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Oliver Goldsmith by Washington Irving

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Johnson had now become one of Goldsmith's best friends and advisers. He
knew all the weak points of his character, but he knew also his merits; and
while he would rebuke him like a child, and rail at his errors and follies,
he would suffer no one else to undervalue him. Goldsmith knew the soundness
of his judgment and his practical benevolence, and often sought his counsel
and aid amid the difficulties into which his heedlessness was continually
plunging him.

"I received one morning," says Johnson, "a message from poor Goldsmith that
he was in great distress, and, as it was not in his power to come to me,
begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea,
and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I was
dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at
which he was in a violent passion: I perceived that he had already changed
my guinea, and had a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the
cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of
the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me he had a novel
ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it and saw its
merit; told the landlady I should soon return; and, having gone to a
bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he
discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for
having used him go ill."

The novel in question was the Vicar of Wakefield; the bookseller to whom
Johnson sold it was Francis Newbery, nephew to John. Strange as it may
seem, this captivating work, which has obtained and preserved an almost
unrivaled popularity in various languages, was so little appreciated by the
bookseller that he kept it by him for nearly two years unpublished!

Goldsmith had, as yet, produced nothing of moment in poetry. Among his
literary jobs, it is true, was an oratorio entitled The Captivity, founded
on the bondage of the Israelites in Babylon. It was one of those unhappy
offsprings of the muse ushered into existence amid the distortions of
music. Most of the oratorio has passed into oblivion; but the following
song from it will never die:

"The wretch condemned from life to part,
Still, still on hope relies,
And every pang that rends the heart
Bids expectation rise.

"Hope, like the glimmering taper's light,
Illumes and cheers our way;
And still, as darker grows the night,
Emits a brighter ray."

Goldsmith distrusted his qualifications to succeed in poetry, and doubted
the disposition of the public mind in regard to it. "I fear," said he, "I
have come too late into the world; Pope and other poets have taken up the
places in the temple of Fame; and as few at any period can possess poetical
reputation, a man of genius can now hardly acquire it." Again, on another
occasion, he observes: "Of all kinds of ambition, as things are now
circumstanced, perhaps that which pursues poetical fame is the wildest.
What from the increased refinement of the tunes, from the diversity of
judgment produced by opposing systems of criticism, and from the more
prevalent divisions of opinion influenced by party, the strongest and
happiest efforts can expect to please but in a very narrow circle."

At this very time he had by him his poem of The Traveler. The plan of it,
as has already been observed, was conceived many years before, during his
travels in Switzerland, and a sketch of it sent from that country to his
brother Henry in Ireland. The original outline is said to have embraced a
wider scope; but it was probably contracted through diffidence, in the
process of finishing the parts. It had laid by him for several years in a
crude state, and it was with extreme hesitation and after much revision
that he at length submitted it to Dr. Johnson. The frank and warm
approbation of the latter encouraged him to finish it for the press; and
Dr. Johnson himself contributed a few lines toward the conclusion.

We hear much about "poetic inspiration," and the "poet's eye in a fine
frenzy rolling"; but Sir Joshua Reynolds gives an anecdote of Goldsmith
while engaged upon his poem, calculated to cure our notions about the ardor
of composition. Calling upon the poet one day, he opened the door without
ceremony, and found him in the double occupation of turning a couplet and
teaching a pet dog to sit upon his haunches. At one time he would glance
his eye at his desk, and at another shake his finger at the dog to make him
retain his position. The last lines on the page were still wet; they form a
part of the description of Italy:

"By sports like these are all their cares beguiled,
The sports of children satisfy the child."

Goldsmith, with his usual good-humor, joined in the laugh caused by his
whimsical employment, and acknowledged that his boyish sport with the dog
suggested the stanza The poem was published on the 19th of December, 1764,
in a quarto form, by Newbery, and was the first of his works to which
Goldsmith prefixed his name. As a testimony of cherished and well-merited
affection, he dedicated it to his brother Henry. There is an amusing
affectation of indifference as to its fate expressed in the dedication.
"What reception a poem may find," says he, "which has neither abuse, party,
nor blank verse to support it, I cannot tell, nor am I solicitous to know."
The truth is, no one was more emulous and anxious for poetic fame; and
never was he more anxious than in the present instance, for it was his
grand stake. Dr. Johnson aided the launching of the poem by a favorable
notice in the "Critical Review"; other periodical works came out in its
favor. Some of the author's friends complained that it did not command
instant and wide popularity; that it was a poem to win, not to strike; it
went on rapidly increasing in favor; in three months a second edition was
issued; shortly afterward a third; then a fourth; and, before the year was
out, the author was pronounced the best poet of his time.

The appearance of The Traveler at once altered Goldsmith's intellectual
standing in the estimation of society; but its effect upon the club, if we
may judge from the account given by Hawkins, was most ludicrous. They were
lost in astonishment that a "newspaper essayist" and "bookseller's, drudge"
should have written such a poem. On the evening of its announcement to them
Goldsmith had gone away early, after "rattling away as usual," and they
knew not how to reconcile his heedless garrulity with the serene beauty,
the easy grace, the sound good sense, and the occasional elevation of his
poetry. They could scarcely believe that such magic numbers had flowed from
a man to whom in general, says Johnson, "it was with difficulty they could
give a hearing." "Well", exclaimed Chamier, "I do believe he wrote this
poem himself, and, let me tell you, that is believing a great deal."

At the next meeting of the club Chamier sounded the author a little about
his poem. "Mr. Goldsmith," said he, "what do you mean by the last word in
the first line of your Traveler, 'remote, unfriended, solitary, slow?' do
you mean tardiness of locomotion?" "Yes," replied Goldsmith
inconsiderately, being probably flurried at the moment. "No, sir,"
interposed his protecting friend Johnson, "you did not mean tardiness
of locomotion; you meant that sluggishness of mind which comes upon a
man in solitude." "Ah," exclaimed Goldsmith, "that was what I meant."
Chamier immediately believed that Johnson himself had written the line,
and a rumor became prevalent that he was the author of many of the
finest passages. This was ultimately set at rest by Johnson himself,
who marked with a pencil all the verses he had contributed, nine in
number, inserted toward the conclusion, and by no means the best in the
poem. He moreover, with generous warmth, pronounced it the finest poem
that had appeared since the days of Pope.

But one of the highest testimonials to the charm of the poem was given by
Miss Reynolds, who had toasted poor Goldsmith as the ugliest man of her
acquaintance. Shortly after the appearance of The Traveler, Dr. Johnson
read it aloud from beginning to end in her presence. "Well," exclaimed she,
when he had finished, "I never more shall think Dr. Goldsmith ugly!"

On another occasion, when the merits of The Traveler were discussed at
Reynolds' board, Langton declared "There was not a bad line in the poem,
not one of Dryden's careless verses." "I was glad," observed Reynolds, "to
hear Charles Fox say it was one of the finest poems in the English
language." "Why was you glad?" rejoined Langton; "you surely had no doubt
of this before." "No," interposed Johnson, decisively; "the merit of The
Traveler is so well established that Mr. Fox's praise cannot augment it,
nor his censure diminish it."

Boswell, who was absent from England at the time of the publication of The
Traveler, was astonished, on his return, to find Goldsmith, whom he had so
much undervalued, suddenly elevated almost to a par with his idol. He
accounted for it by concluding that much both of the sentiments and
expression of the poem had been derived from conversations with Johnson.
"He imitates you, sir," said this incarnation of toadyism. "Why, no, sir,"
replied Johnson, "Jack Hawksworth is one of my imitators, but not
Goldsmith. Goldy, sir, has great merit." "But, sir, he is much indebted to
you for his getting so high in the public estimation." "Why, sir, he has,
perhaps, got _sooner to it by his intimacy with me."

The poem went through several editions in the course of the first year, and
received some few additions and corrections from the author's pen. It
produced a golden harvest to Mr. Newbery, but all the remuneration on
record, doled out by his niggard hand to the author, was twenty guineas!



Goldsmith, now that he was rising in the world, and becoming a notoriety,
felt himself called upon to improve his style of living. He according
emerged from Wine-Office Court, and took chambers in the Temple. It is true
they were but of humble pretensions, situated on what was then the library
staircase, and it would appear that he was a kind of inmate with Jeffs, the
butler of the society. Still he was in the Temple, that classic region
rendered famous by the "Spectator" and other essayists, as the abode of gay
wits and thoughtful men of letters; and which, with its retired courts and
embowered gardens, in the very heart of a noisy metropolis, is, to the
quiet-seeking student and author, an oasis freshening with verdure in the
midst of a desert. Johnson, who had become a kind of growling supervisor of
the poet's affairs, paid him a visit soon after he had installed himself in
his new quarters, and went prying about the apartment, in his near-sighted
manner, examining everything minutely. Goldsmith was fidgeted by this
curious scrutiny, and apprehending a disposition to find fault, exclaimed,
with the air of a man who had money in both pockets, "I shall soon be in
better chambers than these." The harmless bravado drew a reply from Johnson
which touched the chord of proper pride. "Nay, sir," said he, "never mind
that. Nil te quaesiveris extra," implying that his reputation rendered him
independent of outward show. Happy would it have been for poor Goldsmith
could he have kept this consolatory compliment perpetually in mind, and
squared his expenses accordingly.

Among the persons of rank who were struck with the merits of The Traveler
was the Earl (afterward Duke) of Northumberland. He procured several other
of Goldsmith's writings, the perusal of which tended to elevate the author
in his good opinion, and to gain for him his good will. The earl held the
office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and understanding Goldsmith was an
Irishman, was disposed to extend to him the patronage which his high post
afforded. He intimated the same to his relative, Dr. Percy, who, he found,
was well acquainted with the poet, and expressed a wish that the latter
should wait upon him. Here, then, was another opportunity for Goldsmith to
better his fortune, had he been knowing and worldly enough to profit by it.
Unluckily the path to fortune lay through the aristocratical mazes of
Northumberland House, and the poet blundered at the outset. The following
is the account he used to give of his visit: "I dressed myself in the best
manner I could, and, after studying some compliments I thought necessary on
such an occasion, proceeded to Northumberland House, and acquainted the
servants that I had particular business with the duke. They showed me into
an antechamber, where, after waiting some time, a gentleman, very elegantly
dressed, made his appearance; taking him for the duke, I delivered all the
fine things I had composed in order to compliment him on the honor he had
done me; when, to my great astonishment, he told me I had mistaken him for
his master, who would see me immediately. At that instant the duke came
into the apartment, and I was so confounded on the occasion that I wanted
words barely sufficient to express the sense I entertained of the duke's
politeness, and went away exceedingly chagrined at the blunder I had

Sir John Hawkins, in his life of Dr. Johnson, gives some further
particulars of this visit, of which he was, in part, a witness. "Having one
day," says he, "a call to make on the late Duke, then Earl, of
Northumberland, I found Goldsmith waiting for an audience in an outer room;
I asked him what had brought him there; he told me an invitation from his
lordship. I made my business as short as I could, and, as a reason,
mentioned that Dr. Goldsmith was waiting without. The earl asked me if I
was acquainted with him. I told him that I was, adding what I thought was
most likely to recommend him. I retired, and stayed in the outer room to
take him home. Upon his coming out, I asked him the result of his
conversation. 'His lordship,' said he, 'told me he had read my poem,
meaning The Traveler, and was much delighted with it; that he was going
to be lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and that, hearing I was a native of that
country, he should be glad to do me any kindness.' 'And what did you
answer,' said I, 'to this gracious offer?' 'Why,' said he, 'I could say
nothing but that I had a brother there, a clergyman, that stood in need of
help: as for myself, I have no great dependence on the promises of great
men; I look to the booksellers for support; they are my best friends, and
I am not inclined to forsake them for others.'" "Thus," continues Sir
John, "did this idiot in the affairs of the world trifle with his
fortunes, and put back the hand that was held out to assist him."

