Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay [Encyclopaedia Britannica, Poems, etc.]

Part 1 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

This etext was prepared by Dr Mike Alder and Sue Asscher
from the book made available by Dr Mike Alder.










Francis Atterbury. (December 1853)

John Bunyan. (May 1854)

Oliver Goldsmith. (February 1856)

Samuel Johnson. (December 1856)

William Pitt. (January 1859)


Epitaph on Henry Martyn. (1812)

Lines to the Memory of Pitt. (1813)

A Radical War Song. (1820)

The Battle of Moncontour. (1824)

The Battle of Naseby, by Obadiah Bind-their-kings-in-chains-and-
their-nobles-with-links-of-iron, Serjeant in Ireton's Regiment.

Sermon in a Churchyard. (1825)

Translation of a Poem by Arnault. (1826)

Dies Irae. (1826)

The Marriage of Tirzah and Ahirad. (1827)

The Country Clergyman's Trip to Cambridge. An Election Ballad.

Song. (1827)

Political Georgics. (March 1828)

The Deliverance of Vienna. (1828)

The Last Buccaneer. (1839)

Epitaph on a Jacobite. (1845)

Lines Written in August, 1847.

Translation from Plautus. (1850)

Paraphrase of a Passage in the Chronicle of the Monk of St Gall.

Inscription on the Statue of Lord Wm. Bentinck, at Calcutta.

Epitaph on Sir Benjamin Heath Malkin, at Calcutta. (1837)

Epitaph on Lord Metcalfe. (1847)


(December 1853.)

Francis Atterbury, a man who holds a conspicuous place in the
political, ecclesiastical, and literary history of England, was
born in the year 1662, at Middleton in Buckinghamshire, a parish
of which his father was rector. Francis was educated at
Westminster School, and carried thence to Christchurch a stock of
learning which, though really scanty, he through life exhibited
with such judicious ostentation that superficial observers
believed his attainments to be immense. At Oxford, his parts,
his taste, and his bold, contemptuous, and imperious spirit, soon
made him conspicuous. Here he published at twenty, his first
work, a translation of the noble poem of Absalom and Achitophel
into Latin verse. Neither the style nor the versification of the
young scholar was that of the Augustan age. In English
composition he succeeded much better. In 1687 he distinguished
himself among many able men who wrote in defence of the Church of
England, then persecuted by James II., and calumniated by
apostates who had for lucre quitted her communion. Among these
apostates none was more active or malignant than Obadiah Walker,
who was master of University College, and who had set up there,
under the royal patronage, a press for printing tracts against
the established religion. In one of these tracts, written
apparently by Walker himself, many aspersions were thrown on
Martin Luther. Atterbury undertook to defend the great Saxon
Reformer, and performed that task in a manner singularly
characteristic. Whoever examines his reply to Walker will be
struck by the contrast between the feebleness of those parts
which are argumentative and defensive, and the vigour of those
parts which are rhetorical and aggressive. The Papists were so
much galled by the sarcasms and invectives of the young polemic
that they raised a cry of treason, and accused him of having, by
implication, called King James a Judas.

After the Revolution, Atterbury, though bred in the doctrines of
non-resistance and passive obedience, readily swore fealty to the
new government. In no long time he took holy orders. He
occasionally preached in London with an eloquence which raised
his reputation, and soon had the honour of being appointed one of
the royal chaplains. But he ordinarily resided at Oxford, where
he took an active part in academical business, directed the
classical studies of the undergraduates of his college, and was
the chief adviser and assistant of Dean Aldrich, a divine now
chiefly remembered by his catches, but renowned among his
contemporaries as a scholar, a Tory, and a high-churchman. It
was the practice, not a very judicious practice, of Aldrich to
employ the most promising youths of his college in editing Greek
and Latin books. Among the studious and well-disposed lads who
were, unfortunately for themselves, induced to become teachers of
philology when they should have been content to be learners, was
Charles Boyle, son of the Earl of Orrery, and nephew of Robert
Boyle, the great experimental philosopher. The task assigned to
Charles Boyle was to prepare a new edition of one of the most
worthless books in existence. It was a fashion, among those
Greeks and Romans who cultivated rhetoric as an art, to compose
epistles and harangues in the names of eminent men. Some of
these counterfeits are fabricated with such exquisite taste and
skill that it is the highest achievement of criticism to
distinguish them from originals. Others are so feebly and rudely
executed that they can hardly impose on an intelligent schoolboy.
The best specimen which has come down to us is perhaps the
oration for Marcellus, such an imitation of Tully's eloquence as
Tully would himself have read with wonder and delight. The worst
specimen is perhaps a collection of letters purporting to have
been written by that Phalaris who governed Agrigentum more than
500 years before the Christian era. The evidence, both internal
and external, against the genuineness of these letters is
overwhelming. When, in the fifteenth century, they emerged, in
company with much that was far more valuable, from their
obscurity, they were pronounced spurious by Politian, the
greatest scholar of Italy, and by Erasmus, the greatest scholar
on our side of the Alps. In truth, it would be as easy to
persuade an educated Englishman that one of Johnson's Ramblers
was the work of William Wallace as to persuade a man like Erasmus
that a pedantic exercise, composed in the trim and artificial
Attic of the time of Julian, was a despatch written by a crafty
and ferocious Dorian, who roasted people alive many years before
there existed a volume of prose in the Greek language. But,
though Christchurch could boast of many good Latinists, of many
good English writers, and of a greater number of clever and
fashionable men of the world than belonged to any other academic
body, there was not then in the college a single man capable of
distinguishing between the infancy and the dotage of Greek
literature. So superficial indeed was the learning of the rulers
of this celebrated society that they were charmed by an essay
which Sir William Temple published in praise of the ancient
writers. It now seems strange that even the eminent public
services, the deserved popularity, and the graceful style of
Temple should have saved so silly a performance from universal
contempt. Of the books which he most vehemently eulogised his
eulogies proved that he knew nothing. In fact, he could not read
a line of the language in which they were written. Among many
other foolish things, he said that the letters of Phalaris were
the oldest letters and also the best in the world. Whatever
Temple wrote attracted notice. People who had never heard of the
Epistles of Phalaris began to inquire about them. Aldrich, who
knew very little Greek, took the word of Temple who knew none,
and desired Boyle to prepare a new edition of these admirable
compositions which, having long slept in obscurity, had become on
a sudden objects of general interest.

The edition was prepared with the help of Atterbury, who was
Boyle's tutor, and of some other members of the college. It was
an edition such as might be expected from people who would stoop
to edite such a book. The notes were worthy of the text; the
Latin version worthy of the Greek original. The volume would
have been forgotten in a month, had not a misunderstanding about
a manuscript arisen between the young editor and the greatest
scholar that had appeared in Europe since the revival of letters,
Richard Bentley. The manuscript was in Bentley's keeping. Boyle
wished it to be collated. A mischief-making bookseller informed
him that Bentley had refused to lend it, which was false, and
also that Bentley had spoken contemptuously of the letters
attributed to Phalaris, and of the critics who were taken in by
such counterfeits, which was perfectly true. Boyle, much
provoked, paid, in his preface, a bitterly ironical compliment to
Bentley's courtesy. Bentley revenged himself by a short
dissertation, in which he proved that the epistles were spurious,
and the new edition of them worthless: but he treated Boyle
personally with civility as a young gentleman of great hopes,
whose love of learning was highly commendable, and who deserved
to have had better instructors.

Few things in literary history are more extraordinary than the
storm which this little dissertation raised. Bentley had treated
Boyle with forbearance; but he had treated Christchurch with
contempt; and the Christchurch-men, wherever dispersed, were as
much attached to their college as a Scotchman to his country, or
a Jesuit to his order. Their influence was great. They were
dominant at Oxford, powerful in the Inns of Court and in the
College of Physicians, conspicuous in Parliament and in the
literary and fashionable circles of London. Their unanimous cry
was, that the honour of the college must be vindicated, that the
insolent Cambridge pedant must be put down. Poor Boyle was
unequal to the task, and disinclined to it. It was, therefore,
assigned to his tutor, Atterbury.

The answer to Bentley, which bears the name of Boyle, but which
was, in truth, no more the work of Boyle than the letters to
which the controversy related were the work of Phalaris, is now
read only by the curious, and will in all probability never be
reprinted again. But it had its day of noisy popularity. It was
to be found, not only in the studies of men of letters, but on
the tables of the most brilliant drawing-rooms of Soho Square and
Covent Garden. Even the beaus and coquettes of that age, the
Wildairs and the Lady Lurewells, the Mirabells and the
Millaments, congratulated each other on the way in which the gay
young gentleman, whose erudition sate so easily upon him, and who
wrote with so much pleasantry and good breeding about the Attic
dialect and the anapaestic measure, Sicilian talents and
Thericlean cups, had bantered the queer prig of a doctor. Nor
was the applause of the multitude undeserved. The book is,
indeed, Atterbury's masterpiece, and gives a higher notion of his
powers than any of those works to which he put his name. That he
was altogether in the wrong on the main question, and on all the
collateral questions springing out of it, that his knowledge of
the language, the literature, and the history of Greece was not
equal to what many freshmen now bring up every year to Cambridge
and Oxford, and that some of his blunders seem rather to deserve
a flogging than a refutation, is true; and therefore it is that
his performance is, in the highest degree, interesting and
valuable to a judicious reader. It is good by reason of its
exceeding badness. It is the most extraordinary instance that
exists of the art of making much show with little substance.
There is no difficulty, says the steward of Moliere's miser, in
giving a fine dinner with plenty of money: the really great cook
is he who can set out a banquet with no money at all. That
Bentley should have written excellently on ancient chronology and
geography, on the development of the Greek language, and the
origin of the Greek drama, is not strange. But that Atterbury
should, during some years, have been thought to have treated
these subjects much better than Bentley is strange indeed. It is
true that the champion of Christchurch had all the help which the
most celebrated members of that society could give him.
Smalridge contributed some very good wit; Friend and others some
very bad archaeology and philology. But the greater part of the
volume was entirely Atterbury's: what was not his own was
revised and retouched by him: and the whole bears the mark of
his mind, a mind inexhaustibly rich in all the resources of
controversy, and familiar with all the artifices which make
falsehood look like truth, and ignorance like knowledge. He had
little gold; but he beat that little out to the very thinnest
leaf, and spread it over so vast a surface that to those who
judged by a glance, and who did not resort to balances and tests,
the glittering heap of worthless matter which he produced seemed
to be an inestimable treasure of massy bullion. Such arguments
as he had he placed in the clearest light. Where he had no
arguments, he resorted to personalities, sometimes serious,
generally ludicrous, always clever and cutting. But, whether he
was grave or merry, whether he reasoned or sneered, his style was
always pure, polished, and easy.

