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accountable for the work, or a return of the subscription. If this request (which, if it be complied with, will in some measure be an encouragement to a man of learning) should be disagreeable or troublesome, I would not press it; for I would be the last man on earth to have my labors go a-begging; but if 15 know Mr. Lawder (and sure I ought to know him), he will accept the employment with pleasure.
All I can say
if he writes a book, I will get him two hundred subscribers, and those of the best wits in Europe. Whether this request is complied with or not, I shall not be uneasy; but there is one 10 petition I must make to him and to you, which I solicit with the warmest ardor, and in which I cannot bear a refusal. I mean, dear madam, that I may be allowed to subscribe myself, your ever affectionate and obliged kinsman, OLIVER GOLDSMITH. Now see how I blot and blunder, when I am asking a 15 favor.".
Oriental Appointment; and Disappointment. — Examination at the
College of Surgeons. - How to procure a Suit of Clothes. Fresh Disappointment. — A Tale of Distress. - The Suit of Clothes in Pawn. Punishment for doing an Act of Charity. -- Gayeties of Green Arbor Court. - Letter to his Brother. - Life of Voltaire. Scroggin, an Attempt at mock-heroic Poetry.
WHILE Goldsmith was yet laboring at his treatise, the promise made him by Dr. Milner was carried into effect, and he was actually appointed physician and surgeon to one of the factories on the coast of Coromandel.° His imagination was 20 immediately on fire with visions of Oriental wealth and magnificence. It is true the salary did not exceed one hundred pounds, but then, as appointed physician, he would have the exclusive practice of the place, amounting to one thousand pounds per annum; with advantages to be derived from trade 25 and from the high interest of money — twenty per cent.; in a word, for once in his life, the road to fortune lay broad and straight before him.
Hitherto, in his correspondence with his friends, he had said nothing of his India scheme; but now he imparted to them his brilliant prospects, urging the importance of their circulating his proposals and obtaining him subscriptions and 5 advances on his forthcoming work, to furnish funds for his outfit.
In the mean time he had to task that poor drudge, his Muse, for present exigencies. Ten pounds were demanded for
his appointment-warrant. Other expenses pressed hard upon 10 him. Fortunately, though as yet unkuown to fame, his liter
ary capability was known to “ the trade,” and the coinage of his brain passed current in Grub Street. Archibald Hamilton, proprietor of the Critical Review, the rival to that of Grif
fiths, readily made him a small advance on receiving three 15 articles for his periodical. His purse thus slenderly replen
ished, Goldsmith paid for his warrant; wiped off the score of his milkmaid; abandoned his garret, and moved into a shabby first floor in a forlorn court near the Old Bailey; there to
await the time of his migration to the magnificent coast of 20 Coromandel.
Alas! poor Goldsmith! ever doomed to disappointment. Early in the gloomy month of November, that month of fog and despondency in London, he learnt the shipwreck of his
hope. The great Coromandel enterprise fell through; or 25 rather the post promised to him was transferred to some
other candidate. The cause of this disappointment it is now impossible to ascertain. The death of his quasi patron, Dr. Milner, which happened about this time, may have had some
effect in producing it; or there may have been some heedless30 ness and blundering on his own part; or some obstacle arising
from his insuperable indigence; — whatever may have been the cause, he never mentioned it, which gives some ground to surmise that he himself was to blame. His friends learnt
with surprise that he had suddenly relinquished his appoint35 ment to India, about which he had raised such sanguine ex
pectations : some accused him of fickleness and caprice; others supposed him unwilling to tear himself from the growing fascinations of the literary society of London.
In the mean time, cut down in his hopes, and humiliated in
his pride by the failure of his Coromandel scheme, he sought, without consulting his friends, to be examined at the College of Physicians for the humble situation of hospital mate. Even here poverty stood in his way. It was necessary to appear in a decent garb before the examining committee; but how was 5 he to do so? He was literally out at elbows as well as out of cash. Here again the Muse, so often jilted and neglected by him, came to his aid. In consideration of four articles furnished to the Monthly Review, Griffiths, his old task-master, was to become his security to the tailor for a suit of clothes. 13 Goldsmith said he wanted them but for a single occasion, upon which depended his appointment to a situation in the army; as soon as that temporary purpose was served they would either be returned or paid for. The books to be reviewed were accordingly lent to him; the Muse was again set to her 15 compulsory drudgery; the articles were scribbled off and sent to the bookseller, and the clothes came in due time from the tailor.
