Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Musician, painter, songwriter, novelist, playwright, and performer, Samuel Lover was above all an entertainer, and it is as entertainment that HANDY ANDY has endured for nearly a century and a half. Farcical, full of dialect humor and slapstick comedy, the book stops at nothing in its efforts to provoke good humor and laughter.

Written as a series of anecdotes published in twelve monthly installments, HANDY ANDY is not a cohesive novel insofar as plot is concerned. It is, on the other hand, excellent in character portrayal and atmosphere. The quality likely to hold the modern reader is its droll wit. Rich in Irish folkways, peppered with clever Irish tales, and enhanced by Irish songs, HANDY ANDY is more than a series of tales revolving around a political issue, a stupid lout of a boy, and a lovable hero. Accused of flattering his countrymen, Lover replied that as an Irishman he was compelled to present his land as he saw it.

One of the chief sources of amusement in the novel is Andy’s ever-present ignorance. A poor, uneducated lad, Andy means well but invariably gets into trouble. To the unsophisticated readers of Lover’s day, Andy’s antics touched a familiar chord as well as being funny in a very basic way. Above all, Lover possessed a horror of dullness, and perhaps this accounts for the frenetic pace of HANDY ANDY. Certainly, the little tales are full of action and nonsense. The humor is vigorous...

(The entire section is 454 words.)