The World's Greatest Books, Vol IX.
Edited by Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton
Part 4 out of 6
when behold--a viper! the largest that I remember to have seen, rearing
itself, darting its forked tongue, and ejaculating the aforesaid hiss at
the nose of a kitten, almost in contact with his lips. I ran into the
hall for a hoe with a long handle, with which I intended to assail him,
and, returning in a few minutes, missed him; he was gone, and I feared
had escaped me. Still, however, the kitten sat, watching immovably, on
the same spot. I concluded, therefore, that, sliding between the door
and the threshold, he had found his way out of the garden into the yard.
I went round, and there found him in close conversation with the old
cat, whose curiosity, being excited by so novel an appearance, inclined
her to pat his head repeatedly with her fore foot, with her claws,
however, sheathed, and not in anger, but in the way of philosophic
inquiry and examination. To prevent her falling a victim to so laudable
an exercise of her talents, I interposed in a moment with the hoe, and
performed on him an act of decapitation which, though not immediately
mortal, proved so in the end.
Had he slid into the passages, where it is dark, or had he indeed, when
in the yard, met with no interruption from the cat, and secreted himself
in any of the out-houses, it is hardly possible but that some member of
the family must have been bitten.
_To the Same_
Olney, _November_ 4, 1782. You tell me that John Gilpin made you laugh
to tears, and that the ladies at court are delighted with my poems. Much
good may they do them! May they become as wise as the writer wished
them, and they will be much happier than he. I know there is in the book
that wisdom that cometh from above, because it was from above that I
received it. May they receive it too! For whether they drink it out of
the cistern, or whether it falls upon them immediately from the
clouds--as it did on me--is all one. It is the water of life, which
whosoever shall drink it shall thirst no more. As to the famous horseman
above mentioned, he and his feats are an inexhaustible source of
merriment. At least we find him so, and seldom meet without refreshing
ourselves with the recollection of them. You are at liberty to deal with
them as you please.
_To Mrs. Newton_
Olney, _November_ 23, 1782. Accept my thanks for the trouble you take in
vending my poems, and still more for the interest you take in their
success. To be approved by the great, as Horace observed many years ago,
is fame indeed.
The winter sets in with great severity. The rigour of the season, and
the advanced price of grain, are very threatening to the poor. It is
well with those that can feed upon a promise, and wrap themselves up
warm in the robe of salvation. A good fireside and a well-spread table
are but very indifferent substitutes for those better accommodations; so
very indifferent, that I would gladly exchange them both for the rags
and the unsatisfied hunger of the poorest creature that looks forward
with hope to a better world, and weeps tears of joy in the midst of
penury and distress.
What a world is this! How mysteriously governed, and in appearance left
to itself! One man, having squandered thousands at a gaming-table, finds
it convenient to travel; gives his estate to somebody to manage for him;
amuses himself a few years in France and Italy; returns, perhaps, wiser
than he went, having acquired knowledge which, but for his follies, he
would never have acquired; again makes a splendid figure at home, shines
in the senate, governs his country as its minister, is admired for his
abilities, and, if successful, adored at least by a party. When he dies,
he is praised as a demi-god, and his monument records everything but his
The exact contrary of such a picture is to be found in many cottages at
Olney. I have no need to describe them; you know the characters I mean.
They love God, they trust Him, they pray to Him in secret, and, though
He means to reward them openly, the day of recompense is delayed. In the
meantime, they suffer everything that infirmity and poverty can inflict
upon them. Who would suspect, that has not a spiritual eye to discern
it, that the fine gentleman was one whom his Maker had in abhorrence,
and the wretch last mentioned dear to Him as the apple of His eye?
It is no wonder that the world, who are not in the secret, find
themselves obliged, some of them, to doubt a Providence, and others
absolutely to deny it, when almost all the real virtue there is in it is
to be found living and dying in a state of neglected obscurity, and all
the vices of others cannot exclude them from worship and honour. But
behind the curtain the matter is explained, very little, however, to the
satisfaction of the great.
_To the Rev. John Newton_
Olney, _January_ 26, 1783. It is reported among persons of the best
intelligence at Olney--the barber, the schoolmaster, and the drummer of
a corps quartered at this place--that the belligerent powers are at last
reconciled, the articles of the treaty adjusted, and that peace is at
The powers of Europe have clashed with each other to a fine purpose.
Your opinions and mine, I mean our political ones, are not exactly of a
piece, yet I cannot think otherwise on this subject than I have always
done. England, more perhaps through the fault of her generals than her
councils, has in some instances acted with a spirit of cruel animosity
she was never chargeable with till now. But this is the worst that can
On the other hand, the Americans, who, if they had contented themselves
with a struggle for lawful liberty, would have deserved applause, seem
to me to have incurred the guilt of parricide, by renouncing their
parent, by making her ruin their favourite object, and by associating
themselves with her worst enemy for the accomplishment of their purpose.
France, and, of course, Spain, have acted a treacherous, a thievish
part. They have stolen America from England, and, whether they are able
to possess themselves of that jewel or not hereafter, it was doubtless
what they intended. Holland appears to me in a meaner light than any of
them. They quarrelled with a friend for an enemy's sake. The French led
them by the nose, and the English have thrashed them for suffering it.
My views of the contest being as they have always been, I have
consequently brighter hopes for England than her situation some time
since seemed to justify. She is the only injured party.
America may perhaps call her the aggressor; but, if she were so, America
has not only repelled the injury, but done a greater. As to the rest, if
perfidy, treachery, avarice, and ambition can prove their cause to have
been a rotten one, those proofs are found on them. I think, therefore,
that, whatever scourge may be prepared for England on some future day,
her ruin is not yet to be expected.
_To the Same_
Olney, _November_ 17, 1783. Swift observes, when he is giving his
reasons why the preacher is elevated always above his hearers, that, let
the crowd be as great as it will below, there is always room enough
If the French philosophers can carry their art of flying to the
perfection they desire, the observation may be reversed, the crowd will
be overhead, and they will have most room who stay below. I can assure
you, however, upon my own experience, that this way of travelling is
I dreamt a night or two since that I drove myself through the upper
regions in a balloon and pair, with the greatest ease and security.
Having finished the tour I intended, I made a short turn, and with one
flourish of my whip, descended; my horses prancing and curvetting with
an infinite share of spirit, but without the least danger either to me
or my vehicle. The time, we may suppose, is at hand, and seems to be
prognosticated by my dream, when these airy excursions will be
universal, when judges will fly the circuit and bishops their
visitations, and when the tour of Europe will be performed with much
greater speed and with equal advantage by all who travel merely for the
sake of saying that they have made it.
_To His Cousin, Lady Hesketh_
Olney, _November_ 9, 1785. I am happy that my poems have pleased you. My
volume has afforded me no such pleasure at any time, either while I was
writing it or since its publication, as I have derived from yours and my
uncle's opinion of it. But, above all, I honour John Gilpin, since it
was he who first encouraged you to write. I made him on purpose to laugh
at, and he served his purpose well.
_To the Same_
Olney, _February_ 9, 1786. Let me tell you that your kindness in
promising to visit us has charmed us both. I shall see you again. I
shall hear your voice. We shall take walks together. I will show you my
prospects, the hovel, the alcove, the banks of the Ouse, everything I
have described. My dear, I will not let you come till the end of May, or
the beginning of June, because, before that time my greenhouse will not
be ready to receive us, and it is the only pleasant room belonging to
us. When the plants go out, we go in.
I will tell you what you shall find at your first entrance. _Imprimis_,
as soon as you have entered the vestibule, if you cast a look on either
side of you, you shall see on the right hand a box of my making. It is
the box in which have been lodged all my hares, and in which lodges Puss
at present. But he, poor fellow, is worn out with age, and promises to
die before you can see him.
My dear, I have told Homer what you say about casks and urns, and have
asked him whether he is sure that it is a cask in which Jupiter keeps
his wine. He swears that it is a cask, and that it will never be
anything better than a cask to all eternity. So if the god is content
with it, we must even wonder at his taste and be so too.
_To the Same_
Olney, _March_ 6, 1786. Your opinion has more weight with me than that
of all the critics in the world. To give you a proof of it, I make you a
concession that I would hardly have made to them all united. I do not
indeed absolutely covenant that I will discard all my elisions, but I
hereby bind myself to discard as many of them as, without sacrificing
energy to sound, I can. It is incumbent on me, in the meantime, to say
something in justification of the few I shall retain, that I may not
seem a poet mounted on a mule rather than on Parnassus. In the first
place, "the" is a barbarism. We are indebted for it to the Celts, or the
Goths, or the Saxons, or perhaps to them all. In the two best languages
that ever were spoken, the Greek and the Latin, there is no similar
encumbrance of expression to be found. Secondly, the perpetual use of it
in our language is, to us miserable poets, attended with two great
Our verse consisting of only ten syllables, it not infrequently happens
that the fifth part of a line is to be engrossed, and necessarily too,
unless elision prevents it, by this abominable intruder; and, which is
worse in my account, open vowels are continually the consequence--_the_
element--_the_ air, etc. Thirdly, the French, who are equally chargeable
with the English with barbarism in this particular, dispose of their
_le_ and their _la_ without ceremony, and always take care that they
shall be absorbed, both in verse and in prose, in the vowel that
immediately follows them. Fourthly, and I believe lastly, the practice
of cutting short "the" is warranted by Milton, who of all English poets
that ever lived, had certainly the finest ear.
Thou only critic of my verse that is to be found in all the earth, whom
I love, what shall I say in answer to your own objection to that
Softly he placed his hand
On th' old man's hand, and pushed it gently away.
I can say neither more nor less than this, that when our dear friend the
general sent me his opinion on the specimen, quoting those very words
from it, he added, "With this part I was particularly pleased; there is
nothing in poetry more descriptive."
Taste, my dear, is various; there is nothing so various, and even
between persons of the best taste there are diversities of opinion on
the same subject, for which it is by no means possible to account.
_To John Johnson, Esq._
Weston, _June_ 7, 1790. You never pleased me more than when you told me
you had abandoned your mathematical pursuits. It grieved me to think
that you were wasting your time merely to gain a little Cambridge fame,
not worth having. I cannot be contented that your renown should thrive
nowhere but on the banks of the Cam. Conceive a nobler ambition, and
never let your honour be circumscribed by the paltry dimensions of a
university! It is well that you have already, as you observe, acquired
sufficient information in that science to enable you to pass creditably
such examinations as, I suppose, you must hereafter undergo. Keep what
you have gotten, and be content.
You could not apply to a worse than I am to advise you concerning your
studies. I was never a regular student myself, but lost the most
valuable years of my life in an attorney's office and in the Temple. It
seems to me that your chief concern is with history, natural philosophy,
logic, and divinity. As to metaphysics, I know little about them. Life
is too short to afford time even for serious trifles. Pursue what you
know to be attainable, make truth your object, and your studies will
make you a wise man. Let your divinity, if I may advise, be the divinity
of the glorious Reformation. I mean in contradiction to Arminianism, and
all the _isms_ that were ever broached in this world of ignorance and
Men of lively imaginations are not often remarkable for solidity of
judgement. They have strong passions to bias it, and are led far away
from their proper road, in pursuit of petty phantoms of their own
Excellence is providentially placed beyond the reach of indolence, that
success may be the reward of industry, and that idleness may be punished
with obscurity and disgrace.
