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SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, M.B.
Tais gentleman was born at Fernes, in the province Our poet and his pupil continued together until they of Leinster, in Ireland, in the year 1731. His father, arrived at the south of France, where, on a disagreethe Rev. Charles Goldsmith, had four sons, of whom ment, they parted, and our author was left to struggle Oliver was the youngest. He studied the classics in with all the difficulties that a man could experience, Mr. Hughes's school; and on the 11th of June, 1744, who was in a state of poverty, in a foreign country, was admitted a sizar in Trinity College, Dublin. without friends. Yet, notwithstanding all his diffi
During his continuance at the University, he made culties, his ardour for travelling was not abated; and no display of those shining abilities which afterwards he persisted in his scheme, though he was frequently so distinguishedly marked his genius. In the month obliged to be beholden to his flute and the peasants. of February, 1749, which was two years after the At length, his curiosity being gratified,' he bent his regular course of those things, he obtained the degree course towards England, and about the beginning of of Bachelor of Arts. In the year 1751, he visited the winter, in 1759, he arrived at Dover. Edinburgh, having previously turned his thoughts to His situation was not much mended on his arrival the profession of physic, and attended some courses of in London, at which period the whole of his finances anatomy in Dublin. At Edinburgh, he studied the were reduced to a few halfpence. What must be different branches of medicine under the respective the gloomy apprehensions of a man in so forlorn a professors in that University. His thoughtless, though situation, and an utter stranger in the metropolis ! beneficent disposition, soon involved him in difficul- He applied to several apothecaries for employment; ties; and, having made himself responsible for the but his awkward appearance, and his broad Irish acdebt of another person, a fellow-student, he was cent, were so much against him, that he met only with obliged abruptly to leave Scotland, in order to avoid ridicule and contempt. At last, however, merely the horrors of a prison.
through motives of humanity, he was taken notice of In the beginning of the year 1754 he arrived at by a chemist, who employed him in his laboratory. Sunderland; but being pursued by a legal process, In this situation he continued, till he was informed on account of the debt we have just mentioned, he that his old friend Dr. Sleigh was in London. He was arrested; but he was afterwards set at liberty by then quitted the chemist, and lived some time upon the friendship of Mr. Laughlin Maclane and Dr. the liberality of the doctor; but, disliking a life of Sleigh, who were then in the college.
dependence on the generosity of his friend, and being Having surmounted this embarrassment, he em- unwilling to be burthensome to him, he soon accepted barked on board a Dutch ship, and arrived at Rot- an offer that was made bim, of assisting the late Rev. terdam; from whence he went to Brussels; then Dr. Milner, in the education of young gentlemen, at visited great part of Flanders, and afterwards Stras- his academy at Peckham. During the time he rebarg and Louvain, where he continued some time, mained in this situation, he gave much satisfaction to and obtained the degree of Bachelor in Physic: his employer; but as he had obtained some reputation From thence he went to Geneva, in company with an
from criticisms he had written in the Monthly Review, English gentleman. It is a circumstance worth re- he eagerly engaged in the compilation of that work, cording, that he had so strong a propensity to see
with Mr. Griffith, the principal proprietor. Hé acdifferent countries, men, and manners, that even the cordingly returned to London, took a lodging in necessity of walking on foot could not deter him Green-Arbour Court, in the Old Bailey, and comfrom this favourite pursuit. His German flute, on menced a professed author. which he played tolerably well, frequently supplied
This was in the year 1759, before the close of him with the means of subsistence; and his learning which he produced several works, particularly a peprocured him a favourable reception at most of the riodical publication, called The Bee, An Enreligious houses he visited. He himself tells us, that quiry into the present State of Polite Learning whenever be approached a peasant's house, he played in Europe. He also became a writer in The Public one of his most merry tunes, and that generally pro. Ledger, in which his Citizen of the World origicared him not only a lodging, but subsistence for the nally appeared, under the title of Chinese Letlers. next day. This, however, was not the case with the His reputation extended so rapidly, and his connec. rich, who generally despised both him and his music. tions became so numerous, that he was soon enabled
He had not been long arrived at Geneva, when he to emerge from his mean lodgings in the Old Bailey, to met with a young man, who, by the death of an uncle, the politer air of the Temple, where he took chambers was become possessed of a considerable fortune, and in 1762, and lived in a more creditable manner. At to whom Mr. 'Goldsmith was recommended for a length, his reputation was fully established by the travelling companion. As avarice was the prevailing publication of The Traveller in the year 1765. His principle of this young man, it cannot be supposed
Vicar of Wakefield followed his Traveller, and his he was long pleased with his preceptor, who was of a History of England was followed by the performcontrary turn of mind.
