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He afterwards addressed a clever though somewhat cavalier letter to her from his brother's house ; which is open to the objection that no copy exists in his handwriting, but has great internal evidence of his facility, grace, and humour. In substance it confessed that his intention was to have sailed for America : that he had gone to Cork for that purpose; converted the horse which his mother prized so much higher than Fiddleback into cash; paid for his passage in an American ship; and, the wind threatening to detain them some days, had taken a little country excursion in the neighbourhood of the city: but that, the wind suddenly serving in his absence, his friend the captain never inquired after him, setting sail with as much indifference as if he had been on board. You know, mother,' he remarks, that no one can starve while he has money in his pocket :' and, being reduced by the practice of this apophthegm to his last two guineas, he bought the generous beast, Fiddleback, for one pound fifteen, and with five shillings in his pocket turned homewards. Then came one of those sudden appeals to a sharp and painful susceptibility, when, as he afterwards described them to his brother, charitable to excess, he forgot the rules of justice, and placed himself in the situation of the wretch who thanked him for his bounty. Penniless in consequence, he bethought him of a college acquaintance on the road, to whose house he went. With exquisite humour he describes this most miserly acquaintance, who, to allay his desperate hunger, dilated on the
advantages of a diet of slops and set him down to a porringer of sour milk and a heel of musty cheese; and, being asked for the loan of a guinea, earnestly recommended the sale of Fiddleback, producing what he called a much better nag to ride upon which would cost neither price nor provender, in the shape of a stout oaken cudgel. His adventures ended a little more agreeably at last, however, at a more genial abode, where an acquaintance of the miser entertained him. He had 'two sweet girls to his daughters, who played enchantingly on the harpsichord; and yet it was but a melancholy pleasure I felt the first
time I heard them; for, that being the first time also that either of them had touched the instrument since their mother's death, I saw the tears in silence trickle down 'their father's cheeks.'
Law was the next thing thought of, and the good Mr. Contarine came forward with fifty pounds. It seems a small sum wherewith to travel to Dublin and London, to defray expenses of entrance at inns of court, and to live upon
a necessary number of terms are eaten. But with fifty pounds young Oliver started : on a luckless journey. A Roscommon friend laid hold of him in Dublin, seduced him to play, and the fifty pounds he would have raised to a hundred, he reduced to fifty pence. In bitter shame, after great physical suffering, he wrote to his uncle, confessed, and was forgiven.
On return to Ballymahon, it is likely that his mother objected to receive him ; since after this date we find
him living wholly with his brother. It was but for a
a short time; disagreement followed there too; and we see him next by Mr. Contarine's fireside, again talking literature to his good-natured uncle, writing new verses to please him (alleged copies of which are not sufficiently authentic to be quoted), and joining his flute to Miss Contarine's harpsichord. There was a sort of cold grandee of the family, Dean Goldsmith of Cloyne, who did not think it unbecoming his dignity to visit the good clergyman's parsonage now and then ; and Oliver having made a remark which showed him no fool, the Dean gave it as his opinion to Mr. Contarine that his young relative would make an excellent medical man. The hint seemed a good one, and was the Dean's contribution to his young relative's fortune. The small purse was contributed by Mr. Contarine; and in the autumn of 1752, Oliver Goldsmith started for Edinburgh, medical student.
Anecdotes of amusing simplicity and forgetfulness in this new character, are more rife than notices of his course of study; and it is certain that any learned celebrity he may have got in the schools, paled an ineffectual fire before his amazing social repute, as inimitable teller of a humorous story and capital singer of Irish songs. But he was really fond of chemistry, and was remembered favourably by the celebrated Black; other well known fellow-students, as William Farr, and his whilome college acquaintance, Lauchlan Macleane, conceived a great regard for him, or at any rate afterwards boasted that they did;
certainly, of kind quaker Sleigh, known later as the eminent physician of that name, as painter Barry's first patron and Burke's friend, so much may without contradiction be affirmed ; and it is therefore to be supposed that his eighteen months' residence in Edinburgh was, on the whole, not unprofitable. It had its mortifications, of course; for all his life had these. 'An ugly and a poor man is society only for himself; and such society the 'world lets me enjoy in great abundance :' Nor do I ' envy my dear Bob his blessings, while I may sit down ‘and laugh at the world; and at myself, the most ridiculous object in it:' are among his expressions of half bitter, half good-natured candour, in a letter to his cousin Bryanton.]
There is another confession in a later letter to his uncle, which touches him in a nearer point, and suggests more than it reveals. It would seem as though, to eke out his resources, he had, for some part of his time, accepted employment in a great man's house : probably as tutor. 'I have spent,' he says, more than a fortnight every 'second day at the Duke of Hamilton's; but it seems they * like me more as a jester than as a companion ; so I dis‘dained so servile an employment.' To those with whom, on equal terms, he could be both jester and companion, Bryanton was charged with every kind of remembrance. * You cannot send me much news from Ballymahon, but such as it is, send it all; everything you send will be 'agreeable to me. Has George Conway put up a sign
'yet ? or John Bincly left off drinking drams? or Tom * Allen got a new wig ?' To the remarkably pleasant and whimsical satire of the Scotch he at the same time wrote to Bryanton, I do not refer, because in all the editions of his works, except the Scotch, it is commonly printed: but three letters to his uncle Contarine must have mention, the two less important of which, and the earliest in date, Mr. Prior discovered.
In the first, dated May, 1753, and in which he alludes to a description of himself by his uncle, as 'the philosopher "who carries all his goods about him,' he describes Munro as the one great professor, and the rest of the doctorteachers as only less afflicting to their students than they must be to their patients. He makes humourous mention of a trip to the Highlands, for which he had hired a horse about the size of a ram, who 'walked away (trot he
, could not) as pensive as his master. Other passages show to what narrow limits he had brought his wants, and with how little he was cheerfully content, and full of gratitude.
There has been some harsh judgment of Goldsmith for money wasted on abortive professional undertakings : but the sacrifices were not great. Burke had an allowance of 2001. a-year for leisure to follow studies to which he never paid the least attention; and when his father anxiously expected to hear of his call to the bar, he might have heard, instead, of a distress which forced him to sell his books: yet no one thinks, and rightly, of exacting penalties from Burke on this ground. Poor Goldsmith's supplies