Part 5 out of 5
but we see in these scholarly tastes and habits which do not seclude a
man from the duties of real life and useful citizenship the only
safeguard against the evils which the rapid heaping-up of wealth is
sure to bring with it.
We do not always agree with Mr. Norton in his estimate of the
comparative merit of different artists. We think he sometimes makes Mr.
Ruskin's mistake of attributing to positive religious sentiment what is
rather to be ascribed to the negative influence of circumstances and
date. We cannot help thinking that the mere arrangement of their
figures by such painters as Cima da Conegliano and Francesco Francia,
the architectural regularity of their disposition, the sculpturesque
dignity of their attitudes, and the consequent impression of
simplicity and repose which they convey, have much to do with the
religious effect they produce on the mind, as contrasted with the more
dramatic and picturesque conceptions of later artists. When we look at
John Bellino's "Gods come down to taste the Fruits of the Earth," we
cannot think him essentially a more religious man than his great pupil
who painted that truly divine countenance of Christ in "The
Tribute-Money." At the same time we go along with Mr. Norton heartily,
where, in the concluding pages of his book, with equal learning and
eloquence, he points out the causes and traces the progress of the
moral and artistic decline which came over Italy in the sixteenth
century, and whose effect made the seventeenth almost a desert. This is
one of the most striking passages in the volume, and the lesson of it
is brought home to us with a force and fervor worthy of the theme. It
also affords a good type of the quiet vigor of thought and the high
moral purpose which are characteristic of the author.
1. _An American Dictionary of the English Language,_ etc., etc. By
NOAH WEBSTER, LL. D. Revised and enlarged by CHAUNCEY A. GOODRICH,
Professor in Yale College. Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam. 1859.
pp. ccxxxvi., 1512.
2. _A Dictionary of the English Language._ By JOSEPH E. WORCESTER, LL.
D. Boston: Hickling, Swan, & Brewer. 1860. pp. lxviii,, 1786.
Since the famous Battle of the Books in St. James's Library, no
literary controversy has been more sharply waged than that between the
adherents of the rival Dictionaries of Doctors Worcester and Webster.
The attack was begun thirty years ago, by Dr. Webster's publishers,
when Dr. Worcester's "Comprehensive Dictionary" first appeared in
print. On the publication of his "Universal and Critical Dictionary,"
in 1846, it was renewed, and, not to speak of occasional skirmishes
during the interval, the appearance of Dr. Worcester's enlarged and
finished work brought matters to the crisis of a pitched battle.
From this long conflict Dr. Worcester has unquestionably come off
victorious. Dr. Webster seemed to assume that he had a kind of monopoly
in the English language, and that whoever ventured to compile a
dictionary was guilty of infringing his patent-right. He drew up a list
of words, and triumphantly asked Dr. Worcester where he had found them,
unless in his two quartos of 1828. Dr. Worcester replied by showing
that most of the words were to be found in previous English
dictionaries, and added, with sly humor, that he freely acknowledged
Dr. Webster's exclusive property in the word "bridegoom," and others
like it, which would be sought for vainly in any volumes but his own.
