Thursday, 26 December 2019

Zophiel by Maria Gowen Brooks + #FreeBook

Zophiel by Maria Gowen Brooks
Published in America by Richardson and Lord in 1825.

Z for my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge

How I got this book:
Downloaded the free ebook from Project Gutenberg

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wishing to make a continued effort, in an art which, though almost in secret, has been adored and assiduously cultivated from earliest infancy, it was my intention to have chosen some incident from Pagan history, as the foundation of my contemplated poem. But, looking over the Jewish annals, I was induced to select for my purpose, one of their well-known stories which besides its extreme beauty, seemed to Open an extensive field for the imagination which might therein avail itself not only of important and elevated truths but pleasing and popular superstitions.

As you can probably tell from the start of Brooks' flowery introduction quoted above, Zophiel is very much a book of its time! I chose it based purely on its title beginning with a Z and its page count being low because, at the time, I had three weeks left in the year and five letters still to tick off my Alphabet Soup challenge. Brooks herself was an interesting woman, married to a much older man who had been her guardian before she came of age and, through selling her poetry, the breadwinner of this partnership. I'd love to read a biography of her, if one does exist, however I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to find more of her poetry. It's very much of the Get On With It school of writing!

Zophiel, eventually, became a poem in seven cantos of which this book is the first. I did like the story and Brooks does have a vivid turn of phrase when evoking scenes or characters. A retelling of an ancient epic, here a young woman, Egla, is persuaded by her parents to marry a man she doesn't particularly care for. However on her wedding night another man, the eponymous Zophiel, attempts to seduce her instead - with disastrous results. Unfortunately Brooks takes many, many verses to get to the action (for want of a better word!) and frequently diverts into footnotes describing relevant history, recounting moments from her sojourn in Cuba, or explaining literary allusions. I found it difficult enough to understand the poem without constantly being led astray. If you love Regency-era poetry or are in desperate need of a Z book, then Zophiel might be worth a download. Personally though, while I'm pleased that I struggled through the main poem and I did prefer a couple of her other short works tacked on the end, I can't say I'm now converted to a Brooks fan.

Etsy Find!
by Holy Spirit Art in
Thessaloniki, Greece

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Maria Gowen Brooks / Poetry / Books from America


  1. Yea a Z completed for the challenge! I'm lucky when it comes to Z as I can pick up something starting with Zombie!

    1. I think I would have been better off with one of your zombie books!

  2. Sorry to hear you didn't like it as much as you'd hoped you would.

    1. Yeah, a disappointment here but at least it was a freebie and a Z!