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"Such an object was not likely to escape his recollection. The term decent is that perhaps which describes it most exactly ; being clean and very homely without pretension to any other quality. Between it and the house lies a valley occupied by a sheet of water, alluded to probably in the line
The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool.' “ Another natural object
'The hawthorn bush with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age, and whispering lovers made, was larger than ordinary trees of that description, with surrounding seats as here represented; it rose with a double trunk, shaded a considerable portion of ground opposite the alehouse, and from being at the confluence of two roads, presented sufficient space for the evening assemblages of the villagers, described as having
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree.' The selection of a 'hawthorn bush, so rarely of sufficient dimensions to perform the office here assigned, when so many nobler tenants of the forest affording ampler shade and more majesty of description for his verse were at poetical command to use on the occasion, is considered another proof of the identity of the spot from which the picture was drawn. The celebrity of this tree has been fatal to it. The material objects immortalised by poets are too frequently sacrificed to the admiration they excite, as if spoliation were the truest test of devotion in the eyes of admirers; and poetry thus seems like the unnatural mother of mythology, content to prey upon her own offspring. Every traveller bither for a period of forty years, carried away a portion of the trees as a relic either of the poem or of his pilgrimage; when the branches had been destroyed, the trunks were attacked; and when these disappeared, even the roots were partially dug up, so that in 1820, scarcely a vestige remained, either above or below ground, notwithstanding a resident gentleman, by building round it, endeavoured to prevent its utter extinction. At the period of the writer's visit (1830) a very tender shoot had again forced its way to the surface, which he in imitation of so many other inconsiderate idlers felt disposed to seize upon as a memorial of his visit; but if permitted to remain, though this is unlikely, may renew the honours paid to its prede“Opposite the remains of the hawthorn stands the alehouse
where nut-brown draughts inspired, Where gray-beard mirth and smiling toil retired,' still appropriated to its original use, chiefly by the care of Mr. Hogan, who repaired or rebuilt it after being long in a state of decay. By the same hand it was supplied with the sign of the "Three Jolly Pigeons,' with new copies of the 'welve good rules,' and the “royal game of goose,' not omitting even the
'broken tea-cups wisely kept for show
Ranged o'er the chimney glistened in a row,'— which for better security in the frail tenure of an Irish publican, or the doubtful decorum of his guests, were embedded in the mortar. Most of these bave again disappeared, sacrifices to the love of relics, and sold no doubt to admiring visiters as the originals referred to in the poem; even
the sign is no longer to be seen, removed either by cupidity or the ravages of time.
“ The allusions to America, as the destined home of voluntary exiles, who
(took a long farewell and wished in vain,
For seats like these beyond the western main, are in perfect keeping with truth, the late celebrated John Wesley having remarked the large efflux of persons thither from Ireland as far back as the year 1770, though it prevailed at a much earlier period. Indeed, whenever by the alleged cupidity of landlords, the rivalry of other tenants, or their own imprudence, the lower class of Irish become upsettled, they seldom refix permanently in another part of their own country, or even in England or Scotland, but commonly seek a distant, and as they are led to believe, a more advantageous settlement in the New Norld. The pathetic lines
"Yon widow'd solitary thing That feebly bends beside the plashy spring ; She, wretched matron, forced in age for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,' are supposed to apply to a female named Catherine Geraghty, whom the poet had known in earlier and better days, and who was well remembered by some of the inhabitants when Dr. Strean served the curacy of the parish. The brook and ditches near the spot where her cabin stood, still furnish cresses, and several of her descendants reside in the neighbourhood.
" To his own instructer, Thomas Byrne, is supposed to belong the description of a personage so important to youth.
"There in his noisy mansion, skill'd to rule,
The village master taught his little school? But the portrait, though good as a general sketch, wants that individuality which, from the actual peculiarities of the person in question, might have been given it; one probable characteristic however is retained
" While words of learned length, and thundering sound,
Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around.' The school-house is still shown; here there may be some straining of fact as to identity, for no place built expressly for such purpose having existed at that time, the common cottages which are constructed loosely of mud and stone would have crumbled long ere this, few of them without great care attaining the age of a century,
“No lines in the poem point more strongly to the abode of his youth, than
'Along thy glades a solitary guest,
The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest.' “In the immediate vicinity of the village, and in more than one direction, is found a considerable portion of water; a river, likewise, with several small lakes, pools, and marsh lands, lie around Ballymahon, to which is now added the course of the Grand Canal from Dublin; to several of these, water-fowl continue to resort, and among others the bird which he has thought proper to notice in the foregoing lines. In
the opening of the sixth volume of Animated Nature, it is thus poetically adverted to, with the effects of its call upon ihe minds of the villagers.
6. Those who have walked in an evening by the sedgy sides of unfrequented rivers, must remember a variety of notes from different waterfowl: the loud scream of lhe wild goose, the croaking of the mallard, the whining of the lapwing, and the tremulous neighing of the jackspipe. But of all these sounds, there is none so dismally hollow as the booming of the bittern. It is impossible for words to give those who have not heard this evening call an adequate idea of its solemnity. It is like an interrupted bellowing of a bull, but hollower and louder, and is heard at a mile's distance as if issuing from some formibable being that resided at the bottom of the waters.
