페이지 이미지

bush, persuading her that his father, her own husband, is a highwayman, and that he is come to cut their throats: and to give his cousin an opportunity to go off, he drives his mother over hedges, ditches, and through ponds. There is not, sweet sucking Johnson, a natural stroke in the whole play, but the young fellow's giving the stolen jewels to the mother, supposing her to be the landlady. That Mr Colman did no justice to this piece, I honestly allow; that he told all his friends that it would be damned, I positively aver; and, from such ungenerous insinuations, without a dramatic merit, it rose to public notice; and it is now the ton to go and see it, though I never saw a person that either liked it, or approved it, any more than the absurd plot of Home's tragedy of Alonzo. Mr Goldsmith, correct your arrogance, reduce your vanity, and endeavour to believe, as a man, you are of the plainest sort; and, as an author, but a mortal piece of mediocrity.

Brise le mirroir infidele,
Qui vous cache la verité.



It has been already mentioned in the Life of Goldsmith, (see vol. i. p. 51,) that this epitaph gave rise to a sort of respectful remonstrance by some of the poet's friends, which was forwarded to Dr Johnson in the form of a Round Robin. Our readers will not be displeased to find this literary curiosity, together with its history, transferred from the amusing pages of Boswell to the illustration of the works of the poet, whose memory so many distinguished men were anxious to honour. We also transcribe two letters from Johnson to Sir Joshua Reynolds on the same subject:


"DEAR SIR, I have been kept away from you, I know not well how, and of these vexatious hinderances I know not when there will be an end. I therefore send you the poor dear Doctor's epitaph. Read it first yourself; and if you then think it right, shew it to the Club. I am, you know, willing to be corrected. If you think any thing much amiss, keep it to yourself, till we come together. I have sent two copies, but prefer the card. The dates must be settled by Dr Percy. am, sir, your most humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON." "May 16, 1776."


"SIR,Miss Reynolds has a mind to send the epitaph to Dr Beattie ; I am very willing, but having no copy, cannot immediately recollect She tells me you have lost it. Try to recollect, and put down as much as you retain ; you perhaps may have kept what I have dropped.




The lines for which I am at a loss are something of rerum civilium sive naturalium.* It was a sorry trick to lose it; help me if you can. I am, sir, your most humble servant,

"June 22, 1776.


"The gout grows better but slowly."

"It was, I think, after I had left London in this year," continues Boswell, that this epitaph gave occasion to a Remonstrance to the Monarch of literature, for an account of which I am indebted to Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo.

"Sir William Forbes writes to me thus: I enclose the Round Robin. This jeu d'esprit took its rise one day at dinner at our friend Sir Joshua Reynolds's. All the company present, except myself, were friends and acquaintance of Dr Goldsmith. The epitaph, written for him by Dr Johnson, became the subject of conversation, and various emendations were suggested, which it was agreed should be submitted to the Doctor's consideration. But the question was, who should have the courage to propose them to him. At last it was hinted, that there could be no way so good as that of a Round Robin, as the sailors call it, which they make use of when they enter into a conspiracy, so as not to let it be known who puts his name first or last to the paper. This proposition was instantly assented to; and Dr Barnard, Dean of Derry, now Bishop of Killaloe, drew up an address to Dr Johnson on the occasion, replete with wit and humour, but which it was feared the Doctor might think treated the subject with too much levity. Mr Burke then proposed the address as it stands in the paper in writing, to which I had the honour to officiate as clerk. "Sir Joshua agreed to carry it to Dr Johnson, who received it with much good humour, † and desired Sir Joshua to tell the gentlemen, that he would alter the epitaph in any manner they pleased, as to the sense of it; but he would never consent to disgrace the walls of Westminster Abbey with an English inscription.

"I consider this Round Robin as a species of literary curiosity worth preserving, as it marks, in a certain degree, Dr Johnson's character."


"We, the circumscribers, having read with great pleasure, an intended epitaph for the monument of Dr Goldsmith, which, considered abstractedly, appears to be, for elegant composition and masterly style, in every respect worthy of the pen of its learned author, are yet of opinion, that the character of the deceased as a writer, particularly as a poet, is perhaps not delineated with all the exactness which Dr Johnson is capable of giving it. We, therefore, with deference to his superior judgment, humbly request that he would at least take the trouble of revising it, and of making such additions and alterations as he shall

* These words must have been in the other copy. They are not in that which was preferred.

