Part 1 out of 6
Prepared by Amy E Zelmer
'EDITED WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES'
HON. LL.D. EDIN.
THIS volume is a reprint, extended and revised, of the 'Selected Poems'
of Goldsmith issued by the Clarendon Press in 1887. It is 'extended,'
because it now contains the whole of Goldsmith's poetry: it is 'revised'
because, besides the supplementary text, a good deal has been added in
the way of annotation and illustration. In other words, the book has
been substantially enlarged. Of the new editorial material, the bulk has
been collected at odd times during the last twenty years; but fresh
Goldsmith facts are growing rare. I hope I have acknowledged obligation
wherever it has been incurred; I trust also, for the sake of those who
come after me, that something of my own will be found to have been
contributed to the literature of the subject.
Chronology of Goldsmith's Life and Poems
The Traveller; or, A Prospect of Society
The Deserted Village
Prologue of Laberius
On a Beautiful Youth struck Blind with Lightning
The Gift. To Iris, in Bow Street
The Logicians Refuted
Stanzas on the Taking of Quebec
An Elegy on Mrs. Mary Blaize
Description of an Author's Bedchamber
On seeing Mrs. *** perform in the Character of ****
On the Death of the Right Hon.***
An Epigram. Addressed to the Gentlemen reflected on
in 'The Rosciad', a Poem, by the Author
To G. C. and R. L
Translation of a South American Ode
The Double Transformation. A Tale
A New Simile, in the Manner of Swift
Edwin and Angelina
Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog
Song ('When Lovely Woman,' &c.)
Epilogue to 'The Good Natur'd Man'
Epilogue to 'The Sister'
Prologue to 'Zobeide'
Threnodia Augustalis: Sacred to the Memory of Her
Late Royal Highness the Princess Dowager
Song ('Let School-masters,' &c.)
Epilogue to 'She Stoops to Conquer'
Song ('Ah, me! when shall I marry me?')
Translation ('Chaste are their instincts')
The Haunch of Venison
Epitaph on Thomas Parnell
The Clown's Reply
Epitaph on Edward Purdon
Epilogue for Lee Lewes
Epilogue written for 'She Stoops to Conquer' (1)
Epilogue written for 'She Stoops to Conquer' (2)
The Captivity. An Oratorio
Verses in Reply to an Invitation to Dinner
Letter in Prose and Verse to Mrs. Bunbury
Vida's Game of Chess
Introduction to the Notes
Editions of the Poems
The Deserted Village
Prologue of Laberius
On a Beautiful Youth struck Blind with Lightning
The Logicians Refuted
Stanzas on the Taking of Quebec
An Elegy on Mrs. Mary Blaize
Description of an Author's Bedchamber
On seeing Mrs. *** perform in the Character of ****
On the Death of the Right Hon.***
To G. C. and R. L.
Translation of a South American Ode
The Double Transformation
A New Simile
Edwin and Angelina
Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog
Song (from 'The Vicar of Wakefield')
Epilogue ('The Good Natur'd Man')
Epilogue ('The Sister')
Song (from 'She Stoops to Conquer')
Epilogue ('She Stoops to Conquer')
Song intended for 'She Stoops to Conquer'
The Haunch of Venison
Epitaph on Thomas Parnell
The Clown's Reply
Epitaph on Edward Purdon
Epilogue for Lee Lewes's Benefit
Epilogue ('She Stoops to Conquer') (1)
Epilogue ('She Stoops to Conquer') (2)
Verses in Reply to an Invitation to Dinner
Letter in Prose and Verse to Mrs. Bunbury
Vida's Game of Chess
Portraits of Goldsmith
Descriptions of Newell's Views of Lissoy, &c
The Epithet 'Sentimental'
Fragments of Translations, &c., by Goldsmith
Goldsmith on Poetry under Anne and George the First
Criticisms from Goldsmith's
'Beauties of English Poesy'
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
OLIVER GOLDSMITH. From Joseph Marchi's mezzotint of 1770
after the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. . . . . . Frontispiece.
PANE OF GLASS with Goldsmith's autograph signature, dated
March, 1746, now at Trinity College, Dublin. . . . . To face p. xi
VIGNETTE TO THE TRAVELLER. Drawn by Samuel Wale, and
engraved by Charles Grignion . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 3
HEADPIECE TO THE TRAVELLER. Engraved on wood by Charlton
Nesbit for Bulmer's 'Poems of Goldsmith and
Parnell', 1795 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 5
THE TRAVELLER. From a design by Richard Westall, R. A.,
engraved on wood by Thomas Bewick for Bulmer's
'Poems of Goldsmith and Parnell', 1795 . . . . . . . To face p. 8
VIGNETTE TO THE DESERTED VILLAGE, 1770. Drawn and
engraved by Isaac Taylor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 21
HEADPIECE TO THE DESERTED VILLAGE. Engraved on wood
by Charlton Nesbit for Bulmer's 'Poems of
Goldsmith and Parnell', 1795 . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 23
THE WATER-CRESS GATHERER. Drawn and engraved on wood
by John Bewick for Bulmer's 'Poems of Goldsmith and
Parnell', 1795 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 27
THE DEPARTURE. Drawn by Robert Johnson, and engraved
on wood by Thomas Bewick for Bulmer's 'Poems of
Goldsmith and Parnell', 1795 . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 35
EDWIN AND ANGELINA. From an original washed drawing
made by Thomas Stothard, R.A., for Aikin's
'Goldsmith's Poetical Works', 1805 . . . . . . . . . To face p. 59
PORTRAIT OF GOLDSMITH, after Sir Joshua Reynolds. From
an etching by James Basire on the title-page
of 'Retaliation', 1774 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 87
SONG FROM THE CAPTIVITY. Facsimile of Goldsmith's
writing and signature, from Prior's 'Life of
Oliver Goldsmith, M.B.', 1837, ii, frontispiece. . . To face p. 119
GREEN ARBOUR COURT, OLD BAILEY. From an engraving in
the 'European Magazine' for January, 1803. . . . . . To face p. 160
KILKENNY WEST CHURCH. From an aquatint by S. Alken of
a sketch by R. H. Newell ('Goldsmith's Poetical
Works', 1811). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 179
HAWTHORN TREE. From the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 180
SOUTH VIEW FROM GOLDSMITH'S MOUNT. From the same . . . . To face p. 183
THE SCHOOL HOUSE. From the same . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 187
PORTRAIT OF GOLDSMITH. Drawn by Henry William Bunbury
and etched by James Bretherton. From the
'Haunch of Venison', 1776. . . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 259
PORTRAIT OF GOLDSMITH. From a silhouette by Ozias
Humphry, R.A., in the National Portrait Gallery. . . To face p. 261
LISSOY (OR LISHOY) MILL. From an aquatint by S. Alken
of a sketch by R. H. Newell ('Goldsmith's
Poetical Works', 1811) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 262
THE PARSONAGE. From the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To face p. 264
Two of the earlier, and, in some respects, more important 'Memoirs' of
Oliver Goldsmith open with a quotation from one of his minor works, in
which he refers to the generally uneventful life of the scholar. His own
chequered career was a notable exception to this rule. He was born on
the 10th of November, 1728, at Pallas, a village in the county of
Longford in Ireland, his father, the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, being a
clergyman of the Established Church. Oliver was the fifth of a family of
five sons and three daughters. In 1730, his father, who had been
assisting the rector of the neighbouring parish of Kilkenny West,
succeeded to that living, and moved to Lissoy, a hamlet in Westmeath,
lying a little to the right of the road from Ballymahon to Athlone.
Educated first by a humble relative named Elizabeth Delap, the boy
passed subsequently to the care of Thomas Byrne, the village
schoolmaster, an old soldier who had fought Queen Anne's battles in
Spain, and had retained from those experiences a wandering and unsettled
spirit, which he is thought to have communicated to one at least of his
pupils. After an attack of confluent small-pox, which scarred him for
life, Oliver was transferred from the care of this not-uncongenial
preceptor to a school at Elphin. From Elphin he passed to Athlone; from
Athlone to Edgeworthstown, where he remained until he was thirteen or
fourteen years of age. The accounts of these early days are
contradictory. By his schoolfellows he seems to have been regarded as
stupid and heavy,--'little better than a fool'; but they admitted that
he was remarkably active and athletic, and that he was an adept in all
boyish sports. At home, notwithstanding a variable disposition, and
occasional fits of depression, he showed to greater advantage. He
scribbled verses early; and sometimes startled those about him by
unexpected 'swallow-flights' of repartee. One of these, an oft-quoted
retort to a musical friend who had likened his awkward antics in a
hornpipe to the dancing of Aesop,--
Heralds! proclaim aloud! all saying,
See 'Aesop' dancing, and his 'monkey' playing,--
reads more like a happily-adapted recollection than the actual impromptu
of a boy of nine. But another, in which, after a painful silence, he
replied to the brutal enquiry of a ne'er-do-well relative as to when he
meant to grow handsome, by saying that he would do so when the speaker
grew good,--is characteristic of the easily-wounded spirit and
'exquisite sensibility of contempt' with which he was to enter upon the
battle of life.
In June, 1744, after anticipating in his own person, the plot of his
later play of 'She Stoops to Conquer' by mistaking the house of a
gentleman at Ardagh for an inn, he was sent to Trinity College, Dublin.
