Critical Evaluation

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 457

A massive novel of intrigue and romance, heavily spiced with history and action, ANTHONY ADVEDRE was immensely popular when it was first published. All the characters are larger than life, ruled by jealousies, enormous greed, and overwhelming cravings for vengeance; yet thanks to the vitality of the narrative, they never seem merely absurd. Few novels of such size move with such an unrelenting pace. As coaches and horses ceaselessly rush from one part of Europe to another, so the story catapults from one subplot to another. The author is in no hurry to tell his story, but he never risks boring the reader. Although the characters are not analyzed in depth, their motives are always clear. If the book has a flaw, perhaps it is that there is little mystery to the characters, although they are involved in mysteries. The obscure corners of the human personality are never explored, but the characters do not suffer from this lack; they are filled with life and are both amusing and memorable. Don Luis, Faith, and Mr. Bonnyfeather are old-fashioned, Dickensian characters, carefully formed of “characteristics” rather than allowed to develop according to the psychological insights of the author.

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Nearly one hundred pages pass before the hero of this picaresque novel makes his appearance as a baby, but the scene is set for the intrigues that follow. The novel is intricately constructed, with characters reappearing and long-hidden secrets suddenly changing the course of the action. This attempt to create a modern TOM JONES is not entirely unsuccessful. The difficulty is that this book does not speak for its time as Fielding’s book did for its time. Ultimately, ANTHONY ADVEDRE is no more than a superior entertainment, well-crafted and enjoyable, but it makes no statement and is a part of no literary tradition.

The precocious and lusty personality of Anthony is the finest part of the book. His spirit of adventure and his determination and cleverness win the reader’s admiration, and his vitality holds the reader’s interest. As with TOM JONES, the hero’s destiny is a secret that can be discovered only by unraveling certain clues; and as with Fielding’s protagonist, Anthony does not let himself be inhibited by his lack of a definite origin. If the book as a whole is less than the sum of its parts, it is not Anthony’s fault; he comes close to being a major literary figure. Angela is perhaps the most intriguing character in the book, and one can easily imagine her rising to become Napoleon’s mistress. More of her inner life and emotions are revealed than those of any other character. The novel is also interesting because its various sections represent different types of romantic fiction.

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