British Fiction, 18001829

DOHERTY, Ann. Castles of Wolfnorth and Mont Eagle, The (1812)

Contemporary Reviews

Critical Review, 4th ser. 2 (Oct 1812): 444–45.

In some lines at the end of the fourth volume, which the author denominates a postscript, she informs us that she requires some indulgence from her readers for the errors, and states that she was unable, through illness, to attend to the revision of her work. We wish that this was the only indulgence of which she stood in need; as verbal inaccuracies are among the smallest as well as the most venial of her imperfections. A more complete jargon of bombastic nonsense hardly ever insulted common sense before. We do not know who Mrs. or Miss St. Ann may be; but this we beg leave to inform her that, with all her knowledge of heraldry, and her quotations from Ossian, such a farrago of nonsense and inconsistency will never be admired in circles of sense and elegance. It may do very well for a party of abigails over the house-keeper’s table of a winter’s evening, and serve to frighten the simple souls out of their wits, and send them all of a quake to answer their ladies’ bells; but for any further, Mrs. or Miss St. Ann may rest assured it will not do. This, therefore, must be the pitching block of what she dignifies by the name of her work; and a most miserable piece of work it is. It is a matter of much surprise to us how any people whether maids, widows, or wives, can waste their time in putting together such a mass of contemptible absurdities. We are surprised also at the effrontery which suffers them to imagine they will be read by people possessing ten grains of sense; and still more surprising is it that they should ever be read at all!

Mrs. or Miss St. Ann has chosen a romantic tale as the most easy style of writing. Yet easy as it is, she has contrived to make it most marvellously inconsistent and tiresome. The events which she attempts to relate, are supposed to take place during the reign of King Stephen; and however elegant that monarch’s court might have been, we will venture to affirm that sofas and dressing-rooms were unknown amongst the elegancies of that age. Yet Mrs. or Miss St. Ann talks as familiarly of her heroes reclining upon sofas in their dressing-rooms, and with as much ease as if they had been newly imported from Okely’s in Bond-street. In good Queen Bess’s days we read of chairs of state for her majesty, and wooden stools for personages of inferior rank; and upon grand occasions and high court days, bundles of fresh rushes were strewed upon the floors. How the worthies of King Stephen’s reign came to lounge away their time and [444/445] recline their weary limbs upon sofas, we are quite at a loss to account for, but Mrs. or Miss St. Ann may understand these things better than we do. Those readers who are not yet sated with horrible monks, poisoned daggers, dark passages, long isles, damp cells, and concealed pannels in the walls, may find all these ingredients huddled together, with as many descriptions of tournaments and besieged castles as would make twenty romances in this book-making age. At the end of one of the chapters we meet with the following piece of intelligence:—‘Some of the manuscript here appears to have been lost.’ Had no part of it ever been found it would have been as well for the writer and for her readers.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 4 vols; no price. Publisher: Hookham.

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 69 (Nov 1812): 332.

Three volumes of this romance are chiefly filled with the description of three tournaments, in which the armour and heraldic bearings of the knights, with the attire of the ladies, and the trappings of the horses, are detailed; and although these passages are better written than any in the work, they are tiresome from repetition, and ludicrous from the praises bestowed (Vol. i. p. 100.) on ‘Sir Edwin’s sweet eyes of a lively purple,’ and (in p. 188.) on a conflict which ‘was elegantly kept up, and obtained by a combatant who fought exquisitely.’—The Castles of Wolfnorth and Monteagle are full of perturbed spirits and mysterious monks, and the first and second chapters of the book open with a storm and two apparitions: but we doubt whether the injuries sustained by these poor ghosts, or those which are inflicted on their living descendants, are likely to awaken much interest in the reader.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 4 vols 12mo; no price. Publisher: Hookham.

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