British Fiction, 18001829

VERE, Horace [pseud.]. Guiscard (1809)

Contemporary Reviews

Critical Review, 3rd ser. 19 (Jan 1810): 104–05.

This is called a romance, and romance it is with a vengeance. The story is intended to carry us as far back as the days of Edward the 3d, in whose campaigns the hero of this romance finds employment, and a kind of consolation, after the death of a beloved and adored young wife. The manners of the times are described, but the delineation is so very poor, that it would render the work heavy and uninteresting, even if the story were more attractive, or within any bounds of probability or possibility. It would be an affront to the understandings of our readers were we to take up any more space than is really necessary in speaking of this tale of Guiscard; but that they may have some idea of what the author perhaps may style the sublime, the beautiful, or the horrible if he pleases, we will give the opening.

‘It was the close of day, and a tempest was rising; dark clouds passed heavily in lowering heaps, and diffused over the landscape a lurid twilight; the wind, gathering force from gust to gust, began to howl in the forest; and at every step of the traveller, screaming birds flitted across his path, in wild and anxious circles.’ This we presume is to prepare our minds for something vastly grand, vastly gloomy, vastly terrific, and vastly fine altogether. But the story is such a jumble of stupidity and nonsense, and such a medley of incongruous and absurd events, as to leave us not at all anxious for the result of a tale which affords neither amusement nor instruction. The poor and hacknied events and difficulties of escaping from enemies [104/105] through subterraneous vaults; and monks, with long black garments, and large cowls, gliding through the gloom of evening, or stealing by moonlight into a castle to carry on some diabolical plot against the owner, are in Guiscard plentifully repeated without having the merit of any thing to captivate attention. A wicked and profligate woman, a treacherous servant seeking revenge for supposed injuries, and an intriguing and haughty monk, are characters of sufficient prowess, blended with insignificant nothings, to form a modern romance. Such is Guiscard, which presents us with an insolent and intriguing priest, a wicked and profligate lady, and a revengeful domestic; and for these hideous characters, we have not one good, one naturally drawn, nor one single paragraph of sound sense, entertainment, nor instruction, to recompense us for the waste of time which we have experienced in looking over this performance of the renowned Horace Vere. We have, on the contrary, to lament the hours which we have misspent ourselves, and the many which the author has thought proper to throw away in producing two volumes of trash to enlarge the shelves of the circulating libraries, and to injure the young female mind which is fated to pore over the nonsense of Guiscard, when it might be strengthened and improved by a different style of study.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 2 vols; no price. Publisher: Newman & Co.

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 60 (Sept 1809): 98.

The style of this novel is always simple and dignified, and in some parts even masterly; and the story, though rather intricate, is interesting and moral. It shews the powers of Friendship, and the benefit of her exertions: but we were sorry to see the noble and ardent Sir Eustace led by his affection for his friend into an act of treachery, even towards the despicable Bolebec. The abbot’s description of his own old age is touching and pathetic.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 2 vols 12mo; price 8s. Publisher: Newman & Co.

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