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of his works, on the authority of the ,Bishop of Dromore.
“ And when, beside me in the dale,
He carol'd lays of love,
And music to the grove.” The remainder of Goldsmith's Poems come under the description of jeux d'esprit. Some of them scarcely deserve a place in a collection of English poetry, being more fit for a jest-book or a collection of songs and epigrams: of this character are “The Gift,” the imitation of a French madrigal, and the Epitaph on Ned Purdon, which ought never to have appeared as the production of the author of The DESERTED VILLAGE.
The poetical works of Oliver Goldsmith form, however, as is well known, but a small proportion of the fruits of his industry, and the proofs of his genius. His fame, as a prose-writer, rests on scarcely inferior pretensions to excellence. His “ Citizen OF THE World," originally published in a periodical paper called “The LEDGER;" his occasional“ ESSAYS,"first published in a collected form in 1765; and, above all, his inimitable tale “The VICAR OF WAKEFIELD;"? exhibit a fertility of intellectual resources, a fund of wit and humour, and a familiar acquaintance with human nature, which entitle bin to rank among the foremost of the English classics. The latter production, like Johnson's Rasselas, was written from the spur of necessity. Goldsmith composed the tale in his lodgings, in Wine Office Court, Fleet Street, “attended,” as we are informed by his biographer, “with the affecting circumstance of his being under arrest.”. Through the friendship of Dr. Johnson, he obtained from Newberry, the bookseller, sixty pounds for the manuscript,-a handsome sum in those times; especially considering that Goldsmith's fame had not then been established by the publication of his Tra. VELLER. This sum procured his enlargement: but the bookseller kept the manuscript by him two years before he ventured to publish it.
Poor Goldsmith was but too subject to these pecuniary difficulties, into which he was often betrayed by his imprudence, and then he escaped by the force of his talents. In a letter to his relative, Daniel Hodson, Esq. of Lishoy, he alludes to his precarious mode of livelihood, and refers to Scarron, who used jestingly to call himself the Marquis of Quenault, from the name of the bookseller that employed him: “and why,” he adds,“ may I not assert my privilege and quality on the same pretensions ?” Then, remarking that they had in Ireland a very indifferent idea of a man who writes for bread, he consoles bimself with the recollection, that “ Swift and Steele did so in the earliest part of their lives.” Of all the literary artisans of the day, however, Goldsmith, if not the least industrious, was not the least successful. He had no reason to complain of his patrons, the booksellers. For one compilation he received eight hundred and fifty pounds; and the money which he earned by similar undertakings, exclusive of the profits arising from his comedies, would, with habits of prudence and decent economy, have rendered him independent, if not affluent. It is said that he composed his prose works with singular facility, scarcely a correction occurring in whole quires of his histories; but his versification was submitted to patient and incessant revisal.
The notice of Dr. Goldsmith's productions has naturally led to the exhibition of his literary character, and with this, one would think, the reader's curiosity might be satisfied: but it is remarkable, that while with respect to the historian, the natural philosopher, and other authors, we are contented with the display which they make of themselves in their works, it is otherwise with a man whom we regard as a genuine poet. Immediately a desire is excited to learn his physiognomy, to be made acquainted with the details of his private history, and if possible to be admitted to more confidential intercourse. How is this to be accounted for? Is the poet, ne
necessarily, a more elevated and interesting character than the prose-writer? On the contrary, is it not too often found, that the imagination has been cultivated or indulged, at the expense of the proportionate developement of the other faculties, and at the expense of those moral habits which have so important an influence on the conduct in after-life? Is not that combination of genius and practical imbecility, of exalted faculty and indecision or incapacity of action, which marks too many of those characters, the natural result of a partial, and therefore imperfect cultivation of the mental powers? How often is our curiosity to be made acquainted with the author of works of fascinating beauty and tenderness gratified to the loss or the diminution of the pleasure which they at first awakened! But the fact is, that the very name of the poet appeals to the imagination in a way in which that of no other writer does. His works present to us an ideal character, framed of the elements of sentiment and feeling scattered through his works; and it is with this ideal character, from the strong sympathy his sentiments bave awakened, that we desire to hold more intimate intercourse. Yet knowledge the most extensive-feeling the most refined and rectitude of principle, are often dissociated so widely, as to appear to have no necessary connexion with each other; and when we find this practically illustrated in the memoirs of the poet, it is not easy to renew the pleasing illusion, and to recover the features of the imaginary portrait which the reality has displaced.
