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it cannot be denied, were executed in a hasty and slovenly manner. His reputation however was but little diminished to the end of his life. His emoluments were very great; and had he possessed only a small portion of prudence, he might have ensured that independence, the want of which embittered his latter days, and contributed in some measure to shorten his life.
His generosity, not to call it profusion, was without bounds; and he had constantly a set of miserable dependants, whose wants he supplied, even to the distressing himself. He had also unfortunately contracted a habit of gaming, with the arts of which he was very little acquainted; and consequently became the prey of some who were unprincipled enough to take advantage of his ignorance. An habitual carelessness with respect to money matters, at all times appears to have been his predominant failing. Though, as already observed, the emoluments arising from his writings were very great, yet his income bore no proportion to his expences. He became embarrassed in his circumstances, and in consequence uneasy, fretfiil, and peevish. To this was added a violent strangury, with which he was some years afflicted, and which, with other misfortunes, brought on a kind of habitual despondency. In this state he was attacked by a nervous fever, which, being improperly treated, terminated in his dissolution the 4th of April, 17 7 4, in the forty-fifth year of his age. It was first intended by his friends to bury him in Westminster Abbey; his pal] was to have been supported by Lord Shelbume, Lord Louth, Sirjoshua Reynolds, the Honourable Mr. Beauclerc, Mr. Edmund Burke, and Mr. Garrick; but a slight inspection into his affairs showed the impropriety of that design. He was therefore privately interred, in the burial ground belonging to the Temple; when Mr. Hugh Kelly, Messrs.John and Robert Day, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Etherington, and Mr. Hawes; gentlemen, who had been his friends in life, attended his
corpse as mourners, and paid the last tribute to his memory.
Dr. Johnson's character of Goldsmith, as an author, a few years after his death, is highly honourable to him. “ He was,n says that admirable writer, “ a man of such variety of powers, and such felicity of performance, that he always seemed to do best, that which he was doing; a man who had the art of being minute without tediousness, and general without confusion; whose language was copious without exuberance, exact without constraint,
and easy without weakness.n
Mr. Boswell has also portrayed our author; and some of his traits of his character will be readily recognized by his surviving friends. ‘ ‘ No man had the art of displaying with more advantage, as awriter, whatever literary acquisition he made.—.Ni/zilquod tetigit mm omavit. His mind resembled a fertile, but thin soil. There was a quick, but not a strong vegetation, of whatever chanced to be thrown upon it. No deep root could be struck. The oak of the forest did not grow there; but the elegant shrubbery, and the fragrant parterre, appeared in gay succession. It has been generally circulated and believed, that he was a mere fool in conversation; but, in truth, this has been greatly exaggerated. He had, no doubt, a more than common share of that hurry of ideas which we often find in his countrymen, and which sometimes produces a laughable confusion in expressing them. He was very much what the French call an etourdi ; and from vanity, and an eager desire of being conspicuous where-ever he was, he frequently talked carelessly, without knowledge of the subject, or even without thought. His person was short; his countenance coarse and vulgar; his deportment that of a scholar, awkwardly affecting the easy gentleman. Those who were in any way distinguished, excited envy in him to so ridiculous an excess, that the instances of it are hardly credible."—“ He, I am afraid, had no settled system of any
sort, so that his conduct must not be strictly scrutinized; but his affections were social and generous; and when he had money, he gave it away very
To these accounts, we shall add the following pleasant description of our
author, by the sprightly pen of David Garrick.
Here, Hermes, says Jove, who with nectar was mellow,
A great lover of truth, yet a mind turn’d to fictions.
Now mix these ingredients, which, warm’d in the baking,
With the love of a wench, let his writings be chaste,
Tip his tongue with strange matter, his pen with fine taste.
Set fire to his head, and set fire to his tail :
For the joy of each sex on the world I’ll bestow it,
This scholar, rake, christian, dupe, gamester, and poet.
And among brother mortals be Goldsmith his name.
A few years after his death a monument, by Nollikens, was erected in Westminster Abbey, by a collection made by his friends; and upon it is inscribed the following epitaph, written by Dr. Samuel Johnson.