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Vol. V. Part II.
Art. I.-Primera, y segunda parte de Guzman de Alfarache, por Matheo Aleman, Criado del Rey nuestro Senor, natural, y
vezino de Sevilla. Madrid, 1723. 4to. The Rogue; or, The Life of Guzman de Alfarache. Written in
Spanish by Matheo Aleman, servant to his Catholic Majestie, and borne in Serill. London, printed for Edward Blount, 1623.
This is not a book of bustle and activity, of trick upon trick, cozenage upon cozenage—a series of nimble leger-demain and Spanish petty larcenies, like some works of a similar description: the real action of the piece occupies but a very small portion of the six hundred closely printed pages, of which the volume consists. The greater part of it is filled with observations of men and manners, with lively declamation, long argumentations, and high moralities. Small, however, as is the proportion which the narrative bears to the ethical part of it, we shall not attempt to follow Guzman de Alfarache step by step through his adventures. A mere piece of roguery told in the abstract, without the proper picaresque ornaments, its manifold sinuosities and dexterities, has no interest for the reader; it may recommend the executor of it to the administration of a cat-o-nine-tails, or to an
VOL. V. PART. 11.
honourable post in the gallies : but there is no music in it without the proper accompaniments. It is earth without verdure, bread without salt, body without spirit. It requires the embellishment of courage or ingenuity, to make it pass current in the world. We look for a nimble wit as well as nimble fingers, for a ready tongue as well as a quick hand, for apt contrivance and bold execution as well as for impenetrable impudence and an unabashed forehead. If we were to give an abstract of Guzman's adventures, we should inflict upon our readers a less measure of what we have ourselves undergone in struggling through this prodigious folio. We never felt at once, so acutely and so long, the evil of a great book.–We made many vigorous sallies, but our excursions uniformly terminated in weariness. We took breath divers times, and tried many expedients to cheat ourselves into the happy credulity, that it was a most amusing work. That there was some wit dispersed throughout it, was obvious—that it displayed great knowledge of mankind, and discrimination of different orders of men, we could not deny—that there were some entertaining incidents and agreeable episodes, we most joyfully acknowledged—and that there were some tit bits of morality, and most quaint, ingenious, and clever pieces of writing, we crossed ourselves and were thankful. We thought it ought to be a lively book, and a pleasant one.-We reflected upon the five-and-twenty editions it went through in Spain; upon its being translated into so many different languages; in short, upon all conceivable things, but in vain—we could not get rid of the impression, that it was a very dull book with very good things in it. This impression may, in some measure, have been caused by disappointment at meeting with theses instead of tricks, and rules instead of rogueries, and at those things which ought to be accidents, having been made the subjects; the adventures of the hero, instead of the moralization, constituting in fact the digression.
This being the case, we shall briefly give our readers to understand, that the genealogy of Guzman de Alfarache was wrapped in some obscurity, it never having been correctly ascertained who was entitled to the paternal character. The probability, however, leaned in favour of a Genoese merchant, who at the time of our adventurer's birth was resident in Seville. Of his mother, indeed, there was no doubt, and, one way or other, Guzman made out certain pretensions to gentility of descent; but not being ourselves learned in the heraldry of Spain, we shall not now stop to examine his claims. Suffice it to say, that his nurture was tender and his breeding gentle. On the death of his reputed father, Guzman, being still quite a boy, incited by a desire to see distant parts, launches his own boat,