Dr. Webster's attack was as unfair as the result of it was unfortunate
We have several reasons, which seem to us sufficient, for preferring
Dr. Worcester's Dictionary; but we are not, on that account, disposed
to underrate the remarkable merits of its rival. Dr. Webster was a man
of vigorous mind, and endowed with a genuine faculty of independent
thinking. He has hardly received justice at the hands of his
countrymen, a large portion of whom have too hastily taken a few
obstinate whimsies as the measure of his powers. Utterly fanciful as
are many of his etymologies, we should be false to our duty as critics,
if we did not acknowledge that Dr. Webster possessed in very large
measure the chief qualities which go to the making of a great
philologist. The very tendency to theorize, which led him to adopt
those oddities of spelling by which he may be said to be chiefly known,
united as it was to an understanding of uncommon breadth and clearness,
would under more favorable auspices have given him a very eminent place
among the philosophic students of language. His great mistake was in
attempting to force his peculiar notions upon the world in his
Dictionary, instead of confining them to his Preface, or putting them
forward tentatively in a separate treatise. The importance which he
attached to these trifles ought to have given him a hint that others
might be as obstinate on the other side, and that the prejudices of
taste have much tougher roots than those of opinion. We are inclined to
think that many of the changes proposed by Dr. Webster will be adopted
in the course of time. But it is a matter of little consequence, and
the progress of such reforms is slow. Already two hundred years ago,
James Howel (the author of Charles Lamb's favorite "Epistolae
Ho-Elianae") advocated similar reforms, and, as far as the printers
would let him, carried them out in practice. "The printer hath not bin
so careful as he should have bin," he complains. He especially condemns
the superfluous letters in many of our words, choosing to write _don_,
_com_, and _som_, rather than _done_, _come_, and _some_. "Moreover,"
he says, "those words that have the Latin for their original, the
author prefers that orthography rather than the French, whereby divers
letters are spar'd: as _Physic, Logic, Afric_, not _Physique, Logique,
Afrique; favor, honor, labor_, not _favour, honour, labour_, and very
many more; as also he omits the Dutch _k_ in most words; here you shall
read _peeple_, not _pe-ople_, _tresure_, not _tre-asure_, _toung_, not
_ton-gue_, &c.; _Parlement_, not _Parliament_; _busines, witnes,
sicknes_, not _businesse, witnesse, sicknesse_; _star, war, far_, not
_starre, warre, farre_; and multitudes of such words, wherein the two
last letters may well be spar'd. Here you shall also read _pity, piety,
witty_, not _piti-e, pieti-e, witti-e_, as strangers at first sight
pronounce them, and abundance of such like words."
Howel gives a weak reason for making the changes he proposes, namely,
that the language will thereby be simplified to foreigners. He hints at
the true one when he says that "we do not speak as we write." Dr.
Webster also, speaking of certain words ending in _our_, says, "What
motive could induce them to write these words, and _errour, honour,
favour, inferiour_, &c., in this manner, following neither the Latin
nor the French, I cannot conceive." Had Dr. Webster's knowledge of the
written English language been as great as it undoubtedly was of its
linguistic relations, he would have seen that the _spelling_ followed
the _accent_. The third verse of the Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales"
would have satisfied him:--
"And bathed every root in such licour";
and a little farther on,--
"Or swinken with his houdes and laboure."
In this respect the spelling of our older writers, where it can be
depended on, and especially of reformers like Howel, is of value, as
throwing some light on the question, how long the Norman pronunciation
lingered in England. Warner, for instance, in his "Albion's England,"
spells _creator_ and _creature_ as they are spelt now, but gives the
French accent to both; and we are inclined to think that the charge of
speaking "right Chaucer," brought against the courtiers of Queen
Elizabeth, referred rather to accent than diction.
The very title of Dr. Webster's Dictionary indicates a radical
misapprehension as to the nature and office of such a work. He calls
the result of his labors an "_American_ Dictionary of the English
Language," as if provincialism were a merit. He evidently thought that
the business of a lexicographer was to _regulate_, not to _record_.
Sometimes also his zeal as an etymologist misled him, as in his famous
attempt to make the word _bridegroom_ more conformable to its supposed
Anglo-Saxon root and its modern Teutonic congeners. It never occurred
to him that we were still as far as ever from the goal, and that it
would be quite as inconvenient to explain that the termination _goom_
was a derivation from the Anglo-Saxon _guma_ as that it was a
corruption of it; the point to be gained being, after all, that we
should be able to find out the meaning of the English word
_bridegroom_, having no pressing need of _guma_ for conversational
purposes. We have spoken of this word only because we have heard it
brought up against Dr. Webster as often as anything else, and because
the disproportionate antipathy produced by this and a few similar
oddities shows, that, the primary object of all writing being the clear
conveyance of meaning, and not only so, but its conveyance in the most
winning way, a writer blunders who wilfully estranges the reader's eye
or jars upon its habitual associations, and that a lexicographer
blunders still more desperately, who, upon system, teaches to offend in
that kind. And it is amusing in respect to this very word _bridegoom_,
that the whimsey is not Dr. Webster's own, but that the bee was put
into his bonnet by Horne Tooke.
Webster in these matters was a bit of a Hotspur. He thought to deal
with language as the vehement Percy would have done with the Trent. The
smug and silver stream was to be allowed no more wilful windings, but
"In a new channel fair and evenly."
He found an equally hot-headed Glendower, wherever there was an
educated man, ready with the answer,--
"Not wind? it shall; it must; you see it
"You see _it doth_" is an argument whose force no theorist ever takes
into his reckoning.
