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That night I was shown to a magnificent chamber, and the next morning, early, Miss Wilmot desired to walk with me in the garden, which was decorated in the modern manner. After some time spent in pointing out the beauties of the place, she inquired, with seeming unconcern, when last I had heard from my son George " Alas! madam,” cried I, “ he has now been nearly three years absent, without ever writing to his friends or me. Where he is, I know not; perhaps I shall never see him or happiness more. No, my dear madam, we shall never more see such pleasing hours as were once spent by our fireside at Wakefield. My little family are now dispersing very
. fast, and poverty has brought not only want but infamy upon us." The good-natured girl let fall a tear at this account; but as I saw her possessed of too much sensibility, I forbore a more minute detail of our sufferings. It was, however, some consolation to me to find that time had made no alteration in her affections, and that she had rejected several offers that had been made her since our leaving her part of the country. She led me round all the extensive improvements of the place, pointing to the several walks and arbours, and at the same time catching from every object a hint for some new question relative to my
In this manner we spent the forenoon, till the bell summoned us in to dinner, where we found the manager of the strolling company that I mentioned before, who was come to dispose of tickets for the “Fair Penitent,” which was to be acted that evening; the part of “ Horatio” by a young gentleman who had never appeared on any stage. He seemed to be very warm in the praise of the new performer, and averred that he never saw any one who bade so fair for excellence. Acting, he observed, was not learned in a day; "but this gentleman,” continued he, “ seems born to tread the stage. His voice, his figure, and attitudes are all admirable. We caught him up accidentally, in our journey down.” This account in some measure excited our curiosity, and, at the entreaty of the ladies, I was prevailed upon to accompany them to the play-house, which was no other than a barn. As the company with which I went was incontestably the chief of the place, we were received with the greatest respect, and placed in the front seat of the theatre; where we sat for some time with no smal! impatience to see “Horatio” make his appearance. The new performer advanced at last; and let parents think of my sensations by their own, when I found it was my unfortunate son!
He was going to begin ; when, turning his eyes upon the audience, he per
ceived Miss Wilmot and me, and stood at once speechless and immovable.
The actors behind the scenes, who ascribed this pause to his natural timidity, attempted to encourage him ; but instead of going on, he burst into a flood of tears and retired off the stage. I don't know what were my feelings on this occasion, for they succeeded with too much rapidity for description ; but I was soon awaked from this disagreeable reverie by Miss Wilmot, who, pale and with a trembling voice, desired me to conduct her back to her uncle's. When got home, Mr. Arnold, who was as yet a stranger to our extraordinary behaviour, being informed that the new performer was my son, sent his coach, and an invitation for him ; and, as he persisted in his refusal to appear again upon the stage, the players put another in his place, and we soon had him with us. Mr. Arnold
him the kindest reception, and I received him with my usual transport; for I could never counterfeit false resentment. Miss Wilmot's reception was mixed with seeming neglect, and yet I could perceive she acted a studied part. The tumult in her mind seemed not yet abated; she said twenty giddy things that looked like joy, and then laughed loud at her own want of meaning. At intervals she would take a sly peep at the glass, as if happy in the consciousness of unresisted beauty; and often would ask questions, without giving any manner of attention to the answers.
CHAPTER X X.*
THE HISTORY OF A PHILOSOPHIC VAGABOND PURSUING NOVELTY, BUT LOSING CONTENT.
poor, I find,
FTER we had supped, Mrs. Arnold politely offered to
send a couple of her footmen for my son's baggage,
which he at first seemed to decline ; but, upon her pressing the request, he was obliged to inform her, that
a stick and a wallet were all the movable things upon this earth that he could boast of. “Why, ay, my son," cried I, “you left me but
and I find, you are come back, and yet, I make no doubt, you have seen a great deal of the world.” “Yes, sir,” replied my son ; " but travelling after fortune is not the way to secure her; and, indeed, of late, I have desisted from the pursuit.” "I fancy, sir,” cried Mrs. Arnold, “ that the account of your adventures would be amusing; the first part of them I have often heard from my niece; but could the company prevail for the rest, it would be an additional obligation." “ Madam,” replied my son, “I promise you the pleasure you have in hearing will not be half so great as my vanity in repeating them; and yet in the whole narrative I can scarce promise you one adventure, as my account is rather of what I saw than what I did. The first misfortune of my life, which you all know, was great; but though it distressed it could not sink me. No person ever had a better knack at hoping than I. The less kind I found Fortune at one time, the more I expected from her another; and being now at the bottom of her wheel, every new revolution might lift, but could not depress me. I proceeded, therefore, towards London in a fine morning, no way uneasy about to-morrow, but cheerful as the birds that carolled by the road; and comforted myself with reflecting, that London was the mart where abilities of every kind were sure of meeting distinction and reward. "
Upon my arrival in town, sir, my first care was to deliver your letter of recommendation to our cousin, who was himself in little better circumstances than I. My first scheme, you know, sir, was to be usher at an academy, and I asked his advice on the affair. Our cousin received the proposal with a true Sardonic grin. “Ay,' cried he, “this
The incidents in this chapter are no fictions. The experiences of his tutor-life at Peckham, his Continental wanderings, and his literary struggles, are here recorded by Goldsmith. "It was the common talk at the dinner table of Reynolds," says Mr. Forster, " that the wanderings of the Philosophic Vagabɔnd in the Vicar of Wakefield' had been suggested by his own, and he often admitted at that time, to various friends, the accuracy of special details."
is, indeed, a very pretty career that has been chalked out for you. I have been an usher at a boarding-school myself; and may I die by an anodyne necklace, but I had rather be an under-turnkey in Newgate. I was up early and late. I was brow-beat by the master, hated for my ugly face by the mistress, worried by the boys within, and never permitted to stir out to meet civility abroad. But are you sure you are fit for a school ? Let me examine Let me examine you a little.
you been bred apprentice to the business ?' No.'Then you won't do for a school. Can you dress the boys' hair?' 'No.' Then you won't do for a school. Have
you had the small-pox?' 'No.' ' • Then you won't do for a school. Can you lie three in a bed ?' 'No.' •Then
• Then you will never do for a school.
Have you got a good stomach ?' “Yes.' • Then
you will by no means do for a school. No, sir; if you are for a genteel, easy profession, bind yourself seven years as an apprentice to turn a cutler's wheel; but avoid a school by any means.
Yet come, continued he, ' I see you are a lad of spirit and some learning; what do you think of commencing author like me? You have read in books, no doubt, of men of genius starving at the trade; at piesent I'll show you forty very dull fellows about town that live by it in opulence. All honest jog-trot men, who go on smoothly and dully, and write history and politics, and are praised; men, sir, who, had they been bred cobblers, would all their lives have only mended shoes, but never made them.'
“ Finding that there was no great degree of gentility affixed to the character of an usher, I resolved to accept his proposal ; and, having the highest respect for literature, hailed the Antiqua Mater of Grub Street with reverence. I thought it my glory to pursue a track which Dryden and Otway trod before me. I considered the goddess of this region as the parent of excellence; and, however an intercourse with the world might give us good sense, the poverty she granted I supposed to be the nurse of genius. Big with these reflections I sat down, and, finding that the best things remained to be said on the wrong side, I resolved to write a book that should be wholly new. I therefore dressed up some paradoxes with ingenuity. They were false, indeed, but they were new. The jewels of truth have been so often imported by others, that nothing was left for me to import but some splendid things that, at a distance, looked every bit as well. Witness, you powers, what fancied importance sat perched upon my quill while I was writing! The whole learned world, I made no doubt,