Oliver Goldsmith
Washington Irving

Part 2 out of 6

companion, Beatty, who used to aid him with his purse at the university,
met him about this time, decked out in the tarnished finery of a
second-hand suit of green and gold, with a shirt and neckcloth of a
fortnight's wear.

Poor Goldsmith endeavored to assume a prosperous air in the eyes of his
early associate. "He was practicing physic," he said, "and _doing very
well!_" At this moment poverty was pinching him to the bone in spite of
his practice and his dirty finery. His fees were necessarily small, and ill
paid, and he was fain to seek some precarious assistance from his pen. Here
his quondam fellow-student, Dr. Sleigh, was again of service, introducing
him to some of the booksellers, who gave him occasional, though starveling
employment. According to tradition, however, his most efficient patron just
now was a journeyman printer, one of his poor patients of Bankside, who had
formed a good opinion of his talents, and perceived his poverty and his
literary shifts. The printer was in the employ of Mr. Samuel Richardson,
the author of Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison; who combined the
novelist and the publisher, and was in flourishing circumstances. Through
the journeyman's intervention Goldsmith is said to have become acquainted
with Richardson, who employed him as reader and corrector of the press, at
his printing establishment in Salisbury Court; an occupation which he
alternated with his medical duties.

Being admitted occasionally to Richardson's parlor, he began to form
literary acquaintances, among whom the most important was Dr. Young, the
author of Night Thoughts, a poem in the height of fashion. It is not
probable, however, that much familiarity took place at the time between the
literary lion of the day and the poor Aesculapius of Bankside, the humble
corrector of the press. Still the communion with literary men had its
effect to set his imagination teeming. Dr. Farr, one of his Edinburgh
fellow-students, who was at London about this time, attending the hospitals
and lectures, gives us an amusing account of Goldsmith in his literary

"Early in January he called upon me one morning before I was up, and, on my
entering the room, I recognized my old acquaintance, dressed in a rusty,
full-trimmed black suit, with his pockets full of papers, which instantly
reminded me of the poet in Garrick's farce of Lethe. After we had finished
our breakfast he drew from his pocket part of a tragedy, which he said he
had brought for my correction. In vain I pleaded inability, when he began
to read; and every part on which I expressed a doubt as to the propriety
was immediately blotted out. I then most earnestly pressed him not to trust
to my judgment, but to take the opinion of persons better qualified to
decide on dramatic compositions. He now told me he had submitted his
productions, so far as he had written, to Mr. Richardson, the author of
Clarissa, on which I peremptorily declined offering another criticism on
the performance."

From the graphic description given of him by Dr. Farr, it will be perceived
that the tarnished finery of green and gold had been succeeded by a
professional suit of black, to which, we are told, were added the wig and
cane indispensable to medical doctors in those days. The coat was a
second-hand one, of rusty velvet, with a patch on the left breast, which he
adroitly covered with his three-cornered hat during his medical visits; and
we have an amusing anecdote of his contest of courtesy with a patient who
persisted in endeavoring to relieve him from the hat, which only made him
press it more devoutly to his heart.

Nothing further has ever been heard of the tragedy mentioned by Dr. Farr;
it was probably never completed. The same gentleman speaks of a strange
Quixotic scheme which Goldsmith had in contemplation at the time, "of going
to decipher the inscriptions on the _written mountains_," though he
was altogether ignorant of Arabic, or the language in which they might be
supposed to be written. "The salary of three hundred pounds," adds Dr.
Farr, "which had been left for the purpose, was the temptation." This was
probably one of many dreamy projects with which his fervid brain was apt to
teem. On such subjects he was prone to talk vaguely and magnificently, but
inconsiderately, from a kindled imagination rather than a well-instructed
judgment. He had always a great notion of expeditions to the East, and
wonders to be seen and effected in the Oriental countries.



Among the most cordial of Goldsmith's intimates in London during this time
of precarious struggle were certain of his former fellow-students in
Edinburgh. One of these was the son of a Dr. Milner, a dissenting minister,
who kept a classical school of eminence at Peckham, in Surrey. Young Milner
had a favorable opinion of Goldsmith's abilities and attainments, and
cherished for him that good will which his genial nature seems ever to have
inspired among his school and college associates. His father falling ill,
the young man negotiated with Goldsmith to take temporary charge of the
school. The latter readily consented; for he was discouraged by the slow
growth of medical reputation and practice, and as yet had no confidence in
the coy smiles of the muse. Laying by his wig and cane, therefore, and once
more wielding the ferule, he resumed the character of the pedagogue, and
for some time reigned as vicegerent over the academy at Peckham. He appears
to have been well treated by both Dr. Milner and his wife, and became a
favorite with the scholars from his easy, indulgent good nature. He mingled
in their sports, told them droll stories, played on the flute for their
amusement, and spent his money in treating them to sweetmeats and other
schoolboy dainties. His familiarity was sometimes carried too far; he
indulged in boyish pranks and practical jokes, and drew upon himself
retorts in kind, which, however, he bore with great good humor. Once,
indeed, he was touched to the quick by a piece of schoolboy pertness. After
playing on the flute, he spoke with enthusiasm of music, as delightful in
itself, and as a valuable accomplishment for a gentleman, whereupon a
youngster, with a glance at his ungainly person, wished to know if he
considered himself a gentleman. Poor Goldsmith, feelingly alive to the
awkwardness of his appearance and the humility of his situation, winced at
this unthinking sneer, which long rankled in his mind.

As usual, while in Dr. Milner's employ, his benevolent feelings were a
heavy tax upon his purse, for he never could resist a tale of distress, and
was apt to be fleeced by every sturdy beggar; so that, between his charity
and his munificence, he was generally in advance of his slender salary.
"You had better, Mr. Goldsmith, let me take care of your money," said Mrs.
Milner one day, "as I do for some of the young gentlemen."--"In truth,
madam, there is equal need!" was the good-humored reply.

Dr. Milner was a man of some literary pretensions, and wrote occasionally
for the "Monthly Review," of which a bookseller, by the name of Griffiths,
was proprietor. This work was an advocate for Whig principles, and had been
in prosperous existence for nearly eight years. Of late, however,
periodicals had multiplied exceedingly, and a formidable Tory rival had
started up in the "Critical Review," published by Archibald Hamilton, a
bookseller, and aided by the powerful and popular pen of Dr. Smollett.
Griffiths was obliged to recruit his forces. While so doing he met
Goldsmith, a humble occupant of a seat at Dr. Milner's table, and was
struck with remarks on men and books which fell from him in the course of
conversation. He took occasion to sound him privately as to his inclination
and capacity as a reviewer, and was furnished by him with specimens of his
literary and critical talents. They proved satisfactory. The consequence
was that Goldsmith once more changed his mode of life, and in April, 1757,
became a contributor to the "Monthly Review," at a small fixed salary, with
board and lodging, and accordingly took up his abode with Mr. Griffiths, at
the sign of the Dunciad, Paternoster Row. As usual we trace this phase of
his fortunes in his semi-fictitious writings; his sudden transmutation of
the pedagogue into the author being humorously set forth in the case of
"George Primrose," in the Vicar of "Wakefield." "Come," says George's
adviser, "I see you are a lad of spirit and some learning; what do you
think of commencing author like me? You have read in books, no doubt, of
men of genius starving at the trade; at present I'll show you forty very
dull fellows about town that live by it in opulence. All honest, jog-trot
men, who go on smoothly and dully, and write history and politics, and are
praised: men, sir, who, had they been bred cobblers, would all their lives
only have mended shoes, but never made them." "Finding" (says George) "that
there is no great degree of gentility affixed to the character of an usher,
I resolved to accept his proposal; and having the highest respect for
literature, hailed the _antiqua mater_ of Grub Street with reverence.
I thought it my glory to pursue a track which Dryden and Otway trod before
me. Alas, Dryden struggled with indigence all his days; and Otway, it is
said, fell a victim to famine in his thirty-fifth year, being strangled by
a roll of bread, which he devoured with the voracity of a starving man."

In Goldsmith's experience the track soon proved a thorny one. Griffiths was
a hard business man, of shrewd, worldly good sense, but little refinement
or cultivation. He meddled, or rather muddled with literature, too, in a
business way, altering and modifying occasionally the writings of his
contributors, and in this he was aided by his wife, who, according to
Smollett, was "an antiquated female critic and a dabbler in the 'Review.'"
Such was the literary vassalage to which Goldsmith had unwarily subjected
himself. A diurnal drudgery was imposed on him, irksome to his indolent
habits, and attended by circumstances humiliating to his pride. He had to
write daily from nine o'clock until two, and often throughout the day;
whether in the vein or not, and on subjects dictated by his taskmaster,
however foreign to his taste; in a word, he was treated as a mere literary
hack. But this was not the worst; it was the critical supervision of
Griffiths and his wife which grieved him: the "illiterate, bookselling
Griffiths," as Smollett called them, "who presumed to revise, alter, and
amend the articles contributed to their 'Review.' Thank heaven," crowed
Smollett, "the 'Critical Review' is not written under the restraint of a
bookseller and his wife. Its principal writers are independent of each
other, unconnected with booksellers, and unawed by old women!"

This literary vassalage, however, did not last long. The bookseller became
more and more exacting. He accused his hack writer of idleness; of
abandoning his writing-desk and literary workshop at an early hour of the
day; and of assuming a tone and manner _above his situation_.
Goldsmith, in return, charged him with impertinence; his wife with meanness
and parsimony in her household treatment of him, and both of literary
meddling and marring. The engagement was broken off at the end of five
months, by mutual consent, and without any violent rupture, as it will be
found they afterward had occasional dealings with each other.

Though Goldsmith was now nearly thirty years of age, he had produced
nothing to give him a decided reputation. He was as yet a mere writer for
bread. The articles he had contributed to the "Review" were anonymous, and
were never avowed by him. They have since been, for the most part,
ascertained; and though thrown off hastily, often treating on subjects of
temporary interest, and marred by the Griffith interpolations, they are
still characterized by his sound, easy, good sense, and the genial graces
of his style. Johnson observed that Goldsmith's genius flowered late; he
should have said it flowered early, but was late in bringing its fruit to



Being now known in the publishing world, Goldsmith began to find casual
employment in various quarters; among others he wrote occasionally for the
"Literary Magazine," a production set on foot by Mr. John Newbery,
bookseller, St. Paul's Churchyard, renowned in nursery literature
throughout the latter half of the last century for his picture-books for
children. Newbery was a worthy, intelligent, kind-hearted man, and a
seasonable though cautious friend to authors, relieving them with small
loans when in pecuniary difficulties, though always taking care to be well
repaid by the labor of their pens. Goldsmith introduces him in a humorous
yet friendly manner in his novel of the Vicar of Wakefield. "This person
was no other than the philanthropic bookseller in St. Paul's Churchyard,
who has written so many little books for children; he called himself their
friend; but he was the friend of all mankind. He was no sooner alighted but
he was in haste to be gone; for he was ever on business of importance, and
was at that time actually compiling materials for the history of one Mr.
Thomas Trip. I immediately recollected this good-natured man's red-pimpled

Besides his literary job work, Goldsmith also resumed his medical practice,
but with very trifling success. The scantiness of his purse still obliged
him to live in obscure lodgings somewhere in the vicinity of Salisbury
Square, Fleet Street; but his extended acquaintance and rising importance
caused him to consult appearances. He adopted an expedient, then very
common, and still practiced in London among those who have to tread the
narrow path between pride and poverty; while he burrowed in lodgings suited
to his means, he "hailed," as it is termed, from the Temple Exchange
Coffeehouse near Temple Bar. Here he received his medical calls; hence he
dated his letters, and here he passed much of his leisure hours, conversing
with the frequenters of the place. "Thirty pounds a year," said a poor
Irish painter, who understood the art of shifting, "is enough to enable a
man to live in London without being contemptible. Ten pounds will find him
in clothes and linen; he can live in a garret on eighteen pence a week;
hail from a coffee-house, where, by occasionally spending threepence, he
may pass some hours each day in good company; he may breakfast on bread and
milk for a penny; dine for sixpence; do without supper; and on
_clean-shirt-day_ he may go abroad and pay visits."

Goldsmith seems to have taken a leaf from this poor devil's manual in
respect to the coffee-house at least. Indeed, coffee-houses in those days
were the resorts of wits and literati, where the topics of the day were
gossiped over, and the affairs of literature and the drama discussed and
criticised. In this way he enlarged the circle of his intimacy, which now
embraced several names of notoriety.

