British Fiction, 18001829

LAFONTAINE, August Heinrich Julius; PARSONS, Eliza (trans.). Love and Gratitude (1804)

Contemporary Reviews

Critical Review 3rd ser. 5 (July 1805): 330.

Mrs. Parsons had much better exercise her original talents than translate Augustus la Fontaine. Augustus la Fontaine’s works, in our opinion, are stamped with that insipid mediocrity which one can neither admire nor laugh at. The very titles of these novels are mawkish and disgusting: ‘Love and Gratitude,’ ‘Love and Greatness of Soul,’ ‘Love and Esteem,’ ‘Love put to the Test,’ ‘Love and Probity,’ ‘Love and Vanity;’ which is the last. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Really, to an English ear, that is accustomed to ‘Love and Magic,’ ‘Love laughs at Locksmiths,’ &c. this is but dull unprofitable chat. For the style take the following specimen:

‘Poor Firmin, however, had received no transient impression, it rushed violently into his heart,—the image of the beautiful lady was engraven on his soul. He thought, he talked of her incessantly; and when he came to the eulogy of her charms, he made use of such exaggerated expressions, he talked so loud and with such uncommon vivacity and fire, that his parents and the old bailiff were quite astonished.

‘Poor Firmin!’ Poor Fontaine.

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. 3 vols l2mo; price 12s. Publisher: Longman.

Flowers of Literature (1805): 426.

These are six very interesting tales, all of which have a moral tendency. They are far superior to the common-place novels of the day, and derive no small advantage from being translated into excellent English.

Notes: Format: 3 vols 12mo; price 12s. Publisher: Norbury, Brentford. Parsons is also mentioned in an introductory section on ‘Novelists’ in Flowers of Literature for 1805: ‘The fertile pen of Mrs. PARSONS has, within the last year, produced no less than six volumes. Her novel, entitled Murray House, is formed upon very probable incidents [...] The other three volumes are translations by Mrs. P. of six very pleasing and instructive tales from LAFONTAINE, which she has rendered into correct and elegant English’ (p. lxi)

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 50 (June 1806): 220.

We do not think that these little histories exhibit that clear insight into the human heart, which the author imagines them to possess; and if our feelings have occasionally been gratified by the perusal of them, they have likewise been at times disgusted. Under the title of Love and Probity, a story is introduced which is unnatural in its events, and pernicious in its doctrines. The heroine of this curious tale forfeits her honor, without temptation, to a stranger whom she accidentally meets in a public company; and from whom she parts without an attempt to discover even his name. They however soon meet again, but the little accident which has happened does not bring them to each other’s recollection and they fall mutually in Love. Unluckily, the Lady is always sick, and it does not suit her convenience to discover her disorder. A secret retirement becomes necessary, and she departs, accompanied by her own mother and the mother of her lover! who, poor man, is sent on a jaunt in a different direction The young lady is now delivered of a fine boy; a circumstance which produces no change of sentiment either in the Lover (when he is informed of it) or in his good natured mother; who, alluding to the business, exclaims, ‘yes, my son, Julia is virtuous, she is worthy to be your wife—her heart is integrity itself!’ This is indeed a trait of the human heart!—However, every thing now presses on towards marriage; when, by mere accident, the Lover finds that in his Julia he possesses the object of his former casual amour. This discovery produces universal joy; while his kind mother, leading the bride to the altar, places a crown of myrtle on her head, as a token of CHASTITY!

All this may be called natural: but in our minds there was more of the feelings of nature in the poor country lout, who had married the former favourite of the Squire. On her being brought to bed a few weeks after the ceremony, Hodge got into drink, and at the same time into a passion with his immaculate spouse. The gossips interposed with violent exclamations that she was far too good for such a sot as he was—‘a villain, to behave so to such an angel of a wife!’— ‘there, there’—cried Hodge, the tears streaming from his eyes—damn thee, Molly, I don’t mind thee being a whore; only don't let ’em call thee an angel!’

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 3 vols 12mo; price 12s. Boards. Publisher: Longman & Co.

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