ance of his Comedy of The Good-natured Man, all Mr. Goldsmith, during his residence at the college which contributed to place him among the first rank of Edinburgh, had given marks of his rising genius of the poets of these times. for poetry, which Switzerland greatly contributed The Good-natured Man was acted at Coventto bring to maturity. It was here he wrote the first Garden Theatre in the year 1788. Many parts of this sketch of his Traveller, which he sent to his brother play exhibit the strongest indications of our author's Henry, a clergyman in Ireland, who, despising Fame eomic talents. There is, perhaps, no character on the and Fortune, retired with an amiable wife, on an in- stage more happily imagined, and more highly finished, come of only forty pounds per annum, to pass a
than Croaker's; nor do we recollect so original and life of happiness and obseurity.
successful an incident as that of the letter, which he
conceives to be the composition of the incendiary, and to embitter the latter part of his life, and which, feels a thousand ridiculous horrors in consequence of
united with the vexations he suffered upon other his absurd apprehension. The 'audience, however, occasions, brought on a kind of habitual despondency. having been just before exalted on the sentimental In this condition he was attacked by a nervous fever, stilts of False Delicacy, a Comedy by Mr. Kelly, which, in spite of the most able medical assistance, they regarded a few scenes in Mr. Goldsmith's piece terminated in his dissolution, on the 4th day of April, as too low for their entertainment, and therefore 1774, in the forty-fifth year of his age. treated them with unjustifiable severity. Neverthe. His remains were deposited in the burial-ground less, The Good-natured Man succeeded, though in a belonging to the Temple, and a monument hath since degree inferior to its merit. The prologue to it, which been erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey, is excellent, was written by Dr. Samuel Johnson. at the expense of a literary club to which he belonged.
In 1773, the Comedy of She Stoops to Conquer, It consists of a large medallion, exhibiting a good or The Mistakes of a Night, was acted at Covent- likeness of the Doctor, embellished with literary Garden Theatre. This Piece was considered as a ornaments; underneath which is a tablet of white farce by some writers: even if so, it must be ranked marble, with the following inscription, written by his among the farces of a man of genius. One of the friend Dr. Samuel Johnson, most ludicrous circumstances it contains, which is
Englished. that of the robbery, is said to be borrowed from Al
This Monument is raised bamazzar. Mr. Colman, who was then a manager of the theatre, had very little opinion of this piece,
to the Memory of and made so keen a remark on it, while in rehearsal,
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, that the Doctor never forgave him for it. The piece,
Poet, Natural Philosopher, and Historian;
Who left no species of writing untouched, however, succeeded contrary to Mr. Colman's expectations, being received with uncommon applause
Unadorp'd by His Pen. by the audience.
Whether to move laughter, The last theatrical piece the Doctor produced, was
Or draw tears, The Grumbler, a Farce, altered from Sedley. It
He was a powerful master was acted at Covent-Garden, in 1773, for the benefit
Over the affections, of Mr. Quick; but it was acted only one night, and was never printed.
