페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

'vivacity supported by some humble cousin, who has just 'folly enough to earn his dinner. Then perhaps there's 'more wit and learning among the Irish ? Oh, Lord, no !

There has been more money spent in the encouragement of the Padareen mare there one season, than given in rewards to learned men since the times of Usher. All 'their productions in learning amount to a translation, ' and a few tracts in divinity; and all their productions 'in wit, to just nothing at all.' But perhaps the secret escapes without his knowledge, when in that same year he wrote to a more intimate friend: 'I have disappointed 'your neglect,' he said to Bryanton, 'by frequently thinking

of you. Every day do I remember the calm anecdotes of 'your life, from the fireside to the easy chair : recall the

various adventures that first cemented our friendship: the school, the college, or the tavern : preside in fancy over 'your cards : and am displeased at your bad play when 'the rubber goes against you, though not with all that 'agony of soul as when I once was your partner.' Let the truth then be said : and that it was the careless idleness of fireside and easy chair, that it was the tavern excitement of the game at cards, to which Goldsmith so wistfully looked back from those first hard London struggles.

It is not an example I would wish to inculcate; nor is this narrative written with that view. It were a dangerous attempt to try any such process for the chance of another Goldsmith. The truth is important to be kept in mind that Genius is in no respect allied to these weak

[ocr errors]

nesses, but, when unhappily connected with them, is in itself a means to avert their most evil consequence. Genius is the perfect health and victory of the mind : it may carry, as the Roman did, a slave in the chariot of its triumph, but this, to the just observer, will not seem the type of its own subjection, but of the tyrant's it has brought to slavery. Of the associates of Goldsmith in these happy, careless years, perhaps not one emerged to better fortune, and many sank to infinitely worse. “Pray give my love to Bob Bryanton, and entreat .

him from me, not to drink,' is a passage from one of his later letters to his brother Henry. That habit he never suffered to overmaster himself: if the love of gaming to some trifling extent continued, it was at least the origin of many thoughts that may have saved others from like temptation : and if these irregular early years unsettled him for the pursuits his friends would have had him follow, and sent him wandering, with no pursuit, to mix among the poor and happy of other lands, he assuredly brought back some secrets both of poverty and happiness which were worth the finding, and, having paid for his errors by infinite personal privation, turned all the rest to the comfort and instruction of the world. There is a providence that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will; and to charming issues did the providence of Goldsmith's genius shape these rough-hewn times. It was not alone that it made him wise enough to know what infirmities he had, but it gave him the rarer wisdom of turning them to

entertainment and to profit. Through the pains and obstructions of his childhood, through the uneasy failures of his youth, through the desperate struggles of his manhood, it lighted him to those last uses of experience and suffering which have given him an immortal name.

And let it be observed, that this Ballymahon idleness could lay claim to a certain activity in one respect. It was always cheerful: no unimportant part of education, if heart and head are to go together. It will be well, indeed, when habits of cheerfulness are as much a part of formal instruction as habits of study, and when the foolish argument will be heard no longer, that these things are in Nature's charge. Nature asks help and culture in all things: will even yield to their solicitation, what would otherwise lie unknown.

an acute remark of Goldsmith, in respect to literary efforts, that the habit of writing will give a man justness of thinking; and that he may get from it a mastery of manner, which holiday writers, though with ten times his genius, will find it difficult to equal. It is the same in temper as in mind. Habit comes in aid of all deficiencies. The reader will be therefore not unprepared to find, as well in these sunny Irish years, as in other parts of the apparently vagrant and idle career to be now described, some points of even general beneficial example.

The two years, then, are passed ; and Oliver must apply for orders. “For the clerical profession,' says Mrs. Hodson, 'he had no liking.' It seems little wonderful: having

It was

seen, in his father and his brother, how much learning and labour were rewarded in the church by forty pounds a year.

He had yet another, and to him perhaps a stronger motive; though I do not know if it has not been brought against him as an imputation of mere vanity or simplicity, that he once said he did not deem himself good enough for it.' But his friends, though not so resolute as at first, still advised him to this family profession. Our 'friends,' says the Man in Black, always advise, when they

begin to despise us.' He made application to the Bishop of Elphin, and was refused: plucked: sent back as he went. The story is told in various ways, and it is hard to get at the truth. His sister says that his youth was the objection ; it was a tradition in the diocese' that Mr. Theaker Wilder had told the Bishop of his college irregularities; Doctor Strean fully believes, from rumours he picked up, that 'Mr. Noll's' offence was the having presented himself before his right reverence in scarlet breeches. The rejection is the only certainty. The Man in Black, it will be remembered, undergoes something of the same kind, remarking: My friends were now per'fectly satisfied I was undone; and yet they thought it a 'pity, for one that had not the least harm in him, and was 'so very goodnatured.'

Uncle Contarine, however, was far from thinking this. He found a gentleman of his county, a Mr. Flinn, in want of a tutor, and recommended Oliver.

The engagement continued for a year, and ended, as it was easy to antici

6

pate, unsatisfactorily. His talent for card-playing as well as teaching, is said to have been put in requisition by Mr. Flinn; and the separation took place on Goldsmith's accusing one of the family of unfair play. But when he left this excellent Irish family and returned to Ballymahon, he had thirty pounds in his pocket, it is to be hoped the produce of fairer play; and was undisputed owner of a good plump horse. Within a few days, so furnished and mounted, he again left his mother's house (where, truth to say, things do not by this time seem to have been made very comfortable to him), and started for Cork with another floating vision of America. He returned in six weeks, with nothing in his pocket, and on a lean beast to which he had given the name of Fiddleback. The nature of his reception at Ballymahon appears from the simple remark he is said to have made to his mother. And now,

dear 'ther, after having

struggled so hard to come home to you, I wonder you are not more rejoiced to see me.'

[graphic]

my

mo

F

« 이전계속 »