We said that the title "American Dictionary of the English Language"
was an absurdity. Fancy a "Cuban Dictionary of the Spanish Language."
It would be of value only to the comparative philologist, curious in
the changes of meaning, pronunciation, and the like, which
circumstances are always bringing about in languages subjected to new
conditions of life and climate. But we must not forget to say
that the title chosen by Dr. Webster conveyed also a meaning
creditable to his spirit and judgment. He always stoutly maintained the
right of English as spoken in America to all the privileges of a living
language. In opposition to the purists who would have clasped the
language forever within the covers of Johnson, he insisted on the
necessity of coining new words or adapting old ones to express new
things and new relations. It is many years since we read his "Remarks"
(if that was the title) on Pickering's "Vocabulary," and in answer to
the rather supercilious criticisms on himself in the "Anthology"; but
the impression left on our mind by that pamphlet is one of great
respect for the good sense, acuteness, and courage of its author. And
of his Dictionary it may safely be said, that, with all its mistakes,
no work of the kind had then appeared so learned and so comprehensive.
It may be doubted if any living language possessed at that time a
dictionary, or one, at least, the work of a single man, in all respects
But etymologies are not the most important part of a good working
dictionary, the intention of which is not to inform readers and writers
what a word may have meant before the Dispersion, but what it means
now. The pedigree of an adjective or substantive is of little
consequence to ninety-nine men in a hundred, and the writers who have
wielded our mother-tongue with the greatest mastery have been men who
knew what words had most meaning to their neighbors and acquaintances,
and did not stay their pens to ask what ideas the radicals of those
words may possibly have conveyed to the mind of a bricklayer going up
from Padanaram to seek work on the Tower of Babel. A thoroughly good
etymological dictionary of English is yet to seek; and even if we
should ever get one, it will be for students, and not for the laity.
Nor is it the primary object of a common dictionary to trace the
history of the language. Of great interest and importance to scholars,
it is of comparatively little to Smith and Brown and their children at
the public school. It is a work apart, which we hope to see
accomplished by the London Philological Society in a manner worthy of
comparison with what has been partly done for German by the brothers
Grimm,--alas that the illustrious duality should have been broken by
death! A lexicon of that kind should be an index to all the more
eminent books in the language; but we do not hold this to be the office
of a dictionary for daily reference. A dictionary that should embrace
every unusual word, every new compound, every metaphorical turn of
meaning, to be found in our great writers, would be a compendium of the
genius of our authors rather than of our language; and a lexicographer
who rakes the books of second and third-rate men for out-of-the-way
phrases is doing us no favor. A dictionary is not a drag-net to bring
up for us the broken pots and dead kittens, the sewerage of speech, as
well as its living fishes. Nor do we think it a fair test of such a
work, that one should seek in it for every odd word that may have
tickled his fancy in a favorite author. Like most middle-aged readers,
we have our specially private volumes. One of these--but we will not
betray the secret of our loves--contains some rare words, such as the
Gallicism _mistresse-piece_, and the delightful hybrid _pundonnore_ for
trifling points-of-honor; yet we by no means complain that we can find
neither of them in Worcester, and only the former (with a ludicrously
mistaken definition) in Webster.
A conclusive reason with us for preferring Dr. Worcester's Dictionary
is, that its author has properly understood his functions, and has
aimed to give us a true view of English as it is, and not as he himself
may have wished it should be or thought it ought to he. Its etymologies
are sufficient for the ordinary reader,--sometimes superfluously full,
as where the same word is given over and over again in cognate
languages. We do not see the use, under the word PLAIN, of taking up
room with a list like the following: "L. _planus;_ It. _piano;_ Sp.
_piano;_ Fr. _plain._" Not content with this, Dr. Worcester gives it
once more under PLAN: "L. _planus_, flat; It. _piano_, a plan; Sp.
_piano;_ Fr. _plan._--Dut., Ger., Dan., and Sw. _plan._" Even yet we
have not done with it, for under PLANE we find "L. _planus;_ It.
