Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 2) >> Simms On Washington Allston's Monaldi >> Page 17

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Page 17

Secondary Scholarship | 1996
Transcription the occurrence of which prompted Simms to write a brief biographical sketch, as
well as comment on Allston's achievement in painting, poetry, and fiction.
Pleased by Allston's style but disappointed by his adaptation of "the old
story of Italian subtlety, susceptibility to jealousy, blind passion and unhesitatin
vengeance" (SQR 394), Simms considered the work "not less a poem because
written in prose" (394). Though it had the stuff of a Gothic tale by Ann Radcliffe
or one of her many imitators, "Allston was too much a man of taste, too much of
the artist, too happy in his conceptions, too correct in his judgment, to attempt an
of the vulgar tricks of the ordinary novelist" (394-95). Clearly, Monaldi came
from the mind and hand of a better writer than Radcliffe. "There are no hobgoblins
in his story, and, above all, none of those `long passages which lead to nothing,'
which form so greatly the staple of the mysterious in the book of the lady romancer
of whom we have spoken" (395).
Simms lauded Monaldii for its absence of the commonplaces of ordinary
romance writers. Allston's work, thought Simms, had intellectual and moral
content and force:

The story, though comparatively simple, is yet productive of fine
issues for the artist;--by which he is able to bring about frequent trials of
strength between his parties,--by which the conflict between vice and
virtue,--truth and falsehood,--pride and shame,--is continually going on;--
with the best results to morals " (395).

Because Allston so forcibly rendered the antagonistic natures of Monaldi and
Maldura and so penetratingly examined their psyches, Simms declared the romance
to be "a painful but pleasing story,--painfully pleasing" (395).
Since, for Simms, one of the appealing things about fiction was its
accommodation of novelists who liked to discuss ideas and to dramatize moral
issues, Monaldi earned high marks for its presentation of aesthetic and moral
differences between Maldura and Monaldi. Seeking to rise in the literary world by
slavishly following rules, Maldura feels both betrayed and disgusted when
respected critics find his first work unsatisfactory. Try as he will, he can't win
lasting praise or popularity, and his disgust soon turns to misanthropy and despair.
Wanting readers of his review to take special note of Allston's words on the nature
of "the true artist and of ...true ambition," he gives a long extract on how Monaldi
behaved when he came to Rome and began to make his reputation as a painter. The