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in relating to the circle at Sir Joshua Reynolds's the particulars of what passed between the king and him, Dr. Goldsmith remained unmoved upon a sofa at some distance, affecting not to join in the least in the eager curiosity of the company. He assigned as a reason for his gloom and seeming inattention, that he apprehended Johnson had relinquished his purpose of furnishing him with a Prologue to his play, with the hopes of which he had been flattered; but it was strongly suspected that he was fretting with chagrin and envy at the singular honour Dr. Johnson had lately enjoyed. At length, the frankness and simplicity of his natural character prevailed. He sprung from the sofa, advanced to Johnson, and in a kind of flutter, from imagining himself in the situation which he had just been hearing described, exclaimed, ' Well, you acquitted yourself in this conversation better than I should have done; for I should have bowed and stammered through the whole of it.'
To obviate all the reflections which have gone round the world to Johnson's prejudice, by applying to him the epithet of a bear, let me impress upon my readers a just and happy saying of my friend Goldsmith, who knew him well: 'Johnson, to be sure, has a roughness in his manner, but no man alive has a more tender heart. He has nothing of the bear but his skin.'
Goldsmith, to divert the tedious minutes, strutted about, bragging of his dress, and I believe was seriously vain of it, for his mind was wonderfully prone to such impressions. 'Come, come (said Garrick), talk no more of that. You are, perhaps, the worst—eh,—eh!' Goldsmith was eagerly attempting to interrupt him, when Garrick went on laughing ironically, 'Nay, you will always look like a gentleman: but I am talking of being well or ill dressed.1 'Well, let me tell you (said Goldsmith), when my tailor brought home my bloom-coloured coat, he said, " Sir, I have a favour to beg of you,—When any body asks who made your clothes, be pleased to mention John Filby, at the Harrow, in Water Lane.'" Johnson,' Why, sir, that was because he knew the strange colour would attract crowds to gaze at it, and thus they might hear of him, and see how well he could make a coat, even of so absurd a colour.'
He said, 'Goldsmith's Life of Parnell is poor; not that it is poorly written, but that he had poor materials, for nobody can write the life of a man but those who have eat and drunk and lived in social intercourse with him.'
A question was started, how far people who disagree in a capital point can live in friendship together: Johnson said they might. Goldsmith said they could not, as they had not the idem veile atque idem nolle, the same likings and the same aversions. Johnson, 'Why, sir, you must shun the subject as to which you disagree. For instance, I can live very well with Burke: I love his knowledge, his genius, his diffusion, and affluence of conversation, but I would not talk to him of the Rockingham party.' Goldsmith, 'But, sir, when people live together who have something as to which they disagree, and which they want to shun, they will be in the situation mentioned in the story of Bluebeard: ' You may look into all the chambers but one. But we should have the greatest inclination to look into that chamber, to talk of that subject.' Johnson (with a loud voice), ' Sir, I am not saying that you could live in friendship with a man from whom you differ as to some point, I am only saying that I could do it. You put me in mind of Sappho in Ovid.'
Goldsmith told us, that he was now busy in writing a natural history, and, that he might have full leisure for it, he had taken lodgings at a farmer's house, near to the sixth milestone on the Edgeware road, and had carried down his books in two returned postchaises. He said, he believed the farmer's family thought him an odd character, similar to that in which the Spectator appeared to his landlady and her children: he was the gentleman. Mr. Mickle, the translator of ' The Lusiad,' and I, went to visit him at this place a few days afterwards. He was not at home, but having a curiosity to see his apartment, we went in, and found curious scraps of descriptions of animals scrawled upon the wall with a black lead pencil.
The subject of ghosts being introduced, Johnson repeated what he had told me of a friend of his, an honest man, and a man of sense, having asserted to him that he had seen an apparition. Goldsmith told us, he was assured by his brother, the Rev. Mr. Goldsmith, that he also had seen one.
Of our friend Goldsmith he said,' Sir, he is so much afraid of being unnoticed, that he often talks merely lest you should forget that he is in the company.' Boswell,' Yes, he stands forward.' Johnson, 'True, Sir; but if a man is to stand forward, he should wish to do it not in an awkward posture, not in rags, not so as that he shall only be exposed to ridicule.' Boswell, 'For my part, I like very well to hear honest Goldsmith talk away carelessly.' Johnson, 'Why yes, Sir, but he should not like to hear himself.'
