lunes, 7 de mayo de 2018

Holcroft



From The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble:

HOLCROFT, Thomas (1745-1809), successively stable boy, shoemaker, actor and author. He was largely self-educated, a militant atheist, and believed fervently in man's capacity for self-improvement. His varied and energetic life is described in his Memoirs (edited and completed by his friend *Hazlitt), which contain early reminiscences of *Foote and the aged *Macklin, and later accounts of radical associates such as *Godwin and *Tooke. He was acquitted for high treason in 1794, and spent eight weeks in Newgate before being discharged. He wrote a number of sentimental plays, of which the best known was The Road to Ruin (1792); also several novels, including  Anna St Ives (1792) and The Adventures of Hugh Trevor (1794), both of them influenced by Godwin's radical philosophy, but less successful as literature than [Godwin's] *Caleb Williams. After the hostile reception of his play Knave or Not? in 1798, Holcroft, plagued by debt, moved to Hamburg, then Paris, returning to England in 1802; he died in London after a long illness, during which he dictated a large part of his Memoirs. Anna St Ives (ed. P. Faulkner) and Hugh Trevor (ed. S. Deane) were reissued in 1970 and 1973 respectively.

From Andrew Sanders's Short Oxford History of English Literature:

Independent-minded women figure prominently in the novels of two further members of the Godwin circle, Robert Bage (1728-1801) and Thomas Holcroft (1745-1809). In the work of both writers, however, it is men who assume the burden of the fictional argument. (...)
    Holcroft's Anna St Ives (1792) is a witty and various epistolary novel, one which shows its debts to Richardson in its scenes of confinement and in the threatened rape of its abducted title character. Anna is courted by two men, rivals contrasted by birth, station, and literary style. Frank Henley, the practically educated son of an upwardly-mobile gardener, expresses himself 'frankly'. Coke Clifton has a very different, rakish, inflated style which plays with Latin tags and affects a restless desperation. Clifton is, however, no Lovelace despite his emotional lurches between wrath and regret, convention and excess. Henley, of course, wins the battle for the intelligent Anna's hand. The novel's discursive development also allows for some pointed asides concerning the 'barbarity' of the Europe of the ancien régime. Holcroft's second revolutionary novel, The Adventures of Hugh Trevor (1794), was published in the year in which its author spent some eight weeks in Newgate prison on an indictment for high treason (he was acquitted without any charge being preferred). Hugh Trevor is a Bildungsroman which traces the unsteady fortunes of its narrator and a destiny which is almost Hardyan in its unhappiness. All occasions seem to inform against him, and his splenetic denunciations of the corruption of the Church, the Law, and the State suggest a real bitterness founded on experience. Despite its occasional sensationalism (as when Hugh finds himself, by accident, in an anatomist's cadaver store), the novel provides a generally effective criticism of the body politic. Holcroft's plays, Duplicity (1781), Love's Frailties (1794), and the once popular The Road to Ruin (1792), are equally sprinkled with aspersions concerned with the injustice of a hierarchical society (appropriately enough, it was he who adapted Beaumarchais's The Marriage of Figaro for the English stage in 1784). His posthumously published memoirs (1816), which describe his early struggles against poverty and rejection, later moved Charles Dickens to repress the hope that her own autobiography (had he ever finished it) might one day stand on the same shelf.


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