I do not think that in these costermonger days, as I have a notion
Falstaff calls them, an antediluvian age is at all a desirable thing,
but to live comfortably while we do live is a great matter, and
comprehends in it everything that can be wished for on this side the
curtain that hangs between time and eternity.
Wherever there is war, there is misery and outrage; notwithstanding
which, it is not only lawful to wish, but even a duty to pray for the
success of one's country. And as to the neutralities, I really think the
Russian virago an impertinent puss for meddling with us, and engaging
half a score kittens of her acquaintance to scratch the poor old lion,
who, if he has been insolent in his day, has probably acted no otherwise
than they themselves would have acted in his circumstances and with his
power to embolden them.
Though a Christian is not to be quarrelsome, he is not to be crushed.
Though he is but a worm before God, he is not such a worm as every
selfish and unprincipled wretch may tread on at his pleasure.
St. Paul seems to condemn the practice of going to law. "Why do ye not
suffer wrong, etc." But if we look again we shall find that a litigious
temper prevailed among the professors of that day. Surely he did not
mean, any more than his Master, that the most harmless members of
society should receive no advantage of its laws, or should be the only
persons in the world who should derive no benefit from those
institutions without which society cannot subsist.
Tobacco was not known in the Golden Age. So much the worse for the
Golden Age. This age of iron and lead would be insupportable without it;
and therefore we may reasonably suppose that the happiness of those
better days would have been much improved by the use of it.
No man was ever scolded out of his sins. The heart, corrupt as it is,
and because it is so, grows angry if it be not treated with some
management and good manners, and scolds again. A surly mastiff will bear
perhaps to be stroked, though he will growl even under that operation,
but, if you touch him roughly, he will bite.
Simplicity is become a very rare quality in a writer. In the decline of
great kingdoms, and where refinement in all the arts is carried to an
excess, I suppose it is always so. The later Roman writers are
remarkable for false ornament; they were without doubt greatly admired
by the readers of their own day; and with respect to authors of the
present era, the popular among them appear to me to be equally
censurable on the same account. Swift and Addison were simple.
* * * * *
THOMAS DE QUINCEY
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
Thomas de Quincey, scholar, essayist, critic, opium-eater, was
born at Manchester on August 15, 1785. A singularly sensitive
and imaginative boy, De Quincey rapidly became a brilliant
scholar, and at fifteen years of age could speak Greek so
fluently as to be able, as one of his masters said, "to
harangue an Athenian mob." He wished to go early to Oxford,
but his guardians objecting, he ran away at the age of
seventeen, and, after wandering in Wales, found his way to
London, where he suffered privations that injured his health.
The first instalment of his "Confessions of an English
Opium-Eater" appeared in the "London Magazine" for September
1821. It attracted universal attention both by its
subject-matter and style. De Quincey settled in Edinburgh,
where most of his literary work was done, and where he died,
on December 8, 1859. His collected works, edited by Professor
Masson, fill fourteen volumes. After he had passed his
seventieth year, De Quincey revised and extended his
"Confessions," but in their magazine form, from which this
epitome is made, they have much greater freshness and power
than in their later elaboration. Many popular editions are now
_I.--The Descending Pathway_
I here present you, courteous reader, with the record of a remarkable
period in my life, and I trust that it will prove not merely an
interesting record, but in a considerable degree useful and instructive.
That must be my apology for breaking through the delicate and honourable
reserve which, for the most part, restrains us from the public exposure
of our own errors and infirmities.
If opium-eating be a sensual pleasure, and if I am bound to confess that
I have indulged in it to an excess not yet recorded of any other man, it
is no less true that I have struggled against this fascinating
enthralment with a religious zeal, and have at length accomplished what
I never yet heard attributed to any other man--have untwisted, almost to
its final links, the accursed chain which fettered me.
I have often been asked how I first came to be a regular opium-eater,
and have suffered, very unjustly, in the opinion of my acquaintances,
from being reputed to have brought upon myself all the sufferings which
I shall have to record, by a long course of indulgence in this practice
purely for the sake of creating an artificial state of pleasurable
excitement. This, however, is a misrepresentation of my case. It was not
for the purpose of creating pleasure, but of mitigating pain in the
severest degree, that I first began to use opium as an article of daily
The calamities of my novitiate in London, when, as a runaway from
school, I made acquaintance with starvation and horror, had struck root
so deeply in my bodily constitution that afterwards they shot up and
flourished afresh, and grew into a noxious umbrage that has overshadowed
and darkened my latter years.
It is so long since I first took opium that, if it had been a trifling
incident in my life, I might have forgotten its date; but, from
circumstances connected with it, I remember that it must be referred to
the autumn of 1804. During that season I was in London, having come
thither for the first time since my entrance at college. And my
introduction to opium arose in the following way. One morning I awoke
with excruciating rheumatic pains of the head and face, from which I had
hardly any respite.
On the twenty-first day, I think it was, and on a Sunday, I went out
into the streets, rather to run away, if possible, from my torments than
with any distinct purpose. By accident, I met a college acquaintance,
who recommended opium. Opium! dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and
pain! I had heard of it as I had of manna or of ambrosia, but no
further. My road homewards lay through Oxford Street; and near "the
stately Pantheon" I saw a druggist's shop, where I first became
possessed of the celestial drug.
Arrived at my lodgings, I took it, and in an hour--oh, heavens! what a
revulsion! what an unheaving, from its lowest depths, of the inner
spirit! what an apocalypse of the world within me! That my pains had
vanished was now a trifle in my eyes; this negative effect was swallowed
up in the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before
me, in the abyss of divine enjoyment thus suddenly revealed.
_II.--Effects of the Seductive Drug_
First one word with respect to its bodily effects. It is not so much
affirmed as taken for granted that opium does, or can, produce
intoxication. Now, reader, assure yourself that no quantity of the drug
ever did, or could, intoxicate. The pleasure given by wine is always
mounting and tending to a crisis, after which it declines; that from
opium, when once generated, is stationary for eight or ten hours; the
one is a flame, the other a steady and equable glow.
Another error is that the elevation of spirits produced by opium is
necessarily followed by a proportionate depression. This I shall content
myself with simply denying; assuring my readers that for ten years,
during which I took opium at intervals, the day succeeding to that on
which I allowed myself this luxury was always a day of unusually good
With respect to the torpor supposed to accompany the practice of
opium-eating, I deny that also. The primary effects of opium are always,
and in the highest degree, to excite and stimulate the system. But, that
the reader may judge of the degree in which opium is likely to stupefy
the faculties of an Englishman, I shall mention the way in which I
myself often passed an opium evening in London during the period between
1804 and 1812. I used to fix beforehand how often within a given time,
and when, I would commit a debauch of opium. This was seldom more than
once in three weeks, and it was usually on a Tuesday or a Saturday
night; my reason for which was this: in those days Grassini sang at the
opera, and her voice was delightful to me beyond all that I had ever
heard. The choruses were divine to hear, and when Grassini appeared in
some interlude, as she often did, and poured forth her passionate soul
as Andromache at the tomb of Hector, etc., I question whether any Turk,
of all that ever entered the paradise of opium-eaters, can have had half
the pleasure I had.
Another pleasure I had which, as it could be had only on a Saturday
night, occasionally struggled with my love of the opera. The pains of
poverty I had lately seen too much of; but the pleasures of the poor,
their consolations of spirit, and their reposes from bodily toil, can
never become oppressive to contemplate. Now, Saturday night is the
season for the chief, regular, and periodic return of rest for the poor.
For the sake, therefore, of witnessing a spectacle with which my
sympathy was so entire, I used often on Saturday nights, after I had
taken opium, to wander forth, without much regarding the direction or
the distance, to all the markets, and other parts of London to which the
poor resort of a Saturday night for laying out their wages.
Sometimes in my attempts to steer homewards by fixing my eye on the Pole
star, and seeking ambitiously for a north-west passage, instead of
circumnavigating all the capes and headlands I had doubled in my outward
voyage, I came suddenly upon such knotty problems of alleys, such
enigmatical entries, and such sphinx's riddles of streets without
thoroughfares, as must, I conceive, baffle the audacity of porters, and
confound the intellects of hackney coachmen. For all this I paid a heavy
price in distant years, when the human face tyrannised over my dreams,
and the perplexities of my steps in London came back and haunted my
sleep with the feeling of perplexities, moral and intellectual, that
brought confusion to the reason, or anguish and remorse to the
_III.--A Fearful Nemesis_
Courteous reader, let me request you to move onwards for about eight
years, to 1812. The years of academic life are now over and gone--almost
forgotten. Am I married? Not yet. And I still take opium? On Saturday
nights. And how do I find my health after all this opium-eating? In
short, how do I do? Why, pretty well, I thank you, reader. In fact,
though, to satisfy the theories of medical men, I _ought_ to be ill, I
never was better in my life than in the spring of 1812. To moderation,
and temperate use of the article I may ascribe it, I suppose, that as
yet, at least, I am unsuspicious of the avenging terrors which opium has
in store for those who abuse its lenity.
But now comes a different era. In 1813 I was attacked by a most
appalling irritation of the stomach, and I could resist no longer. Let
me repeat, that at the time I began to take opium daily, I could not
have done otherwise. Still, I confess it as a besetting infirmity of
mine that I hanker too much after a state of happiness, both for myself
and others. From 1813, the reader is to consider me as a regular and
confirmed opium-eater. Now, reader, from 1813 please walk forward about
three years more, and you shall see me in a new character.
Now, farewell--a long farewell--to happiness, winter or summer! Farewell
to smiles and laughter! Farewell to peace of mind! Farewell to hope and
to tranquil dreams, and to the blessed consolations of sleep. For more
than three years and a half I am summoned away from these. I am now
arrived at an Iliad of woes.
It will occur to you to ask, why did I not release myself from the
horrors of opium by leaving it off or diminishing it? The reader may be
sure that I made attempts innumerable to reduce the quantity. It might
be supposed that I yielded to the fascinations of opium too easily; it
cannot be supposed that any man can be charmed by its terrors.
My studies have now been long interrupted. I cannot read to myself with
any pleasure, hardly with a moment's endurance. This intellectual torpor
applies more or less to every part of the four years during which I was
under the Circean spells of opium. But for misery and suffering, I
might, indeed, be said to have existed in a dormant state. I seldom
could prevail on myself even to write a letter. The opium-eater loses
none of his moral sensibilities or aspirations. He wishes and longs as
earnestly as ever to realise what he believes possible, and feels to be
exacted by duty; but his intellectual apprehension of what is possible
infinitely outruns his power, not of execution only, but even of power
_IV.--The Horrors of Dreamland_
I now pass to what is the main subject of these latter confessions, to
the history of what took place in my dreams, for these were the
immediate and proximate cause of my acutest suffering. I know not
whether my reader is aware that many children, perhaps most, have a
power of painting, as it were, upon the darkness all sorts of phantoms.
