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From the Quarterly Review.
MR. CUNNINGHAM, whose scrupulous exactness is generally known, has furnished the first complete and accurate reprint of the miscellaneous writings of Oliver Goldsmith. Numerous errors which had crept into previous editions are corrected, omitted passages are restored, and entire pieces have been added. By a fortunate coincidence Mr. Forster at the same moment has reproduced, with great additions, his well-known" Life of Goldsmith," in which he has collected, from an infinity of sources, every particular which could illustrate the career of his hero, and by his acute and genial comments, has assigned to the mass of disjointed facts their true nificance. Much as has been written upon the man, and often as his works have been republished, we have now a better opportu
nity for forming a thorough acquaintance with both than has been afforded us before.
There was an anomaly in Goldsmith's character which has existed in no other celebrated personage in an equal degree. An Irishman by birth, he had most of the virtues and not a few of the failings which distinguish many of his nation-their love of low festivities, their blundering, their gullibility, their boastfulness, their vanity, their improvidence, and, above all, their hospitality and benevolence. But with this Hibernian disposition he was an author after the purest and soberest models-chaste in his style and lansig-guage, and calm and rational in his opinions. Those who lived with him found it hard to believe that one so weak in his conduct and conversation could display much power in his writings, and, as we learn from Dr. Johnson, "it was with difficulty that his friends could give him a hearing." Posterity, on the other hand, who reverse the process and judge him from his books, have been reluctant to acknowledge that the man "who wrote like an angel could have talked like poor Poll ;" and there has been a tendency of late years to accuse his contemporaries of combining to exaggerate his absurdities. But whatever be
* The Life and Times of Oliver Goldsmith. By JOHN FORSTER, of the Inner Temple, Barrister-atLaw. Second Edition, 2 vols. 8vo. London, 1854. The Works of Oliver Goldsmith. Edited by Peter Cunningham. 4 vols. 8vo. London, 1854.
The new edition of the works of Goldsmith forms part of a series of the British Classics, which is undoubtedly the best selected and edited, the cheapest, and the handsomest that has ever issued from the press.
VOL. XXXIV.-NO. I.
accounts, he was rejected for appearing in scarlet breeches. The story was probably a jocose invention suggested by his love of gaudy clothes, and the only intelligible explanation of the transaction, as Mr. Forster remarks, is that his knowledge was found deficient. Instead of preparing for his examination he had employed his two years in country rambles, in playing whist and the flute, and in telling stories and singing songs at a club which met at the Ballymahon public-house. His own predilections had never been in favor of the clerical profession, and he made no further efforts to enter the church. Mr. Contarine, a clergyman who had married the sister of Oliver's father, now procured him the situation of tutor in the house of a Mr. Flinn. Here he remained a twelvemonth, when he taxed one of the family with cheating at cards and lost his office. He went back to Ballymahon with thirty pounds and a On the appearance in 1837 of Mr. Prior's horse, started afresh in a few days, and reLife of Goldsmith, we related in detail the appeared at the end of six weeks with a worse earlier, and at that time the least known, part horse and no money. His mother being very of his career.* The son of a poor clergyman angry, he wrote a letter to pacify her, in which he was sent at seventeen to Dublin University, he professed to have gone to Cork, to have and for cheapness was compelled to enter as paid his passage in a ship which was bound a sizar. If poverty is the stimulus to indus- to America, and to have been left behind by try, industry is equally the solace of poverty. an unscrupulous captain who "never inquired Study furnishes the mind with occupation, after me, but set sail with as much indifferand removes the necessity for costlier and less ence as if I had been on baard." A train of worthy entertainment; but idleness aggra- adventures followed, the whole of which bear vates penury, and is the parent of low diver- evident marks of invention, and show how sions, lassitude, and debt. Such, from the early he began to display the talents which indications which remain to us, appears to produced the "Vicar of Wakefield." The have been the college existence of Goldsmith. church and emigration had failed. It was Any chance of his being drawn into the stu- resolved to try law. With fifty pounds furdies of the place was destroyed by the brutal-nished by Mr. Contarine, he set out for Lonity of a tutor, who ridiculed his awkwardness don to keep his terms, gambled away his little and his ignorance, and who once knocked fund with an acquaintance at Dublin, and was him down for giving a humble dance at his once more thrown back penniless upon his rooms to celebrate the small but solitary friends. The law was given up; but after a honor of having gained an exhibition worth short interval they were hopeful enough to thirty shillings. After nearly four years passed think that medicine might be attended with at Dublin without pleasure, profit, or distinc- better luck. The money was again supplied tion, he took his degree of bachelor of arts by Mr. Contarine, and this time the reckless the 27th February, 1749. Oliver contrived to reach his destination, though it was no less distant than Edinburgh. He arrived there in the autumn of 1752, when he was twenty-four years of age.
