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lady smirks and capers and ogles, until one becomes sick of this sexagenar-
ian agility.”8

Autobiographies marked by simplicity of language and plot found
greatest favor among critics. Typical was the comment on Josiah Henson’s
second autobiography in the Methodist Quarterly Review that the book was
“written in a style of pure simplicity and genial piety.” The New Englander,
reviewing the autobiography of Peter Still in November 1856, declared:
“The style is, as it should be, simple and lucid, with no offensive attempt at
fine writing.”9 Ornate, or fine, writing had the ring of insincerity. Review-
ing “the melancholy spectacle” of Lady Morgan’s autobiography, an At-
lantic Monthly
critic reflected the general attitude by severely castigating
the author for her affected language: “she likes to parade her French...
This mania for inlaying her writing with French scraps rises with her Lady-
ship to a species of insanity.”10According to one Harper's reviewer, unless
the author was an unusually skilled writer, the autobiographer should
“never [attempt] the minute and delicate finish of the literary artist” and, in-
stead, present his or her work “without art or ostentation.”11 The North
American Review
's critique of Captain Canot, or Twenty Years of an Afri-
can Slaver
went further: “It would have been better if the editor had re-
strained his ambition to write a lively and entertaining book, and had been
content to tell Captain Canot’s story in a plain and straightforward way,
without those embellishments which now certainly give it the air of ro-
mance.”12

Perspicacity, balance, economy, clarity, precision, plainness of narra-
tion, logical arrangement, and swift movement were all sought in autobi-
ographies. Such works should be “well arranged, simply and concisely
written,” while displaying “a fluency of language and a variety and aptness
of illustration.” Above all, authors should avoid the “sins of prolixity,” to
which autobiographers seemed especially prone.13 A North American Re-

8. Atlantic Monthly, 3: 651 (May 1859). See also Blackwood’s Magazine, 66: 292-304 (Sep-
tember 1849); Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 1: 572 (September 1850), 5: 856-57 (November
1852), 8: 427 (February 1854), 14: 407 (February 1857).

9. Methodist Quarterly Review, 40: 500 (July 1858); New Englander, 14: 629 (November
1856). See also Lib., 1 October, 26 November 1847.

10. Atlantic Monthly Magazine, 3: 651 (May 1859).

11. Harper s New Monthly Magazine, 9: 276 (July 1854); North American Review, 63: 481 (Oc-
tober 1846). See also Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 13: 555 (September 1856).

12. North American Review, 80: 160 (January 1855).

13. North American Review, 70: 332 (April 1850); Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 2: 139 (De-
cember 1850). See also North American Review, 63: 481 (October 1846), 90: 473 (April I860).

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