Art 44. Montalbert. By Charlotte Smith. 12mo. 3 Vols. 12s. Low. 1795.
The public have so frequently borne witness to the superior abilities of Mrs Smith as a novel writer, that there is now little left for us to say, more than merely announcing the work before us, and adding that it does not by any means disgrace its parentage.
One thing, however, we must remark, to the cringenious authoress, viz. that, though she relates a journey across the Alps, and many of the scenes are in Italy, Sicily, and the South of France, yet we find no instance of protracted description. Other writers, and Mrs. S. herself in former publications, have minutely and much too frequently entered into long descriptions of scenes, which, however beautiful or grand they may be, and however, when sparingly introduced, they may enrich a novel, have often by immoderate repetition created disgust. Mountains, woods, castellated rocks overhanging a lake, luxuriant thickets, glowing sunsets, and midnight storms, if without intermission presented to the reader, cannot but become extremely tedious; and it is in our opinion not a little to the praise of Mrs. S. that, though she shines in the delineation of these poetical landscapes, she has sacrificed glare to propriety, and has again reduced fancy under the direction of taste.
Common sign daubings are safe in their meanness from critical remarks: but, in the works of an Angelo or a Raphael, every impropriety becomes visible, and every blemish is esteemed a deformity. It is with pain therefore that we observe, in the volumes before us, such inaccuracies as - I have went, for I have gone, insolate for insulate, collusion for collision, assimulate for assimilate; with other mistakes of the same kind. We do not perceive that prevoyance is at all better than foresight; and we would moreover hint, in a whisper, that the phrase 'she had studied the utile rather than the dulci,' so far from shewing a knowledge of Latin, is a striking evidence of the contrary.
The pieces of poetry interspersed through these volumes are very few in number; one of them we shall take the liberty of quoting:
Swift fleet the billowy clouds along the sky,
Earth seems to shudder at the storm aghast;
While only beings, as forlorn as I,
Court the chill horrors of the howling blast.
Even round yon crumbling walls, in search of food
The ravenous owl foregoes his evening flight;
And in his cave, within the deepest wood,
The fox eludes the tempest of the night: -
But, to my heart, congenial is the gloom
Which hides me from a world I wish to shun-
That scene, where ruin saps the mould'ring tomb,
Suits with the sadness of a wretch undone;
Nor is the darkest shade, the keenest air,
Black as my fate - or cold as my despair.
[complete] Provided by Julie A. Shaffer, August 1999.