Oliver Goldsmith, author of The Deserted Village, spent years as a hack writer, turning out books and articles on all sorts of subjects for London booksellers. Eventually, Goldsmith used his fluent pen to write himself out of obscurity and become one on the most characteristic and best English writers of the late 1700s, with his works The Vicar of Wakefield, The Traveller, and The Deserted Village.
The Deserted Village is one of Goldsmith's acknowledged masterpieces, and probably the most distinguished long poem by an Irishman. Despite the popularity of The Deserted Village it became the focus of criticism from Goldsmith's contemporaries. Not all criticism, however, was negative.
Literary criticism refers to a balanced analysis; even when literary critics supplement, they generally discuss the merits as well as faults of a work in order to arrive at a sound, deliberate assessment (Murfin 64). Most criticism of Goldsmith's The Deserted Village tended to be positive. Nevertheless, some contemporaries ranked The Deserted Village below The Traveller. For instance, according to Sir Samual Edgerton,
The Deserted Village is a poem far inferior to The Traveller, though it contains many beautiful passages. Its inferiority to its predecessor [The Traveller] arises from its comparative want of compression, as well as of force and novelty of imagery. Its tone of melancholy is more sickly, and some of the descriptions which have been most praised are marked by all the poverty and flatness, and indeed are peopled with the sort of comic and grotesque figures, of Flemish landscape (Moulton 630).
Irish literary nationalists believe that the village of Auburn in The Deserted Village is the Irish village of Lissoy. ...
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...ened by touches of pathos; if sorrow disturb the heart, it is more than half consoled by the thought, that gentle or happy natures will find or make for themselves such simple and unexacting pleasures, wherever their lot may cast (Moulton 681).
Oliver Goldsmith continued to write regardless of the different critical views from his contemporaries on the The Deserted Village. While doing my research I came across a very poignant quote by Goldsmith, "Write how you want, the critic shall show the world you could have written better."
Moulton, Charles Wells, ed. The Library of Literary Criticism. Gloucester, Mass: The Moulton Publishing Company. 1959.
Murfin, Ross and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. New York: Bedford Books. 1997.
Swarbick, Andrew, ed. The Art of Oliver Goldsmith. London: Vision Press. 1984.
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