Do we want a picture of Goldsmith's experience in this part of his career?
we have it in his observations on the life of an author in the "Inquiry
into the State of Polite Learning," published some years afterward.

"The author, unpatronized by the great, has naturally recourse to the
bookseller. There cannot, perhaps, be imagined a combination more
prejudicial to taste than this. It is the interest of the one to allow as
little for writing, and for the other to write as much as possible;
accordingly tedious compilations and periodical magazines are the result of
their joint endeavors. In these circumstances the author bids adieu to
fame; writes for bread; and for that only imagination is seldom called in.
He sits down to address the venal muse with the most phlegmatic apathy;
and, as we are told of the Russian, courts his mistress by falling asleep
in her lap."

Again. "Those who are unacquainted with the world are apt to fancy the man
of wit as leading a very agreeable life. They conclude, perhaps, that he is
attended with silent admiration, and dictates to the rest of mankind with
all the eloquence of conscious superiority. Very different is his present
situation. He is called an author, and all know that an author is a thing
only to be laughed at. His person, not his jest, becomes the mirth of the
company. At his approach the most fat, unthinking face brightens into
malicious meaning. Even aldermen laugh, and avenge on him the ridicule
which was lavished on their forefathers.... The poet's poverty is a
standing topic of contempt. His writing for bread is an unpardonable
offense. Perhaps of all mankind an author in these times is used most
hardly. We keep him poor, and yet revile his poverty. We reproach him for
living by his wit, and yet allow him no other means to live. His taking
refuge in garrets and cellars has of late been violently objected to him,
and that by men who, I hope, are more apt to pity than insult his distress.
Is poverty a careless fault? No doubt he knows how to prefer a bottle of
champagne to the nectar of the neighboring ale-house, or a venison pasty to
a plate of potatoes. Want of delicacy is not in him, but in those who deny
him the opportunity of making an elegant choice. Wit certainly is the
property of those who have it, nor should we be displeased if it is the
only property a man sometimes has. We must not underrate him who uses it
for subsistence, and flees from the ingratitude of the age even to a
bookseller for redress."...

"If the author be necessary among us, let us treat him with proper
consideration as a child of the public, not as a rent-charge on the
community. And indeed a child of the public he is in all respects; for
while so well able to direct others, how incapable is he frequently found
of guiding himself. His simplicity exposes him to all the insidious
approaches of cunning; his sensibility, to the slightest invasions of
contempt. Though possessed of fortitude to stand unmoved the expected
bursts of an earthquake, yet of feelings so exquisitely poignant as to
agonize under the slightest disappointment. Broken rest, tasteless meals,
and causeless anxieties shorten life, and render it unfit for active
employments; prolonged vigils and intense application still further
contract his span, and make his time glide insensibly away."

While poor Goldsmith was thus struggling with the difficulties and
discouragements which in those days beset the path of an author, his
friends in Ireland received accounts of his literary success and of the
distinguished acquaintances he was making. This was enough to put the wise
heads at Lissoy and Ballymahon in a ferment of conjectures. With the
exaggerated notions of provincial relatives concerning the family great man
in the metropolis, some of Goldsmith's poor kindred pictured him to
themselves seated in high places, clothed in purple and fine linen, and
hand and glove with the givers of gifts and dispensers of patronage.
Accordingly, he was one day surprised at the sudden apparition, in his
miserable lodging, of his younger brother Charles, a raw youth of
twenty-one, endowed with a double share of the family heedlessness, and who
expected to be forthwith helped into some snug by-path to fortune by one or
other of Oliver's great friends. Charles was sadly disconcerted on learning
that, so far from being able to provide for others, his brother could
scarcely take care of himself. He looked round with a rueful eye on the
poet's quarters, and could not help expressing his surprise and
disappointment at finding him no better off. "All in good tune, my dear
boy," replied poor Goldsmith, with infinite good-humor; "I shall be richer
by-and-by. Addison, let me tell you, wrote his poem of the Campaign in a
garret in the Haymarket, three stones high, and you see I am not come to
that yet, for I have only got to the second story."

Charles Goldsmith did not remain long to embarrass his brother in London.
With the same roving disposition and inconsiderate temper of Oliver, he
suddenly departed in a humble capacity to seek his fortune in the West
Indies, and nothing was heard of him for above thirty years, when, after
having been given up as dead by his friends, he made his reappearance in

Shortly after his departure Goldsmith wrote a letter to his brother-in-law,
Daniel Hodson, Esq., of which the following is an extract; it was partly
intended, no doubt, to dissipate any further illusions concerning his
fortunes which might float on the magnificent imagination of his friends in

"I suppose you desire to know my present situation. As there is nothing in
it at which I should blush, or which mankind could censure, I see no reason
for making it a secret. In short, by a very little practice as a physician,
and a very little reputation as a poet, I make a shift to live. Nothing is
more apt to introduce us to the gates of the muses than poverty; but it
were well if they only left us at the door. The mischief is they sometimes
choose to give us their company to the entertainment; and want, instead of
being gentleman-usher, often turns master of the ceremonies.

"Thus, upon learning I write, no doubt you imagine I starve; and the name
of an author naturally reminds you of a garret. In this particular I do not
think proper to undeceive my friends. But, whether I eat or starve, live in
a first floor or four pairs of stairs high, I still remember them with
ardor; nay, my very country comes in for a share of my affection.
Unaccountable fondness for country, this _maladie du pais_, as the
French call it! Unaccountable that he should still have an affection for a
place, who never, when in it, received above common civility; who never
brought anything out of it except his brogue and his blunders. Surely my
affection is equally ridiculous with the Scotchman's, who refused to be
cured of the itch because it made him unco' thoughtful of his wife and
bonny Inverary.

"But now, to be serious: let me ask myself what gives me a wish to see
Ireland again. The country is a fine one, perhaps? No. There are good
company in Ireland? No. The conversation there is generally made up of a
smutty toast or a bawdy song; the vivacity supported by some humble cousin,
who had just folly enough to earn his dinner. Then, perhaps, there's more
wit and learning among the Irish? Oh, Lord, no! There has been more money
spent in the encouragement of the Padareen mare there one season than given
in rewards to learned men since the time of Usher. All their productions in
learning amount to perhaps a translation, or a few tracts in divinity; and
all their productions in wit to just nothing at all. Why the plague, then,
so fond of Ireland? Then, all at once, because you, my dear friend, and a
few more who are exceptions to the general picture, have a residence there.
This it is that gives me all the pangs I feel in separation. I confess I
carry this spirit sometimes to the souring the pleasures I at present
possess. If I go to the opera, where Signora Columba pours out all the
mazes of melody, I sit and sigh for Lissoy fireside, and Johnny Armstrong's
'Last Good-night' from Peggy Golden. If I climb Hampstead Hill, than where
nature never exhibited a more magnificent prospect, I confess it fine; but
then I had rather be placed on the little mount before Lissoy gate, and
there take in, to me, the most pleasing horizon in nature.

"Before Charles came hither my thoughts sometimes found refuge from severer
studies among my friends in Ireland. I fancied strange revolutions at home;
but I find it was the rapidity of my own motion that gave an imaginary one
to objects really at rest. No alterations there. Some friends, he tells me,
are still lean, but very rich; others very fat, but still very poor. Nay,
all the news I hear of you is, that you sally out in visits among the
neighbors, and sometimes make a migration from the blue bed to the brown. I
could from my heart wish that you and she (Mrs. Hodson), and Lissoy and
Ballymahon, and all of you, would fairly make a migration into Middlesex;
though, upon second thoughts, this might be attended with a few
inconveniences. Therefore, as the mountain will not come to Mohammed, why
Mohammed shall go to the mountain; or, to speak plain English, as you
cannot conveniently pay me a visit, if next summer I can contrive to be
absent six weeks from London, I shall spend three of them among my friends
in Ireland. But first, believe me, my design is purely to visit, and
neither to cut a figure nor levy contributions; neither to excite envy nor
solicit favor; in fact, my circumstances are adapted to neither. I am too
poor to be gazed at, and too rich to need assistance."



For some time Goldsmith continued to write miscellaneously for reviews and
other periodical publications, but without making any decided hit, to use a
technical term. Indeed, as yet he appeared destitute of the strong
excitement of literary ambition, and wrote only on the spur of necessity
and at the urgent importunity of his bookseller. His indolent and truant
disposition, ever averse from labor and delighting in holiday, had to be
scourged up to its task; still it was this very truant disposition which
threw an unconscious charm over everything he wrote; bringing with it
honeyed thoughts and pictured images which had sprung up in his mind in the
sunny hours of idleness: these effusions, dashed off on compulsion in the
exigency of the moment, were published anonymously; so that they made no
collective impression on the public, and reflected no fame on the name of
their author.

In an essay published some time subsequently in the "Bee," Goldsmith
adverts, in his own humorous way, to his impatience at the tardiness with
which his desultory and unacknowledged essays crept into notice. "I was
once induced," says he, "to show my indignation against the public by
discontinuing my efforts to please; and was bravely resolved, like Raleigh,
to vex them by burning my manuscripts in a passion. Upon reflection,
however, I considered what set or body of people would be displeased at my
rashness. The sun, after so sad an accident, might shine next morning as
bright as usual; men might laugh and sing the next day, and transact
business as before; and not a single creature feel any regret but myself.
Instead of having Apollo in mourning or the Muses in a fit of the spleen;
instead of having the learned world apostrophizing at my untimely decease;
perhaps all Grub Street might laugh at my fate, and self-approving dignity
be unable to shield me from ridicule."

Circumstances occurred about this time to give a new direction to
Goldsmith's hopes and schemes. Having resumed for a brief period the
superintendence of the Peckham school during a fit of illness of Dr.
Milner, that gentleman, in requital for his timely services, promised to
use his influence with a friend, an East India director, to procure him a
medical appointment in India.

There was every reason to believe that the influence of Dr. Milner would be
effectual; but how was Goldsmith to find the ways and means of fitting
himself out for a voyage to the Indies? In this emergency he was driven to
a more extended exercise of the pen than he had yet attempted. His
skirmishing among books as a reviewer, and his disputatious ramble among
the schools and universities and literati of the Continent, had filled his
mind with facts and observations which he now set about digesting into a
treatise of some magnitude, to be entitled "An Inquiry into the Present
State of Polite Learning in Europe." As the work grew on his hands his
sanguine temper ran ahead of his labors. Feeling secure of success in
England, he was anxious to forestall the piracy of the Irish press; for as
yet, the Union not having taken place, the English law of copyright did not
extend to the other side of the Irish Channel. He wrote, therefore, to his
friends in Ireland, urging them to circulate his proposals for his
contemplated work, and obtain subscriptions payable in advance; the money
to be transmitted to a Mr. Bradley, an eminent bookseller in Dublin, who
would give a receipt for it and be accountable for the delivery of the
books. The letters written by him on this occasion are worthy of copious
citation as being full of character and interest. One was to his relative
and college intimate, Edward Wells, who had studied for the bar, but was
now living at ease on his estate at Roscommon. "You have quitted," writes
Goldsmith, "the plan of life which you once intended to pursue, and given
up ambition for domestic tranquillity. I cannot avoid feeling some regret
that one of my few friends has declined a pursuit in which he had every
reason to expect success. I have often let my fancy loose when you were the
subject, and have imagined you gracing the bench, or thundering at the bar:
while I have taken no small pride to myself, and whispered to all that I
could come near, that this was my cousin. Instead of this, it seems, you
are merely contented to be a happy man; to be esteemed by your
acquaintances; to cultivate your paternal acres; to take unmolested a nap
under one of your own hawthorns or in Mrs. Wells' bedchamber, which, even a
poet must confess, is rather the more comfortable place of the two. But,
however your resolutions may be altered with regard to your situation in
life, I persuade myself they are unalterable with respect to your friends
in it. I cannot think the world has taken such entire possession of that
heart (once so susceptible of friendship) as not to have left a corner
there for a friend or two, but I flatter myself that even I have a place
among the number. This I have a claim to from the similitude of our
dispositions; or setting that aside, I can demand it as a right by the most
equitable law of nature; I mean that of retaliation; for indeed you have
more than your share in mine. I am a man of few professions; and yet at
this very instant I cannot avoid the painful apprehension that my present
professions (which speak not half my feelings) should be considered only as
a pretext to cover a request, as I have a request to make. No, my dear Ned,
I know you are too generous to think so, and you know me too proud to stoop
to unnecessary insincerity--I have a request, it is true, to make; but as I
know to whom I am a petitioner, I make it without diffidence or confusion.
It is in short, this, I am going to publish a book in London," etc. The
residue of the letter specifies the nature of the request, which was merely
to aid in circulating his proposals and obtaining subscriptions. The letter
of the poor author, however, was unattended to and unacknowledged by the
prosperous Mr. Wells, of Roscommon, though in after years he was proud to
claim relationship to Dr. Goldsmith, when he had risen to celebrity.

