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"Unpublished Reviews" from Bookman

by Ellis Parker Butler
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  • Bookman (January, 1911)   "Unpublished Reviews"   Humor. Tongue-in-cheek reviews of books by Julius Caesar, Marco Polo, Baron von Munchhausen and the Greek poet Homer. p 544-45.  [RGTPL]

from Bookman
Unpublished Reviews
by Ellis Parker Butler

Hunting the Pict in Britain. By Julius Caesar. Curtius, Dollabella and Company, Rome.

This book, written by our great faunal naturalist and exponent of the strenuous life, whose hunting trip into Britain aroused such great interest, is sure to meet with an immense sale among those who love stories of adventure or who are interested in sport, science, literature or art. It should become a pocket compendium for all those hunters who hereafter attempt the hunting of the Pict. Mr. Caesar -- who is affectionately known in Rome as "Our Jule" -- undertook this hunting trip fully equipped, and was accompanied by a staff of trained hunters. He tells his adventures in his usual modest manner. Perhaps the most interesting chapter is that in which he kills his first Pict, the skin of which, by the way, he afterward forwarded to the Remusian Institution, where it is now on view. The volume is illustrated with excellent views of live and dead Picts and other game, as well as numerous likenesses of Mr. Caesar in his hunting costumes. In addition to killing great numbers of most ferocious Picts Mr. Caesar was lucky enough to bag several good specimens of Scots, among which was an excellent specimen of the very rare bald-headed Paterfamilias Scotus.

Farthest East. By Marco Polo, F.R.G.S. Nicolo and Maffeo, Venice.

If this work had been put forth frankly as a romance it might have found numerous readers, for it must be considered a work of great imagination. It is, briefly, a tale of adventure told in the first person by Mr. Polo, in which he takes an utterly impossible journey by way of imaginary countries -- Sivas, Mosul, Bagdad, and Hormuz -- through Khorassan, to Lob Nor, and a city such as could not exist anywhere in the world: Shantung. It is enough to say that the adventures exceed the limit of possibility. As a work of fiction we might have had more to say of this tale, but being told as a fact we can only condemn it.

A Jump To the Moon. By Baron Karl Hieronymous Friedrich von Munchhausen. Raspe, Gluckstein and Company, Berlin.

At length we have a satisfactory study of lunar conditions and life such as students have been awaiting these many years. Baron Munchhausen, who has already established a reputation for careful attention to details in his Travels and Adventures in Russia (Wagner and Blotz, Dusseldorf), gives us in his new volume a scientific study of the Moon and her peoples, the whole written in a reserved tone. In fact, the only adverse criticism possible is that a man of greater imagination might have made the work somewhat more interesting. The Baron's well-known propensity for sticking close to the actual makes the work a little dry in some places, particularly in the chapter where he describes the finding of the resilient clay in South Prussia which, when leaped upon, continues to cast the leaper higher at each rebound, until, as the Baron says: "had I not, at this leap, landed full upon the Moon, my next leap would have sent me hurtling into the Sun, where I might have perished in the flames." We know this book will be eagerly read by all interested in geographical science, but we also recommend it to the attention of managers of Sunday School Libraries. The moral conveyed in the chapter dealing with the Baron's return to earth cannot fail to find a resting place in the infant mind: "The thought of jumping off the moon at first appalled me, for while I knew beyond doubt that I could so aim myself as to hit the earth, I could not, at such a distance, even with my marvelous eyesight, make out one part of the earth from another, and there was not only the danger of alighting in some vast desert, but of alighting atop of a pointed weathercock or in the ocean. However, I considered that a man that had so valiantly battled for the truth on all occasions would be cared for by Providence, and I leaped. I was right. Not only did I alight in my own beloved land, but full in the mouth of the great chimney of my baronial hall, and so squarely that I descended the chimney without touching either side or soiling my garments."

Later Poems. By H. H. Homer. Aristides, Hippias and Herodotus, Athens.

It is with regret we take up this volume for review, since truth compels us to call attention to its many faults. More than once we have mentioned Mr. Homer as one of the most promising of our minor poets, and his Illiad and Odyssey (Aristides, Hippias and Herodotus, Athens) gave evidence of some spark of the divine fire, although we have always contended that they were too lengthy. Still, we said frankly that we believed the two poems would be read for several years, and that parts of them might be familiar to our people for a decade or so, since portions have been included in Choice Recitations for the School.

In the new volume Mr. Homer leaves the field of Aeolic and Ionic legend in which he did fairly well as a versifier of narrative tales, and takes his stand -- or fails to take it -- among the real poets. It is one thing to write a long drawn out narrative in verse, and quite another to throw off one of those blazing pearls such as a real poem should be. We fear Mr. Homer has missed the idea entirely.

Take for instance his "Rhapsody on the Outer Garb and Religious Relationships of a Young Male of Chios";

There was a young fellow of Chios
Whose peplum was cut on the bias:
It was made of goatskin
With the woolly side in,
But his mother's third husband was pious.

No doubt there is a whole story in this poem, but in our opinion it leaves too much to the imagination of the reader. If this is an argumentative poem, it, in our opinion, is a failure, for the last line seems to us to beg the question. If, on the other hand, it aims to tell the old legend of the ancient king of Chios (the name escapes us at the moment and our History of Chios is upstairs in the cedar chest) who for infidelity to the gods fell into such poverty that his children pawned their garments and went in goat skins, Mr. Homer makes undue use of his license, for the family fortunes were not restored by the third husband, but by the second, who worshipped Apollo properly. To take a noble old legend, introduce a third husband that did not exist, and cast an aspersion on a second husband by suggesting that he was not pious, when he was, is exceeding the limits of poetic propriety.

Of these "Later" poems of Mr. Homer we must speak in all frankness, and we do so when we say that in this case, at least, it is not better "late" than never. If Mr. Homer's friends have urged him to rush into print with this book we think, by this time, they Odyssey that he was Iliadvised.



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