_piano;_ Sp._plano_, Fr. _plan._" One would think this rather a Polyglot
Lexicon than an English Dictionary. It seems to us that no Romanic
derivative of the Latin root should he given, unless to show that the
word has come into English by that channel. And so of the Teutonic
languages. If we have Danish, Swedish, German, and Dutch, why not
Scotch, Icelandic, Frisic, Swiss, and every other conceivable dialectic
Another fault of superfluousness we find in the number of compounded
words, where the meaning is obvious,--such, for instance, as are formed
with the adverb out, which the genius of the language permits without
limit in the case of verbs. Dr. Worcester gives us, among many
"OUT-BABBLE, _v. a._ To surpass in Idle prattle; to exceed in babbling.
"OUT-BELLOW, _v. a._ To bellow more or louder than; to exceed or
surpass in bellowing. _Bp. Hall._"
"OUT-BLEAT, _v. a._ To bleat more than; to exceed in bleating. _Bp.
"OUT-BRAG, _v. a._ To surpass in bragging. _Shak._"
"OUT-BRIBE, _v, a._ To exceed in bribing. _Blair._"
"OUT-BURN, _v. a._ To exceed in burning. _Young._" [The definition here
is hardly complete; since the word means also to burn longer than.]
"OUT-CANT, _v. a._ To surpass in canting. _Pope._"
"OUT-CHEAT, _v. a._ To surpass in cheating."
"OUT-CURSE, _v. a._ To surpass in cursing."
"OUT-DRINK, _v. a._ To exceed in drinking. _Donne._"
"OUT-FAWN, _v. a._ To excel in fawning. _Hudibras._"
"OUT-FEAT, _v. a._ To surpass in feats. _Smart._"
"OUT-FLASH, _v. a._ To surpass in flashing. _Clarke._"
Similar words occur at frequent intervals through nine columns. Dr.
Webster is equally relentless, (even roping in a few estrays in his
Appendix,) and we hardly know which has out-worded the other. We were
surprised to find in neither the useful and legitimate substantive form
of _outgo_, as the opposite of _income_. This superfluousness (unless
we apply Voltaire's saying, "_Le superflu, chose bien necessaire_" to
dictionaries also) is the result, we suppose, of the rivalry of
publishers, who have done their best to persuade the public that
numerosity is the chief excellence in works of this kind, and that
whoever buys their particular quarto may be sure of an honest
pennyworth and of owning a thousand or two more words than his less
judicious neighbors. In this way a false standard is manufactured, to
which the lexicographer must conform, if he would have a remunerative
sale for his book. He accordingly explores every lane and _impasse_ in
the purlieus of Grub Street, and pounces on a new word as a naturalist
would on a new bug,--the stranger and uglier, the better. We regret
that this kind of rivalry has been forced on Dr. Worcester; but he is
so thorough, patient, and conscientious, that he leaves little behind
him for the gleaner. We confess that the amplitude of his research has
surprised us, highly as we were prepared to rate him in this respect
by our familiarity with his former works. We have subjected his Dictionary
to a pretty severe test. From the time of its publication we have made
a point of seeking in it every unusual word, old or new, that we met with
in our reading. We have been disappointed in hardly a single instance, and
we are not acquainted with any other dictionary of which we could say as
An attempt has been made to damage Dr. Worcester's work by a partial
comparison of his definitions with those of Dr. Webster; and here,
again, the assumption has been, that _number_ was of more importance
than concise completeness. In the case of a quarto dictionary, we
suppose an honest reviewer may confess that he has not read through the
subject of his criticism. We have opened Dr. Webster's volume at
random, and have found some of his definitions as extraordinarily
inaccurate as many of his etymologies. They quite justify a
_double-entendre_ of Daniel Webster's, which we heard him utter many
years ago in court. He had forced such a meaning upon some word in a
paper connected with the case on trial, that the opposing counsel
interrupted him to ask in what dictionary he found the word so defined.
He silenced his questioner instantly with a happy play upon the name
common to himself and the lexicographer: "In _Webster's_ Dictionary,
Sir!" We find in Webster, for example, the following definition of a
word as to whose meaning he could have been set right by any
coasting-skipper that sailed out of New Haven:--
"AMID-SHIPS; _in marine language_, the middle of a ship with regard to
her length and breadth." Now, when one ship runs into another at sea
and strikes her _amid-ships_, how is she to contrive to accomplish it
so as to satisfy the requirements of this definition? Or if a sailor is
said to be standing amidships, must he be planted precisely in what he
would probably agree with Dr. Webster in spelling the _center_ of the
main-hatch? Dr. Worcester, quoting Falconer, is of course right.
