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father's name.3 He is described in the well written and elegant narrative, which passes under the authority of Dr. Percy's name, as equally distinguished for his attainments in literature and for his benevolence of disposition. It seems generally supposed that the portrait of the country pastor, in the 'Deserted Village,' was intended to delineate the character of this estimable man, and was both a fond and faithful tribute of filial affection: a more perfect model of a teacher of the gospel and a follower of Christ could hardly be designed; it reminds one of the character of those plain and simple men, the faithful guardians of their flock, who during the preceding century defended and adorned the protestant church; with whom an unwearied activity of mind, solid and extensive learning, and rich intellectual endowments, were united to the extremest simplicity of manners, the most devout feelings, and the most retired habits of private life.
The family of this excellent and singlehearted ii.an consisted of five sons and two daughters.* The eldest son, Henry, is said to have inherited his father's talents, and was distinguished both at school and college; but a very early, and it seems an imprudent marriage, at once closed all prospects of reasonable ambition, and he retired upon a curacy, as his only means of maintenance. It is to him that 'The Traveller' is dedicated; und we might infer from some passages in it, that this retirement from the world was neither regretted by himself, nor disapproved by his friends. He is there described, 'as one who despising fame and fortune, has retired early to happiness and obscurity, with an income of forty pounds a year. I now perceive, my dear brother, the wisdom of your humble choice; you have entered upon a sacred office, where the harvest is great and the labourers are few, while you have left the field of ambition, where the labourers are many, and the harvest not worth carrying away.'
3 ' Mr. T. Campbell says, 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.'
v. Spec, of Br. Poets, vi. p. 251.
* Goldsmith had three brothers: Charles, who went to America; Maurice, who was a cabinet-maker in Dublin; and Henry, the clergyman. He had two sisters; Catharine and Jane, who lived and died at Athlone.
Oliver, the subject of this memoir, was the second son, born at the distance of seven years from the birth of the first. The slender resources of his parents seem to have been exhausted in the comparatively expensive education of Henry; our Poet's prospects were therefore necessarily of an humbler kind. He was sent to the village school to learn little more than those common rudiments of education which are now familiar even to the poor. The school was under the care of a person, who, to fit him for his employment.
had been quartermaster5 in the army during the wars of Queen Anne; he used to recount to his little flock of scholars the marvellous adventures of a soldier's life; gave them narratives of his various travels, his exploits, and his dangers,
'Shoulder'd his crutch, and show'd how fields were won.'
When in the subsequent periods of his life, our Poet often evinced a strong passion for travelling, and when his wild wandering propensities broke out, it has been conjectured that these unsettled habits and visionary plans may have been produced by the impressions left on his youthful mind of the eccentric character and romantic histories of his old schoolmaster. However that may be, it would appear that Oliver was a boy of singular habits of mind, and distinguished for an odd, irregular application of his early talents.6
* 'He was a Scotchman, his name 'Delap.' In 1811 his grandson was living in the original cottage.' v. NeweU's ed. p. 78. '1 should have observed that Eliza Delap, who was a parishioner of mine, and died at the age of about ninety, often told me she was the first who put a book into Goldsmith's hand; by which she meant that she taught him his letters. She was allied to him, and kept a little school.' v. l)r, Streanx Letter to the liev. Ed. Mangin, p. 144. Dr. Strean was successor to Henry Goldsmith in the cure of the parish at the salary of forty pounds a year.
0 'He was considered by his contemporaries and schoolfellows, with whom I have often conversed upon the subject, as a stupid heavy blockhead, little better than a fool, whom every one made fun of; but his corporeal powers differed It is said, that he did not much resemble the other children of the same age; that he was sometimes very grave and thoughtful, at others gay and frolicksome even to extravagance and excess; but through all the caprices and imperfections of the boy a strong vein of early genius was seen to rise. Poeta nascitur—before he was eight years old he scribbled verses on scraps of paper, and then committed them to the flames. His early attempts at rhyme afforded amusement to his father's family; manifest gleams of opening genius were displayed, and the after time spent at the university was less marked with indications of his dawning talents than the period which he passed at his humble village school.
Though it was the intention of his parents to bring Oliver up to trade, his mother perceiving the natural superiority of his genius, used all her influence to rescue him from a situation so much beneath him, and after great exertion succeeded in persuading his father to give him a learned education. Yet there was much to be overcome before these maternal wishes could be accomplished. His father's income was very small, his family numerous. Henry's education had been
widely from this apparent state of mind, for he was remarkably active and athletic, of which he gave proofs in all exercises among his playmates, and eminently in ball playing, which he was very fond of, and practised whenever he could.' A. Strean's Letter, p. 149.
expensive, yet the affection of the parents yielded, as the boy's attachment to study more and more displayed itself; and at length Oliver was placed under the care of the Rev. Mr. Griffin, the master of the school at Elphin. He was boarded in the house of his uncle, John Goldsmith, Esq. of Ballyoughle, near Elphin, where his wit, his talents, and his good disposition made him a favourite. . .
The earliest specimen of Oliver's poetry is given in Dr. Percy's narrative at this period of our Poet's life. It was directed in spleen against a village Orpheus, who had likened him to ./Esop dancing.
'Our herald hath proclaimed this saying,
This smart repartee, in which poetry gained the victory over music, procured him great applause. It may now be fairly presumed, that he was a clever, quick, if not a studious boy, and his friends determined that he should be sent to the university. Some of them handsomely contributed to the expense, and the names of Mr. Green and Mr. Contorine 1 are mentioned as standing
7 Mr. Contorine was descended from the noble family of the Contorini at Venice. His ancestor having married a nun, was obliged to fly with her to France, where she died. He then came to England, and at Chester met with a young lady of the name of Chaloner, whom he married. He afterwards conformed to the Established Church, and obtained preferments in the diocese of Elphin.