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BORN 1728,--DIED 1774.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH was born at a place called Pallas, in the parish of Ferney, and county of Longford, in Ireland. His father held the living of Kilkenny West, in the county of Westmeath. There was a tradition in the family, that they were descended from Juan Romeiro, a Spanish gentleman, who had settled in Ireland, in the sixteenth century, and had married a woman, whose name of Goldsmith was adopted by their descendants. Oliver was instructed in reading and writing by a schoolmaster in his father's parish, who had been a quarter-master in the wars of Queen Anne; and who, being fond of relating his adventures, is supposed to have communicated to the young mind of his pupil the romantic and wandering disposition which showed itself in his future years. He was next placed under the Rev. Mr. Griffin, schoolmaster of Elphin, and was received into the house of his father's brother, Mr. Goldsmith, of Ballyoughter. Some relations and friends of his uncle, who were met on a social party, happening to be struck with the sprightliness of Oliver's abilities, and knowing the narrow circumstances of his father, offered to
join in defraying the expense of giving him a liberal education. The chief contributor was the Rev. Thomas Contarine, * who had married our poet's aunt. He was accordingly sent, for some time, to the school of Athlone, and afterwards to an academy at Edgeworthstown, where he was fitted for the university. He was admitted a sizer of Trinity college, Dublin, in his fifteenth year, a circumstance which denoted remarkable proficiency; and, three years afterwards, was elected one of the exhibi. tioners on the foundation of Erasmus Smith. But though he occasionally distinguished himself by his translations from the classics, his general appearance at the university corresponded neither with the former promises, nor future development of his talents. He was, like Johnson, a lounger at the college-gate. He gained neither premiums nor a scholarship, and was not admitted to the degree of bachelor of arts till two years after the regular time. His backwardness, it would appear, was the effect of despair more than of wilful negligence. He had been placed under a savage tutor, named Theaker Wilder, who used to insult him at public examinations, and to treat his delinquencies with a ferocity that broke his spirit. On one occasion, poor Oliver was so imprudent as to invite a company of young people, of both sexes, to a dance and supper in his rooms. On receiving intelligence
• This benevolent man was descended from the noble family of the Contarini of Venice. His ancestor, having married a nun in his native country, was obliged to fly with her into France, where she died of the small.pox. Bring pursued by ecclesiastical censuris, Contarini camr to England; but the puritanical manntrs, which ihen prevailed, having aff rded him but a cold re. cepi on, he was on his way to Ireland, when, at Chester, he met with a young lady of the name of Chaloner, whom he married. Having afterwards conformed to the established church, he, through the interest of his wife's family, obtained ecclesiastical prefe ment in the diocese of Eiphin. Their lineal descendant was the benefactor of Goldsmith.
of which, Theaker grimly repaired to the place of revelry, belaboured him before his guests, and rudely broke up the assembly. The disgrace of this inhuman treatment drove him for a time from the university. He set out from Dublin, intending to sail from Cork for some other country, be knew not whither; but, after wandering about till he was reduced to such famine, that he thought a handful of gray peas which a girl gave him at a wake, the sweetest repast he had ever tasted, he returned home, like the prodigal son, and matters were adjusted for his being received again at college.
About the time of his finally leaving the university his father died. His uncle Contarine, from whom he experienced the kindness of a father, wished him to have taken orders, and Oliver is said to have applied for them, but to have been rejected; though for what reason is not sufficiently known. He then accepted the situation of private tutor in a gentleman's family, and retained it long enough to save about 301. with which he bought a tolerable horse, and went forth upon his adventures. At the end of six weeks, his friends, having heard nothing of him, concluded that he had left the kingdom, when he returned to his mother's house, without a penny, upon a poor little horse, which he called Fiddleback, and which was not worth more than twenty shillings. The account which he gave of himself was, that he had been at Cork, where he had sold his former horse, and paid his passage to America ; but the ship happening to sail whilst he was viewing the curiosities of the city, he had just money enough left to purchase Fiddleback, and to reach the house of an old acquaintance on the road. This nominal friend, however, had received him very coldly; and, in order to evadle his application for pecuniary relief, had advised bim to sell his diminutive steed, and promised him another in its place, which should cost him nothing either for
price or provender. To confirm this promise, he pulled out an oaken staff from beneath a bed. Just as this generous offer had been made, a neighbouring gentleman came in, and invited both the miser and Goldsmith to dine with him. Upon a short acquaintance, Oliver communicated his situation to the stranger, and was enabled, by his liberality, to proceed upon his journey. This was his story. His mother, it may be supposed, was looking rather gravely upon her prudent child, who had such adventures to relate, when he concluded them by saying, “and now, my dear mother, having struggled so hard to come home to you, I wonder that you are not more rejoiced to see me.” Mr. Contarine next resolved to send him to the Temple; but on his way to London he was fleeced of all his money in gaming, and returned once more to his mother's bouse in disgrace and affliction. Again was his good uncle reconciled to him, and equipped him for Edinburgh, that he might pursue the study of medicine.
On his arrival at Edinburgh he took lodgings, and sallied forth to take a view of the city ; but, at a late hour, he recollected that he had omitted to inform himself of the name and address of his landlady; and would not have found his way back, if he had not fortunately met with the porter who had carried his luggage. After attending some courses of medical lectures at Edinburgh, he was permitted, by his uncle, to repair to Leyden, for the sake of finishing his studies, when his departure was accelerated by a debt, which he had contracted by becoming security for an acquaintance, and from the arrest attending which, he was only saved by the interference of a friend. If Leyden, however, was his object, he, with the usual eccentricity of his motions, set out to reach it by way of Bourdeaux, and embarked in a ship which was bound thither from Leith; but which was driven, by stress
of weather, into Newcastle upon Tyne. His fellow passengers were some Scotchmen, who had been employed in raising men in their own country for the service of the king of France. They were arrested, by orders from government, at Newcastle ; and Goldsmith, who had been committed to prison with them, was not liberated till after a fortnight's confinement. By this accident, however, he was eventually saved from an early death. The vessel sailed during his imprisonment, and was wrecked at the mouth of the Garonne, where every soul on board perished.
On being released, he took shipping for Holland, and arrived at Leyden, where he continued about a twelvemonth, and studied chemistry and anatomy. At the end of that time, having exhausted his last farthing at the gaming table, and expended the greater part of a supply, which a friend lent him, in purchasing some costly Dutch flower roots, which he intended for a present to his uncle, he set out to make the tour of Europe on foot, unincumbered at least by the weight of his money. The manner in which he occasionally subsisted, during his travels, by playing his flute among the peasantry, and by disputing at the different universities, has been innumerable times repeated. In the last, and most authentic account of his life, the circumstance of his having ever been a travelling tutor is called in question. Assistance from his uncle must have reached him, as he remained for six months at Padua, after having traversed parts of Flanders, France, Germany, and Switzerland, in the last of which countries he wrote the first sketch of his “ Traveller."
His uncle having died while he was in Italy, he was obliged to travel on foot through France to England, and arrived in London in extreme distress. He was for a short time usher in an academy, and was afterwards found and relieved, by his old