We give another of Dr. Webster's definitions, which caught our eye in
looking over his array of words compounded with _out_. "OUTWARD-BOUND;
proceeding from a port or country." Now Dr. Webster does not tell his
readers that the term is exclusively applicable to vessels; and we
should like to know whence a vessel is likely to proceed, unless from a
port,--and where ports are commonly situated, unless in countries? If
an American ship be "proceeding from" the port of Liverpool to some
port in the United States, how soon does she enter on what
lexicographers call "the state of being" homeward-bound? The narrow
limits to which Dr. Webster confines the word would not extend beyond
the jaws of the harbor from which the ship is sailing. Dr. Worcester's
definition is, "OUTWARD-BOUND. (_Naut_.) Bound outward or to foreign
Under the word MORESQUE we find in Webster the following definition: "A
species of painting or carving done after the Moorish manner,
consisting of _grotesque_ pieces and compartments _promiscuously
interspersed_; arabesque. _Gwilt_." (The Italics are our own.) We have
not Mr. Gwilt's Encyclopaedia at hand; but if this be a fair
representation of one of its definitions, it is a very untrustworthy
authority. The last term to be applied to arabesque-work is
_grotesque_, or _promiscuously interspersed_; and the description here
given leaves out the most beautiful kind of arabesque, namely, the
inlaid work of geometrical figures in colored marbles, in which the
Arabs far surpassed the older _opus Alexandrinum_. Nothing could be
less grotesque, less promiscuously interspersed, or more beautiful in
its harmonious variety, than the work of this kind in the famous
_Capella Reale_ at Palermo.
Dr. Webster defines NIGHT-PIECE as "a piece of painting so colored as
to be supposed seen by candle-light,"--a description which we suspect
would have somewhat puzzled Gherardo della Notte.
We might give other instances, had we time and space; but our object is
not to depreciate Webster, but only to show that the claim set up for
him of superior exactness in definition is altogether gratuitous. We
have found no inaccuracies comparable with these in Dr. Worcester's
Dictionary, which we tried in precisely the same way, by opening it
here and there at random. Moreover, looking at his work, not
absolutely, but in comparison with Dr. Webster's, (as we are challenged
to do,) we cannot leave out of view that the former is a first edition,
while the latter has had the advantage of repeated revisions.
Under the word MAGDALEN, we find Webster superior to Worcester. Under
ULAN, we find them both wrong. Dr. Worcester says it means "a species
of militia among the modern Tartars"; and Dr. Webster, "a certain
description of militia among the modern Tartars." In any Polish
dictionary they would have found the word defined as meaning "lancer,"
and the Uhlans in the Austrian army can hardly be described as modern
Tartar militia. Both Dictionaries give SLAW, and neither explains it
rightly. The word does not properly belong in an English dictionary,
unless as an American provincialism of very narrow range. As such, it
will be found, properly defined, in Mr. Bartlett's excellent
Vocabulary. Lexicographers who so often cite the Dutch equivalents of
English words should own Dutch dictionaries. Under IMAGINATION, a good
kind of test-word, we find Worcester much superior to Webster,
especially in illustrative citations.
We have been astonished by some instances of slovenly writing to be
found here and there in Dr. Webster's Dictionary, because he was
capable of writing pure and vigorous English. Under MAGAZINE (and by
the way, Dr. Webster's definition omits altogether the metaphorical
sense of the word) we read that "The first publication of this bind in
England was the _Gentleman's Magazine_, which first appeared in 1731,
under the name of _Sylvanus Urban_, by Edward Cave, and which is still
continued." A reader who knew nothing about the facts would be puzzled
to say what the name of the new periodical really was, whether
_Gentleman's Magazine_ or _Sylvanus Urban_; and a reader who knew
little about English would be led to think that "appeared by" was
equivalent to "was commenced by," unless, indeed, he came to the
conclusion that its apparition took place in the neighborhood of some
cavern known by the name of Edward.
