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ner of conversation; and when he had uttered, as he often would, a laboured sentence, so tumid as to be scarce intelligible, would ask if that was not truly Johnsonian 1 yet he loved not Johnson, but rather envied him for his parts, and onoe entreated a friend to desist from praising him; ' for in doing so, ' said he, 'you harrow up my very soul.'
He had some wit, but no humour, and never told a story but he spoiled it. The following anecdotes will convey some idea of the style and manner of his conversation.
He was used to say he could play on the German flute as well as most men, at other times as well as any man living; and in his poem of the Traveller has hinted at this attainment in the following lines:
'To kinder skies where gentler manners reign,
But, in truth, he understood not the character in which music is written, and played on that instrument, as many of the vulgar do, merely by ear. Roubiliac the sculptor, a merry fellow, once heard him play, and minding to put a trick on him, pretended to be charmed with his performance, as also, that himself was skilled in the art, and entreated him to repeat the air, that he might write it down. Goldsmith readily consenting, Roubiliac called for paper, and scored thereon a few five lined staves, which having done, Goldsmith proceeded to play and Roubiliac to write; but his writing was only such random notes on the lines and spaces as any one might set down who had ever inspected a page of music. When they had both doue, Roubiliac showed the paper to Goldsmith, who looking it over with seeming great attention, said, it was very correct, and that if he had not seen him do it, he never could have believed his friend capable of writing music after him.
He used frequently to preface a story thus; I will tell you a story of myself, which some people laugh at and some do not.
At the breaking up of an evening at a Tavern, he entreated the company to sit down, and told them if they would call for another bottle, they should hear one of his bon mots. They agreed, and he began thus: I was once told that Sheridan the player, in order to improve himself in stage gestures, had lookingglasses to the number of ten hung about his room, and that he practised before them, upon which 1 said, 'then there were ten ugly fellows together.' The company were all silent; he asked why they did not laugh, which they not doing, he without tasting the wiue left the room in anger. In a large company he once said, 'Yesterday I heard an excellent story, and 1 would relate it now if I thought any of you able to understand it.' The company laughed, and one of them said, ' Doctor, you are very rude,' but he made no apology. He once complained to a friend in these words: 'Mr. Martinelli is a rude man: 1 said, in his hearing, that fhere were no good writers among the Italians, and he said to one that sat near him, that I was very ignorant.
'People,' said he, ' are greatly mistaken in me: a notion goes about, that when I am silent I mean to be impudent; but I assure you, gentlemen, my silence arises from bashfulness.'
Having one day a call to wait on the late duke, then earl of Northumberland, I found Goldsmith waiting for an au -dience in an outer room. I asked him what had brought him there: he told me an invitation from his lordship. I made my business as short as I could, and, as a reason, mentioned that Dr. Goldsmith was waiting without. The earl asked me if 1 was acquainted with him: I told him I was, adding what I thought likely to recommend him. I retired, and staid in the outer room to take him home. Upon his coming out I asked him the result of his conversation :— 'His lordship,' says he, 'told me he had read my poem,' meaning the Traveller, ' and was much delighted with it; that he was going lord lieutenant of Ireland, and that, hearing that I was a native of that country, he should be glad to do me any kindness.' And what did you answer, asked I, to this gracious offer t 'Why,' said he, ' I could say nothing luit that I had a brother there, a clergyman, that stood in need of help: as for myself, I have no dcpendance on the promises of great men: I look to the booksellers for support, they are my best friends, and I am not inclined to forsake them for others.'
Thus did this idiot, in the affairs of the world, trifle with his fortunes, and put back the hand that was held out to assist him. Other offers of a like kind he either rejected or failed to improve, contenting himself with the patronage of one nobleman, whose mansion afforded him the delights of a splendid table, and a retreat for a few days from the metropolis.
