페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

tion of the scene in which he reads an incendiary letter, that he drew down thunders of applause. On his coming behind the scenes, Goldsmith greeted him with an overflowing heart; declaring that he exceeded his own idea of the character, and 5 made it almost as new to him as to any of the audience.

On the whole, however, both the author and his friends were disappointed at the reception of the piece, and considered it a failure. Poor Goldsmith left the theatre with his towering hopes

completely cut down. He endeavored to hide his mortification, 10 and even to assume an air of unconcern while among his asso

ciates; but the moment he was alone with Dr. Johnson, in whose rough but magnanimous nature he reposed unlimited confidence, he threw off all restraint and gave way to an almost

childlike burst of grief. Johnson, who had shown no want of 15 sympathy at the proper time, saw nothing in the partial disap

pointment of over-rated expectations to warrant such ungoverned emotions, and rebuked him sternly for what he termed a silly affectation, saying that “ No man should be expected to sym

pathize with the sorrows of vanity.” 20 When Goldsmith had recovered from the blow, he, with his

usual unreserve, made his past distress a subject of amusement to his friends. Dining one day, in company with Dr. Johnson, at the chaplain's table at St. James's Palace, he entertained the

company with a particular and comic account of all his feelings 25 on the night of representation, and his despair when the piece was hissed.

How he went, he said, to the Literary Club; chatted gayly, as if nothing had gone amiss; and, to give a greater idea of his unconcern, sang his favorite song about an

old woman tossed in a blanket seventeen times as high as the 30 moon. “ All this while,” added he, “ I was suffering hor

rid tortures, and, had I put a bit in my mouth, I verily believe it would have strangled me on the spot, I was so excessively ill; but I made more noise than usual to cover all that; so

they never perceived my not eating, nor suspected the anguish 35 of my heart; but when all were gone except Johnson here, I

burst out a-crying, and even swore that I would never write again.”

Dr. Johnson sat in amaze at the odd frankness and childlike self-accusation of poor Goldsmith. When the latter had come

to a pause, “ All this, Doctor,” said he, dryly, “I thought had been a secret between you and me, and I am sure I would not have said anything about it for the world.” But Goldsmith had no secrets : his follies, his weaknesses, his errors were all thrown to the surface; his heart was really too guileless and 5 innocent to seek mystery and concealment. It is too often the false designing man that is guarded in his conduct and never offends proprieties.

It is singular, however, that Goldsmith, who thus in conversation could keep nothing to himself, should be the author of a 10 maxim which would inculcate the most thorough dissimulation. “ Men of the world,” says he in one of the papers of the Bee, “ maintain that the true end of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.” How often is this quoted as one of the subtle remarks of the fine-witted Talleyrand !° 15

The Good-natured Man was performed for ten nights in succession; the third, sixth, and ninth nights were for the author's benefit; the fifth night it was commanded by their Majesties; after this it was played occasionally, but rarely, having always pleased more in the closet than on the stage. 20

As to Kelly's comedy, Johnson pronounced it entirely devoid of character, and it has long since passed into oblivion. Yet it is an instance how an inferior production, by dint of puffing and trumpeting, may be kept up for a time on the surface of popular opinion, or rather of popular talk. What had been done 25 for False Delicacy on the stage was continued by the press. The booksellers vied with the manager in launching it upon the town. They announced that the first impression of three thousand copies was exhausted before two o'clock on the day of publication; four editions, amounting to ten thousand copies were 30 sold in the course of the season; a public breakfast was given to Kelly at the Chapter Coffee-House, and a piece of plate presented to him by the publishers. The comparative merits of the two plays were continually subjects of discussion in green-rooms, coffee-houses, and other places where theatrical questions were 35 discussed.

Goldsmith's old enemy, Kenrick, that “viper of the press,” endeavored on this, as on many other occasions, to detract from his well-earned fame; the poet was excessively sensitive to

these attacks, and had not the art and self-command to conceal his feelings.

Some scribblers on the other side insinuated that Kelly had seen the manuscript of Goldsmith's play, while in the hands of Garrick or elsewhere, and had borrowed some of the situatious and sentiments. Some of the wags of the day took a mischievous pleasure in stirring up a feud between the two authors. Goldsmith became nettled, though he could

scarcely be deemed jealous of one so far his inferior. He spoke 10 disparagingly, though no doubt sincerely, of Kelly's play: the

latter retorted. Still, when they met one day behind the scenes of Covent Garden, Goldsmith, with his customary urbanity, congratulated Kelly on his success. “If I thought you sin

cere, Mr. Goldsmith,” replied the other, abruptly, “I should 15 thank you.” Goldsmith was not a man to harbor spleen or ill

will, and soon laughed at this unworthy rivalship; but the jealousy and envy awakened in Kelly's mind long continued. He is even accused of having given vent to his hostility by

anonymous attacks in the newspapers, the basest resource of 20 dastardly and malignant spirits; but of this there is no positive

proof.

