before the examiners at Surgeon's Hall, to qualify for the office of an hospital mate. A single unlucky candidate of all who applied that day was too ignorant of the rudiments of surgical science to pass, and that one was Oliver Goldsmith, Bachelor of Medicine, and late practitioner of physic in Bankside, Southwark. Who is to tell, after this, what rare qualities of mind may coexist with stammering ignorance and a plebeian exterior?


His examination at Surgeons' Hall soon involved him in an additional misery. He had no clothes in which he could venture to appear before a tribunal composed of the grandees of the profession. He opened a negotiation with his old master, Griffiths, who, in return for four articles contributed to the "Monthly Review" of December, became security to a tailor for the requisite. suit, which was to be paid for, or returned, on a stated day. The stated day came, and found the clothes in pawn, and the four books which Griffiths had sent him to review in pledge to a friend. The occasion which reduced him to this breach of his work was the arrest of the landlord of his wretched lodging, to whom he was in arrear. The bookseller sent to demand the goods or their value, and, as Goldsmith could return neither, Griffiths wrote him word that he was a sharper and a villain." In an answer full of woe the miserable debtor begs to be consigned to a gaol. "I have seen it," he says, "inevitable these three or four weeks, and, by heavens! request it as a favor,—as a favor that may prevent somewhat more fatal." He denies the villany, but owns that he has been guilty of imprudence, and of "the meannesses which poverty unavoidably brings with it." The wrath of Griffiths was appeased by Goldsmith undertaking to furnish a "Life of Voltaire" for twenty pounds, from which the debt was to be subtracted. The memoir, which was finished in a month, he himself called " a catchpenny," and it is certainly unworthy both of the author and the subject. Here closed for ever his illstarred alliance with the bookseller, who was the first to start him in his literary career, and the first to make him feel the bitter bondage of the calling. Griffiths, Mr. Forster relates, retired from his business three or four years later, and ended by keeping two carriages, and attending regularly at the meeting-house. So prosperous and pious a gentleman little dreamt that he was to be known to posterity by his griping insolence to his pauper scribe.

Goldsmith said of himself that he had "a

for the work. Two or three of those from whom he expected most took no notice of his application, and verified the playful prediction in one of his letters of this date, which distinctly prefigures Mr. Forster and Mr. Cunningham. "There will come a day, no doubt it will, when the Scaligers and Daciers will vindicate my character, give learned editions of my labors, and bless the times with copious comments on the text. You shall see how they will fish up the heavy scoundrels who disregard me now. How will they bewail the times that suffered so much genius to be neglected!" It is true that the experience which these "heavy scoundrels" had had of the use to which Oliver put pecuniary assistance was by no means encouraging, true that any rumors which reached them of his proceedings abroad could only have exhibited him as a thoughtless idler or a mendicant vagrant, true that any tidings of his London vicissitudes must have surrounded him with the suspicion which always attends upon a man who is everything by turns and nothing long; but they also knew that he was as generous as he was improvident; that, if the situations had been reversed, they would not in vain have asked for themselves what they denied to him; that he had supported him self now for four years "without one word of encouragement, or one act of assistance;" and what was most of all to the purpose, to invite subscriptions to a book was to give a practical proof that he was turning his talents

to account.

While Goldsmith was anxiously waiting for his Irish supplies he had to disburse ten pounds for the warrant of his appointment by the East India Company. To raise the money, he wrote articles for the "Critical Review," which was superintended by the genius Dr. Smollett. Two papers from Oliver's pen appeared in the number for January, 1795, but before they saw the light the warrant which was to make his fortune was withdrawn. The motive of this proceeding never transpired. That it arose from some cause which was mortifying to his vanity may be inferred from his always avoiding the subject, and from his assuring his brother Henry, in order to evade inconvenient explanations, that he had met with no disappointment in the business, though it was then three months since the warrant had been revoked. It was in November, 1758, that he was thus summarily set aside, and, lowering his ambition to his circumstances, the ex-physician to the Coromandel factory presented himself on the 21st of December