the explanation of the contradiction, there is abundant evidence that it was real. His works remain to speak for themselves: and the account of his foibles comes to us from such a variety of quarters, that to deny the likeness would be to undermine the foundations of biography itself. Even if traits originally ludicrous were made broader in the repetition, the general temptation to indulge in a caricature of his weaknesses is itself a proof that the qualities existed in excess. This distinct recognition by Mr. Forster of the blended nature of Goldsmith, of the Irish temperament which he derived from his parents, his training, and his early associates, and of the taste in composition which he derived from the study of books, has dissipated the doubts and difficulties which recent discussions were beginning to raise about one of the most strongly marked and transparent characters that ever existed in the world.
His father died while he was at college, and his mother lived in reduced circumstances at a cottage in Ballymahon. He was urged by his family to take orders, but, wanting two years of the canonical age, he spent the interval at his new home. When he at last presented himself before the Bishop of Elphin he was refused ordination. According to a tradition which rests upon indifferent authority, and which is contradicted by other
Quarterly Review," vol. lvii. p. 273.
It may be inferred from the previous and subsequent proceedings of Oliver, that he was neither very diligent nor very prudent at Edinburgh, but little is known with certainty. He remained there till the spring of 1754, when, led more by his love of roving than by his devotion to science, he resolved to visit the continental schools. "I shall carry," he wrote to Mr. Contarine in announcing that he
had drawn upon him for twenty pounds, "just £33 to France, with good store of clothes, shirts, &c., and that with economy will serve." Economy he never practised. Whatever pittance he possessed was usually squandered, and when he lived frugally it was because he had exhausted his means. A letter from Leyden to Mr. Contarine, which describes the mishaps that attended his voyage to Holland, whither he went instead of to France, is tinged, like the apologetical epistle to his mother, with palpable romance; and Mr. Forster suggests, we have no doubt truly, that it may perhaps have been dictated by the same motive--a desire to explain away heedless expenditure which might soon compel him to tax anew the purse and patience of his friends. His generous uncle, however, seems shortly afterwards to have sunk into childishness, and his other relatives in Ireland were deaf to his appeals. At Leyden he managed to exist by borrowing and giving lessons in English. He frequented the gaming table, and once brought away a considerable sum, which was lost almost as soon as won. When he took his departure in February 1755, he was obliged to a fellow student for the loan which was to carry him on his way. Immediately afterwards he passed the shop of a florist, saw some costly tulip-roots, which were things prized by Mr. Contarine, and, solely intent upon gratifying his uncle, bought them at once with the borrowed money. It is these benevolent but ill-regulated impulses which have endeared the memory of Goldsmith to the world. In him the extravagance which ministers to gratitude and relieves wretchedness was still stronger than the improvidence which grew from self-indulgence. He left Leyden next day," says Mr. Forster, "with a guinea in his pocket, one shirt to his back, and a flute in his hand."
He took the course which he afterwards described in "The Traveller," and trudged on foot through parts of Flanders, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. In later days he used to tell his friends of the distresses he underwent of his sleeping in barns, of his dependence at one time upon the charity of convents, and of his turning itinerant flute-player* at another to get bed
and board. As no Englishman of his time could have seen so much of the interior life of the lower classes abroad, and been so intimately versed in their manners and feelings, it is surprising that among all his literary taskwork he should never have given a narrative of his continental adventures. It is stated by Mr. Forster, that after he grew into reputation the booksellers for whom he worked were unwilling to have it known that the famous Dr. Goldsmith had been a mendicant wanderer. If this was the cause of his silence, they judged very ill for their own interests and very falsely of public opinion, and the world has lost a more charming book of travels than has ever perhaps been penned.