In the middle of 1817, I think it was, this faculty became positively
distressing to me. At nights, when I lay awake in bed, vast processions
passed along in mournful pomp; friezes of never-ending stories, that to
my feelings were as sad and solemn as if they were stories drawn from
times before Aedipus or Priam, before Tyre, before Memphis. And at the
same time a corresponding change took place in my dreams; a theatre
seemed suddenly opened and lighted up within my brain, which presented
nightly spectacles of more than earthly splendour.
All changes in my dreams were accompanied by deep-seated anxiety and
gloomy melancholy, such as are wholly incommunicable by words. I seemed
every night to descend, not metaphorically, but literally, to descend
into chasms and sunless abysses, depths below depths, from which it
seemed hopeless that I should ever re-ascend. Nor did I, even by waking,
feel that I had re-ascended.
The sense of space, and, in the end, the sense of time, were both
powerfully affected. Buildings, landscapes, etc., were exhibited in
proportions so vast as the bodily eye is not fitted to receive. Space
swelled, and was amplified to an extent of unutterable infinity. This,
however, did not disturb me so much as the vast expansion of time; I
sometimes seemed to have lived far beyond the limits of any human
The minutest incidents of childhood, or forgotten scenes of later years,
were often revived. Of this, at least, I feel assured, that there is no
such thing as _forgetting_ possible to the mind. A thousand accidents
may and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the
secret inscriptions of the mind; accidents of the same sort will also
rend away this veil; but alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the
inscription remains for ever; just as the stars seem to withdraw before
the common light of day, whereas, in fact, we all know that it is the
light which is drawn over them as a veil, and that they are but waiting
to be revealed when the obscuring daylight shall have withdrawn.
In the early stage of my malady the splendours of my dreams were indeed
chiefly architectural; and I beheld such pomp of cities and palaces as
was never yet beheld by the waking eye, unless in the clouds. To
architecture succeeded dreams of lakes and silvery expanses of water.
The waters then changed their character--from translucent lakes shining
like mirrors they now became seas and oceans.
And now came a tremendous change, which, unfolding itself slowly like a
scroll through many months, promised an abiding torment; and, in fact,
it never left me until the winding up of my case. Hitherto the human
face had mixed often in my dreams, but not despotically, nor with any
special power of tormenting. But now that which I have called the
tyranny of the human face began to unfold itself. Perhaps some part of
my London life might be answerable for this. Be that as it may, now it
was that upon the rocking waters of the ocean the human face began to
appear; the sea appeared paved with innumerable faces upturned to the
heavens--faces imploring, wrathful, despairing, surged upwards by
thousands, by myriads, by generations, by centuries; my agitation was
infinite, my mind tossed and surged with the ocean.
_V.--The Monster-Haunted Dreamer_
I know not whether others share in my feelings on this point; but I have
often thought that if I were compelled to forego England and to live in
China, and among Chinese manners and modes of life and scenery, I should
go mad. Southern Asia in general is the seat of awful images and
associations. As the cradle of the human race, it would alone have a dim
and reverential feeling connected with it. But there are other reasons.
No man can pretend that the wild, barbarous, and capricious
superstitions of Africa, or of savage tribes elsewhere, affect him in
the way that he is affected by the ancient, monumental, cruel, and
elaborate religions of Indostan, etc. The mere antiquity of Asiatic
things, of their institutions, histories, modes of faith, etc., is so
impressive that, to me, the vast age of the race and name overpowers the
sense of youth in the individual. A young Chinese seems to me an
antediluvian man renewed.
All this, and much more than I can say or have time to say, the reader
must enter into before he can comprehend the unimaginable horror which
these dreams of Oriental imagery and mythological tortures impressed
upon me. Under the connecting feeling of tropical heat and vertical
sunlight, I brought together all creatures, birds, beasts, reptiles, all
trees and plants, usages and appearances, that are found in all tropical
regions, and assembled them together in China or Indostan. From kindred
feelings I soon brought Egypt and all her gods under the same law. I was
stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered at, by monkeys, by
paroqueats, by cockatoos. I ran into pagodas, and was fixed for
centuries, at the summit, or in secret rooms; I was the idol; I was the
priest; I was worshipped; I was sacrificed. I fled from the wrath of
Brahma through all the forests of Asia; Vishnu hated me; Siva laid wait
for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris; I had done a deed, they
said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at I was buried for a
thousand years in stone coffins, with mummies and sphinxes, in narrow
chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed by crocodiles;
and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, amongst reeds
and Nilotic mud.
Over every form and threat and punishment brooded a sense of eternity
and infinity that drove me into an oppression as of madness. Into these
dreams only it was, with one or two slight exceptions, that any
circumstances of physical horror entered. But here the main agents were
ugly birds, or snakes, or crocodiles; especially the last. The cursed
crocodile became to me the object of more horror than almost all the
rest. I was compelled to live with him, and--as was almost always the
case in my dreams--for centuries. And so often did this hideous reptile
haunt my dreams that many times the very same dream was broken up in the
very same way. I heard gentle voices speaking to me--I hear everything
when I am sleeping--and instantly I awoke. It was broad noon, and my
children were standing, hand in hand, at my bedside--come to show me
their coloured shoes, or new frocks, or to let me see them dressed for
going out. I protest that so awful was the transition from the
detestable crocodile, and the other unutterable monsters and abortions
of my dreams, to the sight of innocent human natures and of infancy that
in the mighty and sudden revulsion of mind I wept, and could not forbear
it, as I kissed their faces.
_VI.--The Agonies of Sleep_
As a final specimen, I cite a dream of a different character, from 1820.
The dream commenced with a music which now I often heard in dreams--a
music of preparation and of awakening suspense, a music like the opening
of the Coronation Anthem, and which, like that, gave the feeling of a
vast march, of infinite cavalcades filing off, and the tread of
innumerable armies. The morning was come of a mighty day--a day of
crisis and of final hope for human nature, then suffering some
mysterious eclipse, and labouring in some dread extremity. Somewhere, I
knew not where--somehow, I knew not how--by some beings, I knew not
whom--a battle, a strife, an agony, was conducting, was evolving like a
great drama or piece of music, with which my sympathy was the more
insupportable from my confusion as to its place, its cause, its nature,
and possible issue.
I, as is usual in dreams--where, of necessity, we make ourselves central
to every movement--had the power, and yet had not the power, to decide
it. I had the power, if I could raise myself to will it, and yet again
had not the power, for the weight of twenty Atlantics was upon me, or
the oppression of inexpiable guilt. "Deeper than ever plummet sounded,"
I lay inactive. Then, like a chorus, the passion deepened. Some greater
interest was at stake, some mightier cause than ever yet the sword had
pleaded, or trumpet had proclaimed. Then came sudden alarms, hurryings
to and fro, trepidations of innumerable fugitives--I knew not whether
from the good cause or the bad--darkness and lights, tempest and human
faces, and at last, with the sense that all was lost, female forms, and
the features that were worth all the world to me, and but a moment
allowed--and clasped hands, and heart-breaking partings, and
then--everlasting farewells! And with a sigh such as the caves of hell
sighed when the incestuous mother uttered the abhorred name of death,
the sound was reverberated--everlasting farewells! And again and yet
again reverberated--everlasting farewells! And I awoke in struggles, and
cried aloud, "I will sleep no more."
* * * * *
It now remains that I should say something of the way in which this
conflict of horrors was finally brought to a crisis. I saw that I must
die if I continued the opium. I determined, therefore, if that should be
required, to die in throwing it off. I triumphed. But, reader, think of
me as one, even when four months had passed, still agitated, writhing,
throbbing, palpitating, shattered. During the whole period of
diminishing the opium I had the torments of a man passing out of one
mode of existence into another. The issue was not death, but a sort of
One memorial of my former condition still remains--my dreams are not yet
perfectly calm; the dread swell and agitation of the storm have not
wholly subsided; the legions that encamped in them are drawing off, but
not all departed; my sleep is still tumultuous, and, like the gates of
Paradise to our first parents when looking back from afar, it is
still--in Milton's tremendous line--"With dreadful faces throng'd and
* * * * *
Alexandre Dumas _pere_, the great French novelist and
dramatist, who here tells the story of his youth, was born on
July 24, 1802, and died on December 5, 1870. He was a man of
prodigious vitality, virility, and invention; abounding in
enjoyment, gaiety, vanity, and kindness; the richness, force,
and celerity of his nature was amazing. In regard to this
peculiar vivacity of his, it is interesting to remember that
one of his grandparents was a full-blooded negress. Dumas'
literary work is essentially romantic; his themes are courage,
loyalty, honour, love, pageantry, and adventure; he belongs to
the tradition of Scott and Schiller, but as a story-teller
excels every other. His plays and novels are both very
numerous; the "OEuvres Completes," published between 1860 and
1884, fill 277 volumes. Probably "Monte Cristo" and "The Three
Musketeers" are the most famous of his stories. He was an
untiring and exceedingly rapid worker, a great collaborator
employing many assistants, and was also a shameless
plagiarist; but he succeeded in impressing his own quality on
all that he published. Besides plays and novels there are
several books of travel. His son, Alexandre, was born in 1824.
The "Memoirs," published in 1852, which are here followed
through their author's struggles to his triumph, may be the
work of the novelist as well as of the chronicler, but they
give a most convincing impression of his courageous and
brilliant youth, fired equally by art and by ambition.
_I.--Memories of Boyhood_
I was born on July 24, 1802, at Villers-Cotterets, a little town of the
Department of Aisne, on the road from Laon to Paris, so that, writing
now in 1847, I am forty-five years old. My father was the republican
general, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas-Davy de la Pailleterie, and I still use
this patronymic in signing official documents. It came from my
grandfather, marquis of that name, who sold his properties in France,
and settled down in 1760 on vast estates in San Domingo. There, in 1762,
my father was born; his mother, Louise-Cessette Dumas, died in 1772; and
in 1780, when my father was eighteen, the West Indian estates were
leased, and the marquis returned to his native country.
My father spent the next years among the youth of the great families of
that period. His handsome features--all the more striking for the dark
complexion of a mulatto--his prodigious physical strength, his elegant
creole figure, with hands and feet as small as a woman's, his unrivalled
skill in bodily exercises, and especially in fencing and horsemanship,
all marked him out as one born for adventures. The spirit of adventure
was there, too. Assuming the name of Dumas because his father objected
to the family name being dragged through the ranks, he enlisted as a
private in a regiment of dragoons in 1786, at the age of twenty-four.
Quartered at Villers-Cotterets in 1790, he met my mother,
Marie-Louise-Elisabeth Labouret, whom he married two years later. Their
children were one daughter, and then myself. The marquis had died in
My memory goes back to 1805, when I was three, and to the little country
house, Les Fosses, we lived in. I remember a journey to Paris in the
same year, and the death of my father in 1806. Then my mother, sister,
and I, left in poverty, went to live with grandfather and grandmother
Labouret. Here, in gardens full of shady trees and gorgeous blossoms, I
spent those happy days when hope extends hardly further than to-morrow,
and memory hardly further than yesterday; storing my mind with classical
mythology and Bible stories, the "Arabian Nights," the natural history
of Buffon, and the geography of "Robinson Crusoe."
