JENKINS' EAR by Odell & Willard Shepard


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Postponed from Fall as April selection of Book-of-the-Month, this novel which we felt limited by its deliberate stylizing and scholarship has a vastly enhanced sales potential, an impetus which may go far towards overcoming the difficulties indicated in the report, repeated from P. 534 of the bulletin of September 1, 1950-as follows:- ""Historical fiction bo down in an elaborate framework and artificial style. For the story is presented as purporting to be the content of a long (almost 500 pages) letter written by Horace Walpole, gouty, more or less housebound, but still eager for imaginative adventure, to the Reverend William Cole, in strictest bonds of secrecy, back in the mid-18th century. Within the letter he includes not only his own lively (though at times redundant) narrative of the goings on at Strawberry Hill, his fabulous Gothic castle, but stories linked together by the net of his plot. The mysterious Parson Blandison (of Holdfast Gaines) turns up, with a bodyguard of highwaymen who call him ""Sire"". Rumor has it that he is none other than the lost Pretender, Charles Edward, and that he plans another attempt on the English throne. He brings to Strawberry Hill, for an incredible week, survivors of the war of Jenkins Ear, and through their stories recreates the ramifications of that episode.- the infamous Jenkins himself, whose story falls to bits at the end, John Byron, shanghaiied into Com. Anson's fleet, to which he was presumably already assigned as midshipman; Anson's voyage around South America; Jeremy Tinker, and the tragedy of the Oglethorpe settlements in Georgia; Isaac Morris, with his unbelievable yarn of the longboat trip and the adventures with the Pampas Indians, and so on. But instead of winning the houseparty over to his side, Blandison through the finale of the heartbreak of the Forty Five, convinces Walpole and his associates of the madness and futility of yet another attempt- and a plan which should have launched the plot misfires and foils it. Blandison disappears again, bearing his secret with him. There's enormous research and scholarship here- but the mannered style of the telling, the ramifications of Walpole's deliberate digressions, while lending a note of authenticity may well deter the average reader from the sheer labor of following the narrative. For the scholar of the period, it offers recompense.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1951
Publisher: Macmillan