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His father was dead, but he idled away two years among his relations. He afterwards became tutor in the family of a gentleman in Ireland, where he remained a year, His uncle then gave him £50 to study the law in Dublin, but he lost the whole in a gaming house. A second contribution was raised, and the poet next proceeded to Edinburgh, where he continued a year and a-half studying medicine. He then drew upon his uncle for £20, and embarked for Bordeaux. The vessel was driven into Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and whilst there, Goldsmith and his fellow passengers were arrested and put into prison, where the poet was kept a fortnight. It appeared that his companions were Scotsment, in the French service, and had been in Scotland enlisting soldiers for the French army. Having overcome this most innocent of all his misfortunes, he is represented as having immediately proceeded to Leyden; but this part of his biography has lately got a new turn from the inquiries of a gentleman whose book is quoted below,” according to which it would appear to have been now, instead of four years later, that Goldsmith acted as usher of Dr Milner's school at Peckham, in the neighbourhood of London. The tradition of the school is, that he was extremely good-natured and playful, and advanced his pupils more by conversation than by book-tasks. On the supposition of this being the true account of Goldsmith's 25th year, we may presume that he next went to Leyden, and there made the resolution to travel over the Continent in spite of all pecuniary deficiencies. He stopped some time at Louvain, in Flanders, at Antwerp, and at Brussels. In France, he is said, like George Primrose, in his Vicar of Wakefield, to have occasionally earned a night's lodging and food by playing on his flute.
Scenes of this kind formed an appropriate school for the poet. He brooded with delight over these pictures of humble primitive happiness, and his imagination loved to invest them with the charms of poetry. Goldsmith afterwards visited Germany and the Rhine. From Switzerland he sent the first sketch of the “Traveller' to his brother. The loftier charms of nature in these Alpine scenes seems to have had no permanent effect on the character or direction of his genius. He visited Florence, Verona, Venice, and stopped at Padua some filonths, where he is supposed to have taken his medical degree. In 1756 the poet reached England, after two years of wandering, lonely, and in poverty, yet buoyed up by dreams of hope and fame. Many a hard struggle he had yet to encounter . His biographers represent him as now becoming usher at Dr Milner's school, a portion of his history which we have seen reason to place at an earlier period. However this may be, he is soon after found contributing to the Monthly Review. He was also some time assistant to a chemist. A college friend, Dr Sleigh, enabled him to commence practice as a humble physician in Bankside, Southwark; but his chief support arose from contributions to the periodical literature
* Collections Illustrative of the Geology, History, Antiquities, and Associations of Camberwell. By Douglas Allport. Camberwell: 1841.
of the day. In 1758 he presented himself at Surgeons, Hall for examination as an hospital mate, with the view of entering the army or navy; but he had the mortification of being rejected as unqualified. That he might appear before the examining surgeon suitably dressed, Goldsmith obtained a new suit of clothes, for which Griffiths, publisher of the Monthly Review, became security. The clothes were immediately to be returned when the purpose was served, or the debt was to be discharged. Poor Goldsmith, having failed in his object, and probably distressed by urgent want, pawned the clothes. The publisher threatened, and the poet replied—‘I know of no misery but a gaol, to which my own imprudences and your letter seem to point. I have seen it inevitable these three or four weeks, and, by heavens ! request it as a favour—as a favour that may prevent somewhat more fatal. I have been some years struggling with a wretched being—with all that contempt and indigence brings with it—with all those strong passions which make contempt insupportable. What, then, has a gaol that is formidable?' Such was the almost hopeless condition, the deep despair, of this imprudent but amiable author, who has added to the delight of millions, and to the glory of English literature. Henceforward the life of Goldsmith was that of a man of letters. He lived solely by his pen. Besides numerous contributions to the Monthly and Critical Reviews, the Lady's Magazine, the British Magazine, &c., he published an Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe (1759), his admirable Chinese Letters, afterwards published with the title of The Citizen of the World, a Life of Beau Nash, and the History of England in a series of letters from a nobleman to his son. The latter was highly suc
cessful, and was popularly attributed to Lord Chesterfield. In December 1764 appeared his poem of The Traveller, the chief corner-stone of his fame, ‘without one bad line,’ as has been said; “without one of Dryden's careless verses.’ Charles Fox pronounced it one of the finest poems in the English language; and Dr Johnson (then numbered among Goldsmith's friends) said that the merit of “The Traveller' was so well established, that Mr Fox's praise could not augment it, nor his censure diminish it. The periodical critics were unanimous in its raise. In 1766 he published his exquisite novel, he Vicar of Wakefield, which had been written two years before, and sold to Newberry the bookseller, to discharge a pressing debt. His comedy of The Good-Natured Man was produced in 1767, his Roman History next year, and The Deserted Village in 1770. The latter was as popular as “The Traveller,’ and speedily ran through a number of editions. In 1773, Goldsmith's comedy, She Stoops to Conquer, was brought out at Covent Garden theatre with immense applause. He was now at the summit of his fame and popularity. The march had been long and toilsome, and he was often nearly fainting by the way; but his success was at length complete. His name stood among the foremost of his contemporaries; his works brought him in from £1000 to £1800 per annum. Difficulty and distress, however, still clung to him: poetry had found him poor at first, and she kept him so. From heedless profusion and extravagance, chiefly in dress, and from a benevolence which knew no limit while his funds lasted, Goldsmith was scarcely ever free from debt. The gaming table also presented irresistible attractions. He hung loosely on society, without wife or domestic tie; and his early habits and experience were ill calculated to teach him strict conscientiousness or regularity. He continued to write task-work for the * 9
