Oliver Goldsmith
Washington Irving

Part 4 out of 6

turkey from a goose, but when he sees it on the table."

Others of Goldsmith's friends entertained similar ideas with respect to his
fitness for the task, and they were apt now and then to banter him on the
subject, and to amuse themselves with his easy credulity. The custom among
the natives of Otaheite of eating dogs being once mentioned in company,
Goldsmith observed that a similar custom prevailed in China; that a
dog-butcher is as common there as any other butcher; and that when he walks
abroad all the dogs fall on him. Johnson.--"That is not owing to his
killing dogs; sir, I remember a butcher at Litchfield, whom a dog that was
in the house where I lived always attacked. It is the smell of carnage
which provokes this, let the animals he has killed be what they may."
Goldsmith.--"Yes, there is a general abhorrence in animals at the signs of
massacre. If you put a tub full of blood into a stable, the horses are
likely to go mad." Johnson.--"I doubt that." Goldsmith.--"Nay, sir, it is a
fact well authenticated." Thrale.--"You had better prove it before you put
it into your book on Natural History. You may do it in my stable if you
will." Johnson.--"Nay, sir, I would not have him prove it. If he is content
to take his information from others, he may get through his book with
little trouble, and without much endangering his reputation. But if he
makes experiments for so comprehensive a book as his, there would be no end
to them; his erroneous assertions would fall then upon himself; and he
might be blamed for not having made experiments as to every particular."

Johnson's original prediction, however, with respect to this work, that
Goldsmith would make it as entertaining as a Persian tale, was verified;
and though much of it was borrowed from Buffon, and but little of it
written from his own observation; though it was by no means profound, and
was chargeable with many errors, yet the charms of his style and the play
of his happy disposition throughout have continued to render it far more
popular and readable than many works on the subject of much greater scope
and science. Cumberland was mistaken, however, in his notion of Goldsmith's
ignorance and lack of observation as to the characteristics of animals. On
the contrary, he was a minute and shrewd observer of them; but he observed
them with the eye of a poet and moralist as well as a naturalist. We quote
two passages from his works illustrative of this fact, and we do so the
more readily because they are in a manner a part of his history, and give
us another peep into his private life in the Temple; of his mode of
occupying himself in his lonely and apparently idle moments, and of another
class of acquaintances which he made there.

Speaking in his Animated Nature of the habitudes of Rooks, "I have often
amused myself," says he, "with observing their plans of policy from my
window in the Temple, that looks upon a grove, where they have made a
colony in the midst of a city. At the commencement of spring the rookery,
which, during the continuance of winter, seemed to have been deserted, or
only guarded by about five or six, like old soldiers in a garrison, now
begins to be once more frequented; and in a short time, all the bustle and
hurry of business will be fairly commenced."

The other passage, which we take the liberty to quote at some length, is
from an admirable paper in the "Bee," and relates to the House Spider.

"Of all the solitary insects I have ever remarked, the spider is the most
sagacious, and its motions to me, who have attentively considered them,
seem almost to exceed belief.... I perceived, about four years ago, a large
spider in one corner of my room making its web; and, though the maid
frequently leveled her broom against the labors of the little animal, I had
the good fortune then to prevent its destruction, and I may say it more
than paid me by the entertainment it afforded.

"In three days the web was, with incredible diligence, completed; nor could
I avoid thinking that the insect seemed to exult in its new abode. It
frequently traversed it round, examined the strength of every part of it,
retired into its hole, and came out very frequently. The first enemy,
however, it had to encounter was another and a much larger spider, which,
having no web of its own, and having probably exhausted all its stock in
former labors of this kind, came to invade the property of its neighbor.
Soon, then, a terrible encounter ensued, in which the invader seemed to
have the victory, and the laborious spider was obliged to take refuge in
its hole. Upon this I perceived the victor using every art to draw the
enemy from its stronghold. He seemed to go off, but quickly returned; and
when he found all arts in vain, began to demolish the new web without
mercy. This brought on another battle, and, contrary to my expectations,
the laborious spider became conqueror, and fairly killed his antagonist.

"Now, then, in peaceable possession of what was justly its own, it waited
three days with the utmost patience, repairing the breaches of its web, and
taking no sustenance that I could perceive. At last, however, a large blue
fly fell into the snare, and struggled hard to get loose. The spider gave
it leave to entangle itself as much as possible, but it seemed to be too
strong for the cobweb. I must own I was greatly surprised when I saw the
spider immediately sally out, and in less than a minute weave a new net
round its captive, by which the motion of its wings was stopped; and when
it was fairly hampered in this manner it was seized and dragged into the

"In this manner it lived, in a precarious state; and nature seemed to have
fitted it for such a life, for upon a single fly it subsisted for more than
a week. I once put a wasp into the net; but when the spider came out in
order to seize it, as usual, upon perceiving what kind of an enemy it had
to deal with, it instantly broke all the bands that held it fast, and
contributed all that lay in its power to disengage so formidable an
antagonist. When the wasp was set at liberty, I expected the spider would
have set about repairing the breaches that were made in its net; but those,
it seems, were irreparable; wherefore the cobweb was now entirely forsaken,
and a new one begun, which was completed in the usual time.

"I had now a mind to try how many cobwebs a single spider could furnish;
wherefore I destroyed this, and the insect set about another. When I
destroyed the other also, its whole stock seemed entirely exhausted, and it
could spin no more. The arts it made use of to support itself, now deprived
of its great means of subsistence, were indeed surprising. I have seen it
roll up its legs like a ball, and lie motionless for hours together, but
cautiously watching all the time; when a fly happened to approach
sufficiently near, it would dart out all at once, and often seize its prey.

"Of this life, however, it soon began to grow weary, and resolved to invade
the possession of some other spider, since it could not make a web of its
own. It formed an attack upon a neighboring fortification with great vigor,
and at first was as vigorously repulsed. Not daunted, however, with one
defeat, in this manner it continued to lay siege to another's web for three
days, and at length, having killed the defendant, actually took possession.
When smaller flies happen to fall into the snare, the spider does not sally
out at once, but very patiently waits till it is sure of them; for, upon
his immediately approaching the terror of his appearance might give the
captive strength sufficient to get loose; the manner, then, is to wait
patiently, till, by ineffectual and impotent struggles, the captive has
wasted all its strength, and then he becomes a certain and easy conquest.

"The insect I am now describing lived three years; every year it changed
its skin and got a new set of legs. I have sometimes plucked off a leg,
which grew again in two or three days. At first it dreaded my approach to
its web, but at last it became so familiar as to take a fly out of my hand;
and, upon my touching any part of the web, would immediately leave its
hole, prepared either for a defense or an attack."



The latter part of the year 1768 had been made memorable in the world of
taste by the institution of the Royal Academy of Arts, under the patronage
of the king, and the direction of forty of the most distinguished artist.
Reynolds, who had been mainly instrumental in founding it, had been
unanimously elected president, and had thereupon received the honor of
knighthood. [Footnote: We must apologize for the anachronism we have
permitted ourselves, in the course of this memoir, in speaking of Reynolds
as _Sir Joshua_, when treating of circumstances which occurred prior
to his being dubbed; but it is so customary to speak of him by that title
that we found it difficult to dispense with it.] Johnson was so delighted
with his friend's elevation that he broke through a rule of total
abstinence with respect to wine, which he had maintained for several years,
and drank bumpers on the occasion. Sir Joshua eagerly sought to associate
his old and valued friends with him in his new honors, and it is supposed
to be through his suggestions that, on the first establishment of
professorships, which took place in December, 1769, Johnson was nominated
to that of Ancient Literature, and Goldsmith to that of History. They were
mere honorary titles, without emolument, but gave distinction, from the
noble institution to which they appertained. They also gave the possessors
honorable places at the annual banquet, at which were assembled many of the
most distinguished persons of rank and talent, all proud to be classed
among the patrons of the arts.

The following letter of Goldsmith to his brother alludes to the foregoing
appointment, and to a small legacy bequeathed to him by his uncle

"_To Mr. Maurice Goldsmith, at James Lawders, Esq., at Kilmore, near

"January, 1770.

"DEAR BROTHER--I should have answered your letter sooner, but, in truth, I
am not fond of thinking of the necessities of those I love, when it is so
very little in my power to help them. I am sorry to find you are every way
unprovided for; and what adds to my uneasiness is, that I have received a
letter from my sister Johnson, by which I learn that she is pretty much in
the same circumstances. As to myself, I believe I think I could get both
you and my poor brother-in-law something like that which you desire, but I
am determined never to ask for little things, nor exhaust any little
interest I may have, until I can serve you, him, and myself more
effectually. As yet, no opportunity has offered; but I believe you are
pretty well convinced that I will not be remiss when it arrives.

"The king has lately been pleased to make me Professor of Ancient History
in the Royal Academy of Painting which he has just established, but there
is no salary annexed; and I took it rather as a compliment to the
institution than any benefit to myself. Honors to one in my situation are
something like ruffles to one that wants a shirt.

"You tell me that there are fourteen or fifteen pounds left me in the hands
of my cousin Lawder, and you ask me what I would have done with them. My
dear brother, I would by no means give any directions to my dear worthy
relations at Kilmore how to dispose of money which is, properly speaking,
more theirs than mine. All that I can say is, that I entirely, and this
letter will serve to witness, give up any right and title to it; and I am
sure they will dispose of it to the best advantage. To them I entirely
leave it; whether they or you may think the whole necessary to fit you out,
or whether our poor sister Johnson may not want the half, I leave entirely
to their and your discretion. The kindness of that good couple to our
shattered family demands our sincerest gratitude; and though they have
almost forgotten me, yet, if good things at last arrive, I hope one day to
return and increase their good-humor, by adding to my own.

"I have sent my cousin Jenny a miniature picture of myself, as I believe it
is the most acceptable present I can offer. I have ordered it to be left
for her at George Faulkner's, folded in a letter. The face, you well know,
is ugly enough, but it is finely painted. I will shortly also send my
friends over the Shannon some mezzotinto prints of myself, and some more of
my friends here, such as Burke, Johnson, Reynolds, and Colman. I believe I
have written a hundred letters to different friends in your country, and
never received an answer to any of them. I do not know how to account for
this, or why they are unwilling to keep up for me those regards which I
must ever retain for them.

"If, then, you have a mind to oblige me, you will write often, whether I
answer you or not. Let me particularly have the news of our family and old
acquaintances. For instance, you may begin by telling me about the family
where you reside, how they spend their time, and whether they ever make
mention of me. Tell me about my mother, my brother Hodson, and his son, my
brother Harry's son and daughter, my sister Johnson, the family of
Ballyoughter, what is become of them, where they live, and how they do. You
talked of being my only brother: I don't understand you. Where is Charles?
A sheet of paper occasionally filled with the news of this kind would make
me very happy, and would keep you nearer my mind. As it is, my dear
brother, believe me to be

"Yours, most affectionately,


By this letter we find the Goldsmiths the same shifting, shiftless race as
formerly; a "shattered family," scrambling on each other's back as soon as
any rise above the surface. Maurice is "every way unprovided for"; living
upon Cousin Jane and her husband, and, perhaps, amusing himself by hunting
otter in the river Inny. Sister Johnson and her husband are as poorly off
as Maurice, with, perhaps, no one at hand to quarter themselves upon; as to
the rest, "what is become of them; where do they live; how do they do; what
is become of Charles?" What forlorn, haphazard life is implied by these
questions! Can we wonder that, with all the love for his native place,
which is shown throughout Goldsmith's writings, he had not the heart to
return there? Yet his affections are still there. He wishes to know whether
the Lawders (which means his cousin Jane, his early Valentine) ever make
mention of him; he sends Jane his miniature; he believes "it is the most
acceptable present he can offer"; he evidently, therefore, does not believe
she has almost forgotten him, although he intimates that he does: in his
memory she is still Jane Contarine, as he last saw her, when he accompanied
her harpsichord with his flute. Absence, like death, sets a seal on the
image of those we have loved; we cannot realize the intervening changes
which time may have effected.