Then came my tenth year and the age for school. It was decided that I
should go to the seminary and be educated for a priest; but I settled
that matter by running away and living for three days in the hut of a
friendly bird-catcher in the woods. So I passed instead into our little
school of the Abbe Gregoire--a just and good man, of whom I learned
little but to love him; and from another parish priest, an uncle of
mine, a few miles away, I gained a passion for shooting the hares and
partridges with which our country swarmed.
But while I was living in twelve-year-old joys and sorrows, the enemy
was marching on French soil, and all confidence in Napoleon's star had
vanished. God had forsaken him. A retreating wave of our army swept over
the countryside, followed by alien forces. We lived in the midst of
fighting and alarms, and my mother and her friends worked like sisters
of charity. There followed Bonaparte's exile in Elba, and then the
astonishing report that he had landed near Cannes, and was marching on
Paris. He reached the Tuileries on March 20, 1815; in May, his troops
were marching through our town on their way to Waterloo, glory, and the
grave. I saw him passing in his carriage, his face, pale and sickly,
leaning forward, chin on breast. He raised his head, and glanced around.
"Where are we?"
"At Villers-Cotterets, sire."
"Forward! Faster!" he cried, and fell back into his lethargy. Whips
cracked, and the gigantic vision had passed. That was June 11--Waterloo
was the 18th. On the 20th, three or four hours after the first doubtful
rumour had reached us, a carriage drew up to change horses. There was
the same inert figure, and the same question and answer. The team broke
into a gallop, and the fallen Napoleon was gone. Soon all went on in the
ordinary way, and in our little town, isolated in the midst of its
forest, one might have thought no changes had taken place; people had
had an evil dream--that was all.
My memories of this period are chiefly memories of the woods--shooting
parties, now and then a wolf or boar hunt, often a poaching adventure
with a friend. But at fifteen years of age I was placed in a notary's
office; at sixteen I learned to love, and shortly afterwards I saw
"Hamlet" played by a touring company. It made a profound impression on
me, awakening vast, aimless desires, strange gleams of mystery. A friend
of mine, Adolphe de Leuven, himself an ardent versifier, guided me to a
first sense of my vocation, and together we set to work as playwrights.
Adolphe and his father went up to live in Paris, and our plays were
submitted everywhere in vain. My ardour for the great city grew daily
until it became irresistible; and at length, in the temporary absence of
my notary, I made a three days' escape with a friend, saw Talma act, and
was even introduced to him by Adolphe. His playing opened a new world to
me, and the great man playfully foretold my destiny.
As one enchanted, I returned to the office, accepted my employers'
rebuke as a dismissal, and went home. I was without a penny, but was
immediately visited by a wonderful run of fortune. Among other strokes
of luck, I sold my rascal dog for $25 to an infatuated Englishman, and
won six hundred glasses of absinthe at a single game of billiards from
the proprietor of the Paris coach, commuting them for a dozen free
passages. I said good-bye to the dear mother and the saintly _abbe_, and
found myself early on a May morning at Adolphe's door. I had come to try
my fortune with my father's brothers-at-arms.
Of course, there were bitter disappointments, and when I called on
General Foy he was my last hope. Alas! did I know this subject, or that,
or that? My answer was always "No." But the general would at least keep
my address; and no sooner had I written it down than he cried aloud that
we were saved! It appeared that I had a good writing, and the Duke of
Orleans needed another copyist in his office. The next morning I was
engaged at a salary of twelve hundred francs. I came home for three days
with my mother, and on the advice of the bird-catcher took a ticket at
the lottery, which brought me 146 francs. And so, with a few bits of
furniture from home, I took up my lodging in a Parisian garret.
_II.--Launched in Paris_
Now began a life of daily work at the office, with agreeable companions,
and of evenings spent at the theatre or in study. On the first night I
went to the Porte-Sainte-Martin Theatre, where a melodrama, "The
Vampire," was presented, and fell into conversation with my neighbour, a
man of about forty, of fascinating discourse, who was inordinately
impatient with the piece, and was at last turned out of the theatre for
his expressions of disapproval. His talk, far more interesting than the
play, turned on rare editions of old books, on the sylphs, gnomes,
Undines of the invisible world, on microscopic creatures he had himself
discovered, and on vampires he had seen in Illyria. I learned next day
that this was the celebrated author and bibliophile, Charles Nodier,
himself one of the anonymous authors of the play he so vilified.
Lassagne, a genial colleague in the office, not only put me in the way
of doing my work, which I quickly picked up, but was good enough also to
guide my reading, for I was deplorably ignorant. In those days Scribe
was the great dramatist, producing innumerable clever plots of intrigue,
modelled on no natural society, but on a society all his own, composed
almost exclusively of colonels, young widows, old soldiers, and faithful
servants. No one had ever seen such widows and colonels, never soldiers
spoke as these did, never were servants so devoted; yet this society of
Scribe's was all the fashion.
The men most highly placed in literature at the time when I came to
Paris were MM. de Chateaubriand, Jouy, Lemercier, Arnault, Etienne,
Baour-Lormian, Beranger, Charles Nodier, Viennet Scribe, Theaulon,
Soumet, Casimir Delavigne, Lucien Arnault, Ancelot, Lamartine, Victor
Hugo, Desaugiers, and Alfred de Vigny. After them came names half
literary, half political, such as MM. Cousin, Salvandy, Yillemain,
Thiers, Augustin Thierry, Michelet, Mignet, Vitet, Cave, Merimee, and
Guizot. Others, who were not yet known, but were coming forward, were
Balzac, Soulie, De Musset, Sainte-Beuve, Auguste Barbier, Alphonse Karr,
Theophile Gautier. Madame Sand was not known until her "Indiana," in
1828. I knew all this constellation, some of them as friends and
supporters, others as enemies.
In December, 1823, Talma made perhaps the greatest success of his life
in Delavigne's "L'Ecole des Vieillards," in which his power of
modulating his voice to the various emotions of old age was superbly
shown. But Talma was never content with his triumphs; he awaited eagerly
the rise of a new drama; and when I confided to him my ambitions, he
would urge me to be quick and succeed within his day. Art was all that
he lived for. How wonderful a thing is art, more faithful than a friend
On the first day of 1824 I rose to be a regular clerk at 1,500 francs,
and determined to bring up my mother from the country. It was now nine
months since I had seen her. So she sold her tobacco shop and came up to
Paris with a little furniture and a hundred louis. We were both very
glad to be united, though she was anxious about my future.
I had by this time learned my ignorance of much that was necessary to my
success as a dramatist, and began to devote every hour of my leisure to
study, attending the theatre as often as I could get a pass. A young
medical man named Thibaut helped me much in my education; he took me to
the hospital, where I picked up a knowledge of medicine and surgery
which has repeatedly done service in my novels, and I learned from him
the actions of poisons, such as I have used in "Monte Cristo."
I read also under the guidance of Lassagne, beginning with "Ivanhoe," in
which the pictures of mediaeval life cleared the clouds from my vision
and gave me a far wider horizon. Next the vast forests, prairies, and
oceans of Cooper held me; and then I came to Byron, who died in Greece
at the very time when I was entering on my apprenticeship to poetry. The
romantic movement in France was beginning to invade literature and the
drama, but its expression was still most evident in the younger
My mother's little capital only lasted eighteen months, and I found
myself forced to supplement my salary by other work. I had until now
collaborated with Adolphe, but all in vain, and we now determined to
associate Ph. Rousseau with our efforts. The three of us together
quickly produced a vaudeville in twenty-one scenes, "La Chasse et
l'Amour," of which I wrote the first seven scenes, Adolphe the second
seven, and Rousseau the conclusion. The piece was rejected at the
Gymnase, but accepted at the Ambigu; and my share of the profits came to
six francs a night.
A.M. Porcher, who always had a pleasant welcome and an open purse for a
literary man, lent me 300 francs on the security of my receipts, and
with that money I printed a volume of three stories under the title of
"Nouvelles Contemporaines," of which, however, only four copies were
sold. But the next adventure was more profitable. A play, by Lassagne
and myself, "La Noce et l'Enterrement," was presented at the
Porte-Sainte-Martin in November 1826, and brought me eight francs a
night for forty nights.
_III.--Under Shakespeare's Spell_
As recently as 1822 an English theatrical company, which had opened at
the Porte-Sainte-Martin Theatre, had been hissed and pelted off the
stage for offering the dramas of the barbaric Shakespeare. But when, in
September 1827, another English company brought Shakespeare's plays to
the Odeon, this contempt for English literature had changed to ardent
admiration--so quickly had the mind of Paris broadened. Shakespeare had
been translated by Guizot, and everyone had read Scott, Cooper, and
The English season was opened by Sheridan's "Rivals," followed by
Allingham's "Fortune's Freak." Then came "Hamlet," which infinitely
surpassed all my expectations. Kemble's Hamlet was amazing, and Miss
Smithson's Ophelia adorable. From that very night, but not before, I
knew what the theatre was. I had seen for the first time real men and
women, of flesh and blood, moved by real passions. I understood Talma's
continual lament, his incessant desire for plays which should show him,
not as a hero only, but also as a man. "Romeo and Juliet," "Othello,"
and all the other masterpieces followed. Then, in their turn, Macready
and Kean appeared in Paris.
I knew now that everything in the world of drama derives from
Shakespeare, as everything in the natural world depends on the sun; I
knew that, after God, Shakespeare was the great creator. And from the
night when I had first seen, in these English players, men on the stage
forgetful of the stage, and revealing themselves, by natural eloquence
and manner, as God's creatures, with all their good and evil, their
passions and weaknesses, from that night my vocation was irrevocable. A
new confidence was given me, and I boldly adventured on the future.
Besides observing mankind, I entered with redoubled zest upon the
dissection and study of the words of the great dramatists.
My attention had been turned to the story of Christine and the murder of
Monaldeschi by an exquisite little bas-relief in the Salon; and reading
up the history in the biographical dictionary, I saw that it held the
possibility of a tremendous drama. The subject haunted my mind
continually, and soon my "Christine" came into life and was written. But
Talma was dead; I had now no friend at the theatre; and I cast about me
in vain for the means of getting my play produced.
Baron Taylor was at this time the official charged with the acceptance
or rejection of plays, and Charles Nodier, so Lassagne informed me, was
on intimate terms with him. Lassagne suggested that I should write to
Nodier, reminding him of our chat on the night of "The Vampire," and
asking for an introduction to the Baron. I did so, and the reply came
from Baron Taylor himself, offering me an interview at seven in the
At the appointed time, my heart beating fast, I rang the bell of his
flat, and as I waited for someone to come, I wondered at a strange noise
that was going on within--a deep, monotonous recitation, interrupted by
occasional explosions of rage in a higher voice. I rang for the third
time, and as a door opened within, the mysterious sounds doubled in
volume. Then the outer door opened, and the Baron's old servant hurried
me in. "Come in, sir," she said, "come in; the Baron is longing for you
to come!" I found Baron Taylor in his bath, and beside him a playwright
reading a tragedy. The fellow had insisted on entering, had caught the
examiner of plays in his bath, and was inflicting on him a play of over
two thousand lines! Undaunted by the Baron's rage, and unmoved by my
arrival, he proceeded with his reading, while I waited in the bedroom.
