunpowder which we so often find substituted for tragic power. The writer has the good sense to treat the public to a tale of powerful interest, which makes no attempt to inculcate an "ism" or .an " ology," and which, in the words of Wilkie Collins, appeals to men and women, for the perfectly obvious reason that it interests them about men and women. There are two other stories—' Okewai Brown' and ' Epuni Enrera' both racy of the soil ; the latter showing conbiderable acquaintance with Maori custom and tradition, and containing a fine description of the Maori war dance. The got up of the book is very creditable, and the print plain and legible. lkidah. By Augusta J. Evans Wilson, J. Braithwaite, Dunedin. A somewhat novel departure has been made in this American story, which the authoresß evidently intends to be didactic as well as amusing. The characters are mainly far beyond the ordinary type of humanity, and the incidents are so framed as to bring their peculiarities into strong relief. The heroino, Beulah, is introduced to the reader as an orphan, sheltered in an orphan asylum. With her are her sister, much younger than herself, und a boy and girl, companions. All of them appear to be passionately attached to Beulah, whom they seem to idolise as a superior being. These affectionate ties are rudely broken by the Ladies' Committee of tho asylum, who transfer the sister and the girl companion, both winningly beautiful children, to a wealthy family willing to adopt them, while Beulah, who is homely, is placed as a nursegirl, and the boy leaves for Europe for a medical education. We cannot follow Beulah through her varying fortunes. Naturally proud, she is subjected to many galling humiliations, which lead to a misanthropic state of mind ; and though, on the other hand, she meets with romantic kindness on the part of several noble-minded patrons, she sternly resolves to accept no favors beyond those conferred in her girlhood, but to achieve her own victory over adverse circumstances and the world. We cannot say that her conduct is what we think it should have been towards those who befriended her. Very upright and talented people contrive to school away from their minds those sympathetic emotions which tend to render them amiable as well as unflinchingly conscientious. The most rigid morality and the highest attainment?, untempered by human sympathies, tend to foster pride and contempt of others who happen to fall short of so high a standard. And this we may presume is the lesson that the authoress desires to inculcate. Gradually as the story proceeds different phases of character are pourtrayed; and though, throughoutthework a pessimist idea of men and things is prevalent, the interest is so kept up, and occasionally bo absorbing, that the reader becomes too anxious to know how this varied story is worked out to abandon the volume before finishing it. Although a handsome binding may be bestowed upon a book that is not worth it, a good story may become more valued because of it, and that which ornaments ' Beulah,' both in design and execution, is exceedingly elegant.
Amiel's Journal. Translated by Mrs Humphry Ward. An Author's Love. The unpublished letters of Prosper Merimec's 'LTnconnu.' Horsburgh, Dunedin. Thcso two volumes form parts of Macmillan's Colonial Library. Neither of them is new ; both are translations of the works of authors whoso names are not familiar to British readers. Both, however, may bo regarded as standard works, differing widely in object and character. Many extracts from ' Amiel's Journal' have at different times appeared in tho Star. He was a scholar whose reflections upon the state of society in Europe are well worth studying, although, perhaps, the chief attraction of his journal is the record ot his introspective meditations on his own emotions, his religious aspirations and shortcomings. Its translation appears to have been a labor of love with Mrs Humphry Ward, whose name alone is sufficient to guarantee the interesting character of the work. 'An Author's Love' is a very different production. It is a one-sided correspondence, consisting of a number of letters written in a lively style to some one whose replies c=m only be inferred from the rejoinders. This style of correspondence, in which the answer suggests the question without its being stated, reminds one of ' Punch's' whimsical ' Curtain Lectures' of Mrs Caudle—not that there is any approximation to the vulgarity of that voluble virago, as the style of' LTnconnu' is polished, easy, and descriptive of European Conti nental life of the period.
Peter Laing, the Elgin centenarian, now in his 105 th year, was among tho communicants at the South Free Church who on a recent Sunday sat down for the first time as members of the church. During his long term of life Peter has been a rough quarry carter, and has seldom or never entered a place of worship. At the eleventh hour, however, all this has been changed.
BOOK NOTICE., Issue 7977, 5 August 1889
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