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weeks he came back on a miserable hack, friend, and without a calling. He had, without a penny, and informed his mother indeed, if his own unsupported evidence that the ship in which he had taken (170 may be trusted, obtained from the Unihis passage, having got a fair wind while versity of Padua a doctor's degree; but he was at a party of pleasure, had sailed this dignity proved utterly useless to him. without him. Then he resolved to study In England his flute was not in request; the law. A generous kinsman advanced there were no convents; and he was forced fifty pounds. With this sum Goldsmith to have recourse to a series of desperate went to Dublin, was enticed into a gaming expedients. He turned strolling (230 house, and lost every shilling. He then player; but his face and figure were ill thought of medicine. A small purse was suited to the boards even of the humblest made up: and in his twenty-fourth year theatre. He pounded drugs and ran he was sent to Edinburgh. At Edin- (180 about London with phials for charitable burgh he passed eighteen months in chemists. He joined a swarm of beggars, nominal attendance on lectures, and which made its nest in Axe Yard. He picked up some superficial information was for a time usher of a school, and felt about chemistry and natural history. the miseries and humiliations of this situaThence he went to Leyden, still pretend tion so keenly that he thought it a proing to study physic. He left that cele motion to be permitted to earn his (240 brated university, the third university bread as a bookseller's hack; but he soon at which he had resided, in his twenty found the new yoke more galling than the seventh year, without a degree, with the old one, and was glad to become an usher merest smattering of medical knowl- (190 again. He obtained a medical appointedge, and with no property but his clothes | ment in the service of the East India and his fute. His flute, however, proved Company: but the appointment was a useful friend. He rambled on foot speedily revoked. Why it was revoked through Flanders, France, and Switzer we are not told. The subject was one on land, playing tunes which everywhere which he never liked to talk. It is probset the peasantry dancing, and which able that he was incompetent to per- (250 often procured for him a supper and a form the duties of the place. Then he bed. He wandered as far as Italy. His presented himself at Surgeons' Hall for musical performances, indeed, were not examination, as mate to a naval hospital. to the taste of the Italians, but he (200 | Even to so humble a post he was found contrived to live on the alms which he unequal. By this time the schoolmaster obtained at the gates of convents. It whom he had served for a morsel of food should, however, be observed that the and the third part of a bed was no more. stories which he told about this part of Nothing remained but to return to the his life ought to be received with great lowest drudgery of literature. Goldsmith caution; for strict veracity was never one took a garret in a miserable court, (260 of his virtues; and a man who is ordinarily to which he had to climb from the brink inaccurate in narration is likely to be of Fleet Ditch by a dizzy ladder of flagmore than ordinarily inaccurate when he | stones called Breakneck Steps. The talks about his own travels. Gold- (210 | court and the ascent have long disapsmith, indeed, was so regardless of truth | peared; but old Londoners will remember as to assert in print that he was present | both. Here, at thirty, the unlucky adat a most interesting conversation be | venturer sat down to toil like a galley tween Voltaire and Fontenelle, and that slave. this conversation took place at Paris. In the succeeding six years he sent to Now it is certain that Voltaire never was the press some things which have (270 within a hundred leagues of Paris during | survived and many which have perished. the whole time which Goldsmith passed He produced articles for reviews, magaon the Continent.