Another of Goldsmith's letters was to Robert Bryanton, with whom he had
long ceased to be in correspondence. "I believe," writes he, "that they who
are drunk, or out of their wits, fancy everybody else in the same
condition. Mine is a friendship that neither distance nor tune can efface,
which is probably the reason that, for the soul of me, I can't avoid
thinking yours of the same complexion; and yet I have many reasons for
being of a contrary opinion, else why, in so long an absence, was I never
made a partner in your concerns? To hear of your success would have given
me the utmost pleasure; and a communication of your very disappointments
would divide the uneasiness I too frequently feel for my own. Indeed, my
dear Bob, you don't conceive how unkindly you have treated one whose
circumstances afford him few prospects of pleasure, except those reflected
from the happiness of his friends. However, since you have not let me hear
from you, I have in some measure disappointed your neglect by frequently
thinking of you. Every day or so I remember the calm anecdotes of your
life, from the fireside to the easy-chair; recall the various adventures
that first cemented our friendship; the school, the college, or the tavern;
preside in fancy over your cards; and am displeased at your bad play when
the rubber goes against you, though not with all that agony of soul as when
I was once your partner. Is it not strange that two of such like affections
should be so much separated, and so differently employed as we are? You
seem placed at the center of fortune's wheel, and, let it revolve ever so
fast, are insensible of the motion. I seem to have been tied to the
circumference, and whirled disagreeably round, as if on a whirligig."

He then runs into a whimsical and extravagant tirade about his future
prospects. The wonderful career of fame and fortune that awaits him, and
after indulging in all kinds of humorous gasconades, concludes: "Let me,
then, stop my fancy to take a view of my future self--and, as the boys say,
light down to see myself on horseback. Well, now that I am down, where the
d--l _is I_? Oh gods! gods! here in a garret, writing for bread, and
expecting to be dunned for a milk score!"

He would, on this occasion, have doubtless written to his uncle Contarine,
but that generous friend was sunk into a helpless, hopeless state from
which death soon released him.

Cut off thus from the kind co-operation of his uncle, he addresses a letter
to his daughter Jane, the companion of his schoolboy and happy days, now
the wife of Mr. Lawder. The object was to secure her interest with her
husband in promoting the circulation of his proposals. The letter is full
of character.

"If you should ask," he begins, "why, in an interval of so many years, you
never heard from me, permit me, madam, to ask the same question. I have the
best excuse in recrimination. I wrote to Kilmore from Leyden in Holland,
from Louvain in Flanders, and Rouen in France, but received no answer. To
what could I attribute this silence but to displeasure or forgetfulness?
Whether I was right in my conjecture I do not pretend to determine; but
this I must ingenuously own that I have a thousand times in my turn
endeavored to forget _them_, whom I could not but look upon as
forgetting _me_. I have attempted to blot their names from my memory,
and, I confess it, spent whole days in efforts to tear their image from my
heart. Could I have succeeded, you had not now been troubled with this
renewal of a discontinued correspondence; but, as every effort the restless
make to procure sleep serves but to keep them waking, all my attempts
contributed to impress what I would forget deeper on my imagination. But
this subject I would willingly turn from, and yet, 'for the soul of me,' I
can't till I have said all. I was, madam, when I discontinued writing to
Kilmore, in such circumstances that all my endeavors to continue your
regards might be attributed to wrong motives. My letters might be looked
upon as the petitions of a beggar, and not the offerings of a friend; while
all my professions, instead of being considered as the result of
disinterested esteem, might be ascribed to venal insincerity. I believe,
indeed, you had too much generosity to place them in such a light, but I
could not bear even the shadow of such a suspicion. The most delicate
friendships are always most sensible of the slightest invasion, and the
strongest jealousy is ever attendant on the warmest regard. I could not--I
own I could not--continue a correspondence in which every acknowledgment
for past favors might be considered as an indirect request for future ones;
and where it might be thought I gave my heart from a motive of gratitude
alone, when I was conscious of having bestowed it on much more
disinterested principles. It is true, this conduct might have been simple
enough; but yourself must confess it was in character. Those who know me at
all, know that I have always been actuated by different principles from the
rest of mankind: and while none regarded the interest of his friend more,
no man on earth regarded his own less. I have often affected bluntness to
avoid the imputation of flattery; have frequently seemed to overlook those
merits too obvious to escape notice, and pretended disregard to those
instances of good nature and good sense, which I could not fail tacitly to
applaud; and all this lest I should be ranked among the grinning tribe, who
say 'very true' to all that is said; who fill a vacant chair at a
tea-table; whose narrow souls never moved in a wider circle than the
circumference of a guinea; and who had rather be reckoning the money in
your pocket than the virtue in your breast. All this, I say, I have done,
and a thousand other very silly, though very disinterested, things in my
time, and for all which no soul cares a farthing about me.... Is it to be
wondered that he should once in his life forget you, who has been all his
life forgetting himself? However, it is probable you may one of these days
see me turned into a perfect hunks, and as dark and intricate as a
mouse-hole. I have already given my landlady orders for an entire reform in
the state of my finances. I declaim against hot suppers, drink less sugar
in my tea, and check my grate with brickbats. Instead of hanging my room
with pictures, I intend to adorn it with maxims of frugality. Those will
make pretty furniture enough, and won't be a bit too expensive; for I will
draw them all out with my own hands, and my landlady's daughter shall frame
them with the parings of my black waistcoat. Each maxim is to be inscribed
on a sheet of clean paper, and wrote with my best pen; of which the
following will serve as a specimen. _Look sharp: Mind the main chance:
Money is money now: If you have a thousand pounds you can put your hands by
your sides, and say you are worth a thousand pounds every day of the year:
Take a farthing from a hundred and it will be a hundred no longer._
Thus, which way soever I turn my eyes, they are sure to meet one of those
friendly monitors; and as we are told of an actor who hung his room round
with looking-glass to correct the defects of his person, my apartment shall
be furnished in a peculiar manner, to correct the errors of my mind. Faith!
madam, I heartily wish to be rich, if it were only for this reason, to say
without a blush how much I esteem you. But, alas! I have many a fatigue to
encounter before that happy times comes, when your poor old simple friend
may again give a loose to the luxuriance of his nature; sitting by Kilmore
fireside, recount the various adventures of a hard-fought life; laugh over
the follies of the day; join his flute to your harpsichord; and forget that
ever he starved in those streets where Butler and Otway starved before him.
And now I mention those great names--my uncle! he is no more that soul of
fire as when I once knew him. Newton and Swift grew dim with age as well as
he. But what shall I say? His mind was too active an inhabitant not to
disorder the feeble mansion of its abode: for the richest jewels soonest
wear their settings. Yet who but the fool would lament his condition! He
now forgets the calamities of life. Perhaps indulgent Heaven has given him
a foretaste of that tranquillity here, which he so well deserves hereafter.
But I must come to business; for business, as one of my maxims tells me,
must be minded or lost. I am going to publish in London a book entitled
'The Present State of Taste and Literature in Europe.' The booksellers in
Ireland republish every performance there without making the author any
consideration. I would, in this respect, disappoint their avarice and have
all the profits of my labor to myself. I must therefore request Mr. Lawder
to circulate among his friends and acquaintances a hundred of my proposals
which I have given the bookseller, Mr. Bradley, in Dame Street, directions
to send to him. If, in pursuance of such circulation, he should receive any
subscriptions, I entreat, when collected, they may be sent to Mr. Bradley,
as aforesaid, who will give a receipt, and be accountable for the work, or
a return of the subscription. If this request (which, if it be complied
with, will in some measure be an encouragement to a man of learning) should
be disagreeable or troublesome, I would not press it; for I would be the
last man on earth to have my labors go a-begging; but if I know Mr. Lawder
(and sure I ought to know him), he will accept the employment with
pleasure. All I can say--if he writes a book, I will get him two hundred
subscribers, and those of the best wits in Europe. Whether this request is
complied with or not, I shall not be uneasy; but there is one petition I
must make to him and to you, which I solicit with the warmest ardor, and in
which I cannot bear a refusal. I mean, dear madam, that I may be allowed to
subscribe myself, your ever affectionate and obliged kinsman, OLIVER
GOLDSMITH. Now see how I blot and blunder, when I am asking a favor."



While Goldsmith was yet laboring at his treatise, the promise made him by
Dr. Milner was carried into effect, and he was actually appointed physician
and surgeon to one of the factories on the coast of Coromandel. His
imagination was immediately on fire with visions of Oriental wealth and
magnificence. It is true the salary did not exceed one hundred pounds, but
then, as appointed physician, he would have the exclusive practice of the
place, amounting to one thousand pounds per annum; with advantages to be
derived from trade, and from the high interest of money--twenty per cent;
in a word, for once in his life, the road to fortune lay broad and straight
before him.

Hitherto, in his correspondence with his friends, he had said nothing of
his India scheme; but now he imparted to them his brilliant prospects,
urging the importance of their circulating his proposals and obtaining him
subscriptions and advances on his forthcoming work, to furnish funds for
his outfit.

In the meantime he had to task that poor drudge, his muse, for present
exigencies. Ten pounds were demanded for his appointment-warrant. Other
expenses pressed hard upon him. Fortunately, though as yet unknown to fame,
his literary capability was known to "the trade," and the coinage of his
brain passed current in Grub Street. Archibald Hamilton, proprietor of the
"Critical Review," the rival to that of Griffiths, readily made him a small
advance on receiving three articles for his periodical. His purse thus
slenderly replenished, Goldsmith paid for his warrant; wiped off the score
of his milkmaid; abandoned his garret, and moved into a shabby first floor
in a forlorn court near the Old Bailey; there to await the time for his
migration to the magnificent coast of Coromandel.

Alas! poor Goldsmith! ever doomed to disappointment. Early in the gloomy
month of November, that mouth of fog and despondency in London, he learned
the shipwreck of his hope. The great Coromandel enterprise fell through; or
rather the post promised to him was transferred to some other candidate.
The cause of this disappointment it is now impossible to ascertain. The
death of his quasi patron, Dr. Milner, which happened about this time, may
have had some effect in producing it; or there may have been some
heedlessness and blundering on his own part; or some obstacle arising from
his insuperable indigence; whatever may have been the cause, he never
mentioned it, which gives some ground to surmise that he himself was to
blame. His friends learned with surprise that he had suddenly relinquished
his appointment to India, about which he had raised such sanguine
expectations: some accused him of fickleness and caprice; others supposed
him unwilling to tear himself from the growing fascinations of the literary
society of London.

In the meantime, cut down in his hopes and humiliated in his pride by the
failure of his Coromandel scheme, he sought, without consulting his
friends, to be examined at the College of Physicians for the humble
situation of hospital mate. Even here poverty stood in his way. It was
necessary to appear in a decent garb before the examining committee; but
how was he to do so? He was literally out at elbows as well as out of cash.
Here again the muse, so often jilted and neglected by him, came to his aid.
In consideration of four articles furnished to the "Monthly Review,"
Griffiths, his old taskmaster, was to become his security to the tailor for
a suit of clothes. Goldsmith said he wanted them but for a single occasion,
on which depended his appointment to a situation in the army; as soon as
that temporary purpose was served they would either be returned or paid
for. The books to be reviewed were accordingly lent to him; the muse was
again set to her compulsory drudgery; the articles were scribbled off and
sent to the bookseller, and the clothes came in due time from the tailor.

From the records of the College of Surgeons, it appears that Goldsmith
underwent his examination at Surgeons' Hall, on the 21st of December, 1758.

Either from a confusion of mind incident to sensitive and imaginative
persons on such occasions, or from a real want of surgical science, which
last is extremely probable, he failed in his examination, and was rejected
as unqualified. The effect of such a rejection was to disqualify him for
every branch of public service, though he might have claimed a
re-examination, after the interval of a few months devoted to further
study. Such a re-examination he never attempted, nor did he ever
communicate his discomfiture to any of his friends.

