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Title: Goldsmith - English Men of Letters Series
Author: Black, William, 1841-1898
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Goldsmith - English Men of Letters Series" ***

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                        English Men of Letters

                        EDITED BY JOHN MORLEY



                              GOLDSMITH



                                  BY


                            WILLIAM BLACK



                                London

                           MACMILLAN AND CO

                                 1878

       *       *       *       *       *



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY

CHAPTER II.

SCHOOL AND COLLEGE

CHAPTER III.

IDLENESS, AND FOREIGN TRAVEL

CHAPTER IV.

EARLY STRUGGLES.--HACK-WRITING

CHAPTER V.

BEGINNING OF AUTHORSHIP.--THE BEE

CHAPTER VI.

PERSONAL TRAITS

CHAPTER VII.

THE CITIZEN OF THE WORLD.--BEAU NASH

CHAPTER VIII.

THE ARREST

CHAPTER IX.

THE TRAVELLER

CHAPTER X.

MISCELLANEOUS WRITING

CHAPTER XI.

THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD

CHAPTER XII.

THE GOOD-NATURED MAN

CHAPTER XIII.

GOLDSMITH IN SOCIETY

CHAPTER XIV.

THE DESERTED VILLAGE

CHAPTER XV.

OCCASIONAL WRITINGS

CHAPTER XVI.

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER

CHAPTER XVII.

INCREASING DIFFICULTIES.--THE END

       *       *       *       *       *



GOLDSMITH

CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.


"Innocently to amuse the imagination in this dream of life is wisdom."
So wrote Oliver Goldsmith; and surely among those who have earned the
world's gratitude by this ministration he must be accorded a
conspicuous place. If, in these delightful writings of his, he mostly
avoids the darker problems of existence--if the mystery of the tragic
and apparently unmerited and unrequited suffering in the world is
rarely touched upon--we can pardon the omission for the sake of the
gentle optimism that would rather look on the kindly side of life.
"You come hot and tired from the day's battle, and this sweet minstrel
sings to you," says Mr. Thackeray. "Who could harm the kind vagrant
harper? Whom did he ever hurt? He carries no weapon save the harp on
which he plays to you; and with which he delights great and humble,
young and old, the captains in the tents, or the soldiers round the
fire, or the women and children in the villages, at whose porches he
stops and sings his simple songs of love and beauty." And it is to be
suspected--it is to be hoped, at least--that the cheerfulness which
shines like sunlight through Goldsmith's writings, did not altogether
desert himself even in the most trying hours of his wayward and
troubled career. He had, with all his sensitiveness, a fine
happy-go-lucky disposition; was ready for a frolic when he had a
guinea, and, when he had none, could turn a sentence on the humorous
side of starvation; and certainly never attributed to the injustice or
neglect of society misfortunes the origin of which lay nearer home.

Of course, a very dark picture might be drawn of Goldsmith's life; and
the sufferings that he undoubtedly endured have been made a whip with
which to lash the ingratitude of a world not too quick to recognise
the claims of genius. He has been put before us, without any brighter
lights to the picture, as the most unfortunate of poor devils; the
heart-broken usher; the hack ground down by sordid booksellers; the
starving occupant of successive garrets. This is the aspect of
Goldsmith's career which naturally attracts Mr. Forster. Mr. Forster
seems to have been haunted throughout his life by the idea that
Providence had some especial spite against literary persons; and that,
in a measure to compensate them for their sad lot, society should be
very kind to them, while the Government of the day might make them
Companions of the Bath or give them posts in the Civil Service. In the
otherwise copious, thorough, and valuable _Life and Times of Oliver
Goldsmith_, we find an almost humiliating insistance on the complaint
that Oliver Goldsmith did not receive greater recognition and larger
sums of money from his contemporaries. Goldsmith is here "the poor
neglected sizar"; his "marked ill-fortune" attends him constantly; he
shares "the evil destinies of men of letters"; he was one of those who
"struggled into fame without the aid of English institutions"; in
short, "he wrote, and paid the penalty." Nay, even Christianity itself
is impeached on account of the persecution suffered by poor Goldsmith.
"There had been a Christian religion extant for seventeen-hundred and
fifty-seven years," writes Mr. Forster, "the world having been
acquainted, for even so long, with its spiritual necessities and
responsibilities; yet here, in the middle of the eighteenth century,
was the eminence ordinarily conceded to a spiritual teacher, to one of
those men who come upon the earth to lift their fellow-men above its
miry ways. He is up in a garret, writing for bread he cannot get, and
dunned for a milkscore he cannot pay." That Christianity might have
been worse employed than in paying the milkman's score is true enough,
for then the milkman would have come by his own; but that
Christianity, or the state, or society should be scolded because an
author suffers the natural consequences of his allowing his
expenditure to exceed his income, seems a little hard. And this is a
sort of writing that is peculiarly inappropriate in the case of
Goldsmith, who, if ever any man was author of his own misfortunes, may
fairly have the charge brought against him. "Men of genius," says Mr.
Forster, "can more easily starve, than the world, with safety to
itself, can continue to neglect and starve them." Perhaps so; but the
English nation, which has always had a regard and even love for
Oliver Goldsmith, that is quite peculiar in the history of literature,
and which has been glad to overlook his faults and follies, and eager
to sympathise with him in the many miseries of his career, will be
slow to believe that it is responsible for any starvation that
Goldsmith may have endured.

However, the key-note has been firmly struck, and it still vibrates.
Goldsmith was the unluckiest of mortals, the hapless victim of
circumstances. "Yielding to that united pressure of labour, penury,
and sorrow, with a frame exhausted by unremitting and ill-rewarded
drudgery, Goldsmith was indebted to the forbearance of creditors for a
peaceful burial." But what, now, if some foreigner strange to the
traditions of English literature--some Japanese student, for example,
or the New Zealander come before his time--were to go over the
ascertained facts of Goldsmith's life, and were suddenly to announce
to us, with the happy audacity of ignorance, that he, Goldsmith, was a
quite exceptionally fortunate person? "Why," he might say, "I find
that in a country where the vast majority of people are born to
labour, Oliver Goldsmith was never asked to do a stroke of work
towards the earning of his own living until he had arrived at man's
estate. All that was expected of him, as a youth and as a young man,
was that he should equip himself fully for the battle of life. He was
maintained at college until he had taken his degree. Again and again
he was furnished with funds for further study and foreign travel; and
again and again he gambled his opportunities away. The constant
kindness of his uncle only made him the best begging-letter-writer
the world has seen. In the midst of his debt and distress as a
bookseller's drudge, he receives £400 for three nights' performance of
_The Good-Natured Man_; he immediately purchases chambers in Brick
Court for £400; and forthwith begins to borrow as before. It is true
that he died owing £2000, and was indebted to the forbearance of
creditors for a peaceful burial; but it appears that during the last
seven years of his life he had been earning an annual income
equivalent to £800 of English currency.[1] He was a man liberally and
affectionately brought up, who had many relatives and many friends,
and who had the proud satisfaction--which has been denied to many men
of genius--of knowing for years before he died that his merits as a
writer had been recognised by the great bulk of his countrymen. And
yet this strange English nation is inclined to suspect that it treated
him rather badly; and Christianity is attacked because it did not pay
Goldsmith's milkscore."

[Footnote 1: The calculation is Lord Macaulay's: see his _Biographical_
_Essays_.]

Our Japanese friend may be exaggerating; but his position is after all
fairly tenable. It may at least be looked at, before entering on the
following brief _résumé_ of the leading facts in Goldsmith's life, if
only to restore our equanimity. For, naturally, it is not pleasant to
think that any previous generation, however neglectful of the claims
of literary persons (as compared with the claims of such wretched
creatures as physicians, men of science, artists, engineers, and so
forth) should so cruelly have ill-treated one whom we all love now.
This inheritance of ingratitude is more than we can bear. Is it true
that Goldsmith was so harshly dealt with by those barbarian ancestors
of ours?



CHAPTER II.

SCHOOL AND COLLEGE.


The Goldsmiths were of English descent; Goldsmith's father was a
Protestant clergyman in a poor little village in the county of
Longford; and when Oliver, one of several children, was born in this
village of Pallas, or Pallasmore, on the 10th November, 1728, the Rev.
Charles Goldsmith was passing rich on £40 a year. But a couple of
years later Mr. Goldsmith succeeded to a more lucrative living; and
forthwith removed his family to the village of Lissoy, in the county
of Westmeath.

Here at once our interest in the story begins: is this Lissoy the
sweet Auburn that we have known and loved since our childhood? Lord
Macaulay, with a great deal of vehemence, avers that it is not; that
there never was any such hamlet as Auburn in Ireland; that _The
Deserted Village_ is a hopelessly incongruous poem; and that
Goldsmith, in combining a description of a probably Kentish village
with a description of an Irish ejectment, "has produced something
which never was, and never will be, seen in any part of the world."
This criticism is ingenious and plausible, but it is unsound, for it
happens to overlook one of the radical facts of human nature--the
magnifying delight of the mind in what is long remembered and remote.
What was it that the imagination of Goldsmith, in his life-long
banishment, could not see when he looked back to the home of his
childhood, and his early friends, and the sports and occupations of
his youth? Lissoy was no doubt a poor enough Irish village; and
perhaps the farms were not too well cultivated; and perhaps the
village preacher, who was so dear to all the country round, had to
administer many a thrashing to a certain graceless son of his; and
perhaps Paddy Byrne was something of a pedant; and no doubt pigs ran
over the "nicely sanded floor" of the inn; and no doubt the village
statesmen occasionally indulged in a free fight. But do you think that
was the Lissoy that Goldsmith thought of in his dreary lodgings in
Fleet-Street courts? No. It was the Lissoy where the vagrant lad had
first seen the "primrose peep beneath the thorn"; where he had
listened to the mysterious call of the bittern by the unfrequented
river; it was a Lissoy still ringing with the glad laughter of young
people in the twilight hours; it was a Lissoy for ever beautiful, and
tender, and far away. The grown-up Goldsmith had not to go to any
Kentish village for a model; the familiar scenes of his youth,
regarded with all the wistfulness and longing of an exile, became
glorified enough. "If I go to the opera where Signora Colomba pours
out all the mazes of melody," he writes to Mr. Hodson, "I sit and sigh
for Lissoy's fireside, and _Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night_ from
Peggy Golden."

There was but little in the circumstances of Goldsmith's early life
likely to fit him for, or to lead him into, a literary career; in
fact, he did not take to literature until he had tried pretty nearly
everything else as a method of earning a living. If he was intended
for anything, it was no doubt his father's wish that he should enter
the Church; and he got such education as the poor Irish clergyman--who
was not a very provident person--could afford. The child Goldsmith was
first of all taught his alphabet at home, by a maid-servant, who was
also a relation of the family; then, at the age of six, he was sent to
that village school which, with its profound and learned master, he
has made familiar to all of us; and after that he was sent further
a-field for his learning, being moved from this to the other
boarding-school as the occasion demanded. Goldsmith's school-life
could not have been altogether a pleasant time for him. We hear,
indeed, of his being concerned in a good many frolics--robbing
orchards, and the like; and it is said that he attained proficiency in
the game of fives. But a shy and sensitive lad like Goldsmith, who was
eagerly desirous of being thought well of, and whose appearance only
invited the thoughtless but cruel ridicule of his schoolmates, must
have suffered a good deal. He was little, pitted with the small-pox,
and awkward; and schoolboys are amazingly frank. He was not strong
enough to thrash them into respect of him; he had no big brother to
become his champion; his pocket-money was not lavish enough to enable
him to buy over enemies or subsidise allies.

In similar circumstances it has sometimes happened that a boy
physically inferior to his companions has consoled himself by proving
his mental prowess--has scored off his failure at cricket by the
taking of prizes, and has revenged himself for a drubbing by writing a
lampoon. But even this last resource was not open to Goldsmith. He was
a dull boy; "a stupid, heavy blockhead," is Dr. Strean's phrase in
summing up the estimate formed of young Goldsmith by his
contemporaries at school. Of course, as soon as he became famous,
everybody began to hunt up recollections of his having said or done
this or that, in order to prove that there were signs of the coming
greatness. People began to remember that he had been suspected of
scribbling verses, which he burned. What schoolboy has not done the
like? We know how the biographers of great painters point out to us
that their hero early showed the bent of his mind by drawing the
figures of animals on doors and walls with a piece of chalk; as to
which it may be observed that, if every schoolboy who scribbled verses
and sketched in chalk on a brick wall, were to grow up a genius, poems
and pictures would be plentiful enough. However, there is the
apparently authenticated anecdote of young Goldsmith's turning the
tables on the fiddler at his uncle's dancing-party. The fiddler,
struck by the odd look of the boy who was capering about the room,
called out "Æsop!" whereupon Goldsmith is said to have instantly
replied,

    "Our herald hath proclaimed this saying,
    See Æsop dancing and his monkey playing!"

But even if this story be true, it is worth nothing as an augury; for
quickness of repartee was precisely the accomplishment which the adult
Goldsmith conspicuously lacked. Put a pen into his hand, and shut him
up in a room: then he was master of the situation--nothing could be
more incisive, polished, and easy than his playful sarcasm. But in
society any fool could get the better of him by a sudden question
followed by a horse-laugh. All through his life--even after he had
become one of the most famous of living writers--Goldsmith suffered
from want of self-confidence. He was too anxious to please. In his
eager acquiescence, he would blunder into any trap that was laid for
him. A grain or two of the stolid self-sufficiency of the blockheads
who laughed at him would not only have improved his character, but
would have considerably added to the happiness of his life.

As a natural consequence of this timidity, Goldsmith, when opportunity
served, assumed airs of magnificent importance. Every one knows the
story of the mistake on which _She Stoops to Conquer_ is founded.
Getting free at last from all the turmoil, and anxieties, and
mortifications of school-life, and returning home on a lent hack, the
released schoolboy is feeling very grand indeed. He is now sixteen,
would fain pass for a man, and has a whole golden guinea in his
pocket. And so he takes the journey very leisurely until, getting
benighted in a certain village, he asks the way to the "best house,"
and is directed by a facetious person to the house of the squire. The
squire by good luck falls in with the joke; and then we have a very
pretty comedy indeed--the impecunious schoolboy playing the part of a
fine gentleman on the strength of his solitary guinea, ordering a
bottle of wine after his supper, and inviting his landlord and his
landlord's wife and daughter to join him in the supper-room. The
contrast, in _She Stoops to Conquer_, between Marlow's embarrassed
diffidence on certain occasions and his audacious effrontery on
others, found many a parallel in the incidents of Goldsmith's own
life; and it is not improbable that the writer of the comedy was
thinking of some of his own experiences, when he made Miss Hardcastle
say to her timid suitor: "A want of courage upon some occasions
assumes the appearance of ignorance, and betrays us when we most want
to excel."

It was, perhaps, just as well that the supper, and bottle of wine, and
lodging at Squire Featherston's had not to be paid for out of the
schoolboy's guinea; for young Goldsmith was now on his way to college,
and the funds at the disposal of the Goldsmith family were not over
abundant. Goldsmith's sister having married the son of a well-to do
man, her father considered it a point of honour that she should have a
dowry: and in giving her a sum of £400 he so crippled the means of the
family, that Goldsmith had to be sent to college not as a pensioner
but as a sizar. It appears that the young gentleman's pride revolted
against this proposal; and that he was won over to consent only by the
persuasions of his uncle Contarine, who himself had been a sizar. So
Goldsmith, now in his eighteenth year, went to Dublin; managed somehow
or other--though he was the last in the list--to pass the necessary
examination; and entered upon his college career (1745.)

How he lived, and what he learned, at Trinity College, are both
largely matters of conjecture; the chief features of such record as we
have are the various means of raising a little money to which the
poor sizar had to resort; a continual quarrelling with his tutor, an
ill-conditioned brute, who baited Goldsmith and occasionally beat him;
and a chance frolic when funds were forthcoming. It was while he was
at Trinity College that his father died; so that Goldsmith was
rendered more than ever dependent on the kindness of his uncle
Contarine, who throughout seems to have taken much interest in his
odd, ungainly nephew. A loan from a friend or a visit to the
pawnbroker tided over the severer difficulties; and then from time to
time the writing of street-ballads, for which he got five shillings
a-piece at a certain repository, came in to help. It was a
happy-go-lucky, hand-to-mouth sort of existence, involving a good deal
of hardship and humiliation, but having its frolics and gaieties
notwithstanding. One of these was pretty near to putting an end to his
collegiate career altogether. He had, smarting under a public
admonition for having been concerned in a riot, taken seriously to his
studies and had competed for a scholarship. He missed the scholarship,
but gained an exhibition of the value of thirty shillings; whereupon
he collected a number of friends of both sexes in his rooms, and
proceeded to have high jinks there. In the midst of the dancing and
uproar, in comes his tutor, in such a passion that he knocks Goldsmith
down. This insult, received before his friends, was too much for the
unlucky sizar, who, the very next day, sold his books, ran away from
college, and ultimately, after having been on the verge of starvation
once or twice, made his way to Lissoy. Here his brother got hold of
him; persuaded him to go back; and the escapade was condoned somehow.
Goldsmith remained at Trinity College until he took his degree (1749.)
He was again lowest in the list; but still he had passed; and he must
have learned something. He was now twenty-one, with all the world
before him; and the question was as to how he was to employ such
knowledge as he had acquired.



CHAPTER III.

IDLENESS, AND FOREIGN TRAVEL.


But Goldsmith was not in any hurry to acquire either wealth or fame.
He had a happy knack of enjoying the present hour--especially when
there were one or two boon companions with him, and a pack of cards to
be found; and, after his return to his mother's house, he appears to
have entered upon the business of idleness with much philosophical
satisfaction. If he was not quite such an unlettered clown as he has
described in Tony Lumpkin, he had at least all Tony Lumpkin's high
spirits and love of joking and idling; and he was surrounded at the
ale-house by just such a company of admirers as used to meet at the
famous Three Pigeons. Sometimes he helped in his brother's school;
sometimes he went errands for his mother; occasionally he would sit
and meditatively play the flute--for the day was to be passed somehow;
then in the evening came the assemblage in Conway's inn, with the
glass, and the pipe, and the cards, and the uproarious jest or song.
"But Scripture saith an ending to all fine things must be," and the
friends of this jovial young "buckeen" began to tire of his idleness
and his recurrent visits. They gave him hints that he might set about
doing something to provide himself with a living; and the first thing
they thought of was that he should go into the Church--perhaps as a
sort of purification-house after George Conway's inn. Accordingly
Goldsmith, who appears to have been a most good-natured and compliant
youth, did make application to the Bishop of Elphin. There is some
doubt about the precise reasons which induced the Bishop to decline
Goldsmith's application, but at any rate the Church was denied the aid
of the young man's eloquence and erudition. Then he tried teaching,
and through the good offices of his uncle he obtained a tutorship
which he held for a considerable time--long enough, indeed, to enable
him to amass a sum of thirty pounds. When he quarrelled with his
patron, and once more "took the world for his pillow," as the Gaelic
stories say, he had this sum in his pocket and was possessed of a good
horse.

He started away from Ballymahon, where his mother was now living, with
some vague notion of making his fortune as casual circumstance might
direct. The expedition came to a premature end; and he returned
without the money, and on the back of a wretched animal, telling his
mother a cock-and-bull story of the most amusing simplicity. "If Uncle
Contarine believed those letters," says Mr. Thackeray, "---- if
Oliver's mother believed that story which the youth related of his
going to Cork, with the purpose of embarking for America; of his
having paid his passage-money, and having sent his kit on board; of
the anonymous captain sailing away with Oliver's valuable luggage, in
a nameless ship, never to return; if Uncle Contarine and the mother at
Ballymahon believed his stories, they must have been a very simple
pair; as it was a very simple rogue indeed who cheated them." Indeed,
if any one is anxious to fill up this hiatus in Goldsmith's life, the
best thing he can do is to discard Goldsmith's suspicious record of
his adventures, and put in its place the faithful record of the
adventures of Mr. Barry Lyndon, when that modest youth left his
mother's house and rode to Dublin, with a certain number of guineas in
his pocket. But whether Uncle Contarine believed the story or no, he
was ready to give the young gentleman another chance; and this time it
was the legal profession that was chosen. Goldsmith got fifty pounds
from his uncle, and reached Dublin. In a remarkably brief space of
time he had gambled away the fifty pounds, and was on his way back to
Ballymahon, where his mother's reception of him was not very cordial,
though his uncle forgave him, and was once more ready to start him in
life. But in what direction? Teaching, the Church, and the law had
lost their attractions for him. Well, this time it was medicine. In
fact, any sort of project was capable of drawing forth the good old
uncle's bounty. The funds were again forthcoming; Goldsmith started
for Edinburgh, and now (1752) saw Ireland for the last time.

He lived, and he informed his uncle that he studied, in Edinburgh for
a year and a half; at the end of which time it appeared to him that
his knowledge of medicine would be much improved by foreign travel.
There was Albinus, for example, "the great professor of Leyden," as he
wrote to the credulous uncle, from whom he would doubtless learn
much. When, having got another twenty pounds for travelling expenses,
he did reach Leyden (1754), he mentioned Gaubius, the chemical
professor. Gaubius is also a good name. That his intercourse with
these learned persons, and the serious nature of his studies, were not
incompatible with a little light relaxation in the way of gambling is
not impossible. On one occasion, it is said, he was so lucky that he
came to a fellow student with his pockets full of money; and was
induced to resolve never to play again--a resolution broken about as
soon as made. Of course he lost all his winnings, and more; and had to
borrow a trifling sum to get himself out of the place. Then an
incident occurs which is highly characteristic of the better side of
Goldsmith's nature. He had just got this money, and was about to leave
Leyden, when, as Mr. Forster writes, "he passed a florist's garden on
his return, and seeing some rare and high-priced flower, which his
uncle Contarine, an enthusiast in such things, had often spoken and
been in search of, he ran in without other thought than of immediate
pleasure to his kindest friend, bought a parcel of the roots, and sent
them off to Ireland." He had a guinea in his pocket when he started on
the grand tour.

Of this notable period in Goldsmith's life (1755-6) very little is
known, though a good deal has been guessed. A minute record of all the
personal adventures that befell the wayfarer as he trudged from
country to country, a diary of the odd humours and fancies that must
have occurred to him in his solitary pilgrimages, would be of quite
inestimable value; but even the letters that Goldsmith wrote home from
time to time are lost; while _The Traveller_ consists chiefly of a
series of philosophical reflections on the government of various
states, more likely to have engaged the attention of a Fleet-Street
author, living in an atmosphere of books, than to have occupied the
mind of a tramp anxious about his supper and his night's lodging.
Boswell says he "disputed" his way through Europe. It is much more
probable that he begged his way through Europe. The romantic version,
which has been made the subject of many a charming picture, is that he
was entertained by the peasantry whom he had delighted with his
playing on the flute. It is quite probable that Goldsmith, whose
imagination had been captivated by the story of how Baron von Holberg
had as a young man really passed through France, Germany, and Holland
in this Orpheus-like manner, may have put a flute in his pocket when
he left Leyden; but it is far from safe to assume, as is generally
done, that Goldsmith was himself the hero of the adventures described
in Chapter XX. of the _Vicar of Wakefield_. It is the more to be
regretted that we have no authentic record of these devious
wanderings, that by this time Goldsmith had acquired, as is shown in
other letters, a polished, easy, and graceful style, with a very
considerable faculty of humorous observation. Those ingenious letters
to his uncle (they usually included a little hint about money) were,
in fact, a trifle too literary both in substance and in form; we could
even now, looking at them with a pardonable curiosity, have spared a
little of their formal antithesis for some more precise information
about the writer and his surroundings.

The strangest thing about this strange journey all over Europe was
the failure of Goldsmith to pick up even a common and ordinary
acquaintance with the familiar facts of natural history. The ignorance
on this point of the author of the _Animated Nature_ was a constant
subject of jest among Goldsmith's friends. They declared he could not
tell the difference between any two sorts of barndoor fowl until he
saw them cooked and on the table. But it may be said prematurely here
that, even when he is wrong as to his facts or his sweeping
generalisations, one is inclined to forgive him on account of the
quaint gracefulness and point of his style. When Mr. Burchell says,
"This rule seems to extend even to other animals: the little vermin
race are ever treacherous, cruel, and cowardly, whilst those endowed
with strength and power are generous, brave, and gentle," we scarcely
stop to reflect that the merlin, which is not much bigger than a
thrush, has an extraordinary courage and spirit, while the lion, if
all stories be true, is, unless when goaded by hunger, an abject
skulker. Elsewhere, indeed, in the _Animated Nature_, Goldsmith gives
credit to the smaller birds for a good deal of valour, and then goes
on to say, with a charming freedom,--"But their contentions are
sometimes of a gentler nature. Two male birds shall strive in song
till, after a long struggle, the loudest shall entirely silence the
other. During these contentions the female sits an attentive silent
auditor, and often rewards the loudest songster with her company
during the season." Yet even this description of the battle of the
bards, with the queen of love as arbiter, is scarcely so amusing as
his happy-go-lucky notions with regard to the variability of species.
The philosopher, flute in hand, who went wandering from the canals of
Holland to the ice-ribbed falls of the Rhine, may have heard from time
to time that contest between singing-birds which he so imaginatively
describes; but it was clearly the Fleet-Street author, living among
books, who arrived at the conclusion that intermarriage of species is
common among small birds and rare among big birds. Quoting some lines
of Addison's which express the belief that birds are a virtuous
race--that the nightingale, for example, does not covet the wife of
his neighbour, the blackbird--Goldsmith goes on to observe,--"But
whatever may be the poet's opinion, the probability is against this
fidelity among the smaller tenants of the grove. The great birds are
much more true to their species than these; and, of consequence, the
varieties among them are more few. Of the ostrich, the cassowary, and
the eagle, there are but few species; and no arts that man can use
could probably induce them to mix with each other."