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knack of hoping," but the multiplied disas- | ters which followed close upon one another had nearly reduced him to despair. "I have been for some years," he said, in the affecting letter to Griffiths, of January, 1759, "struggling with a wretched being, with all that contempt which indigence brings with it, and with all those strong passions which make contempt insupportable. What then has a gaol that is formidable? I shall at least have the society of wretches, and such is to me true society." "You scarcely can conceive," he wrote to his brother in the February following, "how much eight years of disappointment, anguish, and study have worn me down. I can now neither partake of the pleasure of a revel, nor contribute to raise its jollity. I can neither laugh nor drink; have contracted a hesitating, disagreeable manner of speaking, and a visage that looks ill-nature itself. In short, I have thought myself into a settled melancholy, and an utter disgust of all that life brings with it." It was through the very excess of the darkness which had gathered around him that he worked his way into day. He ceased to indulge in the tantalizing expectations which had balked him so often, and, without further distractions, sullenly resigned himself to the only business for which he was fitted. If he had succeeded in entering the Church, he would soon have sunk in the eyes of the parishioners to the level of his clerk. If he had satisfied the examiners at Surgeons' Hall that he could set a bone, he would still, we may be sure, have been a bungling operator, and the tormentor of his patients. He once threatened, when Mrs. Sidebotham rejected his advice, and adopted that of her apothecary, to leave off prescribing for his friends. "Do so, my dear Doctor," replied Beauclerk; "whenever you undertake to kill, let it be only your enemies." This was one of the true words which are spoken in jest. Johnson summed up the case when he said that his genius was great, but his knowledge was small. "No man,' he remarked again, was wiser when he had a pen in his hand, or more foolish when he had not." He had never been a student, and he had not that aptitude for facts, and that tenacity of memory, which enables many desultory readers to furnish their minds without steady toil. The materials for this charming compilations were hastily gathered for the occasion, and, being merely transplanted, as Johnson said, from one place to another without settling in his mind, he was ignorant of the contents of his own books.


Thus in common things he was below mediocrity, and he was driven to be either a literary genius or nothing. He was never any judge of his own qualifications. He volunteered to take a journey to copy the inscriptions on the Written Mountains, which had baffled every traveller, though he was not acquainted with a single letter of any oriental language living or dead; and he memorialized Lord Bute to send him out to investigate the arts and sciences of the East, for the purpose of importing the improvements into England, though Dr. Johnson exclaimed that he was utterly ignorant of the subject, and would have brought home "a grinding barrow that was to be seen in all the streets of London, and fancy he had furnished a wonderful improvement."


Just before his discomfiture in Surgeons' Hall he had removed to a lodging in a pentup little square, now levelled with the ground, which, embosomed in a mass of buildings between Fleet Street and the Old Bailey, seemed named in mockery "Green Arbor Court," and which was approached by a steep flight of stone stairs called "Break-neck Steps." The houses were tall and tumbling, the inhabitants poor and filthy, the children over-many and over-noisy-in Mr. Forster's phrase, "a squalid and squalling colony." In this retreat he was visited by Percy, the well-known editor of the Reliques," and afterwards Bishop of Dromore. Goldsmith had been introduced to him at the Temple Exchange Coffee-house, by Dr. Grainger, the author of the " Sugar cane," and one of the contributors to Mr. Griffiths' "Monthly Review," and Percy had detected sufficient merit beneath the unpromising appearance of his new-made acquaintance to think him worth a call. He found him, at the beginning of March, 1759, engaged upon his "Enquiry," in a dirty room, with only a single chair, which he gave up to his visitor, while he sat himself in the window. As the conversation was proceeding, a ragged little girl appeared at the door, and, dropping a curtsy to Goldsmith, said, "My mamma sends her compliments, and begs the favor of you to lend her a chamber pot full of coals." A volume of description would not convey a more vivid impression of the society of "Green Arbor Court" than this single trait; and ludicrous as is the incident, the respectful address of the messenger is yet a pleasing proof of the homage which was paid him by the ordinary inhabitants of the square. The most complete picture which, perhaps, we possess of Grub-street life has come