We cannot join with Sir John in his worldly sneer at the conduct of
Goldsmith on this occasion. While we admire that honest independence of
spirit which prevented him from asking favors for himself, we love that
warmth of affection which instantly sought to advance the fortunes of a
brother: but the peculiar merits of poor Goldsmith seem to have been little
understood by the Hawkinses, the Boswells, and the other biographers of the

After all, the introduction to Northumberland House did not prove so
complete a failure as the humorous account given by Goldsmith, and the
cynical account given by Sir John Hawkins, might lead one to suppose. Dr.
Percy, the heir male of the ancient Percies, brought the poet into the
acquaintance of his kinswoman, the countess, who, before her marriage with
the earl, was in her own right heiress of the House of Northumberland. "She
was a lady," says Boswell, "not only of high dignity of spirit, such as
became her noble blood, but of excellent understanding and lively talents."
Under her auspices a poem of Goldsmith's had an aristocratical introduction
to the world. This was the beautiful ballad of the Hermit, originally
published under the name of Edwin and Angelina. It was suggested by an old
English ballad beginning "Gentle Herdsman," shown him by Dr. Percy, who was
at that time making his famous collection, entitled Reliques of Ancient
English Poetry, which he submitted to the inspection of Goldsmith prior to
publication. A few copies only of the Hermit were printed at first, with
the following title page: "Edwin and Angelina: a Ballad. By Mr. Goldsmith.
Printed for the Amusement of the Countess of Northumberland."

All this, though it may not have been attended with any immediate pecuniary
advantage, contributed to give Goldsmith's name and poetry the high stamp
of fashion, so potent in England; the circle at Northumberland House,
however, was of too stately and aristocratical a nature to be much to his
taste, and we do not find that he became familiar in it.

He was much more at home at Gosford, the noble seat of his countryman,
Robert Nugent, afterward Baron Nugent and Viscount Clare, who appreciated
his merits even more heartily than the Earl of Northumberland, and
occasionally made him his guest both in town and country. Nugent is
described as a jovial voluptuary, who left the Roman Catholic for the
Protestant religion, with a view to bettering his fortunes; he had an
Irishman's inclination for rich widows, and an Irishman's luck with the
sex; having been thrice married and gained a fortune with each wife. He was
now nearly sixty, with a remarkably loud voice, broad Irish brogue, and
ready, but somewhat coarse wit. With all his occasional coarseness he was
capable of high thought, and had produced poems which showed a truly poetic
vein. He was long a member of the House of Commons, where his ready wit,
his fearless decision, and good-humored audacity of expression, always
gained him a hearing, though his tall person and awkward manner gained him
the nickname of Squire Gawky, among the political scribblers of the day.
With a patron of this jovial temperament Goldsmith probably felt more at
ease than with those of higher refinement.

The celebrity which Goldsmith had acquired by his poem of The Traveler,
occasioned a resuscitation of many of his miscellaneous and anonymous tales
and essays from the various newspapers and other transient publications in
which they lay dormant. These he published in 1765, in a collected form,
under the title of "Essays by Mr. Goldsmith." "The following essays,"
observes he in his preface, "have already appeared at different times, and
in different publications. The pamphlets in which they were inserted being
generally unsuccessful, these shared the common fate, without assisting the
booksellers' aims, or extending the author's reputation. The public were
too strenuously employed with their own follies to be assiduous in
estimating mine; so that many of my best attempts in this way have fallen
victims to the transient topic of the times--the Ghost in Cock Lane, or the
Siege of Ticonderoga.

"But, though they have passed pretty silently into the world, I can by no
means complain of their circulation. The magazines and papers of the day
have indeed been liberal enough in this respect. Most of these essays have
been regularly reprinted twice or thrice a year, and conveyed to the public
through the kennel of some engaging compilation. If there be a pride in
multiplied editions, I have seen some of my labors sixteen times reprinted,
and claimed by different parents as their own. I have seen them flourished
at the beginning with praise, and signed at the end with the names of
Philautos, Philalethes, Phileleutheros, and Philanthropos. It is time,
however, at last to vindicate my claims; and as these entertainers of the
public, as they call themselves, have partly lived upon me for some years,
let me now try if I cannot live a little upon myself."

It was but little, in fact, for all the pecuniary emolument he received
from the volume was twenty guineas. It had a good circulation, however, was
translated into French, and has maintained its stand among the British

Notwithstanding that the reputation of Goldsmith had greatly risen, his
finances were often at a very low ebb, owing to his heedlessness as to
expense, his liability to be imposed upon, and a spontaneous and
irresistible propensity to give to every one who asked. The very rise in
his reputation had increased these embarrassments. It had enlarged his
circle of needy acquaintances, authors poorer in pocket than himself, who
came in search of literary counsel; which generally meant a guinea and a
breakfast. And then his Irish hangers-on! "Our doctor," said one of these
sponges, "had a constant levee of his distressed countrymen, whose wants,
as far as he was able, he always relieved; and he has often been known to
leave himself without a guinea, in order to supply the necessities of

This constant drainage of the purse therefore obliged him to undertake all
jobs proposed by the booksellers, and to keep up a kind of running account
with Mr. Newbery; who was his banker on all occasions, sometimes for
pounds, sometimes for shillings; but who was a rigid accountant, and took
care to be amply repaid in manuscript. Many effusions, hastily penned in
these moments of exigency, were published anonymously, and never claimed.
Some of them have but recently been traced to his pen; while of many the
true authorship will probably never be discovered. Among others it is
suggested, and with great probability, that he wrote for Mr. Newbery the
famous nursery story of Goody Two Shoes, which appeared in 1765, at a
moment when Goldsmith was scribbling for Newbery, and much pressed for
funds. Several quaint little tales introduced in his Essays show that he
had a turn for this species of mock history; and the advertisement and
title-page bear the stamp of his sly and playful humor.

"We are desired to give notice that there is in the press, and speedily
will be published, either by subscription or otherwise, as the public shall
please to determine, the History of Little Goody Two Shoes, otherwise Mrs.
Margery Two Shoes; with the means by which she acquired learning and
wisdom, and, in consequence thereof, her estate; set forth at large for the
benefit of those

"Who, from a state of rags and care,
And having shoes but half a pair,
Their fortune and their fame should fix,
And gallop in a coach and six."

The world is probably not aware of the ingenuity, humor, good sense, and
sly satire contained in many of the old English nursery-tales. They have
evidently been the sportive productions of able writers, who would not
trust their names to productions that might be considered beneath their
dignity. The ponderous works on which they relied for immortality have
perhaps sunk into oblivion, and carried their names down with them; while
their unacknowledged offspring, Jack the Giant Killer, Giles Gingerbread,
and Tom Thumb, flourish in wide-spreading and never-ceasing popularity.

As Goldsmith had now acquired popularity and an extensive acquaintance, he
attempted, with the advice of his friends, to procure a more regular and
ample support by resuming the medical profession. He accordingly launched
himself upon the town in style; hired a man-servant; replenished his
wardrobe at considerable expense, and appeared in a professional wig and
cane, purple silk small-clothes, and a scarlet roquelaure buttoned to the
chin: a fantastic garb, as we should think at the present day, but not
unsuited to the fashion of the times.

With his sturdy little person thus arrayed in the unusual magnificence of
purple and fine linen, and his scarlet roquelaure flaunting from his
shoulders, he used to strut into the apartments of his patients swaying his
three-cornered hat in one hand and his medical scepter, the cane, in the
other, and assuming an air of gravity and importance suited to the
solemnity of his wig; at least, such is the picture given of him by the
waiting gentlewoman who let him into the chamber of one of his lady

He soon, however, grew tired and impatient of the duties and restraints of
his profession; his practice was chiefly among his friends, and the fees
were not sufficient for his maintenance; he was disgusted with attendance
on sick-chambers and capricious patients, and looked back with longing to
his tavern haunts and broad convivial meetings, from which the dignity and
duties of his medical calling restrained him. At length, on prescribing to
a lady of his acquaintance who, to use a hackneyed phrase, "rejoiced" in
the aristocratical name of Sidebotham, a warm dispute arose between him and
the apothecary as to the quantity of medicine to be administered. The
doctor stood up for the rights and dignities of his profession, and
resented the interference of the compounder of drugs. His rights and
dignities, however, were disregarded; his wig and cane and scarlet
roquelaure were of no avail; Mrs. Sidebotham sided with the hero of the
pestle and mortar; and Goldsmith flung out of the house in a passion. "I am
determined henceforth," said he to Topham Beauclerc, "to leave off
prescribing for friends." "Do so, my dear doctor," was the reply; "whenever
you undertake to kill, let it be only your enemies."

This was the end of Goldsmith's medical career.



The success of the poem of The Traveler, and the popularity which it had
conferred on its author, now roused the attention of the bookseller in
whose hands the novel of The Vicar of Wakefield had been slumbering for
nearly two long years. The idea has generally prevailed that it was Mr.
John Newbery to whom the manuscript had been sold, and much surprise has
been expressed that he should be insensible to its merit and suffer it to
remain unpublished, while putting forth various inferior writings by the
same author. This, however, is a mistake; it was his nephew, Francis
Newbery, who had become the fortunate purchaser. Still the delay is equally
unaccountable. Some have imagined that the uncle and nephew had business
arrangements together, in which this work was included, and that the elder
Newbery, dubious of its success, retarded the publication until the full
harvest of The Traveler should be reaped. Booksellers are prone to make
egregious mistakes as to the merit of works in manuscript; and to
undervalue, if not reject, those of classic and enduring excellence, when
destitute of that false brilliancy commonly called "effect." In the present
instance, an intellect vastly superior to that of either of the booksellers
was equally at fault. Dr. Johnson, speaking of the work to Boswell, some
time subsequent to its publication, observed, "I myself did not think it
would have had much success. It was written and sold to a bookseller
before The Traveler, but published after, so little expectation had the
bookseller from it. Had it been sold after The Traveler, he might have had
twice as much money; _though sixty guineas was no mean price_."

Sixty guineas for the Vicar of Wakefield! and this could be pronounced
_no mean_ price by Dr. Johnson, at that time the arbiter of British
talent, and who had had an opportunity of witnessing the effect of the work
upon the public mind; for its success was immediate. It came out on the
27th of March, 1766; before the end of May a second edition was called for;
in three months more a third; and so it went on, widening in a popularity
that has never flagged. Rogers, the Nestor of British literature, whose
refined purity of taste and exquisite mental organization rendered him
eminently calculated to appreciate a work of the kind, declared that of all
the books which, through the fitful changes of three generations, he had
seen rise and fall, the charm of the Vicar of Wakefield had alone continued
as at first; and could he revisit the world after an interval of many more
generations, he should as surely look to find it undiminished. Nor has its
celebrity been confined to Great Britain. Though so exclusively a picture
of British scenes and manners, it has been translated into almost every
language, and everywhere its charm has been the same. Goethe, the great
genius of Germany, declared in his eighty-first year that it was his
delight at the age of twenty, that it had in a manner formed a part of his
education, influencing his taste and feelings throughout life, and that he
had recently read it again from beginning to end--with renewed delight, and
with a grateful sense of the early benefit derived from it.

It is needless to expatiate upon the qualities of a work which has thus
passed from country to country, and language to language, until it is now
known throughout the whole reading world, and is become a household book in
every hand. The secret of its universal and enduring popularity is
undoubtedly its truth to nature, but to nature of the most amiable kind; to
nature such as Goldsmith saw it. The author, as we have occasionally shown
in the course of this memoir, took his scenes and characters in this as in
his other writings, from originals in his own motley experience; but he has
given them as seen through the medium of his own indulgent eye, and has set
them forth with the colorings of his own good head and heart. Yet how
contradictory it seems that this, one of the most delightful pictures of
home and homefelt happiness, should be drawn by a homeless man; that the
most amiable picture of domestic virtue and all the endearments of the
married state should be drawn by a bachelor, who had been severed from
domestic life almost from boyhood; that one of the most tender, touching,
and affecting appeals on behalf of female loveliness should have been made
by a man whose deficiency in all the graces of person and manner seemed to
mark him out for a cynical disparager of the sex.

We cannot refrain from transcribing from the work a short passage
illustrative of what we have said, and which within a wonderfully small
compass comprises a world of beauty of imagery, tenderness of feeling,
delicacy and refinement of thought, and matchless purity of style. The two
stanzas which conclude it, in which are told a whole history of woman's
wrongs and sufferings, is, for pathos, simplicity, and euphony, a gem in
the language. The scene depicted is where the poor Vicar is gathering
around him the wrecks of his shattered family, and endeavoring to rally
them back to happiness.

