(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

The pretty young Marquise Maria da Vincitata, daughter of a Scottish merchant of Leghorn, fell in love with young Denis Moore within the year after her marriage and met with him secretly in France while her husband was taking a cure for his gout. Don Luis, the arrogant Marquis da Vincitata, discovering the intrigue, spirited his wife away and killed her gallant, luckless lover when he started out in pursuit. Maria’s baby was born high in the Alps. After his wife died during childbirth, Don Luis took the child to Leghorn, where he stealthily deposited the infant at the Convent of Jesus the Child. The only tokens of its parentage were a cape and a statue of the Madonna that had belonged to Maria.

The boy, christened Anthony by the nuns, lived at the convent until he was age ten. Then he was delivered to a prominent merchant of the town, Mr. Bonnyfeather, to become his apprentice.

Bonnyfeather and his housekeeper had no trouble recognizing the cape and the doll as possessions of the merchant’s daughter, Maria. Although Anthony was given the surname Adverse and was not told of his relationship to his benefactor, he was carefully educated with the tacit understanding that he would one day inherit the flourishing Bonnyfeather business.

Anthony matured early. Seduced by the housekeeper, Faith Paleologus, he also had a brief affair with the cook’s daughter, Angela. He was also attracted to the English consul’s daughter, Florence Udney, but was not encouraged by her mother, who was unaware that Anthony had any expectations.

Anticipating the eventual arrival of Napoleon’s army in Leghorn, Mr. Bonnyfeather quietly liquidated his business, sent his money abroad, and made plans to retire. He arranged passage for his grandson on the American ship Wampanoag, under Captain Jorham. Anthony was to sail to Cuba to collect some money on a long-overdue account.

The Wampanoag stopped first at Genoa. There Anthony visited Father Xavier, a Jesuit who had been his guardian at the convent. Mr. Bonnyfeather had given the priest the right to decide whether the time had come to tell Anthony that he was the merchant’s heir. It was from the priest’s lips that Anthony learned of his origin and prospects.

When the Wampanoag reached Havana, Anthony discovered that his creditor, Gallego, was in Africa as a slave trader. With the aid of the captain-general, Don Luis de las Casas, a plan was devised whereby Anthony would sail to Africa as a government agent. There he would impound a cargo of Gallego’s slaves, bring them to Cuba for sale, and split the proceeds with the captain-general, thus satisfying the Bonnyfeather debt. Strongly attracted by Don Luis’ young relation, Dolores de la Fuente, the young man finally agreed to stay in Africa and to ship several additional cargoes of slaves, for the enrichment of the captain-general and the increase of his own hopes that he might one day marry Dolores.

The trip aboard the Ariostatica was a trying one. Father Francois, a monk who was being shipped to Africa because he had tried to give aid and comfort to the slaves, fell ill of...

(The entire section is 1282 words.)