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Goldsmith was anxious to obtain the post, and waited on the great actor to solicit his vote and interest. Garrick, it is said, reminded him of a passage in his Paitz Learning, and asked how he could expect his support after that. It was a 1 passage in which, while discussing the prospects of the drama, Goldsmith had expressed rather sharply the common complaint then made against theatre-managers, that they neglected contemporary talent and lived on old stock-plays which cost them nothing. * Indeed,” said Goldy bluntly, “I spoke my mind, and believe I said what was very right.” And so they parted civilly, and it was long before
Garrick and Goldsmith came really together. Quite otherwise it was between Goldsmith and Smollett. It is pleasant to think of these two, perhaps the most strongly contrasted humorists and men of genius of their day—the simple, gentlehearted, sweet-styled Irishman, and the bold, splenetically-independent, irascible, richly-inventive, rough-writing, but sombre and melancholic Scotchman-to think of these two as knit together by some mutual regard, when Smollett was already in the full bustle of his fame and industry, and Goldy was struggling and needed employment. During the whole of 1759, as we have seen, they had been, to some extent, fellow-workmen. And in the end of that year there was a visit of Smollett, along with the bookseller Newbery of St. Paul's Churchyard, to Goldsmith's lodgings in Green Arbour Court, which led to important results.
Though London already swarmed with periodicals, the indefatigable Smollett, then recently released from his three months'imprisonment for libel, had projected a new sixpenny monthly, to be called The British Magazine ; and Newbery, besides having an interest in this magazine, had resolved on the larger attempt of a daily newspaper, price 21d., to be called The Public Ledger. It was to secure Goldsmith's services in both these undertakings that they had called upon him. Accordingly, from the first appearance of the British Magazine, on the ist of January, 1760, with a fervid dedication to Pitt, and the unusual distinction of a royal licence to Dr. Smollett as its editor, Goldsmith was a regular contributor to its pages- his essays and criticisms forming perhaps the chief attraction of the magazine after Smollett's novel of “Sir Lancelot Greaves,” which appeared there in successive instalments till its conclusion in December 1761. Goldsmith's contributions to this magazine extended even into 1762, and included at least twenty separate essays, of which some were in his most charming style. But it was in the Public Ledger that he made his great hit. He had been engaged by Newbery to furnish for this newspaper an article of some amusing kind twice a week, to be paid for at the rate of a guinea per article. He had already written one or two articles to suit, when the idea struck him of bringing on the scene an imaginary philosophic Chinaman, resident in London after long wanderings from home, and of making the adventures of this Chinaman, and his observations of men and things in the Western world, as recorded in letters supposed
to be written by him to friends in China, together with the replies of these friends, the material for a series of papers which should consist of character-sketches, social satire, and whimsical reflection on all sorts of subjects, connected by a slight thread of story. He had always had a fancy for China and the Chinese, and an anticipation burst into a magnificent defence of them against Diderot and Fontenelle, “hi meagre face” gathering beauty as he spoke, “his eye beaming with unusual bright ness,” and “strokes of the finest raillery falling from him thick and fast.” So Goldsmith afterwards described the interview, the scene of which he certainly makes to have been Paris, though Mr. Forster thinks this a mistake, and that it must have been in Switzerland. Through Switzerland, at all events, with a touch of Germany on the way, Goldsmith did go, visiting Geneva, Basle, and Berne, and making footexcursions among the hills and valleys. Then, crossing the Alps, he descended into Italy by Piedmont and went to Florence, Verona, Mantua, Milan, Venice, and Padua ; at which last city, on account of the reputation of its medical school, he remained some time. In Italy, he gives us incidentally to understand, his fluteplaying stood him in less stead than in France, every peasant in Italy being a better musician than himself ; but he had another resource in the old custom of philosophical disputations at universities and convents, followed by dinner, a night's lodging, and a small gratuity to the successful disputant. But, indeed, the mode of Goldsmith's existence during his extraordinary tour is a mystery. Letters he had sent to Ireland once or twice for remittances appear to have brought no reply; borrowings from Irish friends, met casually in Paris or elsewhere, may have helped ; gambling, in which Goldsmith always did a little, is mentioned as probably helping too ; and once or twice he seems to have hooked himself on to somebody, travelling like himself, who did not object to a companion. There is a dim tradition that he i had committed to him in Switzerland the charge of a young gentleman, the son of a wealthy London pawnbroker, who had been sent abroad for mental improvement, and that the young gentleman, preferring cash to the mental improvement he was getting, cut the connexion rather suddenly. Back through France, at any rate, Goldy seems to have made his return journey quite alone, fluting gaily as he had
On the Ist of February, 1756, he landed at Dover, after an absence of nearly two years in all. Having, it is believed, not a farthing in his pockets, it took him about a fortnight, and some comic singing in country barns, to pull himself on to London. He was twenty-seven years and three months old when he first set his ' foot in the London streets, and he was to be a Londoner and nothing else all the rest of his life.
