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of which lived one of his uncles, Mr. John Goldsmith, with whom he spent much of his time, and who was the first to notice the indications of talent which he exhibited.
His trials of temper and buffetings with the world had already commenced. He was scoffed and jeered by his schoolmates, as being ugly ; and was nicknamed Æsop in derision. His sensitive nature felt these ribald taunts keenly: for his happiness always depended more upon the good opinion of others than upon himself ; but the little of peevishness that was suffered to escape him, consisted of smart repartees, in which he sought to turn the jests discharged on him upon the head of his assailants. He did something better, however, in his leisure, than squabble with the idle and the brutal. He began to make verses, and to fancy that nature had designed him for a poet. It is not improbable that he and mankind owe the discovery and developement of his genius to his want of personal beauty ;-to that which made it necessary for him to draw upon himself for his enjoyments ;-to the creative power in his bosom, which loved to people its ideal world with happy human faces, in order to compensate for the repulses it was continually meeting with in actual life. He read much, grew intoxicated with literature, and became an incurable rhymer. Fortunately his uncle and mother were capable of seeing through his “impenetrable stupidity," and discerning the dawn of genius beyond. They had a good opinion of Oliver, encouraged his studies, and desired that he should have such an education given to him as might afford him a chance of making his way through life in a manner more congenial to him than at the desk of a merchant's counting-house. His father, with little demur, though it must have sorely tasked his means, -whose narrowness had, from youth upwards, kept him engaged in that perpetual struggle of the poor man, whose table is surrounded by "olive branches,” to “make one guinea do the work of two,' acquiesced with the general entreaty, and it was decided that Oliver, at a fitting age, should be sent to the University.
To prepare him for his altered destiny, he was removed first to a school at Athlone, and subsequently to one at Edgeworthstown in Longford-his relatives contributing a trifle each to ease the extra burden thus cast upon the poor old rector of Kilkenny. A singular anecdote is related of Oliver's last journey to Edgeworthstown, previously to his entrance at college. Having left home on horseback, he reached Ardagh, where it was necessary for him to sleep, at night-fall. He had a guinea in his pocket, and was determined to enjoy himself. He asked for the best house in the place, and from a piece of Irish literal comprehension, or waggery, was directed to a private house instead of an inn. Goldsmith had no thought of a mistake, and, being readily admitted by the servants, who, from his confidence concluded that he was some well known friend and invited guest of their master, he gave directions concerning his horse, and being shewn into the parlour, found there the owner of the mansion at his fire-side-a Mr. Featherstone, a gentleman of fortune, and somewhat of a wit. Goldsmith began to call about him with authority, as one entitled to attention; and, his host having soon detected the youth's error, and being willing to enjoy an evening's amusement, humoured his guest, caused wine, and whatever else Oliver chose to order to be brought him; accepted with his wife and daughters an invitation to supper at his own table, and received with becoming attention strict injunctions to have a hot cake ready for breakfast on the following morning. It was not till he called for his bill before quitting the house that the abashed school-lad discovered his blunder, and learned that he had been entertained at the residence of an old acquaintance of his father. The adventure was subsequently made to furnish the main incident in the comedy of She stoops to Conquer.'
