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OLIVER GOLDSMITH.

The character of Goldsmith remains yet fallen into oblivion, and that he was, in short, to be written. With the exception of the one of those laborious hacks who, subsisting occasional notices concerning him, which upon the patronage of the booksellers, are we find in Boswell's book, and a few me- ready at any moment to embark in any litemorable sentences uttered by memorable rary undertaking for which they are paid men, we know nothing of the character of whether nature or education has qualified Goldsmith beyond that which we glean, or them to execute their tasks with credit. ratherdeduce, from his acknowledged works. Amongst the variety of compositions which But even those inferences, however complete he thus produced, there was, of course, much they may be as far as they go, afford but which he would have been unwilling to partial glimpses of the man : for we learn avow, much which was merely commonfrom the indefatigable researches of his place and superficial, and a great deal in recent biographer, Mr. Prior, that his which his felicitous hand could scarcely be labours extended over a much wider and recognized, having been thrown off merely more various field than those volumes which to satisfy the present demands of the hour, bear his name, and that there was scarcely and to secure him an interval of ease for a subject in the whole range of human en- pursuits more after his own taste. But this quiry which, at one time or another, he did mass of production discovers a versatility, a not touch. That his erudition was neither power, and a copiousness for which the world extensive nor profound, must be admitted had not previously given him credit. He at once; but that he possessed extraordinary was regarded, not as a voluminous, but as an industry, singular facility in acquiring a elegant writer-not as one who had written rapid and familiar knowledge of the most much, but as one who had written with reobvious features of every topic he under- markable grace, beauty, and precision : and took to illustrate ; and that he was master it was a subject of general regret that he had of the happy art of inspiring even the dull.- left so little behind him. It is now, howest investigation with lively interest, are ever, known that, in common with such men evidences of a genius which neither the envi- as Smollett and Griffith Jones, differing ous Kenrick, nor the fretful Boswell, could from each other in degree, but living upon refuse to acknowledge. Of all his contem- similar expedients, he was rarely idle, and poraries, Johnson appears to have appre- that he was one of the most fertile contriciated his peculiar merits with the greatest butors to the fleeting literature of the day, accuracy. When he heard that he was He must, therefore, be regarded as an inemployed in the preparation of a work on cessant labourer, and not as an author Natural History, he said that he would awakening occasionally from fits of reverie make it as entertaining as a Persian tale ! and idleness to charm the world with inven

The literary reputation of Goldsmith tions that had visited him in his dreams. rests upon works that will survive as long The knowledge of this fact was essential as the literature of the English language. to the formation of a just estimate of his But, until Mr. Prior explored the secret character. The legends that have come history of the author, and tracked him from down to us of his absent moods, his blunders, bookseller to bookseller, and from publica- and his dullness (amongst other irreverent tion to publication, with an amount of dili- titles which he acquired was that of Goodgence

that cannot be too highly praised, it man Dull), were calculated to convey and was not known that Goldsmith was a con- confirm the notion that his genius was occastant contributor to periodicals, that he was sionally dormant, that his powers were not a reviewer of new books in magazines and always capable of being called into action, newspapers, that he wrote divers prefaces that he was slow to originate, and that the for histories, scientific books, translations, process of realization depended altogether and a multitude of ephemeral volumes ; that upon temperament. The very contrary was he prepared for the press a great number of true. His mind was remarkably elasticpamphlets and compilations which have he never was at a loss for a subject—he was

VOL. X.-NO. II.---FEBRUARY 1837.

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prompt in the execution of whatever he whose love of his species plunged him into undertook-he saw no difficulties before countless embarrassments that compromised him—he was perpetually searching after his sense. Johnson was a marvellous talker novelties, and devising projects—and whe- -a sententious talker: it was a part and ther he was required to furnish a grave parcel of his character: the subjects upon disquisition, a humorous essay, a biography, which he excelled, were such as would be or an allegory, he was always prepared with likely to be improved by intercourse with a fund of information, and a flow of spirits other minds, and the manner in which he that appears never to have deserted him. investigated them was of a mixed mode beHis ordinary bearing in society certainly tween a debater and an oracle. Goldsmith, did not indicate this fertility and readiness on the contrary, derived every thing from of mind. In conversation he was somewhat nature—he could not have written Rasselas confused and abstracted :-may not the so- had he tried; he would have banished all lution of all his awkwardness in that way the artificial eloquence, and spread a human be found in the diversity of subjects that interest over the story that would have occupied his attention? His habits of com- brought down the fiction and its moral closer position suggest a clue to this very pecu- to our sympathies and our experience :-he liarity, that may at once account for it wrote out of the fullness of his own heart satisfactorily. When he was writing the and thoughts :—while other men History of England, he used to read Hume, arguing, Goldsmith was inventing and reRapin, Carte, and Kennet in the mornings, flecting, but his good-nature was always then walk out into the fields, and in a few getting the better of him, and with an exhours afterwards, having digested the sub- cusable vanity, or, perhaps, from a generous stance of what he had been reading, he wish to make other people feel at ease, he atwould sit down and reduce into his own tempted to enter into the immediate topic, simple and perspicuous narrative the entire while his attention was concentrated upon subject of his meditations. He did not something else, and, of course, he frequently seize upon it at once-it required a short made himself ridiculous.

