Lucy Peacock, writer of children's books, adapts elements of the Adventure of Guyon in her fable of the Knight of the Rose; it was written as a kind of sequel to her Six Princesses of Babylon, published in 1785. The story begins in media res.
William Enfield: "This moral allegory is the production of Miss Peacock, the writer of The Adventures of the Six Princesses of Babylon.... The principal hero of the piece, the Knight of the Rose, undertakes the destruction of the powerful Fairy Excess, to whose fascinating charms so many of the vices and miseries of mankind are to be ascribed. After various adventures, the hero brings the shield of Temperance into the bower of the fairy, and the people are released from her enchantment. The idea is borrowed from the second book of Spenser's Fairy Queen, to which the author also acknowledges herself indebted for one of her allegories. To compare this allegory with the Fairy Queen would be trying it too severely: but to those young readers for whose use it is designed, we may fairly promise, from the perusal, much useful instruction, and some amusement" Monthly Review NS 12 (November 1793) 339-40.
Critical Review: "It is extremely difficult to make allegory at once just and entertaining; the novelty of this species of writing is worn off. We know, before we turn the pages of the book, that talismans will open rocks, and clues guide through labyrinths; that Independence is a 'mountain nymph,' and Fraud, the inhabitant of a 'gloomy cave'; that Ambition with beckon to the 'precipice,' and Pleasure spread her allurements in the 'bower'.... These common places of imagination rather form a species of hieroglyphic writing, than any proper allegory. — Perhaps, however, we forget that there is an age to which all these images are not so familiar as they are to ourselves. Happy age, read then without delay, before you find insipidity under the mask of entertainment, the six princesses of Babylon, and the Island of Pleasure, and the Knight of the Rose" NS 10 (January 1794) 120.
Earl R. Wasserman: "This conception of the Faerie Queen as fundamentally a moral and allegorical poem reached its logical conclusion in Lucy Peacock's The Knight of the Rose" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 97.
THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE AGIB, IN HIS SEARCH AFTER THE LAUREL OF RENOWN.
Though, I at present, said the monster, bear a nearer resemblance to the brute than to the human species, I was indebted to nature for a person formed, at least, neither to inspire terror nor disgust. My father reigns over an extensive kingdom, some leagues from hence: he had been united in marriage many years, but had no child to succeed to his throne; my birth therefore was celebrated by my parents and the whole nation as a signal blessing from heaven; but instead of resting satisfied here, my father was desirous of diving into futurity to learn the particulars of my fate, and for this purpose assembled the wise men of his realm, who, with one consent declared, that an early period was threatened to complete my existence. This was, as you may suppose, a cruel damp to the hopes of my father, who was inconsolable in thought, as the sole surviving branch of an illustrious race, of leaving no posterity to transmit his name to future ages. In the hopes of counteracting my fate, during my infancy, every possible precaution was taken to prevent the approaches of disease. The air was scarcely permitted to blow upon me; and as I grew up, lest my constitution should be impaired by any mental vexation, a constant succession of amusements was devised to prevent the intrusion of all but the most pleasing ideas: but this excess of care defeated, rather than furthered the design of my parents, by debilitating both my person and mind. Lest any unforeseen accident should befal me, and accomplish the prediction of the sages, I was never suffered to leave my apartment unattended by a numerous guard; and lest I should contract a desire for arms, and by that means be exposed to the dangers of war, I was carefully debarred the sight of all missive weapons. In short, I should weary you were I to relate half the absurdities to which the credulity of my father gave birth. As I grew to years of maturity, the restraint I suffered became insupportable; and I frequently retired to my chamber full of gloomy discontent, to ruminate upon and lament the singularity of my distiny. One day, as I was thus employed, a beautiful Genius on a sudden stood before me. "Agib," said she, "I am the genius who presided at thy birth; wherefore art thou dismayed at the prediction of the sages? Knowest thou not that the Laurel of Renown will confer a degree of immortality? Wherefore then languish in inactivity Seek it, my son, and be the arbiter of thine own fate." I replied, that I had never heard of it, nor did I know in what part of the globe it was to be found. "In the first ages of the world," replied the Genius, "the Laurel of which I speak, was planted by Virtue, in the Garden of Peace, and by her endued with many rare qualities: It has since been transplanted by Fame into the