While I was writing the History of Music, he, at the club, communicated to me some curious matter: I desired he would reduce it to writing; he promised me he would, and desired to see me at his chambers: I called on him there; he stepped into a closet, and tore out of a printed book six leaves that contained what he had mentioned to me. As he wrote for the booksellers, we, at the club, looked on him as a mere literary drudge, equal to the task of compiling and translating, but little capable of original, and still less of poetical composition: he had nevertheless, unknown to us, written and addressed to the countess, afterwards duchess, of Northumberland, one of the finest poems of the lyric kind that our language has to boast of, the ballad, 'Turn gentle Hermit of the Dale;' * and surprised us with ' The Traveller,' a poem that contains some particulars of his own history. Johnson was supposed to have assisted him in it; but he contributed to the perfection of it only four lines: his
* That this beautiful poem exists we owe to Dr. Chapman, of Sud bury. Soon after he wrote it, Goldsmith showed it to the Doctor, and was by him hardly dissuaded from throwing it into the fire. Hnwhinn. opinion of it was, that it was the best written poem since the time of Pope.
Of the booksellers whom styled his friends, Mr. Newbery wss one. This person had apartments in Canopbury-house, wbere Goldsmith often lay concealed from his creditors. Under a pressing necessity he there wrote his Vicar of Wakefield, and for it received of Newbery forty pounds. •
Of a man named Griffin, a bookseller, in Catherine-street in the Strand, he had borrowed, by two and three guineas at a time, money to the amount of two hundred pounds: to discharge this debt he wrote the Deserted Village, but was two years about it. Soon after its publication, Griffin declared, that it had discharged the whole of his debt.
His poems are replete with fine moral sentiment, and bespeak a great dignity of mind; yet he had no sense of the shame, nor dread of the evils, of poverty.
In the latter he was at one time so involved, that for the clamours of a woman, to whom he was indebted for lodging, and for bailiffs that waited to arrest him, he was equally unable, till he had made himself drunk, to stay within doors, or go abroad to hawk among the booksellers a piece of his writing, the title whereof my author does not remember. In 'his distress he sent for Johnson, who immediately went to one of them, and brought back money for his relief.
In his dealings with the booksellers, he is said to have acted very dishonestly, never fulfilling his engagements. In one year he got of them, and by his plays, the sum of £1,800, which he dissipated by gaming and extravagance, and died poor, in 1774.
He that can account for the inconsistencies of character above noted, otherwise than by showing, that wit and wisdom are seldom found to meet in the same mind, will do more than any of Goldsmith's friends were ever able to do. He was buried in the Temple churchyard. A monument was erected for him,in the Poets' corner, in Westminster Abbey, by a subscription of his friends, and is placed over the entrance into St. Blase's chapel. The inscription thereon was written by Johnson. This I am able to say with certainty, for he showed it to me in manuscript.
Page xxviii. 1. 1.
'Forgot at home, became for hire
Vide Swift, Misc. v. 129.
Page xxxvii. 1. 14. Mrs. Collier informed me that an acquaintance of hers had mentioned to her that he had been flogged by Goldsmith, when the latter was usher at Peckham.
Page xlii. To last line of note, add "There is one in the Athenaeum. March, 1832."
Page lviii. 1, 30. See Piozzi's Letters, i. 247.
Page lxii. 1. 21. He is, as the variation of the subject requires, alternately ornamented or plain; sublime without rising by painful or constrained effort; simple without descending into vulgarity. In philosophical reflection, in description, or in sentiment, he is always master of his subject, and consequently moves with ease.
Page lxvii. 1. 13. See A. Brown's Sketches, i. 80.
Page lxviii. On Johnson's prologue to the ' Good Natured
'Amidst the toils of this returning year,' When senators and nobles learn to fear Our little bard,' &c. These lines were omitted, lest they should give offence, and ' little' altered to 'anxious.'
Page Ixxix. 1. 10. See Tremaine, vol. iii. p. 316—334, sketch by Lord Chesterfield.
Page lxxix. L I. of note. Dele from ' Whether' to 'say.
Page lxxx. last line of note. Add, after p. 45: "and yet 'Hans Carvel not over decent.'" See Johnson's Life of Prior, p. 174.