The truth was, pause of time-he was to be acted upon by that not being a mere artist, but one who the influence of solitude and rumination felt and observed disregarding shallow and he could not resolve the matter into brilliancy, despising the meretricious, and shape until it had sunk and deposited itself valuing only that which was founded in in his mind. There are many anecdotes of nature, which he loved with the unconGoldsmith extant, that strengthen this view scious devotion of a child—he never could of the mental process by which he arrived apply his powers with success to the fugiat production. When he was boarding with tive embellishments, and incessant but a family in the country, he was accustomed trifling demands of general intercourse. to have his meals frequently sent to his His only exponent was his pen. In comroom, where he remained for several days pany he was confounded-alone, he was together writing ; sometimes he would self-possessed. Success in the world would wander into the kitchen, and stand with have tainted the freshness, originality, and his back to the fire ruminating, when sud- purity of his genius. Had he ventured to denly the labouring thought would develope take a prominent share in conversation, unitself, and he would start off to commit it to skilled as he was in dialectics—(which he paper without saying a word the whole evidently held in aversion, since, throughout time. Such are, in a greater or lesser his whole works, we find him delineating, degree, the habits of all literary men, but in developing, and urging moral truths, but Goldsmith the action of the mind aprears never contesting about them)-it must have to have completely absorbed the faculty of been at the ultimate expense of that exquitalking : while he was perfecting the train site simplicity which constitutes the preof reasoning, the image, the plot, the form vailing charm of his writings. Yet there of the fiction, he rejected the ordinary sti- were not wanting envious and empty permulants of collision, which would have de- sons to take advantage of his peculiarities, ranged his purpose. But his social qualities and to seek petty victories over his credu: drew him into company, unfit as he was to lity and guilelessness. A noble lord—with participate in the gladiatorial display of an ambition, perhaps, resembling that of trenchant wit and philosophical satire ; and " the youth who fired the Ephesian dome,” he was constantly in the dilemma of a man -called Goldsmith an inspired idiot.”

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Assuredly his lordship’s opinion of the poet shew that literary men were like other was thoroughly worthless: he measured him people, he avoided as much as possible the by the standard of superficial convention, exhibition of intellectual advantages, and and might as well have challenged his lite- brought himself down at all times to the rary reputation by a sarcasm on his ward- tone of the circle in which he chanced to robe.

There was, no doubt, a slight tinge But the awkwardness, if it may be so de- of vanity in this, as well as amiability ; it signated, of Goldsmith's bearing in society, was a part, however, of his character, and was not to be referred solely to the pecu- must be taken into the account, if we would liar turn of his mind; it had its origin less arrive at a true estimate of the individual. in his inaptitude, than in his desire for po- After all, perhaps the word vanity is mispularity in the circles that flattered and applied to Goldsmith. Vanity is generally hoaxed him. This was the real spring found associated with envy. Now, of all of the absurdities which he committed, as men, Goldsmith was the least envious. He well as of the jokes to which he was exposed. constantly checked, and endeavoured to It is said of him, that he was affected by the neutralize, the severity of Johnson : profoolish vanity of wishing to be thought moted, even to his own loss, the interests of capable of achieving excellence in almost his poorer contemporaries ; was remarkably every thing that any body else could per- indulgent of all faults of others; and was form. Johnson detected this foible, and prompt to forgive all the ill-natured critiridiculed it unmercifully. On one occasion cisms that were written and spoken upon his he was riding in a coach, and observing that productions. His experience of the world's the driver was going at a rapid pace, he vices, of calumny, of treachery, of harshsaid, “ This fellow drives well : if Goldy ness, coldness, and unprovoked hostility, were here now he would tell us that he passed over him in vain. He was inaccescould do it better!” Another observation sible to the admonitions of disappointment, made by Johnson in allusion to the writings and continued to the last to think favourably of Goldsmith, taken along with this satiri- and trustfully of mankind.