Temple of True Glory, where alone it is to be found." Having said this, without giving me time to reply, she disappeared. The words of the bright Genius kindled in my breast an ardour to which I was before a stranger. I spurned the inglorious life I had hitherto led, and resolved to obtain the Laurel of Renown, or perish in the attempt: but when I communicated my resolution to my father, I found it difficult to gain his consent to my departure. He was no stranger to the qualities of the Laurel; but, I know not for what reason, his heart forboded I should never return possessed of it: in short, he was inflexible, and I left his presence overwhelmed with disappointment and chagrin. My hopes thus blasted, I no longer enjoyed the amusements of the palace. The Laurel of Renown, to which I was forbid to aspire, alone seemed worthy my regard, and I fell into a deep melancholy. It was now my father no longer opposed my design: I set out on my favourite expedition, after taking an affectionate farewell of my father and of my sister the princess Adelin: for I should before have observed, that two years after I was born, the grief which my parents experienced from the prediction concerning me, was softened by the birth of a daughter, whose beauty and worth render her universally admired. — But to proceed with my unhappy story. Soon after my departure I was accosted by the Genius, at whose command I set out for the Temple of True Glory: "Prince," said she with a benign smile, "I am pleased with the attention you have paid to my advice; as an earnest of my favour take this," said she, presenting me with a sword of curious workmanship, "it is the Sword of Valour, and if rightly used may be of service to you in acquiring the object of your pursuit;" you see, continued the Genius, "before you two paths; keep that to the right, and it will lead you to the Temple of True Glory, in which you will find the Laurel you seek." Having said this she disappeared, and I pursued my way along the path she had pointed out, till a glittering pavillion, which appeared at the end of a walk, on each side shaded with lofty trees, excited my curiosity, and induced me to turn aside: I approached, and perceived at the entrance of it a young beauty whose charms seemed to surpass all I had seen in the court of my father. Not knowing in what manner to apologize for my intrusion, I requested to be informed whether I was in the right way to the Temple of True Glory? The fair stranger replied, I was, and enquired whether I sought the celebrated Laurel that had been transplanted thither, by Fame? Ravished with her charms I had scarcely power to reply, that I did. It is not now, rejoined she, the hour for travel, repose yourself in my pavillion till the sun declines, and we will speak more at large upon the subject of your journey. Inchanted with the invitation I entered the pavillion, and partook of some fruits and delicious wines, which seemed to acquire additional sweetness from the fair hands by which they were offered. During this repast, my fair hostess, who to my cost I have since found, was the fairy, Ambition, enquired what were my motives for undertaking the conquest of the Laurel of Renown? I was too much enamoured to conceal anything, and readily communicated the particulars of my story. Fortune, replied the fair seducer, I perceive favours your undertaking. I am the fairy from whom the Temple of true Glory derives its name, without my assistance you might have toiled your whole life, and never have obtained the Laurel you seek. I frankly own, said she, that I am interested in your behalf; I would not suffer her to proceed; but, fool that I was, threw myself at her feet to express my gratitude. It is time enough, said the fairy, to acknowledge my favours when you have an earnest of them. I have since recollected, that Ambition said this with a smile, somewhat satirical, but at that time I fancied it full of sweetness and dignity. I replied, that the interest she expressed in my behalf, was alone sufficient to bind me eternally to her service. It will be your own fault, said Ambition, if you do not possess the Laurel of Renown; but the object of your pursuit must be Power, the magic wand which lies concealed in the Brazen Rock. How, interrupted I, must I forge the Laurel of Renown? By no means, replied the fairy, the magic wand can alone give you entrance to the Temple of true Glory, in which the Laurel is to be found; when you have obtained it, the Laurel is your own. It is indeed surrounded by obstacles, but by my art they may be surmounted. To-morrow, said Ambition, if you are willing to be guided by me, we will set out together for the Brazen Rock. Dazzled by the charms of the fairy, I was so infatuated as to be won upon by her specious arguments; and though sensible I was not pursuing the path pointed out by my tutelar genius, I was weak enough to consent to her proposal; and early the next morning we set out together for the rock in which, the said, the magic wand was concealed. Our first rout was to a cave hid amidst the intricacies of a gloomy wood; at the entrance we were welcomed by an old