It is not for me to appreciate the value of this satirical poem, which created such an extraordinary sensation, not only in the fashionable, but in the political world; I, however, remember that whilst at Canning's, at the Bishop of London's, and at Gifford's, it was pronounced the most classical and spirited production that had ever issued from the press, it was held up at Lord Holland's, at the Marquis of Lansdowne's, and at Brookes's, as one of the most spiteful and ill-natured satires that had ever disgraced the literary world; and one which no talent or classic lore could ever redeem. Certain it is, that Matthias fell foul of poor "Monk" Lewis for his romance: obscenity and blasphemy were the charges laid at his door; he was acknowledged to be a man of genius and fancy, but this added only to his crime, to which was superadded that of being a very young man. The charges brought against him cooled his friends and heated his enemies; the young ladies were forbidden to speak to him, matrons even feared him, and from being one of the idols of the world, he became one of the objects of its disdain. Even his father was led to believe that his son had abandoned the paths of virtue, and was on the high road to ruin.
"Monk" Lewis, unable to stand against the outcry thus raised against him, determined to try the effects of absence, and took his departure for the island in which his property was; but unfortunately for those who dissented from the ferocious judgment that was passed upon him, and for those who had discrimination enough to know that after all there was nothing very objectionable in his romance, and felt assured that posterity would do him justice, this amiable and kind-hearted man died on his passage out; leaving a blank in one variety of literature which has never been filled up.
The denunciation was not followed by any other severe criticism; but editors have, in compliance with the insinuations of Matthias, omitted the passages which he pointed out as objectionable, so that the original text is seldom met with.
Such extravagances in those days were received as the essence of wit, and to such stories did the public give a willing ear, repeating them with unwearying zest. Even Sheridan's wit partook of this character, making him the delight of the Prince, who ruled over the fashionable world, and whose approbation was sufficient to give currency to anything, however ludicrous and absurd.
Labels: authors, Regency Reflections, Victoria Hinshaw