페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

“Retaliation." In spite of the gloom which was fast settling down, there were some flashes of the old brilliancy. Chief of these was a bright and humorous poem called Retaliation. It was never finished and was printed after his death. One evening at St. James's Coffee-house, some of his friends diverted themselves by writing comic epitaphs on Goldsmith, to which he was supposed to reply. Garrick produced the well-known lines :

“Here lies Nolly Goldsmith, for shortness called Noll,
Who wrote like an angel, but talked like poor Poll.”

Goldsmith's reply was delayed, but finally took shape in a series of amusing character sketches which hit off very cleverly the personal traits of Burke, Garrick, Reynolds, and others. One or two quotations will show the quality of this “ last scintillation of the bright and happy genius." On Burke:

“Here lies our good Edmund, whose genius was such,
We scarcely can praise it or blame it too much;
Who, born for the universe, narrowed his mind,
And to party gave up what was meant for mankind. ...
Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,
And thought of convincing, while they thought of dining.
For a patriot too cool, for a drudge disobedient,
And too fond of the right to pursue the expedient.

On Garrick:

“Here lies David Garrick, describe him who can,
An abridgment of all that was pleasant in man;
As an actor, confess’d without rival to shine;
As a wit, if not first, in the very first line:
Yet with talents like and an excellent heart,
The man had his failings, a dupe to his art. . .

Though secure of our hearts, yet confoundedly sick
If they were not his own by finessing and trick:
He cast off his friends, as a huntsman his pack,
For he knew when he pleased he could whistle them back."

On Reynolds : “Here Reynolds is laid, and, to tell you my mind, He has left not a wiser or better behind : His pencil was striking, resistless, and grand, H's manners were gentle, complying, and bland: Still born to improve us in every part, His pencil our faces, his manners our heart.” Death. The lines on Reynolds were the last ever written by Goldsmith. He died on April 4, 1774, at the age of forty-six. To his friends the news came as a personal shock; Burke is said to have burst into tears; Reynolds laid aside his brush for that day. He was buried privately in the Temple Church in London. He died heavily in debt was ever poet so trusted before !”

was

the kindly-humorous remark of Johnson. The great man was asked, two years later, to write an epitaph for a monument to be erected by Goldsmith's friends in Westminster Abbey. He composed the famous Latin inscription containing the lines“ Nullum fere scribendi genus non tetigit, nullum quod tetigit non ornavit ” — “ There was almost no kind of writing which he did not attempt, and he attempted nothing which he did not adorn.” It was a just estimate.

Personality. – Of Goldsmith's character much has been written, and not a little has been said which is of a contradictory nature. A great deal depends upon the point of view. It is true that he was, as Macaulay says, a

a

[ocr errors]

spendthrift, vain, frivolous, profuse, improvident. But it is also true that his “sweet and friendly nature bloomed in the midst of a life's storm and rain and bitter weather.” Among his friends he numbered some of the best men of the day. It was honest friendship as well as critical appreciation which led Johnson to say: "He has raised

: money and squandered it, by every artifice of acquisition and folly of expense.

But let not his frailties be remembered; he was a very great man.”

Best of all the comments upon Goldsmith, because of its broad humanity, was the estimate written by Thackeray. We may close this sketch with a brief quotation :

“Think of him reckless, thriftless, vain if you like — but merciful, gentle, generous, full of love and pity. He passes out of our life, and goes to render his account beyond it. Think of the poor pensioners weeping at his grave; think of the noble spirits that admired and deplored him; think of the righteous pen that wrote his epitaph

and of the wonderful and unanimous response of affection with which the world has paid back the love he gave it. His humor delighting us still; his song fresh and beautiful as when first he charmed with it; his words in all our mouths; his

very weaknesses beloved and familiar his benevolent spirit still seems to smile upon us; to do gentle kindnesses : to succor with sweet charity; to soothe, caress, and forgive; to plead with the fortunate for the unhappy and

the poor

RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN

1751-1816

An Extraordinary Figure. The career of Richard Brinsley Sheridan is one of the most extraordinary in the course of English literature. At the age of thirty-five he had written two of the greatest comedies ever produced on the English stage. A few years later he astonished the nation with a speech that placed him in the front rank of parliamentary orators. His friends included all the leaders of the day. But as time went on he moved from the blaze of popular admiration into the shadows of sorrow and affliction. Poverty and sickness fixed their hold upon him, and in his misery his friends fell away. Yet no sooner was he dead than all alike hastened to bear witness to his greatness, as of a man whom they delighted to honor. He died neglected and alone; but he received the high tribute of burial in Westminster Abbey.

Birth and Parentage. Sheridan was born in Dublin, Ireland, in September, 1751. His ancestry doubtless had some influence upon his character. His grandfather, Dr. Thomas Sheridan, was an extravagant and hot-headed parson, with a “ready wit and a flow of humor.” He was a favorite companion of Dean Swift; it is said, indeed, that Gulliver's Travels was written at his house. His father, Thomas Sheridan, early took to the stage and made some considerable reputation. Boswell spoke of his

a

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]
« 이전계속 »