페이지 이미지
[ocr errors]

than expressed his real and decided opinion; for Boswell, is of the discussion which took place at it is not easy to suppose, that he should so widely the meeting of 24th March, 1775. “Before Johndiffer from the rest of the literary world. son came in, we talked of his ‘Journey to the Wes

“Johnson, 'I remember once being with Gold- tern Islands,' and of his coming away 'willing to smith in Westminster Abbey. While we sur- believe the second sight,' which seemed to excito veyed the Poet's-Corner, I said to him,- some ridicule. I was then so impressed with the Forsitan el nostrum nomen miscebitur istis,

truth of many of the stories of which I nad been

told, that I avowed my conviction, saying 'He is When we got to Temple-Bar he stopped me, only willing to believe; I do believe. The evidence pointed to the heads upon it, and slily whispered is enough for me, though not for his great mind. me

What will not fill a quart bottle will fill a pint botl'orsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis.'t tle. I am filled with belief.' 'Are you,' said Col“Johnson praised John Bunyan highly. "His man, 'then cork it up.' "Pilgrim's Progress” has great merit, both for in- "I found his 'Journey' the common topic of vention, imagination, and the conduct of the story ; iconversation in London at this time, wherever I and it has had the best evidence of its merits, the happened to be. At one of Lord Mansfield's forgeneral and continued approbation of mankind. mal Sunday evening conversations, strangely callFew books, I believe, have had a more extensive ed levees, his Lordship addressed me, "We have sale. It is remarkable, that it begins very much all been reading your Travels, Mr. Boswell.' I anlike the poem of Dante; yet there was no trans- swered, 'I was but the humble attendant of Dr. lation of Dante when Bunyan wrote. There is Johnson.' The Chief-Justice replied, with that reason to think that he had read Spenser." air and manner which none who ever heard or

“A proposition which had been agitated, that saw him can forget, 'He speaks ill of nobody but monuments to eminent persons should, for the Ossian.' time to come, be erected in St. Paul's Church as “Johnson was in high spirits this evening at well as in the Westminster Abbey, was mention the club, and talked with great animation and ed; and it was asked, who should be honoured by success. He attacked Swift, as he used to do upon having his monument first erected? Somebody all occasions: “The Tale of a Tul” is so much su suggested Pope. Johnson, "Why, sir, as Pope was perior to his other writirgs, that we can hardly a Roman Catholic, I would not have his to be believe he was the author of it: there is in it such first. I think Milton's rather should have the pre- a vigour of mind, such a swarm of thoughts, so cedence. I think more highly of him now than 1 much of nature, and art, and life. I wondered to did at twenty. There is more thinking in him hear him say of ‘Gulliver's Travels,' When and Butler than in any one of our poets.' once you have thought of big and little men, it is

“The gentlemen (continues Mr. Boswell) now very easy to do all the rest.' I endeavoured to went away to their club, and I was left at Beau- make a stand for Swift, and tried to rouse those clerk's till the fate of my election should be an- who were much more able to defend him; but in nounced to me. I sat in a state of anxiety, which vain. Johnson at last, of his own accord, allowed even the charming conversation of Lady Di very great merit to the inventory of articles found Beauclerk could not entirely dissipate. In a short in the pocket of 'the Man Mountain,' particulartime I received the agreeable intelligence that 1 ly the duscription of his rvatch, which it was conwas chosen. I hastened to the place of meeting, jectured was his god, as he consulted it upon all and was introduced to such a society as can sel- occasions. He observed, that 'Swift put his name dom be found. Mr. Edmund Burke, whom 1 but to two things (after he had a name to put), then saw for the first time, and whuse splendid ta- the "Plan of the Improvement of the English 'ents had long male me ardently wish for his ac- Language,” and the last “Drapier's Letters." quaintance; Dr. Nugent, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Gold- "From Swist there was an easy transition to smith, Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Jones, and the Mr. Thomas Sheridan. Johnson, "Sheridan is a company with whom I had dined. Upon my en- wonderful admirer of the tragedy of Douglas, and trance, Johnson placed himself behind a chair, on presented its author with a gold medal. Some which he leaned as on a desk or pulpit, and, years ago, at a Coffee-house in Oxford, I called to with humourous formality, gave me a charge, him "Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Sheridan, how came you pointing out the conduct expected from me as a to give a gold medal to Home, for writing that member of this club."