Oliver Goldsmith was born on the 29th of November, 1728. The place of his birth has been controverted. Dr. Johnson, in the epitaph for his monumental stone, states it to have been Pallas, in the parish of Forney, county of Longford; which is sanctioned by his biographer, the Bishop of Dromore. The record of his admission at college describes him as born in the county of Westmeath, which may have arisen from his father baving, subsequently to his birth, obtained the living of Kilkenny West, in that county. Another account states him to have been born at Elphin, in the county of Roscommon, where his maternal grandfather, the Rev.Oliver Jones, resided, as master of the Diocesan school.
Here be received part of his education. Oliver was the second among five sons, and born unexpectedly, after an interval of seven years from the birth of the former child. Of his elder brother, Henry, their father had formed the most sanguine hopes from the early promise he gave of distinguishing himself; and the liberal education wbich Mr. Goldsmith was bestowing upon him, bearing hard upon his small income, he could only propose to bring up Oliver to some mercantile employment. Henry, according to the account given by his elder sister, Mrs. Hodson, "unfortunately married at the early age of nineteen; which confined him to a curacy, and prevented his rising to preferment in the church."
Mrs. Hodson describes her brother Oliver as exhibiting, even in childhood, all the waywardness, as well as the intellectual signs of genius. At the age of seven or eight, he amused his friends with his poetical attempts. He was the infant Edwin, as portrayed in the Minstrel-in every respect but his personal appearance. This, it seems, was so far removed from grace and beauty that when being but nine years old, he was one day required to dance a hornpipe before a large assembly at his uncle's, the musician very archly, as he supposed, compared him to Æsop dancing. The fiddler, however, had suddenly, as we are informed by Mrs. Hodson, ibe laugh turned against him, by Oliver's stopping short in the dance with this retort:
“ Our herald hath proclaim'd this saying,
See Æsop dancing, and his monkey playing.” This smart reply, it is said, decided his fortune, for from that time his friends determined to send him to the university. After passing some years in the schools of Athlone, and at Edgeworth’s Town, under the Rev. Patric Hughes, he was entered as a sizer at Dublin College, on the 11th of June, 1744, under the Rev. Theaker Wilder, one of the fellows; a man of harsh temper and violent passions, with whom Goldsmith, by his irregularities, was soon involved in most disagreeable broils, and from whom he experienced the most irritating treatment and unremitting persecution. Once he left college, having disposed of his books and clothes, with the resolution to leave the country;
but he was soon driven back, like the prodigal, by necessity. While he was at college, soon after this event, his worthy father died, of whom he gives an account in the Citizen of the World, under the character of the man in black. His uncle, the Rev. Thomas Contarine, who had contributed to support him at college, pressed him to prepare for holy orders; but an unsettled turn of mind, an unquenchable desire of visiting other countries, and perhaps an ingenuous sense of his unfitness for the clerical profession, conspired to disincline bim to the church; and when at length he offered himself as a candidate to Bishop Synge, he was on some account or other refused ordination. The ill treatment and mortifications, indeed, to which he was subjected at college from his savage tutor, completely discouraged him; and from despondence he sank into habitual indolence : yet his genius, it is said, sometimes dawned through the gloom; and “translations from the classics, made by him at this period,” were long “ remembered by his contemporaries with applause.” He was not however admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts, till February 27, 1749, O.S. two years after the regular time.