« AnteriorContinuar »
make me very happy, and would keep you nearer my mind. As it is, my dear brother, believe me to be yours most affectionately,
The lives of Parnell47 and Bolingbroke were the next productions which Goldsmith's fertile pen produced for the booksellers. The former has received the highest praise from Johnson; it is embellished with some original letters from Pope and Gay; and without mentioning the authors by name, contains a severe attack on the rich and ornamented style of Gray and Collins. Goldsmith had not much to say concerning his author, and he laments the want of materials, but the life is written with elegance and knowledge. A biography of Bolingbroke worthy of that extraordinary man is yet to be composed; a man whose comprehensive intellect and captivating eloquence were employed in assaulting the evidences of religious faith; whose life was wasted in fierce animosities at home, or criminal intrigues abroad; who, gifted by nature, and adorned by education and study, possessed powers that might have raised
47 Such was now the celebrity of Goldsmith's writings that he was even looked up to as a patron and promoter of schemes of public utility. His biographer has published a very curious letter from the notorious Thomas Paine, in which he solicits Goldsmith's interest in procuring an addition to the pay of excisemen.
Chalmers Eng. Poets, vol. xvi. p. 484.
himself and his country to the highest pinnacle of greatness; and who, if he had seconded the sword of Marlborough in the senate, might have dictated a peace for England, not in the halls of Utrecht, but in the saloons of Versailles; a man whom Pope, in the affectionate warmth of his heart and reverence of his understanding, almost deified; and one specimen of whose senatorial eloquence, it is said, Canning would have preferred to any recovered treasure of antiquity.
A writer who could command so captivating a style, and who touched all subjects with such felicity and grace as Goldsmith did, was peculiarly fitted to compose those introductions to works, which are intended to propitiate the favour of the reader, or to communicate the author's design. Griffin, in an evil hour, employed him to make a selection of English poetry for young ladies' boarding-schools, and to prefix an introduction. Goldsmith marked the poems proper for insertion; but by what name am I to designate a blunder far more fatal than his going to be ordained in scarlet breeches? Was it carelessness, oddity, whim, or a kind of unaccountable fatuity which made him offer to the young and tender sex, whose taste and morals he was refining by his selections, one of 48 Prior's
48 Whether it was Hans Carvel, The Dove, or Pau'o Pargante, I cannot say. Goldsmith got £200 for this work: another instance of Goldsmith's carelessness is mentioned. To grossest poems? Mercy on us 1 he did more, he introduced it with a criticism! The boardingschools wisely took the alarm; governesses and teachers were in dismay; the sale of the book was destroyed, and Goldsmith's 'Beauties' irrecoverably lost their reputation.*9 What makes the whole affair more ludicrous is his observation while speaking of this work, that 'a man shows his judgment in these selections, he may be twenty years of his life cultivating this judgment.'
In 1771, our Poet was invited to visit Bennet Langton, at his seat in Lincolnshire; but he was unable to accept the invitation, and the following letter shows the nature of his employment.
TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ. AT LANGTON, NEAR
Since I had the pleasure of seeing you last, I have been almost wholly in the country at a farmer's house, quite alone trying to write a coassist a needy author, he ordered him to draw up a Description of China, which a bookseller had applied to the Doctor for, at a price he despised, but not rejected. He never gave himself the trouble to read the MS., but sent to the press an account, which made the Emperor of China a Mahommedau, and placed India between China and Japan. Two sheets were cancelled at Goldsmith's expense, who kicked his newly created author down stairs.
"Johnson would possibly have defended Goldsmith, for he says, ' No, no, Prior is a lady's book; no lady is ashamed to have it standing in her library.' v. Bosw. Johnson, iv. p. 45.
medy. It is now finished, but when or how it will be acted, or whether it will be acted at all, are questions I cannot resolve. I am, therefore, so much employed upon that, that I am under the necessity of putting off my intended visit to Lincolnshire for this season. Reynolds is just returned from Paris, and finds himself now in the case of a truant, that must make up for his idle time by diligence. We have therefore agreed to postpone our journey till next summer, when we hope to have the honor of waiting on you and Lady Rothes, and staying double the time of our late intended visit. We often meet, and never without remembering you. I see Mr. Beauclerk very often both in town and country. He is now going directly forward to become a second Boyle, deep in chymistry and physics. Johnson has been down upon a visit to a country parson, Dr. Taylor, and is returned to his old haunts, at Mrs. Thrale's. Burke is a farmer, en attendant a better place; but visiting about too. Every soul is visiting about, and merry, but myself, and that is hard too, as I have been trying these three months to do something to make people laugh. There have I been strolling about the hedges, studying jests, with a most tragical countenance. The Natural History is almost half finished, and I will shortly finish the rest. God knows I am tired of this kind of finishing, which is but bungling work; and that not so much my fault as the fault of my scurvy circumstances. They begin to
talk in town of the opposition's gaining ground.
Temple, Brick Court,
The farmer's house mentioned in this letter was at the sixth milestone, Edgeware Road, and here Mr. Boswell, and Mr. Mickle, the poet, visited him in April, 1772. He was then writing his History of Animated Nature; and they found descriptions and drawings of animals scratched upon the walls of the room. He was at a distance that enabled him, when wearied with study, to retreat into the pleasures50 of the metropolis, of
50 Goldsmith (said Johnson) is one of the first men we have now as an author; and he is a very worthy man too.