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West Country Poets

N.T. CARRINGTON (1777-1830)

'My father and mother were natives of Plymouth, and to that town I owe my birth, which took place in 1777.  Soon after I was born, my parents removed to Plymouth Dock [now Devonport].  In addition to being employed in the dockyard, my father was in business as a grocer, and at one period of his life, he was possessed of considerable property.  When I had attained my fifteenth year, my father proposed to apprentice me to Mr. FOOT, then first assistant in the Dockyard.  A handsome sum of money was to have been paid down as the price of my admission as Mr. FOOT's apprentice.  Such thins were allowed then' I believe that they now manage differently.  In consequence, however, of some difference, I was finally bound apprentice to Mr. Thomas FOX, a measurer.  I was totally unfit, however for the profession.  Mild and meek by nature, fond of literary pursuits, and inordinately attached to reading, it is strange that a mechanical profession should have been chosen for me.  It was principally, however, my own fault.  My father was attached to the dockyard, and wished to see me in it; and as the popular prejudice in those days among the boys of the town was in favour of the yard, I was carried away by the prevailing mania, and was accordingly bound apprentice.  This, however, had scarcely been done when I repented, and too late found that I had embraced a calling foreign to my inclinations.  Dissatisfaction followed, and the noise and bustle of a dockyard were but ill suited to a mind predisposed to reflection and the quietest and most gentle pursuits.'  Such is an extract from a short autobiography of CARRINGTON, the Dartmoor poet, as found , with other MSS., after his death, by his son, who, in 1834, published the 'Collected Poems of the Late N.T. CARRINGTON,' in two volumes, with a brief biographical preface.  Finding his situation in the dockyard distasteful, and his earnest and continual entreaties that his parents would remove him to more congenial occupation being futile, he left the yard - ran away, in fact - and, in a moment of desperation entered himself on board a man-of-war.  In this manner he was present at the victory off Cape St. Vincent.  Some juvenile verses, which he indited in honour of the event, introduced him to the Captain, who, immediately on the return of the ship to England, restored him to his parents.  After this naval frolic, he was allowed to adopt a profession better suited to his character and attainments; although, if we are to judge by his poetical complaints, it was not much more in accordance with the bent of his inclinations.  He would have greatly preferred rambling under hedgerows, or along the seashore, to teaching little boys.  However, having once taken up the cross of a schoolmaster, the remainder of his life was faithfully devoted to his duties; and poetry became only the plaything of his holidays or the recreation of an evening after the heat and burden of the day.

Residing at Plymouth, he dedicated his Muse for awhile entirely to the beauties of his native county.  He then removed to Maidstone, where, in 1805, he married.  For about five years he pursued his calling as a public teacher in that town, and then returned to Plymouth Dock, where, in 1809, he established an academy.  Here he continued up to within a few months of his death, in 1830, in the midst of heavy and unceasing toil in the scholastic labours, occupying such time as he could, before or after his daily tasks, in literary compositions.  In 1820 he published his 'Banks of Tamar' which was received with considerable favour, in fact elicited high encomiums both in the London and provincial journals.  In or about the year 1824, the Royal Society of Literature offered a premium for the best poem on 'Dartmoor.'  CARRINGTON, knowing the district so well, was determined to become a competitor, but he missed his opportunity, failed to send in his poem in time, and the prize was awarded to Mrs. HEMANS.  The poem, however, came under the notice of Mr. W. BURT, secretary of the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, who advised its publication, and contributed some valuable historical and descriptive notes.    It was published in 1826, a second edition following within a few months.  His Majesty George IV, ordered his opinion of the poem to be transmitted to the author in the shape of fifty guineas.  After the publication of 'Dartmoor', CARRINGTON continued, as before, to compose occasional pieces for magazines and annuals.  These were printed in a separate volume, in 1830, under the title of 'My Native Village', the name of the leading poem in the book.  In 1827 signs of pulmonary consumption made their appearance he continued, however, to discharge his duties until the end of March, 1830.  He then gave up his school and removed with his family to Bath, where he died on September 2, 1830, at the comparatively early age of fifty-three, leaving a widow and six children.  A few words respecting Mr. CARRINGTON's personal character and his writings must suffice.