When Baron Taylor at last came in and got into bed, he was shivering
with cold, and I proposed to put off my reading; but he would not hear
of it, and trembling, I began my play. At the end of each act the Baron
himself asked for the next, and when it was finished he leapt from bed
and called for his clothes that he might go and arrange for an immediate
hearing before the committee at the Francais.
And so a special meeting was called, and I read "Christine" to a
gathering of the greatest actors and actresses of the time, all fully
dressed as if for a dance. I have rarely seen a play meet with so great
a success at this ordeal; I was off my head with pleasure; the play was
accepted by acclamation. I ran home to our rooms to tell my mother the
great news of this great day, April 30, 1828, and then back to the
office to copy out a heap of papers.
"Christine" was not, however, produced at this time. Another play on the
same subject, written by a M. Brault, had also been accepted by the
committee, and its author was suffering from an illness from which it
was impossible that he should recover. Under these circumstances it was
felt right to present the dying man's play while he was able to see it,
and I willingly acceded to the requests, made by his son and friends,
that my work should stand aside.
But now, by a happy chance, in a book that lay open on a table in the
office, I came across the suggestions for my "Henry III."; and as soon
as the plot had grown clear in my mind, I wrote the play in a couple of
months. I was only twenty-five, and this was only my second play; yet it
is as well constructed as any of the fifty which I have since written.
Beranger, the great poet of democracy, and a man at that time of
unrivalled influence, was present at a private reading of "Henry III.,"
and foretold its great success. The official reading was on September
17, 1828, when the play was accepted by acclamation, and the parts were
cast. But my good fortune had not got into the papers, and this, as well
as my frequent absences at the theatre, had done me no good at the
office. So I was sent for one morning by M. de Broval, the
director-general, and was given, in set terms, my choice between my
situation as a clerk and my literary career. Only one choice was now
possible, and from that very day my salary ceased.
The year 1829 was that in which my position was made and my future
assured. But it opened with a great sorrow. I was one day at the theatre
when a messenger ran in to tell me that my mother had fallen ill. I sent
for a doctor, hurried to her side, and found that she was unable to
speak, and that one side of her body was totally paralysed. My sister
was soon with us, having come up to town for the first night of the
play. My state of mind during the following days may be imagined, under
the dreadful affliction of seeing my mother dying, and under the
enormous burden of producing my first play.
On the day before the presentation of "Henry III.," I went to the
palace, sent in my name to the Duke of Orleans, and boldly asked him the
favour, or, rather, the act of justice, that he would be present at the
theatre on the first night. I pointed out to him that he had given ear
to those who had charged me with vanity and willfulness, and begged him
to come and hear the verdict of the public. When his Highness told me
that he could not come, because he had over a score of princes and
princesses dining with him on that night, I suggested that he should
bring them too. And so it was arranged.
February 11, so long awaited, dawned at last, and I spent the whole day
until evening with my mother. I had given an order for the play to every
one of my old colleagues at the office; I had a tiny stage-box; my
sister had a box in which she entertained Boulanger, De Vigny, and
Victor Hugo; every other place in the theatre was sold. The circle was
gorgeous with princes decorated with their orders, and the boxes with
the nobility, the ladies all glittering with diamonds.
The curtain went up. I have never felt anything to compare with the cool
breath of air from the stage, which fanned my heated brow. The first act
was received sympathetically, and was followed by applause, and I seized
the interval to run and see my mother. The second act passed without
disapproval. The third, I knew, would mean success or disaster. It
called forth cries of fear, but also thunders of applause; never before
had they seen a dramatic situation so realistically, I had almost said
so brutally, presented. Again I visited my mother; how I wished she
could have been there! Then came the fourth and fifth acts, which were
received by a tumultuous frenzy of delight; and when the author's name
was called, the Duke of Orleans himself stood up to honour it.
The days of struggle were over, the triumph had come. Utterly unknown
that evening, I was next morning the talk of Paris. They little knew
that I had spent the night on the floor, by the bed of my dying mother.
* * * * *
John Evelyn, English country gentleman, courtier, diarist, and
miscellaneous author, was born at Wotton, in Surrey, on
October 31, 1620, and was educated at Lewes, and then at
Balliol College, Oxford. He then lived at the Middle Temple,
London; but after the death of Strafford, disliking the
unsettled state of England, he spent three months in the Low
Countries. Returning for a short time to England, he followed
the Royalist army for three days; but his prudence overcame
his loyalty, and, crossing the Channel again, he wandered for
four years in France and Italy. His observations abroad are
minutely recorded in the "Diary," which in its earlier part
too often resembles a guide-book. Having married, in Paris,
the British ambassador's daughter, Evelyn made his home, in
1652, at Sayes Court, Deptford, until he moved, in 1694; to
Wotton, where he died on February 27, 1706. He was honourably
employed, after the Restoration, on many public commissions,
and was one of the founders of the Royal Society. Like his
friend Samuel Pepys, Evelyn was a man of very catholic tastes,
and wrote on a multitude of subjects, including history,
politics, education, the fine arts, gardening, and especially
forestry, his "Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees," 1664,
being, after the "Diary," his most famous work. Evelyn's
character is very engaging in its richness, uprightness, and
lively interests. His "Diary," like that of Pepys, lay long
unpublished, and first saw the light in 1818.
I was born at Wotton, in the county of Surrey, October 31, 1620, after
my father had been married about seven years, and my mother had borne
him two daughters and one son.
My father's countenance was clear and fresh-coloured, his eyes quick and
piercing, an ample forehead and manly aspect. He was ascetic and
sparing; his wisdom was great, his judgement acute; affable, humble, and
in nothing affected; of a thriving, silent, and methodical genius. He
was distinctly severe, yet liberal on all just occasions to his
children, strangers, and servants, a lover of hospitality; of a singular
and Christian moderation in all his actions. He was justice of the
peace, and served his country as high sheriff for Surrey and Sussex
together, and was a person of rare conversation. His estate was esteemed
about L4,000 per annum, well wooded, and full of timber.
My mother was of an ancient and honourable family in Shropshire. She was
of proper personage, of a brown complexion, her eyes and hair of a
lovely black, of constitution inclined to a religious melancholy or
pious sadness, of a rare memory and most exemplary life, for economy and
prudence esteemed one of the most conspicuous in her country.
Wotton, the mansion house of my father, is in the southern part of the
shire, three miles from Dorking, and is upon part of Leith Hill, one of
the most eminent in England for the prodigious prospect to be seen from
From it may be discerned twelve or thirteen counties, with part of the
sea on the coast of Sussex on a serene day. The house large and ancient,
suitable to those hospitable times, and sweetly environed with delicious
streams and venerable woods.
_November_ 3, 1640. A day never to be mentioned without a curse, began
that long, foolish, and fatal Parliament, the beginning of all our
sorrows for twenty years after.
_January_ 2, 1641. We at night followed the hearse to the church at
Wotton, where my father was interred, and mingled with the ashes of our
mother, his dear wife. Thus we were bereft of both our parents in a
period when we most of all stood in need of their counsel and
assistance, especially myself, of a raw and unwary inclination.
_May_ 12, 1641. I beheld on Tower Hill the fatal stroke which severed
the wisest head in England from the shoulders of the Earl of Strafford,
whose crime coming under the cognisance of no human law, a new one was
made to his destruction--to such exorbitancy were things arrived.
_July_ 21. Having procured a pass at the custom-house, embarked in a
Dutch frigate bound for Flushing, convoyed by five other stout vessels,
whereof one was a man-of-war.
_April_ 19, 1644. Set out from Paris for Orleans. The way, as indeed
most of the roads in France, is paved with a small square freestone, so
that there is little dirt and bad roads, as in England, only it is
somewhat hard to the poor horses' feet.
_October_ 7. We had a most delicious journey to Marseilles, through a
country full of vineyards, oliveyards, orange-trees, and the like sweet
plantations, to which belong pleasantly situated villas built all of
We went to visit the galleys; the captain of the galley-royal gave us
most courteous entertainment in his cabin, the slaves playing loud and
soft music. Then he showed us how he commanded their motions with a nod
and his whistle, making them row out. The spectacle was to me new and
strange, to see so many hundreds of miserably naked persons, having
their heads shaven close, and having only high red bonnets, a pair of
coarse canvas drawers, their whole backs and legs naked, doubly chained
about their middles and legs in couples, and made fast to their seats,
and all commanded by a cruel seaman. Their rising forward and falling
back at their oar is a miserable spectacle, and the noise of their
chains with the roaring of the beaten waters has something of the
strange and fearful to one unaccustomed to it. They are chastised on the
least disorder, and without the least humanity; yet are they cheerful
and full of knavery.
_January_ 31, 1645. Climbing a steep hill in Naples, we came to the
monastery of the Carthusians, from whence is a most goodly prospect
towards the sea and city, the one full of galleys and ships, the other
of stately palaces, churches, castles, gardens, delicious fields and
meadows, Mount Vesuvius smoking, doubtless one of the most considerable
vistas in the world.
The inhabitants greatly affect the Spanish gravity in their habit,
delight in good horses; the streets are full of gallants on horseback,
in coaches, and sedans. The country people are so jovial and addicted to
music that the very husbandmen almost universally play on the guitar,
singing and composing songs in praise of their sweethearts, and will
commonly go to the field with their fiddle; they are merry, witty, and
genial, all which I much attribute to the excellent quality of the air.
They have a deadly hatred to the French, so that some of our company
were flouted at for wearing red cloaks, as the mode then was.
This I made the end of my travels, sufficiently sated with rolling up
and down, since, from the report of divers experienced and curious
persons, I had been assured there was little more to be seen in the rest
of the civil world, after Italy, France, Flanders, and the Low Country,
but plain and prodigious barbarism.
Thus, about February 7, we set out on our return to Rome by the same way
we came, not daring to adventure by sea, as some of our company were
inclined, for fear of Turkish pirates hovering on that coast.
_III.--Evelyn in England_
_May_ 22, 1647. I had contracted a great friendship with Sir Richard
Browne, his majesty's Resident at the Court of France, his lady and
family, and particularly set my affections on a daughter.
_June_ 10. We concluded about my marriage, and on Thursday 27, Dr. Earle
married us in Sir Richard Browne's chapel, betwixt the hours of eleven
and twelve some few select friends being present; and this being Corpus
Christi, feast was solemnly observed in this country; the streets were
sumptuously hung with tapestry and strewn with flowers.
_July_ 8, 1656. At Ipswich--one of the sweetest, most pleasant,
well-built towns in England. I had the curiosity to visit some Quakers
here in prison--a new fanatic sect, of dangerous principles, who show no
respect to any man, magistrate or other, and seem a melancholy, proud
sort of people, and exceedingly ignorant.
_November_ 2. There was now nothing practical preached in the pulpits,
or that pressed reformation of life, but high and speculative points
that few understood, which left people very ignorant and of no steady
principles, the source of all our sects and divisions, for there was
much envy and uncharity in the world--God of His mercy amend it!