His temper cal remark, will shew the two great phases was so unsuspicious, that the same cheat of the poet's character. “ So various are might be practised upon him over and over his powers," observed Johnson, “and so again, without disturbing his quiescent confelicitous is his style, that he always ap- fidence. But, although these circumstances pears to do that best which he happens to had no practical effect upon his life—for he be doing.” Thus in literature Goldsmith went out of the world a child in the world's excelled upon all the subjects he attempted: ways—they were not lost upon

him. They in private life his efforts to succeed in the furnished him with abundant hints for his same way were ludicrous failures. His humorous sketches of society, and from genius was marked out for supremacy in the every defeat which his self-love endured revelations of solitude : when he came into with such complacency, he extracted a the crowd, he was bewildered. But he moral or a jest ; which shewed, that while could not surrender the notion, that he had he was indifferent to the mortification, the equal powers of conversation with other point did not escape his recognition. people, and he was consequently betrayed Were it not that the thoughtlessness of into multitudes of humorous dilemmas. Goldsmith was identical with the simplicity He had a pleasant talent for singing an Irish of his nature, it would unquestionably decomic

song and telling stories, and may have serve to be treated with severity: but his been thus lured into the belief, that his foibles were all of so kindly and unselfish a proper sphere was the social board. Some cast, that even where the rigid censor would part, too, of this fallacy may be set down to most harshly condemn, the purist would his good-nature. He was always impressed find a lurking virtue at the bottom to with an apprehension, that literary men brighten his wrath into smiles. It may be were regarded in general as a class distinct said of Goldsmith, that he never committed from the rest of society, that their habits an act of injustice-unless we take special were held to be eccentric and peculiar, and objection to those instances of heedless gethat their superiority was in some measure nerosity which frequently deprived him of felt to be oppressive by those with whom the power of doing real good, by the expenthey mingled. Anxious to relieve his diture of his pity upon the first appeal that friends from the sense of inferiority, and to happened to be made to his compassion. I

is very true that, when a man acts upon im- and Reynolds, did not spoil liim. The pulse—when his sympathies are easily same innocence and purity that distinaffected by appearances—when he does not guished him at college, when, with stinted care to examine into the merits of every finances, he was seduced into a thousand tale of distress that moves his feelings, and indiscretions, were equally palpable at his when his charity is at once indiscriminate chambers in the Temple, when he received and extravagant-he is not entitled to the Johnson and Bishop Percy as his guests. credit of being governed by just principles; The anecdotes of his heedless liberality, and we will seldom err in attributing the his liability to temptation of all sorts, are accidental good he may effect to the weak- innumerable. He was the most credulous ness, and not to the moral elevation of his of men. He firmly believed in the aucharacter. Such a man is as easily duped thenticity of Chatterton's forgeries, alby impostors, as he is persuaded into the though Walpole bore personal testimony to noblest sacrifices. This was, in a great mea- the fabrication. It was the easiest thing sure, the case with Goldsmith. After a few possible to deceive him—the most difficult weeks of laborious seclusion from the world, to convince him that he was deceived. he would sometimes re-appear with the The memorabilia of Goldsmith-taking in profits of his industry in the haunts of his merely the stories that are told of his friends. That was the moment when his “ amiable weaknesses ”—would form one harmless vanity—which exhibited itself in of the most amusing books in the lanno particular more strongly than in the love guage. of ostentation was set upon by knaves. He When he was at Trinity College in was always surrounded by adventurers from Dublin, which he entered as a sizer, he Ireland, who came to him with letters of used to replenish his purse, whenever it introduction, or who introduced themselves happened to run out, by writing ballads under a variety of pretexts : and he could for the street-singers; and it is related of not resist their praises and solicitations. him that he was in the habit of strolling His money rapidly vanished : it was either out at night to listen to his own songs. spent upon reckless parasites, or freely On one occasion a friend whom he had distributed upon such piteous instances as invited to breakfast with him, found him they well knew how to assail his sensibility in the morning buried inside the feathers with; and the poet was soon compelled to of the bed, and struggling in yain to extriabandon his brief pleasures foranother session cate himself. He had taken off the blanof literary drudgery*. But there was in all kets and sheets the night before to give this so much unaffected simplicity of mind, them to a poor family, and ripping open it was so entirely free from levity and im- the tick, covered himself up in the feathers morality, and there was in it so little in- for warmth! At another time he left his dulgence of the meaner passions or appetites mother's house, mounted on a horse, with —that it would be hard to charge it upon 301., and rode to Cork, intending to sail him as a grave neglect of any of the duties for America; but, after paying for his he owed to society or to himself.

passage, the vessel sailed without him From the commencement to the close of while he was engaged on a party of pleahis life, the same facility of disposition sure: he was forced, in consequence, to may be traced without change. The ap- sell his horse, purchase a common hack, plauses of the crowded theatre, the pane- and return home without a penny in his gyrics of the great, the friendship of Burke pocket. It was intended by his friends

that he should embrace the profession of * Goldsmith is not a solitary instance of this sort of

the law, and his uncle gave him 501., and wastefulness. It is related of Steele, that he used sometimes to be so destitute of cash, that he would take

sent him to Dublin to study: but he had up his quarters in some suburban tavern, and write not been long there until he lost the money a political pamphlet to meet his immediate demands.

