1803
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Calista; or a Picture of Modern Life; a Poem.

Calista; or a Picture of Modern Life; a Poem, in three Parts. By Luke Booker, LL.D.

Rev. Luke Booker


A domestic tale in irregular Spenserians (ababcC); not seen.

Monthly Review: "This poem opens with a description of the mother's joy in nursing her own infant, contrasted with the neglect of parental duty in the character of the dissipated Calista. In the progress of the tale, the delinguency of Calista and the fatal effects of her conduct are portrayed in various colours, and the cause of virtue and religion is pleaded by the poet with zeal and animation. In Part 3d, an appeal is made to Britain and her senators in behalf of female virtue, and the character of Lord Eldon is introduced as the firm support of the poet's hopes" NS 41 (July 1803) 329.

Christopher Lake Moody: "In this poem, the author describes the virtuous rapture which a mother derives from nursing her own children, and contrasts this picture with that of a dissipated female, who abandons her children during infancy, and plunges into scenes of fashionable dissipation. the effects of gaming on the moral principle, and on the female character in particular, are next exhibited. Calista loses her honour; advances in delinquency, and elopes with her seducer; they are overtaken by a storm and shipwrecked on a rock; here the husband, who was returning from abroad, accidentally comes to their succour; Calista, on seeing him, plunges into the sea and is drowned; and the husband, in a subsequent encounter, (a conclusion we do not approve,) falls by the sword of the seducer. On this representation the Senate is addressed respecting the crime of Adultery, which D. B. thinks should be restrained, if all other means fail, by coercion; and he recommends the trial of close solitary confinement for both the criminals" Monthly Review NS 52 (January 1807) 89-90.

British Critic: "The Poems of Dr. Booker have frequently come before us, and have always deserved our favourable report. The present is dignified by its subject, and not lowered by the execution. In the tale of Calista here related, is conveyed a solemn warning against the crime of adultery; which the author, with many writers of great political wisdom, is desirous to have made the subject of penal statutes" 21 (March 1803) 310.

Anti-Jacobin Review: "The poet here traces the progress from virtue to vice, in the case of a lovely woman, married to the object of her affections, and blessed with every domestic and social comfort, but led, by fashionable dissipation, to the gaming table, and thence, by an easy descent, to the bed of adultery. The incidents are simple and few, but natural; and the relation of them affords an opportunity, of which the poet has skillfully availed himself, to censure the prevailing vices of the age; among which ADULTERY stands foremost" 14 (February 1803) 180.

Poetical Register for 1803: "We fear that the picture which Dr. Booker has here drawn is but too correctly copied from real life. The poem contains some ideas and lines which have merit, but, on the whole, it is not remarkable for elegance or animation" (1805) 456.

Anti-Jacobin Review: "The story of Calista is briefly this. She becomes the wife of an officer who, compelled to go on foreign service, leaves her at home; when she contracts a love for dissipation, and becomes a fashionable woman. A passion for gaming is soon contracted; she loses beyond her means of payment, and her honour discharges the debt. 'C n'est que le premier pas qui conte.' The guilty intercourse with her infamous seducer continues; she is soon prevailed on to elope with him; she quits her children and her home; and embarks, with the villain, for Ireland. Overtaken by a storm, the vessel is dashed on a rock; a boat from the neighbouring shore pushes off to its relief; — it reaches the barren spot on which the terrified passengers had landed for safety; — Calista marks its approach, and, on seeing her husband spring out of it, she shrieks and plunges into the sea. Her distracted husband addresses her seducer — a duel ensues; the former falls — and the latter adds murder to the crime of adultery. Such is the story, the basis of which, we lament to say, is not formed of fictitious materials. The examples of profligate gamesters first cheating, and afterwards debauching, the wives of their friends are, unhappily, but too numerous. A signal instance of such conduct is to be found among the new associates of the present premier. The tale is told with a simplicity, and an energy well suited to the subject; and many religious and moral precepts are aptly introduced" 25 (September 1806) 87-88.



Embark'd, the vessel cuts the glassy deep,
Whose waves reflect Aurora's rosy smile;
Around, all nature wakes from nightly sleep;
The mast-boy sings, devoid of fear and guile:
Grey mists sublimely shroud Britannia's Isle,
Whose tall cliffs lessen to the gazing eye;
Now, now they "bluely fade," and all is sea and sky.

So dawn'd the morning of Calista's life—
Cloudless, serene, and grandly wide its view:
Such was it still, when Edwin's lovely wife,
Willing, she vow'd to be forever true;
E'en then that life assum'd a brighter hue:
But ah! the sad reverse, ye fair! bemoan;
Avoid Calista's crimes, nor make her fate your own.

[Monthly Review NS 41 (July 1803) 329]