페이지 이미지


couraged him to finish it for the press; and Dr. Johnson himself contributed a few lines towards the conclusion.

We hear much about “poetic inspiration,” and the “poet's eye in a fine phrensy rolling;” but Sir Joshua Reynolds gives an anecdote of Goldsmith while engaged upon his poem, cal- 5 culated to cure our notions about the ardor of composition. Calling upon the poet one day, he opened the door without ceremony, and found him in the double occupation of turning a couplet and teaching a pet dog to sit upon his haunches. At one time he would glance his eye at his desk, and at an-10 other shake his finger at the dog to make him retain his position. The last lines on the page were still wet; they form à part of the description of Italy:

“By sports like these are all their cares beguiled,

The sports of children satisfy the child." Goldsmith, with his usual good-humor, joined in the laugh caused by his whimsical employment, and acknowledged that his boyish sport with the dog suggested the stanza.

The poem was published on the 19th of December, 1764, in a quarto form, by Newbery, and was the first of his works to 20 which Goldsmith prefixed his name. As a testimony of cherished and well-merited affection, he dedicated it to his brother Henry. There is an amusing affectation of indifference as to its fate expressed in the dedication.

66 What reception a poem may find,” says he, “ which has neither abuse, 25 party, nor blank verse to support it, I cannot tell, nor am I solicitous to know.” The truth is, no one was more emulous and anxious for poetic fame; and never was he more anxious than in the present instance, for it was his grand stake. Dr. Johnson aided the launching of the poem by a favorable notice 30 in the Critical Review; other periodical works came out in its favor. Some of the author's friends complained that it did not command instant and wide popularity; that it was a poem to win, not to strike: it went on rapidly increasing in favor; in three months a second edition was issued; shortly after-35 wards, a third; then a fourth ; and, before the year was out, the author was pronounced the best poet of his time.

The appearance of The Traveller at once altered Gold

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

smith's intellectual standing in the estimation of society; but its effect upon the club, if we may judge from the account given by Hawkins, was almost ludicrous. They were lost in astonishment that a “newspaper essayist” and bookseller's 5 drudge” should have written such a poem. On the evening of its announcement to them Goldsmith had gone away early, after “rattling away as usual,” and they knew not how to reconcile his heedless garrulity with the serene beauty, the

easy grace, the sound good sense, and the occasional elevation 10 of his poetry. They could scarcely believe that such magic

numbers had flowed from a man to whom in general, says Johnson, “it was with difficulty they could give a hearing.” “Well,” exclaimed Chamier, “I do believe he wrote this poem

himself, and let me tell you, that is believing a great deal.” 15 At the next meeting of the club, Chamier sounded the au

thor a little about his poem. “Mr. Goldsmith,” said he, “ what do you mean by the last word in the first line of


Traveller, • Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow'? — do you mean tardi

ness of locomotion ?” — “Yes,” replied Goldsmith, inconsider20 ately, being probably flurried at the moment. No, sir,”

interposed his protecting friend Johnson, "you did not mean tardiness of locomotion; you meant that sluggishness of mind which comes upon a man in solitude.” — “Ah,” exclaimed

Goldsmith, “that was what I meant.” Chamier immediately 25 believed that Johnson himself had written the line, and a

rumor became prevalent that he was the author of many of the finest passages. This was ultimately set at rest by Johnson himself, who marked with a pencil all the verses he had

contributed, nine in number, inserted towards the conclusion, 30 and by no means the best in the poem. He moreover, with

generous warmth, pronounced it the finest poem that had appeared since the days of Pope.

But one of the highest testimonials to the charm of the poem was given by Miss Reynolds, who had toasted poor 35 Goldsmith as the ugliest man of her acquaintance. Shortly

after the appearance of The Traveller, Dr. Johnson read it aloud from beginning to end in her presence. “Well,” exclaimed she, when he had finished, “I never more shall think Dr. Goldsmith ugly!”

[ocr errors]

On another occasion, when the merits of The Traveller were discussed at Reynolds's board, Langton declared “there was not a bad line in the poem, not one of Dryden's careless verses. “I was glad,” observed Reynolds, “ to hear Charles Fox say it was one of the finest poems in the English language.”

Why 5 were you glad?” rejoined Langton, “you surely had no doubt of this before.” “No," interposed Johnson, decisively; "the merit of The Traveller is so well established, that Mr. Fox's praise cannot augment it, nor his censure diminish it.”

Boswell, who was absent from England at the time of the 10 publication of The Traveller, was astonished, on his return, to find Goldsmith, whom he had so much undervalued, suddenly elevated almost to a par with his idol. He accounted for it by concluding that much both of the sentiments and expression of the poem had been derived from conversations with Johnson. 15 “He imitates you, sir,” said this incarnation of toadyism. “Why no, sir,” replied Johnson, “ Jack Hawksworth is one of my imitators, but not Goldsmith. Goldy, sir, has great merit.” “But, sir, he is much indebted to you for his getting so high in the public estimation.” “ Why, sir, he has, perhaps, got sooner 20 to it by his intimacy with me.”