zines, and newspapers; children's books In 1756 the wanderer landed at [220 which, bound in gilt paper and adorned Dover, without a shilling, without a ) with hideous woodcuts, appeared in the window of the once far-famed shop at the lish writers; to Reynolds, the first of [330 corner of Saint Paul's Churchyard; An | English painters; and to Burke, who had Enquiry into the State of Polite Learning not yet entered Parliament, but who had in Europe, which, though of little or no distinguished himself greatly by his writvalue, is still reprinted among his (280 ings and by the eloquence of his conversaworks; a Life of Beau Nash, which is not tion. With these eminent men Goldreprinted, though it well deserves to be smith became intimate. In 1763 he was so; a superficial and incorrect, but very one of the nine original members of that readable, History of England, in a series celebrated fraternity which has someof letters purporting to be addressed by times been called the Literary Club, but a nobleman to his son; and some lively which has always disclaimed that 1340 and amusing Sketches of London Society, epithet, and still glories in the simple in a series of letters purporting to be name of The Club. addressed by a Chinese traveller to his By this time Goldsmith had quitted friends. All these works were anony- (290 his miserable dwelling at the top of Breakmous; but some of them were well known neck Steps, and had taken chambers in to be Goldsmith's; and he gradually rose | the more civilized region of the Inns of in the estimation of the booksellers for Court. But he was still often reduced to whom he drudged. He was, indeed, em- | pitiable shifts. Towards the close of 1764 phatically a popular writer. For accurate his rent was so long in arrear that his research or grave disquisition he was landlady one morning called in the (350 not well qualified by nature or by educa- | help of a sheriff's officer. The debtor, tion. He knew nothing accurately: his in great perplexity, dispatched a mesreading had been desultory; nor had he senger to Johnson; and Johnson, always meditated deeply on what he had (300 friendly, though often surly, sent back read. He had seen much of the world; the messenger with a guinea, and promised but he had noticed and retained little to follow speedily. He came, and found more of what he had seen than some that Goldsmith had changed the guinea, grotesque incidents and characters which and was railing at the landlady over a had happened to strike his fancy. But, bottle of Madeira. Johnson put the though his mind was very scantily stored cork into the bottle, and entreated his (360 with materials, he used what materials friend to consider calmly how money was he had in such a way as to produce a won to be procured. Goldsmith said that he derful effect. There have been many had a novel ready for the press. Johnson greater writers; but perhaps no writer (310 glanced at the manuscript, saw that there was ever more uniformly agreeable. His were good things in it, took it to a bookstyle was always pure and easy, and, on seller, sold it for £60, and soon returned proper occasions, pointed and energetic. with the money. The rent was paid; His narratives were always amusing, his and the sheriff's officer withdrew. Acdescriptions always picturesque, his humor cording to one story, Goldsmith gave his rich and joyous, yet not without an oc landlady a sharp reprimand for her 1370 casional tinge of amiable sadness. About treatment of him: according to another, everything that he wrote, serious or spor he insisted on her joining him in a bowl of tive, there was a certain natural grace punch. Both stories are probably true. and decorum, hardly to be expected (320 The novel which was thus ushered into from a man a great part of whose life the world was the Vicar of Wakefield. had been passed among thieves and beg But, before the Vicar of Wakefield apgars, street-walkers and merry-andrews, in peared in print, came the great crisis of those squalid dens which are the reproach Goldsmith's literary life. In Christmas of great capitals.
week, 1764, he published a poem entitled As his name gradually became known, the Traveller. It was the first work (380 the circle of his acquaintance widened. to which he had put his name, and it at He was introduced to Johnson, who was once raised him to the rank of a legitimate then considered as the first of living Eng- | English classic. The opinion of the most skilful critics was, that nothing finer had and thicker; and the gleams of pleasantry appeared in verse since the fourth book become rarer and rarer. of the Dunciad. In one respect the Trav The success which had attended (440 eller differs from all Goldsmith's other Goldsmith as a novelist emboldened him writings. In general his designs were to try his fortune as a dramatist. He bad, and his execution good. In the wrote the Goodnatured Man, a piece which Traveller, the execution, though de- (390 had a worse fate than it deserved. Garserving of much praise, is far inferior to rick refused to produce it at Drury Lane. the design. No philosophical poem, It was acted at Covent Garden in 1768, ancient or modern, has a plan so noble, but was coldly received. The author, and at the same time so simple. An | however, cleared by his benefit nights, English wanderer, seated on a crag among and by the sale of the copyright, no less the Alps, near the point where three great than £500, five times as much as he (450 countries meet, looks down on the bound had made by the Traveller and the Vicar less prospect, reviews his long pilgrimage, of Wakefield together. The plot of the recalls the varieties of scenery, of climate, Goodnatured Man is, like almost all Goldof government, of religion, of national (400 smith's plots, very ill constructed. But character, which he has observed, and some passages are exquisitely ludicrous; comes to the conclusion, just or unjust, much more ludicrous, indeed, than suited that our happiness depends little on the taste of the town at that time. A political institutions, and much on the canting, mawkish play, entitled False temper and regulation of our own minds. Delicacy, had just had an immense run.