Though at the same time a gentle tyrant; The Doctor might, withra little attention to prudence
Of a genius at once sublime, lively, and
Equal to every subject: and economy, have placed himself in a state above want and dependence. He is said to have acquired,
In expression at once noble,
Pure and delicate. in one year, one thousand eight hundred pounds; and the advantages arising from his writings were very
His memory will last considerable for many years before his death. But
As long as society retains affection, these were rendered useless by an improvident libe
Friendship is not void of honour, rality, which prevented his distinguishing properly
And reading wants not her admirers. the objects of his generosity; and an unhappy at- He was born in the Kingdom of Ireland, tachment to gaming, with the arts of which he was
At Fernes, in the province very little acquainted. He therefore remained at
Where Pallas had set her name, times as much embarrassed in his circumstances, as
29th Nov. 1731. when his income was in its lowest and most precarious state.
He was educated at Dublin; He had been for some years, at different times,
And died in London, affected with a violent stranguary, which contributed
4th April, 1944.
DEDICATION TO THE TRAVELLER.
TO THE REV. HENRY GOLDSMITH.
not worth carrying away. But of all kinds of ambiDEAR SIR,
tion, what from the refinement of the times, from I AM sensible that the friendship between us can different systems of criticism, and from the divisions acquire no new force from the ceremonies of a Dedi. of party, that which pursues poetical fame is the cation; and perhaps it demands an excuse thus to wildest. prefix your name to my attempts, which you decline Poetry makes a principal amusentent among ungiving with your own. But as a part of this Poem | polished nations ; but in a country verging to the was formerly written to you from Switzerland, the extremes of refinement, Painting and Music come in whole can now,
with propriety, be only inscribed to for a share. As these offer the feeble mind a less you. It will also throw a light upon many parts of laborious entertainment, they at first rival Poetry, it, when the reader understands that it is addressed and at length supplant her; they engross all that to a man, who, despising. Fame and Fortune, has favour once shown to her, and, though but younger retired early to Happiness and Obscurity, with an sisters, seize upon the elder's birth-right. income of forty pounds a year.
Yet, however this art may be neglected by the I now perceive, my dear brother, the wisdom of powerful, it is still in greater danger from the misyour humble choice. You have entered upon a sacred taken efforts of the learned to improve it. What office, where the harvest is great, and the labourers criticisms have we not heard of late in favour of are but few; while you have left the field of Ambi- blank verse, and Pindaric odes, chorusses, anapests tion, where the labourers are many, and the harvest and iambics, alliterative care and happy negligence !
Every absurdity has now a champion to defend it; E'en now, where Alpine solitudes ascend,
But there is an enemy to this art still more dan- Look downward where a hundred realms appear;
Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy gale; What reception a Poem may find, which has nei.. Ye bending swains, that dress the flowery vale ! ther abuse, party, nor blank verse to support it, I For me your tributary stores combine: cannot tell, nor am I solicitous to know. My aims Creation's heir, the world, the world is mine. are right. Without espousing the cause of any party, As some lone miser, visiting his store, I have attempted to moderate the rage of all. I have Bends at his treasure, counts, recounts it o'er; endeavoured to show, that there may be equal bap- Hoards after hoards his rising raptures fill, piness in states that are differently governed from our Yet still he sighs, for hoards are wanting still : own; that every state has a particular principle of Thus to my breast alternate passions rise, happiness, and that this principle in each may be Pleas'd with each good that Heav'n to man supcarried to a mischievous excess. There are few can plies; judge better than yourself, how far these positions Yet oft a sigh prevails, and sorrows fall, are illustrated in this Poem.
To see the hoard of human bliss so small;
And oft I wish, amidst the scene to find
Some spot to real happiness consign'd,
Where my worn soul, each wandering hope at rest,
But where to find that happiest spot below,
Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own;
Extols the treasures of his stormy seas,
And his long nights of revelry and ease.
The naked Negro, panting at the Line,
Boasts of his golden sands and palmy wine,
Basks in the glare, or stems the tepid wave,
And thanks his gods for all the good they gave.
Such is the patriot's boast, where'er we roam,
His first, best country, ever is at home.
And yet, perhaps, if countries we compare,
And estimate the blessings which they share,
Though patriots flatter, still shall wisdom find
An equal portion dealt to all mankind :
As different good, by art or nature given
To different nations, makes their blessings even.
