Imágenes de página

let us try what we can do.' We set to work, and our task was not very difficult. Some time after the work appeared, we compared notes, but could not either of us recognize our own share.

I come now to the last day but one I passed with poor Goldsmith (see vol. i. p. 234), whose loss (with whatever faults he might have) I shall ever lament whilst ' memory of him holds its seat.' At his breakfast in the Temple, as usual, I offered every aid in my power as to his works; some amendments had been agreed upon in his ' Deserted Village.' Some of the bad lines in the latter I have by me marked. 'As to my " Hermit," that poem, Cradock, cannot be amended.' I knew he had been offered ten pounds for the copy, and it was introduced into the 'Vicar of Wakefield,' to which he applied himself entirely for a fortnight, to pay a journey to Wakefield. 'As my business then lay there,' said he, 'that was my reason for fixing on Wakefield as the field of action. I never took more pains than in the first volume of my ' Natural History ;' surely that was good, and I was handsomely paid for the whole.

'My "Roman History," Johnson says, is well abridged.' Indeed, I could have added, that Johnson (when Goldsmith was absent), would frequently say, ' Why, sir, whatever that man touches he adorns;' for like Garrick, when not present, he considered him as a kind of sacred character. After a general review of papers lying before him, I took leave; when, turning to his study table, he pointed to an article I had procured for him, and said, 'you are kindest to me.' I only replied, ' You mean more rude and saucy than some others.' However, much of the conversation took a more melancholy tone than usual, and I became very uneasy about him.

When I returned to town after his death (see vol. i. p. 236), I had an interview with his nephew, an apothecary in Newman Street, and the two sisters milliners, the Miss Gunns, who resided at a house at the corner of Temple Lane, who were always most attentive to him, and who once said to me most feelingly, 'Oh! Sir, sooner persuade him to let us work for him gratis, than suffer him to apply to any other. We are sure that he will pay us if he can.' Circumstanced as he was, I know not what more could have been done for him. It was said he improperly took laudanum; but all was inwardly disturbed. Had the Doctor freely laid open all the debts he had contracted, I am certain that his zealous friends were so numerous, that they would freely have contributed to his relief. I mean here explicitly to assert only. that I believe he died miserably, and that his friends were not entirely aware of his distress.

Where the Doctor thought there was a sincere regard, he was not fastidious, but would listen with attention to the remonstrance of one whom he believed to be his friend; and when he assented to give his name, for a mere trifle, to a new publication, about which he never meant to give himself much trouble, I more than once spoke freely to him.

Goldsmith and I (with great satisfaction I now speak it) never had a serious dispute in our lives; we freely gave and took. He rallied me on my Cambridge pedantry, and I hinted at illegitimate education; for, to speak on my mended judgment, Johnson, he, Garrick, and some others, had convinced me ' that all literature was not confined to our own academical world.' Goldsmith truly said, I was nibbling about elegant phrases, whilst he was obliged to write half a volume. With respect to university education, even Mr. Professor Mainwaring was often provoked at Hurd's fastidious opinions, and it was well that my friend, Mr. Russell, who afterwards possessed two good livings close to my house, did not reside in Leicestershire at an earlier period.

He had lived in all companies whilst officiating for twenty years at Mary-le-bone; and in the highest where the subjects of discussion were old law or antiquities. He spoke in no measured terms of Hurd's refinements..


Db. Goldsmith having tried his genius in several modes of writing, in essays, descriptive poetry, and history, was advised to apply himself to that species of composition which is said to have been long the most fruitful in the courts of Parnassus. The writer of plays has been ever supposed to pursue the quickest road to the temple of Plutus.

The Doctor was a perfect heteroclite, an inexplicable existence in creation; such a compound of absurdity, envy, and malice, contrasted with the opposite virtues of kindness, generosity, and benevolence, that he might be said to consist of two distinct souls, and influenced by the agency of a good and bad spirit.

The first knowledge Mr. Garrick had of his abilities was from an attack upon him by Goldsmith, when he was but a very young author, in a book called The Present State of Learning. Amongst other abuses of the times (for the Doctor loved to dwell upon grievances) he took notice of the behaviour of managers to authors. This must surely have proceeded from the most generous principles of reforming what was amiss for the benefit of others, for the Doctor at that time had not the most distant view of commencing dramatic author.