foolish play?” This, you see, was wanton and in. The next conversational specimen given by Mr. solent; but I meant to be wanton and insolent.

A medal has no value but as a stamp of meril. Ovid. de Art, Amand. 1. iii. 5. 13.

And was Sheridan to assume to himself the right of In allusion to Dr. Johnson's supposed political principles, giving that stamp? If Sheridan was magnificerid Ind perhaps his own

enough to bestow a gold medal as an honorary ra


ward of dramatic excellence, he should have re-| how much may be done, without the aid of extraquested one of the universities to choose the per- vagant incident, to excite the imagination and inson on whom it should be conferred. Sheridan terest the feelings. Few productions of the kind had no right to give a stamp of merit: it was afford greater amusement in the perusal, and still counterfeiting Apollo's coin.'”

fewer inculcate more impressive lessons of moraliNow that Goldsmith had acquired fame as a ty. Though wit and humour abound in every poet of the first rank, and was associated with page, yet in the whole volume there is not one the wit and talent that belonged to this cele- thought injurious in its tendency, nor one sentibrated club, his publisher, Mr. Newberry, thought ment that can offend the chastest ear. Its language, he might venture to give the “Vicar of Wakefield" in the words of an elegant writer, is what "angels to the world. It was accordingly brought out in might have heard and virgins told.” In the deli1766, and not only proved a most lucrative specu- neation of his characters, in the conduct of his falation for the bookseller, but brought a fresh ac- ble, and in the moral of the piece, the genius of the cession of literary celebrity to its author. Notwith- author is equally conspicuous. The hero displays standing the striking merit of this work, it is a with unaffected simplicity the most striking virtues fact not less singular than true, that the literary that can adorn social life: sincere in his professions, friends to whom Goldsmith submitted it for criti- humane and generous in his disposition, he is himcism, before publication, were divided in opinion as self a pattern of the character he represents. The to the probability of its success; and it is still more other personages are drawn with similar discrimisingular that Dr. Johnson himself should have en-nation. Each is distinguished by some peculia. tertained doubts on the subject. It has been as- feature; and the general grouping of the whole has serted, that the publisher put it to press in the this particular excellence, that not one could be crude state in which he found it, when the har-wanted without injuring the unity and beauty of gain was made with Johnson for the manuscript; the design. The drama of the tale is also managed but such a conclusion is obviously erroneous. with equal skill and effect. There are no extraGoldsmith was at that time on the best terms with vagant incidents, and no forced or improbable sitaNewberry, and engaged in the completion of vari- ations; one event rises out of another in the same ous minor pieces for him; and as the fame of the easy and natural manner as flows the language of one as well as the profit of the other were equally the narration; the interest never flags, and is kept at stake on the success of the performance, it is ex- up to the last by the expedient of concealing the ceedingly improbable that both author and pub- real character of Burchell. But it is the moral of lisher should be regardless of such revisal and cor- the work which entitles the author to the praise of rection as was clearly for the benefit of both. supereminent merit in this species of writing. No That Goldsmith did alter and revise this work be- writer has arrived more successfully at the great fore publication, may be gathered from a conversa- ends of a moralist. By the finest examples, he intion which took place between Johnson and Mr. culcates the practice of benevolence, patience in Boswell. “Talking of a friend of ours," says the suffering, and reliance on the providence of God. latter, "who associated with persons of very dis- A short time after the publication of the “Vicar cordant principles and characters, I said he was a of Wakefield,” Goldsmith printed his beautiful very universal man, quite a man of the world.” ballad of the “Hermit.” His friend Dr. Percy “Yes, sir,” said Johnson, “but one may be so had published, in the same year, “Reliques of An. much a man of the world, as to be nothing in the cient English Poetry;" and as the “Hermit" was world. I remember a passage in Goldsmith's 'Vi- found to bear some resemblance to a tale in that car of Wakefield,' which he was afterwards fool collection, entitled "The Friar of Orders Gray," enough to expunge; 'I do not love a man who is the scribblers of the time availed themselves of the zealous for nothing.". Boswell, “That was a fine circumstance to tax him with plagiarism. Irritated passage." Johnson, "Yes, sir; there was another at the charge, he published a letter in the St. fine passage which he struck out: 'When I was a James's Chronicle, vindicating the priority of his young man , being anxious to distinguish my own poem, and asserting that the plan of the other self, I was perpetuully starting new propositions; must have been taken from his. It is probable, but I soon gave this over; for I found that gener- however

