Dr. Moore. - PA Criticism Archive

TEI-encoded version

Anna Letitia Barbauld

DR. MOORE. [1] 

AMONG modern novels of English growth, few possess greater excellence than Zeluco. Its author, John Moore, M.D., well known to the world by several successful publications, was born at Stirling in the year 1730. [2]  He lost his father, a minister of the Scotch church, in his infancy; and his mother, upon that event, removed with him to Glasgow. He was educated for the medical profession, and, after attending the University lectures, was received, at the early age of seventeen, as surgeon's mate in the allied army in Flanders, then commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. He returned to England on the peace which took place the year after, and, after passing some time in London, visited Paris in the course of professional improvement. [3] Here he spent two years in attendance on the lectures and hospitals; and was at the same time patronized by the Duke of Albemarle, the English ambassador, who appointed him surgeon to his household; but being offered a partnership with Mr.
vol. xxxiv. a


ii

(afterwards Dr.) Gordon, he returned, and, after spending some more time in London, settled at Glasgow. Here he continued to practise for a few years with that gentleman, and afterwards alone, till he was forty, when an incident gave a totally new direction to the rest of his life.—This was his introduction to the Hamilton family, by his attendance on the duke (George), a youth of fifteen, then labouring under a consumptive disorder, for which he was ordered to the continent, where he died. Dr. Moore (for about this time he obtained the diploma of Doctor of physic from Glasgow) was, soon after this event, engaged by the Duchess of Hamilton and Argyle to accompany her son, the late Duke of Hamilton, who was also of a delicate constitution, in an extensive tour on the continent, in which they spent five years. After his return, he removed with his family to London.

Such a tour, in the maturity of life, and with Dr. Moore's genius, added to the early opportunities he had enjoyed of acquaintance with the language and manners of foreign countries, might be supposed to afford ample materials for entertaining and informing the public; and accordingly the fruits of his travels soon appeared in two volumes, entitled A View of Society and Manners in France, Switzerland, and Germany. These were published in 1779, and were succeeded by A View of Society and Manners in Italy, in two volumes, published 1787. These travels have been very generally read, and contain both information and entertainment. Their author was at once an acute and a good-natured observer of men and man-


iii

ners, and was too much familiarized with foreign countries to exhibit the churlish prejudices which the mere Englishman is apt to display on his first crossing the Channel. In both these tours, entertainment has been one principal object with the author, and the result of his observations on manners and character is often made more lively by being mixed with anecdote, and thrown into the dramatic form of dialogue. From delineations of this kind, the transition was easy to delineating character and manners under the form of a novel; and his Zeluco, which appeared in 1789, placed its author in the first rank of writers of that class. Dr. Moore's next publication was occasioned by a visit he made to Paris with Lord Lauderdale during the early scenes of the French revolution. It was entitled A Journal during a Residence in France, from the Beginning of August to the Middle of December, 1792; to which is added, An Account of the most remarkable Events that happened at Paris, from that Time to the Death of the late King of France. 2 vols. These are written with more discernment and impartiality than most publications of the time, but the crowding events of subsequent periods have thrown them out of date. [4] 

Dr. Moore's frequent and successful publications caused his name to be ranked rather among authors than among professional men; and though greatly esteemed by his friends, it does not appear that he was ever in full practice after he removed to London. Amongst his various writings, however, his own profession was not forgotten. He published in 1786 a volume entitled Medical
a 2


iv

Sketches, in which he has treated his subject rather in a popular than a scientific manner, and not without a mixture, in his usual vein, of anecdotes and humorous sarcasm. He also introduced a dissertation on consumption where one would scarcely have looked for it, in his View of Manners in Italy. The favourable manner in which Zeluco had been received, induced its author to give to the world two other novels, Edward, published in 1796, and Mordaunt in 1800: the latter was the offspring of his declining years.

Dr. Moore died in 1803 at Richmond, [5]  where he had spent in retirement the last years of his life, delighting himself with the opening prospects of his rising family, five sons and a daughter. He lived long enough to pride himself in the growing reputation and brilliant career of one of these sons; but, happily for himself, not long enough to witness the disappointment of his fondest hopes, in the premature death of this gallant and unfortunate hero. [6] Dr. Moore enjoyed the esteem of a numerous circle of acquaintance, by whom his social and companionable qualities will long be remembered. His person was large, his eye-brows remarkably thick, his countenance was well calculated to add expression to that shrewdness of remark and that peculiar dry humour with which his conversation as well as his writings was plentifully seasoned.

