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tion are fixed or estimated; and then he is, as in other professions, only paid for his previous labors."
He was, however, prepared to try his fortune in a different walk of literature from any he had yet attempted. We have 5 repeatedly adverted to his fondness for the drama; he was a frequent attendant at the theatres; though, as we have shown, he considered them under gross mismanagement. He thought, too, that a vicious taste prevailed among those who wrote for the stage.
“ A new species of dramatic composition,” says he, 10 in one of his essays, “ has been introduced under the name of
sentimental comedy, in which the virtues of private life are exhibited rather than the vices exposed; and the distresses rather than the faults of mankind make our interest in the
piece. In these plays almost all the characters are good, and 15 exceedingly generous; they are lavish enough of their tin
money on the stage ; and though they want humor, have abundance of sentiment and feeling. If they happen to have faults or foibles, the spectator is taught not only to pardon, but
to applaud them in consideration of the goodness of their 20 hearts; so that folly, instead of being ridi ed, is commen
and the comedy aims at touching our passions, without the power of being truly pathetic. In this manner we are likely to lose one great source of entertainment on the stage; for
while the comic poet is invading the province of the tragic 25 muse, he leaves her lively sister quite neglected.
Of this, however, he is no ways solicitous, as he measures his fame by his profits. ·
“ Humor at present seems to be departing from the stage; and it will soon happen that our comic players will have noth30 ing left for it but a fine coat and a song. It depends upon the
audience whether they will actually drive those poor merry creatures from the stage, or sit at a play as gloomy as at the tabernacle. It is not easy to recover an art when once lost;
and it will be a just punishment, that when, by our being too 35 fastidious, we have banished humor from the stage, we should ourselves be deprived of the art of laughing.”
Symptoms of reform in the drama had recently taken place. The comedy of The Clandestine Marriage, the joint production of Colman and Garrick, and suggested by Hogarth's inimi.
table pictures of Marriage a la mode, had taken the town by storm, crowded the theatre with fashionable audiences, and formed one of the leading literary topics of the year. Goldsmith's emulation was roused by its success. The comedy was in what he considered the legitimate line, totally different from 5 the sentimental school; it presented pictures of real life, delineations of character and touches of humor, in which he felt himself calculated to excel. The consequence was, that in the course of this year (1766) he commenced a comedy of the same class, to be entitled The Good-natured Man, at which he dili- 10 gently wrought whenever the hurried occupation of “bookbuilding" allowed him leisure.
Social Position of Goldsmith; His Colloquial Contests with Johnson. —
Anecdotes and Illustrations.
THE social position of Goldsmith had undergone a material change since the publication of The Traveller. Before that event he was but partially known as the author of some clever 15 anonymous writings, and had been a tolerated member of the club and the Johnson circle, without much being expected from him. Now he had suddenly risen to literary fame, and become one of the lions of the day. The highest regions of intellectual society were now open to him; but he was not 20 prepared to move in them with confidence and success. Ballymahon had not been a good school of manners at the outset of life; nor had his experience as a poor student” at colleges and medical schools contributed to give him the polish of society. He had brought from Ireland, as he said, nothing 25 but his “ brogue and his blunders," and they had never left him. He had travelled, it is true; but the Continental tour which in those days gave the finishing grace to the education of a patrician youth, had, with poor Goldsmith, been little better than a course of literary vagabondizing. It had enriched 30 his mind, deepened and widened the benevolence of his heart,
and filled his memory with enchanting pictures, but it had contributed little to disciplining him for the polite intercourse of the world. His life in London had hitherto been a struggle with sordid cares and sad humiliations. “You scarcely can 5 conceive,” wrote he some time previously to his brother,
* how much eight years of disappointment, anguish, and study have worn me down.” Several more years had since been added to the term during which he had trod the lowly walks of life.
He had been a tutor, an apothecary's drudge, a petty physician 10 of the suburbs, a bookseller's hack, drudging for daily bread.
Each separate walk had been beset by its peculiar thorns and humiliations. It is wonderful how his heart retained its gentleness and kindness through all these trials; how his mind
rose above the “meannesses of poverty,” to which, as he says, 15 he was compelled to submit; but it would be still more wonder
ful, had his manners acquired a tone corresponding to the innate grace and refinement of his intellect. He was near forty years of age when he published The Traveller, and was lifted
by it into celebrity. As is beautifully said of him by one of 20 his biographers, "he has fought his way to consideration and
esteem; but he bears upon him the scars of his twelve years' conflict; of the mean sorrows through which he has passed; and of the cheap indulgences he has sought relief and help from. There is nothing plastic in his nature now.