Ah! London, London ! thou breaker of hearts from of old, thou wrecker of generations of lives, thou insatiable maw of the bones and brains of men, vast over thy flat acres, then as now, spread thy fabric of brick and stone, of squares and alleys and streets, with rising steeples among them and iron-railed church.!! yards--divided, then as now, by the flowing and ebbing river, and on either side the river the same roar of traffic and wheels, and the same rush and skurry of myriads, all competing for existence, and some for its prizes and sweets ! Didst thou note, thou half-brutal London of that day, a certain few of those ! myriads, on either bank of the river, whose occupation seemed to be the most foolish and peculiar of any—a constant coming down to the river with lighted matches, papers, tapers, torches, oil-pots, and all sorts of combustibles, in their
hands, and trying to set the moving tide on fire? Not one of them succeeded; and the Thames flows yet an unburnt, and apparently unburnable, river, hissing at the biggest torch that can be Aung into it. But the attempt to set it on fire has been a traditional employment from time immemorial, and so fascinating that Englishmen born far away from London, and even Scotchmen and Irishmen, have left their own native, and probably more combustible, streams, and set themselves down, each with his new trick for inflaming water, on the banks of this large one. Poor fellows ! it does the Thames no harm, and it amuses them! Strange, however, that it is precisely those Londoners, native or naturalized, who have been engaged in this hopeless occupation, that the world cares to remember afterwards! All their contemporary myriads, otherwise occupied, are forgotten; and the very history of London is a record of the successive groups of men that have laboured at setting fire to the Thames. Well, thou big halfbrutal London of February 1756, here is another young fellow, footsore from Dover, on his return from a wild continental tour, who enters thee on thy south side, and is staring about him confusedly. He has himself no notion in the world what he is to do; but, from his looks, one may prophesy that he will have to attach himself to your existing group of Thames-kindlers. He seems fit for nothing else. True, he has a diploma of M.B. from some foreign University (whether Leyden, Louvain, or Padua, no one knows), and may practise medicine, and even call himself, by courtesy, “Dr.” Goldsmith. But who would trust such a short, mean-visaged, odd-looking fellow, to bleed him or prescribe for him? Clearly, whatever he may try, he can be nothing else eventually than one of the lucifer-match brigade. Meanwhile receive him as gently as you can! · He is one of the best-hearted creatures that ever came out of Ireland, without a bit of harm in him, and indeed a great deal wiser and cleverer than he looks.
A Little information will be more welcome than farther exclamation or the overworking of a hackneyed image. –Well, the population of London in 1756 was about 700,000. The reign of George II., which had already extended over Dearly thirty years, was approaching its close. In home-politics what was chiefly interesting was the persistence in office of the Duke of Newcastle's unpopular ministry—opposed, however, by Pitt (afterwards Lord Chatham), and soon to give way before the genius of that statesman, and to be succeeded by that blaze of Pitt's ascendancy which makes the last years of George II. so brilliant a period in British annals. For Britain and Frederick the Great of Prussia were already on an understanding with each other, and the Seven Years' War was beginning. Not till 1757, indeed, when Pitt became Prime Minister, did the alliance begin to promise its splendid results-Clive's conquests in India, Wolfe's in America, &c. Just at present, whide Newcastle was in power, things had a blacker look. Byng's blundering at Minorca, the all but certain loss of Hanover, and the like—these were the topics for the 700,000 Londoners; unless they chose to talk rather of such matters nearer home, as the building of the new chapel for Whitefield in Tottenham Court Road, or the opening of the Foundling Hospital, or the proposed taking down of the old
houses on London Bridge. To assist them to proper opinions on these and all other subjects, there were the London newspapers of that date-daily, weekly, and bi-weekly, Whig, Tory, and what not; and, in addition to the newspapers, quite an abundance of critical journals, reviews, and magazines. For it was beginning to be a very busy time in British literature. That organization of literature into a commerce which the Tonsons may be said to have commenced had now been pretty well improved and regularized. It was no longer on the Court, or on Whig and Tory Ministers, or on the casual patronage of noblemen of taste, that men oi letters depended, but on the demand of the general public of readers and bookpurchasers, as it could be ascertained and catered for by booksellers making publishing their business. The centre of this book-trade was naturally London ; and here, accordingly, hanging on the booksellers, and writing for the newspapers and magazines, but with side-glances also to the theatres and their managers, were now congregated such a host of authors and critics by profession as had never been known in London before. To borrow from Mr. Forster a convenient list of those whom we have now dismissed into oblivion as the