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Notices of Recent Publications.
A History of Music in Nero England. With Biographical
Sketches of Reformers and Psalmists. By George Hood.
Boston: Wilkins, Carter & Co. 1846. 16mo. pp. 250. Memoirs of a New England Village Choir. With Occasional
Reflections. By a MEMBER. Third edition. Boston: B. H. Greene. 1846. 18mo. pp. 152. The Messiah ; an Oratorio, composed in the year 1741. By George FredeRICK HANDEL. Boston: Wilkins, Carter & Co. 1846. Fol. pp. 188.
The first of these volumes contains a history of old psalmody in New England, rather than of music. Indeed the author says, the “ history of music in New England, for the first two centuries, is the history of psalmody alone.” The title of the work leads the reader to expect too much, and most persons probably will lay down the book with a feeling of disappointment. It can make no claim to artistic excellence; it contains, nevertheless, much curious matter — many choice gleanings from dusty records, for which the author will receive the thanks of those who take an interest in the religious history of New England. Rude indeed was the old singing from Ainsworth's Version and the Bay Psalm Book, which were used through the greater part of the first century, and in many churches to a later period. What would our modern congregations say to singing " at one standing" a Psalm of 130 lines, occupying sometimes half an hour? Some scrupled to sing anything but David's Psalms, while some objected to singing them at all in these days of the New Testament,” thinking it ought to be left to the members, who had “received a Psalm from the enditement of the Spirit," to sing, the others saying Amen at the close. Another question was, whether women, as well as men, might be allowed to sing ; another, whether it should be permitted to any but “ Church members;” and another still, “ whether it be lawfull to sing Psalms in meeter devised by men,” or “uninspired tunes." These and similar questions were discussed with no little warmth in the early days of the Colonies. Very uncouth was the Church music of those days, if music it could be called : and it went on declining till about the year 1720, when a strenuous effort was made to reform it. This was difficult, for many contended for the prevailing custom of “lining out” the Psalm, as it was called, by the deacon, and also for singing “by rote,” which for many years had been the only mode. Some of the objections made to “ singing by rote” are amusing enough:– it was "a new way, an unknown tongue" – it was “not so melodi. ous as the old way" -"it was Popish” – it " would introduce instruments" – the “names of the notes were blasphemous" and finally, “it was needless, the old way being good enough."
Many cases of conscience came up; pamphlets were written, and sermons preached and published, and the whole community was, for the space of ten years or more, thrown into a state of the greatest ferment. Rev. Mr. Walter says of the singing of the day, it sounded “like five hundred tunes roared out at the same time.” — But we are exceeding our limits, and must conclude with observing, that unskilfully as the volume is put together, and defective as it is in many respects, it yet does something to fill a void in our ecclesiastical history, and we should rather thank the author for what he has done, than complain that he has not done more or better. The work must have cost him much labor.
The Memoirs of a New England Village Choir, the first edition of which appeared several years ago, may not be known to all our readers as the production of one whose ministry has long kept him at a distance from New England, but whose graceful pen records the impressions of early life with equal sprightliness and fidelity. The charms of this pleasant piece of fiction — if such it must be called — need no commendation of ours. It is enough to announce a new edition.
The Oratorio of Handel is a reprint from the latest London edition, by Bishop, in which the “ vocal parts are given complete, and the most important of the instrumental parts (including those added by Mozart).” Of the merits of the " Messiah " it might be presumptuous, and it would certainly be superfluous, for us to speak. We only wish to draw attention to this (second) American edition, which does credit to the typographical art among us.
Martyria: A Legend, wherein are contained Homilies, Conver
sations, and Incidents of the Reign of Edward the Sirth. Written by William MOUNTFORD, Clerk. London: J. Chapman. 1845. 16mo. pp. 368.
We had, some months ago, prepared a short article on this volume, the contents of which first appeared in the “Christian Pioneer,” published at Glasgow, and had marked some pages for extract; but other matter, which pressed for insertion, has necessarily excluded it, and we must now content ourselves with a brief notice. The “Legend " has little regularity of plan, the narrative being in a great measure subordinate to the sentiment. It purports to refer to “ early Unitarian Times ; ” and looking at modern Unitarianism simply, one can hardly deny the claim of the reign of Edward VI., between the years 1547 and 1553, to be so called. There was then, in truth, a great deal of Unitarianism. Thought was more free than afterwards, when the doc
Notices of Recent Publications.
trines and discipline of the Church had been settled by author. ity. Orthodox writers take notice of the spread of Unitarianism and of the alarm it occasioned, and violent methods were adopted to suppress it. The honest Strype speaks of these methods as “ more rugged than seemed agreeable to the principles of the Gospel ; ” but, he says, they were “thought necessary," Arianism "showed itself so openly and was in such danger of spreading farther.” “Rugged methods," indeed, they were, and Joan Bocher, called also Joan of Kent, and in the “Legend," Jane Bouchier, was one of the victims. She, says Fuller, in a passage, which a spirit so humane never should have penned, “ with one or two Arians were all who, and that justly, died in this king's reign for their opinions.” Enough surely in a short reign of six years.
Such were the “ early times” of English Unitarianism referred to in the “ Martyria," and undoubtedly in the main features truly represented. Fiction, indeed, is often truer than history, as it more vividly pictures out the times to our imagination. But this is far from being the sole, or chief merit of the work. It contains many passages of a calm, meditative beauty and kindling devotion, which can hardly fail of calling forth an answering note in the soul of the reader, - many passages marked by no ordinary purity both of thought and expression. The interest is not equally sustained in all parts of the volume, yet there is little of it we should be willing to spare. Its tone is throughout cheerful and healthy, and few, we think, who read to be made better, or who delight in devout sentiment without cant, will begin the book without a desire to finish it.