On Christmas day, but four days after his rejection by the College of
Surgeons, while he was suffering under the mortification of defeat and
disappointment, and hard pressed for means of subsistence, he was surprised
by the entrance into his room of the poor woman of whom he hired his
wretched apartment, and to whom he owed some small arrears of rent. She had
a piteous tale of distress, and was clamorous in her afflictions. Her
husband had been arrested in the night for debt, and thrown into prison.
This was too much for the quick feelings of Goldsmith; he was ready at any
time to help the distressed, but in this instance he was himself in some
measure a cause of the distress. What was to be done? He had no money, it
is true; but there hung the new suit of clothes in which he had stood his
unlucky examination at Surgeons' Hall. Without giving himself time for
reflection, he sent it off to the pawnbroker's, and raised thereon a
sufficient sum to pay off his own debt, and to release his landlord from

Under the same pressure of penury and despondency, he borrowed from a
neighbor a pittance to relieve his immediate wants, leaving as a security
the books which he had recently reviewed. In the midst of these straits and
harassments, he received a letter from Griffiths, demanding in peremptory
terms the return of the clothes and books, or immediate payment for the
same. It appears that he had discovered the identical suit at the
pawnbroker's. The reply of Goldsmith is not known; it was out of his power
to furnish either the clothes or the money; but he probably offered once
more to make the muse stand his bail. His reply only increased the ire of
the wealthy man of trade, and drew from him another letter still more harsh
than the first, using the epithets of knave and sharper, and containing
threats of prosecution and a prison.

The following letter from poor Goldsmith gives the most touching picture of
an inconsiderate but sensitive man, harassed by care, stung by
humiliations, and driven almost to despondency.

"Sir--I know of no misery but a jail to which my own imprudences and your
letter seem to point. I have seen it inevitable these three or four weeks,
and, by heavens! request it as a favor--as a favor that may prevent
something more fatal. I have been some years struggling with a wretched
being--with all that contempt that indigence brings with it--with all those
passions which make contempt insupportable. What, then, has a jail that is
formidable. I shall at least have the society of wretches, and such is to
me true society. I tell you, again and again, that I am neither able nor
willing to pay you a farthing, but I will be punctual to any appointment
you or the tailor shall make: thus far, at least, I do not act the sharper,
since, unable to pay my own debts one way, I would generally give some
security another. No, sir; had I been a sharper--had I been possessed of
less good-nature and native generosity, I might surely now have been in
better circumstances.

"I am guilty, I own, of meannesses which poverty unavoidably brings with
it: my reflections are filled with repentance for my imprudence, but not
with any remorse for being a villain; that may be a character you unjustly
charge me with. Your books, I can assure you, are neither pawned nor sold,
but in the custody of a friend, from whom my necessities obliged me to
borrow some money: whatever becomes of my person, you shall have them in a
month. It is very possible both the reports you have heard and your own
suggestions may have brought you false information with, respect to my
character; it is very possible that the man whom you now regard with
detestation may inwardly burn with grateful resentment. It is very possible
that, upon a second perusal of the letter I sent you, you may see the
workings of a mind strongly agitated with gratitude and jealousy. If such
circumstances should appear, at least spare invective till my book with Mr.
Dodsley shall be published, and then, perhaps, you may see the bright side
of a mind, when my professions shall not appear the dictates of necessity,
but of choice.

"You seem to think Dr. Milner knew me not. Perhaps so; but he was a man I
shall ever honor; but I have friendships only with the dead! I ask pardon
for taking up so much time; nor shall I add to it by any other professions
than that I am, sir, your humble servant,


"P.S.--I shall expect impatiently the result of your resolutions."

The dispute between the poet and the publisher was afterward imperfectly
adjusted, and it would appear that the clothes were paid for by a short
compilation advertised by Griffiths in the course of the following month;
but the parties were never really friends afterward, and the writings of
Goldsmith were harshly and unjustly treated in the "Monthly Review."

We have given the preceding anecdote in detail, as furnishing one of the
many instances in which Goldsmith's prompt and benevolent impulses outran
all prudent forecast, and involved him in difficulties and disgraces which
a more selfish man would have avoided. The pawning of the clothes, charged
upon him as a crime by the grinding bookseller, and apparently admitted by
him as one of "the meannesses which poverty unavoidably brings with it,"
resulted, as we have shown, from a tenderness of heart and generosity of
hand in which another man would have gloried; but these were such natural
elements with him that he was unconscious of their merit. It is a pity that
wealth does not oftener bring such "meannesses" in its train.

And now let us be indulged in a few particulars about these lodgings in
which Goldsmith was guilty of this thoughtless act of benevolence. They
were in a very shabby house, No. 12, Green Arbor Court, between the Old
Bailey and Fleet Market. An old woman was still living in 1820 who was a
relative of the identical landlady whom Goldsmith relieved by the money
received from the pawnbroker. She was a child about seven years of age at
the time that the poet rented his apartment of her relative, and used
frequently to be at the house in Green Arbor Court. She was drawn there, in
a great measure, by the good-humored kindness of Goldsmith, who was always
exceedingly fond of the society of children. He used to assemble those of
the family in his room, give them cakes and sweetmeats, and set them
dancing to the sound of his flute. He was very friendly to those around
him, and cultivated a kind of intimacy with a watchmaker in the court, who
possessed much native wit and humor. He passed most of the day, however, in
his room, and only went out in the evenings. His days were no doubt devoted
to the drudgery of the pen, and it would appear that he occasionally found
the booksellers urgent taskmasters. On one occasion a visitor was shown up
to his room, and immediately their voices were heard in high altercation,
and the key was turned within the lock. The landlady, at first, was
disposed to go to the assistance of her lodger; but a calm succeeding, she
forbore to interfere.

Late in the evening the door was unlocked; a supper ordered by the visitor
from a neighboring tavern, and Goldsmith and his intrusive guest finished
the evening in great good-humor. It was probably his old taskmaster
Griffiths, whose press might have been wailing, and who found no other mode
of getting a stipulated task from Goldsmith than by locking him in, and
staying by him until it was finished.

But we have a more particular account of these lodgings in Green Arbor
Court from the Rev. Thomas Percy, afterward 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 demeanor, entered the room, and,
dropping a courtesy, said, 'My mamma sends her compliments and begs the
favor of you to lend her a chamber-pot full of coals.'"

"We are reminded in this anecdote of Goldsmith's picture of the lodgings of
Beau Tibbs, and of the peep into the secrets of a makeshift establishment
given to a visitor by the blundering old Scotch woman.

"By this time we were arrived as high as the stairs would permit us to
ascend, till we came to what he was facetiously pleased to call the first
floor down the chimney; and, knocking at the door, a voice from within
demanded 'Who's there?' My conductor answered that it was him. But this not
satisfying the querist, the voice again repeated the demand, to which he
answered louder than before; and now the door was opened by an old woman
with cautious reluctance.

"When we got in he welcomed me to his house with great ceremony; and,
turning to the old woman, asked where was her lady. 'Good troth,' replied
she, in a peculiar dialect, 'she's washing your twa shirts at the next
door, because they have taken an oath against lending the tub any longer.'
'My two shirts,' cried he, in a tone that faltered with confusion; 'what
does the idiot mean?' 'I ken what I mean weel enough,' replied the other;
'she's washing your twa shirts at the next door, because--' 'Fire and fury!
no more of thy stupid explanations,' cried he; 'go and inform her we have
company. Were that Scotch hag to be forever in my family, she would never
learn politeness, nor forget that absurd poisonous accent of hers, or
testify the smallest specimen of breeding or high life; and yet it is very
surprising, too, as I had her from a Parliament man, a friend of mine from
the Highlands, one of the politest men in the world; but that's a secret.'"
[Footnote: Citizen of the World, Letter iv.]

Let us linger a little in Green Arbor Court, a place consecrated by the
genius and the poverty of Goldsmith, but recently obliterated in the course
of modern improvements. The writer of this memoir visited it not many years
since on a literary pilgrimage, and may be excused for repeating a
description of it which he has heretofore inserted in another publication.
"It then existed in its pristine state, and was a small square of tall and
miserable houses, the very intestines of which seemed turned inside out, to
judge from the old garments and frippery that fluttered from every window.
It appeared to be a region of washerwomen, and lines were stretched about
the little square, on which clothes were dangling to dry.

"Just as we entered the square, a scuffle took place between two viragoes
about a disputed right to a washtub, and immediately the whole community
was in a hubbub. Heads in mob caps popped out of every window, and such a
clamor of tongues ensued that I was fain to stop my ears. Every Amazon took
part with one or other of the disputants, and brandished her arms, dripping
with soapsuds, and fired away from her window as from the embrasure of a
fortress; while the screams of children nestled and cradled in every
procreant chamber of this hive, waking with the noise, set up their shrill
pipes to swell the general concert." [Footnote: Tales of a Traveler.]

While in these forlorn quarters, suffering under extreme depression of
spirits, caused by his failure at Surgeons' Hall, the disappointment of his
hopes, and his harsh collisions with Griffiths, Goldsmith wrote the
following letter to his brother Henry, some parts of which are most
touchingly mournful.

"DEAR SIR--Your punctuality in answering a man whose trade is writing is
more than I had reason to expect; and yet you see me generally fill a whole
sheet, which is all the recompense I can make for being so frequently
troublesome. The behavior of Mr. Wells and Mr. Lawder is a little
extraordinary. However, their answering neither you nor me is a sufficient
indication of their disliking the employment which I assigned them. As
their conduct is different from what I had expected, so I have made an
alteration in mine. I shall, the beginning of next month, send over two
hundred and fifty books, [Footnote: The Inquiry into Polite Literature. His
previous remarks apply to the subscription.] which are all that I fancy can
be well sold among you, and I would have you make some distinction in the
persons who have subscribed. The money, which will amount to sixty pounds,
may be left with Mr. Bradley as soon as possible. I am not certain but I
shall quickly have occasion for it.

"I have met with no disappointment with respect to my East India voyage,
nor are my resolutions altered; though, at the same time, I must confess,
it gives me some pain to think I am almost beginning the world at the age
of thirty-one. Though I never had a day's sickness since I saw you, yet I
am not that strong, active man you once knew me. You scarcely can conceive
how much eight years of disappointment, anguish, and study have worn me
down. If I remember right you are seven or eight years older than me, yet I
dare venture to say, that, if a stranger saw Us both, he would pay me the
honors of seniority. Imagine to yourself a pale, melancholy visage, with
two great wrinkles between the eyebrows, with an eye disgustingly severe,
and a big wig; and you may have a perfect picture of my present appearance.
On the other hand, I conceive you as perfectly sleek and healthy, passing
many a happy day among your own children or those who knew you a child.

"Since I knew what it was to be a man, this is a pleasure I have not known.
I have passed my days among a parcel of cool, designing beings, and have
contracted all their suspicious manner in my own behavior. I should
actually be as unfit for the society of my friends at home, as I detest
that which I am obliged to partake of here. 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. Whence this romantic turn that all our family are
possessed with? Whence this love for every place and every country but that
in which we reside--for every occupation but our own? this desire of
fortune, and yet this eagerness to dissipate? I perceive, my dear sir, that
I am at intervals for indulging this splenetic manner, and following my own
taste, regardless of yours.

"The reasons you have given me for breeding up your son a scholar are
judicious and convincing; I should, however, be glad to know for what
particular profession he is designed If he be assiduous and divested of
strong passions (for passions in youth always lead to pleasure), he may do
very well in your college; for it must be owned that the industrious poor
have good encouragement there, perhaps better than in any other in Europe.
But if he has ambition, strong passions, and an exquisite sensibility of
contempt, do not send him there, unless you have no other trade for him but
your own. It is impossible to conceive how much may be done by proper
education at home. A boy, for instance, who understands perfectly well
Latin, French, arithmetic, and the principles of the civil law, and can
write a fine hand, has an education that may qualify him for any
undertaking; and these parts of learning should be carefully inculcated,
let him be designed for whatever calling he will.