What he did bring back from his foreign travels was a medical degree.
Where he got it, and how he got it, are alike matters of pure
conjecture; but it is extremely improbable that--whatever he might
have been willing to write home from Padua or Louvain, in order to
coax another remittance from his Irish friends--he would afterwards,
in the presence of such men as Johnson, Burke, and Reynolds, wear sham
honours. It is much more probable that, on his finding those supplies
from Ireland running ominously short, the philosophic vagabond
determined to prove to his correspondents that he was really at work
somewhere, instead of merely idling away his time, begging or
borrowing the wherewithal to pass him from town to town. That he did
see something of the foreign universities is evident from his own
writings; there are touches of description here and there which he
could not well have got from books. With this degree, and with such
book-learning and such knowledge of nature and human nature as he had
chosen or managed to pick up during all those years, he was now called
upon to begin life for himself. The Irish supplies stopped altogether.
His letters were left unanswered. And so Goldsmith somehow or other
got back to London (February 1, 1756), and had to cast about for some
way of earning his daily bread.



CHAPTER IV.

Early Struggles.--Hack-writing.


Here ensued a very dark period in his life. He was alone in London,
without friends, without money, without introductions; his appearance
was the reverse of prepossessing; and, even despite that medical
degree and his acquaintance with the learned Albinus and the learned
Gaubius, he had practically nothing of any value to offer for sale in
the great labour-market of the world. How he managed to live at all is
a mystery: it is certain that he must have endured a great deal of
want; and one may well sympathise with so gentle and sensitive a
creature reduced to such straits, without inquiring too curiously into
the causes of his misfortunes. If, on the one hand, we cannot accuse
society, or Christianity, or the English government of injustice and
cruelty because Goldsmith had gambled away his chances and was now
called on to pay the penalty, on the other hand, we had better, before
blaming Goldsmith himself, inquire into the origin of those defects of
character which produced such results. As this would involve an
_excursus_ into the controversy between Necessity and Free-will,
probably most people would rather leave it alone. It may safely be
said in any case that, while Goldsmith's faults and follies, of which
he himself had to suffer the consequences, are patent enough, his
character on the whole was distinctly a lovable one. Goldsmith was his
own enemy, and everybody else's friend: that is not a serious
indictment, as things go. He was quite well aware of his weaknesses;
and he was also--it may be hinted--aware of the good-nature which he
put forward as condonation. If some foreigner were to ask how it is
that so thoroughly a commercial people as the English are--strict in
the acknowledgment and payment of debt--should have always betrayed a
sneaking fondness for the character of the good-humoured scapegrace
whose hand is in everybody's pocket, and who throws away other
people's money with the most charming air in the world, Goldsmith
might be pointed to as one of many literary teachers whose own
circumstances were not likely to make them severe censors of the
Charles Surfaces, or lenient judges of the Joseph Surfaces of the
world. Be merry while you may; let to-morrow take care of itself;
share your last guinea with any one, even if the poor drones of
society--the butcher, and baker, and milkman with his score--have to
suffer; do anything you like, so long as you keep the heart warm. All
this is a delightful philosophy. It has its moments of misery--its
periods of reaction--but it has its moments of high delight. When we
are invited to contemplate the "evil destinies of men of letters," we
ought to be shown the flood-tides as well as the ebb-tides. The tavern
gaiety; the brand new coat and lace and sword; the midnight frolics,
with jolly companions every one--these, however brief and
intermittent, should not be wholly left out of the picture. Of course
it is very dreadful to hear of poor Boyse lying in bed with nothing
but a blanket over him, and with his arms thrust through two holes in
the blanket, so that he could write--perhaps a continuation of his
poem on the _Deity_. But then we should be shown Boyse when he was
spending the money collected by Dr. Johnson to get the poor
scribbler's clothes out of pawn; and we should also be shown him, with
his hands through the holes in the blanket, enjoying the mushrooms and
truffles on which, as a little garniture for "his last scrap of beef,"
he had just laid out his last half-guinea.

There were but few truffles--probably there was but little beef--for
Goldsmith during this sombre period. "His threadbare coat, his uncouth
figure, and Hibernian dialect caused him to meet with repeated
refusals." But at length he got some employment in a chemist's shop,
and this was a start. Then he tried practising in a small way on his
own account in Southwark. Here he made the acquaintance of a printer's
workman; and through him he was engaged as corrector of the press in
the establishment of Mr. Samuel Richardson. Being so near to
literature, he caught the infection; and naturally began with a
tragedy. This tragedy was shown to the author of _Clarissa Harlowe_;
but it only went the way of many similar first inspiritings of the
Muse. Then Goldsmith drifted to Peckham, where we find him (1757)
installed as usher at Dr. Milner's school. Goldsmith as usher has been
the object of much sympathy; and he would certainly deserve it, if we
are to assume that his description of an usher's position in the
_Bee_, and in George Primrose's advice to his cousin, was a full and
accurate description of his life at Peckham. "Browbeat by the master,
hated for my ugly face by the mistress, worried by the boys"--if that
was his life, he was much to be pitied. But we cannot believe it. The
Milners were exceedingly kind to Goldsmith. It was at the intercession
of young Milner, who had been his fellow-student at Edinburgh, that
Goldsmith got the situation, which at all events kept him out of the
reach of immediate want. It was through the Milners that he was
introduced to Griffiths, who gave him a chance of trying a literary
career--as a hack-writer of reviews and so forth. When, having got
tired of that, Goldsmith was again floating vaguely on the waves of
chance, where did he find a harbour but in that very school at
Peckham? And we have the direct testimony of the youngest of Dr.
Milner's daughters, that this Irish usher of theirs was a remarkably
cheerful, and even facetious person, constantly playing tricks and
practical jokes, amusing the boys by telling stories and by
performances on the flute, living a careless life, and always in
advance of his salary. Any beggars, or group of children, even the
very boys who played back practical jokes on him, were welcome to a
share of what small funds he had; and we all know how Mrs. Milner
good-naturedly said one day, "You had better, Mr. Goldsmith, let me
keep your money for you, as I do for some of the young gentlemen;" and
how he answered with much simplicity, "In truth, Madam, there is equal
need." With Goldsmith's love of approbation and extreme sensitiveness
he no doubt suffered deeply from many slights, now as at other times;
but what we know of his life in the Peckham school does not incline us
to believe that it was an especially miserable period of his
existence. His abundant cheerfulness does not seem to have at any time
deserted him; and what with tricks, and jokes, and playing of the
flute, the dull routine of instructing the unruly young gentlemen at
Dr. Milner's was got through somehow.

When Goldsmith left the Peckham school to try hack-writing in
Paternoster Row, he was going further to fare worse. Griffiths the
bookseller, when he met Goldsmith at Dr. Milner's dinner-table and
invited him to become a reviewer, was doing a service to the English
nation--for it was in this period of machine-work that Goldsmith
discovered that happy faculty of literary expression that led to the
composition of his masterpieces--but he was doing little immediate
service to Goldsmith.

The newly-captured hack was boarded and lodged at Griffiths' house in
Paternoster Row (1757); he was to have a small salary in consideration
of remorselessly constant work; and--what was the hardest condition of
all--he was to have his writings revised by Mrs. Griffiths. Mr.
Forster justly remarks that though at last Goldsmith had thus become a
man-of-letters, he "had gratified no passion and attained no object of
ambition." He had taken to literature, as so many others have done,
merely as a last resource. And if it is true that literature at first
treated Goldsmith harshly, made him work hard, and gave him
comparatively little for what he did, at least it must be said that
his experience was not a singular one. Mr. Forster says that
literature was at that time in a transition state: "The patron was
gone, and the public had not come." But when Goldsmith began to do
better than hack-work, he found a public speedily enough. If, as Lord
Macaulay computes, Goldsmith received in the last seven years of his
life what was equivalent to £5,600 of our money, even the villain
booksellers cannot be accused of having starved him. At the outset of
his literary career he received no large sums, for he had achieved no
reputation; but he got the market-rate for his work. We have around us
at this moment plenty of hacks who do not earn much more than their
board and lodging with a small salary.

For the rest, we have no means of knowing whether Goldsmith got
through his work with ease or with difficulty; but it is obvious,
looking over the reviews which he is believed to have written for
Griffiths' magazine, that he readily acquired the professional
critic's airs of superiority, along with a few tricks of the trade, no
doubt taught him by Griffiths. Several of these reviews, for example,
are merely epitomes of the contents of the books reviewed, with some
vague suggestion that the writer might, if he had been less careful,
have done worse, and, if he had been more careful, might have done
better. Who does not remember how the philosophic vagabond was taught
to become a cognoscento? "The whole secret consisted in a strict
adherence to two rules: the one always to observe that the picture
might have been better if the painter had taken more pains; and the
other to praise the works of Pietro Perugino." It is amusing to
observe the different estimates formed of the function of criticism by
Goldsmith the critic, and by Goldsmith the author. Goldsmith, sitting
at Griffiths' desk, naturally magnifies his office, and announces his
opinion that "to direct our taste, and conduct the poet up to
perfection, has ever been the true critic's province." But Goldsmith
the author, when he comes to inquire into the existing state of Polite
Learning in Europe, finds in criticism not a help but a danger. It is
"the natural destroyer of polite learning." And again, in the _Citizen
of the World_, he exclaims against the pretensions of the critic. "If
any choose to be critics, it is but saying they are critics; and from
that time forward they become invested with full power and authority
over every caitiff who aims at their instruction or entertainment."

This at least may be said, that in these early essays contributed to
the _Monthly Review_ there is much more of Goldsmith the critic than
of Goldsmith the author. They are somewhat laboured performances. They
are almost devoid of the sly and delicate humour that afterwards
marked Goldsmith's best prose work. We find throughout his trick of
antithesis; but here it is forced and formal, whereas afterwards he
lent to this habit of writing the subtle surprise of epigram. They
have the true manner of authority, nevertheless. He says of Home's
_Douglas_--"Those parts of nature, and that rural simplicity with
which the author was, perhaps, best acquainted, are not unhappily
described; and hence we are led to conjecture, that a more universal
knowledge of nature will probably increase his powers of description."
If the author had written otherwise, he would have written
differently; had he known more, he would not have been so ignorant;
the tragedy is a tragedy, but why did not the author make it a
comedy?--this sort of criticism has been heard of even in our own day.
However, Goldsmith pounded away at his newly-found work, under the eye
of the exacting bookseller and his learned wife. We find him dealing
with Scandinavian (here called Celtic) mythology, though he does not
adventure on much comment of his own; then he engages Smollett's
_History of England_, but mostly in the way of extract; anon we find
him reviewing _A Journal of Eight Days' Journey_, by Jonas Hanway, of
whom Johnson said that he made some reputation by travelling abroad,
and lost it all by travelling at home. Then again we find him writing
a disquisition on _Some Enquiries concerning the First Inhabitants,
Language, Religion, Learning, and Letters of Europe_, by a Mr. Wise,
who, along with his critic, appears to have got into hopeless
confusion in believing Basque and Armorican to be the remains of the
same ancient language. The last phrase of a note appended to this
review by Goldsmith probably indicates his own humble estimate of his
work at this time. "It is more our business," he says, "to exhibit the
opinions of the learned than to controvert them." In fact he was
employed to boil down books for people who did not wish to spend more
on literature than the price of a magazine. Though he was new to the
trade, it is probable he did it as well as any other.

At the end of five months, Goldsmith and Griffiths quarrelled and
separated. Griffiths said Goldsmith was idle; Goldsmith said Griffiths
was impertinent; probably the editorial supervision exercised by Mrs.
Griffiths had something to do with the dire contention. From
Paternoster Row Goldsmith removed to a garret in Fleet Street; had his
letters addressed to a coffee-house; and apparently supported himself
by further hack-work, his connection with Griffiths not being quite
severed. Then he drifted back to Peckham again; and was once more
installed as usher, Dr. Milner being in especial want of an assistant
at this time. Goldsmith's lingering about the gates of literature had
not inspired him with any great ambition to enter the enchanted land.
But at the same time he thought he saw in literature a means by which
a little ready money might be made, in order to help him on to
something more definite and substantial; and this goal was now put
before him by Dr. Milner, in the shape of a medical appointment on the
Coromandel coast. It was in the hope of obtaining this appointment,
that he set about composing that _Enquiry into the Present State of
Polite Learning in Europe_, which is now interesting to us as the
first of his more ambitious works. As the book grew under his hands,
he began to cast about for subscribers; and from the Fleet-Street
coffee-house--he had again left the Peckham school--he addressed to
his friends and relatives a series of letters of the most charming
humour, which might have drawn subscriptions from a millstone. To his
brother-in-law, Mr. Hodson, he sent a glowing account of the great
fortune in store for him on the Coromandel coast. "The salary is but
trifling," he writes, "namely £100 per annum, but the other
advantages, if a person be prudent, are considerable. The practice of
the place, if I am rightly informed, generally amounts to not less
than £1,000 per annum, for which the appointed physician has an
exclusive privilege. This, with the advantages resulting from trade,
and the high interest which money bears, viz. 20 per cent., are the
inducements which persuade me to undergo the fatigues of sea, the
dangers of war, and the still greater dangers of the climate; which
induce me to leave a place where I am every day gaining friends and
esteem, and where I might enjoy all the conveniences of life."

The surprising part of this episode in Goldsmith's life is that he did
really receive the appointment; in fact he was called upon to pay £10
for the appointment-warrant. In this emergency he went to the
proprietor of the _Critical Review_, the rival of the _Monthly_, and
obtained some money for certain anonymous work which need not be
mentioned in detail here. He also moved into another garret, this time
in Green-Arbour Court, Fleet Street, in a wilderness of slums. The
Coromandel project, however, on which so many hopes had been built,
fell through. No explanation of the collapse could be got from either
Goldsmith himself, or from Dr. Milner. Mr. Forster suggests that
Goldsmith's inability to raise money for his outfit may have been made
the excuse for transferring the appointment to another; and that is
probable enough; but it is also probable that the need for such an
excuse was based on the discovery that Goldsmith was not properly
qualified for the post. And this seems the more likely, that Goldsmith
immediately afterwards resolved to challenge examination at Surgeons'
Hall. He undertook to write four articles for the _Monthly Review_;
Griffiths became surety to a tailor for a fine suit of clothes; and
thus equipped, Goldsmith presented himself at Surgeons' Hall. He only
wanted to be passed as hospital mate; but even that modest ambition
was unfulfilled. He was found not qualified; and returned, with his
fine clothes, to his Fleet-Street den. He was now thirty years of age
(1758); and had found no definite occupation in the world.



CHAPTER V.

BEGINNING OF AUTHORSHIP.--THE BEE.


During the period that now ensued, and amid much quarrelling with
Griffiths and hack-writing for the _Critical Review_, Goldsmith
managed to get his _Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning
in Europe_ completed; and it is from the publication of that work, on
the 2nd of April, 1759, that we may date the beginning of Goldsmith's
career as an author. The book was published anonymously; but Goldsmith
was not at all anxious to disclaim the parentage of his first-born;
and in Grub Street and its environs, at least, the authorship of the
book was no secret. Moreover there was that in it which was likely to
provoke the literary tribe to plenty of fierce talking. The _Enquiry_
is neither more nor less than an endeavour to prove that criticism has
in all ages been the deadly enemy of art and literature; coupled with
an appeal to authors to draw their inspiration from nature rather than
from books, and varied here and there by a gentle sigh over the loss
of that patronage, in the sunshine of which men of genius were wont to
bask. Goldsmith, not having been an author himself, could not have
suffered much at the hands of the critics; so that it is not to be
supposed that personal feeling dictated this fierce onslaught on the
whole tribe of critics, compilers, and commentators. They are
represented to us as rank weeds, growing up to choke all
manifestations of true art. "Ancient learning," we are told at the
outset, "may be distinguished into three periods: its commencement, or
the age of poets; its maturity, or the age of philosophers; and its
decline, or the age of critics." Then our guide carries us into the
dark ages; and, with lantern in hand, shows us the creatures swarming
there in the sluggish pools--"commentators, compilers, polemic
divines, and intricate metaphysicians." We come to Italy: look at the
affectations with which the Virtuosi and Filosofi have enchained the
free spirit of poetry. "Poetry is no longer among them an imitation of
what we see, but of what a visionary might wish. The zephyr breathes
the most exquisite perfume; the trees wear eternal verdure; fawns, and
dryads, and hamadryads, stand ready to fan the sultry shepherdess, who
has forgot, indeed, the prettiness with which Guarini's shepherdesses
have been reproached, but is so simple and innocent as often to have
no meaning. Happy country, where the pastoral age begins to
revive!--where the wits even of Rome are united into a rural group of
nymphs and swains, under the appellation of modern Arcadians!--where
in the midst of porticoes, processions, and cavalcades, abbés turned
shepherds and shepherdesses without sheep indulge their innocent
_divertimenti_!"

In Germany the ponderous volumes of the commentators next come in for
animadversion; and here we find an epigram, the quaint simplicity of
which is peculiarly characteristic of Goldsmith. "Were angels to write
books," he remarks, "they never would write folios." But Germany gets
credit for the money spent by her potentates on learned institutions;
and it is perhaps England that is delicately hinted at in these words:
"Had the fourth part of the immense sum above-mentioned been given in
proper rewards to genius, in some neighbouring countries, it would
have rendered the name of the donor immortal, and added to the real
interests of society." Indeed, when we come to England, we find that
men of letters are in a bad way, owing to the prevalence of critics,
the tyranny of booksellers, and the absence of patrons. "The author,
when unpatronized by the great, has naturally recourse to the
bookseller. There cannot perhaps be imagined a combination more
prejudicial to taste than this. It is the interest of the one to allow
as little for writing, and of the other to write as much as possible.
Accordingly, tedious compilations and periodical magazines are the
result of their joint endeavours. In these circumstances the author
bids adieu to fame, writes for bread, and for that only. Imagination
is seldom called in. He sits down to address the venal muse with the
most phlegmatic apathy; and, as we are told of the Russian, courts his
mistress by falling asleep in her lap. His reputation never spreads in
a wider circle than that of the trade, who generally value him, not
for the fineness of his compositions, but the quantity he works off in
a given time.

"A long habit of writing for bread thus turns the ambition of every
author at last into avarice. He finds that he has written many years,
that the public are scarcely acquainted even with his name; he
despairs of applause, and turns to profit, which invites him. He finds
that money procures all those advantages, that respect, and that ease
which he vainly expected from fame. Thus the man who, under the
protection of the great, might have done honour to humanity, when only
patronized by the bookseller, becomes a thing little superior to the
fellow who works at the press."

Nor was he afraid to attack the critics of his own day, though he knew
that the two Reviews for which he had recently been writing would have
something to say about his own _Enquiry_. This is how he disposes of
the _Critical_ and the _Monthly_: "We have two literary Reviews in
London, with critical newspapers and magazines without number. The
compilers of these resemble the commoners of Rome; they are all for
levelling property, not by increasing their own, but by diminishing
that of others. The man who has any good-nature in his disposition
must, however, be somewhat displeased to see distinguished reputations
often the sport of ignorance,--to see, by one false pleasantry, the
future peace of a worthy man's life disturbed, and this only because
he has unsuccessfully attempted to instruct or amuse us. Though
ill-nature is far from being wit, yet it is generally laughed at as
such. The critic enjoys the triumph, and ascribes to his parts what is
only due to his effrontery. I fire with indignation, when I see
persons wholly destitute of education and genius indent to the press,
and thus turn book-makers, adding to the sin of criticism the sin of
ignorance also; whose trade is a bad one, and who are bad workmen in
the trade." Indeed there was a good deal of random hitting in the
_Enquiry_, which was sure to provoke resentment. Why, for example,
should he have gone out of his way to insult the highly respectable
class of people who excel in mathematical studies? "This seems a
science," he observes, "to which the meanest intellects are equal. I
forget who it is that says 'All men might understand mathematics if
they would.'" There was also in the first edition of the _Enquiry_ a
somewhat ungenerous attack on stage-managers, actors, actresses, and
theatrical things in general; but this was afterwards wisely excised.
It is not to be wondered at that, on the whole, the _Enquiry_ should
have been severely handled in certain quarters. Smollett, who reviewed
it in the _Critical Review_, appears to have kept his temper pretty
well for a Scotchman; but Kenrick, a hack employed by Griffiths to
maltreat the book in the _Monthly Review_, flourished his bludgeon in
a brave manner. The coarse personalities and malevolent insinuations
of this bully no doubt hurt Goldsmith considerably; but, as we look at
them now, they are only remarkable for their dulness. If Griffiths had
had another Goldsmith to reply to Goldsmith, the retort would have
been better worth reading: one can imagine the playful sarcasm that
would have been dealt out to this new writer, who, in the very act of
protesting against criticism, proclaimed himself a critic. But
Goldsmiths are not always to be had when wanted; while Kenricks can be
bought at any moment for a guinea or two a head.

Goldsmith had not chosen literature as the occupation of his life; he
had only fallen back on it, when other projects failed. But it is
quite possible that now, as he began to take up some slight position
as an author, the old ambition of distinguishing himself--which had
flickered before his imagination from time to time--began to enter
into his calculations along with the more pressing business of earning
a livelihood. And he was soon to have an opportunity of appealing to a
wider public than could have been expected for that erudite treatise
on the arts of Europe. Mr. Wilkie, a bookseller in St. Paul's
Churchyard, proposed to start a weekly magazine, price threepence, to
contain essays, short stories, letters on the topics of the day, and
so forth, more or less after the manner of the _Spectator_. He asked
Goldsmith to become sole contributor. Here, indeed, was a very good
opening; for, although there were many magazines in the field, the
public had just then a fancy for literature in small doses; while
Goldsmith, in entering into the competition, would not be hampered by
the dulness of collaborateurs. He closed with Wilkie's offer; and on
the 6th of October, 1759, appeared the first number of the _Bee_.

For us now there is a curious autobiographical interest in the opening
sentences of the first number; but surely even the public of the day
must have imagined that the new writer who was now addressing them,
was not to be confounded with the common herd of magazine-hacks. What
could be more delightful than this odd mixture of modesty, humour, and
an anxious desire to please?--"There is not, perhaps, a more
whimsically dismal figure in nature than a man of real modesty, who
assumes an air of impudence--who, while his heart beats with anxiety,
studies ease and affects good-humour. In this situation, however, a
periodical writer often finds himself upon his first attempt to
address the public in form. All his power of pleasing is damped by
solicitude, and his cheerfulness dashed with apprehension. Impressed
with the terrors of the tribunal before which he is going to appear,
his natural humour turns to pertness, and for real wit he is obliged
to substitute vivacity. His first publication draws a crowd; they part
dissatisfied; and the author, never more to be indulged with a
favourable hearing, is left to condemn the indelicacy of his own
address or their want of discernment. For my part, as I was never
distinguished for address, and have often even blundered in making my
bow, such bodings as these had like to have totally repressed my
ambition. I was at a loss whether to give the public specious
promises, or give none; whether to be merry or sad on this solemn
occasion. If I should decline all merit, it was too probable the hasty
reader might have taken me at my word. If, on the other hand, like
labourers in the magazine trade, I had, with modest impudence, humbly
presumed to promise an epitome of all the good things that ever were
said or written, this might have disgusted those readers I most desire
to please. Had I been merry, I might have been censured as vastly low;
and had I been sorrowful, I might have been left to mourn in solitude
and silence; in short, whichever way I turned, nothing presented but
prospects of terror, despair, chandlers' shops, and waste paper."

And it is just possible that if Goldsmith had kept to this vein of
familiar _causerie_, the public might in time have been attracted by
its quaintness. But no doubt Mr. Wilkie would have stared aghast; and
so we find Goldsmith, as soon as his introductory bow is made, setting
seriously about the business of magazine-making. Very soon, however,
both Mr. Wilkie and his editor perceived that the public had not been
taken by their venture. The chief cause of the failure, as it appears
to any one who looks over the magazine now, would seem to be the lack
of any definite purpose. There was no marked feature to arrest public
attention, while many things were discarded on which the popularity of
other periodicals had been based. There was no scandal to appeal to
the key-hole and back-door element in human nature; there were no
libels and gross personalities to delight the mean and envious; there
were no fine airs of fashion to charm milliners anxious to know how
the great talked, and posed, and dressed; and there was no solemn and
pompous erudition to impress the minds of those serious and sensible
people who buy literature as they buy butter, by its weight. At the
beginning of No. IV. he admits that the new magazine has not been a
success; and, in doing so, returns to that vein of whimsical, personal
humour with which he had started: "Were I to measure the merit of my
present undertaking by its success or the rapidity of its sale, I
might be led to form conclusions by no means favourable to the pride
of an author. Should I estimate my fame by its extent, every newspaper
and magazine would leave me far behind. Their fame is diffused in a
very wide circle--that of some as far as Islington, and some yet
farther still; while mine, I sincerely believe, has hardly travelled
beyond the sound of Bow Bell; and, while the works of others fly like
unpinioned swans, I find my own move as heavily as a new-plucked
goose. Still, however, I have as much pride as they who have ten times
as many readers. It is impossible to repeat all the agreeable
delusions in which a disappointed author is apt to find comfort. I
conclude, that what my reputation wants in extent is made up by its
solidity. _Minus juvat gloria lata quam magna._ I have great
satisfaction in considering the delicacy and discernment of those
readers I have, and in ascribing my want of popularity to the
ignorance or inattention of those I have not. All the world may
forsake an author, but vanity will never forsake him. Yet,
notwithstanding so sincere a confession, I was once induced to show my
indignation against the public, by discontinuing my endeavours to
please; and was bravely resolved, like Raleigh, to vex them by burning
my manuscript in a passion. Upon recollection, however, I considered
what set or body of people would be displeased at my rashness. The
sun, after so sad an accident, might shine next morning as bright as
usual; men might laugh and sing the next day, and transact business as
before, and not a single creature feel any regret but myself."