'The misfortune of Goldsmith in conversation is this: he goes on without knowing how he is to get off. His genius is great, but his knowledge is small. As they say of a generous man, it is a pity he is not rich, we may say of Goldsmith, it is a pity he is not knowing. He would not keep his knowledge to himself.'
I told him that Goldsmith had said to me a few days before, 'As I take my shoes from the shoemaker, and my coat from the tailor, so I take my religion from the priest.' I regretted this loose way of talking. Johnson,' Sir, he knows nothing; he has made up his mind about nothing.'
He owned that he thought Hawkesworth was one of his imitators, but he did not think Goldsmith was. Goldsmith, he said, had great merit. Boswell, 'But, Sir, he is much indebted to you for his getting so high in the public estimation.' Johnson, ' Why, Sir, he has perhaps got sooner to it by his intimacy with me.'
Goldsmith, though his vanity often excited him to occasional competition, had a very high regard for Johnson, which he at this time expressed in the strongest manner in the dedication of his comedy, entitled, ' She Stoops to Conquer/
We talked of the king's coming to see Goldsmith's new play. 'I wish he would,' said Goldsmith; adding, however, with an affected indifference, ' Not that it would do me the least good.' Johnson, 'Well then, sir, let us say it would do him good; (laughing.) No, sir, this affectation will not pass; it is mighty idle. In such a state as ours, who would not wish to please the chief magistrate?' Goldsmith, 'I do wish to please him. I remember a line in Dryden,
'And every poet is the monarch's friend.
It ought to be reversed.' Johnson, ' Nay, there are finer lines in Dryden on this subject:
'For colleges on bounteous kings depend.
General Paoli observed, 'That successful rebels might.' Martinelli, 'Happy rebellions.' Goldsmith, 'We have no such phrase.' General Paoli, 'But have you not the thing 1' Goldsmith, ' Yes; all our happy revolutions. They have hurt our constitution, and will hurt it, till we mend it by another happy revolution.' I never before discovered that my friend Goldsmith had so much of the old prejudice in him.
General Paoli, talking of Goldsmith's new play, said, 'II a fait un compliment tres gracieux a une certaine grande dame;' meaning a duchess of the first rank.
I expressed a doubt whether Goldsmith intended it, in order that I might hear the truth from himself. It, perhaps, was not quite fair to endeavour to bring him to a confession, as he might not wish to avow positively his taking part against the court. He smiled and hesitated. The General at once relieved him, by this beautiful image: 'Monsieur Goldsmith est comme la mer, qui jette des pedes et beaucoup d'autres belles choses, sans s'en appercevoir.' Goldsmith, 'Tres bien dit, et tres elegamment.'
He said, ' Goldsmith should not be for ever attempting to shine in conversation: he has not temper for it, he is so much mortified when he fails. Sir, a game of jokes is composed partly of skill, partly of chance, as man may be beat at times by one who has not the tenth part of his wit. Now Goldsmith's putting himself against another, is like a man laying a hundred to one who cannot spare the hundred. It is not worth a man's while. A man should not lay a hundred to one, unless he can easily spare it, though he has a hundred chances for him: he can get but a guinea, and he may lose a hundred. Goldsmith is in this state. When he contends, if he gets the better, it is a very little addition to a man of his literary reputation: if he does not get the better, he is miserably vexed.'
Goldsmith, however, was often very fortunate in his witty contests, even when he entered the lists with Johnson himself. Sir Joshua Reynolds was in company with them one day, when Goldsmith said, that he thought he could write a good fable, mentioned the simplicity which that kind of composition requires, and observed, that in most fables the animals introduced seldom talk in character. 'For instance (said he), the fable of the little fishes, who saw birds fly over their heads, and envying them, petitioned Jupiter to be changed into birds. The skill (continued he) consists in making them talk like little fishes.' While he indulged himself in this fanciful reverie, he observed Johnson shaking his sides, and laughing. Upon which he smartly proceeded, 'Why, Dr. Johnson, this is not so easy as you seem to think; for if you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk like whales.'
During this argument, Goldsmith sat in restless agitation, from a wish to get in and shine. Finding himself excluded, he had taken his hat to go away, but remained for some time