Imágenes de página

which it is said (not on Miss Hawkins's authority), that he partook pretty largely; and when his money and spirits were exhausted, he returned to his suburban solitude, to instruct and delight the world by some fresh production of his enchanting pen.

For a short time he was concerned in the Gentleman's Journal, under the management of Kenrick, Bickerstaff, and others. His next production was the play of ' She Stoops to Conquer; or, the Mistakes of a Night.' Colman thought and spoke unfavourably of it, and at length reluctantly produced it in 1773. It always, however, found a strenuous supporter in Johnson. 'The dialogue,' he said, ' was quick and gay, and the incidents are so prepared as not to seem improbable.' Some interesting accounts of the opinions of its merits, and the efforts for its success among his friends, may be found in Cumberland's Memoirs :51 a joke of Colman's which ought only to have excited a laugh, dissolved the friendship of these irritable authors for ever.52 The play was dedicated to Johnson, who said of it, 'that he knew of no comedy for many years that had so much exhilarated an audience, that had answered so much the great end of comedy, that of making an audience merry.'

He has been loose in his principles, but he is coming right. v. Bom-ell's Life, i. 417.

51 Goldsmith, who had been wandering in St. James's Park the evening of the performance, was advised to come to the theatre. At his arrival he was shocked with a hiss: running up to the manager he exclaimed, 'What's that! what's that!' 'Pshaw! Doctor,' replied Colman, in a sarcastic tone, don't be terrified at squibs, when we have been sitting these two hours upon a barrel of gunpowder.' One of the most ludicrous circumstances (says Dr. Anderson) this comedy contains (that of the robbery) is borrowed from ' Albumazar.'


DEAR SIR, February 6, 1773.

I Ask you many pardons for the trouble I gave you of yesterday. Upon more mature deliberation, and the advice of a sensible friend, I began to think it indelicate in me to throw upon you the odium of confirming Mr. Colman's sentence. I therefore request you will send my play53 by

52 See Supplement to vol. xc. of the Gentleman's Magazine, p. 620—637, for the story of the ' Mistakes of a Night;' see also Gentleman's Magazine, Feb. 1821, p. 324. In the elder Colman's Prologue to Miss Lee's ' Chapter of Accidents,' 1780.

Long has the passive stage, howe'er absurd,
Been rul'd by names, and govern'd by a word.
Some poor cant term, like magic spells can awe,
And bend our realms like a dramatic law.
When Fielding, Humour's favourite child, appeai'd.
Low was the word—a word each author fear'd!
Till cheer'd at length by Pleasantry's bright ray.
Nature and Mirth resum'd their legal sway,
And Goldsmith's genius bask'd in open day.

53 She Stoops to Conquer.

my servant back; for having been assured of having it acted at the other house, though I confess yours in every respect more to my wish, yet it would be folly in me to forego an advantage which lies in my power of appealing from Mr. Colman's opinion to the judgment of the town. I entreat, if not too late, you will keep this affair secret for some time.5*

I am, dear Sir, your very humble Servant,
Oliver Goldsmith.

Some illiberal attacks on him in a publication under the management of Evans the bookseller, and supposed to have been from the pen of Kenrick, so excited the choler of the Poet, that in a fit of irresistible indignation, he attempted to revenge himself by personally chastising his enemy. But Goldsmith was no match for a strong athletic Welshman, who returned the Poet's blows with interest, and then sent him bruised and battered to his chambers in a coach. He was threatened with a prosecution for the assault; and he published the following address to the public, which was said to be written in the style of Johnson, and the purpose of which seems to be, that the correction of the abuses of the press must be left to private feelings, and the judgment of the in

54 This Play was acted in March, 1773, during a court mourning for the King of Sardinia. See an anecdote of Dr. Johnson's going to see it with Mr. Stevens, in coloured clothet. v. Bosw. Johnson, v. p. 222.


jured. If this opinion were to be reduced to practice in our days, and the editors of newspapers, gazettes, and magazines were to receive their due rewards,

And, oh! they'd cry, what street, what lane but knows Our purgings, pumpings, blanketings, and blows.

The following address appeared in the Daily Advertiser of Wednesday, March 31, 1773.


'Lest it may be supposed that I have been willing to correct in others an abuse of which I have been guilty of myself, I beg leave to declare that in all my life I never wrote or dictated a single paragraph, letter, or essay in a newspaper, except a few Moral Essays, under the character of a Chinese about ten years ago, in the Ledger; and a letter, to which I signed my name, in the St. James's Chronicle. If the liberty of the press, therefore, has been abused, I have had no hand in it. I have always considered the press as the protector of our freedom—as a watchful guardian capable of uniting the weak against the encroachments of power. What concerns the public most properly admits of a public discussion; but of late the press has turned from defending public interest, to making inroads upon private life: from combatting the strong, to overwhelming the feeble. No condition is now too obscure for its abuse, and the protector is become the tyrant of the people. In this manner the freedom of the press is beginning to sow the seeds of its own dissolution. The great must oppose it from principle, and the weak from fear, till at last every rank of mankind shall be found to give up its benefits, content with security from its insults.

How to put a stop to this licentiousness, by which all are indiscriminately abused, and by which vice consequently escapes in the general censure, I am unable to tell. All I could wish is, that as the law gives us no protection against the injury, so it should give calumniators no shelter after having provoked corruption. The insults which we receive before the public, by being more open, are the more distressing. By treating them with silent contempt we do not pay a sufficient deference to the opinion of the world. By recurring to legal redress, we too often expose the weakness of the law, which only serves to increase our mortification, by failing to relieve us. In short, every man should singly consider himself as a guardian of the liberty of the press, and as far as his influence can extend, should endeavour to prevent his licentiousness becoming at last the grave of its freedom.

Oliver Goldsmith.

His successful comedy M brought him in about

55 About this time, to oblige Mr. Quick, who had successfully exerted his talents in the character of Tony Luropkin, Goldsmith reduced Sedley's ' Grumbler' to a farce; it

« AnteriorContinuar »