Goldsmith was certainly more at home in this sort of writing, than in
gravely lecturing people against the vice of gambling; in warning
tradesmen how ill it became them to be seen at races; in demonstrating
that justice is a higher virtue than generosity; and in proving that
the avaricious are the true benefactors of society. But even as he
confesses the failure of his new magazine, he seems determined to show
the public what sort of writer this is, whom as yet they have not
regarded too favourably. It is in No. IV. of the _Bee_ that the famous
_City Night Piece_ occurs. No doubt that strange little fragment of
description was the result of some sudden and aimless fancy, striking
the occupant of the lonely garret in the middle of the night. The
present tense, which he seldom used--and the abuse of which is one of
the detestable vices of modern literature--adds to the mysterious
solemnity of the recital:--

"The clock has just struck two, the expiring taper rises and sinks in
the socket, the watchman forgets the hour in slumber, the laborious
and the happy are at rest, and nothing wakes but meditation, guilt,
revelry, and despair. The drunkard once more fills the destroying
bowl, the robber walks his midnight round, and the suicide lifts his
guilty arm against his own sacred person.

"Let me no longer waste the night over the page of antiquity or the
sallies of contemporary genius, but pursue the solitary walk, where
Vanity, ever changing, but a few hours past walked before me--where
she kept up the pageant, and now, like a froward child, seems hushed
with her own importunities.

"What a gloom hangs all around! The dying lamp feebly emits a yellow
gleam; no sound is heard but of the chiming clock, or the distant
watch-dog. All the bustle of human pride is forgotten; an hour like
this may well display the emptiness of human vanity.

"There will come a time, when this temporary solitude may be made
continual, and the city itself, like its inhabitants, fade away, and
leave a desert in its room.

"What cities, as great as this, have once triumphed in existence, had
their victories as great, joy as just and as unbounded; and, with
short-sighted presumption, promised themselves immortality! Posterity
can hardly trace the situation of some; the sorrowful traveller
wanders over the awful ruins of others; and, as he beholds, he learns
wisdom, and feels the transience of every sublunary possession.

"'Here,' he cries, 'stood their citadel, now grown over with weeds;
there their senate-house, but now the haunt of every noxious reptile;
temples and theatres stood here, now only an undistinguished heap of
ruin. They are fallen, for luxury and avarice first made them feeble.
The rewards of the state were conferred on amusing, and not on useful,
members of society. Their riches and opulence invited the invaders,
who, though at first repulsed, returned again, conquered by
perseverance, and at last swept the defendants into undistinguished
destruction.'"



CHAPTER VI.

PERSONAL TRAITS.


The foregoing extracts will sufficiently show what were the chief
characteristics of Goldsmith's writing at this time--the grace and
ease of style, a gentle and sometimes pathetic thoughtfulness, and,
above all, when he speaks in the first person, a delightful vein of
humorous self-disclosure. Moreover, these qualities, if they were not
immediately profitable to the booksellers, were beginning to gain for
him the recognition of some of the well-known men of the day. Percy,
afterwards Bishop of Dromore, had made his way to the miserable garret
of the poor author. Smollett, whose novels Goldsmith preferred to his
History, was anxious to secure his services as a contributor to the
forthcoming _British Magazine_. Burke had spoken of the pleasure given
him by Goldsmith's review of the _Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas
of the Sublime and Beautiful_. But, to crown all, the great Cham
himself sought out this obscure author, who had on several occasions
spoken with reverence and admiration of his works; and so began what
is perhaps the most interesting literary friendship on record. At what
precise date Johnson first made Goldsmith's acquaintance, is not
known; Mr. Forster is right in assuming that they had met before the
supper in Wine-Office Court, at which Mr. Percy was present. It is a
thousand pities that Boswell had not by this time made his appearance
in London. Johnson, Goldsmith, and all the rest of them are only
ghosts until the pertinacious young laird of Auchinleck comes on the
scene to give them colour, and life, and form. It is odd enough that
the very first remarks of Goldsmith's which Boswell jotted down in his
notebook, should refer to Johnson's systematic kindness towards the
poor and wretched. "He had increased my admiration of the goodness of
Johnson's heart by incidental remarks in the course of conversation,
such as, when I mentioned Mr. Levett, whom he entertained under his
roof, 'He is poor and honest, which is recommendation enough to
Johnson'; and when I wondered that he was very kind to a man of whom I
had heard a very bad character, 'He is now become miserable, and that
ensures the protection of Johnson.'"

For the rest, Boswell was not well-disposed towards Goldsmith, whom he
regarded with a jealousy equal to his admiration of Johnson; but it is
probable that his description of the personal appearance of the
awkward and ungainly Irishman is in the main correct. And here also it
may be said that Boswell's love of truth and accuracy compelled him to
make this admission: "It has been generally circulated and believed
that he (Goldsmith) was a mere fool in conversation; but, in truth,
this has been greatly exaggerated." On this exaggeration--seeing that
the contributor to the _British Magazine_ and the _Public Ledger_ was
now becoming better known among his fellow authors--a word or two may
fitly be said here. It pleased Goldsmith's contemporaries, who were
not all of them celebrated for their ready wit, to regard him as a
hopeless and incurable fool, who by some strange chance could produce
literature, the merits of which he could not himself understand. To
Horace Walpole we owe the phrase which describes Goldsmith as an
"inspired idiot." Innumerable stories are told of Goldsmith's
blunders; of his forced attempts to shine in conversation; of poor
Poll talking nonsense, when all the world was wondering at the beauty
of his writing. In one case we are told he was content to admit, when
dictated to, that this, and not that, was what he really had meant in
a particular phrase. Now there can be no question that Goldsmith,
conscious of his pitted face, his brogue, and his ungainly figure, was
exceedingly nervous and sensitive in society, and was anxious, as such
people mostly are, to cover his shyness by an appearance of ease, if
not even of swagger; and there can be as little question that he
occasionally did and said very awkward and blundering things. But our
Japanese friend, whom we mentioned in our opening pages, looking
through the record that is preserved to us of those blunders which are
supposed to be most conclusive as to this aspect of Goldsmith's
character, would certainly stare. "Good heavens," he would cry, "did
men ever live who were so thick-headed as not to see the humour of
this or that 'blunder'; or were they so beset with the notion that
Goldsmith was only a fool, that they must needs be blind?" Take one
well-known instance. He goes to France with Mrs. Horneck and her two
daughters, the latter very handsome young ladies. At Lille the two
girls and Goldsmith are standing at the window of the hotel,
overlooking the square in which are some soldiers; and naturally the
beautiful young Englishwomen attract some attention. Thereupon
Goldsmith turns indignantly away, remarking that elsewhere he also has
his admirers. Now what surgical instrument was needed to get this
harmless little joke into any sane person's head? Boswell may perhaps
be pardoned for pretending to take the incident _au sérieux_; for as
has just been said, in his profound adoration of Johnson, he was
devoured by jealousy of Goldsmith; but that any other mortal should
have failed to see what was meant by this little bit of humorous
flattery is almost incredible. No wonder that one of the sisters
afterwards referring to this "playful jest," should have expressed her
astonishment at finding it put down as a proof of Goldsmith's envious
disposition. But even after that disclaimer, we find Mr. Croker, as
quoted by Mr. Forster, solemnly doubting "whether the vexation so
seriously exhibited by Goldsmith was real or assumed"!

Of course this is an extreme case; but there are others very similar.
"He affected," says Hawkins, "Johnson's style and manner of
conversation, and, when he had uttered, as he often would, a laboured
sentence, so tumid as to be scarce intelligible, would ask if that was
not truly Johnsonian?" Is it not truly dismal to find such an
utterance coming from a presumably reasonable human being? It is not
to be wondered at that Goldsmith grew shy--and in some cases had to
ward off the acquaintance of certain of his neighbours as being too
intrusive--if he ran the risk of having his odd and grave humours so
densely mistranslated. The fact is this, that Goldsmith was possessed
of a very subtle quality of humour, which is at all times rare, but
which is perhaps more frequently to be found in Irishmen than among
other folks. It consists in the satire of the pretence and pomposities
of others by means of a sort of exaggerated and playful
self-depreciation. It is a most delicate and most delightful form of
humour; but it is very apt to be misconstrued by the dull. Who can
doubt that Goldsmith was good-naturedly laughing at himself, his own
plain face, his vanity, and his blunders, when he professed to be
jealous of the admiration excited by the Miss Hornecks; when he
gravely drew attention to the splendid colours of his coat; or when he
no less gravely informed a company of his friends that he had heard a
very good story, but would not repeat it, because they would be sure
to miss the point of it?

This vein of playful and sarcastic self-depreciation is continually
cropping up in his essay writing, as, for example, in the passage
already quoted from No. IV. of the _Bee_: "I conclude, that what my
reputation wants in extent, is made up by its solidity. _Minus juvat
gloria lata quam magna_. I have great satisfaction in considering the
delicacy and discernment of those readers I have, and in ascribing my
want of popularity to the ignorance or inattention of those I have
not." But here, no doubt, he remembers that he is addressing the world
at large, which contains many foolish persons; and so, that the
delicate raillery may not be mistaken, he immediately adds, "All the
world may forsake an author, but vanity will never forsake him." That
he expected a quicker apprehension on the part of his intimates and
acquaintances, and that he was frequently disappointed, seems pretty
clear from those very stories of his "blunders." We may reasonably
suspect, at all events, that Goldsmith was not quite so much of a fool
as he looked; and it is far from improbable that when the ungainly
Irishman was called in to make sport for the Philistines--and there
were a good many Philistines in those days, if all stories be
true--and when they imagined they had put him out of countenance, he
was really standing aghast, and wondering how it could have pleased
Providence to create such helpless stupidity.



CHAPTER VII.

The Citizen of the World.--Beau Nash.


Meanwhile, to return to his literary work, the _Citizen of the World_
had grown out of his contributions to the _Public Ledger_, a daily
newspaper started by Mr. Newbery, another bookseller in St. Paul's
Churchyard. Goldsmith was engaged to write for this paper two letters
a week at a guinea a-piece; and these letters were, after a short time
(1760), written in the character of a Chinese who had come to study
European civilisation. It may be noted that Goldsmith had in the
_Monthly Review_, in mentioning Voltaire's memoirs of French writers,
quoted a passage about Montesquieu's _Lettres Persanes_ as follows:
"It is written in imitation of the _Siamese Letters_ of Du Freny and
of the _Turkish Spy_; but it is an imitation which shows what the
originals should have been. The success their works met with was, for
the most part, owing to the foreign air of their performances; the
success of the _Persian Letters_ arose from the delicacy of their
satire. That satire which in the mouth of an Asiatic is poignant,
would lose all its force when coming from an European." And it must
certainly be said that the charm of the strictures of the _Citizen of
the World_ lies wholly in their delicate satire, and not at all in any
foreign air which the author may have tried to lend to these
performances. The disguise is very apparent. In those garrulous,
vivacious, whimsical, and sometimes serious papers, Lien Chi Altangi,
writing to Fum Hoam in Pekin, does not so much describe the aspects of
European civilisation which would naturally surprise a Chinese, as he
expresses the dissatisfaction of a European with certain phases of the
civilisation visible everywhere around him. It is not a Chinaman, but
a Fleet-Street author by profession, who resents the competition of
noble amateurs whose works--otherwise bitter pills enough--are gilded
by their titles:--"A nobleman has but to take a pen, ink, and paper,
write away through three large volumes, and then sign his name to the
title-page; though the whole might have been before more disgusting
than his own rent-roll, yet signing his name and title gives value to
the deed, title being alone equivalent to taste, imagination, and
genius. As soon as a piece, therefore, is published, the first
questions are--Who is the author? Does he keep a coach? Where lies his
estate? What sort of a table does he keep? If he happens to be poor
and unqualified for such a scrutiny, he and his works sink into
irremediable obscurity, and too late he finds, that having fed upon
turtle is a more ready way to fame than having digested Tully. The
poor devil against whom fashion has set its face vainly alleges that
he has been bred in every part of Europe where knowledge was to be
sold; that he has grown pale in the study of nature and himself. His
works may please upon the perusal, but his pretensions to fame are
entirely disregarded. He is treated like a fiddler, whose music,
though liked, is not much praised, because he lives by it; while a
gentleman performer, though the most wretched scraper alive, throws
the audience into raptures. The fiddler, indeed, may in such a case
console himself by thinking, that while the other goes off with all
the praise, he runs away with all the money. But here the parallel
drops; for while the nobleman triumphs in unmerited applause, the
author by profession steals off with--nothing."

At the same time it must be allowed that the utterance of these
strictures through the mouth of a Chinese admits of a certain
_naïveté_, which on occasion heightens the sarcasm. Lien Chi
accompanies the Man in Black to a theatre to see an English play. Here
is part of the performance:--"I was going to second his remarks, when
my attention was engrossed by a new object; a man came in balancing a
straw upon his nose, and the audience were clapping their hands in all
the raptures of applause. 'To what purpose,' cried I, 'does this
unmeaning figure make his appearance? is he a part of the
plot?'--'Unmeaning do you call him?' replied my friend in black; 'this
is one of the most important characters of the whole play; nothing
pleases the people more than seeing a straw balanced: there is a great
deal of meaning in a straw: there is something suited to every
apprehension in the sight; and a fellow possessed of talents like
these is sure of making his fortune.' The third act now began with an
actor who came to inform us that he was the villain of the play, and
intended to show strange things before all was over. He was joined by
another who seemed as much disposed for mischief as he; their
intrigues continued through this whole division. 'If that be a
villain,' said I, 'he must be a very stupid one to tell his secrets
without being asked; such soliloquies of late are never admitted in
China.' The noise of clapping interrupted me once more; a child six
years old was learning to dance on the stage, which gave the ladies
and mandarins infinite satisfaction. 'I am sorry,' said I, 'to see the
pretty creature so early learning so bad a trade; dancing being, I
presume, as contemptible here as in China.'--'Quite the reverse,'
interrupted my companion; 'dancing is a very reputable and genteel
employment here; men have a greater chance for encouragement from the
merit of their heels than their heads. One who jumps up and nourishes
his toes three times before he comes to the ground may have three
hundred a year: he who flourishes them four times, gets four hundred;
but he who arrives at five is inestimable, and may demand what salary
he thinks proper. The female dancers, too, are valued for this sort of
jumping and crossing; and it is a cant word amongst them, that she
deserves most who shows highest. But the fourth act is begun; let us
be attentive.'"

The Man in Black here mentioned is one of the notable features of this
series of papers. The mysterious person whose acquaintance the
Chinaman made in Westminster Abbey, and who concealed such a wonderful
goodness of heart under a rough and forbidding exterior, is a charming
character indeed; and it is impossible to praise too highly the vein
of subtle sarcasm in which he preaches worldly wisdom. But to assume
that any part of his history which he disclosed to the Chinaman was a
piece of autobiographical writing on the part of Goldsmith, is a very
hazardous thing. A writer of fiction must necessarily use such
materials as have come within his own experience; and Goldsmith's
experience--or his use of those materials--was extremely limited:
witness how often a pet fancy, like his remembrance of _Johnny
Armstrong's Last Good Night_, is repeated. "That of these simple
elements," writes Professor Masson, in his _Memoir of Goldsmith_,
prefixed to an edition of his works, "he made so many charming
combinations, really differing from each other, and all, though
suggested by fact, yet hung so sweetly in an ideal air, proved what an
artist he was, and was better than much that is commonly called
invention. In short, if there is a sameness of effect in Goldsmith's
writings, it is because they consist of poetry and truth, humour and
pathos, from his own life, and the supply from such a life as his was
not inexhaustible."

The question of invention is easily disposed of. Any child can invent
a world transcending human experience by the simple combination of
ideas which are in themselves incongruous--a world in which the horses
have each five feet, in which the grass is blue and the sky green, in
which seas are balanced on the peaks of mountains. The result is
unbelievable and worthless. But the writer of imaginative literature
uses his own experiences and the experiences of others, so that his
combination of ideas in themselves compatible shall appear so natural
and believable that the reader--although these incidents and
characters never did actually exist--is as much interested in them as
if they had existed. The mischief of it is that the reader sometimes
thinks himself very clever, and, recognising a little bit of the story
as having happened to the author, jumps to the conclusion that such
and such a passage is necessarily autobiographical. Hence it is that
Goldsmith has been hastily identified with the Philosophic Vagabond in
the _Vicar of Wakefield_, and with the Man in Black in the _Citizen of
the World_. That he may have used certain experiences in the one, and
that he may perhaps have given in the other a sort of fancy sketch of
a person suggested by some trait in his own character, is possible
enough; but further assertion of likeness is impossible. That the Man
in Black had one of Goldsmith's little weaknesses is obvious enough:
we find him just a trifle too conscious of his own kindliness and
generosity. The Vicar of Wakefield himself is not without a spice of
this amiable vanity. As for Goldsmith, every one must remember his
reply to Griffiths' accusation: "No, sir, had I been a sharper, _had I
been possessed of less good nature and native generosity_, I might
surely now have been in better circumstances."

The Man in Black, in any case, is a delightful character. We detect
the warm and generous nature even in his pretence of having acquired
worldly wisdom: "I now therefore pursued a course of uninterrupted
frugality, seldom wanted a dinner, and was consequently invited to
twenty. I soon began to get the character of a saving hunks that had
money, and insensibly grew into esteem. Neighbours have asked my
advice in the disposal of their daughters; and I have always taken
care not to give any. I have contracted a friendship with an alderman,
only by observing, that if we take a farthing from a thousand pounds
it will be a thousand pounds no longer. I have been invited to a
pawnbroker's table, by pretending to hate gravy; and am now actually
upon treaty of marriage with a rich widow, for only having observed
that the bread was rising. If ever I am asked a question, whether I
know it or not, instead of answering, I only smile and look wise. If a
charity is proposed I go about with the hat, but put nothing in
myself. If a wretch solicits my pity, I observe that the world is
filled with impostors, and take a certain method of not being deceived
by never relieving. In short, I now find the truest way of finding
esteem, even from the indigent, is to give away nothing, and thus have
much in our power to give." This is a very clever piece of writing,
whether it is in strict accordance with the character of the Man in
Black, or not. But there is in these _Public Ledger_ papers another
sketch of character, which is not only consistent in itself, and in
every way admirable, but is of still further interest to us when we
remember that at this time the various personages in the _Vicar of
Wakefield_ were no doubt gradually assuming definite form in
Goldsmith's mind. It is in the figure of Mr. Tibbs, introduced
apparently at haphazard, but at once taking possession of us by its
quaint relief, that we find Goldsmith showing a firmer hand in
character-drawing. With a few happy dramatic touches Mr. Tibbs starts
into life; he speaks for himself; he becomes one of the people whom we
know. And yet, with this concise and sharp portraiture of a human
being, look at the graceful, almost garrulous, ease of the style:--

     "Our pursuer soon came up and joined us with all the
     familiarity of an old acquaintance. 'My dear Drybone,' cries
     he, shaking my friend's hand, 'where have you been hiding
     this half a century? Positively I had fancied you were gone
     to cultivate matrimony and your estate in the country.'
     During the reply I had an opportunity of surveying the
     appearance of our new companion: his hat was pinched up with
     peculiar smartness; his looks were pale, thin, and sharp;
     round his neck he wore a broad black riband, and in his
     bosom a buckle studded with glass; his coat was trimmed with
     tarnished twist; he wore by his side a sword with a black
     hilt; and his stockings of silk, though newly washed, were
     grown yellow by long service. I was so much engaged with the
     peculiarity of his dress, that I attended only to the latter
     part of my friend's reply, in which he complimented Mr.
     Tibbs on the taste of his clothes and the bloom in his
     countenance. 'Pshaw, pshaw, Will,' cried the figure, 'no
     more of that, if you love me: you know I hate flattery,--on
     my soul I do; and yet, to be sure, an intimacy with the
     great will improve one's appearance, and a course of venison
     will fatten; and yet, faith, I despise the great as much as
     you do; but there are a great many damn'd honest fellows
     among them, and we must not quarrel with one half, because
     the other wants weeding. If they were all such as my Lord
     Mudler, one of the most good-natured creatures that ever
     squeezed a lemon, I should myself be among the number of
     their admirers. I was yesterday to dine at the Duchess of
     Piccadilly's. My lord was there. "Ned," says he to me,
     "Ned," says he, "I'll hold gold to silver, I can tell you
     where you were poaching last night." "Poaching, my lord?"
     says I: "faith, you have missed already; for I staid at home
     and let the girls poach for me. That's my way: I take a fine
     woman as some animals do their prey--stand still, and,
     swoop, they fall into my mouth."' 'Ah, Tibbs, thou art a
     happy fellow,' cried my companion, with looks of infinite
     pity; 'I hope your fortune is as much improved as your
     understanding, in such company?' 'Improved!' replied the
     other: 'you shall know,--but let it go no farther--a great
     secret--five hundred a year to begin with--my lord's word of
     honour for it. His lordship took me down in his own chariot
     yesterday, and we had a _tête-à-tête_ dinner in the country,
     where we talked of nothing else.'--'I fancy you forget,
     sir,' cried I; 'you told us but this moment of your dining
     yesterday in town.'--'Did I say so?' replied he, coolly; 'to
     be sure, if I said so, it was so. Dined in town! egad, now I
     do remember, I did dine in town; but I dined in the country
     too; for you must know, my boys, I ate two dinners. By the
     bye, I am grown as nice as the devil in my eating. I'll tell
     you a pleasant affair about that: we were a select party of
     us to dine at Lady Grogram's,--an affected piece, but let it
     go no farther--a secret.--Well, there happened to be no
     asafoetida in the sauce to a turkey, upon which, says I,
     I'll hold a thousand guineas, and say done, first,
     that--But, dear Drybone, you are an honest creature; lend me
     half-a-crown for a minute or two, or so, just till ----; but
     hearkee, ask me for it the next time we meet, or it may be
     twenty to one but I forget to pay you.'"

Returning from those performances to the author of them, we find him a
busy man of letters, becoming more and more in request among the
booksellers, and obtaining recognition among his fellow-writers. He
had moved into better lodgings in Wine Office Court (1760-2); and it
was here that he entertained at supper, as has already been mentioned,
no less distinguished guests than Bishop, then Mr., Percy, and Dr.,
then Mr., Johnson. Every one has heard of the surprise of Percy, on
calling for Johnson, to find the great Cham dressed with quite unusual
smartness. On asking the cause of this "singular transformation,"
Johnson replied, "Why, sir, I hear that Goldsmith, who is a very great
sloven, justifies his disregard of cleanliness and decency by quoting
my practice; and I am desirous this night to show him a better
example." That Goldsmith profited by this example--though the tailors
did not--is clear enough. At times, indeed, he blossomed out into the
splendours of a dandy; and laughed at himself for doing so. But
whether he was in gorgeous or in mean attire, he remained the same
sort of happy-go-lucky creature; working hard by fits and starts;
continually getting money in advance from the booksellers; enjoying
the present hour; and apparently happy enough when not pressed by
debt. That he should have been thus pressed was no necessity of the
case; at all events we need not on this score begin now to abuse the
booksellers or the public of that day. We may dismiss once for all the
oft-repeated charges of ingratitude and neglect.

When Goldsmith was writing those letters in the _Public Ledger_--with
"pleasure and instruction for others," Mr. Forster says, "though at
the cost of suffering to himself"--he was receiving for them alone
what would be equivalent in our day to £200 a year. No man can affirm
that £200 a year is not amply sufficient for all the material wants of
life. Of course there are fine things in the world that that amount of
annual wage cannot purchase. It is a fine thing to sit on the deck of
a yacht on a summer's day, and watch the far islands shining over the
blue; it is a fine thing to drive four-in-hand to Ascot--if you can do
it; it is a fine thing to cower breathless behind a rock and find a
splendid stag coming slowly within sure range. But these things are
not necessary to human happiness: it is possible to do without them
and yet not "suffer." Even if Goldsmith had given half of his
substance away to the poor, there was enough left to cover all the
necessary wants of a human being; and if he chose so to order his
affairs as to incur the suffering of debt, why, that was his own
business, about which nothing further needs be said. It is to be
suspected, indeed, that he did not care to practise those excellent
maxims of prudence and frugality which he frequently preached; but the
world is not much concerned about that now. If Goldsmith had received
ten times as much money as the booksellers gave him, he would still
have died in debt. And it is just possible that we may exaggerate
Goldsmith's sensitiveness on this score. He had had a life-long
familiarity with duns and borrowing; and seemed very contented when
the exigency of the hour was tided over. An angry landlady is
unpleasant, and an arrest is awkward; but in comes an opportune
guinea, and the bottle of Madeira is opened forthwith.