fairy, whose deformity was such, that an involuntary impulse made me turn from her with disgust. Fraud, said my conductor, we need thy assistance — Enough daughter, said the hag, interrupting her. I am no stranger to the cause of thy visit; thou wouldst that I assist the youth whom thou art leading to the Brazen Rock. True, said Ambition — The old fairy then disappeared, but in a few minutes returning, presented me with a belt of various hues. This, young prince, said she, is the Girdle of Guile; when need requires, let it encircle you. Having said this, she darted into the recesses of her den, and left us to pursue our way to the Brazen Rock. I perceive, said Ambition, when we were alone, that the deformity of the fairy has not impressed you with a favourable opinion of her gift, which will, nevertheless, be useful to accomplish the business we have in view. Fraud, is ill-favoured I confess, nor is her abode inviting: I seldom visit it but when urged by necessity. As she said this, we pursued our journey; and after encountering many difficulties, which were constantly surmounted by the power of Ambition, we arrived in sight of a stupendous rock, the summit of which seemed to pierce the clouds. "Now, my prince," said the subtle fairy, exerting all the influence she too well perceived she had over me, "Now, call forth all your courage; be but stedfast to your purpose, and undismayed with the dangers you are about to encounter, and you will soon be possessed of the greatest treasure that ever excited the ardour of youth." As Ambition pronounced these last words, we drew nigh the rock: through it appeared an arched avenue at which we entered, and pressed forward till the path, contracting by degrees, became scarcely wide enough to admit one person: a few yards forward was the figure of an armed knight, holding a bow, ready bent, to oppose our further progress. I was preparing to rush to the encounter, armed with the sword of Valour, but I was withheld by my companion. Here, young prince, said she, your sword and shield will not avail; both the archer and the bow he bends are the work of enchantment. How then, replied I, dismayed, shall we pass? Now, Agib, said Ambition, that necessity urges, have recourse to the gift of the fairy, Fraud. I obeyed, and encircling myself with the Girdle of Guile, in the same instant sunk to the earth an ugly reptile. Proceed, said Ambition, and fear not the dart of the archer. — I obeyed, and the arrow passed harmless over me. The danger being passed, the fairy, by pronouncing certain words, caused me to rise again in my natural form, and I followed her through the rock into a spacious meadow: here, allured by the beauty of the place, I was inclined to loiter, but Ambition pressed me to seize the present moment, and we proceeded. The meadow was on three sides bounded by steep and craggy rocks, and before us lay a gloomy morass. We can proceed no further, said the fairy, without auxiliaries; we must seek the abode of a giant, who lives not far from hence; it is by his aid alone that we shall be able to pass the morass. As she pronounced these words, at the summit of an adjacent rock I perceived a gigantic figure of such deformity, that upon seeing him descend the rock, mounted on a monster more hideous than himself, I uttered an involuntary cry of horror, and would have fled, had not Ambition withheld me. Fear nothing, said she, it is the giant, Oppression, by whose aid alone we can pass the morass. Having said this, she made a signal for the giant to approach; and he, well knowing as it appeared the business upon which he was summoned, advanced with a ghastly smile, and waving an iron wand that he grasped, a causeway was to our wish raised across the morass, and we passed attended by the giant, who, at the request of Ambition, consented to accompany us to the Brazen Rock, that he might be at hand, in case his assistance was again requisite. I shall not, said the savage prince, trouble you with a further detail of the various difficulties and dangers I encountered in my way. I shall only tell you, that as we drew towards the Brazen Rock, my impatience to possess the magic wand was so great, that to expedite my progress, I was prevailed upon by Ambition to have recourse to Cruelty, the monster, upon which the giant rode, though the very appearance of it had at first inspired me with horror: however, my impatience to possess Power, the magic wand prevailed, and Oppression dismounting, I ascended the monster in his room; and thus by the assistance of Cruelty, Fraud, and Oppression, to which Ambition had introduced me, I at length arrived at the Brazen Rock. It was of stupendous heigth and magnitude; we entered at an obscure door, which opened at the command of the fairy, but immediately closing, left us involved in total darkness; at the same moment a tremendous clap of thunder, which was quickly succeeded by others, seemed to shake the rock in which we were intombed to its very base. Let us return, said I, alarmed at the horrors that surrounded us, nor tempt the dangers of this fearful gloom. "Fear nothing," said Ambition, "trust to me, and all will