1825 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. James McHenry

Anonymous, in "Recent American Novels" North American Review [Boston] 21 (July 1825) 101-02.



The two works remaining on our list, have no other claim to be classed among American novels, than that of having been first published in America. The former we conclude, from certain modes of expression, to be the work of a native of Ireland, or at least one in the first generation of Irish descent. The latter seems to be the production of a Scotchman. The first is entitled

O'Halloran, &c. — The scene of action in this tale is the north of Ireland. The hero, Edward Barrymore, a young man of noble family, and loyal principles, takes a ramble for pleasure to the Giant's Causeway, and the scenes in the neighbourhood; meets with O'Halloran, a leading United Irishman, and his granddaughter Ellen; falls in love with Ellen; refuses to connect himself with O'Halloran's political intrigues; is seized and confined by the united leaders; escapes and returns to the south. Soon afterwards, the insurrection of 1798 breaks out, of which some of the events are detailed. On the defeat and surrender of the insurgents, O'Halloran, who, as one of the chiefs, is excluded from the benefit of the amnesty, endeavors to escape to America, is finally taken, and condemned, but saved from execution by the influence of Edward, who in the sequel marries Ellen.

The descriptions of the proceedings of the insurgents, while in arms, are graphic and interesting. We read this part of the book with pleasure, and this is all we can say in praise of it. The remainder is indifferent. The characters of O'Halloran, Ellen, and Edward, the proceedings of the latter in obtaining the pardon of the former, and several other circumstances in the tale, are imitated from similar circumstances in Waverley. Peg Dornan is Meg Merrilies diluted. The author thus compels us continually to draw comparisons, which must necessarily be unfavorable to him. The story is spun out long after the proper catastrophe. It should have been closed as briefly as possible, after the pardon of O'Halloran, who, after all, is the principal person. The episode of Sir Geoffrey Carebow, a brutal wretch, who carries off the heroine, that she may be rescued by Edward, and who afterward bequeaths her his fortune, is badly managed, and in some instances disgusting. There is also an occasional grossness of allusion, which is offensive. The grave dialogue is dull. The speakers talk too long, and too much in set terms. The subject and materials of this novel are excellent; its defects are in the execution.