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Nest,” “The Lily and the Rose,” “The Nightingale and the Glowworm,” “The PineApple and the Bee,” “The Goldfinch starved to death in a Cage,” and some others. They are pretty conceits, but at the present day remind us a little of the nursery.
Goldsmith's humour deserves equal praise for affording amusement without animosity or indelicacy. With regard to the former, his satire is so general that it cannot inflict any wound; and although he may have slightly erred in one or two passages on the latter score, he condemns all such seasoning of humour, which is used, as he says, to compensate for want of invention. In his plays, there is much good broad-humoured fun without anything offensive. Simple devices such as Tony Lump kin's causing a manor-house to be mistaken for an inn, produces much harmless amusement. It is noteworthy that the first successful work of Goldsmith was his “ Citizen of the World.” Here the correspondence of a Chinaman in England with one of his friends in his own country, affords great scope for humour, the manners and customs of each nation being regarded according to the views of the other. The intention is to show absurdities on the same plan which led afterwards to the popularity of “Hadji Baba in England.” Sometimes the
faults pointed out seem real, sometimes the criticism is meant to be oriental and ridiculous. Thus going to an English theatre he observes
“The richest, in general, were placed in the lowest seats, and the poor rose above themin degrees proportionate to their poverty. The order of precedence seemed bere inverted; those who were undermost all the day, enjoyed a temporary eminence and became masters of the ceremonies. It was they who called for the music, indulging every noisy freedom, and testifying all the insolence of beggary in exaltation.”
Real censure is intended in the following, which shows the change in ladies dress within the last few years—
“What chiefly distinguishes the sex at present is the train. As a lady's quality or fashion was once determined here by the circumference of her hoop, both are now measored by the length of her tail. Women of moderate fortunes are contented with tails moderately long, but ladies of tone, taste, and distinction set no bounds to their ambition in this particular. I am told the Lady Mayoress on days of ceremony carries one longer than a bell-wether of Bantam, whose tail, you know, is trundled along in a wheelbarrow.”
A “little beau” discoursing with the Chinaman, observes—
“I am told your Asiatic beauties are the most convenient women alive, for they have no souls ; positively there is nothing in nature I should like so much as women without souls; soul here is the utter ruin of half the sex. A girl of eighteen shall have soul enough to spend a hundred pounds in the turning of a tramp. Her mother shall have soul enough to ride a sweepstake snatch at a horse-race; her maiden aunt shall have soul enough to purchase the furniture of a whole toy-sbop, and others shall have soul enough to behave as if they had no souls at all.”
The “ Citizen of the World” cannot under
The Citizen of the World.
stand why there are so many old maids and bachelors in England. He regards the latter as most contemptible, and says the mob should be permitted to halloo after them ; boys might play tricks on them with impunity; every well-bred company should laugh at them, and if one of them, when turned sixty, offered to make love, his mistress might spit in his face, or what would be a greater punishment should fairly accept him. Old maids he would not treat with such severity, because he supposes they are not so by their own fault; but he hears that many have received offers, and refused them. Miss Squeeze, the pawnbroker's daughter, had heard so much about money, that she resolved never to marry a man whose fortune was not equal to her own, without ever considering that some abatement should be made as her face was pale and marked with the small-pox. Sophronia loved Greek, and hated men. She rejected fine gentlemen because they were not pedants, and pedants because they were not fine gentlemen. She found a fault in every lover, until the wrinkles of old age overtook her, and now she talks incessantly of the beauties of the mind.
The character of the information contained in the daily newspapers is thus described
“ The universal passion for politics is gratified with daily papers, as with us in China. But, as in ours, the Emperor endeavours to instruct his people; in theirs the people endeavour to instruct the Administration. You must not, however, imagine that they who compile these papers bave any actual knowledge of politics or the government of a state; they only collect their materials from the oracle of some coffee-house, which oracle has himself gathered them the night before from a beau at a gaming-table, who has pillaged his knowledge from the great man's porter, who has had his information from the great man's gentleman, who has invented the whole story for his own amusement the night preceding.'
He gives the following specimens of contradictory newspaper intelligence from abroad.
“ Vienna.-We have received certain advices that a party of twenty-thousand Austrians, having attacked a much superior body of Prussians, put them all to flight, and took the rest prisoners of war.
“Berlin.-We bave received certain advices that a party of twenty-thousand Prussians, having attacked a much superior body of Austrians, put them to flight, and took a great number of prisoners with their military chest, cannon, and baggage.”
The Chinaman observing the laudatory character of epitaphs, suggests a plan by which flattery might be indulged, without sacrificing truth. The device is that anciently called “ contrary to expectation,” but apparently borrowed by Goldsmith from some French poem. Here is a specimen.
“ Ye Muses, pour the pitying tear,
He gives another on Madam Blaize
“Good people all with one accord
Lament for Madam Blaize,
From those who spoke her praise." The Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog terminates in a stroke taken from the old epigram of Demodocus
“ Good people all, of everysort,
To comfort friends and foes,
The wondering neighbours ran,
To bite so good a man.
To every Christian eye;
They swore the man would die.
That showed the rogues they lied,
The dog it was that died."