be well." Saying this, she drew from beneath her garment a torch, and having kindled it by the force of some mystic words, this, said she, will light us to the object of our pursuit; it is the Torch of Treason — I started at the found, but it was too late to retreat. By the light I ascended by a winding path into the heart of the rock, from whence, by the command of my conductor, I with inexpressible joy drew the magic wand. The fairy appeared to be no less transported than myself, and we left the rock together rejoicing in our prize; but the joy I experienced was of short duration: we had not proceeded many furlongs before I was attacked by a winged monster whose appearance struck terror to my heart: it darted upon me from an adjacent precipice, and piercing me with its horrid fangs, already began to prey upon my vitals. I attempted to defend myself with my sword, but alas, it was no longer in my possession: I then turned to ask counsel of Ambition; but judge my astonishment, when, instead of seeing her adorned with that beauty which had hitherto intoxicated my senses, I beheld her more deformed than imagination can paint; and in the same instant perceived that I was myself no longer human! My only resource now was in the magic wand, which Ambition had told me would fulfil every desire I could form; but finding that it neither possessed power to release me from the gripe of the monster, nor to restore me to the form I had lost, I threw it from me with anguish and disgust. Ambition seized it with transport, and fled, leaving me in the relentless grasp of the monster. The torture I endured was insupportable: I struggled in vain to get free, till despair at length giving me additional strength, by a sudden effort I sprung forward and fled with incredible swiftness to the brink of a precipice, from whence I threw myself headlong, hoping by death to put an end to my miseries. But here I was disappointed; preserved by a superior power: I found myself at the foot of the precipice, but awake to the keenest sense of anguish. At my side I observed a female of great beauty and gravity of aspect: "Agib," said she, addressing me, "I am the Fairy Reflexion; at the command of the genius whose precepts you have rejected, I am at length come to your assistance. Ambition the fairy by whose arts you have been enthralled, has long sought to possess the magic wand: she has made you the instrument to accomplish her designs, and you now see the fatal consequence of committing yourself implicitly to her guidance. From the moment you accepted the aid of Fraud, Cruelty, and Oppression, your present deformity commenced; but such was the power Ambition had usurped over you, that the rendered you insensible of the change, till the moment you were attacked by the winged monster. Its name is Remorse, the peculiar pest of the mountain from which you have happily escaped: Ambition, that this monster might not impede your progress to the Brazen Rock, by a powerful spell, confined it in a cave at the top of the precipice from whence it darted upon you." Would to Heaven, said I groaning with anguish, that it had remained there. "Happily for you, replied the Fairy, it was released, as the same spell by which Ambition prevented the approach of Remorse, adorned her with those charms that first seduced you, and rendered you at the same time blind to your own deformity. It was I, said Reflection, who freed you from the delusion by dissolving the spell which confined the monster. — You cannot return your natural form till the power of Ambition be destroyed" — Oh Heavens! interrupted I, is there no remedy! — "None, said the Fairy; your present sufferings are but a just punishment for having subjected yourself to the power of Ambition. I perceive by my art, that by the power of the magic wand, she will erect a palace upon the brow of the mountain: but beware of approaching it: her abode, like the beauty she assumes, dazzles but to delude. To heal the wounds you have received from Remorse, is beyond my power, but the anguish of them may be mitigated by bathing in the Well of Penance, to which I will conduct you." Having said this, she led me to a spring hard by, and disappeared. I found, as Reflection had foretold, that the waters mitigated the anguish of my wounds, but they were too deep to be suddenly healed. I will not trouble you, said the savage prince, by a vain attempt to describe what I felt upon reflecting on the state to which I was reduced, by following the councils of Ambition. The first transports of my grief having somewhat subsided, curiosity led me to travel round the mountain. I soon perceived, as the Fairy had foretold, that Ambition had fixed her abode upon the summit; nor need I add, that it is the palace to which you were on the point ascending. I took up my residence in this cave, and constantly warn the unwary whom I see daily allured by the Palace of Ambition. Thus have I related the whole of my miserable story: Far from seeking the Laurel of Renown, I wait with impatience till the predication concerning me is accomplished, since it is from death only I can hope an end to my misfortunes.
