Hiffernan, Paul (DNB00)
HIFFERNAN, PAUL (1719–1777), miscellaneous writer, was born in or near Dublin in 1719. His parents, intending him for the priesthood of the Roman catholic church, sent him to a classical school in Dublin. When very young he went with other Irish students to the university of Montpellier, where he claims to have made the acquaintance of Rousseau and Marmontel. At Montpellier, apparently forsaking theology, he graduated M.B. He removed to Paris, studying, or more probably idling there for several years, and acquiring a knowledge of Italian. The statement that he remained in France for seventeen years is a manifest exaggeration. He returned to Dublin by 1748, with a view to practising medicine, but gave way to indolence and dissipation. The character he bore is indicated in a coarse lampoon which professes to give an account of his death on 17 Oct. 1748. In 1750 he published in Dublin a political serial entitled ‘The Tickler,’ in opposition to Dr. Charles Lucas [q. v.]; he also wrote plays and fugitive pieces.
Hiffernan came to London towards the end of 1753. In 1754 he issued a few numbers of ‘The Tuner,’ intended as a vehicle for dramatic and literary criticism, and better written than most of his productions. On 24 April 1756 a farce by him called ‘Maiden Whim’ was first acted at Drury Lane Theatre (Genest, Hist. Stage, iv. 457). It was again performed, under the new title of ‘The Lady's Choice,’ for Hiffernan's benefit, with Henry Jones's ‘Earl of Essex,’ at Covent Garden on 20 April 1759 (ib. p. 566). On 1 April 1761 Hiffernan's farce, ‘The New Hippocrates,’ was put on the stage of Drury Lane after a performance of ‘Every Man in his Humour,’ with Garrick as Kitely and a song by Mrs. Clive (ib. p. 611). The farce was a failure, and was never published. On 6 April 1768 was performed at Drury Lane Hiffernan's ‘National Prejudice,’ a farce said to be an adaptation of Favart's ‘Englishman in Bordeaux’ (ib. v. 168). In 1774 Hiffernan, at the request of the actor Reddish, added a first and fifth act to an unfinished tragedy by Henry Jones (1720?–1770) called ‘The Cave of Idra.’ Hiffernan renamed the piece ‘The Heroine of the Cave,’ and it was acted at Reddish's benefit at Drury Lane on 19 March 1774, and again at Covent Garden 22 March 1784 (ib. p. 405).
Hiffernan soon sank into a mere hackney writer. His ‘Miscellanies in Prose and Verse,’ 4to, dedicated to Lord Tyrawley, appeared in 1760. They include some readable pieces, the best being ‘a genealogical account of humbugging.’ Among the translations he executed was that of a work on the ‘Origin and Progress of Despotism,’ 1764, 8vo, professedly printed at Amsterdam, and soon suppressed. In 1770 he dedicated to Garrick his ‘Dramatic Genius,’ the first book of which details a scheme for a permanent temple, in the classic taste, to the memory of Shakespeare. On the strength of this production, Garrick raised a subscription for him amounting to over 120l. His ‘Philosophic Whim; or, Astronomy a Farce,’ 1774, 4to, full of grotesque expressions, he hawked about among his friends at the rate of half-a-crown or half-a-guinea as opportunity served. According to Professor Masson, he has the merit of inventing the word ‘impecuniosity.’ Among his expedients for raising money was a pretence of coaching candidates for the stage, on the terms of a guinea as entrance fee, another for instruction, and two guineas on engagement. He got his friends to subscribe their guineas for a course of three lectures on anatomy, to be delivered at the Percy Coffee-house. At the time appointed for the first lecture four persons were present, one being Dr. Kennedy, physician to the Prince of Wales. After waiting an hour, Hiffernan began his lecture, and was proceeding to describe ‘the bread-basketry of the human frame,’ when his audience declared themselves sufficiently amused; he ‘ordered up some coffee, which he left them to pay for,’ and promised to dine with them later on. Though he discarded every conventionality, and reviled his best friends if he were unsuccessful in sponging upon them, he had social qualities which made them kind to his faults. He kept his lodging a secret, which, even in his last illness, no stratagem could penetrate; he was to be heard of ‘at the Bedford Coffee-house.’ He died of jaundice, in a small court off St. Martin's Lane, about the beginning of June 1777. In person he was short, thick-set, and ruddy.
His published plays are: 1. ‘The Self-enamoured; or the Ladies' Doctor,’ &c., Dublin, 1750, 12mo. 2. ‘The Lady's Choice,’ &c., 1759, 8vo. 3. ‘The Earl of Warwick, the King and Subject, a tragedy,’ &c., 1764, 1767, 8vo (adapted from J. F. La Harpe's ‘Comte de Warwick’). Thomas Francklin [q. v.] produced another translation of the same play in 1766, and Hiffernan and his friends charged Francklin with plagiarism (cf. Letter from Rope-Dancing Monkey, Lond., 1767). 4. ‘The Heroine of the Cave,’ &c., 1775, 8vo. Besides other publications mentioned above, Hiffernan wrote: 5. ‘Remarks on an Ode [by W. Dunkin] on the Death of … Frederick, Prince of Wales,’ &c., Dublin, 1752, 8vo. 6. ‘The Wishes of a Free People,’ 1761, 8vo (in verse). His ‘Dramatic Genius. In Five Books,’ 1770, 4to, came to a second edition in 1772, 12mo.
[A Faithful Narrative of the … Murder of P—l H—ff—n, M.D., committed by himself, &c., by R—d D—ck—n, Dublin, 1748; European Mag. 1794, pp. 110, 179; Baker's Biog. Dramatica (Jones), 1812, p. 333; Chalmers's Gen. Biog. Dict. 1814, xvii. 462; Masson's Memoir of Goldsmith, prefixed to Works, 1871, p. xxii; Hiffernan's publications.]