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    (Review / Montalbert: a Novel, by Charlotte Smith)
  Monthly Mirror /JAS, 1795
  vol. 1 (1795): 35-7.
Montalbert, a Novel, by Charlotte Smith, 3 vols. 12mo. sewed. - Booker.

In the production before us, it is our duty to acknowledge that we have searched in vain for Charlotte Smith's best writing. Montalbert is nevertheless a very pleasing novel; and happy would it be for the rising generation if future offsprings of fancy prove no more exceptionable.

[36] Her portraits of a sharping attorney in Blagham, and a prig of a parson in Hughson, are drawn with a strength and truth which would not have disgraced a Fielding or a Smollett.

In the annexed quotation, reader, take a splice of the parson.

But Hughson, elevated with wine and inspired by love, could no longer check the violent inclination he always felt to relate some marvellous story, and to make himself the hero of it, he thought it was impossible to find any audience better disposed to listen and believe, with the exception only of Captain Mildred, whose coldness he imputed to envy.

He began, therefore, and told some of the most extraordinary adventures that ever were heard. How he once, with his single arm, defended several officers of dragoons from the insults of an enraged populace, whom some of them had offended just for throwing an old woman over a bridge into a river in a frolic. 'The old woman,' said he, 'swam like a cork, and was taken out not a bit the worse. My friend, Ned Whatley, as honest a fellow as ever lived, gave her a crown, and bid her not make such a d-----d yelling, since there was no harm done; but then came up a parcel of fisherwomen and washerwomen, and the devil knows who, and presently all the town, tag rag and bobtail, were under arms, and my friends were forced to retreat to the Red Lion, and there they shut themselves up in a room, Sir. - So presently up comes the mob, and begins to batter the door, Sir - Oh! Oh! thinks I, are you there, my good friends? I shall make a conversation with you gentlemen in a minute. - So, Sir, out I went among them all, and began to reason with them. They hissed, however, and began to be very troublesome, but that I did not mind: I seized one of the foremost by the collar; damme (says I, I was not in orders then you know) - Damme (says I) I'll make an example of some of you. So, Sir, up comes a fellow six feet high, and as strong as Sampson; but I seized him with the other hand, and was going to drag both him and the first rascal into the room, when up comes a great strapping wench, with a red hot poker in her hand; she gave me a blow, Sir, upon my head, which cut through a thick hunting hat, Sir, and stunned me sure enough.'

[37]'And pray, Hughson,' said the captain, with an air of incredulity, 'what were your friends the officers of horse doing all this while?' 'Doing?' answered he. 'Doing? - Why - why they were - they were shut up in the room; what could they do, you know.'

Before we dismiss these volumes, we shall be free to pass a few reflections.

Mrs Smith's heroine is represented with as much of grace, and as much of distress, as fall to the lot of most fair ones to be met with in the numerous family of fiction: nor is Mrs Vyvian (discovered in the end to be her mother) less adorned, or less interesting: but surely, as sentimental ladies, they have little to plead in defence of their conduct, at the bar of rigid virtue. We hope in nature there are but few daughters who, at the venture of a father's frown, would be so delicately indelicate as to rise in a late morning in October - dash through field, wood, and hedge - risque cold, character, HONOUR - on the strength of a week's acquaintance and a fine speech: - vow eternal love - and, at length, seal that vow with, at best, but a doubtful marriage. This charge lies at the door of Rosalie.

Again, - to nurse a guilty passion to a destructive end: - to offend in the deepest sense against duty and gratitude: - to live a wife dishonoured - a martyr to a secret shame. Is not this violating the laws of rectitude? And this statement is not overcharged, when we place it to the account of Mrs Vyvian.

To the fertile imagination of the fair writer the readers of novels are surely much indebted for a large portion of rational and refined amusement; but, in the present instance, we are called upon to hold up the Mirror, and warn her how dangerous it is thus to palliate indiscretion - thus to decorate vice.


Provided by Julie A. Shaffer, January 2000