_January_ 27, 1658. After six fits of an ague died my dear son Richard,
to our inexpressible grief and affliction, five years and three days
only, but at that tender age a prodigy for wit and understanding, and
for beauty of body a very angel. At two years and a half old he could
perfectly read any of the English, Latin, French, or Gothic letters,
pronouncing the three first languages perfectly. He had before the fifth
year, or in that year, not only skill to read most written hands, but to
decline all the nouns, conjugate the verbs regular, and most of the
irregular; got by heart almost the entire vocabulary of Latin and French
primitives and words, could make congruous syntax, turn English into
Latin and _vice versa_, construe and prove what he read, began himself
to write legibly, and had a strong passion for Greek. The number of
verses he could recite was prodigious, and he had a wonderful
disposition to mathematics. As to his piety, astonishing were his
applications of Scripture upon occasion, and his sense of God. He was
all life, all prettiness, far from morose, sullen or childish in
anything he said or did. Such a child I never saw; for such a child I
bless God, in whose bosom he is!
_November_ 22. Saw the superb funeral of the Protector. He was carried
from Somerset House in a velvet bed of state, drawn by six horses housed
with the same, the pall held up by his new lords; Oliver lying in effigy
in royal robes, and with a crown, sceptre and globe, like a king;
pendants carried by officers, imperial banners by the heralds; a rich
caparisoned horse, embroidered all over with gold, a knight of honour
armed _cap-a-pie_, guards, soldiers, and innumerable mourners. In this
equipage they proceeded to Westminster; but it was the joyfullest
funeral I ever saw, for there were none that cried but dogs, which the
soldiers hooted away with a barbarous noise, drinking and taking tobacco
in the streets as they went.
_May_ 29, 1660. This day his Majesty Charles II. came to London after a
sad and long exile and calamitous suffering both of the king and church,
being seventeen years. This also was his birthday, and with a triumph of
above 20,000 horse and foot, brandishing their swords and shouting with
inexpressible joy; the ways strewed with flowers, the bells ringing, the
streets hung with tapestry, fountains running with wine; the mayor,
aldermen, and all the companies in their liveries, chains of gold, and
banners; lords and nobles clad in cloth of silver, gold, and velvet; the
windows and balconies all set with ladies; trumpets, music, and myriads
of people flocking, even so far as from Rochester, so as they were seven
hours in passing the city. I stood in the Strand and beheld it, and
_January_ 6, 1661. This night was suppressed a bloody insurrection of
some fifth-monarchy enthusiasts.
I was now chosen a Fellow of the Philosophical Society, now meeting at
Gresham College, where was an assembly of divers learned gentlemen; this
being the first meeting since the king's return; but it had been begun
some years before at Oxford, and was continued with interruption here in
London during the Rebellion.
_January_ 16. I went to the Philosophic Club, where was examined the
Torricellian experiment. I presented my Circle of Mechanical Trades, and
had recommended to me the publishing of what I had written upon
_January_ 30. This day--O the stupendous and inscrutable judgements of
God!--were the carcases of those arch-rebels Cromwell, Bradshawe, and
Ireton dragged out from their superb tombs in Westminster among the
kings, to Tyburn, and hanged on the gallows there from morning till
night, and then buried under that ignominious monument in a deep pit;
thousands of people who had seen them in all their pride being
spectators. Look back at November 22, 1658, and be astonished! And fear
God and honour the king; but meddle not with them who are given to
_July_ 31, 1662. I sat with the commissioners about reforming the
buildings and streets of London, and we ordered the paving of the way
from St. James's north, which was a quagmire, and also of the Haymarket
about Piqudillo [Piccadilly].
_August_ 23. I was spectator of the most magnificent triumph that ever
floated on the Thames, considering the innumerable boats and vessels,
dressed and adorned with all imaginable pomp, but above all, the
thrones, arches, pageants, and other representations, stately barges of
the Lord Mayor and Companies, with music and peals of ordnance from the
vessels and the shore, going to meet and conduct the new queen from
Hampton Court to Whitehall, at the time of her first coming to town. His
majesty and the queen came in an antique-shaped open vessel, covered
with a canopy of cloth of gold, made in the form of a cupola, supported
with high Corinthian pillars, wreathed with flowers and festoons.
_IV.--Plague and Fire_
_July_ 16, 1665. There died of the plague in London this week 1,100, and
in the week following above 2,000.
_August_ 28. The contagion still increasing, I sent my wife and whole
family to my brother's at Wotton, being resolved to stay at my house
myself and to look after my charge, trusting in the providence and
goodness of God.
_September_ 7. Came home from Chatham. Perishing near 10,000 poor
creatures weekly. However, I went all along the city and suburbs from
Kent Street to St. James's, a dismal passage, and dangers to see so many
coffins exposed in the streets, now thin of people; the shops shut up,
and all in mournful silence, as not knowing whose turn might be next. I
went to the Duke of Albemarle for a pest-ship, for our infected men.
_September_ 2, 1666. This fatal night, about ten, began that deplorable
fire near Fish Street in London.
_September_ 3. After dinner I took coach with my wife and son, and went
to the Bank Side in Southwark, where we beheld the dismal spectacle, the
whole city in dreadful flames near the water-side.
The fire having continued all this night, which was as light as day for
ten miles round, in a dreadful manner, I went on foot to the same place.
The conflagration was so universal, and the people so astonished, that
from the beginning they hardly stirred to quench it, so that there was
nothing heard or seen but crying out and lamentation, running about like
distracted creatures, without attempting to save even their goods. It
leapt after a prodigious manner from house to house, and street to
street, at great distances one from the other. Here we saw the Thames
covered with goods floating, all the barges and boats laden with what
some had time and courage to save. And the fields for many miles were
strewn with movables of all sorts, and tents erecting to shelter both
people and what goods they could get away. Oh, the miserable and
calamitous spectacle! London was, but is no more!
_October_ 17, 1671. My Lord Henry Howard would needs have me go with him
to Norwich. I was not hard to be persuaded, having a desire to see that
famous scholar and physician, Dr. T. Browne, author of the "Religio
Medici," now lately knighted. Thither, then, went my lord and I alone in
his flying chariot with six horses.
Next morning I went to see Sir Thomas Browne. His whole house and garden
were a paradise and cabinet of rarities, especially medals, books,
plants, and natural things. Sir Thomas had a collection of the eggs of
all the birds he could procure, that country being frequented by several
birds which seldom or never go farther into the land--as cranes, storks,
eagles, and variety of waterfowl. He led me to see all the remarkable
places of this ancient city, being one of the largest and noblest in
_January_ 5, 1674. I saw an Italian opera in music, the first that had
been in England of this kind.
_November_ 15, 1678. The queen's birthday. I never saw the court more
brave, nor the nation in more apprehension and consternation. Titus
Oates has grown so presumptuous as to accuse the queen of intending to
poison the king, which certainly that pious and virtuous lady abhorred
the thought of. Oates probably thought to gratify some who would have
been glad his majesty should have married a fruitful lady; but the king
was too kind a husband to let any of these make impression on him.
However, divers of the Popish peers were sent to the Tower, accused by
Oates, and all the Roman Catholic lords were by a new Act for ever
excluded the Parliament, which was a mighty blow.
_May_ 5, 1681. Came to dine with me Sir Christopher Wren, his majesty's
architect and surveyor, now building the cathedral of St. Paul, and the
column in memory of the City's conflagration, and was in hand with the
building of fifty parish churches. A wonderful genius had this
_January_ 24, 1684. The frost continuing more and more severe, the
Thames before London was planted with booths in formal streets, all
sorts of trades and shops furnished and full of commodities, even to a
printing press. Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, as in the
streets; sleds, sliding with skates, bull-baiting, horse and coach
races, puppet plays, cooks, tippling, so that it seemed to be a carnival
on the water; while it was a severe judgement on the land, the trees
splitting, men and cattle perishing, and the very seas locked up with
ice. London was so filled with the fuliginous steam of the coal that
hardly could one see across the streets, and this filling the lungs with
its gross particles, so as one could scarcely breathe.
_V.--Fall of the Stuarts_
_February_ 4, 1685. King Charles II. is dead. He was a prince of many
virtues, and many great imperfections; debonair, easy of access, not
bloody nor cruel; his countenance fierce, his voice great, proper of
person, every motion became him; a lover of the sea, and skillful in
shipping; he loved planting and building, and brought in a politer way
of living, which passed to luxury and expense. He would have been an
excellent prince had he been less addicted to women, who made him always
in want to supply their immeasurable profusion.
Certainly never had king more glorious opportunities to have made
himself, his people, and all Europe happy, had not his too easy nature
resigned him to be managed by crafty men, and some abandoned and profane
wretches who corrupted his otherwise sufficient parts.
I can never forget the inexpressible luxury and profaneness, gaming and
all dissoluteness, and, as it were, total forgetfulness of God (it being
Sunday evening) which day se'nnight I was witness of, the king sitting
and toying with his concubines, a French boy singing love-songs, in that
glorious gallery, while twenty great courtiers and other dissolute
persons were gaming at a large table, a bank of at least L2,000 in gold
before them. Six days after all was in the dust!
_November_ 5, 1688. I went to London, heard the news of the Prince of
Orange having landed at Torbay, coming with a fleet of near 700 sail,
passing through the Channel with so favourable a wind that our navy
could not intercept them. This put the king and court into great
_November_ 13. The Prince of Orange is advanced to Windsor, and is
invited by the king to St. James's. The prince accepts the invitation,
but requires his majesty to retire to some distant place, that his own
guards may be quartered about the palace and city. This is taken
heinously, and the king goes privately to Rochester; is persuaded to
come back; comes on the Sunday, goes to mass, and dines in public, a
Jesuit saying grace. I was present.
_November_ 18. All the world go to see the prince at St. James's, where
there is a great court. He is very stately, serious, and reserved.
_November 24_. The king passes into France, whither the queen and child
were gone a few days before.
_May_ 26, 1703. This day died Mr. Sam Pepys, a very worthy, industrious,
and curious person; none in England exceeding him in knowledge of the
navy, in which he had passed through all the most considerable offices,
all of which he performed with great integrity. When King James II. went
out of England, he laid down his office, and would serve no more; but,
withdrawing himself from all public affairs, he lived at Clapham with
his partner, Mr. Hewer, formerly his clerk, in a very noble house and
sweet place, where he enjoyed the fruit of his labours in great
prosperity. He was universally beloved, hospitable, generous, learned in
many things, skilled in music, a very great cherisher of learned men.
His library and collection of other curiosities were of the most
considerable, the models of ships especially.
_October_ 31, 1705. I am this day arrived to the eighty-fifth year of my
age. Lord teach me so to number my days to come that I may apply them to
* * * * *
Life of Goldsmith
John Forster is best remembered as writer of the biographies
of the statesmen of the commonwealth, of Goldsmith, Landor,
Dickens. To his own generation he was for twenty years one of
the ablest of London journalists. In his later days, as a
Commissioner in Lunacy, he had time to devote himself more
closely to historical research. He was born at Newcastle on
April 2, 1812, was turned aside from the Bar by success in
newspaper work, and became editor first of the "Foreign
Quarterly Review," then of the "Daily News," on which he
succeeded Dickens, and lastly of "The Examiner." His "Life of
Goldsmith" was published in 1848, and enlarged in 1854.
