To say that one number of the Harvard Monthly is much better than another is to give it high praise, for all of the numbers are good. But certain it is that the current issue of the Monthly is an unusually excellent one, the wide variety of subjects in its table of contents being a specially noteworthy feature.
"Harvard and the Church" is the title of the first article of the number which the Dean of our Theological School, Dr. C. C. Everett, contributes. What Dr. Everett says is timely in consideration of the familiar fact that comparatively few students of Harvard College look forward to entering the ministry, - the calling that deals with the most vital interests of individual and social life. He dwells particularly upon some of the reasons which ought to make a profession of the ministry attractive to young men who believe that men can be best served by the development of their moral and spiritual life, and to whom the devotional service of the church comes as the natural expression of their own inner lives.
"The Apologist" is the most ambitious piece of prose in the number. Taking for his text some thoughts of Bourget, Mr. Hapgood indulges at some length in an analytical discussion of certain phases of realism of the century, of a certain literary unrest which produces heroes like that one of M. Bourget's who "rots in science, dimly feels his rottoness, defends it in syllogisms, and turns its foul breath on the purest flower in sight." For all this, Mr. Hapgood has a moral and comes to the conclusion that "our discontent with the conditions of our life is an ill-natured confession of personal littleness." As a whole, the study has power, - although there is noticeable, here and there, a vagueness of thought.
"Unrepentant" is a psychical study of much force. There is a startling vividness and originality of touch in the descriptions of the death-bed conversation of a woman "who deserted husband and child to follow a lover," and who acknowledged that it was almost divine to sin as she did, "not with a mean desire to cheat the devil or God, but freely anxious to have what she sinned for and not to repine." Certainly the theme is one which we seldom see elaborated.
"Moriturus" is a character sketch of a man who in a brief hour is brought abruptly by the merest accident from a healthy enjoyment of life face to face with death. The sketch has dramatic force.
To one who reads the charming "Sonnets" which Mr. Santayana contributes to this number of the Monthly, there comes an earnest wish that more of its author's work might be published. For all of the five sonnets charm one by reason of a quiet but exquisite elegance of diction, a poetical serenity of thought, and touches of soulful aspiration. Of the five, the first three appear to us to be the best, although perhaps at the most such culling is invidious distinction.
It is perhaps unfortunate that Mr. McCulloch's "Sonnet" should appear in the same number as the poems just under discussion for, although good, it cannot but suffer by comparison with the other five. The first eight lines suggest Blanco White's well-known sonnet, "Mysterious Night."
"The Coming of the Storm" is a vivid description in verse of the out-break of a tempest over the ocean and "When Silvia Sings" is a rondeau which shows some of the true Dobsonian grace.
A "Communication" on Mr. Garrison's Letter to the Boston Herald, two editorials on the present stand of the faculty on the three year's scheme and on certain defects of the English Department, "The Month," and four book reviews, (among which, the reader will find Mr. Santayana's criticism of "In Cairo" by William Morton Fullerton especially valuable) complete the number.