British Fiction, 18001829

MORIARTY, Henrietta Maria. Crim Con (1812)

Contemporary Reviews

Critical Review, 4th ser. 2 (Sept 1812): 331–32.

Mrs. Moriarty in her preface states that ‘her humble talents have been called in to action by the urgent claims of four fatherless children.’ Though this claim knocks at every man’s heart, and though we seen the meritorious exertion of Mrs. Moriarty in its proper light, she must not think us ill-natured, if we express our entire disapprobation of the title, which she has thought proper to affix to a work which she professes to be perfectly moral. To persons of loose conduct and principles the title will be taking enough; but in more sober-minded persons it will excite something like repugnance and disgust. Mrs. Moriarty is no doubt the best judge, which description of readers will answer her purpose the best; but those who may be induced to buy the work from the title, will be not a little disappointed, if the food is not high seasoned enough for their vitiated palates.

That misery and disgrace must ensue from a woman’s violating her marriage vows, is so palpable, that we did not want a novel, founded on facts, to convince us of the truth. Nor do we quite approve the character of the heroine in the above novel, for suffering her marriage articles to be executed before she found out that there might be some danger in a Catholic marrying a Protestant. It evidently appears that the lady had most dishonourably changed her mind in favour of another Beau Garçon. The reason given is, that Catholics look upon marriage, as a religious sacrament, and that the Protestant regards it as only a civil contract. But is it not at least very probable that the person, whose sense of duty is not strong enough to prevent him from breaking a civil contract, will not long hesitate about cutting the mysterious knot of a religious tie? Vows, contracts, and engagements have been broken by persons of all religions; and all we can say is, that if a man or woman will not conscientiously abide by their word, there is no civil contract nor religious ceremony which will make them do their duty. The distinction, which Mrs. Moriarty makes, has rather an invidious appearance. We give the lady every possible credit for her good intentions, but the conclusion, which she draws, is by no means favourable to the Protestant. The characters may be taken from life; but the story of Lady V. and her vicious mother, the Duchess of B— is so revolting, that we trust these are not some of the facts which are promised in the title-[331/332]page. The stage effects of the novel, if we may use the expression, though stale and hackneyed, may perhaps suit some hundreds of novel readers. We have, however, to request, that in her next publication, Mrs. Moriarty will expunge from her portfolio all that kind of scandal which is to be picked up in the housekeeper’s room, or the butler’s pantry; and will learn to tell her story in a simple way, without any of those aids, to which she wishes to attach dignity, by calling them incidents founded on facts. Mrs. Moriarty may then claim some respectable attention as a novel writer.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 2 vols; price 10s 6d. Publisher: Seaton.

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