Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

terrified by danger, he became an enthusiast in the design, which he had formed, of seeing the manners of different countries. As he had some knowledge of the French language, and of music, and played tolerably well on the German · flute, his learning produced him an hospitable reception at most of the religious houses he visited, especially those of the Irish nation; and his music insured him a welcome from the peasants of Flanders and Germany. “Whenever I approached a peasant's house toward nightfall (he makes George Primrose, the philosophical wanderer, say) I played one of my merriest tunes, and that generally procured me not only a lodging, but subsistence for the next day : but in truth (his constant expression) I must own, whenever I attempted to entertain persons of a higher rank, they always thought my performance odious, and never made me any return for my endeavours to please

them.” *

He was enabled to pursue his rambles, partly by demanding at Universities to enter the lists as a disputant; by which, according to the custom of many of them, he was entitled on any display of dexterity to a gratuity in money, a dinner, and a bed for the night. Upon his arrival at Geneva, he was recommended as travelling-tutor to a young gentleman, who had been unexpectedly left a considerable sum of money by his uncle. This youth, who was articled to an attorney, having determined on receipt of his fortune to see the world, upon engaging with his new governor made a proviso, that he should be

per• Vicar of Wakefield, II, i. In this tour, many suppose Goldsmith to have recorded anecdotes of himself.

mitted to govern himself.' And the preceptor soon found his pupil understood the art of directing in money-concerns extremely well, as avarice was his prevailing passion.*

During Goldsmith's continuance in Switzerland, he assiduously cultivated his poetical talent, of which he had given some striking proofs at Edinburgh. It was hence, that he sent the first sketch of The Traveller' to his elder brother Henry, a clergyman in Ireland, who giving up fame and fortune had retired with an amiable wife to happiness and obscurity on an income of “ forty pounds a-year.” In the subjoined lines, the author gives a striking picture at once of his fraternal affection, and his cheerless situation :

“ Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
Or by the lazy Scheld, or wandering Po;
Or onward, where the rude Carinthian boor
Against the houseless stranger shuts the door;
Or where Campania's plain forsaken lies,
A weary waste expanding to the skies-
Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see,
My heart untravelld fondly turns to thee;
Still to my brother turns with ceaseless pain,
And drags at each remove a lengthening chain,

Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend,
And round his dwelling guardian saints attend !
Blest be that spot, where cheerful guests retire

pause from toil, and trim their evening fire:
Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,
And every stranger finds a ready chair:
Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd,
Where all the ruddy family around

To

* Of the whole of this connexion, however, his intimate friends have doubted, whether it was not rather inferred from the story in the Vicar of Wakefield, than, actually experienced by it's writer.

Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail,
Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale;
Or press the bashful stranger to his food,

And learn the luxury of doing good!” From Geneva, Goldsmith and his pupil proceeded to the south of France; where the young man, upon some disagreement with his tutor, paid him the small part of his salary which was due, and embarked at Marseilles for England. Thus thrown once more upon the world, he visited Padua, where he continued six months, Venice, Verona, and Florence. At length his curiosity being gratified, he bent his course toward England, and arrived at Dover in 1756.

His finances were so low upon his return, his whole stock of cash amounting to only a few halfpence, that he with difficulty reached the metropolis. On his arrival he applied under a feigned name to several apothecaries, with the hope of being received * in the capacity of a journeyman ; but his broad Irish accent, and the uncouthness of his appearance, exposed him generally to insult. A chemist in the city however, struck with his forlorn condition and the simplicity of his manners, took him into his laboratory, where he continued till he discovered that his old friend Dr. Sleigh † was in London. That gentleman received him with the warmest affection, and

As if he had a presentiment of his future eminence. Having occasion to crave the recommendation of Dr. Radcliffe, who had been joint-tutor to him with his cruel enemy Wilder, he requested him to humour this innocent concealment.

+ This gentleman subsequently settled in Cork, his native city, and was rapidly rising into eminence in his profession, when he was cut off in the flower of his age by an inflammatory fever; which deprived the world of a fine scholar, a skilful physician, and an honest man.

liberally invited him to share his purse till some establishment could be procured for him. He next settled, if any measure of his deserves that term, in Bankside, Southwark; and afterward removed to the Temple, or it's neighbourhood. Of his success as a physician, in either place, his own account was, that * he got plenty of patients but no fees.' He now appears to have first had recourse to his pen; and a tragedy, which however he probably never finished, was his earliest attempt. In 1757, he undertook to assist * Dr. Milner, a dissenting minister who kept an academy at Peckham, during a fit of sickness; but he did not continue long in that situation.

The next year, through Dr. Milner's interest, he obtained a regular appointment as physician to one of the factories in India, but he never availed himself of it; and, in 1759, he gave to the world his • Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe.' He also published a piece, called • The Bee;' occasionally contributed during eight, months to the Monthly Review, for which he received in return, by a formal agreement, his board and lodging and a handsome salary from it's editor, Mr. Griffiths; conducted for Wilkie the Lady's Magazine, and became a writer in Mr. Newbery's · Public Ledger,' edited at that time by Mr. Kelly;ť in which

* The miseries of such an employment he has feelingly described in his Vicar of Wakefield.

+ The intimacy of these two brother-authors was dissolved, at a subsequent period, by dramatic jealousy. Goldsmith's fine comedy, the Good-natured Man,' was treated by the town with unjustifiable severity ; while at the same time Kelly's • False Delicacy' from the rage for sentimental writing was played every night at the other house to crowded audiences, was circulated in print to the amount of 10,000 copies in the

his Citizen of the World' originally appeared under the title of Chinese Letters.'

He had long felt an anxious desire of penetrating into the internal parts of Asia, and soon after the accession of his present Majesty applied to the Earl of Bute, then Prime Minister, for a salary to enable him to carry his favourite project into execution.* But

course of the season, and procured for it's lucky writer a present of plate and a public breakfast from the booksellers. This was too much for one, who though the anti-type of his own Goodnatured Man in every other respect, in point of authorship could unfortunately

6 bear no brother near the throne.' Yet Goldsmith by his performance, undervalued as it was, cleared five hundred pounds. Nor should it be omitted, to his dispraise, that Kelly (though of humble extraction, and very limited education) had the merit of supporting a growing family with decency. and credit. Alas! for the

Animis cælestibus iræ!

* He also drew up an ingenious essay, now forming Letter cviii. in his Citizen of the World, upon the utility and entertainment which might result from a journey into the East.' The Duke of Northumberland, at a subsequent period, frequently regretted to the Bishop of Dromore, that he had not been

apprised of Goldsmith's wishes; since, by procuring him a salary for the purpose on the Irish establishment, he should have considered himself as strictly discharging his duty to that country in thus patronising it's literary genius. Johnson, however, observed that of all men Goldsmith was least fitted for such an employment, as he knew nothing of the state of the arts he was about

to quit.

To his Grace's general offer of assistance he is said, with his characteristic affection and simplicity, to have replied, that he had a brother in Ireland, a clergyman, who stood in need of help; as for himself, he had no dependence on the promises of great men he looked to the booksellers ; they were his best friends, and he was not inclined to forsake them for others !'

« ZurückWeiter »