페이지 이미지
[ocr errors]

poverty, ended in opulence and esteem.' Goldsmith had his thoughts more especially fixed upon this career, when

, at Leyden, by the accident of its sudden close in that city. The desire of extensive travel, as his sister told Mr. Handcock, had been always a kind of passion with him; and with precisely the same means of indulging it, so it had been with Holberg. “His ambition,' I turn again to the Polite Learning, ‘was not to be restrained, or his thirst of knowledge satisfied, until he had seen the world. Without money, recommendations, or friends, he undertook to set 'out upon his travels, and make the tour of Europe on 'foot. A good voice, and a trifling skill in music, were the only finances he had to support an undertaking so extensive; so he travelled by day, and at night sung at 'the doors of peasants' houses to get himself a lodging. * In this manner, while yet very young, Holberg passed

through France, Germany, and Holland.' And with exactly the same resources, still also very young, Goldsmith quitted Leyden, bent upon the travel which his Traveller has made immortal.

It was in February 1755. For the exact route he took, the nature of his adventures, and the course of thought they suggested, it is necessary to resort for the most part to his published writings. His letters of the time have perished. It was notorious in the Reynolds' circle, that the wanderings of the Philosophic Vagabond had been suggested by his own, and he often admitted at that time, to various friends, the accuracy of special details. If he did


not make more open confession, it was to please the booksellers only; who could not bear that any one so popular with their customers as Doctor Goldsmith had become, should lie under the horrible imputation of so deplorable a poverty. "Countries wear very different appearances,' he had written in the first edition of the Polite Learning, to * travellers of different circumstances. LA man who is 'whirled through Europe in a post-chaise, and the 'pilgrim who walks the grand tour on foot, will form very different conclusions. Haud inexpertus loquor. In the second edition, the ‘haud inexpertus loquor' disappeared ; but the experience had been already set down in the Vicar of Wakefield. ]

Louvain attracted him of course, as he passed through Flanders; and here, according to his first biographers, he took the degree of Medical Bachelor, which, as early as 1763, is found in one of the Dodsley agreements appended to his name. Though this is hardly likely, it is yet quite possible. The records of Louvain University were destroyed in the revolutionary wars, and the means of proof or disproof lost; but it is improbable that any false assumption of a medical degree would have passed without question among the distinguished friends of his later life, even if it escaped the exposure of his active enemies. Certain it is at any rate, that he made some stay at Louvain; became acquainted with its professors; and informed himself of its modes of study. I always forgot the meanness of my circumstances when I could

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

converse upon such subjects.' Some little time he also seems to have passed at Brussels. At Maestricht, there is trace of his having examined an extensive cavern, or stone quarry, at that time much visited by travellers. And it was doubtless at Antwerp (a 'fortification in Flanders ') that he saw the maimed, deformed, chained, yet cheerful slave, to whom he refers in that charming essay wherein he argues that happiness and pleasure are in ourselves, and not in the objects offered for our amusement. He did not travel to see that all was barren; he did not merely outface the poverty, the hardship, the fatigue; he made them his servants, and ministers to entertainment and wisdom.

Before he passed through Flanders good use had been made of his flute; and when he came to the poorer provinces of France, he found it greatly serviceable. “I had some knowledge of music,' says the Vagabond, with a tolerable voice; I now turned what was once my amusement into a present means of subsistence. I passed among the harmless peasants of Flanders, and among such of the French as were poor enough to be very

merry; for I ever found them sprightly in proportion 'to their wants. Whenever I approached a peasant's ' house towards night-fall, I played one of my most 'merry tunes, and that procured me not only a lodging, but subsistence for the next day. I once or twice ' attempted to play for people of fashion; but they always ' thought my performance odious, and never rewarded me even with a trifle.' In plain words, he begged, as


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


Holberg had done; supported by his cheerful spirit, and the thought that Holberg's better fate might one day yet be his. Not, we may be sure, the dull round of professional labour, but intellectual distinction, popular fame, were now within the sphere of Goldsmith's vision: and what these will enable a man joyfully to endure, he afterwards bore witness to. The perspective of life brightens

upon us when terminated by objects so charming. Every intermediate image of want, banishment, or sorrow, receives a lustre from their distant influence. With 'these in view, the patriot, philosopher, and poet, have looked with calmness on disgrace and famine, and rested

their straw with cheerful serenity.' Straw, doubtless, was his own peasant-lodging often ; but from it the wanderer rose, refreshed and hopeful, and bade the melody and sport resume, and played with a new delight to the music of enchanting verse already dancing in his brain.

Gay sprightly land of mirth and social ease,
Pleas'd with thyself, whom all the world can please,
How often have I led thy sportive choir,
With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire !
Where shading elms along the margin grew,
And, freshen'd from the wave, the zephyr flew;
And haply, though my harsh touch falt'ring still,
But mock'd all tune, and marr'd the dancer's skill ;
Yet would the village praise my wondrous power,
And dance, forgetful of the noon-tide hour.
Alike all ages. Dames of ancient days
Have led their children through the mirthful maze,
And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore,
Has frisk'd beneath the burden of threescore.
So blest a life these thoughtless realms display,
Thus idly busy rolls their world away:

[ocr errors]

Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear,
For honour forms the social temper here.
Honour, that praise which real merit gains
Or e'en imaginary worth obtains,
Here passes current; paid from hand to hand,
It shifts in splendid traffic round the land ;
From courts to camps, to cottages it strays,
And all are taught an avarice of praise.
They please, are pleased; they give to get esteem;
Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they seem.

Arrived in Paris, he rested some brief space, and, for the time, a sensible improvement is to be observed in his resources. This is not easily explained; for, as will appear a little later in our history, many applications to Ireland of this date remained altogether without answer, and a sad fate had fallen suddenly on his best friend. But in subsequent communication with his kinsman Hodson, he remarked that there was hardly a kingdom in Europe in which he was not a debtor; and in Paris, if anywhere, he would find many hearts made liberal by the love of learning. His early memoir writers assert with confidence, that in at least some small portion of these travels he acted as companion to a young man of large fortune (nephew to a pawnbroker, and articled-clerk to an attorney); and there are passages in the Philosophic Vagabond, which, if they did not themselves suggest this, would tend to bear it out. I was to be the young gentleman's governor, with a proviso that he should always be permitted to govern

himself. He was heir to a fortune of two hun'dred thousand pounds, left him by an uncle in the West * Indies; and all his questions on the road were, how

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »