BOOKS AND THEIR WRITERS
HENRY CRABB ROBINSON (17751867)
MARCH 3rd . . . . Read till near one the beginning of Vathek.
MARCH 4th. . . . Continued till near one Caliph Vathek, a book which is quite original in its style. It is marvellous without surfeiting and, without falling into the ridiculous, is humorous. I know not when I have been so amused.
MARCH5th. . . . Read Vathek till past one the tale increases in horror, perhaps it becomes disgusting as it advances. It is a powerful production. . . .
MARCH 10th. . . . Finished Vathek. As I advanced in this book it pleased me less. There is a strange want of keeping in the style, Johnsonian parade being blended with colloquial familiarities, and an unsuccessful attempt to unite the description of horrid situations and incidents with strokes of humour. The finest part is the description of hell at the close. The immense and gorgeous hall surrounded by objects of magnificence and wealth, full of wretches each tormented by an incessantly burning heart and each bearing his torment in mournful seclusion from others, all crowded together and each bearing his own suffering and further tormented by his hatred of his former friends this is a very fine picture certainly. But the philosophy of the tale is not better than the philosophy of other like tales. If all the sufferers like Vathek have been wrought on by the agency of the necromancer and Giaour who wrought the Caliph’s downfall, the same objection will apply to all. Either such an agent was not wanted to effect the perdition of the individual, and then he is an impertinent intruder; or he was, and then why was he permitted to ruin those who otherwise would have remained innocent?
How glad I should be if such an objection never occurred to me but on the perusal of a fairy tale! . . .
JANUARY 13th  . . . I called at the library and coffee-house. From the former I stole the Sicilian Romance, and at the latter I was pained to see a subscription set on foot for The Farmer’s Boy, R. Bloomfield, who is in poverty. I desired Thomas to put my name down for a guinea. . . . I read the Sicilian Romance with interest and curiosity, though I read it some twenty years ago. . . . At the inn I enjoyed myself in my room . . . reading the Sicilian Romance. . . .
JUNE 23rd & 27th  . . . In my room at night [during a visit to Frankfurt] I read The Mysteries of Udolpho, which occupies time that might be better employed. But though not so strongly as in youth, this romance even now is capable of diverting my attention from objects that would seem to be irresistible in their demands. . . . Finished Udolpho, in which I ought not to have begun. Yet towards the end it indisposed me to any other occupation. But, after all, the interest is merely that of the worry of finding out a riddle. The poetry and much of the descriptions I skipped. Yet thirty years ago these were much admired. . . .
[SOURCE: Henry Crabb Robinson, Henry Crabb Robinson on Books and their Writers, ed. Edith J. Morley, 3 vols (London: J. M. Dent, 1938), vol. 1, pp. 1801, 202, 366]
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