Nature, a mother kind alike to all, :
Still grants her bliss at labour's earnest call;
With food as well the peasant is supply'd
On Idra's cliffs as Arno's shelvy side;
And though the rocky-crested summits frown,
These rocks, by custom, turn to beds of down.
From art more various are the blessings sent;
Wealth, commerce, honour, liberty, content.
Yet these each other's power so strong contest,
That either seems destructive of the rest.
Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails;
And honour sinks where commerce long prevails. Or press the bashful stranger to his food,
Hence every state, to one lov'd blessing prone,
Conforms and models life to that alone :
Each to the fav’rite happiness attends,
And spurns the plan that aims at other ends;
Till, carried to excess in each domain,
This fav'rite good begets peculiar pain.
But let us try these truths with closer eyes,
And trace them through the prospect as it lies :
Here, for a while, my proper cares resign'd,
Here let me sit in sorrow for mankind;
Like, yon neglected shrub at random cast,
Tho' poor the peasant's hut, his feasts tho'small,
Sees no contiguous palace rear its head,
To shame the meanness of his humble shed; Its uplands sloping deck the mountain's side,
No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal, Woods over woods in gay theatric pride;
To make him lothe his vegetable meal; While oft some temple's mould'ring tops between But calm, and bred in ignorance and toil, With memorable grandeur mark the scene.
Each wish contracting, fits him to the soil. Could Nature's bounty satisfy the breast,
Cheerful at morn he wakes from short repose,
Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes;
Or seeks the den where snow-tracks mark the way,
At night returning, every labour sped,
He sits him down the monarch of a shed; These, here disporting, own the kindred soil,
Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys Nor ask luxuriance from the planter's toil;
His children's looks, that brighten at the blaze; While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand While his lov'd partner, boastful of her hoard, To winnow fragrance round the smiling land. Displays her cleanly platter on the board :
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows, And haply, too, some pilgrim, thither led, And sensual bliss is all the nation knows.
With many a tale repays the nightly bed.
Thus every good his native wilds impart
And dear that bill which lifts him to the storms;
And as a child, when scaring sounds molest, That opulence departed leaves behind;
Clings close and closer to the mother's breast, For wealth was theirs, nor far remov'd the date,
So the loud torrent, and the whirlwind's roar,
Such are the charms to barren states assign'd;
For every want that stimulates the breast : Commerce on other shores display'd her sail ;
Becomes a source of pleasure when represt : While nought remain'd of all that riches gave, Whence from such lands each pleasing science But towns unmann'd, and lords without a slave :
Unknown to them, when sensual pleasures cloy,
Their level life is but a mould’ring fire,
Unfit for raptures, or, if raptures cheer
On some high festival of once a year, A mistress or a saint in every grove.
In wild excess the vulgar breast takes fire, By sports like these are all their cares beguild, Till, buried in debauch, the bliss expire. The sports of children satisfy the child:
But not their joys alone thus coarsely flow; Each nobler aim, represt by long controul,
Their morals, like their pleasures, are but low; Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul;
For, as refinements stops, from sire to son While low delights, succeeding fast behind,
Unalter'd, unimprov'd, the manners run; In happier meanness occupy the mind :
And love's and friendship's finely-pointed dart As in those domes, where Cæsars once bore sway, Fall blunted from each indurated heart. Defac'd by time, and tottring in decay,
Some sterner virtues o'er the mountain's breast There in the ruin, heedless of the dead,
May sit, like falcons cowering on the nest;
But all the gentler morals, such as play
To sport and flutter in a kinder sky.
I turn; and France displays her bright domain.
Gay sprightly land of mirth and social ease, But man and steel, the soldier and his sword,
Pleas'd with thyself, whom all the world can please, No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array,
How often have I led thy sportive choir, But winter lingering chills the lap of May;
With tuneless, pipe, beside the murmuring Loire; No zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast,
Where shading elms along the margin grew, But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.
And freshen'd from the wave the zephyr flew ! Yet still, e'en here, content can spread a charm, And haply, though my harsh touch, falt'ring still, Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm.
But mock'd all tune, and marr'd the dancer's skill ;