Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of Tales of the Peerage and Peasantry,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VIII: Literary Criticism - part 01 (1902), pp. 74-75


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[page 74:]

TALES OF THE PEERAGE AND THE PEASANTRY, EDITED BY LADY DACRE. NEW YORK: HARPER & BROTHERS.

[Southern Literary Messenger, December, 1835.]

WE had been looking with much impatience for the republication of these volumes, and henceforward we shall look with still greater anxiety for any thing announced as under the editorial supervision of Lady Dacre. But why, Lady Dacre, this excessive show of modesty, or rather this most unpardonable piece of affectation? Why deny having written volumes whose authorship would be an enviable and an honorable distinction to the proudest literati of your land? And why, above all, announce yourself as editor in a title-page, merely to proclaim yourself author in a preface?

The Tales of the Peerage and the Peasantry are three in number. The first and the longest is Winifred, Countess of Nithsdale, (have a care, Messieurs Harpers, you have spelt it Nithsadle in the very heading of the very initial chapter) a thrilling, and spirited story, rich with imagination, pathos, and passion, and in which the successful termination of a long series of exertions, and trials, whereby the devoted Winifred finally rescues her husband, the Earl of Nithsdale, from tyranny, prison, and death, inspires the reader with scarcely less heartfelt joy and exultation than we can conceive experienced by the happy pair themselves. But the absolute conclusion of this tale speaks volumes for the artist-like skill of the fair authoress. An every day writer would have ended a story of continued sorrow and suffering, with a bright gleam of unalloyed happiness, [page 75:] and sunshine — thus destroying, at a single blow, that indispensable unity which has been rightly called the unity of effect, and throwing down, as it were, in a paragraph what, perhaps, an entire volume has been laboring to establish. We repeat that Lady Dacre has given conclusive evidence of talent and skill, in the final sentences of the Countess of Nithsdale — evidence, however, which will not be generally appreciated, or even very extensively understood. We will transcribe the passages alluded to.

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The Hampshire Cottage is next in order — a tale of the Peasantry; and the volumes conclude with Blanche, a tale of the Peerage. Both are admirable, and worthy of companionship with Winifred, Countess of Nithsdale. There can be no doubt that Lady Dacre is a writer of infinite genius, possessing great felicity of expression, a happy talent for working up a story, and, above all, a far more profound and philosophical knowledge of the hidden springs of the human heart, and a greater skill in availing herself of that knowledge, than any of her female contemporaries. This we say deliberately. We have not yet forgotten the Recollections of a Chaperon. No person, of even common sensibility, has ever perused the magic tale of Ellen Wareham without feeling the very soul of passion and imagination aroused and stirred up within him, as at the sound of a trumpet.

Let Lady Dacre but give up her talents and energies, and especially her time to the exaltation of her literary fame, and we are sorely mistaken if, hereafter, she do [[does]] not accomplish something which will not readily die.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of Tales of the Peerage and Peasantry)