« ПредишнаНапред »
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, M. B.
THE life of a Scholar,” Dr. Goldsmith has re
marked, “ seldom abounds with adventure : his “ fame is acquired in folitude; and the historian, who
only views him at a distance, must be content with a “ dry detail of actions by which he is scarce diftin“ guished from the rest of mankind; but we are fond “ of talking of those who have given us pleasure ; not " that we have any thing importantt to say, but because " the subject is pleasing.'
Oliver Goldsmith, son of the Reverend Charles Gold. smith, was born in Elphin, in the county of Roscommon, in Ireland, in the year 1729. His father had four fons, of whom Oliver was the third. After being well instructed in the classics, at the school of Mr. Hughes, he was admitted a fizer in Trinity College, Dublin, on the 11th of June, 1744. While he resided there, he exhibited no specimens of that genius, which, in maturer years, raised his character so high. On the 27th of February, 1749, 0. S. (two years after the regular time,) he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Soon after he turned his thoughts to the profession of physic ; and, after attending some courses of anatomy in Dublin, proceeded to Edinburgh, in the year 1751, where he studied the several branches of medicine under the different professors in that university. His beneficent disposition soon involved him in unexpected difficulties; he was obliged precipitately to leave Scotland, in consequence of having engaged himself to pay a considerable sum of money for a fellowftudent.
The beginning of the year 1754, he arrived at Sun. derland, near Newcastle, where he was arrested at the suit of one Barclay, a taylor in Edinburgh, to whom he had given security for his friend. By the good offices af Laughlin Maclane, Esq. and Dr. Sleigh, who were then in the college, he was soon delivered out of the hands of the bailiff, and took his passage on board a Dutch fhip to Rotterdam, where, after a hort stay, he proceeded to Brussels. He then visited great part of Flavders ; and, after passing some time at Strasbourg and Louvain, where he obtained the degree of Bachelor in Phyfic, he accompanied an English gentleman to Geneva.
It is undoubtedly a fact, that this ingenious unfortunate man made most part of his tour on foot. He had left England with very little money ; and being of a philosophic turn, and at that time possessing a body capable of sustaining every fatigue, and a heart not easily terrified by danger, he became an enthusiast to the design he had forined of feeing the manners of different countries. He had some knowledge of the French language, and of mulic : he played tolerably well on the Crerman flute ; which, from amusement, became, at some times, the means of subsistence. His learning produced him an hospitable reception at most of the religious houses he visited ; and his music made him wel. come to the peasants of Flanders and Germany.
On his arrival at Geneva, he was recommended as a proper person for a travelling tutor to a young man, who had been unexpectedly left a confiderable sum of money by his uncle Mr. S.******.
This youth, who was articled to an attorney, on the receipt of his fortune, determined to see the world.
During his continuance in Switzerland, Goldsmith afliduously cultivated his poetical talent, of which he had given some striking proofs at the college of Edinburgh. It was from hence he sent the first sketch of his delightful epiftle, called the Traveller, to his bro. ther Henry, a clergyman in Ireland, who, giving up fame and fortune, had retired with an amiable wife to happiness and obscurity, on an income of only forty pounds a year. The great affection Goldsmith bore for this brother, is expressed in the Poem before mentioned, and gives a striking picture of his lituation.
From Geneva Mr. Goldsmith and his pupil proceeded to the south of France, where the young man, upon fome disagreement with his preceptor, paid him the small part of his salary which was due, and embarked at Marseilles for England. Our wanderer was left once
the world at large, and passed through a number of difficulties in traversing the greatest part of France. At length his curiosity
being gratified, he bent his course towards England, and arrived at Dover, the beginning of the winter, in the year 1758.
His finances were so low on his return to England, that he with difficulty got to the metropolis, his whole stock of cash amounting to no more than a few halfpence. Being an entire stranger in London, his mind was filled with the most gloomy reflections, in confequence of his embarrassed situation. He applied to several apothecaries, in hopes of being received in the capacity of a journeyman; but his broad Irish accent, and the uncouthness of his appearance, occafioned him to meet with insult from most of the medical tribe. At length, however, a chymist, near Filh-street, ftruck with his forlorn condition, and the fimplicity of his manner, took him into his laboratory, where he continued till he discovered that his old friend Dr. Sleigh was in London. *
Goldsmith, unwilling to be a burden to his friend, a short time after, eagerly embraced an offer which was made him to aslift the late Rev. Dr. Milner, in instruct. ing the young gentlemen at the academy at Peckham; and acquitted himself greatly to the Doctor's satisfaction for a short time; but, having obtained some repu. tation by the criticisins he had written in the Monthly Review, Mr. Griffith, the principal proprietor, engaged him in the compilation of it; and resolving to pursue the profeffion of writing, he returned to London, as the mart where abilities of every kind were fure of meeting distinction and reward. Here he determined to
* It was Sunday," said Goldsmith, when I paid him a visit; and it is to be fupposed, in my best cloaths. Sleigh scarcely knew me: such is the tax the unfortunate pay to poverty. However, when he did recolleat me, I found bis Deart as warm as ever ; and he snared his purse and his friendthip with me during his continuance iú Londen,"
adopt a plan of the strictest economy, and, at the close of the year 1759, took lodgings in Green-ArbourCourt, in the Old Bailey, where he wrote several ingenious pieces. His firft works were, The Bee, a weekly pamphlet; and An Enquiry into the Present State of Polite. Learning in Europe. The late Mr. Newbery, who, at that time, gave great encouragement to men of literary abilities, became a kind of patron to Goldsmith, and introduced him as one of the writers in the Public Ledger,* in which his Citizen of the World originally appeared, under the title of Chinese Letters.'
