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
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
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
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.