Review, Calef (1798)

Review of Calef: a Persian Tale [signed 'V.V.']2 vols. Hookham and Co., 1798. Analytical Review 27 (February 1798), 297-98.

    Our critical severity must infallibly be disarmed in giving a verdict on the first literary essay of 'a girl of seventeen.' The immaturity which must necessarily attend the mind, however promising and vigorous, at so early a period of life, might perhaps point out the propriety of waiting till industry had increased, and time ripened, the stores of the understanding, before the learner aspired to the more dignified and arduous duties of the teacher. But we wish not to discourage early indications of talent. The writer of the present performance appears to have taken for her model the eastern tales of the ingenious author of the adventurer, peculiarly calculated by their elegant, poetic language, to warm the youthful imagination; a laudable, and not unsuccessful solicitude is manifested by our author to render the style, metaphors, descriptions, and geography of her story correct and appropriate. The history of Abdallah, in itself little interesting, and wholly foreign from the principal narrative, which, on that account, it weakens, had better been omitted: an eastern tale should perhaps never run into length, the monotonous periods adopted in this species of composition quickly pall upon the ear. Young writers are seldom aware of the effect and beauty of simplicity; we select the following passage, in which image is crowded upon image, to exemplify our hint.

    Vol. I, p. 159. -- "The incidents which occur in the most unchequered scenes of life must be productive of instruction to the mind of youth; but Abdallah launched his little bark upon a sea whose waves were for ever fluctuating under the winds of vicissitude. The vessel of his hopes was wrecked upon the rocks of disappointment. May he not then flatter himself that his sorrows will, at least, procure for him an interest in the hearts of the compassionate? But as the ocean, which lasheth the shore with its billows, sweepeth away the frail [298] characters engraven on the sand; even so has the overwhelming tide of time obliterated every trace of grief in the bosom of Abdallah."

                                                                V. V.