Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Reynolds, George Nugent

REYNOLDS, GEORGE NUGENT (1770?–1802), Irish poet, son of George Nugent Reynolds, a landowner of Letterfyan, co. Leitrim, was born there about 1770. His father frequently entertained O'Carolan the bard [see O'Carolan or Carolan, Turlough]. The elder Reynolds was murdered on 16 Oct. 1786 by an attorney named Robert Keon, who was executed for the crime (see Report of the Trial of Robert Keon, 1788, 8vo). Soon after 1790 the son began to write ballads and songs for the Dublin periodicals, many of them appearing in the ‘Sentimental and Masonic Magazine,’ 1792–5, W. P. Carey's ‘Evening Star,’ and in Watty Cox's ‘Irish Magazine,’ generally signed with his initials or ‘G—e R—s’ and ‘G—e R—n—lds.’ In Carey's paper appeared Reynolds's well-known poem, ‘The Catholic's Lamentation,’ otherwise called ‘Green were the Fields where my Forefathers dwelt O.’ The most popular of his short lyrics, ‘Kathleen O'More,’ ran through thirteen editions on its publication in 1800. In 1794 Reynolds published, in Dublin, ‘The Panthead,’ an heroic poem in four cantos. In 1797 a musical piece, entitled ‘Bantry Bay,’ referring to the attempted French invasion, was performed with success at Covent Garden, the music being by William Reeve [q. v.] The piece, which was loyalist in tone, was published in London in the same year.

Reynolds was at this time a yeomanry officer—popular, distinguished as a wit, and in the commission of the peace for Leitrim and Roscommon. But in or about 1799 Lord Clare deprived him of the latter office, on the ground that his loyalty was doubted. Reynolds retorted in an insulting letter, which afterwards appeared in Watty Cox's ‘Magazine.’ In 1801 he came to England to study law, intending to practise, but died early in 1802 at Stowe in Buckinghamshire, while on a visit to the Duke of Buckingham. He was buried at Stowe. Several pieces have been attributed to Reynolds which he did not write, including ‘Mary Le More,’ a series of three ballads which were composed by Edward Rushton of Liverpool, and ‘King James's Welcome to Ireland,’ a seventeenth-century lyric, given in Charles Mackay's ‘1,001 Gems of Song’ as the production of Reynolds. In 1830, long after his death, his relatives asserted that he was the real author of Campbell's ‘Exile of Erin,’ and that he wrote it about 1799. It was first printed in the ‘Morning Chronicle’ in 1801, and Campbell's claim to it, although warmly disputed by Reynolds's family and friends, has not been satisfactorily refuted (cf. Times, June 1830).

[Burke's Connaught Circuit, pp. 152–8; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland, p. 213; Brit. Mus. Cat. (of Music); Sentimental and Masonic Magazine, Dublin, 1792–5; Hardiman's Irish Minstrelsy, i. 46–7. For evidence respecting authorship of The Exile of Erin see Hercules Ellis's Memoranda of Irish Matters, Dublin, 1844; Barry's Songs of Ireland, Dublin, 1845; and Crinnelly's Irish Family History, Dublin, 1865.]

D. J. O'D.