Since the above notice was in type we have learned with pleasure, that an American edition of the “Martyria” is about to be issued by Messrs. Crosby & Nichols. We doubt not that the volume will meet with a ready and extensive sale.
Confessions of an Early Martyr. By Mrs. H. V. CHENEY,
Author of Sketches from the Life of Christ," etc. Boston : B. H. Greene. 1846. 18mo. pp. 141.
This little volume, though juvenile in its aspect, and not unsuited to the capacities of the young, may be read by persons of mature age with interest and profit. Even those most intimately acquainted with ecclesiastical history will find it, not only deeply impressive, but useful in reviving their recollection of important facts. Fictitious in form, it is true to history in substance, and presents a picture, at once vivid and accurate, of the perils and sufferings to which converts to Christianity were exposed, among the Romans, in the latter half of the first century. We know
of no other book, of so small a size, to be compared with this, as to its fitness to convey forcibly to the mind an adequate idea of the almost incredible hazard and cost, at which men and women, belonging especially to the higher ranks of life, exchanged the Pagan for the Christian religion, in the earliest age of the Church. Are there any in our day who fancy their sufferings from persecution extreme? They may learn, perhaps to their advantage, from the few pages of this work, that martyrdom now is not precisely what it was in the reign of Nero. B.
Studies in Religion. By the Author of “Words in a Sunday
School." New York. 1845. 18mo. pp. 230. Questions adapted to the Text of the New Testament. De
signed for Children in Sunday Schools. With Hints for explanation and remark by the Teachers. Number One — Matthew. By C. Sole Carree, one of the Superintendents of Harvard Church Sunday School, Charlestown, Mass. Boston :
Crosby & Nichols. 1846. 18mo. pp. 99. The Teacher's New Year's Present. Boston: B. H. Greene.
1846. 24mo. pp. 48.
The first of these books contains twenty-four “Studies," or essays, six of which are in verse. The prose is better than the poetry, and the sentiment and thought of both are better than the style. The “Studies” seem to have been designed to be read to an advanced class in a Sunday school; though we cannot think that many young persons would be found capable of understanding them well enough to enjoy or to be greatly benefitted by them. What, for example, could a young reader make of such a sentence as the following? “ Conviction, that thought, sentiment, principle, is supreme, is the sent of God, always leads to the lying down for their sakes, of passion and interest and ease, but such sacrifice alone gives divineness to life, and when the outward is vanquished, that which survives is seen to be the son of God." Still, the author has evidently, besides a lively imagination, a thoughtful and speculative mind; and displays considerable originality. The book is suggestive, and embodies many fine thoughts.
The object and plan of Mr. Cartee's “Questions" strike us very favorably. The Introduction contains valuable suggestions to Sunday school teachers, particularly with respect to the use of the New Testament. The author declares it to be the design of his book, "to make the young better acquainted with the sacred text itself.” Clear and judiciously selected questions are proposed, for the children to answer in the words of the Evangelists. Prefixed to each question is the number of the verse in which
the answer is to be found, and appended to the series of questions upon each chapter is “a section for the teacher, pointing out some of the most prominent words and phrases requiring explanation, and suggesting topics for reflection and application." The Sunday school teacher will find this, we believe, a useful book.
The “ Teacher's Present" is a compilation of poetical pieces, with an original introductory letter to the children of the Sunday school connected with the Bulfinch Street church. Attractive to those for whom it was prepared as a token of their pastor's kindness, it may also be interesting to others. The selections are, generally, well adapted to please and improve the youthful reader. It strikes us that there may be one objection to the book, we mean a too frequent use of the subject of death. In our opinion it is neither wise, nor right, to give so much prominence as is often done in children's books to this theme, or to use it so freely for the purpose of making serious impressions upon the young mind, and calling forth the sympathies of the tender heart. Harm may, insensibly, be done in this way to children, and wrong to Christianity.
Onward! Right Onward! By Mrs. L. C. Tuthill, Author
of “I will be a Gentleman," etc. Second Edition. Boston:
Crosby & Nichols. 1845. 18mo. pp. 169. The Boy of Spirit. A Story for the Young. Second Edition.
Boston : Crosby & Nichols. 1845. 18mo. pp. 117. The Lost Wheelbarrow and other Stories. By ANNE W. ABBOT, Author of Willie Rogers, Kate & Lizzie, etc. Boston: S. G. Simpkins. 1846. pp. 172.
We have an opinion of our own, as to the kind of books it is most desirable that children should read, which forbids our believing that the highest standard of excellence is so often reached in this department of literature, as many seem to suppose. It affords us pleasure, nevertheless, to commend every attempt, that is in a good measure successful, to furnish the young with works which are at once interesting and instructive. Among the volumes which, in our view, possess more than ordinary merit, we class the three, whose titles are given above.--"Onward ! Right Onward!” by Mrs. Tuthill, is a tale, which few persons, whether old or young, will begin without reading through. It abounds in forcible and pathetic sketches of the evils resulting from pride of genius joined to instability of purpose and strong feelings, together with delightful illustrations of a wise and affectionate sister's power to reclaim a wayward brother from wrong courses. Perhaps the book would have been more useful to common VOL XL. — 4TH S. VOL. V. NO. 11.