Images de page






OLIVER GOLDSMITH was the youngest of the four sons of the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, and was born the 29th of November, in the year 1731, at Fernes, in Ireland. Having passed some time in the study of the classics, under the tuition of Mr. Hughes, on the 11th of June 1744 he was admitted a sizer in Trinity college, Dublin.

His genius, which afterwards broke forth with such distinguished lustre, had not yet unfolded itself; for we cannot find that, during his continuance at the university, he manifested such appearances of men

tal vigour as to entitle him to a pre-eminence over the generality of his fellow-students. In February

1749, however, which was two years after the regular course of those things, he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts.

Having, while he remained in Dublin, turned his thoughts to the profession of physic, and attended some courses of anatomy, in the year 1751 he visited Edinburgh, and applied himself to the study of the different branches of medicine under the respective professors in that university. His thoughtless though beneficent disposition soon involved him in difficulties. He had made himself responsible for the debt of a fellow-student, who being either unable or unwilling to discharge it, Mr. Goldsmith was obliged abruptly to leave Scotland, in order to avoid the horrors of a prison.

In the beginning of the year 1754 he arrived at Sunderland; but being pursued by a legal process, on account of the debt we have just mentioned, he was arrested. At Edinburgh he had formed an intimacy with Mr. Lauchlin Maclaine and Dr. Sleigh, who still resided in the college at that place; and these gentlemen being informed of his unhappy situation,

presently afterwards interposed, and set him at liberty.

This embarrassment being surmounted, he embarked on board a Dutch ship, and arrived at Rotterdam; whence he went to Brussels, then visited great part of Flanders; and afterwards, at Strasbourg and Louvain, where he continued some time, he obtained the degree of Bachelor in Physic. From thence he went to Geneva, in company with an English gentleman.

It is a circumstance worth recording, that he had so strong a propensity to see different countries, men and manners, that even the necessity of walking on foot could not deter him from this favourite pursuit. His German flute, on which he played tolerably well, frequently supplied him with the means of subsistence, and his learning procured him a favourable reception at most of the religious houses he visited. He himself tells us, that whenever he approached a peasant's cottage, he played one of his most merry tunes, and that generally procured him not only a lodging, but subsistence for the next day. This, however, was not the case with the rich, who generally despised both the music and the performer.


Soon after his arrival at Geneva, he met with a young man, who, by the death of an uncle, was become possessed of a considerable fortune, and to whom Mr. Goldsmith was recommended for a travelling companion.....As avarice was the prevailing principle of this young man, it cannot be supposed he was long pleased with his preceptor, whose habits and turn of mind were so contrary to his own.

Our author, during his residence at the college of Edinburgh, had given marks of his rising genius for poetry, which Switzerland greatly contributed to bring to maturity. It was here he wrote the first sketch of his TRAVELLER, which he sent to his brother Henry, a clergyman in Ireland, who, despising fame and fortune, had retired with an amiable wife, cn an income of only forty pounds per annum, to pass a life of happiness and obscurity.

Mr. Goldsmith and his pupil continued together until they arrived at the south of France, where, on a disagreement, they parted, and our author was left to struggle with all the difficulties that a man could experience, who was in a state of poverty, in a foreign country, without friends. Yet, notwithstanding all his difficulties, his ardour for travelling was not abated;

« PrécédentContinuer »