down to us in connection with Goldsmith. | The majority of distressed authors were too obscure to find a biographer. Those of the greater pretentions had either started from a respectable position, or had quickly reached a higher eminence. A single unwieldy figure, in the person of Johnson, was seen moving for years among the crowd of illdressed, ill-fed, badly-lodged, and insulted tribe who provided the ephemeral literature and party pamphlets of the day, but maintaining in the midst of his poverty such unshaken fortitude, such lofty principles, and such rugged independence, that the characteristics of the class were very imperfectly shadowed forth in him. The portrait drawn by Mr. Forster of the moral heroism and robust benevolence of this illustrious man is one of the most attractive episodes in his book. Goldsmith, on the contrary, had the habits and tastes of the class. After he had acquired celebrity, and was admitted to the society of men like Burke, Fox, Reynolds, and Beauclerk, he looked back with regret upon his former haunts. "In truth," he said to Mr. Cooke, "one sacrifices something for the sake of good company, for here I'm shut out of several places where I used to play the fool very agreeably." He did not persevere long in resisting his inclinations out of regard to appearances, nor did he ever get clear of the shifts and expedients which attended his earlier struggles. He was merely destined to exhibit in his single per--and asked the great to renew the patronson, as he rose, all the gradations in the lot age of the preceding generation, when a of a bookseller's dependant, from the poorest dinner with Lord Somers, procured invitato the best-esteemed. tions to Young the poet for the rest of the week. These opinions were natural to one who judged of booksellers from Griffiths,of the respect paid to authors from the treatment experienced by the ragged tenant in "Green Arbor Court,"-and of the advantage to be derived from the countenance of the nobility by the number of feasts which he hoped would accrue to men who were suffering, like himself, from hunger and neglect. But it is not now, nor, probably, was it then, in the power of any Mr. Griffiths to keep an author from fame who had the talent to deserve it; and as for a system of patronizing dinners, it has two fatal objections,—that it is not the needy, the obscure, and the struggling who would receive the invitations; and that any companionship of the kind which does not come about naturally from personal likings or sympathy of tastes, is a degradation instead of an honor.

"The Enquiry" attracted little attention. None of his other productions in the first nine

plausible argument. The fact is, that he put his private life into his books beyond any other genius whom we can call to mind, and he had not derived his doctrines from a survey of Europe, but from his personal experience of Mr. Griffiths' establishment. It is this, in conjunction with the pleasing style, and some scattered observations of a lively truth, which gives an interest to the work, in spite of its imperfections as a critical and philosophic disquisition. He had seen that the praise and blame of the "Monthly Review" were dispensed in accordance with the mercantile interests and vindictive passions of Griffiths. He had become acquainted with the ignorance of the starving scribblers who hung about the shop, eager, for the sake of a job, to do the bidding of their master, and who, when left to their own discretion, mistook railing for wit. He had witnessed the pain which their censures inflicted, and the injury done to books by their oracular abuse. No man, nevertheless, was ever written down except by himself, and the worst that the ablest and most wrong headed critic can effect is to retard for a little space a reputation which is not fully formed, or to shorten the existence of some flimsy publication which if left to itself would die a natural death. He dwelt with equal emphasis upon the wrongs of authors,-complained of the contempt which was shown to them,-pointed out the evils of their bondage to booksellers,

At the commencement of April appeared the "Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe," upon which Percy had found him engaged in the preceding month. If the work were to be judged by the promise held out in the title, a more superficial and unsatisfactory production has seldom issued from the press. Though he had travelled through Italy, Germany, and Holland, his account of the literature in these countries, to which he devoted distinct chapters, was so extremely meagre that it really conveyed no information at all. He enlarged but a very little more on the books and authors of England and France. He took up the paradox that the decay of learning had in every age been produced by criticism, and stated that the chief design of his Essay was to pursuade people to write what they thought, regardless of reviewers. Yet the bulk of his treaties had no relation to this position, which he has not supported by any

months of 1759 have been identified, except | is an exceptional gift, and as justly prized as a few contributions to the "Critical Review;" it is rare. The fault, or rather the misforbut in October he is found exerting himself | tune, of Goldsmith, is, that his necessities seldom allowed him to take care enough— that incongruous words, careless phrases, and weak and slovenly sentences, blot his beautiful prose.