Party spirit then ran high; yet, though Bentley ranked among
Whigs, and Christchurch was a stronghold of Toryism, Whigs joined
with Tories in applauding Atterbury's volume. Garth insulted
Bentley, and extolled Boyle in lines which are now never quoted
except to be laughed at. Swift, in his "Battle of the Books,"
introduced with much pleasantry Boyle, clad in armour, the gift
of all the gods, and directed by Apollo in the form of a human
friend, for whose name a blank is left which may easily be filled
up. The youth, so accoutred, and so assisted, gains an easy
victory over his uncourteous and boastful antagonist. Bentley,
meanwhile, was supported by the consciousness of an immeasurable
superiority, and encouraged by the voices of the few who were
really competent to judge the combat. "No man," he said, justly
and nobly, "was ever written down but by himself." He spent two
years in preparing a reply, which will never cease to be read and
prized while the literature of ancient Greece is studied in any
part of the world. This reply proved, not only that the letters
ascribed to Phalaris were spurious, but that Atterbury, with all
his wit, his eloquence, his skill in controversial fence, was the
most audacious pretender that ever wrote about what he did not
understand. But to Atterbury this exposure was matter of
indifference. He was now engaged in a dispute about matters far
more important and exciting than the laws of Zaleucus and the
laws of Charondas. The rage of religious factions was extreme.
High church and Low church divided the nation. The great
majority of the clergy were on the high-church side; the majority
of King William's bishops were inclined to latitudinarianism. A
dispute arose between the two parties touching the extent of the
powers of the Lower House of Convocation. Atterbury thrust
himself eagerly into the front rank of the high-churchmen. Those
who take a comprehensive and impartial view of his whole career
will not be disposed to give him credit for religious zeal. But
it was his nature to be vehement and pugnacious in the cause of
every fraternity of which he was a member. He had defended the
genuineness of a spurious book simply because Christchurch had
put forth an edition of that book; he now stood up for the clergy
against the civil power, simply because he was a clergyman, and
for the priests against the episcopal order, simply because he
was as yet only a priest. He asserted the pretensions of the
class to which he belonged in several treatises written with much
wit, ingenuity, audacity, and acrimony. In this, as in his first
controversy, he was opposed to antagonists whose knowledge of the
subject in dispute was far superior to his; but in this, as in
his first controversy, he imposed on the multitude by bold
assertion, by sarcasm, by declamation, and, above all, by his
peculiar knack of exhibiting a little erudition in such a manner
as to make it look like a great deal. Having passed himself off
on the world as a greater master of classical learning than
Bentley, he now passed himself off as a greater master of
ecclesiastical learning than Wake or Gibson. By the great body
of the clergy he was regarded as the ablest and most intrepid
tribune that had ever defended their rights against the oligarchy
of prelates. The lower House of Convocation voted him thanks for
his services; the University of Oxford created him a doctor of
divinity; and soon after the accession of Anne, while the Tories
still had the chief weight in the government, he was promoted to
the deanery of Carlisle.

Soon after he had obtained this preferment, the Whig party rose
to ascendency in the state. From that party he could expect no
favour. Six years elapsed before a change of fortune took place.
At length, in the year 1710, the prosecution of Sacheverell
produced a formidable explosion of high-church fanaticism. At
such a moment Atterbury could not fail to be conspicuous. His
inordinate zeal for the body to which he belonged, his turbulent
and aspiring temper, his rare talents for agitation and for
controversy, were again signally displayed. He bore a chief part
in framing that artful and eloquent speech which the accused
divine pronounced at the bar of the Lords, and which presents a
singular contrast to the absurd and scurrilous sermon which had
very unwisely been honoured with impeachment. During the
troubled and anxious months which followed the trial, Atterbury
was among the most active of those pamphleteers who inflamed the
nation against the Whig ministry and the Whig parliament. When
the ministry had been changed and the parliament dissolved,
rewards were showered upon him. The Lower House of Convocation
elected him prolocutor. The Queen appointed him Dean of
Christchurch on the death of his old friend and patron Aldrich.
The college would have preferred a gentler ruler. Nevertheless,
the new head was received with every mark of honour. A
congratulatory oration in Latin was addressed to him in the
magnificent vestibule of the hall; and he in reply professed the
warmest attachment to the venerable house in which he had been
educated, and paid many gracious compliments to those over whom
he was to preside. But it was not in his nature to be a mild or
an equitable governor. He had left the chapter of Carlisle
distracted by quarrels. He found Christchurch at peace; but in
three months his despotic and contentious temper did at
Christchurch what it had done at Carlisle. He was succeeded in
both his deaneries by the humane and accomplished Smalridge, who
gently complained of the state in which both had been left.
"Atterbury goes before, and sets everything on fire. I come
after him with a bucket of water." It was said by Atterbury's
enemies that he was made a bishop because he was so bad a dean.
Under his administration Christchurch was in confusion,
scandalous altercations took place, opprobrious words were
exchanged; and there was reason to fear that the great Tory
college would be ruined by the tyranny of the great Tory doctor.
He was soon removed to the bishopric of Rochester, which was then
always united with the deanery of Westminster. Still higher
dignities seemed to be before him. For, though there were many
able men on the episcopal bench, there was none who equalled or
approached him in parliamentary talents. Had his party continued
in power, it is not improbable that he would have been raised to
the archbishopric of Canterbury. The more splendid his
prospects, the more reason he had to dread the accession of a
family which was well-known to be partial to the Whigs. There is
every reason to believe that he was one of those politicians who
hoped that they might be able, during the life of Anne, to
prepare matters in such a way that at her decease there might be
little difficulty in setting aside the Act of Settlement and
placing the Pretender on the throne. Her sudden death confounded
the projects of these conspirators. Atterbury, who wanted no
kind of courage, implored his confederates to proclaim James
III., and offered to accompany the heralds in lawn sleeves. But
he found even the bravest soldiers of his party irresolute, and
exclaimed, not, it is said, without interjections which ill
became the mouth of a father of the church, that the best of all
causes and the most precious of all moments had been
pusillanimously thrown away. He acquiesced in what he could not
prevent, took the oaths to the House of Hanover, and at the
coronation officiated with the outward show of zeal, and did his
best to ingratiate himself with the royal family. But his
servility was requited with cold contempt. No creature is so
revengeful as a proud man who has humbled himself in vain.
Atterbury became the most factious and pertinacious of all the
opponents of the government. In the House of Lords his oratory,
lucid, pointed, lively, and set off with every grace of
pronunciation and of gesture, extorted the attention and
admiration even of a hostile majority. Some of the most
remarkable protests which appear in the journals of the peers
were drawn up by him; and in some of the bitterest of those
pamphlets which called on the English to stand up for their
country against the aliens who had come from beyond the seas to
oppress and plunder her, critics easily detected his style. When
the rebellion of 1715 broke out, he refused to sign the paper in
which the bishops of the province of Canterbury declared their
attachment to the Protestant succession. He busied himself in
electioneering, especially at Westminster, where, as dean, he
possessed great influence; and was, indeed, strongly suspected of
having once set on a riotous mob to prevent his Whig fellow-
citizens from polling.

After having been long in indirect communication with the exiled
family, he, in 1717, began to correspond directly with the
Pretender. The first letter of the correspondence is extant. In
that letter Atterbury boasts of having, during many years past,
neglected no opportunity of serving the Jacobite cause. "My
daily prayer," he says, "is that you may have success. May I
live to see that day, and live no longer than I do what is in my
power to forward it." It is to be remembered that he who wrote
thus was a man bound to set to the church of which he was
overseer an example of strict probity; that he had repeatedly
sworn allegiance to the House of Brunswick; that he had assisted
in placing the crown on the head of George I., and that he had
abjured James III., "without equivocation or mental reservation,
on the true faith of a Christian."

It is agreeable to turn from his public to his private life. His
turbulent spirit, wearied with faction and treason, now and then
required repose, and found it in domestic endearments, and in the
society of the most illustrious of the living and of the dead.
Of his wife little is known: but between him and his daughter
there was an affection singularly close and tender. The
gentleness of his manners when he was in the company of a few
friends was such as seemed hardly credible to those who knew him
only by his writings and speeches. The charm of his "softer
hour" has been commemorated by one of those friends in
imperishable verse. Though Atterbury's classical attainments
were not great, his taste in English literature was excellent;
and his admiration of genius was so strong that it overpowered
even his political and religious antipathies. His fondness for
Milton, the mortal enemy of the Stuarts and of the church, was
such as to many Tories seemed a crime. On the sad night on which
Addison was laid in the chapel of Henry VII., the Westminster
boys remarked that Atterbury read the funeral service with a
peculiar tenderness and solemnity. The favourite companions,
however, of the great Tory prelate were, as might have been
expected, men whose politics had at least a tinge of Toryism. He
lived on friendly terms with Swift, Arbuthnot, and Gay. With
Prior he had a close intimacy, which some misunderstanding about
public affairs at last dissolved. Pope found in Atterbury, not
only a warm admirer, but a most faithful, fearless, and judicious
adviser. The poet was a frequent guest at the episcopal palace
among the elms of Bromley, and entertained not the slightest
suspicion that his host, now declining in years, confined to an
easy chair by gout, and apparently devoted to literature, was
deeply concerned in criminal and perilous designs against the

The spirit of the Jacobites had been cowed by the events of 1715.
It revived in 1721. The failure of the South Sea project, the
panic in the money market, the downfall of great commercial
houses, the distress from which no part of the kingdom was
exempt, had produced general discontent. It seemed not
improbable that at such a moment an insurrection might be
successful. An insurrection was planned. The streets of London
were to be barricaded; the Tower and the Bank were to be
surprised; King George, his family, and his chief captains and
councillors, were to be arrested; and King James was to be
proclaimed. The design became known to the Duke of Orleans,
regent of France, who was on terms of friendship with the House
of Hanover. He put the English government on its guard. Some of
the chief malecontents were committed to prison; and among them
was Atterbury. No bishop of the Church of England had been taken
into custody since that memorable day when the applauses and
prayers of all London had followed the seven bishops to the gate
of the Tower. The Opposition entertained some hope that it might
be possible to excite among the people an enthusiasm resembling
that of their fathers, who rushed into the waters of the Thames
to implore the blessing of Sancroft. Pictures of the heroic
confessor in his cell were exhibited at the shop windows. Verses
in his praise were sung about the streets. The restraints by
which he was prevented from communicating with his accomplices
were represented as cruelties worthy of the dungeons of the
Inquisition. Strong appeals were made to the priesthood. Would
they tamely permit so gross an insult to be offered to their
cloth? Would they suffer the ablest, the most eloquent member of
their profession, the man who had so often stood up for their
rights against the civil power, to be treated like the vilest of
mankind? There was considerable excitement; but it was allayed
by a temperate and artful letter to the clergy, the work, in all
probability, of Bishop Gibson, who stood high in the favour of
Walpole, and shortly after became minister for ecclesiastical

Atterbury remained in close confinement during some months. He
had carried on his correspondence with the exiled family so
cautiously that the circumstantial proofs of his guilt, though
sufficient to produce entire moral conviction, were not
sufficient to justify legal conviction. He could be reached only
by a bill of pains and penalties. Such a bill the Whig party,
then decidedly predominant in both houses, was quite prepared to
support. Many hot-headed members of that party were eager to
follow the precedent which had been set in the case of Sir John
Fenwick, and to pass an act for cutting off the bishop's head.
Cadogan, who commanded the army, a brave soldier, but a
headstrong politician, is said to have exclaimed with great
vehemence: "Fling him to the lions in the Tower." But the wiser
and more humane Walpole was always unwilling to shed blood; and
his influence prevailed. When Parliament met, the evidence
against the bishop was laid before committees of both houses.
Those committees reported that his guilt was proved. In the
Commons a resolution, pronouncing him a traitor, was carried by
nearly two to one. A bill was then introduced which provided
that he should be deprived of his spiritual dignities, that he
should be banished for life, and that no British subject should
hold any intercourse with him except by the royal permission.