In manner he was reserved and grave, but mild affability, and an earnest desire to please all who crossed his path, constantly proved that it was the semblance only of sternness which sat upon his intelligent features.  He was, in spirit and in practice, an humble and an earnest Christian.  His local attachment, as manifested in his poems, was extremely strong.  In everything relating to his native county, and particularly tot he district round Plymouth and Devonport, he took a warm and constant interest.  To praise Devonshire and its scenery was the sure road to his heart.  His habits were simple and retiring; his love of Nature was intense; his impressions of all he saw were vivid and lasting.  The character of by far the greater portion of his descriptive poetry is as purely descriptive as it is perhaps possible for such poetry to be.  His episodes are, nevertheless, strikingly beautiful, and, together with his isolated poems on moral life, sufficiently prove that he possessed in a high degree the power of painting effective pictures of human thought and action as well as natural scenes.  There was a tinge of melancholy thrown over his writings, due to the untoward circumstances amid which they were written.  It may be added that Mr. CARRINGTON had projected another descriptive poem, to be entitled 'Devon', and also a volume in twelve short books, to be entitled 'The Months,' in which he intended to describe in blank verse the appearances of external Nature throughout the year.  These works were, however, prevented by his untimely death.


Dartmoor! thou wert to me, in childhood's hour,
A wild and wondrous region.  Day by day
Arose upon my youthful eye they belt
Of hills mysterious, shadowy, clasping all
The green and cheerful landscape sweetly spread
Around my home; and with a stern delight
I gazed upon thee.  How often on the speech
Of the half-savage peasant have I hung,
To hear of rock-crowned heights on which the cloud
For ever rests; and wilds stupendous swept
By mightiest storms; of glen, and gorge, and cliff,
Terrific, beetling o'er the stone-strewed vale;
And giant masses, by the midnight flash
Struck from the mountain's hissing brow, and hurled
Into the foaming torrent; and of forms
That rose amid the desert, rudely shaped
By Superstition's hands when time was young;
And of the dead, the warrior dead, who sleep
Beneath the hollowed cairn!  My native fields,
Though peerless, ceased to please.  The flowery vale,
The breezy hill, the river and the wood,
Island, reef, headland, and the circling sea,
Associated by the sportful hand
Of Nature, in a thousand views diverse,
Or grand, or lovely, - to my roving eye
Displayed in vain their infinite of charms;
I thought on thy wild world, - to me a world, -
Mysterious Dartmoor, dimly seen, and prized
For being distant and untrod; and still
Where'er I wander'd, - still my wayward eye
Rested on thee!
                              In sunlight and in shade,
Repose and storm, wide waste! I since have trod
Thy hill and dale magnificent.  Again
I seek thy solitudes profound, in this
Thy hour of deep tranquillity, when rests
The sunbeam on thee, and thy desert seems
To sleep in the unwonted brightness, calm,
But stern; for though the spirit of the Spring
Breathes on thee, to the charmer's whisper kind
Thou listenest not, nor ever puttest on
A robe of beauty, as the fields that bud
And blossom hear thee.  Yet I love to tread
They central wastes when not a sound intrudes
Upon the ear, but rush of wing or leap
Of the hoarse waterfall.  And oh, 'tis sweet
To list the music of thy torrent-streams;
For thou too hast thy minstrelsies fro him
Who from their liberal mountain-urn delights
To trace thy waters, as from source to sea
They rush tumultuous.  Yet for other fields
Thy bounty flows eternal.  From thy sides
Devonia's rivers flow; a thousand brooks
Roll o'er they rugged slopes; -'tis but to cheer
Yon Austral meads unrivalled, fair as aught
That bards have sung, or Fancy has conceived
'Mid all her rich imaginings: whilst thou,
The source of half their beauty, wearest still
Through centuries, upon they blasted brow,
The curse of barrenness.

That man is stern of heart and purpose, born
For deserts, and by Nature aptly form'd
For deeds unnatural, whom not the tones
Of woman's voice e'er charm'd; and who can look
Upon the roses of her cheeks, and turn
With brute indifference away; or meet
The lightning of her eye-glance, and retire
Unscath'd by its keen fires!
                                                Avoid his path
As thou wouldst shun a serpent's.  He that feels
No love for woman has no pulse for thee,
For friendship, or affection!  He is foe
To all the finer feelings of the soul,
And to sweet Nature's holiest, tenderest ties
A heartless renegade.

Transcribed by Sandra Windeatt from: Wright, W.H.K., (1896) West-Country Poets:  Their Lives and Works. London: Elliot Stock, pp.81-83.

Last updated 22 Jul 2011 - Brian Randell.

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