From the records of the College of Surgeons, it appears that Goldsmith underwent his examina on at Surgeons' Hall, 20 on the 21st of December 1758. Either from a confusion of mind incident to sensitive and imaginative persons on such occasions, or from a real want of surgical science, which last is extremely probable, he failed in his examination and was rejected as unqualified. The effect of such a rejection was to 25 disqualify him for every branch of public service, though he might have claimed a reëxamination, after the interval of a few months devoted to further study. Such a reëxamination he never attempted, nor did he ever communicate his discomfiture to any of his friends.
On Christmas-Day, but four days after his rejection by the College of Surgeons, while he was suffering under the mortification of defeat and disappointment, and hard pressed for means of subsistence, he was surprised by the entrance into his room of the poor woman of whom he hired his wretched 35 apartment, and to whom he owed some small arrears of rent. She had a piteous tale of distress, and was clamorous in her afflictions. Her husband had been arrested in the night for debt, and thrown into prison. This was too much for the quick
feelings of Goldsmith; he was ready at any time to help the distressed, but in this instance he was himself in some measure a cause of the distress. What was to be done? He had no money, it is true; but there hung the new suit of clothes in which he 5 had stood his unlucky examination at Surgeons' Hall. Without giving himself time for reflection, he sent it off to the pawnbroker's, and raised thereon a sufficient sum to pay off his own debt, and to release his landlord from prison.
Under the same pressure of penury and despondency, he 10 borrowed from a neighbor a pittance to relieve his immediate
wants, leaving as a security the books which he had recently reviewed. In the midst of these straits and harassme received a letter from Griffiths, demanding, in peremptory
terms, the return of the clothes and books, or immediate pay15 ment for the same. It appears that he had discovered the
identical suit at the pawnbroker's. The reply of Goldsmith is not known; it was out of his power to furnish either the clothes or the money; but he probably offered once more to make the
Muse stand his bail. His reply only increased the ire of the 20 wealthy man of trade, and drew from him another letter still
more harsh than the first; using the epithets of knave and sharper, and containing threats of prosecution and a prison.
The following letter from poor Goldsmith gives the most touching picture of an inconsiderate but sensitive man, 25 harassed by care, stung by humiliations, and driven almost
I know of no misery but a jail to which my own imprudences and your letter seem to point. I have seen it
inevitable these three or four weeks, and, by heavens! request 30 it as a favor - as a favor that may prevent something more
fatal. I have been some years struggling with a wretched being — with all that contempt that indigence brings with it with all those passions which make contempt insupportable.
What, then, has a jail that is formidable? I shall at least have 35 the society of wretches, and such is to me true society. I tell
you, again and again, that I am neither able nor willing to pay you a farthing, but I will be punctual to any appointment you or the tailor shall make; thus far, at least, I do not act the
sharper, since, unable to pay my own debts one way, I would generally give some security another. No, sir; had I been a sharper – had I been possessed of less good-nature and native generosity, I might surely now have been in better cirçamstances.
"I am guilty, I own, of meannesses which poverty unavoidably brings with it: my reflections are filled with repentance for my imprudence, but not with any remorse for being a villain: that may be a character you unjustly charge me with. Your books, I can assure you, are neither pawned nor sold, but 10 in the custody of a friend, from whom. my necessities obliged me to borrow some money : whatever becomes of my person, you shall have them in a month. It is very possible both the reports you have heard and your own suggestions may have brought you false information with respect to my character; 15 it is very possible that the man whom you now regard with detestation may inwardly burn with grateful resentment. It is very possible that, upon a second perusal of the letter I sent you, you may see the workings of a mind strongly agitated with gratitude and jealousy. If such circumstances should appear, 20 at least spare invective till my book with Mr. Dodsley shall be published, and then, perhaps, you may see the bright side of a mind, when my professions shall not appear the dictates of necessity, but of choice.
“ You seem to think Dr. Milner knew me not. Perhaps so; 25 but he was a man I shall ever honor; but I have friendships only with the dead! I ask pardon for taking up so much time; nor shall I add to it by any other professions than that I am, sir, your humble servant,
“ OLIVER GOLDSMITH. “P. S. - I shall expect impatiently the result of your resolutions.”
The dispute between the poet and the publisher was afterward imperfectly adjusted, and it would appear that the clothes were paid for by a short compilation advertised by Griffiths in 35 the course of the following month; but the parties were never really friends afterward, and the writings of Goldsmith were harshly and unjustly treated in the Monthly Review.