British Fiction, 18001829

ANON. Horatio, of Holstein (1800)

Contemporary Reviews

Critical Review, 2nd ser. 31 (Jan 1801): 116–17.

The work before us is not so entirely destitute of merit as to provoke unlimited censure; but its author has been, nevertheless, too inattentive to its numerous blemishes not to stand in need of our friendly reprehensions. He forgets continually that he has laid his scene in Germany, and that his personages speak High Dutch, else he would not pun on the likeness of ‘Cæsar’s Commentaries’ to ‘Seizures upon Commons,’ nor make young Freyherr hot whilst the ladies are ‘roasting’ him. The same sort of inaccuracy occurs throughout all the book, and a laugh is attempted to be raised by the mis-spelling of some words, and by equivoques on others, which our novelist ought to have known cannot possibly hold good alike in the English and German tongues. In the circumstance of old Freyherr and his son being taken into custody by the constable, this perversion of lan-[116/117]guage is so gross as to create disgust. The officer of the night, in the same rencounter, is a downright Cockney, and the small watch-house hung round with parish instructions, and duties of constables, has nothing of German about it. We could not avoid smiling at the familiar introduction of the tea equipage at Mrs. Brun’s table, as well as at the grate and poker in Parson Heiligkeit’s kitchen at Grunen; and we have no doubt that the writer will good-naturedly smile with us, when we remind him that he has made Farmer Martin, of the neighbourhood of Frankfort, commend his daughter Rosella as a famous manufacturer of pudding.

The plot is by far too intricate to be remembered with precision, and the multiplicity of characters assigned to Sterndorf do not accord with common notions of probability. We wish the author had not attempted to quote Latin sentences, as they oblige us to observe the incorrectness of ‘propria personæ,’ ‘ocyor nimbos,’ ‘aque vitæ,’ &c.; for had he been at all acquainted with ‘learned lore,’ his diction would have been less unclassical, not to say ungrammatical. He appears to be a person of good natural abilities; unassisted by education, affecting a bombast style of figurative humour, frequently giving birth to a pretty thought, and then smothering it by the awkwardness of its swaddling clothes.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 3 vols 12mo; price 12s. Sewed. Publisher: Dutton.

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