1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Furlong

W., Obituary in Literary Gazette (18 August 1827) 540.



Irish literature has sustained a severe loss by the premature fate of this gentleman, who died at his lodgings in Dublin, on Wednesday the 25th of last month. Among his countrymen he ranked high as a poet, and it was fondly imagined by his friends — among whom he numbered nearly every man of worth and talent in Ireland — that time alone was wanted to develop more fully those talents which had even thus early reflected luster upon his character. Though not sufficiently known in England, it cannot be out of place here to give a brief memoir of this "son of song," who had, despite of untoward circumstances, at the early age of thirty, secured himself a conspicuous place in the literary annals of Ireland.

Mr. Furlong was born at a place called Searawalsh, within three miles of Enniscorthy, in Wexford. His father was a thriving farmer, and gave him an education suitable to a youth intended for the counting-house; and at fourteen he was bound apprentice to a respectable trader in the Irish metropolis. The ledger, however, had less attraction for him than the Muses; but though he "lisped in numbers," he did not let his passion for poetry interfere with his more useful and more important duties. Through life he retained the friendship of his employer; and when that gentleman died, some years ago, Mr. Furlong lamented his fate in a pathetic poem entitled the Burial.

During those leisure moments of which commercial business admits, Mr. Furlong cultivated polite literature with the most indefatigable industry; and long before the expiration of his apprenticeship he had become a contributor to various periodical publications in London and Dublin. His devotion to the forbidden Nine did not escape some of the sages who have an instinctive abhorrence of poetry. They rebuked the young bard; but he was not be deterred from his favourite pursuit; and he wrote a Vindication of Poetry; in the exordium to which he thus addresses one of those obtrusive friends:

Go! dotard go! and if it suits thy mind,
Range yonder rocks, and reason with the wind:
Or, if its motions own another's will,
Walk to the beach, and bid the waves be still;
In never orbits let the planets run,
Or throw a cloud of darkness o'er the sun!
A measured movement bid the comets keep,
Or lull the music of the spheres to sleep!—
These may obey thee, but the fiery soul
Of Genius owns not, brooks not thy control.

At length he was able to indulge without obstruction in his love of literature. Mr. Jameson, a man of enlarged and liberal views, gave him a confidential situation in his distillery, which did not, however, engross his whole time. He now began to essay the hill "Where Fame's proud temple smiles afar;" published the Misanthrope, a didactic poem, and contributed largely to the New Monthly Magazine. In 1822, he projected the New Irish Magazine; and, in 1826, when the Morning Register was started, Furlong wrote a number of clever parodies, which, though addresses to local subjects, generally found their way into the columns of the London journals. In the same year, he became a contributor to Robin's London and Dublin Magazine. His reputation now stood so high, that his name was often coupled with that of Moore at convivial meetings in Dublin; the Irish literati courted his society, and his countrymen in general spoke loudly in praise of his talents. His lyrical compositions attained great popularity — they were sung at the piano, and chanted by the unmusical sirens of the street. At length it was his good fortune to be engaged on a work of more decided importance. Mr. Hardiman, author of the History of Galway, &c. having projected the publication of the remains of the Irish Bards, Furlong undertook to translate the songs of the celebrated Carolan. These he completed; and by the kindness of Mr. Joseph Robins, the intimate friend of the deceased, we are enabled to give the original of the far-famed song of Molly Astore, as translated by Mr. Furlong, from the Irish Minstrelsy, now in the press.

Oh! Mary dear, bright peerless flower,
Pride of the plains of Nair;
Behold me droop, through each dull hour,
In soul-consuming care.
In friends, in wine, where joy was found,
No joy I now can see:
But still where pleasure reigns around,
I sigh — and think of thee.

The cuckoo's notes I love to hear,
When summer warms the skies,
When fresh the banks and brakes appear,
And flowers around us rise:
That blithe bird sings her song so clear,
And she sings when the sunbeams shine—
Her voice is sweet — but Mary dear,
Not half so sweet as thine!

From town to town I've idly strayed,
I've wandered many a mile;
I've met with many a blooming maid,
And owned her charms the while—
I've gazed on some that then seemed fair—
But when thy looks I see,
I find there's none that can compare,
My Mary dear, with thee!

Mr. Furlong had also in the press when he died, a poem of some length, entitled the Doom of Derenzie, which, we understand, will be published immediately. The MS. was warmly eulogised by Maturin.

Mr. Furlong was a man of the most amiable and inoffensive manners. Every one who knew him love him; and though many in Dublin felt, on some occasions, the keenness of his satire, his death was lamented by all, and his funeral attended by the first characters of the opposite parties.