The poem went through several editions in the course of the first year, and received some few additions and corrections from the author's pen. It produced a golden harvest to Mr. Newbery; but all the remuneration on record, doled out by his nig- 25 gard hand to the author, was twenty guineas !



New Lodgings.—Johnson's Compliment. - A Titled Patron.— The Poet

at Northumberland House. - His Independence of the Great. - The Countess of Northumberland. Edwin and Angelina. - Gosfield and Lord Clare. — Publication of Essays.- Evils of a Rising Reputation.— Hangers-on. -- Job-Writing. --- Goody Two-Shoes. A Medical Campaign. - Mrs. Sidebotham.

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-Office Court, and took chambers in the Temple. It is true they were but of humble pretensions, situated on what was then the library

staircase, and it would appear that he was a kind of inmate 5 with Jeffs, the butler of the society. Still he was in the Temple, that classic region rendered famous by the Spectator and other essayists as the abode of gay wits and thoughtful men of letters; and which, with its retired courts and embowered

gardens, in the very heart of a noisy metropolis, is, to the quiet10 seeking student and author, an oasis freshening with verdure

in the midst of a desert. Johnson, who had become a kind of growling supervisor of the poet's affairs, paid him a visit soon after he had installed himself in his new quarters, and went prying about the apartment, in his near-sighted manner, ex15 amining everything minutely. Goldsmith was fidgeted by this

curious scrutiny, and apprehending a disposition to find fault, exclaimed, with the air of a man who had money in both pockets, “ I shall soon be in better chambers than these.” The

harmless bravado drew a reply from Johnson, which touched 20 the chord of proper pride.“ Nay, sir," said he,“ never mind

that. Nil te quæsiveris extra,” — implying that his reputation rendered him independent of outward show. Happy would it have been for poor Goldsmith, could he have kept this consola

tory compliment perpetually in mind, and squared his expenses 25 accordingly.

Among the persons of rank who were struck with the merits of The Traveller was the Earl (afterwards Duke) of Northumberland. He procured several other of Goldsmith's writings,

the perusal of which tended to elevate the author in his good 30 opinion, and to gain for him his good will.. The Earl held the

office of Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and understanding Goldsmith was an Irishman, was disposed to extend to him the patronage which his high post afforded. He intimated the

same to his relative, Dr. Percy, who, he found, was well ac35 quainted with the poet, and expressed a wish that the latter

should wait upon him. Here, then, was another opportunity for Goldsmith to better his fortune, had he been knowing and worldly enough to profit by it. Unluckily the path to fortune lay through the aristocratical mazes of Northumberland House,


and the poet blundered at the outset. The following is the account he used to give of his visit: “I dressed myself in the best manner I could, and, after studying some compliments I thought necessary on such an occasion, proceeded to Northumberland House, and acquainted the servants that I had particular 5 business with the Duke. They showed me into an antechamber, where, after waiting some time, a gentleman, very elegantly dressed, made his appearance : taking him for the Duke, I delivered all the fine things I had composed in order to compliment him on the honor he had done me; when, to my great astonish- 10 ment, he told me I had mistaken him for his master, who would see me immediately. At that instant the Duke came into the apartment, and I was so confounded on the occasion that I wanted words barely sufficient to express the sense I entertained of the Duke's politeness, and went away exceedingly chagrined 15 at the blunder I had committed.”

Sir John Hawkins, in his Life of Dr. Johnson, gives some farther particulars of this visit, of which he was, in part, a wit

“ Having one day,” says he, “a call to make on the late Duke (then Earl) of Northumberland, I found Goldsmith wait- 20 ing for an audience in an outer room: I asked him what had brought him there; he told me, an invitation from his lordship. I made my business as short as I could, and, as a reason, mentioned that Dr. Goldsmith was waiting without. The Earl asked me if I was acquainted with him. I told him that I 25 was, adding what I thought was most likely to recommend him. I retired, and stayed in the outer room to take him home. Upon his coming out, I asked him the result of his conversation. * His lordship,' said he,“ told me he had read my poem, meaning The Traveller, and was much delighted with it; that he was 30 going to be Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and that, hearing I was a native of that country, he should be glad to do me any kindness.

And what did you answer,' said I, “to this gracious offer?' Why,' said he, “I could say nothing but that I had a brother there, a clergyman, that stood in need of help: as for 35 myself, I have no great dependence on the promises of great men; I look to the booksellers for support; they are my best friends, and I am not inclined to forsake them for others.' “ Thus," continues Sir John, “ did this idiot in the affairs of

« 이전계속 »