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advocacy of the great claims of humanity. It arises from a very admirable criticism on The Vicar of Wakefield."
DOCTOR PRIMROSE AND THE HANGMAN, “ There had been, in light amusing fiction, no such scene as that where Doctor Primrose, surrounded by the mocking felons of the gaol into which his villainous creditor has thrown him, finds in even those wretched outcasts a common nature to appeal to, minds to instruct, sympathies to bring back to virtue, souls to restore and save. In less than a fortnight I had formed them into something social and humane.' Into how many hearts may this have planted a desire which had as yet become no man's care ! Not yet had Howard turned his thoughts to the prison, Romilly was but a boy of nine years old, and Elizabeth Fry had not been born. In Goldsmith's day, as for centuries before it, the gaol existed as the gallows' portal : it was crime's high school, where Law presided over the science of law-breaking, and did its best to spread guilt abroad. This prison, says Doctor Primrose, makes men guilty where it does not find them so : 'it encloses wretches for the commission of one crime, and returns them, if returned alive, fitted for the perpetration of thousands. With what consequence? New vices call for fresh restraints; penal laws, which are in the hands of the rich, are laid upon the poor ; and all our paltriest possessions are hung round with gibbets.' It scares men now to be told of what no man then took heed. Deliberate murders were committed by the State. It was but four years after this that the Government which had reduced a young wife to beggary by pressing her husband to sea, sentenced her to death for entering a draper's shop, taking some coarse linen off the counter, and laying it down again as the shopman gazed at her; listened unmoved to a defence which might have penetrated stone, that inasmuch, since her husband was stolen from her, she had had no bed to lie upon, nothing to clothe her children, nothing to give them to eat, perhaps she might have done something wrong, for she hardly knew what she did ; and finally sent her to Tyburn, with her infant sucking at her breast. Not without reason did Horace Walpole call the country one great shambles.' Hardly a Monday passed that was not Black Monday at Newgate. An execution came round as regularly as any other weekly show; and when it was that shocking sight of fifteen men executed,' whereof Boswell makes more than one mention, the interest was of course the greater. Men not otherwise hardened, found here a debasing delight. George Selwyn passed as much time at Tyburn as at White's; and Mr. Boswell had a special suit of execution black, to make a decent appearance near the scaffold. Not uncalled for, therefore, though solitary and as yet unheeded, was the warning of the good Dr. Primrose. Nay, not uncalled for is it now, though eighty years have passed. Do not, he said, draw the cords of society so hard, that à convulsion must come to burst' them ; do not cut away wretches as useless, before you have tried their utility ; make law the protector, not the tyrant of the people. You will then find that creatures, whose souls are held as dross, want only the hand of a refiner ; and that very little blood will serve to cement our security.'
The estimate of Goldsmith's position is very fairly made. It may, perhaps, appear to many modern readers somewhat too highly fixed; for there has been so much brilliant writing since, and so much that is captivating to younger readers, that but few of this generation have turned to the authors of the last century. That they have lost their hold on the public mind is sufficiently established by the simple fact, that the booksellers have long discontinued the trade editions of them; and that even the more speculating traders, who seek for cheap works for the rising generation, do not think it worth while to reprint them collectively. They rather go back another hundred years, and reprint the works of Shakspeare, and the poetry which succeeded him. This we take to be a favourable sign, for in these writers there is a passion and a purpose deeper and more enduring than of the somewhat dilettante age the present biography illustrates. There is nothing more striking in reviewing it, as it is so well revived in this book, than its total want of passion. No great motive animated it, nor did its individual promulgators appear to possess any of the vigorous aspirations that have so illuminated the works on this side of the great French Revolution. It is a curious fact, that no trace appears of Goldsmith's ever being in love. Not a single letter, nor a single anecdote, refers to any such emotion; without, indeed, the very slight allusions to his cousin in Ireland, or to Miss Horneck, be thought to indicate it. We must, however, say, that although we believe that the present, as well as his previous biographer, Mr. Prior, have collected all that is possible of his life, that there is yet a large section of it unrevealed ; and possibly in this unknown period of his existence he may have manifested this important portion of his humanity. But we rather think not, for there is no trace of it in his writings; and there the passions, be of what kind they may, are sure to evolve themselves. It probably may be said that neither he nor his illustrious friend, Johnson, were ever really in love ; and indeed the latter asserted, that it was a matter of indifference what woman was wedded, provided she was virtuous and decent. It were a curious inquiry to trace how it was that so little of this feeling appeared amongst the literary men of the age; and whether they, by their writings, acted upon the age in producing this lukewarmness towards
the most universal of the passions, or whether they themselves were subdued by the reasonable and logical tone of the age, and were so trained both by others and themselves, that they brought such feelings to the milder level of the affections. Whatever the cause, it had a sensible effect on their writings, and so on literature ; and we no more can fancy a Byron manifesting himself at that period than a Napoleon.
