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The Jesuit
    (Review / The Jesuit; or, the History of Anthony Babington, Esq. An Historical Novel, by Mrs F C Patrick)
  Monthly Review /JAS, 1799
  vol. 30 (1799): 95-7.
Art. 23. The Jesuit: or The History of Anthony Babington, Esq. An Historical Novel. By the Authoress of 'More Ghosts,' 'The Irish Heiress' &c. 12mo. 3 Vols. 10s. 6d. sewed. Dilly. 1799.

The subject chosen for these volumes does not, in appearance, promise much of the species of entertainment in which the lovers [96] of romance delight. The experienced novel reader, however, will not be discouraged; for he must be well aware how frequently the most alluring title is affixed to insipid and unnatural fiction. In the present case, no great degree of perseverance is necessary to engage the attention.

The authoress, assuming the character of an editor, in a humorous preface, informs us that the original manuscript of this history was discovered in the same chest which contained the Shakspearian manuscripts. She remarks that the great question respecting the plays then found did not appear to be how, but by whom, they were written; and she naturally supposes that her evidence in favour of Mr Ireland's veracity will occasion them to be re-acted and re-applauded. With regard to those circumstances in this narrative which differ from the relations of other historians, she insists, as Babington wrote his own story, that 'none but infidels and jacobins will venture to dispute the words of a dying man; and who was more likely to be well informed of such things as passed in his time, and which he was unquestionably engaged in, than gentlemen like Hume, Rapin, Echard, &c. who wrote either to gain faim [sic] or emolument.'

Our province being not less to examine how works are written than by whom, we shall content ourselves with having submitted to the reader the evidence of the editor concerning the authenticity, and shall only add a few remarks on the merits, of this performance.

The incidents designed to represent the close and secret communion preserved among the Jesuits, and the influence obtained by them over inexperienced, weak, or prejudiced minds, are well imagined, and shew much knowlege of human nature. The characters are forcibly drawn and well preserved; particularly that of Ballard. There is likewise a brilliancy in the character of Arthur de la Pole, which, notwithstanding a few indiscretions, makes him a candidate for a place in the foremost rank among those heroes in romance who have most ingratiated themselves in the reader's favour. Scenes that impress with terror have at all times been eagerly received: - the present narrative afforded opportunities too favourable to be neglected; - and of this kind, few incidents will be found in which so great a degree of terror is so naturally produced, as in the adventure of De la Pole in the dungeons of a chateau near Blois.

On the whole, this is no ordinary novel, either in plan or in the degree of interest which it excites. The authoress (as editor) has ingeniously inferred a moral from her story; which, as it is not of great length, we shall transcribe:

I remember, when I was a little girl, having heard my father say, that the times were much better when he was a boy; women handsomer, provisions cheaper, air warmer, children quieter, men more honest, &c. My grandfather coincided, but alleged that when he was a little boy, things were better still. My great grandmother granted this, but (as she had heard from a long train of ancestors) they were at the highest of all possible degrees of perfection in the time of Elizabeth. So, I used to go to bed fretting that I was so unhappy as to be born in such miserable times: and went on lamenting that I had not existed in the 16th century.

[97] Now upon considering over these pages, I begin to think we are not much worse even now, than they were then: and that at the time I grieved most, we were rather better. For were not France and Holland tearing and destroying themselves in the 16th century, with as much spite and malice as they possibly could at any future day, besides calling in people from all parts of Europe to assist, as if not equal to the work themselves? England was engaged in constant internal dissensions; the people hating each other on account of their civil and religious differences, just as cordially as my neighbors and myself do at present.

In short (as every thing goes by comparison) I find great comfort in contemplating, by means of my researches into novels and history, that we have equal capabilities with our ancestors; that the world, though nearer its end, is not anathematized; and that those who do well are likely to fare well. [complete]

Provided by Julie A. Shaffer, November 199