On the 1st of January, 1760, appeared the opening number of the "British Magasub-zine," a monthly publication, edited by Dr. Smollett; and on the 12th the "Public Ledger," a daily newspaper, which was started by Mr. Newberry, the bookseller. Goldsmith was invited to contribute to both. He furnished about twenty essays to the magazine, and for the newspaper he wrote his well-known "Citizen of the World." He usually provided two letters a week, and for these he was paid a guinea apiece. They soon attracted a certain degree of attention; but we infer from his own later language on the little notice which his essays obtained, that their popularity was not great. "Whenever I write anything," he ludicrously said to Johnson at some period which preceded the publication of "The Traveller," "the public make a point to know nothing about it." The plan which Goldsmith adopted in "The Citizen of the World" of introducing an Oriental, commenting upon manners so different from his own had been frequently tried, and in the case of Montesquieu with distinguished success. The absurdity of usages which only appear rational because they are familiar, becomes strikingly apparent when they are described by a stranger with the wonder of novelty. This happy artifice comes to nothing in the hands of Goldsmith. His Chinese is, to all intents and purposes, an Englishman; and, whenever he attempts to make him speak in character, the failure is complete. It is simply as a collection of light papers upon the vices and follies of the day that the work must be regarded. As in all his speculations, there is much that is commonplace; but he skims pleasantly over the surface of things, gives picturesque sketches of the men he met and the haunts he frequented, and intermingles observations which, whether grave or gay, bear the stamp of his kindly nature. The series, consisting of one hundred and twentythree letters, was brought to a conclusion about the middle of 1761, and was republished in two small volumes at the beginning of 1762.

with unwonted diligence, furnishing essays to
"The Busy-Body" and "The Ladies' Maga-
zine," and writing the whole of a weekly
paper called The Bee, which alone con-
sisted of thirty-two pages. The Bee ex-
pired after a brief existence of eight weeks.
Though he had aimed at variety in his
jects, there was a uniformity in the treatment,
and the objection made in "The Monthly
Review," that "the observations were fre-
quently trite and common," is not unfounded.
The best portions of the work appear to us
to be the remarks upon acting, and on the
habits of the spider. Quantity and quality
both considered, it is very creditable to the
fertility of his mind, the readiness of his pen,
and the elegance of his style. He must
have had much ado to keep up with the
press, and we are not surprised to learn that
a visitor one evening entered the lodging in
Green Arbor Court, turned the key of the
door, commenced upbraidings, which were
followed by a three hours' silence, at the
close of which he came forth in good humor,
and ordered in a supper from a neighboring
tavern, to reward the poor author, who had
just completed his arrears under the surveil-
lance of his employer. In later days he was
a rapid composer, and whole quires of his
Histories and "Animated Nature" flowed
from his pen with such facility, that, accord-
ing to Bishop Percy, he had seldom occasion
to correct a single word. "Ah," said he to
Mr. Cradock, who was anxiously weighing
phrases, "think of me who must write a
volume a month." But, at this earlier pe-
riod, he had an inconvenient propensity to
linger over his work. "I could not suppress
my lurking passion for applause," he makes
George Primrose (who is the alias of Oliver
Goldsmith) say, "but usually consumed that
time in efforts after excellence, when it
should have been more advantageously em-
ployed in the diffusive productions of fruitful
mediocrity. The public were more import-
antly employed than to observe the easy
simplicity of my style, or the harmony of my
periods. Sheet after sheet was thrown off
to oblivion. All wrote better, because they
wrote faster than I." It was to this very
pains, which seemed at the outset to curtail
his profits without advancing his reputation,
that he owed much of his subsequent fame.
The power to glean knowledge is a common
accomplishment, which is shared by the dull;
the power to clothe it in felicitous language

