Stephen Gwynn, Thomas Moore (1905)

[ Bibl. note: Stephen Lucius Gwynn, Thomas Moore [English Men of Letters] (London: Macmillan 1905), 203pp.; available at Internet Archive online; accessed 8.11.2010. ]

Chaps: 1. Boyhood and Early Poems; 2. Early Manhood and Marriage; 3. Lalla Rookh; 4. Period of Residence Abroad; 5. Work as Biographer and Controversialist; 6. The Decline of Life; 7. General Appreciation. Appendix: Dates of Moore’s Publication, 191ff. - being a reprint of a pamphlet by Andrew Gibson on Moore’s First Editions; index from p.198. Index.


Sudden fame, acquired with little difficulty, suffers generally a period of obscuratioin after the compelling power which attached to a man’s living personality has been removed; and from this darkness it does not always emerge. Of such splendour and subsequent eclipse, Moore’s fate might eb cited as the capital example.
  The son of a petty Dublin tradesman, he found himself, almost form his first entry into the world; courted by a brilliant society, each year added to his friendships among the men who stood highest in literature and statesmanship; and his reputation on the Continent was surpassed only by Scott and Byron. He did not live to see a reaction. Lord John Russell could write boldly in 1853: “of English lyric poets, Moore is surely the greatest.” There is perhaps no need to criticise either this attitude of excessive admiration, or that which in many cases has replaced it, of tolerant contempot. But it is as well to emphasise at the outset the fact the even to-day, more than a century after he began to publish, Moore is still one of the poets most popular and widely known throughout the [1] English speaking world. His effect on is own race at least has been durable; and if it be a fair test of a poet’s vitality to ask how much of his work could be recovered from oral tradition, there are not many who would stand better than the singer of the Irish Melodies. At least the older generation of Irishmen and Irishwomen now living have his poetry by heart. / The purpose of this book is to give, if possible, a just estimate of the man’s character and of his work as a poet. [...] (pp.1-2.)
Note; in the ensuing biographical account, Gwynn mistakes Moore’s mother’s name for ‘Clodd’ [recte Codd].
For the son of a small Irish tradesman to find himself at the age of one-and-twenty flattered by the heir-apparent - at a time too when the heir-apparent was the all-conquering leader of society - was indeed a dazzling promotion. And from that day onwards, Moore never lost ground. He had through life his choice of whatever was most brilliant in social intercourse, and his choice showed steadily growing sanity of judgement. Moreover, although his intimates were always people set on a pinnacle, he never for an instant wavered in his fidelity to the home where he had been brought up with so much love. [...] (p.21.)


In 1800, when the Odes of Anacreon appeared,[22] "Wordsworth and Coleridge had, it is true, published Lyrical Ballads. The revolution in taste had begun. Yet these fighters in the van beat heavily upon an armed opposition; and for the moment the tradition of Pope, as modified in different directions by Gray and Goldsmith, was passionately upheld against them. Burns, indeed, had already made a great breach in the solid academic phalanx, and had won through to acceptance. But newcomers, who preached such doctrines as were set out in the preface to Lyrical Ballads, roused fierce hostility ; they came with their mouths full of arguments. Moore, on the other hand, troubled no man with controversy, yet was hardly more academic than they. Like them, he boldly discarded the eighteenth century manner, Moore's genial example relaxed the bonds of 'correctness' by far more quickly than Wordsworth's austere theorising. (pp.22-23.)

and ending:

Almost without knowing it, he wrote primary for his own countrymen, and in return they honoured him, not perhaps on this side idolatry, but with a sane instinct, because he had done for Ireland, what neither Seaghan Clarach nor Raftery, nor all the bards of Munster and Connaught, could at that moment do for her. He had given a voice to Ireland; he had put into her mouth a song of her own.
 Standing apart now, from the times and circumstances in which Moore wrote, we can see that what Ireland got from him was not all gain. The literature produced so profusely in the days of Young Ireland, and modelled mainly upon him, echoses only too faithfully his declamatory tone; and worse than that, it is flooded by the exuberance of sentiment, which was Moore’s besetting wekaness. Other models, and, it is to be hoped, better ones, now are rapidly replacing those of Moore and his followers; with the younger generation, even in Ireland, he has lsot his hold. But in Ireland his poetry is still as a matter of course, familiar to all Irishmen of the nationalist persuasion, young and old. And for the older men, he has lost known of his magic. To them such criticism as is found in this book will seem, one must fear, a kind of impiety and certainly of ingratitude; for they remember the days when many and many an Irish peasant, leaving his country for the New World, carried with his two books - Moore’s Melodies and the Key of Heaven.

And certainly it is no small title to fame for apoet that he was in his own country for at least three [190] generations the delight and consolation of the poor. Tattered and thumbed copies of his powems, broadcast through Ireland, represent btter his claim to the interest of posterity than whatever comely and autographed editions may be found among the possessions of Bowod and Holland House. (p.190.)


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