In these rooms in Wine Office Court, and at the suggestion or
entreaty of Newbery, Goldsmith produced a good deal of miscellaneous
writing--pamphlets, tracts, compilations, and what not--of a more or
less marketable kind. It can only be surmised that by this time he may
have formed some idea of producing a book not solely meant for the
market, and that the characters in the _Vicar of Wakefield_ were
already engaging his attention; but the surmise becomes probable
enough when we remember that his project of writing the _Traveller_,
which was not published till 1764, had been formed as far back as
1755, while he was wandering aimlessly about Europe, and that a sketch
of the poem was actually forwarded by him then to his brother Henry in
Ireland. But in the meantime this hack-work, and the habits of life
connected with it, began to tell on Goldsmith's health; and so, for a
time, he left London (1762), and went to Tunbridge and then to Bath.
It is scarcely possible that his modest fame had preceded him to the
latter place of fashion; but it may be that the distinguished folk of
the town received this friend of the great Dr. Johnson with some small
measure of distinction; for we find that his next published work, _The
Life of Richard Nash, Esq._, is respectfully dedicated to the Right
Worshipful the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Common Council of the
City of Bath. The Life of the recently deceased Master of Ceremonies
was published anonymously (1762); but it was generally understood to
be Goldsmith's; and indeed the secret of the authorship is revealed in
every successive line. Among the minor writings of Goldsmith there is
none more delightful than this: the mock-heroic gravity, the
half-familiar contemptuous good-nature with which he composes this
Funeral March of a Marionette, are extremely whimsical and amusing.
And then what an admirable picture we get of fashionable English
society in the beginning of the eighteenth century, when Bath and Nash
were alike in the heyday of their glory--the fine ladies with their
snuff-boxes, and their passion for play, and their extremely effective
language when they got angry; young bucks come to flourish away their
money, and gain by their losses the sympathy of the fair; sharpers on
the look-out for guineas, and adventurers on the look-out for
weak-minded heiresses; duchesses writing letters in the most doubtful
English, and chair-men swearing at any one who dared to walk home on
foot at night.

No doubt the _Life of Beau Nash_ was a bookseller's book; and it was
made as attractive as possible by the recapitulation of all sorts of
romantic stories about Miss S----n, and Mr. C----e, and Captain
K----g; but throughout we find the historian very much inclined to
laugh at his hero, and only refraining now and again in order to
record in serious language traits indicative of the real goodness of
disposition of that fop and gambler. And the fine ladies and
gentlemen, who lived in that atmosphere of scandal, and intrigue, and
gambling, are also from time to time treated to a little decorous and
respectful raillery. Who does not remember the famous laws of polite
breeding written out by Mr. Nash--Goldsmith hints that neither Mr.
Nash nor his fair correspondent at Blenheim, the Duchess of
Marlborough, excelled in English composition--for the guidance of the
ladies and gentlemen who were under the sway of the King of Bath? "But
were we to give laws to a nursery, we should make them childish
laws," Goldsmith writes gravely. "His statutes, though stupid, were
addressed to fine gentlemen and ladies, and were probably received
with sympathetic approbation. It is certain they were in general
religiously observed by his subjects, and executed by him with
impartiality; neither rank nor fortune shielded the refractory from
his resentment." Nash, however, was not content with prose in
enforcing good manners. Having waged deadly war against the custom of
wearing boots, and having found his ordinary armoury of no avail
against the obduracy of the country squires, he assailed them in the
impassioned language of poetry, and produced the following "Invitation
to the Assembly," which, as Goldsmith remarks, was highly relished by
the nobility at Bath on account of its keenness, severity, and
particularly its good rhymes.

      "Come, one and all, to Hoyden Hall,
    For there's the assembly this night;
      None but prude fools
      Mind manners and rules;
    We Hoydens do decency slight.
      Come, trollops and slatterns,
      Cocked hats and white aprons,
    This best our modesty suits;
      For why should not we
      In dress be as free
    As Hogs-Norton squires in boots?"

The sarcasm was too much for the squires, who yielded in a body; and
when any stranger through inadvertence presented himself in the
assembly-rooms in boots, Nash was so completely master of the
situation that he would politely step up to the intruder and suggest
that he had forgotten his horse.

Goldsmith does not magnify the intellectual capacity of his hero; but
he gives him credit for a sort of rude wit that was sometimes
effective enough. His physician, for example, having called on him to
see whether he had followed a prescription that had been sent him the
previous day, was greeted in this fashion: "Followed your
prescription? No. Egad, if I had, I should have broken my neck, for I
flung it out of the two pair of stairs window." For the rest, this
diverting biography contains some excellent warnings against the vice
of gambling; with a particular account of the manner in which the
Government of the day tried by statute after statute to suppress the
tables at Tunbridge and Bath, thereby only driving the sharpers to new
subterfuges. That the Beau was in alliance with sharpers, or, at
least, that he was a sleeping partner in the firm, his biographer
admits; but it is urged on his behalf that he was the most generous of
winners, and again and again interfered to prevent the ruin of some
gambler by whose folly he would himself have profited. His constant
charity was well known; the money so lightly come by was at the
disposal of any one who could prefer a piteous tale. Moreover he made
no scruple about exacting from others that charity which they could
well afford. One may easily guess who was the duchess mentioned in the
following story of Goldsmith's narration:--

     "The sums he gave and collected for the Hospital were great,
     and his manner of doing it was no less admirable. I am told
     that he was once collecting money in Wiltshire's room for
     that purpose, when a lady entered, who is more remarkable
     for her wit than her charity, and not being able to pass by
     him unobserved, she gave him a pat with her fan, and said,
     'You must put down a trifle for me, Nash, for I have no
     money in my pocket.' 'Yes, madam,' says he, 'that I will
     with pleasure, if your grace will tell me when to stop;'
     then taking an handful of guineas out of his pocket, he
     began to tell them into his white hat--' One, two, three,
     four, five ----' 'Hold, hold!' says the duchess, 'consider
     what you are about.' 'Consider your rank and fortune,
     madam,' says Nash, and continues telling--'six, seven,
     eight, nine, ten.' Here the duchess called again, and seemed
     angry. 'Pray compose yourself, madam,' cried Nash, 'and
     don't interrupt the work of charity,--eleven, twelve,
     thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.' Here the duchess stormed, and
     caught hold of his hand. 'Peace, madam,' says Nash, 'you
     shall have your name written in letters of gold, madam, and
     upon the front of the building, madam,--sixteen, seventeen,
     eighteen, nineteen, twenty.' 'I won't pay a farthing more,'
     says the duchess. 'Charity hides a multitude of sins,'
     replies Nash,--'twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three,
     twenty-four, twenty-five.' 'Nash,' says she, 'I protest you
     frighten me out of my wits. L--d, I shall die!' 'Madam, you
     will never die with doing good; and if you do, it will be
     the better for you,' answered Nash, and was about to
     proceed; but perceiving her grace had lost all patience, a
     parley ensued, when he, after much altercation, agreed to
     stop his hand and compound with her grace for thirty
     guineas. The duchess, however, seemed displeased the whole
     evening, and when he came to the table where she was
     playing, bid him, 'Stand farther, an ugly devil, for she
     hated the sight of him.' But her grace afterwards having a
     run of good luck, called Nash to her. 'Come,' says she, 'I
     will be friends with you, though you are a fool; and to let
     you see I am not angry, there is ten guineas more for your
     charity. But this I insist on, that neither my name nor the
     sum shall be mentioned.'"

At the ripe age of eighty-seven the "beau of three generations"
breathed his last (1761); and, though he had fallen into poor ways,
there were those alive who remembered his former greatness, and who
chronicled it in a series of epitaphs and poetical lamentations. "One
thing is common almost with all of them," says Goldsmith, "and that is
that Venus, Cupid, and the Graces are commanded to weep, and that Bath
shall never find such another." These effusions are forgotten now; and
so would Beau Nash be also, but for this biography, which, no doubt
meant merely for the book-market of the day, lives and is of permanent
value by reason of the charm of its style, its pervading humour, and
the vivacity of its descriptions of the fashionable follies of the
eighteenth century. _Nullum fere genus scribendi non tetigit. Nullum
quod tetigit non ornavit._ Who but Goldsmith could have written so
delightful a book about such a poor creature as Beau Nash?



CHAPTER VIII.

The Arrest.


It was no doubt owing to Newbery that Goldsmith, after his return to
London, was induced to abandon, temporarily or altogether, his
apartments in Wine Office Court, and take lodgings in the house of a
Mrs. Fleming, who lived somewhere or other in Islington. Newbery had
rooms in Canonbury House, a curious old building that still exists;
and it may have occurred to the publisher that Goldsmith, in this
suburban district, would not only be nearer him for consultation and
so forth, but also might pay more attention to his duties than when he
was among the temptations of Fleet Street. Goldsmith was working
industriously in the service of Newbery at this time (1763-4); in
fact, so completely was the bookseller in possession of the hack, that
Goldsmith's board and lodging in Mrs. Fleming's house, arranged for at
£50 a year, was paid by Newbery himself. Writing prefaces, revising
new editions, contributing reviews--this was the sort of work he
undertook, with more or less content, as the equivalent of the modest
sums Mr. Newbery disbursed for him or handed over as pocket-money. In
the midst of all this drudgery he was now secretly engaged on work
that aimed at something higher than mere payment of bed and board.
The smooth lines of the _Traveller_ were receiving further polish; the
gentle-natured _Vicar_ was writing his simple, quaint, tender story.
And no doubt Goldsmith was spurred to try something better than
hack-work by the associations that he was now forming, chiefly under
the wise and benevolent friendship of Johnson.

Anxious always to be thought well of, he was now beginning to meet
people whose approval was worthy of being sought. He had been
introduced to Reynolds. He had become the friend of Hogarth. He had
even made the acquaintance of Mr. Boswell, from Scotland. Moreover, he
had been invited to become one of the original members of the famous
Club of which so much has been written; his fellow-members being
Reynolds, Johnson, Burke, Hawkins, Beauclerk, Bennet Langton, and Dr.
Nugent. It is almost certain that it was at Johnson's instigation that
he had been admitted into this choice fellowship. Long before either
the _Traveller_ or the _Vicar_ had been heard of, Johnson had
perceived the literary genius that obscurely burned in the uncouth
figure of this Irishman; and was anxious to impress on others
Goldsmith's claims to respect and consideration. In the minute record
kept by Boswell of his first evening with Johnson at the Mitre Tavern,
we find Johnson saying, "Dr. Goldsmith is one of the first men we now
have as an author, and he is a very worthy man too. He has been loose
in his principles, but he is coming right." Johnson took walks with
Goldsmith; did him the honour of disputing with him on all occasions;
bought a copy of the _Life of Nash_ when it appeared--an unusual
compliment for one author to pay another, in their day or in ours;
allowed him to call on Miss Williams, the blind old lady in Bolt
Court; and generally was his friend, counsellor, and champion.
Accordingly, when Mr. Boswell entertained the great Cham to supper at
the Mitre--a sudden quarrel with his landlord having made it
impossible for him to order the banquet at his own house--he was
careful to have Dr. Goldsmith of the company. His guests that evening
were Johnson, Goldsmith, Davies (the actor and bookseller who had
conferred on Boswell the invaluable favour of an introduction to
Johnson), Mr. Eccles, and the Rev. Mr. Ogilvie, a Scotch poet who
deserves our gratitude because it was his inopportune patriotism that
provoked, on this very evening, the memorable epigram about the
high-road leading to England. "Goldsmith," says Boswell, who had not
got over his envy at Goldsmith's being allowed to visit the blind old
pensioner in Bolt-court, "as usual, endeavoured with too much
eagerness to _shine_, and disputed very warmly with Johnson against
the well-known maxim of the British constitution, 'The king can do no
wrong.'" It was a dispute not so much about facts as about
phraseology; and, indeed, there seems to be no great warmth in the
expressions used on either side. Goldsmith affirmed that "what was
morally false could not be politically true;" and that, in short, the
king could by the misuse of his regal power do wrong. Johnson replied,
that, in such a case, the immediate agents of the king were the
persons to be tried and punished for the offence. "The king, though he
should command, cannot force a judge to condemn a man unjustly;
therefore it is the judge whom we prosecute and punish." But when he
stated that the king "is above everything, and there is no power by
which he can be tried," he was surely forgetting an important chapter
in English history. "What did Cromwell do for his country?" he himself
asked, during his subsequent visit to Scotland, of old Auchinleck,
Boswell's father. "God, Doctor," replied the vile Whig, "_he garred
kings ken they had a lith in their necks_."

For some time after this evening Goldsmith drops out of Boswell's
famous memoir; perhaps the compiler was not anxious to give him too
much prominence. They had not liked each other from the outset.
Boswell, vexed by the greater intimacy of Goldsmith with Johnson,
called him a blunderer, a feather-brained person; and described his
appearance in no flattering terms. Goldsmith, on the other hand, on
being asked who was this Scotch cur that followed Johnson's heels,
answered, "He is not a cur: you are too severe--he is only a bur. Tom
Davies flung him at Johnson in sport, and he has the faculty of
sticking." Boswell would probably have been more tolerant of Goldsmith
as a rival, if he could have known that on a future day he was to have
Johnson all to himself--to carry him to remote wilds and exhibit him
as a portentous literary phenomenon to Highland lairds. It is true
that Johnson, at an early period of his acquaintance with Boswell, did
talk vaguely about a trip to the Hebrides; but the young Scotch
idolater thought it was all too good to be true. The mention of Sir
James Macdonald, says Boswell, "led us to talk of the Western Islands
of Scotland, to visit which he expressed a wish that then appeared to
me a very romantic fancy, which I little thought would be afterwards
realised. He told me that his father had put Martin's account of
those islands into his hands when he was very young, and that he was
highly pleased with it; that he was particularly struck with the St.
Kilda man's notion that the high church of Glasgow had been hollowed
out of a rock; a circumstance to which old Mr. Johnson had directed
his attention." Unfortunately Goldsmith not only disappears from the
pages of Boswell's biography at this time, but also in great measure
from the ken of his companions. He was deeply in debt; no doubt the
fine clothes he had been ordering from Mr. Filby in order that he
might "shine" among those notable persons, had something to do with
it; he had tried the patience of the booksellers; and he had been
devoting a good deal of time to work not intended to elicit immediate
payment. The most patient endeavours to trace out his changes of
lodgings, and the fugitive writings that kept him in daily bread, have
not been very successful. It is to be presumed that Goldsmith had
occasionally to go into hiding to escape from his creditors; and so
was missed from his familiar haunts. We only reach daylight again, to
find Goldsmith being under threat of arrest from his landlady; and for
the particulars of this famous affair it is necessary to return to
Boswell.

Boswell was not in London at that time; but his account was taken down
subsequently from Johnson's narration; and his accuracy in other
matters, his extraordinary memory, and scrupulous care, leave no doubt
in the mind that his version of the story is to be preferred to those
of Mrs. Piozzi and Sir John Hawkins. We may take it that these are
Johnson's own words:-- "I received one morning a message from poor
Goldsmith that he was in great distress, and, as it was not in his
power to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as
possible. I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I
accordingly went as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady
had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion. I
perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had got a bottle
of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle,
desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by
which he might be extricated. He then told me that he had a novel
ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it, and
saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon return; and, having
gone to a bookseller, sold it for £60. I brought Goldsmith the money,
and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high
tone for having used him so ill."

We do not know who this landlady was--it cannot now be made out
whether the incident occurred at Islington, or in the rooms that
Goldsmith partially occupied in the Temple; but even if Mrs. Fleming
be the landlady in question, she was deserving neither of Goldsmith's
rating nor of the reprimands that have been bestowed upon her by later
writers. Mrs. Fleming had been exceedingly kind to Goldsmith. Again
and again in her bills we find items significantly marked £0 0_s._
0_d._ And if her accounts with her lodger did get hopelessly into
arrear; and if she was annoyed by seeing him go out in fine clothes to
sup at the Mitre; and if, at length, her patience gave way, and she
determined to have her rights in one way or another, she was no worse
than landladies--who are only human beings, and not divinely appointed
protectresses of genius--ordinarily are. Mrs. Piozzi says that when
Johnson came back with the money, Goldsmith "called the woman of the
house directly to partake of punch, and pass their time in merriment."
This would be a dramatic touch; but, after Johnson's quietly corking
the bottle of Madeira, it is more likely that no such thing occurred;
especially as Boswell quotes the statement as an "extreme inaccuracy."

The novel which Johnson had taken away and sold to Francis Newbery, a
nephew of the elder bookseller, was, as every one knows, the _Vicar of
Wakefield_. That Goldsmith, amidst all his pecuniary distresses,
should have retained this piece in his desk, instead of pawning or
promising it to one of his bookselling patrons, points to but one
conclusion--that he was building high hopes on it, and was determined
to make it as good as lay within his power. Goldsmith put an anxious
finish into all his better work; perhaps that is the secret of the
graceful ease that is now apparent in every line. Any young writer who
may imagine that the power of clear and concise literary expression
comes by nature, cannot do better than study, in Mr. Cunningham's big
collection of Goldsmith's writings, the continual and minute
alterations which the author considered necessary even after the first
edition--sometimes when the second and third editions--had been
published. Many of these, especially in the poetical works, were
merely improvements in sound as suggested by a singularly sensitive
ear, as when he altered the line

    "Amidst the ruin, heedless of the dead,"

which had appeared in the first three editions of the _Traveller_,
into

    "There in the ruin, heedless of the dead,"

which appeared in the fourth. But the majority of the omissions and
corrections were prompted by a careful taste, that abhorred everything
redundant or slovenly. It has been suggested that when Johnson carried
off the _Vicar of Wakefield_ to Francis Newbery, the manuscript was
not quite finished, but had to be completed afterwards. There was at
least plenty of time for that. Newbery does not appear to have
imagined that he had obtained a prize in the lottery of literature. He
paid the £60 for it--clearly on the assurance of the great father of
learning of the day, that there was merit in the little
story--somewhere about the end of 1764; but the tale was not issued to
the public until March, 1766. "And, sir," remarked Johnson to Boswell,
with regard to the sixty pounds, "a sufficient price too, when it was
sold; for then the fame of Goldsmith had not been elevated, as it
afterwards was, by his _Traveller_; and the bookseller had such faint
hopes of profit by his bargain, that he kept the manuscript by him a
long time, and did not publish it till after the _Traveller_ had
appeared. Then, to be sure, it was accidentally worth more money."



CHAPTER IX.

THE TRAVELLER.


This poem of the _Traveller_, the fruit of much secret labour and the
consummation of the hopes of many years, was lying completed in
Goldsmith's desk when the incident of the arrest occurred; and the
elder Newbery had undertaken to publish it. Then, as at other times,
Johnson lent this wayward child of genius a friendly hand. He read
over the proof-sheets for Goldsmith; was so kind as to put in a line
here or there where he thought fit; and prepared a notice of the poem
for the _Critical Review_. The time for the appearance of this new
claimant for poetical honours was propitious. "There was perhaps no
point in the century," says Professor Masson, "when the British Muse,
such as she had come to be, was doing less, or had so nearly ceased to
do anything, or to have any good opinion of herself, as precisely
about the year 1764. Young was dying; Gray was recluse and indolent;
Johnson had long given over his metrical experimentations on any
except the most inconsiderable scale; Akenside, Armstrong, Smollett,
and others less known, had pretty well revealed the amount of their
worth in poetry; and Churchill, after his ferocious blaze of what was
really rage and declamation in metre, though conventionally it was
called poetry, was prematurely defunct. Into this lull came
Goldsmith's short but carefully finished poem." "There has not been so
fine a poem since Pope's time," remarked Johnson to Boswell, on the
very first evening after the return of young Auchinleck to London. It
would have been no matter for surprise had Goldsmith dedicated this
first work that he published under his own name to Johnson, who had
for so long been his constant friend and adviser; and such a
dedication would have carried weight in certain quarters. But there
was a finer touch in Goldsmith's thought of inscribing the book to his
brother Henry; and no doubt the public were surprised and pleased to
find a poor devil of an author dedicating a work to an Irish parson
with £40 a year, from whom he could not well expect any return. It
will be remembered that it was to this brother Henry that Goldsmith,
ten years before, had sent the first sketch of the poem; and now the
wanderer,

    "Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow."

declares how his heart untravelled

    "Still to my brother turns, with ceaseless pain,
    And drags at each remove a lengthening chain."

The very first line of the poem strikes a key-note--there is in it a
pathetic thrill of distance, and regret, and longing; and it has the
soft musical sound that pervades the whole composition. It is
exceedingly interesting to note, as has already been mentioned, how
Goldsmith altered and altered these lines until he had got them full
of gentle vowel sounds. Where, indeed, in the English language could
one find more graceful melody than this?--

    "The naked negro, panting at the line,
    Boasts of his golden sands and palmy wine,
    Basks in the glare, or stems the tepid wave,
    And thanks his gods for all the good they gave."

It has been observed also that Goldsmith was the first to introduce
into English poetry sonorous American--or rather Indian--names, as
when he writes in this poem,

    "Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around,
    And Niagara stuns with thundering sound,"

--and if it be charged against him that he ought to have known the
proper accentuation of Niagara, it may be mentioned as a set-off that
Sir Walter Scott, in dealing with his own country, mis-accentuated
"Glenaládale," to say nothing of his having made of Roseneath an
island. Another characteristic of the _Traveller_ is the extraordinary
choiceness and conciseness of the diction, which, instead of
suggesting pedantry or affectation, betrays on the contrary nothing
but a delightful ease and grace.

The English people are very fond of good English; and thus it is that
couplets from the _Traveller_ and the _Deserted Village_ have come
into the common stock of our language, and that sometimes not so much
on account of the ideas they convey, as through their singular
precision of epithet and musical sound. It is enough to make the
angels weep, to find such a couplet as this--

    "Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose,
    Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes,"

murdered in several editions of Goldsmith's works by the substitution
of the commonplace "breathes" for "breasts"--and that, after Johnson
had drawn particular attention to the line by quoting it in his
Dictionary. Perhaps, indeed, it may be admitted that the literary
charm of the _Traveller_ is more apparent than the value of any
doctrine, however profound or ingenious, which the poem was supposed
to inculcate. We forget all about the "particular principle of
happiness" possessed by each European state, in listening to the
melody of the singer, and in watching the successive and delightful
pictures that he calls up before the imagination.

    "As in those domes where Cæsars once bore sway,
    Defaced by time, and tottering in decay,
    There in the ruin, heedless of the dead,
    The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed;
    And, wondering man could want the larger pile,
    Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile."

Then notice the blaze of patriotic idealism that bursts forth when he
comes to talk of England. What sort of England had he been familiar
with when he was consorting with the meanest wretches--the poverty
stricken, the sick, and squalid--in those Fleet-Street dens? But it is
an England of bright streams and spacious lawns of which he writes;
and as for the people who inhabit the favoured land--

    "Stern o'er each bosom reason holds her state,
    With daring aims irregularly great;
    Pride in their port, defiance in their eye,
    I see the lords of human kind pass by."

"Whenever I write anything," Goldsmith had said, with a humorous
exaggeration which Boswell, as usual, takes _au sérieux_, "the public
_make a point_ to know nothing about it." But we have Johnson's
testimony to the fact that the _Traveller_ "brought him into high
reputation." No wonder. When the great Cham declares it to be the
finest poem published since the time of Pope, we are irresistibly
forced to think of the _Essay on Man_. What a contrast there is
between that tedious and stilted effort, and this clear burst of
bird-song! The _Traveller_, however, did not immediately become
popular. It was largely talked about, naturally, among Goldsmith's
friends; and Johnson would scarcely suffer any criticism of it. At a
dinner given long afterwards at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, and fully
reported by the invaluable Boswell, Reynolds remarked, "I was glad to
hear Charles Fox say it was one of the finest poems in the English
language." "Why were you glad?" said Langton. "You surely had no doubt
of this before?" Hereupon Johnson struck in: "No; the merit of the
_Traveller_ is so well established, that Mr. Fox's praise cannot
augment it, nor his censure diminish it." And he went on to
say--Goldsmith having died and got beyond the reach of all critics and
creditors some three or four years before this time "Goldsmith was a
man who, whatever he wrote, did it better than any other man could do.
He deserved a place in Westminster Abbey; and every year he lived
would have deserved it better."

Presently people began to talk about the new poem. A second edition
was issued; a third; a fourth. It is not probable that Goldsmith
gained any pecuniary benefit from the growing popularity of the little
book; but he had "struck for honest fame," and that was now coming to
him. He even made some slight acquaintance with "the great;" and here
occurs an incident which is one of many that account for the love that
the English people have for Goldsmith. It appears that Hawkins,
calling one day on the Earl of Northumberland, found the author of the
_Traveller_ waiting in the outer room, in response to an invitation.
Hawkins, having finished his own business, retired, but lingered about
until the interview between Goldsmith and his lordship was over,
having some curiosity about the result. Here follows Goldsmith's
report to Hawkins. "His lordship told me he had read my poem, and was
much delighted with it; that he was going to be Lord-lieutenant of
Ireland; and that, hearing that I was a native of that country, he
should be glad to do me any kindness." "What did you answer?" says
Hawkins, no doubt expecting to hear of some application for pension or
post. "Why," said Goldsmith, "I could say nothing but that I had a
brother there, a clergyman, that stood in need of help,"--and then he
explained to Hawkins that he looked to the booksellers for support,
and was not inclined to place dependence on the promises of great men.
"Thus did this idiot in the affairs of the world," adds Hawkins, with
a fatuity that is quite remarkable in its way, "trifle with his
fortunes, and put back the hand that was held out to assist him! Other
offers of a like kind he either rejected or failed to improve,
contenting himself with the patronage of one nobleman, whose mansion
afforded him the delights of a splendid table and a retreat for a few
days from the metropolis." It is a great pity we have not a
description from the same pen of Johnson's insolent ingratitude in
flinging the pair of boots down stairs.