As to the rest of Goldsmith's relatives, he abandons his legacy of fifteen
pounds, to be shared among them. It is all he has to give. His heedless
improvidence is eating up the pay of the booksellers in advance. With all
his literary success, he has neither money nor influence; but he has empty
fame, and he is ready to participate with them; he is honorary professor,
without pay; his portrait is to be engraved in mezzotint, in company with
those of his friends, Burke, Reynolds, Johnson, Colman, and others, and he
will send prints of them to his friends over the Shannon, though they may
not have a house to hang them up in. What a motley letter! How indicative
of the motley character of the writer! By the bye, the publication of a
splendid mezzotinto engraving of his likeness by Reynolds, was a great
matter of glorification to Goldsmith, especially as it appeared in such
illustrious company. As he was one day walking the streets in a state of
high elation, from having just seen it figuring in the print-shop windows,
he met a young gentleman with a newly married wife hanging on his arm, whom
he immediately recognized for Master Bishop, one of the boys he had petted
and treated with sweetmeats when a humble usher at Milner's school. The
kindly feelings of old times revived, and he accosted him with cordial
familiarity, though the youth may have found some difficulty in recognizing
in the personage, arrayed, perhaps, in garments of Tyrian dye, the dingy
pedagogue of the Milners. "Come, my boy," cried Goldsmith, as if still
speaking to a schoolboy, "Come, Sam, I am delighted to see you. I must
treat you to something--what shall it be? Will you have some apples?"
glancing at an old woman's stall; then, recollecting the print-shop window:
"Sam," said he, "have you seen my picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds? Have you
seen it, Sam? Have you got an engraving?" Bishop was caught; he
equivocated; he had not yet bought it; but he was furnishing his house, and
had fixed upon the place where it was to be hung. "Ah, Sam!" rejoined
Goldsmith reproachfully, "if your picture had been published, I should not
have waited an hour without having it."

After all, it was honest pride, not vanity, in Goldsmith, that was
gratified at seeing his portrait deemed worthy of being perpetuated by the
classic pencil of Reynolds, and "hung up in history," beside that of his
revered friend, Johnson. Even the great moralist himself was not insensible
to a feeling of this kind. Walking one day with Goldsmith, in Westminster
Abbey, among the tombs of monarchs, warriors, and statesmen, they came to
the sculptured mementos of literary worthies in Poets' Corner. Casting his
eye round upon these memorials of genius, Johnson muttered in a low tone to
his companion,

"Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis."

Goldsmith treasured up the intimated hope, and shortly afterward, as they
were passing by Temple bar, where the heads of Jacobite rebels, executed
for treason, were mouldering aloft on spikes, pointed up to the grizzly
mementos, and echoed the intimation,

"Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur _istis_."



Several years had now elapsed since the publication of The Traveler, and
much wonder was expressed that the great success of that poem had not
excited the author to further poetic attempts. On being questioned at the
annual dinner of the Royal Academy by the Earl of Lisburn, why he neglected
the muses to compile histories and write novels, "My Lord," replied he, "by
courting the muses I shall starve, but by my other labors I eat, drink,
have good clothes, and can enjoy the luxuries of life." So, also, on being
asked by a poor writer what was the most profitable mode of exercising the
pen, "My dear fellow," replied he, good-humoredly, "pay no regard to the
draggle-tailed muses; for my part I have found productions in prose much
more sought after and better paid for."

Still, however, as we have heretofore shown, he found sweet moments of
dalliance to steal away from his prosaic toils, and court the muse among
the green lanes and hedgerows in the rural environs of London, and on the
26th of May, 1770, he was enabled to bring his Deserted Village before the

The popularity of The Traveler had prepared the way for this poem, and its
sale was instantaneous and immense. The first edition was immediately
exhausted; in a few days a second was issued; in a few days more a third,
and by the 16th of August the fifth edition was hurried through the press.
As is the case with popular writers, he had become his own rival, and
critics were inclined to give the preference to his first poem; but with
the public at large we believe the Deserted Village has ever been the
greatest favorite. Previous to its publication the bookseller gave him in
advance a note for the price agreed upon, one hundred guineas. As the
latter was returning home he met a friend to whom he mentioned the
circumstance, and who, apparently judging of poetry by quantity rather than
quality, observed that it was a great sum for so small a poem. "In truth,"
said Goldsmith, "I think so too; it is much more than the honest man can
afford or the piece is worth. I have not been easy since I received it." In
fact, he actually returned the note to the bookseller, and left it to him
to graduate the payment according to the success of the work. The
bookseller, as may well be supposed, soon repaid him in full with many
acknowledgments of his disinterestedness. This anecdote has been called in
question, we know not on what grounds; we see nothing in it incompatible
with the character of Goldsmith, who was very impulsive, and prone to acts
of inconsiderate generosity.

As we do not pretend in this summary memoir to go into a criticism or
analysis of any of Goldsmith's writings, we shall not dwell upon the
peculiar merits of this poem; we cannot help noticing, however, how truly
it is a mirror of the author's heart, and of all the fond pictures of early
friends and early life forever present there. It seems to us as if the very
last accounts received from home, of his "shattered family," and the
desolation that seemed to have settled upon the haunts of his childhood,
had cut to the roots one feebly cherished hope, and produced the following
exquisitely tender and mournful lines:

"In all my wand'rings round this world of care,
In all my griefs--and God has giv'n my share--
I still had hopes my latest hours to crown,
Amid these humble bowers to lay me down;
To husband out life's taper at the close,
And keep the flame from wasting by repose;
I still had hopes, for pride attends us still,
Amid the swains to show my book-learn'd skill,
Around my fire an ev'ning group to draw,
And tell of all I felt and all I saw;
And as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
Pants to the place from whence at first she flew;
I still had hopes, my long vexations past,
Here to return--_and die at home at last_."

How touchingly expressive are the succeeding lines, wrung from a heart
which all the trials and temptations and buffetings of the world could not
render worldly; which, amid a thousand follies and errors of the head,
still retained its childlike innocence; and which, doomed to struggle on to
the last amid the din and turmoil of the metropolis, had ever been cheating
itself with a dream of rural quiet and seclusion:

"Oh, bless'd retirement! friend to life's decline,
Retreats from care, _that never must be mine_,
How blest is he who crowns, in shades like these,
A youth of labor with an age of ease;
Who quits a world where strong temptations try,
And, since 'tis hard to combat, learns to fly!
For him no wretches, born to work and weep,
Explore the mine, or tempt the dangerous deep;
Nor surly porter stands, in guilty state,
To spurn imploring famine from the gate;
But on he moves to meet his latter end,
Angels around befriending virtue's friend;
Sinks to the grave with unperceived decay,
While resignation gently slopes the way;
And all his prospects brightening to the last,
His heaven commences ere the world be past."

* * * * *


The following article, which appeared in a London periodical, shows the
effect of Goldsmith's poem in renovating the fortunes of Lissoy.

"About three miles from Ballymahon, a very central town in the sister
kingdom, is the mansion and village of Auburn, so called by their present
possessor, Captain Hogan. Through the taste and improvement of this
gentleman, it is now a beautiful spot, although fifteen years since it
presented a very bare and unpoetical aspect. This, however, was owing to a
cause which serves strongly to corroborate the assertion that Goldsmith had
this scene in view when he wrote his poem of The Deserted Village. The then
possessor, General Napier, turned all his tenants out of their farms that
he might inclose them in his own private domain. Littleton, the mansion of
the general, stands not far off, a complete emblem of the desolating spirit
lamented by the poet, dilapidated and converted into a barrack.

"The chief object of attraction is Lissoy, once the parsonage house of
Henry Goldsmith, that brother to whom the poet dedicated his Traveler, and
who is represented as the village pastor,

"'Passing rich with forty pounds a year.'

"When I was in the country, the lower chambers were inhabited by pigs and
sheep, and the drawing-rooms by oats. Captain Hogan, however, has, I
believe, got it since into his possession, and has, of course, improved its

"Though at first strongly inclined to dispute the identity of Auburn,
Lissoy House overcame my scruples. As I clambered over the rotten gate, and
crossed the grass-grown lawn or court, the tide of association became too
strong for casuistry; here the poet dwelt and wrote, and here his thoughts
fondly recurred when composing his Traveler in a foreign land. Yonder was
the decent church, that literally 'topped the neighboring hill.' Before me
lay the little hill of Knockrue, on which he declares, in one of his
letters, he had rather sit with a book in hand than mingle in the proudest
assemblies. And, above all, startlingly true, beneath my feet was

"'Yonder copse, where once the garden smiled,
And still where many a garden-flower grows wild.'

"A painting from the life could not be more exact. 'The stubborn
currant-bush' lifts its head above the rank grass, and the proud hollyhock
flaunts where its sisters of the flower-knot are no more.

"In the middle of the village stands the old 'hawthorn-tree,' built up with
masonry to distinguish and preserve it; it is old and stunted, and suffers
much from the depredations of post-chaise travelers, who generally stop to
procure a twig. Opposite to it is the village alehouse, over the door of
which swings 'The Three Jolly Pigeons.' Within everything is arranged
according to the letter:

'The whitewash'd wall, the nicely-sanded floor,
The varnish'd clock that click'd behind the door:
The chest, contrived a double debt to pay,
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day;
The pictures placed for ornament and use,
The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose.'

"Captain Hogan, I have heard, found great difficulty in obtaining 'the
twelve good rules,' but at length purchased them at some London bookstall
to adorn the whitewashed parlor of 'The Three Jolly Pigeons.' However
laudable this may be, nothing shook my faith in the reality of Auburn so
much as this exactness, which had the disagreeable air of being got up for
the occasion. The last object of pilgrimage is the quondam habitation of
the schoolmaster,

"'There, in his noisy mansion, skill'd to rule.'

"It is surrounded with fragrant proofs of identity in

"'The blossom'd furze, unprofitably gay.'

"There is to be seen the chair of the poet, which fell into the hands of
its present possessors at the wreck of the parsonage-house; they have
frequently refused large offers of purchase; but more, I daresay, for the
sake of drawing contributions from the curious than from any reverence for
the bard. The chair is of oak, with back and seat of cane, which precluded
all hopes of a secret drawer, like that lately discovered in Gay's. There
is no fear of its being worn out by the devout earnestness of sitters--as
the cocks and hens have usurped undisputed possession of it, and protest
most clamorously against all attempts to get it cleansed or to seat one's

"The controversy concerning the identity of this Auburn was formerly a
standing theme of discussion among the learned of the neighborhood; but,
since the pros and cons have been all ascertained, the argument has died
away. Its abettors plead the singular agreement between the local history
of the place and the Auburn of the poem, and the exactness with which the
scenery of the one answers to the description of the other. To this is
opposed the mention of the nightingale,

"'And fill'd each pause the nightingale had made';

there being no such bird in the island. The objection is slighted, on the
other hand, by considering the passage as a mere poetical license.
'Besides,' say they, 'the robin is the Irish nightingale.' And if it be
hinted how unlikely it was that Goldsmith should have laid the scene in a
place from which he was and had been so long absent, the rejoinder is
always, 'Pray, sir, was Milton in hell when he built Pandemonium?'

"The line is naturally drawn between; there can be no doubt that the poet
intended England by

"'The land to hast'ning ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.'

"But it is very natural to suppose that, at the same time, his imagination
had in view the scenes of his youth, which give such strong features of
resemblance to the picture."

* * * * *

Best, an Irish clergyman, told Davis, the traveler in America, that the
hawthorn-bush mentioned in the poem was still remarkably large. "I was
riding once," said he, "with Brady, titular Bishop of Ardagh, when he
observed to me, 'Ma foy, Best, this huge overgrown bush is mightily in the
way. I will order it to be cut down.' 'What, sir!' replied I, 'cut down the
bush that supplies so beautiful an image in The Deserted Village?'--'Ma
foy!' exclaimed the bishop, 'is that the hawthorn-bush? Then let it be
sacred from the edge of the ax, and evil be to him that should cut off a
branch.' "--The hawthorn-bush, however, has long since been cut up, root
and branch, in furnishing relics to literary pilgrims.