We have only a word to say as to the _illustrations_, as they are
called, a mistaken profuseness in which disfigures both Dictionaries,
another evil result of bookselling competition. The greater part of
them, especially those in Webster, are fitter for a child's scrap-book
than for a volume intended to go into a student's library. Such
adjuncts seem to us allowable only, if at all, somewhat as they were
introduced by Blunt in his "Glossographia," to make terms of heraldry
more easily comprehensible. They might be admitted to save trouble in
describing geometrical figures, or in explaining certain of the more
frequently occurring terms in architecture and mechanics, but beyond
this they are childish. The publishers of Webster give us all the
coats-of-arms of the States of the American Union, among other equally
impertinent woodcuts. We enter a protest against the whole thing, as an
equally unfair imputation on the taste and the standard of judgment of
intelligent Americans. If we must have illustrations, let them be strictly
so, and not primer-pictures. Both Dictionaries give us the figure of a
crossbow, for instance, as if there could be anywhere a boy of ten years
old who did not know the implement, at least under its other name of
_bow-gun_. Neither cut would give the slightest notion of the thing as
a weapon, nor of the mode in which it was wound up and let off. Dr.
Worcester says that it was intended "for shooting _arrows_," which is not
strictly correct, since the proper name of the missile it discharged
was _bolt_,--something very unlike the shaft used by ordinary bowmen.
We believe Dr. Worcester's Dictionary to be the most complete and
accurate of any hitherto published. He intrudes no theories of his own
as to pronunciation or orthography, but cites the opinions of the best
authorities, and briefly adds his own where there is occasion. He is no
bigot for the present spelling of certain classes of words, but gives
them, as he should do, in the way they are written by educated men, at
the same time expressing his belief that the drift of the language is
toward a change, wherever he thinks such to be the case. We reprobate,
in the name of literary decency, the methods which have been employed
to give an unfair impression of his work, as if it had been compiled
merely to supplant Webster, and as if the whole matter were a question
of blind partisanship and prejudice. The assigning of such motives as
these, even by implication, to such men, among many others, as Mr.
Marsh and Mr. Bryant, both of whom have expressed themselves in favor
of the new Dictionary, is an insult to American letters. Mr. Marsh, by
the extent of his learning, is probably better qualified than any other
man in America to pronounce judgment in such a case; and Mr. Bryant has
not left it doubtful that he knows what pure and vigorous English is,
whether in verse or prose, or that he could not employ it except to
maintain a well-grounded conviction.
Apart from more general considerations, there are several reasons which
would induce us to prefer Dr. Worcester's Dictionary. It has the great
advantage, not only that it is constructed on sounder principles, as it
seems to us, but that it is the latest. Stereotyping is an unfortunate
invention, when it tends to perpetuate error or incompleteness, and
already the Appendix of added words in Webster amounts to eighty pages.
For all the words it contains, accordingly, the reader is put to double
pains: he must first search the main body of the work, and then the
supplement. Again, in Worcester, the synonymes are given, each under
its proper head, in the main work; in Webster they form a separate
treatise. One other advantage of Worcester would be conclusive with us,
even were other things equal,--and that is the size of the type, and
the greater clearness of the page, owing to the freshness of the
We know the inadequacy of such hand-to-mouth criticism as that of a
monthly reviewer must be upon works demanding so minute an examination
as a dictionary deserves. For ourselves, we should wish to own both
Webster and Worcester, but, if we could possess only one, we should
choose the latter. It is a monument to the industry, judgment, and
accuracy of the author, of which he may well be proud.
_Elements of Mechanics, for the Use of Colleges, Academies, and High
Schools._ By WILLIAM G. PECK, Professor of Mathematics, Columbia
College. New York: A.S. Barnes & Burr. 1859.
Text-books on Mechanics are of three sorts. Many teachers,
school-committees, and parents wish to add a taste of Mechanics to the
smatterings of twenty or thirty different subjects which constitute
"liberal education," as understood in American high schools and
colleges. For this purpose it is of the first importance that the
text-book should be brief, for the time to be devoted to it is very
short; secondly, it must divest the subject of every perplexity and
difficulty, that it may be readily understood by all young persons,
though of small capacity and less application. Such a text-book can
contain nothing beyond the statement, without proof, of the more
important principles, illustrated by familiar examples, and simple
explanations of the commonest phenomena of motion, and of the machines
and mechanical forces used in the arts. To a few it seems that more
light comes into a room through two or three broad windows, though they
be all on one side, than through fifty bull's-eyes, scattered on every
wall. But the many prefer bull's-eyes,--fifty narrow, distorted
glimpses in as many directions, rather than a broad, clear view of the
heavens and the earth in one direction. Hence superficial, scanty
text-books on science are the only ones which are popular and salable.
