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APPENDIX TO THE POEMS.
LOCALITY OF AUBURN:
(THE DESERTED VILLAGE.”)
It has been disputed among the admirers of Goldsmith, whether the scene of the Deserted Village’ is laid in England or in Ireland, and quotations from the poem itself have been adduced, in support of their opinion, by both parties. The truth seems to be, however, that while the poem generally refers to England—and, indeed, there are particular allusions which cannot possibly apply to Ireland—the author, at the same time, naturally referred for his village description to the locality most familiar to his memory, and most intimately connected with his fondest associations. That his reflections refer to England is evident, from his dedication to Sir Joshua Reynolds, where he says, “I know you will object, (and indeed several of our best and wisest friends concur in the opinion,) that the depopulation it deplores is no where to be seen, and the disorders it laments are only to be found in the poet's own imagination. To this I can scarce make any other answer, than that I sincerely believe what I have written; that I have taken all possible pains, in my country excursions, for these four or five years past, to be certain of what I allege; and that all my views and enquiries have led me to believe those miseries real, which I here attempt to display."
That in his particular description of Auburn he drew from a scene endeared to him by many fond recollections, and that Auburn and Lissoy are the same, will, we think, be proved to the satisfaction of the most sceptical, by the following extracts :
“ The poem of the · Deserted Village,”” says Dr. Strean, in a letter printed in Mr. Mangin's Essay on Light Reading,'3 “ took its origin from the circumstance of General Robert Napier, * the grandfather of
Supposing the preface to 'Goody Two-shoes' (1764-5) to have been written by Goldsmith, it constitutes an earlier and a similarly forcible appeal by the poet against the depopulation of villages, &c.- ED.
2 He succeeded Henry Goldsmith in the curacy of Kilkenny, West. ED.
3 12mo, 1808.-ED. + Or Napper. The Rev. Mr. Hancock said his family came from Germany. -Ed.
the gentleman who now lives in the house, within half a mile of Lissoy, built by the General, having purchased an extensive tract of the country surrounding Lissoy, or Auburn ; in consequence of which, many families, here called cottiers, were removed to make room for the intended improvements of what was now to become the wide domain of a rich man, warm with the idea of changing the face of his new acquisition, and were forced, with fainting steps, to go in search of torrid tracts, and distant climes.'
“ This fact alone might be sufficient to establish the seat of the poem ; but there cannot remain a doubt in any unprejudiced mind, when the following are added; viz., that in the character of the Village Preacher, Henry, the brother of the Poet, is copied from nature. is described exactly as he lived ; and his ' modest mansion' as it existed. Burn, the name of the village master, and the site of his school-house, and Catharine Giraghty, a lonely widow,
66 The wretched matron, forced in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread' (and to this day the brook and ditches near the spot where her cabin stood abound with cresses), still remain in the memory of the inhabitants, and Catharine's children live in the neighbourhood. The pool, the busy mill, the house where nut-brown draughts inspired,' are still visited as the poetic scene; and the ' hawthorn bush,' growing in an open space in front of the house, which I knew to have three trunks, is now reduced to one, the other two having been cut, from time to time, by persons carrying pieces of it away to be made into toys, &c., in honour of the bard, and of the celebrity of his poem. _All these contribute to the same proof; and the decent church,' which I attended for upwards of eighteen years, and which 'tops the neighbouring hill,' is exactly described as seen from Lissoy, the residence of the Preacher.”
The next extract is taken from a notice in a respectable periodical, and confirms the description given by Dr. Strean :
66 About three miles from Ballymahon, a very central town in the sister kingdom, is the mansion and village of Auburn, so called by their present possessor, Captain Hogan. Through the taste and improvement of this gentleman, it is now a beautiful spot, although fifteen years since it presented a very, bare and unpoetical aspect. This, however, was owing to a cause which serves strongly to corroborate the assertion, that Goldsmith had this scene in view when he wrote his poem of the “Deserted Village. The then possessor, General Napier, turned all his tenants out of their farms, that he might enclose them in his own private domain. Littleton, the mansion of the General, stands not far off, a complete emblem of the desolating spirit lamented by the poet, dilapidated and converted into a barrack.
“ The chief object of attraction is Lissoy, once the parsonage-house
Henry Goldsmith, that brother to whom the poet dedicated his · Traveller,' and who is represented as the Village Pastor,
“Passing rich with forty pounds a-year.' “When I was in the country, the lower chambers were inhabited by pigs and sheep, and the drawing-rooms by oats. Captain Hogan, how
ever, has, I believe, got it since into his possession, and has, of course, improved its condition.
