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OLIVER GOLDSMITH was born on the 10th of November, 1728, at Pallas, Pallice, or Pallasmore, a village about two miles from the small town of Ballymahon, in the county of Longford; the place is now a collection of mere cabins, and the house in which the poet was born has long since been levelled with the ground. He was third son and sixth child of the Rev. Charles Goldsmith and Ann his wife; Mrs. Goldsmith was the daughter of the Rev. Oliver Jones, master of the Diocesan School at Elphin. His father's family were of English descent, and appear to have furnished clergymen to the Established Church for several generations. From the entry of their children's births in the family Bible, his parents appear to have removed to Lissoy about the year 1730, when his father was appointed to the rectory of Kilkenny-west. The village of Lissoy,-which has been generally considered the place of the poet's birth, and certainly the
"Seat of his youth, when every sport could please,"
-is in the county of Westmeath, very near the borders of Longford, and about six miles from Athlone. Here the boyish days of the poet were passed, and here his brotherthe Rev. Henry Goldsmith-continued to reside after his father's death, and was residing when the poet dedicated to him "The Traveller."
At Lissoy-or Auburn, as it is sometimes designated-may still be found some few traces of the poet's remembrances of the scenes of his childhood, as depicted in "The Deserted Village." The village is on the summit of a hill, and at its
base may be seen "the busy mill," though but a small cottage, used for grinding the corn of the peasantry of the neighbourhood, parts of the machinery bearing marks of age sufficient to indicate they may be the same that left their impress on the poet's memory. At the distance of about a mile is
"The decent church that tops the neighbouring hill."
We are told that
"The hawthorn bush with seats beneath the shade,
was flourishing within existing memories, and that some fifty years back it was destroyed by an accident,-a heap surrounded by cemented stones shows its site; and on the opposite side of the road, upon a tree, hangs the sign of The Pigeons, a little inn of the place. The Three Pigeons is the sign of the ale-house in which Tony Lumpkin plays the hero in "She Stoops to Conquer." But although the poet adopted some few such remembrances in his picture of the "Deserted Village," we conceive he must have had some other place in his mind's eye, the poem being so essentially English in its character, that there is scarcely a single point of Irish feature in it.
After receiving the elements of education from the village schoolmaster, he was, at an early age, sent to the diocesan school at Elphin, to prepare him for some mercantile employment. His fondness for rhyming, combined with some other manifestations of wit, however, excited some hope that he was deserving of encouragement, and he was thereupon removed to a school at Athlone, where he stayed two years, and then placed with the Rev. Edward Hughes, Vicar of Shruel, near Ballymahon, to which town, upon the death of his father, his mother retired.
By the aid of his uncle, the Rev. Thomas Contarine, and some assistance of other relations, Goldsmith was admitted
a sizar of Trinity College, Dublin, June 11th, 1745. He soon quarrelled with his tutor, and absented himself from college, but returned, and at the Christmas examination obtained a premium, and on the 27th of February, 1750, took his degree of A.B.
Yielding to his uncle's wishes, he now consented to enter holy orders; but on application to the bishop he was rejected, from what cause it is unknown. He then became a tutor in the family of a private gentleman of the neighbourhood-a vocation certainly not suited to his tastes or habits, and of course the engagement lasted but a short time. His uncle then determined on sending him to London, to keep his terms at the Temple, for the purpose of preparing him for the profession of the law; but stopping at Dublin on his way, he lost in gambling the whole of the money necessary for his journey, and returned without a penny. His uncle's kindness was, however, not yet exhausted, and after forgiveness, he sent him to Edinburgh to study medicine; from Edinburgh, after a stay of two years, he went to Leyden to complete his medical studies; and at the expiration of some few months, having exhausted his funds, he started on a tour of Europe; having, according to his own statement, but one spare shirt, a flute, and a guinea; trusting entirely to his wits for support.
The following passage in "The Vicar of Wakefield" is supposed to describe his own travels: "I had some knowledge of music, and now turned what was once my amusement into a present means of subsistence. Whenever I approached a peasant's house towards nightfall, I played one of my most merry tunes, and that procured me not only a lodging, but also a subsistence for the next day." He thus by expedients worked his way through Flanders, parts of France, Germany, and Switzerland-where he composed a portion of "The Traveller,”—he tells us he saw the cataract at Schauffhausen frozen quite across, that he had flushed
woodcocks on the top of Mount Jura, that he had eaten a very savoury dinner on the Alps, that he had seen floating bee-houses in Piedmont, that in some provinces of France he had found the shepherd and his pipe continued with true antique simplicity, and that he had met a bright circle of female beauty at the chemical lectures of Professor Rouelle, at Paris; he finally reached Padua, where he stayed six months; and at that city it is supposed he took his medical degree. While in Italy, hearing of the death of his uncle and benefactor, he turned his steps towards home, and landed at Dover in the autumn of 1756, having been absent about twelve months.
His situation was not much mended on his arrival in London, at which period the whole of his finances were reduced to a few halfpence. What must be the gloomy apprehensions of a man in so forlorn a situation, and an utter stranger in the metropolis! He applied to several apothecaries for employment; but his awkward appearance, and his broad Irish accent, were so much against him, that he met only with ridicule and contempt. At last, however, merely through motives of humanity, he was taken notice of by a chemist, who employed him in his laboratory.
In this situation he continued till he was informed that an old friend-Dr. Sleigh-was in London. He then quitted the chemist, and lived some time upon the liberality of the doctor: but, disliking a life of dependence on the generosity of his friend, and being unwilling to be burthensome to him, he soon accepted an offer that was made to him, of assisting the late Rev. Dr. Milner, in the education of young gentlemen, at his academy at Peckham. During the time he remained in this situation, he gave much satisfaction to his employer; but as he had obtained some reputation from criticisms he had written in the Monthly Review, he eagerly engaged in regular employment on that work with Mr. Griffith, the principal proprietor.
As a translator he gave a version of the curious and affecting autobiography of Jean Marteilbe, entitled "Mémoires d'un Protestant;" for which he received twenty guineas. He returned to London, and took a lodging at No. 12, Green Arbour-court, in the Old Bailey, with the determination of making a livelihood by literature. His first piece of composition was "An Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe," which was published anonymously in 1759. We have a more particular account of these lodgings in Green Arbour-court from the Rev. Thomas Percy, afterwards Bishop of Dromore, and celebrated for his relics of ancient poetry, his beautiful ballads, and other works. During an occasional visit to London he was introduced to Goldsmith by Grainger, and ever after continued one of his most steadfast and valued friends. The following is his description of the poet's squalid apartment: "I called on Goldsmith at his lodgings, in March, 1759, and found him writing his 'Inquiry,' in a miserable, dirty-looking room, in which there was but one chair; and when, from civility, he resigned it to me, he himself was obliged to sit in the window. While we were conversing together, some one tapped gently at the door, and being desired to come in, a poor, ragged little girl, of a very becoming demeanour entered the room, and dropping a courtesy, said, 'My mamma sends her compliments, and begs the favour of you to lend her a chamber-pot full of coals."" It appears that in 1758 he obtained a medical appointment which might have proved exceedingly lucrative,that of physician to one of the factories in India; and to meet the expenses of his outfit, he drew up and issued proposals to publish by subscription the essay above-mentioned; but not being able to pass the necessary examination before the College of Surgeons, he was of course compelled to resign the situa tion and fall back upon literature. He soon after produced “The Bee,” an entertaining volume of prose essays. In 1760 he contributed a series of papers to The Public Ledger, then