Little did Goldsmith imagine he should one day be obliged to ask a favour from the director of a playhouse: however, when the office of secretary to the Society of Arts and Sciences became vacant, the Doctor was persuaded to offer himself a candidate. He was told that Mr. Garrick was a leading member of that learned body, and his interest and recommendation would be of consequence to enforce his pretensions.

He waited upon the manager, and, in few words, requested his vote and interest. Mr. Garrick could not avoid observing to him, that it was impossible he could lay claim to any recommendation from him, as he had taken pains to deprive himself of his assistance by an unprovoked attack upon his management of the theatre, in his State of Learning. Goldsmith, instead of making an apology for his conduct either from misinformation or misconception, bluntly replied, 'In truth he had spoken his mind, and believed what he said was very right. The manager dismissed him with civility; and Goldsmith lost the office by a very great majority, who voted in favour of Dr. Templeman.

The Doctor's reputation, which was daily increasing from a variety of successful labours, was at length lifted so high that he escaped from indigence and obscurity to competence and fame.

The first man of the age, one who, from the extensiveness of his genius and benevolence of his mind, is superior to the little envy and mean jealousy which adhere so closely to most authors, and especially to those of equivocal merit, took pleasure in introducing Dr. Goldsmith to his intimate friends, persons of eminent rank and distinguished abilities. The Doctor's conversation by no means corresponded with the idea formed of him from his writings.

The Duchess of Eambouillet, who was charmed with the tragedies of Corneille, wished to have so great an author amongst her constant visitors, expecting infinite entertainment from the writer of the Cid, the Horace, and Cinna. But the poet lost himself in society; he held no rank with the beaux esprits who met at the hotel of this celebrated lady, his conversation was dry, unpleasant, and what the French call distrait. So Dr. Goldsmith appeared in company to have no spark of that genius which shone forth so brightly in his writings; his address was awkward, his manner uncouth, his language unpolished, his elocution was continually interrupted by disagreeable hesitation, and he was always unhappy if she conversation did not turn upon himself.

To manifest his intrepidity in argument, he would generously espouse the worst side of the question, and almost always left it weaker than he found it. His jealousy fixed a perpetual ridicule on his character, for he was emulous of every thing and every body. He went with some friends to see the entertainment of the Fantoccini, whose uncommon agility and quick evolutions were much celebrated. The Doctor was asked how he liked those automatons. He replied, he was surprised at the applause bestowed on the little insignificant creatures, for he could have performed their exercises much better himself. When his great literary friend was commended in his hearing, he could not restrain his uneasiness, but exclaimed, in a kind of agony, ' No more, I desire you; you harrow up my soul!' More absurd stories may be recorded of Goldsmith than of any man; his absence of mind would not permit him to attend to time, place, or company. When at the table of a nobleman, of high rank and great accomplishments, one to whom England stands indebted in many obligations, and it is hoped that he will more and more increase the debt by his continual and vigorous efforts to secure her happiness; to this great man Goldsmith observed, that he was called by the name of Malagrida; 'but I protest and vow to your lordship, I can't conceive for what reason, for Malagrida was an honest man.'

In short, his absurdities were so glaring, and his whole conduct so contradictory to common sense, and so opposite to what was expected from a man of his admirable genius, that a gentleman of strong discernment characterised him by the name of the Inspired Idiot.

When the Doctor had finished his comedy of The Goodnatured Man, he was advised to offer it to Mr. Garrick. The manager was fully conscious of his merit, and perhaps more ostentatious of his abilities to serve a dramatic author, than became a man of his prudence. Goldsmith was, on his side, as fully persuaded of his own importance and independent greatness. Mr. Garrick, who had been so long treated with the complimentary language paid to a successful patentee and admired actor, expected that the writer would esteem the patronage of his play as a favour: Goldsmith rejected all ideas of kindness in a bargain that was intended to be of mutual advantage to both parties; and in this he was certainly justifiable. Mr. Garrick could reasonably expect no thanks for the acting a new play, which he would have rejected, if he had not been convinced it would have amply rewarded his pains and expense. 1 believe the manager was

« AnteriorContinuar »