The Deserted Village had shed an additional poetic grace round the homely
person of the author; he was becoming more and more acceptable in ladies'
eyes, and finding himself more and more at ease in their society; at least
in the society of those whom he met in the Reynolds circle, among whom he
particularly affected the beautiful family of the Hornecks.

But let us see what were really the looks and manners of Goldsmith about
this time, and what right he had to aspire to ladies' smiles; and in so
doing let us not take the sketches of Boswell and his compeers, who had a
propensity to represent him in caricature; but let us take the apparently
truthful and discriminating picture of him as he appeared to Judge Day,
when the latter was a student in the Temple.

"In person," says the judge, "he was short; about five feet five or six
inches; strong, but not heavy in make; rather fair in complexion, with
brown hair; such, at least, as could be distinguished from his wig. His
features were plain, but not repulsive--certainly not so when lighted up by
conversation. His manners were simple, natural, and perhaps on the whole,
we may say, not polished; at least without the refinement and good-breeding
which the exquisite polish of his compositions would lead us to expect. He
was always cheerful and animated, often, indeed, boisterous in his mirth;
entered with spirit into convivial society; contributed largely to its
enjoyments by solidity of information, and the naivete and originality of
his character; talked often without premeditation, and laughed loudly
without restraint."

This, it will be recollected, represents him as he appeared to a young
Templar, who probably saw him only in Temple coffee-houses, at students'
quarters, or at the jovial supper parties given at the poet's own chambers;
here, of course, his mind was in its rough dress; his laugh may have been
loud and his mirth boisterous; but we trust all these matters became
softened and modified when he found himself in polite drawing-rooms and in
female society.

But what say the ladies themselves of him; and here, fortunately, we have
another sketch of him, as he appeared at the time to one of the Horneck
circle; in fact, we believe, to the Jessamy Bride herself. After admitting,
apparently with some reluctance, that "he was a very plain man," she goes
on to say, "but had he been much more so, it was impossible not to love and
respect his goodness of heart, which broke out on every occasion. His
benevolence was unquestionable, and _his countenance bore every trace of
it_: no one that knew him intimately could avoid admiring and loving his
good qualities." When to all this we add the idea of intellectual delicacy
and refinement associated with him by his poetry and the newly plucked bays
that were flourishing round his brow, we cannot be surprised that fine and
fashionable ladies should be proud of his attentions, and that even a young
beauty should not be altogether displeased with the thoughts of having a
man of his genius in her chains.

We are led to indulge some notions of the kind from finding him in the
month of July, but a few weeks after the publication of the Deserted
Village, setting off on a six weeks' excursion to Paris, in company with
Mrs. Horneck and her two beautiful daughters. A day or two before his
departure we find another new gala suit charged to him on the books of Mr.
William Filby. Were the bright eyes of the Jessamy Bride responsible for
this additional extravagance of wardrobe? Goldsmith had recently been
editing the works of Parnell; had he taken courage from the example of
Edwin in the fairy tale?--

"Yet spite of all that nature did
To make his uncouth form forbid,
This creature dared to love.
He felt the force of Edith's eyes,
Nor wanted hope to gain the prize
_Could ladies look within--_"

All this we throw out as mere hints and surmises, leaving it to our readers
to draw their own conclusions. It will be found, however, that the poet was
subjected to shrewd bantering among his contemporaries about the beautiful
Mary Horneck, and that he was extremely sensitive on the subject.

It was in the month of June that he set out for Paris with his fair
companions, and the following letter was written by him to Sir Joshua
Reynolds, soon after the party landed at Calais:

"MY DEAR FRIEND--We had a very quick passage from Dover to Calais, which we
performed in three hours and twenty minutes, all of us extremely seasick,
which must necessarily have happened, as my machine to prevent seasickness
was not completed. We were glad to leave Dover, because we hated to be
imposed upon; so were in high spirits at coming to Calais, where we were
told that a little money would go a great way.

"Upon landing, with two little trunks, which was all we carried with us, we
were surprised to see fourteen or fifteen fellows all running down to the
ship to lay their hands upon them; four got under each trunk, the rest
surrounded and held the hasps; and in this manner our little baggage was
conducted, with a kind of funeral solemnity, till it was safely lodged at
the custom-house. We were well enough pleased with the people's civility
till they came to be paid; every creature that had the happiness of but
touching our trunks with their finger expected sixpence; and they had so
pretty and civil a manner of demanding it that there was no refusing them.

"When we had done with the porters, we had next to speak with the
custom-house officers, who had their pretty civil ways too. We were
directed to the Hotel d'Angleterre, where a valet-de-place came to offer
his service, and spoke to me ten minutes before I once found out that he
was speaking English. We had no occasion for his services, so we gave him a
little money because he spoke English, and because he wanted it. I cannot
help mentioning another circumstance: I bought a new ribbon for my wig at
Canterbury, and the barber at Calais broke it in order to gain sixpence by
buying me a new one."

An incident which occurred in the course of this tour has been tortured by
that literary magpie, Boswell, into a proof of Goldsmith's absurd jealousy
of any admiration shown to others in his presence. While stopping at a
hotel in Lisle, they were drawn to the windows by a military parade in
front. The extreme beauty of the Misses Horneck immediately attracted the
attention of the officers, who broke forth with enthusiastic speeches and
compliments intended for their ears. Goldsmith was amused for a while, but
at length affected impatience at this exclusive admiration of his beautiful
companions, and exclaimed, with mock severity of aspect, "Elsewhere I also
would have my admirers."

It is difficult to conceive the obtuseness of intellect necessary to
misconstrue so obvious a piece of mock petulance and dry humor into an
instance of mortified vanity and jealous self-conceit.

Goldsmith jealous of the admiration of a group of gay officers for the
charms of two beautiful young women! This even out-Boswells Boswell; yet
this is but one of several similar absurdities, evidently misconceptions of
Goldsmith's peculiar vein of humor, by which the charge of envious jealousy
has been attempted to be fixed upon him. In the present instance it was
contradicted by one of the ladies herself, who was annoyed that it had been
advanced against him. "I am sure," said she, "from the peculiar manner of
his humor, and assumed frown of countenance, what was often uttered in jest
was mistaken, by those who did not know him, for earnest." No one was more
prone to err on this point than Boswell. He had a tolerable perception of
wit, but none of humor.

The following letter to Sir Joshua Reynolds was subsequently written:

"To _Sir Joshua Reynolds_.

"PARIS, _July 29 (1770)_.

"MY DEAR FRIEND--I began a long letter to you from Lisle, giving a
description of all that we had done and seen, but, finding it very dull,
and knowing that you would show it again, I threw it aside and it was lost.
You see by the top of this letter that we are at Paris, and (as I have
often heard you say) we have brought our own amusement with us, for the
ladies do not seem to be very fond of what we have yet seen.

"With regard to myself, I find that traveling at twenty and forty are very
different things. I set out with all my confirmed habits about me, and can
find nothing on the Continent so good as when I formerly left it. One of
our chief amusements here is scolding at everything we meet with, and
praising everything and every person we left at home. You may judge,
therefore, whether your name is not frequently bandied at table among us.
To tell you the truth, I never thought I could regret your absence so much
as our various mortifications on the road have often taught me to do. I
could tell you of disasters and adventures without number; of our lying in
barns, and of my being half poisoned with a dish of green peas; of our
quarreling with postilions, and being cheated by our landladies; but I
reserve all this for a happy hour which I expect to share with you upon my

"I have little to tell you more but that we are at present all well, and
expect returning when we have stayed out one month, which I did not care if
it were over this very day. I long to hear from you all, how you yourself
do, how Johnson, Burke, Dyer, Chamier, Colman, and every one of the club
do. I wish I could send you some amusement in this letter, but I protest I
am so stupefied by the air of this country (for I am sure it cannot be
natural) that I have not a word to say. I have been thinking of the plot of
a comedy, which shall be entitled A Journey to Paris, in which a family
shall be introduced with a full intention of going to France to save money.
You know there is not a place in the world more promising for that purpose.
As for the meat of this country, I can scarce eat it; and, though we pay
two good shillings a head for our dinner, I find it all so tough that I
have spent less time with my knife than my picktooth. I said this as a good
thing at the table, but it was not understood. I believe it to be a good

"As for our intended journey to Devonshire, I find it out of my power to
perform it; for, as soon as I arrive at Dover, I intend to let the ladies
go on, and I will take a country lodging somewhere near that place in order
to do some business. I have so outrun the constable that I must mortify a
little to bring it up again. For God's sake, the night you receive this,
take your pen in your hand and tell me something about yourself and myself,
if you know anything that has happened. About Miss Reynolds, about Mr.
Bickerstaff, my nephew, or anybody that you regard. I beg you will send to
Griffin the bookseller to know if there be any letters left for me, and be
so good as to send them to me at Paris. They may perhaps be left for me at
the Porter's Lodge, opposite the pump in Temple Lane. The same messenger
will do. I expect one from Lord Clare, from Ireland. As for the others, I
am not much uneasy about.

"Is there anything I can do for you at Paris? I wish you would tell me. The
whole of my own purchases here is one silk coat, which I have put on, and
which makes me look like a fool. But no more of that. I find that Colman
has gained his lawsuit. I am glad of it. I suppose you often meet. I will
soon be among you, better pleased with my situation at home than I ever was
before. And yet I must say that, if anything could make France pleasant,
the very good women with whom I am at present would certainly do it. I
could say more about that, but I intend showing them the letter before I
send it away. What signifies teasing you longer with moral observations,
when the business of my writing is over? I have one thing only more to say,
and of that I think every hour in the day; namely, that I am your most
sincere and most affectionate friend,


"Direct to me at the Hotel de Danemarc,
Rue Jacob, Fauxbourg St. Germains."

A word of comment on this letter:

Traveling is, indeed, a very different thing with Goldsmith the poor
student at twenty, and Goldsmith the poet and professor at forty. At
twenty, though obliged to trudge on foot from town to town, and country to
country, paying for a supper and a bed by a tune on the flute, everything
pleased, everything was good; a truckle bed in a garret was a conch of
down, and the homely fare of the peasant a feast fit for an epicure. Now,
at forty, when he posts through the country in a carriage, with fair ladies
by his side, everything goes wrong: he has to quarrel with postilions, he
is cheated by landladies, the hotels are barns, the meat is too tough to be
eaten, and he is half poisoned by green peas! A line hi his letter explains
the secret: "The ladies do not seem to be very fond of what we have yet
seen." "One of our chief amusements is scolding at everything we meet with,
and praising everything and every person we have left at home!" the true
English traveling amusement. Poor Goldsmith! he has "all his
_confirmed_ habits about him"; that is to say, he has recently risen
into high life, and acquired highbred notions; he must be fastidious like
his fellow-travelers; he dare not be pleased with what pleased the vulgar
tastes of his youth. He is unconsciously illustrating the trait so
humorously satirized by him in Bill Tibbs, the shabby beau, who can find
"no such dressing as he had at Lord Crump's or Lady Crimp's"; whose very
senses have grown genteel, and who no longer "smacks at wretched wine or
praises detestable custard." A lurking thorn, too, is worrying him
throughout this tour; he has "outrun the constable"; that is to say, his
expenses have outrun his means, and he will have to make up for this
butterfly flight by toiling like a grub on his return.

Another circumstance contributes to mar the pleasure he had promised
himself in this excursion. At Paris the party is unexpectedly joined by a
Mr. Hickey, a bustling attorney, who is well acquainted with that
metropolis and its environs, and insists on playing the cicerone on all
occasions. He and Goldsmith do not relish each other, and they have several
petty altercations. The lawyer is too much a man of business and method for
the careless poet, and is disposed to manage everything. He has perceived
Goldsmith's whimsical peculiarities without properly appreciating his
merits, and is prone to indulge in broad bantering and raillery at his
expense, particularly irksome if indulged in presence of the ladies. He
makes himself merry on his return to England, by giving the following
anecdote as illustrative of Goldsmith's vanity:

"Being with a party at Versailles, viewing the waterworks, a question arose
among the gentlemen present, whether the distance from whence they stood to
one of the little islands was within the compass of a leap. Goldsmith
maintained the affirmative; but, being bantered on the subject, and
remembering his former prowess as a youth, attempted the leap, but, falling
short, descended into the water, to the great amusement of the company."