Forster was different from all that he looked. He seemed
harsh, exacting, and stubborn. He was one of the most loyal of
friends, and tender-hearted towards all good fellows, alive or
dead. His picture of Goldsmith is an understanding defence of
that strangely-speckled genius, written from the heart.
Forster died on February 1, 1876, two years after his
retirement from official life.
_I.--Misery and Ill-luck_
The marble in Westminster Abbey is correct in the place, but not in the
time, of the birth of Oliver Goldsmith. He was born at a small old
parsonage house in an almost inaccessible Irish village called Pallas,
in Longford, November 10, 1728. His father, the Rev. Charles Goldsmith,
was a Protestant clergyman with an uncertain stipend, which, with the
help of some fields he farmed, averaged forty pounds a year. They who
have lived, laughed, and wept with the father of the man in black in the
"Citizen of the World," the preacher of "The Deserted Village," or the
hero of "The Vicar of Wakefield," have given laughter, love, and tears
to the Rev. Charles Goldsmith.
Oliver had not completed his second year when the family moved to a
respectable house and farm on the verge of the pretty little village of
Lissoy, in West Meath. Here the schoolmistress who first put a book into
Oliver Goldsmith's hands confessed, "Never was so dull a boy; he seemed
Yet all the charms of Goldsmith's later style are to be traced in the
letters of his youth, and he began to scribble verses when he could
scarcely write. At the age of eight he went to the Rev. Mr. Gilpin's
superior school of Elphin, in Roscommon, where he was considered "a
stupid, heavy blockhead, little better than a fool, whom everyone made
fun of." Indeed, from his earliest youth he was made to feel an intense,
uneasy consciousness of supposed defects. Later he went to school at
Athlone and at Edgeworthstown, and was in every school trick, either as
an actor or a victim. On leaving the school at Edgeworthstown, Oliver
entered Dublin University as a sizar, "at once studying freedom and
practising servitude." Little went well with him in his student course.
He had a menial position, a savage brute for a tutor, and few
inclinations to the study exacted. But he was not without his
consolations; he could sing a song well, and, at a new insult, could
blow off excitement through his flute. The popular picture of him in
these days is of a slow, hesitating, somewhat hollow voice, a low-sized,
thick, robust, ungainly figure, lounging about the college courts on the
wait for misery and ill-luck.
In Oliver's second year at college his father died suddenly, and the
scanty sum required for his support stopped. Squalid poverty relieved by
occasional gifts was Goldsmith's lot thenceforward. He would write
street-ballads to save himself from actual starving, sell them for five
shillings a-piece, and steal out of the college at night to hear them
sung. It is said to have been a rare occurrence when the five shillings
reached home with him. It was more likely, when he was at his utmost
need, to stop with some beggar on the road who had seemed to him even
more destitute than himself.
He took his degree as bachelor of arts on February 27, 1749 and
returning to his mother's house, at Ballymahon, waited till he could
qualify himself for orders. This is the sunny time between two dismal
periods of his life--the day occupied in the village school, the winter
nights in presiding at Conway's inn, the summer evenings strolling up
the banks of the Inny to play the flute, learning French from the Irish
priests, or winning a prize for throwing a sledge-hammer at the fair.
When the time came for Goldsmith to take orders, one report says he did
not deem himself good enough for it, and another says that he presented
himself before the Bishop of Elphin in scarlet breeches; but in truth
his rejection is the only certainty.
A year's engagement as a tutor followed, and from it he returned home
with thirty pounds in his pocket, and was the undisputed owner of a good
horse. Thus furnished and mounted he set off for Cork with a vision of
going to America, but returned presently with only five shillings and a
horse he had bought for one pound seventeen.
Law was the next thing thought of, and his uncle Contarine, who had
married his father's sister, came forward with fifty pounds. With this
sum Oliver started for London, but gambled it all away in Dublin. In
bitter shame he wrote to his uncle, confessed, and was forgiven, and the
good uncle then made up a small purse to carry him to Edinburgh for the
study of medicine.
No traditions remain in Edinburgh as to the character or extent of
Goldsmith's studies there, but it may be supposed that his eighteen
months' residence was, on the whole, not unprofitable. A curious
document that has been discovered is a torn leaf of a tailor's ledger
radiant with "rich sky-blue satin, fine sky-blue shalloon, a superfine
silver-laced small hat, rich black Genoa velvet, and superfine high
claret-coloured cloth," ordered by Mr. Oliver Goldsmith, student.
_II.--Through Europe with a Flute_
From Edinburgh he sailed for Leyden, but called on the way at Newcastle
and saw enough of England to be able to say that "of all objects on this
earth an English farmer's daughter is the most charming." Little is
known of his pursuits at Leyden, where his principal means of support
were as a teacher. After staying there nearly a year, he quitted it
(1755) at the age of twenty-seven, for a travel tour through Europe,
with a guinea in his pocket, one shirt on his back, and a flute in his
Goldsmith started on his travels in February, 1755, and stepped ashore
at Dover February 1, 1756. For his route it is necessary to consult his
writings. His letters of the time have perished. In later life, Foote
tells us, "he frequently used to talk, with great pleasantry, of his
distresses on the Continent, such as living on the hospitalities of the
friars, sleeping in barns, and picking up a kind of mendicant livelihood
by the German flute." His early memoir-writers assert with confidence
that in some small portion of his travels he acted as companion to a
young man of large fortune. It is certain that the rude, strange
wandering life to which his nature for a time impelled him was an
education picked up from personal experience and by actual collision
with many varieties of men, and that it gave him on several social
questions much the advantage over the more learned of his
contemporaries. As he passed through Flanders, Louvain attracted him,
and here, according to his first biographer, he took the degree of
medical bachelor. This is likely enough. Certain it is he made some stay
at Louvain, became acquainted with its professors, and informed himself
of its modes of study. Some little time he also passed at Brussels.
Undoubtedly he visited Antwerp, and he rested a brief space in Paris. He
must have taken the lecture-rooms of Germany on his way to Switzerland.
Passing into that country he saw Schaffhausen frozen. Geneva was his
resting-place in Switzerland, but he visited Basle and Berne. Descending
into Piedmont, he saw Milan, Verona, Mantua, and Florence, and at Padua
is supposed to have stayed some six months, and, it has been asserted,
received his degree. "Sir," said Johnson to Boswell, "he _disputed_ his
passage through Europe."
_III.--Physic, Teaching, and Authorship_
Landing at Dover without a farthing in his pocket, the traveller took
ten days to reach London, where an uncertain story says he gained
subsistence for a few months as an usher, under a feigned name. At last
a chemist of the name of Jacob, at the corner of Monument Yard, engaged
him. While employed among the drugs he met an old Edinburgh
fellow-student, Owen Sleigh, who, "with a heart as warm as ever, shared
his home and friendship." Goldsmith now began to practise as a physician
in a humble way, and through one of his patients was introduced to
Richardson and appointed for a short time reader and corrector to his
press in Salisbury Court. Next we find him at Peckham Academy, acting as
assistant to Dr. Milner, whose son had been at Edinburgh.
Milner was a contributor to the "Monthly Review," published by
Griffiths, the bookseller, and at Milner's table Griffiths and Goldsmith
met, with the result that Goldsmith entered into an agreement to devote
himself to the "Monthly Review" for a year. In fulfilment of that
agreement Mr. and Mrs. Griffiths provided him with bed and board in
Paternoster Row, and, at the age of nine-and-twenty, he began his work
as an author by profession.
The twelve months' agreement was not carried out. At the end of five
months Goldsmith left the "Monthly Review." During that period he had
reviewed Professor Mallet's translations of Scandinavian poetry and
mythology; Home's tragedy of "Douglas," Burke's "Origin of our Ideas of
the Sublime and Beautiful," Smollett's "Complete History of England,"
and Gray's "Odes." Though he was no longer "a not unuseful assistant" to
Griffiths, he kept up an irregular business association with that
literary slave-driver. He also became a contributor to Newbery's
"Literary Magazine." At last, in despair, he turned again from the
miseries of Grub Street to Dr. Milner's school-room at Peckham, and,
after another brief period of teaching, Dr. Milner secured for him the
promise of an appointment as medical officer to one of the East India
Company's factories on the coast of Coromandel. Partly to utilise his
travel experiences in a more formal manner than had yet been possible,
and partly to provide funds for his equipment for foreign service, he
now wrote his "Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in
Europe," and, leaving Dr. Milner's, became a contributor to Hamilton's
"Critical Review," a rival to Griffiths's "Monthly." In these days he
lived in a garret in Green Arbour Court, Old Bailey, with a single chair
in the room, and a window seat for himself if a visitor occupied the
chair. For some unknown reason the Coromandel appointment was withdrawn,
and failure in an examination as a hospital-mate left no hope except in
The turning-point of Goldsmith's life was reached when Griffiths became
security for a new suit of clothes in which that unfortunate
hospital-mate examination might be attended. On Griffiths finding that
the new suit had been pawned to free the poet's landlady from the
bailiffs, he abused him as a sharper and a villain, and threatened to
proceed against him by law as a criminal. This attack forced from
Goldsmith the rejoinder, "Sir, I know of no misery but a jail to which
my own imprudences and your letter seem to point. I have seen it
inevitable these three or four weeks, and, by heavens! regard it as a
favour, as a favour that may prevent somewhat more fatal. I tell you
again and again I am now neither able nor willing to pay you a farthing,
but I will be punctual to any appointment you or the tailor shall make;
thus far at least I do not act the sharper, since, unable to pay my
debts one way, I would willingly give some security another. No, sir;
had I been a sharper, had I been possessed of less good nature and
native generosity, I might surely now have been in better circumstances.
My reflections are filled with repentance for my imprudence, but not
with any remorse for being a villain."
The result of this correspondence was that Goldsmith contracted to write
for Griffiths a "Life of Voltaire"; the payment being twenty pounds,
with the price of the clothes to be deducted from the sum.
In the autumn of 1759 Goldsmith commenced, for bookseller Wilkie, of St.
Paul's Churchyard, the weekly writing of "The Bee," a threepenny
magazine of essays. It ended with its eighth number, for the public
would not buy it. At the same time he was writing for Mr. Pottinger's
"Busybody," and Mr. Wilkie's "Lady's Magazine." "The Bee," though
unsuccessful, brought Goldsmith useful friends--Smollett and Garrick,
and Mr. Newbery, the publisher--and with the New Year (1760) he was
working with Smollett on "The British Magazine," and, immediately
afterwards, on Newbery's "Public Ledger," a daily newspaper, for which
he wrote two articles a week at a guinea for each article. Among the
articles were the series that still divert and instruct us--"The Citizen
of the World." This was the title given when the "Letters from a Chinese
Philosopher in London to his Friend in the East" were republished by
Newbery, at the end of the year. Goldsmith now began to know his own
value as a writer.
