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"We were told that universal benevolence was what first 'cemented society; we were taught to consider all the
wants of mankind as our own; to regard the human face • divine with affection and esteem: he wound us up to be 'mere machines of pity, and rendered us incapable of withstanding the slightest impulse made either by real or fictitious distress : in a word, we were perfectly instructed in 'the art of giving away thousands, before we were taught 'the more necessary qualifications of getting a farthing.'
Acquisitions highly primitive, and supporting what seems to have been the common fame of the Goldsmith race. The Goldsmiths were always a strange family,' confessed three different branches of them, in as many different quarters of Ireland, when inquiries were made by Mr. Prior, the poet's last and most careful biographer.
They rarely acted like other people : their hearts were 'always in the right place, but their heads seemed to be doing anything but what they ought.' In opinions or confessions of this kind, however, the heart's right place is not so well discriminated as it might be, or collision with the head would be oftener avoided. Worthy Doctor Strean expressed himself more correctly when Mr. Mangin was making his inquiries twenty-five years ago. 'Several of the family and name,' he said, ' live near Elphin, ' who, as well as the Poet, were, and are, remarkable for their 'worth, but of no cleverness in the affairs of the world.'
If cleverness in the affairs of the world is what the head should be always versed in, to be meditating what
it ought, poor Oliver was a grave defaulter. We are all of us, it is said, more or less related to Chaos ; and with him, to the last, there was much that lay unredeemed from its void. Sturdy boys, who work a gallant way through school, and are the lights of their college, and grow up to thriving eminence in their several callings, and found respectable families, are seldom troubled with this relationship till Chaos reclaims them altogether, and they die and are forgotten. All men have their advantages, and that is theirs. But it shows too great a pride in what they have, to think the whole world should be under pains and penalties to possess it too; and to set up so many doleful lamentations over this poor, weak, confused, erratic, Goldsmith nature. Their tone will not be taken here: the writer having no pretension to its moral dignity. Consideration will be had for the harsh lessons this boy so early and bitterly encountered; it will not be forgotten that feeling, not always rightly guided or controlled, but sometimes in a large excess, must almost of necessity be his who has it in charge to dispense largely, variously, and freely to others; and in the endeavour to show that the heart of Oliver Goldsmith was indeed rightly placed, it may appear, on the whole, that his head profited by its example.
At the age of eleven he was removed from Mr. Griffin's, and put to a school of repute at Athlone, about five miles from his father's house, and kept by a Reverend Mr.
Campbell. At about the same time his brother Henry went as a pensioner to Dublin University, and it was resolved that in due course Oliver should follow him : a determination, his sister told Dr. Percy, which replaced that of putting him to a common trade, on some verses he had written at Elphin School, and other evidence of some liveliness of talent, being suddenly brought to light. He remained at Athlone two years; and when Mr. Campbell's ill health obliged him to resign his charge, was removed to the school of Edgeworthstown, kept by the Reverend Patrick Hughes. Here he stayed nearly four years, and was long remembered by the school acquaintance he formed : of whom Mr. Beatty, Mr. Nugent, Mr. Roach, and Mr. Daly, communicated with Bishop Percy and his friends, when the first memoir was compiled. They recollected Mr. Hughes's special kindness to him, and thinking well of him, as matters not then to be accounted for. The good master had been Charles Goldsmith's friend. They dwelt upon his ugliness and awkward manners, and professed to recount even the studies he liked or disliked.
Ovid and Horace were welcome to him; he hated Cicero ; Livy was his delight; and when he had mastered Tacitus, it opened him a new source of pleasure. His temper they described as ultra-sensitive; but though quick to take offence, he was more feverishly ready to forgive. They said, that though at first diffident and backward in the extreme, he mustered sufficient boldness in time to take even a leader's place in the boyish
sports, and particularly at fives or ball-playing. Whenever a trick was going forward, they added,Noll Goldsmith' was certain to be in it: actor or victim.
Of his holidays, Ballymahon was the central attraction; and here, too, recollection was vivid and busy, as soon as his name grew famous. An old man who directed the sports of the place, and kept the ball-court in those days, long subsisted on his stories of 'Master Noll. The narrative masterpiece of this ancient 'Jack Fitzsimmons' related to the depredation of the orchard of Tirlichen, by the youth and his companions. Fitzsimmons also vouched to the Reverend John Graham for the entire truth of the adventure so currently and confidently told by his Irish acquaintance, on which, if true, the leading incident of She Stoops to Conquer was founded. At the close of his last holidays, then a lad of nearly seventeen, he left home for Edgeworthstown: mounted on a borrowed hack which a friend was to restore to Lissoy, and with store of unaccustomed wealth, a guinea, in his pocket. The delicious taste of independence beguiled him to a loitering, lingering, pleasant enjoyment of the journey; and instead of finding himself under Mr. Hughes's roof at night-fall, night fell upon him some two or three miles out of the direct road, in the middle of the streets of Ardagh. But nothing could disconcert the owner of a guinea, who, with lofty confident air, inquired of a person passing, the way to the town's best house of entertainment. The man addressed was the wag of Ardagh, Mr. Cornelius
Kelly, and the schoolboy swagger was irresistible provocation to a jest. Submissively he turned back with horse and rider till they came within a pace or two of the great Squire Featherstone's, to which he respectfully pointed as the 'best house of Ardagh. Oliver rang at the gate, gave his beast in charge with authoritative rigour, and was shown as a supposed expected guest into the parlour of the Squire. These were days when Irish Innkeepers and Irish Squires more nearly approximated than now; and Mr. Featherstone, unlike the excellent but explosive Mr. Hardcastle, is said to have seen the mistake and humoured it. Oliver bad a supper which gave him so much satisfaction, that he ordered a bottle of wine to follow; and the attentive landlord was not only forced to drink with him, but, with like familiar condescension, the wife and pretty daughter were invited to the supper-room. Going to bed, he stopped to give special instructions for a hot cake to breakfast; and it was not till he had dispatched this meal, and was looking at his guinea with pathetic aspect of farewell, that the truth was told him by the good-natured Squire. The late Sir Thomas Featherstone, grandson to the supposed innkeeper, had faith in the adventure; and told Mr. Graham that as his grandfather and Charles Goldsmith had been college acquaintance, it might the better be accounted for.
But the school-days of Oliver Goldsmith are now to close. Within the last year there had been some changes at Lissoy, which not a little affected the family fortunes. Catherine, the elder sister, had privately married a Mr.