and produced a ‘History of England' in four volumes. This was succeeded by a ‘History of Greece' in two volumes, for which he was paid £250. He had contracted to write a ‘History of Animated Nature' in eight volumes, at the rate of a hundred guineas for each volume; but this work he did not live to complete, though the greater part was finished in his own attractive and easy manner. In March 1774, he was attacked by a painful complaint (dysuria) caused by close study, which was succeeded by a nervous fever. Contrary to the advice of his apothecary, he persisted in the use of James's powders, a medicine to which he had often had recourse; and gradually getting worse, he expired in strong convulsions on the 4th of April. The death of so popular an author, at the age of forty-five, was a shock equally to his friends and the public. The former knew his sterling worth, and loved him with all his foibles—his undisguised vanity, his national proneness to blundering, his thoughtless extravagance, his credulity, and his frequent absurdities. Under these ran a current of generous benevolence, of enlightened zeal for the happiness and improvement of mankind, and of manly independent feeling. He died £2000 in debt: “Was ever poet so trusted before l' exclaimed Johnson. His remains were interred in the Temple burying ground, and a monument erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey, next the grave of Gay, whom he somewhat resembled in character, and far surpassed in genius. The plan of ‘The Traveller' is simple, yet comprehensive and philosophical. The poet represents himself as sitting among Alpine solitudes, looking down on a hundred realms— Lakes, forests, cities, plains extending wide, The pomp of kings, the shepherd's humbler pride.
If nations are compared, the amount of happiness in each is found to be about the same; and to illustrate this position, the poet describes the state of manners and government in Italy, Switzerland, France, Holland, and England. In general correctness and beauty of expression, these sketches have never been surpassed. The politician may think that the poet ascribes too little importance to the influence of government on the happiness of mankind, seeing that in a despotic state the whole must depend on the individual character of the governor; yet in the cases cited by Goldsmith, it is difficult to resist his conclusions; while his short sententious reasoning is relieved and elevated by bursts of true poetry. His character of the men of England used to draw tears from Dr Johnson:—
Stern o'er each bosom reason holds her state,
Goldsmith was a master of the art of contrast in
And force a churlish soil for scanty bread;
Far to the right, where Apennine ascends,
No product here the barren hills afford,
| No zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast, | But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest. || Yet still, even here, content can spread a charm, | Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm.
Though r the peasant's hut, his feasts though
He sees his little lot the lot of all ; | Sees no contiguous palace rear its head, To shame the meanness of his humble shed ; No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal, To make him loath his vegetable meal; But calm, and bred in ignorance and toil, Each wish contracting, fits him to the soil. Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose, Breathes the keen air, and carols as he goes; With patient angle trolls the finny deep, Or drives his venturous ploughshare to the steep ; Or seeks the den where snow-tracks mark the way, And drags the struggling savage into day. At night returning, every labour sped, He sits him down the monarch of a shed ; Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys His children's looks, that brighten at the blaze; While his loved partner, boastful of her hoard, Displays her cleanly platter on the board: | And haply too some pilgrim thither led, | With many a tale repays the nightly bed. | Thus every good his native wilds impart, | Imprints the patriot passion on his heart; | And even those ills that round his mansion rise, | Enhance the bliss his scanty fund supplies. # Dearis that shed to which #. soul conforms, | And dear that hill which lifts him to the storms; | And as a child, when scaring sounds molest, | Clings close and closer to the mother's breast, So the loud torrent, and the whirlwind's roar, But bind him to his native mountains more.
[France Contrasted with Holland.]
| So blest a life these thoughtless realms display, Thus idly busy rolls their world away: Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear, For honour forms the social temper here. | Honour, that praise which real merit gains, | Or even imaginary worth obtains, Here passes current; paid from hand to hand, It shifts in splendid traffic round the land. | From courts to camps, to cottages it strays, | And all are taught an avarice of praise; They please, are pleased, they give to get esteem, | Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they secm. | But while this softer art their bliss supplies, It gives their follies also room to rise: For praise too dearly loved, or warmly sought, | Enfeebles all internal strength of thought; | And the weak soul, within itself unblest, Leans for all pleasure on another's breast. | Hence ostentation here, with tawdry art, Pants for the vulgar praise which fools impart; Here vanity assumes her pert grimace, And trims her robe of frieze with copper lace; Here beggar pside defrauds her daily cheer, | To boast one splendid banquet once a-year; | The mind still turns where shifting fashion draws, | Nor weighs the solid worth of self-applause. To men of other minds my fancy flies, Embosomed in the deep where Holland lies. Methinks her patient sons before me stand, Where the broad ocean leans against the land, And, sedulous to stop the coming tide, Lift the tall rampire's artificial pride. Onward, methinks, and diligently slow, The firm connected bulwark seems to grow; |Spreads its long arms amidst the watery roar, Scoops out an empire, and usurps the shore:
While the pent ocean, rising o'er the pile,
of the landscape, as well as the characters introduced. His father sat for the village pastor, and such a por
trait might well have cancelled, with Oliver's relations, all the follies and irregularities of his youth. Perhaps there is no poem in the English language more universally popular than the “Deserted Village.” Its best passages are learned in youth, and never quit the memory. . Its delineations of rustic life accord with those ideas of romantic purity,
seclusion, and happiness, which the young mind
associates with the country and all its charms, be-,
fore modern manners and oppression had driven them thence— To pamper luxury, and thin mankind.