This bill passed the Commons with little difficulty. For the
bishop, though invited to defend himself, chose to reserve his
defence for the assembly of which he was a member. In the Lords
the contest was sharp. The young Duke of Wharton, distinguished
by his parts, his dissoluteness, and his versatility, spoke for
Atterbury with great effect; and Atterbury's own voice was heard
for the last time by that unfriendly audience which had so often
listened to him with mingled aversion and delight. He produced
few witnesses; nor did those witnesses say much that could be of
service to him. Among them was Pope. He was called to prove
that, while he was an inmate of the palace at Bromley, the
bishop's time was completely occupied by literary and domestic
matters, and that no leisure was left for plotting. But Pope,
who was quite unaccustomed to speak in public, lost his head,
and, as he afterwards owned, though he had only ten words to say,
made two or three blunders.

The bill finally passed the Lords by eighty-three votes to forty-
three. The bishops, with a single exception, were in the
majority. Their conduct drew on them a sharp taunt from Lord
Bathurst, a warm friend of Atterbury and a zealous Tory. "The
wild Indians," he said, "give no quarter, because they believe
that they shall inherit the skill and prowess of every adversary
whom they destroy. Perhaps the animosity of the right reverend
prelates to their brother may be explained in the same way."

Atterbury took leave of those whom he loved with a dignity and
tenderness worthy of a better man. Three fine lines of his
favourite poet were often in his mouth:--

"Some natural tears he dropped, but wiped them soon:
The world was all before him, where to chuse
His place of rest, and Providence his guide."

At parting he presented Pope with a Bible, and said, with a
disingenuousness of which no man who had studied the Bible to
much purpose would have been guilty: "If ever you learn that I
have any dealings with the Pretender, I give you leave to say
that my punishment is just." Pope at this time really believed
the bishop to be an injured man. Arbuthnot seems to have been of
the same opinion. Swift, a few months later, ridiculed with
great bitterness, in the "Voyage to Laputa," the evidence which
had satisfied the two Houses of Parliament. Soon, however, the
most partial friends of the banished prelate ceased to assert his
innocence, and contented themselves with lamenting and excusing
what they could not defend. After a short stay at Brussels, he
had taken up his abode at Paris, and had become the leading man
among the Jacobite refugees who were assembled there. He was
invited to Rome by the Pretender, who then held his mock court
under the immediate protection of the Pope. But Atterbury felt
that a bishop of the Church of England would be strangely out of
place at the Vatican, and declined the invitation. During some
months, however, he might flatter himself that he stood high in
the good graces of James. The correspondence between the master
and the servant was constant. Atterbury's merits were warmly
acknowledged; his advice was respectfully received; and he was,
as Bolingbroke had been before him, the prime minister of a king
without a kingdom. But the new favourite found, as Bolingbroke
had found before him, that it was quite as hard to keep the
shadow of power under a vagrant and mendicant prince as to keep
the reality of power at Westminster. Though James had neither
territories nor revenues, neither army nor navy, there was more
faction and more intrigue among his courtiers than among those of
his successful rival. Atterbury soon perceived that his counsels
were disregarded, if not distrusted. His proud spirit was deeply
wounded. He quitted Paris, fixed his residence at Montpellier,
gave up politics, and devoted himself entirely to letters. In
the sixth year of his exile he had so severe an illness that his
daughter, herself in very delicate health, determined to run all
risks that she might see him once more. Having obtained a
licence from the English Government, she went by sea to Bordeaux,
but landed there in such a state that she could travel only by
boat or in a litter. Her father, in spite of his infirmities,
set out from Montpellier to meet her; and she, with the
impatience which is often the sign of approaching death, hastened
towards him. Those who were about her in vain implored her to
travel slowly. She said that every hour was precious, that she
only wished to see her papa and to die. She met him at Toulouse,
embraced him, received from his hand the sacred bread and wine,
and thanked God that they had passed one day in each other's
society before they parted forever. She died that night.

It was some time before even the strong mind of Atterbury
recovered from this cruel blow. As soon as he was himself again
he became eager for action and conflict; for grief, which
disposes gentle natures to retirement, to inaction, and to
meditation, only makes restless spirits more restless. The
Pretender, dull and bigoted as he was, had found out that he had
not acted wisely in parting with one who, though a heretic, was,
in abilities and accomplishments, the foremost man of the
Jacobite party. The bishop was courted back, and was without
much difficulty induced to return to Paris and to become once
more the phantom minister of a phantom monarchy. But his long
and troubled life was drawing to a close. To the last, however,
his intellect retained all its keenness and vigour. He learned,
in the ninth year of his banishment, that he had been accused by
Oldmixon, as dishonest and malignant a scribbler as any that has
been saved from oblivion by the Dunciad, of having, in concert
with other Christchurchmen, garbled Clarendon's History of the
Rebellion. The charge, as respected Atterbury, had not the
slightest foundation: for he was not one of the editors of the
History, and never saw it till it was printed. He published a
short vindication of himself, which is a model in its kind,
luminous, temperate, and dignified. A copy of this little work
he sent to the Pretender, with a letter singularly eloquent and
graceful. It was impossible, the old man said, that he should
write anything on such a subject without being reminded of the
resemblance between his own fate and that of Clarendon. They
were the only two English subjects that had ever been banished
from their country and debarred from all communication with their
friends by act of parliament. But here the resemblance ended.
One of the exiles had been so happy as to bear a chief part in
the restoration of the Royal house. All that the other could now
do was to die asserting the rights of that house to the last. A
few weeks after this letter was written Atterbury died. He had
just completed his seventieth year.

His body was brought to England, and laid, with great privacy,
under the nave of Westminster Abbey. Only three mourners
followed the coffin. No inscription marks the grave. That the
epitaph with which Pope honoured the memory of his friend does
not appear on the walls of the great national cemetery is no
subject of regret: for nothing worse was ever written by Colley

Those who wish for more complete information about Atterbury may
easily collect it from his sermons and his controversial
writings, from the report of the parliamentary proceedings
against him, which will be found in the State Trials, from the
five volumes of his correspondence, edited by Mr Nichols, and
from the first volume of the Stuart papers, edited by Mr Glover.
A very indulgent but a very interesting account of the bishop's
political career will be found in Lord Mahon's valuable History
of England.



(May 1854.)

John Bunyan, the most popular religious writer in the English
language, was born at Elstow, about a mile from Bedford, in the
year 1628. He may be said to have been born a tinker. The
tinkers then formed an hereditary caste, which was held in no
high estimation. They were generally vagrants and pilferers, and
were often confounded with the gipsies, whom in truth they nearly
resembled. Bunyan's father was more respectable than most of the
tribe. He had a fixed residence, and was able to send his son to
a village school where reading and writing were taught.

The years of John's boyhood were those during which the puritan
spirit was in the highest vigour all over England; and nowhere
had that spirit more influence than in Bedfordshire. It is not
wonderful, therefore, that a lad to whom nature had given a
powerful imagination, and sensibility which amounted to a
disease, should have been early haunted by religious terrors.
Before he was ten, his sports were interrupted by fits of remorse
and despair; and his sleep was disturbed by dreams of fiends
trying to fly away with him. As he grew older, his mental
conflicts became still more violent. The strong language in
which he described them has strangely misled all his biographers
except Mr Southey. It has long been an ordinary practice with
pious writers to cite Bunyan as an instance of the supernatural
power of divine grace to rescue the human soul from the lowest
depths of wickedness. He is called in one book the most
notorious of profligates; in another, the brand plucked from the
burning. He is designated in Mr Ivimey's History of the Baptists
as the depraved Bunyan, the wicked tinker of Elstow. Mr Ryland,
a man once of great note among the Dissenters, breaks out into
the following rhapsody:--"No man of common sense and common
integrity can deny that Bunyan was a practical atheist, a
worthless contemptible infidel, a vile rebel to God and goodness,
a common profligate, a soul-despising, a soul-murdering, a soul-
damning, thoughtless wretch as could exist on the face of the
earth. Now be astonished, O heavens, to eternity! and wonder, O
earth and hell! while time endures. Behold this very man become
a miracle of mercy, a mirror of wisdom, goodness, holiness,
truth, and love." But whoever takes the trouble to examine the
evidence will find that the good men who wrote this had been
deceived by a phraseology which, as they had been hearing it and
using it all their lives, they ought to have understood better.
There cannot be a greater mistake than to infer, from the strong
expressions in which a devout man bemoans his exceeding
sinfulness, that he has led a worse life than his neighbours.
Many excellent persons, whose moral character from boyhood to old
age has been free from any stain discernible to their fellow-
creatures, have, in their autobiographies and diaries, applied to
themselves, and doubtless with sincerity, epithets as severe as
could be applied to Titus Oates or Mrs Brownrigg. It is quite
certain that Bunyan was, at eighteen, what, in any but the most
austerely puritanical circles, would have been considered as a
young man of singular gravity and innocence. Indeed, it may be
remarked that he, like many other penitents who, in general
terms, acknowledged themselves to have been the worst of mankind,
fired up and stood vigorously on his defence, whenever any
particular charge was brought against him by others. He
declares, it is true, that he had let loose the reins on the neck
of his lusts, that he had delighted in all transgressions against
the divine law, and that he had been the ringleader of the youth
of Elstow in all manner of vice. But, when those who wished him
ill accused him of licentious amours, he called on God and the
angels to attest his purity. No woman, he said, in heaven,
earth, or hell, could charge him with having ever made any
improper advances to her. Not only had he been strictly faithful
to his wife; but he had even before his marriage, been perfectly
spotless. It does not appear from his own confessions, or from
the railings of his enemies, that he ever was drunk in his life.
One bad habit he contracted, that of using profane language; but
he tells us that a single reproof cured him so effectually that
he never offended again. The worst that can be laid to the
charge of this poor youth, whom it has been the fashion to
represent as the most desperate of reprobates, as a village
Rochester, is that he had a great liking for some diversions,
quite harmless in themselves, but condemned by the rigid
precisians among whom he lived, and for whose opinion he had a
great respect. The four chief sins of which he was guilty were
dancing, ringing the bells of the parish church, playing at
tipcat, and reading the history of Sir Bevis of Southampton. A
rector of the school of Laud would have held such a young man up
to the whole parish as a model. But Bunyan's notions of good and
evil had been learned in a very different school; and he was made
miserable by the conflict between his tastes and his scruples.

When he was about seventeen, the ordinary course of his life was
interrupted by an event which gave a lasting colour to his
thoughts. He enlisted in the parliamentary army, and served
during the decisive campaign of 1645. All that we know of his
military career is that, at the siege of Leicester, one of his
comrades, who had taken his post, was killed by a shot from the
town. Bunyan ever after considered himself as having been saved
from death by the special interference of Providence. It may be
observed that his imagination was strongly impressed by the
glimpse which he had caught of the pomp of war. To the last he
loved to draw his illustrations of sacred things from camps and
fortresses, from guns, drums, trumpets, flags of truce, and
regiments arrayed, each under its own banner. His Greatheart,
his Captain Boanerges, and his Captain Credence, are evidently
portraits, of which the originals were among those martial saints
who fought and expounded in Fairfax's army.