, that both poems were taken from a very ally what was new was false.'

ancient ballad in the same collection, beginning The “Vicar of Wakefield" has long been con- "Gentle Heardsman.” Our author had seen and sidered one of the most interesting tales in our admired this ancient poem, in the possession of language. It is seldom that a story presenting Dr. Percy, long before it was printed; and some of merely a picture of common life, and a detail of the stanzas he appears, perhaps undesignedly, to domestic events, so powerfully affects the reader. have imitated in the "Hermit," as the reader will The irresistible charm this novel possesses, evinces perceive on examining the following specimens:gratification of being recognized by a man of the FROM THE OLD BALLAD.

duke's high rank as a literary friend. And grew soe coy and nice to please,

This distinguished peer and his duchess were As women's lookes are often soe,

accustomed to spend part of each summer at Bath; In might not kisse, nor hand forsooche,

and one year, after their return to London, her Unless I willed him so to doe.

grace related to Dr. Percy, with considerable huThus being wearyed with delayers


mour, the following occurrence, characteristic of To see I pittyed not his greeffe,

our author's occasional abstraction of mind. On file gott him to a secrett place, And there hee dyed without releeffe.

one of the parades at Bath, the duke and Lord

Nugent had hired two adjacent houses. GoldAnd for his sake these weeds I weare,

smith, who was then resident on a visit with the And sacrifice my tender age; And every day Pll beg my bread

latter, one morning walked up into the duke's dinTo undergo this pilgrimage.

ing room, as he and the duchess were preparing to

sit down to breakfast. In a manner the most free Thus every day I fast and pray, And ever will doe til I dye;

and easy he threw himself on a sofa; and, as he And get mo to some secrett place;

was then perfectly known to them both, they inFor soe did hee, and se will I.

quired of him the Bath news of the day. But perFROM THE HERMIT.

ceiving him to be rather in a meditative humour,

they rightly guessed there was some mistake, and For still I tried each fickle art,

endeavoured, by easy and cheerful conversation to *Importunate and vain; And while his passion touch'd my hear,

prevent his becoming embarrassed. When breakI triumph'd in his pain.

fast was served up, they invited him to stay and

partake of it; and then poor Goldsmith awoke from TII, quite dejected by my scom, He left me to my pride;

his reverie, declared he thought he had been in the And sought a solitude forlorn,

house of his friend Lord Nugent, and with confuIn secrel, where he died.

sion hastily withdrew; not, however, till the goodBut rnine the sorrow, mine the fault,

humoured duke and duchess had made him promise And well my life shall pay;

to dine with them. PI seek the solitude he sought,

Something akin to this incident, is the well And stretch me where he lay.

