Contemporary Critical Reception of the Novels of Henrietta Rouviere Mosse
Although it is indicated that there are in total six reviews of Rouviere Mosse’s novels in Ward’s Literary Reviews in British Periodicals 1798-1820 Vol. II, I have only been able to find two of them. Like much of the women’s fiction produced in the early nineteenth century her novels were thought to be ‘like many others of the same kind’ (Critical Review 1812, 332) but ‘by no means void of interest’ (Literary Journal 1805, 1222). She is praised for keeping in mind ‘the good old moral of virtue rewarded, and vice punished’ (CR 332), and it is noted that the novel is ‘well calculated to catch the attention of novel readers’ (ibid), which presumably means the middle-class women that the novel is aimed at. This viewpoint is also presented in the review for The Heirs of Villeroy, which is said to include instances of ‘instinctive feelings and foresight’(LJ, 1222); the critic thinks they are nonsense but that there will be readers ‘to which all this will seem probable and pleasing’(ibid).
The critics comment that in Arrivals from India the characters are ‘well managed, and the finale (is) just as it should be’ (ibid), and that Heirs of Villeroy has a ‘well arranged’ (L J, 1222) plot with ‘well drawn and supported’ (ibid) characters. However, Mosse’s writing was not regarded as having great literary value, with ‘nothing to condemn, and certainly nothing very much to commend’ (CR, 332). She is condemned, however, with regard to The Heirs of Villeroy for using ‘ridiculous tales of marks on children from some particular longing of the mother when she was pregnant.’ (L J, 1222) and Mosse is advised to ‘attend a little more to the dictates of common sense’ (ibid) in her next novel. I believe this is a justified comment, as it is an improbable part of the novel and is not explained fully. She is also condemned in the review of Arrivals From India for ‘many inaccuracies of language, and various awkward expressions.’(CR, 332).
Therefore, although critics thought that Mosse was capable of good characterisation and structure, they did not consider her writing to be anything new or groundbreaking as she sticks to the same formula of ‘virtue rewarded’ in her novels. However, this was probably due to the fact that her writing was the main source of income for herself and her husband, so by unsuccessfully deviating from the popular conduct novel she would have risked money that she needed to live on.
It is interesting to note that Newman, Mosse’s publisher, tampered with the review for Arrivals From India in order to advertise the book in more positive terms.