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The Young Philosopher
    (Review / The Young Philosopher: a Novel, by Charlotte Smith)
  The Monthly Review /JAS, 1798
  vol 28 p346-7
Art. 41. The Young Philosopher. By Charlotte Smith. 12mo. 4 Vols. 16s. sewed. Cadell jun. and Davies. 1798.

We have received so much pleasure from all Mrs Smith's productions in this line of composition, that we feel certain of entertainment when we hear of a new performance from her pen. - Though we have not been altogether disappointed in the present instance, our pleasure has not been so great as on some former occasions; for we think that the interest of this work is by no means equal to some of her earlier pieces, and that the characters are not so well supported. We must however except the whole episode of Mrs. Glenmorris, the mother of the heroine; whose portrait, and that of Lady Kilbrodie, are nicely delineated and uniformly maintained.

Mrs Smith cannot claim the praise of consistency in her political opinions. In the volumes before us they are of the democratic cast, widely different from those of The Banished Man; - which were equally opposite to the sentiments of Desmond.

The pointed and indiscriminating severity with which not only certain characters, but entire professions, are mentioned in this work, is a trait of which we cannot help expressing our disapprobation. The [347] profession of Law, in particular, seems to rouse, in a high degree, the angry passions of the author; and accordingly, Lawyers of every rank are not only held up to contempt as men of narrow understandings and contracted souls, but to hatred, as knaves by profession; as men who live but by perverting justice, and who fatten on the spoils of misery. We must deny the propriety of thus reprobating in the general charge brought against them. We arraign the propriety of this practice for another reason, which perhaps ought to have not else weight with the writer who labours for the amusement and improvement of mankind: - namely, because it infallibly tends to instil into young minds, and to confirm where they already exist, very narrow and illiberal prejudices; fatal to the interests of benevolence, and calculated to mislead us in the conduct of life. That there are and always will be many bad men in a profession which, being conversant about property, holds out to integrity those temptations under which mankind have most frequently been found to sink, cannot be controverted: but it does not follow that it is just and useful to attempt to render odious a description of persons, without whom it is doubtful whether society in any advanced stage of civilization can exist: - for no society can exist without laws; and when laws become numerous and complex, as in an advanced state of society they must, it will be necessary that a class of men should exist, whose business it is to explain and apply them.

Though we do not deem this one of the best and most interesting of Mrs Smith's productions, we can recommend it to the attention of our readers, as it possesses many of her distinguished excellencies, and in various scenes shews [sic] an intimate acquaintance with life and the secret recesses of the human heart. - Some poetical effusions are introduced, and display the same genius and sensibility which we have so often admired in this lady's composition.

[complete] Provided by Julie A. Shaffer, August 1999.