Artimer listened with astonishment to prince Agib's relation. He thanked him for having satisfied his curiosity so much at his own expence, and seeing him overwhelmed with affliction, "time," said the Knight of the Rose, thinking to console him, may bring relief to your misfortunes; remember, my friend, the words of the Fairy Reflection; if I am not mistaken, she told you, that your deformity would continue till the power of Ambition should be destroyed, which certainly did not imply that they were without remedy." — "Alas," replied the savage prince, "you know not Ambition; her dominion once established, great indeed must be the power by which it is subdued. But the night is far spent, said he, recollecting himself, it is time that you repose yourself." Saying this, he conducted his guest into an inner cell which was spread with the soft skin of a leopard, and left him to enjoy the refreshment of sleep.
The next morning our hero arose with the dawn, and having gratefully acknowledged the kindness of Prince Agib, set forward upon his journey. As he passed the foot of the mountain upon which Ambition had erected her palace, instead of seeking the path from which he had wandered the evening before an idle curiosity induced him to take a nearer view of it: relying therefore on the power of the Shield, which the magician, Brandezar had assured him would preserve him from all evil enchantment, he boldly ascended the mountain, and as he proceeded, felt his confidence encrease, so much, that he resolved to gratify his curiosity still further, and view the Fairy whose power had wrought such fatal effects upon the unhappy prince he had just left. With this imprudent design he continued to ascend the mountain, till the heat of the sun became so intense that he turned aside for shelter into a gloomy cave which, to his wish, appeared at hand; he did not however remain here undisturbed; his entrance had roused an enormous tiger, which with glaring eye balls advanced toward him from a dark recess in the farther part of the cave. The Knight of the Rose covering himself with his shield, drew his sword and stood prepared to defend himself, but at the same instant the animal vanished, and an old Fairy of the most hidious deformity stood before him. "Sir Knight," said she "I am the Fairy Wrath: you have the good fortune to please me; return my affection and share my power." "Rather," replied the astonished Artimer, with indignation, "let me die." — "Since it is so, said the Fairy, convulsed with rage and disappointment, "tremble at the power you reject." Saying which she darted into the recesses of her den, and Artimer with all speed hastened from the cave and continued his way up the mountain. As he drew near the Palace of Ambition, he could not forbear admiring its magnificence; and was so deeply engaged in the contemplation that he did not observe a Knight who approached mounted upon a dappled steed: he grasped a fiery lance, and appeared completely armed, excepting that he had no shield. He advanced with an air of insolent defiance, and couching his lance, rushed upon Artimer with such fury, that had he not been prepared, he had certainly unhorsed him. "For thy safety," said the stranger, with an air of haughty derision, "thank the Shield that defends thy coward heart." — Enough, said Artimer, throwing it aside, let us meet on equal terms: — but e'er he could address himself to the combat, he received a wound from the lance of his adversary. In an instant he was seized with the most excruciating tortures; his entrails were on fire; an inward heat seemed to consume his vitals. Mad with anguish, he rushed with fury to the attack; but, alas! he had thrown aside the Shield of Temperance, which had alone power to defend him from the burning lance of his enemy: his sword he perceived had no power to prevail against his antagonist, and flight being the only means to escape from the fatal lance, he gave the reins to his courser. Parched with the cruel flames that raged within his breast, he at length stopped at the entrance of a wood; and alighting from his horse, made toward an old man, whom he discerned through the trees, at some distance, to enquire whether he could direct him to a spring at which he might slake his thirst. But what various emotions crowded upon his mind, when, upon a nearer view, in the sage he discovered the Magician Brandezar! Till this instant the loss he had sustained in his Shield had never once occurred