Goldsmith was sent to Dublin and entered at Trinity college, the 11th of June, 1745, as a sizar. His brother Henry had been a pensioner, and it is said that the pride of Oliver revolted at the humbler condition into which the diminished means of his parents caused him to be thrust. In his own opinion his sizarship was the cause of many of his subsequent mortifications, in depriving him of that consideration among his companions on which so much value is set by youth. The duties and costume of the sizar certainly furnish a revolting picture of the humiliations to which the poor scholar was then subjected. He wore and still wears a black gown of coarse stuff without sleeves, and dines at the Fellows' table after they have withdrawn. In addition to this, at the period in question, he wore a red cap, and was compelled to perform menial offices, such as sweeping parts of the court in the morning, carrying the dishes from the kitchen to the dining table of the Fellows, and waiting behind their chairs till that body had dined. This treatment, added to that of his tutor, one Wilder, whose savage brutality and malice are said to have shone conspicuous, checked for a time every aspiring hope in the student and repressed the exertion of his talents. Of the fitness of this Wilder to direct the studies of such a pupil as Oliver Goldsmith, one anecdote is sufficient. A hackney coachman having accidentally touched his face with the whip while his vehicle was proceeding at a fast pace through the street, he sprung at a bound from the pavement to the box, and felled the driver to the ground. Disgust and hopelessness naturally produced irregularities, and these in turn led to scrapes. Between the author of The Deserted Village,' and his college life “there was no great love from the beginning, and it pleased heaven to decrease it
upon further acquaintance.” In the midst of these distresses, Goldsmith's father died, and his remittances from home, which were sufficiently scanty before, now ceased altogether, and his prospects were proportionately darkened. An uncle occasionally supplied his most pressing necessities however, and with this resource, and another which he discovered about this time, added to his constitutional “knack at hoping;" he contrived to maintain himself in tolerably good spirits. His discovery was of a means of disposing of original street-ballads, for which he found a ready sale at a shop in Mountrath Street, at the price of five shillings each. This was the beginning of the career of Goldsmith as a professional littérateur,
In 1748, in consequence of the gross violence and insolence of the ruffian Wilder, his tutor, who inflicted personal chastisement upon him, he took a sudden resolution to forsake not only the scene of his mortification, but his country, and to seek his fortune in a kinder region. He
accordingly disposed of his books and clothes, and quitted the University, but loitered in Dublin till he had but a shilling left, with which he set out for Cork. It was his intention to take ship thence for some other land, but his resources did not hold out long enough to carry him to the place of embarkation. On his single shilling he supported himself nevertheless for three days; and when that was gone, he parted by degrees with his clothes, till at length he was reduced to such extremity of famine that, after fasting for twenty-four hours, he thought a handful of grey peas, given him by a girl at a wake, the most refreshing meal he had ever made. Fatigue and destitution induced him to return, and his brother, to whom he communicated his situation, clothed and carried him back to his college, where a sort of reconciliation was brought about between Wilder and him. The latter continued as before to detest mathematics, and to perpetrate poetry ;—the tutor resumed his tyranny with increased malignity and hatred.
But notwithstanding his poverty and misery, which would have hardened and corrupted the heart of many of less noble natures, Goldsmith had the most enlarged sympathy for the distresses of others. Mr. Edward Mills, a rich relative and fellow student of his, who occasionally furnished him with small supplies of money, and frequently invited him to partake his meals, used to relate a story characteristic at once of his improvidence and goodness of heart. “Being summoned on one occasion to breakfast, Oliver declared from within to the messenger his inability to rise, and that to enable him to do so they must come to his assistance, by forcing open the door. This was accordingly done by Mills; who found his cousin not on his bed, but literally in it, having ripped part of the ticking, and immersed himself in the feathers, a situation from which he found it difficult to extricate himself. By his own account, in explanation of this strange scene, after the merriment it occasioned had subsided, it appeared that, while strolling in the suburbs on the preceding evening, he had met a poor woman with five children, who told a pitiful story of her husband being in the hospital, and herself and offspring destitute of food, and of a place of shelter for the night ; and that, being from the country, they knew no person to whom, under such circumstances, they could apply with hope of relief. The appeal to one of his sensitive disposition, was irresistible; but unfortunately he had no money. In this situation he brought her to the college gate, sent out his blankets to cover the wretched
group, and part of his clothes to be sold for their present subsistence; and finding himself cold during the night, from want of the usual covering, he had hit upon the expedient just related for supplying the place of his blankets.”
This anecdote tells the whole secret of the life of Goldsmith-of his pleasures and his anguish; of his want of worldly tact and prudence to preserve or value money as he undoubtedly ought to have done, at least as a means of independence, and of his exquisite sense of the sufferings, and his earnest desire to relieve the wants, of others, even before he had provided for his own. He was conscious, sometimes painfully so, of his own imprudence; but he could never repress the spirit which prompted his uncalculating generosity. The following is a lesson on the subject, sent in a letter to his brother Henry in 1759. "Frugality and even avarice in the lower orders of mankind are true ambition. These afford the only ladder for the poor to rise to preferment. Teach then, my dear Sir, to your son thrift and economy: let his poor wandering uncle's example be placed before his eyes.” It might have been desired that Goldsmith had never been compelled to write thus; but if he had never felt both the want which led to the sentence, and the sympathy which set his lectures at defiance, he would assuredly never have been the exquisite writer of poetry and prose that he was.