"The next morning the sun arose with peculiar warmth for the season, so
that we agreed to breakfast together on the honeysuckle bank; where, while
we sat, my youngest daughter at my request joined her voice to the concert
on the trees about us. It was in this place my poor Olivia first met her
seducer, and every object served to recall her sadness. But that melancholy
which is excited by objects of pleasure, or inspired by sounds of harmony,
soothes the heart instead of corroding it. Her mother, too, upon this
occasion, felt a pleasing distress, and wept, and loved her daughter as
before. 'Do, my pretty Olivia,' cried she, 'let us have that melancholy air
your father was so fond of; your sister Sophy has already obliged us. Do,
child; it will please your old father.' She complied in a manner so
exquisitely pathetic as moved me.

"'When lovely woman stoops to folly,
And finds too late that men betray,
What charm can soothe her melancholy.
What art can wash her guilt away?

"'The only art her guilt to cover,
To hide her shame from every eye,
To give repentance to her lover,
And wring his bosom--is to die.'"

Scarce had the Vicar of Wakefield made its appearance and been received
with acclamation than its author was subjected to one of the usual
penalties that attend success. He was attacked in the newspapers. In one of
the chapters he had introduced his ballad of the Hermit, of which, as we
have mentioned, a few copies had been printed some considerable time
previously for the use of the Countess of Northumberland. This brought
forth the following article in a fashionable journal of the day:

"_To the Printer of the 'St. James's Chronicle_.'

"Sir--In the Reliques of Ancient Poetry, published about two years ago, is
a very beautiful little balled called A Friar of Orders Gray. The ingenious
editor, Mr. Percy, supposes that the stanzas sung by Ophelia in the play of
Hamlet were parts of some ballad well known in Shakespeare's time, and from
these stanzas with the addition of one or two of his own to connect them,
he has formed the above-mentioned ballad; the subject of which is, a lady
comes to a convent to inquire for her love who had been driven there by her
disdain. She is answered by a friar that he is dead:

"'No, no, he is dead, gone to his death's bed.
He never will come again.'

"The lady weeps and laments her cruelty; the friar endeavors to comfort her
with morality and religion, but all in vain; she expresses the deepest
grief and the most tender sentiments of love, till at last the friar
discovers himself:

"'And lo! beneath this gown of gray
Thy own true love appears.'

"This catastrophe is very fine, and the whole, joined with the greatest
tenderness, has the greatest simplicity; yet, though this ballad was so
recently published in the Ancient Reliques, Dr. Goldsmith has been hardy
enough to publish a poem called The Hermit, where the circumstances and
catastrophe are exactly the same, only with this difference, that the
natural simplicity and tenderness of the original are almost entirely lost
in the languid smoothness and tedious paraphrase of the copy, which is as
short of the merits of Mr. Percy's ballad as the insipidity of negus is to
the genuine flavor of champagne.

"I am, sir, yours, etc., DETECTOR."

This attack, supposed to be by Goldsmith's constant persecutor, the
malignant Kenrick, drew from him the following note to the editor:

"Sir--As there is nothing I dislike so much as newspaper controversy,
particularly upon trifles, permit me to be as concise as possible in
informing a correspondent of yours that I recommended Blainville's travels
because I thought the book was a good one; and I think so still. I said I
was told by the bookseller that it was then first published; but in that it
seems I was misinformed, and my reading was not extensive enough to set me

"Another correspondent of yours accuses me of having taken a ballad I
published some time ago, from one by the ingenious Mr. Percy. I do not
think there is any great resemblance between the two pieces in question. If
there be any, his ballad was taken from mine. I read it to Mr. Percy some
years ago; and he, as we both considered these things as trifles at best,
told me, with his usual good-humor, the next time I saw him, that he had
taken my plan to form the fragments of Shakespeare into a ballad of his
own. He then read me his little Cento, if I may so call it, and I highly
approved it. Such petty anecdotes as these are scarcely worth printing; and
were it not for the busy disposition of some of your correspondents, the
public should never have known that he owes me the hint of his ballad, or
that I am obliged to his friendship and learning for communications of a
much more important nature.

"I am, sir, yours, etc.,


The unexpected circulation of the Vicar of Wakefield enriched the
publisher, but not the author. Goldsmith no doubt thought himself entitled
to participate in the profits of the repeated editions; and a memorandum,
still extant, shows that he drew upon Mr. Francis Newbery, in the month of
June, for fifteen guineas, but that the bill was returned dishonored. He
continued therefore his usual job-work for the booksellers, writing
introductions, prefaces, and head and tail pieces for new works; revising,
touching up, and modifying travels and voyages; making compilations of
prose and poetry, and "building books," as he sportively termed it. These
tasks required little labor or talent, but that taste and touch which are
the magic of gifted minds. His terms began to be proportioned to his
celebrity. If his price was at anytime objected to, "Why, sir," he would
say, "it may seem large; but then a man may be many years working in
obscurity before his taste and reputation are fixed or estimated; and then
he is, as in other professions, only paid for his previous labors."

He was, however, prepared to try his fortune in a different walk of
literature from any he had yet attempted. We have repeatedly adverted to
his fondness for the drama; he was a frequent attendant at the theaters;
though, as we have shown, he considered them under gross mismanagement. He
thought, too, that a vicious taste prevailed among those who wrote for the
stage. "A new species of dramatic composition," says he, in one of his
essays, "has been introduced under the name of _sentimental comedy_,
in which the virtues of private life are exhibited, rather than the vices
exposed; and the distresses rather than the faults of mankind make our
interest in the piece. In these plays almost all the characters are good
and exceedingly generous; they are lavish enough of their tin money on the
stage; and though they want humor, have abundance of sentiment and feeling.
If they happen to have faults or foibles, the spectator is taught not only
to pardon, but to applaud them in consideration of the goodness of their
hearts; so that folly, instead of being ridiculed, is commended, and the
comedy aims at touching our passions, without the power of being truly
pathetic. In this manner we are likely to lose one great source of
entertainment on the stage; for while the comic poet is invading the
province of the tragic muse, he leaves her lively sister quite neglected.
Of this, however, he is no ways solicitous, as he measures his fame by his

"Humor at present seems to be departing from the stage; and it will soon
happen that our comic players will have nothing left for it but a fine coat
and a song. It depends upon the audience whether they will actually drive
those poor merry creatures from the stage, or sit at a play as gloomy as at
the tabernacle. It is not easy to recover an art when once lost; and it
will be a just punishment, that when, by our being too fastidious, we have
banished humor from the stage, we should ourselves be deprived of the art
of laughing."

Symptoms of reform in the drama had recently taken place. The comedy of the
Clandestine Marriage, the joint production of Colman and Garrick, and
suggested by Hogarth's inimitable pictures of "Marriage a la mode," had
taken the town by storm, crowded the theaters with fashionable audiences,
and formed one of the leading literary topics of the year. Goldsmith's
emulation was roused by its success. The comedy was in what he considered
the legitimate line, totally different from the sentimental school; it
presented pictures of real life, delineations of character and touches of
humor, in which he felt himself calculated to excel. The consequence was
that in the course of this year (1766), he commenced a comedy of the same
class, to be entitled the Good Natured Man, at which he diligently wrought
whenever the hurried occupation of "book building" allowed him leisure.



THE social position of Goldsmith had undergone a material change since the
publication of The Traveler. Before that event he was but partially known
as the author of some clever anonymous writings, and had been a tolerated
member of the club and the Johnson circle, without much being expected from
him. Now he had suddenly risen to literary fame, and become one of the
_lions of the day. The highest regions of intellectual society were now
open to him; but he was not prepared to move in them with confidence and
success. Ballymahon had not been a good school of manners at the outset of
life; nor had his experience as a "poor student" at colleges and medical
schools contributed to give him the polish of society. He had brought from
Ireland, as he said, nothing but his "brogue and his blunders," and they
had never left him. He had traveled, it is true; but the Continental tour
which in those days gave the finishing grace to the education of a
patrician youth, had, with poor Goldsmith, been little better than a course
of literary vagabondizing. It had enriched his mind, deepened and widened
the benevolence of his heart, and filled his memory with enchanting
pictures, but it had contributed little to disciplining him for the polite
intercourse of the world. His life in London had hitherto been a struggle
with sordid cares and sad humiliations. "You scarcely can conceive," wrote
he some time previously to his brother, "how much eight years of
disappointment, anguish, and study have worn me down." Several more years
had since been added to the term during which he had trod the lowly walks
of life. He had been a tutor, an apothecary's drudge, a petty physician of
the suburbs, a bookseller's hack, drudging for daily bread. Each separate
walk had been beset by its peculiar thorns and humiliations. It is
wonderful how his heart retained its gentleness and kindness through all
these trials; how his mind rose above the "meannesses of poverty," to
which, as he says, he was compelled to submit; but it would be still more
wonderful, had his manners acquired a tone corresponding to the innate
grace and refinement of his intellect. He was near forty years of age when
he published The Traveler, and was lifted by it into celebrity. As is
beautifully said of him by one of his biographers, "he has fought his way
to consideration and esteem; but he bears upon him the scars of his twelve
years' conflict; of the mean sorrows through which he has passed; and of
the cheap indulgences he has sought relief and help from. There is nothing
plastic in his nature now. His manners and habits are completely formed;
and in them any further success can make little favorable change, whatever
it may effect for his mind or genius." [Footnote: Forster's Goldsmith]

We are not to be surprised, therefore, at finding him make an awkward
figure in the elegant drawing-rooms which were now open to him, and
disappointing those who had formed an idea of him from the fascinating ease
and gracefulness of his poetry.

Even the literary club, and the circle of which it formed a part, after
their surprise at the intellectual flights of which he showed himself
capable, fell into a conventional mode of judging and talking of him, and
of placing him in absurd and whimsical points of view. His very celebrity
operated here to his disadvantage. It brought him into continual comparison
with Johnson, who was the oracle of that circle and had given it a tone.
Conversation was the great staple there, and of this Johnson was a master.
He had been a reader and thinker from childhood; his melancholy
temperament, which unfitted him for the pleasures of youth, had made him
so. For many years past the vast variety of works he had been obliged to
consult in preparing his Dictionary had stored an uncommonly retentive
memory with facts on all kinds of subjects; making it a perfect colloquial
armory. "He had all his life," says Boswell, "habituated himself to
consider conversation as a trial of intellectual vigor and skill. He had
disciplined himself as a talker as well as a writer, making it a rule to
impart whatever he knew in the most forcible language he could put it in,
so that by constant practice and never suffering any careless expression to
escape him, he had attained an extraordinary accuracy and command of

His common conversation in all companies, according to Sir Joshua Reynolds,
was such as to secure him universal attention, something above the usual
colloquial style being always expected from him.

"I do not care," said Orme, the historian of Hindostan, "on what subject
Johnson talks; but I love better to hear him talk than anybody. He either
gives you new thoughts or a new coloring."

