Imágenes de página

forming plans of foreign travel, as undigested as the former. His wanderings were in imagination to extend into the interior parts of Asia; and he was to collect at Aleppo all the arts of life which the oriental nations possessed to enrich and adorn his native country. To assist him in procuring patronage and means for this magnificent project, he published an ingenious and eloquent essay, and made a direct application to Lord Bute. Both, however, remained unnoticed: for probably the minister was not unaware of the unfitness of the applicant; and it required not a politician's experience to inform him, that whatever discoveries in art or science may minister to the convenience, or promote the happiness of society, will not be long in extending themselves through the natural channels of commerce, nor remain undiscovered by the industry, or neglected by the interests of other nations.

He meant to have solicited the assistance of the Duke of Northumberland, but when Lord Nugent procured him an introduction to the house, he mistook the gentleman usher for the Duke; exhausted on the well dressed menial all his studied compliments and elaborate eloquence, and when his grace arrived, the embarrassed poet blundered out a few apologies and departed.32 This visit to the palaces of the great was not unattended with some ludicrous inconvenience. The vanity of the Poet was so delighted with the honours which rank had paid to genius, that he was constantly making them the topic of his conversation, both in private and general society. It is said that an ingenious bailiff drew him to a coffee house under the pretence of being steward to a nobleman, who, charmed with his poetry, solicited an interview; and he was only relieved from his dilemma by the kindness of Mr. Hamilton the printer of the Critical Review. It would however be doing injustice to Goldsmith's memory to omit stating that when the Duke of Northumberland asked him in what manner he could promote his interests in Ireland, at once forgetful of himself, and his own precarious situation, he told the Duke that he had a brother in Ireland, a clergyman, who stood in need of his help:33 this was the language of a

99 Some few years after this, Goldsmith was fortunate enough to make another blunder in his intercourse with the Duke. At Balh one morning as the Duke and Duchess

were going to breakfast, the abstracted Poet walked up into the room, and threw himself in a free and easy manner on the sofa. He at length awoke from his reverie, and in indescribable confusion said, he had mistaken the house for Lord Nugent's, and abruptly withdrew.

33 The Reverend Henry Goldsmith was never more than Curate at Lishoy, and upon a small salary. He was wonderfully beloved and respected. His scholars were some of the most respectable people in the country. At Lishoy nothing is remembered of the father, v. Newetl's Ed. of Goldtmith, p. 77.

grateful and affectionate heart; a heart that the world had not, perhaps could not spoil. He remembered the benefits which this brother had in early life conferred upon him, and he seized the first, the best opportunity of repaying them: feelings like these may well redeem the character of any man from the stain of a thousand acts of thoughtlessness and folly.34

Goldsmith now took chambers in the Temple, first in the Library Staircase, next the King's Bench Walks, afterwards in No. 2, Brick Court. His rooms were handsomely furnished, and here he entertained his friends, most of them eminently distinguished for their genius and accomplishments, the names of Fox, Burke, Johnson, Reynolds, and Jones appear in the list. The friendship of such men was not to be acquired or maintained but by talents and virtues of no ordinary kind: but Goldsmith had virtues which ensured

M Previous to the publication of the Deserted Village, the bookseller gave him a note for one hundred guineas for the copy. On the Doctor mentioning this to a friend, he observed, it is a very great sum for so short a performance. 'In truth, ' said Goldsmith, ' I think so, it is much more than the honest man can afford, or the piece is worth. I have not been easy since I received it. I will therefore go back, and return him his note;' which he actually did, and left it entirely to the bookseller to pay him according to the profits produced by the sale of the poem, which turned out very considerable.

their love; and talents that commanded their admiration: the little and the envious alone spoke of him with spleen, and he was too unguarded to escape their shafts.

Soon after the publication of the Vicar of Wakefield, Goldsmith printed his beautiful ballad of the Hermit. The simple story, and some of the thoughts and expressions are taken from the old ballad of the Gentle Herdsman,35 but the beauty of the poetry is all Goldsmith's. It has been alleged that this ballad is only a translation of an ancient French poem, entitled ' Raimond et Angeline.'36 The discussion that took place on the subject may be seen in the Monthly Review for September, 1797, and the European Magazine for 1802. It appeared in a small obscure volume called the Quiz, in 1767. That only one of these poems can claim originality is clear, but speaking with diffidence on a production in a foreign language, I should pronounce the French, in many of its parts, to have the air of a transla

35 See Percy Ballads, vol. ii. p. 78. It was printed from Dr. Percy's old folio MS.

36 In an old scarce French romance, 'Les Deux Habitants de Lozanne.' I shall here add that another fraud on Goldsmith's reputation has been practised in France. Ar the end of a volume in 1774 is the following title, 'Histoire de Francoise Wills, ou la Triomphe de la Bienfaisance, par l'auteur du Ministre de Wakefield. Traduction de 1'Anglais. See Southey's Omniana, i. p. 296.

tion; there is a coldness and flatness in some of the lines; and it is certainly very inferior in beauty and spirit to the English.3' This at least is certain, that no such poem, in its present dress, could have appeared in an ancient French novel, for it is in the language and style of Florian, and the writers of that day, a little altered and disguised.

About this time Goldsmith hired a country house on the Edgeware Road, which he called the shoemaker's paradise. Here he wrote his History of England in a series of letters, which Johnson, in the warmth of argument, and with a bias always unfavourable to Scotch writers, pronounced superior to the verbiage of Robertson,or the foppery of Dalrymple, and indeed ranked among the best histories in the language. It was attributed both to Lord Lyttelton, and to the Earl of Orrery, neither of whom were known to disavow the work.

Goldsmith had in his literary career exhibited talents as various as they were eminent: he had distinguished himself as a novelist, a poet, a critic, and historian; he now showed a still greater versatility of powers, by producing his comedy of

"This French poem was republished in a volume of Travels, called ' Tales of other Realms.' The correspondent in the European Magazine was Dr. James Kennedy of Glasgow.

« AnteriorContinuar »