English manuscript translations of three 'Moral Tales from the Original German of Augustus Lafontaine translated by J Powell [James Powell of the Custom House)] Vol III', titled 'The noblest Man', 'The Intrigue' and 'The Power of Conscience'.

August Lafontaine (1759-1831), author; James Powell of the Custom House (and Newington Place, Surrey), translator
Moral Tales from the Original German of Augustus Lafontaine
Publication details: 
Circa 1804 (date of watermark). London?
SKU: 10537

4to, 134 pp. In original loose grey wraps, with 'Moral Tales | Vol III' in manuscript on front. Texts clear and complete, with numerous manuscript emendations. Fair, on aged paper, with slight creasing to corners of a few leaves. Wraps worn. Comprising 34 bifoliums (watermarked 'RW | KENT'), with a single leaf (watermarked 'TW | 1804') carrying the title 'Moral Tales. | from | the Original German of Augustus Lafontaine | translated | by | J Powell | Vol III | Contents of Vol III | The noblest Man. | The Intrigue | The Power of Conscience'. Of the three stories, 'The noblest Man' is on 32 pp; 'The Intrigue' on 62 pp; and 'The Power of Conscience' on 39 pp. Little is to be discovered regarding Powell: a relative appealing for information about him in Notes & Queries in 1809 complained that he could 'trace neither the family nor the house, though I am Powell's great-grandson'. Watts's 'Bibliotheca Britannica' features a list of six works by him between 1793 and 1807, including translations from French and German. Among them is 'The Monk of Dissenters, from the German of La Fontaine. 1806'; other named authors are Kotzebue and Weber. There appears to be a reference to him in David Worrall's 'Theatric Revolution' (2006), as 'James Powell, Snr., [who] had been appointed as Customs Collector at Exeter'. Lafontaine was a voluminous writer who during his lifetime surpassed even Goethe in popularity. At a time of great interest in England in German literature (Sir John Soane's son George being one of several translators into English) it was natural that several of his books should appear in English. Neither the translation of 'The noblest Man' nor that of 'The Power of Conscience' appear to have been published, but in 1803 'The Intrigue' appeared as the sole item in 'New Moral Tales. Translated from the German of Augustus Lafontaine, by NI - CE.' It was reviewed in a number of journals, including the Monthly Review, which stated (July 1803): 'We learn that it is intended to continue these tales in numbers.' No other volumes appear to have been published, and the only copy of this item on COPAC is at the National Library of Scotland. One of Lafontaine's works is thought to have been one of the inspirations of Jane Austen's "Plan of a Novel according to Hints from Various Quarters".