Text: Unknown (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of The Tower of London,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. X: Literary Criticism - part 03 (1902), pp. 110-111


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[page 110:]

THE TOWER OF LONDON: A HISTORICAL ROMANCE. BY W. H. AINSWORTH. AUTHOR OF “JACK SHEPPARD.” ONE VOLUME. LEA AND BLANCHARD, PHILADELPHIA, 1841.

[Graham’s Magazine, March, 1841.]

THE authorship of this work does a little, and but a little, more credit to Mr. Ainsworth than that of “Jack Sheppard.” It is in no spirit of cavilling that we say that it is rarely our lot to review a work more utterly destitute of every ingredient requisite to a good romance.

We would premise, however, in the outset of our remarks, that the popularity of this work in London is no proof of its merits. Its success, in fact, reminds us how nearly akin its author, in his treatment of the public, is to Dr. Sangrado. Blood-letting and warm water was the making of the latter — and bombast and clap-trap is the Alpha and Omega of the former. In the present volume we have it plentifully administered in descriptions of the Tower of London and the plots of the bloody Mary’s reign. It is this local interest which has given Mr. Ainsworth’s romance such a run in London, just as a family picture, in which a dozen ugly urchins, and sundry as ugly angels in the clouds, is the delight of the parents and the envy of all aunts.

The “Tower of London” is, at once, forced and uninteresting. It is such a novel as sets one involuntarily to nodding. With plenty of incident, considerable historical truth, and a series of characters such as an author can rarely command, it is yet, excepting a chapter here and there, “flat, stale, and unprofitable.” [page 111:] The incidents want piquancy; the characters too often are destitute of truth. The misfortunes of Lady Jane are comparatively dull to any one who remembers Mr. Millar’s late romance; and Simon Reynard is under another name the same dark, remorseless villain as Jonathan Wild. The introduction of the giants would grate harshly on the reader’s feelings if the author had not failed to touch them by his mock-heroics. Were it not for the tragic interest attached to Lady Jane Grey, and the pride that every Englishman feels in the oldest surviving palace of his kings, this novel would have fallen still-born from the press in London, as completely as it has ruined the author’s reputation in America.

We once, in reviewing “Jack Sheppard,” expressed our admiration of the author’s talents, although we condemned their perversion in the novel then before us. This duplicate of that worthless romance and scandalously demoralizing novel proves either that the author is incorrigible, or that the public taste is vitiated. We rather think the former. We almost recant our eulogy on Mr. Ainsworth’s talents. If he means to earn a name one whit loftier than that of a mere bookmaker, let him at once betake himself to a better school of romance. Such libels on humanity, such provocatives to crime, such worthless, inane, disgraceful romances as “Jack Sheppard” and its successors, are a blot on our literature and a curse to our land.

 


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Notes:

Although Harrision collected the present review as being by Poe, that attribution is generally dismissed today. T. O. Mabbott considered it too early to be by Poe.

 

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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 The Tower of London)