British Fiction, 18001829

?SCARGILL, William Pitt. Penelope (1828)

Contemporary Reviews

La Belle Assemblée, 3rd ser. 7 (June 1828): 266–67.

Amusement, though not of the first order, may be derived from the perusal of ‘Penelope, or Love’s Labour Lost, a Novel, in three Volumes, by the author of “Truckleborough Hall”.’ With a most inartificial plot, meagreness of incident, and paucity of character, sufficient interest is maintained to excite the attention of the reader throughout these volumes, which, abounding with bad taste, ill-nature, and flippancy, display, nevertheless, much shrewdness of remark, keenness of satire, and no slight knowledge of the darker side of human nature. The bona fide hero [266/267] of the tale is a Lord Spoonbill, only son of the pompous and empty-headed Earl of Smatterton. Smitten by the charms of our heroine, Penelope Primrose, whose heart and hand are already engaged, of shallow intellect, and destitute of the courage and spirit to act the part of the daring open villain, he endeavours, by the interception of letters, &c., to estrange her affections from Robert Darnley, the object of her choice. The young lady, by the death of her uncle, and the absence of her father, is left in somewhat destitute circumstances, and is induced, contrary to her inclinations, to accept the patronage of the Countess of Smatterton, under whose auspices she is to make her début as a public singer. Before, however, the degrading exhibition is made, her father, in possession of immense wealth, returns, and rescues his daughter from her humiliating station. Lord Spoonbill still continues his nefarious schemes, and for some time successfully. At length, through the treachery and cowardice of his agent, the village post-boy, the truth is brought to light. He next employs a parasitical friend, Colonel Crop, to carry off Penelope from her father’s house. The Colonel mistakes his directions, forgets her name, and finally bears off in triumph another lady. Mutual surprise and explanation ensue; the lady is rescued, his Lordship receives a sound horsewhipping; and, all difficulties having been obviated, Penelope and Robert Darnley are united. The style is lively, caustic—occasionally flippant and vulgar. The work, however, is amusing, and will attract a fair portion of popularity.—Once for all, we enter our decided protest against characteristic names in a novel: in nothing but broad farce are they to be tolerated: they not only excite disgust, but tend to destroy the illusion of the tale.—The author of Penelope possesses talent equal to the production of a work infinitely superior.

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