A stronger and more graphic eulogium is given by Dr. Percy. "The
conversation of Johnson," says he, "is strong and clear, and may be
compared to an antique statue, where every vein and muscle is distinct and

Such was the colloquial giant with which Goldsmith's celebrity and his
habits of intimacy brought him into continual comparison; can we wonder
that he should appear to disadvantage? Conversation grave, discursive, and
disputatious, such as Johnson excelled and delighted in, was to him a
severe task, and he never was good at a task of any kind. He had not, like
Johnson, a vast fund of acquired facts to draw upon; nor a retentive memory
to furnish them forth when wanted. He could not, like the great
lexicographer, mold his ideas and balance his periods while talking. He had
a flow of ideas, but it was apt to be hurried and confused, and as he said
of himself, he had contracted a hesitating and disagreeable manner of
speaking. He used to say that he always argued best when he argued alone;
that is to say, he could master a subject in his study, with his pen in his
hand; but when he came into company he grew confused, and was unable to
talk about it. Johnson made a remark concerning him to somewhat of the same
purport. "No man," said he, "is more foolish than Goldsmith when he has not
a pen in his hand, or more wise when he has." Yet with all this conscious
deficiency he was continually getting involved in colloquial contests with
Johnson and other prime talkers of the literary circle. He felt that he had
become a notoriety; that he had entered the lists and was expected to make
fight; so with that heedlessness which characterized him in everything
else, he dashed on at a venture; trusting to chance in this as in other
things, and hoping occasionally to make a lucky hit. Johnson perceived his
hap-hazard temerity, but gave him no credit for the real diffidence which
lay at bottom. "The misfortune of Goldsmith in conversation," said he, "is
this, he goes on without knowing how he is to get off. His genius is great,
but his knowledge is small. As they say of a generous man it is a pity he
is not rich, we may say of Goldsmith it is a pity he is not knowing. He
would not keep his knowledge to himself." And, on another occasion he
observes: "Goldsmith, rather than not talk, will talk of what he knows
himself to be ignorant, which can only end in exposing him. If in company
with two founders, he would fall a talking on the method of making cannon,
though both of them would soon see that he did not know what metal a cannon
is made of." And again: "Goldsmith should not be forever attempting to
shine in conversation; he has not temper for it, he is so much mortified
when he fails. Sir, a game of jokes is composed partly of skill, partly of
chance; a man may be beat at times by one who has not the tenth part of his
wit. Now Goldsmith, putting himself against another, is like a man laying a
hundred to one, who cannot spare the hundred. It is not worth a man's
while. A man should not lay a hundred to one unless he can easily spare it,
though he has a hundred chances for him; he can get but a guinea, and he
may lose a hundred. Goldsmith is in this state. When he contends, if he
gets the better, it is a very little addition to a man of his literary
reputation; if he does not get the better, he is miserably vexed."

Johnson was not aware how much he was himself to blame in producing this
vexation. "Goldsmith," said Miss Reynolds, "always appeared to be overawed
by Johnson, particularly when in company with people of any consequence;
always as if impressed with fear of disgrace; and indeed well he might. I
have been witness to many mortifications he has suffered in Dr. Johnson's

It may not have been disgrace that he feared, but rudeness. The great
lexicographer, spoiled by the homage of society, was still more prone than
himself to lose temper when the argument went against him. He could not
brook appearing to be worsted; but would attempt to bear down his adversary
by the rolling thunder of his periods; and when that failed, would become
downright insulting. Boswell called it "having recourse to some sudden mode
of robust sophistry"; but Goldsmith designated it much more happily. "There
is no arguing with Johnson," said he, _"for when his pistol misses fire,
he knocks you down with the butt end of it."_ [Footnote: The following
is given by Boswell as an instance of robust sophistry: "Once, when I was
pressing upon him with visible advantage, he stopped me thus, 'My dear
Boswell, let's have no more of this; you'll make nothing of it. I'd rather
hear you whistle a Scotch tune.'"]

In several of the intellectual collisions recorded by Boswell as triumphs
of Dr. Johnson, it really appears to us that Goldsmith had the best both of
the wit and the argument, and especially of the courtesy and good-nature.

On one occasion he certainly gave Johnson a capital reproof as to his own
colloquial peculiarities. Talking of fables, Goldsmith observed that the
animals introduced in them seldom talked in character. "For instance," said
he, "the fable of the little fishes, who saw birds fly over their heads,
and, envying them, petitioned Jupiter to be changed into birds. The skill
consists in making them talk like little fishes." Just then observing that
Dr. Johnson was shaking his sides and laughing, he immediately added, "Why,
Dr. Johnson, this is not so easy as you seem to think; for if you were to
make little fishes talk, they would talk like whales."

But though Goldsmith suffered frequent mortifications in society from the
overbearing, and sometimes harsh, conduct of Johnson, he always did justice
to his benevolence. When royal pensions were granted to Dr. Johnson and Dr.
Shebbeare, a punster remarked that the king had pensioned a she-bear and a
he-bear; to which Goldsmith replied, "Johnson, to be sure, has a roughness
in his manner, but no man alive has a more tender heart. _He has nothing
of the bear but the skin."_

Goldsmith, in conversation, shone most when he least thought of shining;
when he gave up all effort to appear wise and learned, or to cope with the
oracular sententiousness of Johnson, and gave way to his natural impulses.
Even Boswell could perceive his merits on these occasions. "For my part,"
said he, condescendingly, "I like very well to hear _honest Goldsmith_
talk away carelessly"; and many a much, wiser man than Boswell delighted in
those outpourings of a fertile fancy and a generous heart. In his happy
moods, Goldsmith had an artless simplicity and buoyant good-humor that led
to a thousand amusing blunders and whimsical confessions, much to the
entertainment of his intimates; yet, in his most thoughtless garrulity,
there was occasionally the gleam of the gold and the flash of the diamond.



Though Goldsmith's pride and ambition led him to mingle occasionally with
high society, and to engage in the colloquial conflicts of the learned
circle, in both of which he was ill at ease and conscious of being
undervalued, yet he had some social resorts in which he indemnified himself
for their restraints by indulging his humor without control. One of them
was a shilling whist club, which held its meetings at the Devil Tavern,
near Temple Bar, a place rendered classic, we are told, by a club held
there in old times, to which "rare Ben Jonson" had furnished the rules. The
company was of a familiar, unceremonious kind, delighting in that very
questionable wit which consists in playing off practical jokes upon each
other. Of one of these Goldsmith was made the butt. Coming to the club one
night in a hackney coach, he gave the coachman by mistake a guinea instead
of a shilling, which he set down as a dead loss, for there was no
likelihood, he said, that a fellow of this class would have the honesty to
return the money. On the next club evening he was told a person at the
street door wished to speak with him. He went forth, but soon returned with
a radiant countenance. To his surprise and delight the coachman had
actually brought back the guinea. While he launched forth in praise of
this unlooked-for piece of honesty, he declared it ought not to go
unrewarded. Collecting a small sum from the club, and no doubt increasing
it largely from his own purse, he dismissed the Jehu with many encomiums on
his good conduct. He was still chanting his praises when one of the club
requested a sight of the guinea thus honestly returned. To Goldsmith's
confusion it proved to be a counterfeit. The universal burst of laughter
which succeeded, and the jokes by which he was assailed on every side,
showed him that the whole was a hoax, and the pretended coachman as much a
counterfeit as the guinea. He was so disconcerted, it is said, that he soon
beat a retreat for the evening.

Another of those free and easy clubs met on Wednesday evenings at the Globe
Tavern in Fleet Street. It was somewhat in the style of the Three Jolly
Pigeons; songs, jokes, dramatic imitations, burlesque parodies and broad
sallies of humor, formed a contrast to the sententious morality, pedantic
casuistry, and polished sarcasm of the learned circle. Here is a huge "tun
of man," by the name of Gordon, use to delight Goldsmith by singing the
jovial song of Nottingham Ale, and looking like a butt of it. Here, too, a
wealthy pig butcher, charmed, no doubt, by the mild philanthropy of The
Traveler, aspired to be on the most sociable footing with the author, and
here was Tom King, the comedian, recently risen to consequence by his
performance of Lord Ogleby in the new comedy of the Clandestine Marriage.

A member of more note was one Hugh Kelly, a second-rate author, who, as he
became a kind of competitor of Goldsmith's, deserves particular mention. He
was an Irishman, about twenty-eight years of age, originally apprenticed to
a staymaker in Dublin; then writer to a London attorney; then a Grub Street
hack, scribbling for magazines and newspapers. Of late he had set up for
theatrical censor and satirist, and, in a paper called Thespis, in
emulation of Churchill's Rosciad, had harassed many of the poor actors
without mercy, and often without wit; but had lavished his incense on
Garrick, who, in consequence, took him into favor. He was the author of
several works of superficial merit, but which had sufficient vogue to
inflate his vanity. This, however, must have been mortified on his first
introduction to Johnson; after sitting a short time he got up to take
leave, expressing a fear that a longer visit might be troublesome. "Not in
the least, sir," said the surly moralist, "I had forgotten you were in the
room." Johnson used to speak of him as a man who had written more than he
had read.

A prime wag of this club was one of Goldsmith's poor countrymen and
hangers-on, by the name of Glover. He had originally been educated for the
medical profession, but had taken in early life to the stage, though
apparently without much success. While performing at Cork, he undertook,
partly in jest, to restore life to the body of a malefactor, who had just
been executed. To the astonishment of every one, himself among the number,
he succeeded. The miracle took wind. He abandoned the stage, resumed the
wig and cane, and considered his fortune as secure. Unluckily, there were
not many dead people to be restored to life in Ireland; his practice did
not equal his expectation, so he came to London, where he continued to
dabble indifferently, and rather unprofitably, in physic and literature.

He was a great frequenter of the Globe and Devil taverns, where he used to
amuse the company by his talent at story-telling and his powers of mimicry,
giving capital imitations of Garrick, Foote, Coleman, Sterne, and other
public characters of the day. He seldom happened to have money enough to
pay his reckoning, but was always sure to find some ready purse among those
who had been amused by his humors. Goldsmith, of course, was one of the
readiest. It was through him that Glover was admitted to the Wednesday
Club, of which his theatrical imitations became the delight. Glover,
however, was a little anxious for the dignity of his patron, which
appeared to him to suffer from the overfamiliarity of some of the members
of the club. He was especially shocked by the free and easy tone in which
Goldsmith was addressed by the pig butcher: "Come, Noll," would he say, as
he pledged him, "here's my service to you, old boy."

Glover whispered to Goldsmith that he "should not allow such liberties."
"Let him alone," was the reply, "you'll see how civilly I'll let him down."
After a time, he called out, with marked ceremony and politeness, "Mr. B.,
I have the honor of drinking your good health." Alas! dignity was not poor
Goldsmith's forte: he could keep no one at a distance. "Thank'ee, thank'ee,
Noll," nodded the pig-butcher, scarce taking the pipe out of his mouth. "I
don't see the effect of your reproof," whispered Glover. "I give it up,"
replied Goldsmith, with a good-humored shrug, "I ought to have known before
now there is no putting a pig in the right way."

Johnson used to be severe upon Goldsmith for mingling in these motley
circles, observing that, having been originally poor, he had contracted a
love for low company. Goldsmith, however, was guided not by a taste for
what was low, but for what was comic and characteristic. It was the feeling
of the artist; the feeling which furnished out some of his best scenes in
familiar life; the feeling with which "rare Ben Jonson" sought those very
haunts and circles in days of yore, to study "Every Man in His Humor."

It was not always, however, that the humor of these associates was to his
taste: as they became boisterous in their merriment he was apt to become
depressed. "The company of fools," says he, in one of his essays, "may at
first make us smile; but at last never fails of making us melancholy."
"Often he would become moody," says Glover, "and would leave the party
abruptly to go home and brood over his misfortune."

It is possible, however, that he went home for quite a different purpose;
to commit to paper some scene or passage suggested for his comedy of The
Good-Natured Man. The elaboration of humor is often a most serious task;
and we have never witnessed a more perfect picture of mental misery than
was once presented to us by a popular dramatic writer--still, we hope,
living--whom we found in the agonies of producing a farce which
subsequently set the theaters in a roar.



The comedy of The Good-Natured Man was completed by Goldsmith early in
1767, and submitted to the perusal of Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, and others
of the literary club, by whom it was heartily approved. Johnson, who was
seldom half way either in censure or applause, pronounced it the best
comedy that had been written since The Provoked Husband, and promised to
furnish the prologue. This immediately became an object of great solicitude
with Goldsmith, knowing the weight an introduction from the Great Cham of
literature would have with the public; but circumstances occurred which he
feared might drive the comedy and the prologue from Johnson's thoughts. The
latter was in the habit of visiting the royal library at the Queen's
(Buckingham) House, a noble collection of books, in the formation of which
he had assisted the librarian, Mr. Bernard, with his advice. One evening,
as he was seated there by the fire reading, he was surprised by the
entrance of the king (George III.), then a young man; who sought this
occasion to have a conversation with him. The conversation was varied and
discursive; the king shifting from subject to subject according to his
wont; "during the whole interview," says Boswell, "Johnson talked to his
majesty with profound respect, but still in his open, manly manner, with a
sonorous voice, and never in that subdued tone which is commonly used at
the levee and in the drawing-room. 'I found his majesty wished I should
talk,' said he, 'and I made it my business to talk. I find it does a man
good to be talked to by his sovereign. In the first place, a man cannot be
in a passion--'" It would have been well for Johnson's colloquial
disputants could he have often been under such decorous restraint. He
retired from the interview highly gratified with the conversation of the
king and with his gracious behavior. "Sir," said he to the librarian, "they
may talk of the king as they will, but he is the finest gentleman I have
ever seen." "Sir," said he subsequently to Bennet Langton, "his manners are
those of as fine a gentleman as we may suppose Louis the Fourteenth or
Charles the Second."