The special dress and semi-menial footing of a sizar or poor
scholar--for his father, impoverished by the imprudent portioning of his
eldest daughter, could not afford to make him a pensioner--were scarcely
calculated to modify his personal peculiarities. Added to these, his
tutor elect, Dr. Theaker Wilder, was a violent and vindictive man, with
whom his ungainly and unhopeful pupil found little favour. Wilder had a
passion for mathematics which was not shared by Goldsmith, who, indeed,
spoke contemptuously enough of that science in after life. He could,
however, he told Malone, 'turn an Ode of Horace into English better than
any of them.' But his academic career was not a success. In May, 1747,
the year in which his father died,--an event that further contracted his
already slender means,--he became involved in a college riot, and was
publicly admonished. From this disgrace he recovered to some extent in
the following month by obtaining a trifling money exhibition, a triumph
which he unluckily celebrated by a party at his rooms. Into these
festivities, the heinousness of which was aggravated by the fact that
they included guests of both sexes, the exasperated Wilder made
irruption, and summarily terminated the proceedings by knocking down the
host. The disgrace was too much for the poor lad. He forthwith sold his
books and belongings, and ran away, vaguely bound for America. But after
considerable privations, including the achievement of a destitution so
complete that a handful of grey peas, given him by a girl at a wake,
seemed a banquet, he turned his steps homeward, and, a reconciliation
having been patched up with his tutor, he was received once more at
college. In February, 1749, he took his degree, a low one, as B.A., and
quitted the university, leaving behind him, for relics of that time, a
scratched signature upon a window-pane, a 'folio' Scapula scored
liberally with 'promises to pay,' and a reputation for much loitering at
the college gates in the study of passing humanity. Another habit which
his associates recalled was his writing of ballads when in want of
funds. These he would sell at five shillings apiece; and would
afterwards steal out in the twilight to hear them sung to the
indiscriminate but applauding audience of the Dublin streets.
What was to be done with a genius so unstable, so erratic? Nothing,
apparently, but to let him qualify for orders, and for this he is too
young. Thereupon ensues a sort of 'Martin's summer' in his changing
life,--a disengaged, delightful time when 'Master Noll' wanders
irresponsibly from house to house, fishing and flute-playing, or, of
winter evenings, taking the chair at the village inn. When at last the
moment came for his presentation to the Bishop of Elphin, that prelate,
sad to say, rejected him, perhaps because of his college reputation,
perhaps because of actual incompetence, perhaps even, as tradition
affirms, because he had the bad taste to appear before his examiner in
flaming scarlet breeches. After this rebuff, tutoring was next tried.
But he had no sooner saved some thirty pounds by teaching, than he threw
up his engagement, bought a horse, and started once more for America, by
way of Cork. In six weeks he had returned penniless, having substituted
for his roadster a sorry jade, to which he gave the contemptuous name of
Fiddleback. He had also the simplicity to wonder, on this occasion, that
his mother was not rejoiced to see him again. His next ambition was to
be a lawyer; and, to this end, a kindly Uncle Contarine equipped him
with fifty pounds for preliminary studies. But on his way to London he
was decoyed into gambling, lost every farthing, and came home once more
in bitter self-abasement. Having now essayed both divinity and law, his
next attempt was physic; and, in 1752, fitted out afresh by his
long-suffering uncle, he started for, and succeeded in reaching,
Edinburgh. Here more memories survive of his social qualities than of
his studies; and two years later he left the Scottish capital for
Leyden, rather, it may be conjectured, from a restless desire to see the
world than really to exchange the lectures of Monro for the lectures of
Albinus. At Newcastle (according to his own account) he had the good
fortune to be locked up as a Jacobite, and thus escaped drowning, as the
ship by which he was to have sailed to Bordeaux sank at the mouth of the
Garonne. Shortly afterwards he arrived in Leyden. Gaubius and other
Dutch professors figure sonorously in his future works; but whether he
had much experimental knowledge of their instructions may be doubted.
What seems undeniable is, that the old seduction of play stripped him of
every shilling; so that, like Holberg before him, he set out
deliberately to make the tour of Europe on foot. 'Haud inexpertus
loquor,' he wrote in after days, when praising this mode of locomotion.
He first visited Flanders. Thence he passed to France, Germany,
Switzerland, and Italy, supporting himself mainly by his flute, and by
occasional disputations at convents or universities. 'Sir,' said Boswell
to Johnson, 'he 'disputed' his passage through Europe.' When on the 1st
February, 1756, he landed at Dover, it was with empty pockets. But he
had sent home to his brother in Ireland his first rough sketch for the
poem of 'The Traveller'.
He was now seven-and-twenty. He had seen and suffered much, but he was
to have further trials before drifting definitely into literature.
Between Dover and London, it has been surmised, he made a tentative
appearance as a strolling player. His next ascertained part was that of
an apothecary's assistant on Fish Street Hill. From this, with the
opportune aid of an Edinburgh friend, he proceeded--to use an
eighteenth-century phrase--a poor physician in the Bankside, Southwark,
where least of all, perhaps, was London's fabled pavement to be found.
So little of it, in fact, fell to Goldsmith's share, that we speedily
find him reduced to the rank of reader and corrector of the press to
Samuel Richardson, printer, of Salisbury Court, author of 'Clarissa'.
Later still he is acting as help or substitute in Dr. Milner's
'classical academy' at Peckham. Here, at last, chance seemed to open to
him the prospect of a literary life. He had already, says report,
submitted a manuscript tragedy to Richardson's judgement; and something
he said at Dr. Milner's table attracted the attention of an occasional
visitor there, the bookseller Griffiths, who was also proprietor of the
'Monthly Review'. He invited Dr. Milner's usher to try his hand at
criticism; and finally, in April, 1757, Goldsmith was bound over for a
year to that venerable lady whom George Primrose dubs 'the 'antiqua
mater' of Grub Street'--in other words, he was engaged for bed, board,
and a fixed salary to supply copy-of-all-work to his master's magazine.
The arrangement thus concluded was not calculated to endure. After some
five months of labour from nine till two, and often later, it came
suddenly to an end. No clear explanation of the breach is forthcoming,
but mere incompatability of temper would probably supply a sufficient
ground for disagreement. Goldsmith, it is said, complained that the
bookseller and his wife treated him ill, and denied him ordinary
comforts; added to which the lady, a harder taskmistress even than the
'antiqua mater' above referred to, joined with her husband in 'editing'
his articles, a course which, hard though it may seem, is not
unprecedented. However this may be, either in September or October,
1757, he was again upon the world, existing precariously from hand to
mouth. 'By a very little practice as a physician, and very little
reputation as a poet [a title which, as Prior suggests, possibly means
no more than author], I make a shift to live.' So he wrote to his
brother-in-law in December. What his literary occupations were cannot be
definitely stated; but, if not prepared before, they probably included
the translation of a remarkable work issued by Griffiths and others in
the ensuing February. This was the 'Memoirs of a Protestant, condemned
to the Galleys of France for his Religion', being the authentic record
of the sufferings of one Jean Marteilhe of Bergerac, a book of which
Michelet has said that it is 'written as if between earth and heaven.'
Marteilhe, who died at Cuylenberg in 1777, was living in Holland in
1758; and it may be that Goldsmith had seen or heard of him during his
own stay in that country. The translation, however, did not bear
Goldsmith's name, but that of James Willington, one of his old
class-fellows at Trinity College. Nevertheless, Prior says distinctly
that Griffiths (who should have known) declared it to be by Goldsmith.
Moreover, the French original had been catalogued in Griffiths' magazine
in the second month of Goldsmith's servitude, a circumstance which
colourably supplies the reason for its subsequent rendering into
The publication of Marteilhe's 'Memoirs' had no influence upon
Goldsmith's fortunes, for, in a short time, he was again installed at
Peckham, in place of Dr. Milner invalided, waiting hopefully for the
fulfilment of a promise by his old master to procure him a medical
appointment on a foreign station. It is probably that, with a view to
provide the needful funds for this expatriation, he now began to sketch
the little volume afterwards published under the title of 'An Enquiry
into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe', for towards the
middle of the year we find him addressing long letters to his relatives
in Ireland to enlist their aid in soliciting subscriptions for this
book. At length the desired advancement was obtained,--a nomination as a
physician and surgeon to one of the factories on the coast of
Coromandel. But banishment to the East Indies was not to be his destiny.
For some unexplained reason the project came to nothing; and then--like
Roderick Random--he presented himself at Surgeons' Hall for the more
modest office of a hospital mate. This was on the 21st of December,
1758. The curt official record states that he was 'found not qualified.'
What made matters worse, the necessity for a decent appearance before
the examiners had involved him in new obligations to Griffiths, out of
which arose fresh difficulties. To pay his landlady, whose husband was
arrested for debt, he pawned the suit he had procured by Griffiths' aid;
and he also raised money on some volumes which had been sent him for
review. Thereupon ensued an angry and humiliating correspondence with
the bookseller, as a result of which Griffiths, nevertheless, appears to
have held his hand.
By this time Goldsmith had moved into those historic but now
non-existent lodgings in 12 Green Arbour Court, Old Bailey, which have
been photographed for ever in Irving's 'Tales of a Traveller'. It was
here that the foregoing incidents took place; and it was here also that,
early in 1759, 'in a wretched dirty room, in which there was but one
chair,' the Rev. Thomas Percy, afterwards Bishop of Dromore, found him
composing (or more probably correcting the proofs of) 'The Enquiry'. 'At
least spare invective 'till my book with Mr. Dodsley shall be
publish'd,'--he had written not long before to the irate Griffiths--'and
then perhaps you may see the bright side of a mind when my professions
shall not appear the dictates of necessity but of choice.' 'The Enquiry'
came out on the 2nd of April. It had no author's name, but it was an
open secret that Goldsmith had written it; and to this day it remains to
the critic one of the most interesting of his works. Obviously, in a
duodecimo of some two hundred widely-printed pages, it was impossible to
keep the high-sounding promise of its title; and at best its author's
knowledge of the subject, notwithstanding his continental wanderings,
can have been but that of an external spectator. Still in an age when
critical utterance was more than ordinarily full-wigged and ponderous,
it dared to be sprightly and epigrammatic. Some of its passages,
besides, bear upon the writer's personal experiences, and serve to piece
the imperfections of his biography. If it brought him no sudden wealth,
it certainly raised his reputation with the book-selling world. A
connexion already begun with Smollett's 'Critical Review' was drawn
closer; and the shrewd Sosii of the Row began to see the importance of
securing so vivacious and unconventional a pen. Towards the end of the
year he was writing for Wilkie the collection of periodical essays
entitled 'The Bee'; and contributing to the same publisher's 'Lady's
Magazine', as well as to 'The Busy Body' of one Pottinger. In these,
more than ever, he was finding his distinctive touch; and ratifying
anew, with every fresh stroke of his pen, his bondage to authorship as a
He had still, however, to conquer the public. 'The Bee', although it
contains one of his most characteristic essays ('A City Night-Piece'),
and some of the most popular of his lighter verses ('The Elegy on Mrs.