His man25 ners and habits are completely formed; and in them any fur
ther success can make little favorable change, whatever it may effect for his mind or genius.” 1
We are not to be surprised, therefore, at finding him make an awkward figure in the elegant drawing-rooms which were 30 now open to him, and disappointing those who had formed an
idea of him from the fascinating ease and gracefulness of his poetry.
Even the literary club, and the circle of which it formed a part, after their surprise at the intellectual flights of which he 35 showed himself capable, fell into a conventional mode of judg
ing and talking of him, and of placing him in absurd and whimsical points of view. His very celebrity operated here to his disadvantage. It brought him into continual comparison
1 Forster's Goldsmith.
with Johnson, who was the oracle of that circle and had given it a tone. Conversation was the great staple there, and of this Johnson was a master. He had been a reader and thinker from childhood : his melancholy temperament, which unfitted him for the pleasures of youth, had made him so. For many years 3 past the vast variety of works he had been obliged to consult in preparing his Dictionary, had stored an uncommonly retentive memory with facts on all kinds of subjects; making it a perfect colloquial armory. “ He had all his life,” says Boswell, “habituated himself to consider conversation as a trial 10 of intellectual vigor and skill. He had disciplined himself as a talker as well as a writer, making it a rule to impart whatever he knew in the most forcible language he could put it in, so that by constant practice and never suffering any careless expression to escape him, he had attained an extraordinary 15 accuracy and command of language.”
His conversation in all companies, according to Sir Joshua Reynolds, was such as to secure him universal attention, something above the usual colloquial style being always expected from him.
20 “I do not care,” said Orme, the historian of Hindostan, “ what subject Johnson talks; but I love better to hear him talk than anybody. He either gives you new thoughts or a new coloring.”
A stronger and more graphic eulogium is given by Dr. Percy. 25 “ The conversation of Johnson,” says he, “is strong and clear, and
may be compared to an antique statue, where every vein and muscle is distinct and clear.”
Such was the colloquial giant with which Goldsmith's celebrity and his habits of intimacy brought him into continual compari- 30 son; can we wonder that he should appear to disadvantage? Conversation grave, discursive, and disputatious, such as Johnson excelled and delighted in, was to him a severe task, and he never was good at a task of any kind. He had not, like Johnson, a vast fund of acquired facts to draw upon; nor a retentive 35 memory to furnish them forth when wanted. He could not, like the great lexicographer, mould his ideas and balance his periods while talking. He had a flow of ideas, but it was apt to be hurried and confused; and, as he said of himself, he had
contracted a hesitating and disagreeable manner of speaking: He used to say that he always argued best when he argued alone; that is to say, he could master a subject in his study,
with his pen in his hand; but when he came into company he 5 grew confused, and was unable to talk about it. Johnson made
à remark concerning him to somewhat of the same purport. f No man,” said he, “ is more foolish than Goldsmith when he has not a pen in his hand, or more wise when he has.” Yet
with all this conscious deficiency he was continually getting 10 involved in colloquial contests with Johnson and other prime
talkers of the literary circle. He felt that he had become a notoriety, that he had entered the lists and was expected to make fight; so with that heedlessness which characterized him
in everything else he dashed on at a venture; trusting to chance 15 in this as in other things, and hoping occasionally to make a
lucky hit. Johnson perceived his haphazard temerity, but gave him no credit for the real diffidence which lay at bottom. “The misfortune of Goldsmith in conversation,” said he, “is this, he
goes on without knowing how he is to get off. His genius is 20 great, but his knowledge is small. As they say of a generous
man it is a pity he is not rich, we may say of Goldsmith it is a pity he is not knowing. He would not keep his knowledge to himself.” And, on another occasion, he observes: “Goldsmith,
rather than not talk, will talk of what he knows himself to be 25 ignorant, which can only end in exposing him. If in company
with two founders, he would fall a-talking on the method of making cannon, though both of them would soon see that he did not know what metal a cannon is made of.” And again:
“Goldsmith should not be forever attempting to shine in con30 versation; he has not temper for it, he is so much mortified
when he fails. Sir, a game of jokes is composed partly of skill, partly of chance; a man may be beat at times by one who has not the tenth part of his wit. Now Goldsmith, putting himself
against another, is like a man laying a hundred to one, who can35 not spare the hundred. It is not worth a man's while. A man
should not lay a hundred to one unless he can easily spare it, though he has a hundred chances for him; he can get but a guinea, and he may lose a hundred. Goldsmith is in this state. When he contends, if he gets the better, it is a very little addi