While Johnson's face was still radiant with the reflex of royalty, he was
holding forth one day to a listening group at Sir Joshua Reynolds', who
were anxious to hear every particular of this memorable conversation. Among
other questions, the king had asked him whether he was writing anything.
His reply was that he thought he had already done his part as a writer. "I
should have thought so too," said the king, "if you had not written so
well." "No man," said Johnson, commenting on this speech, "could have made
a handsomer compliment; and it was fit for a king to pay. It was decisive."
"But did you make no reply to this high compliment?" asked one of the
company. "No, sir," replied the profoundly deferential Johnson, "when the
king had said it, it was to be so. It was not for me to bandy civilities
with my sovereign."

During all the tune that Johnson was thus holding forth, Goldsmith, who was
present, appeared to take no interest in the royal theme, but remained
seated on a sofa at a distance, in a moody fit of abstraction; at length
recollecting himself, he sprang up, and advancing, exclaimed, with what
Boswell calls his usual "frankness and simplicity," "Well, you acquitted
yourself in this conversation better than I should have done, for I should
have bowed and stammered through the whole of it." He afterward explained
his seeming inattention, by saying that his mind was completely occupied
about his play, and by fears lest Johnson, in his present state of royal
excitement, would fail to furnish the much-desired prologue.

How natural and truthful is this explanation. Yet Boswell presumes to
pronounce Goldsmith's inattention affected and attributes it to jealousy.
"It was strongly suspected," says he, "that he was fretting with chagrin
and envy at the singular honor Dr. Johnson had lately enjoyed." It needed
the littleness of mind of Boswell to ascribe such pitiful motives to
Goldsmith, and to entertain such exaggerated notions of the honor paid to
Dr. Johnson.

The Good-Natured Man was now ready for performance, but the question was
how to get it upon the stage. The affairs of Covent Garden, for which it
had been intended, were thrown into confusion by the recent death of Rich,
the manager. Drury Lane was under the management of Garrick, but a feud, it
will be recollected, existed between him and the poet, from the
animadversions of the latter on the mismanagement of theatrical affairs,
and the refusal of the former to give the poet his vote for the
secretaryship of the Society of Arts. Times, however, were changed.
Goldsmith when that feud took place was an anonymous writer, almost unknown
to fame, and of no circulation in society. Now he had become a literary
lion; he was a member of the Literary Club; he was the associate of
Johnson, Burke, Topham Beauclerc, and other magnates; in a word, he had
risen to consequence in the public eye, and of course was of consequence in
the eyes of David Garrick. Sir Joshua Reynolds saw the lurking scruples of
pride existing between the author and actor, and thinking it a pity that
two men of such congenial talents, and who might be so serviceable to each
other, should be kept asunder by a worn-out pique, exerted his friendly
offices to bring them together. The meeting took place in Reynolds' house
in Leicester Square. Garrick, however, could not entirely put off the mock
majesty of the stage; he meant to be civil, but he was rather too gracious
and condescending. Tom Davies, in his Life of Garrick, gives an amusing
picture of the coming together of these punctilious parties. "The manager,"
says he, "was fully conscious of his (Goldsmith's) merit, and perhaps more
ostentatious of his abilities to serve a dramatic author than became a man
of his prudence; Goldsmith was, on his side, as fully persuaded of his own
importance and independent greatness. Mr. Garrick, who had so long been
treated with the complimentary language paid to a successful patentee and
admired actor, expected that the writer would esteem the patronage of his
play a favor; Goldsmith rejected all ideas of kindness in a bargain that
was intended to be of mutual advantage to both parties, and in this he was
certainly justifiable; Mr. Garrick could reasonably expect no thanks for
the acting a new play, which he would have rejected if he had not been
convinced it would have amply rewarded his pains and expense. I believe the
manager was willing to accept the play, but he wished to be courted to it;
and the doctor was not disposed to purchase his friendship by the
resignation of his sincerity." They separated, however, with an
understanding on the part of Goldsmith that his play would be acted. The
conduct of Garrick subsequently proved evasive, not through any lingerings
of past hostility, but from habitual indecision in matters of the kind, and
from real scruples of delicacy. He did not think the piece likely to
succeed on the stage, and avowed that opinion to Reynolds and Johnson; but
hesitated to say as much to Goldsmith, through fear of wounding his
feelings. A further misunderstanding was the result of this want of
decision and frankness; repeated interviews and some correspondence took
place without bringing matters to a point, and in the meantime the
theatrical season passed away.

Goldsmith's pocket, never well supplied, suffered grievously by this delay,
and he considered himself entitled to call upon the manager, who still
talked of acting the play, to advance him forty pounds upon a note of the
younger Newbery. Garrick readily complied, but subsequently suggested
certain important alterations in the comedy as indispensable to its
success; these were indignantly rejected by the author, but pertinaciously
insisted on by the manager. Garrick proposed to leave the matter to the
arbitration of Whitehead, the laureate, who officiated as his "reader" and
elbow critic. Goldsmith was more indignant than ever, and a violent dispute
ensued, which was only calmed by the interference of Burke and Reynolds.

Just at this time, order came out of confusion in the affairs of Covent
Garden. A pique having risen between Colman and Garrick, in the course of
their joint authorship of The Clandestine Marriage, the former had become
manager and part proprietor of Covent Garden, and was preparing to open a
powerful competition with his former colleague. On hearing of this,
Goldsmith made overtures to Colman; who, without waiting to consult his
fellow proprietors, who were absent, gave instantly a favorable reply.
Goldsmith felt the contrast of this warm, encouraging conduct, to the
chilling delays and objections of Garrick. He at once abandoned his piece
to the discretion of Colman. "Dear sir," says he in a letter dated Temple
Garden Court, July 9th, "I am very much obliged to you for your kind
partiality in my favor, and your tenderness in shortening the interval of
my expectation. That the play is liable to many objections I well know, but
I am happy that it is in hands the most capable in the world of removing
them. If then, dear sir, you will complete your favor by putting the piece
into such a state as it may be acted, or of directing me how to do it, I
shall ever retain a sense of your goodness to me. And indeed, though most
probably this be the last I shall ever write, yet I can't help feeling a
secret satisfaction that poets for the future are likely to have a
protector who declines taking advantage of their dreadful situation; and
scorns that importance which may be acquired by trifling with their

The next day Goldsmith wrote to Garrick, who was at Lichfield, informing
him of his having transferred his piece to Covent Garden, for which it had
been originally written, and by the patentee of which it was claimed,
observing, "As I found you had very great difficulties about that piece, I
complied with his desire.... I am extremely sorry that you should think me
warm at our last meeting; your judgment certainly ought to be free,
especially in a matter which must in some measure concern your own credit
and interest. I assure you, sir, I have no disposition to differ with you
on this or any other account, but am, with a high opinion of your
abilities, and a very real esteem, Sir, your most obedient humble servant.
Oliver Goldsmith."

In his reply, Garrick observed, "I was, indeed, much hurt that your warmth
at our last meeting mistook my sincere and friendly attention to your play
for the remains of a former misunderstanding, which I had as much forgot as
if it had never existed. What I said to you at my own house I now repeat,
that I felt more pain in giving my sentiments than you possibly would in
receiving them. It has been the business, and ever will be, of my life to
live on the best terms with men of genius; and I know that Dr. Goldsmith
will have no reason to change his previous friendly disposition toward me,
as I shall be glad of every future opportunity to convince him how much I
am his obedient servant and well-wisher. D. Garrick."



Though Goldsmith's comedy was now in train to be performed, it could not be
brought out before Christmas; in the meantime, he must live. Again,
therefore, he had to resort to literary jobs for his daily support. These
obtained for him petty occasional sums, the largest of which was ten
pounds, from the elder Newbery, for a historical compilation; but this
scanty rill of quasi patronage, so sterile in its products, was likely soon
to cease; Newbery being too ill to attend to business, and having to
transfer the whole management of it to his nephew.

At this time Tom Davies, the sometime Roscius, sometime bibliopole, stepped
forward to Goldsmith's relief, and proposed that he should undertake an
easy popular history of Rome in two volumes. An arrangement was soon made.
Goldsmith undertook to complete it in two years, if possible, for two
hundred and fifty guineas, and forthwith set about his task with cheerful
alacrity. As usual, he sought a rural retreat during the summer months,
where he might alternate his literary labors with strolls about the green
fields. "Merry Islington" was again his resort, but he now aspired to
better quarters than formerly, and engaged the chambers occupied
occasionally by Mr. Newbery in Canonbury House, or Castle, as it is
popularly called. This had been a hunting lodge of Queen Elizabeth, in
whose time it was surrounded by parks and forests. In Goldsmith's day
nothing remained of it but an old brick tower; it was still in the country,
amid rural scenery, and was a favorite nestling-place of authors,
publishers, and others of the literary order. [Footnote:

See on the distant slope, majestic shows
Old Canonbury's tower, an ancient pile
To various fates assigned; and where by turns
Meanness and grandeur have alternate reign'd;
Thither, in latter days, have genius fled
From yonder city, to respire and die.
There the sweet bard of Auburn sat, and tuned
The plaintive moanings of his village dirge.
There learned Chambers treasured lore for _men_,
And Newbery there his A B C's for _babes_.]

A number of these he had for fellow occupants of the castle; and they
formed a temporary club, which held its meetings at the Crown Tavern, on
the Islington lower road; and here he presided in his own genial style, and
was the life and delight of the company.

The writer of these pages visited old Canonbury Castle some years since,
out of regard to the memory of Goldsmith. The apartment was still shown
which the poet had inhabited, consisting of a sitting-room and small
bedroom, with paneled wainscots and Gothic windows. The quaintness and
quietude of the place were still attractive. It was one of the resorts of
citizens on their Sunday walks, who would ascend to the top of the tower
and amuse themselves with reconnoitering the city through a telescope. Not
far from this tower were the gardens of the White Conduit House, a Cockney
Elysium, where Goldsmith used to figure in the humbler days of his fortune.
In the first edition of his Essays he speaks of a stroll in these gardens,
where he at that time, no doubt, thought himself in perfectly genteel
society. After his rise in the world, however, he became too knowing to
speak of such plebeian haunts. In a new edition of his Essays, therefore,
the White Conduit House and its garden disappears, and he speaks of "a
stroll in the Park."

While Goldsmith was literally living from hand to mouth by the forced
drudgery of the pen, his independence of spirit was subjected to a sore
pecuniary trial. It was the opening of Lord North's administration, a time
of great political excitement. The public mind was agitated by the question
of American taxation, and other questions of like irritating tendency.
Junius and Wilkes and other powerful writers were attacking the
administration with all their force; Grub Street was stirred up to its
lowest depths; inflammatory talent of all kinds was in full activity, and
the kingdom was deluged with pamphlets, lampoons and libels of the grossest
kinds. The ministry were looking anxiously round for literary support. It
was thought that the pen of Goldsmith might be readily enlisted. His
hospitable friend and countryman, Robert Nugent, politically known as
Squire Gawky, had come out strenuously for colonial taxation; had been
selected for a lordship of the board of trade, and raised to the rank of
Baron Nugent and Viscount Clare. His example, it was thought, would be
enough of itself to bring Goldsmith into the ministerial ranks; and then
what writer of the day was proof against a full purse or a pension?
Accordingly one Parson Scott, chaplain to Lord Sandwich, and author of Anti
Se anus Panurge, and other political libels in support of the
administration, was sent to negotiate with the poet, who at this time was
returned to town. Dr. Scott, in after years, when his political
subserviency had been rewarded by two fat crown livings, used to make what
he considered a good story out of this embassy to the poet. "I found him,"
said he, "in a miserable suit of chambers in the Temple. I told him my
authority: I told how I was empowered to pay most liberally for his
exertions; and, would you believe it! he was so absurd as to say, 'I can
earn as much as will supply my wants without writing for any party; the
assistance you offer is therefore unnecessary to me'; and so I left him in
his garret!" Who does not admire the sturdy independence of poor Goldsmith
toiling in his garret for nine guineas the job, and smile with contempt at
the indignant wonder of the political divine, albeit his subserviency
_was_ repaid by two fat crown livings?

