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First American edition, 2 vols. 12mo. Philadelphia, 1811.
Second American edition, 1 vol. 12mo. Boston, 1811.
HAT a second edition of this book should be published within three months of its first appearance in the country, shows that it has excited much interest; and we wish we had so much confidence in the public taste, as to believe that its having been much read, is a proof of its merit. But the appetite for works of mere amusement is not discriminating. If our community has justly admired Crabbe, and Southey, and Scott, it has also applauded the weak Montgomery, and the contemptible and effeminate Moore; and if quite sufficient praise has been given to Miss Porter, the value of the tribute is very
much diminished by the endurance and even approbation of Miss Owenson's sentimental lasciviousness. It is to be much regretted, that there are so many readers who have so little regard to the means by which they seek amusement; who are pleased with any book which pictures strong emotions, caring very little what is the character of their sympathies; for we are continually less alive to repeated impres
• First published in the General Repository, for January 181%. vol. i. page 191.
sions, and the grossest applications will at last be necessary
enjoyments of life will be insipid, while real pain will not be less felt, because the sufferer has cultivated a taste for elegant misery and sentimental woe. But as evil is generally produced by the perversion of the means of good, fictitious histories, though they may have held up a false standard, insinuated noxious principles, excited bad passions, vitiated the taste, and cherished feelings already too uncontrolled, may sometimes have increased the love of virtue, quickened the moral discernment, conveyed lessons of conduct, and been of great use in teaching that most important science, the knowledge of character. As novels however are generally read for mere amusement, to prevent vacancy, and to relieve fatigue, the mind is usually passive under the impression of their sentiments; or if at first vigorous, it is soon enervated by their debilitating influence. And the most assiduous readers are the young, ready to receive but unable to discriminate ; easily pleased and excited, and unsuspicious that what is beautiful may be injurious. It is then of the greatest importance, that they be free from every thing that can vitiate moral sensibility; from every thing that will inflame the passions, or increase the difficulty of self-government; from all representations of pleasure which will be in vain desired; from all trifling with the emotions of compassion, by descriptions of misery and want, in which suffering alone appears, while squalidness, and disease, and vulgarity, their almost necessary and loathsome accompaniments, are unnoticed. Perhaps no class of writings have more effect upon the morals of the age than novels, and it is unfit that these powerful agents should be arrogantly employed by any one, who has invention or imitative power sufficient to plan a story, and words enough to make sentences. We often wish that in these authors the desire of doing good were better directed, and that vanity would be satisfied with a less ample field for display.
Self-Control, though without a name, we presume to be the production of a female. The author declares herself, in a dedication to Miss Joanna Baillie, to be “a person, whom nature, fortune, and inclination have alike marked for ob. scurity,” Now as we do not like disqualifying speeches, we were not much prepossessed in her favor by this ostentation of modesty. She declares that she was desirous of doing good, and therefore she published a novel, which she wrote for amusement. How she intended to execute her purpose may be seen from the following passage of the dedication.
« In the character of Laura Montreville the religious prin“ciple is exhibited as rejecting the bribes of ambition; be5 stowing fortitude in want and sorrow; as restraining just
displeasure; overcoming constitutional timidity; conquer. “ing misplaced affection; and triumphing over the fear of “ death and disgrace.”
How the author' has executed her purpose we proceed to consider. The story is this,
Captain Montreville was a half-pay officer. He resided in Scotland. He had married a woman of fashion, because he was in love, and she accepted a man below her rank, be. cause Montreville was handsome, and she wanted a husband; and this, like most love matches, was very sad in its event. Laura was his only child, and she is introduced to us when seventeen years old, just after the death of her mother ; which was by no means a thing to be lamented; for Lady Montreville had grown nervous, and she vexed her husband ; and peevish, and she tormented her daughter; so that the former lost only a customary stimulus, and the latter an object of care and endurance. Near Glenalbert was stationed colonel Hargrave, who was very rich, and very handsome, and who, having a peerage in prospect, was an object of ad, miration with all the ladies in the kingdom. He had seen Laura, was enamoured of her person, and for a year had been
striving, by the display of his graces and powers, to secure so much of her love as would fit her for his
The first scene in the book represents him offending Laura, who had acknowledged her fondness, by his base proposals. As soon as he believed her to be serious in her resentment, his passion got the better of his pride, and he made offers to her father of marrying her. She rejected him however, for she was now undeceived as to his character, and determined to overcome her affections. Here commence her efforts at self-control. With the small property which captain Montreville possessed, he had purchased an annuity for his daughter's life ; and as payment was now refused because of some informality in the deed, a journey to London became necessary, and Laura accompanied her father. The evening before they set out, she had an interview with Hargrave, in which he made the most lover-like protestations, and by varied appeals to the fears and affections of Laura, now promising amendment, and now threatening most desperate measures, declaring that if she would not forgive him, he would drown his love in dissipation, and even hinting that he would hang himself, and thus that upon her would be the death of his body and soul, at last persuades or compels her to promise, that if for two years his habits should be correct, she would then think about his being again her friend. Hargrave was quite satisfied, and he bought Blair's sermons, and began to go to church, and determined to be very discreet in his gallantries. Meanwhile Laura and her father arrive in London, and here they are detained by various difficulties in settling the affair of the annuity. Their landlady had two daughters, one of them was short, round, and ugly, and, much to the annoyance of Laura, very full of tender sentiment. The descriptions of her rhapsodies, though there is in them somewhat of caricature, are rather amusing. The other was married to a quiet little plebeian, Mr. Jones; and a conversation which took place