Was the Jessamy Bride a witness of this unlucky exploit?

This same Hickey is the one of whom Goldsmith, some time subsequently, gave
a good-humored sketch in his poem of The Retaliation.

"Here Hickey reclines, a most blunt, pleasant creature,
And slander itself must allow him good nature;
He cherish'd his friend, and he relish'd a bumper,
Yet one fault he had, and that one was a thumper.
Perhaps you may ask if the man was a miser;
I answer No, no, for he always was wiser;
Too courteous, perhaps, or obligingly flat,
His very worst foe can't accuse him of that;
Perhaps he confided in men as they go,
And so was too foolishly honest? Ah, not
Then what was his failing? Come, tell it, and burn ye--
He was, could he help it? a special attorney."

One of the few remarks extant made by Goldsmith during his tour is the
following, of whimsical import, in his Animated Nature.

"In going through the towns of France, some time since, I could not help
observing how much plainer their parrots spoke than ours, and how very
distinctly I understood their parrots speak French, when I could not
understand our own, though they spoke my native language. I at first
ascribed it to the different qualities of the two languages, and was for
entering into an elaborate discussion on the vowels and consonants; but a
friend that was with me solved the difficulty at once, by assuring me that
the French women scarce did anything else the whole day than sit and
instruct their feathered pupils; and that the birds were thus distinct in
their lessons in consequence of continual schooling."

His tour does not seem to have left in his memory the most fragrant
recollections; for, being asked, after his return, whether traveling on the
Continent repaid "an Englishman for the privations and annoyances attendant
on it," he replied, "I recommend it by all means to the sick, if they are
without the sense of _smelling_, and to the poor, if they are without
the sense of _feeling_; and to both, if they can discharge from their
minds all idea of what in England we term comfort."

It is needless to say that the universal improvement in the art of living
on the Continent has at the present day taken away the force of Goldsmith's
reply, though even at the time it was more humorous than correct.



On his return to England, Goldsmith received the melancholy tidings of the
death of his mother. Notwithstanding the fame as an author to which he had
attained, she seems to have been disappointed in her early expectations
from him. Like others of his family, she had been more vexed by his early
follies than pleased by his proofs of genius; and in subsequent years, when
he had risen to fame and to intercourse with the great, had been annoyed at
the ignorance of the world and want of management, which prevented him from
pushing his fortune. He had always, however, been an affectionate son, and
in the latter years of her life, when she had become blind, contributed
from his precarious resources to prevent her from feeling want.

He now resumed the labors of the pen, which his recent excursion to Paris
rendered doubly necessary. We should have mentioned a Life of Parnell,
published by him shortly after the Deserted Village. It was, as usual, a
piece of job work, hastily got up for pocket-money. Johnson spoke
slightingly of it, and the author, himself, thought proper to apologize for
its meagerness; yet, in so doing, used a simile which for beauty of imagery
and felicity of language is enough of itself to stamp a value upon the

"Such," says he, "is the very unpoetical detail of the life of a poet. Some
dates and some few facts, scarcely more interesting than those that make
the ornaments of a country tombstone, are all that remain of one whose
labors now begin to excite universal curiosity. A poet, while living, is
seldom an object sufficiently great to attract much attention; his real
merits are known but to a few, and these are generally sparing in their
praises. When his fame is increased by time, it is then too late to
investigate the peculiarities of his disposition; _the dews of morning
are past, and we vainly try to continue the chase by the meridian

He now entered into an agreement with Davies to prepare an abridgment, in
one volume duodecimo, of his History of Rome; but first to write a work for
which there was a more immediate demand. Davies was about to republish Lord
Bolingbroke's Dissertation on Parties, which he conceived would be
exceedingly applicable to the affairs of the day, and make a probable
_hit_ during the existing state of violent political excitement; to
give it still greater effect and currency he engaged Goldsmith to introduce
it with a prefatory life of Lord Bolingbroke.

About this time Goldsmith's friend and countryman, Lord Clare, was in great
affliction, caused by the death of his only son, Colonel Nugent, and stood
in need of the sympathies of a kind-hearted friend. At his request,
therefore, Goldsmith paid him a visit at his noble seat of Gosford, taking
his tasks with him. Davies was in a worry lest Gosford Park should prove a
Capua to the poet, and the time be lost. "Dr. Goldsmith," writes he to a
friend, "has gone with Lord Clare into the country, and I am plagued to get
the proofs from him of the Life of Lord Bolingbroke." The proofs, however,
were furnished in time for the publication of the work in December. The
Biography, though written during a time of political turmoil, and
introducing a work intended to be thrown into the arena of politics,
maintained that freedom from party prejudice observable in all the writings
of Goldsmith. It was a selection of facts drawn from many unreadable
sources, and arranged into a clear, flowing narrative, illustrative of the
career and character of one who, as he intimates, "seemed formed by nature
to take delight in struggling with opposition; whose most agreeable hours
were passed in storms of his own creating; whose life was spent in a
continual conflict of politics, and as if that was too short for the
combat, has left his memory as a subject of lasting contention." The sum
received by the author for this memoir is supposed, from circumstances, to
have been forty pounds.

Goldsmith did not find the residence among the great unattended with
mortifications. He had now become accustomed to be regarded in London as a
literary lion, and was annoyed at what he considered a slight on the part
of Lord Camden. He complained of it on his return to town at a party of his
friends. "I met him," said he, "at Lord Clare's house in the country; and
he took no more notice of me than if I had been an ordinary man." "The
company," says Boswell, "laughed heartily at this piece of 'diverting
simplicity.'" And foremost among the laughters was doubtless the
rattle-pated Boswell. Johnson, however, stepped forward, as usual, to
defend the poet, whom he would allow no one to assail but himself; perhaps
in the present instance he thought the dignity of literature itself
involved in the question. "Nay, gentlemen," roared he, "Dr. Goldsmith is in
the right. A nobleman ought to have made up to such a man as Goldsmith, and
I think it is much against Lord Camden that he neglected him."

After Goldsmith's return to town he received from Lord Clare a present of
game, which he has celebrated and perpetuated in his amusing verses
entitled the Haunch of Venison. Some of the lines pleasantly set forth the
embarrassment caused by the appearance of such an aristocratic delicacy in
the humble kitchen of a poet, accustomed to look up to mutton as a treat:

"Thanks, my lord, for your venison; for finer or fatter
Never rang'd in a forest, or smok'd in a platter:
The haunch was a picture for painters to study,
The fat was so white, and the lean was so ruddy;
Though my stomach was sharp, I could scarce help regretting,
To spoil such a delicate picture by eating:
I had thought in my chambers to place it in view,
To be shown to my friends as a piece of virtu;
As in some Irish houses where things are so-so,
One gammon of bacon hangs up for a show;
But, for eating a rasher, of what they take pride in,
They'd as soon think of eating the pan it was fry'd in.

* * * * * * *

"But hang it--to poets, who seldom can eat,
Your very good mutton's a very good treat;
Such dainties to them, their health it might hurt;
_It's like sending them ruffles, when wanting a shirt._"

We have an amusing anecdote of one of Goldsmith's blunders which took place
on a subsequent visit to Lord Clare's, when that nobleman was residing in

Lord Clare and the Duke of Northumberland had houses next to each other, of
similar architecture. Returning home one morning from an early walk,
Goldsmith, in one of his frequent fits of absence, mistook the house, and
walked up into the duke's dining-room, where he and the duchess were about
to sit down to breakfast. Goldsmith, still supposing himself in the house
of Lord Clare, and that they were visitors, made them an easy salutation,
being acquainted with, them, and threw himself on a sofa in the lounging
manner of a man perfectly at home. The duke and duchess soon perceived his
mistake, and, while they smiled internally, endeavored, with the
considerateness of well-bred people, to prevent any awkward embarrassment.
They accordingly chatted sociably with him about matters in Bath, until,
breakfast being served, they invited him to partake. The truth at once
flashed upon poor heedless Goldsmith; he started up from the free-and-easy
position, made a confused apology for his blunder, and would have retired
perfectly disconcerted, had not the duke and duchess treated the whole as a
lucky occurrence to throw him in their way, and exacted a promise from him
to dine with them.

This may be hung up as a companion-piece to his blunder on his first visit
to Northumberland House.



On St. George's day of this year (1771), the first annual banquet of the
Royal Academy was held in the exhibition room; the walls of which were
covered with works of art, about to be submitted to public inspection. Sir
Joshua Reynolds, who first suggested this elegant festival, presided in his
official character; Drs. Johnson and Goldsmith, of course, were present, as
professors of the academy; and, besides the academicians, there was a large
number of the most distinguished men of the day as guests. Goldsmith on
this occasion drew on himself the attention of the company by launching out
with enthusiasm on the poems recently given to the world by Chatterton as
the works of an ancient author by the name of Rowley, discovered in the
tower of Redcliffe Church, at Bristol. Goldsmith spoke of them with
rapture, as a treasure of old English poetry. This immediately raised the
question of their authenticity; they having been pronounced a forgery of
Chatterton's. Goldsmith was warm for their being genuine. When he
considered, he said, the merit of the poetry; the acquaintance with life
and the human heart displayed in them, the antique quaintness of the
language and the familiar knowledge of historical events of their supposed
day, he could not believe it possible they could be the work of a boy of
sixteen, of narrow education, and confined to the duties of an attorney's
office. They must be the productions of Rowley.

Johnson, who was a stout unbeliever in Rowley, as he had been in Ossian,
rolled in his chair and laughed at the enthusiasm of Goldsmith. Horace
Walpole, who sat near by, joined in the laugh and jeer as soon as he found
that the "_trouvaille_," as he called it, "of _his friend_
Chatterton" was in question. This matter, which had excited the simple
admiration of Goldsmith, was no novelty to him, he said. "He might, had he
pleased, have had the honor of ushering the great discovery to the learned
world." And so he might, had he followed his first impulse in the matter,
for he himself had been an original believer; had pronounced some specimen
verses sent to him by Chatterton wonderful for their harmony and spirit;
and had been ready to print them and publish them to the world with his
sanction. When he found, however, that his unknown correspondent was a mere
boy, humble in sphere and indigent in circumstances, and when Gray and
Mason pronounced the poems forgeries, he had changed his whole conduct
toward the unfortunate author, and by his neglect and coldness had dashed
all his sanguine hopes to the ground.

Exulting in his superior discernment, this cold-hearted man of society now
went on to divert himself, as he says, with the credulity of Goldsmith,
whom he was accustomed to pronounce "an inspired idiot"; but his mirth was
soon dashed, for on asking the poet what had become of this Chatterton, he
was answered, doubtless in the feeling tone of one who had experienced the
pangs of despondent genius, that "he had been to London and had destroyed

The reply struck a pang of self-reproach even to the cold heart of Walpole;
a faint blush may have visited his cheek at his recent levity. "The persons
of honor and veracity who were present," said he in after years, when he
found it necessary to exculpate himself from the charge of heartless
neglect of genius, "will attest with what surprise and concern. I thus
first heard of his death." Well might he feel concern. His cold neglect had
doubtless contributed to madden the spirit of that youthful genius, and
hurry him toward his untimely end; nor have all the excuses and palliations
of Walpole's friends and admirers been ever able entirely to clear this
stigma from his fame.

But what was there in the enthusiasm and credulity of honest Goldsmith in
this matter to subject him to the laugh of Johnson or the raillery of
Walpole? Granting the poems were not ancient, were they not good? Granting
they were not the productions of Rowley, were they the less admirable for
being the productions of Chatterton? Johnson himself testified to their
merits and the genius of their composer when, some years afterward, he
visited the tower of Redcliffe Church, and was shown the coffer in which
poor Chatterton had pretended to find them. "This," said he, "is the most
extraordinary young man that has encountered my knowledge. _It is
wonderful how the whelp has written such things_."