Political economists may dispute the axiom, that luxury is hurtful to nations; and curious speculators, like Mandeville, may even argue that private vices are public benefits; but Goldsmith has a surer advocate in the feelings of the heart, which yield a spontaneous assent to the principles he inculcates, when teaching by examples, with all the efficacy of apparent truth, and all the effect of poetical beauty and excellence.
[Description of Auburn–The Village Preacher, the Schoolmaster, and Alehouse—Reflections.]
Sweet Auburn' loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheered the labouring swain;
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And still, as each repeated pleasure tired, Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired: The dancing pair that simply sought renown, By holding out to tire each other down; The swain, mistrustless of his smutted face, While secret laughter tittered round the place; The bashful virgin's sidelong looks of love, | The matron's glance that would those looks reprove— | These were thy charms, sweet village 1 sports like these, With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please. Sweet was the sound, when oft, at evening's close, Up younder hill the village murmur rose; There as I passed, with careless steps and slow, The mingling notes came softened from below; The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung, The sober herd that lowed to meet their young; The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool, The playful children just let loose from school ; The watchdog's voice that bayed the whispering wind, And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind; These all in sweet confusion sought the shade, And filled each pause the nightingale had made. Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled, And still where many a garden flower grows wild, There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose, The village preacher's modest mansion rose. A man he was to all the country dear, And passing rich with forty pounds a-year; Remote from towns, he ran his godly race, Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change, his place; Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power, By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour; Far other aims his heart had learned to prize, More bent to raise the wretched than to rise. His house was known to all the vagrant train; He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain. The long-remembered beggar was his guest, Whose beard descending swept his aged breast; The ruined spendthrift now no longer proud, Claimed kindred there, and had his claims allowed; The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay, Sat by his fire, and talked the night away; | Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done, Shouldered his crutch, and showed how fields were won. Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow, And quite forgot their vices in their wo; Careless their merits or their faults to scan, His pity gave ere charity began. Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride, And even his failings leaned to virtue's side; But, in his duty prompt at every call, He watched and wept, he prayed and felt for all; And, as a bird each fond endearment tries, To tempt her new fledged offspring to the skies, He tried each art, reproved each dull delay, Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way. Beside the bed where parting life was laid, And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismayed, The reverend champion stood. At his control Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul; Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise, And his last faltering accents whispered praise. At church, with meek and unaffected grace, His looks adorned the venerable place; Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway; And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray. The service past, around the pious man, With ready zeal, each honest rustic ran ; Even children followed with endearing wile, And plucked his gown, to share the good man's smile; His ready smile a parent's warmth expressed, Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distressed; To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given, | But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven. As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form, Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm;
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
'Tis yours to judge how wide the limits stand
Soft as the dew from heaven descends,
The modest stranger lowly bends,
Far in a wilderness obscure,
A refuge to the neighbouring poor,
No stores beneath its humble thatch
The wicket, opening with a latch,
And now, when busy crowds retire, To take their evening rest,
The hermit trimmed his little fire, And cheered his pensive guest:
And spread his vegetable store, And gaily pressed and smiled;
And, skilled in legendary lore, The lingering hours beguiled.
Around, in sympathetic mirth,
The cricket chirrups in the hearth,
But nothing could a charm impart,
For grief was heavy at his heart,
His rising cares the hermit spied,
“And whence, unhappy youth,” he cried,
From better habitations spurned,
Or grieve for friendship unreturned,
Alas! the joys that fortune brings
And those who prize the paltry things
And what is friendship but a name: A charm that lulls to sleep!
A shade that follows wealth or fame, And leaves the wretch to weep!
And love is still an emptier sound,
On earth unseen, or only found
For shame, fond youth, thy sorrows hush,
But while he spoke, a rising blush
Surprised, he sees new beauties rise, Swift mantling to the view,
Like colours o'er the morning skies, As bright, as transient too.
The bashful look, the rising breast, Alternate spread alarms;
The lovely stranger stands confest A maid in all her charms.
“And ah! forgive a stranger rude,
‘Whose feet unhallowed thus intrude
But let a maid thy pity share, Whom love has taught to stray : Who seeks for rest, but finds despair Companion of her way.