known blunder committed by our author during a And there forlorn, despairing, hid,

conversation with the Earl of Shelbourne. One l'u lay me down and die;

evening, while in company with this nobleman, Twas so for me that Edwin did,

Goldsmith, after a variety of conversation, fell into And so for him will L

a fit of musing. At last

, as if suddenly recovering There has been an attempt, in later days, to cast from his abstraction, he addressed his lordship aba doubt upon the title of Goldsmith to the whole ruptly in this manner;—"My lord, I have often of this poem. It has been asserted that the “Her- wondered why every body should call your lordship mit” was a translation of an ancient French poem Malagrida; for Malagrida, you know, was a very entitled “Raimond and Angeline.” The pretend- good man.” The well bred peer only replied to el original made its appearance in a trifling peri- this awkward compliment by a smile, and the odical publication, entitled "The Quiz.” It bears heedless poet went on totally unconscious of his internal evidence of being in reality an imitation of error. It was afterwards remarked by Dr. JohnGoldsmith's poem. The frivolous source of this son, that this mistake of Goldsmith was only a flippant attack, and its transparent falsity, would blunder in emphasis, and that the expression meant have caused it to pass unnoticed here, had it not nothing more than, “I wonder they should use been made a matter of grave discussion in some Malagrida as a term of reproach.” periodical journals. To enter into a detailed refu- About this period, or perhaps a little earlier, tation would be absurd.

Goldsmith, in addition to the apartments he occuThe poem of “The Hermit” was at first in-pied in the Temple, took a country-house on the scribed to the Countess (afterwards Duchess) of Edgeware-road, in conjunction with a Mr. Bott, Northumberland, who had shown a partiality for one of his literary friends, for the benefit of good productions of this kind, by patronizing Percy's air

, and the convenience of retirement. To this “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry” This led little mansion he gavethe jocular appellation of Shoeto a renewed intercourse with the cake, to whom maker's Paradise, the architecture being in a fanwe have already narrated Goldsmith's first visit; tastic style, after the taste of its original possessor, but the time had gone by when his grace could who was one of the craft. Here he began and have been politically useful, and we do not know finished one of his most pleasing and successful that our author reaped any other advantage from compilations, a “ History of England, in a Serier the notice that nobleman took of him, than the lof Letters from a Nobleman to his Son." This little work was at first published anonymously, suring him that "he had exceeded his own idea and was very generally ascribed to the pen of Lord of the character, and that the fine comic richness Lyttletun. That nobleman then held some rank of his colouring made it almost appear as new to in the world of letters, and as the chief feature in him as to any other person in the house.” Dr. the performance was an easy elegance of language, Johnson furnished the prologue, and publicly dewithout much depth of thought, or investigation, clared, that in his opinion, “The Good-natured the public were the more easily betrayed into a be- Man" was the best comedy that had appeared lief that it was the work of his lordship. It had since " The Provoked Husband." He dwelt with likewise the honour to be ascribed to the Earl of much complacency on the character of Croaker, Orrery, and some other noble authors of that period. and averred that none equal to it in originality That it was really the production of Goldsmith, had for a long time been exhibited on the stage. nowever, was soon afterwards generally known; a Goldsmith used to acknowledge, that for his concircumstance, which in all probability, greatly en- ception of this character he was indebted to Johnhanced its value in the estimation of the world. son's Suspirius in the “Rambler.” That of Honey. Few books have had a more extensive sale or wood, in its undistinguishing benevolence, bear wider circulation.