CHAPTER X.

MISCELLANEOUS WRITING.


But one pecuniary result of this growing fame was a joint offer on the
part of Griffin and Newbery of £20 for a selection from his printed
essays; and this selection was forthwith made and published, with a
preface written for the occasion. Here at once we can see that
Goldsmith takes firmer ground. There is an air of confidence--of
gaiety, even--in his address to the public; although, as usual,
accompanied by a whimsical mock-modesty that is extremely odd and
effective. "Whatever right I have to complain of the public," he says,
"they can, as yet, have no just reason to complain of me. If I have
written dull Essays, they have hitherto treated them as dull Essays.
Thus far we are at least upon par, and until they think fit to make me
their humble debtor by praise, I am resolved not to lose a single inch
of my self-importance. Instead, therefore, of attempting to establish
a credit amongst them, it will perhaps be wiser to apply to some more
distant correspondent; and as my drafts are in some danger of being
protested at home, it may not be imprudent, upon this occasion, to
draw my bills upon Posterity.

     "MR. POSTERITY,

     "SIR,--Nine hundred and ninety-nine years after sight hereof
     pay the bearer, or order, a thousand pounds worth of praise,
     free from all deductions whatsoever, it being a commodity
     that will then be very serviceable to him, and place it to
     the account of, &c."

The bill is not yet due; but there can in the meantime be no harm in
discounting it so far as to say that these Essays deserve very decided
praise. They deal with all manner of topics, matters of fact, matters
of imagination, humorous descriptions, learned criticisms; and then,
whenever the entertainer thinks he is becoming dull, he suddenly tells
a quaint little story and walks off amidst the laughter he knows he
has produced. It is not a very ambitious or sonorous sort of
literature; but it was admirably fitted for its aim--the passing of
the immediate hour in an agreeable and fairly intellectual way. One
can often see, no doubt, that these Essays are occasionally written in
a more or less perfunctory fashion, the writer not being moved by much
enthusiasm in his subject; but even then a quaint literary grace
seldom fails to atone, as when, writing about the English clergy, and
complaining that they do not sufficiently in their addresses stoop to
mean capacities, he says--"Whatever may become of the higher orders of
mankind, who are generally possessed of collateral motives to virtue,
the vulgar should be particularly regarded, whose behaviour in civil
life is totally hinged upon their hopes and fears. Those who
constitute the basis of the great fabric of society should be
particularly regarded; for in policy, as in architecture, ruin is most
fatal when it begins from the bottom." There was, indeed, throughout
Goldsmith's miscellaneous writing much more common sense than might
have been expected from a writer who was supposed to have none.

As regards his chance criticisms on dramatic and poetical literature,
these are generally found to be incisive and just; while sometimes
they exhibit a wholesome disregard of mere tradition and authority.
"Milton's translation of Horace's Ode to Pyrrha," he says, for
example, "is universally known and generally admired, in our opinion
much above its merit." If the present writer might for a moment
venture into such an arena, he would express the honest belief that
that translation is the very worst translation that was ever made of
anything. But there is the happy rendering of _simplex munditiis_,
which counts for much.

By this time Goldsmith had also written his charming ballad of _Edwin
and Angelina_, which was privately "printed for the amusement of the
Countess of Northumberland," and which afterwards appeared in the
_Vicar of Wakefield_. It seems clear enough that this quaint and
pathetic piece was suggested by an old ballad beginning,

    "Gentle heardsman, tell to me,
    Of curtesy I thee pray,
    Unto the towne of Walsingham
    Which is the right and ready way,"

which Percy had shown to Goldsmith, and which, patched up,
subsequently appeared in the _Reliques_. But Goldsmith's ballad is
original enough to put aside all the discussion about plagiarism which
was afterwards started. In the old fragment the weeping pilgrim
receives directions from the herdsman, and goes on her way, and we
hear of her no more; in _Edwin and Angelina_ the forlorn and
despairing maiden suddenly finds herself confronted by the long-lost
lover whom she had so cruelly used. This is the dramatic touch that
reveals the hand of the artist. And here again it is curious to note
the care with which Goldsmith repeatedly revised his writings. The
ballad originally ended with these two stanzas:--

    "Here amidst sylvan bowers we'll rove,
    From lawn to woodland stray;
    Blest as the songsters of the grove,
    And innocent as they.

    "To all that want, and all that wail,
    Our pity shall be given,
    And when this life of love shall fail,
    We'll love again in heaven."

But subsequently it must have occurred to the author that, the
dramatic disclosure once made, and the lovers restored to each other,
any lingering over the scene only weakened the force of the climax;
hence these stanzas were judiciously excised. It may be doubted,
however, whether the original version of the last couplet:

    "And the last sigh that rends the heart
    Shall break thy Edwin's too,"

was improved by being altered into

    "The sigh that rends thy constant heart
    Shall break thy Edwin's too."

Meanwhile Goldsmith had resorted to hack-work again; nothing being
expected from the _Vicar of Wakefield_, now lying in Newbery's shop,
for that had been paid for, and his expenses were increasing, as
became his greater station. In the interval between the publication of
the _Traveller_ and of the _Vicar_, he moved into better chambers in
Garden Court; he hired a man-servant, he blossomed out into very fine
clothes. Indeed, so effective did his first suit seem to be--the
purple silk small-clothes, the scarlet roquelaure, the wig, sword, and
gold-headed cane--that, as Mr. Forster says, he "amazed his friends
with no less than three similar suits, not less expensive, in the next
six months." Part of this display was no doubt owing to a suggestion
from Reynolds that Goldsmith, having a medical degree, might just as
well add the practice of a physician to his literary work, to magnify
his social position. Goldsmith, always willing to please his friends,
acceded; but his practice does not appear to have been either
extensive or long-continued. It is said that he drew out a
prescription for a certain Mrs. Sidebotham which so appalled the
apothecary that he refused to make it up; and that, as the lady sided
with the apothecary, he threw up the case and his profession at the
same time. If it was money Goldsmith wanted, he was not likely to get
it in that way; he had neither the appearance nor the manner fitted to
humour the sick and transform healthy people into valetudinarians. If
it was the esteem of his friends and popularity outside that circle,
he was soon to acquire enough of both. On the 27th March, 1766,
fifteen months after the appearance of the _Traveller_, the _Vicar of
Wakefield_ was published.



CHAPTER XI.

THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD.


The _Vicar of Wakefield_, considered structurally, follows the lines
of the Book of Job. You take a good man, overwhelm him with successive
misfortunes, show the pure flame of his soul burning in the midst of
the darkness, and then, as the reward of his patience and fortitude
and submission, restore him gradually to happiness, with even larger
flocks and herds than before. The machinery by which all this is
brought about is, in the _Vicar of Wakefield_, the weak part of the
story. The plot is full of wild improbabilities; in fact, the
expedients by which all the members of the family are brought together
and made happy at the same time, are nothing short of desperate. It is
quite clear, too, that the author does not know what to make of the
episode of Olivia and her husband; they are allowed to drop through;
we leave him playing the French horn at a relation's house; while she,
in her father's home, is supposed to be unnoticed, so much are they
all taken up with the rejoicings over the double wedding. It is very
probable that when Goldsmith began the story he had no very definite
plot concocted; and that it was only when the much-persecuted Vicar
had to be restored to happiness, that he found the entanglements
surrounding him, and had to make frantic efforts to break through
them. But, be that as it may, it is not for the plot that people now
read the _Vicar of Wakefield_; it is not the intricacies of the story
that have made it the delight of the world. Surely human nature must
be very much the same when this simple description of a quiet English
home went straight to the heart of nations in both hemispheres.

And the wonder is that Goldsmith of all men should have produced such
a perfect picture of domestic life. What had his own life been but a
moving about between garret and tavern, between bachelor's lodgings
and clubs? Where had he seen--unless, indeed, he looked back through
the mist of years to the scenes of his childhood--all this gentle
government, and wise blindness; all this affection, and consideration,
and respect? There is as much human nature in the character of the
Vicar alone as would have furnished any fifty of the novels of that
day, or of this. Who has not been charmed by his sly and quaint
humour, by his moral dignity and simple vanities, even by the little
secrets he reveals to us of his paternal rule. "'Ay,' returned I, not
knowing well what to think of the matter, 'heaven grant they may be
both the better for it this day three months!' This was one of those
observations I usually made to impress my wife with an opinion of my
sagacity; for if the girls succeeded, then it was a pious wish
fulfilled; but if anything unfortunate ensued, then it might be looked
on as a prophecy." We know how Miss Olivia was answered, when, at her
mother's prompting, she set up for being well skilled in
controversy:--

"'Why, my dear, what controversy can she have read?' cried I. 'It does
not occur to me that I ever put such books into her hands: you
certainly overrate her merit.'--'Indeed, papa,' replied Olivia, 'she
does not; I have read a great deal of controversy. I have read the
disputes between Thwackum and Square; the controversy between Robinson
Crusoe and Friday, the savage; and I am now employed in reading the
controversy in Religious Courtship.'--'Very well,' cried I, 'that's a
good girl; I find you are perfectly qualified for making converts, and
so go help your mother to make the gooseberry pie.'"

It is with a great gentleness that the good man reminds his wife and
daughters that, after their sudden loss of fortune, it does not become
them to wear much finery. "The first Sunday, in particular, their
behaviour served to mortify me. I had desired my girls the preceding
night to be dressed early the next day; for I always loved to be at
church a good while before the rest of the congregation. They
punctually obeyed my directions; but when we were to assemble in the
morning at breakfast, down came my wife and daughters, dressed out in
all their former splendour; their hair plastered up with pomatum,
their faces patched to taste, their trains bundled up in a heap
behind, and rustling at every motion. I could not help smiling at
their vanity, particularly that of my wife, from whom I expected more
discretion. In this exigence, therefore, my only resource was to order
my son, with an important air, to call our coach. The girls were
amazed at the command; but I repeated it with more solemnity than
before. 'Surely, my dear, you jest,' cried my wife; 'we can walk it
perfectly well: we want no coach to carry us now.'--'You mistake,
child,' returned I, 'we do want a coach; for if we walk to church in
this trim, the very children in the parish will hoot after
us.'--'Indeed,' replied my wife, 'I always imagined that my Charles
was fond of seeing his children neat and handsome about him.'--'You
may be as neat as you please,' interrupted I, 'and I shall love you
the better for it; but all this is not neatness, but frippery. These
rufflings, and pinkings, and patchings will only make us hated by all
the wives of our neighbours. No, my children,' continued I, more
gravely, 'those gowns may be altered into something of a plainer cut;
for finery is very unbecoming in us, who want the means of decency. I
do not know whether such flouncing and shredding is becoming even in
the rich, if we consider, upon a moderate calculation, that the
nakedness of the indigent world might be clothed from the trimmings of
the vain.'

"This remonstrance had the proper effect: they went with great
composure, that very instant, to change their dress; and the next day
I had the satisfaction of finding my daughters, at their own request,
employed in cutting up their trains into Sunday waistcoats for Dick
and Bill, the two little ones; and, what was still more satisfactory,
the gowns seemed improved by this curtailing." And again when he
discovered the two girls making a wash for their faces:--"My daughters
seemed equally busy with the rest; and I observed them for a good
while cooking something over the fire. I at first supposed they were
assisting their mother, but little Dick informed me, in a whisper,
that they were making a wash for the face. Washes of all kinds I had a
natural antipathy to; for I knew that, instead of mending the
complexion, they spoil it. I therefore approached my chair by sly
degrees to the fire, and grasping the poker, as if it wanted mending,
seemingly by accident overturned the whole composition, and it was too
late to begin another."

All this is done with such a light, homely touch, that one gets
familiarly to know these people without being aware of it. There is no
insistance. There is no dragging you along by the collar; confronting
you with certain figures; and compelling you to look at this and study
that. The artist stands by you, and laughs in his quiet way; and you
are laughing too, when suddenly you find that human beings have
silently come into the void before you; and you know them for friends;
and even after the vision has faded away, and the beautiful light and
colour and glory of romance-land have vanished, you cannot forget
them. They have become part of your life; you will take them to the
grave with you.

The story, as every one perceives, has its obvious blemishes. "There
are an hundred faults in this Thing," says Goldsmith himself, in the
prefixed Advertisement. But more particularly, in the midst of all the
impossibilities taking place in and around the jail, when that
chameleon-like _deus ex machinâ_, Mr. Jenkinson, winds up the tale in
hot haste, Goldsmith pauses to put in a sort of apology. "Nor can I go
on without a reflection," he says gravely, "on those accidental
meetings, which, though they happen every day, seldom excite our
surprise but upon some extraordinary occasion. To what a fortuitous
concurrence do we not owe every pleasure and convenience of our lives!
How many seeming accidents must unite before we can be clothed or fed!
The peasant must be disposed to labour, the shower must fall, the wind
fill the merchant's sail, or numbers must want the usual supply." This
is Mr. Thackeray's "simple rogue" appearing again in adult life.
Certainly, if our supply of food and clothing depended on such
accidents as happened to make the Vicar's family happy all at once,
there would be a good deal of shivering and starvation in the world.
Moreover it may be admitted that on occasion Goldsmith's fine instinct
deserts him; and even in describing those domestic relations which are
the charm of the novel, he blunders into the unnatural. When Mr.
Burchell, for example, leaves the house in consequence of a quarrel
with Mrs. Primrose, the Vicar questions his daughter as to whether she
had received from that poor gentleman any testimony of his affection
for her. She replies No; but remembers to have heard him remark that
he never knew a woman who could find merit in a man that was poor.
"Such, my dear," continued the Vicar, "is the common cant of all the
unfortunate or idle. But I hope you have been taught to judge properly
of such men, and that it would be even madness to expect happiness
from one who has been so very bad an economist of his own. Your mother
and I have now better prospects for you. The next winter, which you
will probably spend in town, will give you opportunities of making a
more prudent choice." Now it is not at all likely that a father,
however anxious to have his daughter well married and settled, would
ask her so delicate a question in open domestic circle, and would then
publicly inform her that she was expected to choose a husband on her
forthcoming visit to town.

Whatever may be said about any particular incident like this, the
atmosphere of the book is true. Goethe, to whom a German translation
of the _Vicar_ was read by Herder some four years after the
publication in England, not only declared it at the time to be one of
the best novels ever written, but again and again throughout his life
reverted to the charm and delight with which he had made the
acquaintance of the English "prose-idyll," and took it for granted
that it was a real picture of English life. Despite all the machinery
of Mr. Jenkinson's schemes, who could doubt it? Again and again there
are recurrent strokes of such vividness and naturalness that we yield
altogether to the necromancer. Look at this perfect picture--of human
emotion and outside nature--put in in a few sentences. The old
clergyman, after being in search of his daughter, has found her, and
is now--having left her in an inn--returning to his family and his
home. "And now my heart caught new sensations of pleasure, the nearer
I approached that peaceful mansion. As a bird that had been frighted
from its nest, my affections outwent my haste, and hovered round my
little fireside with all the rapture of expectation. I called up the
many fond things I had to say, and anticipated the welcome I was to
receive. I already felt my wife's tender embrace, and smiled at the
joy of my little ones. As I walked but slowly, the night waned apace.
The labourers of the day were all retired to rest; the lights were
out in every cottage; no sounds were heard but of the shrilling cock,
and the deep-mouthed watch-dog at hollow distance. I approached my
little abode of pleasure, and, before I was within a furlong of the
place, our honest mastiff came running to welcome me." "_The
deep-mouthed watch-dog at hollow distance_;"--what more perfect
description of the stillness of night was ever given?

And then there are other qualities in this delightful _Vicar of
Wakefield_ than merely idyllic tenderness, and pathos, and sly humour.
There is a firm presentation of the crimes and brutalities of the
world. The pure light that shines within that domestic circle is all
the brighter because of the black outer ring that is here and there
indicated rather than described. How could we appreciate all the
simplicities of the good man's household, but for the rogueries with
which they are brought in contact? And although we laugh at Moses and
his gross of green spectacles, and the manner in which the Vicar's
wife and daughter are imposed on by Miss Wilhelmina Skeggs and Lady
Blarney, with their lords and ladies and their tributes to virtue,
there is no laughter demanded of us when we find the simplicity and
moral dignity of the Vicar meeting and beating the jeers and taunts of
the abandoned wretches in the prison. This is really a remarkable
episode. The author was under the obvious temptation to make much
comic material out of the situation; while another temptation, towards
the goody-goody side, was not far off. But the Vicar undertakes the
duty of reclaiming these castaways with a modest patience and
earnestness in every way in keeping with his character; while they, on
the other hand, are not too easily moved to tears of repentance. His
first efforts, it will be remembered, were not too successful. "Their
insensibility excited my highest compassion, and blotted my own
uneasiness from my mind. It even appeared a duty incumbent upon me to
attempt to reclaim them. I resolved, therefore, once more to return,
and, in spite of their contempt, to give them my advice, and conquer
them by my perseverance. Going, therefore, among them again, I
informed Mr. Jenkinson of my design, at which he laughed heartily, but
communicated it to the rest. The proposal was received with the
greatest good humour, as it promised to afford a new fund of
entertainment to persons who had now no other resource for mirth but
what could be derived from ridicule or debauchery.

"I therefore read them a portion of the service with a loud,
unaffected voice, and found my audience perfectly merry upon the
occasion. Lewd whispers, groans of contrition burlesqued, winking and
coughing, alternately excited laughter. However, I continued with my
natural solemnity to read on, sensible that what I did might mend
some, but could itself receive no contamination from any.

"After reading, I entered upon my exhortation, which was rather
calculated at first to amuse them than to reprove. I previously
observed, that no other motive but their welfare could induce me to
this; that I was their fellow-prisoner, and now got nothing by
preaching. I was sorry, I said, to hear them so very profane; because
they got nothing by it, but might lose a great deal: 'For be assured,
my friends,' cried I,--'for you are my friends, however the world may
disclaim your friendship,--though you swore twelve thousand oaths in
a day, it would not put one penny in your purse. Then what signifies
calling every moment upon the devil, and courting his friendship,
since you find how scurvily he uses you? He has given you nothing
here, you find, but a mouthful of oaths and an empty belly; and, by
the best accounts I have of him, he will give you nothing that's good
hereafter.

"'If used ill in our dealings with one man, we naturally go elsewhere.
Were it not worth your while, then, just to try how you may like the
usage of another master, who gives you fair promises at least to come
to him? Surely, my friends, of all stupidity in the world, his must be
the greatest, who, after robbing a house, runs to the thief-takers for
protection. And yet, how are you more wise? You are all seeking
comfort from one that has already betrayed you, applying to a more
malicious being than any thief-taker of them all; for they only decoy
and then hang you; but he decoys and hangs, and, what is worst of all,
will not let you loose after the hangman has done.'

"When I had concluded, I received the compliments of my audience, some
of whom came and shook me by the hand, swearing that I was a very
honest fellow, and that they desired my further acquaintance. I
therefore promised to repeat my lecture next day, and actually
conceived some hopes of making a reformation here; for it had ever
been my opinion, that no man was past the hour of amendment, every
heart lying open to the shafts of reproof, if the archer could but
take a proper aim."

His wife and children, naturally dissuading him from an effort which
seemed to them only to bring ridicule upon him, are met by a grave
rebuke; and on the next morning he descends to the common prison,
where, he says, he found the prisoners very merry, expecting his
arrival, and each prepared to play some gaol-trick on the Doctor.

"There was one whose trick gave more universal pleasure than all the
rest; for, observing the manner in which I had disposed my books on
the table before me, he very dexterously displaced one of them, and
put an obscene jest-book of his own in the place. However, I took no
notice of all that this mischievous group of little beings could do,
but went on, perfectly sensible that what was ridiculous in my attempt
would excite mirth only the first or second time, while what was
serious would be permanent. My design succeeded, and in less than six
days some were penitent, and all attentive.

"It was now that I applauded my perseverance and address, at thus
giving sensibility to wretches divested of every moral feeling, and
now began to think of doing them temporal services also, by rendering
their situation somewhat more comfortable. Their time had hitherto
been divided between famine and excess, tumultuous riot and bitter
repining. Their only employment was quarrelling among each other,
playing at cribbage, and cutting tobacco-stoppers. From this last mode
of idle industry I took the hint of setting such as choose to work at
cutting pegs for tobacconists and shoemakers, the proper wood being
bought by a general subscription, and, when manufactured, sold by my
appointment; so that each earned something every day--a trifle indeed,
but sufficient to maintain him.

"I did not stop here, but instituted fines for the punishment of
immorality, and rewards for peculiar industry. Thus, in less than a
fortnight I had formed them into something social and humane, and had
the pleasure of regarding myself as a legislator who had brought men
from their native ferocity into friendship and obedience."

Of course, all this about gaols and thieves was calculated to shock
the nerves of those who liked their literature perfumed with
rose-water. Madame Riccoboni, to whom Burke had sent the book, wrote
to Garrick, "Le plaidoyer en faveur des voleurs, des petits larrons,
des gens de mauvaises moeurs, est fort éloigné de me plaire."
Others, no doubt, considered the introduction of Miss Skeggs and Lady
Blarney as "vastly low." But the curious thing is that the literary
critics of the day seem to have been altogether silent about the
book--perhaps they were "puzzled" by it, as Southey has suggested. Mr.
Forster, who took the trouble to search the periodical literature of
the time, says that, "apart from bald recitals of the plot, not a word
was said in the way of criticism about the book, either in praise or
blame." The _St. James's Chronicle_ did not condescend to notice its
appearance, and the _Monthly Review_ confessed frankly that nothing
was to be made of it. The better sort of newspapers, as well as the
more dignified reviews, contemptuously left it to the patronage of
_Lloyd's Evening Post_, the _London Chronicle_, and journals of that
class; which simply informed their readers that a new novel, called
the _Vicar of Wakefield_, had been published, that "the editor is
Doctor Goldsmith, who has affixed his name to an introductory
Advertisement, and that such and such were the incidents of the
story." Even his friends, with the exception of Burke, did not seem
to consider that any remarkable new birth in literature had occurred;
and it is probable that this was a still greater disappointment to
Goldsmith, who was so anxious to be thought well of at the Club.
However, the public took to the story. A second edition was published
in May; a third in August. Goldsmith, it is true, received no
pecuniary gain from this success, for, as we have seen, Johnson had
sold the novel outright to Francis Newbery; but his name was growing
in importance with the booksellers.

There was need that it should, for his increasing expenses--his fine
clothes, his suppers, his whist at the Devil Tavern--were involving
him in deeper and deeper difficulties. How was he to extricate
himself?--or rather the question that would naturally occur to
Goldsmith was how was he to continue that hand-to-mouth existence that
had its compensations along with its troubles? Novels like the _Vicar
of Wakefield_ are not written at a moment's notice, even though any
Newbery, judging by results, is willing to double that £60 which
Johnson considered to be a fair price for the story at the time. There
was the usual resource of hack-writing; and, no doubt, Goldsmith was
compelled to fall back on that, if only to keep the elder Newbery, in
whose debt he was, in a good humour. But the author of the _Vicar of
Wakefield_ may be excused if he looked round to see if there was not
some more profitable work for him to turn his hand to. It was at this
time that he began to think of writing a comedy.



CHAPTER XII.

THE GOOD-NATURED MAN.


Amid much miscellaneous work, mostly of the compilation order, the
play of the _Good-natured Man_ began to assume concrete form; insomuch
that Johnson, always the friend of this erratic Irishman, had promised
to write a Prologue for it. It is with regard to this Prologue that
Boswell tells a foolish and untrustworthy story about Goldsmith. Dr.
Johnson had recently been honoured by an interview with his Sovereign;
and the members of the Club were in the habit of flattering him by
begging for a repetition of his account of that famous event. On one
occasion, during this recital, Boswell relates, Goldsmith "remained
unmoved upon a sofa at some distance, affecting not to join in the
least in the eager curiosity of the company. He assigned as a reason
for his gloom and seeming inattention that he apprehended Johnson had
relinquished his purpose of furnishing him with a Prologue to his
play, with the hopes of which he had been flattered; but it was
strongly suspected that he was fretting with chagrin and envy at the
singular honour Doctor Johnson had lately enjoyed. At length the
frankness and simplicity of his natural character prevailed. He
sprang from the sofa, advanced to Johnson, and, in a kind of flutter,
from imagining himself in the situation which he had just been hearing
described, exclaimed, 'Well, you acquitted yourself in this
conversation better than I should have done; for I should have bowed
and stammered through the whole of it.'" It is obvious enough that the
only part of this anecdote which is quite worthy of credence is the
actual phrase used by Goldsmith, which is full of his customary
generosity and self-depreciation. All those "suspicions" of his envy
of his friend may safely be discarded, for they are mere guesswork;
even though it might have been natural enough for a man like
Goldsmith, conscious of his singular and original genius, to measure
himself against Johnson, who was merely a man of keen perception and
shrewd reasoning, and to compare the deference paid to Johnson with
the scant courtesy shown to himself.