The pedestrian tour of Goldsmith lasted exactly a year, and in February, 1756, he landed at Dover. He had increased his knowledge of men, manners, and countries, but he had brought back little which could aid him in his profession, except a medical degree that was supposed to have been procured at either Padua or Louvain, where the principal qualification was the payment of the fees. He made his way to London, and his first employment is believed to have been that of an usher in a provincial school. He soon returned to the metropolis, and offered himself to apothecaries to dispense their medicines. He had no other introduction than his mein and address, and it is not surprising that his ungainly figure, plain face, awkward manners, and shabby clothes should have failed to recommend him. Such was the poverty of his appearance that when he called shortly afterwards in his best suit upon Dr. Sleigh, who had been his fellow student at Edinburgh, his former associate was unable to recognize him in his pitiful garb. His Irish birth increased the mistrust and stood much in his way. One Jacob, a chemist, who lived near the Monument, at last ventured to try him, and it was while in his service that Oliver renewed his intercourse with Dr. Sleigh. "When he did recollect me," says Goldsmith, "I found his heart as warm as ever, and he shared his purse and friendship with me dur
nounced it to be correct, adding, "that if he had not
seen him do it he never could have believed his friend capable of writing music after him." In contradiction to this, the author of an address to the "Philological Society of London," published in May, 1787, and quoted by Mr. Forster, asserts that a gentleman of his acquaintance had often laid pieces of music before Goldsmith, who played them at sight. The anecdote of Hawkins is not in itself very probable, and may now be dismissed as apo
* He was an indifferent performer, and, if we were to credit the story related by Sir John Hawkine, he was ignorant of his notes. Roubiliac, so runs the tale, pretending to be charmed with one of Oliver's airs, begged to have it repeated that he might take it down. The sculptor jotted some random dots upon the paper, and showed it to Goldsmith, who, after looking it over with seeming attention, pro-cryphal.
ing his continuance in London." Through | solemn central figure of the group, was espethe agency of Sleigh and Jacob he commenced cially provoked by the diverting originalities practising in Southwark, and, in the language which distinguished Goldsmith from the rest of Mr. Forster, became "poor physician to of mankind. The oddity of language to which the poor." Yet even in this lowly sphere he he alludes in The Bee was his Hibernian was mindful of dress, and while with one dialect, and it was remarked by his friend hand he felt the pulse of his patient, with the Mr. Cooke that to the close of his life he was other he held his hat upon his breast to con- careful to retain it in all its original force. ceal a patch upon his coat. Either he failed A curious instance of his ignorance of Engto get practise, or those who employed him lish pronunciation occurs in one of his early were too needy to pay, and he abandoned reviews, in which he takes a poet to task for physic to become corrector of the press to the making key rhyme with be. He had then no famous Samuel Richardson. A printer whom idea that it had any other sound than his he attended, and who worked for Richardson, native Irish kay. is said to have suggested the notion and in- The tricks which the pupils played off troduced him to the novelist. This contact upon Oliver he retaliated on the footman, with literature did not assist to make appa- who was weak in intellect and ludicrously rent the latent qualities of his genius. The vain. As he prided himself upon his enting author of "Clarissa" was too much taken up and drinking feats, Goldsmith rolled some with his own importance to have a chance of white cheese into the shape of a candle-end, detecting in his humble assistant the powers and inserting a bit of blackened paper for a which were to produce the "Vicar of Wake-wick he placed it by the remnant of a true field." tallow-dip. "You eat that piece of candle," he said to the footman, "and I will eat this." Goldsmith set the example, and with a wry face ate up his cheese by mouthfuls. When he had nearly done, the footman swallowed his own piece of candle at a desperate gulp, and began to triumph over the protracted nausea of his antagonist. Why truly, William," replied Goldsmith, "my bit of candle was no other than a bit of very nice Cheshire cheese, and therefore, William, I was unwilling to lose the relish of it." After practical jokes like these from a man of twentynine, it was an inevitable consequence that usher Oliver and footman William should be treated by the boys with about equal respect. But the old halo of benevolence which surrounds him everywhere shines out here, and his salary was usually spent, the very day it was paid, in charity to beggars and gifts to the smaller boys. "You had better, Mr. Goldsmith," said Mrs. Milner at last, "let me keep your money for you, as I do for some of the young gentlemen." "In truth, madam," he replied, "there is equal need."
