Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

and a Scotch will well bear an opposition. The one is pale and fat, the other lean and ruddy. The one walks as if she were straggling after a go-cart, and the other takes too masculine a stride. I shall not endeavour to deprive either country of its share of beauty, but must say, of all objects on this earth, an English farmer's daughter is most charming. Every woman there is a complete beauty; while the higher class of women want many of the requisites to make them even tolerable. Their pleasures here are very dull, though very various. You may smoke, you may doze, you may go to the Italian comedy, as good an amusement as either of the former. This entertainment always brings in harlequin who is generally a magician, and in consequence of his diabolical art, performs a thousand tricks on the rest of the persons of the drama, who are all fools. I have seen the pit in a roar of laughter at this humour, when with his sword he touches the glass from which another was drinking. It was not his face they laughed at, for that was masked, they must have seen something vastly queer in the wooden sword, that neither I, nor you, sir, were you there, could see.

In winter, when their canals are frozen, every house is forsaken, and all people are on the ice. Sleds drawn by horses, and skating are at that time the reigning amusements. They have boats nere that slide on the ice, and are driven by the winds. When they spread all their sails they go more than a mile and a half a minute, and their motion is so rapid that the eye can scarcely accompany them: their ordinary manner of traveling is very cheap, and very convenient. They sail in covered boats, drawn by horses, and in these you are sure to meet people of all nations. Here the Dutch slumber, the French chatter, and the English play at cards. Any man who likes company may have them to his taste. For my part I generally detached myself from all society, and was wholly taken up in observing the face of the country. Nothing can equal its beauty. Wherever I turn my eyes, fine houses, elegant gardens, statues, grottoes, vistas, presented themselves, but when you enter their towns you are charmed beyond description. No misery is to be seen here; every one is usefully employed. Scotland and this country bear the highest contrast. There, hills and rocks intercept every prospect; here, it is all a continued plain. There you might see awell dressed duchess issuingfrom adirty close, and here a dirty Dutchman inhabiting a palace. The Scotch may be compared to a tulip planted in dung, but I never see a Dutchman in his own house but I think of a magnificent Egyptian temple dedicated to an ox.

Physic is by no means taught here so well as at Edinburgh, and in all Leyden there are but four British students, owing to all necessaries being so extremely dear, and the professors so very lazy (the chymical professor excepted), that we do not much care to come hither. I am not certain how long my stay here may be. However, I expect to have the happiness of seeing you at Kilmore, if I can, next March.

Direct to me, if I am honoured with a letter from you, to Madame Drallion's, at Leyden.

Thou best of men, may Heaven guard and preserve you, and those you love.

Oliver Goldsmith.

With what diligence he pursued the studies of his profession is not known; he is said to have attended the lectures of Gaubius, the favourite pupil of Boerhaave, on Chymistry, and those of Albinus on Anatomy; but his friend Dr. Ellis informs us, that an invincible propensity for plays gained possession of his mind, and that, heedless of remonstrance, he gave way to its seductions, till he lost his last shilling. To this friend he now came for advice under his new difficulties. Dr. Ellis saw the necessity of his leaving Holland and suggested a tour through different countries, at once to divert his mind from his dangerous pursuits, and to enlarge the circle of his knowledge. He also lent him money to enable him to prosecute his journey; but his assistance and advice were equally in vain, the greater part of the sum that was to procure him the advantage

of well directed travel, was spent in the purchase of some rare and costly flower roots, the remainder is supposed to have been squandered at the gaming table, and he was obliged to set out on the tour of Europe, with one clean shirt, and wilh an empty pocket.

As a compensation for that thoughtless disposition that was hurrying Goldsmith for ever to the verge of ruin, nature had bestowed on him some of her rarest and choicest gifts; a light heart, and an easy, cheerful, buoyant frame of mind. There was a bow of promise shining amid all his storms. 'Blessed with a good constitution, (I use the language of his biographer) and adventurous spirit, and with that thoughtless, perhaps happy disposition which takes no care for to-morrow, he continued his travels for a long time in spite of innumerable privations, and neither poverty, fatigue, nor hardship seems to have damped his ardour, nor interrupted his progress; it is a well authenticated fact that this ingenious man performed the tour of Europe on foot, and that he finished the arduous and singular undertaking without any other means than was obtained by an occasional display of his scholarship, or a tune upon his flute. In his Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Literature in Europe he has observed, that 'countries wear very different appearances to travellers of different circumstances. Man who is whirled through Europe in his postchaise, and the pilgrim who performs the grand tour on foot, will form very different conclusions. 'Haud inexpertus loquor.'

That Goldsmith did visit several parts of Europe on foot, and that he had no resources on which he could rely, but the variety and power of his talents, cannot be doubted.12 It is generally said that his musical powers commanded the hospitality of the peasants, and that his scholarship procured him a ready welcome to the houses of the learned, and the establishments of the religious; I would that any scholar of our days could say the same. The last century has broken down the fortunes of the peasant, and swept away the inhabitants of the monastery: a traveller, however gifted, who should now adopt the system that supported Goldsmith through so long a tour, would find his 'Philosophical Thesis,' and his 'Tuneful Pipe' but a bad passport to the hospitality of the continent.

To the knowledge of national manners, habits, and institutions which he acquired in this singular journey, we are indebted for his finest poem—the Traveller. The first sketch of it is said to have been written after his arrival in Switzerland, and was sent to his brother Henry, in Ireland. He stayed some time at Geneva; he there engaged

13 Mr. Campbell says 'assistance from his uncle must have reached him, as he remained six months at Padua,' and it probably was the case.

« AnteriorContinuar »