While the fourth edition of the Traveller Sentimentality was all the mode. [460 was on the counters of the booksellers, During some years, more tears were shed the Vicar of Wakefield appeared, and at comedies than at tragedies; and a rapidly obtained a popularity which has pleasantry which moved the audience to lasted down to our own time, and (410 anything more than a grave smile was which is likely to last as long as our reprobated as low. It is not strange, language. The fable is indeed one of therefore, that the very best scene in the the worst that ever was constructed. It Goodnatured Man, that in which Miss wants, not merely that probability which Richland finds her lover attended by the ought to be found in a tale of common bailiff and the bailiff's follower in full English life, but that consistency which court dresses, should have been merci- (470 ought to be found even in the wildest i lessly hissed, and should have been fiction about witches, giants, and fairies. omitted after the first night. But the earlier chapters have all the In 1770 appeared the Deserted Village. sweetness of pastoral poetry, together [420 In mere diction and versification this with all the vivacity of comedy. Moses celebrated poem is fully equal, perhaps and his spectacles, the vicar and his superior, to the Traveller, and it is genmonogamy, the sharper and his cosmog- erally preferred to the Traveller by that ony, the squire proving from Aristotle large class of readers who think, with that relatives are related, Olivia preparing Bayes in the Rehearsal, that the only use herself for the arduous task of converting | of a plan is to bring in fine things. (480 a rakish lover by studying the controversy More discerning judges, however, while between Robinson Crusoe and Friday, they admire the beauty of the details, the great ladies with their scandal about are shocked by one unpardonable fault Sir Tomkyn's amours and Dr. Bur- (430 which pervades the whole. The fault dock's verses, and Mr. Burchell with we mean is not that theory about wealth his “Fudge,” have caused as much harm and luxury which has so often been cenless mirth as has ever been caused by sured by political economists. The theory matter packed into so small a number of is indeed false; but the poem, considered pages. The latter part of the tale is un merely as a poem, is not necessarily the worthy of the beginning. As we approach worse on that account. The finest (490 the catastrophe, the absurdities lie thicker | poem in the Latin language, indeed the finest didactic poem in any language, was ceed; yet the mirth of the Goodnatured written in defence of the silliest and Man was sober when compared with the meanest of all systems of natural and rich drollery of She Stoops to Conquer, moral philosophy. A poet may easily be which is, in truth, an incomparable farce pardoned for reasoning ill; but he cannot in five acts. On this occasion, how- 1550 be pardoned for describing ill, for ob ever, genius triumphed. Pit, boxes, and serving the world in which he lives so galleries were in a constant roar of carelessly that his portraits bear no laughter. If any bigoted admirer of Kelly resemblance to the originals, for ex- 1500 and Cumberland ventured to hiss or groan, hibiting as copies from real life monstrous he was speedily silenced by a general cry combinations of things which never were of “Turn him out,” or “Throw him and never could be found together. What over.” Two generations have since conwould be thought of a painter who should firmed the verdict which was pronounced mix August and January in one landscape, | | on that night. who should introduce a frozen river into a | While Goldsmith was writing the 1560 harvest scene? Would it be a sufficient Deserted Village and She Stoops to Conquer, defence of such a picture to say that every he was employed in works of a very difpart was exquisitely colored, that the ferent kind, works from which he derived green hedges, the apple-trees loaded (510 | little reputation but much profit. He with fruit, the wagons reeling under the compiled for the use of schools a History yellow sheaves, and the sunburned reapers of Rome, by which he made £300; a wiping their foreheads, were very fine, History of England, by which he made and that the ice and the boys sliding £600; a History of Greece, for which he were also very fine? To such a picture received £250; a Natural History, for the Deserted Village bears a great resem- | which the booksellers covenanted to 1570 blance. It is made up of incongruous pay him 800 guineas. These works he parts. The village in its happy days is a produced without any elaborate research, true English village. The village in its by merely selecting, abridging, and transdecay is an Irish village. The felicity 1520 | lating into his own clear, pure, and flowing and the misery which Goldsmith has language what he found in books well brought close together belong to two known to the world, but too bulky or too different countries, and to two different dry for boys and girls. He committed stages in the progress of society. He had some strange blunders; for he knew nothassuredly never seen in his native island ing with accuracy. Thus in his History such a rural paradise, such a seat of plenty, of England he tells us that Naseby is 1580 content, and tranquillity, as his “Au- in Yorkshire; nor did he correct this burn.” He had assuredly never seen in i mistake when the book was reprinted. England all the inhabitants of such a He was very nearly hoaxed into putting paradise turned out of their homes (530 into the History of Greece an account of a in one day and forced to emigrate in a battle between Alexander the Great and body to America. The hamlet he had Montezuma. In his Animated Nature probably seen in Kent; the ejectment he he relates, with faith and with perfect had probably seen in Munster; but, by gravity, all the most absurd lies which joining the two, he has produced some he could find in books of travels about thing which never was and never will be gigantic Patagonians, monkeys that 1590 seen in any part of the world.