As to Goldsmith, he persisted in his credulity, and had subsequently a
dispute with Dr. Percy on the subject, which interrupted and almost
destroyed their friendship. After all, his enthusiasm was of a generous,
poetic kind; the poems remain beautiful monuments of genius, and it is even
now difficult to persuade one's self that they could be entirely the
productions of a youth of sixteen.

In the month of August was published anonymously the History of England, on
which Goldsmith had been for some time employed. It was in four volumes,
compiled chiefly, as he acknowledged in the preface, from Rapin, Carle,
Smollett and Hume, "each of whom," says he, "have their admirers, in
proportion as the reader is studious of political antiquities, fond of
minute anecdote, a warm partisan, or a deliberate reasoner." It possessed
the same kind of merit as his other historical compilations; a clear,
succinct narrative, a simple, easy, and graceful style, and an agreeable
arrangement of facts; but was not remarkable for either depth of
observation or minute accuracy of research. Many passages were transferred,
with little if any alteration, from his Letters from a Nobleman to his Son
on the same subject. The work, though written without party feeling, met
with sharp animadversions from political scribblers. The writer was charged
with being unfriendly to liberty, disposed to elevate monarchy above its
proper sphere; a tool of ministers; one who would betray his country for a
pension. Tom Davies, the publisher, the pompous little bibliopole of
Russell Street, alarmed lest the book should prove unsalable, undertook to
protect it by his pen, and wrote a long article in its defense in "The
Public Advertiser." He was vain of his critical effusion, and sought by
nods and winks and innuendoes to intimate his authorship. "Have you seen,"
said he in a letter to a friend, "'An Impartial Account of Goldsmith's
History of England'? If you want to know who was the writer of it, you will
find him in Russell Street--_but mum_!"

The history, on the whole, however, was well received; some of the critics
declared that English history had never before been so usefully, so
elegantly, and agreeably epitomized, "and, like his other historical
writings, it has kept its ground" in English literature.

Goldsmith had intended this summer, in company with Sir Joshua Reynolds, to
pay a visit to Bennet Langton, at his seat in Lincolnshire, where he was
settled in domestic life, having the year previously married the Countess
Dowager of Rothes. The following letter, however, dated from his chambers
in the Temple, on the 7th of September, apologizes for putting off the
visit, while it gives an amusing account of his summer occupations and of
the attacks of the critics on his History of England:

"MY DEAR SIR--Since I had the pleasure of seeing you last, I have been
almost wholly in the country, at a farmer's house, quite alone, trying to
write a comedy. It is now finished; but when or how it will be acted, or
whether it will be acted at all, are questions I cannot resolve. I am
therefore so much employed upon that, that I am under the necessity of
putting off my intended visit to Lincolnshire for this season. Reynolds is
just returned from Paris, and finds himself now in the case of a truant
that must make up for his idle time by diligence. We have therefore agreed
to postpone our journey till next summer, when we hope to have the honor of
waiting upon Lady Rothes and you, and staying double the time of our late
intended visit. We often meet, and never without remembering you. I see Mr.
Beauclerc very often both in town and country. He is now going directly
forward to become a second Boyle; deep in chemistry and physics. Johnson
has been down on a visit to a country parson, Dr. Taylor; and is returned
to his old haunts at Mrs. Thrale's. Burke is a farmer, _en attendant_
a better place; but visiting about too. Every soul is visiting about and
merry but myself. And that is hard too, as I have been trying these three
months to do something to make people laugh. There have I been strolling
about the hedges, studying jests with a most tragical countenance. The
Natural History is about half finished, and I will shortly finish the rest.
God knows I am tired of this kind of finishing, which is but bungling work;
and that not so much my fault as the fault of my scurvy circumstances. They
begin to talk in town of the Opposition's gaining ground; the cry of
liberty is still as loud as ever. I have published, or Davies has published
for me, an 'Abridgment of the History of England,' for which I have been a
good deal abused in the newspapers, for betraying the liberties of the
people. God knows I had no thought for or against liberty in my head; my
whole aim being to make up a book of a decent size, that, as 'Squire
Richard says, _would do no harm to nobody_. However, they set me down
as an arrant Tory, and consequently an honest man. When you come to look at
any part of it, you'll say that I am a sore Whig. God bless you, and with
my most respectful compliments to her ladyship, I remain, dear sir, your
most affectionate humble servant,




Though Goldsmith found it impossible to break from his literary occupations
to visit Bennet Langton, in Lincolnshire, he soon yielded to attractions
from another quarter, in which somewhat of sentiment may have mingled. Miss
Catharine Horneck, one of his beautiful fellow-travelers, otherwise called
"Little Comedy," had been married in August to Henry William Bunbury, Esq.,
a gentleman of fortune, who has become celebrated for the humorous
productions of his pencil. Goldsmith was shortly afterward invited to pay
the newly married couple a visit at their seat, at Barton, in Suffolk. How
could he resist such an invitation--especially as the Jessamy Bride would,
of course, be among the guests? It is true, he was hampered with work; he
was still more hampered with debt; his accounts with Newbery were
perplexed; but all must give way. New advances are procured from Newbery,
on the promise of a new tale in the style of the Vicar of Wakefield, of
which he showed him a few roughly-sketched chapters; so, his purse
replenished in the old way, "by hook or by crook," he posted off to visit
the bride at Barton. He found there a joyous household, and one where he
was welcomed with affection. Garrick was there, and played the part of
master of the revels, for he was an intimate friend of the master of the
house. Notwithstanding early misunderstandings, a social intercourse
between the actor and the poet had grown up of late, from meeting together
continually in the same circle. A few particulars have reached us
concerning Goldsmith while on this happy visit. We believe the legend has
come down from Miss Mary Horneck herself. "While at Barton," she says, "his
manners were always playful and amusing, taking the lead in promoting any
scheme of innocent mirth, and usually prefacing the invitation with 'Come,
now, let us play the fool a little.' At cards, which was commonly a round
game, and the stake small, he was always the most noisy, affected great
eagerness to win, and teased his opponents of the gentler sex with
continual jest and banter on their want of spirit in not risking the
hazards of the game. But one of his most favorite enjoyments was to romp
with the children, when he threw off all reserve, and seemed one of the
most joyous of the group.

"One of the means by which he amused us was his songs, chiefly of the comic
kind, which were sung with some taste and humor; several, I believe, were
of his own composition, and I regret that I neither have copies, which
might have been readily procured from him at the time, nor do I remember
their names."

His perfect good humor made him the object of tricks of all kinds; often in
retaliation of some prank which he himself had played off. Unluckily these
tricks were sometimes made at the expense of his toilet, which, with a view
peradventure to please the eye of a certain fair lady, he had again
enriched to the impoverishment of his purse. "Being at all times gay in his
dress," says this ladylike legend, "he made his appearance at the
breakfast-table in a smart black silk coat with an expensive pair of
ruffles; the coat some one contrived to soil, and it was sent to be
cleansed; but, either by accident, or probably by design, the day after it
came home, the sleeves became daubed with paint, which was not discovered
until the ruffles also, to his great mortification, were irretrievably

"He always wore a wig, a peculiarity which those who judge of his
appearance only from the fine poetical head of Reynolds would not suspect;
and on one occasion some person contrived seriously to injure this
important adjunct to dress. It was the only one he had in the country, and
the misfortune seemed irreparable until the services of Mr. Bunbury's valet
were called in, who, however, performed his functions so indifferently that
poor Goldsmith's appearance became the signal for a general smile."

This was wicked waggery, especially when it was directed to mar all the
attempts of the unfortunate poet to improve his personal appearance, about
which he was at all times dubiously sensitive, and particularly when among
the ladies.

We have in a former chapter recorded his unlucky tumble into a fountain at
Versailles, when attempting a feat of agility in presence of the fair
Hornecks. Water was destined to be equally baneful to him on the present
occasion. "Some difference of opinion," says the fair narrator, "having
arisen with Lord Harrington respecting the depth of a pond, the poet
remarked that it was not so deep, but that, if anything valuable was to be
found at the bottom, he would not hesitate to pick it up. His lordship,
after some banter, threw in a guinea; Goldsmith, not to be outdone in this
kind of bravado, in attempting to fulfill his promise without getting wet,
accidentally fell in, to the amusement of all present, but persevered,
brought out the money, and kept it, remarking that he had abundant objects
on whom to bestow any further proofs of his lordship's whim or bounty."

All this is recorded by the beautiful Mary Horneck, the Jessamy Bride
herself; but while she gives these amusing pictures of poor Goldsmith's
eccentricities, and of the mischievous pranks played off upon him, she
bears unqualified testimony, which we have quoted elsewhere, to the
qualities of his head and heart, which shone forth, in his countenance, and
gained him the love of all who knew him.

Among the circumstances of this visit vaguely called to mind by this fair
lady in after years, was that Goldsmith read to her and her sister the
first part of a novel which he had in hand. It was doubtless the manuscript
mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, on which he had obtained an
advance of money from Newbery to stave off some pressing debts, and to
provide funds for this very visit. It never was finished. The bookseller,
when he came afterward to examine the manuscript, objected to it as a mere
narrative version of the Good-Natured Man. Goldsmith, too easily put out of
conceit of his writings, threw it aside, forgetting that this was the very
Newbery who kept his Vicar of Wakefield by him nearly two years through
doubts of its success. The loss of the manuscript is deeply to be
regretted; it doubtless would have been properly wrought up before given to
the press, and might have given us new scenes in life and traits of
character, while it could not fail to bear traces of his delightful style.
What a pity he had not been guided by the opinions of his fair listeners at
Barton, instead of that of the astute Mr. Newbery!



We have mentioned old General Oglethorpe as one of Goldsmith's
aristocratical acquaintances. This veteran, born in 1698, had commenced
life early, by serving, when a mere stripling, under Prince Eugene, against
the Turks. He had continued in military life, and been promoted to the rank
of major-general in 1745, and received a command during the Scottish
rebellion. Being of strong Jacobite tendencies, he was suspected and
accused of favoring the rebels; and though acquitted by a court of inquiry,
was never afterward employed; or, in technical language, was shelved. He
had since been repeatedly a member of parliament, and had always
distinguished himself by learning, taste, active benevolence, and high Tory
principles. His name, however, has become historical, chiefly from his
transactions in America, and the share he took in the settlement of the
colony of Georgia. It lies embalmed in honorable immortality in a single
line of Pope's:

"One, driven _by strong benevolence of soul_,
Shall fly, like Oglethorpe, from pole to pole."

The veteran was now seventy-four years of age, but healthy and vigorous,
and as much the preux chevalier as in his younger days, when he served with
Prince Eugene. His table was often the gathering-place of men of talent.
Johnson was frequently there, and delighted in drawing from the general
details of his various "experiences." He was anxious that he should give
the world his life. "I know no man," said he, "whose life would be more
interesting." Still the vivacity of the general's mind and the variety of
his knowledge made him skip from subject to subject too fast for the
lexicographer. "Oglethorpe," growled he, "never completes what he has to

Boswell gives us an interesting and characteristic account of a dinner
party at the general's (April 10, 1772), at which Goldsmith and Johnson
were present. After dinner, when the cloth was removed, Oglethorpe, at
Johnson's request, gave an account of the siege of Belgrade, in the true
veteran style. Pouring a little wine upon the table, he drew his lines and
parallels with a wet finger, describing the positions of the opposing
forces. "Here were we--here were the Turks," to all which Johnson listened
with the most earnest attention, poring over the plans and diagrams with
his usual purblind closeness.

In the course of conversation the general gave an anecdote of himself in
early life, when serving under Prince Eugene. Sitting at table once in
company with a prince of Wurtemberg, the latter gave a fillip to a glass of
wine, so as to make some of it fly in Oglethorpe's face. The manner in
which it was done was somewhat equivocal. How was it to be taken by the
stripling officer? If seriously, he must challenge the prince; but in so
doing he might fix on himself the character of a drawcansir. If passed over
without notice, he might be charged with cowardice. His mind was made up in
an instant. "Prince," said he, smiling, "that is an excellent joke; but we
do it much better in England." So saying, he threw a whole glass of wine in
the prince's face. "Il a bien fait, mon prince," cried an old general
present, "vouz l'avez commence." (He has done right, my prince; you
commenced it.) The prince had the good sense to acquiesce in the decision
of the veteran, and Oglethorpe's retort in kind was taken in good part.