Mary Blaize'), never attained the circulation essential to healthy
existence. It closed with its eighth number in November, 1759. In the
following month two gentlemen called at Green Arbour Court to enlist the
services of its author. One was Smollett, with a new serial, 'The
British Magazine'; the other was Johnson's 'Jack Whirler,' bustling Mr.
John Newbery from the 'Bible and Sun' in St. Paul's Churchyard, with a
new daily newspaper, 'The Public Ledger'. For Smollett, Goldsmith wrote
the 'Reverie at the Boar's Head Tavern' and the 'Adventures of a
Strolling Player,' besides a number of minor papers. For Newbery, by a
happy recollection of the 'Lettres Persanes' of Montesquieu, or some of
his imitators, he struck almost at once into that charming epistolary
series, brimful of fine observation, kindly satire, and various fancy,
which was ultimately to become the English classic known as 'The Citizen
of the World'. He continued to produce these letters periodically until
the August of the following year, when they were announced for
republication in 'two volumes of the usual 'Spectator' size.' In this
form they appeared in May, 1762.
But long before this date a change for the better had taken place in
Goldsmith's life. Henceforth he was sure of work,--mere journey-work
though much of it must have been;--and, had his nature been less
improvident, of freedom from absolute want. The humble lodgings in the
Old Bailey were discarded for new premises at No. 6 Wine Office Court,
Fleet Street; and here, on the 31st of May, 1761, with Percy, came one
whose name was often in the future to be associated with Goldsmith's,
the great Dictator of London literary society, Samuel Johnson. Boswell,
who made Johnson's acquaintance later, has not recorded the humours of
that supper; but it marks the beginning of Goldsmith's friendship with
the man who of all others (Reynolds excepted) loved him most and
understood him best.
During the remainder of 1761 he continued busily to ply his pen. Besides
his contributions to 'The Ledger' and 'The British Magazine', he edited
'The Lady's Magazine', inserting in it the 'Memoirs of Voltaire', drawn
up some time earlier to accompany a translation of the 'Henriade' by his
crony and compatriot Edward Purdon. Towards the beginning of 1762 he was
hard at work on several compilations for Newbery, for whom he wrote or
edited a 'History of Mecklenburgh', and a series of monthly volumes of
an abridgement of 'Plutarch's Lives'. In October of the same year was
published the 'Life of Richard Nash', apparently the outcome of special
holiday-visits to the then fashionable watering-place of Bath, whence
its fantastic old Master of the Ceremonies had only very lately made his
final exit. It is a pleasantly gossiping, and not unedifying little
book, which still holds a respectable place among its author's minor
works. But a recently discovered entry in an old ledger shows that
during the latter half of 1762 he must have planned, if he had not,
indeed, already in part composed, a far more important effort, 'The
Vicar of Wakefield'. For on the 28th of October in this year he sold to
one Benjamin Collins, printer, of Salisbury, for 21 pounds, a third in a
work with that title, further described as '2 vols. 12mo.' How this
little circumstance, discovered by Mr. Charles Welsh when preparing his
Life of John Newbery, is to be brought into agreement with the
time-honoured story, related (with variations) by Boswell and others, to
the effect that Johnson negotiated the sale of the manuscript for
Goldsmith when the latter was arrested for rent by his incensed
landlady--has not yet been satisfactorily suggested. Possibly the
solution is a simple one, referable to some of those intricate
arrangements favoured by 'the Trade' at a time when not one but half a
score publishers' names figured in an imprint. At present, the fact that
Collins bought a third share of the book from the author for twenty
guineas, and the statement that Johnson transferred the entire
manuscript to a bookseller for sixty pounds, seem irreconcilable. That
'The Vicar of Wakefield' was nevertheless written, or was being written,
in 1762, is demonstrable from internal evidence.
About Christmas in the same year Goldsmith moved into lodgings at
Islington, his landlady being one Mrs. Elizabeth Fleming, a friend of
Newbery, to whose generalship this step seems attributable. From the
curious accounts printed by Prior and Forster, it is clear that the
publisher was Mrs. Fleming's paymaster, punctually deducting his
disbursements from the account current between himself and Goldsmith, an
arrangement which as plainly indicates the foresight of the one as it
implies the improvidence of the other. Of the work which Goldsmith did
for the businesslike and not unkindly little man, there is no very
definite evidence; but various prefaces, introductions, and the like,
belong to this time; and he undoubtedly was the author of the excellent
'History of England in a Series of Letters addressed by a Nobleman to
his Son', published anonymously in June, 1764, and long attributed, for
the grace of its style, to Lyttelton, Chesterfield, Orrery, and other
patrician pens. Meanwhile his range of acquaintance was growing larger.
The establishment, at the beginning of 1764, of the famous association
known afterwards as the 'Literary Club' brought him into intimate
relations with Beauclerk, Reynolds, Langton, Burke, and others. Hogarth,
too, is said to have visited him at Islington, and to have painted the
portrait of Mrs. Fleming. Later in the same year, incited thereto by the
success of Christopher Smart's 'Hannah', he wrote the Oratorio of 'The
Captivity', now to be found in most editions of his poems, but never set
to music. Then after the slow growth of months, was issued on the 19th
December the elaboration of that fragmentary sketch which he had sent
years before to his brother Henry from the Continent, the poem entitled
'The Traveller; or, A Prospect of Society'.
In the notes appended to 'The Traveller' in the present volume, its
origin and progress are sufficiently explained. Its success was
immediate and enduring. The beauty of the descriptive passages, the
subtle simplicity of the language, the sweetness and finish of the
versification, found ready admirers,--perhaps all the more because of
the contrast they afforded to the rough and strenuous sounds with which
Charles Churchill had lately filled the public ear. Johnson, who
contributed a few lines at the close, proclaimed 'The Traveller' to be
the best poem since the death of Pope; and it is certainly not easy to
find its equal among the works of contemporary bards. It at once raised
Goldsmith from the condition of a clever newspaper essayist, or--as men
like Sir John Hawkins would have said--a mere 'bookseller's drudge,' to
the foremost rank among the poets of the day. Another result of its
success was the revival of some of his earlier work, which, however
neglected by the author, had been freely appropriated by the discerning
pirate. In June, 1765, Griffin and Newbery published a little volume of
'Essays by Mr. Goldsmith', including some of the best of his
contributions to 'The Bee', 'The Busy Body', 'The Public Ledger', and
'The British Magazine', besides 'The Double Transformation' and 'The
Logicians Refuted,' two pieces of verse in imitation of Prior and Swift,
which have not been traced to an earlier source. To the same year
belongs the first version of a poem which he himself regarded as his
best work, and which still retains something of its former popularity.
This was the ballad of 'Edwin and Angelina', otherwise known as 'The
Hermit'. It originated in certain metrical discussions with Percy, then
engaged upon his famous 'Reliques of English Poetry'; and in 1765,
Goldsmith, who through his friend Nugent (afterwards Lord Clare) had
made the acquaintance of the Earl of Northumberland, printed it
privately for the amusement of the Countess. In a revised and amended
form it was subsequently given to the world in 'The Vicar of Wakefield'.
With the exception of an abortive attempt to resume his practice as a
medical man,--an attempt which seems to have been frustrated by the
preternatural strength of his prescriptions,--the next memorable thing
in Goldsmith's life is the publication of 'The Vicar of Wakefield'
itself. It made its appearance on the 27th of March, 1766. A second
edition followed in May, a third in August. Why, having been sold (in
part) to a Salisbury printer as far back as October, 1762, it had
remained unprinted so long; and why, when published, it was published by
Francis Newbery and not by John Newbery, Goldsmith's employer,--are
questions at present unsolved. But the charm of this famous novel is as
fresh as when it was first issued. Its inimitable types, its happy
mingling of Christianity and character, its wholesome benevolence and
its practical wisdom, are still unimpaired. We smile at the
inconsistencies of the plot; but we are carried onward in spite of them,
captivated by the grace, the kindliness, the gentle humour of the story.
Yet it is a mistake to suppose that its success was instantaneous.
Pirated it was, of course; but, according to expert investigations, the
authorized edition brought so little gain to its first proprietors that
the fourth issue of 1770 started with a loss. The fifth, published in
April, 1774, was dated 1773; and had apparently been withheld because
the previous edition, which consisted of no more than one thousand
copies, was not exhausted. Five years elapsed before the sixth edition
made its tardy appearance in 1779. These facts show that the writer's
contemporaries were not his most eager readers. But he has long since
appealed to the wider audience of posterity; and his fame is not
confined to his native country, for he has been translated into most
European languages. Dr. Primrose and his family are now veritable
'citizens of the world.'
A selection of 'Poems for Young Ladies', in the 'Moral' division of
which he included his own 'Edwin and Angelina'; two volumes of 'Beauties
of English Poesy', disfigured with strange heedlessness, by a couple of
the most objectionable pieces of Prior; a translation of a French
history of philosophy, and other occasional work, followed the
publication of the 'Vicar'. But towards the middle of 1766, he was
meditating a new experiment in that line in which Farquhar, Steele,
Southerne, and others of his countrymen had succeeded before him. A
fervent lover of the stage, he detested the vapid and colourless
'genteel' comedy which had gradually gained ground in England; and he
determined to follow up 'The Clandestine Marriage', then recently
adapted by Colman and Garrick from Hogarth's 'Marriage A-la-Mode', with
another effort of the same class, depending exclusively for its interest
upon humour and character. Early in 1767 it was completed, and submitted
to Garrick for Drury Lane. But Garrick perhaps too politic to traverse
the popular taste, temporized; and eventually after many delays and
disappointments, 'The Good Natur'd Man', as it was called, was produced
at Covent Garden by Colman on the 29th of January, 1768. Its success was
only partial; and in deference to the prevailing craze for the
'genteel,' an admirable scene of low humour had to be omitted in the
representation. But the piece, notwithstanding, brought the author 400
pounds, to which the sale of the book, with the condemned passages
restored, added another 100 pounds. Furthermore, Johnson, whose
'Suspirius' in 'The Rambler' was, under the name of 'Croaker,' one of
its most prominent personages, pronounced it to be the best comedy since
Cibber's 'Provok'd Husband'.
