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Zeluco: Various Views of Human Nature, Taken from Life and Manners, Foreign and Domestic

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“The romantic will love to shudder at Udolpho; but those of mature age, who know what human nature is, will take up again and again Dr. Moore's Zeluco.” —Anna Lætitia Barbauld One of the most irredeemably evil characters in all of literature finally returns to print in the first edition of this classic novel since 1827. When Zeluco first appeared in 1789, it was hailed as an “The romantic will love to shudder at Udolpho; but those of mature age, who know what human nature is, will take up again and again Dr. Moore's Zeluco.” —Anna Lætitia Barbauld One of the most irredeemably evil characters in all of literature finally returns to print in the first edition of this classic novel since 1827. When Zeluco first appeared in 1789, it was hailed as an instant classic, and its author, Scottish physician John Moore, was ranked with Richardson, Smollett, and Fielding as one of the finest novelists of the eighteenth century. Influential on such writers as Burns and Byron, and selected by Anna Lætitia Barbauld in 1810 for her series of the best British novels, Zeluco mysteriously fell out of print and has remained unobtainable since. Zeluco charts the career of a wicked Sicilian aristocrat who causes death and ruin to all those around him before finally meeting a horrible fate. But Zeluco is much more than an early Gothic novel featuring a monomaniacal tyrant: it is a rich panorama of life in the late eighteenth century, dealing with English and European manners and hot topics of the day, such as the abolition of slavery. Readers will be thrilled to discover this surprisingly humorous—and eminently readable—lost masterpiece in an excellent new edition by Pam Perkins. This edition features a substantial new introduction, thorough explanatory notes, and appendices containing excerpts from contemporary reactions to the novel and Moores celebrated travel writings.


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“The romantic will love to shudder at Udolpho; but those of mature age, who know what human nature is, will take up again and again Dr. Moore's Zeluco.” —Anna Lætitia Barbauld One of the most irredeemably evil characters in all of literature finally returns to print in the first edition of this classic novel since 1827. When Zeluco first appeared in 1789, it was hailed as an “The romantic will love to shudder at Udolpho; but those of mature age, who know what human nature is, will take up again and again Dr. Moore's Zeluco.” —Anna Lætitia Barbauld One of the most irredeemably evil characters in all of literature finally returns to print in the first edition of this classic novel since 1827. When Zeluco first appeared in 1789, it was hailed as an instant classic, and its author, Scottish physician John Moore, was ranked with Richardson, Smollett, and Fielding as one of the finest novelists of the eighteenth century. Influential on such writers as Burns and Byron, and selected by Anna Lætitia Barbauld in 1810 for her series of the best British novels, Zeluco mysteriously fell out of print and has remained unobtainable since. Zeluco charts the career of a wicked Sicilian aristocrat who causes death and ruin to all those around him before finally meeting a horrible fate. But Zeluco is much more than an early Gothic novel featuring a monomaniacal tyrant: it is a rich panorama of life in the late eighteenth century, dealing with English and European manners and hot topics of the day, such as the abolition of slavery. Readers will be thrilled to discover this surprisingly humorous—and eminently readable—lost masterpiece in an excellent new edition by Pam Perkins. This edition features a substantial new introduction, thorough explanatory notes, and appendices containing excerpts from contemporary reactions to the novel and Moores celebrated travel writings.

34 review for Zeluco: Various Views of Human Nature, Taken from Life and Manners, Foreign and Domestic