Oliver quitted the university in the spring of 1749-50 immediately after taking his degree of Bachelor of Arts, and for about two year lived chiefly at home with his mother, visiting among his friends, a fisting his brother Henry in the management of his school, and join ing in the rustic sports of the neighbourhood. His friends wished him to be ordained, but he had no great liking for the clerical profession and for a long time declined. At last, however, he consented to apply to the Bishop of the Diocese, and was rejected - according to one account, as being too young; to another, from his having neglected the proper professional studies, and the Bishop having received an exaggerated statement of his irrregularities at College ; and according to a third, in consequence of his thoughtlessness and reputed love of gay dress, and a prejudice arising in the mind of the Bishop from the appearance before him of the candidate in scarlet breeches. Ât all events the now obscure Dr. Synge had the honour of “crowing over” poor Oliver Goldsmith, and of adding a small taste of wormwood to his cup of gall. The mortification, however, was not of a kind to break the heart of him who sustained it. He returned home and consoled himself by writing verses, telling stories, and singing songs; by shooting, fishing, playing the flute, and throwing the sledge.
The improvident poet next became tutor in a private family, and was subsequently furnished with fifty pounds by an uncle, in order that he might proceed to London, and keep the usual terms of Irish students, preparatory to being called to the bar. Oliver's evil genius attended him on his journey. He was seduced into a gaming house in Dublin, and stripped of every penny of his money; but, being ashamed to communicate his loss to his friends, he remained till nearly starved in the metropolis, when he was forgiven and invited back into the country. Physic was next selected for him as a profession; and by he united contributions of his uncle, brother and married sister, Mrs. Hodson, he was enabled to go, in the autumn of 1752, to Edinburgh to fit himself for taking his degree. He had not grown more reflecting in consequence of his repeated experience. The first thing he did after procuring a lodging in the Scottish capital is of a piece with most of the incidents of his life. He sallied forth to view the city, was rambling about during the whole day, and never bethought himself till night overtook him, that he had neglected to enquire the name of his landlady, and even that of the street in which he was to live. He was fortunate enough, however, to meet the porter who had carried his luggage to his new abode in the morning, and was by him directed home.
The progress of our medical student at Edinburgh is believed not to nave been very satisfactory. He remained about a year and a half-long enough to get into more than one unpleasant predicament for want of money - and then proceeded to Leyden, where he is said to have been less attentive to the acquisition of professional than miscellaneous knowledge, and where he was frequently known to be in his usual pecuniary distress. Occasionally he subsisted on loans of small sums of money from friends, sometimes he “taught English to the natives," and at others he had recourse to gaming in hopes of extricating himself from his difficulties by some lucky turn of fortune. But his irregularities seem to have always proceeded from his poverty, and never from depravity or wilfulness. It is necessary to bear this in mind, as he has been accused, by such people as could see nothing in his childhood but impenetrable stupidity, of wrong heartedness as well as want of thought.
After a year's residence at Leyden, Goldsmith set out on his travels over the continent. He had no resources, but he had an ardent thirst for information, an unconquerable spirit of hope and gaiety, some learning, and a little medical skill. He was moreover young, vigorous, and accustomed to privation and hardships. Like the Baron Louis de Holberg of whom he has spoken in one of his works, “ His ambition was not to be restrained, nor his thirst of knowledge satisfied until he had seen the world. Without money, recommendations or friends, he undertook to set out upon his travels and make the tour of Europe on foot. A good voice and a trifling skill in music were the only finances he had to support an undertaking so extensive : so he travelled by day, and at night sang at the doors of peasants' houses, to get himself lodging.” He commenced his rambles, according to Dr. Ellis, who was one of his occasional companions at Leyden, with scarcely any cash and but one clean shirt :
"Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow." There is little doubt that the wanderings of George Primrose, in the Vicar of Wakefield,' Chap. XX, are, in all the main points, a correct description of the travels of the Author, who has left few other records of this interesting period of his life. Even the fact of his having had a pupil part of the way, is believed to be accurately stated the name of the liberal young gentleman, being said
to be Smyth or Smyly, After traversing Flanders, part of France and Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France again, he returned early in the year 1756 to England, and' in future fixed bis abode in London. His opening prospects were of the most discouraging kind. He had neither a introductions, acquaintances nor impudence,” to help him forward in the populous wilderness, and he was often put to the utmost shifts, for a meal and a lodging. There was once a rumour, which is not improbable, that he tried the Stage in a country town, as a low comedian. It is at all events certain that, in after life, he once expressed a desire to play a low comedy character--that of Scrub in the Beaux Stratagem.' It has also been reported that he set up in a country town as an Apothecary, and failed; and that he afterwards returned to London and accepted the situation of usher to a School. That he occupied the latter situation is universally admitted, and that he hated it with as thorough a detestation as he was capable of indulging, has been