1812
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Lady of the Wreck, or Castle Blarneygig.

Poetical Vagaries... by George Colman the Younger.

George Colman the Younger


George Colman the Younger's burlesque of Sir Walter Scott's Lady of the Lake (1810) begins with the famous opening Spenserians: "Harp of the North! that mouldering long hast hung | On the witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan's spring | And down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung." The third stanza is short a line as printed.

Preface: "Let not the Reader, whose senses have been delightfully intoxicated by that Scottish Circe, the Lady of the Lake, accuse the present Author of plagiary. The wild Irish, and wild Caledonians, bore a great resemblance to each other, in very many particulars; — and two Poets, who have any 'method in their madness,' may, naturally, fall into similar strains of wildness, when handling subjects equally wild, and remote."

Francis Hodgson: "By far the best effort in the volume is a Burlesque on the Lady of the Lake. If the author be not ironical (and 'there is no knowing where to have' so determined a wag) in his commendations of Mr. Scott's genius, and only intends to ridicule some glaring defects in that genuine poet's taste, we perfectly coincide with him in opinion. On this subject, indeed, we have expressed ourselves substantially to the same purpose, so often and so much at length, that it would seem like an oblique panegyric on our own decision to say much in praise of Mr. Colman's satire. it is, however, we are bound to observe, thoroughly merited, and bestowed in a most masterly manner; and we cannot conceive any worthy admirers of Mr. Scott, any friends of his fame whose friendship does not disgrace it, who will be unable to separate their admiration of the original fire of his fancy, from their disgust at that imitated smoke of antiquity which so lamentably obscures his judgment. — In a word, those only who can detect the vices of Mr. Scott's style of poetry can appreciate its glowing and matchless virtues; and to such judges, we shall suppose that Mr. Colman is now addressing his Tale of the Lady of the Wreck, or Castle Blarneygig" Monthly Review NS 68 (August 1812) 389.

J. W. Croker: "The third, the longest, and, we doubt not, in Mr. Colman's opinion, the most valuable, of this quaternion, is called "The Lady of the Wreck, or the Castle of Blarneygig." This, as its name, a dedication to Walter Scott, and sundry sly notes give us to understand, is a parody on the Lady of the Lake. Now, as parodies are, of all efforts after wit, perhaps the most easy, we anticipated some degree, at least, of amusement, from such a notorious wag as Mr. Colman; but we were most cruelly disappointed. Mr. Colman, besides a careful omission of wit or humour, has also committed the egregious blunder (by-the-bye his subject is Irish) of making the story of his parody grave and tragical, while that of the prototype is gay and elegant. A parody consists, generally, in the application of high-sounding poetry to familiar objects, but the kind of parody which degrades or destroys its own subject is new to us; and is as if the Clown in a pantomime, in parodying one of Harlequin's agile jumps, should pleasantry break his own neck upon the spot. Perhaps we may be told that our author meant not to parody, but to travestie the Lady of the Lake, and that travesty consists in degrading a subject by the vulgar manner in which it is treated. But we reply, that this is not, as we collect from his advertisement, Mr. Colman's intention, and that, if it were, he has not accomplished it; for he has not ridiculed Mr. Scott's subject. The City Shower is a parody, and the famous work of Scarron is a travesty. In the first, the pomp of language is imitated, and applied to a common subject; in the latter, the subject is still noble, but the language is mean. In short, the best account that we can give of Mr. Colman's strange production is, that he has travestied his own story, and made a burlesque upon himself" Quarterly Review 8 (September 1812) 146-47.

Samuel Griswold Goodrich: "Scott experienced the fate of most eminent writers who have acquired a certain mannerism, recognized by the community at large — that is, he was laughed at by burlesques of his works. George Colman, the Younger, though not very young, travestied the Lady of the Lake under the title of the Lady of the Wreck — the latter of about the same dimensions as the former. It is an Irish story, full of droll extravagance and laughable imitations of the original, at which they are aimed" Recollections of a Lifetime (1857) 2:101n.

George Kitchin: "Colman with his Poetical Vagaries and Lady of the Wreck has no claim to serious discussion, but his thousand-line reply to the reviewers, Vagaries Vindicated, deserves a word as one of the defences of the arts of parody and burlesque. The main excuse he gives for his own efforts is that good authors have not hesitated to suggest ludicrous traits in beloved characters. Sterne mingles serious and grotesque. Goldsmith, who revered the clerical character, gave us Dr. Primrose. Fielding with his Parson Adams taught us how to sport yet not deride! The defence will not serve — for Colman at least — for our charge against him is rather dullness than obscenity" Survey of Burlesque and Parody in English (1931) 213.



Harp of the Pats! that rotting long hast lain
On the soft bosom of St. Allen's bog,
And, when the Wind had fits, wouldst twang a strain,
Till envious mud did all thy musick clog,
E'en just as too much pudding chokes a dog;—
Oh! Paddy's Harp! still sleeps thine accent's pride?
Will nobody be giving it a jog?
Still must thou silent be, as when espied
Upon an Irish, old, old halfpenny's back side?

Not thus, when Erin wore a wilder shape,
Thy Voice was speechless in an Irish Town;
It roused the hopeless Lover to a rape,
Made timorous Tenants knock proud Landlords down;
Whisky, at every pause, the feast did crown;—
Now, by the powers! the fun was never slack;
The Os and Macs were frisky as the Clown;
For, still, the burthen (growing now a hack)
Was Hubbaboo, dear joys! and Didderoo! and Whack!

Och! wake again! arrah, get up once more!
And let me venture just to take a thrum:—
Wake, and be damn'd! you've had a tightish snore!—
Perhaps, I'd better let you lie there, dumb:
Yet, if one Ballad-Monger like my strain,
Though I've a clumsy finger and a thumb,
I shan't have jingled Minstrelsy in vain;—
So, Wizard, be alive! old Witch, get up again! . . .

[pp. 41-43]