in a gambling house to which he allowed A gentleman whose recent death under circumstances that strongly excited the sympathy of the public,

himself to be taken, and he was, therefore, afforded another example of literary eccentricity. obliged to give up the bar. The church Whenever he had accumulated, by close application

was also thought of as a provision, but he for a month or two, a sum sufficient for his purpose, he suddenly disappeared, and was not heard of until was rejected by the bishop to whom he it was exhausted. He then returned to his chambers, applied for ordination, because, says the pennyless and dispirited. The interval had been devoted to the worst species of profligacy, in dens where

tradition, he appeared before his lordship none of his friends could trace him!

in a pair of scarlet breeches! At length, by the united contributions of his friends, which his writings would, a priori, have he was enabled to go to Edinburgh to led the reader to expect. Yet, with very study medicine. Poor as he was, he had a little pretension derived from figure, face, sort of vanity about money that would not or tone, he occasionally indulged in some suffer him to acknowledge the scantiness of extravagances of dress which, taken in his resources. One evening, when a party contrast with his simple and natural deof the students were assembled, it was pro- meanour,

as well as with his intervals posed that they should go to a play, when of slovenliness, must have given him Goldsmith offered to draw lots with any one an appearance of holiday finery, that in of them, to decide which of the two should such a man could not have been otherwise pay for all. Fortunately, as he afterwards than ridiculous. When he first became confessed, they all refused ; for, said he, known in London, he aimed at the other had any of them accepted the challenge, extreme, and dressed with remarkable and I had lost, part of my wardrobe must negligence. Dr. Johnson, upon visiting have been pledged to raise the money! him with Dr. Percy, was observed to have Upon leaving Leyden, he was so reduced prepared his toilet with unusual care, and as to be obliged to borrow money to prose- upon being asked the reason, he replied cute his journey; but he had no sooner that he understood that Dr. Goldsmith was procured it than, wandering into a florist's, in the habit of attiring himself in a slohe saw some flowers that he knew would venly fashion, quoting him as an example, please his uncle, and he laid out his whole and that he was resolved to deprive him of stock of money to purchase them. Being such an excuse for so indefensible a cusonce at the gardens at White Conduit tom. His love of fine clothes, when he House, he met three ladies, the daughters indulged in it, was equally absurd, and he of a friend, and could not resist the oppor- even went so far as to adopt some of the tunity of asking them to take tea with most expensive and foolish fashions of the him ; but when the bill came to be paid, it day. One morning Sir Joshua called on him, was discovered that he had no money! A and found him kicking a bundle violently friend once asked a loan from him, and through the room. Upon enquiry, he disupon being told that he had not the means covered that it contained a masquerade of obliging him, reproached him for his dress which Goldsmith had purchased, and unkindness in refusing to do a favour which, having served its purpose, the poet, which he believed it was in his power to in repentance for having expended his confer. Poor Goldsmith, mortified at the money so unwisely, was thus ill-using, in ungenerous suspicion, borrowed the money, the determination to have the value out and wrapping it up in paper, placed it under of it in exercise !” His tailor's bills are the door of the lodgings of his friend, who amongst the most curious documents of the was gone out to a party. The next day kind extant; and testify with unanswerathe friend called to thank him, but re- ble fidelity the follies he committed in this proved him for his carelessness in putting way. One of the items we find is a “ Tythe money in a place where any person rian bloom satin grain and garter blue silk passing in or out might find it. “I never breeches ;” another “ a blue velvet suit” thought of that,” replied the poet! Pil- and “ crimson collar:" a third a frock kington, a distressed scribe, used to prac- suit, half trimmed with gold sprig buttons ;" tise frequent schemes upon his credulity, and a fourth a rich straw-coloured tamand once obtained a small sum from him, boured waistcoat." It must have been a under the pretence that he wanted to pay strange sight to see the author of the Vicar the purchase-money on three white mice of Wakefield in a blue velvet suit, with a which were lying in the docks, and which he crimson collar, a straw-coloured waistcoat, designed as a present to a lady of quality! and Tyrian bloom and garter blue silk One of the most ludicrous points about breeches! Yet such were the extremities Goldsmith was his personal vanity. In to which he carried the most amusing vanity height he was about five feet and a half, that was ever betrayed by a man of sense; of a strong make, and with very plain fea- and if we may derive any inference of his tures, and a heavy head: his manners general habits from the bills of one year, were exceedingly inartificial : he laughed the variety and costliness of his suits must loudly when he was animated, and was not have nearly exhausted his whole resources. distinguished for that sort of refinement He was evidently very sensitive on this

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