This absence of passion, and consequently, as we think, in a great degree of imagination, gives an air of simplicity and almost of insipidity to much that was written. Dignity contented itself with a strut, and strength with dogmatic assertion. The architecture and the costume of the age furnishes a very striking index to the prevailing feeling and sentiment; and nothing could be more prosaic than the one, and absurd than the other. It might be an age in which the perfection of common sense was cultivated; but it was as certainly an age of poor conventionalities and trivial emotions. Learning had too much usurped the place of wisdom, and sentiment of poetry. The effort was to say good things ; not to feel mighty ones. And the mere effort to say caused many comical distortions both of language and reasoning. Of all this no one than the present biographer is better aware ; and different was his treatment of that preceding hundred years, wherein the mightiest passions were exerted, and he consequently had to delineate a succession of heroes. And here we must say we prefer, though not so carefully or perhaps cleverly written, his Lives of the Statesmen of the seventeenth, to his biography of the beaux-esprits of the eighteenth century. He has however penetrated beneath the grotesque fashion of even this mediocre period, and fairly and wisely elicited the essential truths promulgated by the subject of his memoir. No one can peruse his book without being enlightened, and without acknowledging that even in this apparently superficial and barren era, seeds were sown by the gentle hand of the much enduring literary hack, and unsuccessful medical doctor, that have spread world-wide, and given to civilisation germs of perennial flowers that will blossom for ever. But herein the author shall, in some little degree minister for himself.
GOLDSMITH INSPIRES GOETHE.
“ It was not an age of particular earnestness, this Hume and Walpole age : but no one can be in earnest himself without in some degree affecting others. "I remember a passage in the Vicar of Wakefield,
' said Johnson, a few years after its author's death, which Goldsmith was afterwards fool enough to expunge. I do not love a man who is zealous for nothing.' The words were little, since the feeling was retained ; for the very basis of the little tale was a sincerity and zeal for many things. This indeed it was, which, while all the world were admiring it for its mirth and sweetness, its bright and happy pictures, its simultaneous movement of the springs of laughter and tears, gave it a rarer value to a more select audience, and connected it with not the least memorable anecdote of modern literary history, It had been published little more than four years, when two Germans whose names became afterwards world-famous, one a student at that time in his twentieth, the other a graduate in his twenty-fifth year, met in the city of Strasburg. The younger, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, a law-scholar of the University with a passion for literature, sought knowledge from the elder, Johann Gottfried Herder, for the course on which he was moved to enter. Herder, a severe and masterly though somewhat cynical critic, laughed at the likings of the young aspirant, and roused him to other aspiration. Producing a German translation of the Vicar of Wakefield, he read it out aloud to Goethe in a manner which was peculiar to him; and as the incidents of the little story came forth in his serious simple voice, in one unmoved unaltering tone (just as if nothing of it was present before him, but all was only historical; as if the shadows of this poetic creation did not affect him in a life-like manner, but only glided gently by'), a new ideal of letters and of life arose in the mind of the listener. Years passed on; and while that younger student raised up and re-established the literature of his country, and came at last, in his prime and in his age, to be acknowledged for the wisest of modern men, he never ceased throughout to confess what he owed to those old evenings at Strasburg. The strength which can conquer circumstance; the happy wisdom of irony which elevates itself above every object, above fortune and misfortune, good and evil, death and life, and attains to the possession of a poetical world ; first visited Goethe in the tone with which Goldsmith's tale is told. The fiction became to him life's first reality ; in country clergymen of Drusenheim there started up Vicars of Wakefield ; for Olivias and Sophias of Alsace, first love fluttered at his heart ; and at every stage of his illustrious after-career, its impression still vividly recurred to him. He remembered it, when, at the height of bis worldly honour and success, he made his written Life (Wahrheit und Dichtung') record what a blessing it had been to him; he had not forgotten it, when, some seventeen years ago, standing, at the age of eighty-one, on the very brink of the grave, he told a friend that in the decisive moment of mental development the Vicar of Wakefield had formed his education, and that he had lately, with unabated delight, read the charming book again from beginning to end, not a little affected by the lively recollection' how much he had been indebted to the author seventy years before."
