British Fiction, 18001829

ANON. St Clyde (1816)

Contemporary Reviews

La Belle Assemblée, n.s. 14 (July 1816): 40–41.

The plot is of itself simple. A Highland Laird obtains for his son a commission in the invincible and ever renowned 42d regiment. This son is supposed to fall in battle; his father, the Laird of St. Clyde, is found drowned in a lake; and Monsieur Villejuive, his brother-in-law, gets possession of the estate of St. Clyde. The son returns after some years absence; the uncle flies; the murderer of the Laird is found out, and this miscreant is, we are led to infer, the uncle Villejuive.

But though this is the outline of the plot there are numerous circumstances connected with the division of it, developing the causes which led to Colin St. Clyde’s going into the army, the murder of his father, and the discovery of this diabolical affair, the villainy of Villejuive in depriving Ellen St. Clyde of her patrimonial estate, with a variety of other circumstances some of equal and others of minor importance linked therewith. And the author placing his hero in the 42d regiment affords him an extensive field for that irregularity of genius he displays. It was on the heights of Abraham the 42d, or as they were called the Black Watch, first evinced the savage and hitherto invincible bravery of the Highland warriors. The author of St. Clyde is the unrivalled historian of a Highland Farewell; and he manages the description with a feeling which appears to have a common fellowship in the departure of Colin St. Clyde’s recruits. But we will not destroy the pleasure our readers may anticipate from this morceau; the description is not too long and yet it is spun to the utmost—but it could not want a single sentence, for though the ideas are many, not one could be dispensed with.

We are sorry we cannot speak with equal warmth of the Scottish Wedding at Millhole. It is much too long, from a minuteness of the author to leave nothing unnoticed—but with this fault it is really an original; we look in vain for anything similar to it in any other novel—because it is a Scottish wedding—and will be read with delight by young and old.

As to the descriptive scenery and local manners of the characters, since the tale is evidently from the pen of a native of Scotland, we find the topographical allusions true to the veriest village, glen, wood, and loch. The author takes his characters just as he finds them, observing however always to make them support their several parts in the drama with all the national pride, superstition, presbyterianism, cunning, learning, perseverance, and clannish attachment for which the north is so famous. We conceive, upon the whole, that our readers by perusing St. Clyde will derive as much information as from any thing of the kind that could be thrown together in a hurry, and without much respect to the taste of Englishmen.

There is one thing we cannot omit to notice—the political opinions which run through these volumes, not that we imagine that the author is a rank Jacobite—No; but he is evidently one who sympathizes with a feeling that has scarcely a fellow in all the misfortunes which befel the house of Stuart.

But we have not yet noticed the language in which St. Clyde is written. The greater part of the plot, scenery, and personages are laid, described, and settled in Scotland: and, as might naturally be expected, a great [40/41] portion of these volumes is written in the dialect of that country. After the success with which this innovation has been attended in the popular novels of Waverly [sic] and Guy Mannering, St. Clyde comes before us fearless as to the consequences of such a deviation from long established custom. Yet with these innovations we can speak to the moral purity of the composition of this novel, and we have little doubt that, viewing it as we do, the first essay of one whose talents have evidently been applied to compositions of another and more arduous kind, we can recommend to the perusal of our readers the novel of St. Clyde.

Notes: No format or price given.

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 79 (Apr 1816): 448.

To the writer of the long MS. relative to St. Clyde, we repeat the answer just given to another Correspondent.

Notes: Listed under ‘Correspondence’. The previous correspondent was told that their remarks would be considered, but ‘we never accept anonymous contributions.’

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 80 (July 1816): 320–21.

For the last year or two, the novel-readers in this island have been indebted for much amusement to Scotish [sic] writers; and they have been so pleasantly initiated into the northern dialect by the perusal of ‘Waverley,’ ‘Guy Mannering,’ &c. that a moderate admixture of it in other tales proves attractive rather than alarming. The author of ‘St. Clyde,’ however, has composed too palpable an imitation of those works; and he has exceeded the present licence for writing Scotch, since he not only makes almost all his characters speak unintelligibly, but allows himself to narrate in such language as they employ. For instances [sic], he speaks, in Vol. ii. p. 32. of ‘a wondrous pavement that stretched far beneath [320/321] the dolesome deep;’—‘being now very old and frail, his suspicions were roused by observing some corbies,’ &c.—Vol. iii. p. 144. ‘longsome pleasure.’ —264. ‘There was little fear of a disclosure from Charles’s being transmewed into, as Dr. Boston, professor and lecturer on botany,’ &c. &c.

The tale is, moreover, too much crowded with personages, and appears to be a hasty performance: yet the description in the first volume of a march of recruits is natural and somewhat affecting: the story is not without variety; and the writer seems to be well acquainted with the scenery and customs which he delineates.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 3 vols 12mo; price 15s. Boards. Publisher: Gale & Fenner.

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