CIIAPTER XXIII

Burning the Candle at both Ends. — Fine Apartments. - Fine Furni

ture. - Fine Clothes. - Fine Acquaintances. — Shoemaker's Holiday and Jolly-Pigeon Associates. — Peter Barlow, Glover, and the Hampstead Hoax. - Poor Friends among great Acquaintances.

The profits resulting from The Good-natured Man were beyond any that Goldsmith had yet derived from his works.

He netted about four hundred pounds from the theatre, and 25 one hundred pounds from his publisher.

Five hundred pounds! and all at one miraculous draught ! It appeared to him wealth inexhaustible. It at once opened his heart and hand, and led him into all kinds of extravagance.

The first symptom was ten guineas sent to Shuter for a box30 ticket for his benefit, when The Good-natured Man was to be

performed. The next was an entire change in his domicil. The shabby lodgings with Jeffs, the butler, in which he had been worried by Johnson's scrutiny, were now exchanged for chambers more becoming a man of his ample fortune. The apartments consisted of three rooms on the second floor of 5 No. 2 Brick Court, Middle Temple, on the right hand ascending the staircase, and overlooked the umbrageous walks of the Temple garden. The lease he purchased for £400, and then went on to furnish his rooms with mahogany sofas, card-tables, and bookcases; with curtains, mirrors, and Wilton carpets. 10 His awkward little person was also furnished out in a style befitting his apartment; for, in addition to his suit of “ Tyrian bloom, satin grain,” we find another charged about this time, in the books of Mr. Filby, in no less gorgeous terms, being “ lined with silk and furnished with gold buttons.” Thus 15 lodged and thus arrayed, he invited the visits of his most aristocratic acquaintances, and no longer quailed beneath the courtly eye of Beauclerc. He gave dinners to Johnson, Reynolds, Percy, Bickerstaff, and other friends of note; and supper-parties to young folks of both sexes. These last were 20 preceded by round games of cards, at which there was more Îaughter than skill, and in which the sport was to cheat each other; or by romping games of forfeits and blind-man's-buff, at which he enacted the lord of misrule. Blackstone, whose chambers were immediately below, and who was studiously 25 occupied on his Commentaries, used to complain of the racket made overhead by his revelling neighbor.

Sometimes Goldsmith would make up a rural party, composed of four or five of his “ Jolly-Pigeon” friends, to enjoy what he humorously called a “ shoemaker's holiday.” These would 30 assemble at his chambers in the morning, to partake of a plentiful and rather expensive breakfast; the remains of which, with his customary benevolence, he generally gave to some poor woman in attendance. The repast ended, the party would set out on foot, in high spirits, making extensive rambles by 35 foot-paths and green lanes to Blackheath, Wandsworth, Chelsea, Hampton Court, Highgate, or some other pleasant resort, within a few miles of London. ' A simple but gay and heartily relished dinner, at a country inn, crowned the excursion.

In the even

ing they strolled back to town, all the better in health and spirits for a day spent in rural and social enjoyinent. Occasionally, when extravagantly inclined, they adjourned from dinner to drink tea at the White Conduit House; and, now and then, 5 concluded their festive day by supping at the Grecian or Temple Exchange Coffee-Houses, or at the Globe Tavern, in Fleet Street. The whole expenses of the day never exceeded a crown, and were oftener from three and sixpence to four shil

lings; for the best part of their entertainment, sweet air and 10 rural scenes, excellent exercise and joyous conversation, cost nothing.

One of Goldsmith's humble companions, on these excursions, was his occasional amanuensis, Peter Barlow, whose quaint

peculiarities afforded much amusement to the company. Peter 15 was poor but punctilious, squaring his expenses according to

his means. He always wore the same garb; fixed his regular expenditure for dinner at a trilling sum, which, if left to himself, he never exceeded, but which he always insisted on pay

ing. His oddities always made him a welcome companion on 20 the “shoemaker's holidays.” The dinner, on these occasions,

generally exceeded considerably his tariff; he put down, however, no more than his regular sum, and Goldsmith made up the difference.

Another of these hangers-on, for whom, on such occasions, 25 he was content to “pay the shot,” was his countryman Glover,

of whom mention has already been inade as one of the wags and sponges of the Globe and Devil taverns, and a prime mimic at the Wednesday Club.

This vagabond genius has bequeathed us a whimsical story 30 of one of his practical jokes upon Goldsmith, in the course of

a rural excursion in the vicinity of London. They had dined at an inn on Hampstead Heights, and were descending the hill, when, in passing a cottage, they saw through the open

window a party at tea. Goldsmith, who was fatigued, cast a 35 wistful glance at the cheerful tea-table. “ How I should like

to be of that party,” exclaimed he. Nothing more easy,” replied Glover; “ allow me to introduce you.” So saying, he entered the house with an air of the most perfect familiarity, though an utter stranger, and was followed by the unsuspecting

66

« 이전계속 »