British Fiction, 18001829

BUTT, George. Spanish Daughter, The (1824)

Contemporary Reviews

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 104 (July 1824): 332–33.

[Heading only appears on p. 332. Body of review is on p. 333].

We are here presented with one of those novels which display something of almost every species of merit except an adherence to nature and probability, and a reasonable story. It is rich in florid descriptions, grand heroic personages, very wonderful incidents, and deaths and resuscitations; such as are calculated to make a strong impression, of some kind or another, on the imagination of the reader. Of course it is a highly romantic and chivalric tale, referring to the times of Don Sebastian and the Moors, and imbued throughout with all the heroic passions, vast magnanimity, love, rapine, and despair. Formed as it is on the stately model of the old adventurous romance, and teeming with improbable incidents and hair-breadth escapes, it might have been written as a parody of the tales of old Xenophon Ephesius, or of Madame Scudery and her French contemporaries: in which view, and in which only, we imagine it may prove entertaining. Far superior to any common-sense story, it presents us with a ‘perpetual feast’ of the mock-heroic, with heroes and heroines, aunts, uncles, and country-cousins, of the best blood in Castille, figuring before us on stilts, decked in long genealogical robes, and stuffed with family pride. Certain readers, therefore, will peruse it with much interest in the subject; and beholding a young hero saved from the pitiless waves by his fair mistress herself, the mutual admiration of which this event is the source, his heroic death under the hands of the cruel Moors, the lady’s still more cruel persecutions, her enlèvement (as the French term it), and all that follows.

We would enforce on all future heroines, circumstanced like the present, the attention which it is necessary for them to pay to their guide, when informed of the path which they ought to pursue, ––and which is of course by no means a direct one, ––in order to ensure their escape from thraldom. The old duenna must really have supposed the young lady to be possessed of an excellent memory, when she gave her the following directions: ‘Wait not a moment; if the storm should abate, all hope is lost! Go down this little valley to which there is but one outlet: when you are past the precipices, turn shortly then on your right, and ascend with all possible speed towards the mountain, over the tops of the precipices which are now above our heads: you will then come to the great cascade which tumbles into the caverns: leave that on the right hand, and you will on the left easily drop into a path of the mountaineers: follow that for about two miles, winding quite to the other side of the mountain, and this will bring you to a little plain which is on one side of the summit, and there you will find a small hamlet belonging to the miners, rude but honest and innocent people.’ (Vol. i. p. 216)

It is rather surprising to add that the heroine actually found her way and was united to her lover.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 2 vols Crown 8vo; price 16s. Boards. Publisher: Knight & Lacey.

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