Book Reviews

By: E. H. D. and H. E. F.

Originally Published in 1935

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FROM time to time books come to the attention of our Curators which are both readable and authoritative and which should appeal particularly to Museum members. We propose, therefore, as such books present themselves, to review them briefly in the Bulletin.

GREEK SCULPTURE AND PAINTING, to the End of the Hellenistic Period, by J. D. Beazley and Bernard Ashmole. Pp. xviii+l07. New York: The Macmillan Co., Cambridge: at the University Press, 1932. $3.25.

The chapters on Greek art in the Cambridge Ancient History and their illustrations in the accompanying volumes of Plates have already proved an incomparable boon to students of classical art. They are now reprinted in a separate volume with no less than 248 illustrations. Chapters I-XIII are by Professor J. D. Beazley of Oxford; chapters XIV-XIX by Professor Bernard Ashmole of the University of London.

Their account of Greek art begins with geometric vases dated to the ninth and eighth centuries B. c. and ends with Hellenistic wall-paintings, some of them as late as the first century B. c. In no other book will the reader find so much exact knowledge of Greek art compressed into such short compass, and the miraculous thing is that in spite of compression, the style is never mechanical, but fresh and vigorous, as may be seen from Professor Beazley’s description of the Parthenon frieze: “The subject of the frieze is the people of Athens; not fighting or working, but engaged in that kind of festivity-surviving in the English word holiday but eradicated from English life-which is at once a high religious ceremony, and a delight to the parlici pant. The special quadrennial celebration of the July feast which began the Athenian year was crowned by the Panathenaic procession. It is interesting to compare these men and boys and maidens and horses with the long lines of tribute-bearers on the reliefs of Oriental palaces or with the rulers of Rome in the Ara Pacis Augustae. In the union of common aims and individual freedom … the frieze of the Parthenon is a perfect illustration of that ideal of democracy which is expressed in the funeral speech of Pericles.”

E. H. D.

THE PAGEANT OF CHINESE HISTORY, by Elizabeth Seeger, with drawings by Bernard Watkins. Pp. xvii+386. New York: Longmans Green & Co., 1934. $3.00.

Every library should contain this delightful book. For a long time we have wished that someone would write just this kind of history of China, telling the story simply and interestingly without getting involved in long and intricate explanations. But we had hardly hoped for anything so fascinating that it “reads like a novel.” Miss Seeger, who is a teacher at the Dalton School, explains that the book is the outcome of her search for material on the history of China that could be given to her eighth grade pupils. To her surprise she found no history suitable for children, nothing that was both simple and accurate-so she wrote one. It is in answer to a widespread demand on the part of people of all ages for a short interesting account of the story of that other half of the world which, in our western education, has been completely neglected up to recent years. It is a book that grown-ups will enjoy and use as much as children.

Miss Seeger is a delightful raconteur with a respect for accuracy-a rare combination. She chooses to start her history with the old legends rather than the new theories of early China, but she explains why she does it and that it is the more Chinese point of view. She is especially skillful in introducing subjects which have to be considered if one would understand the Chinese, but which usually are put in little dry compartments labelled “Chinese Philosophy of Life,” or “Ancestor Worship,” or “The Social System” and so forth. Her discussion of these is introduced so naturally wherever the subject first comes up that one acquires almost unconsciously a vivid idea of the life and modes of thought in China. There is variety too, and unexpectedness in this book, nothing monotonous. As her title suggests, history moves before you like a pageant. She brings on her scenes with rhythm and with a sense of the tremendous irresistible movement and constant evolution going on within the Chinese race. Sometimes there are sudden surprises, as for instance, when she introduces the Ming dynasty with a discussion of the Chinese theater. The stories are delightful-her people live before you. The joyous and the sad, the wise and the mad, are explained with insight and sympathy and in their relation to their time. The story of the later yea s, of the contacts with western nations, is told with clarity, common sense, and a feeling for proportion that is very unusual and makes an account which we wish everyone could read.

H. E. F.

Cite This Article

D., E. H. and F., H. E.. "Book Reviews." Museum Bulletin V, no. 5 (March, 1935): 59-60. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/1566/


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