During the autumn of 1767, Goldsmith had again been living at Islington.
On this occasion he had a room in Canonbury Tower, Queen Elizabeth's old
hunting-lodge, and perhaps occupied the very chamber generally used by
John Newbery, whose active life was, in this year, to close. When in
London he had modest housing in the Temple. But the acquisition of 500
pounds for 'The Good Natur'd Man' seemed to warrant a change of
residence, and he accordingly expended four-fifths of that sum for the
lease of three rooms on the second floor of No. 2 Brick Court, which he
straightway proceeded to decorate sumptuously with mirrors, Wilton
carpets, moreen curtains, and Pembroke tables. It was an unfortunate
step; and he would have done well to remember the 'Nil te quaesiveris
extra' with which his inflexible monitor, Johnson, had greeted his
apologies for the shortcomings of some earlier lodgings. One of its
natural results was to involve him in a new sequence of task-work, from
which he never afterwards shook himself free. Hence, following hard upon
a 'Roman History' which he had already engaged to write for Davies of
Russell Street, came a more ambitious project for Griffin, 'A History of
Animated Nature'; and after this again, another 'History of England' for
Davies. The pay was not inadequate; for the first he was to have 250
guineas, for the second 800 guineas, and for the last 500 pounds. But as
employment for the author of a unique novel, an excellent comedy, and a
deservedly successful poem, it was surely--in his own words--'to cut
blocks with a razor.'
And yet, apart from the anxieties of growing money troubles, his life
could not have been wholly unhappy. There are records of pleasant
occasional junketings--'shoe-maker's holidays' he called them--in the
still countrified suburbs of Hampstead and Edgware; there was the
gathering at the Turk's Head, with its literary magnates, for his
severer hours; and for his more pliant moments, the genial
'free-and-easy' or shilling whist-club of a less pretentious kind, where
the student of mixed character might shine with something of the old
supremacy of George Conway's inn at Ballymahon. And there must have been
quieter and more chastened resting-places of memory, when, softening
towards the home of his youth, with a sadness made more poignant by the
death of his brother Henry in May, 1768, he planned and perfected his
new poem of 'The Deserted Village'.
In December, 1769, the recent appointment of his friend Reynolds as
President of the Royal Academy brought him the honorary office of
Professor of History to that institution; and to Reynolds 'The Deserted
Village' was dedicated. It appeared on the 26th of May, 1770, with a
success equal, if not superior, to that of 'The Traveller'. It ran
through five editions in the year of its publication; and has ever since
retained its reputation. If, as alleged, contemporary critics ranked it
below its predecessor, the reason advanced by Washington Irving, that
the poet had become his own rival, is doubtless correct; and there is
always a prejudice in favour of the first success. This, however, is not
an obstacle which need disturb the reader now; and he will probably
decide that in grace and tenderness of description 'The Deserted
Village' in no wise falls short of 'The Traveller'; and that its central
idea, and its sympathy with humanity, give it a higher value as a work
After 'The Deserted Village' had appeared, Goldsmith made a short trip
to Paris, in company with Mrs. and the two Miss Hornecks, the elder of
whom, christened by the poet with the pretty pet-name of 'The Jessamy
Bride,' is supposed to have inspired him with more than friendly
feelings. Upon his return he had to fall again to the old
'book-building' in order to recruit his exhausted finances. Since his
last poem he had published a short 'Life of Parnell'; and Davies now
engaged him on a 'Life of Bolingbroke', and an abridgement of the 'Roman
History'. Thus, with visits to friends, among others to Lord Clare, for
whom he wrote the delightful occasional verses called 'The Haunch of
Venison', the months wore on until, in December, 1770, the print-shops
began to be full of the well-known mezzotint which Marchi had engraved
from his portrait by Sir Joshua.
His chief publications in the next two years were the above-mentioned
'History of England', 1771; 'Threnodia Augustalis', a poetical
lament-to-order on the death of the Princess Dowager of Wales, 1772; and
the abridgement of the 'Roman History', 1772. But in the former year he
had completed a new comedy, 'She Stoops to Conquer; or, The Mistakes of
a Night', which, after the usual vexatious negotiations, was brought out
by Colman at Covent Garden on Monday, the 15th of March, 1773. The
manager seems to have acted Goldsmith's own creation of 'Croaker' with
regard to this piece, and even to the last moment predicted its failure.
But it was a brilliant success. More skilful in construction than 'The
Good Natur'd Man', more various in its contrasts of character, richer
and stronger in humour and 'vis comica', 'She Stoops to Conquer' has
continued to provide an inexhaustible fund of laughter to more than
three generations of playgoers, and still bids fair to retain the
character generally given to it, of being one of the three most popular
comedies upon the English stage. When published, it was gratefully
inscribed, in one of those admirable dedications of which its author
above all men possessed the secret, to Johnson, who had befriended it
from the first. 'I do not mean,' wrote Goldsmith, 'so much to compliment
you as myself. It may do me some honour to inform the public, that I
have lived many years in intimacy with you. It may serve the interests
of mankind also to inform them, that the greatest wit may be found in a
character, without impairing the most unaffected piety.'
His gains from 'She Stoops to Conquer' were considerable; but by this
time his affairs had reached a stage of complication which nothing short
of a miracle could disentangle; and there is reason for supposing that
his involved circumstances preyed upon his mind. During the few months
of life that remained to him he published nothing, being doubtless
sufficiently occupied by the undertakings to which he was already
committed. The last of his poetical efforts was the poem entitled
'Retaliation', a group of epitaph-epigrams prompted by some similar
'jeux d'esprit' directed against himself by Garrick and other friends,
and left incomplete at his death. In March, 1774, the combined effects
of work and worry, added to a local disorder, brought on a nervous
fever, which he unhappily aggravated by the use of a patent medicine
called 'James's Powder.' He had often relied upon this before, but in
the present instance it was unsuited to his complaint. On Monday, the
4th of April, 1774, he died, in his forty-sixth year, and was buried on
the 9th in the burying-ground of the Temple Church. Two years later a
monument, with a medallion portrait by Nollekens, and a Latin
inscription by Johnson, was erected to him in Westminster Abbey, at the
expense of the Literary Club. But although the inscription contains more
than one phrase of felicitous discrimination, notably the oft-quoted
'affectuum potens, at lenis dominator', it may be doubted whether the
simpler words used by his rugged old friend in a letter to Langton are
not a fitter farewell to Oliver Goldsmith,--'Let not his frailties be
remembered; he was a very great man.'
In person Goldsmith was short and strongly built. His complexion was
rather fair, but he was deeply scarred with small-pox; and--if we may
believe his own account--the vicissitudes and privations of his early
life had not tended to diminish his initial disadvantages. 'You scarcely
can conceive,' he writes to his brother in 1759, 'how much eight years
of disappointment, anguish, and study, have worn me down.... Imagine to
yourself a pale melancholy visage, with two great wrinkles between the
eye-brows, with an eye disgustingly severe, and a big wig; and you may
have a perfect picture of my present appearance,' i.e. at thirty years
of age. 'I can neither laugh nor drink,' he goes on; 'have contracted an
hesitating, disagreeable manner of speaking, and a visage that looks
ill-nature itself; in short, I have thought myself into a settled
melancholy, and an utter disgust of all that life brings with it.' It is
obvious that this description is largely coloured by passing depression.
'His features,' says one contemporary, 'were plain, but not
repulsive,--certainly not so when lighted up by conversation.' Another
witness--the 'Jessamy Bride'--declares that 'his benevolence was
unquestionable, and his countenance bore every trace of it.' His true
likeness would seem to lie midway between the grotesquely truthful
sketch by Bunbury prefixed in 1776 to the 'Haunch of Venison', and the
portrait idealized by personal regard, which Reynolds painted in 1770.
In this latter he is shown wearing, in place of his customary wig, his
own scant brown hair, and, on this occasion, masquerades in a furred
robe, and falling collar. But even through the disguise of a studio
'costume,' the finely-perceptive genius of Reynolds has managed to
suggest much that is most appealing in his sitter's nature. Past
suffering, present endurance, the craving to be understood, the mute
deprecation of contempt, are all written legibly in this pathetic
picture. It has been frequently copied, often very ineffectively, for so
subtle is the art that the slightest deviation hopelessly distorts and
vulgarizes what Reynolds has done supremely, once and for ever.
Goldsmith's character presents but few real complexities. What seems
most to have impressed his contemporaries is the difference, emphasized
by the happily-antithetic epigram of Garrick, between his written style
and his conversation; and collaterally, between his eminence as a
literary man and his personal insignificance. Much of this is easily
intelligible. He had started in life with few temporal or physical
advantages, and with a native susceptibility that intensified his
defects. Until he became a middle-aged man, he led a life of which we do
not even now know all the degradations; and these had left their mark
upon his manners. With the publication of 'The Traveller', he became at
once the associate of some of the best talent and intellect in
England,--of fine gentlemen such as Beauclerk and Langton, of artists
such as Reynolds and Garrick, of talkers such as Johnson and Burke.
