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June 11. WE
E bave received, in the course of the last week, several long, and to say the truth, dull letters, from unknown bands, reflecting, in very severe terms, on Mr. Higgins, for having, as it is affirmed, attempted to pass upon the world, as a faithful sample of the productions of the German Theatre, a performance no way resembling any of those pieces, which have of late excited, and which bid fair to engross the admiration of the British Public.
As we cannot but consider ourselves as the guardians of Mr. Higgins's literary reputation in respect to every work of his which is conveyed to the world through the medium of our paper (though, what we think of the danger of his principles, we have already sufficiently explained for ourselves, and bave, we trust, succeeded in putting our Readers upon their guard against them)—we hold ourselves bound not only to justify the fidelity of the imitation-but (contrary to our original intention) to give a further specimen of it in our present Number, in order to bring the question more fairly to issue between our Author and his calumniators.
In the first place, we are to observe, that Mr. Higgins professes to have taken his notion of German plays wholly from the Translations which have appeared in our lang uage.—If they are totally dissimilar from the originals, Mr. H. may undoubtedly have been led into error; but the fault is in the translators, not in him. That he does not differ widely from the models which he proposed to himself, we have it in our power to prove satisfactorily; and might have done so in our last Number, by subjoining to each particular passage of his play, the scene in some one or other of the German plays, which he had in view when he wrote it. These parallel passages were faithfully pointed out to us by Mr. H. with that candour which marks his character; and if they were suppressed by us (as in truth they were) on our heads be the blame, whatever it may be. Little, indeed, did we think of the imputation which the omission would bring upon Mr. H. as in fact, our principal reason for it, was the apprehension that from the extreme closeness of the imitation in most instances, he would lose in praise for invention, more than he would gain in credit for fidelity.
The meeting between Matilda and Cecilia, for example, in the First Act of the “ Rovers,” and their sudden intimacy, has been censured as unnatural. Be it so. It is taken almost word for word, from“ Stella,” a German, (or professedly a German) piece now much in vogue; from which also the catastrophe of Mr. Higgins's play is in part borrowed, so far as relates to the agreement to which the ladies come, as the
Reader will see by and by, to share Casimere between them.
The dinner scene is copied partly from the published translation of the “ Stranger,"and partly from the first scene of “ Stella.” The song of Rogero with which the first act concludes, is admitted on all hands to be in the very first taste ; and if no German original is to be found for it, so much the worse for the credit of German literature.
An objection has been made by one anonymous letter-writer, to the names of Pudding field and Beefington, as little likely to have been assigned to English characters by any author of taste or discernment. Io answer to this objection, we have, in the first place, to admit that a small, and we hope not an unwarrantable, alteration has been made by us since the MS. has been in our hands.—These names stood originally Puddincrantz and Beefinstern, which sounded to our ears as being liable, especially the latter, to a ridiculous inflection-a difficulty that could only be removed by furnishing them with English terminations. With regard to the more substantial syllables of the names, our Author proceeded in all probability on the authority of Goldoni, who, though not a German, is an Italian writer of considerable reputation ; and who, having heard that the English were distinguished for their love of liberty and beef, has judiciously compounded the two words Runnymede and beef, and thereby produced an English nobleman, whom he styles Lord Runnybeef.
Todwell no longer on particular passages-the best way perhaps of explaining the whole scope and view of Mr. H.'s imitation, will be to transcribe the short sketch of the plot, which that gentleman transmitted to us, together with his Drama, and which it is perhaps the more necessary to give at length, as the limits of our paper not allowing of the publication of the whole piece, some general knowledge of its main design may be acceptable to our Readers, in order to enable them to judge of the several Extracts which we lay before them.
Rogero, son of the late Minister of the Count of Saxe Weimar, having, while, he was at college, fallen desperately in love with Matilda Pottingen, daughter of his tutor, Doctor Engelbertus Pottingen, Professor of Civil Law; and Matilda evidently returning his passion, the Doctor, to prevent ill consequences, sends his daughter on a visit to her Aunt in Wetteravia, where she becomes acquainted with Casimere, a Polish Officer, who happens to be quartered near ber Aunts, and has several children by him.
Roderic, Count of Saxe Weimar, a Prince of a tyrannical and licentious disposition, has for his Prime Minister and favourite, Gaspar, a crafty villain, who had risen to his post by first ruining, and then putting to death, Rogero's father.-Gaspar, apprehensive of the power and popularity which the young Rogero may enjoy at his return to Court, seizes the occasion of his intrigue with Matilda (of which he is apprized officially by Doctor Pottingen) to procure from his Master an order for the recall of Rogero from College, and for committing him to the care of the Prior of the Abbey of Quedlinburgh, a Priest, rapacious, savage, and sensual, and devoted to Gaspar's interests— sending at the same time private orders to the Prior to confine him in a dangeon.
Here Rogero languishes many years. His daily sustenance is administered to him through a grated opening at the top of a cavern, by the Landlady of the Golden Eagle at Weimar, with whom Gaspar contracts, in the Prince's name, for his support ; intending, and more than once endeavouring, to corrupt the Waiter to mingle poison with the food, in order that he may get rid of Rogero for ever.
In the mean time Casimere, having been called away from the neighbourhood of Matilda's residence to other quarters, becomes enamoured of, and marries Cecilia, by whom he has a family; and whom he likewise deserts after a few years co-habitation, on pretence of business which calls him to Kamtschatka.
Doctor Pottingen, now grown old and infirm, and feeling the want of his daughter's society, sends young Pottingen in search of her, with strict injunctions not to return without her ; and to bring with her either her present lover Casimere, or should that not be possible, Rogero himself, if he can find him; the Doctor having set his heart upon seeing his children comfortably settled before his death. Matilda about the same period, quits her Aunt's in search of Casimere; and Cecilia having been advertised (by an anonymous letter) of the falsehood of his Kamtschatka journey, sets out in the post-waggon on a similar pursuit.
It is at this point of time the Play opens with the accidental meeting of Cecilia and Matilda at the Inn at Weimar Casimere arrives there soon after, and falls in first with