I remember in the place where I was a boy with what terror this bird's note affected the ichole village ; they considered it as the presage of some sad event; and generally found or made one to succeed it. I do not speak ludicrously; but if any person in the neighbourhood died, tbey supposed it could not be otherwise, for the night-raven had foretold it; but if nobody happened to die, the death of a cow or sheep gave completion to the prophecy." »
pp. 380-383. We have been surprised in the perusal of a late Life of Cowper by Mr. Southey, to find no allusion to the dulcet strains of this admirable poet. He recounts Pope, Gray, Akenside, Glover, Churchill, and Crabbe, but omits any reference to the author of the Traveller, Deserted Village, and Hermit. Perhaps Goldsmith may be regarded by Mr. Southey as a minor or indirferent poet, as Cowper seeins to have considered Pope, and as Byron deemed Cowper. If so, in the dispensation of poetical justice, the poet-laureate himself may in his turn be ruthlessly despoiled, by an upsparing hand, of those blooming laurels which now cluster so proudly and thickly around him.
It is to be regretted that a man who was capable of writing the Traveller, Deserted Village, and so many other works of standard eminence, should have been obliged by the penury of his circumstances to bring out productions so laine and imperfect as the lives of Bolingbroke and Parnell. He was sensible of the occasional effects of his haste, and wrote to Mr. Langton with reference to it in the following strain "God knows I am tired of this kind of finishing, which is but bungling work; and that not so much my fault as the fault of my scurvy circumstances.” To some one else he observed, “I must write a book, while you are pondering over a word or a phrase."
After the biographies alluded to, came out in quick succession, the humorous and admirable jeux d'esprit, Retaliation, and the Haunch of Venison, the latter addressed to his friend, Lord Clare, and a History of England in four volumes. This History, as well as that of Rome which preceded, and the History of Greece which followed it, possesses all the graceful attractiveness of his style, and the usual ingenuity of his reflections.
They are elegant abstracts, so happily condensed as to embrace as much useful knowledge as any histories of the same size, within the compass of any language. They received the emphatic sanction of his great contemporary, Dr. Johnson, a severe judge ; and a most flattering verdict has been rendered by the unbiassed judgment of posterity.
In the early part of the year 1773, was enacted for the first time at Covent Garden, his comedy, "She Stoops to Conquer, or the Mistakes of a Night.” When this play was sent to Colman, at that time the manager, he verbally expressed a great variety of objections to the whole performance. He at length returned the manuscript to Goldsmith, with critical remarks written on the blank sides of the leaves, in violation, as it was considered, of literary courtesy. The friends of the poet to whom these animadversions were shown, called them unfair ; the public journalists denounced them, as “ envious, insipid, and contemptible.” Garrick, who was referred to, manifested his usual indecision, but hesitated to pronounce a favourable opinion. The friends of Goldsmith, and especially Johnson, then interfered, and procured, by their remonstrances, the reluctant consent of the manager to its representation.
When in rehearsal, the inimical Colman suggested alterations which went to change the whole aspect of the piece. Being rejected by the author, a new offence was given, the effects of which were very soon perceived. He induced two of the chief performers, Smith and Woodward, to decline their respective parts, and during the period of rehearsal, as well as before, indulged in the most unhandsome strictures, confidently predicting its failure. To crown all, the scenery, dresses, and actors, were of an inferior description. Seeing such accumulated causes of apprehension, his friends advised the postponement of its appearance until the following season. Owing to the state of his finances, he declined the proposal, and, with the lofty pride of merit, declared—“I should sooner that my play were damned by bad players than merely saved by good acting.”
It must be premised, that for a long period a passion for what was called sentimental comedy, had so taken possession of London as to banish wit and humour from the stage. Good-Natured Man," and "She Stoops to Conquer," were not in harmony with the predominating taste, but were boldly designed to alter its complexion. Shortly before the latter play appeared, Goldsmith, with a view to conciliate the public, composed an agreeable essay, entitled "A Comparison between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy."
The time of representation at last arrived, and what with the dampening effects of the manager's well-known sentiments and all-pervading influence, there was an evident anticipation of
miscarriage. But the public were so stupid as to be amused, exhilarated, and delighted, to a degree beyond the hopes of the author. In short, it was received with the most emphatic applause, and the three nights of the poet yielded him between four and five hundred pounds.
The daily press was loud in condemnation and ridicule of Colman on the one hand, and in the most flattering ascriptions of merit to Goldsmith on the other. We select from the many verses given by Mr. Prior, two or three pieces as specimens :
TO DR. GOLDSMITH,
"Long has the Comic Muse, seduced to town,
TO DR. GOLDSMITH.
For doctor you ’re a droll man,)
In operations vary!
66 TO GEORGE COLMAN, ESQ.,
Nor thus with jokes be flamm’d;
His next may still be damn'd.
To sink his next prepare ;.
And dresses from Rag Fair.
The prologue Kelly write;
Before the author's night.
To bring to lasting shame,
And print it in his name.”