In a few months Bunyan returned home and married. His wife had
some pious relations, and brought him as her only portion some
pious books. And now his mind, excitable by nature, very
imperfectly disciplined by education, and exposed, without any
protection, to the infectious virulence of the enthusiasm which
was then epidemic in England, began to be fearfully disordered.
In outward things he soon became a strict Pharisee. He was
constant in attendance at prayers and sermons. His favourite
amusements were one after another relinquished, though not
without many painful struggles. In the middle of a game at
tipcat he paused, and stood staring wildly upwards with his stick
in his hand. He had heard a voice asking him whether he would
leave his sins and go to heaven, or keep his sins and go to hell;
and he had seen an awful countenance frowning on him from the
sky. The odious vice of bellringing he renounced; but he still
for a time ventured to go to the church tower and look on while
others pulled the ropes. But soon the thought struck him that,
if he persisted in such wickedness, the steeple would fall on his
head; and he fled in terror from the accursed place. To give up
dancing on the village green was still harder; and some months
elapsed before he had the fortitude to part with this darling
sin. When this last sacrifice had been made, he was, even when
tried by the maxims of that austere time, faultless. All Elstow
talked of him as an eminently pious youth. But his own mind was
more unquiet than ever. Having nothing more to do in the way of
visible reformation, yet finding in religion no pleasures to
supply the place of the juvenile amusements which he had
relinquished, he began to apprehend that he lay under some
special malediction; and he was tormented by a succession of
fantasies which seemed likely to drive him to suicide or to

At one time he took it into his head that all persons of
Israelite blood would be saved, and tried to make out that he
partook of that blood; but his hopes were speedily destroyed by
his father, who seems to have had no ambition to be regarded as a

At another time Bunyan was disturbed by a strange dilemma: "If I
have not faith, I am lost; if I have faith, I can work miracles."
He was tempted to cry to the puddles between Elstow and Bedford,
"Be ye dry," and to stake his eternal hopes on the event.

Then he took up a notion that the day of grace for Bedford and
the neighbouring villages was past: that all who were to be
saved in that part of England were already converted; and that he
had begun to pray and strive some months too late.

Then he was harassed by doubts whether the Turks were not in the
right, and the Christians in the wrong. Then he was troubled by
a maniacal impulse which prompted him to pray to the trees, to a
broom-stick, to the parish bull. As yet, however, he was only
entering the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Soon the darkness
grew thicker. Hideous forms floated before him. Sounds of
cursing and wailing were in his ears. His way ran through stench
and fire, close to the mouth of the bottomless pit. He began to
be haunted by a strange curiosity about the unpardonable sin, and
by a morbid longing to commit it. But the most frightful of all
the forms which his disease took was a propensity to utter
blasphemy, and especially to renounce his share in the benefits
of the redemption. Night and day, in bed, at table, at work,
evil spirits, as he imagined, were repeating close to his ear the
words, "Sell him, sell him." He struck at the hobgoblins; he
pushed them from him; but still they were ever at his side. He
cried out in answer to them, hour after hour: "Never, never; not
for thousands of worlds, not for thousands." At length, worn out
by this long agony, he suffered the fatal words to escape him,
"Let him go, if he will." Then his misery became more fearful
than ever. He had done what could not be forgiven. He had
forfeited his part of the great sacrifice. Like Esau, he had
sold his birthright; and there was no longer any place for
repentance. "None," he afterwards wrote, "knows the terrors of
those days but myself." He has described his sufferings with
singular energy, simplicity, and pathos. He envied the brutes;
he envied the very stones in the street, and the tiles on the
houses. The sun seemed to withhold its light and warmth from
him. His body, though cast in a sturdy mould, and though still
in the highest vigour of youth, trembled whole days together with
the fear of death and judgment. He fancied that this trembling
was the sign set on the worst reprobates, the sign which God had
put on Cain. The unhappy man's emotion destroyed his power of
digestion. He had such pains that he expected to burst asunder
like Judas, whom he regarded as his prototype.

Neither the books which Bunyan read, nor the advisers whom he
consulted, were likely to do much good in a case like his. His
small library had received a most unseasonable addition, the
account of the lamentable end of Francis Spira. One ancient man
of high repute for piety, whom the sufferer consulted, gave an
opinion which might well have produced fatal consequences. "I am
afraid," said Bunyan, "that I have committed the sin against the
Holy Ghost." "Indeed," said the old fanatic, "I am afraid that
you have."

At length the clouds broke; the light became clearer and clearer;
and the enthusiast, who had imagined that he was branded with the
mark of the first murderer, and destined to the end of the arch
traitor, enjoyed peace and a cheerful confidence in the mercy of
God. Years elapsed, however, before his nerves, which had been
so perilously overstrained, recovered their tone. When he had
joined a Baptist society at Bedford, and was for the first time
admitted to partake of the Eucharist, it was with difficulty that
he could refrain from imprecating destruction on his brethren
while the cup was passing from hand to hand. After he had been
some time a member of the congregation, he began to preach; and
his sermons produced a powerful effect. He was indeed
illiterate; but he spoke to illiterate men. The severe training
through which he had passed had given him such an experimental
knowledge of all the modes of religious melancholy as he could
never have gathered from books; and his vigorous genius, animated
by a fervent spirit of devotion, enabled him, not only to
exercise a great influence over the vulgar, but even to extort
the half contemptuous admiration of scholars. Yet it was long
before he ceased to be tormented by an impulse which urged him to
utter words of horrible impiety in the pulpit.

Counter-irritants are of as great use in moral as in physical
diseases. It should seem that Bunyan was finally relieved from
the internal sufferings which had embittered his life by sharp
persecution from without. He had been five years a preacher,
when the Restoration put it in the power of the Cavalier
gentlemen and clergymen all over the country to oppress the
Dissenters; and of all the Dissenters whose history is known to
us, he was perhaps the most hardly treated. In November 1660, he
was flung into Bedford gaol; and there he remained, with some
intervals of partial and precarious liberty, during twelve years.
His persecutors tried to extort from him a promise that he would
abstain from preaching; but he was convinced that he was divinely
set apart and commissioned to be a teacher of righteousness; and
he was fully determined to obey God rather than man. He was
brought before several tribunals, laughed at, caressed, reviled,
menaced, but in vain. He was facetiously told that he was quite
right in thinking that he ought not to hide his gift; but that
his real gift was skill in repairing old kettles. He was
compared to Alexander the coppersmith. He was told that, if he
would give up preaching, he should be instantly liberated. He
was warned that, if he persisted in disobeying the law, he would
be liable to banishment, and that, if he were found in England
after a certain time his neck would be stretched. His answer
was, "If you let me out to-day, I will preach again to-morrow."
Year after year he lay patiently in a dungeon, compared with
which the worse prison now to be found in the island is a palace.
His fortitude is the more extraordinary, because his domestic
feelings were unusually strong. Indeed, he was considered by his
stern brethren as somewhat too fond and indulgent a parent. He
had several small children, and among them a daughter who was
blind, and whom he loved with peculiar tenderness. He could not,
he said, bear even to let the wind blow on her; and now she must
suffer cold and hunger; she must beg; she must be beaten; "yet,"
he added, "I must, I must do it." While he lay in prison he
could do nothing in the way of his old trade for the support of
his family. He determined, therefore, to take up a new trade.
He learned to make long tagged thread laces; and many thousands
of these articles were furnished by him to the hawkers. While
his hands were thus busied, he had other employment for his mind
and his lips. He gave religious instruction to his fellow-
captives, and formed from among them a little flock, of which he
was himself the pastor. He studied indefatigably the few books
which he possessed. His two chief companions were the Bible and
Fox's Book of Martyrs. His knowledge of the Bible was such that
he might have been called a living concordance; and on the margin
of his copy of the Book of Martyrs are still legible the ill
spelt lines of doggrel in which he expressed his reverence for
the brave sufferers, and his implacable enmity to the mystical

At length he began to write; and though it was some time before
he discovered where his strength lay, his writings were not
unsuccessful. They were coarse, indeed; but they showed a keen
mother wit, a great command of the homely mother tongue, an
intimate knowledge of the English Bible, and a vast and dearly-
bought spiritual experience. They therefore, when the corrector
of the press had improved the syntax and the spelling, were well
received by the humbler class of Dissenters.

Much of Bunyan's time was spent in controversy. He wrote sharply
against the Quakers, whom he seems always to have held in utter
abhorrence. It is, however, a remarkable fact that he adopted
one of their peculiar fashions: his practice was to write, not
November or December, but eleventh month and twelfth month.

He wrote against the liturgy of the Church of England. No two
things, according to him, had less affinity than the form of
prayer and the spirit of prayer. Those, he said with much point,
who have most of the spirit of prayer are all to be found in
gaol; and those who have most zeal for the form of prayer are all
to be found at the alehouse. The doctrinal articles, on the
other hand, he warmly praised, and defended against some Arminian
clergymen who had signed them. The most acrimonious of all his
works is his answer to Edward Fowler, afterwards Bishop of
Gloucester, an excellent man, but not free from the taint of

Bunyan had also a dispute with some of the chiefs of the sect to
which he belonged. He doubtless held with perfect sincerity the
distinguishing tenet of that sect; but he did not consider that
tenet as one of high importance, and willingly joined in
communion with quiet Presbyterians and Independents. The sterner
Baptists, therefore, loudly pronounced him a false brother. A
controversy arose which long survived the original combatants.
In our own time the cause which Bunyan had defended with rude
logic and rhetoric against Kiffin and Danvers was pleaded by
Robert Hall with an ingenuity and eloquence such as no polemical
writer has ever surpassed.

During the years which immediately followed the Restoration,
Bunyan's confinement seems to have been strict. But, as the
passions of 1660 cooled, as the hatred with which the Puritans
had been regarded while their reign was recent gave place to
pity, he was less and less harshly treated. The distress of his
family, and his own patience, courage, and piety softened the
hearts of his persecutors. Like his own Christian in the cage,
he found protectors even among the crowd of Vanity Fair. The
bishop of the Diocese, Dr Barlow, is said to have interceded for
him. At length the prisoner was suffered to pass most of his
time beyond the walls of the gaol, on condition, as it should
seem, that he remained within the town of Bedford.

He owed his complete liberation to one of the worst acts of one
of the worst governments that England has ever seen. In 1671 the
Cabal was in power. Charles II. had concluded the treaty by
which he bound himself to set up the Roman Catholic religion in
England. The first step which he took towards that end was to
annul, by an unconstitutional exercise of his prerogative, all
the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics; and, in order to
disguise his real design, he annulled at the same time the penal
statutes against Protestant nonconformists. Bunyan was
consequently set at large. In the first warmth of his gratitude
he published a tract in which he compared Charles to that humane
and generous Persian king who, though not himself blest with the
light of the true religion, favoured the chosen people, and
permitted them after years of captivity, to rebuild their beloved
temple. To candid men, who consider how much Bunyan had
suffered, and how little he could guess the secret designs of the
court, the unsuspicious thankfulness with which he accepted the
precious boon of freedom will not appear to require any apology.