smaller fry of this Grub Street world of London in the latter days of George II., there were the “Purdons, Hills, Willingtons, Kenricks, Kellys, Shiels, Smarts, Bakers, Guthries, Wotys, Ryders, Collyers, Joneses, Francklins, Pilkingtons, Huddleston Wynnes, and Hiffernans." They did not consider themselves small fry, but were busy and boisterous enough-the Irish among them fighting with the Scotch, and both with the English; and perhaps the last-named Irishman, Hiffernan, ought to have a place in literary history still, as the inventor of the grand word "impecuniosity." But in the midst of these less-known or forgotten one would seek out now the figures of those who were undoubtedly the Thames-kindlers in chief. And first among these comes Johnson, now forty-seven years of age, and a Londoner already for nearly twenty years—not yet “Dr.,” and not in possession of his literary dictatorship, though advancing towards it. The poet Young was alive in old age, and at least occasionally in London ; and Londoners confirmed were Richardson, approaching his seventieth year, and with all his novels published, and Smollett, not past his thirty-seventh year, but with some of his best novels published, and now working hard at histories, reviews, and all sorts of things. Fielding had been dead two years, and Sterne, though some years over forty, had not yet been heard of. The poet Collins was dying, in madness, at Chichester. Slump together the veteran and not much-liked Mallet, and Armstrong, Glover, Akenside, Garrick, Foote, Murphy, and the Wartons, without being too particular in inquiring whether they ! were all in London habitually at the exact time under consideration; remember also that Chesterfield, Warburton, Dyer, Shenstone, Gray, Horace Walpole, and Mason were alive here or there in England, and could be in London if they liked, and that away in Scotland, only dreaming of London in the distance, were a few northern lights, with Allan Ramsay still surviving among them ; finally imagine Burke, who was Goldsmith's junior, already an adventurer in London, and such other men of about Goldsmith's own age as Percy of the Ballads, the satirist
Churchill, and the elder George Colman, either come to London or tending thither ;-and you will have an idea of the state of the world of British letters at the end of the Second George's reign, and also some rough notion of the extent to which that world and its interests interpenetrated London when Goldsmith first gazed about in the crowded streets. And who was the nominal chief or lacreate? Who but Colley Cibber, of whom Johnson had written
Great George's acts let tuneful Cibber sing,
For Nature formed the poet for the king. Bat Cibber, who was now eighty-four years of age, did not live beyond 1757. He Fis succeeded by a William Whitehead, whose laureateship extended from 1757 to 1788. The whole of Goldsmith's literary career, as it happened, and large portions 2sn of the lives of Johnson, Smollett, Burke, Garrick, Reynolds, and others whom we now associate with Goldsmith, fell within the laureateship of this memorable Whitehead.
We have been attaching Goldsmith to the London world of letters somewhat in anticipation of his own efforts at any such connexion. Not to set the Thames on fire
, but to get anything whatever to do by which he could earn sheer bread for his oun teeth and mouth, with a daily gulp of beer, was the poor fellow's one object during a whole year after his arrival in London. It was desperate work, and the details were locked up, for the most part, in his own memory, and never told connectedly to anybody. “When I lived among the beggars in Axe Lane,” he woald sometimes afterwards say with a laugh; and there are traces of him in various capacities just above Axe Lane and its beggars. He was, for some time, an usher somewhere under a false name; he was then employed in the shop of a druggist in Fish-street Hill; next he is heard of as having set up for himself as a physician among I the poor of Bankside, and as wearing a miserable second-hand suit of green and 'gold; and again he is found as reader for the press to Richardson, the novelist and printer, his printing office in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. Of this last connexion, in which one might have fancied some likelihood, nothing more came than some acquaintance with Richardson himself and a sight of the poet Young; and Goldsmith had some glorious project of getting appointed to go out to the East, on a salary of 300l, a year, to decipher the inscriptions on “the Written Mountains” (the necessary Arabic to be learnt in the process), when an ushership in a boardingschool of the better sort turned up at Peckham. Here he lived for some time with Dr. Milner, a Dissenting minister, the proprietor of the school, and was apparently bot worse off than other ushers. One day, however, Griffiths, the bookseller of | Patemoster Row, dined with the Milners, and, from something he saw or had heard of the Irish usher, fancied he might be useful for hackwork on the Monthly Review |- a periodical which had been started by Griffiths in 1749 on Whig principles, but against which a Tory rival had recently been set up in the Critical Review, edited by
Smollett. After getting some specimens of what Goldsmith could do in the kind of work wanted, Griffiths was discerning enough to engage him. Accordingly, in April 1757, he took up his quarters in the house of Griffiths, over the shop in