« AnteriorContinuar »
keep people, if possible, from being thus the heralds of their own shame; for what compassion can they gain by such silly narratives 1 No man should be expected to sympathise with the sorrows of vanity. If then you are mortified by any ill usage, whether real or supposed, keep at least the account of such mortifications to yourself, and forbear to proclaim how meanly you are thought on by others, unless you desire to be meanly thought of by all.'
'Poor Goldsmith was to him indeed like the earthen pot to the iron one in Fontaine's Fables; it had been better for him, perhaps, that they had changed companions oftener, yet no experience of his antagonist's strength hindered him from continuing the contest. He used to remind me always of that verse in Berni,
'II pover uomo che non sen'era accorto,
Dr. Johnson made him a comical answer one day, when seeming to repine at the success of Beattie's Essay on Truth. 'Here's such a stir,' said he,' about a fellow that has written one book, and I have written many.' 'Ah, Doctor,' said his friend, ' there go two-and-forty sixpences, you know, to one guinea.'
Here was exemplified what Goldsmith said of him, with the aid of a very witty image from one of Cibber's comedies: 'There is no arguing with Johnson, for if his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.'
Of Goldsmith's Traveller he used to speak in terms of the highest commendation. A lady I remember, who had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Johnson read it from the beginning to the end on its first coming out, to testify her admiration of it, exclaimed, 'I never more shall think Dr. Goldsmith ugly. In having thought so, however, she was by no means singular, an instance of which I am rather inclined to mention, because it invokes a remarkable one of Dr. Johnson's ready wit, for this lady, one evening being in a large party, was called upon after supper for her toast, and seeming embarrassed, she was desired to give the ugliest man she knew, and she immediately named Dr. Goldsmith, on which a lady on the other side of the table rose up and reached across to shake hands with her, it being the first time they had met; on which Dr. Johnson said, 'Thus the ancients, on the commencement of their friendships, used to sacrifice a beast betwixt them.'
Sir Joshua, I have often thought, never gave a more striking proof of his excellence in portrait painting, than in giving dignity to Dr. Goldsmith's countenance, and yet preserving a strong likeness. But he drew after his mind, or rather his genius, if I may be allowed to make that distinction, assimilating the one with his conversation, the other with his works. Dr. Goldsmith's cast of countenance, and indeed his whole figure from head to foot, impressed every one at first sight with an idea of his being a low mechanic, particularly, I believe, a journeyman tailor. A little concurring instance of this I well remember. One day at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, in company with some gentlemen and ladies, he was relating with great indignation an insult he had just received from some gentlemen he had accidently met (I think at a coffeehouse). 'The fellow,' he said, 'took me for a tailor, on which all the party either laughed aloud, or showed they suppressed a laugh.
Dr. Johnson seemed to have much more kindness for Goldsmith than Goldsmith had for him. He always appeared to be overawed by Johnson, particularly when in company with people of any consequence, always as if impressed with some fear of disgrace, and indeed well he might. I have been witness to many mortifications he has suffered in Dr. Johnson's company, one day in particular, at Sir Joshua's table, a gentleman to whom he was talking his best stopped him in the midst of discourse, with ' Hush! hush! Dr. Johnson is going to say something.'
At another time, a gentleman who was sitting between Dr. Johnson and Dr. Goldsmith, and with whom he had been disputing, remarked to another, loud enough for Goldsmith to hear him, 'That he had a fine time of it, between ursa major and ursa minor.'
MISS HAWKINS'S MEMOIRS.
When Goldsmith expressed an inclination to visit Aleppo, for the purpose of importing some of the mechanical inventions in use there, Dr. Johnson said, 'Goldsmith will go, and he will bring back a frame for grinding knives, which he will think a convenience peculiar to Aleppo.' After he had published his ' Animated Nature,' Johnson said, 'You are not to infer from this compilation Goldsmith's knowledge on the subject, if he knows that a cow has horns, it is as much as he does know.'
On this it is opposite to remark the exalted idea which we entertain in early life of the intellectual acquisition of writers. We fancy that what they tell must be written from the dictation of their own memory. When we have more experience, we find that there is often as much work for the feet as for the fingers, in the committing a few pages to paper, and that the claim to admiration is-founded rather in knowing where to seek what we want, than in possessing it. Enviable indeed are the few who carry their libraries in their heads.
