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Anne Radcliffe, Leviathan fam'd of romance, (i)
(i) Much has been said respecting the Mysteries of Udolpho, from the pen of the above lady; but I have no hesitation in stating that I should never for a moment balance in awarding the preference to the Romance of the Forest. In the first-mentioned production the descriptions are carried on to an extent that not only renders them tedious, but unintelligible; and I very much query if two, and sometimes three of Sonini's Alpine pictures were not condensed into one by the author upon these occasions. But the most flagrant defect in this performance is the miserable denouement of what constituted such unceasing terror during so many thick volumes; I mean a mere effigy in wax behind a curtain, which every reader is prompted to believe a more horrific spectacle than ever before met human optics. The Romance of the Forest, on the contrary, is replete with interest; such actions, such scenery, and such characters might, and doubtless have, existed; and for this plain reason do I prefer the last mentioned volumes. As to Mrs. Radcliffe's productions, taken in the aggregate, they undoubtedly prove her to have possessed a most fertile imagination combined with no small share of literary acumen.
While villains so often assume diff'rent scowls,
And glare with their goggles; they needs must be
Add misses most constant in caverns and thickets,
Who, drench'd, ne'er catch colds, though without
change of smickets.
Young knights that on love are so constantly think
ing, They scorn the stale fashion of eating and drinking. With these ably hash up dark tall waving trees, High ramparts, watch-turrets, cloud-capp'd Pyre.
A horde of banditti; a mysterious monk;
For profit, first paying those hundreds Ann netted. We next turn to Lewis, of monkish renown,
1,(j) Who tickled the fancies of girls of the town;
(j) Having previously commented Mr. Lewis's productions under the head of poetry, I shall content myself by stating,
To whom let's subjoin female sprig of Jew King, That makes her lewd heroine act the same thing(k)
that, from this writer's horrific predilection, he would not have found a bad auxiliary in Mr. Urquhart, of the navy department in Somerset House, whose taste, as a book and print collector, is further extended to a predilection for the ropes which have ended the career of all our notorious malefactors; which relics might have afforded ample scope for the production of the terrific from Monk Lewis's pen. Strange, however, as this branch of collecting may be deemed, I do not see but much good may result from the same; as upon reviewing each life-bereaving cord, the possessor cannot fail to recur to the particular crime of the man whose career it was instrumental in terminating; and from thence a train of reflections, no doubt, occupy the mind of Mr. Urquhart, as to the baleful effect of indulging, to excess, certain passions of the hunian heart, which more or less contributed to the disgraceful exit of the criminal. From this it is evident that circumstances, however trivial to appearance, may act as a most beneficial lesson to the contemplative and well-informed mind.
(k) The lady now under review, who cherishes, I believe, all the extravagant notions of Mary Wolstonecraft, has apparently endeavoured, also, to adopt her vigorous mode of expression. All this may be excusable in a female, but any mind tinctured
As she with Zofloya the Moor plays at evil,
Descriptions so luscious—such pictures of passionThat prudes, ta’en with furor, to ruin might dash on. Scenes wrought to a pitch worthy famous King's
While sentiments breathe new philosophy's grace;
with morality can never for a moment tolerate the giving publicity to such scenes, heightened by the most florid descriptions, as are delineated in the progress of Zofioya the Moor. It is universally allowed that the existing state of society is sufficiently depraved; wherefore, let such writers take shame to themselves who not only labour to increase the existing evil, but willingly pervert those talents which, if applied to the purposes of virtue, science, and morality, would not fail to insure
E'en such is the witchery us’d by this pair ;
to the possessor the respect and admiration of every praiseworthy member of the community.
(1) As the last annotation applied to the sister of the above lady also conveys my opinion respecting the present personage, I shall dismiss the subject with this remark, that, to the conclusive line of Sir Noodle's stricture, I, from my very soul, exclaim Amen.