MARY ELIZABETH BRADDON
The Publication History of the Novel
Yellowback edition published by John and Robert Maxwell in 1885, a year after the novel was published as a three decker.
'Ishmael,' Athenaeum, 6 September 1884, p.303.
'Ishmael' must take its place as one of the most remarkable of "Miss Braddon's" works. In it she has given a vivid picture of Paris under the Second Empire from its commencement to 1868. The extent of her intimate knowledge of every sort of period is really surprising, and it is hardly necessary to say that it is worked into her story with consummate skill. In passing touches she has admirably hit off the characteristics of most of the chief historical figures of the period, and she has succeeded equally well with some more elaborate studies. If her industry is surprising the vigour of her description is no less so. Her account of the Coup d' État is as exciting a bit of narrative as any novel-reader could wish for, and is as vivacious as if it had been written by an eye-witness. Her picture is all the more interesting because it has been her object to give a picture and not too much to point a moral. She views the whole from various standpoints, and she is no more inclined to indulge in too wild a condemnation of the crimes and recklessness of the rule of Louis Napoleon than she is to be dazzled by its splendour. As for the story, it has the fault of beginning too early. The introductory chapters have undoubtedly a bearing on the events which follow, and they help to complete the account of the state of society at the time, but it is to be regretted that the author should have found it necessary to follow her hero from his cradle. The reader who will persevere through the first half of the volume - no very tedious task - will be amply rewarded. ( Please note that transcripts were originally made as notes for research use by Jennifer Carnell and that anyone wanting to quote them in their own work is advised to consult the original for complete accuracy.)
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