National Geographic : 1897 Dec
GEOGRAPHIC LITERATURE ture was but the dry and dusty bones of dead knowledge. So Miss Scid more's book comes as a fragrant breath direct from the lush nursery of the Orient-and a breath so redolent of the mystical potency of eastern legend (and western, too) as to regenerate the skeleton in full flesh and vigorous vitality. The author spent months in the country; she saw with occidental eyes, indeed, yet all the more clearly because without the curious oriental haze which distorts the vision, sometimes little, often much; her pen pictures and sun pictures alike bear inherent evidence of fidelity; and the general presentment of "The Garden of the East" is done in vigorous lines and strong colors. As time passes, literature changes; of old, the writer devoted a lifetime to a book (writ perchance for a single reader), which was often a heaviness to the spirit; of late, a more fanciful yet more vigorous style has grown up under the pressure of magazine editors compelled to meet, more promptly than the book makers, the demands of modern readers; and now this literary quality which is represented by the best writings of two score authors, chiefly American-is going into the books. In this style Miss Scidmore writes; each sentence is filled with idea and every paragraph throbs with vitality and brims over with good humor, while the light of delicate fancy and solid culture shines out between the lines-each chapter is a gem, and the whole a chaplet of brilliants. The first chapter is " Singa pore and the Equator;" the second "In 'Java Major'; " the third " ' Batavia, Queen of the East'; " next "The Kampongs ; " then " To the Hills;" the sixth "A Dutch Sans Souci; " the seventh " In a Tropical Garden;" the eighth and ninth "The 'Culture System';" the tenth "Sinagar;" the eleventh "Plantation Life; " the twelfth "Across the Preanger Regencies;" the thirteenth "'To Tissak Malaya' ;" then " Prisoners of State at Boro Boedor," followed by " Boro Boedor " and " Boro Boedor and Mendoet; " the'seventeenth is " Brambanam ; " the eighteenth "Solo: the City of the Susunhan;" next is "The Land of Kris and Sarong;" then comes "Djokjakarta," followed by " Pakoe Alam: The 'Axis of the Universe' ; " the twenty-second is " ' Tjilatjap,' 'Chalachap,' ' Chelachap'; " then follows " Garoet and Papandayang," and lastly (save a rather too condensed index) follows " ' Salamat'," the soft farewell of the land of the Malay. It is impossible to epitomize these chapters, already condensed to the utmost; suffice it that apparently every appropriate subject is treated or at least touched lightly-the myth of the coco-de-mer is rectified and that of the " deadly upas" punctured skillfully; the coffee plantations are described, and the vile product of the local chef duly anathematized; the tea industry receives attention, and the unconventional hotel customs are not neglected; even Krakatoa, that world's volcano which happened to erupt so near to Java, comes in for a share of space. The book hardly professes to be scientific, and may be unworthy of entombment alongside the musty tomes of the Dutch societies; but it can be commended as a thoroughly readable and fully fin de siecle contribution to that semi-scientific literature which is neither so heavy as to sink straightway into the depths of desuetude nor so light as to drift into oblivion. WJM.