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Alroy, Edited by Sheila A. Spector

Reviews

The Court Journal 5 (1833): 202-3.

HAD we not read the earlier productions of this writer, we should have turned to the volume before us with no common interest—with no common feeling of curiosity; for the name of their reputed author ever awakens within us memories of the past—sleeping memories of that bright and dreamy season, when our eyes devoured, and our hearts drank in the beauty, poesy, and the pathos that glowed in every page of a work written by the father of the man to whom ‘The Wondrous Tale of Alroy’ is ascribed;—a work which considered as a vivid picture of those who dwell in a land where

     ‘The rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle,
     Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime—’

stands alone. Who that has perused—and, more especially perused in the days of his youth—‘The Loves of Mesjouin,’ (we are not certain of our orthography) and ‘Delilia,’* the Romeo and Juliet of the East, can forget that heart-touching tale? We at least remember well the deep delight with which we pored over the magic page, in many a sunny holiday. But, let us not turn sentimental,—we must to our task, for our space is brief—too brief to allow us even slightly to sketch the story of Alroy. We must, therefore, content ourselves with little more than a general opinion of the merits of the work. Yet, ere we pronounce even that, we must pause, for a moment, to direct the attention of the reader to the prefixed exquisite address to the “sister,” as we understand it, of the author. It is truly a gem, worth a world of those by-gone things, called dedications, which have sickened the public mind—will sicken it—as specimens of the taste that prevailed in what was falsely termed the “Augustan age” of our literature.

Alroy is evidently the production—we had almost said the inspiration—of a mind that wanders, “fancy free,” into the regions of poetic and dramatic beauty; of one who, to quote the words of an able critic, when speaking of Coleridge, “has drunk deep at the only true fount of inspiration—the Bible.”

It is well, perhaps, that our space is bounded, otherwise, we might forestal the enjoyment of the reader. Suffice it, then, to say, that the book is full of interest—of wonders—of superhuman energy—of human courage and power—and, alas! of human weakness! The youth of Alroy—the strife of his yearning thirst after greatness, or rather after the restoration of Jerusalem, and God’s “chosen people;”—the character of his youth’s tutor, Jabaster—his high mission, his life, his death—the visit of Alroy to the cavern of Genthesma—the after glimpses he has of the mighty spirit of the past—are each, and all, highly dramatic. The character of Miriam is purely lovely throughout.

—We cannot further dilate, but will merely offer the reader one excerpt—a single brick, whereby he may judge of the builder’s craft; the description of the Jackal’s feast of blood on Alroy’s faithful steed—a description that cannot fail to excite comparison with Byron’s Dogs of Corinth:*

Suddenly a creature steals through the black and broken rocks. Ha, ha! the jackal smells from afar the rich corruption of the courser’s clay. Suddenly and silently it steals, and stops, and smells. Brave banquetting I ween to-night for all that goodly company. Jackal and fox, and marten cat, hasten ye now ere morning’s break shall call the vulture to his feast, and rob ye of your prey.

The jackal lapped the courser’s blood, and moaned with exquisite delight. And in a moment, a faint bark was heard in the distance. And the jackal peeled the flesh from one of the ribs, and again burst into a shriek of mournful extasy.

Hark, their quick tramp! First six, and then three, galloping with ungodly glee. And a marten cat came rushing down from the woods; but the jackals, fierce in their number, drove her away, and there she stood without the circle, panting, beautiful, and baffled, with her white teeth, and glossy skin, and sparkling eyes of rabid rage.

Suddenly, as one of the half-gorged jackals retired from the main corpse, dragging along a stray member by some still palpitating nerves, the marten cat made a spring at the enemy, carried off his prey, and rushed into the woods.

Her wild scream of triumph woke a lion from his lair. His mighty form, black as ebony, moved on a distant eminence, his tail flowed like a serpent. He roared, and the jackals trembled, and immediately ceased from their banquet, turning their heads in the direction of their sovereign’s voice. He advanced: he stalked towards them. They retired; he bent his head, examined the carcass with condescending curiosity, and instantly quitted it with royal disdain. The jackals again collected around their garbage. The lion advanced to the fountain to drink. He beheld a man. His mane rose, his tail was wildly agitated, he bent over the sleeping Prince, he uttered an awful roar, which woke Alroy.

—Willingly would we have subjoined the visit of Miriam to her brother’s dungeon the night before his death, but we dare not further trespass.

—One word respecting the “style” of this work, which the author regards as “a new one,” as an invention of his own. We do not regard it in this light: its principle, or rather the philosophy of its principle, is good; but it is carried to a wild excess. This is not the age in which “prose” may be allowed to “run mad,” even in a work of fiction.

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Published @ RC

January 2005