  1. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

    This is a book about an Evil Villain! and his Nefarious Schemes! The author John Moore wanted to demonstrate that vice leads only to unhappiness, and set out to write a monster of a protagonist to illustrate the theme. The thing is, because Moore felt that virtue would always win out in the end, Zeluco's plots are often strangely ineffective, and it becomes hard not to imagine him stomping around furiously like a pantomime baddie – I started imagining this guy: Drat! Double drat! And triple drat! This is a book about an Evil Villain! and his Nefarious Schemes! The author John Moore wanted to demonstrate that vice leads only to unhappiness, and set out to write a monster of a protagonist to illustrate the theme. The thing is, because Moore felt that virtue would always win out in the end, Zeluco's plots are often strangely ineffective, and it becomes hard not to imagine him stomping around furiously like a pantomime baddie – I started imagining this guy: Drat! Double drat! And triple drat! Zeluco came out in 1789, just pre-dating the big '90s boom in Gothic fiction (it was an influence on Ann Radcliffe), and unlike those later writers Moore is not really interested in generating a sense of terror – this is a much more dispassionate analysis of cruelty and selfishness. It can be quite effective: Zeluco, a Sicilian nobleman, crushes a pet sparrow to death as a child and later graduates from animal cruelty to human cruelty, culminating in a horrific scene at the end where he strangles his own son. Much of the intervening plot (set chiefly in Naples) concerns his efforts to possess the virtuous Laura and outwit her friends and relatives. Along the way there are innumerable diversions and anecdotes and secondary characters who suddenly take over the plot for a few chapters – the story weaves and winds in an almost Sternean way (although the major influence is probably Smollett, who I haven't yet read). This tendency can become distracting, but at its best it makes the book feel like an expansive tour d'horizon of late eighteenth-century issues, taking in long arguments against the slave trade, debates about the Union between England and Scotland, and heated discussions of religious disagreement: “What alteration, but a favourable one, can accrue from renouncing one of the worst religions in the world for the best?” “As to which is the worst, and which the best,” said Seidlits, “the world is much divided.” “The Protestant religion is gaining ground every day,” said the Clergyman; “and there is reason to hope, that in a short time there will be more Protestants than Papists.” “That is to be sure very comfortable news,” said the Colonel; “but it can have no weight in the present argument; because, every since the beginning of the world, there has been greater numbers devoted to false religions than to the true; and even now, if the question were to be decided by a plurality of voices, the religion of Mahomet might perhaps carry the palm both from the Protestant and Roman Catholic.” “But you yourself are a Protestant;—you at least prefer the Protestant form of worship to all others,” said the Clergymen. “I certainly prefer no other form of worship to the Protestant,” replied the Colonel. “Then I would be glad to know,” said the Clergyman, with a triumphant air, “wherefore you prefer no other?—the same arguments which convinced you might convince your lady?” “No,” said the Colonel, “that they could not.” “Why so?” said the Clergyman. “By what powerful arguments were you persuaded to adhere to the Protestant religion?” “By this powerful argument,” replied the Colonel, “that I was born at Berlin, and bred at Koningsberg.” …and so on for many pages. The worldview in all these debates is delightfully modern and liberal, and characteristic of contemporary progressive Whigs like Moore who would be first so excited, and then so let down, by the French Revolution. His tone is light and witty, and the book is surprisingly funny, if you enjoy that style of humour where – as above – a tolerant English irony is set up in opposition to the temptations of enthusiasm and certainty. Pam Perkins notes in her introduction that the resurgence of interest in eighteenth-century writing has primarily benefited female authors like Radcliffe and Frances Burney at the expense of obscure masters like John Moore. Well, possibly. I certainly found this just as readable as Radcliffe, and a good deal less silly, although Burney is simply on a different level in terms of quality. But what makes Zeluco interesting is its strange intermediary position between the sentimental novel and the Gothic novel – and its reflection of contemporary tastes, because it was very popular at the time. Mary Wollstonercaft admired it, Anna Laetitia Barbauld included it as the supreme English novel in her edition of The British Novelists, and Byron based his Childe Harolde on it; but then its didacticism became unfashionable, it dropped out of print, and it did not reappear until this edition from Valancourt Books in 2008. For the tone, and the time capsule of contemporary attitudes, it's still worth a read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Wortumdrehung

    A rather loose plot and a string of often unconnected episodes make this a rather heavy and slow read. Some humour, but overall the narrative is dry and the language terribly wooden. I really wanted to enjoy this book as another 18thC hidden gem, but eventually gave up half way through.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Johnsen

  4. 4 out of 5

    John Ervin

  5. 4 out of 5

    Victor

  6. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Jarvis

  9. 5 out of 5

    James U

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Eller

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susanna

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Marshner

  15. 4 out of 5

    aly

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cambria

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nadine

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kiana

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Harris

  20. 4 out of 5

    Valancourt Books

  21. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lady Nefertankh

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melancholy & Menace

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Dittmar

  26. 5 out of 5

    TellyFoogel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tellyfoogel

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Drees

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bruna

  30. 4 out of 5

    Roxy

  31. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  32. 5 out of 5

    Andrei Istrate

  33. 4 out of 5

    Andorrac

  34. 4 out of 5

    Drake Finlay

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