Laurence Whyte

Criticism

Life
?1700-[?]1755; b. Liverpool var. Co. Westmeath]; teacher of mathematics in Dublin; assoc with John and William Neal, mus. publishers, and contrib. some poems to their A Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes proper for the Violin, German Flute or Hautboy (Dublin 1724); issued Poems on Various Subjects, Serious and Diverting (Dublin 1740), printed with 711 subscriptions, and Original Poems (1742), by ‘a lover of the Muses and mathematicks’ [t.p.]; his longer poems “A Dissertation on Italian and Irish Musick, with some panegyrick on Carrallan our late Irish Orpheus” (in Poemes, 1740), was published shortly after Carolan’s death; presum. kinsman of Samuel Whyte. FDA OCIL

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Works
Poems on Various Subjects, Serious and diverting, never before published
(Dublin 1740), incl. ‘Dissertation on Italian and Irish Musick’; rep. as Original Poems on Various Subjects, Serious, Moral and Diverting [2nd edn. with new poems] (1742).

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Criticism
Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry From the English Invasion to 1798 (Philadephia: Pennsylvania UP 1959), p51f. [infra]; Bryan Coleborne, ‘“They Sate in Counterview”, Anglo-Irish Verse in the Eighteenth Century’, in Irish Writing, ed. Paul Hyland and Neil Sammells (Macmillan 1991), pp.45-63 [infra]; John Montague, [on Goldsmith], in Montague & Thomas Kinsella, eds., Dolmen Miscellany of Irish Writing, 1962, ftn. 6; p.77 [infra].

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Commentary
Prior’s Life of Goldsmith
(1836): ‘He began also to be noted as a rhymer, and his zeal in this nobler art was, it seems, quickened by the local celebrity of a volume of verse by one Lawrence Whyte, a neighbor and acquaintance of his family, which was published in 1741. This Whyte described rural manners, and especially the grievances of the Irish tenantry, in many thousands of couplets, now forgotten, which passed in their day for successful imitations of the style of Swift; but Mr. Prior notices them, and particularly a piece in four cantos, called “The Parting Cup, or the Humors of Deoch an Doruis”, on account of Goldsmith’s confession to one of his eminent literary friends that this rustic bard gave his mind its first strong impression of the cruelly with which the Irish poor were treated, and suggested some of the most striking passages in The Deserted Village. It is curious, at all events, to observe that the themes of Whyte’s indignant doggerel were exactly those which an Irish patriot of the same class would probably select now that Whyte has been near a hundred years in his grave. A short specimen will answer our purpose. Of absenteeism he says—

“Our squires of late through Europe roam,
Are too well bred to live at home;
Are not content with Dublin College,
But range abroad for greater knowledge;
To strut in velvets and brocades,
At balls, and plays, and masquerades.
To have their rent their chiefest care is,
In bills to London and to Paris.
Their education is so nice,
They know all chances on the dice;
Excepting when it is their fate
To throw away a good estate;
Then does the squire with empty purse
Rail at ill fortune with a curse.
Their mansions moulder quite away,
All run to ruin and decay.
Where wild fowl may with safety rest,
At every gate may build a nest -
No smoke from chimneys does ascend,
Nor entertainment for a friend,
Nor sign of drink, or smell of meat,
For human creatures therato eat.’

And again, of the hardships of poor occupiers—

Not knowing which, to stand or fly,
When rent-rolls mounted zenith high,
They had their choice - to run away,
Or labor for a groat a day.
Now beggar’d and of all bereft,
Are doomed to starve or live by thef;
Take to the mountains or the roads,
When banished from their old abodes.
Their native soil were forced to quit,
So Irish landlords thought it fit;
Who, without ceremony or rout
For their improvements turned them out;
Embracing still the highest bidder,
Inviting all the nations hither,
Encouraging all strollers, caitiffs,
Or any other but the natives.
Now wool is low and mutton cheap,

Poor graziers can no profit reap;
Grown sick of bargains got by cant,
Must be in time reduced to want.
How many villages they razed,
How many parishes laid waste,
To fatten bullocks, sheep, and cows,
When scarce one parish has two ploughs!
Instead of living well and thriving,
There’s nothing now but leading, driving -
The lands are all monopolized,
The tenants rack’d and sacrificed;
Whole colonies, to shun the fate
Of being oppressed at such a rate,
By tyrants who still raise their rent,
Sail to the Western continent:
Rather than live at home like slaves,
They trust themselves to winds and waves.”

—Quoted in notice of Prior’s Life of Goldsmith, in London Quarterly Review (Dec. 1836), pp.149-77.

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T. C. Croker, The Popular Songs of Ireland [1839; reiss., intro. by Henry Morley] (London: Routledge 1886) - on St. Patrick: Croker cites Lawrence White, a ‘’lover of the Muses and mathematicks,” as he styles himself on the title-page of a volume of poems, which he published nearly a hundred years ago (1742) in Dublin, describing the progress of a love affair, says:

He gained the affections of the maid,
Who did with curious work emboss
For him a fine St. Patrick’s cross.”