In the gracefully told story of the "Man in Black," which derives additional interest from its being in the main an epitome of the

life of the essayist himself, he talks of his offering enormous sums for a second. Pilimprovident generosity, and his discovery kington had commissioned a friend in India that the way to assist the needy was first to to send him two from the East; they were secure independence. “My immediate care, now in the river on board the good ship therefore," he says, was to leave my pre- “Earl of Chatham," and, in proof of his sent habitation, and make an entire reforma- story, he pulled out the letter advising him tion in my conduct and behavior.” He re

He re of their despatch. Nothing stood between moved, accordingly, towards the close of him and independence except the want of a 1760, into better lodgings in Wine Office suitable cage in which to present them, and Court, Fleet Street, but the reformation in he could no more raise the two guineas for his conduct did not ensue. In every thing the purpose than pay off the national debt. which he wrote at this period, he dwells Goldsmith protested that a single half-guinea upon the superiority of economy and justice was all he had in the world. “Ay," says over the misplaced liberality which puts the Pilkington," but you have a watch : if you donor into the indigent circumstances of the could let me have that, I could pawn it across person he relieves, for he had been smarting the way for two guineas, and be able to repay from the effects of discharging the debts of you with heart-felt gratitude in a few days." others with the money which should have Pilkington must have resolved to have his gone to defray his own. In furtherance of jest as well as his guineas, when he made his design, he boasted that he had exchanged poor Oliver the dupe of so gross a hoax. his free and open mapner for a close, sus- Two years elapsed, when he suddenly reappicious air, and that he was now on his guard peared in a state of semi-intoxication at Goldagainst the needy sharpers who, instead of smith's rooms, and greeted him in the lanpicking his pockets, prevailed on him to guage of familiar friendship, at the unlucky empty them of his own accord into their moment when Topham Beauclerk and Genhands. But he rightly called himself a mere eral Oglethorpe were honoring him with their machine of pity, incapable of withstanding company, and he was ashamed to seem intithe slightest exhibition of real or fictitious mate with the vulgar and disreputable imdistress, and, however knowing his looks, his porter of white mice. Pilkington had come power to see through the clumsiest fraud to pay, not the guineas, but the “ heart-felt was on a par with his firmness. He seems gratitude.” “Here, my dear friend,” be to have smiled at his own impotent resola- suddenly exclaimed, as he pulled a couple of tions in the moment of forming them. “One little parcels out of his pocket, “is a quarter of the most heroic actions I ever performed," of a pound of tea and half a pound of sugar, says the Man in Black, “ and for which I for, though it is not in my power at present shall praise myself as long as I live, was the to return you the two guineas, you por any refusing half-a-crown to an old acquaintance man else shall ever have it say

that I want at the time when he wanted it and I had it gratitude.” Oliver, roused to anger, bid him to spare.” This does not promise much con begone, and he departed, carrying bis tea stancy in the course, and no indication ever and sugar with him. They never met again; appeared that he had left his im providence but when Pilkington was dying, a messenger or his simplicity in his Green Arbor Court took, says Mr. Forster, " to the poor starvlodging. Among other good deeds, he re- ing creature's death-bed a guinea from Mr. membered the landlady to the day of his Goldsmith.” death, supplied her from time to time with Mr. Cooke, who relates the anecdote of food from his table, and frequently returned the white mice, has coupled with it another to the scene of his old one.chaired apartment illustration of the extreme credulity of his to cheer and assist her.

friend. He appeared late and hungry at a In evidence of his progress in detecting club, and, having eaten no dinner, ordered a imposition, we are told that one Pilkington, dish of mutton chops for supper. His comwho had long preyed upon the easiness of panions, to balk his eager appetite, drew his nature, and had exasperated him by his their chairs from the table on the appearance conduct, burst into his room in ecstacies of of the dish, and gave sundry symptoms of joy. He apologized for the liberty, but his disgust. Goldsmith asked anxiously if any. fortune was made, and he could not resist thing was the matter with the chops ; but hurrying to impart the glad tidings to his they evaded the question, and it was only best and earliest benefactor. The Duchess with much pressing that they were brought of Manchester had a mania for wbite mice. to tell him that the smell was offensive. He She possessed a pair, and for years had been rang the bell, covered the waiter, who quickly

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