Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 2) >> Simms On Washington Allston's Monaldi >> Page 18

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 18

Secondary Scholarship | 1996
Transcription extract reveals that Monaldi approached his work with a "`just reverence' and a
"`love for excellence' in the paintings of the masters. He understands that growth
in art comes through "`the individualizing power by which we recognize genius'
(400) and not by imitation based on strict adherence to rules. To be truly great, the
artist had to obey those "`lofty impulses' (?)from within (400). By striking back
at his critics through satire and by sinking into despair, Maldura had fallen victim t
his base impulses and would regain true humanity only after he found and then tried
to restore Monaldi to good physical and mental health. Simms could appreciate
how Allston had these young Italian foils contend for the minds and hearts of
readers, for they clearly represented moral and aesthetic issues set in motion. And
that, as Mary Ann Wimsatt has taught us, was something Simms himself loved to
do (38-39).
On close scrutiny, Simms saw that the character of Monaldi had a serious
flaw as the protagonist. Given as he is to sentimental notions about the innate
goodness of man, Monaldi is slow to see that Maldura suffers not from poverty of
purse so much as poverty and ill-will of spirit. On this point, Simms observes

Maldura lays so bare his annoyances, and exhibits so completely the
manners and words of un mauvais sujet, that we cannot help charging upon
Monaldi a singular degree of obtuseness, in failing to perceive it. The
return for his devotion, is little less than scorn; and that is scarcely in any
way concealed,--sufficiently apparent, we should think, to be felt by, and
perceptible to one so sensitive as Monaldi in the very instant of their

If the tale had a serious fault, it appeared here, thought Simms.
The only other reservations expressed by Simms concerned the woe that
Allston inflicts upon Monaldi and Rosalia. "The story is, indeed, a woful one--
perhaps of too much exaggerated wo. We are inclined to think that the chapter of
horrors is too much lengthened, and the effect of the work impaired in
consequence" (412). Had Simms wanted to be more particular here, he could have
complained that Allston's rhetoric and histrionics were Gothicized Shakespeare,
Shakespeare at his romantic-era worst. The following is part of an extract that
Simms used as an example: