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The Personal Touch. From time to time in the course of English literature, writers appear for whom we have a sort of personal affection. Fate has used them harshly; their course has been run with a handicap. Yet they have smiled at Fate, and have finished their course in spite of the handicap. They have left behind them something bravely attempted, something finely done. One of such men was Charles Lamb; another was Oliver Goldsmith. Into our estimate of what they were and what they did the personal element must always enter.
Goldsmith His Own Worst Enemy. Lamb fell upon evil days through no fault of his own. We sympathize with Goldsmith in his troubles — of which, as he said, “ God has given my
share yet for these troubles it must be confessed that he himself was chiefly responsible. Born with an unfortunate tendency towards indolence and procrastination, he did not try to equip himself for the battle of life. He was never asked,” says a recent biographer, “ to do a stroke of work towards the earning of his own living until he had arrived at man's estate.” He was maintained at college; he was, more than once or twice, supplied with money for a fitting start in the world. But each time he threw away the opportunity. During the closing period of his career he was earning enough to keep him in moderate comfort, yet he died poor and in debt. He seems, indeed, to have been one of those unfortunates who are their own worst enemies.
Early Education. Oliver Goldsmith was born at the village of Pallas, in Ireland, on November 10, 1728. His father, the Reverend Charles Goldsmith, was the rector of the parish. Long afterwards the son wrote of him,
“A man he was to all the country dear,
While Oliver was still an infant, the family removed to the village of Lissoy, where the father had secured a somewhat better living. Here the boy received his early education. He learned his A B C at home from one of the servants; his “ three R's" at the village school. He was a shy and sensitive lad small of build, awkward of movement, and slow at his lessons. It is not on record that he showed any signs either of interest in literature or of the capacity to write. He suffered then, as he did all through his life, from a lack of self-confidence. It was woefully easy for his schoolmates to raise, at his expense, the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind."
“ Sweet Auburn." There is no reasonable doubt that the Sweet Auburn of his most beautiful poem, The Deserted Village, is Lissoy seen through the golden haze of memory. The details are touched in with a loving hand; the picture is more kindly than accurate. But in the main it is a true picture. A few lines will show how vividly the old days came back to him long after, when he" in populous city pent endured the fading years":