Not long after this occurrence, Goldsmith's old friend, though
frugal-handed employer, Newbery, of picture-book renown, closed his mortal
career. The poet has celebrated him as the friend of all mankind; he
certainly lost nothing by his friendship. He coined the brains of his
authors in the times of their exigency, and made them pay dear for the
plank put out to keep them from drowning. It is not likely his death caused
much lamentation among the scribbling tribe; we may express decent respect
for the memory of the just, but we shed tears only at the grave of the



The comedy of The Good-Natured Man was doomed to experience delays and
difficulties to the very last. Garrick, notwithstanding his professions,
had still a lurking grudge against the author, and tasked his managerial
arts to thwart him in his theatrical enterprise. For this purpose he
undertook to build up Hugh Kelly, Goldsmith's boon companion of the
Wednesday Club, as a kind of rival. Kelly had written a comedy called False
Delicacy, in which were embodied all the meretricious qualities of the
sentimental school. Garrick, though he had decried that school, and had
brought out his comedy of The Clandestine Marriage in opposition to it, now
lauded False Delicacy to the skies, and prepared to bring it out at Drury
Lane with all possible stage effect. He even went so far as to write a
prologue and epilogue for it, and to touch up some parts of the dialogue.
He had become reconciled to his former colleague, Colman, and it is
intimated that one condition in the treaty of peace between these
potentates of the realms of pasteboard (equally prone to play into each
other's hands with the confederate potentates on the great theater of life)
was that Goldsmith's play should be kept back until Kelly's had been
brought forward.

In the meantime the poor author, little dreaming of the deleterious
influence at work behind the scenes, saw the appointed time arrive and pass
by without the performance of his play; while False Delicacy was brought
out at Drury Lane (January 23, 1768) with all the trickery of managerial
management. Houses were packed to applaud it to the echo; the newspapers
vied with each other in their venal praises, and night after night seemed
to give it a fresh triumph.

While False Delicacy was thus borne on the full tide of fictitious
prosperity, The Good-Natured Man was creeping through the last rehearsals
at Covent Garden. The success of the rival piece threw a damp upon author,
manager, and actors. Goldsmith went about with a face full of anxiety;
Colman's hopes in the piece declined at each rehearsal; as to his fellow
proprietors, they declared they had never entertained any. All the actors
were discontented with their parts, excepting Ned Shuter, an excellent low
comedian, and a pretty actress named Miss Walford; both of whom the poor
author every afterward held in grateful recollection.

Johnson, Goldsmith's growling monitor and unsparing castigator in times of
heedless levity, stood by him at present with that protecting kindness with
which he ever befriended him in time of need. He attended the rehearsals;
he furnished the prologue according to promise; he pish'd and pshaw'd at
any doubts and fears on the part of the author, but gave him sound counsel,
and held him up with a steadfast and manly hand. Inspirited by his
sympathy, Goldsmith plucked up new heart, and arrayed himself for the grand
trial with unusual care. Ever since his elevation into the polite world, he
had improved in his wardrobe and toilet. Johnson could no longer accuse him
of being shabby in his appearance; he rather went to the other extreme. On
the present occasion there is an entry in the books of his tailor, Mr.
William Filby, of a suit of "Tyrian bloom, satin grain, and garter blue
silk breeches, L8 2s. 7d." Thus magnificently attired, he attended the
theater and watched the reception of the play and the effect of each
individual scene, with that vicissitude of feeling incident to his
mercurial nature.

Johnson's prologue was solemn in itself, and being delivered by Brinsley in
lugubrious tones suited to the ghost in Hamlet, seemed to throw a
portentous gloom on the audience. Some of the scenes met with great
applause, and at such times Goldsmith was highly elated; others went off
coldly, or there were slight tokens of disapprobation, and then his spirits
would sink. The fourth act saved the piece; for Shuter, who had the main
comic character of Croaker, was so varied and ludicrous in his execution of
the scene in which he reads an incendiary letter that he drew down thunders
of applause. On his coming behind the scenes, Goldsmith greeted him with an
overflowing heart; declaring that he exceeded his own idea of the
character, and made it almost as new to him as to any of the audience.

On the whole, however, both the author and his friends were disappointed at
the reception of the piece, and considered it a failure. Poor Goldsmith
left the theater with his towering hopes completely cut down. He endeavored
to hide his mortification, and even to assume an air of unconcern while
among his associates; but, the moment he was alone with Dr. Johnson, in
whose rough but magnanimous nature he reposed unlimited confidence, he
threw off all restraint and gave way to an almost childlike burst of grief.
Johnson, who had shown no want of sympathy at the proper time, saw nothing
in the partial disappointment of overrated expectations to warrant such
ungoverned emotions, and rebuked him sternly for what he termed a silly
affectation, saying that "No man should be expected to sympathize with the
sorrows of vanity."

When Goldsmith had recovered from the blow, he, with his usual unreserve,
made his past distress a subject of amusement to his friends. Dining one
day, in company with Dr. Johnson, at the chaplain's table at St. James's
Palace, he entertained the company with a particular and comic account of
all his feelings on the night of representation, and his despair when the
piece was hissed. How he went, he said, to the Literary Club; chatted
gayly, as if nothing had gone amiss; and, to give a greater idea of his
unconcern, sang his favorite song about an old woman tossed in a blanket
seventeen times as high as the moon.... "All this while," added he, "I was
suffering horrid tortures, and, had I put a bit in my mouth, I verily
believe it would have strangled me on the spot, I was so excessively ill:
but I made more noise than usual to cover all that; so they never perceived
my not eating, nor suspected the anguish of my heart; but, when all were
gone except Johnson here, I burst out a-crying, and even swore that I would
never write again."

Dr. Johnson sat in amaze at the odd frankness and childlike self-accusation
of poor Goldsmith. When the latter had come to a pause, "All this, doctor,"
said he dryly, "I thought had been a secret between you and me, and I am
sure I would not have said anything about it for the world." But Goldsmith
had no secrets: his follies, his weaknesses, his errors were all thrown to
the surface; his heart was really too guileless and innocent to seek
mystery and concealment. It is too often the false, designing man that is
guarded in his conduct and never offends proprieties.

It is singular, however, that Goldsmith, who thus in conversation could
keep nothing to himself, should be the author of a maxim which would
inculcate the most thorough dissimulation. "Men of the world," says he, in
one of the papers of the "Bee," "maintain that the true end of speech is
not so much to express our wants as to conceal them." How often is this
quoted as one of the subtle remarks of the fine witted Talleyrand!

The Good-Natured Man was performed for ten nights in succession; the third,
sixth, and ninth nights were for the author's benefit; the fifth night it
was commanded by their majesties; after this it was played occasionally,
but rarely, having always pleased more in the closet than on the stage.

As to Kelly's comedy, Johnson pronounced it entirely devoid of character,
and it has long since passed into oblivion. Yet it is an instance how an
inferior production, by dint of puffing and trumpeting, may be kept up for
a time on the surface of popular opinion, or rather of popular talk. What
had been done for False Delicacy on the stage was continued by the press.
The booksellers vied with the manager in launching it upon the town. They
announced that the first impression of three thousand copies was exhausted
before two o'clock on the day of publication; four editions, amounting to
ten thousand copies, were sold in the course of the season; a public
breakfast was given to Kelly at the Chapter Coffee House, and a piece of
plate presented to him by the publishers. The comparative merits of the two
plays were continually subjects of discussion in green-rooms, coffeehouses,
and other places where theatrical questions were discussed.

Goldsmith's old enemy, Kenrick, that "viper of the press," endeavored on
this as on many other occasions to detract from his well-earned fame; the
poet was excessively sensitive to these attacks, and had not the art and
self-command to conceal his feelings.

Some scribblers on the other side insinuated that Kelly had seen the
manuscript of Goldsmith's play, while in the hands of Garrick or elsewhere,
and had borrowed some of the situations and sentiments. Some of the wags of
the day took a mischievous pleasure in stirring up a feud between the two
authors. Goldsmith became nettled, though he could scarcely be deemed
jealous of one so far his inferior. He spoke disparagingly, though no doubt
sincerely, of Kelly's play: the latter retorted. Still, when they met one
day behind the scenes of Covent Garden, Goldsmith, with his customary
urbanity, congratulated Kelly on his success. "If I thought you sincere,
Mr. Goldsmith," replied the other, abruptly, "I should thank you."
Goldsmith was not a man to harbor spleen or ill-will, and soon laughed at
this unworthy rivalship: but the jealousy and envy awakened in Kelly's mind
long continued. He is even accused of having given vent to his hostility by
anonymous attacks in the newspapers, the basest resource of dastardly and
malignant spirits; but of this there is no positive proof.



The profits resulting from The Good-Natured Man were beyond any that
Goldsmith had yet derived from his works. He netted about four hundred
pounds from the theater, and one hundred pounds from his publisher.

Five hundred pounds! and all at one miraculous draught! It appeared to him
wealth inexhaustible. It at once opened his heart and hand, and led him
into all kinds of extravagance. The first symptom was ten guineas sent to
Shuter for a box ticket for his benefit, when The Good-Natured Man was to
be performed. The next was an entire change in his domicile. The shabby
lodgings with Jeffs the butler, in which he had been worried by Johnson's
scrutiny, were now exchanged for chambers more becoming a man of his ample
fortune. The apartments consisted of three rooms on the second floor of No.
2 Brick Court, Middle Temple, on the right hand ascending the staircase,
and overlooked the umbrageous walks of the Temple garden. The lease he
purchased for four hundred pounds, and then went on to furnish his rooms
with mahogany sofas, card-tables, and book-cases; with curtains, mirrors,
and Wilton carpets. His awkward little person was also furnished out in a
style befitting his apartment; for, in addition to his suit of "Tyrian
bloom, satin grain," we find another charged about this time, in the books
of Mr. Filby, in no less gorgeous terms, being "lined with silk and
furnished with gold buttons." Thus lodged and thus arrayed, he invited the
visits of his most aristocratic acquaintances, and no longer quailed
beneath the courtly eye of Beauclerc. He gave dinners to Johnson, Reynolds,
Percy, Bickerstaff, and other friends of note; and supper parties to young
folks of both sexes. These last were preceded by round games of cards, at
which there was more laughter than skill, and in which the sport was to
cheat each other; or by romping games of forfeits and blind-man's buff, at
which he enacted the lord of misrule. Blackstone, whose chambers were
immediately below, and who was studiously occupied on his Commentaries,
used to complain of the racket made overhead by his reveling neighbor.

Sometimes Goldsmith would make up a rural party, composed of four or five
of his "jolly pigeon" friends, to enjoy what he humorously called a
"shoemaker's holiday." These would assemble at his chambers in the morning,
to partake of a plentiful and rather expensive breakfast; the remains of
which, with his customary benevolence, he generally gave to some poor woman
in attendance. The repast ended, the party would set out on foot, in high
spirits, making extensive rambles by footpaths and green lanes to
Blackheath, Wandsworth, Chelsea, Hampton Court, Highgate, or some other
pleasant resort, within a few miles of London. A simple but gay and
heartily relished dinner, at a country inn, crowned the excursion. In the
evening they strolled back to town, all the better in health and spirits
for a day spent in rural and social enjoyment. Occasionally, when
extravagantly inclined, they adjourned from dinner to drink tea at the
White Conduit House; and, now and then, concluded their festive day by
supping at the Grecian or Temple Exchange Coffee Houses, or at the Globe
Tavern, in Fleet Street. The whole expenses of the day never exceeded a
crown, and were oftener from three and sixpence to four shillings; for the
best part of their entertainment, sweet air and rural scenes, excellent
exercise and joyous conversation, cost nothing.

One of Goldsmith's humble companions, on these excursions, was his
occasional amanuensis, Peter Barlow, whose quaint peculiarities afforded
much amusement to the company. Peter was poor but punctilious, squaring his
expenses according to his means. He always wore the same garb; fixed his
regular expenditure for dinner at a trifling sum, which, if left to
himself, he never exceeded, but which he always insisted on paying. His
oddities always made him a welcome companion on the "shoemaker's holidays."
The dinner on these occasions generally exceeded considerably his tariff;
he put down, however, no more than his regular sum, and Goldsmith made up
the difference.

