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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Rebellion of the Beasts

Leigh Hunt

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To purchase The Rebellion of the Beasts

Title: The Rebellion of the Beasts
Author: Leigh Hunt
Genre: Novel
Written: 1825
Length: 160 pages
Availability: The Rebellion of the Beasts - US
The Rebellion of the Beasts - UK
The Rebellion of the Beasts - Canada
  • Or, the Ass is Dead ! Long Live the Ass !!!
  • Attributed to Leigh Hunt, but originally published anonymously
  • With an Introduction by Douglas A. Anderson

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Our Assessment:

B : amusing, often strikingly modern allegory

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Wordsworth Circle . (35/4) Nicholas Roe

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The complete review's Review:

       The Rebellion of the Beasts, (reasonably) attributed to Leigh Hunt, is an amusing allegory. In his introduction Douglas A. Anderson emphasises the similarities to George Orwell's Animal Farm and wonders whether Orwell was familiar with the work, but it stands well enough on its own not to need this potential connexion to be of interest.
       The story is narrated by a Jack Sprat who comes to attend Cambridge. While there he participates in a prank, breaking into the library at Magdalene College (which is notoriously difficult to enter and use) and making off with a book from it. The volume he took was by Cornelius Agrippa, and in it there is a complicated recipe for a potion that will allow one to understand the speech of all animals.
       Sprat is fascinated by the idea, but the ingredients are hard to come by -- especially: "the parings of the toe-nails of a doctor of divinity, and the blood of a man learned in mathematics", but Sprat creatively manages to collect these and everything else. And when he's done everything according to the instructions, lo, he finds he really can communicate with the animals.
       It turns out the animals aren't happy: they've had enough of how man treats them and rebellion is in the air. Haughty man won't deign to deal with the beasts, so it comes to war, and that's a fairly one-sided affair, the beasts easily conquering. But revolution is the easy part; governing proves harder.
       It all starts out democratically enough, but beasts are split on how they want things to be handled. The king's horses, for example, miss their comfortable and luxurious lifestyle. Soon enough there's a dictatorship, a Jack-ass taking power, and wielding it as any tyrant would.
       Using animal-actors allows the typical tyranny-tale to go a bit differently (and a bit more colourfully), but in the end it's the same old story. Still, it's cleverly done in this guise.
       The story moves along very quickly, and though there are weaknesses (too little about the fate of poor, despised man, too peripheral Sprat's role for much of the story), it's entertaining, amusing, and often very clever. The power-plays, the sexual issues, and lots of amusing word-play make for a surprisingly modern read, too.

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Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       English author James Henry Leigh Hunt lived 1784 to 1859.

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