preach sermons, nightingales that repeat In 1773 Goldsmith tried his chance at long conversations. “If he can tell a Covent Garden with a second play, She | horse from a cow,” said Johnson, “that Stoops to Conquer. The manager was 1540 is the extent of his knowledge of zoology." not without great difficulty induced to How little Goldsmith was qualified to bring this piece out. The sentimental . write about the physical sciences is sufcomedy still reigned; and Goldsmith's : ficiently proved by two anecdotes. He comedies were not sentimental. The Good- on one occasion denied that the sun is natured Man had been too funny to suc- ! longer in the northern than in the southern
signs. It was in vain to cite the au- (600 scribed him as an inspired idiot. “Noll,” thority of Maupertuis. “Maupertuis!” | said Garrick, "wrote like an angel, and he cried; “I understand those matters talked like poor Poll.” Chamier declared better than Maupertuis.” On another | that it was a hard exercise of faith to occasion he, in defiance of the evidence of believe that so foolish a chatterer could his own senses, maintained obstinately, have really written the Traveller. Even and even angrily, that he chewed his Boswell could say, with contemptu- (660 dinner by moving his upper jaw.
ous compassion, that he liked very well Yet, ignorant as Goldsmith was, few to hear honest Goldsmith run on. “Yes, writers have done more to make the first sir,” said Johnson; “but he should not steps in the laborious road to knowl- (610 like to hear himself.” Minds differ as edge easy and pleasant. His compilations rivers differ. There are transparent and are widely distinguished from the com- sparkling rivers from which it is delightful pilations of ordinary bookmakers. He to drink as they flow; to such rivers the was a great, perhaps an unequalled, minds of such men as Burke and Johnson master of the arts of selection and may be compared. But there are rivers condensation. In these respects his his of which the water when first drawn (670 tories of Rome and of England, and still is turbid and noisome, but becomes more his own abridgments of these his pellucid as crystal, and delicious to the tories, well deserve to be studied. In taste, if it be suffered to stand till it has general nothing is less attractive than (620 deposited a sediment; and such a river an epitome; but the epitomes of Gold- is a type of the mind of Goldsmith. His smith, even when most concise, are always first thoughts on every subject were conamusing; and to read them is considered fused even to absurdity; but they reby intelligent children, not as a task, but quired only a little time to work themas a pleasure.
selves clear. When he wrote they had Goldsmith might now be considered as that time; and therefore his readers (680 a prosperous man. He had the means of pronounced him a man of genius; but living in comfort, and even in what to when he talked he talked nonsense, and one who had so often slept in barns and made himself the laughing-stock of his on bulks must have been luxury. His (630 hearers. He was painfully sensible of fame was great and was constantly rising. his inferiority in conversation; he felt He lived in what was intellectually far every failure keenly; yet he had not the best society of the kingdom, in a sufficient judgment and self-command to society in which no talent or accomplish- hold his tongue. His animal spirits and ment was wanting, and in which the art | vanity were always impelling him to try of conversation was cultivated with splen to do the one thing which he could not (690 did success. There probably were never do. After every attempt he felt he had four talkers more admirable in four dif exposed himself, and writhed with shame ferent ways than Johnson, Burke, Beau- and vexation; yet the next moment he clerk, and Garrick; and Goldsmith was (640 began again. on terms of intimacy with all the four. | His associates seem to have regarded He aspired to share in their colloquial him with kindness, which, in spite of renown; but never was ambition more their admiration of his writings, was not unfortunate. It may seem strange that unmixed with contempt. In truth, there a man who wrote with so much per was in his character much to love, but spicuity, vivacity, and grace should have | very little to respect. His heart was 1700 been, whenever he took a part in con | soft, even to weakness: he was so generversation, an empty, noisy, blundering ous that he quite forgot to be just; he rattle. But on this point the evidence | forgave injuries so readily that he might is overwhelming. So extraordinary (650 | be said to invite them: and was so liberal was the contrast between Goldsmith's to beggars that he had nothing left for published works and the silly things his tailor and his butcher. He was vain, which he said, that Horace Walpole de- sensual, frivolous, profuse, improvident.