Through the generosity of Mr. Newbery, for whom he had written and compiled a variety of pieces, or, in other terms, had held the “ pen of a ready writer,” our Author was enabled to shift his quarters from GreenArbour. Court to Wine-Office-Court, in Fleet-street, where he put the finishing stroke to his Vicar of Wakefield. Having conciliated the esteem of Dr. Johnson by that passport to the human heart, flattery, he gave fo strong a recommendation of Goldsmith's Novel, that the Author obtained fixty pounds for the copy; a fum far beyond his expectation, as he candidly acknowledged to a literary friend. But as Goldsmith's reputation, as a writer, was not yet established, the bookseller was doubtful of the success of the Novel, and kept the manuscript by him till the Traveller appeared, when he published it with great advantage.
Among many other persons of distinction who were desirous to know our Author, was the Duke of Northumberland; and the circumstance that attended his introduction to that nobleman, is worthy of being related, in order to sew a striking trait of his character.t
* During this time (according to another account) he wrote for the British Ma. gazine, of which Dr. Smollett was then editor, most of those Essays and Tales, which he afterwards collected and published in a feparate volume. He also wrote occasionally for the Critical Review; and it was the merit which he discovered in criticiting a deipicable translation of Ovid's Fafti, by a pedantic school-mar. ter, and his Enquiry into the present state of Learning in Europe, which firft introduced him to the acquaintance of Dr. Smoliett, who recommended him to several of the literati, and to moft of the booktellers, by whom he was afterwards patronifed.
t'I was invited,' said the Doctor, by my friend Percy, to wait upon the Duke, in consequence of the fatisfaétiou he had received from the perufal of one of my productions.. I drefled myelf in the best manner I could, and, af*** fudying some compliments I thought necessary on such an occasion, pro
Dr. Goldsmith, in 1765, produced his Poem of the Traveller, which obtained the commendation of Dr. Johnton, who candidly acknowledged, “ that there had not been so fine a Poem fince the time of Pope.” But such was his diffidence, that he kept the manuscript by him fome years; nor could he be prevailed on to publish it, till persuaded by Dr. Johnson, who furnished him with some ideas for its enlargement.
This Poem, in consequence of the reception it met with from the public, enhanced his literary character with the booksellers, and introduced him to the notice of several persons eminent for their rank and fuperior talents, as Lord Nugent, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Nu. gent, Beauclerc, Mr. Dyer, &c. These distinguished characters were entertained with his conversation, and highly pleased with his blunders : at the same time they admired the elegance of his poems and the fimplicity of the man. He published, the same year, a Collection of Elays, which had previously appeared in the newspapers, magazines, and other periodical publications. But The Vicar of Wakefield, published in 1766, established his reputation as a Novelist.
Goldsmith's finances augmented with his fame, and enabled him to live in a superior style; for, soon after the publication of his Traveller, he changed his lodgceeded to Northumberiand house, and acquainted the fervants that I had particular business with his Grace. They Dewed me into an antichamber, where, after waiting fome time, a genterian, very elegantly dried, made his appearance. Taking him for the Duke, I delivered all the fine things I had composed, in order to compliment him on the honour he had done me; when, to my great aftonifhment, lie told mne I had mistaken hin for his mala ter, who would fee me immediately. At that instant the Duke came into the apartment, and I was fu contounded on the occasion, that I wanted words barely suficient to express the seate I entertained of the Duke's politeness, and went away exceedingly chayrined at the blunder ! had committed.'
The Doctor, at the time of this visit, was much embarrafed in his circum. frances; bui, vain of the honour done him, was continually mentioning it. One of those ingenious executors of the lat, a bailifi, who had a writ againft him, determined to turn this circumstance to his own advantage. He wrote him a letter, that he was fteward to a nobleman who was charmed with teading his laft production, and had ordered him to desire the Doctor to appoint a piace where he might have the honour of meeting him, to conduct niin to his Lordihip. The vanity of poor Goldsmith immediately I wallowed the bait: he appointed the British Coffee-houle, to which he was accompanied by hls friend Mr. Hamilton, the printer of the Critical Review, who in vain remonftrated on the fingularity of the application. On entering the coffee-room, the bailiff paid his refpects to the Doctor, and desired that he might have the hopour of immediately attending him. They had scarce entered Pall Mall, in their way to his Lordihip, when the bailiff produced his writ. Mr. Hamilton generously paid the inoney, and redeeined the Doctor from captivity,