In the Metropolitan Magazine, where this novel originally appeared (Sep. 1834-Jan. 1836), Marryat prepared his readers for its reception in the following words:—
“And having now completed ‘Jacob Faithful,’ we trust to the satisfaction of our readers, we will make a few remarks. We commenced writing on our own profession, and having completed four tales, novels, or whatever you may please to call them” (viz., Frank Mildmay, The King’s Own, Newton Forster, Peter Simple), “in ‘Jacob Faithful’ we quitted the salt water for the fresh. From the wherry we shall now step on shore, and in our next number we shall introduce to our readers ’The Adventures of Japhet, in search of his Father.’”
The promise was faithfully kept, and Japhet, with all his varied experience, never went to sea. There were indeed few companies on land to which he did not penetrate. Reared in a foundling hospital, and apprenticed to a Smithfield apothecary, his good looks, impulsive self-confidence, and unbounded talent for lying, carried him with eclat through the professions of quack doctor, juggler, and mountebank, gentleman about town, tramp, and quaker: to emerge triumphantly at last as the only son of a wealthy Anglo-Indian general, or “Bengal tiger,” as his friends preferred to call him.
Japhet’s “adventures,” of course, are shared by a faithful friend and ally, Timothy Oldmixon, the Sancho to his Quixote, originally an orphan pauper like himself, composed of two qualities—fun and affection. He encounters villains, lawyers, kind-hearted peers, “rooks” and “pigeons,” gipsies, leaders of fashion, fair maidens—enough and to spare. In a word, Marryat here makes use of well-worn material, and uses it well. He has constructed a tale of private adventure on the old familiar lines, in which the local colour—acquired from other books—is admirably laid on, and the interest sustained to the end. The story is well told, enlivened by humour, and very respectably constructed.
The reader will find Japhet thoroughly exciting, and will have no difficulty in believing that, while it was running in the pages of the Metropolitan, “an American vessel meeting an English one in the broad Atlantic, instead of a demand for water or supplies, ran up the question to her mast-head, ‘Has Japhet found his father yet?’”
Japhet, in search of a Father, is here re-printed, with a few corrections, from the first edition in 3 vols. Saunders & Otley, 1836. On page 360 a few words, enclosed in square brackets, have been inserted from the magazine version, as the abbreviated sentence, always hitherto reproduced from the first edition, is unintelligible.
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Japhet, in Search of a Father