+"He, however, upon seeing Dr Warton's name to the suggestion, that the epitaph should be in English, observed to Sir Joshua, I wonder that Joe Warton, a scholar by profession, should be such a fool.' He said, too, I should have thought Mund Burke would have had more scase.' Mr Langton, who was one of the company at Sir Joshua's, like a sturdy scholar, resolutely refused to sign the Round Robin. This epitaph is engraved upon Dr Goldsmith's monument without any alteration."

think proper, upon a farther perusal. But, if we might venture to express our wishes, they would lead us to request that he would write the epitaph in English rather than in Latin, as we think that the memory of so eminent an English writer ought to be perpetuated in the language to which his works are likely to be so lasting an ornament; which we also know to have been the opinion of the late Doctor himself."

This remonstrance was circumscribed with the following names : — "Edm. Burke, Tho. Franklin, Ant. Chamier, G. Colman, Wm. Vackell, J. Reynolds, W. Forbes, T. Barnard, R. B. Sheridan, P. Metcalfe, E. Gibbon, Jos. Warton."


It will be gratifying to the admirers of Goldsmith, to find that his memory is still fondly cherished in the neighbourhood of his birth-place. The following account is extracted from the Gentleman's Magazine for 1820.

ON the 29th of November, some distinguished friends of taste and literature in Ireland, held a meeting at Ballymahon, to celebrate the anniversary of the celebrated poet, Oliver Goldsmith; and also for the purpose of devising the most practicable means of erecting a pillar to his memory, on that fascinating spot, in Lishoy, which presented to his eye the most agreeable horizon in nature. Unlike Swift, Congreve, and other ingrates, who either denied their country, or left no traces in their writings by which it could be ascertained, Goldsmith identified himself and his divine poetry with the localities of his natal spot, his inimitable delineations of which have elicited such universal feelings of admiration and delight. His memory, therefore, is well entitled to some public testimonial of regard from a country which derives so much honour from his birth; and we feel no doubt of the success of this laudable and spirited undertaking. We have been given to understand that it will not be necessary for any individual to subscribe more than a small sum, payable, in separate portions, on the two succeeding birth-days of the Poet; for it is reasonably expected that the subscription will be as general in Ireland as the feeling which has suggested it, in a country so remarkably distinguished for the literary taste and capabilities of its people. The Scotch have set us an example, very lately, by erecting a splendid pillar, near Dumfries, to the memory of Burns. The Bard of Avon has long been the idol of taste in England, where, in every village that can boast of having produced an eminent literary character, the spot of his nativity is pointed out with conscious exultation; but in Ireland, the only memorial of her Goldsmith, buried in a foreign land- of him whose heart, untravelled, still fondly turned to her. -is his own old hawthorn tree in Lishoy, now nearly cut away by literary pilgrims, whose devotion to Goldsmith and his Deserted Village, shame the apathy of a country which has left both without a mark of public honour for almost half a century.

On the opening of the business, the Reverend Mr Graham, of Lifford, addressed the meeting nearly in the following words:

"We are assembled here, gentlemen, upon an occasion as interesting to the scholar, the philosopher, or the statesman, as any other which has occurred in this island for many centuries. We are all sufficiently aware of the great value of education, particularly of that description of it which has been denominated classical - how it distinguishes one man from another, almost as much as nature has distinguished man from the order of beings below him in the creation. Education of that kind acquires and preserves rank in society, as well as the means of supporting that rank. Countless families have risen by it into opulence and distinction,

witness the descendants of men of the different learned professions, who are now, in almost every county of Ireland, proprietors of that soil on which the founders of their families, with difficulty, obtained the rudiments of the education which raised them from the lower walks of life, to be rulers of the land, to sit among princes: and as many at least have, by the neglect of education, fallen in a generation or two from the highest walks of life, into the lowest state of obscurity and indigence. Connected most intimately with the cause of education is that of literature, by which the minds of mankind are smoothed, harmonized, and rendered capable of calmly investigating truth, and separating it from falsehood; and by it, next to the divine influence of the Christian faith, are men rescued from that degraded demi-savage state, which ever prevails in the absence of education, rendering them unsocial, diffident, suspicious, and hostile to the slightest gleam of the light of knowledge, which never fails to prove offensive to eyes habituated to darkness,

Omnes hi metuunt versus, odere Poetas.


