Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 2) >> Simms On Washington Allston's Monaldi >> Page 15

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Page 15

Secondary Scholarship | 1996
Transcription painting landscapes and historical and dramatic scenes, but biblical characters and
events inspired many of his most celebrated peices.
During his English and continental sojourn, Allston cultivated friendships
with both painters and poets, numbering among his friends Samuel Taylor
Coleridge, Washington Irving, Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, and
Benjamin West. Back home in America and settled in the Boston area, he moved in
the cultural circles of the Channings, the Danas, the Lowells, the Fullers, and the
Peabodys. His first wife was a Channing; and, following her untimely death, he
eventually married a Dana, the sister of Richard Henry Dana Sr. Among the
aspiring artists in whom he took an interest was Sophia Peabody, whom he
permitted to copy some of his work and whose illustration for Nathaniel
Hawthorne's "The Gentle Boy" he defended when an engraver handled her sketch
carelessly for the 1839 edition of the tale.
Although he worked on it on and off for years and years, he left unfinished
at his death the painting BelshazZar's Feast, that he hoped would be his finest
achievement. Death came on 9 July 1843. Exhibitions of his work were held in
Boston in 1847 and again in 1850. Among the reviews of those exhibitions are
those of Margaret Fuller and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, the latter of whom was to
publish an essay entitled "Last Evening with Allston," a piece recording her
conversation with him about his life and ideas as an artist and giving an account of
his funeral.
Besides his personal letters, his claim to our attention as a writer rests on th
publication of a slender volume of poems, The Sylphs of the Seasons, and Other
Poems (1813) and Monaldi (1841). several poems written after the publication of
The Sylphs of the Seasons remained to be collected after his death.
His one venture into fiction began about 1819 and was completed in 1822,
and it was intended for publication in a periodical called The Idle Man.. By the tim
Allston finished the piece, the magazine had folded. He put the manuscript aside
and returned to it many years later, finally arranging to have it published in 1841
(by Charles C. Little and James Brown in Boston). Among its reviewers were
Sarah Jesepha Hale, James Henley Thornwell, George Washington Peck, Margaret
Fuller, and William Gilmore Simms (Wright 597-98).
Perhaps at this point a synopsis of Allston's novel would be helpful:
Two Italian schoolboy friends, one named Maldura, the other
Monaldi, form a close bond. Maldura seems destined for greatness as a