Before he left his prison he had begun the book which has made
his name immortal. The history of that book is remarkable. The
author was, as he tells us, writing a treatise, in which he had
occasion to speak of the stages of the Christian progress. He
compared that progress, as many others had compared it, to a
pilgrimage. Soon his quick wit discovered innumerable points of
similarity which had escaped his predecessors. Images came
crowding on his mind faster than he could put them into words,
quagmires and pits, steep hills, dark and horrible glens, soft
vales, sunny pastures, a gloomy castle of which the courtyard was
strewn with the skulls and bones of murdered prisoners, a town
all bustle and splendour, like London on the Lord Mayor's Day,
and the narrow path, straight as a rule could make it, running on
up hill and down hill, through city and through wilderness, to
the Black River and the Shining Gate. He had found out, as most
people would have said, by accident, as he would doubtless have
said, by the guidance of Providence, where his powers lay. He
had no suspicion, indeed, that he was producing a masterpiece.
He could not guess what place his allegory would occupy in
English literature; for of English literature he knew nothing.
Those who suppose him to have studied the Fairy Queen might
easily be confuted, if this were the proper place for a detailed
examination of the passages in which the two allegories have been
thought to resemble each other. The only work of fiction, in all
probability, with which he could compare his Pilgrim, was his old
favourite, the legend of Sir Bevis of Southampton. He would have
thought it a sin to borrow any time from the serious business of
his life, from his expositions, his controversies, and his lace
tags, for the purpose of amusing himself with what he considered
merely as a trifle. It was only, he assures us, at spare moments
that he returned to the House Beautiful, the Delectable
Mountains, and the Enchanted Ground. He had no assistance.
Nobody but himself saw a line, till the whole was complete. He
then consulted his pious friends. Some were pleased. Others
were much scandalised. It was a vain story, a mere romance,
about giants, and lions, and goblins, and warriors, sometimes
fighting with monsters and sometimes regaled by fair ladies in
stately palaces. The loose atheistical wits at Will's might
write such stuff to divert the painted Jezebels of the court:
but did it become a minister of the gospel to copy the evil
fashions of the world? There had been a time when the cant of
such fools would have made Bunyan miserable. But that time was
passed; and his mind was now in a firm and healthy state. He saw
that, in employing fiction to make truth clear and goodness
attractive, he was only following the example which every
Christian ought to propose to himself; and he determined to

The "Pilgrim's Progress" stole silently into the world. Not a
single copy of the first edition is known to be in existence.
The year of publication has not been ascertained. It is probable
that, during some months, the little volume circulated only among
poor and obscure sectaries. But soon the irresistible charm of a
book which gratified the imagination of the reader with all the
action and scenery of a fairy tale, which exercised his ingenuity
by setting him to discover a multitude of curious analogies,
which interested his feelings for human beings, frail like
himself, and struggling with temptations from within and from
without, which every moment drew a smile from him by some stroke
of quaint yet simple pleasantry, and nevertheless left on his
mind a sentiment of reverence for God and of sympathy for man,
began to produce its effect. In puritanical circles, from which
plays and novels were strictly excluded, that effect was such as
no work of genius, though it were superior to the Iliad, to Don
Quixote, or to Othello, can ever produce on a mind accustomed to
indulge in literary luxury. In 1678 came forth a second edition
with additions; and then the demand became immense. In the four
following years the book was reprinted six times. The eighth
edition, which contains the last improvements made by the author,
was published in 1682, the ninth in 1684, the tenth in 1685. The
help of the engraver had early been called in; and tens of
thousands of children looked with terror and delight on execrable
copper plates, which represented Christian thrusting his sword
into Apollyon, or writhing in the grasp of Giant Despair. In
Scotland, and in some of the colonies, the Pilgrim was even more
popular than in his native country. Bunyan has told us, with
very pardonable vanity, that in New England his dream was the
daily subject of the conversation of thousands, and was thought
worthy to appear in the most superb binding. He had numerous
admirers in Holland, and among the Huguenots of France. With the
pleasures, however, he experienced some of the pains of eminence.
Knavish booksellers put forth volumes of trash under his name;
and envious scribblers maintained it to be impossible that the
poor ignorant tinker should really be the author of the book
which was called his.

He took the best way to confound both those who counterfeited him
and those who slandered him. He continued to work the gold-field
which he had discovered, and to draw from it new treasures, not
indeed with quite such ease and in quite such abundance as when
the precious soil was still virgin, but yet with success which
left all competition far behind. In 1684 appeared the second
part of the "Pilgrim's Progress." It was soon followed by the
"Holy War," which, if the "Pilgrim's Progress" did not exist,
would be the best allegory that ever was written.

Bunyan's place in society was now very different from what it had
been. There had been a time when many Dissenting ministers, who
could talk Latin and read Greek, had affected to treat him with
scorn. But his fame and influence now far exceeded theirs. He
had so great an authority among the Baptists that he was
popularly called Bishop Bunyan. His episcopal visitations were
annual. From Bedford he rode every year to London, and preached
there to large and attentive congregations. From London he went
his circuit through the country, animating the zeal of his
brethren, collecting and distributing alms, and making up
quarrels. The magistrates seem in general to have given him
little trouble. But there is reason to believe that, in the year
1685, he was in some danger of again occupying his old quarters
in Bedford gaol. In that year the rash and wicked enterprise of
Monmouth gave the Government a pretext for persecuting the
Nonconformists; and scarcely one eminent divine of the
Presbyterian, Independent, or Baptist persuasion remained
unmolested. Baxter was in prison: Howe was driven into exile:
Henry was arrested. Two eminent Baptists, with whom Bunyan had
been engaged in controversy, were in great peril and distress.
Danvers was in danger of being hanged; and Kiffin's grandsons
were actually hanged. The tradition is that, during those evil
days, Bunyan was forced to disguise himself as a waggoner, and
that he preached to his congregation at Bedford in a smoke-frock,
with a cart-whip in his hand. But soon a great change took
place. James the Second was at open war with the Church, and
found it necessary to court the Dissenters. Some of the
creatures of the government tried to secure the aid of Bunyan.
They probably knew that he had written in praise of the
indulgence of 1672, and therefore hoped that he might be equally
pleased with the indulgence of 1687. But fifteen years of
thought, observation, and commerce with the world had made him
wiser. Nor were the cases exactly parallel. Charles was a
professed Protestant: James was a professed Papist. The object
of Charles's indulgence was disguised; the object of James's
indulgence was patent. Bunyan was not deceived. He exhorted his
hearers to prepare themselves by fasting and prayer for the
danger which menaced their civil and religious liberties, and
refused even to speak to the courtier who came down to remodel
the corporation of Bedford, and who, as was supposed, had it in
charge to offer some municipal dignity to the Bishop of the

Bunyan did not live to see the Revolution. In the summer of 1688
he undertook to plead the cause of a son with an angry father,
and at length prevailed on the old man not to disinherit the
young one. This good work cost the benevolent intercessor his
life. He had to ride through heavy rain. He came drenched to
his lodgings on Snow Hill, was seized with a violent fever, and
died in a few days. He was buried in Bunhill Fields; and the
spot where he lies is still regarded by the Nonconformists with a
feeling which seems scarcely in harmony with the stern spirit of
their theology. Many Puritans, to whom the respect paid by Roman
Catholics to the reliques and tombs of saints seemed childish or
sinful, are said to have begged with their dying breath that
their coffins might be placed as near as possible to the office
of the author of the "Pilgrim's Progress."

The fame of Bunyan during his life, and during the century which
followed his death, was indeed great, but was almost entirely
confined to religious families of the middle and lower classes.
Very seldom was he during that time mentioned with respect by any
writer of great literary eminence. Young coupled his prose with
the poetry of the wretched D'Urfey. In the Spiritual Quixote,
the adventures of Christian are ranked with those of Jack the
Giant-Killer and John Hickathrift. Cowper ventured to praise the
great allegorist, but did not venture to name him. It is a
significant circumstance that, till a recent period, all the
numerous editions of the "Pilgrim's Progress" were evidently
meant for the cottage and the servants' hall. The paper, the
printing, the plates, were all of the meanest description. In
general, when the educated minority and the common people differ
about the merit of a book, the opinion of the educated minority
finally prevails. The "Pilgrim's Progress" is perhaps the only
book about which, after the lapse of a hundred years, the
educated minority has come over to the opinion of the common

The attempts which have been made to improve and to imitate this
book are not to be numbered. It has been done into verse: it
has been done into modern English. "The Pilgrimage of Tender
Conscience," "The Pilgrimage of Good Intent," "The Pilgrimage
of Seek Truth," "The Pilgrimage of Theophilus," "The Infant
Pilgrim," "The Hindoo Pilgrim," are among the many feeble copies
of the great original. But the peculiar glory of Bunyan is that
those who most hated his doctrines have tried to borrow the help
of his genius. A Catholic version of his parable may be seen
with the head of the Virgin in the title-page. On the other
hand, those Antinomians for whom his Calvinism is not strong
enough may study the pilgrimage of Hephzibah, in which nothing
will be found which can be construed into an admission of free
agency and universal redemption. But the most extraordinary of
all the acts of Vandalism by which a fine work of art was ever
defaced was committed so late as the year 1853. It was
determined to transform the "Pilgrim's Progress" into a
Tractarian book. The task was not easy: for it was necessary to
make the two sacraments the most prominent objects in the
allegory; and of all Christian theologians, avowed Quakers
excepted, Bunyan was the one in whose system the sacraments held
the least prominent place. However, the Wicket Gate became a
type of Baptism, and the House Beautiful of the Eucharist. The
effect of this change is such as assuredly the ingenious person
who made it never contemplated. For, as not a single pilgrim
passes through the Wicket Gate in infancy, and as Faithful
hurries past the House Beautiful without stopping, the lesson
which the fable in its altered shape teaches, is that none but
adults ought to be baptised, and that the Eucharist may safely be
neglected. Nobody would have discovered from the original
"Pilgrim's Progress" that the author was not a Paedobaptist. To
turn his book into a book against Paedobaptism was an achievement
reserved for an Anglo-Catholic divine. Such blunders must
necessarily be committed by every man who mutilates parts of a
great work, without taking a comprehensive view of the whole.



(February 1856.)

Oliver Goldsmith, one of the most pleasing English writers of the
eighteenth century. He was of a Protestant and Saxon family
which had been long settled in Ireland, and which had, like most
other Protestant and Saxon families, been, in troubled times,
harassed and put in fear by the native population. His father,
Charles Goldsmith, studied in the reign of Queen Anne at the
diocesan school of Elphin, became attached to the daughter of the
schoolmaster, married her, took orders, and settled at a place
called Pallas in the county of Longford. There he with
difficulty supported his wife and children on what he could earn,
partly as a curate and partly as a farmer.

At Pallas Oliver Goldsmith was born in November 1728. That spot
was then, for all practical purposes, almost as remote from the
busy and splendid capital in which his later years were passed,
as any clearing in Upper Canada or any sheep-walk in Australasia
now is. Even at this day those enthusiasts who venture to make a
pilgrimage to the birthplace of the poet are forced to perform
the latter part of their journey on foot. The hamlet lies far
from any high road, on a dreary plain which, in wet weather, is
often a lake. The lanes would break any jaunting car to pieces;
and there are ruts and sloughs through which the most strongly
built wheels cannot be dragged.

While Oliver was still a child, his father was presented to a
living worth about 200 pounds a year, in the county of Westmeath.
The family accordingly quitted their cottage in the wilderness
for a spacious house on a frequented road, near the village of
Lissoy. Here the boy was taught his letters by a maid-servant,
and was sent in his seventh year to a village school kept by an
old quartermaster on half-pay, who professed to teach nothing but
reading, writing, and arithmetic, but who had an inexhaustible
fund of stories about ghosts, banshees, and fairies, about the
great Rapparee chiefs, Baldearg O'Donnell and galloping Hogan,
and about the exploits of Peterborough and Stanhope, the surprise
of Monjuich, and the glorious disaster of Brihuega. This man
must have been of the Protestant religion; but he was of the
aboriginal race, and not only spoke the Irish language, but could
pour forth unpremeditated Irish verses. Oliver early became, and
through life continued to be, a passionate admirer of the Irish
music, and especially of the compositions of Carolan, some of the
last notes of whose harp he heard. It ought to be added that
Oliver, though by birth one of the Englishry, and though
connected by numerous ties with the Established Church, never
showed the least sign of that contemptuous antipathy with which,
in his days, the ruling minority in Ireland too generally
regarded the subject majority. So far indeed was he from sharing
in the opinions and feelings of the caste to which he belonged,
that he conceived an aversion to the Glorious and Immortal
Memory, and, even when George the Third was on the throne,
maintained that nothing but the restoration of the banished
dynasty could save the country.