"Above all things, let him never touch a romance or novel; these paint
beauty in colors more charming than nature, and describe happiness that man
never tastes. How delusive, how destructive, are those pictures of
consummate bliss! They teach the youthful mind to sigh after beauty and
happiness that never existed; to despise the little good which fortune has
mixed in our cup, by expecting more than she ever gave; and, in general,
take the word of a man who has seen the world, and who has studied human
nature more by experience than precept; take my word for it, I say, that
books teach us very little of the world. The greatest merit in a state of
poverty would only serve to make the possessor ridiculous--may distress,
but cannot relieve him. Frugality, and even avarice, in the lower orders'
of mankind, are true ambition. These afford the only ladder for the poor to
rise to preferment. Teach then, my dear sir, to your son, thrift and
economy. Let his poor wandering uncle's example be placed before his eyes.
I had learned from books to be disinterested and generous before I was
taught from experience the necessity of being prudent. I had contracted the
habits and notions of a philosopher, while I was exposing myself to the
approaches of insidious cunning; and often by being, even with my narrow
finances, charitable to excess, I forgot the rules of justice, and placed
myself in the very situation of the wretch who thanked me for my bounty.
When I am in the remotest part of the world, tell him this, and perhaps he
may improve from my example. But I find myself again falling into my gloomy
habits of thinking.

"My mother, I am informed, is almost blind; even though I had the utmost
inclination to return home, under such circumstances I could not, for to
behold her in distress without a capacity of relieving her from it would
add much to my splenetic habit. Your last letter was much too short; it
should have answered some queries I had made in my former. Just sit down as
I do, and write forward until you have filled all your paper. It requires
no thought, at least from the ease with which my own sentiments rise when
they are addressed to you. For, believe me, my head has no share in all I
write; my heart dictates the whole. Pray give my love to Bob Bryanton, and
entreat him from me not to drink. My dear sir, give me some account about
poor Jenny. [Footnote: His sister, Mrs. Johnston; her marriage, like that
of Mrs. Hodson, was private, but in pecuniary matters much less fortunate.]
Yet her husband loves her; if so, she cannot be unhappy.

"I know not whether I should tell you--yet why should I conceal these
trifles, or, indeed, anything from you? There is a book of mine will be
published in a few days; the life of a very extraordinary man; no less than
the great Voltaire. You know already by the title that it is no more than a
catchpenny. However, I spent but four weeks on the whole performance, for
which I received twenty pounds. When published, I shall take some method of
conveying it to you, unless you may think it dear of the postage, which may
amount to four or five shillings. However, I fear you will not find an
equivalent of amusement.

"Your last letter, I repeat it, was too short; you should have given me
your opinion of the design of the heroi-comical poem which I sent you. You
remember I intended to introduce the hero of the poem as lying in a paltry
alehouse. You may take the following specimen of the manner, which. I
flatter myself is quite original. The room in which he lies may be
described somewhat in this way:

"'The window, patched with paper, lent a ray
That feebly show'd the state in which he lay;
The sanded floor that grits beneath the tread,
The humid wall with paltry pictures spread;
The game of goose was there exposed to view,
And the twelve rules the royal martyr drew;
The Seasons, framed with listing, found a place.
And Prussia's monarch show'd his lampblack face.
The morn was cold: he views with keen desire
A rusty grate unconscious of a fire;
An unpaid reckoning on the frieze was scored,
And five crack'd teacups dress'd the chimney board.'

"And now imagine, after his soliloquy, the landlord to make his appearance
in order to dun him for the reckoning:

"'Not with that face, so servile and so gay,
That welcomes every stranger that can pay:
With sulky eye he smoked the patient man,
hen pull'd his breeches tight, and thus began,' etc.

[Footnote: The projected poem, of which the above were specimens, appears
never to have been completed.]

"All this is taken, you see, from nature. It is a good remark of
Montaigne's, that the wisest men often hare friends with whom they do not
care how much they play the fool. Take my present follies as instances of
my regard. Poetry is a much easier and more agreeable species of
composition than prose; and could a man live by it, it were not unpleasant
employment to be a poet. I am resolved to leave no space, though I should
fill it up only by telling you, what you very well know already, I mean
that I am your most affectionate friend and brother,


The Life of Voltaire, alluded to in the latter part of the preceding
letter, was the literary job undertaken to satisfy the demands of
Griffiths. It was to hare preceded a translation of the Henriade, by Ned
Purdon, Goldsmith's old schoolmate, now a Grub Street writer, who starved
rather than lived by the exercise of his pen, and often tasked Goldsmith's
scanty means to relieve his hunger. His miserable career was summed up by
our poet in the following lines written some years after the tune we are
treating of, on hearing that he had suddenly dropped dead in Smithfield:

"Here lies poor Ned Purdon, from misery freed,
Who long was a bookseller's hack;
He led such a damnable life in this world,
I don't think he'll wish to come back."

The memoir and translation, though advertised to form a volume, were not
published together; but appeared separately in a magazine.

As to the heroi-comical poem, also, cited in the foregoing letter, it
appears to have perished in embryo. Had it been brought to maturity we
should have had further traits of autobiography, the room already described
was probably his own squalid quarters in Green Arbor Court; and in a
subsequent morsel of the poem we have the poet himself, under the
euphonious name of Scroggin:

"Where the Red Lion peering o'er the way,
Invites each passing stranger that can pay;
Where Calvert's butt and Parson's black champagne
Regale the drabs and bloods of Drury Lane:
There, in a lonely room, from bailiffs snug,
The muse found Scroggin stretch'd beneath a rug;
A nightcap deck'd his brows instead of bay,
A cap by night, a stocking all the day!"

It is to be regretted that this poetical conception was not carried out;
like the author's other writings, it might have abounded with pictures of
life and touches of nature drawn from his own observation and experience,
and mellowed by his own humane and tolerant spirit; and might have been a
worthy companion or rather contrast to his Traveler and Deserted Village,
and have remained in the language a first-rate specimen of the mock-heroic.



Toward the end of March, 1759, the treatise on which Goldsmith had laid so
much stress, on which he at one time had calculated to defray the expenses
of his outfit to India, and to which he had adverted in his correspondence
with Griffiths, made its appearance. It was published by the Dodsleys, and
entitled An Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe.

In the present day, when the whole field of contemporary literature is so
widely surveyed and amply discussed, and when the current productions of
every country are constantly collated and ably criticised, a treatise like
that of Goldsmith would be considered as extremely limited and
unsatisfactory; but at that time it possessed novelty in its views and
wideness in its scope, and being indued with the peculiar charm of style
inseparable from the author, it commanded public attention and a profitable
sale. As it was the most important production that had yet come from
Goldsmith's pen, he was anxious to have the credit of it; yet it appeared
without his name on the title-page. The authorship, however, was well known
throughout the world of letters, and the author had now grown into
sufficient literary importance to become an object of hostility to the
underlings of the press. One of the most virulent attacks upon him was in a
criticism on this treatise, and appeared in the "Monthly Review," to which
he himself had been recently a contributor. It slandered him as a man while
it decried him as an author, and accused him, by innuendo, of "laboring
under the infamy of having, by the vilest and meanest actions, forfeited
all pretensions to honor and honesty," and of practicing "those acts which
bring the sharper to the cart's tail or the pillory."

It will be remembered that the "Review" was owned by Griffiths the
bookseller, with whom Goldsmith had recently had a misunderstanding. The
criticism, therefore, was no doubt dictated by the lingerings of
resentment; and the imputations upon Goldsmith's character for honor and
honesty, and the vile and mean actions hinted at, could only allude to the
unfortunate pawning of the clothes. All this, too, was after Griffiths had
received the affecting letter from Goldsmith, drawing a picture of his
poverty and perplexities, and after the latter had made him a literary
compensation. Griffiths, in fact, was sensible of the falsehood and
extravagance of the attack, and tried to exonerate himself by declaring
that the criticism was written by a person in his employ; but we see no
difference in atrocity between him who wields the knife and him who hires
the cut-throat. It may be well, however, in passing, to bestow our mite of
notoriety upon the miscreant who launched the slander. He deserves it for a
long course of dastardly and venomous attacks, not merely upon Goldsmith,
but upon most of the successful authors of the day. His name was Kenrick.
He was originally a mechanic, but, possessing some degree of talent and
industry, applied himself to literature as a profession. This he pursued
for many years, and tried his hand in every department of prose and poetry;
he wrote plays and satires, philosophical tracts, critical dissertations,
and works on philology; nothing from his pen ever rose to first-rate
excellence, or gained him a popular name, though he received from some
university the degree of Doctor of Laws. Dr. Johnson characterized his
literary career in one short sentence. "Sir, he is one of the many who have
made themselves _public_ without making themselves _known_."

Soured by his own want of success, jealous of the success of others, his
natural irritability of temper increased by habits of intemperance, he at
length abandoned himself to the practice of reviewing, and became one of
the Ishmaelites of the press. In this his malignant bitterness soon gave
him a notoriety which his talents had never been able to attain. We shall
dismiss him for the present with the following sketch of him by the hand of
one of his contemporaries:

"Dreaming of genius which he never had,
Half wit, half fool, half critic, and half mad;
Seizing, like Shirley, on the poet's lyre,
With all his rage, but not one spark of fire;
Eager for slaughter, and resolved to tear
From other's brows that wreath he most not wear
Next Kenrick came: all furious and replete
With brandy, malice, pertness, and conceit;
Unskill'd in classic lore, through envy blind
To all that's beauteous, learned, or refined;
For faults alone behold the savage prowl,
With reason's offal glut his ravening soul;
Pleased with his prey, its inmost blood he drinks,
And mumbles, paws, and turns it--till it stinks."

The British press about this time was extravagantly fruitful of periodical
publications. That "oldest inhabitant," the "Gentleman's Magazine," almost
coeval with St. John's gate which graced its title-page, had long been
elbowed by magazines and reviews of all kinds; Johnson's Rambler had
introduced the fashion of periodical essays, which he had followed up in
his Adventurer and Idler. Imitations had sprung up on every side, under
every variety of name; until British literature was entirely overrun by a
weedy and transient efflorescence. Many of these rival periodicals choked
each other almost at the outset, and few of them have escaped oblivion.

Goldsmith wrote for some of the most successful, such as the "Bee," the
"Busy-Body," and the "Lady's Magazine." His essays, though characterized by
his delightful style, his pure, benevolent morality, and his mellow,
unobtrusive humor, did not produce equal effect at first with more garish
writings of infinitely less value; they did not "strike," as it is termed;
but they had that rare and enduring merit which rises in estimation on
every perusal. They gradually stole upon the heart of the public, were
copied into numerous contemporary publications, and now they are garnered
up among the choice productions of British literature.

In his Inquiry into the State of Polite Learning, Goldsmith had given
offense to David Garrick, at that time the autocrat of the Drama, and was
doomed to experience its effect. A clamor had been raised against Garrick
for exercising a despotism over the stage, and bringing forward nothing but
old plays to the exclusion of original productions. Walpole joined in this
charge. "Garrick," said he, "is treating the town as it deserves and likes
to be treated; with scenes, fireworks, and _his own writings_. A good
new play I never expect to see more; nor have seen since the Provoked
Husband, which came out when I was at school." Goldsmith, who was extremely
fond of the theater, and felt the evils of this system, inveighed in his
treatise against the wrongs experienced by authors at the hands of
managers. "Our poet's performance," said he, "must undergo a process truly
chemical before it is presented to the public. It must be tried in the
manager's fire; strained through a licenser, suffer from repeated
corrections, till it may be a mere _caput mortuum_ when it arrives
before the public." Again. "Getting a play on even in three or four years
is a privilege reserved only for the happy few who have the arts of
courting the manager as well as the muse; who have adulation to please his
vanity, powerful patrons to support their merit, or money to indemnify
disappointment. Our Saxon ancestors had but one name for a wit and a witch.
I will not dispute the propriety of uniting those characters then; but the
man who under present discouragements ventures to write for the stage,
whatever claim he may have to the appellation of a wit, at least has no
right to be called a conjurer." But a passage which perhaps touched more
sensibly than all the rest on the sensibilities of Garrick was the

"I have no particular spleen against the fellow who sweeps the stage with
the besom, or the hero who brushes it with his train. It were a matter of
indifference to me whether our heroines are in keeping, or our candle
snuffers burn their fingers, did not such make a great part of public care
and polite conversation. Our actors assume all that state off the stage
which they do on it; and, to use an expression borrowed from the green
room, every one is _up_ in his part. I am sorry to say it, they seem
to forget their real characters."