As a matter of fact, the Prologue was written by Dr. Johnson; and the
now complete comedy was, after some little arrangement of personal
differences between Goldsmith and Garrick, very kindly undertaken by
Reynolds, submitted for Garrick's approval. But nothing came of
Reynolds's intervention. Perhaps Goldsmith resented Garrick's airs of
patronage towards a poor devil of an author; perhaps Garrick was
surprised by the manner in which well-intentioned criticisms were
taken; at all events, after a good deal of shilly-shallying, the play
was taken out of Garrick's hands. Fortunately, a project was just at
this moment on foot for starting the rival theatre in Covent Garden,
under the management of George Colman; and to Colman Goldsmith's play
was forthwith consigned. The play was accepted; but it was a long time
before it was produced; and in that interval it may fairly be presumed
the _res angusta domi_ of Goldsmith did not become any more free and
generous than before. It was in this interval that the elder Newbery
died; Goldsmith had one patron the less. Another patron who offered
himself was civilly bowed to the door. This is an incident in
Goldsmith's career which, like his interview with the Earl of
Northumberland, should ever be remembered in his honour. The
Government of the day were desirous of enlisting on their behalf the
services of writers of somewhat better position than the mere
libellers whose pens were the slaves of anybody's purse; and a Mr.
Scott, a chaplain of Lord Sandwich, appears to have imagined that it
would be worth while to buy Goldsmith. He applied to Goldsmith in due
course; and this is an account of the interview. "I found him in a
miserable set of chambers in the Temple. I told him my authority; I
told him I was empowered to pay most liberally for his exertions; and,
would you believe it! he was so absurd as to say, 'I can earn as much
as will supply my wants without writing for any party; the assistance
you offer is therefore unnecessary to me.' And I left him in his
garret." Needy as he was, Goldsmith had too much self-respect to
become a paid libeller and cutthroat of public reputations.

On the evening of Friday, the 29th of January, 1768, when Goldsmith
had now reached the age of forty, the comedy of _The Good-natured Man_
was produced at Covent Garden Theatre. The Prologue had, according to
promise, been written by Johnson; and a very singular prologue it was.
Even Boswell was struck by the odd contrast between this sonorous
piece of melancholy and the fun that was to follow. "The first lines
of this Prologue," he conscientiously remarks, "are strongly
characteristical of the dismal gloom of his mind; which, in his case,
as in the case of all who are distressed with the same malady of
imagination, transfers to others its own feelings. Who could suppose
it was to introduce a comedy, when Mr. Bensley solemnly began--

    "'Pressed with the load of life, the weary mind
    Surveys the general toil of humankind'?

But this dark ground might make Goldsmith's humour shine the more."
When we come to the comedy itself, we find but little bright humour in
the opening passages. The author is obviously timid, anxious, and
constrained. There is nothing of the brisk, confident vivacity with
which _She Stoops to Conquer_ opens. The novice does not yet
understand the art of making his characters explain themselves; and
accordingly the benevolent uncle and honest Jarvis indulge in a
conversation which, laboriously descriptive of the character of young
Honeywood, is spoken "at" the audience. With the entrance of young
Honeywood himself, Goldsmith endeavours to become a little more
sprightly; but there is still anxiety hanging over him, and the
epigrams are little more than merely formal antitheses.

     "_Jarvis._ This bill from your tailor; this from your
     mercer; and this from the little broker in Crooked Lane. He
     says he has been at a great deal of trouble to get back the
     money you borrowed.

     _Hon._ That I don't know; but I'm sure we were at a great
     deal of trouble in getting him to lend it.

     _Jar._ He has lost all patience.

     _Hon._ Then he has lost a very good thing.

     _Jar._ There's that ten guineas you were sending to the poor
     gentleman and his children in the Fleet. I believe that
     would stop his mouth for a while at least.

     _Hon._ Ay, Jarvis, but what will fill their mouths in the
     mean time?"

This young Honeywood, the hero of the play, is, and remains
throughout, a somewhat ghostly personage. He has attributes; but no
flesh or blood. There is much more substance in the next character
introduced--the inimitable Croaker, who revels in evil forebodings and
drinks deep of the luxury of woe. These are the two chief characters;
but then a play must have a plot. And perhaps it would not be fair, so
far as the plot is concerned, to judge of _The Good-natured Man_
merely as a literary production. Intricacies that seem tedious and
puzzling on paper appear to be clear enough on the stage: it is much
more easy to remember the history and circumstances of a person whom
we see before us, than to attach these to a mere name--especially as
the name is sure to be clipped down from _Honeywood_ to _Hon._ and
from _Leontine_ to _Leon._ However, it is in the midst of all the
cross-purposes of the lovers that we once more come upon our old
friend Beau Tibbs--though Mr. Tibbs is now in much better
circumstances, and has been re-named by his creator Jack Lofty.
Garrick had objected to the introduction of Jack, on the ground that
he was only a distraction. But Goldsmith, whether in writing a novel
or a play, was more anxious to represent human nature than to prune a
plot, and paid but little respect to the unities, if only he could
arouse our interest. And who is not delighted with this Jack Lofty and
his "duchessy" talk--his airs of patronage, his mysterious hints, his
gay familiarity with the great, his audacious lying?

     "_Lofty._ Waller? Waller? Is he of the house?

     _Mrs. Croaker._ The modern poet of that name, sir.

     _Lof._ Oh, a modern! We men of business despise the moderns;
     and as for the ancients, we have no time to read them.
     Poetry is a pretty thing enough for our wives and daughters;
     but not for us. Why now, here I stand that know nothing of
     books. I say, madam, I know nothing of books; and yet, I
     believe, upon a land-carriage fishery, a stamp act, or a
     jag-hire, I can talk my two hours without feeling the want
     of them.

     _Mrs. Cro._ The world is no stranger to Mr. Lofty's eminence
     in every capacity.

     _Lof._ I vow to gad, madam, you make me blush. I'm nothing,
     nothing, nothing in the world; a mere obscure gentleman. To
     be sure, indeed, one or two of the present ministers are
     pleased to represent me as a formidable man. I know they are
     pleased to bespatter me at all their little dirty levees.
     Yet, upon my soul, I wonder what they see in me to treat me
     so! Measures, not men, have always been my mark; and I vow,
     by all that's honourable, my resentment has never done the
     men, as mere men, any manner of harm--that is, as mere men.

     _Mrs. Cro._ What importance, and yet what modesty!

     _Lof._ Oh, if you talk of modesty, madam, there, I own, I'm
     accessible to praise: modesty is my foible: it was so the
     Duke of Brentford used to say of me. 'I love Jack Lofty,' he
     used to say: 'no man has a finer knowledge of things; quite
     a man of information; and when he speaks upon his legs, by
     the Lord he's prodigious, he scouts them; and yet all men
     have their faults; too much modesty is his,' says his grace.

     _Mrs. Cro._ And yet, I dare say, you don't want assurance
     when you come to solicit for your friends.

     _Lof._ Oh, there indeed I'm in bronze. Apropos! I have just
     been mentioning Miss Richland's case to a certain personage;
     we must name no names. When I ask, I am not to be put off,
     madam. No, no, I take my friend by the button. A fine girl,
     sir; great justice in her case. A friend of mine--borough
     interest--business must be done, Mr. Secretary.--I say, Mr.
     Secretary, her business must be done, sir. That's my way,
     madam.

     _Mrs. Cro._ Bless me! you said all this to the Secretary of
     State, did you?

     _Lof._ I did not say the Secretary, did I? Well, curse it,
     since you have found me out, I will not deny it. It was to
     the Secretary."

Strangely enough, what may now seem to some of us the very best scene
in the _Good-natured Man_--the scene, that is, in which young
Honeywood, suddenly finding Miss Richland without, is compelled to
dress up the two bailiffs in possession of his house and introduce
them to her as gentlemen friends--was very nearly damning the play on
the first night of its production. The pit was of opinion that it was
"low;" and subsequently the critics took up the cry, and professed
themselves to be so deeply shocked by the vulgar humours of the
bailiffs that Goldsmith had to cut them out. But on the opening night
the anxious author, who had been rendered nearly distracted by the
cries and hisses produced by this scene, was somewhat reassured when
the audience began to laugh again over the tribulations of Mr.
Croaker. To the actor who played the part he expressed his warm
gratitude when the piece was over; assuring him that he had exceeded
his own conception of the character, and that "the fine comic richness
of his colouring made it almost appear as new to him as to any other
person in the house."

The new play had been on the whole favourably received; and, when
Goldsmith went along afterwards to the Club, his companions were
doubtless not at all surprised to find him in good spirits. He was
even merrier than usual; and consented to sing his favourite ballad
about the Old Woman tossed in a Blanket. But those hisses and cries
were still rankling in his memory; and he himself subsequently
confessed that he was "suffering horrid tortures." Nay, when the other
members of the Club had gone, leaving him and Johnson together, he
"burst out a-crying, and even swore by ---- that he would never write
again." When Goldsmith told this story in after-days, Johnson was
naturally astonished; perhaps--himself not suffering much from an
excessive sensitiveness--he may have attributed that little burst of
hysterical emotion to the excitement of the evening increased by a
glass or two of punch, and determined therefore never to mention it.
"All which, Doctor," he said, "I thought had been a secret between you
and me; and I am sure I would not have said anything about it for the
world." Indeed there was little to cry over, either in the first
reception of the piece or in its subsequent fate. With the offending
bailiffs cut out, the comedy would seem to have been very fairly
successful. The proceeds of three of the evenings were Goldsmith's
payment; and in this manner he received £400. Then Griffin published
the play; and from this source Goldsmith received an additional £100;
so that altogether he was very well paid for his work. Moreover he had
appealed against the judgment of the pit and the dramatic critics, by
printing in the published edition the bailiff scene which had been
removed from the stage; and the _Monthly Review_ was so extremely kind
as to say that "the bailiff and his blackguard follower appeared
intolerable on the stage, yet we are not disgusted with them in the
perusal." Perhaps we have grown less scrupulous since then; but at all
events it would be difficult for anybody nowadays to find anything but
good-natured fun in that famous scene. There is an occasional "damn,"
it is true; but then English officers have always been permitted that
little playfulness, and these two gentlemen were supposed to "serve in
the Fleet;" while if they had been particularly refined in their
speech and manner, how could the author have aroused Miss Richland's
suspicions? It is possible that the two actors who played the bailiff
and his follower may have introduced some vulgar "gag" into their
parts; but there is no warranty for anything of the kind in the play
as we now read it.



CHAPTER XIII.

GOLDSMITH IN SOCIETY.


The appearance of the _Good-natured Man_ ushered in a halcyon period
in Goldsmith's life. The _Traveller_ and the _Vicar_ had gained for
him only reputation: this new comedy put £500 in his pocket. Of course
that was too big a sum for Goldsmith to have about him long.
Four-fifths of it he immediately expended on the purchase and
decoration of a set of chambers in Brick Court, Middle Temple; with
the remainder he appears to have begun a series of entertainments in
this new abode, which were perhaps more remarkable for their mirth
than their decorum. There was no sort of frolic in which Goldsmith
would not indulge for the amusement of his guests; he would sing them
songs; he would throw his wig to the ceiling; he would dance a minuet.
And then they had cards, forfeits, blind-man's-buff, until Mr.
Blackstone, then engaged on his _Commentaries_ in the rooms below, was
driven nearly mad by the uproar. These parties would seem to have been
of a most nondescript character--chance gatherings of any obscure
authors or actors whom he happened to meet; but from time to time
there were more formal entertainments, at which Johnson, Percy, and
similar distinguished persons were present. Moreover, Dr. Goldsmith
himself was much asked out to dinner too; and so, not content with the
"Tyrian bloom, satin grain and garter, blue-silk breeches," which Mr.
Filby had provided for the evening of the production of the comedy, he
now had another suit "lined with silk, and gold buttons," that he
might appear in proper guise. Then he had his airs of consequence too.
This was his answer to an invitation from Kelly, who was his rival of
the hour: "I would with pleasure accept your kind invitation, but to
tell you the truth, my dear boy, my _Traveller_ has found me a home in
so many places, that I am engaged, I believe, three days. Let me see.
To-day I dine with Edmund Burke, to-morrow with Dr. Nugent, and the
next day with Topham Beauclerc; but I'll tell you what I'll do for
you, I'll dine with you on Saturday." Kelly told this story as against
Goldsmith; but surely there is not so much ostentation in the reply.
Directly after _Tristram Shandy_ was published, Sterne found himself
fourteen deep in dinner engagements: why should not the author of the
_Traveller_ and the _Vicar_ and the _Good-natured Man_ have his
engagements also? And perhaps it was but right that Mr. Kelly, who was
after all only a critic and scribbler, though he had written a play
which was for the moment enjoying an undeserved popularity, should be
given to understand that Dr. Goldsmith was not to be asked to a
hole-and-corner chop at a moment's notice. To-day he dines with Mr.
Burke; to-morrow with Dr. Nugent; the day after with Mr. Beauclerc. If
you wish to have the honour of his company, you may choose a day
after that; and then, with his new wig, with his coat of Tyrian bloom
and blue silk breeches, with a smart sword at his side, his
gold-headed cane in his hand, and his hat under his elbow, he will
present himself in due course. Dr. Goldsmith is announced, and makes
his grave bow; this is the man of genius about whom all the town is
talking; the friend of Burke, of Reynolds, of Johnson, of Hogarth;
this is not the ragged Irishman who was some time ago earning a crust
by running errands for an apothecary.

Goldsmith's grand airs, however, were assumed but seldom; and they
never imposed on anybody. His acquaintances treated him with a
familiarity which testified rather to his good-nature than to their
good taste. Now and again, indeed, he was prompted to resent this
familiarity; but the effort was not successful. In the "high jinks" to
which he good-humouredly resorted for the entertainment of his guests
he permitted a freedom which it was afterwards not very easy to
discard; and as he was always ready to make a butt of himself for the
amusement of his friends and acquaintances, it came to be recognised
that anybody was allowed to play off a joke on "Goldy." The jokes,
such of them as have been put on record, are of the poorest sort. The
horse-collar is never far off. One gladly turns from these dismal
humours of the tavern and the club to the picture of Goldsmith's
enjoying what he called a "Shoemaker's Holiday" in the company of one
or two chosen intimates. Goldsmith, baited and bothered by the wits of
a public-house, became a different being when he had assumed the
guidance of a small party of chosen friends bent on having a day's
frugal pleasure. We are indebted to one Cooke, a neighbour of
Goldsmith's in the Temple, not only for a most interesting description
of one of those shoemaker's holidays, but also for the knowledge that
Goldsmith had even now begun writing the _Deserted Village_, which was
not published till 1770, two years later. Goldsmith, though he could
turn out plenty of manufactured stuff for the booksellers, worked
slowly at the special story or poem with which he meant to "strike for
honest fame." This Mr. Cooke, calling on him one morning, discovered
that Goldsmith had that day written these ten lines of the _Deserted
Village_:--

    "Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
    Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,
    How often have I loitered o'er thy green,
    Where humble happiness endeared each scene!
    How often have I paused on every charm,
    The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm,
    The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
    The decent church, that topt the neighbouring hill,
    The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
    For talking age and whispering lovers made!"

"Come," said he, "let me tell you this is no bad morning's work; and
now, my dear boy, if you are not better engaged, I should be glad to
enjoy a shoemaker's holiday with you." "A shoemaker's holiday,"
continues the writer of these reminiscences, "was a day of great
festivity to poor Goldsmith, and was spent in the following innocent
manner. Three or four of his intimate friends rendezvoused at his
chambers to breakfast about ten o'clock in the morning; at eleven they
proceeded by the City Road and through the fields to Highbury Barn to
dinner; about six o'clock in the evening they adjourned to White
Conduit House to drink tea; and concluded by supping at the Grecian or
Temple Exchange coffee-house or at the Globe in Fleet Street. There
was a very good ordinary of two dishes and pastry kept at Highbury
Barn about this time at tenpence per head, including a penny to the
waiter; and the company generally consisted of literary characters, a
few Templars, and some citizens who had left off trade. The whole
expenses of the day's fete never exceeded a crown, and oftener were
from three-and-sixpence to four shillings; for which the party
obtained good air and exercise, good living, the example of simple
manners, and good conversation."

It would have been well indeed for Goldsmith had he been possessed of
sufficient strength of character to remain satisfied with these simple
pleasures, and to have lived the quiet and modest life of a man of
letters on such income as he could derive from the best work he could
produce. But it is this same Mr. Cooke who gives decisive testimony as
to Goldsmith's increasing desire to "shine" by imitating the
expenditure of the great; the natural consequence of which was that he
only plunged himself into a morass of debt, advances, contracts for
hack-work, and misery. "His debts rendered him at times so melancholy
and dejected, that I am sure he felt himself a very unhappy man."
Perhaps it was with some sudden resolve to flee from temptation, and
grapple with the difficulties that beset him, that he, in conjunction
with another Temple neighbour, Mr. Bott, rented a cottage some eight
miles down the Edgware Road; and here he set to work on the _History
of Rome_, which he was writing for Davies. Apart from this hack-work,
now rendered necessary by his debt, it is probable that one strong
inducement leading him to this occasional seclusion was the progress
he might be able to make with the _Deserted Village_. Amid all his
town gaieties and country excursions, amid his dinners and suppers and
dances, his borrowings, and contracts, and the hurried literary
produce of the moment, he never forgot what was due to his reputation
as an English poet. The journalistic bullies of the day might vent
their spleen and envy on him; his best friends might smile at his
conversational failures; the wits of the tavern might put up the
horse-collar as before; but at least he had the consolation of his
art. No one better knew than himself the value of those finished and
musical lines he was gradually adding to the beautiful poem, the
grace, and sweetness, and tender, pathetic charm of which make it one
of the literary treasures of the English people.

The sorrows of debt were not Goldsmith's only trouble at this time.
For some reason or other he seems to have become the especial object
of spiteful attack on the part of the literary cut-throats of the day.
And Goldsmith, though he might listen with respect to the wise advice
of Johnson on such matters, was never able to cultivate Johnson's
habit of absolute indifference to anything that might be said or sung
of him. "The Kenricks, Campbells, MacNicols, and Hendersons," says
Lord Macaulay--speaking of Johnson, "did their best to annoy him, in
the hope that he would give them importance by answering them." But
the reader will in vain search his works for any allusion to Kenrick
or Campbell, to MacNicol or Henderson. One Scotchman, bent on
vindicating the fame of Scotch learning, defied him to the combat in a
detestable Latin hexameter--

    'Maxime, si tu vis, cupio contendere tecum.'

But Johnson took no notice of the challenge. He had learned, both from
his own observation and from literary history, in which he was deeply
read, that the place of books in the public estimation is fixed, not
by what is written about them, but by what is written in them; and
that an author whose works are likely to live, is very unwise if he
stoops to wrangle with detractors whose works are certain to die. He
always maintained that fame was a shuttlecock which could be kept up
only by being beaten back, as well as beaten forward, and which would
soon fall if there were only one battledore. No saying was oftener in
his mouth than that fine apophthegm of Bentley, that no man was ever
written down but by himself.

It was not given to Goldsmith to feel "like the Monument" on any
occasion whatsoever. He was anxious to have the esteem of his friends;
he was sensitive to a degree; denunciation or malice, begotten of envy
that Johnson would have passed unheeded, wounded him to the quick.
"The insults to which he had to submit," Thackeray wrote with a quick
and warm sympathy, "are shocking to read of--slander, contumely,
vulgar satire, brutal malignity perverting his commonest motives and
actions: he had his share of these, and one's anger is roused at
reading of them, as it is at seeing a woman insulted or a child
assaulted, at the notion that a creature so very gentle, and weak,
and full of love should have had to suffer so." Goldsmith's revenge,
his defence of himself, his appeal to the public, were the
_Traveller_, the _Vicar of Wakefield_, the _Deserted Village_; but
these came at long intervals; and in the meantime he had to bear with
the anonymous malignity that pursued him as best he might. No doubt,
when Burke was entertaining him at dinner; and when Johnson was openly
deferring to him in conversation at the Club; and when Reynolds was
painting his portrait, he could afford to forget Mr. Kenrick and the
rest of the libelling clan.

The occasions on which Johnson deferred to Goldsmith in conversation
were no doubt few; but at all events the bludgeon of the great Cham
would appear to have come down less frequently on "honest Goldy" than on
the other members of that famous coterie. It could come down heavily
enough. "Sir," said an incautious person, "drinking drives away care,
and makes us forget whatever is disagreeable. Would not you allow a man
to drink for that reason?" "Yes, sir," was the reply, "if he sat next
_you_." Johnson, however, was considerate towards Goldsmith, partly
because of his affection for him, and partly because he saw under what
disadvantages Goldsmith entered the lists. For one thing, the
conversation of those evenings would seem to have drifted continually
into the mere definition of phrases. Now Johnson had spent years of his
life, during the compilation of his Dictionary, in doing nothing else
but defining; and, whenever the dispute took a phraseological turn, he
had it all his own way. Goldsmith, on the other hand, was apt to become
confused in his eager self-consciousness. "Goldsmith," said Johnson to
Boswell, "should not be for ever attempting to shine in conversation; he
has not temper for it, he is so much mortified when he fails.... When he
contends, if he gets the better, it is a very little addition to a man
of his literary reputation: if he does not get the better, he is
miserably vexed." Boswell, nevertheless, admits that Goldsmith was
"often very fortunate in his witty contests, even when he entered the
lists with Johnson himself," and goes on to tell how Goldsmith, relating
the fable of the little fishes who petitioned Jupiter, and perceiving
that Johnson was laughing at him, immediately said, "Why, Dr. Johnson,
this is not so easy as you seem to think; for if you were to make little
fishes talk, they would talk like WHALES." Who but Goldsmith would have
dared to play jokes on the sage? At supper they have rumps and kidneys.
The sage expresses his approval of "the pretty little things;" but
profoundly observes that one must eat a good many of them before being
satisfied. "Ay, but how many of them," asks Goldsmith, "would reach to
the moon?" The sage professes his ignorance; and, indeed, remarks that
that would exceed even Goldsmith's calculations; when the practical
joker observes, "Why, _one_, sir, if it were long enough." Johnson was
completely beaten on this occasion. "Well, sir, I have deserved it. I
should not have provoked so foolish an answer by so foolish a question."

It was Johnson himself, moreover, who told the story of Goldsmith and
himself being in Poets' Corner; of his saying to Goldsmith

    "Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis,"

and of Goldsmith subsequently repeating the quotation when, having
walked towards Fleet Street, they were confronted by the heads on
Temple Bar. Even when Goldsmith was opinionated and wrong, Johnson's
contradiction was in a manner gentle. "If you put a tub full of blood
into a stable, the horses are like to go mad," observed Goldsmith. "I
doubt that," was Johnson's reply. "Nay, sir, it is a fact well
authenticated." Here Thrale interposed to suggest that Goldsmith
should have the experiment tried in the stable; but Johnson merely
said that, if Goldsmith began making these experiments, he would never
get his book written at all. Occasionally, of course, Goldsmith was
tossed and gored just like another. "But, sir," he had ventured to
say, in opposition to Johnson, "when people live together who have
something as to which they disagree, and which they want to shun, they
will be in the situation mentioned in the story of Bluebeard, 'You may
look into all the chambers but one.' But we should have the greatest
inclination to look into that chamber, to talk of that subject." Here,
according to Boswell, Johnson answered in a loud voice, "Sir, I am not
saying that _you_ could live in friendship with a man from whom you
differ as to one point; I am only saying that _I_ could do it." But
then again he could easily obtain pardon from the gentle Goldsmith for
any occasional rudeness. One evening they had a sharp passage of arms
at dinner; and thereafter the company adjourned to the Club, where
Goldsmith sate silent and depressed. "Johnson perceived this," says
Boswell, "and said aside to some of us, 'I'll make Goldsmith forgive
me'; and then called to him in a loud voice, 'Dr. Goldsmith, something
passed to-day where you and I dined: I ask your pardon.' Goldsmith
answered placidly, 'It must be much from you, sir, that I take ill.'
And so at once the difference was over, and they were on as easy terms
as ever, and Goldsmith rattled away as usual." For the rest, Johnson
was the constant and doughty champion of Goldsmith as a man of
letters. He would suffer no one to doubt the power and versatility of
that genius which he had been amongst the first to recognise and
encourage. "Whether, indeed, we take him as a poet, as a comic writer,
or as an historian," he announced to an assemblage of distinguished
persons met together at dinner at Mr. Beauclerc's, "_he stands in the
first class_." And there was no one living who dared dispute the
verdict--at least in Johnson's hearing.



CHAPTER XIV.

The Deserted Village.


But it is time to return to the literary performances that gained for
this uncouth Irishman so great an amount of consideration from the
first men of his time. The engagement with Griffin about the _History
of Animated Nature_ was made at the beginning of 1769. The work was to
occupy eight volumes; and Dr. Goldsmith was to receive eight hundred
guineas for the complete copyright. Whether the undertaking was
originally a suggestion of Griffin's, or of Goldsmith's own, does not
appear. If it was the author's, it was probably only the first means
that occurred to him of getting another advance; and that
advance--£500 on account--he did actually get. But if it was the
suggestion of the publisher, Griffin must have been a bold man. A
writer whose acquaintance with animated nature was such as to allow
him to make the "insidious tiger" a denizen of the backwoods of
Canada,[2] was not a very safe authority. But perhaps Griffin had
consulted Johnson before making this bargain; and we know that
Johnson, though continually remarking on Goldsmith's extraordinary
ignorance of facts, was of opinion that the _History of Animated
Nature_ would be "as entertaining as a Persian tale." However,
Goldsmith--no doubt after he had spent the five hundred
guineas--tackled the work in earnest. When Boswell subsequently went
out to call on him at another rural retreat he had taken on the
Edgware Road, Boswell and Mickle, the translator of the _Lusiad_,
found Goldsmith from home; "but, having a curiosity to see his
apartment, we went in and found curious scraps of descriptions of
animals scrawled upon the wall with a black-lead pencil." Meanwhile,
this _Animated Nature_ being in hand, the _Roman History_ was
published, and was very well received by the critics and by the
public. "Goldsmith's abridgment," Johnson declared, "is better than
that of Lucius Florus or Eutropius; and I will venture to say that if
you compare him with Vertot, in the same places of the _Roman
History_, you will find that he excels Vertot. Sir, he has the art of
compiling, and of saying everything he has to say in a pleasing
manner."