Another of these hangers-on, for whom, on such occasions, he was content to
"pay the shot," was his countryman, Glover, of whom mention has already
been made, as one of the wags and sponges of the Globe and Devil taverns,
and a prime mimic at the Wednesday Club.

This vagabond genius has bequeathed us a whimsical story of one of his
practical jokes upon Goldsmith, in the course of a rural excursion in the
vicinity of London. They had dined at an inn on Hampstead Heights and were
descending the hill, when, in passing a cottage, they saw through the open
window a party at tea. Goldsmith, who was fatigued, cast a wistful glance
at the cheerful tea-table. "How I should like to be of that party,"
exclaimed he. "Nothing more easy," replied Glover, "allow me to introduce
you." So saying, he entered the house with an air of the most perfect
familiarity, though an utter stranger, and was followed by the unsuspecting
Goldsmith, who supposed, of course, that he was a friend of the family. The
owner of the house rose on the entrance of the strangers. The undaunted
Glover shook hands with him in the most cordial manner possible, fixed his
eye on one of the company who had a peculiarly good-natured physiognomy,
muttered something like a recognition, and forthwith launched into an
amusing story, invented at the moment, of something which he pretended had
occurred upon the road. The host supposed the new-comers were friends at
his guests; the guests that they were friends of the host. Glover did not
give them time to find out the truth. He followed one droll story with
another; brought his powers of mimicry into play, and kept the company in a
roar. Tea was offered and accepted; an hour went off in the most sociable
manner imaginable, at the end of which Glover bowed himself and his
companion out of the house with many facetious last words, leaving the host
and his company to compare notes, and to find out what an impudent
intrusion they had experienced.

Nothing could exceed the dismay and vexation of Goldsmith when triumphantly
told by Glover that it was all a hoax, and that he did not know a single
soul in the house. His first impulse was to return instantly and vindicate
himself from all participation in the jest; but a few words from his free
and easy companion dissuaded him. "Doctor," said he, coolly, "we are
unknown; you quite as much as I; if you return and tell the story, it will
be in the newspapers to-morrow; nay, upon recollection I remember in one of
their offices the face of that squinting fellow who sat in the corner as if
he was treasuring up my stories for future use, and we shall be sure of
being exposed; let us therefore keep our own counsel."

This story was frequently afterward told by Glover, with rich dramatic
effect, repeating and exaggerating the conversation, and mimicking in
ludicrous style, the embarrassment, surprise, and subsequent indignation of

It is a trite saying that a wheel cannot run in two ruts; nor a man keep
two opposite sets of intimates. Goldsmith sometimes found his old friends
of the "jolly pigeon" order turning up rather awkwardly when he was in
company with his new aristocratic acquaintances. He gave a whimiscal
account of the sudden apparition of one of them at his gay apartments in
the Temple, who may have been a welcome visitor at his squalid quarters in
Green Arbor Court. "How do you think he served me?" said he to a friend.
"Why, sir, after staying away two years, he came one evening into my
chambers, half drunk, as I was taking a glass of wine with Topham Beauclerc
and General Oglethorpe; and sitting himself down, with most intolerable
assurance inquired after my health and literary pursuits, as if he were
upon the most friendly footing. I was at first so much ashamed of ever
having known such a fellow that I stifled my resentment and drew him into a
conversation on such topics as I knew he could talk upon; in which, to do
him justice, he acquitted himself very reputably; when all of a sudden, as
if recollecting something, he pulled two papers out of his pocket, which he
presented to me with great ceremony, saying, 'Here, my dear friend, is a
quarter of a pound of tea, and a half pound of sugar, I have brought you;
for though it is not in my power at present to pay you the two guineas you
so generously lent me, you, nor any man else, shall ever have it to say
that I want gratitude.' This," added Goldsmith, "was too much. I could no
longer keep in my feelings, but desired him to turn out of my chambers
directly; which he very coolly did, taking up his tea and sugar; and I
never saw him afterward."



The heedless expenses of Goldsmith, as may easily be supposed, soon brought
him to the end of his "prize money," but when his purse gave out he drew
upon futurity, obtaining advances from his booksellers and loans from his
friends in the confident hope of soon turning up another trump. The debts
which he thus thoughtlessly incurred in consequence of a transient gleam of
prosperity embarrassed him for the rest of his life; so that the success of
The Good-Natured Man may be said to have been ruinous to him. He was soon
obliged to resume his old craft of book-building, and set about his History
of Rome, undertaken for Davies.

It was his custom, as we have shown, during the summer time, when pressed
by a multiplicity of literary jobs, or urged to the accomplishment of some
particular task, to take country lodgings a few miles from town, generally
on the Harrow or Edgeware roads, and bury himself there for weeks and
months together. Sometimes he would remain closely occupied in his room, at
other times he would stroll out along the lanes and hedge-rows, and taking
out paper and pencil, note down thoughts to be expanded and connected at
home. His summer retreat for the present year, 1768, was a little cottage
with a garden, pleasantly situated about eight miles from town on the
Edgeware road. He took it in conjunction with a Mr. Edmund Botts, a
barrister and man of letters, his neighbor in the Temple, having rooms
Immediately opposite him on the same floor. They had become cordial
intimates, and Botts was one of those with whom Goldsmith now and then took
the friendly but pernicious liberty of borrowing.

The cottage which they had hired belonged to a rich shoemaker of
Piccadilly, who had embellished his little domain of half an acre with
statues and jets, and all the decorations of landscape gardening; in
consequence of which Goldsmith gave it the name of The Shoemaker's
Paradise. As his fellow-occupant, Mr. Botts, drove a gig, he sometimes, in
an interval of literary labor, accompanied him to town, partook of a social
dinner there, and returned with him in the evening. On one occasion, when
they had probably lingered too long at the table, they came near breaking
their necks on their way homeward by driving against a post on the
sidewalk, while Botts was proving by the force of legal eloquence that they
were in the very middle of the broad Edgeware road.

In the course of this summer Goldsmith's career of gayety was suddenly
brought to a pause by intelligence of the death of his brother Henry, then
but forty-five years of age. He had led a quiet and blameless life amid the
scenes of his youth, fulfilling the duties of village pastor with
unaffected piety; conducting the school at Lissoy with a degree of industry
and ability that gave it celebrity, and acquitting himself in all the
duties of life with undeviating rectitude and the mildest benevolence. How
truly Goldsmith loved and venerated him is evident in all his letters and
throughout his works; in which his brother continually forms his model for
an exemplification of all the most endearing of the Christian virtues; yet
his affection at his death was imbittered by the fear that he died with
some doubt upon his mind of the warmth of his affection. Goldsmith had been
urged by his friends in Ireland, since his elevation in the world, to use
his influence with the great, which they supposed to be all powerful, in
favor of Henry, to obtain for him church preferment. He did exert himself
as far as his diffident nature would permit, but without success; we have
seen that, in the case of the Earl of Northumberland, when, as Lord
Lieutenant of Ireland, that nobleman proffered him his patronage, he asked
nothing for himself, but only spoke on behalf of his brother. Still some of
his friends, ignorant of what he had done and of how little he was able to
do, accused him of negligence. It is not likely, however, that his amiable
and estimable brother joined in the accusation.

To the tender and melancholy recollections of his early days awakened by
the death of this loved companion of his childhood, we may attribute some
of the most heartfelt passages in his Deserted Village. Much of that poem,
we are told, was composed this summer, in the course of solitary strolls
about the green lanes and beautifully rural scenes of the neighborhood; and
thus much of the softness and sweetness of English landscape became blended
with the ruder features of Lissoy. It was in these lonely and subdued
moments, when tender regret was half mingled with self-upbraiding, that he
poured forth that homage of the heart, rendered, as it were, at the grave
of his brother. The picture of the village pastor in this poem, which, we
have already hinted, was taken in part from the character of his father,
embodied likewise the recollections of his brother Henry; for the natures
of the father and son seem to have been identical. In the following lines,
however, Goldsmith evidently contrasted the quiet, settled life of his
brother, passed at home in the benevolent exercise of the Christian duties,
with his own restless, vagrant career:

"Remote from towns he ran his goodly race,
Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change his place."

To us the whole character seems traced, as it were, in an expiatory spirit;
as if, conscious of his own wandering restlessness, he sought to humble
himself at the shrine of excellence which he had not been able to practice:

"At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
His looks adorn'd the venerable place;
Truth from his lips prevail'd with double sway,
And fools, who came to scoff, remain'd to pray.
The service past, around the pious man,
With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran;
Even children follow'd, with endearing wile,
And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile;
His ready smile a parent's warmth express'd,
Their welfare pleas'd him, and their cares distress'd;
To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.

* * * * *

"And as a bird each fond endearment tries
To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies,
He tried each art, reprov'd each dull delay,
Allur'd to brighter worlds, _and led the way_."



In October Goldsmith returned to town and resumed his usual haunts. We hear
of him at a dinner given by his countryman, Isaac Bickerstaff, author of
Love in a Village, Lionel and Clarissa, and other successful dramatic
pieces. The dinner was to be followed by the reading by Bickerstaff of a
new play. Among the guests was one Paul Hiffernan, likewise an Irishman;
somewhat idle and intemperate; who lived nobody knew how nor where,
sponging wherever he had a chance, and often of course upon Goldsmith, who
was ever the vagabond's friend, or rather victim. Hiffernan was something
of a physician, and elevated the emptiness of his purse into the dignity of
a disease, which he termed _impecuniosity_, and against which he
claimed a right to call for relief from the healthier purses of his
friends. He was a scribbler for the newspapers, and latterly a dramatic
critic, which had probably gained him an invitation to the dinner and
reading. The wine and wassail, however, befogged his senses. Scarce had the
author got into the second act of his play, when Hiffernan began to nod,
and at length snored outright. Bickerstaff was embarrassed, but continued
to read in a more elevated tone. The louder he read, the louder Hiffernan
snored; until the author came to a pause. "Never mind the brute, Bick, but
go on," cried Goldsmith. "He would have served Homer just so if he were
here and reading his own works."

Kenrick, Goldsmith's old enemy, travestied this anecdote in the following
lines, pretending that the poet had compared his countryman Bickerstaff to

"What are your Bretons, Romans, Grecians,
Compared with thoroughbred Milesians!
Step into Griffin's shop, he'll tell ye
Of Goldsmith, Bickerstaff, and Kelly ...
And, take one Irish evidence for t'other,
Ev'n Homer's self is but their foster brother."

Johnson was a rough consoler to a man when wincing under an attack of this
kind. "Never mind, sir," said he to Goldsmith, when he saw that he felt the
sting. "A man whose business it is to be talked of is much helped by being
attacked. Fame, sir, is a shuttlecock; if it be struck only at one end of
the room, it will soon fall to the ground; to keep it up, it must be struck
at both ends."

Bickerstaff, at the time of which we are speaking, was in high vogue, the
associate of the first wits of the day; a few years afterward he was
obliged to fly the country to escape the punishment of an infamous crime.
Johnson expressed great astonishment at hearing the offense for which he
had fled. "Why, sir," said Thrale; "he had long been a suspected man."
Perhaps there was a knowing look on the part of the eminent brewer, which
provoked a somewhat contemptuous reply. "By those who look close to the
ground," said Johnson, "dirt will sometimes be seen; I hope I see things
from a greater distance."

We have already noticed the improvement, or rather the increased expense,
of Goldsmith's wardrobe since his elevation into polite society. "He was
fond," says one of his contemporaries, "of exhibiting his muscular little
person in the gayest apparel of the day, to which was added a bag-wig and
sword." Thus arrayed, he used to figure about in the sunshine in the Temple
Gardens, much to his own satisfaction, but to the amusement of his

Boswell, in his memoirs, has rendered one of his suits forever famous. That
worthy, on the 16th of October in this same year, gave a dinner to Johnson,
Goldsmith, Reynolds, Garrick, Murphy, Bickerstaff, and Davies. Goldsmith
was generally apt to bustle in at the last moment, when the guests were
taking their seats at table, but on this occasion he was unusually early.
While waiting for some lingerers to arrive, "he strutted about," says
Boswell, "bragging of his dress, and I believe was seriously vain of it,
for his mind was undoubtedly prone to such impressions. 'Come, come,' said
Garrick, 'talk no more of that. You are perhaps the worst--eh, eh?'
Goldsmith was eagerly attempting to interrupt him, when Garrick went on,
laughing ironically, 'Nay, you will always _look_ like a gentleman;
but I am talking of your being well or _ill dressed_.' 'Well, let me
tell you,' said Goldsmith, 'when the tailor brought home my bloom-colored
coat, he said, 'Sir, I have a favor to beg of you; when anybody asks you
who made your clothes, be pleased to mention John Filby, at the Harrow, in
Water Lane.' 'Why, sir,' cried Johnson, 'that was because he knew the
strange color would attract crowds to gaze at it, and thus they might hear
of him, and see how well he could make a coat of so absurd a color.'"