These strictures were considered by Garrick as intended for himself, and
they were rankling in his mind when Goldsmith waited upon him and solicited
his vote for the vacant secretaryship of the Society of Arts, of which the
manager was a member. Garrick, puffed up by his dramatic renown and his
intimacy with the great, and knowing Goldsmith only by his budding
reputation, may not have considered him of sufficient importance to be
conciliated. In reply to his solicitations, he observed that he could
hardly expect his friendly exertions after the unprovoked attack he had
made upon his management. Goldsmith replied that he had indulged in no
personalities, and had only spoken what he believed to be the truth. He
made no further apology nor application; failed to get the appointment, and
considered Garrick his enemy. In the second edition of his treatise he
expunged or modified the passages which had given the manager offense; but
though the author and actor became intimate in after years, this false step
at the outset of their intercourse was never forgotten.

About this time Goldsmith engaged with Dr. Smollett, who was about to
launch the "British Magazine." Smollett was a complete schemer and
speculator in literature, and intent upon enterprises that had money rather
than reputation in view. Goldsmith has a good-humored hit at this
propensity in one of his papers in the "Bee," in which he represents
Johnson, Hume, and others taking seats in the stagecoach bound for Fame,
while Smollett prefers that destined for Riches.

Another prominent employer of Goldsmith was Mr. John Newbery, who engaged
him to contribute occasional essays to a newspaper entitled the "Public
Ledger," which made its first appearance on the 12th of January, 1760. His
most valuable and characteristic contributions to this paper were his
Chinese Letters, subsequently modified into the Citizen of the World. These
lucubrations attracted general attention; they were reprinted in the
various periodical publications of the day, and met with great applause.
The name of the author, however, was as yet but little known.

Being now in easier circumstances, and in the receipt of frequent sums from
the booksellers, Goldsmith, about the middle of 1760, emerged from his
dismal abode in Green Arbor Court, and took respectable apartments in
Wine-Office Court, Fleet Street.

Still he continued to look back with considerate benevolence to the poor
hostess, whose necessities he had relieved by pawning his gala coat, for we
are told that "he often supplied her with food from his own table, and
visited her frequently with the sole purpose to be kind to her."

He now became a member of a debating club, called the Robin Hood, which
used to meet near Temple Bar, and in which Burke, while yet a Temple
student, had first tried his powers. Goldsmith spoke here occasionally, and
is recorded in the Robin Hood archives as "a candid disputant, with a clear
head and an honest heart, though coming but seldom to the society." His
relish was for clubs of a more social, jovial nature, and he was never fond
of argument. An amusing anecdote is told of his first introduction to the
club by Samuel Derrick, an Irish acquaintance of some humor. On entering,
Goldsmith was struck with the self-important appearance of the chairman
ensconced in a large gilt chair. "This," said he, "must be the Lord
Chancellor at least." "No, no," replied Derrick, "he's only master of the
_rolls_."--The chairman was a _baker_.



In his new lodgings in Wine-Office Court, Goldsmith began to receive visits
of ceremony and to entertain his literary friends. Among the latter he now
numbered several names of note, such as Guthrie, Murphy, Christopher Smart,
and Bickerstaff. He had also a numerous class of hangers-on, the small-fry
of literature; who, knowing his almost utter incapacity to refuse a
pecuniary request, were apt, now that he was considered flush, to levy
continual taxes upon his purse.

Among others, one Pilkington, an old college acquaintance, but now a
shifting adventurer, duped him in the most ludicrous manner. He called on
him with a face full of perplexity. A lady of the first rank having an
extraordinary fancy for curious animals, for which she was willing to give
enormous sums, he had procured a couple of white mice to be forwarded to
her from India. They were actually on board of a ship in the river. Her
grace had been apprised of their arrival, and was all impatience to see
them. Unfortunately, he had no cage to put them in, nor clothes to appear
in before a lady of her rank. Two guineas would be sufficient for his
purpose, but where were two guineas to be procured!

The simple heart of Goldsmith was touched; but, alas! he had but half a
guinea in his pocket. It was unfortunate, but after a pause his friend
suggested, with some hesitation, "that money might be raised upon his
watch; it would but be the loan of a few hours." So said, so done; the
watch was delivered to the worthy Mr. Pilkington to be pledged at a
neighboring pawnbroker's, but nothing further was ever seen of him, the
watch, or the white mice. The next that Goldsmith heard of the poor
shifting scapegrace, he was on his deathbed, starving with want, upon
which, forgetting or forgiving the trick he had played upon him, he sent
him a guinea. Indeed, he used often to relate with great humor the
foregoing anecdote of his credulity, and was ultimately in some degree
indemnified by its suggesting to him the amusing little story of Prince
Bonbennin and the White House in the Citizen of the World.

In this year Goldsmith became personally acquainted with Dr. Johnson,
toward whom he was drawn by strong sympathies, though their natures were
widely different. Both had struggled from early life with poverty, but had
struggled in different ways. Goldsmith, buoyant, heedless, sanguine,
tolerant of evils and easily pleased, had shifted along by any temporary
expedient; cast down at every turn, but rising again with indomitable
good-humor, and still carried forward by his talent at hoping. Johnson,
melancholy, and hypochondriacal, and prone to apprehend the worst, yet
sternly resolute to battle with and conquer it, had made his way doggedly
and gloomily, but with a noble principle of self-reliance and a disregard
of foreign aid. Both had been irregular at college, Goldsmith, as we have
shown, from the levity of his nature and his social and convivial habits;
Johnson, from his acerbity and gloom. When, in after life, the latter heard
himself spoken of as gay and frolicsome at college, because he had joined
in some riotous excesses there, "Ah, sir!" replied he, "I was mad and
violent. It was bitterness which they mistook for frolic. _I was
miserably poor, and I thought to fight my way by my literature and my
wit_. So I disregarded all power and all authority."

Goldsmith's poverty was never accompanied by bitterness; but neither was it
accompanied by the guardian pride which kept Johnson from falling into the
degrading shifts of poverty. Goldsmith had an unfortunate facility at
borrowing, and helping himself along by the contributions of his friends;
no doubt trusting, in his hopeful way, of one day making retribution.
Johnson never hoped, and therefore never borrowed. In his sternest trials
he proudly bore the ills he could not master. In his youth, when some
unknown friend, seeing his shoes completely worn out, left a new pair at
his chamber door, he disdained to accept the boon, and threw them away.

Though like Goldsmith an immethodical student, he had imbibed deeper
draughts of knowledge, and made himself a riper scholar. While Goldsmith's
happy constitution and genial humors carried him abroad into sunshine and
enjoyment, Johnson's physical infirmities and mental gloom drove him upon
himself; to the resources of reading and meditation; threw a deeper though
darker enthusiasm into his mind, and stored a retentive memory with all
kinds of knowledge.

After several years of youth passed in the country as usher, teacher, and
an occasional writer for the press, Johnson, when twenty-eight years of
age, came up to London with a half-written tragedy in his pocket; and David
Garrick, late his pupil, and several years his junior, as a companion, both
poor and penniless, both, like Goldsmith, seeking their fortune in the
metropolis. "We rode and tied," said Garrick sportively in after years of
prosperity, when he spoke of their humble wayfaring. "I came to London,"
said Johnson, "with twopence halfpenny in my pocket." "Eh, what's that you
say?" cried Garrick, "with twopence halfpenny in your pocket?" "Why, yes; I
came with twopence halfpenny in _my_ pocket, and thou, Davy, with but
three halfpence in thine." Nor was there much exaggeration in the picture;
for so poor were they in purse and credit that after their arrival they
had, with difficulty, raised five pounds, by giving their joint note to a
bookseller in the Strand.

Many, many years had Johnson gone on obscurely in London, "fighting his way
by his literature and his wit"; enduring all the hardships and miseries of
a Grub Street writer; so destitute at one time that he and Savage the poet
had walked all night about St. James's Square, both too poor to pay for a
night's lodging, yet both full of poetry and patriotism, and determined to
stand by their country; so shabby in dress at another time, that when he
dined at Cave's, his bookseller, when there was prosperous company, he
could not make his appearance at table, but had his dinner handed to him
behind a screen.

Yet through all the long and dreary struggle, often diseased in mind as
well as in body, he had been resolutely self-dependent, and proudly
self-respectful; he had fulfilled his college vow, he had "fought his way
by his literature and his wit." His Rambler and Idler had made him the
great moralist of the age, and his Dictionary and History of the English
Language, that stupendous monument of individual labor, had excited the
admiration of the learned world. He was now at the head of intellectual
society; and had become as distinguished by his conversational as his
literary powers. He had become as much an autocrat in his sphere as his
fellow-wayfarer and adventurer Garrick had become of the stage, and had
been humorously dubbed by Smollett, "The Great Cham of Literature."

Such was Dr. Johnson, when on the 31st of May, 1761, he was to make his
appearance as a guest at a literary supper given by Goldsmith, to a
numerous party at his new lodgings in Wine-Office Court. It was the opening
of their acquaintance. Johnson had felt and acknowledged the merit of
Goldsmith as an author, and been pleased by the honorable mention made of
himself in the "Bee" and the Chinese Letters. Dr. Percy called upon Johnson
to take him to Goldsmith's lodgings; he found Johnson arrayed with unusual
care in a new suit of clothes, a new hat, and a well-powdered wig; and
could not but notice his uncommon spruceness. "Why, sir," replied Johnson,
"I hear that Goldsmith, who is a very great sloven, justifies his disregard
of cleanliness and decency by quoting my practice, and I am desirous this
night to show him a better example."

The acquaintance thus commenced ripened into intimacy in the course of
frequent meetings at the shop of Davies, the bookseller, in Russell Street,
Covent Garden. As this was one of the great literary gossiping places of
the day, especially to the circle over which Johnson presided, it is worthy
of some specification. Mr. Thomas Davies, noted in after times as the
biographer of Garrick, had originally been on the stage, and though a small
man had enacted tyrannical tragedy, with a pomp and magniloquence beyond
his size, if we may trust the description given of him by Churchill in the

"Statesman all over--in plots famous grown,
_He mouths a sentence as ours mouth a bone_."

This unlucky sentence is said to have crippled him in the midst of his
tragic career, and ultimately to have driven him from the stage. He carried
into the bookselling craft somewhat of the grandiose manner of the stage,
and was prone to be mouthy and magniloquent.

Churchill had intimated, that while on the stage he was more noted for his
pretty wife than his good acting:

"With him came mighty Davies; on my life,
That fellow has a very pretty wife."

"Pretty Mrs. Davies," continued to be the loadstar of his fortunes. Her
tea-table became almost as much a literary lounge as her husband's shop.
She found favor in the eyes of the Ursa Major of literature by her winning
ways, as she poured out for him cups without stint of his favorite
beverage. Indeed it is suggested that she was one leading cause of his
habitual resort to this literary haunt. Others were drawn thither for the
sake of Johnson's conversation, and thus it became a resort of many of the
notorieties of the day. Here might occasionally be seen Bennet Langton,
George Stevens, Dr. Percy, celebrated for his ancient ballads, and
sometimes Warburton in prelatic state. Garrick resorted to it for a time,
but soon grew shy and suspicious, declaring that most of the authors who
frequented Mr. Davies' shop went merely to abuse him.

Foote, the Aristophanes of the day, was a frequent visitor; his broad face
beaming with fun and waggery, and his satirical eye ever on the lookout for
characters and incidents for his farces. He was struck with the odd habits
and appearance of Johnson and Goldsmith, now so often brought together in
Davies' shop. He was about to put on the stage a farce called The Orators,
intended as a hit at the Robin Hood debating club, and resolved to show up
the two doctors in it for the entertainment of the town.

"What is the common price of an oak stick, sir?" said Johnson to Davies.
"Sixpence," was the reply. "Why, then, sir, give me leave to send your
servant to purchase a shilling one. I'll have a double quantity; for I am
told Foote means to take me off, as he calls it, and I am determined the
fellow shall not do it with impunity."

Foote had no disposition to undergo the criticism of the cudgel wielded by
such potent hands, so the farce of The Orators appeared without the
caricatures of the lexicographer and the essayist.



Notwithstanding his growing success, Goldsmith continued to consider
literature a mere makeshift, and his Vagrant imagination teemed with
schemes and plans of a grand but indefinite nature. One was for visiting
the East and exploring the interior of Asia. He had, as has been before
observed, a vague notion that valuable discoveries were to be made there,
and many useful inventions in the arts brought back to the stock of
European knowledge. "Thus, in Siberian Tartary," observes he in one of his
writings, "the natives extract a strong spirit from milk, which is a secret
probably unknown to the chemists of Europe. In the most savage parts of
India they are possessed of the secret of dying vegetable substances
scarlet, and that of refining lead into a metal which, for hardness and
color, is little inferior to silver."

Goldsmith adds a description of the kind of person suited to such an
enterprise, in which he evidently had himself in view.

