To begin with Goldsmith. Like much in his life, the records of his date and place of birth are somewhat hazy. He was probably born in 1730, in Pallas, a village in County Westmeath, Ireland. His father was a country clergyman, prototype for the idealised Dr Primrose in The Vicar of Wakefield. Goldsmith had in high degree what Lady Gregory was later to call the ‘incorrigible’ Irish genius for myth-making. So, the village of Lissoy, where the family moved soon after his birth, became ‘Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain’ of The Deserted Village, while the splendid joke at the centre of She Stoops to Conquer may have grown (at least in part) from an adventure said to have befallen Goldsmith as a youth. Walking in the country, where he had been noticed taking an interest in fine houses (‘Gentlemen’s’ seats), he enquired at Ardagh for ‘the best house in town’ and was directed to the best ‘gentleman’s’ house which he took for the inn he had really wanted. After behaving in a very free and easy way, calling for wine and the next morning, his bill, he learned that his host was no inn-keeper but an old acquaintance of his father’s. The fact that there was a theatrical source for She Stoops to Conquer in Isaac Bickerstaffe’s musical play, Love in a Village, does not exclude the possibility that an early embarrassment of the kind described provided some of the psychic drive that can be sensed behind the bizarre yet theatrically convincing situation in the play.
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