British Fiction, 18001829

RICHARDSON, Caroline E. Adonia (1801)

Contemporary Reviews

Critical Review, 2nd ser. 31 (Apr 1801): 474.

As this novel is a desultory story, it ought not to be judged by the laws of consistency and unity of design; and to enter into any detail of particulars would greatly exceed the limits allotted to productions of this nature. We think that the fair author, or authoress, as she terms herself, has extended the work beyond the bounds best adapted for supporting the attention of the reader. She has, however, endeavoured to give it interest by the rank of the persons introduced — among whom is the late king of France. This novel discovers good sense, is written in a style superior to the ordinary effusions of the press, and contains some pieces of poetry by no means unworthy of approbation.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 4 vols 12mo; price 18s. Boards. Publisher: Black & Parry.

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 35 (Aug 1801): 427–28.

Though the dedication informs us that this work is the production of a female, it is not from a motive of common gallantry that we are induced to speak well of it, since its own intrinsic merits command our praise. An extract will convince our readers, that, in the early age of the author, in the modesty with which she speaks of her performance, and in the amiable motive for its publication, we should have found a sufficient justification for a favourable report:

‘Time has wrought wonderous [sic] changes on myself, and but a short time too. Though, since I began these memoirs, I have added little or nothing to my stock of book-learning; and I do not mean to affront you, my patient reader, by supposing that you have not already discovered that stock to be sufficiently scanty, without requiring that I should be the herald of my own shame; though I am sensible that my story might have been better contrived, my characters more natural and varied, my language more correct, and, above all, that the political confab between the Marchioness and my friend Johanna, in the 136th and few following pages of this volume, might at least have been disguised by a newer dress, I am contented in my nineteenth year to abandon all struggle for the literary eminence to which I once aspired, and to resume without loss of time, and send into the world with all its imperfections on its head, a novel, which only a few months ago I threw by me as hopeless of completion.—My motive for this intrusion on the public is not a personal one, [427/428] or I might perhaps blush to avow that “I write for fortune, not for fame.” But, if my book should have the good fortune to experience a reception equally favourable with the middle class of the other novels of the day, and thence enable me to assist in relieving the necessities of a very near and dear friend, (plunged in unexpected misfortunes, and yet too delicate to accept the common modes of succour, as likely to inconvenience those she loves,) I shall not regret having sacrificed, to obtain such a recompense, the feelings which would otherwise have deterred me from exposing myself to the imputation of vanity or the reproofs of criticism.

‘Gentle reader, another apostrophe or two, and I will impose my egotisms upon thy indulgence no longer.—If thou are fifteen, I know thou wilt sympathise in my page, and read it through with as much avidity as thou has haply read fifty other such productions of fancy before; I therefore give it to thee with pleasure. If thou art seventeen, and thine eyes begin to open upon the fallacies of life, while thy heart yet remains enthralled by its deceitful promises; if thy mind begins to fill with new ideas, and to obtain views of its own capacity which it knew not of before, thou wilt perhaps be tempted to smile at a tale so flimsily wrought; but thou wilt nevertheless peruse it, and seek eagerly for its catastrophe. To thee I give it with confidence; for thou wilt be a partial, although thou shouldst not be an undiscerning, critic; as our hearts are commonly most bigoted to our mistaken views of life, in the moment when the understanding is preparing to renounce them.—If thou art even, like me, verging towards thy twentieth year, and hast for ever bidden adieu to romantic expectation and high wrought sensibilities, I do not fear thee. Thou wilt find nothing here which can contaminate; and it may not be unpleasing to thee to have thy former feelings awakened by fictitious distresses, especially when thou hast heard the simple apology of an author of thine own age.—From readers of more advanced years, and of better-stored mind, I have only to entreat forbearance: I cannot accurately judge of their feelings, but I believe that every year produces some revolution in our sentiments; and such as these may be disposed to treat me with severity. But I cannot stay to deprecate the criticism of others farther; nor must I allow myself to pursue my own. I must not falter from my purpose, nor anticipate aught which may hereafter make me repent having thrown upon the mercy of the world a work whose only engine was the hand of fancy,—a novel which asks not for fame, but forbearance,—which hopes not to inform, but to amuse without injuring.’—

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 4 vols 12mo; price 18s. Sewed. Publisher: Black & Co.

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