British Fiction, 18001829

BANIM, Michael. Croppy, The (1828)

Contemporary Reviews

La Belle Assemblée, 3rd ser. 8 (July 1828): 35–36.

With a full recollection of the delight which we experienced from the perusal of ‘Tales by the O’Hara Family,’ ‘The Nowlans,’ and ‘The Boyne Water,’ it was with no slight anticipation of pleasure that we opened ‘The Croppy; a Tale of 1798,’ by the same pen. Nor have our anticipations been disappointed. Assimilating in character more to the first series of ‘Tales by the O’Hara Family,’ if it be not equal to some of those highly-wrought fictions, it is superior to the later productions of Mr. Banim, their presumed author, and entitles him to a high station amongst British novelists. We cannot do otherwise than fail in an attempt to convey an idea of the story of the Croppy. The reader is probably aware that the French republicans, as a badge of distinction from the royalists, adopted the fashion of wearing their hair cut short, in which they were imitated by the Irish conspirators of 1798; and that, in consequence, the term Croppy, with the opposite party, became synonymous with that of rebel. The scene lies in the county of Wexford. The heroine, Eliza, daughter of Sir Thomas Hartley, has little claim upon our sympathy: she is introduced under the unfavourable circumstances of having jilted her first lover, Captain Talbot, and having transferred her affections to his rival, Sir William Judkin. She obtains a reluctant consent to her union with the Baronet. The character of Sir William is, however, involved in much mystery. A friend, Belinda St. John, whom Eliza consults on the subject of her approaching marriage, gives her some mysterious warnings, betrays signs of mental derangement, and leaves the house, evidently under the influence of insanity. Numerous obstacles, all apparently originating with Talbot, are thrown in the way of their nuptials; and he finally obtains an interview with Eliza, and informs her that Sir William is already married. Sir William spurns the accusation, is believed, and the wedding-day is fixed. On the night previous, the house of Shawn-a-Gow, a smith—the Croppy—on suspicion of containing pikes, &c., is [35/36] searched—burnt to the ground, his only son brutally murdered, and his wife reduced to the state of a maniac. The peasantry, on the following morning, seek the protection of Sir Thomas Hartley, who, by representing to them that it is his daughter’s bridal day, and by the distribution of provisions, induces them to disperse. At the moment of the completion of the marriage ceremony, Captain Talbot, at the head of a party of yeomen, bursts into the room, and arrests Sir Thomas and Sir William as traitors. The circumstance of remaining neuter, of having listened to the complaints of Shawn-a-Gow’s party, is crime sufficient to warrant the immediate execution of the former. Sir William Judkin is mysteriously released from prison by an unknown female. He sets out in search of Eliza—her father’s house is desolate—he can obtain no clue to her retreat. He is re-captured, and consigned to Wexford jail. The storming of that town by the insurgents restores him to liberty. Vengeance against Talbot, the author of his sufferings, the hope of discovering his wife, induce him to join the rebels. Talbot is taken prisoner, and a scene of frightful interest ensues. Talbot, in turn, is rescued from the sword of Sir William, by the same mysterious female, who also ensures the safety of Eliza, and enables her to join her father, who has not, as was supposed, been executed. But we must hasten to the catastrophe. At the burning and destruction of the town of Ross by the rebels, the rivals again meet, and Eliza witnesses the fall of her beloved husband beneath the shot of the detested Talbot. A body of routed horse drive over the prostrate body, and Eliza falls senseless into the arms of her companion, the daughter of Shawn-a-Gow. She is rescued from the flames by Talbot, and her next interview with her husband is in a ruined chapel, whither she is conducted by Belinda St. John. Previously, however, Belinda had recounted her wrongs. Sir William had imposed upon her by a false marriage. Subsequently, he had lured her to join him in an excursion upon the water. There, as he imagined, he had accomplished her death; and, Belinda removed, he thought but of his approaching union with Eliza. Belinda, however, recovered, and lived to work out a deep revenge upon her destroyer. It was she who had effected his escape from prison, to lead him on to deeper misery, and it was she who had caused him, when wounded to death, to be removed to the ruined chapel, where, his head resting on the coffin of Belinda’[s] murdered infant, the wretched man expired. Talbot’s character is cleared from all reproach; and, after a lapse of a few years, he succeeds in regaining the affections of Eliza Hartley. Such is a faint outline of a story which involves many highly-characteristic and vividly-depicted scenes. The dramatis personæ are numerous, and those, in the portraiture of whom most skill has been displayed, have not come within our attempted sketch. Nanny the Knitter, Bill Nale, Shawn-a-Gow, are all admirable.

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