Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885, March 15, 1887, Page 2, Image 2

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day a man without a reasonable musical education is
not yet cultured; but there is another and far more
weighty reason why we should not neglect this impor
tant part of our education. Music is worthy of be
ing cultivated for itself, for it is able far better than
language to convey thought, feeling or emotion. The
inestimable value and the wonderful power of music
is broight home to us when, after a term or two of
hard, ceaseless study we are enabled to enjoy a musi
cal treat in the way of a recital. How many of those
who have had no musical training go away from such
an entertainment without feeling a lingering desire to
learn that more divine language,or without being inspir
ed with higher and nobler sentiments? If more should
consider music an essential factor in an education the
world would be brighter and happier.
The sumew hat sensational title of this recently published
novel, will perhaps lead those who have not read the book to
suppose that it belongs to the dime novel style of literature.
And, indeed, when one has perused its contents, he may pos
sibly be unshaken in his first supposition. The book is, and
purports to be, a history of adventure, and we may safely say
that never since we were weaned from the classic dime novel
have we been treated to such a series of wild improbabilities
and impossible occurrences as are here described. Perhaps
for this very reason the novel has created a very wide-spread
intciest, and has. probably given rise to a great deal more
discussion than its merits as a work of literary art would
There arc only three important characters in the book, but
three more dissimilar types of humanity could scarcely be im
agined. The plot of the story depends for its effect upon tyiat
ever strange and remarkable system of ethics formulated and
followed by the Egyptians ever since they have existed as a
people; we refer to that belief in a periodical rcssuircction to
life upon the earth, when the soul and body of the deceased
will reunite and live again, subject to the same conditions as
before. "She," or Ayesha, is an African queen of marvellous
beauty, gifted with such powers as to hold in subjection by the
force of her will alone all with whom she comes in contact. It
seems that somewhere in the heart of Africa there existed a
subtle essence, or fire, capable of imparting immortality to
those who would bathe in Us flame. This essence Ayesha had
discovered some two thousand years before the story opens.
ne nau men oecome involved in a love quarrel (even a wo
man of her power was not free from this misfortune) and in
a fit ofjealous rage she had slain the man upon whom she
had centered her affections. Being a firm believer in the ult
imate reappearance of those who had died, she had awaited
twenty centuries, in remorse and suffering, for the return ol
the man she had slain.
We now come to the other two characters of this remarka.
ble tale. By a skilfully constructed scheme of genealogy, the
author makes the murdered lover reappear upon earth in the
person of one Leo Vincey, a young Cambridge student, into
whose ha s have fallen the mystic symbols provinc his de-
scent from his former self, if we may be allowed the expres
sion, and in a spirit of adventure he resolves to unravel the
mystery surrounding the hieroglyphics. He and his guardian
(a man whose appearance is described in such a manner as
to lead one to think the author must have had in mind his
conception ol Darwin's missing link) set out to solve the mys
ttery. They have no trouble in reaching their destination and
here they meet Ayesha, who goes by the suggestive name oi
"She-whomust-be obeyed." After this the story resolves it
self into a fairy talc of the most pronounced type. After a sc
ries of thrilling experiences, not the least of which is their
narrow escape from gratifying the cannibalistic appetites of
the natives, they arc conducted to the place of immortal life
by "She" (who, by the way, has discovered in the person of
Leo Vincey her long lost lover) and there the most blood
curdling climax of the story takes place. Wishing to endow
her lover (for Leo has tallcn a victim to her charms) with the
spirit of undying life, she envelopes herself in the mystic
flame in order to encourage him to alike attempt. The result
is startling, to say the least. Instead of still further instilling
into her the everlasting vitality, the flame has the opposite
effect, and before their horrified eyes she shrivels and withers
until at last there lies before them what more nearly resem
bles a hideous ape than a semblance of humanhy what, in
fact, she would have become under ordinary "conditions dur
ing so long a period of existence.
It will be seen that the whole interest of the story depends
almost entirely upon the startling tableaux and climaxes scat
tered throughout the book. Yet the story is told so simply,
so naturally, that the reader, although he knows that what he
is reading is but the impossible product of a lively imagina
tion, finds himself entering so thoroughly into the spiiit of it
as to make him come back with a start to the ideas of actual
To the manner of Aycsha's death, some reviewers have
taken exception, claiming that such awful retribution, for her
open defiance of the almighty power of God, of whose exist
ence she knows nothing, is inconsistent with her conception
of what she is. Believing herself to be all powerful, for a
time at least, but yet knowing that some fate or power will
ultimately gain the mastery over her, she vaunts her superior
ity (as she thinks) over the Christian principles explained to
her by Holly. Consequently when she feels the horrible trans
formation taking place in her own person, she shrieks aloud
in agony and despair for the loss of her reward, for two thou
sand years of waiting; snatched from her, as it is, at the very
moment of possessing it, and at the moment of entering up
on a long, an interminable period of happiness and love; en
hanccd also, by the dreadful length of years of lonely wait
ing which she has undergone.
Mr.Haggard.thc author.has written a letter to the Spectator
in which he explains his reasons for making Ayesha die the
death she did. He tells us that "the legend was built upon
the hypothesis that affection in itself is an immortal thing,
and that therefore when Ayesha in the course of ages.grows
hard, cynical and regardless of what stands between her and
her ends, her love yet endured true and holy." Mr. Haggard
goes on to say that in Ayesha may be found a type of the
spirit of intellectual paganism, and the spirit which does not
look higher than earth for its rewards. This is shown by the
fact that at her death she still hopes for an earthly meeting
with her lover.
We ourselves do not sec how the author could have ended
his book in any other way, if he wished to preserve the feeU
mgoi interest with which the book as a whole inspires one.
Had he extended the plot farther and conveyed his characters
into the confines of civilization (as he certainly would have
done; for he could not have left them in the surroundings so
little suited to their tastes) the spell upon the reader would
have been broken at once. While amid such surroundings