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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
George Croly (1780–1860)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
THE VERSATILE Irishman George Croly turned to literature as his means of livelihood when about thirty years old. He had been educated in his native town of Dublin, where he had graduated from Trinity College when only fifteen. Even thus early he had distinguished himself as a classical student and for grace in extempore speaking. He next studied for the ministry, and in 1804 was ordained, and obtained a small curacy in the North of Ireland.  1
  But George Croly had a great fund of ambition, which kept him dissatisfied in this humble position. Hopes of preferment were several times held out to him, but they all failed; and tired of disappointment, he gave up his curacy in 1810 and moved to London with his mother and sisters. There he soon found an opening in journalism, and became dramatic critic on the New Times, and a regular contributor to the Literary Gazette and Britannia. He also wrote for Blackwood’s Magazine, and as fellow contributor met the young lady whom he afterwards married.  2
  In spite of his scholarship and great facility in expression, Croly’s cannot be called an original mind. His verse is mostly a reflection of the literary influences he experienced. A certain exaggeration of emotion, the romance of Byron and Moore then in highest favor, appealed to him, and he emulated it in his most ambitious poems. ‘Paris’ (1815), although much weaker, strongly suggests ‘Childe Harold.’ Like Moore, his imagination delighted in Oriental color and richness, and he often chose Eastern subjects, as in ‘The Angel of the World.’  3
  The ‘Traditions of the Rabbins’ has been called an imitation of De Quincey, and indeed a portion of it is wrongly included in the collection of De Quincey’s works. His ‘Life and Times of George IV.’ is more valuable as entertaining reading than for historical significance. To religious literature he contributed a ‘Commentary on the Apocalypse,’ and a book upon ‘Divine Providence, or the Three Cycles of Revelation.’ But although he loved literature and had read extensively, Croly’s appreciation of it seems to have been entirely emotional. He could not analyze his impressions, and his critical work is vague enthusiasm rather than suggestive discrimination.  4
  He essayed drama successfully. ‘Catiline,’ in spite of bombastic reminiscences of Marlowe, has tragic strength and richly rhythmic verse. ‘Pride Shall Have a Fall,’ a clever exposure of social weaknesses, was successfully given at the Covent Garden Theatre.  5
  Although happy in authorship, Croly was anxious to resume his clerical profession, and in 1835 gladly accepted the rectorship of St. Stephen’s Church, Walbrook, where a fashionable congregation accorded him a great reputation for eloquence. He was less successful in 1847, when appointed afternoon lecturer at the Foundling Hospital. The orphans and servant-maids failed to appreciate his flowery periods and emotional fervors. He was evidently quite beyond them, and soon resigned in disgust at their ingratitude.  6
  Croly’s poems and several other works, highly praised when they appeared, have been nearly forgotten. His fame rests now upon his fiction: ‘Tales of the Saint Bernard,’ ‘Marston,’ and ‘Salathiel the Immortal.’ The last especially, with the enduring fascination of the Wandering Jew legend, is always interesting. It has been often said that no one else has told the story so well. All the romance-loving side of Croly’s nature comes out in the glowing descriptions of Eastern scenery, and in the appeal to heroic sentiment. The fantastic figure of Nero, ancient passions and vices, a spirit of former barbarity interwoven with ideality, the tragedy of unending human life, are curiously impressed on the picturesque pages.  7

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