From the humble academy kept by the old soldier Goldsmith was
removed in his ninth year. He went to several grammar schools,
and acquired some knowledge of the ancient languages. His life
at this time seems to have been far from happy. He had, as
appears from the admirable portrait of him at Knowle, features
harsh even to ugliness. The small-pox had set its mark on him
with more than usual severity. His stature was small, and his
limbs ill put together. Among boys little tenderness is shown to
personal defects; and the ridicule excited by poor Oliver's
appearance was heightened by a peculiar simplicity and a
disposition to blunder which he retained to the last. He became
the common butt of boys and masters, was pointed at as a fright
in the play-ground, and flogged as a dunce in the school-room.
When he had risen to eminence, those who had once derided him
ransacked their memory for the events of his early years, and
recited repartees and couplets which had dropped from him, and
which, though little noticed at the time, were supposed, a
quarter of a century later, to indicate the powers which produced
the "Vicar of Wakefield" and the "Deserted Village."

In his seventeenth year Oliver went up to Trinity College,
Dublin, as a sizar. The sizars paid nothing for food and
tuition, and very little for lodging; but they had to perform
some menial services from which they have long been relieved.
They swept the court: they carried up the dinner to the fellows'
table, and changed the plates and poured out the ale of the
rulers of the society. Goldsmith was quartered, not alone, in a
garret, on the window of which his name, scrawled by himself, is
still read with interest. (The glass on which the name is
written has, as we are informed by a writer in "Notes and
Queries" (2d. S. ix. p. 91), been inclosed in a frame and
deposited in the Manuscript Room of the College Library, where it
is still to be seen.) From such garrets many men of less parts
than his have made their way to the woolsack or to the episcopal
bench. But Goldsmith, while he suffered all the humiliations,
threw away all the advantages, of his situation. He neglected
the studies of the place, stood low at the examinations, was
turned down to the bottom of his class for playing the buffoon in
the lecture-room, was severely reprimanded for pumping on a
constable, and was caned by a brutal tutor for giving a ball in
the attic story of the college to some gay youths and damsels
from the city.

While Oliver was leading at Dublin a life divided between squalid
distress and squalid dissipation, his father died, leaving a mere
pittance. The youth obtained his bachelor's degree, and left the
university. During some time the humble dwelling to which his
widowed mother had retired was his home. He was now in his
twenty-first year; it was necessary that he should do something;
and his education seemed to have fitted him to do nothing but to
dress himself in gaudy colours, of which he was as fond as a
magpie, to take a hand at cards, to sing Irish airs, to play the
flute, to angle in summer, and to tell ghost stories by the fire
in winter. He tried five or six professions in turn without
success. He applied for ordination; but, as he applied in
scarlet clothes, he was speedily turned out of the episcopal
palace. He then became tutor in an opulent family, but soon
quitted his situation in consequence of a dispute about play.
Then he determined to emigrate to America. His relations, with
much satisfaction, saw him set out for Cork on a good horse with
thirty pounds in his pocket. But in six weeks he came back on a
miserable hack, without a penny, and informed his mother that the
ship in which he had taken his passage, having got a fair wind
while he was at a party of pleasure, had sailed without him.
Then he resolved to study the law. A generous kinsman advanced
fifty pounds. With this sum Goldsmith went to Dublin, was
enticed into a gaming house, and lost every shilling. He then
thought of medicine. A small purse was made up; and in his
twenty-fourth year he was sent to Edinburgh. At Edinburgh he
passed eighteen months in nominal attendance on lectures, and
picked up some superficial information about chemistry and
natural history. Thence he went to Leyden, still pretending to
study physic. He left that celebrated university, the third
university at which he had resided, in his twenty-seventh year,
without a degree, with the merest smattering of medical
knowledge, and with no property but his clothes and his flute.
His flute, however, proved a useful friend. He rambled on foot
through Flanders, France, and Switzerland, playing tunes which
everywhere set the peasantry dancing, and which often procured
for him a supper and a bed. He wandered as far as Italy. His
musical performances, indeed, were not to the taste of the
Italians; but he contrived to live on the alms which he obtained
at the gates of the convents. It should, however, be observed
that the stories which he told about this part of his life ought
to be received with great caution; for strict veracity was never
one of his virtues; and a man who is ordinarily inaccurate in
narration is likely to be more than ordinarily inaccurate when he
talks about his own travels. Goldsmith, indeed, was so
regardless of truth as to assert in print that he was present at
a most interesting conversation between Voltaire and Fontenelle,
and that this conversation took place at Paris. Now it is
certain that Voltaire never was within a hundred leagues of Paris
during the whole time which Goldsmith passed on the Continent.

In 1756 the wanderer landed at Dover, without a shilling, without
a friend, and without a calling. He had, indeed, if his own
unsupported evidence may be trusted, obtained from the University
of Padua a doctor's degree; but this dignity proved utterly
useless to him. In England his flute was not in request: there
were no convents; and he was forced to have recourse to a series
of desperate expedients. He turned strolling player; but his
face and figure were ill suited to the boards even of the
humblest theatre. He pounded drugs and ran about London with
phials for charitable chemists. He joined a swarm of beggars,
which made its nest in Axe Yard. He was for a time usher of a
school, and felt the miseries and humiliations of this situation
so keenly that he thought it a promotion to be permitted to earn
his bread as a bookseller's hack; but he soon found the new yoke
more galling than the old one, and was glad to become an usher
again. He obtained a medical appointment in the service of the
East India Company; but the appointment was speedily revoked.
Why it was revoked we are not told. The subject was one on which
he never liked to talk. It is probable that he was incompetent
to perform the duties of the place. Then he presented himself at
Surgeon's Hall for examination, as mate to a naval hospital.
Even to so humble a post he was found unequal. By this time the
schoolmaster whom he had served for a morsel of food and the
third part of a bed was no more. Nothing remained but to return
to the lowest drudgery of literature. Goldsmith took a garret in
a miserable court, to which he had to climb from the brink of
Fleet Ditch by a dizzy ladder of flagstones called Breakneck
Steps. The court and the ascent have long disappeared; but old
Londoners will remember both. (A gentleman, who states that he
has known the neighbourhood for thirty years, corrects this
account, and informs the present publisher that the Breakneck
Steps, thirty-two in number, divided into two flights, are still
in existence, and that, according to tradition, Goldsmith's house
was not on the steps, but was the first house at the head of the
court, on the left hand, going from the Old Bailey. See "Notes
and Queries" (2d. S. ix. 280).) Here, at thirty, the unlucky
adventurer sat down to toil like a galley slave.

In the succeeding six years he sent to the press some things
which have survived and many which have perished. He produced
articles for reviews, magazines, and newspapers; children's books
which, bound in gilt paper and adorned with hideous woodcuts,
appeared in the window of the once far-famed shop at the corner
of Saint Paul's Churchyard; "An Inquiry into the State of Polite
Learning in Europe," which, though of little or no value, is
still reprinted among his works; a "Life of Beau Nash," which is
not reprinted, though it well deserves to be so (Mr Black has
pointed out that this is inaccurate: the life of Nash has been
twice reprinted; once in Mr Prior's edition (vol. iii. p. 249),
and once in Mr Cunningham's edition (vol. iv. p. 35).); a
superficial and incorrect, but very readable, "History of
England," in a series of letters purporting to be addressed by a
nobleman to his son; and some very lively and amusing "Sketches
of London Society," in a series of letters purporting to be
addressed by a Chinese traveller to his friends. All these works
were anonymous; but some of them were well-known to be
Goldsmith's; and he gradually rose in the estimation of the
booksellers for whom he drudged. He was, indeed, emphatically a
popular writer. For accurate research or grave disquisition he
was not well qualified by nature or by education. He knew
nothing accurately: his reading had been desultory; nor had he
meditated deeply on what he had read. He had seen much of the
world; but he had noticed and retained little more of what he had
seen than some grotesque incidents and characters which had
happened to strike his fancy. But, though his mind was very
scantily stored with materials, he used what materials he had in
such a way as to produce a wonderful effect. There have been
many greater writers; but perhaps no writer was ever more
uniformly agreeable. His style was always pure and easy, and, on
proper occasions, pointed and energetic. His narratives were
always amusing, his descriptions always picturesque, his humour
rich and joyous, yet not without an occasional tinge of amiable
sadness. About everything that he wrote, serious or sportive,
there was a certain natural grace and decorum, hardly to be
expected from a man a great part of whose life had been passed
among thieves and beggars, street-walkers and merry andrews, in
those squalid dens which are the reproach of great capitals.

As his name gradually became known, the circle of his
acquaintance widened. He was introduced to Johnson, who was then
considered as the first of living English writers; to Reynolds,
the first of English painters; and to Burke, who had not yet
entered parliament, but had distinguished himself greatly by his
writings and by the eloquence of his conversation. With these
eminent men Goldsmith became intimate. In 1763 he was one of the
nine original members of that celebrated fraternity which has
sometimes been called the Literary Club, but which has always
disclaimed that epithet, and still glories in the simple name of
The Club.

By this time Goldsmith had quitted his miserable dwelling at the
top of Breakneck Steps, and had taken chambers in the more
civilised region of the Inns of Court. But he was still often
reduced to pitiable shifts. Towards the close of 1764 his rent
was so long in arrear that his landlady one morning called in the
help of a sheriff's officer. The debtor, in great perplexity,
despatched a messenger to Johnson; and Johnson, always friendly,
though often surly, sent back the messenger with a guinea, and
promised to follow speedily. He came, and found that Goldsmith
had changed the guinea, and was railing at the landlady over a
bottle of Madeira. Johnson put the cork into the bottle, and
entreated his friend to consider calmly how money was to be
procured. Goldsmith said that he had a novel ready for the
press. Johnson glanced at the manuscript, saw that there were
good things in it, took it to a bookseller, sold it for 60
pounds, and soon returned with the money. The rent was paid; and
the sheriff's officer withdrew. According to one story,
Goldsmith gave his landlady a sharp reprimand for her treatment
of him; according to another, he insisted on her joining him in a
bowl of punch. Both stories are probably true. The novel which
was thus ushered into the world was the "Vicar of Wakefield."

But, before the "Vicar of Wakefield" appeared in print, came the
great crisis of Goldsmith's literary life. In Christmas week,
1764, he published a poem, entitled the "Traveller." It was the
first work to which he had put his name; and it at once raised
him to the rank of a legitimate English classic. The opinion of
the most skilful critics was, that nothing finer had appeared in
verse since the fourth book of the "Dunciad." In one respect the
"Traveller" differs from all Goldsmith's other writings. In
general his designs were bad, and his execution good. In the
"Traveller," the execution, though deserving of much praise, is
far inferior to the design. No philosophical poem, ancient or
modern, has a plan so noble, and at the same time so simple. An
English wanderer, seated on a crag among the Alps, near the point
where three great countries meet, looks down on the boundless
prospect, reviews his long pilgrimage, recalls the varieties of
scenery, of climate, of government, of religion, of national
character, which he has observed, and comes to the conclusion
just or unjust, that our happiness depends little on political
institutions, and much on the temper and regulation of our own

While the fourth edition of the "Traveller" was on the counters
of the booksellers, the "Vicar of Wakefield" appeared, and
rapidly obtained a popularity which has lasted down to our own
time, and which is likely to last as long as our language. The
fable is indeed one of the worst that ever was constructed. It
wants, not merely that probability which ought to be found in a
tale of common English life, but that consistency which ought to
be found even in the wildest fiction about witches, giants, and
fairies. But the earlier chapters have all the sweetness of
pastoral poetry, together with all the vivacity of comedy. Moses
and his spectacles, the vicar and his monogamy, the sharper and
his cosmogony, the squire proving from Aristotle that relatives
are related, Olivia preparing herself for the arduous task of
converting a rakish lover by studying the controversy between
Robinson Crusoe and Friday, the great ladies with their scandal
about Sir Tomkyn's amours and Dr Burdock's verses, and Mr
Burchell with his "Fudge," have caused as much harmless mirth as
has ever been caused by matter packed into so small a number of
pages. The latter part of the tale is unworthy of the beginning.
As we approach the catastrophe, the absurdities lie thicker and
thicker; and the gleams of pleasantry become rarer and rarer.

