페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

recently established by Mr. John Newbery; in these he represented himself as a native of China-to which empire the splendid work produced by Sir William Chambers had recently drawn public attention ;-the papers were afterwards, with some additions, published in a complete form, under the title of “The Citizen of the World."

Being now easier in circumstances, and in the receipt of frequent sums from the booksellers, Goldsmith, about the middle of 1760, emerged from his dismal abode in Green Arbour-court, and took respectable apartments in Wine Officecourt, Fleet-street.

Still he continued to look back with considerable bene. volence to the poor hostess, whose necessities he had relieved by pawning his gala coat, for we are told that "he often supplied her with food from his own table, and visited her frequently with the sole purpose to be kind to her.”

He now became a member of a debating club, called the “Robin Hood,” which used to meet near Temple Bar, and in which Burke, while yet a Temple student, had first tried his powers. Goldsmith spoke here occasionally, and is recorded in the Robin Hood archives as “a candid disputant, with a clear head and an honest heart, though coming but seldom to the society." His relish was for clubs of a more social, jovial nature, and he was never fond of argument. An amusing anecdote is told of his first introduction to the club, by Samuel Derrick, an Irish acquaintance of some humour. On entering, Goldsmith was struck with the self-important appearance of the chairman, ensconced in a large gilt chair. “This," said he, “must be the Lord Chancellor at least." "No, no,” replied Derrick, “he's only master of the rolls.The chairman was a baker.

The editor of this volume remembers to have heard his father mention this society; it was held at a public-house in Shire-lane, and was in existence for many years after Goldsmith’s time. The most noted speaker was one Jeacocke, a baker, whose eloquence was of that powerful and commanding character, as to leave all others far behind; he was the almost perpetual chairman. Some of our more celebrated debaters, as Burke, Sheridan, Fox, and Canning, were frequent attendants of the meetings.

In his new lodgings in Wine Office-court, Goldsmith began to receive visits of ceremony, and to entertain his literary friends. Among the latter he now numbered several names of note, such as Guthrie, Murphy, Christopher Smart, and Bickerstaff. He had also a numerous class of hangers-on, the small fry of literature; who, knowing his almost utter incapacity to refuse a pecuniary request, were apt, now that he was considered Aush, to levy continual taxes upon his purse.

Among others, one Pilkington, an old college acquaintance, but now a shifting adventurer, duped him in the most ludicrous manner. He called on him with a face full of perplexity. A lady of the first rank having an extraordinary fancy for curious animals, for which she was willing to give enormous sums, he had procured a couple of white mice to be forwarded to her from India. They were actually on board of a ship in the river. Her grace had been apprised of their arrival, and was all impatience to see them. Unfortunately he had no cage to put them in, nor clothes to appear in before a lady of her rank. Two guíneas would be sufficient for his purpose, but where were two guineas to be procured ?

The simple heart of Goldsmith was touched; but alas ! he had but half-a-guinea in his pocket. It was unfortunate, but, after a pause, his friend suggested, with some hesitation, " that money might be raised upon his watch; it would be but the loan of a few hours.” So said, so done; the watch was delivered to the worthy Mr. Pilkington to be pledged at a neighbouring pawnbroker's, but nothing further was ever seen of him, the watch, or the white mice. The next that Goldsmith heard of the poor shifting scapegrace, he was on his death-bed, starving from want, upon which, forgetting or forgiving the trick he had played him, he sent him a guinea

On the 31st of May, 1761, Dr. Johnson made his appeai ance as a guest at a literary supper given by Goldsmith at his new lodgings in Wine Office-court. It was the opening of their acquaintance. Johnson had felt and acknowledged the merit of Goldsmith as an author, and been pleased by the honourable mention made of himself in “The Bee.” Dr. Percy called upon Johnson to take him to Goldsmith's lodgings; he found Johnson arrayed with unusual care in a new suit of clothes, a new hat, and a well-powdered wig; and could not but notice his uncommon spruceness.

Why, sir," replied Johnson, “I hear that Goldsmith 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 better example.”

Among the things thrown off by Goldsmith for the booksellers were jobs of a most heterogeneous character, such as

“ Account of the Cock-lane Ghost,”- -a “Life of Beau Nash," the famous master of the ceremonies

Bath,-a History of England in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman to his Son,” which being published anonymously, was attributed to various noble lords, and among others, Lord Lyttleton, who was well pleased to be the putative father, and never disowned it.

Johnson had now become one of Goldsmith's best friends and advisers. He knew all the weak points of his character, but he knew also his merits; and while he would rebuke him like a child, and rail at his errors and follies, he would suffer no one else to undervalue him. Goldsmith knew the sound. ness of his judgment and his practical benevolence, and often sought his connsel and aid amid the difficulties into which his heedlessness was continually plunging him.

“I received one morning," says Johnson, “a message from

an

poor Goldsmith that he was in great distress, and, as it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would go to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion: I perceived that he had already changed my gainea, and had a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it, and saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon return; and, having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill.”

The novel in question was the “ Vicar of Wakefield;" the bookseller to whom Johnson sold it was Francis Newbery, nephew to John. Strange as it may seem, this captivating work, which has obtained and preserved an almost unrivalled popularity in various languages, was so little appreciated by the bookseller, that he kept it by him for nearly two years unpublished !

At this very time he had by him the poem of “The Traveller.” The plan of it, as has already been observed, was conceived many years before, during his travels in Switzerland, and a sketch of it sent from that country to his brother Henry in Ireland. The original idea is said to have embraced a wider

scope; but it was probably contracted through diffidence, in the process of finishing the parts. It had laid by him for several years in a crude state, and it was with extreme hesitation, and after much revision, that he at length submitted it to Dr. Johnson. The frank and warm approbation f the latter encouraged him to finish it for the press;

and Dr. Johnson himself contributed nine couplets towards the

B

conclusion. The poem was published in December, 1764, in quarto, by Newbery, and was the first of his works to which Goldsmith prefixed his name. Johnson, with generous warmth, pronounced it the finest poem that had appeared since the da vs of Pope. It went through several editions in the course of the first year, and produced a golden harvest to Newbery ; but all the remuneration on record doled out to the author was twenty guineas. About this time the beautiful and ра thetic ballad of “The Hermit” was published in the St. James's Chronicle, a journal still in existence.

Goldsmith, now that he was rising in the world, and becoming a notoriety, felt himself called upon to improve his style of living. He accordingly emerged from Wine Officecourt, and took chambers in the Temple. The success of the “The Traveller” roused the attention of the bookseller to produce “ The Vicar of Wakefield,” the manuscript of which had been for two years slumbering in his hands. It was published on the 27th of March, 1766; in a month a second edition, in three months a third, and so it went on increasing in popularity.

Early in 1767 Goldsmith had completed his comedy of “ The Good-natured Man,” and submitted it to the perusal of Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, and others, by all of whom it was heartily approved. But the representation was doomed to ex. perience all sorts of difficulties and delays; at last, however, it was to be produced on the stage, and Johnson attended the rehearsals and wrote the prologue, inspiriting by his sympathy the nervous author, who, magnificently attired in a suit of " Tyrian bloom, satin-grain, and garter-blue silk breeches," as appears by the entry in his tailor's bill, at a cost of 81. 2s. 7d.,-watched the effect of its representation, which, after all, did not come up to its merits; it ran for ten nights in succession, and after that was acted but occasionally, having always pleased more in the closet than on the stage. The profits of the play were beyond any that Goldsmith had yet

« 이전계속 »