The October Monthly, the first of the year, is in every way an eminently characteristic number, and not only the diversity of the subject-matter but also the excellence of the various articles recommend the magazine to the careful attention of every Harvard student.
There are probably very few college men who have not read more or less of Alexandre Dumas fils. All those who know his work and the few who from lack of opportunity or from hyper-prudishness are not familiar with it will find Mr. Jefferson B. Fletcher's critical article on this great French writer (which, by the way, occupies the place of honor) an interesting and just piece of work. He gives a short sketch of Dumas's early life and of the conditions which were largely instrumental in shaping his character, and then he goes on to discuss the dominant ideas of Dumas's novels and plays, his types of women (the Preraphaelesque, the Bachante, and the Penelope), - some of which Mr. Fletcher thinks to be so bizarre that he says with Zola, "Where can Mr. Dumas have studied his women?" - and of his treatment of moral (and immoral) problems. He concludes with M. Bourget that Dumas fils is "A writer very little given to questions of everyday living, and that his work ought to be studied by the historian of French sensibilities in the nineteenth century very closely indeed."
The essay on "John Aubrey," the ale-and-gossip-loving antiquary of the seventeenth century, is written in that discriminative but easy style which has heretofore characterized Mr. Duffield's work of a corresponding nature. Copious extracts from Aubrey's papers and books are proportionately intermingled with choice bits of narrative and with original observations in such a manner as to make the reading of it a profitable pleasure.
The only fiction of the number is a story by Mr. Lovett entitled "The Coward." It is a reminiscence of war-times, the tale of a man who was apparently guilty of cowardice during a battle and who afterwards sacrificed his life to a mob in New York to save a negro. The plot is more or less chimerical but there are a number of vivid descriptions in it, - notably the account of the New York mob.
The poetry of the number is of a high order. Mr. McCulloch's contribution, "Phaeton," is a rhymed tale of the familiar myth. The metre of the poem is admirably adapted to the treatment of this well known story, and, barring a few errors of accentuation, the whole shows poetical strength.
Mr. Moody's "Harmonics" is a sonnet of Shakspearean form. It evidences an originality of thought, a delicacy of conception, and a strength of diction which have not always been united before in its author's poems.
The two editorials deal with the subjects of "The athletic spirit at Harvard" and "Col-Literature." With reference to the latter, the Monthly states that it "aims to represent not simply 'the strongest and soberest undergraduate thought,' but rather the strongest and soberest thought of the University, - to be, in short, a University organ.