some resemblance to his own. " The Good-naThe fame our author had now acquired as a tured Man” has undoubtedly great merit; and critic, a novelist, and a poet, prompted him to ad- though deficient in effect for the stage, will always venture in the drama. His first effort produced be a favourite in the closet. Mr. Cumberland re. “ The Good-natured Man." This comedy was marks, that it " has enough to justify the good offered to Garrick, to be brought out at his theatre opinion of its literary patrons, and secure its auof Drury-Lane; but after much fluctuation between thor against any loss of reputation; for it has the doubt and encouragement, with his customary hesi- stamp of a man of talents upon it, though its poputation and uncertainty, he at length declined it. The larity with the audience did not quite keep pace with conduct of Garrick in this instance was the more sur-the expectations that were grounded on the fiat it prising, as the piece had been read and applauded in had antecedently been honoured with.” Short as manuscript by most of the author's literary friends, its career was, however, its author by the sale of the and had not only the sanction of Burke's critical copy, and the profits of his three nights, acquired judgment, but Johnson himself had engaged to not less than five hundred pounds, a sum which write the prologue. Colman, the manager of Cov- enabled him to enlarge his domestic establishment. ent-Garden Theatre, was, however, not so scrupu- and improve his style of living, though it is believlous; especially when he found it presented under ed on rather a too expensive scale. On removing, such patronage. It was therefore agreed that it at this time from an attic in the Inner-Temple, to should be produced at his theatre; and it was repre-elegant chambers in Brick-court, Middle-Temple, sented there for the first time on the 29th of Janu- he is said to have laid out upwards of four hundred ary, 1768. Contrary to the expectations of the au- pounds. thor and his friends, it did not meet with unquali- Goldsmith's improved circumstances, did nok, fied applause ; and though it kept possession of the however, compensate for the vexations he suffered stage nine nights, it was finally withdrawn. The from the virulence of some of the periodical critics, peculiar genius of its author was apparent in the " At that time,” says Mr. Cumberland, “thore ease and elegance of the dialogue, and throughout was a nest of vipers in league against every name the whole there were many keen remarks on men to which any degree of celebrity was attached; and and manners; but the piece was deficient in stage- they kept their hold upon the papers till certain of effect. The Bailiff scene, in particular, was gene- their leaders were compelled to fly their country, rally reprobated, though the characters were well some to save their ears, and some to save their drawn. This scene was afterwards greatly abridg- necks. They were well known; and I am sorry ed. Whatever were the faults of the piece as a to say, some men whose minds should have been whole, it was admitted that many of the parts pos- superior to any terrors they could hold out, made sessed great comic effect, and these were highly suit to them for favour, nay even combined wito applauded. The part of Croaker, in particular, was them on some occasions, and were mean enough allowed to be excellent. It was admirably sup- to enrol themselves under their despicable banported by Shuter, the most popular comedian of his ners.” From this class of critics, poor Goldsmith's day. The drollery of his manner while reading sensitive feelings suffered the horrors of crucifixion. the incendiary letter in the fourth act, and his ex- To add to his mortification, the comedy of “False pression of the different passions by which he was Delicacy," written by his friend Kelly, came out at agitated, were so irresistibly comical, that he brought Drury-Lane Theatre about the same time with down thunders of applause. Goldsinith himself was 'The Good-natured Man" at Covent-Garden, and so overcome with the acting of Shuter, that he ex- had such an unexampled run of success, that it pressed his delight before the whole company, as- was said to have driven its opponent fairly off the