Morbidly self-conscious, nervously anxious to succeed, he was at once
forced into a competition for which neither his antecedents nor his
qualifications had prepared him. To this, coupled with the old habit of
poverty, must be attributed his oft-cited passion for fine clothes,
which surely arose less from vanity than from a mistaken attempt to
extenuate what he felt to be his most obvious shortcomings. As a talker
especially he was ill-fitted to shine. He was easily disconcerted by
retort, and often discomfited in argument. To the end of his days he
never lost his native brogue; and (as he himself tells us) he had that
most fatal of defects to a narrator, a slow and hesitating manner. The
perspicuity which makes the charm of his writings deserted him in
conversation; and his best things were momentary flashes. But some of
these were undoubtedly very happy. His telling Johnson that he would
make the little fishes talk like whales; his affirmation of Burke that
he wound into a subject like a serpent; and half-a-dozen other
well-remembered examples--afford ample proof of this. Something of the
uneasy jealousy he is said to have exhibited with regard to certain of
his contemporaries may also be connected with the long probation of
obscurity during which he had been a spectator of the good fortune of
others, to whom he must have known himself superior. His improvidence
seems to have been congenital, since it is to be traced 'even from his
boyish days.' But though it cannot justly be ascribed to any reaction
from want to sufficiency, it can still less be supposed to have been
diminished by that change. If he was careless of money, it must also be
remembered that he gave much of it away; and fortune lingers little with
those whose ears are always open to a plausible tale of distress. Of his
sensibility and genuine kindheartedness there is no doubt. And it is
well to remember that most of the tales to his disadvantage come, not
from his more distinguished companions, but from such admitted
detractors as Hawkins and Boswell. It could be no mean individuality
that acquired the esteem, and deserved the regret, of Johnson and
In an edition of Goldsmith's poems, any extended examination of his
remaining productions would be out of place. Moreover, the bulk of these
is considerably reduced when all that may properly be classed as
hack-work has been withdrawn. The histories of Greece, of Rome, and of
England; the 'Animated Nature'; the lives of Nash, Voltaire, Parnell,
and Bolingbroke, are merely compilations, only raised to the highest
level in that line because they proceeded from a man whose gift of clear
and easy exposition lent a charm to everything he touched. With the work
which he did for himself, the case is different. Into 'The Citizen of
the World', 'The Vicar of Wakefield', and his two comedies, he put all
the best of his knowledge of human nature, his keen sympathy with his
kind, his fine common-sense and his genial humour. The same qualities,
tempered by a certain grace and tenderness, also enter into the best of
his poems. Avoiding the epigram of Pope and the austere couplet of
Johnson, he yet borrowed something from each, which he combined with a
delicacy and an amenity that he had learned from neither. He himself, in
all probability, would have rested his fame on his three chief metrical
efforts, 'The Traveller', 'The Hermit', and 'The Deserted Village'. But,
as is often the case, he is remembered even more favourably by some of
those delightful familiar verses, unprinted during his lifetime, which
he threw off with no other ambition than the desire to amuse his
friends. 'Retaliation', 'The Haunch of Venison', the 'Letter in Prose
and Verse to Mrs. Bunbury', all afford noteworthy exemplification of
that playful touch and wayward fancy which constitute the chief
attraction of this species of poetry. In his imitations of Swift and
Prior, and his variations upon French suggestions, his personal note is
scarcely so apparent; but the two Elegies and some of the minor pieces
retain a deserved reputation. His ingenious prologues and epilogues also
serve to illustrate the range and versatility of his talent. As a rule,
the arrangement in the present edition is chronological; but it has not
been thought necessary to depart from the practice which gives a
time-honoured precedence to 'The Traveller' and 'The Deserted Village'.
The true sequence of the poems, in their order of publication, is,
however, exactly indicated in the table which follows this Introduction.
CHRONOLOGY OF GOLDSMITH'S LIFE AND POEMS.
------ 1728 ------
November 10. Born at Pallas, near Ballymahon, in the county of
------ 1730 ------
Family remove to Lissoy, in the county of Westmeath.
------ 1731 ------
Under Elizabeth Delap.
------ 1734 ------
Under Mr. Thomas Byrne of the village school.
------ 1736-44 ------
At school at Elphin (Mr. Griffin's),
Athlone (Mr. Campbell's),
Edgeworthstown (Mr. Hughes's).
------ 1744 ------
June 11. Admitted a sizar of Trinity College, Dublin,
'annum agens 15.'
------ 1747 ------
Death of his father, the Rev. Charles Goldsmith.
May. Takes part in a college riot.
June 15. Obtains a Smythe exhibition.
Runs away from college.
------ 1749 ------
February 27. Takes his degree as Bachelor of Arts.
------ 1751 ------
Rejected for orders by the Bishop of Elphin.
Tutor to Mr. Flinn.
Sets out for America (via Cork), but returns.
Letter to Mrs. Goldsmith(his mother).
------ 1752 ------
Starts as a law student, but loses his all at play.
Goes to Edinburgh to become a medical student.
------ 1753 ------
January 13. Admitted a member of the 'Medical Society' of Edinburgh.
May 8. Letter to his Uncle Contarine.
September 26. Letter to Robert Bryanton.
Letter to his Uncle Contarine.
------ 1754 ------
Goes to Leyden. Letter to his Uncle Contarine.
------ 1755 ------
February. Leaves Leyden.
Takes degree of Bachelor of Medicine at Louvain (?).
Travels on foot in France, Germany,
Switzerland, and Italy.
Sketches 'The Traveller'.
------ 1756 ------
February 1. Returns to Dover.
Low comedian; usher (?); apothecary's journeyman;
poor physician in Bankside, Southwark.
------ 1757 ------
Press corrector to Samuel Richardson, printer and
novelist; assistant at Peckham Academy (Dr. Milner's).
April. Bound over to Griffiths the bookseller.
Quarrels with Griffiths.
December 27. Letter to his brother-in-law, Daniel Hodson.
------ 1758 ------
February. Publishes 'The Memoirs of a Protestant,
condemned to the Galleys of France for his Religion'.
Gives up literature and returns to Peckham.
August. Leaves Peckham. Letters to Edward Mills, Bryanton,
Mrs. Jane Lawder.
Appointed surgeon and physician to a factory
on the Coast of Coromandel.
November (?). Letter to Hodson.
Moves into 12 Green Arbour Court, Old Bailey.
Coromandel appointment comes to nothing.
December 21. Rejected at Surgeons' Hall as 'not qualified'
for a hospital mate.
------ 1759 ------
February (?). Letter to Henry Goldsmith.
March. Visited by Percy at 12 Green Arbour Court.
April 2. 'Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in
Europe' published. 'Prologue of Laberius' ('Enquiry').
October 6. 'The Bee' commenced. 'On a Beautiful Youth struck blind
with Lightning' ('Bee').
October 13. 'The Gift' ('Bee').
" 18. 'The Logicians Refuted' ('Busy Body').
" 20. 'A Sonnet' ('Bee').
" 22. 'Stanzas on the Taking of Quebec' ('Busy Body').
October 27. 'Elegy on Mrs. Mary Blaize' ('Bee').
November 24. 'The Bee' closed.
------ 1760 ------
January 1. 'The British Magazine' commenced.
" 12. 'The Public Ledger' commenced.
" 24. First Chinese Letter published ('Citizen of the World').
May 2. 'Description of an Author's Bedchamber' ('Chinese Letter'
in 'Public Ledger').
October 21. 'On seeing Mrs....perform,'etc. ('Chinese Letter' in
Editing 'Lady's Magazine'. Compiling Prefaces.
Moves into 6 Wine Office Court, Fleet Street.
------ 1761 ------
March 4. 'On the Death of the Right Hon....('Chinese Letter' in
April 4-14. 'An Epigram'; to G. C. and R. L. ('Chinese Letter
in 'Public Ledger').
May 13. 'Translation of a South American Ode.' ('Chinese
Letter' in 'Public Ledger')
August 14. Last Chinese Letter published ('Citizen of the World').
'Memoirs of M. de Voltaire' published in
------ 1762 ------
February 23. Pamphlet on Cock Lane Ghost published.
" 26. 'History of Mecklenburgh' published.
May 1. 'Citizen of the World' published.
May 1 to Nov. 1. 'Plutarch's Lives', vol. i to vii, published.
At Bath and Tunbridge.
October 14. 'Life of Richard Nash' published.
" 28. Sells third share of 'Vicar of Wakefield'
to B. Collins, printer, Salisbury.
At Mrs. Fleming's at Islington.
------ 1763 ------
March 31. Agrees with James Dodsley to write a
'Chronological History of the Lives of Eminent
Persons of Great Britain and Ireland'. (Never done.)
------ 1764 ------
'The Club,' afterwards the Literary Club, founded.
Moves into lodgings on the
library staircase of the Temple.
June 26. 'History of England, in a series of Letters
from a Nobleman to his Son' published.
October 31. Oratorio of 'The Captivity' sold to James Dodsley.
December 19. 'The Traveller' published.
------ 1765 ------
June 4. 'Essays by Mr. Goldsmith' published.
'The Double Transformation,'
'A New Simile' ('Essays').
'Edwin and Angelina' ('The Hermit')
printed privately for the amusement
of the Countess of Northumberland.
Resumes practice as a physician.
------ 1766 ------
March 27. 'Vicar of Wakefield' published.
'Elegy on a Mad Dog';
'Olivia's Song' ('Vicar of Wakefield').
May 31. 'Vicar of Wakefield', 2nd edition.
June. Translation of Formey's 'Concise History of
Philosophy and Philosophers' published.
August 29. 'Vicar of Wakefield', 3rd edition.
December 15. 'Poems for Young Ladies' published.
------ 1766 ------
December 28. 'English Grammar' written.
------ 1767 ------
April. 'Beauties of English Poesy' published.
July 19. Living in Garden Court, Temple.
" 25. Letter to the 'St. James's Chronicle'.
December 22. Death of John Newbery.
------ 1768 ------
February 5. Publishes 'The Good Natur'd Man', a Comedy,
produced at Covent Garden, January 29.
'Epilogue to 'The Good Natur'd Man'.'
Moves to 2 Brick Court, Middle Temple.
May. Death of Henry Goldsmith.
Living at Edgware.
------ 1769 ------
February 18. 'Epilogue to Mrs. Lenox's 'Sister'.'
" 29. Agreement for 'a new Natural History
of Animals' ('Animated Nature').
May 18. 'Roman History' published
June 13. Agreement for 'History of England'.
December. Appointed Professor of History to the Royal Academy.
------ 1770 ------
January. Letter to Maurice Goldsmith.
April 24-May 26. Portrait by Reynolds exhibited.
May 26. 'The Deserted Village' published.
July 13. 'Life of Thomas Parnell' published.
July. On the Continent with the Hornecks.
Letters to Reynolds.
September 15. Agreement for abridgement of 'Roman History'.
December 1. Marchi's print from Reynold's portrait published.
December 19. 'Life of Bolingbroke' published.
'Vicar of Wakefield', 4th edition.
------ 1771 ------
'Haunch of Venison' written. (?)
August 6. 'History of England' published.
December 11. 'Prologue to Cradock's 'Zobeide'.'
------ 1772 ------
February 20. 'Threnodia Augustalis' published.
Watson's Engraving of 'Resignation' published.
December. Abridgement of 'Roman History' published.