It was probably at the close of this story that the officious Boswell, ever
anxious to promote conversation for the benefit of his note-book, started
the question whether dueling were consistent with moral duty. The old
general fired up in an instant. "Undoubtedly," said he, with a lofty air;
"undoubtedly a man has a right to defend his honor." Goldsmith immediately
carried the war into Boswell's own quarters, and pinned him with the
question, "what he would do if affronted?" The pliant Boswell, who for the
moment had the fear of the general rather than of Johnson before his eyes,
replied, "he should think it necessary to fight." "Why, then, that solves
the question," replied Goldsmith. "No, sir," thundered out Johnson; "it
does not follow that what a man would do, is therefore right." He, however,
subsequently went into a discussion to show that there were necessities in
the case arising out of the artificial refinement of society, and its
proscription of any one who should put up with an affront without fighting
a duel. "He then," concluded he, "who fights a duel does not fight from
passion against his antagonist, but out of self-defense, to avert the
stigma of the world, and to prevent himself from being driven out of
society. I could wish there were not that superfluity of refinement; but
while such notions prevail, no doubt a man may lawfully fight a duel."

Another question started was, whether people who disagreed on a capital
point could live together in friendship. Johnson said they might. Goldsmith
said they could not, as they had not the idem velle atque idem voile--the
same liking and aversions. Johnson rejoined that they must shun the subject
on which they disagreed. "But, sir," said Goldsmith, "when people live
together who have something as to which they disagree, and which they want
to shun, they will be in the situation mentioned in the story of Blue
Beard: 'you may look into all the chambers but one'; but we should have the
greatest inclination to look into that chamber, to talk of that subject."
"Sir," thundered Johnson, in a loud voice, "I am not saying that _you_
could live in friendship with a man from whom you differ as to some point;
I am only saying that _I_ could do it."

Who will not say that Goldsmith had not the best of this petty contest? How
just was his remark! how felicitous the illustration of the blue chamber!
how rude and overbearing was the argumentum ad hominem of Johnson, when he
felt that he had the worst of the argument!

The conversation turned upon ghosts! General Oglethorpe told the story of a
Colonel Prendergast, an officer in the Duke of Marlborough's army, who
predicted among his comrades that he should die on a certain day. The
battle of Malplaquet took place on that day. The colonel was in the midst
of it but came out unhurt. The firing had ceased, and his brother officers
jested with him about the fallacy of his prediction. "The day is not over,"
replied he, gravely, "I shall die notwithstanding what you see." His words
proved true. The order for a cessation of firing had not reached one of the
French batteries, and a random shot from it killed the colonel on the spot.
Among his effects was found a pocketbook in which he had made a solemn
entry, that Sir John Friend, who had been executed for high treason, had
appeared to him, either in a dream or vision, and predicted that he would
meet him on a certain day (the very day of the battle). Colonel Cecil, who
took possession of the effects of Colonel Prendergast, and read the entry
in the pocketbook, told this story to Pope, the poet, in the presence of
General Oglethorpe.

This story, as related by the general, appears to have been well received,
if not credited, by both Johnson and Goldsmith, each of whom had something
to relate in kind. Goldsmith's brother, the clergyman in whom he had such
implicit confidence, had assured him of his having seen an apparition.
Johnson also had a friend, old Mr. Cave, the printer, at St. John's Gate,
"an honest man, and a sensible man," who told him he had seen a ghost: he
did not, however, like to talk of it, and seemed to be in great horror,
whenever it was mentioned. "And pray, sir," asked Boswell, "what did he say
was the appearance?" "Why, sir, something of a shadowy being."

The reader will not be surprised at this superstitious turn in the
conversation of such intelligent men, when he recollects that, but a few
years before this time, all London had been agitated by the absurd story of
the Cock Lane ghost; a matter which Dr. Johnson had deemed worthy of his
serious investigation, and about which Goldsmith had written a pamphlet.



Among the agreeable acquaintances made by Goldsmith about this time was a
Mr. Joseph Cradock, a young gentleman of Leicestershire, living at his
ease, but disposed to "make himself uneasy," by meddling with literature
and the theater; in fact, he had a passion for plays and players, and had
come up to town with a modified translation of Voltaire's tragedy of
Zobeide, in a view to get it acted. There was no great difficulty in the
case, as he was a man of fortune, had letters of introduction to persons of
note, and was altogether in a different position from the indigent man of
genius whom managers might harass with impunity. Goldsmith met him at the
house of Yates, the actor, and finding that he was a friend of Lord Clare,
soon became sociable with him. Mutual tastes quickened the intimacy,
especially as they found means of serving each other. Goldsmith wrote an
epilogue for the tragedy of Zobeide; and Cradock, who was an amateur
musician, arranged the music for the Threnodia Augustalis, a lament on the
death of the Princess Dowager of Wales, the political mistress and patron
of Lord Clare, which Goldsmith had thrown off hastily to please that
nobleman. The tragedy was played with some success at Covent Garden; the
Lament was recited and sung at Mrs. Cornelys' rooms--a very fashionable
resort in Soho Square, got up by a woman of enterprise of that name. It was
in whimsical parody of those gay and somewhat promiscuous assemblages that
Goldsmith used to call the motley evening parties at his lodgings "little

The Threnodia Augustalis was not publicly known to be by Goldsmith until
several years after his death.

Cradock was one of the few polite intimates who felt more disposed to
sympathize with the generous qualities of the poet than to sport with his
eccentricities. He sought his society whenever he came to town, and
occasionally had him to his seat in the country. Goldsmith appreciated his
sympathy, and unburdened himself to him without reserve. Seeing the
lettered ease in which this amateur author was enabled to live, and the
time he could bestow on the elaboration of a manuscript, "Ah! Mr. Cradock,"
cried he, "think of me that must write a volume every month!" He complained
to him of the attempts made by inferior writers, and by others who could
scarcely come under that denomination, not only to abuse and depreciate his
writings, but to render him ridiculous as a man; perverting every harmless
sentiment and action into charges of absurdity, malice, or folly. "Sir,"
said he, in the fullness of his heart, "I am as a lion bated by curs!"

Another acquaintance which he made about this time, was a young countryman
of the name of M'Donnell, whom he met in a state of destitution, and, of
course, befriended. The following grateful recollections of his kindness
and his merits were furnished by that person in after years:

"It was in the year 1772," writes he, "that the death of my elder
brother--when in London, on my way to Ireland--left me in a most forlorn
situation; I was then about eighteen; I possessed neither friends nor
money, nor the means of getting to Ireland, of which or of England I knew
scarcely anything, from having so long resided in France. In this situation
I had strolled about for two or three days, considering what to do, but
unable to come to any determination, when Providence directed me to the
Temple Gardens. I threw myself on a seat, and, willing to forget my
miseries for a moment, drew out a book; that book was a volume of Boileau.
I had not been there long when a gentleman, strolling about, passed near
me, and observing, perhaps, something Irish or foreign in my garb or
countenance, addressed me: 'Sir, you seem studious; I hope you find this a
favorable place to pursue it.' 'Not very studious, sir; I fear it is the
want of society that brings me hither; I am solitary and unknown in this
metropolis'; and a passage from Cicero--Oratio pro Archia--occurring to me,
I quoted it; 'Haec studia pronoctant nobiscum, perigrinantur, rusticantur.'
'You are a scholar, too, sir, I perceive.' 'A piece of one, sir; but I
ought still to have been in the college where I had the good fortune to
pick up the little I know.' A good deal of conversation ensued; I told him
part of my history, and he, in return, gave his address in the Temple,
desiring me to call soon, from which, to my infinite surprise and
gratification, I found that the person who thus seemed to take an interest
in my fate was my countryman, and a distinguished ornament of letters.

"I did not fail to keep the appointment, and was received in the kindest
manner. He told me, smilingly, that he was not rich; that he could do
little for me in direct pecuniary aid, but would endeavor to put me in the
way of doing something for myself; observing, that he could at least
furnish me with advice not wholly useless to a young man placed in the
heart of a great metropolis. 'In London,' he continued, 'nothing is to be
got for nothing; you must work; and no man who chooses to be industrious
need be under obligations to another, for here labor of every kind commands
its reward. If you think proper to assist me occasionally as amanuensis, I
shall be obliged, and you will be placed under no obligation, until
something more permanent can be secured for you.' This employment, which I
pursued for some time, was to translate passages from Buffon, which was
abridged or altered, according to circumstances, for his Natural History."

Goldsmith's literary tasks were fast getting ahead of him, and he began now
to "toil after them in vain."

Five volumes of the Natural History here spoken of had long since been paid
for by Mr. Griffin, yet most of them were still to be written. His young
amanuensis bears testimony to his embarrassments and perplexities, but to
the degree of equanimity with which he bore them:

"It has been said," observes he, "that he was irritable. Such may have been
the case at times; nay, I believe it was so; for what with the continual
pursuit of authors, printers, and booksellers, and occasional pecuniary
embarrassments, few could have avoided exhibiting similar marks of
impatience. But it was never so toward me. I saw him only in his bland and
kind moods, with a flow, perhaps an overflow, of the milk of human kindness
for all who were in any manner dependent upon him. I looked upon him with
awe and veneration, and he upon me as a kind parent upon a child.

"His manner and address exhibited much frankness and cordiality,
particularly to those with whom he possessed any degree of intimacy. His
good-nature was equally apparent. Ton could not dislike the man, although
several of his follies and foibles you might be tempted to condemn. He was
generous and inconsiderate; money with him had little value."

To escape from many of the tormentors just alluded to, and to devote
himself without interruption to his task, Goldsmith took lodgings for the
summer at a farmhouse near the six-mile stone on the Edgeware road, and
carried down his books in two return post-chaises. He used to say he
believed the farmer's family thought him an odd character, similar to that
in which the "Spectator" appeared to his landlady and her children: he was
"The Gentleman." Boswell tells us that he went to visit him at the place in
company with Mickle, translator of the Lusiad. Goldsmith was not at home.
Having a curiosity to see his apartment, however, they went in, and found
curious scraps of descriptions of animals scrawled upon the wall with a
black lead pencil.

The farmhouse in question is still in existence, though much altered. It
stands upon a gentle eminence in Hyde Lane, commanding a pleasant prospect
toward Hendon. The room is still pointed out in which She Stoops to Conquer
was written; a convenient and airy apartment, up one Sight of stairs.

Some matter-of-fact traditions concerning the author were furnished, a few
years since, by a son of the farmer, who was sixteen years of age at the
time Goldsmith resided with his father. Though he had engaged to board with
the family, his meals were generally sent to him in his room, in which he
passed the most of his time, negligently dressed, with his shirt collar
open, busily engaged in writing. Sometimes, probably when in moods of
composition, he would wander into the kitchen, without noticing any one,
stand musing with his back to the fire, and then hurry off again to his
room, no doubt to commit to paper some thought which had struck him.

Sometimes he strolled about the fields, or was to be seen loitering and
reading and musing under the hedges. He was subject to fits of wakefulness
and read much in bed; if not disposed to read, he still kept the candle
burning; if he wished to extinguish it, and it was out of his reach, he
flung his slipper at it, which would be found in the morning near the
overturned candlestick, and daubed with grease. He was noted here, as
everywhere else, for his charitable feelings. No beggar applied to him in
vain, and he evinced on all occasions great commiseration for the poor.

He had the use of the parlor to receive and entertain company, and was
visited by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Hugh Boyd, the reputed author of Junius,
Sir William Chambers, and other distinguished characters. He gave
occasionally, though rarely, a dinner party; and on one occasion, when his
guests were detained by a thunder shower, he got up a dance, and carried
the merriment late into the night.

As usual, he was the promoter of hilarity among the young, and at one time
took the children of the house to see a company of strolling players at
Hendon. The greatest amusement to the party, however, was derived from his
own jokes on the road and his comments on the performance, which produced
infinite laughter among his youthful companions.