It is almost superfluous to say that the biographer is very fond of his subject ; though indeed he may be said to be above his subject in more senses than one; for it is a fate set down in the decrees of doom that 'poor Goldy” shall be patronised alive or dead. Indeed it is the patronage of a kind man, and of one capable of esteeming; but yet
poor Goldy,” could he note it, would find that he was still rather looked down upon than up to. So much force has manner, and so little power innate unadorned greatness, with even the best specimens of humanity. But he sincerely loves the object of his work, and perhaps the more that his niortality is so constantly obvious. He makes his reader also participate in his affection, and not unfrequently weep at the miseries, indignities, and sufferings, that the tender, noble, and gifted writer endured. The following appeal would have been acknowledged by Goldsmith, for his fellow sufferers, as well as for himself, as a noble demonstration.
THE MARTYRDOM OF LITERATURE. “IN A GARRET, WRITING FOR BREAD, AND EXPECTING TO BE DUNNED FOR A MILK-SCORE. The ordinary fate of Letters in that age. There had been a Christian religion extant for now seventeen hundred and fifty-seven years ; for so long a time had the world been acquainted with its spiritual responsibilities and necessities ; yet here, in the middle of the eighteenth century, was the one common eminence conceded to the spiritual teacher, the man who comes upon the earth to lift his fellow-men above its miry ways. Up in a garret, writing for bread he cannot get, and dunned for a milk-score he cannot pay. And age after age, the comfortable prosperous man sees it ; and calls for water and washes his hands of it ; and is glad to think it no business of his ; and that
grace and of Goldsmith's suffering, had doubtless adorned his dining-room with the Distrest Poet of the inimitable Mr. Hogarth, and invited laughter from easy guests at the garret and the milk-score. Yet could they have known the danger to even their worldliest comforts, then impending, perhaps they had not laughed so heartily. For were not those very citizens to be indebted to Goldsmith in after years : for cheerful hours, and liappy thoughts, and fancies that would smooth life's path to their children's children. And now, without a friend, with hardly bread to eat, and uncheered by a hearty word or a smile to help him on, he sits in his melancholy garret, and those fancies die within him." It is but an accident now, that the good Vicar shall be born ; that the Gentleman in Black shall dispense his charities; that Croaker shall grieve ; Tony Lumpkin laugh ; or the sweet soft echo of the Deserted Village come always back upon the heart, in charity, and kindness, and sympathy with the poor. For, Despair is in the garret; and the poet, overmastered by distress, seeks only the means of flight and exile. With a day-dream to his old Irish playfellow, a sigh for the heavy scoundrels' who disregard him, and a wail for the age to which genius is a mark of mockery; he turns to that first avowed piece, which, being also his last, is to prove that "blockheads are not men of wit, and yet that men of wit are actually blockheads.'”
With this we shall conclude, and probably we have said more than enough of this interesting, powerful, and manly work; the well-known scholarship and accomplishments of the biographer will be sure to attract the attention of every one making any pretensions to belles lettres ; and the interest of the subject, and its elegant treatment, will give it a permanent place on the book-shelves. It is, as we have said, an admirable delineation of one of God's noblest creatures, a benevolent man of genius.! It also is a collection of interesting portraits. Scarcely a man of celebrity from Jonas Hanway to Wilkes, but is nicely sketched. And many public events are cleverly interwoven. Wilkes' Riots, The Shakespeare Jubilee, and of course the events more immediately connected with the poet and dramatist. Above all
, the just demands of authorship are gallantly maintained against trade usurpations, and it may indeed be said to be throughout a very temperate aud masterly declaration of the Rights of Literature. But even here we cannot help detecting the influences of taste, for the conduct that is so ably denounced in the booksellers, is almost defended in the managers of the theatres. Griffiths and Gardner are scoundrels, but Garrick and Colman, though playing with the hopes and wants of their victim for years, with the coolness and dexterity of anglers, are excused. Some other slight blemishes might also be pointed out; and we think some of the long quotations from Boswell, towards the end, as over well-known, might be spared. The illustrations are numerous, and are faithful as portraits, but otherwise not remarkable. That there is scarcely a new fact in the work cannot be urged against the author, for he has not professed to afford any. His object was to use with skill and genius those already known, and in this he has admirably succeeded.