"He should be a man of philosophical turn, one apt to deduce consequences
of general utility from particular occurrences; neither swollen with pride,
nor hardened by prejudice; neither wedded to one particular system, nor
instructed only in one particular science; neither wholly a botanist, nor
quite an antiquarian; his mind should be tinctured with miscellaneous
knowledge, and his manners humanized by an intercourse with men. He should
be in some measure an enthusiast to the design; fond of traveling, from a
rapid imagination and an innate love of change; furnished with a body
capable of sustaining every fatigue, and a heart not easily terrified at

In 1761, when Lord Bute became prime minister on the accession of George
the Third, Goldsmith drew up a memorial on the subject, suggesting the
advantages to be derived from a mission to those countries solely for
useful and scientific purposes; and, the better to insure success, he
preceded his application to the government by an ingenious essay to the
same effect in the "Public Ledger."

His memorial and his essay were fruitless, his project most probably being
deemed the dream of a visionary. Still it continued to haunt his mind, and
he would often talk of making an expedition to Aleppo some time or other,
when his means were greater, to inquire into the arts peculiar to the East,
and to bring home such as might be valuable. Johnson, who knew how little
poor Goldsmith was fitted by scientific lore for this favorite scheme of
his fancy, scoffed at the project when it was mentioned to him. "Of all
men," said he, "Goldsmith is the most unfit to go out upon such an inquiry,
for he is utterly ignorant of such arts as we already possess, and,
consequently, could not know what would be accessions to our present stock
of mechanical knowledge. Sir, he would bring home a grinding barrow, which
you see in every street in London, and think that he had furnished a
wonderful improvement."

His connection with Newbery the bookseller now led him into a variety of
temporary jobs, such as a pamphlet on the Cock-lane Ghost, a Life of Beau
Nash, the famous Master of Ceremonies at Bath, etc.; one of the best things
for his fame, however, was the remodeling and republication of his Chinese
Letters under the title of The Citizen of the World, a work which has long
since taken its merited stand among the classics of the English language.
"Few works," it has been observed by one of his biographers, "exhibit a
nicer perception, or more delicate delineation of life and manners. Wit,
humor, and sentiment pervade every page; the vices and follies of the day
are touched with the most playful and diverting satire; and English
characteristics, in endless variety, are hit off with the pencil of a

In seeking materials for his varied views of life, he often mingled in
strange scenes and got involved in whimsical situations. In the summer of
1762 he was one of the thousands who went to see the Cherokee chiefs, whom
he mentions in one of his writings. The Indians made their appearance in
grand costume, hideously painted and besmeared. In the course of the visit
Goldsmith made one of the chiefs a present, who, in the ecstasy of his
gratitude, gave him an embrace that left his face well bedaubed with oil
and red ocher.

Toward the close of 1762 he removed to "merry Islington," then a country
village, though now swallowed up in omnivorous London. He went there for
the benefit of country air, his health being injured by literary
application and confinement, and to be near his chief employer, Mr.
Newbery, who resided in the Canonbury House. In this neighborhood he used
to take his solitary rambles, sometimes extending his walks to the gardens
of the White Conduit House, so famous among the essayists of the last
century. While strolling one day in these gardens, he met three females of
the family of a respectable tradesman to whom he was under some obligation.
With his prompt disposition to oblige, he conducted them about the garden,
treated them to tea, and ran up a bill in the most open-handed manner
imaginable; it was only when he came to pay that he found himself in one of
his old dilemmas--he had not the wherewithal in his pocket. A scene of
perplexity now took place between him and the waiter, in the midst of which
came up some of his acquaintances, in whose eyes he wished to stand
particularly well. This completed his mortification. There was no
concealing the awkwardness of his position. The sneers of the waiter
revealed it. His acquaintances amused themselves for some tune at his
expense, professing their inability to relieve him. When, however, they had
enjoyed their banter, the waiter was paid, and poor Goldsmith enabled to
convoy off the ladies with flying colors.

Among the various productions thrown off by him for the booksellers during
this growing period of his reputation was a small work in two volumes,
entitled The History of England, in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman to
his Son. It was digested from Hume, Rapin, Carte, and Kennet. These authors
he would read in the morning; make a few notes; ramble with a friend into
the country about the skirts of "merry Islington"; return to a temperate
dinner and cheerful evening; and, before going to bed, write off what had
arranged itself in his head from the studies of the morning. In this way he
took a more general view of the subject, and wrote in a more free and
fluent style than if he had been mousing at the time among authorities. The
work, like many others written by him in the earlier part of his literary
career, was anonymous. Some attributed it to Lord Chesterfield, others to
Lord Orrery, and others to Lord Lyttelton. The latter seemed pleased to be
the putative father, and never disowned the bantling thus laid at his door;
and well might he have been proud to be considered capable of producing
what has been well pronounced "the most finished and elegant summary of
English history in the same compass that has been or is likely to be

The reputation of Goldsmith, it will be perceived, grew slowly; he was
known and estimated by a few; but he had not those brilliant though
fallacious qualities which flash upon the public and excite loud but
transient applause. His works were more read than cited; and the charm of
style, for which he was especially noted, was more apt to be felt than
talked about. He used often to repine, in a half-humorous, half-querulous
manner, at his tardiness in gaining the laurels which he felt to be his
due. "The public," he would exclaim, "will never do me justice; whenever I
write anything they make a point to know nothing about it."

About the beginning of 1763 he became acquainted with Boswell, whose
literary gossipings were destined to have a deleterious effect upon his
reputation. Boswell was at that time a young man, light, buoyant, pushing,
and presumptuous. He had a morbid passion for mingling in the society of
men noted for wit and learning, and had just arrived from Scotland, bent
upon making his way into the literary circles of the metropolis. An
intimacy with Dr. Johnson, the great literary luminary of the day, was the
crowning object of his aspiring and somewhat ludicrous ambition. He
expected to meet him, at a dinner to which he was invited at Davies the
bookseller's, but was disappointed. Goldsmith was present, but he was not
as yet sufficiently renowned to excite the reverence of Boswell. "At this
time," says he in his notes, "I think he had published nothing with his
name, though it was pretty generally understood that one Dr. Goldsmith was
the author of An Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in
Europe, and of The Citizen of the World, a series of letters supposed to be
written from London by a Chinese."

A conversation took place at table between Goldsmith and Mr. Robert
Dodsley, compiler of the well-known collection of modern poetry, as to the
merits of the current poetry of the day. Goldsmith declared there was none
of superior merit. Dodsley cited his own collection in proof of the
contrary. "It is true," said he, "we can boast of no palaces nowadays, like
Dryden's Ode to St. Cecilia's Day, but we have villages composed of very
pretty houses." Goldsmith, however, maintained that there was nothing above
mediocrity, an opinion in which Johnson, to whom it was repeated,
concurred, and with reason, for the era was one of the dead levels of
British poetry.

Boswell has made no note of this conversation; he was a Unitarian in his
literary devotion, and disposed to worship none but Johnson. Little Davies
endeavored to console him for his disappointment, and to stay the stomach
of his curiosity, by giving him imitations of the great lexicographer;
mouthing his words, rolling his head, and assuming as ponderous a manner as
his petty person would permit. Boswell was shortly afterward made happy by
an introduction to Johnson, of whom he became the obsequious satellite.
From him he likewise imbibed a more favorable opinion of Goldsmith's
merits, though he was fain to consider them derived in a great measure from
his Magnus Apollo. "He had sagacity enough," says he, "to cultivate
assiduously the acquaintance of Johnson, and his faculties were gradually
enlarged by the contemplation of such a model. To me and many others it
appeared that he studiously copied the manner of Johnson, though, indeed,
upon a smaller scale." So on another occasion he calls him "one of the
brightest ornaments of the Johnsonian school." "His respectful attachment
to Johnson," adds he, "was then at its height; for big own literary
reputation had not yet distinguished him so much as to excite a vain desire
of competition with his great master."

What beautiful instances does the garrulous Boswell give of the goodness of
heart of Johnson, and the passing homage to it by Goldsmith. They were
speaking of a Mr. Levett, long an inmate of Johnson's house and a dependent
on his bounty; but who, Boswell thought, must be an irksome charge upon
him. "He is poor and honest," said Goldsmith, "which is recommendation
enough to Johnson."

Boswell mentioned another person of a very bad character, and wondered at
Johnson's kindness to him. "He is now become miserable," said Goldsmith,
"and that insures the protection of Johnson." Encomiums like these speak
almost as much for the heart of him who praises as of him who is praised.

Subsequently, when Boswell had become more intense in his literary
idolatry, he affected to undervalue Goldsmith, and a lurking hostility to
him is discernible throughout his writings, which some have attributed to a
silly spirit of jealousy of the superior esteem evinced for the poet by Dr.
Johnson. We have a gleam of this in his account of the first evening he
spent in company with those two eminent authors at their famous resort, the
Mitre Tavern, in Fleet Street. This took place on the 1st of July, 1763.
The trio supped together, and passed some time in literary conversation. On
quitting the tavern, Johnson, who had now been sociably acquainted with
Goldsmith for two years, and knew his merits, took him with him to drink
tea with his blind pensioner, Miss Williams, a high privilege among his
intimates and admirers. To Boswell, a recent acquaintance whose intrusive
sycophancy had not yet made its way into his confidential intimacy, he gave
no invitation. Boswell felt it with all the jealousy of a little mind. "Dr.
Goldsmith," says he, in his memoirs, "being a privileged man, went with
him, strutting away, and calling to me with an air of superiority, like
that of an esoteric over an esoteric disciple of a sage of antiquity, 'I go
to Miss Williams.' I confess I then envied him this mighty privilege, of
which he seemed to be so proud; but it was not long before I obtained the
same mark of distinction."

Obtained! but how? not like Goldsmith, by the force of unpretending but
congenial merit, but by a course of the most pushing, contriving, and
spaniel-like subserviency. Really, the ambition of the man to illustrate
his mental insignificance, by continually placing himself in juxtaposition
with the great lexicographer, has something in it perfectly ludicrous.
Never, since the days of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, has there been
presented to the world a more whimsically contrasted pair of associates
than Johnson and Boswell.

"Who is this Scotch cur at Johnson's heels?" asked some one when Boswell
had worked his way into incessant companionship. "He is not a cur," replied
Goldsmith, "you are too severe; he is only a bur. Tom Davies flung him at
Johnson in sport, and he has the faculty of sticking."



Among the intimates who used to visit the poet occasionally, in his retreat
at Islington, was Hogarth the painter. Goldsmith had spoken well of him in
his essays in the "Public Ledger," and this formed the first link in their
friendship. He was at this time upward of sixty years of age, and is
described as a stout, active, bustling little man, in a sky-blue coat,
satirical and dogmatic, yet full of real benevolence and the love of human
nature. He was the moralist and philosopher of the pencil; like Goldsmith
he had sounded the depths of vice and misery, without being polluted by
them; and though his picturings had not the pervading amenity of those of
the essayist, and dwelt more on the crimes and vices than the follies and
humors of mankind, yet they were all calculated, in like manner, to fill
the mind with instruction and precept, and to make the heart better.

Hogarth does not appear to have had much of the rural feeling with which
Goldsmith was so amply endowed, and may not have accompanied him in his
strolls about hedges and green lanes; but he was a fit companion with whom
to explore the mazes of London, in which he was continually on the lookout
for character and incident. One of Hogarth's admirers speaks of having come
upon him in Castle Street, engaged in one of his street studies, watching
two boys who were quarreling; patting one on the back who flinched, and
endeavoring to spirit him up to a fresh encounter. "At him again! D--- him,
if I would take it of him! at him again!"

A frail memorial of this intimacy between the painter and the poet exists
in a portrait in oil, called "Goldsmith's Hostess." It is supposed to have
been painted by Hogarth in the course of his visits to Islington, and given
by him to the poet as a means of paying his landlady. There are no
friendships among men of talents more likely to be sincere than those
between painters and poets. Possessed of the same qualities of mind,
governed by the same principles of taste and natural laws of grace and
beauty, but applying them to different yet mutually illustrative arts, they
are constantly in sympathy and never in collision with each other.