[Footnote 2: See _Citizen of the World_, Letter XVII.]

So thought the booksellers too; and the success of the _Roman History_
only involved him in fresh projects of compilation. By an offer of
£500 Davies induced him to lay aside for the moment the _Animated
Nature_ and begin "An History of England, from the Birth of the
British Empire to the death of George the Second, in four volumes
octavo." He also about this time undertook to write a Life of Thomas
Parnell. Here, indeed, was plenty of work, and work promising good
pay; but the depressing thing is that Goldsmith should have been the
man who had to do it. He may have done it better than any one else
could have done--indeed, looking over the results of all that
drudgery, we recognise now the happy turns of expression which were
never long absent from Goldsmith's prose-writing--but the world could
well afford to sacrifice all the task-work thus got through for
another poem like the _Deserted Village_ or the _Traveller_. Perhaps
Goldsmith considered he was making a fair compromise when, for the
sake of his reputation, he devoted a certain portion of his time to
his poetical work, and then, to have money for fine clothes and high
jinks, gave the rest to the booksellers. One critic, on the appearance
of the _Roman History_, referred to the _Traveller_, and remarked that
it was a pity that the "author of one of the best poems that has
appeared since those of Mr. Pope, should not apply wholly to works of
imagination." We may echo that regret now; but Goldsmith would at the
time have no doubt replied that, if he had trusted to his poems, he
would never have been able to pay £400 for chambers in the Temple. In
fact he said as much to Lord Lisburn at one of the Academy dinners: "I
cannot afford to court the draggle-tail muses, my Lord; they would let
me starve; but by my other labours I can make shift to eat, and drink,
and have good clothes." And there is little use in our regretting now
that Goldsmith was not cast in a more heroic mould; we have to take
him as he is; and be grateful for what he has left us.

It is a grateful relief to turn from these booksellers' contracts and
forced labours to the sweet clear note of singing that one finds in
the _Deserted Village_. This poem, after having been repeatedly
announced and as often withdrawn for further revision, was at last
published on the 26th of May, 1770, when Goldsmith was in his
forty-second year. The leading idea of it he had already thrown out in
certain lines in the _Traveller_:--

    "Have we not seen, round Britain's peopled shore,
    Her useful sons exchanged for useless ore?
    Seen all her triumphs but destruction haste,
    Like flaring tapers brightening as they waste?
    Seen opulence, her grandeur to maintain,
    Lead stern depopulation in her train,
    And over fields where scattered hamlets rose
    In barren solitary pomp repose?
    Have we not seen at pleasure's lordly call
    The smiling long-frequented village fall?
    Beheld the duteous son, the sire decayed,
    The modest matron, and the blushing maid,
    Forced from their homes, a melancholy train,
    To traverse climes beyond the western main;
    Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around,
    And Niagara stuns with thundering sound?"

--and elsewhere, in recorded conversations of his, we find that he had
somehow got it into his head that the accumulation of wealth in a
country was the parent of all evils, including depopulation. We need
not stay here to discuss Goldsmith's position as a political
economist; even although Johnson seems to sanction his theory in the
four lines he contributed to the end of the poem. Nor is it worth
while returning to that objection of Lord Macaulay's which has already
been mentioned in these pages, further than to repeat that the poor
Irish village in which Goldsmith was brought up, no doubt looked to
him as charming as any Auburn, when he regarded it through the
softening and beautifying mist of years. It is enough that the
abandonment by a number of poor people of the homes in which they and
theirs have lived their lives, is one of the most pathetic facts in
our civilisation; and that out of the various circumstances
surrounding this forced migration Goldsmith has made one of the most
graceful and touching poems in the English language. It is clear
bird-singing; but there is a pathetic note in it. That imaginary
ramble through the Lissoy that is far away has recalled more than his
boyish sports; it has made him look back over his own life--the life
of an exile.

    "I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown,
    Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down;
    To husband out life's taper at the close,
    And keep the flame from wasting by repose:
    I still had hopes, for pride attends us still,
    Amidst the swains to show my book-learned skill,
    Around my fire an evening group to draw,
    And tell of all I felt, and all I saw;
    And, as a hare whom hounds and horns pursue
    Pants to the place from whence at first he flew,
    I still had hopes, my long vexations past,
    Here to return--and die at home at last."

Who can doubt that it was of Lissoy he was thinking? Sir Walter Scott,
writing a generation ago, said that "the church which tops the
neighbouring hill," the mill and the brook were still to be seen in
the Irish village; and that even

    "The hawthorn bush with seats beneath the shade
    For talking age and whispering lovers made,"

had been identified by the indefatigable tourist, and was of course
being cut to pieces to make souvenirs. But indeed it is of little
consequence whether we say that Auburn is an English village, or
insist that it is only Lissoy idealised, as long as the thing is true
in itself. And we know that this is true: it is not that one sees the
place as a picture, but that one seems to be breathing its very
atmosphere, and listening to the various cries that thrill the "hollow
silence."

    "Sweet was the sound, when oft at evening's close
    Up yonder hill the village murmur rose.
    There, as I past with careless steps and slow,
    The mingling notes came softened from below;
    The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung,
    The sober herd that lowed to meet their young,
    The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool,
    The playful children just let loose from school,
    The watch-dog's voice that bayed the whispering wind,
    And the loud laugh that spake the vacant mind."

Nor is it any romantic and impossible peasantry that is gradually
brought before us. There are no Norvals in Lissoy. There is the old
woman--Catherine Geraghty, they say, was her name--who gathered
cresses in the ditches near her cabin. There is the village preacher
whom Mrs. Hodson, Goldsmith's sister, took to be a portrait of their
father; but whom others have identified as Henry Goldsmith, and even
as the uncle Contarine: they may all have contributed. And then comes
Paddy Byrne. Amid all the pensive tenderness of the poem this
description of the schoolmaster, with its strokes of demure humour, is
introduced with delightful effect.

    "Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
    With blossom'd furze unprofitably gay,
    There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,
    The village master taught his little school.
    A man severe he was, and stern to view;
    I knew him well, and every truant knew:
    Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace
    The day's disasters in his morning face;
    Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee
    At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
    Full well the busy whisper circling round
    Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned.
    Yet he was kind, or, if severe in aught,
    The love he bore to learning was in fault;
    The village all declared how much he knew:
    'Twas certain he could write, and cipher too:
    Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
    And e'en the story ran that he could gauge:
    In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill;
    For e'en though vanquished, he could argue still;
    While words of learned length and thundering sound
    Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
    And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
    That one small head could carry all he knew."

All this is so simple and natural that we cannot fail to believe in
the reality of Auburn, or Lissoy, or whatever the village may be
supposed to be. We visit the clergyman's cheerful fireside; and look
in on the noisy school; and sit in the evening in the ale house to
listen to the profound politics talked there. But the crisis comes.
Auburn _delenda est_. Here, no doubt, occurs the least probable part
of the poem. Poverty of soil is a common cause of emigration; land
that produces oats (when it can produce oats at all) three-fourths
mixed with weeds, and hay chiefly consisting of rushes, naturally
discharges its surplus population as families increase; and though the
wrench of parting is painful enough, the usual result is a change from
starvation to competence. It more rarely happens that a district of
peace and plenty, such as Auburn was supposed to see around it, is
depopulated to add to a great man's estate.

                  "The man of wealth and pride
    Takes up a space that many poor supplied;
    Space for his lake, his park's extended bounds,
    Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds:

       *       *       *       *       *

    His seat, where solitary sports are seen,
    Indignant spurns the cottage from the green:"

--and so forth. This seldom happens; but it does happen; and it has
happened, in our own day, in England. It is within the last twenty
years that an English landlord, having faith in his riches, bade a
village be removed and cast elsewhere, so that it should no longer be
visible from his windows: and it was forthwith removed. But any
solitary instance like this is not sufficient to support the theory
that wealth and luxury are inimical to the existence of a hardy
peasantry; and so we must admit, after all, that it is poetical
exigency rather than political economy that has decreed the
destruction of the loveliest village of the plain. Where, asks the
poet, are the driven poor to find refuge, when even the fenceless
commons are seized upon and divided by the rich? In the great
cities?--

    "To see profusion that he must not share;
    To see ten thousand baneful arts combined
    To pamper luxury and thin mankind."

It is in this description of a life in cities that there occurs an
often-quoted passage, which has in it one of the most perfect lines in
English poetry:--

                                    "Ah, turn thine eyes
    Where the poor houseless shivering female lies.
    She once, perhaps, in village plenty blest,
    Has wept at tales of innocence distrest;
    Her modest looks the cottage might adorn,
    Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn;
    Now lost to all; her friends, her virtue fled,
    Near her betrayer's door she lays her head.
    And, pinch'd with cold, and shrinking from the shower,
    With heavy heart deplores that luckless hour,
    When idly first, ambitious of the town,
    She left her wheel and robes of country brown."

Goldsmith wrote in a pre-Wordsworthian age, when, even in the realms
of poetry, a primrose was not much more than a primrose; but it is
doubtful whether, either before, during, or since Wordsworth's time
the sentiment that the imagination can infuse into the common and
familiar things around us ever received more happy expression than in
the well-known line,

    "_Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn._"

No one has as yet succeeded in defining accurately and concisely what
poetry is; but at all events this line is surcharged with a certain
quality which is conspicuously absent in such a production as the
_Essay on Man_. Another similar line is to be found further on in the
description of the distant scenes to which the proscribed people are
driven:

    "Through torrid tracts with fainting steps they go,
    _Where wild Altama murmurs to their woe._"

Indeed, the pathetic side of emigration has never been so powerfully
presented to us as in this poem--

    "When the poor exiles, every pleasure past,
    Hung round the bowers, and fondly looked their last,
    And took a long farewell, and wished in vain
    For seats like these beyond the western main,
    And shuddering still to face the distant deep,
    Returned and wept, and still returned to weep.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Even now, methinks, as pondering here I stand,
    I see the rural virtues leave the land.
    Down where yon anchoring vessel spreads the sail,
    That idly waiting flaps with every gale,
    Downward they move a melancholy band,
    Pass from the shore, and darken all the strand.
    Contented toil, and hospitable care,
    And kind connubial tenderness are there;
    And piety with wishes placed above,
    And steady loyalty, and faithful love."

And worst of all, in this imaginative departure, we find that Poetry
herself is leaving our shores. She is now to try her voice

    "On Torno's cliffs or Pambamarca's side;"

and the poet, in the closing lines of the poem, bids her a passionate
and tender farewell:--

    "And thou, sweet Poetry, thou loveliest maid,
    Still first to fly where sensual joys invade;
    Unfit in these degenerate times of shame
    To catch the heart, or strike for honest fame;
    Dear charming nymph, neglected and decried,
    My shame in crowds, my solitary pride;
    Thou source of all my bliss, and all my woe,
    That found'st me poor at first, and keep'st me so;
    Thou guide by which the nobler arts excel,
    Thou nurse of every virtue, fare thee well!
    Farewell, and O! where'er thy voice be tried,
    On Torno's cliffs, or Pambamarca's side,
    Whether where equinoctial fervours glow,
    Or winter wraps the polar world in snow,
    Still let thy voice, prevailing over time,
    Redress the rigours of the inclement clime;
    Aid slighted truth with thy persuasive strain;
    Teach erring man to spurn the rage of gain:
    Teach him, that states of native strength possest,
    Though very poor, may still be very blest;
    That trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay,
    As ocean sweeps the laboured mole away;
    While self-dependent power can time defy,
    As rocks resist the billows and the sky."

So ends this graceful, melodious, tender poem, the position of which
in English literature, and in the estimation of all who love English
literature, has not been disturbed by any fluctuations of literary
fashion. We may give more attention at the moment to the new
experiments of the poetic method; but we return only with renewed
gratitude to the old familiar strain, not the least merit of which is
that it has nothing about it of foreign tricks or graces. In English
literature there is nothing more thoroughly English than these
writings produced by an Irishman. And whether or not it was Paddy
Byrne, and Catherine Geraghty, and the Lissoy ale-house that
Goldsmith had in his mind when he was writing the poem, is not of much
consequence: the manner and language and feeling are all essentially
English; so that we never think of calling Goldsmith anything but an
English poet.

The poem met with great and immediate success. Of course everything
that Dr. Goldsmith now wrote was read by the public; he had not to
wait for the recommendation of the reviews; but, in this case, even
the reviews had scarcely anything but praise in the welcome of his new
book. It was dedicated, in graceful and ingenious terms, to Sir Joshua
Reynolds, who returned the compliment by painting a picture and
placing on the engraving of it this inscription: "This attempt to
express a character in the _Deserted Village_ is dedicated to Dr.
Goldsmith by his sincere friend and admirer, Sir Joshua Reynolds."
What Goldsmith got from Griffin for the poem is not accurately known;
and this is a misfortune, for the knowledge would have enabled us to
judge whether at that time it was possible for a poet to court the
draggle-tail muses without risk of starvation. But if fame were his
chief object in the composition of the poem, he was sufficiently
rewarded; and it is to be surmised that by this time the people in
Ireland--no longer implored to get subscribers--had heard of the proud
position won by the vagrant youth who had "taken the world for his
pillow" some eighteen years before.

That his own thoughts had sometimes wandered back to the scenes and
friends of his youth during this labour of love, we know from his
letters. In January of this year, while as yet the _Deserted Village_
was not quite through the press, he wrote to his brother Maurice; and
expressed himself as most anxious to hear all about the relatives from
whom he had been so long parted. He has something to say about himself
too; wishes it to be known that the King has lately been pleased to
make him Professor of Ancient History "in a Royal Academy of Painting
which he has just established;" but gives no very flourishing account
of his circumstances. "Honours to one in my situation are something
like ruffles to a man that wants a shirt." However, there is some
small legacy of fourteen or fifteen pounds left him by his uncle
Contarine, which he understands to be in the keeping of his cousin
Lawder; and to this wealth he is desirous of foregoing all claim: his
relations must settle how it may be best expended. But there is not a
reference to his literary achievements, or the position won by them;
not the slightest yielding to even a pardonable vanity; it is a
modest, affectionate letter. The only hint that Maurice Goldsmith
receives of the esteem in which his brother is held in London, is
contained in a brief mention of Johnson, Burke, and others as his
friends. "I have sent my cousin Jenny a miniature picture of myself,
as I believe it is the most acceptable present I can offer. I have
ordered it to be left for her at George Faulkenor's, folded in a
letter. The face, you well know, is ugly enough; but it is finely
painted. I will shortly also send my friends over the Shannon some
mezzotinto prints of myself, and some more of my friends here, such as
Burke, Johnson, Reynolds, and Colman. I believe I have written an
hundred letters to different friends in your country, and never
received an answer from any of them. I do not know how to account for
this, or why they are unwilling to keep up for me those regards which
I must ever retain for them." The letter winds up with an appeal for
news, news, news.



CHAPTER XV.

OCCASIONAL WRITINGS.


Some two months after the publication of the _Deserted Village_, when
its success had been well assured, Goldsmith proposed to himself the
relaxation of a little Continental tour; and he was accompanied by
three ladies, Mrs. Horneck and her two pretty daughters, who doubtless
took more charge of him than he did of them. This Mrs. Horneck, the
widow of a certain Captain Horneck, was connected with Reynolds, while
Burke was the guardian of the two girls; so that it was natural that
they should make the acquaintance of Dr. Goldsmith. A foolish attempt
has been made to weave out of the relations supposed to exist between
the younger of the girls and Goldsmith an imaginary romance; but there
is not the slightest actual foundation for anything of the kind.
Indeed the best guide we can have to the friendly and familiar terms
on which he stood with regard to the Hornecks and their circle, is the
following careless and jocular reply to a chance invitation sent him
by the two sisters:--

                "Your mandate I got,
                You may all go to pot;
                Had your senses been right,
                You'd have sent before night;
                As I hope to be saved,
                I put off being shaved;
                For I could not make bold,
                While the matter was cold,
                To meddle in suds,
                Or to put on my duds;
                So tell Horneck and Nesbitt
                And Baker and his bit,
                And Kauffman beside,
                And the Jessamy bride;
                With the rest of the crew,
                The Reynoldses two,
                Little Comedy's face
                And the Captain in lace.

       *       *       *       *       *

                Yet how can I when vext
                Thus stray from my text?
                Tell each other to rue
                Your Devonshire crew,
                For sending so late
                To one of my state.
                But 'tis Reynolds's way
                From wisdom to stray,
                And Angelica's whim
                To be frolic like him.
    But, alas! your good worships, how could they be wiser,
    When both have been spoiled in to-day's _Advertiser_?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Jessamy Bride" was the pet nickname he had bestowed on the
younger Miss Horneck--the heroine of the speculative romance just
mentioned; "Little Comedy" was her sister; "the Captain in lace" their
brother, who was in the Guards. No doubt Mrs. Horneck and her
daughters were very pleased to have with them on this Continental
trip so distinguished a person as Dr. Goldsmith; and he must have been
very ungrateful if he was not glad to be provided with such charming
companions. The story of the sudden envy he displayed of the
admiration excited by the two handsome young Englishwomen as they
stood at a hotel-window in Lille, is so incredibly foolish that it
needs scarcely be repeated here; unless to repeat the warning that, if
ever anybody was so dense as not to see the humour of that piece of
acting, one had better look with grave suspicion on every one of the
stories told about Goldsmith's vanities and absurdities.

Even with such pleasant companions, the trip to Paris was not
everything he had hoped. "I find," he wrote to Reynolds from Paris,
"that travelling at twenty and at forty are very different things. I
set out with all my confirmed habits about me, and can find nothing on
the Continent so good as when I formerly left it. One of our chief
amusements here is scolding at everything we meet with, and praising
every thing and every person we left at home. You may judge therefore
whether your name is not frequently bandied at table among us. To tell
you the truth, I never thought I could regret your absence so much, as
our various mortifications on the road have often taught me to do. I
could tell you of disasters and adventures without number, of our
lying in barns, and of my being half poisoned with a dish of green
peas, of our quarrelling with postilions and being cheated by our
landladies, but I reserve all this for a happy hour which I expect to
share with you upon my return." The fact is that although Goldsmith
had seen a good deal of foreign travel, the manner of his making the
grand tour in his youth was not such as to fit him for acting as
courier to a party of ladies. However, if they increased his troubles,
they also shared them; and in this same letter he bears explicit
testimony to the value of their companionship. "I will soon be among
you, better pleased with my situation at home than I ever was before.
And yet I must say, that if anything could make France pleasant, the
very good women with whom I am at present would certainly do it. I
could say more about that, but I intend showing them this letter
before I send it away." Mrs. Horneck, Little Comedy, the Jessamy
Bride, and the Professor of Ancient History at the Royal Academy, all
returned to London; the last to resume his round of convivialities at
taverns, excursions into regions of more fashionable amusement along
with Reynolds, and task-work aimed at the pockets of the booksellers.

It was a happy-go-lucky sort of life. We find him now showing off his
fine clothes and his sword and wig at Ranelagh Gardens, and again shut
up in his chambers compiling memoirs and histories in hot haste; now
the guest of Lord Clare, and figuring at Bath, and again delighting
some small domestic circle by his quips and cranks; playing jokes for
the amusement of children, and writing comic letters in verse to their
elders; everywhere and at all times merry, thoughtless, good-natured.
And, of course, we find also his humorous pleasantries being mistaken
for blundering stupidity. In perfect good faith Boswell describes how
a number of people burst out laughing when Goldsmith publicly
complained that he had met Lord Camden at Lord Clare's house in the
country, "and he took no more notice of me than if I had been an
ordinary man." Goldsmith's claiming to be a very extraordinary person
was precisely a stroke of that humorous self-depreciation in which he
was continually indulging; and the Jessamy Bride has left it on record
that "on many occasions, from the peculiar manner of his humour, and
assumed frown of countenance, what was often uttered in jest was
mistaken by those who did not know him for earnest." This would appear
to have been one of those occasions. The company burst out laughing at
Goldsmith's having made a fool of himself; and Johnson was compelled
to come to his rescue. "Nay, gentlemen, Dr. Goldsmith is in the right.
A nobleman ought to have made up to such a man as Goldsmith; and I
think it is much against Lord Camden that he neglected him."

Mention of Lord Clare naturally recalls the _Haunch of Venison_.
Goldsmith was particularly happy in writing bright and airy verses;
the grace and lightness of his touch has rarely been approached. It
must be confessed, however, that in this direction he was somewhat of
an Autolycus; unconsidered trifles he freely appropriated; but he
committed these thefts with scarcely any concealment, and with the
most charming air in the world. In fact some of the snatches of verse
which he contributed to the _Bee_ scarcely profess to be anything else
than translations, though the originals are not given. But who is
likely to complain when we get as the result such a delightful piece
of nonsense as the famous Elegy on that Glory of her Sex, Mrs. Mary
Blaize, which has been the parent of a vast progeny since Goldsmith's
time?

    "Good people all, with one accord
      Lament for Madam Blaize,
    Who never wanted a good word,
      From those who spoke her praise.

    "The needy seldom passed her door,
      And always found her kind;
    She freely lent to all the poor,--
      Who left a pledge behind.

    "She strove the neighbourhood to please,
      With manners wondrous winning;
    And never followed wicked ways,--
      Unless when she was sinning.

    "At church, in silks and satins new,
      With hoop of monstrous size,
    She never slumbered in her pew,--
      But when she shut her eyes.

    "Her love was sought, I do aver,
      By twenty beaux and more;
    The king himself has followed her,--
      When she has walked before.

    "But now her wealth and finery fled,
      Her hangers-on cut short all;
    The doctors found, when she was dead,--
      Her last disorder mortal.

    "Let us lament, in sorrow sore,
      For Kent Street well may say,
    That had she lived a twelvemonth more,--
      She had not died to-day."

The _Haunch of Venison_, on the other hand, is a poetical letter of
thanks to Lord Clare--an easy, jocular epistle, in which the writer
has a cut or two at certain of his literary brethren. Then, as he is
looking at the venison, and determining not to send it to any such
people as Hiffernan or Higgins, who should step in but our old friend
Beau Tibbs, or some one remarkably like him in manner and speech?--

    "While thus I debated, in reverie centred,
    An acquaintance, a friend as he called himself, entered;
    An under-bred, fine-spoken fellow was he,
    And he smiled as he looked at the venison and me.
    'What have we got here?--Why this is good eating!
    Your own, I suppose--or is it in waiting?'
    'Why, whose should it be?' cried I with a flounce;
    'I get these things often'--but that was a bounce:
    'Some lords, my acquaintance, that settle the nation,
    Are pleased to be kind--but I hate ostentation.'
    'If that be the case then,' cried he, very gay,
    'I'm glad I have taken this house in my way.
    To-morrow you take a poor dinner with me;
    No words--I insist on't--precisely at three;
    We'll have Johnson, and Burke; all the wits will be there;
    My acquaintance is slight, or I'd ask my Lord Clare.
    And now that I think on't, as I am a sinner!
    We wanted this venison to make out the dinner.
    What say you--a pasty? It shall, and it must,
    And my wife, little Kitty, is famous for crust.
    Here, porter! this venison with me to Mile End;
    No stirring--I beg--my dear friend--my dear friend!'
    Thus, snatching his hat, he brushed off like the wind,
    And the porter and eatables followed behind."

We need not follow the vanished venison--which did not make its
appearance at the banquet any more than did Johnson or Burke--further
than to say that if Lord Clare did not make it good to the poet he did
not deserve to have his name associated with such a clever and
careless _jeu d'esprit_.



CHAPTER XVI.

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER.


But the writing of smart verses could not keep Dr. Goldsmith alive,
more especially as dinner-parties, Ranelagh masquerades, and similar
diversions pressed heavily on his finances. When his _History of
England_ appeared, the literary cut-throats of the day accused him of
having been bribed by the Government to betray the liberties of the
people:[3] a foolish charge. What Goldsmith got for the _English
History_ was the sum originally stipulated for, and now no doubt all
spent; with a further sum of fifty guineas for an abridgment of the
work. Then, by this time, he had persuaded Griffin to advance him the
whole of the eight hundred guineas for the _Animated Nature_, though
he had only done about a third part of the book. At the instigation of
Newbery he had begun a story after the manner of the _Vicar of
Wakefield_; but it appears that such chapters as he had written were
not deemed to be promising; and the undertaking was abandoned. The
fact is, Goldsmith was now thinking of another method of replenishing
his purse. The _Vicar of Wakefield_ had brought him little but
reputation; the _Good-natured Man_ had brought him £500. It was to the
stage that he now looked for assistance out of the financial slough in
which he was plunged. He was engaged in writing a comedy; and that
comedy was _She Stoops to Conquer_.

[Footnote 3: "God knows I had no thought for or against liberty in my
head; my whole aim being to make up a book of a decent size that, as
Squire Richard says, 'would do no harm to nobody.'"--Goldsmith to
Langton, September, 1771.]

