1902 Encyclopedia > John Moore (novelist, travel writer)

Dr John Moore
Scottish novelist and travel writer

DR JOHN MOORE (1730-1802), born at Stirling in 1730, was one of the most prominent writers of travels and novels in the latter part of the 18th century. His novel Zeluco (published in 1789) produced a powerful impression at the time, and indirectly, through the poetry of Byron, has left an abiding mark on literature. The novel would in these days be called a psychological novel; it is a close analysis of the motives of a headstrong, passionate, thoroughly selfish and unprincipled profligate. It is full of incident, and the analysis is never prolonged into tedious reflexions, nor suffered to intercept the progress of the story, while the main plot is diversified with many interesting episodes. The character took a great hold of Byron's imagination, and probably influenced his life in some of its many moods, as well as his poetry. It is not too much to say that the common opinion that Byron intended Childe Harold as a reflexion of himself cannot be cleared of its large mixture of falsehood without a study of Moore's Zeluco. Byron said that he intended the Childe to be " a poetical Zeluco," and the most striking features of the portrait were un-doubtedly taken from that character. At the same time it is obvious to everybody acquainted with Moore's novel and Byron's life that the moody and impressionable poet often adopted the character of Zeluco, fancied himself and felt himself to be a Zeluco, although he was at heart a very different man. Moore's other works have a less marked individuality, but his sketches of society and man-ners in France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and England furnish valuable materials for the social historian. Like his countrymen Burnett and Boswell, he was a sagacious, penetrating, and in the main unprejudiced observer, with something of a natural historian's interest in the human species; and he had exceptional opportunities of observation. He was a doctor by profession, and the son of a Stirling-shire clergyman. After taking his medical degree at Glasgow, he served with the army in Flanders, then was attached to the household of the English ambassador at Paris, then practised for five years in Glasgow, next travelled on the Continent for five years with a young nobleman, settled for some years as a physician in Lon-don, accompanied Lord Lauderdale to Paris in 1792 and witnessed some of the principal scenes of the Revolution. All classes thus came under his observation, while his pro-fession preserved him in an unusual degree from flippant bias. His works attest great shrewdness and sagacity of judgment, and show no small skill in literary presentation. He died at London in 1802.

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