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LOCALITY OF AUBURN.
Ir 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 scarcely 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 inquiries 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 Lishoy are the same, will, we think, be proved to the satisfaction of the most sceptical, by the following
"The poem of the Deserted Village," says Dr Strean, in a letter printed in Mr Mangin's Essay on Light Reading, "took its origin from the circumstance of General Robert Napier, the grandfather of the gentleman who now lives in the house, within half a mile of Lishoy, built by the General, having purchased an extensive tract of the country surrounding Lishoy, 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 the character of the Village Preacher, the above named Henry, the brother of the Poet, is copied from nature. He 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,
The wretched matron, forced in age, for bread,
(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 Lishoy, 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:
"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 Lishoy, once the parsonage-house of 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, however, 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, Lishoy 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 foreign land. Yonder was the decent church, that literally 'topped the neigbouring hill.' Before me lay the little hill 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,
"A painting from the life could not be more exact. 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.' Within, every thing is arranged according to the letter:
The white-wash'd wall, the nicely sanded floor,
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day;
"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,
There in his noisy mansion skill'd to rule.
"It is surrounded with fragrant proofs of its identity in
The blossom'd furze, unprofitably gay.
"Here is to be seen the chair of the poet, which fell into the hands of its present possessors at the wreck of the parsonage-house; they have frequently refused large offers of purchase; but more, I daresay, for the sake of drawing contributions from the curious, than from any reverence for the bard. The chair is of oak, with back and seat of cane, which precluded all hopes of a secret drawer, like that lately discovered in Gay's. There is no fear of its being worn out by the devout earnestness of sitters -a wear and tear that Geoffrey Crayon so humorously describes-as the cocks and hens have usurped undisputed possession of it, and protest most clamorously against all attempts to get it cleansed, or to seat one's self.
"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,
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.' And if it be hinted, how unlikely it was that Goldsmith should have laid the scene in a place from which he was and had been so long absent, the rejoinder is always, 'Pray, sir, was Milton in hell when he built Pandemonium?' "The line is naturally drawn between; there can be no doubt that the poet intended England by
The land to hast'ning ills a prey,
"But it is very natural to suppose, that at the same time his imagination had in view the scenes of his youth, which gives such strong features of resemblance to the picture."
To these proofs of the identity of Auburn and Lishoy, which seem to be sufficiently satisfactory, we shall only add one passage from the poem itself, where the author evidently alludes, in no fictitious character, to the scene of his childhood and early youth:
Sweet Auburn! parent of the blissful hour,
Amidst thy tangling walks and ruin'd grounds,
In all my wanderings round this world of care,
And, as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
GOLDSMITH'S QUARREL WITH EVANS THE
THE following is the letter which occasioned the fracas between Goldsmith and Evans the bookseller, mentioned in our Life of the Poet, vol. i. pp. 43-6. It is said to have been written by Dr Kenrick, who was, at the time, on terms of apparent friendship with Goldsmith, but whose malice seldom spared friend or foe, when they became sufficiently eminent to attract public attention. The letter is remarkable less for its wit than its malignity, and would scarcely have deserved insertion in this place, had it not given rise to a very ridiculous event in Goldsmith's personal history.
FOR THE LONDON PACKET. TO DR GOLDSMITH.
Vous vous noyez par vanité.
"SIR,The happy knack which you have learnt of puffing your own compositions, provokes to come forth. You have not been the editor of newspapers and magazines, not to discover the trick of literary humbug. But the gauze is so thin, that the very foolish part of the world see through it, and discover the Doctor's monkey face and cloven foot. Your poetic vanity is as unpardonable as your personal. Would man believe it, and will woman bear it, to be told, that for hours the great Goldsmith will stand surveying his grotesque orangoutang's figure in a pier glass? Was but the lovely Hk as much enamoured, you would not sigh, my gentle swain, in vain. But your vanity is preposterous. How will this same bard of Bedlam ring the changes in the praise of Goldy! But what has he to be either proud or vain of? The Traveller is a flimsy poem, built upon false principles-principles diametrically opposite to liberty. What is the GoodNatured Man but a poor, water-gruel, dramatic dose? What is the Deserted Village but a pretty poem, of easy numbers, without fancy, dignity, genius, or fire? And, pray, what may be the last speaking pantomime, so praised by the Doctor himself, but an incoherent piece of stuff, the figure of a woman with a fish's tail, without plot, incident, or intrigue? We are made to laugh at stale dull jokes, wherein we mistake pleasantry for wit, and grimace for humour; wherein every scene is unnatural, and inconsistent with the rules, the laws of nature, and of the drama: viz. two gentlemen come to a man of fortune's house, eat, drink, &c. and take it for an inn. The one is intended as a lover for the daughter: he talks with her for some hours; and when he sees her again, in a different dress, he treats her as a bargirl, and swears she squinted. He abuses the master of the house, and threatens to kick him out of his own doors. The Squire, whom we are told is to be a fool, proves the most sensible being of the piece; and he makes out a whole act, by bidding his mother lie close behind a
Miss Horneck. - B.