field. This might, perhaps, be in some measure better than I should have done; for I should have owing to the able management of Garrick, under bowed and stammered through the whole of it." whose special superintendence it was got up; but On another occasion, during an interesting ar at that time sentimental writing was the prevailing gument carried on by Johnson, Mayo, and Toptaste of the town, and Kelly's piece was the finest lady, at the table of Messrs. Dilly, the inoksellers, specimen of the sentimental school that had ap- 'Goldsmith sat in restless agitation, from a wish to peared. Although “ False Delicacy,” according get in and shine. Finding himself excluded, he to Dr. Johnson, was "totally devoid of character," had taken his hat to go away, but remained for no less than ten thousand copies were sold in the some time with it in his hand, like a gamester who, course of only one season; and the booksellers con- at the close of a long night, lingers for a little while, cerned in the copyright, as a mark of the sense to see if he can have a favourable opening to finish they entertained of the comedy, evinced by its ex- with success. Once when he was beginning to traordinary sale, presented Kelly with a piece of speak, he found himself overpowered by the loud plate of considerable value, and gave a sumptuous voice of Johnson, who was at the opposite end of entertainment to him and his friends. These cir- the table, and did not perceive Goldsmith's attempt. cumstances so wrought upon the irritable feelings Thus disappointed of his wish to obtain the attenof Goldsmith, in whose disposition, warm and tion of the company, Goldsmith in a passion threw generous as it was, envy had an unhappy predomi- down his hat, looking angrily at Johnson, and exnance, that he renounced the friendship of Kelly, claiming in a bitter tone " Take it.” When Topand could with difficulty be brought to forgive him lady was going to speak, Johnson uttered some this temporary success. Our author, though in sound, which led Goldsmith to think that he was the chief features of his character the original of his beginning again, and taking the words from Topown “Good-natured Man,” was yet strangely lady. Upon which he seized this opportunity of jealous of the success of others, and particularly venting his own spleen, under the pretext of supin whatever regarded literary fame.

porting another person: "Sir,” said he to Johnson, We find it difficult to reconcile the possession" the gentleman has heard you patiently for an of so odious a quality with affectionate habits and hour: pray allow us now to hear him.” Johnson benevolent propensities like his. True it is, how- replied, “Sir, I was not interrupting the gentleever, that he was prone to indulge this unamiable man; I was only giving him a signal of my attenpassion to so ridiculous an excess, that the instances tion. Sir, you are impertinent.” Goldsmith made of it are hardly credible. When accompanying no reply. Johnson, Boswell

, and Mr. Langton, two beautiful young ladies, * with their mother, on towards the evening, adjourned to the club, where a tour in France, he was amusingly angry that they found Burke, Garrick, and some other memmore attention was paid to them than to him. And bers, and amongst them their friend Goldsmith, once, at the exhibition of the Fantoccini in Lon- who sat silently brooding over Johnson's reprimand don, when those who sat next him observed with to him after dinner. Johnson perceived this, and what dexterity a puppet was made to toss a pike, said aside to some of them, “I'll make Goldsmith he could not bear that it should have such praise, forgive me;" and then called to him in a loud and exclaimed with some warmth, “Pshaw! I can voice, “Dr. Goldsmith, --something passed to-day do it better myself.” In fact, on his way home where you and I dined; I ask your pardon.” Goldwith Mr. Burke to supper, he broke his shin, by smith answered placidly, "It must be much from attempting to exhibit to the company how much you, sir, that I take ill.” And so at once ine difbetter he could jump over a stick than the puppets. ference was over ; they were on as easy terms as

His envy of Johnson was one day strongly ex-ever, and Goldsmith rattled away as usual.' hibited at the house of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The tincture of envy thus conspicuous in the dis While the doctor was relating to the circle there position of our author, was accompanied by another assembled the particulars of his celebrated inter- characteristic feature, more innocent but withal ex view with the king, Goldsmith remained unmoved ceedingly ridiculous. He was vain of imaginary upon a sofa at some distance, affecting not to join qualitications, and had an incessant desire of being in the least in the eager curiosity of the company. conspicuous in company; and this was the occasion At length, however, the frankness and simplicity of his sometimes appearing to such disadvantage as of his natural character prevailed. He sprung

one should hardly have supposed possible in a man from the sofa, advanced to Johnson, and in a kind of his genius. When his literary reputation had of flutter, from imagining himself in the situation risen deservedly high, and his society was much he had just been hearing described, exclaimed, courted, his jealousy of the great attention paid to "Well , you acquitted yourself in this conversation Johnson was more strikingly apparent. One eve

ning, in a circle of wits, he found fault with BosThe Miss Homeeks, one of whom was alterwards married well for talking of Johnson as entitled to the honour wa Henry Bunbury, Eng, and the other lo Colonel Gwyn. of unquestionable superiority. Sir," sail lic

« 이전계속 »