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traits of his character might be traced in the simplehearted and benevolent Vicar of Wakefield. The only other relation whom our author has commemorated in his works, is his eldest brother Henry, who adopted his father's profession, and inherited much of his amiable and unostentatious character, together with a slight portion of that imprudence which seems to have been a family characteristic ; for he married at the early age of nineteen, and, retiring to a country curacy, disappointed those sanguine expectations which his friends had formed of his future career, from the talent and learning which he is said to have displayed at college. For this orother, to whose good offices and liberality he had frequent occasion to appeal in the earlier part of his life, Goldsmith always entertained the warmest affection: he inscribed to him his Traveller in a strain of respectful fondness; he frequently consulted him about his literary plans ; and, in 1767, when the Earl, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, who had just then been appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, invited the poet to an interview, and offered him his protection, he declined asking any favour for himself, but recommended his brother Henry to his patronage.
His father, who had already stretched his slender means to secure a liberal education for his eldest son, destined Oliver for some mercantile employment. He was accordingly sent to a sort of hedge-school in the parish, for the purpose of being initiated in the necessary branches of reading, writing, and arithmetic. His preceptor, of whom the schoolmaster in the Deserted Village is supposed to be a faithful portrait, was an eccentric fellow, an old soldier who had served in Spain
* Sir John Hawkins's Life of Johnson,
under the Earl of Peterborough, during the War of the Succession; and from this learned vagabond, who encouraged his pupil's love of the marvellous by strange stories of his own travels and military adventures, young Goldsmith is said to have imbibed those wandering propensities and unsettled habits which formed so remarkable a feature of his character through life. * Under such a master, his proficiency in learning was probably not very great. It is said, however, that, even at this early period, he gave such indications of talent, as encouraged his friends to alter his original destination, and educate him for one of the learned professions. This plan was first proposed by his mother, with whom he was always a favourite; and the chief objection to it being removed by an offer, on the part of some of his relations,t to bear a portion of the expense, it received the sanction of his father ; the more readily, perhaps, that the youthful poet had already begun to manifest irregularities of temper and conduct, which threatened to disqualify him for the quiet routine of business. He was accordingly withdrawn from the humble seminary of his military friend, and placed under the care of the Rev. Mr Griffin, at Elphin : he was afterwards removed to Athlone; and lastly, to Edgeworthstown, in the county of Longford, where he studied under the Rev. Mr Hughes, preparatory to his being sent to the University. It was on his journey to the last mentioned school, that he is said † to have himself met with the adventure which suggested the groundwork of his comedy She Stoops to Conquer, where the lover mistakes the house of his mistress's
* Mrs Hodson's Narrative.
father for an inn. Having inquired of one Kelly, an itinerant fencing master, whom he fell in with by the way, which was the best house in the neighbourhood, meaning the best inn, Kelly, wilfully mistaking his meaning, directed him to the squire's, * where he soon after arrived; and, with all the importance of a youth who, for the first time, found himself his own master with money in his pocket, having left his horse to be taken care of by a servant, who naturally supposed the young traveller had come on a visit to his master, he marched into the house, where he found the owner of the mansion, and ordered him to get ready a good supper. The gentleman at once perceived his mistake, but on ascertaining the name of his youthful guest, being an acquaintance of his father, he resolved to humour the jest. Young Goldsmith, with the extravagant liberality which so strongly marked his character in after life, invited his landlord, together with his wife and two daughters, to sup with him ; and after spending a happy evening with them, retired to rest, having previously ordered a hot cake to be prepared for his breakfast. It was not till next morning, when he called for his bill, that he was informed of his mistake. Such is the story, probably exaggerated, if indeed it had any foundation in fact.
In June, 1744, he was sent to Dublin, and entered Trinity College as a Sizer, † which implies that he had attained more than the usual proficiency in regard to previous study. Here, however, his progress was not so
* In Dramatic Table Talk, vol. iji. this gentleman is stated to have been Sir Ralph Featherstone, on the alleged authority of Sir Ralph's son. See also Rev. Mr Graham's speech on the anniversary of Goldsmith's birth day, Vol. IV. Appendix.
+ College Record.
distinguished as might have been expected from a mind of great acuteness, and feelingly alive to the admiration which is secured by successful exertion. This has been ascribed * to his misfortune in being placed under a tutor of harsh temper and violent passions, whose system of discipline appears to have been unnecessarily rigorous, and in the case of Goldsmith, singularly injudicious. Upon one occasion, this gentleman thought proper to inflict corporal punishment on his pupil, then a youth of eighteen, in the presence of some young friends of both sexes, whom, with his characteristic indiscretion, he had invited to a supper and dance in his room. Indignant at receiving such treatment, he immediately disposed of his books and part of his clothes, and, privately leaving college, commenced the life of a wanderer. f What little money he had was soon spent, and he now discovered the imprudence of having thrown himself upon the world, without friends, fortune, or prospects. He subsisted for some days on his last shilling, and after this was spent, experienced such extremity of hunger, that a handful of pease, which he received from a country girl at a wake, was considered by him as a luxurious meal. He at length adopted the prudent resolution of making his situation known to his brother Henry, who immediately supplied him with such necessaries as he required, and, carrying him back to college, effected an accommodation between him and his tutor, Mr Wilder. This reconciliation, however convenient for both parties, was probably not very cordial on either side: the ingenuous nature of Goldsmith entitled him to more generous treatment than he appears to have
* By Dr Percy, Sir Egerton Brydges, &c. + His first intention was to get on ship-board at Cork, and quit his native country for ever.
received; while, on the other hand, his extreme thoughtlessness and repeated irregularities must have given frequent and just provocation to a man of hasty temper and bigoted to the strict observance of college rules. But on whichever side the fault lay, it is certain that the differences between the tutor and his pupil had a very unfavourable influence on the studies of the latter; for he was not admitted to the degree of Bachelot of Arts, till February, 1749,* two years after the regular time. It has, indeed, been hinted, that his tardy progress at College ought to be ascribed less to the neglect of his tutor and his own irregular habits, than to an original slowness of parts which gave no early promise of future excellence. According to Dr Johnson, “ Goldsnith was a plant that flowered late;" f and this opinion has been adopted by several of his biographers, but apparently without sufficient consideration. His claims to superior scholarship were never called in question by those who knew him best and judged him most severely ; and, indeed, his writings furnish sufficient evidence that his mind was deeply imbued with classical literature We have no reason to believe, however, that such studies occupied much of his attention after leaving Dublin ; his natural indolence, and the early necessity of directing his attention to pursuits more immediately profitable, render the supposition altogether improbable: we are therefore entitled to conclude, that his acquirements in this respect were made either at Mr Hughes's seminary or at college, and that at one or both he must have been a successful, if not a distinguished student. We have also the testimony of his fellow-student, Edmund Burke, to his having displayed very con
* Dr Wilson of Trinity College.
+ Boswell's Life of Johnson.