Near to his rural retreat at Edgeware, a Mr. Seguin, an Irish merchant, of
literary tastes, had country quarters for his family, where Goldsmith was
always welcome.

In this family he would indulge in playful and even grotesque humor, and
was ready for anything--conversation, music, or a game of romps. He prided
himself upon his dancing, and would walk a minuet with Mrs. Seguin, to the
infinite amusement of herself and the children, whose shouts of laughter he
bore with perfect good-humor. He would sing Irish songs, and the Scotch
ballad of Johnny Armstrong. He took the lead in the children's sports of
blind man's buff, hunt the slipper, etc., or in their games at cards, and
was the most noisy of the party, affecting to cheat and to be excessively
eager to win; while with children of smaller size he would turn the hind
part of his wig before, and play all kinds of tricks to amuse them.

One word as to his musical skill and his performance on the flute, which
comes up so invariably in all his fireside revels. He really knew nothing
of music scientifically; he had a good ear, and may have played sweetly;
but we are told he could not read a note of music. Roubillac, the statuary,
once played a trick upon him in this respect. He pretended to score down an
air as the poet played it, but put down crotchets and semi-breves at
random. When he had finished, Goldsmith cast his eyes over it and
pronounced it correct! It is possible that his execution in music was like
his style in writing; in sweetness and melody he may have snatched a grace
beyond the reach of art!

He was at all times a capital companion for children, and knew how to fall
in with their humors. "I little thought," said Miss Hawkins, the woman
grown, "what I should have to boast, when Goldsmith taught me to play Jack
and Jill by two bits of paper on his fingers." He entertained Mrs. Garrick,
we are told, with a whole budget of stories and songs; delivered the
Chimney Sweep with exquisite taste as a solo; and performed a duet with
Garrick of Old Rose and Burn the Bellows.

"I was only five years old," says the late George Colman, "when Goldsmith
one evening, when drinking coffee with my father, took me on his knee and
began to play with me, which amiable act I returned with a very smart slap
in the face; it must have been a tingler, for I left the marks of my little
spiteful paw upon his cheek. This infantile outrage was followed by summary
justice, and I was locked up by my father in an adjoining room, to undergo
solitary imprisonment in the dark. Here I began to howl and scream most
abominably. At length a friend appeared to extricate me from jeopardy; it
was the good-natured doctor himself, with a lighted candle in his hand, and
a smile upon his countenance, which was still partially red from the
effects of my petulance. I sulked and sobbed, and he fondled and soothed
until I began to brighten. He seized the propitious moment, placed three
hats upon the carpet, and a shilling under each; the shillings, he told me,
were England, France, and Spain. 'Hey, presto, cockolorum!' cried the
doctor, and, lo! on uncovering the shillings, they were all found
congregated under one. I was no politician at the time, and therefore might
not have wondered at the sudden revolution which brought England, France,
and Spain all under one crown; but, as I was also no conjurer, it amazed me
beyond measure. From that time, whenever the doctor came to visit my

"'I pluck'd his gown to share the good man's smile';

a game of romps constantly ensued, and we were always cordial friends and
merry playfellows."

Although Goldsmith made the Edgeware farmhouse his headquarters for the
summer, he would absent himself for weeks at a time on visits to Mr.
Cradock, Lord Clare, and Mr. Langton, at their country-seats. He would
often visit town, also, to dine and partake of the public amusements. On
one occasion he accompanied Edmund Burke to witness a performance of the
Italian Fantoccini or Puppets, in Panton Street; an exhibition which had
hit the caprice of the town, and was in great vogue. The puppets were set
in motion by wires, so well concealed as to be with difficulty detected.
Boswell, with his usual obtuseness with respect to Goldsmith, accuses him
of being jealous of the puppets! "When Burke," said he, "praised the
dexterity with which one of them tossed a pike, 'Pshaw,' said Goldsmith
_with some warmth_, 'I can do it better myself.'" "The same evening,"
adds Boswell, "when supping at Burke's lodgings, he broke his shin by
attempting to exhibit to the company how much better he could jump over a
stick than the puppets."

Goldsmith jealous of puppets! This even passes in absurdity Boswell's
charge upon him of being jealous of the beauty of the two Misses Horneck.

The Panton Street puppets were destined to be a source of further amusement
to the town, and of annoyance to the little autocrat of the stage. Foote,
the Aristophanes of the English drama, who was always on the alert to turn
every subject of popular excitement to account, seeing the success of the
Fantoccini, gave out that he should produce a Primitive Puppet-show at the
Haymarket, to be entitled the Handsome Chambermaid, or Piety in Pattens:
intended to burlesque the _sentimental comedy_ which Garrick still
maintained at Drury Lane. The idea of a play to be performed in a regular
theater by puppets excited the curiosity and talk of the town. "Will your
puppets be as large as life, Mr. Foote?" demanded a lady of rank. "Oh, no,
my lady," replied Foote, "_not much larger than Garrick_."



Goldsmith returned to town in the autumn (1772), with his health much
disordered. His close fits of sedentary application, during which he in a
manner tied himself to the mast, had laid the seeds of a lurking malady in
his system, and produced a severe illness in the course of the summer. Town
life was not favorable to the health either of body or mind. He could not
resist the siren voice of temptation, which, now that he had become a
notoriety, assailed him on every side. Accordingly we find him launching
away in a career of social dissipation; dining and supping out; at clubs,
at routs, at theaters; he is a guest with Johnson at the Thrales, and an
object of Mrs. Thrale's lively sallies; he is a lion at Mrs. Vesey's and
Mrs. Montagu's, where some of the high-bred blue-stockings pronounce him a
"wild genius," and others, peradventure, a "wild Irishman." In the meantime
his pecuniary difficulties are increasing upon him, conflicting with his
proneness to pleasure and expense, and contributing by the harassment of
his mind to the wear and tear of his constitution. His Animated Nature,
though not finished, had been entirely paid for, and the money spent. The
money advanced by Garrick on Newbery's note still hangs over him as a debt.
The tale on which Newbery had loaned from two to three hundred pounds
previous to the excursion to Barton has proved a failure. The bookseller is
urgent for the settlement of his complicated account; the perplexed author
has nothing to offer him in liquidation but the copyright of the comedy
which he has in his portfolio; "Though to tell you the truth, Frank," said
he, "there are great doubts of its success." The offer was accepted, and,
like bargains wrung from Goldsmith in times of emergency, turned out a
golden speculation to the bookseller.

In this way Goldsmith went on "outrunning the constable," as he termed it;
spending everything in advance; working with an overtasked head and weary
heart to pay for past pleasures and past extravagance, and at the same time
incurring new debts, to perpetuate his struggles and darken his future
prospects. While the excitement of society and the excitement of
composition conspire to keep up a feverishness of the system, he has
incurred an unfortunate habit of quacking himself with James' powders, a
fashionable panacea of the day.

A farce, produced this year by Garrick, and entitled The Irish Widow,
perpetuates the memory of practical jokes played off a year or two
previously upon the alleged vanity of poor, simple-hearted Goldsmith. He
was one evening at the house of his friend Burke, when he was beset by a
tenth muse, an Irish widow and authoress, just arrived from Ireland, full
of brogue and blunders, and poetic fire and rantipole gentility. She was
soliciting subscriptions for her poems; and assailed Goldsmith for his
patronage; the great Goldsmith--her countryman, and of course her friend.
She overpowered him with eulogiums on his own poems, and then read some of
her own, with vehemence of tone and gesture, appealing continually to the
great Goldsmith to know how he relished them.

Poor Goldsmith did all that a kind-hearted and gallant gentleman could do
hi such a case; he praised her poems as far as the stomach of his sense
would permit: perhaps a little further; he offered her his subscription,
and it was not until she had retired with many parting compliments to the
great Goldsmith that he pronounced the poetry which had been inflicted on
him execrable. The whole scene had been a hoax got up by Burke for the
amusement of his company, and the Irish widow, so admirably performed, had
been personated by a Mrs. Balfour, a lady of his connection, of great
sprightliness and talent.

We see nothing in the story to establish the alleged vanity of Goldsmith,
but we think it tells rather to the disadvantage of Burke; being
unwarrantable under their relations of friendship, and a species of waggery
quite beneath his genius. Croker, in his notes to Boswell, gives another of
these practical jokes perpetrated by Burke at the expense of Goldsmith's
credulity. It was related to Croker by Colonel O'Moore, of Cloghan Castle,
in Ireland, who was a party concerned. The colonel and Burke, walking one
day through Leicester Square on their way to Sir Joshua Reynolds', with
whom they were to dine, observed Goldsmith, who was likewise to be a guest,
standing and regarding a crowd which was staring and shouting at some
foreign ladies in the window of a hotel. "Observe Goldsmith," said Burke to
O'Moore, "and mark what passes between us at Sir Joshua's." They passed on
and reached there before him. Burke received Goldsmith with affected
reserve and coldness; being pressed to explain the reason. "Really," said
he, "I am ashamed to keep company with a person who could act as you have
just done in the Square." Goldsmith protested he was ignorant of what was
meant. "Why," said Burke, "did you not exclaim as you were looking up at
those women, what stupid beasts the crowd must be for staring with such
admiration at those _painted Jezebels_, while a man of your talents
passed by unnoticed?" "Surely, surely, my dear friend," cried Goldsmith,
with alarm, "surely I did not say so?" "Nay," replied Burke, "if you had
not said so, how should I have known it?" "That's true," answered
Goldsmith, "I am very sorry--it was very foolish: _I do recollect that
something thing of the kind passed through my mind, but I did not think I
had uttered it_."

It is proper to observe that these jokes were played off by Burke before he
had attained the full eminence of his social position, and that he may have
felt privileged to take liberties with Goldsmith as his countryman and
college associate. It is evident, however, that the peculiarities of the
latter, and his guileless simplicity, made him a butt for the broad waggery
of some of his associates; while others more polished, though equally
perfidious, are on the watch to give currency to his bulls and blunders.

The Stratford jubilee, in honor of Shakespeare, where Boswell had made a
fool of himself, was still in every one's mind. It was sportively suggested
that a fete should be held at Lichfield in honor of Johnson and Garrick,
and that the Beaux' Stratagem should be played by the members of the
Literary Club. "Then," exclaimed Goldsmith, "I shall certainly play Scrub.
I should like of all things to try my hand at that character." The unwary
speech, which any one else might have made without comment, has been
thought worthy of record as whimsically characteristic. Beauclerc was
extremely apt to circulate anecdotes at his expense, founded perhaps on
some trivial incident, but dressed up with the embellishments of his
sarcastic brain. One relates to a venerable dish of peas, served up at Sir
Joshua's table, which should have been green, but were any other color. A
wag suggested to Goldsmith, in a whisper, that they should be sent to
Hammersmith, as that was the way to _turn-em-green_ (Turnham-Green).
Goldsmith, delighted with the pun, endeavored to repeat it at Burke's
table, but missed the point. "That is the way to _make_ 'em green,"
said he. Nobody laughed. He perceived he was at fault. "I mean that is the
_road_ to turn 'em green." A dead pause and a stare; "whereupon," adds
Beauclerc, "he started up disconcerted and abruptly left the table." This
is evidently one of Beauclerc's caricatures.

On another occasion the poet and Beauclerc were seated at the theater next
to Lord Shelburne, the minister, whom political writers thought proper to
nickname Malagrida. "Do you know," said Goldsmith to his lordship, in the
course of conversation, "that I never could conceive why they called you
Malagrida, _for_ Malagrida was a very good sort of man." This was too
good a trip of the tongue for Beauclerc to let pass: he serves it up in his
next letter to Lord Charlemont, as a specimen of a mode of turning a
thought the wrong way, peculiar to the poet; he makes merry over it with
his witty and sarcastic compeer, Horace Walpole, who pronounces it "a
picture of Goldsmith's whole life." Dr. Johnson alone, when he hears it
bandied about as Goldsmith's last blunder, growls forth a friendly defense:
"Sir," said he, "it was a mere blunder in emphasis. He meant to say, I
wonder they should use Malagrida as a term of reproach." Poor Goldsmith! On
such points he was ever doomed to be misinterpreted. Rogers, the poet,
meeting in times long subsequent with a survivor of those days, asked him
what Goldsmith really was in conversation. The old conversational character
was too deeply stamped in the memory of the veteran to be effaced. "Sir,"
replied the old wiseacre, "_he was a fool_. The right word never came
to him. If you gave him back a bad shilling, he'd say, Why, it's as good a
shilling as ever was _born_. You know he ought to have said
_coined_. _Coined_, sir, never entered his head. _He was a
fool, sir_."