But though Goldsmith might permit this raillery on the part of his friends,
he was quick to resent any personalities of the kind from strangers. As he
was one day walking the Strand in grand array with bag-wig and sword, he
excited the merriment of two coxcombs, one of whom called to the other to
"look at that fly with a long pin stuck through it." Stung to the quick,
Goldsmith's first retort was to caution the passers-by to be on their guard
against "that brace of disguised pickpockets"--his next was to step into
the middle of the street, where there was room for action, half draw his
sword, and beckon the joker, who was armed in like manner, to follow him.
This was literally a war of wit which the other had not anticipated. He had
no inclination to push the joke to such an extreme, but abandoning the
ground, sneaked off with his brother wag amid the hootings of the

This proneness to finery in dress, however, which Boswell and others of
Goldsmith's contemporaries, who did not understand the secret plies of his
character, attributed to vanity, arose, we are convinced, from a widely
different motive. It was from a painful idea of his own personal defects,
which had been cruelly stamped upon his mind in his boyhood by the sneers
and jeers of his playmates, and had been ground deeper into it by rude
speeches made to him in every step of his struggling career, until it had
become a constant cause of awkwardness and embarrassment. This he had
experienced the more sensibly since his reputation had elevated him into
polite society; and he was constantly endeavoring by the aid of dress to
acquire that personal _acceptability_, if we may use the phrase, which
nature had denied him. If ever he betrayed a little self-complacency on
first turning out in a new suit, it may perhaps have been because he felt
as if he had achieved a triumph over his ugliness.

There were circumstances too about the time of which we are treating which
may have rendered Goldsmith more than usually attentive to his personal
appearance. He had recently made the acquaintance of a most agreeable
family from Devonshire, which he met at the house of his friend, Sir Joshua
Reynolds. It consisted of Mrs. Horneck, widow of Captain Kane Horneck; two
daughters, seventeen and nineteen years of age, and an only son, Charles,
"the Captain in Lace," as his sisters playfully and somewhat proudly called
him, he having lately entered the Guards. The daughters are described as
uncommonly beautiful, intelligent, sprightly, and agreeable. Catharine, the
eldest, went among her friends by the name of "Little Comedy," indicative,
very probably, of her disposition. She was engaged to William Henry
Bunbury, second son of a Suffolk baronet. The hand and heart of her sister
Mary were yet unengaged, although she bore the by-name among her friends of
the "Jessamy Bride." This family was prepared, by their intimacy with
Reynolds and his sister, to appreciate the merits of Goldsmith. The poet
had always been a chosen friend of the eminent painter, and Miss Reynolds,
as we have shown, ever since she had heard his poem of The Traveler read
aloud, had ceased to consider him ugly. The Hornecks were equally capable
of forgetting his person in admiring his works. On becoming acquainted with
him, too, they were delighted with his guileless simplicity; his buoyant
good-nature and his innate benevolence, and an enduring intimacy soon
sprang up between them. For once poor Goldsmith had met with polite society
with which he was perfectly at home, and by which he was fully appreciated;
for once he had met with lovely women, to whom his ugly features were not
repulsive. A proof of the easy and playful terms in which he was with them
remains in a whimsical epistle in verse, of which the following was the
occasion. A dinner was to be given to their family by a Dr. Baker, a friend
of their mother's, at which Reynolds and Angelica Kauffman were to be
present. The young ladies were eager to have Goldsmith of the party, and
their intimacy with Dr. Baker allowing them to take the liberty, they wrote
a joint invitation to the poet at the last moment. It came too late, and
drew from him the following reply; on the top of which was scrawled, "This
is a poem! This _is_ a copy of verses!"

"Your mandate I got,
You may all go to pot;
Had your senses been right,
You'd have sent before night--
So tell Horneck and Nesbitt,
And Baker and his bit,
And Kauffman beside,
And the _Jessamy Bride_,
With the rest of the crew.
The Reynoldses too,
_Little Comedy's_ face,
And the _Captain in Lace_--
Tell each other to rue
Your Devonshire crew,
For sending so late
To one of my state.
But 'tis Reynolds's way
From wisdom to stray,
And Angelica's whim
To befrolic like him;
But alas! your good worships, how could they be wiser,
When both have been spoil'd in to-day's 'Advertiser'?"

[Footnote: The following lines had appeared in that day's "Advertiser," on
the portrait of Sir Joshua by Angelica Kauffman:

"While fair Angelica, with matchless grace,
Paints Conway's burly form and Stanhope's face;
Our hearts to beauty willing homage pay,
We praise, admire, and gaze our souls away.

But when the likeness she hath done for thee,
O Reynolds! with astonishment we see,
Forced to submit, with all our pride we own,
Such strength, such harmony excelled by none.
And thou art rivaled by thyself alone."]

It has been intimated that the intimacy of poor Goldsmith with the Misses
Horneck, which began in so sprightly a vein, gradually assumed something of
a more tender nature, and that he was not insensible to the fascinations of
the younger sister. This may account for some of the phenomena which about
this time appeared in his wardrobe and toilet. During the first year of his
acquaintance with these lovely girls, the tell-tale book of his tailor, Mr.
William Filby, displays entries of four or five full suits, besides
separate articles of dress. Among the items we find a green half-trimmed
frock and breeches, lined with silk; a queen's blue dress suit; a half
dress suit of ratteen, lined with satin; a pair of silk stocking breeches,
and another pair of bloom color. Alas! poor Goldsmith! how much of this
silken finery was dictated, not by vanity, but humble consciousness of thy
defects; how much of it was to atone for the uncouthness of thy person, and
to win favor in the eyes of the Jessamy Bride!



In the winter of 1768-69 Goldsmith occupied himself at his quarters in the
Temple, slowly "building up" his Roman History. We have pleasant views of
him in this learned and half-cloistered retreat of wit and lawyers and
legal students, in the reminiscences of Judge Day of the Irish Bench, who
in his advanced age delighted to recall the days of his youth, when he was
a templar, and to speak of the kindness with which he and his
fellow-student, Grattan, were treated by the poet. "I was just arrived from
college," said he, "full freighted with academic gleanings, and our author
did not disdain to receive from me some opinions and hints toward his Greek
and Roman histories. Being then a young man, I felt much flattered by the
notice of so celebrated a person. He took great delight in the conversation
of Grattan, whose brilliancy in the morning of life furnished full earnest
of the unrivaled splendor which awaited his meridian; and finding us
dwelling together in Essex Court, near himself, where he frequently visited
my immortal friend, his warm heart became naturally prepossessed toward the
associate of one whom he so much admired."

The judge goes on, in his reminiscences, to give a picture of Goldsmith's
social habits, similar in style to those already furnished. He frequented
much the Grecian Coffee-House, then the favorite resort of the Irish and
Lancashire Templars. He delighted in collecting his friends around him at
evening parties at his chambers, where he entertained them with a cordial
and unostentatious hospitality. "Occasionally," adds the judge, "he amused
them with his flute, or with whist, neither of which he played well,
particularly the latter, but, on losing his money, he never lost his
temper. In a run of bad luck and worse play, he would fling his cards upon
the floor and exclaim, '_Byefore_ George, I ought forever to renounce
thee, fickle, faithless Fortune.'"

The judge was aware at the time that all the learned labor of poor
Goldsmith upon his Roman History was mere hack work to recruit his
exhausted finances. "His purse replenished," adds he, "by labors of this
kind, the season of relaxation and pleasure took its turn, in attending the
theaters, Ranelagh, Vauxhall, and other scenes of gayety and amusement.
Whenever his funds were dissipated--and they fled more rapidly from being
the dupe of many artful persons, male and female, who practiced upon his
benevolence--he returned to his literary labors, and shut himself up from
society to provide fresh matter for his bookseller, and fresh supplies for

How completely had the young student discerned the characteristics of poor,
genial, generous, drudging, holiday-loving Goldsmith; toiling that he might
play; earning his bread by the sweat of his brains, and then throwing it
out of the window.

The Roman History was published in the middle of May, in two volumes of
five hundred pages each. It was brought out without parade or pretension,
and was announced as for the use of schools and colleges; but, though a
work written for bread, not fame, such is its ease, perspicuity, good
sense, and the delightful simplicity of its style, that it was well
received by the critics, commanded a prompt and extensive sale, and has
ever since remained in the hands of young and old.

Johnson, who, as we have before remarked, rarely praised or dispraised
things by halves, broke forth in a warm eulogy of the author and the work,
in a conversation with Boswell, to the great astonishment of the latter.
"Whether we take Goldsmith," said he, "as a poet, as a comic writer, or as
a historian, he stands in the first class." Boswell.--"A historian! My dear
sir, you surely will not rank his compilation of the Roman History with the
works of other historians of this age." Johnson.--"Why, who are before
him?" Boswell.--"Hume--Robertson--Lord Lyttelton." Johnson (his antipathy
against the Scotch beginning to rise).--"I have not read Hume; but
doubtless Goldsmith's History is better than the verbiage of Robertson, or
the foppery of Dalrymple." Boswell.--"Will you not admit the superiority of
Robertson, in whose history we find such penetration, such painting?"
Johnson.--"Sir, you must consider how that penetration and that painting
are employed. It is not history, it is imagination. He who describes what
he never saw, draws from fancy. Robertson paints minds as Sir Joshua paints
faces, in a history-piece; he imagines a heroic countenance. You must look
upon Robertson's work as romance, and try it by that standard. History it
is not. Besides, sir, it is the great excellence of a writer to put into
his book as much as his book will hold. Goldsmith has done this in his
history. Now Robertson might have put twice as much in his book. Robertson
is like a man who has packed gold in wool; the wool takes up more room than
the gold. No, sir, I always thought Robertson would be crushed with his own
weight--would be buried under his own ornaments. Goldsmith tells you
shortly all you want to know; Robertson detains you a great deal too long.
No man will read Robertson's cumbrous detail a second time; but Goldsmith's
plain narrative will please again and again. I would say to Robertson what
an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils, 'Read over your
compositions, and whenever you meet with a passage which you think is
particularly fine, strike it out!'--Goldsmith's abridgment is better than
that of Lucius Floras or Eutropius; and I will venture to say, that if you
compare him with Vertot in the same places of the Roman History, you will
find that he excels Vertot. Sir, he has the art of compiling, and of saying
everything he has to say in a pleasing manner. He is now writing a Natural
History, and will make it as entertaining as a Persian tale."

The Natural History to which Johnson alluded was the History of Animated
Nature, which Goldsmith commenced in 1769, under an engagement with
Griffin, the bookseller, to complete it as soon as possible in eight
volumes, each containing upward of four hundred pages, in pica; a hundred
guineas to be paid to the author on the delivery of each volume in

He was induced to engage in this work by the urgent solicitations of the
booksellers, who had been struck by the sterling merits and captivating
style of an introduction which he wrote to Brookes' Natural History. It was
Goldsmith's intention originally to make a translation of Pliny, with a
popular commentary; but the appearance of Buffon's work induced him to
change his plan and make use of that author for a guide and model.

Cumberland, speaking of this work, observes: "Distress drove Goldsmith upon
undertakings neither congenial with his studies nor worthy of his talents.
I remember him when, in his chambers in the Temple, he showed me the
beginning of his Animated Nature; it was with a sigh, such as genius draws
when hard necessity diverts it from its bent to drudge for bread, and talk
of birds, and beasts, and creeping things, which Pidock's showman would
have done as well. Poor fellow, he hardly knows an ass from a mule, nor a

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