“ Though at first strongly inclined to dispute the identity of Auburn, Lissoy House overcame my scruples. As I clambered over the rotten gate, and crossed the grass-grown lawn, or court, the tide of association became too strong for casuistry: here the poet dwelt and wrote, and here his thoughts fondly recurred when composing his “ Traveller,' in a
reign land. Yonder was the decent chur that literally 'topped the neighbouring hill. Before me lay the little bill of Knockrue, on which he declares, in one of his letters, he had rather sit with a book in hand, than mingle in the proudest assemblies. And above all, startlingly true, beneath my feet was
“Yonder copse, where once the garden smiled,
And still where many a garden flower grows wild.' “A painting from the life could not be more exact. The stubborn currant-bush' lifts its head above the rank grass, and the proud holyhock flaunts where its sisters of the flower-knot are no more,
* In the middle of the village stands the old “hawthorn tree, built up with masonry, to distinguish and preserve it: it is old and stunted, and suffers much from the depredations of post-chaise travellers, who generally stop to procure a twig. Opposite to it is the village alehouse, over the door of which swings • The Three Jolly Pigeons. every thing is arranged according to the letter :
“The white-wash'd wall, the nicely sanded floor,
The Twelve Good Rules, the Royal Game of Goose.' “Captain Hogan, I have heard, found great difficulty in obtaining The Twelve Good Rules,' but at length purchased them at some London book stall, to adorn the white-washed parlour of · The Three Jolly Pigeons. However laudable this may be, nothing shook my faith in the reality of Auburn so much as this exactness, which had the disagreeable air of being got up for the occasion. The last object of pilgrimage is the quondam habitation of the schoolmaster,
6. There in his noisy mansion skill'd to rule.' “It is surrounded with fragrant proofs of its identity in
66 « The blossom'd furze, unprofitably gay:
“ The controversy concerning the identity of this Auburn, was formerly a standing theme of discussion among the learned of the neighbourhood, but since the pros and cons have been all ascertained, the argument has died away. Its abettors plead the singular agreement between the local history of the place and the Auburn of the poem, and the exactness with which the scenery of the one answers to the description of the other. To this is opposed the mention of the nightingale,
1 See · She Stoops to Conquer,' Act i., sc. ii.- ED.
* And fill'd each pause the nightingale had made, there being no such bird in the island. The objection is slighted, on the other hand, by considering the passage as a mere poetical licence. Besides, say they, 'the Robin is the Irish nightingale.»—B.
The Rev. R. H. Newell, however, found an Auburn, so called, in Ireland on his visit, about 1810 : vide his ' Remarks on the Actual Scene of the Deserted Village,' with illustrations by Alken from drawings taken on the spot, 4to. 1811. But this, as he tells us, came by its name since, and in consequence of the fame of Goldsmith's - Deserted Village.' This Auburn, too, Mr. Newell adds, is a house, not a village. It is near Athlone, and belonged to Goldsmith's nephew, Daniel Hodson, who, having made a fortune in India, built the house on his return, about 1790, and named it Auburn in honour of the poet.
Very few of those who contend for an English site for Auburn venture upon naming a locality. But Springfield, in Essex, has been so named. Here, it is said, while residing at a farm-house,“ opposite the church, Goldsmith wrote the Deserted Village; " and hence it is assumed that Springfield is pictured by the poet as Auburn. See also for the Springfield theory, Notes and Queries, 5th Series, v. X., pp. 88 and 294, and Lewis's “Topographical Dictionary,—England, 1831, Gronin's
Excursions in Essex, 1818, and the Antiquarian Handbook of England and Wales,' 1849, there quoted.-ED.
THE JOHNSON LINES IN GOLDSMITH'S POEMS. To test the view taken in our notes at pp. 19 and 45, the view, namely, that the attribution of these lines to Dr. Johnson rests solely upon Boswell's statements (Life of Johnson, Bohn's edition, v. ii., p. 309), the present writer lately (January, 1883) added to the substance of those notes the following in Notes and Queries :—“It need not be assumed that Boswell has stated anything more than what he believed to be true; still less need it be assumed that Johnson stated anything which was not true; but I think, as the case stands, it may be at least admitted that Boswell may have made some mistake. The ascription of the good things of the time, in both verse and prose, to Dr. Johnson was, as is well known, quite a common occurrence. Miss Reynolds, for instance, states in reference to the Traveller' (* Recollections, published in the Johnsoniana’ at the end of Bohn's edition of Boswell's “ Life'), that Dr. Johnson told her that he had written' the ten lines descriptive of the Englishman commencing 'Stern o’er each bosom.' Nobody, I suppose, believes this; and yet no doubt the lady was, generally speaking, as worthy belief as Boswell. The explanation, of course, is that she
1 Mr. Newell, however, in his work above mentioned, states that at Lissoy it was believed that the Deserted Village' was written while the poet was on a visit there : see ante, p. 35.—ED.
was mistaken. Again, Johnson himself relates that Chamier went away with the belief that he (Johnson) had written the first line of the * Traveller,' because he in conversation interpreted Goldsmith's meaning as to the word slow seemingly better than Goldsmith did himself (vide Boswell's “Johnson,' vol. ii., p. 85). I should be glad if any further light could be thrown upon this matter; but so far it seems to me the above-stated facts point to at least a doubt as to whether the nine lines in the “Traveller' and four lines in the ‘Deserted Village, sually marked as Johnson's, were really written by him.” This elicited no contradiction; and we may therefore conclude that our plea that the question may be looked upon as an open one is virtually allowed.-Ed.