_IV.--Social and Literary Success_
His widening reputation brought him into association and friendship with
Johnson, to whom he was introduced by Dr. Percy, the collector of the
"Reliques of Ancient English Poetry." Goldsmith gave a supper in honour
of his visitor, and when Percy called on Johnson to accompany him to
their host's lodgings, to his great astonishment he found Johnson in a
new suit of clothes, with a new wig, nicely powdered, perfectly
dissimilar from his usual appearance. On being asked the cause of this
transformation Johnson replied, "Why, sir, I hear that Goldsmith, who is
a very great sloven, justifies his disregard of cleanliness and decency
by quoting my practice; and I am desirous this night to show him a
Johnson was perhaps the first literary man of the times who estimated
Goldsmith according to his true merits as a writer and thinker, and he
was repaid by an affectionate devotion that was never worn out during
the later years when the Dictator was too ready to make a butt of the
unready Irishman. Goldsmith now joined the group of literary friends who
gathered frequently at the shop of Tom Davies, the bookseller, where
Johnson and Boswell first met, and he was one of the famous Literary
Club which grew out of these meetings.
"Sir," said Johnson to Boswell, at one of their first meetings,
"Goldsmith is one of the first men we have as an author."
This was said at a time when all Goldsmith's best works had yet to be
written. He was still working for the booksellers, and in 1763, issued
anonymously a "History of England in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman
to his Son." To various noblemen credit for this popular work was given,
including Lord Chesterfield. Growing success was only an excuse for
growing extravagance, and in 1764 Goldsmith was placed temporarily under
arrest for debt, probably by his landlady, Mrs. Fleming, with whom he
had been living at Islington under an arrangement made by Newbery. His
withdrawal from the town had given him opportunities for congenial
labour on "The Traveller" and "The Vicar of Wakefield," and when Johnson
appeared, in answer to his urgent summons, it was the manuscript of "The
Vicar" that he carried off, and sold for sixty pounds, to relieve
Still, it was "The Traveller" that was first published (December 19,
1764). Johnson pronounced it a poem to which it would not be easy to
find anything equal since the death of Pope. The predominant impression
of "The Traveller" is of its naturalness and facility. The serene graces
of its style, and the mellow flow of its verse, take us captive before
we feel the enchantment of its lovely images of various life reflected
from its calm, still depths of philosophic contemplation. A fourth
edition was issued by August, and a ninth appeared in the year when the
poet died. The price paid for it by Newbery was, apparently, twenty
It was in the spring of 1766, fifteen months after it had been acquired
by Newbery, that "The Vicar of Wakefield" was published. No book upon
record has obtained a wider popularity, and none is more likely to
endure. It is our first pure example of the simple, domestic novel. As a
refuge from the compiling of books was this book undertaken. Simple to
baldness are the materials used, but Goldsmith threw into the midst of
them his own nature, his actual experience, the suffering, discipline,
and sweet emotion of his chequered life, and so made them a lesson and a
delight to all men. The book silently forced its way. No noise was made
about it, no trumpets were blown for it, but admiration gathered
steadily around it, and by August a third edition had been reached.
_V.--Poet, Dramatist, and Spendthrift_
Goldsmith had long been a constant frequenter of the theatres, and one
of the most sagacious critics of the actors of his day; and it was
natural that, having succeeded as an essayist, a poet, and a novelist,
he should try his fortune with the drama. In 1767 a comedy was in
Garrick's hands, wherein, following the method of Farquhar, he attempted
by the help of nature, humour, and character, to invoke the spirit of
laughter, happy, unrestrained, and cordial. After long, and not very
friendly, temporising by the great actor, Goldsmith withdrew the play
from Drury Lane and committed it to Colman at Covent Garden; but it was
not till January 29, 1768, that "The Good-Natur'd Man" was acted. It
proved a reasonably fair success. Johnson, who wrote the prologue, went
to see the comedy rehearsed, and showed unwavering kindness to his
friend at this trying time.
While the play was under discussion and preparation, Goldsmith was
engaged in writing for Tom Davies an easy, popular, "History of Rome,"
in the style of his anonymous "Letters from a Nobleman to His Son,"
proceeding with it at leisure in his cottage at Edgeware. The success of
"The Good-Natured Man," though far from equal to its claims of
character, wit, and humour, very sensibly affected its author's ways of
life. It put L500 in his pocket, which he at once proceeded to squander
on fine chambers in the Temple, and new suits of gay clothing followed
in quick succession.
During the next year, 1769, the "Roman History" was published, and the
first month's sale established its success so firmly that Goldsmith
received an offer of L500 for a "History of England," in four volumes,
to be "written and compiled in two years." At the same time he was under
agreement for his "Natural History," or, as it was finally termed, his
"History of Animated Nature."
These years of heavy work were among the happiest of Goldsmith's life,
for he had made the acquaintance of the Misses Horneck, girls of
nineteen and seventeen. The elder, Catherine, or "Little Comedy," was
already engaged; the younger, Mary, who had the loving nickname of the
"Jessamy Bride," exercised over him a strong fascination. Their social
as well as personal charms are uniformly spoken of by all. Mary, who did
not marry till after Goldsmith's death, lived long enough to be admired
by Hazlitt, to whom she talked of the poet with affection unabated by
age, till he "could almost fancy the shade of Goldsmith in the room,
looking round with complacency."
It was during these years of busy bookmaking, too, that the poet was
perfecting his "Deserted Village." On May 26, 1770, it appeared,
published at two shillings. Its success was instant and decisive. By
August 16, a fifth edition had appeared. When Gray heard the poem read,
he exclaimed, "This man is a poet!" The judgment has since been affirmed
by hundreds of thousands of readers, and any adverse appeal is little
likely now to be lodged against it. Within the circle of its claims and
pretensions, a more entirely satisfactory and delightful poem than "The
Deserted Village" was probably never written. It lingers in the memory
where once it has entered; and such is the softening influence on the
heart of the mild, tender, yet clear light which makes its images so
distinct and lovely, that there are few who have not wished to rate it
higher than poetry of yet higher genius. Goldsmith looked into his heart
The poet had now attained social distinction, and we find him passing
from town to country with titled friends, and visiting, in somewhat
failing health, fashionable resorts, such as Bath. His home remained in
the Temple. His worldly affairs continued a source of constant
embarrassment, however, and when, in 1772, he had placed the manuscript
of "She Stoops to Conquer" in the hands of Colman, not only his own
entreaties but the interference of Johnson were used to hasten its
production in order to relieve his anxieties. Colman was convinced the
comedy would be unsuccessful. It was first acted on March 15, 1773, and,
"quite the reverse to everybody's expectation," it was received with the
At this time Goldsmith was sadly in arrears with work he had promised to
the booksellers; disputes were pending, and his circumstances were
verging on positive distress. The necessity of completing his "Animated
Nature"--for which all the money had been received and spent--hung like
a mill-stone upon him. His advances had been considerable on other works
not yet begun. In what leisure he could get from these tasks he was
working at a "Grecian History" to procure means to meet his daily
It occurred to friends at this time to agitate the question of a pension
for him, on the ground of "distinction in the literary world, and the
prospect of approaching distress," but as he had never been a political
partisan, the application was met by a firm refusal. Out of the worries
of this darkening period, with ill-health adding to his cares, the
genius of the poet flashed forth once more in his personal poem,
"Retaliation." At a club dinner at St. James's coffee-house, the
proposition was made that each member present should write an epitaph on
Goldsmith, and Garrick started with:
Here is Nolly Goldsmith, for shortness called Noll,
Who wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll.
Later, Goldsmith retaliated with epitaphs on his circle of club friends.
His list of discriminating pictures was not complete when he died.
Indeed, the picture of Reynolds breaks off with a half line.
On March 25, 1774, the poet was too ill to attend the club
gathering--how ill, his friends failed to realise. On the morning of
April 4, he died from weakness following fever. "Is your mind at ease?"
asked his doctor. "No, it is not," was the melancholy answer, and his
last recorded words. His debts amounted to not less than two thousand
pounds. "Was ever poet so trusted!" exclaimed Johnson.
His remains were committed to their final resting-place in the burial
ground of the Temple Church, and the staircase of his chambers is said
to have been filled with mourners the reverse of domestic--women without
a home, without domesticity of any kind, with no friend but him they had
come to weep for, outcasts of that great, solitary, wicked city, to whom
he had never forgotten to be kind and charitable.
Johnson spoke his epitaph in an emphatic sentence: "He had raised money,
and squandered it, by every artifice of acquisition and folly of
expense; but let not his frailties be remembered--he was a very great
* * * * *
George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, or "Friends
of the Truth," was born at Drayton, Leicestershire, in July,
1624, and died in London on January 13, 1691. His "Journal,"
here epitomised, was published in 1694, after being revised by
a committee under the superintendence of William Penn, and
prefaced for the press by Thomas Ellwood, the Quaker. Fox
rejected all outward shows of religion, and believed in an
inward light and leading. He claimed to be divinely directed
as he wandered, Bible in hand, through the country, denouncing
church-worship, a paid ministry, religious "profession," and
advocating a spiritual affiliation with Christ as the only
true religion. He was imprisoned often and long for "brawling"
in churches and refusing to take oaths then required by law.
Fox wrote in prison many books of religious exhortation, his
style being tantalisingly involved. The one work that lives is
the "Journal," a quaintly egotistic record of unquestioning
faith and unconquerable endurance in pursuit of a spiritual
ideal through a rude age.
_I.--His Youth and Divine Calling_
I was born in the month called July, 1624, at Drayton-in-the-Clay, in
Leicestershire. My father's name was Christopher Fox; he was by
profession a weaver, an honest man, and there was a seed of God in him.
In my very young years I had a gravity and staidness of mind and spirit
not usual in children. When I came to eleven years of age I knew
pureness and righteousness. The Lord taught me to be faithful in all
things, inwardly to God and outwardly to man, and to keep to "Yea" and
"Nay" in all things.
Afterwards, as I grew up, I was put to a man, a shoemaker by trade, who
dealt in wool, and was a grazier, and sold cattle, and a great deal went
through my hands. I never wronged man or woman in all that time; for the
Lord's power was with me, and over me to preserve me. While I was in
that service, it was common saying among people that knew me, "If George
says 'Verily,' there is no altering him."
At the command of God, on the ninth day of the seventh month, 1643, I
left my relations, and broke off all familiarity or fellowship with old
or young. I went to Barnet in the month called June, in 1644. Now,
during the time that I was at Barnet a strong temptation to despair came
upon me. Then I thought, because I had forsaken my relations, I had done
amiss against them. I was about twenty years of age when these exercises
came upon me, and I continued in that condition some years in great
trouble. I went to many a priest to look for comfort, but found no
comfort from them. Then the priest of Drayton, the town of my birth,
whose name was Nathaniel Stephens, came often to me, and I went often to
him. At that time he would applaud and speak highly of me to others, and
what I said in discourse to him on the week days he would preach of on
the first days, for which I did not like him. This priest afterwards
became my great persecutor.
After this I went to another ancient priest at Mancetter, in
Warwickshire, and reasoned with him about the ground of despair and
temptations; but he was ignorant of my condition, he bade me take
tobacco and sing psalms. Tobacco was a thing I did not love, and psalms
I was not in a state to sing. Then I heard of a priest living about
Tamworth, but I found him only like an empty, hollow cask. Later I went
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