The thorough study of Mechanics is, or should be, an essential part of
the training of an architect, an engineer, or a machinist; and there
are several text-books, like Weisbach's Mechanics and Engineering,
intended for students preparing for any of these professions, which are
complete mathematical treatises upon the subject. Such text-books are
invaluable; they become standard works, and win for their authors a
Professor Peck's book belongs to neither of the two classes of
text-books indicated, but to a class intermediate between the two. It
is at once too good, too difficult a book for general, popular use, and
too incomplete for the purposes of the professional student. As it
assumes that the student is already acquainted with the elements of
Algebra, Trigonometry, Analytic Geometry, and the Calculus, the
successful use of this text-book in the general classes of any academy
or college will be good evidence that the Mathematics are there taught
more thoroughly than is usual in this country. In few American colleges
is the study of the Calculus required of all students. In preparing a
scientific text-book of this sort, originality is neither aimed at nor
required. A judicious selection of materials, correct translation from
the excellent French and German hand-books, with such changes in the
notation as will better adapt it for American use, and a clear, logical
arrangement are the chief merits of such a treatise; and these are
merits which seldom gain much praise, though their absence would expose
the author to censure. The definitions of Professor Peck's book are
exact and concise, every proposition is rigidly demonstrated, and the
illustrations and descriptions are brief, pointed, and intelligible.
Professor Peck says in the Preface, that the book was prepared "to
supply a want felt by the author when engaged in teaching Natural
Philosophy to college classes"; but surely a teacher who prepares a
text-book for his own classes must need a double share of patience and
zeal. Every error which the book contains will be exposed, and the
author will have ample opportunity to repent of all the inaccuracies
which may have crept into his work. Again, the instructor who uses his
own text-book encounters, besides the inevitable monotony of teaching
the same subject year after year, the additional weariness of finding
in the pages of his text-book no mind but his own, which he has read so
often and with so little satisfaction. Even in teaching Mechanics,
there is no exception to the general rule, that two heads are better
* * * * *
_Stories from Famous Ballads_. For Children. By GRACE GREENWOOD, Author
of "History of my Pets," "Merrie England," etc., etc. With
Illustrations by BILLINGS. Boston: Ticknor & Fields.
All "famous ballads" are so close to Nature in their conceptions,
emotions, incidents, and expressions, that it seems hardly possible to
change their form without losing their soul. The present little volume
proves that they may be turned into prose stories for children, and yet
preserve much of the vitality of their sentiment and the interest of
their narrative. Grace Greenwood, well known for her previous successes
in writing works for the young, has contrived in this, her most
difficult task, to combine simplicity with energy and richness of
diction, and to present the events and characters of the Ballads in the
form best calculated to fill the youthful imagination and kindle the
youthful love of action and adventure. Among the subjects are Patient
Griselda, The King of France's Daughter, Chevy Chase, The Beggar's
Daughter of Bednall Green, Sir Patrick Spens, and Auld Robin Gray. Much
of the author's success in giving prose versions of these, without
making them prosaic, is due to the intense admiration she evidently
feels for the originals. Among American children's books, this volume
deserves a high place.
* * * * *
_Mary Staunton; or the Pupils of Marvel Hall_. By the Author of
"Portraits of, my Married Friends." New York: D. Appleton & Co.
This story has a practical aim, the exposure of the faults of
fashionable boarding-schools. "A good plot, and full of expectation,"
as Hotspur said; but the author had not the ability to execute the
design. The satire and denunciation are both weak, and are not relieved
by the introduction of a very silly and threadbare love-story.
* * * * *
_Poems_. By the Author of "John Halifax," "A Life for a Life," etc.
Boston: Ticknor & Fields.
Some of the verses in this little volume are quite pretty, especially
those entitled, "By the Alma River," "The Night before the Mowing," "My
Christian Name," and "My Love Annie." Miss Muloch is not able to take
any high rank as a poetess, and very sensibly does not try.
* * * * *
_Title-Hunting_. By E. L. LLEWELLYN, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott &
This is a miraculously foolish book. Titled villains, impossible
parvenus, abductions, and convents abound in its pages, and all are as
stupid as they are improbable.
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