Hawkesworth. - PA Criticism Archive

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Anna Letitia Barbauld

HAWKESWORTH. [1] 

THE praise which was universally bestowed on the little Eastern tales which Dr. Hawkesworth had introduced in the papers of his Adventurer, probably suggested to him the idea of giving a more extended story in the same style, and produced his Almoran and Hamet. It is not, however, equal to the beautiful allegory of the ring, [2]  or the sublime imagery of Carazan. [3]  In extended compositions of this kind, we miss the captivating richness and wildness of the genuine Eastern tales; and the desire to elicit a moral is commonly too apparent. The style also, which is generally adopted in these tales, inclines to the turgid, and is apt to become tiresome in a narrative of any length. Vathek [4] is the only modern composition which has seized the genuine spirit of the Arabian tales: there is indeed in that fiction so much of the fancy peculiar to the East, that it is difficult to imagine it has not had some genuine tale of that origin for its basis.

Almoran and Hamet may, notwithstanding, be read with a degree of pleasure, especially by
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youth, to whom the allegorical mode of writing is generally more agreeable than it is to those of more advanced life. The design is to show that no outward circumstances, even such as may be produced by changing the course of nature, are sufficient to procure happiness, if the mind is not fitted for it by virtuous dispositions. There is merit in the idea of making Almoran, under the form of Hamet, incapable of taking advantage of his transformation in securing the affections of his mistress, which become immediately alienated from that beloved form, when she finds the mind of her supposed lover no longer the same. She despises Almoran under the form of Hamet, and transfers her love to the real Hamet, believing him to be Almoran: but much more might have been made of the frame of the story than is made of it.

Dr. Hawkesworth's genius was not of the first order; but it was elegant, pleasing, and remarkably adapted to those purposes of moral instruction and innocent entertainment to which he uniformly devoted it.

Notes

[1] The British Novelists; with an Essay; and Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Mrs. Barbauld, 50 Vols. (London: Printed for F.C. and J. Rivington; W. Otridge and Son; A. Strahan; T. Payne; G. Robinson; W. Lowndes; Wilkie and Robinson; Scatcherd and Letterman; J. Walker; Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe; R. Lea; J. Nunn; Lackington and Co.; Clarke and Son; C. Law; Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme; Cadell and Davies; E. Jeffery; J.K. Newman; Crosby and Co.; J. Carpenter; S. Bagster; T. Booth; J. Murray; J. and J. Richardson; Black, Parry, and Kingsbury; J. Harding; R. Phillips; J. Mawman; J. Booker; J. Asperne; R. Baldwin; Mathews and Leigh; J. Faulder; Johnson and Co.; Sherwood and Co.; J. Miller; W. Creech, Edinburgh; and Wilson and Son, York, 1810), 26: i-ii. Victoria Wynn and Mary A. Waters co-edited this essay for The Criticism Archive. BACK

[2] Barbauld probably refers to a story in the Adventurer (No. 20, Saturday, January 13, 1753; continued through No. 21, Tuesday, January 15 and No. 22, Saturday, January 20). With Samuel Johnson, Hawkesworth edited this journal and authored much of the contents. BACK

[3] "Carazan's Dream, an Eastern Story" appeared in the Adventurer No. 132 (Saturday, February 9, 1754). BACK

[4] William Beckford first published this novel in Switzerland in 1787. BACK


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