------ 1773 ------
March 26. Publishes 'She Stoops to Conquer; or,
The Mistakes of a Night', a Comedy,
produced at Covent Garden, March 15.
'Song in 'She Stoops to Conquer','
'Epilogue to 'She Stoops to Conquer'.'
------ 1773 ------
March 24. Kenrick's libel in the 'London Packet'.
" 31. Letter in the 'Daily Advertiser'.
May 8. 'The Grumbler' produced.
Projects a 'Dictionary of Arts and Sciences'.
------ 1774 ------
March 25. Illness.
April 4. Death.
" 9. 'Buried 9th April, Oliver Goldsmith, MB,
late of Brick-court, Middle Temple'
(Register of Burials, Temple Church).
April 19. 'Retaliation' published.
April. 'Vicar of Wakefield', 5th edition (dated 1773).
June. Song ('Ah me, when shall I marry me?') published.
June 28. Letters of Administration granted.
June. 'An History of the Earth and Animated Nature'
'Translation from Addison.' ('History', etc., 1774.)
------ 1776 ------
'The Haunch of Venison' published.
'Epitaph on Thomas Parnell,' and
'Two Songs from 'The Captivity' ('Haunch of Venison').
Monument with medallion by Nollekens erected in the
south transept of Westminster Abbey.
------ 1777 ------
'Poems and Plays' published.
'The Clown's Reply,'
'Epitaph on Edward Purdon' ('Poems', etc., 1777).
------ 1779 ------
'Vicar of Wakefield', 6th edition.
------ 1780 ------
'Poetical and Dramatic Works',
Evans's edition, published.
'Epilogue for Lee Lewes' ('Poetical, etc., Works', 1780).
------ 1801 ------
'Miscellaneous Works', Percy's edition, published.
'Epilogues (unspoken) to 'She Stoops to Conquer''
('Misc. Works', 1801).
------ 1820 ------
'Miscellaneous Works', 'trade' edition, published.
An Oratorio' ('The Captivity'). ('Misc. Works', 1820.)
------ 1837 ------
'Miscellaneous Works', Prior's edition, published.
'Verses in Reply to an Invitation to Dinner';
'Letter in Prose and Verse to Mrs. Bunbury'
('Misc. Works', 1837).
Tablet erected in the Temple Church.
------ 1854 ------
'Goldsmith's Works', Cunningham's edition, published.
'Translation of Vida's 'Game of Chess''
('Works', 1854, vol. iv).
------ 1864 ------
January 5. J. H. Foley's statue placed in front of
A PROSPECT OF SOCIETY
TO THE REV. HENRY GOLDSMITH
I am sensible that the friendship between us can acquire no new force
from the ceremonies of a Dedication; and perhaps it demands an excuse
thus to prefix your name to my attempts, which you decline giving with
your own. But as a part of this Poem was formerly written to you from
Switzerland, the whole can now, with propriety, be only inscribed to
you. It will also throw a light upon many parts of it, when the reader
understands, that it is addressed to a man, who, despising Fame and
Fortune, has retired early to Happiness and Obscurity, with an income of
forty pounds a year.
I now perceive, my dear brother, the wisdom of your humble choice. You
have entered upon a sacred office, where the harvest is great, and the
labourers are but few; while you have left the field of Ambition, where
the labourers are many, and the harvest not worth carrying away. But of
all kinds of ambition, what from the refinement of the times, from
different systems of criticism, and from the divisions of party, that
which pursues poetical fame is the wildest.
Poetry makes a principal amusement among unpolished nations; but in a
country verging to the extremes of refinement, Painting and Music come
in for a share. As these offer the feeble mind a less laborious
entertainment, they at first rival Poetry, and at length supplant her;
they engross all that favour once shown to her, and though but younger
sisters, seize upon the elder's birthright.
Yet, however this art may be neglected by the powerful, it is still in
greater danger from the mistaken efforts of the learned to improve it.
What criticisms have we not heard of late in favour of blank verse, and
Pindaric odes, choruses, anapaests and iambics, alliterative care and
happy negligence! Every absurdity has now a champion to defend it; and
as he is generally much in the wrong, so he has always much to say; for
error is ever talkative.
But there is an enemy to this art still more dangerous, I mean Party.
Party entirely distorts the judgment, and destroys the taste. When the
mind is once infected with this disease, it can only find pleasure in
what contributes to increase the distemper. Like the tiger, that seldom
desists from pursuing man after having once preyed upon human flesh, the
reader, who has once gratified his appetite with calumny, makes, ever
after, the most agreeable feast upon murdered reputation. Such readers
generally admire some half-witted thing, who wants to be thought a bold
man, having lost the character of a wise one. Him they dignify with the
name of poet; his tawdry lampoons are called satires, his turbulence is
said to be force, and his frenzy fire.
What reception a Poem may find, which has neither abuse, party, nor
blank verse to support it, I cannot tell, nor am I solicitous to know.
My aims are right. Without espousing the cause of any party, I have
attempted to moderate the rage of all. I have endeavoured to show, that
there may be equal happiness in states, that are differently governed
from our own; that every state has a particular principle of happiness,
and that this principle in each may be carried to a mischievous excess.
There are few can judge, better than yourself, how far these positions
are illustrated in this Poem.
I am, dear Sir,
Your most affectionate Brother,
A PROSPECT OF SOCIETY
REMOTE, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
Or by the lazy Scheldt, or wandering Po;
Or onward, where the rude Carinthian boor
Against the houseless stranger shuts the door;
Or where Campania's plain forsaken lies, 5
A weary waste expanding to the skies:
Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see,
My heart untravell'd fondly turns to thee;
Still to my brother turns with ceaseless pain,
And drags at each remove a lengthening chain. 10
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend,
And round his dwelling guardian saints attend:
Bless'd be that spot, where cheerful guests retire
To pause from toil, and trim their ev'ning fire;
Bless'd that abode, where want and pain repair, 15
And every stranger finds a ready chair;
Bless'd be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd,
Where all the ruddy family around
Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail,
Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale, 20
Or press the bashful stranger to his food,
And learn the luxury of doing good.
But me, not destin'd such delights to share,
My prime of life in wand'ring spent and care,
Impell'd, with steps unceasing, to pursue 25
Some fleeting good, that mocks me with the view;
That, like the circle bounding earth and skies,
Allures from far, yet, as I follow, flies;
My fortune leads to traverse realms alone,
And find no spot of all the world my own. 30
E'en now, where Alpine solitudes ascend,
I sit me down a pensive hour to spend;
And, plac'd on high above the storm's career,
Look downward where a hundred realms appear;
Lakes, forests, cities, plains, extending wide, 35
The pomp of kings, the shepherd's humbler pride.
When thus Creation's charms around combine,
Amidst the store, should thankless pride repine?
Say, should the philosophic mind disdain
That good, which makes each humbler bosom vain?
Let school-taught pride dissemble all it can, 41
These little things are great to little man;
And wiser he, whose sympathetic mind
Exults in all the good of all mankind.
Ye glitt'ring towns, with wealth and splendour crown'd,
Ye fields, where summer spreads profusion round, 46
Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy gale,
Ye bending swains, that dress the flow'ry vale,
For me your tributary stores combine;
Creation's heir, the world, the world is mine! 50
As some lone miser visiting his store,
Bends at his treasure, counts, re-counts it o'er;
Hoards after hoards his rising raptures fill,
Yet still he sighs, for hoards are wanting still:
Thus to my breast alternate passions rise, 55
Pleas'd with each good that heaven to man supplies:
Yet oft a sigh prevails, and sorrows fall,
To see the hoard of human bliss so small;
And oft I wish, amidst the scene, to find
Some spot to real happiness consign'd, 60
Where my worn soul, each wand'ring hope at rest,
May gather bliss to see my fellows bless'd.
But where to find that happiest spot below,
Who can direct, when all pretend to know?
The shudd'ring tenant of the frigid zone 65
Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own,
Extols the treasures of his stormy seas,
And his long nights of revelry and ease;
The naked negro, panting at the line,
Boasts of his golden sands and palmy wine, 70
Basks in the glare, or stems the tepid wave,
And thanks his gods for all the good they gave.
Such is the patriot's boast, where'er we roam,
His first, best country ever is, at home.
And yet, perhaps, if countries we compare, 75
And estimate the blessings which they share,
Though patriots flatter, still shall wisdom find
An equal portion dealt to all mankind,
As different good, by Art or Nature given,
To different nations makes their blessings even. 80
Nature, a mother kind alike to all,
Still grants her bliss at Labour's earnest call;
With food as well the peasant is supplied
On Idra's cliffs as Arno's shelvy side;
And though the rocky-crested summits frown, 85
These rocks, by custom, turn to beds of down.
From Art more various are the blessings sent;
Wealth commerce, honour, liberty, content.
Yet these each other's power so strong contest,
That either seems destructive of the rest. 90
Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails,
And honour sinks where commerce long prevails.
Hence every state to one lov'd blessing prone,
Conforms and models life to that alone.
Each to the favourite happiness attends, 95
And spurns the plan that aims at other ends;
Till, carried to excess in each domain,
This favourite good begets peculiar pain.
But let us try these truths with closer eyes,
And trace them through the prospect as it lies: 100
Here for a while my proper cares resign'd,
Here let me sit in sorrow for mankind,
Like yon neglected shrub at random cast,
That shades the steep, and sighs at every blast.
Far to the right where Apennine ascends, 105
Bright as the summer, Italy extends;
Its uplands sloping deck the mountain's side,
Woods over woods in gay theatric pride;
While oft some temple's mould'ring tops between
With venerable grandeur mark the scene 110
Could Nature's bounty satisfy the breast,
The sons of Italy were surely blest.
Whatever fruits in different climes were found,
That proudly rise, or humbly court the ground;
Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear, 115
Whose bright succession decks the varied year;
Whatever sweets salute the northern sky
With vernal lives that blossom but to die;
These here disporting own the kindred soil,
Nor ask luxuriance from the planter's toil; 120
While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand
To winnow fragrance round the smiling land.
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows,
And sensual bliss is all the nation knows.
In florid beauty groves and fields appear, 125
Man seems the only growth that dwindles here.