In the Dedication to Johnson which was prefixed to this play on its
appearance in type, Goldsmith hints that the attempt to write a comedy
not of the sentimental order then in fashion, was a hazardous thing;
and also that Colman, who saw the piece in its various stages, was of
this opinion too. Colman threw cold water on the undertaking from the
very beginning. It was only extreme pressure on the part of
Goldsmith's friends that induced--or rather compelled--him to accept
the comedy; and that, after he had kept the unfortunate author in the
tortures of suspense for month after month. But although Goldsmith
knew the danger, he was resolved to face it. He hated the
sentimentalists and all their works; and determined to keep his new
comedy faithful to nature, whether people called it low or not. His
object was to raise a genuine, hearty laugh; not to write a piece for
school declamation; and he had enough confidence in himself to do the
work in his own way. Moreover he took the earliest possible
opportunity, in writing this piece, of poking fun at the sensitive
creatures who had been shocked by the "vulgarity" of _The Good-natured
Man_. "Bravo! Bravo!" cry the jolly companions of Tony Lumpkin, when
that promising buckeen has finished his song at the Three Pigeons;
then follows criticism:--

     "_First Fellow._ The squire has got spunk in him.

     _Second Fel._ I loves to hear him sing, bekeays he never
     gives us nothing that's low.

     _Third Fel._ O damn anything that's low, I cannot bear it.

     _Fourth Fel._ The genteel thing is the genteel thing any
     time: if so be that a gentleman bees in a concatenation
     accordingly.

     _Third Fel._ I likes the maxum of it, Master Muggins. What,
     though I am obligated to dance a bear, a man may be a
     gentleman for all that. May this be my poison, if my bear
     ever dances but to the very genteelest of tunes; 'Water
     Parted,' or the 'The Minuet in Ariadne.'"

Indeed, Goldsmith, however he might figure in society, was always
capable of holding his own when he had his pen in his hand. And even
at the outset of this comedy one sees how much he has gained in
literary confidence since the writing of the _Good-natured Man_. Here
there is no anxious stiffness at all; but a brisk, free conversation,
full of point that is not too formal, and yet conveying all the
information that has usually to be crammed into a first scene. In
taking as the groundwork of his plot that old adventure that had
befallen himself--his mistaking a squire's house for an inn--he was
hampering himself with something that was not the less improbable
because it had actually happened; but we begin to forget all the
improbabilities through the naturalness of the people to whom we are
introduced, and the brisk movement and life of the piece.

Fashions in dramatic literature may come and go; but the wholesome
good-natured fun of _She Stoops to Conquer_ is as capable of
producing a hearty laugh now, as it was when it first saw the light in
Covent Garden. Tony Lumpkin is one of the especial favourites of the
theatre-going public; and no wonder. With all the young cub's jibes
and jeers, his impudence and grimaces, one has a sneaking love for the
scapegrace; we laugh with him, rather than at him; how can we fail to
enjoy those malevolent tricks of his when he so obviously enjoys them
himself? And Diggory--do we not owe an eternal debt of gratitude to
honest Diggory for telling us about Ould Grouse in the gunroom, that
immortal joke at which thousands and thousands of people have roared
with laughter, though they never any one of them could tell what the
story was about? The scene in which the old squire lectures his
faithful attendants on their manners and duties, is one of the truest
bits of comedy on the English stage:

     "_Mr. Hardcastle._ But you're not to stand so, with your
     hands in your pockets. Take your hands from your pockets,
     Roger; and from your head, you blockhead you. See how
     Diggory carries his hands. They're a little too stiff,
     indeed, but that's no great matter.

     _Diggory._ Ay, mind how I hold them. I learned to hold my
     hands this way when I was upon drill for the militia. And so
     being upon drill--.

     _Hard._ You must not be so talkative, Diggory. You must be
     all attention to the guests. You must hear us talk, and not
     think of talking; you must see us drink, and not think of
     drinking; you must see us eat, and not think of eating.

     _Dig._ By the laws, your worship, that's parfectly
     unpossible. Whenever Diggory sees yeating going forward,
     ecod, he's always wishing for a mouthful himself.

     _Hard._ Blockhead! Is not a bellyfull in the kitchen as good
     as a bellyfull in the parlour? Stay your stomach with that
     reflection.

     _Dig._ Ecod, I thank your worship, I'll make a shift to stay
     my stomach with a slice of cold beef in the pantry.

     _Hard._ Diggory, you are too talkative.--Then, if I happen
     to say a good thing, or tell a good story at table, you must
     not all burst out a-laughing, as if you made part of the
     company.

     _Dig._ Then ecod your worship must not tell the story of
     Ould Grouse in the gunroom: I can't help laughing at
     that--he! he! he!--for the soul of me. We have laughed at
     that these twenty years--ha! ha! ha!

     _Hard._ Ha! ha! ha! The story is a good one. Well, honest
     Diggory, you may laugh at that--but still remember to be
     attentive. Suppose one of the company should call for a
     glass of wine, how will you behave? A glass of wine, sir,
     if-you please (_to_ DIGGORY).--Eh, why don't you move?

     _Dig._ Ecod, your worship, I never have courage till I see
     the eatables and drinkables brought upo' the table, and then
     I'm as bauld as a lion.

     _Hard._ What, will nobody move?

     _First Serv._ I'm not to leave this pleace.

     _Second Serv._ I'm sure it's no pleace of mine.

     _Third Serv._ Nor mine, for sartain.

     _Dig._ Wauns, and I'm sure it canna be mine."

No doubt all this is very "low" indeed; and perhaps Mr. Colman may be
forgiven for suspecting that the refined wits of the day would be
shocked by these rude humours of a parcel of servants. But all that
can be said in this direction was said at the time by Horace Walpole,
in a letter to a friend of his; and this criticism is so amusing in
its pretence and imbecility that it is worth quoting at large. "Dr.
Goldsmith has written a comedy," says this profound critic, "--no, it
is the lowest of all farces; it is not the subject I condemn, though
very vulgar, but the execution. The drift tends to no moral, no
edification of any kind--the situations, however, are well imagined,
and make one laugh in spite of the grossness of the dialogue, the
forced witticisms, and total improbability of the whole plan and
conduct. But what disgusts me most is, that though the characters are
very low, and aim at low humour, not one of them says a sentence that
is natural, or marks any character at all." Horace Walpole sighing for
edification--from a Covent Garden comedy! Surely, if the old gods have
any laughter left, and if they take any notice of what is done in the
literary world here below, there must have rumbled through the courts
of Olympus a guffaw of sardonic laughter, when that solemn criticism
was put down on paper.

Meanwhile Colman's original fears had developed into a sort of stupid
obstinacy. He was so convinced that the play would not succeed, that
he would spend no money in putting it on the stage; while far and wide
he announced its failure as a foregone conclusion. Under this gloom of
vaticination the rehearsals were nevertheless proceeded with--the
brunt of the quarrels among the players falling wholly on Goldsmith,
for the manager seems to have withdrawn in despair; while all the
Johnson confraternity were determined to do what they could for
Goldsmith on the opening night. That was the 15th of March, 1773. His
friends invited the author to dinner as a prelude to the play; Dr.
Johnson was in the chair; there was plenty of gaiety. But this means
of keeping up the anxious author's spirits was not very successful.
Goldsmith's mouth, we are told by Reynolds, became so parched "from
the agitation of his mind, that he was unable to swallow a single
mouthful." Moreover, he could not face the ordeal of sitting through
the play; when his friends left the tavern and betook themselves to
the theatre, he went away by himself; and was subsequently found
walking in St. James's Park. The friend who discovered him there,
persuaded him that his presence in the theatre might be useful in case
of an emergency; and ultimately got him to accompany him to Covent
Garden. When Goldsmith reached the theatre, the fifth act had been
begun.

Oddly enough, the first thing he heard on entering the stage-door was
a hiss. The story goes that the poor author was dreadfully frightened;
and that in answer to a hurried question, Colman exclaimed, "Psha!
Doctor, don't be afraid of a squib, when we have been sitting these
two hours on a barrel of gunpowder." If this was meant as a hoax, it
was a cruel one; if meant seriously, it was untrue. For the piece had
turned out a great hit. From beginning to end of the performance the
audience were in a roar of laughter; and the single hiss that
Goldsmith unluckily heard was so markedly exceptional, that it became
the talk of the town, and was variously attributed to one or other of
Goldsmith's rivals. Colman, too, suffered at the hands of the wits for
his gloomy and falsified predictions; and had, indeed, to beg
Goldsmith to intercede for him. It is a great pity that Boswell was
not in London at this time; for then we might have had a description
of the supper that naturally would follow the play, and of Goldsmith's
demeanour under this new success. Besides the gratification, moreover,
of his choice of materials being approved by the public, there was
the material benefit accruing to him from the three "author's nights."
These are supposed to have produced nearly five hundred pounds--a
substantial sum in those days.

Boswell did not come to London till the second of April following; and
the first mention we find of Goldsmith is in connection with an
incident which has its ludicrous as well as its regrettable aspect.
The further success of _She Stoops to Conquer_ was not likely to
propitiate the wretched hole-and-corner cut-throats that infested the
journalism of that day. More especially was Kenrick driven mad with
envy; and so, in a letter addressed to the _London Packet_, this poor
creature determined once more to set aside the judgment of the public,
and show Dr. Goldsmith in his true colours. The letter is a wretched
production, full of personalities only fit for an angry washerwoman,
and of rancour without point. But there was one passage in it that
effectually roused Goldsmith's rage; for here the Jessamy Bride was
introduced as "the lovely H----k." The letter was anonymous; but the
publisher of the print, a man called Evans, was known; and so
Goldsmith thought he would go and give Evans a beating. If he had
asked Johnson's advice about the matter, he would no doubt have been
told to pay no heed at all to anonymous scurrility--certainly not to
attempt to reply to it with a cudgel. When Johnson heard that Foote
meant to "take him off," he turned to Davies and asked him what was
the common price of an oak stick; but an oak stick in Johnson's hands,
and an oak stick in Goldsmith's Lands, were two different things.
However, to the bookseller's shop the indignant poet proceeded, in
company with a friend; got hold of Evans; accused him of having
insulted a young lady by putting her name in his paper; and, when the
publisher would fain have shifted the responsibility on to the editor,
forthwith denounced him as a rascal, and hit him over the back with
his cane. The publisher, however, was quite a match for Goldsmith; and
there is no saying how the deadly combat might have ended, had not a
lamp been broken overhead, the oil of which drenched both the
warriors. This intervention of the superior gods was just as
successful as a Homeric cloud; the fray ceased; Goldsmith and his
friend withdrew; and ultimately an action for assault was compromised
by Goldsmith's paying fifty pounds to a charity. Then the howl of the
journals arose. Their prerogative had been assailed. "Attacks upon
private character were the most liberal existing source of newspaper
income," Mr. Forster writes; and so the pack turned with one cry on
the unlucky poet. There was nothing of "the Monument" about poor
Goldsmith; and at last he was worried into writing a letter of defence
addressed to the public. "He has indeed done it very well," said
Johnson to Boswell, "but it is a foolish thing well done." And further
he remarked, "Why, sir, I believe it is the first time he has _beat_;
he may have _been beaten_ before. This, sir, is a new plume to him."



CHAPTER XVII.

INCREASING DIFFICULTIES.--THE END.


The pecuniary success of _She Stoops to Conquer_ did but little to
relieve Goldsmith from those financial embarrassments which were now
weighing heavily on his mind. And now he had less of the old high
spirits that had enabled him to laugh off the cares of debt. His
health became disordered; an old disease renewed its attacks, and was
grown more violent because of his long-continued sedentary habits.
Indeed, from this point to the day of his death--not a long interval,
either--we find little but a record of successive endeavours, some of
them wild and hopeless enough, to obtain money anyhow. Of course he
went to the Club, as usual; and gave dinner-parties; and had a laugh
or a song ready for the occasion. It is possible, also, to trace a
certain growth of confidence in himself, no doubt the result of the
repeated proofs of his genius he had put before his friends. It was
something more than mere personal intimacy that justified the rebuke
he administered to Reynolds, when the latter painted an allegorical
picture representing the triumph of Beattie and Truth over Voltaire
and Scepticism. "It very ill becomes a man of your eminence and
character," he said, "to debase so high a genius as Voltaire before so
mean a writer as Beattie. Beattie and his book will be forgotten in
ten years, while Voltaire's fame will last for ever. Take care it does
not perpetuate this picture, to the shame of such a man as you." He
was aware, too, of the position he had won for himself in English
literature. He knew that people in after-days would ask about him; and
it was with no sort of unwarrantable vainglory that he gave Percy
certain materials for a biography which he wished him to undertake.
Hence the _Percy Memoir_.

He was only forty-five when he made this request; and he had not
suffered much from illness during his life; so that there was
apparently no grounds for imagining that the end was near. But at this
time Goldsmith began to suffer severe fits of depression; and he grew
irritable and capricious of temper--no doubt another result of failing
health. He was embroiled in disputes with the booksellers; and, on one
occasion, seems to have been much hurt because Johnson, who had been
asked to step in as arbiter, decided against him. He was offended with
Johnson on another occasion because of his sending away certain dishes
at a dinner given to him by Goldsmith, as a hint that these
entertainments were too luxurious for one in Goldsmith's position. It
was probably owing to some temporary feeling of this sort--perhaps to
some expression of it on Goldsmith's part--that Johnson spoke of
Goldsmith's "malice" towards him. Mrs. Thrale had suggested that
Goldsmith would be the best person to write Johnson's biography. "The
dog would write it best, to be sure," said Johnson, "but his
particular malice towards me, and general disregard of truth, would
make the book useless to all and injurious to my character." Of course
it is always impossible to say what measure of jocular exaggeration
there may not be in a chance phrase such as this: of the fact that
there was no serious or permanent quarrel between the two friends we
have abundant proof in Boswell's faithful pages.

To return to the various endeavours made by Goldsmith and his friends
to meet the difficulties now closing in around him, we find, first of
all, the familiar hack-work. For two volumes of a _History of Greece_
he had received from Griffin £250. Then his friends tried to get him a
pension from the Government; but this was definitely refused. An
expedient of his own seemed to promise well at first. He thought of
bringing out a _Popular Dictionary of Arts and Sciences_, a series of
contributions mostly by his friends, with himself as editor; and among
those who offered to assist him were Johnson, Reynolds, Burke, and Dr.
Burney. But the booksellers were afraid. The project would involve a
large expense; and they had no high opinion of Goldsmith's business
habits. Then he offered to alter _The Good-natured Man_ for Garrick;
but Garrick preferred to treat with him for a new comedy, and
generously allowed him to draw on him for the money in advance. This
last help enabled him to go to Barton for a brief holiday; but the
relief was only temporary. On his return to London even his nearest
friends began to observe the change in his manner. In the old days
Goldsmith had faced pecuniary difficulties with a light heart; but
now, his health broken, and every avenue of escape apparently closed,
he was giving way to despair. His friend Cradock, coming up to town,
found Goldsmith in a most despondent condition; and also hints that
the unhappy author was trying to conceal the true state of affairs. "I
believe," says Cradock, "he died miserable, and that his friends were
not entirely aware of his distress."

And yet it was during this closing period of anxiety, despondency, and
gloomy foreboding, that the brilliant and humorous lines of
_Retaliation_ were written--that last scintillation of the bright and
happy genius that was soon to be extinguished for ever. The most
varied accounts have been given of the origin of this _jeu d'esprit_;
and even Garrick's, which was meant to supersede and correct all
others, is self-contradictory. For according to this version of the
story, which was found among the Garrick papers, and which is printed
in Mr. Cunningham's edition of Goldsmith's works, the whole thing
arose out of Goldsmith and Garrick resolving one evening at the St.
James's Coffee House to write each other's epitaph. Garrick's
well-known couplet was instantly produced:

    "Here lies Nolly Goldsmith, for shortness called Noll,
    Who wrote like an angel, but talked like poor Poll."

Goldsmith, according to Garrick, either would not or could not retort
at the moment; "but went to work, and some weeks after produced the
following printed poem, called _Retaliation_." But Garrick himself
goes on to say, "The following poems in manuscript were written by
several of the gentlemen on purpose to provoke the Doctor to an
answer, which came forth at last with great credit to him in
_Retaliation_." The most probable version of the story, which may be
pieced together from various sources, is that at the coffee-house
named this business of writing comic epitaphs was started some evening
or other by the whole company; that Goldsmith and Garrick pitted
themselves against each other; that thereafter Goldsmith began as
occasion served to write similar squibs about his friends, which were
shown about as they were written; that thereupon those gentlemen, not
to be behindhand, composed more elaborate pieces in proof of their
wit; and that, finally, Goldsmith resolved to bind these fugitive
lines of his together in a poem, which he left unfinished, and which,
under the name of _Retaliation_, was published after his death. This
hypothetical account receives some confirmation from the fact that the
scheme of the poem and its component parts do not fit together well;
the introduction looks like an after-thought; and has not the freedom
and pungency of a piece of improvisation. An imaginary dinner is
described, the guests being Garrick, Reynolds, Burke, Cumberland, and
the rest of them, Goldsmith last of all. More wine is called for,
until the whole of his companions have fallen beneath the table:

    "Then, with chaos and blunders encircling my head,
    Let me ponder, and tell what I think of the _dead_."

This is a somewhat clumsy excuse for introducing a series of epitaphs;
but the epitaphs amply atone for it. That on Garrick is especially
remarkable as a bit of character-sketching; its shrewd hints--all in
perfect courtesy and good humour--going a little nearer to the truth
than is common in epitaphs of any sort:--

    "Here lies David Garrick, describe me who can;
    An abridgment of all that was pleasant in man.
    As an actor, confessed without rival to shine:
    As a wit, if not first, in the very first line:
    Yet, with talents like these, and an excellent heart,
    The man had his failings, a dupe to his art.
    Like an ill-judging beauty, his colours he spread,
    And beplastered with rouge his own natural red.
    On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting;
    'Twas only that, when he was off, he was acting.
    With no reason on earth to go out of his way,
    He turned and he varied full ten times a day:
    Though secure of our hearts, yet confoundedly sick
    If they were not his own by finessing and trick;
    He cast off his friends, as a huntsman his pack,
    For he knew when he pleased he could whistle them back.
    Of praise a mere glutton, he swallowed what came;
    And the puff of a dunce, he mistook it for fame;
    Till his relish grown callous, almost to disease,
    Who peppered the highest was surest to please.
    But let us be candid, and speak out our mind:
    If dunces applauded, he paid them in kind.
    Ye Kenricks, ye Kellys, and Woodfalls so grave,
    What a commerce was yours, while you got and you gave!
    How did Grub Street re-echo the shouts that you raised,
    While he was be-Rosciused, and you were bepraised.
    But peace to his spirit, wherever it flies,
    To act as an angel and mix with the skies:
    Those poets who owe their best fame to his skill
    Shall still be his flatterers, go where he will;
    Old Shakespeare receive him with praise and with love,
    And Beaumonts and Bens be his Kellys above."

The truth is that Goldsmith, though he was ready to bless his "honest
little man" when he received from him sixty pounds in advance for a
comedy not begun, never took quite so kindly to Garrick as to some of
his other friends. There is no pretence of discrimination at all, for
example, in the lines devoted in this poem to Reynolds. All the
generous enthusiasm of Goldsmith's Irish nature appears here; he will
admit of no possible rival to this especial friend of his:--

    "Here Reynolds is laid, and to tell you my mind,
    He has not left a wiser or better behind."

There is a tradition that the epitaph on Reynolds, ending with the
unfinished line

    "By flattery unspoiled ..."

was Goldsmith's last piece of writing. One would like to believe that,
in any case.

Goldsmith had returned to his Edgware lodgings, and had, indeed,
formed some notion of selling his chambers in the Temple, and living
in the country for at least ten months in the year, when a sudden
attack of his old disorder drove him into town again for medical
advice. He would appear to have received some relief; but a nervous
fever followed; and on the night of the 25th March, 1774, when he was
but forty-six years of age, he took to his bed for the last time. At
first he refused to regard his illness as serious; and insisted on
dosing himself with certain fever-powders from which he had received
benefit on previous occasions; but by and by as his strength gave way,
he submitted to the advice of the physicians who were in attendance on
him. Day after day passed; his weakness visibly increasing, though,
curiously enough, the symptoms of fever were gradually abating. At
length one of the doctors, remarking to him that his pulse was in
greater disorder than it should be from the degree of fever, asked him
if his mind was at ease. "No, it is not," answered Goldsmith; and
these were his last words. Early in the morning of Monday, April 4,
convulsions set in; these continued for rather more than an hour; then
the troubled brain and the sick heart found rest for ever.

When the news was carried to his friends, Burke, it is said, burst
into tears, and Reynolds put aside his work for the day. But it does
not appear that they had visited him during his illness; and neither
Johnson, nor Reynolds, nor Burke, nor Garrick followed his body to the
grave. It is true, a public funeral was talked of; and, among others,
Reynolds, Burke, and Garrick were to have carried the pall; but this
was abandoned; and Goldsmith was privately buried in the ground of the
Temple Church on the 9th of April, 1774. Strangely enough, too,
Johnson seems to have omitted all mention of Goldsmith from his
letters to Boswell. It was not until Boswell had written to him, on
June 24th, "You have said nothing to me about poor Goldsmith," that
Johnson, writing on July 4, answered as follows:--"Of poor dear Dr.
Goldsmith there is little to be told, more than the papers have made
public. He died of a fever, made, I am afraid, more violent by
uneasiness of mind. His debts began to be heavy, and all his resources
were exhausted. Sir Joshua is of opinion that he owed not less than
two thousand pounds. Was ever poet so trusted before?"

But if the greatest grief at the sudden and premature death of
Goldsmith would seem to have been shown at the moment by certain
wretched creatures who were found weeping on the stairs leading to his
chambers, it must not be supposed that his fine friends either forgot
him, or ceased to regard his memory with a great gentleness and
kindness. Some two years after, when a monument was about to be
erected to Goldsmith in Westminster Abbey, Johnson consented to write
"the poor dear Doctor's epitaph;" and so anxious were the members of
that famous circle in which Goldsmith had figured, that a just tribute
should be paid to his genius, that they even ventured to send a round
robin to the great Cham desiring him to amend his first draft. Now,
perhaps, we have less interest in Johnson's estimate of Goldsmith's
genius--though it contains the famous _Nullum quod tetigit non
ornavit_--than in the phrases which tell of the honour paid to the
memory of the dead poet by the love of his companions and the
faithfulness of his friends. It may here be added that the precise
spot where Goldsmith was buried in the Temple churchyard is unknown.
So lived and so died Oliver Goldsmith.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the foregoing pages the writings of Goldsmith have been given so
prominent a place in the history of his life that it is unnecessary to
take them here collectively and endeavour to sum up their distinctive
qualities. As much as could be said within the limited space has, it
is hoped, been said about their genuine and tender pathos, that never
at any time verges on the affected or theatrical; about their quaint
delicate, delightful humour; about that broader humour that is not
afraid to provoke the wholesome laughter of mankind by dealing with
common and familiar ways, and manners, and men; about that choiceness
of diction, that lightness and grace of touch, that lend a charm even
to Goldsmith's ordinary hack-work.

Still less necessary, perhaps, is it to review the facts and
circumstances of Goldsmith's life; and to make of them an example, a
warning, or an accusation. That has too often been done. His name has
been used to glorify a sham Bohemianism--a Bohemianism that finds it
easy to live in taverns, but does not find it easy, so far as one
sees, to write poems like the _Deserted Village_. His experiences as
an author have been brought forward to swell the cry about neglected
genius--that is, by writers who assume their genius in order to prove
the neglect. The misery that occasionally befell him during his
wayward career has been made the basis of an accusation against
society, the English constitution, Christianity--Heaven knows what. It
is time to have done with all this nonsense. Goldsmith resorted to the
hack-work of literature when everything else had failed him; and he
was fairly paid for it. When he did better work, when he "struck for
honest fame," the nation gave him all the honour that he could have
desired. With an assured reputation, and with ample means of
subsistence, he obtained entrance into the most distinguished society
then in England--he was made the friend of England's greatest in the
arts and literature--and could have confined himself to that society
exclusively if he had chosen. His temperament, no doubt, exposed him
to suffering; and the exquisite sensitiveness of a man of genius may
demand our sympathy; but in far greater measure is our sympathy
demanded for the thousands upon thousands of people who, from illness
or nervous excitability, suffer from quite as keen a sensitiveness
without the consolation of the fame that genius brings.

In plain truth, Goldsmith himself would have been the last to put
forward pleas humiliating alike to himself and to his calling. Instead
of beseeching the State to look after authors; instead of imploring
society to grant them "recognition;" instead of saying of himself "he
wrote, and paid the penalty;" he would frankly have admitted that he
chose to live his life his own way, and therefore paid the penalty.
This is not written with any desire of upbraiding Goldsmith. He did
choose to live his own life his own way, and we now have the splendid
and beautiful results of his work; and the world--looking at these
with a constant admiration, and with a great and lenient love for
their author--is not anxious to know what he did with his guineas, or
whether the milkman was ever paid. "He had raised money and squandered
it, by every artifice of acquisition and folly of expense. BUT LET NOT
HIS FRAILTIES BE REMEMBERED: HE WAS A VERY GREAT MAN." This is
Johnson's wise summing up; and with it we may here take leave of
gentle Goldsmith.


THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *



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