British Fiction, 18001829

CAVENDISH-BRADSHAW, Mary Ann. Memoirs of Maria (1808)

Contemporary Reviews

Critical Review, 3rd ser. 15 (Sept 1808): 104–05.

If this production be neither novel nor romance, it becomes an exceedingly difficult task to determine how it is to be entitled. We do assure Miss Parlante that we have read it through with great attention, and are utterly unable to discover what else she would have us call it. For some time we fancied (misled, it should seem, by an insinuation in the title-page), that it must contain some occult satire on what is now passing in the world, and we proceed to assign in fancy, the absurd and whimsical names of Develorio, Roguerum, Orrondo, Quadrago, Scarzino, Thurlbear, Bellrante, Rapid, Quirk, &c. &c. to divers members of the present administration; however, if any allusion to politics was intended, it is so very subtle as to have entirely escaped our utmost penetration. We have been equally unfortunate in our endeavour to detect a single ‘fragment or circumstance,’ (unless one or two disjointed and unnecessary observations of Miss Parlante’s can be so called) ‘not altogether inapplicable to the events of this distracted age, and to the measures of the foresighted defenders of our holy faith.’

History is, indeed, now and then brought into aid the impressions of fiction; but not in so prominent manner as to justify the pompous enunciation of the title-page; and as to comedy, though it seems to have been sometimes attempted, it does not [104/105] extend beyond a few passages of mistaken Scotch jargon, or of extremely repulsive vulgarity.

In short, we can find nothing to distinguish this book from any other of the numerous productions of the day, which under the generic term, novel, or romance are designed to harrow up the soul with terror, or melt it in all the soft overflowings of delicate sensibility.

Had the Countess d’Alva made her appearance before us in that simple shape, we could only have said that she is an unjustly persecuted lady, who suffers under every accumulation of calamity and horror with unshaken fortitude, and unaltered meekness, and fervent piety, and is in the end duly rewarded (secundum artem) with the hand of the gentleman for whom she is evidently cut out from the very beginning.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 2 vols 8vo; no price. Publisher: Miller.

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 61 (Feb 1810): 218.

To this long epitomizing title-page, the motto affixed is,

‘If the cap fits, wear it:’

but

Le Cappe rance
Son di piombo si grosso
’,

that, we imagine, few can be willing to obey the injunction.

The beginning of this book is filled with annals of parental cruelties; and the Countess d’Alva, Burford, and Rapid, all trace their misfortunes to the persecutions of their nearest relations. The author has taken various liberties with history, of which the most original is that of adapting celebrated names to fictitious personages; and the Duke of Alva, the Earl of Lennox, and Sir Francis Walsingham all receive cousins at Miss Parlante’s hands. She also professes to clothe the epistles and memoirs of her characters in modern language; and we will not quarrel with her for suppressing the black letter: but we should like to know by what authority she covers their walls with ‘trellis-paper.’—She indulges in some encomiums on matured beauty and sarcasms on girlish insipidity, which were dictated no doubt by her own peculiar taste, but which tend to plant a few wrinkles on the brows of the heroine; and, though in real life it may be a duty to sympathize with the old and the ugly, still the heroine of a romance should be arrayed in all the youthful charms with which fancy can invest her. We think that the ‘porter Bartholomew,’ brandishing his torch, is too palpable an imitation of Mrs. Radcliffe’s Barnadine; and that much matter in these memoirs might have been advantageously omitted. The style also is not entirely free from affectation, nor always exempt from vulgarity. Yet still the work displays invention and ingenuity; great variety is manifested in the incidents; and it is impossible not to feel considerably interested in the sufferings and adventures of the principal character.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Miscellaneous’. Format: 2 vols 8vo; price 1l. 1s. Boards. Publisher: Miller.

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