It was while he was at Peckham that the circumstance occurred which brought him into connection with his real vocation. Dr. Milner was a contributor to the "Monthly Review," and Griffiths, the proprietor, when dining at his table, was so far impressed by the conversation of Goldsmith, that he asked him to furnish a few specimens of criticism. The result was his removal from the establishment of Dr. Milner to that of Mr. Griffiths. He was to lodge and board with the bookseller, to receive a small salary, and to labor
In these several occupations the year was passed. The early part of 1757 found him usher at the Academy of Dr. Milner of Peckham, whose son was another of the fellow students of Goldsmith at Edinburgh. He was now secure from want; but to judge from the descriptions he has left of the calling in his writings, it was of all his shifts the most painful and degrading. "The usher," he wrote in The Bee, "is generally the laughing-stock of the school. Every trick is played upon him; the oddity of his manners, his dress, or his language, is a fund of eternal ridicule; the master himself now and then cannot avoid joining in the laugh, and the poor wretch, eternally resenting this ill usage, lives in a state of war with all the family.' Mr. Forster, who quotes this passage, also quotes from the reminiscences of Mr. Cooke, a barrister, who was intimate with Goldsmith during the latter part of his life, the still more significant fact that, though he was accustomed to relate the hardships of his obscurer days, he never alluded to the Peckham Academy. The neglects and insults shown to his poverty were due to his circumstances, but the taunts of his pupils were a deeper wound to his sensitive nature, because they were directed against the man. The sketch of the usher he has drawn in The Bee is a palpable self-portrait, and it is a mark of his simplicity that he has generalised traits which were peculiar to himself. The office was doubtless often treated with disrespect, but the laugh which went round the juvenile circle, and extended itself to the
every day from nine till two upon the thrown upon the town, sleeping in a garret “ Monthly Review.” He entered upon his and dating bis letters from the Temple Exnew functions at the end of April, 1757, change coffee-house, near Temple Bar. He having engaged himself for a twelvemonth, was tracked to his lodgings by his brother and we are inclined to adopt a more cheering Charles, who, hearing a rumor that Oliver view of the contract than has been taken by was up in the world, had decamped secretly Mr. Forster. Goldsmith declared that it was from Ireland to partake of this unwonted not till a year or two later that he discovered Goldsmith prosperity. The poor author made his talents for literature. He had, indeed, light of his situation, and said that the Camsent his brother Henry, in a letter from paign of Addison was written in a garret abroad, the first brief draught of “The higher than his own; but Charles saw that Traveller," but it drew forth no praise from he must seek for another patron, and was the family circle, and did not add to their soon on his way to Jamaica. In a letter hopes of the scapegrace Oliver. He had which Goldsmith wrote in December to his again, in the January of the present year, brother-in-law, Mr. Hodson, he speaks of according to the statement of Dr. Farr, himself as making shift to live by very little called upon him to read the commencement practice as a physician, and very little repuof a tragedy, upon which he had previously tation as a poet. None of the poetry has taken the opinion of Richardson, but he ap- been recovered, if indeed it ever existed, for pears to have received no encouragement to his accounts of himself are not to be trusted. proceed, nor is there the slightest trace, since The only literary work which has been he sold ballads when at college for five shil- traced to him at this period is a short article lings apiece to the street-singers of Dublin, in the “ Critical Review” for November, 1757, that in any of his distresses he ever dreamt and a translation from the French, entitled of eking out his subsistence by his pen. To « The Memoirs of a Protestant condemned exchange the mechanical drudgery of hearing to the Galleys of France for his Religion,'' the Delectus and correcting the nonsense which was published in February, 1758. verses of little boys for the more intellectual Even existence in a garret could not be supdrudgery of writing for the press was, we ported upon the miserable proceeds of authorsuspect, considered by himself an elevation ship, and he was fain to return to the Peckat the moment. It was not Goldsmith con- ham Academy. He reäppeared in the school scious of his genius that had let himself out under what we should have supposed to to Griffiths by the year, but Goldsmith the have been happier auspices. The health of butt of acquaintances and the laughing-stock Dr. Milner was failing, and the head masterof schoolboys. In consequence, however, of ship devolved in great part upon the usher. the coarse, ungenerous nature of the particu. To the increased authority he derived from lar publisher who had secured his services, this circumstance was added the considera: the engagement proved unpropitious, and at tion, which in the worst days of literature the end of six months was dissolved in anger must always have been something, of having by mutual consent. The bookseller taxed his been thought competent to instruct the scribe with idleness and independence, and public through the press.
Yet his situation Goldsmith complained of the authoritative was still uneasy, and the hope which airs of Griffiths, of the domestic parsimony brightened his prospects was the promise of of his wife, and of the unwarrantable liberties Dr. Milner to procure him a medical appointof both in re-touching the articles he com- ment in India. He bid a final adieu to the posed for the review. These early produc-Peckham seminary in August, 1758, and tions have the graces of his style, though not shortly afterwards received the warrant in the bigbest degree. The substance is be which nominated him physician and surgeon low the form. The criticisms and observa- to one of the factories on the coast of Corotions are often commonplace, never novel or mandel. The salary was only a hundred aprofound, and his happiest ideas can scarcely year, but the private practice of the place, challenge any prouder designation than good which followed the official station, was an
With exquisite taste in his extra thousand. To raise money for the own compositions he never, strange to say, outfit, which he calculated would require attained to much insight into the merits and 1301., he had for some time been preparing defects of the writings of others. When bis in his leisure hours “An Enquiry into the judgments are not false, they show neither Present State of Polite Learning in Europe.” nicety of discrimination nor keenness of relish. He wrote to bis relatives and old companions
In the autumn of 1757 he was once more in Ireland to ask them to obtain subscriptions