The novel of Zeluco, which appears in this selection, is one of the most entertaining we possess, from the real knowledge of the world which it displays, and the humour and spirit of the dialogue. It also excites no small degree of


v

interest. The scene is laid in Italy, and the familiarity of the author with foreign manners enabled him to diversify his productions with descriptions and characters beyond the range of our own domestic society. This work is formed on the singular plan of presenting a hero of the story, if hero he may be called, who is a finished model of depravity. Zeluco is painted as radically vicious, without the intermixture of any one good quality; but, if the perfectly virtuous character is to be considered, for so we are sometimes told, as out of nature, "a faultless monster whom the world ne'er saw," [7]  it is to be hoped a perfectly vicious character is at least as extraordinary a production. There is no degree of atrocity to which human nature may not arrive from time and circumstances; want and misery harden the heart as well as the features: but it is scarcely conceivable that a youth coming into life with every advantage of fortune and person and abilities, should never feel his heart expand, amongst his youthful companions, into some kindly feeling, bearing at least the semblance of benevolence. The whole character has a darker tinge of villainy than is usually found in this country: it is drawn with great strength, and proceeds in a regular progress of depravity, from his squeezing the sparrow to death when a child, to the incident of the deadly grasp which he gives his own child; a circumstance of horror new and truly tragical. It reaches, like the character of Satan, the sublime of guilt. The attachment between the wife and her lover is managed with great delicacy; yet if she preserves


vi

her virtue, it may be said to be heureusement: [8]  and amiable and excellent as they both are, it may admit of a doubt how far it is favourable to good morals to interest the reader in a passion for a married woman, however unhappily she may be yoked. The character of Signora Sporza is drawn with spirit; it is quite a foreign one. The conversation-pieces abound in humour, and show that intimate knowledge of real life and characters which mere sentimental novels are generally deficient in. The quarrel between the two Scotchmen about the character of their queen Mary is infinitely amusing, and while it touches the national character and national partialities with the hand of a friend, it at the same time exhibits them in a light truly comic. Father Mulo is amusing; and there is a good deal of light humour in the story of Rosolia, or rather in the manner of telling it. Much knowledge of the world and good sense are exhibited in the dialogues between the hot-headed young protestant divine and the colonel, whose wife he insists upon converting: the death-bed of the latter is affecting, and exhibits views of piety, if not vivid, at least calm and rational. It must by no means be forgotten that, to the honour of the author, there is a great deal of forcible reasoning against the slave-trade; and there is no stroke in Sterne of a finer pathos than the answer of the dying Hanno, when he was told that his cruel master would broil in hell to all eternity—"I hope he will not suffer so long." [9]  The young may melt into tears at Julia Mandeville [10]  and The Man of Feeling; [11]  the romantic will love to shudder at


vii

Udolpho; [12]  but those of mature age, who know what human nature is, will take up again and again Dr. Moore's Zeluco.

Edward, the author's next publication of the kind, is much inferior to Zeluco: the best character in it is that of Barton the epicure, who is indifferent to every thing but a good table, and marries his wife for her skill in preparing a dish of stewed carp. It has also many amusing conversation-pieces. Dr. Moore tells a story well, but it must be allowed he makes the most of it. He has not spared his own profession, but has some lively strictures on the incapacity and charlatanerie [13]  of pretenders in it. He drew with a free pen; and from his acquaintance with life, and facility in dialogue, it seems probable that he would have succeeded in comedy, if he had turned his thoughts that way. Mordaunt, written a little before Dr. Moore's death, is a very languid production; both his novels subsequent to Zeluco are not only inferior in entertainment to his first work, but, what was less to be expected, inferior in morality.

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.; W. Creech, Edinburgh; and Wilson and Son, York, 1810), 34: i-vii. Rachel Dejmal and Mary A. Waters co-edited this essay for The Criticism Archive with assistance from Evan DuFaux. BACK

[2] Most records agree that Moore was born in 1729. BACK

[3] Paris was at the time the epicenter of medical research and training. BACK

[4] Shortly after Louis XVI was guillotined in January 1793, England declared war with France. Thereafter followed the French Reign of Terror as well as rigorous repression of political dissent in England, the guillotining of Robespierre and the collapse of the National Convention, the establishment of a republic, and, eventually, the 1799 coup and rise of Napoleon, who remained Emperor at the time Barbauld penned this essay. BACK

[5] Again, most sources disagree with Barbauld, dating Moore's death in 1802. BACK

[6] Moore's son Sir John Moore, commander of British forces, lost his life fighting the French imperial army in the 1809 Battle of Corruna on the north coast of Spain. BACK

[7] John Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, Essay on Poetry, 1723. BACK

[8] luckily; fortunately; that is, due to good fortune rather than the exertions of firm character. BACK

[9] Zeluco (London: A. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1789) XV:128. BACK

[10] The History of Lady Julia Mandeville is a sentimental novel by Frances Brooke published in 1763. BACK

[11] The Man of Feeling is a sentimental novel by Henry Mackenzie published in 1771. BACK

[12] The Mysteries of Udolpho is a gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe published in 1794. BACK

[13] deception; fraud BACK


POETESS ARCHIVE / The Criticism Archive / Essay