Of the two following, I had the former from Mr. Langton, and the latter my father had from Mr. Cadell.
Goldsmith happened once to stop at an inn on the road, in a parlour of which was a very good portrait, which he coveted, believing it a Vandyke; he therefore called in the mistress of the house, asked her if she set any value on that old fashioned picture, and finding that she was wholly a stranger to its worth, he told her it bore a very great resemblance to his aunt Salisbury, and that if she would sell it cheap, he would buy it. A bargain was struck, a price infinitely below the value was paid. Goldsmith took the picture away with him, and had the satisfaction to find, that by this scandalous trick he had indeed procured a genuine and very saleable painting of Vandyke's.
Soon after Goldsmith had contracted with the booksellers for his History of England, for which he was to be paid five hundred guineas, he went to Cadell, and told him he was in the utmost distress for money, and in imminent danger of being arrested by his butcher or baker. Cadell immediately called a meeting of the proprietors, and prevailed on them to advance him the whole, or a considerable part of the sum, which, by the original agreement, he was not entitled to till a twelvemonth after the publication of his work. On a day which Mr. Cadell had named for giving this needy author an answer, Goldsmith came and received the money, under pretence of instantly satisfying his creditors. Cadell, to discover the truth of his pretext, watched whither he went, and after following him to Hyde Park Corner, saw him get into a postchaise, in which a woman of the town was waiting for him, and with whom, it afterwards appeared, he went to Bath to dissipate what he had thus fraudulently obtained.
Have I told of my father's being invited by Goldsmith to look at a book, in which was some information that might be useful to him, and instead of lending it to him, tearing out the leaves 1
COLMAN'S RANDOM RECORDS.
Oliver Goldsmith, several years before my luckless presentation to Johnson, proved how 'Doctors differ.' I was only five years old when Goldsmith took me on his knee, while he was drinking coffee, one evening, with my father, and began to play with me; which amiable act I returned with the ingratitude of a peevish brat, by giving him a very smart slap on the face: it must have been a tingler, for it left the marks of my little spiteful paw upon his cheek. This infantile outrage was followed by summary justice, and I was locked up by my indignant father in an adjoining room, to undergo solitary imprisonment in the dark. Here I began to howl and scream most abominably, which was no bad step towards liberation, since those who were not inclined to pity me might be likely to set me free, for the purpose of abating a nuisance.
At length a generous friend appeared to extricate me from jeopardy, and that generous friend was no other than the man I had so wantonly molested by assault and battery—it was the tender hearted Doctor himself, with a lighted candle in his hand, and a smile upon his countenance, which was still partially red, from the effects of my petulance. I sulked and sobbed, and he fondled and soothed, till I began to brighten. Goldsmith, who in regard to children was like the Village Preacher he has so beautifully described, for
'Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distress'd.' seized the propitious moment of returning good humour—so he put down the candle, and began to conjure. He placed three hats, which happened to be in the room, u-pon^he carpet, and a shilling under each :—the shillings, he told me, were England, France, and Spain. 'Hey, presto, cockolorum!' cried the Doctor, and, lo! on uncovering the shillings, which had been dispersed, each beneath a separate hat, they were all found congregated under one. I was no politician at five years old, and, therefore, might not have wondered at the sudden revolution which brought England, France, and Spain all under one crown; but, as I was also no conjuror, it amazed me beyond measure. Astonishment might have amounted to awe for one who appeared to me gifted with the power of performing miracles, if the good nature of the man had not obviated my dread of the magician; but from that time, whenever the Doctor came to visit my father, 'I pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile.' a game at romps constantly ensued, and we were always cordial friends, and merry playfellows. Our unequal companionship varied somewhat in point of sports as I grew older, but it did not last long; my senior playmate died, alas! in his forty-fifth year, some months after I had attained my eleventh. His death, it has been thought, was hastened by 'mental inquietude;' if this supposition be true, never did the turmoils of life subdue a mind more warm with sympathy for the misfortunes of our fellow-creatures; but his character is familiar to every one who reads: in all the numerous