A still more congenial intimacy of the kind was that contracted by
Goldsmith with Mr. afterward Sir Joshua Reynolds. The latter was now about
forty years of age, a few years older than the poet, whom he charmed by the
blandness and benignity of his manners, and the nobleness and generosity of
his disposition, as much as he did by the graces of his pencil and the
magic of his coloring. They were men of kindred genius, excelling in
corresponding qualities of their several arts, for style in writing is what
color is in painting; both are innate endowments, and equally magical hi
their effects. Certain graces and harmonies of both may be acquired by
diligent study and imitation, but only in a limited degree; whereas by
their natural possessors they are exercised spontaneously, almost
unconsciously, and with ever-varying fascination. Reynolds soon understood
and appreciated the merits of Goldsmith, and a sincere and lasting
friendship ensued between them.

At Reynolds' house Goldsmith mingled in a higher range of company than he
had been accustomed to. The fame of this celebrated artist, and his amenity
of manners, were gathering round him men of talents of all kinds, and the
increasing affluence of his circumstances enabled him to give full
indulgence to his hospitable disposition. Poor Goldsmith had not yet, like
Dr. Johnson, acquired reputation enough to atone for his external defects
and his want of the air of good society. Miss Reynolds used to inveigh
against his personal appearance, which gave her the idea, she said, of a
low mechanic, a journeyman tailor. One evening at a large supper party,
being called upon to give as a toast the ugliest man she knew, she gave Dr.
Goldsmith, upon which a lady who sat opposite, and whom she had never met
before, shook hands with her across the table, and "hoped to become better

We have a graphic and amusing picture of Reynolds' hospitable but motley
establishment, in an account given by a Mr. Courtenay to Sir James
Mackintosh; though it speaks of a time after Reynolds had received the
honor of knighthood. "There was something singular," said he, "in the style
and economy of Sir Joshua's table that contributed to pleasantry and good
humor, a coarse, inelegant plenty, without any regard to order and
arrangement. At five o'clock precisely, dinner was served, whether all the
invited guests were arrived or not. Sir Joshua was never so fashionably
ill-bred as to wait an hour perhaps for two or three persons of rank or
title, and put the rest of the company out of humor by this invidious
distinction. His invitations, however, did not regulate the number of his
guests. Many dropped in uninvited. A table prepared for seven or eight was
of ten compelled to contain fifteen or sixteen. There was a consequent
deficiency of knives, forks, plates, and glasses. The attendance was in the
same style, and those who were knowing in the ways of the house took care
on sitting down to call instantly for beer, bread, or wine, that they might
secure a supply before the first course was over. He was once prevailed on
to furnish the table with decanters and glasses at dinner, to save time and
prevent confusion. These gradually were demolished in the course of
service, and were never replaced. These trifling embarrassments, however,
only served to enhance the hilarity and singular pleasure of the
entertainment. The wine, cookery and dishes were but little attended to;
nor was the fish or venison ever talked of or recommended. Amid this
convivial animated bustle among his guests, our host sat perfectly
composed; always attentive to what was said, never minding what was ate or
drank, but left every one at perfect liberty to scramble for himself."

Out of the casual but frequent meeting of men of talent at this hospitable
board rose that association of wits, authors, scholars, and statesmen,
renowned as the Literary Club. Reynolds was the first to propose a regular
association of the kind, and was eagerly seconded by Johnson, who proposed
as a model a club which he had formed many years previously in Ivy Lane,
but which was now extinct. Like that club the number of members was limited
to nine. They were to meet and sup together once a week, on Monday night,
at the Turk's Head on Gerard Street, Soho, and two members were to
constitute a meeting. It took a regular form hi the year 1764, but did not
receive its literary appellation until several years afterward.

The original members were Reynolds, Johnson, Burke, Dr. Nugent, Bennet
Langton, Topham Beauclerc, Chamier, Hawkins, and Goldsmith; and here a few
words concerning some of the members may be acceptable. Burke was at that
time about thirty-three years of age; he had mingled a little in politics,
and been Under Secretary to Hamilton at Dublin, but was again a writer for
the booksellers, and as yet but in the dawning of his fame. Dr. Nugent was
his father-in-law, a Roman Catholic, and a physician of talent and
instruction. Mr. afterward Sir John Hawkins was admitted into this
association from having been a member of Johnson's Ivy Lane club.
Originally an attorney, he had retired from the practice of the law, in
consequence of a large fortune which fell to him in right of his wife, and
was now a Middlesex magistrate. He was, moreover, a dabbler in literature
and music, and was actually engaged on a history of music, which he
subsequently published in five ponderous volumes. To him we are also
indebted for a biography of Johnson, which appeared after the death of that
eminent man. Hawkins was as mean and parsimonious as he was pompous and
conceited. He forbore to partake of the suppers at the club, and begged
therefore to be excused from paying his share of the reckoning. "And was he
excused?" asked Dr. Burney of Johnson. "Oh, yes, for no man is angry at
another for being inferior to himself. We all scorned him and admitted his
plea. Yet I really believe him to be an honest man at bottom, though to be
sure he is penurious, and he is mean, and it must be owned he has a
tendency to savageness." He did not remain above two or three years in the
club; being in a manner elbowed out in consequence of his rudeness to

Mr. Anthony Chamier was secretary in the War Office, and a friend of
Beauclerc, by whom he was proposed. We have left our mention of Bennet
Langton and Topham Beauclerc until the last, because we have most to say
about them. They were doubtless induced to join the club through their
devotion to Johnson, and the intimacy of these two very young and
aristocratic young men with the stern and somewhat melancholy moralist is
among the curiosities of literature.

Bennet Langton was of an ancient family, who held their ancestral estate of
Langton in Lincolnshire, a great title to respect with Johnson. "Langton,
sir," he would say, "has a grant of free warrant from Henry the Second; and
Cardinal Stephen Langton, in King John's reign, was of this family."

Langton was of a mild, contemplative, enthusiastic nature. When but
eighteen years of age he was so delighted with reading Johnson's Rambler
that he came to London chiefly with a view to obtain an introduction to the
author. Boswell gives us an account of his first interview, which took
place in the morning. It is not often that the personal appearance of an
author agrees with the preconceived ideas of his admirer. Langton, from
perusing the writings of Johnson, expected to find him a decent, well
dressed, in short a remarkably decorous philosopher. Instead of which, down
from his bed chamber about noon, came, as newly risen, a large uncouth
figure, with a little dark wig which scarcely covered his head, and his
clothes hanging loose about him. But his conversation was so rich, so
animated, and so forcible, and his religious and political notions so
congenial with those in which Langton had been educated, that he conceived
for him that veneration and attachment which he ever preserved.

Langton went to pursue his studies at Trinity College, Oxford, where
Johnson saw much of him during a visit which he paid to the university. He
found him in close intimacy with Topham Beauclerc, a youth two years older
than himself, very gay and dissipated, and wondered what sympathies could
draw two young men together of such opposite characters. On becoming
acquainted with Beauclerc he found that, rake though he was, he possessed
an ardent love of literature, an acute understanding, polished wit, innate
gentility and high aristocratic breeding. He was, moreover, the only son of
Lord Sidney Beauclerc and grandson of the Duke of St. Albans, and was
thought in some particulars to have a resemblance to Charles the Second.
These were high recommendations with Johnson, and when the youth testified
a profound respect for him and an ardent admiration of his talents the
conquest was complete, so that in a "short time," says Boswell, "the moral
pious Johnson and the gay dissipated Beauclerc were companions."

The intimacy begun in college chambers was continued when the youth came to
town during the vacations. The uncouth, unwieldy moralist was flattered at
finding himself an object of idolatry to two high-born, high-bred,
aristocratic young men, and throwing gravity aside, was ready to join in
their vagaries and play the part of a "young man upon town." Such at least
is the picture given of him by Boswell on one occasion when Beauclerc and
Langton having supped together at a tavern determined to give Johnson a
rouse at three o'clock in the morning. They accordingly rapped violently at
the door of his chambers in the Temple. The indignant sage sallied forth in
his shirt, poker in hand, and a little black wig on the top of his head,
instead of helmet; prepared to wreak vengeance on the assailants of his
castle; but when his two young friends, Lankey and Beau, as he used to call
them, presented themselves, summoning him forth to a morning ramble, his
whole manner changed. "What, is it you, ye dogs?" cried he. "Faith, I'll
have a frisk with you!"

So said so done. They sallied forth together into Covent Garden; figured
among the green grocers and fruit women, just come in from the country with
their hampers; repaired to a neighboring tavern, where Johnson brewed a
bowl of _bishop_, a favorite beverage with him, grew merry over his
cups, and anathematized sleep in two lines from Lord Lansdowne's drinking

"Short, very short, be then thy reign,
For I'm in haste to laugh and drink again."

They then took boat again, rowed to Billingsgate, and Johnson and Beauclerc
determined, like "mad wags," to "keep it up" for the rest of the day.
Langton, however, the most sober-minded of the three, pleaded an engagement
to breakfast with some young ladies; whereupon the great moralist
reproached him with "leaving his social friends to go and sit with a set of
wretched _unideal_ girls."

This madcap freak of the great lexicographer made a sensation, as may well
be supposed, among his intimates. "I heard of your frolic t'other night,"
said Garrick to him; "you'll be in the 'Chronicle.'" He uttered worse
forebodings to others. "I shall have my old friend to bail out of the
round-house," said he. Johnson, however, valued himself upon having thus
enacted a chapter in the Rake's Progress, and crowed over Garrick on the
occasion. "_He_ durst not do such a thing!" chuckled he, "his
_wife_ would not _let_ him!"

When these two young men entered the club, Langton was about twenty-two,
and Beauclerc about twenty-four years of age, and both were launched on
London life. Langton, however, was still the mild, enthusiastic scholar,
steeped to the lips in Greek, with fine conversational powers and an
invaluable talent for listening. He was upward of six feet high, and very
spare. "Oh! that we could sketch him," exclaims Miss Hawkins, in her
Memoirs, "with his mild countenance, his elegant features, and his sweet
smile, sitting with one leg twisted round the other, as if fearing to
occupy more space than was equitable; his person inclining forward, as if
wanting strength to support his weight, and his arms crossed over his
bosom, or his hands locked together on his knee." Beauclerc, on such
occasions, sportively compared him to a stork in Raphael's Cartoons,
standing on one leg. Beauclerc was more "a man upon town," a lounger in St.
James's Street, an associate with George Selwyn, with Walpole, and other
aristocratic wits; a man of fashion at court; a casual frequenter of the
gaming-table; yet, with all this, he alternated in the easiest and happiest
manner the scholar and the man of letters; lounged into the club with the
most perfect self-possession, bringing with him the careless grace and
polished wit of high-bred society, but making himself cordially at home
among his learned fellow members.

The gay yet lettered rake maintained his sway over Johnson, who was
fascinated by that air of the world, that ineffable tone of good society in
which he felt himself deficient, especially as the possessor of it always
paid homage to his superior talent. "Beauclerc," he would say, using a
quotation from Pope, "has a love of folly, but a scorn of fools; everything
he does shows the one, and everything he says the other." Beauclerc
delighted in rallying the stern moralist of whom others stood in awe, and
no one, according to Boswell, could take equal liberty with him with
impunity. Johnson, it is well known, was often shabby and negligent in his
dress, and not overcleanly in his person. On receiving a pension from the
crown, his friends vied with each other in respectful congratulations.
Beauclerc simply scanned his person with a whimsical glance, and hoped
that, like Falstaff, "he'd in future purge and live cleanly like a
gentleman." Johnson took the hint with unexpected good humor, and profited
by it.

Still Beauclerc's satirical vein, which darted shafts on every side, was
not always tolerated by Johnson. '"Sir," said he on one occasion, "you
never open your mouth but with intention to give pain; and you have often
given me pain, not from the power of what you have said, but from seeing
your intention."

When it was at first proposed to enroll Goldsmith among the members of this
association, there seems to have been some demur; at least so says the
pompous Hawkins. "As he wrote for the booksellers, we of the club looked on
him as a mere literary drudge, equal to the task of compiling and
translating, but little capable of original and still less of poetical

Even for some time after his admission, he continued to be regarded in a
dubious light by some of the members. Johnson and Reynolds, of course, were
well aware of his merits, nor was Burke a stranger to them; but to the
others he was as yet a sealed book, and the outside was not prepossessing.
His ungainly person and awkward manners were against him with men
accustomed to the graces of society, and he was not sufficiently at home to
give play to his humor and to that bonhomie which won the hearts of all who
knew him. He felt strange and out of place in this new sphere; he felt at
times the cool satirical eye of the courtly Beauclerc scanning him, and the
more he attempted to appear at his ease the more awkward he became.


Back to Full Books