Monday, May 31, 2010

Reviews of GF Savage-Armstrong's "Ballads of Down", 1901

(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, you can read this post in full on my blog)

I posted about Ballads of Down recently; since then I've been sent a copy of a promotional leaflet which was produced at the time, containing what it calls "Press Opinions" of the book. Here are a few examples:

"the Ulster character and the Ulster dialect have never before found such expression in literature as these delightful 'Ballads of Down.'" - Leisure Hour

"the spirit which breathes in the national poet of Scotland breathes to a very considerable extent in 'the Poet of Wicklow.'" - Brighton Gazette

"he is distinctly at his best in the dialect poems, some of which have a homely pathos which is not a little touching." - Liverpool Post

"there is a genuine charm... and something of Lowland Scotch pith and grit" - Manchester Guardian

"Mr Savage-Armstrong... is the truest voice that Ulster life has yet found" - Review of Reviews

"To the Scottish reader these poems will prove especially attractive... that the spirit that pervades these songs is akin to the genius of Scottish poetry will be apparent to every reader... his latest volume shows how deftly he can touch themes of peasant-life in Ulster, and how cleverly he can manipulate the quaint dialect of County Down." - Dundee Advertiser

"the general excellence of his work will not be questions... his metre is never at fault... to Scotch readers there will be an added interest to his volume from the fact that a number of the poems are in dialect - an Ulster form of Lowland Scotch" - Aberdeen Free Press

"He shares with Burns a certain swift, unaffected draughtsmanship, and creates for his reader a vivid sense of the natural characteristics of the scene depicted. In his management of the dialect he is wholly admirable" - Irish Times

"the dialect-verse... has its tender love-strains, its sly humour, and its pathos, which to those who are 'sons of the soil' must make a special appeal" - Northern Whig

The leaflet has dozens more reviews; what is interesting from the above selection is (aside from the obvious Burns comparisons) how warm and open the press in Belfast and Dublin were towards the book, never mind in Dundee and Aberdeen.