It appears from this that these crosses were made of silk and embroidery; but, as in modern times, tapestry became superseded by paper, so the embroidered St. Patrick's cross was imitated in coloured papers.’ (p.13.)

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Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry From the English Invasion to 1798 (Philadephia: Pennsylvania UP 1959); cites poems from Original Poems on various Subjects ... (1740), incl. ‘Eassay on Dunning’, in which there is a condemnation of absenteeism [‘These Absentees we here describe / Are mostly of the Irish tribe / Who live in luxury and Pleasure, / And throw away their Time and Treasure, / Cause Poverty and Devastation, / And sink the Credit of the Nation /... our Gentry all run wild, / and never can be reconcil’d, / To live at home upon their Rent, / With any pleasure or Content ... .’ (2nd edn., p.97; Alspach, p.52.)

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Bryan Coleborne, ‘“They Sate in Counterview”, Anglo-Irish Verse in the Eighteenth Century’, in Paul Hyland & Neil Sammells, eds., Irish Writing (London: Macmillan 1991), pp.45-63: Laurence Whyte’s ‘important poem on musical culture [in Swift’s Ireland]’, entitled ‘A Dissertation on Italian and Irish Musick, with some Panegyrick of Carrallan our late Irish Orpheus’ , in Poems on Various Subjects, Serious and Diverting, Never Before Published (1740); In Whyte’s comic narrative poem “The Hue and Cry After the Clieve Boy, Dublin Feb 22 1725”, in Poems on Various Subjects, a miserable host tells his guests how ‘his Cleave boy turn’d thief ...’ [&c.]; further comments on “A Disseration on Italian and Irish Musick”, remarking that Whyte dwells on “Eileen Aroon”, and the touches of irony by which Lorenzo Bocchi made Irish music newly stimulating; on Carolan, ‘The greatest Genius in his way, / An Orpheus, who could sing and play, / So great a Bard where can we find, / Like him illiterate, and blind’; also “The New Ferry, Addressed to the Mayor of Liverpool, Sunday July 29 1787”, read by Coleborne as an angry complaint at the loss of human values associated with material progress in his native Liverpool.

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John Montague cites Whyte in his essay on Goldsmith: ‘[W]hether Goldsmith knew Whyte’s Original Poems on Various Subjects, Serious and Diverting (it was published in Dublin in 1740 and again in 1742, and was presumably easily available to a Trinity student) is problematical, but despite the difference in literary quality, there are sufficient resemblances to indicate that the experience behind the Deserted Village was initially Irish, “Their native soil were forced to quit, / So Irish landlords thought it fit / Who without evening or rout, / For their improvements turned them out ... / How many villages they razed / How many parishes laid waste ... / Whole colonies, to shun the fate / Of being oppress’d at such a rate, / By tyrnants who still raised this rent / Sail’d to the Western Continent.” In comparison, Montague quotes from Goldsmith’s “A Prospect of Society”: ‘Have we not seen, at pleasure’s lordly call / An hundred villages in ruin fall?’ (See Montague & Thomas Kinsella, eds., Dolmen Miscellany of Irish Writing, 1962, ftn. 6; p.77.

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Quotations
Dissertation on Italian and Irish Musick” [1740]: ‘[…] There’s Ariadne cross’d the Shannon,/She sings in Gallaway, Tuam and Mannin’/Poor Cronaan, being turn’d out of Play,/With Rinke Mueenagh flew away,/To the remotest part of Kerry,/In hopes to make the Vulgar Merry,/But scarce one Cabbin in their Flight,/Would give them lodging for a Night/So taken up with foreign Jingle,/Tralee despis’d them, likewise Dingle./But Drimin Duh is still in favour [… &c.] (Quoted in Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture in Eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish Literature’, Michael Kenneally, ed., Irish Literature and Culture, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1992, p.17.)

Absentees: ‘[They] live in luxury and pleasure/And throw away their time and treasure/Cause poverty and devastation/And sink the credit of the Nation. (Original Poems on Various Subjects, Serious and Diverting (Dublin 1740; quoted in Anne Brew, MA UCC, 1991.)

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, selects ‘To the Rev. Dr Jonathan Swift, Dean of St Patrick’s, Dublin, On the Publishing of a new Edition of his Works in Four Volumes [‘Pardon, great Swift, the Freedom of a Bard! / Who writes for neither Interest, or Reward / [...] Thou great Viceregent of the Sacred Nine / To judge of Wit, and Language to Refine [...] To Cherish Virtue, and her friends caress, / To Scourge her Foes in all their Pompous Dress [...]. Since Though with open Purse, Relieve the Pooor ... .. Long may our Isle with such a sage be blest, / Who has her Int’rest ever in his Breast [...]’ [double col., paragraphed; pp.461-62]. With remarks, to the effect that in his shorter poem on the celebration of the feast of St Patrick [i.e., shorter than Arbuckle’s Momus], Whyte pays Swift the greatest of compliments by making him St Patrick’s own dean.

A. N. Jeffares & Peter Van de Kamp, eds., Irish Literature: The Eighteenth Century - An Annotated Anthology (Dublin/Oregon: Irish Academic Press 2006), selects “The Hue and Cry after the Clieve-Boy” [174].

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