We have so many anecdotes in which Goldsmith's simplicity is played upon
that it is quite a treat to meet with one in which he is represented
playing upon the simplicity of others, especially when the victim of his
joke is the "Great Cham" himself, whom all others are disposed to hold so
much in awe. Goldsmith and Johnson were supping cozily together at a tavern
in Dean Street, Soho, kept by Jack Roberts, a singer at Drury Lane, and a
protege of Garrick's. Johnson delighted in these gastronomical
tete-a-tetes, and was expatiating in high good-humor on rumps and kidneys,
the veins of his forehead swelling with the ardor of mastication. "These,"
said he, "are pretty little things; but a man must eat a great many of them
before he is filled." "Ay; but how many of them," asked Goldsmith, with
affected simplicity, "would reach to the moon?" "To the moon! Ah, sir,
that, I fear, exceeds your calculation." "Not at all, sir; I think I could
tell." "Pray, then, sir, let us hear." "Why, sir, one, _if it were long
enough_!" Johnson growled for a time at finding himself caught in such a
trite schoolboy trap. "Well, sir," cried he at length, "I have deserved it.
I should not have provoked so foolish an answer by so foolish a question."

Among the many incidents related as illustrative of Goldsmith's vanity and
envy is one which occurred one evening when he was in a drawing-room with a
party of ladies, and a ballad-singer under the window struck up his
favorite song of Sally Salisbury. "How miserably this woman sings!"
exclaimed he. "Pray, doctor," said the lady of the house, "could you do it
better?" "Yes, madam, and the company shall be judges." The company, of
course, prepared to be entertained by an absurdity; but their smiles were
wellnigh turned to tears, for he acquitted himself with a skill and pathos
that drew universal applause. He had, in fact, a delicate ear for music,
which had been jarred by the false notes of the ballad-singer; and there
were certain pathetic ballads, associated with recollections of his
childhood, which were sure to touch the springs of his heart. We have
another story of him, connected with ballad-singing, which is still more
characteristic. He was one evening at the house of Sir William Chambers, in
Berners Street, seated at a whist table with Sir William, Lady Chambers,
and Baretti, when all at once he threw down his cards, hurried out of the
room and into the street. He returned in an instant, resumed his seat, and
the game went on. Sir William, after a little hesitation, ventured to ask
the cause of his retreat, fearing he had been overcome by the heat of the
room. "Not at all," replied Goldsmith; "but in truth I could not bear to
hear that unfortunate woman in the street, half singing, half sobbing, for
such tones could only arise from the extremity of distress; her voice
grated painfully on my ear and jarred my frame, so that I could not rest
until I had sent her away." It was in fact a poor ballad-singer, whose
cracked voice had been heard by others of the party, but without having the
same effect on their sensibilities. It was the reality of his fictitious
scene in the story of the "Man in Black"; wherein he describes a woman in
rags with one child in her arms and another on her back, attempting to sing
ballads, but with such a mournful voice that it was difficult to determine
whether she was singing or crying. "A wretch," he adds, "who, in the
deepest distress, still aimed at good-humor, was an object my friend was by
no means capable of withstanding." The Man in Black gave the poor woman all
that he had--a bundle of matches. Goldsmith, it is probable, sent his
ballad-singer away rejoicing with all the money in his pocket.

Ranelagh was at that time greatly in vogue as a place of public
entertainment. It was situated near Chelsea; the principal room was a
rotunda of great dimensions, with an orchestra in the center and tiers of
boxes all round. It was a place to which Johnson resorted occasionally. "I
am a great friend to public amusements," said he, "for they keep people
from vice." [Footnote: "Alas, sir!" said Johnson, speaking, when in another
mood, of grand houses, fine gardens, and splendid places of public
amusement; "alas, sir! these are only struggles for happiness. When I first
entered Ranelagh it gave an expansion and gay sensation to my mind, such as
I never experienced anywhere else. But, as Xerxes wept when he viewed his
immense army, and considered that not one of that great multitude would be
alive a hundred years afterward, so it went to my heart to consider that
there was not one in all that brilliant circle that was not afraid to go
home and think."] Goldsmith was equally a friend to them, though perhaps
not altogether on such moral grounds. He was particularly fond of
masquerades, which were then exceedingly popular, and got up at Ranelagh
with great expense and magnificence. Sir Joshua Reynolds, who had likewise
a taste for such amusements, was sometimes his companion, at other times he
went alone; his peculiarities of person and manner would soon betray him,
whatever might be his disguise, and he would be singled out by wags,
acquainted with his foibles, and more successful than himself in
maintaining their incognito, as a capital subject to be played upon. Some,
pretending not to know him, would decry his writings, and praise those of
his contemporaries; others would laud his verses to the skies, but
purposely misquote and burlesque them; others would annoy him with
parodies; while one young lady, whom he was teasing, as he supposed, with
great success and infinite humor, silenced his rather boisterous laughter
by quoting his own line about "the loud laugh that speaks the vacant mind."
On one occasion he was absolutely driven out of the house by the
persevering jokes of a wag, whose complete disguise gave him no means of

His name appearing in the newspapers among the distinguished persons
present at one of these amusements, his old enemy, Kenrick, immediately
addressed to him a copy of anonymous verses, to the following purport.



"How widely different, Goldsmith, are the ways
Of doctors now, and those of ancient days!
Theirs taught the truth in academic shades,
Ours in lewd hops and midnight masquerades.
So changed the times! say, philosophic sage,
Whose genius suits so well this tasteful age,
Is the Pantheon, late a sink obscene,
Become the fountain of chaste Hippocrene?
Or do thy moral numbers quaintly flow,
Inspired by th' _Aganippe_ of Soho?
Do wisdom's sons gorge cates and vermicelli,
Like beastly Bickerstaffe or bothering Kelly?
Or art thou tired of th' undeserved applause
Bestowed on bards affecting Virtue's cause?
Is this the good that makes the humble vain,
The good philosophy should not disdain?
If so, let pride dissemble all it can,
A modern sage is still much less than man."

Goldsmith was keenly sensitive to attacks of the kind, and meeting Kenrick
at the Chapter Coffee-house, called him to sharp account for taking such a
liberty with his name, and calling his morals in question, merely on
account of his being seen at a place of general resort and amusement.
Kenrick shuffled and sneaked, protesting that he meant nothing derogatory
to his private character. Goldsmith let him know, however, that he was
aware of his having more than once indulged in attacks of this dastard
kind, and intimated that another such outrage would be followed by personal

Kenrick having played the craven in his presence, avenged himself as soon
as he was gone by complaining of his having made a wanton attack upon him,
and by making coarse comments upon his writings, conversation and person.

The scurrilous satire of Kenrick, however unmerited, may have checked
Goldsmith's taste for masquerades. Sir Joshua Reynolds, calling on the poet
one morning, found him walking about his room in somewhat of a reverie,
kicking a bundle of clothes before him like a football. It proved to be an
expensive masquerade dress, which he said he had been fool enough to
purchase, and as there was no other way of getting the worth of his money,
he was trying to take it out in exercise.



From the feverish dissipations of town, Goldsmith is summoned away to
partake of the genial dissipations of the country. In the month of
December, a letter from Mrs. Bunbury invites him down to Barton, to pass
the Christmas holidays. The letter is written in the usual playful vein
which marks his intercourse with this charming family. He is to come in his
"smart spring-velvet coat," to bring a new wig to dance with the haymakers
in, and, above all, to follow the advice of herself and her sister (the
Jessamy Bride), in playing loo. This letter, which plays so archly, yet
kindly, with some of poor Goldsmith's peculiarities, and bespeaks such real
ladylike regard for him, requires a word or two of annotation. The
spring-velvet suit alluded to appears to have been a gallant adornment
(somewhat in the style of the famous bloom-colored coat) in which Goldsmith
had figured in the preceding month of May--the season of blossoms--for, on
the 21st of that month we find the following entry in the chronicle of Mr.
William Filby, tailor: _To your blue velvet suit_, L21 10s. 9d. Also,
about the same time, a suit of livery and a crimson collar for the serving
man. Again we hold the Jessamy Bride responsible for this gorgeous splendor
of wardrobe.

The new wig no doubt is a bag-wig and solitaire, still highly the mode, and
in which Goldsmith is represented as figuring when in full dress, equipped
with his sword.

As to the dancing with the haymakers, we presume it alludes to some gambol
of the poet, in the course of his former visit to Barton; when he ranged
the fields and lawns a chartered libertine, and tumbled into the

As to the suggestions about loo, they are in sportive allusion to the
doctor's mode of playing that game in their merry evening parties;
affecting the desperate gambler and easy dupe; running counter to all rule;
making extravagant ventures; reproaching all others with cowardice; dashing
at all hazards at the pool, and getting himself completely loo'd, to the
great amusement of the company. The drift of the fair sisters' advice was
most probably to tempt him on, and then leave him in the lurch.

With these comments we subjoin Goldsmith's reply to Mrs. Bunbury, a fine
piece of off-hand, humorous writing, which has but in late years been given
to the public, and which throws a familiar light on the social circle at

"Madam--I read your letter with all that allowance which critical candor
could require, but after all find so much to object to, and so much to
raise my indignation, that I cannot help giving it a serious answer. I am
not so ignorant, madam, as not to see there are many sarcasms contained in
it, and solecisms also. (Solecism is a word that comes from the town of
Soleis in Attica, among the Greeks, built by Solon, and applied as we use
the word Kidderminster for curtains from a town also of that name--but this
is learning you have no taste for!)--I say, madam, there are many sarcasms
in it, and solecisms also. But not to seem an ill-natured critic, I'll take
leave to quote your own words, and give you my remarks upon them as they
occur. You begin as follows:

"'I hope, my good doctor, you soon will be here,
And your spring-velvet coat very smart will appear,
To open our ball the first day of the year.'

"Pray, madam, where did you ever find the epithet 'good,' applied to the
title of doctor? Had you called me 'learned doctor,' or 'grave doctor,' or
'noble doctor,' it might be allowable, because they belong to the
profession. But, not to cavil at trifles, you talk of 'my spring-velvet
coat,' and advise me to wear it the first day in the year, that is, in the
middle of winter!--a spring-velvet coat in the middle of winter!!! That
would be a solecism indeed! and yet to increase the inconsistence, in
another part of your letter you call me a beau. Now, on one side or other
you must be wrong. If I am a beau, I can never think of wearing a
spring-velvet in winter; and if I am not a beau, why then, that explains
itself. But let me go on to your two next strange lines:

"'And bring with you a wig, that is modish and gay,
To dance with the girls that are makers of hay.'

"The absurdity of making hay at Christmas you yourself seem sensible of:
you say your sister will laugh; and so indeed she well may! The Latins have
an expression for a contemptuous kind of laughter, 'naso contemnere
adunco'; that is, to laugh with a crooked nose. She may laugh at you in the
manner of the ancients if she thinks fit. But now I come to the most
extraordinary of all extraordinary propositions, which is, to take your and
your sister's advice in playing at loo. The presumption of the offer raises
my indignation beyond the bounds of prose; it inspires me at once with
verse and resentment. I take advice! and from whom? You shall hear.

"First let me suppose, what may shortly be true,
The company set, and the word to be Loo:
All smirking, and pleasant, and big with adventure,
And ogling the stake which is fix'd in the center.
Round and round go the cards, while I inwardly damn
At never once finding a visit from Pam.
I lay down my stake, apparently cool,
While the harpies about me all pocket the pool.


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