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Guy Fawkes by William Harrison Ainsworth
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"“Guy Fawkes,” the book now lying before us, and the slast completed production of its author, is positively beneath criticism and beneath contempt. The design of Mr. Ainsworth has been to fill, for a certain sum of money, a stipulated number of pages. There existed a necessity of engaging the readers whom especially he now addresses — that is to say the lowest order of the lettered mob — a necessity of enticing them into the commencement of a perusal. For this end the title “Guy Fawkes or The Gunpowder Plot” was all sufficient, at least within the regions of Cockaigne. As for fulfilling any reasonable expectations, derived either from the ad cap-tandum title, or from his own notoriety (we dare not say reputation) as a novelist — as for exerting himself for the permanent or continuous amusement of the poor flies whom he had inveigled into his trap — all this, [column 2:] with him, has been a consideration of no moment. He had a task to perform, and not a duty. What were his readers to Mr. Ainsworth? “What Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?” The result of such a state of affairs is self-evident. With his best exertions, in his earliest efforts, with all the goadings of a sickening vanity which stood him well instead of nobler ambition — with all this, he could do — he has done — but little; and without them he has now accomplished exactly nothing at all. If ever, indeed, a novel were less than nothing, then that novel is “Guy Fawkes.” To say a word about it in the way of serious criticism, would be to prove ourselves as great a blockhead as its author. Macte virtute, my dear sir — proceed and flourish."
http://www.eapoe.org/works/criticsm/gm41aw01.htm ( )
  EdgarAllanPoeLibrary | Jan 16, 2016 |
Another slice of romanticised and slightly Gothic historical fiction from this mid 19th century author. He is very keen on setting stories in the early seventeenth century and here covers the most famous historical event of them all from this period. While Ainsworth is not in general a great creator of characters, Guy Fawkes and the other main conspirators are quite well drawn, neither one-dimensional evil plotters or heroic Catholic martyrs, and the novel shows an understanding of a Catholic point of view which was probably still quite unusual in 1841. The only character that fails in this respect is the fictional heroine Viviana Radcliffe, who fulfils all the stereotypes of the Victorian heroine, beautiful, sensitive, praying for the menfolk's souls, while condemning their violent activities, and dying tragically and purely at the end. This is a well written and atmospheric story. ( )
  john257hopper | Jul 24, 2015 |
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