Contrasted faults through all his manner reign;
Though poor, luxurious; though submissive, vain;
Though grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue;
And e'en in penance planning sins anew. 130
All evils here contaminate the mind,
That opulence departed leaves behind;
For wealth was theirs, not far remov'd the date,
When commerce proudly flourish'd through the state;
At her command the palace learn'd to rise, 135
Again the long-fall'n column sought the skies;
The canvas glow'd beyond e'en Nature warm,
The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form;
Till, more unsteady than the southern gale,
Commerce on other shores display'd her sail; 140
While nought remain'd of all that riches gave,
But towns unmann'd, and lords without a slave;
And late the nation found, with fruitless skill,
Its former strength was but plethoric ill.
Yet still the loss of wealth is here supplied 145
By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride;
From these the feeble heart and long-fall'n mind
An easy compensation seem to find.
Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd,
The paste-board triumph and the cavalcade; 150
Processions form'd for piety and love,
A mistress or a saint in every grove.
By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd,
The sports of children satisfy the child;
Each nobler aim, repress'd by long control, 155
Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul;
While low delights, succeeding fast behind,
In happier meanness occupy the mind:
As in those domes, where Caesars once bore sway,
Defac'd by time and tottering in decay, 160
There in the ruin, heedless of the dead,
The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed,
And, wond'ring man could want the larger pile,
Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile.
My soul, turn from them; turn we to survey 165
Where rougher climes a nobler race display,
Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansions tread,
And force a churlish soil for scanty bread;
No product here the barren hills afford,
But man and steel, the soldier and his sword; 170
No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array,
But winter ling'ring chills the lap of May;
No Zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast,
But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.
Yet still, e'en here, content can spread a charm, 175
Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm.
Though poor the peasant's hut, his feasts though small,
He sees his little lot the lot of all;
Sees no contiguous palace rear its head
To shame the meanness of his humble shed; 180
No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal
To make him loathe his vegetable meal;
But calm, and bred in ignorance and toil,
Each wish contracting, fits him to the soil.
Cheerful at morn he wakes from short repose, 185
Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes;
With patient angle trolls the finny deep,
Or drives his vent'rous plough-share to the steep;
Or seeks the den where snow-tracks mark the way,
And drags the struggling savage into day. 190
At night returning, every labour sped,
He sits him down the monarch of a shed;
Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys
His children's looks, that brighten at the blaze;
While his lov'd partner, boastful of her hoard, 195
Displays her cleanly platter on the board:
And haply too some pilgrim, thither led,
With many a tale repays the nightly bed.
Thus every good his native wilds impart,
Imprints the patriot passion on his heart, 200
And e'en those ills, that round his mansion rise,
Enhance the bliss his scanty fund supplies.
Dear is that shed to which his soul conforms,
And dear that hill which lifts him to the storms;
And as a child, when scaring sounds molest, 205
Clings close and closer to the mother's breast,
So the loud torrent, and the whirlwind's roar,
But bind him to his native mountains more.
Such are the charms to barren states assign'd;
Their wants but few, their wishes all confin'd. 210
Yet let them only share the praises due,
If few their wants, their pleasures are but few;
For every want that stimulates the breast,
Becomes a source of pleasure when redrest.
Whence from such lands each pleasing science flies,
That first excites desire, and then supplies; 216
Unknown to them, when sensual pleasures cloy,
To fill the languid pause with finer joy;
Unknown those powers that raise the soul to flame,
Catch every nerve, and vibrate through the frame.
Their level life is but a smould'ring fire, 221
Unquench'd by want, unfann'd by strong desire;
Unfit for raptures, or, if raptures cheer
On some high festival of once a year,
In wild excess the vulgar breast takes fire, 225
Till, buried in debauch, the bliss expire.
But not their joys alone thus coarsely flow:
Their morals, like their pleasures, are but low;
For, as refinement stops, from sire to son
Unalter'd, unimprov'd the manners run; 230
And love's and friendship's finely pointed dart
Fall blunted from each indurated heart.
Some sterner virtues o'er the mountain's breast
May sit, like falcons cow'ring on the nest;
But all the gentler morals, such as play 235
Through life's more cultur'd walks, and charm the way,
These far dispers'd, on timorous pinions fly,
To sport and flutter in a kinder sky.
To kinder skies, where gentler manners reign,
I turn; and France displays her bright domain. 240
Gay sprightly land of mirth and social ease,
Pleas'd with thyself, whom all the world can please,
How often have I led thy sportive choir,
With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire!
Where shading elms along the margin grew, 245
And freshen'd from the wave the Zephyr flew;
And haply, though my harsh touch falt'ring still,
But mock'd all tune, and marr'd the dancer's skill;
Yet would the village praise my wondrous power,
And dance, forgetful of the noon-tide hour. 250
Alike all ages. Dames of ancient days
Have led their children through the mirthful maze,
And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore,
Has frisk'd beneath the burthen of threescore.
So bless'd a life these thoughtless realms display,
Thus idly busy rolls their world away: 256
Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear,
For honour forms the social temper here:
Honour, that praise which real merit gains,
Or e'en imaginary worth obtains, 260
Here passes current; paid from hand to hand,
It shifts in splendid traffic round the land:
From courts, to camps, to cottages it strays,
And all are taught an avarice of praise; 264
They please, are pleas'd, they give to get esteem,
Till, seeming bless'd, they grow to what they seem.
But while this softer art their bliss supplies,
It gives their follies also room to rise;
For praise too dearly lov'd, or warmly sought,
Enfeebles all internal strength of thought; 270
And the weak soul, within itself unblest,
Leans for all pleasure on another's breast.
Hence ostentation here, with tawdry art,
Pants for the vulgar praise which fools impart;
Here vanity assumes her pert grimace, 275
And trims her robes of frieze with copper lace;
Here beggar pride defrauds her daily cheer,
To boast one splendid banquet once a year;
The mind still turns where shifting fashion draws,
Nor weighs the solid worth of self-applause. 280
To men of other minds my fancy flies,
Embosom'd in the deep where Holland lies.
Methinks her patient sons before me stand,
Where the broad ocean leans against the land,
And, sedulous to stop the coming tide, 285
Lift the tall rampire's artificial pride.
Onward, methinks, and diligently slow,
The firm-connected bulwark seems to grow;
Spreads its long arms amidst the wat'ry roar,
Scoops out an empire, and usurps the shore; 290
While the pent ocean rising o'er the pile,
Sees an amphibious world beneath him smile;
The slow canal, the yellow-blossom'd vale,
The willow-tufted bank, the gliding sail,
The crowded mart, the cultivated plain, 295
A new creation rescu'd from his reign.
Thus, while around the wave-subjected soil
Impels the native to repeated toil,
Industrious habits in each bosom reign,
And industry begets a love of gain. 300
Hence all the good from opulence that springs,
With all those ills superfluous treasure brings,
Are here displayed. Their much-lov'd wealth imparts
Convenience, plenty, elegance, and arts;
But view them closer, craft and fraud appear, 305
E'en liberty itself is barter'd here.
At gold's superior charms all freedom flies,
The needy sell it, and the rich man buys;
A land of tyrants, and a den of slaves,
Here wretches seek dishonourable graves, 310
And calmly bent, to servitude conform,
Dull as their lakes that slumber in the storm.
Heavens! how unlike their Belgic sires of old!
Rough, poor, content, ungovernably bold;
War in each breast, and freedom on each brow; 315
How much unlike the sons of Britain now!
Fir'd at the sound, my genius spreads her wing,
And flies where Britain courts the western spring;
Where lawns extend that scorn Arcadian pride,
And brighter streams than fam'd Hydaspes glide.
There all around the gentlest breezes stray, 321
There gentle music melts on ev'ry spray;
Creation's mildest charms are there combin'd,
Extremes are only in the master's mind!
Stern o'er each bosom reason holds her state, 325
With daring aims irregularly great;
Pride in their port, defiance in their eye,
I see the lords of human kind pass by,
Intent on high designs, a thoughtful band,
By forms unfashion'd, fresh from Nature's hand;
Fierce in their native hardiness of soul, 331
True to imagin'd right, above control,
While e'en the peasant boasts these rights to scan,
And learns to venerate himself as man.
Thine, Freedom, thine the blessings pictur'd here,
Thine are those charms that dazzle and endear; 336
Too bless'd, indeed, were such without alloy,
But foster'd e'en by Freedom, ills annoy:
That independence Britons prize too high,
Keeps man from man, and breaks the social tie;
The self-dependent lordlings stand alone, 341
All claims that bind and sweeten life unknown;
Here by the bonds of nature feebly held,
Minds combat minds, repelling and repell'd.
Ferments arise, imprison'd factions roar, 345
Repress'd ambition struggles round her shore,
Till over-wrought, the general system feels
Its motions stop, or frenzy fire the wheels.
Nor this the worst. As nature's ties decay,
As duty, love, and honour fail to sway, 350
Fictitious bonds, the bonds of wealth and law,
Still gather strength, and force unwilling awe.
Hence all obedience bows to these alone,
And talent sinks, and merit weeps unknown;
Time may come, when stripp'd of all her charms,
The land of scholars, and the nurse of arms, 356
Where noble stems transmit the patriot flame,
Where kings have toil'd, and poets wrote for fame,
One sink of level avarice shall lie,
And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonour'd die. 360
Yet think not, thus when Freedom's ills I state,
I mean to flatter kings, or court the great;
Ye powers of truth, that bid my soul aspire,
Far from my bosom drive the low desire;
And thou, fair Freedom, taught alike to feel 365
The rabble's rage, and tyrant's angry steel;
Thou transitory flower, alike undone
By proud contempt, or favour's fostering sun,
Still may thy blooms the changeful clime endure,
I only would repress them to secure: 370
For just experience tells, in every soil,
That those who think must govern those that toil;
And all that freedom's highest aims can reach,
Is but to lay proportion'd loads on each.
Hence, should one order disproportion'd grow, 375
Its double weight must ruin all below.
O then how blind to all that truth requires,
Who think it freedom when a part aspires!
