Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 2) >> Simms On Washington Allston's Monaldi >> Page 19

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Page 19

Secondary Scholarship | 1996
Transcription Monaldi's teeth chattered, as with an ague; his hands were crossed
upon his breast, his head sunk between his shoulders, and his whole body
drawn up as if under the influence of terror; yet his eyes remained fastened
on Maldura, as though a fearful charm made it impossible to withdraw
them. But Maldura saw not--thought not of the effect of his disburthening
conscience; his thoughts were on himself, and his eyes turned from Monaldi
to the opposite wall, he continued to speak like someone immpelled by the
rack. `It was for this purpose I sought Fialto. `Twas I--1 was his
employer. `Twas 1 caused him to hang about your house--to waylay you
from the theatre--to write the letter. Yes, it was I--' repeated Maldura, when
with a terrific shout, Monaldi leaped from the bed. `Avaunt, fiend!'
Maldura stood aghast.
`Back! back to hell!' vociferated Monaldi.
`Yes, I deserve it,' said Maldura,--'Hell is my place. Even now--'
`What's your name?'
`Is it--can it be?' said Maldura--'Heaven forbid. Do you not know
me ! I --Maldura.'
`You Maldural.' cried the maniac, with a scornful laugh. Maldura's
hair rose with horror. `Thou liest! Maldura was my friend--he was honest,
righteous. He had no wings as thou has. Avaunt, devil!'
`Tis over!' said Maldura, clasping his hands in agony--' my measure
is full--' and he rushed from the chamber (411-412).

Given such a scene and language as this, we should not be surprised that Margaret
Fuller compared the novel to Othello (Wright 597). Perhaps she would have
agreed that it is bad Othello.
Whatever misgivings Simms had about such overblown passages as this
one, he nonetheless, on the whole, found the "book written in a style the most clear
and forcible" (395). Perhaps he was kinder than he should have been. Judged by
modern standards, Allston's prose would seem a mishmash of rhetorical practices
imitated from such mannered stylists as John Lyly, Samuel Johnson, and
Shakespeare's least adept followers. For Allston wastes no opportunity to fashion
a pithy aphorism, neatly balanced phrases and sentences, and purple passages.
Why Simms chose to do a review of Monaldi and later a major essay on
Allston as painter, poet, and novelist is not a tough question to answer. He
unabashedly explains why in the review published in Magnolia: