Charles Johnstone

c.1719–1800 [pseud. “Oneiropolos”]; b. Carrigogunnel, Co. Limerick, educ. TCD; prob. left without a degree; called to the English bar; prevented from practising by deafness; worked unsuccessfully as chamber lawyer and turned to writing; issued Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea (1760-65), in 4 vols., a succès de scandale purporting to reveal political secrets and expose the profligacy of well-known public characters, being narrated by the spirit of gold in a guinea coin and set in various countries where it circulates - being the first of a subsequently popular genre; supposedly based on ecumenical ideas of Bishop Robert Clayton [q.v.]; a key to the characters in it was afterwards published; sailed for India, May 1782; underwent shipwreck on the voyage; employed on the Bengal newspaper press, writing as “Oneiropolos”; became joint-proprietor; d. Calcutta, in some prosperity.

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  • The Reverie, or a Flight to the Paradise of Fools, 2 vols. (London 1762);
  • Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea, 4 vols. (London: 1760-65);
  • The History of Arbases, Prince of Betlis, 2 vols. (London: 1774)
  • The Pilgrim, or a Picture of Life, 2 vols. (London: 1775.
  • History of John Juniper, Esq., alias Juniper Jack, 3 vols. (London: 1781).

Charles Johnstone, Chrysal
4 vols in 1 - available on Internet Archive -online.

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Robert Welch, ed., Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (OUP 1996) - “Charles Johnstone”: ‘[...] Johnstone’s sympathetic treatment of the ordinary Irish and his depiction of a corrupt English administration in Ireland is vitiated by several explicitly anti-Catholic and anti-semitic passages. Arsaces (1774), a much admired oriental tale, is a thinly-veiled allegory of the worst effects of colonialism in America. Anthony Varnish (1781) and John Juniper (1786), also attributed to Johnstone, use Irish characters and locations, the latter including scenes in Portarlington, Co. Laois, and Dublin, whence the hero embarks to seek his fortune in England. See Michael Shugrue, ed., Arsaces, Prince of Betlis (1975), and Ronald Paulson, ed., Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea (1979).’

RIA DIB: “Charles Johnstone” [entry by Patrick Geoghegan]: b. Carrigogunnell, Co. Limerick, son of Thos. Johnstone (or Johnson) and his wife (née Sharpe); entered TCD; left without degree; went to London where a cousin, John Palmer, was a solicitor; entered Middle Temple and called to bar but did not prosper apart from minor chamber work; afflicted by partial deafness; turned to writing; Chrysal (1760-65), narrated by a guinea coin, was an immediate popular success; widespread interesting in identifying models for characters; covered America, Britain, Holland, Germany and Portugal; contrib. many pieces to journalism; Irish generally well-portrayed; some notable passages of anti-Catholic and anti-semitic writing; incls. call for universal suffrge and women's education; employed by govt. to investigate claims of soldiers in Germany, receiving £2,000 and £3,000 for services, 1763; published Arsaces (1774), satirising colonial America; imprisoned in debtor's prison; resided at Dieppe, returning to London 1778; prob. wrote Buthred, a lost novel; Also Anthony Varnish (1781) and John Juniper (1781) - attrib. to him; emig. to India, 1782; shipwrecked off Africa in the Brilliant, and eventually rescued; prop. of Calcutta newspaperer, writing as “Oneirpolo”; believed to have married “an amiable lady” (N. Munster Antiq. Jnl. 1909); d. circa 1800, at Calcutta; called “a prose Juvenal” by Sir Walter Scott. Bibl. incls. Gent. Mag. (1794 & 1807); Allibone, DNB: A. E. Baker, ed., Chrysal [.. &c.] (1908); Charles Lund Cleeve, in Battestin, ed., British Novelists, 1660-1800, 2 vols. (1985); Welch, Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (1996); Loeber & Loeber, A Guide to Irish Fiction 1650-1900 (2006).

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