Calm is my soul, nor apt to rise in arms,
Except when fast-approaching danger warms: 380
But when contending chiefs blockade the throne,
Contracting regal power to stretch their own;
When I behold a factious band agree
To call it freedom when themselves are free;
Each wanton judge new penal statutes draw, 385
Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law;
The wealth of climes, where savage nations roam,
Pillag'd from slaves to purchase slaves at home;
Fear, pity, justice, indignation start,
Tear off reserve, and bare my swelling heart; 390
Till half a patriot, half a coward grown,
I fly from petty tyrants to the throne.
Yes, brother, curse with me that baleful hour,
When first ambition struck at regal power;
And thus polluting honour in its source, 395
Gave wealth to sway the mind with double force.
Have we not seen, round Britain's peopled shore,
Her useful sons exchang'd for useless ore?
Seen all her triumphs but destruction haste,
Like flaring tapers bright'ning as they waste; 400
Seen opulence, her grandeur to maintain,
Lead stern depopulation in her train,
And over fields where scatter'd hamlets rose,
In barren solitary pomp repose?
Have we not seen, at pleasure's lordly call, 405
The smiling long-frequented village fall?
Beheld the duteous son, the sire decay'd,
The modest matron, and the blushing maid,
Forc'd from their homes, a melancholy train,
To traverse climes beyond the western main; 410
Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around,
And Niagara stuns with thund'ring sound?
E'en now, perhaps as there some pilgrim strays
Through tangled forests, and through dangerous ways;
Where beasts with man divided empire claim, 415
And the brown Indian marks with murd'rous aim;
There, while above the giddy tempest flies,
And all around distressful yells arise,
The pensive exile, bending with his woe,
To stop too fearful, and too faint to go, 420
Casts a long look where England's glories shine,
And bids his bosom sympathise with mine.
Vain, very vain, my weary search to find
That bliss which only centres in the mind:
Why have I stray'd from pleasure and repose, 425
To seek a good each government bestows?
In every government, though terrors reign,
Though tyrant kings, or tyrant laws restrain,
How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.
Still to ourselves in every place consign'd, 431
Our own felicity we make or find:
With secret course, which no loud storms annoy,
Glides the smooth current of domestic joy.
The lifted axe, the agonising wheel, 435
Luke's iron crown, and Damiens' bed of steel,
To men remote from power but rarely known,
Leave reason, faith, and conscience all our own.
THE DESERTED VILLAGE
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS
I can have no expectations in an address of this kind, either to add to
your reputation, or to establish my own. You can gain nothing from my
admiration, as I am ignorant of that art in which you are said to excel;
and I may lose much by the severity of your judgment, as few have a
juster taste in poetry than you. Setting interest therefore aside, to
which I never paid much attention, I must be indulged at present in
following my affections. The only dedication I ever made was to my
brother, because I loved him better than most other men. He is since
dead. Permit me to inscribe this Poem to you.
How far you may be pleased with the versification and mere mechanical
parts of this attempt, I don't pretend to enquire; but I know you will
object (and indeed several of our best and wisest friends concur in the
opinion) that the depopulation it deplores is no where to be seen, and
the disorders it laments are only to be found in the poet's own
imagination. To this I can scarce make any other answer than that I
sincerely believe what I have written; that I have taken all possible
pains, in my country excursions, for these four or five years past, to
be certain of what I allege; and that all my views and enquiries have
led me to believe those miseries real, which I here attempt to display.
But this is not the place to enter into an enquiry, whether the country
be depopulating or not; the discussion would take up much room, and I
should prove myself, at best, an indifferent politician, to tire the
reader with a long preface, when I want his unfatigued attention to a
In regretting the depopulation of the country, I inveigh against the
increase of our luxuries; and here also I expect the shout of modern
politicians against me. For twenty or thirty years past, it has been the
fashion to consider luxury as one of the greatest national advantages;
and all the wisdom of antiquity in that particular, as erroneous. Still
however, I must remain a professed ancient on that head, and continue to
think those luxuries prejudicial to states, by which so many vices are
introduced, and so many kingdoms have been undone. Indeed so much has
been poured out of late on the other side of the question, that, merely
for the sake of novelty and variety, one would sometimes wish to be in
I am, Dear Sir,
Your sincere friend, and ardent admirer,
THE DESERTED VILLAGE
SWEET AUBURN! loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheer'd the labouring swain,
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting summer's lingering blooms delay'd:
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease, 5
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,
How often have I loiter'd o'er thy green,
Where humble happiness endear'd each scene;
How often have I paus'd on every charm,
The shelter'd cot, the cultivated farm, 10
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church that topp'd the neighbouring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age and whisp'ring lovers made;
How often have I bless'd the coming day, 15
When toil remitting lent its turn to play,
And all the village train, from labour free,
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree;
While many a pastime circled in the shade,
The young contending as the old survey'd; 20
And many a gambol frolick'd o'er the ground,
And sleights of art and feats of strength went round;
And still as each repeated pleasure tir'd,
Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspir'd;
The dancing pair that simply sought renown, 25
By holding out to tire each other down;
The swain mistrustless of his smutted face,
While secret laughter titter'd round the place;
The bashful virgin's side-long looks of love, 29
The matron's glance that would those looks reprove:
These were thy charms, sweet village; sports like these,
With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please;
These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed,
These were thy charms--But all these charms are fled.
Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn, 35
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen,
And desolation saddens all thy green:
One only master grasps the whole domain,
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain: 40
No more thy glassy brook reflects the day,
But chok'd with sedges, works its weedy way.
Along thy glades, a solitary guest,
The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest;
Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies, 45
And tires their echoes with unvaried cries.
Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all,
And the long grass o'ertops the mould'ring wall;
And trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand,
Far, far away, thy children leave the land. 50
Ill fares the land, to hast'ning ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made;
But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
When once destroy'd, can never be supplied.
A time there was, ere England's griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintain'd its man;
For him light labour spread her wholesome store,
Just gave what life requir'd, but gave no more: 60
His best companions, innocence and health;
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
But times are alter'd; trade's unfeeling train
Usurp the land and dispossess the swain;
Along the lawn, where scatter'd hamlets rose, 65
Unwieldy wealth, and cumbrous pomp repose;
And every want to opulence allied,
And every pang that folly pays to pride.
Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom,
Those calm desires that ask'd but little room, 70
Those healthful sports that grac'd the peaceful scene,
Liv'd in each look, and brighten'd all the green;
These, far departing, seek a kinder shore,
And rural mirth and manners are no more.
Sweet AUBURN! parent of the blissful hour, 75
Thy glades forlorn confess the tyrant's power.
Here as I take my solitary rounds,
Amidst thy tangling walks, and ruin'd grounds,
And, many a year elaps'd, return to view
Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew,
Remembrance wakes with all her busy train, 81
Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain.
In all my wand'rings round this world of care,
In all my griefs--and GOD has given my share--
I still had hopes my latest hours to crown, 85
Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down;
To husband out life's taper at the close,
And keep the flame from wasting by repose.
I still had hopes, for pride attends us still,
Amidst the swains to show my book-learn'd skill, 90
Around my fire an evening group to draw,
And tell of all I felt, and all I saw;
And, as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
Pants to the place from whence at first she flew,
I still had hopes, my long vexations pass'd, 95
Here to return--and die at home at last.
O blest retirement, friend to life's decline,
Retreats from care, that never must be mine,
How happy he who crowns in shades like these,
A youth of labour with an age of ease; 100
Who quits a world where strong temptations try
And, since 'tis hard to combat, learns to fly!
For him no wretches, born to work and weep,
Explore the mine, or tempt the dangerous deep;
No surly porter stands in guilty state 105
To spurn imploring famine from the gate;
But on he moves to meet his latter end,
Angels around befriending Virtue's friend;
Bends to the grave with unperceiv'd decay,
While Resignation gently slopes the way; 110
And, all his prospects bright'ning to the last,
His Heaven commences ere the world be pass'd!
Sweet was the sound, when oft at evening's close
Up yonder hill the village murmur rose;
There, as I pass'd with careless steps and slow, 115
The mingling notes came soften'd from below;
The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung,
The sober herd that low'd to meet their young;
The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool,
The playful children just let loose from school; 120
The watchdog's voice that bay'd the whisp'ring wind,
And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind;
These all in sweet confusion sought the shade,
And fill'd each pause the nightingale had made.
But now the sounds of population fail, 125
No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale,
No busy steps the grass-grown foot-way tread,
For all the bloomy flush of life is fled.
All but yon widow'd, solitary thing
That feebly bends beside the plashy spring; 130
She, wretched matron, forc'd in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
To pick her wintry faggot from the thorn,
To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn;
She only left of all the harmless train, 135
The sad historian of the pensive plain.
Near yonder copse, where once the garden smil'd,
And still where many a garden flower grows wild;
There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose,
The village preacher's modest mansion rose. 140
A man he was to all the country dear,
And passing rich with forty pounds a year;
Remote from towns he ran his godly race,
Nor e'er had chang'd, nor wished to change his place;
Unpractis'd he to fawn, or seek for power, 145
By doctrines fashion'd to the varying hour;
Far other aims his heart had learned to prize,
More skill'd to raise the wretched than to rise.
His house was known to all the vagrant train,
He chid their wand'rings, but reliev'd their pain;
The long-remember'd beggar was his guest, 151
Whose beard descending swept his aged breast;
The ruin'd spendthrift, now no longer proud,
Claim'd kindred there, and had his claims allow'd;
The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay, 155
Sat by his fire, and talk'd the night away;
Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done,
Shoulder'd his crutch, and show'd how fields were won.
Pleas'd with his guests, the good man learn'd to glow,
And quite forgot their vices in their woe; 160
Careless their merits, or their faults to scan,
His pity gave ere charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And e'en his failings lean'd to Virtue's side;
But in his duty prompt at every call, 165
He watch'd and wept, he pray'd and felt, for all.
And, as a bird each fond endearment tries
To tempt its new-fledg'd offspring to the skies,
He tried each art, reprov'd each dull delay,
Allur'd to brighter worlds, and led the way. 170
Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismay'd,
The reverend champion stood. At his control,
Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul;
Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise,
And his last falt'ring accents whisper'd praise. 176
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. 180
The service pass'd, 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, 185
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.
As some tall cliff, that lifts its awful form, 189
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
With blossom'd furze unprofitably gay,