"The press is ever charged with electric horrors for them Quisquis tibi timet, odit, horret.' From such persons only may we expect either opposition or want of support on the present occasion, and of such a Trulleberian race did Goldsmith himself speak, in his letter to his brother-in-law, Daniel Hudson, Esq. directed to the post-office of Ballymahon, on the 27th of December, 1757, in which the following passages may be found: - Unaccountable, indeed, is it, that a man should have an affection for a place, who never received, when in it, above common civility-who never brought any thing out of it but his brogue and his blunders. But to be serious, let me ask myself what gives me a wish to see Ireland again? The country is a fine one, perhaps? No.-There is good company in Ireland? No. The conversation is there made up of an obscene toast, or an improper song; the vivacity supported by some humble cousin, who has just folly enough to earn his dinner. Then, perhaps, there is more wit and learning among the Irish? No. There has been more money spent in the encouragement of a favourite race-mare there in one season, than given in rewards to men of learning since the times of Usher.'

"But the times, gentlemen, are now altered for the better in all parts of the British empire, as well as in Ireland. We now hear of poets purchasing estates, of booksellers enrolled among the legislators of the realm; and when a man writes, none of his friends (as in the days of Goldsmith) imagine that he starves, or that he lives in a garret. We,

therefore, consider this to be a favourable opportunity of paying a debt of public gratitude, too long due, and hitherto most shamefully neglected, and, therefore, have called this meeting, in the hope of its proving the means of drawing the public attention to the subject of a monument in honour of Oliver Goldsmith, that prodigy of talent and purity, considering the time in which he lived, and the low state of literature in the country which produced him. His poetry stands unrivalled, at this day, for true sublimity and genuine pathos. Disdaining the meretricious ornament and gaudy imagery which characterizes more than one of our modern poets, his finds the way at once to the heart; and such is the classical purity of his muse, that no sentiment is to be found in his charming poems, which the most scrupulous father would withhold from the pure and uncorrupted mind of his child. The same observation may be made of his prose: his unrivalled Vicar of Wakefield, his Citizen of the World, his Essays, his Abridgment of History, -in fact, to use the words of a distinguished Christian philosopher, who was never known to give such unqualified praise to any other writer, ancient or modern,

[blocks in formation]

"But, superadded to his general merit as a poet, a philosopher, and historian, Goldsmith possesses a more endearing claim, if possible, upon the veneration of his country: unlike Swift, Congreve, and others, he never denied his country, or left it a matter of doubt to posterity; on the contrary, we see that, although he had left it early and poorthough he could boast of having received no more than common civility in it, and but little of that even, from persons on whom he had the strongest claim, the love of Ireland was ever uppermost in his mind wherever he went. Her lovely scenery is immortalized in his poems, and he never gave up his intention of returning to the spot where first he drew his breath, 'till he resigned that breath in the arms of a beloved countryman, who attended his deathbed with the tender solicitude of an affectionate brother.' To his brother, the Reverend Henry Goldsmith, at Lissoy, was his Traveller addressed, and to the post-office of Ballymahon the packet, containing that immortal poem, was directed. That Lissoy is the identical spot from which he drew the enchanting scenery of his Deserted Village, has been demonstrated by the late ingenious Dr Newell of Cambridge University, who, a few years ago, republished his poems, with drawings of the Parsonage-house, the Church, the Mill, and the Hawthorn tree, accompanied by notes, which put the matter beyond all doubt to those acquainted with the local history of the country; and this demonstration, gentlemen, came from the pen of a learned Englishman, notwithstanding a line or two in the poem which would seem to indicate that the description was intended for an English village:

A time there was, ere England's griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintain'd its man.

"The scene of his celebrated comedy, The Mistakes of a Night, was laid in the town of Ardagh, in this immediate neighbourhood, as

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »