The Court Journal
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
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.
—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.