The success which had attended Goldsmith as a novelist emboldened
him to try his fortune as a dramatist. He wrote the "Goodnatured
Man," a piece which had a worse fate than it deserved. Garrick
refused to produce it at Drury Lane. It was acted at Covent
Garden in 1768, but was coldly received. The author, however,
cleared by his benefit nights, and by the sale of the copyright,
no less than 500 pounds, five times as much as he had made by the
"Traveller" and the "Vicar of Wakefield" together. The plot of
the "Goodnatured Man" is, like almost all Goldsmith's plots, very
ill constructed. But some passages are exquisitely ludicrous;
much more ludicrous, indeed, than suited the taste of the town at
that time. A canting, mawkish play, entitled "False Delicacy,"
had just had an immense run. Sentimentality was all the mode.
During some years, more tears were shed at comedies than at
tragedies; and a pleasantry which moved the audience to anything
more than a grave smile was reprobated as low. It is not
strange, therefore, that the very best scene in the "Goodnatured
Man," that in which Miss Richland finds her lover attended by the
bailiff and the bailiff's follower in full court dresses, should
have been mercilessly hissed, and should have been omitted after
the first night.

In 1770 appeared the "Deserted Village." In mere diction and
versification this celebrated poem is fully equal, perhaps
superior, to the "Traveller;" and it is generally preferred to
the "Traveller" by that large class of readers who think, with
Bayes in the "Rehearsal," that the only use of a plan is to bring
in fine things. More discerning judges, however, while they
admire the beauty of the details, are shocked by one unpardonable
fault which pervades the whole. The fault we mean is not that
theory about wealth and luxury which has so often been censured
by political economists. The theory is indeed false: but the
poem, considered merely as a poem, is not necessarily the worse
on that account. The finest poem in the Latin language, indeed
the finest didactic poem in any language, was written in defence
of the silliest and meanest of all systems of natural and moral
philosophy. A poet may easily be pardoned for reasoning ill; but
he cannot be pardoned for describing ill, for observing the world
in which he lives so carelessly that his portraits bear no
resemblance to the originals, for exhibiting as copies from real
life monstrous combinations of things which never were and never
could be found together. What would be thought of a painter who
should mix August and January in one landscape, who should
introduce a frozen river into a harvest scene? Would it be a
sufficient defence of such a picture to say that every part was
exquisitely coloured, that the green hedges, the apple-trees
loaded with fruit, the waggons reeling under the yellow sheaves,
and the sun-burned reapers wiping their foreheads, were very
fine, and that the ice and the boys sliding were also very fine?
To such a picture the "Deserted Village" bears a great
resemblance. It is made up of incongruous parts. The village in
its happy days is a true English village. The village in its
decay is an Irish village. The felicity and the misery which
Goldsmith has brought close together belong to two different
countries; and to two different stages in the progress of
society. He had assuredly never seen in his native island such a
rural paradise, such a seat of plenty, content, and tranquillity,
as his "Auburn." He had assuredly never seen in England all the
inhabitants of such a paradise turned out of their homes in one
day and forced to emigrate in a body to America. The hamlet he
had probably seen in Kent; the ejectment he had probably seen in
Munster: but, by joining the two, he has produced something
which never was and never will be seen in any part of the world.

In 1773 Goldsmith tried his chance at Covent Garden with a second
play, "She Stoops to Conquer." The manager was not without great
difficulty induced to bring this piece out. The sentimental
comedy still reigned; and Goldsmith's comedies were not
sentimental. The "Goodnatured Man" had been too funny to
succeed; yet the mirth of the "Goodnatured Man" was sober when
compared with the rich drollery of "She Stoops to Conquer," which
is, in truth, an incomparable farce in five acts. On this
occasion, however, genius triumphed. Pit, boxes, and galleries,
were in a constant roar of laughter. If any bigoted admirer of
Kelly and Cumberland ventured to hiss or groan, he was speedily
silenced by a general cry of "turn him out," or "throw him over."
Two generations have since confirmed the verdict which was
pronounced on that night.

While Goldsmith was writing the "Deserted Village," and "She
Stoops to Conquer," he was employed on works of a very different
kind, works from which he derived little reputation but much
profit. He compiled for the use of schools a "History of Rome,"
by which he made 300 pounds, a "History of England," by which he
made 600 pounds, a "History of Greece," for which he received 250
pounds, a "Natural History," for which the booksellers covenanted
to pay him 800 guineas. These works he produced without any
elaborate research, by merely selecting, abridging, and
translating into his own clear, pure, and flowing language what
he found in books well-known to the world, but too bulky or too
dry for boys and girls. He committed some strange blunders; for
he knew nothing with accuracy. Thus in his "History of England,"
he tells us that Naseby is in Yorkshire; nor did he correct this
mistake when the book was reprinted. He was very nearly hoaxed
into putting into the "History of Greece" an account of the
battle between Alexander the Great and Montezuma. In his
"Animated Nature" he relates, with faith and with perfect
gravity, all the most absurd lies which he could find in books of
travels about gigantic Patagonians, monkeys that preach sermons,
nightingales that repeat long conversations. "If he can tell a
horse from a cow," said Johnson, "that is the extent of his
knowledge of zoology." How little Goldsmith was qualified to
write about the physical sciences is sufficiently proved by two
anecdotes. He on one occasion denied that the sun is longer in
the northern than in the southern signs. It was vain to cite the
authority of Maupertuis. "Maupertuis!" he cried, "I understand
those matters better than Maupertuis." On another occasion he,
in defiance of the evidence of his own senses, maintained
obstinately, and even angrily, that he chewed his dinner by
moving his upper jaw.

Yet, ignorant as Goldsmith was, few writers have done more to
make the first steps in the laborious road to knowledge easy and
pleasant. His compilations are widely distinguished from the
compilations of ordinary book-makers. He was a great, perhaps an
unequalled, master of the arts of selection and condensation. In
these respects his histories of Rome and of England, and still
more his own abridgements of these histories, well deserve to be
studied. In general nothing is less attractive than an epitome:
but the epitomes of Goldsmith, even when most concise, are always
amusing; and to read them is considered by intelligent children,
not as a task, but as a pleasure.

Goldsmith might now be considered as a prosperous man. He had
the means of living in comfort, and even in what to one who had
so often slept in barns and on bulks must have been luxury. His
fame was great and was constantly rising. He lived in what was
intellectually far the best society of the kingdom, in a society
in which no talent or accomplishment was wanting, and in which
the art of conversation was cultivated with splendid success.
There probably were never four talkers more admirable in four
different ways than Johnson, Burke, Beauclerk, and Garrick; and
Goldsmith was on terms of intimacy with all the four. He aspired
to share in their colloquial renown; but never was ambition more
unfortunate. It may seem strange that a man who wrote with so
much perspicuity, vivacity, and grace, should have been, whenever
he took a part in conversation, an empty, noisy, blundering
rattle. But on this point the evidence is overwhelming. So
extraordinary was the contrast between Goldsmith's published
works and the silly things which he said, that Horace Walpole
described him as an inspired idiot. "Noll," said Garrick, "wrote
like an angel, and talked like poor Poll." Chamier declared that
it was a hard exercise of faith to believe that so foolish a
chatterer could have really written the "Traveller." Even
Boswell could say, with contemptuous compassion, that he liked
very well to hear honest Goldsmith run on. "Yes, sir," said
Johnson, "but he should not like to hear himself." Minds differ
as rivers differ. There are transparent and sparkling rivers
from which it is delightful to drink as they flow; to such rivers
the minds of such men as Burke and Johnson may be compared. But
there are rivers of which the water when first drawn is turbid
and noisome, but becomes pellucid as crystal, and delicious to
the taste, if it be suffered to stand till it has deposited a
sediment; and such a river is a type of the mind of Goldsmith.
His first thoughts on every subject were confused even to
absurdity; but they required only a little time to work
themselves clear. When he wrote they had that time; and
therefore his readers pronounced him a man of genius: but when
he talked he talked nonsense, and made himself the laughing-stock
of his hearers. He was painfully sensible of his inferiority in
conversation; he felt every failure keenly; yet he had not
sufficient judgment and self-command to hold his tongue. His
animal spirits and vanity were always impelling him to try to do
the one thing which he could not do. After every attempt he felt
that he had exposed himself, and writhed with shame and vexation;
yet the next moment he began again.

His associates seem to have regarded him with kindness, which, in
spite of their admiration of his writings, was not unmixed with
contempt. In truth, there was in his character much to love, but
very little to respect. His heart was soft even to weakness: he
was so generous that he quite forgot to be just: he forgave
injuries so readily that he might be said to invite them; and was
so liberal to beggars that he had nothing left for his tailor and
his butcher. He was vain, sensual, frivolous, profuse,
improvident. One vice of a darker shade was imputed to him,
envy. But there is not the least reason to believe that this bad
passion, though it sometimes made him wince and utter fretful
exclamations, ever impelled him to injure by wicked arts the
reputation of any of his rivals. The truth probably is, that he
was not more envious, but merely less prudent, than his
neighbours. His heart was on his lips. All those small
jealousies, which are but too common among men of letters, but
which a man of letters who is also a man of the world does his
best to conceal, Goldsmith avowed with the simplicity of a child.
When he was envious, instead of affecting indifference, instead
of damning with faint praise, instead of doing injuries slily and
in the dark, he told everybody that he was envious. "Do not,
pray, do not talk of Johnson in such terms," he said to Boswell;
"you harrow up my very soul." George Steevens and Cumberland
were men far too cunning to say such a thing. They would have
echoed the praises of the man whom they envied, and then have
sent to the newspapers anonymous libels upon him. Both what was
good and what was bad in Goldsmith's character was to his
associates a perfect security that he would never commit such
villany. He was neither ill natured enough, nor long headed
enough, to be guilty of any malicious act which required
contrivance and disguise.