to his remembrance; but he now felt the full force of it. The thought of meeting the Magician, dispossessed of the Shield, overwhelmed him with shame and confusion. Brandezar, who by his art knew all that had happened, approached the young Prince, and addressed him with a countenance in which severity and compassion were blended. "Unhappy son of an unhappy Sire!" said he, "In what a state do I find thee! is it thus thou destroyest the power of Excess?" "Alas!" said Artimer, prostrating himself at the feet of the Magician, "I deserve thy reproaches — I am unworthy to live." — "Live," said Brandezar, "to expiate, if it be possible, thy faults." — "Alas," said the youth, "I have lost the sacred shield" — grief would not suffer him to proceed. Brandezar, touched with the anguish and deep despair he discovered in the countenance and actions of the repentant Artimer, led him into a cell hard by, where having examined his wounds, he poured into them a balm, which instantly extinguished the internal flames with which he had been tortured, since pierced by the burning lance. This was too great an obligation to remain unacknowledged: Artimer, though, from a consciousness of his errors, scarcely able to lift his eyes to the Magician, thanked him for a kindness so unmerited. "Your first error," said Brandezar, "from whence all the others have arisen, has been too firm a reliance on your own strength; to indulge an idle curiosity, you exposed yourself to dangers and temptations, which you had neither prudence to prevent, nor strength to resist. Had you kept the path prescribed by me upon your first setting out; or, from the fate of Prince Agib, learnt to distrust yourself, you had avoided the Den of Discord, in which you were exposed to the attacks of the Fairy Wrath. She found you defended from her power by the Shield of Temperance; but Provocation; another Fairy, as malicious as herself, undertook to make you relinquish it. It was she who attacked you under the form of a Knight; and having artfully induced you to throw it aside, pierced you with a lance, to which Wrath had communicated her own fire." "I see," said the young Prince, "the full extent of my error; but, alas! will that restore to me the treasure I have lost? will it restore to me the Shield of Temperance, or the esteem of Brandezar?" "The Shield of Temperance, though lost by you imprudence," replied the Magician, "may be regained; it is indeed eager to keep possession of it when once attained, than to recover it when lost; but be not, my son, discouraged; by my art I forsee that it may still be yours." — "But where," said Artimer, "shall I seek it? should I return to the spot where I so imprudently threw it from me?" "Be assured," interrupted Brandezar, "that you will not find it there: it is neither in the Palace of Ambition, the Den of Discord, nor with Provocation, that you must seek the Shield of Temperance; your road must be directly opposite to the abode of these." — Having said this, the Magician conducted the young Prince, who followed leading his horse, by a gentle descent, to the foot of the mountain; and having pointed out to him those places in which be might with the greatest probability of success seek the precious Shield he had lost, he left him to begin his search. — Artimer, tho' encouraged by Brandezar, was to deeply impressed with the sense of his former errors, to pursue his journey, unimbittered by those painful reflections which will ever be the consequence of guilt or folly; distrustful of himself, he dreaded danger in every shade, and for a long time ventured not to deviate, in the most trifling degree, from the path which the sage Brandezar had marked out for him to pursue. During this time, the fatigue of a long road, was one day lightened by the agreeable society a knight, with whom, as they were travelling the same way, he insensibly fell into discourse: as they became more familiar, the stranger expressed his surprise, that his companion, though in other respects completely armed, should be destitute of a Shield. Artimer, who naturally possessed an openness of temper, not only acquainted him with the manner in which he lost it, but related the whole of his adventure in the tomb of his father. This begetting the same confidence in the stranger, he, in turn, related his adventures: — as they may possibly afford equal entertainment to the reader as they did to Prince Artimer, I shall recount them in the words of the knight.