Goldsmith has sometimes been represented as a man of genius,
cruelly treated by the world, and doomed to struggle with
difficulties which at last broke his heart. But no
representation can be more remote from the truth. He did,
indeed, go through much sharp misery before he had done anything
considerable in literature. But, after his name had appeared on
the title-page of the "Traveller," he had none but himself to
blame for his distresses. His average income, during the last
seven years of his life, certainly exceeded 400 pounds a year;
and 400 pounds a year ranked, among the incomes of that day, at
least as high as 800 pounds a year would rank at present. A
single man living in the Temple with 400 pounds a year might then
be called opulent. Not one in ten of the young gentlemen of good
families who were studying the law there had so much. But all
the wealth which Lord Clive had brought from Bengal, and Sir
Lawrence Dundas from Germany, joined together, would not have
sufficed for Goldsmith. He spent twice as much as he had. He
wore fine clothes, gave dinners of several courses, paid court to
venal beauties. He had also, it should be remembered, to the
honour of his heart, though not of his head, a guinea, or five or
ten, according to the state of his purse, ready for any tale of
distress, true or false. But it was not in dress or feasting, in
promiscuous amours or promiscuous charities, that his chief
expense lay. He had been from boyhood a gambler, and at once the
most sanguine and the most unskilful of gamblers. For a time he
put off the day of inevitable ruin by temporary expedients. He
obtained advances from booksellers, by promising to execute works
which he never began. But at length this source of supply
failed. He owed more than 2000 pounds; and he saw no hope of
extrication from his embarrassments. His spirits and health gave
way. He was attacked by a nervous fever, which he thought
himself competent to treat. It would have been happy for him if
his medical skill had been appreciated as justly by himself as by
others. Notwithstanding the degree which he pretended to have
received at Padua, he could procure no patients. "I do not
practise," he once said; "I make it a rule to prescribe only for
my friends." "Pray, dear Doctor," said Beauclerk, "alter your
rule; and prescribe only for your enemies." Goldsmith now, in
spite of this excellent advice, prescribed for himself. The
remedy aggravated the malady. The sick man was induced to call
in real physicians; and they at one time imagined that they had
cured the disease. Still his weakness and restlessness
continued. He could get no sleep. He could take no food. "You
are worse," said one of his medical attendants, "than you should
be from the degree of fever which you have. Is your mind at
ease?" "No, it is not," were the last recorded words of Oliver
Goldsmith. He died on the third of April 1774, in his forty-
sixth year. He was laid in the churchyard of the Temple; but the
spot was not marked by any inscription, and is now forgotten.
The coffin was followed by Burke and Reynolds. Both these great
men were sincere mourners. Burke, when he heard of Goldsmith's
death, had burst into a flood of tears. Reynolds had been so
much moved by the news that he had flung aside his brush and
palette for the day.

A short time after Goldsmith's death, a little poem appeared,
which will, as long as our language lasts, associate the names of
his two illustrious friends with his own. It has already been
mentioned that he sometimes felt keenly the sarcasm which his
wild blundering talk brought upon him. He was, not long before
his last illness, provoked into retaliating. He wisely betook
himself to his pen; and at that weapon he proved himself a match
for all his assailants together. Within a small compass he drew
with a singularly easy and vigorous pencil the characters of nine
or ten of his intimate associates. Though this little work did
not receive his last touches, it must always be regarded as a
masterpiece. It is impossible, however, not to wish that four or
five likenesses which have no interest for posterity were wanting
to that noble gallery; and that their places were supplied by
sketches of Johnson and Gibbon, as happy and vivid as the
sketches of Burke and Garrick.

Some of Goldsmith's friends and admirers honoured him with a
cenotaph in Westminster Abbey. Nollekens was the sculptor; and
Johnson wrote the inscription. It is much to be lamented that
Johnson did not leave to posterity a more durable and a more
valuable memorial of his friend. A life of Goldsmith would have
been an inestimable addition to the Lives of the Poets. No man
appreciated Goldsmith's writings more justly than Johnson; no man
was better acquainted with Goldsmith's character and habits; and
no man was more competent to delineate with truth and spirit the
peculiarities of a mind in which great powers were found in
company with great weaknesses. But the lists of poets to whose
works Johnson was requested by the booksellers to furnish
prefaces ended with Lyttleton, who died in 1773. The line seems
to have been drawn expressly for the purpose of excluding the
person whose portrait would have most fitly closed the series.
Goldsmith, however, has been fortunate in his biographers.
Within a few years his life has been written by Mr Prior, by Mr
Washington Irving, and by Mr Forster. The diligence of Mr Prior
deserves great praise; the style of Mr Washington Irving is
always pleasing; but the highest place must, in justice, be
assigned to the eminently interesting work of Mr Forster.



(December 1856.)

Samuel Johnson, one of the most eminent English writers of the
eighteenth century, was the son of Michael Johnson, who was, at
the beginning of that century, a magistrate of Lichfield, and a
bookseller of great note in the midland counties. Michael's
abilities and attainments seem to have been considerable. He was
so well acquainted with the contents of the volumes which he
exposed to sale, that the country rectors of Staffordshire and
Worcestershire thought him an oracle on points of learning.
Between him and the clergy, indeed, there was a strong religious
and political sympathy. He was a zealous churchman, and, though
he had qualified himself for municipal office by taking the oaths
to the sovereigns in possession, was to the last a Jacobite in
heart. At his house, a house which is still pointed out to every
traveller who visits Lichfield, Samuel was born on the 18th of
September 1709. In the child, the physical, intellectual, and
moral peculiarities which afterwards distinguished the man were
plainly discernible; great muscular strength accompanied by much
awkwardness and many infirmities; great quickness of parts, with
a morbid propensity to sloth and procrastination; a kind and
generous heart, with a gloomy and irritable temper. He had
inherited from his ancestors a scrofulous taint, which it was
beyond the power of medicine to remove. His parents were weak
enough to believe that the royal touch was a specific for this
malady. In his third year he was taken up to London, inspected
by the court surgeon, prayed over by the court chaplains, and
stroked and presented with a piece of gold by Queen Anne. One of
his earliest recollections was that of a stately lady in a
diamond stomacher and a long black hood. Her hand was applied in
vain. The boy's features, which were originally noble and not
irregular, were distorted by his malady. His cheeks were deeply
scarred. He lost for a time the sight of one eye; and he saw but
very imperfectly with the other. But the force of his mind
overcame every impediment. Indolent as he was, he acquired
knowledge with such ease and rapidity that at every school to
which he was sent he was soon the best scholar. From sixteen to
eighteen he resided at home, and was left to his own devices. He
learned much at this time, though his studies were without
guidance and without plan. He ransacked his father's shelves,
dipped into a multitude of books, read what was interesting, and
passed over what was dull. An ordinary lad would have acquired
little or no useful knowledge in such a way: but much that was
dull to ordinary lads was interesting to Samuel. He read little
Greek: for his proficiency in that language was not such that he
could take much pleasure in the masters of Attic poetry and
eloquence. But he had left school a good Latinist; and he soon
acquired, in the large and miscellaneous library of which he now
had the command, an extensive knowledge of Latin literature.
That Augustan delicacy of taste which is the boast of the great
public schools of England he never possessed. But he was early
familiar with some classical writers who were quite unknown to
the best scholars in the sixth form at Eton. He was peculiarly
attracted by the works of the great restorers of learning. Once,
while searching for some apples, he found a huge folio volume of
Petrarch's works. The name excited his curiosity; and he eagerly
devoured hundreds of pages. Indeed, the diction and
versification of his own Latin compositions show that he had paid
at least as much attention to modern copies from the antique as
to the original models.

While he was thus irregularly educating himself, his family was
sinking into hopeless poverty. Old Michael Johnson was much
better qualified to pore upon books, and to talk about them, than
to trade in them. His business declined; his debts increased; it
was with difficulty that the daily expenses of his household were
defrayed. It was out of his power to support his son at either
university; but a wealthy neighbour offered assistance; and, in
reliance on promises which proved to be of very little value,
Samuel was entered at Pembroke College, Oxford. When the young
scholar presented himself to the rulers of that society, they
were amazed not more by his ungainly figure and eccentric manners
than by the quantity of extensive and curious information which
he had picked up during many months of desultory but not
unprofitable study. On the first day of his residence he
surprised his teachers by quoting Macrobius; and one of the most
learned among them declared that he had never known a freshman of
equal attainments.

At Oxford, Johnson resided during about three years. He was
poor, even to raggedness; and his appearance excited a mirth and
a pity which were equally intolerable to his haughty spirit. He
was driven from the quadrangle of Christ Church by the sneering
looks which the members of that aristocratical society cast at
the holes in his shoes. Some charitable person placed a new pair
at his door; but he spurned them away in a fury. Distress made
him, not servile, but reckless and ungovernable. No opulent
gentleman commoner, panting for one-and-twenty, could have
treated the academical authorities with more gross disrespect.
The needy scholar was generally to be seen under the gate of
Pembroke, a gate now adorned with his effigy, haranguing a circle
of lads, over whom, in spite of his tattered gown and dirty
linen, his wit and audacity gave him an undisputed ascendency.
In every mutiny against the discipline of the college he was the
ringleader. Much was pardoned, however, to a youth so highly
distinguished by abilities and acquirements. He had early made
himself known by turning Pope's Messiah into Latin verse. The
style and rhythm, indeed, were not exactly Virgilian; but the
translation found many admirers, and was read with pleasure by
Pope himself.

The time drew near at which Johnson would, in the ordinary course
of things, have become a Bachelor of Arts: but he was at the end
of his resources. Those promises of support on which he had
relied had not been kept. His family could do nothing for him.
His debts to Oxford tradesmen were small indeed, yet larger than
he could pay. In the autumn of 1731, he was under the necessity
of quitting the university without a degree. In the following
winter his father died. The old man left but a pittance; and of
that pittance almost the whole was appropriated to the support of
his widow. The property to which Samuel succeeded amounted to no
more than twenty pounds.

His life, during the thirty years which followed, was one hard
struggle with poverty. The misery of that struggle needed no
aggravation, but was aggravated by the sufferings of an unsound
body and an unsound mind. Before the young man left the
university, his hereditary malady had broken forth in a
singularly cruel form. He had become an incurable hypochondriac.
He said long after that he had been mad all his life, or at least
not perfectly sane; and, in truth, eccentricities less strange
than his have often been thought grounds sufficient for absolving
felons, and for setting aside wills. His grimaces, his gestures,
his mutterings, sometimes diverted and sometimes terrified people
who did not know him. At a dinner table he would, in a fit of
absence, stoop down and twitch off a lady's shoe. He would amaze
a drawing-room by suddenly ejaculating a clause of the Lord's
Prayer. He would conceive an unintelligible aversion to a
particular alley, and perform a great circuit rather than see the
hateful place. He would set his heart on touching every post in
the streets through which he walked. If by any chance he missed
a post, he would go back a hundred yards and repair the omission.
Under the influence of his disease, his senses became morbidly
torpid, and his imagination morbidly active. At one time he
would stand poring on the town clock without being able to tell
the hour. At another, he would distinctly hear his mother, who
was many miles off, calling him by his name. But this was not
the worst. A deep melancholy took possession of him, and gave a
dark tinge to all his views of human nature and of human destiny.
Such wretchedness as he endured has driven many men to shoot
themselves or drown themselves. But he was under no temptation
to commit suicide. He was sick of life; but he was afraid of
death; and he shuddered at every sight or sound which reminded
him of the inevitable hour. In religion he found but little
comfort during his long and frequent fits of dejection; for his
religion partook of his own character. The light from heaven
shone on him indeed, but not in a direct line, or with its own
pure splendour. The rays had to struggle through a disturbing
medium; they reached him refracted, dulled and discoloured by the
thick gloom which had settled on his soul; and, though they might
be sufficiently clear to guide him, were too dim to cheer him.

With such infirmities of body and mind, this celebrated man was
left, at two-and-twenty, to fight his way through the world. He
remained during about five years in the midland counties. At
Lichfield, his birthplace and his early home, he had inherited
some friends and acquired others. He was kindly noticed by Henry
Hervey, a gay officer of noble family, who happened to be
quartered there. Gilbert Walmesley, registrar of the
ecclesiastical court of the diocese, a man of distinguished
parts, learning, and knowledge of the world, did himself honour
by patronising the young adventurer, whose repulsive person,
unpolished manners, and squalid garb moved many of the petty

Book of the day: