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At length it was decided that he should be sent to Edinburgh, to be bred to the study of physic, where he was fixed by the persevering kindness of bis uncle Contarine about the end of the year 1752. Here again poor Oliver became the hero of many an adventure, of many a tale of blunders and difficulties, and displayed all the weakness of his character. The desire to amuse, and the love of display, seduced him into buffoonery: his knowledge was not equal to his genius, and he did not endeavour by regular study to add to his acquisitions. His health was considerably injured by dissipation, and his pocket not unfrequently drained by bis extravagance.
He went however throngh the usual courses at Edinburgh ; and then, with the consent of his beneficent uncle, removed to Leyden, in order to complete his medical studies. The story of bis leaving Edinburgh precipitately, in order to avoid being arrested for a debt contracted by a fellow student, for which it is said he had become security, is discountenanced by a letter written by himself to his uncle from Leyden, in which he ascribes his detention in prison at Newcastle-upon-Tyne to a very different cause—his being found in company with some Scotchmen in the French service,—and he expresses his gratitude to God for the interposition, as the vessel in which he would otherwise bave sailed, was wrecked at the mouth of the Garonne, and all the crew were lost.
He resided at Leyden about a year, where he suffered all the vicissitudes of fortune at play, till at length, stripped of every shilling by this fatal passion for the gaming table, he determined to quit Holland; and he accordingly set out on bis travels with only one clean shirt, and pennyless. His method of traveling, and the means to which he resorted for subsistence, have been already detailed. He traveled in this way through Flanders, and some parts of France and Germany; he passed sometime in Switzerland; from thence he went to Padua, where he staid six months, and visited all the northern part of Italy. In the mean while, he lost his good uncle and generous benefactor, the Rev. Mr. Contarine; and he landed at Dover about the breaking out of the war in 1756, destitute of any other resources than his talents. He arrived in London in the extremity of distress, without,” as he himself expresses it, “ friends, recommendation, money, or impudence. The first situation which he obtained was that of assistant in an academy; but the circumstances attending this irksome employment soon rendered it intolerable. The want of present subsistence, subsequently led him to apply to several apothecaries, to be admitted as a journeyman; but his thread-bare coat, uncouth figure, and broad Irish dialect, exposed him to repeated insult and unfeeling repulse. At length a chemist near Fish Street Hill, moved by his forlorn condition, and perhaps surprised at his medical knowledge, employed him in his laboratory, where he was discovered by an old fellow-student of his at Edinburgh, Dr. Sleigh, who affectionately received him into his family, and offered him the use of his purse.
Thus assisted, we are informed, he commenced medical practitioner at Bankside, from whence he afterwards removed to the vicinity of the Temple: but although he had plenty of patients, he confessed he got no fees. Here however he had leisure to have recourse to his pen; and by his combined exertions in literature and medicine, “ by a very little practice as a physician, and a very little reputation as a poet,” he made “ shift to live.” While thus endeavouring to support himself, he received an offer from the son of the Rev. Dr. Milner, a dissenting minister, who kept a classical school, of some eminence, at Peckham, to take the charge of bis father's school during Dr. Milner's illness, which at length proved fatal. Through the same gentleman, he obtained, at the expiration of this engagement, a regular
appointment to be physician to one of the factories in India. This was in the year 1758; and to prepare for his equipment he drew up proposals for printing his work on “ The present State of Literature in Europe.” It was about this time that, in a letter to his brother Henry, he attempted to dissuade him from sending his son to college, if he had “ ambition, strong passions, and an exquisite sensibility for contempt;" he conjures him not, above all things, to let him ever touch a románce or a novel; urging that books teach very little of the world. Then, after affirming that “ the greatest merit in a state of poverty would only serve to make the possessor ridiculous,” he adds:
“ Teach then, my dear sir, to your son, thrift and economy. Let bis poor wandering uncle's example be placed before his eyes. I had learned from books to be disinterested and generous, before I was taught from experience the necessity of being prudent. I had contracted the habits and notions of a philosopber, while I was exposing myself to the insidious approaches of cunning; and often by being, even with my narrow finances, charitable to excess, I forgot the rules of justice, and placed myself in the very situation of the wretch who thanked me for my bounty.”
Dr. Goldsmith gradually cooled in his desire for an East India voyage. His next engagement was as a writer in the Monthly Review, the publisher and proprietor of which, Mr. Ralph Griffiths, he met with at Dr. Milner's table. The terms offered bim were his board and lodging, and a handsome salary: and the agreement was to last for one year. In fulfilling his part of it, Goldsmith declared he usually wrote for his employer every day from nine o'clock till two: but at the end of seven or eight months it was dissolved by mutual consent, and our author took lodgings in Green Arbour Court, Old Bailey ;--a wretched dirty room, in which there was but one chair, so that when he was honoured with a visitant he was obliged himself to sit in the window. Here he finished his “ Inquiry into the State of Literature.” His next removal was to Wine Office Court, where he wrote, as has been already mentioned, the VICAR of WAKEFIELD. In this residence he received his first visit from Dr. Johnson, on May 31st, 1761 : when he gave an invitation to him, and much other company, many of them literary men, to a supper in these lodgings. Among the company invited was Dr. Percy, afterwards Bishop of Dromore. In 1763, he took lodgings in Canonbury House, Islington, where he was employed principally in compiling and editing publications for his patron, Newberry the bookseller. In 1764, he fixed his abode in the Temple, first in the library staircaise, afterwards in the King's Bench Wall, and ultimately at No. 2, in Brick Court, where he had chambers on the first floor elegantly furnished. Thus gradually did this singuJarly gifted man, by the mere force of his talents, under every disadvantage of person and fortune, emerge from the obscurity of the most abject poverty, into celebrity and comparative affluence.
About 1764 was formed the celebrated literary club, of which Dr. Goldsmith was one of the first members, together with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Burke, Dr. Nugent, Sir John Hawkins, Mr. Langton, Mr. Topham Beauclerk, Mr. Chamier, and Mr. Dyer. They met and supped together every Friday evening, at the Turk's Head in Gerrard Street, Soho.
In 1768, (January 29th,) bis play of the Goodnatured Man, after being declined by Garrick, was produced at Covent Garden. In the following year, at the establishment of the Royal Academy, his friend Sir Joshua Reynolds procured for him the appointment of Professor of Ancient History; a mere complimentary distinction, attended with neither emolument nor trouble. His letters to his friends, written at this period, exhibit an unsophisticated simplicity of mind, and breathe the same ardent attachment to his country, and the same affection for his “
shattered family,” as ever.
In 1773, Dr. Goldsmith's second comedy,“ She stoops to Conquer,” made its appearance at Covent Garden. It had a surprising run, contrary to the manager's anticipations, and produced the author a clear profit of eight hundred pounds. This, we are informed, “ brought down upon him a torrent of congratulatory addresses and petitions from less fortupate bards, whose indigence compelled them to solicit his bounty, and of scurrilous abuse from such as, being less reduced, only envied his success.” The “London Packet,” of Wednesday, March 24th, 1773, contained a letter signed Tom Tickle, which being pointed out to him by the official kindness of a friend, Goldsmith went to the publisher, (T: Evans of Paternoster Row,) and after arguing on the malignity of this unmerited attack upon his character, applied a cane to the bookseller's shoulders. A scuffle ensued, in which the Doctor got bis share of blows, till Dr. Kenrick, a noted libeller," and the suspected author of the letter, stepped forward from the bookseller's back room, and, parting the combatants, sent the Doctor, severely bruised, home in a coach. The affair long employed the discussion of the newspapers; and an action was threatened for the assault; but it was at length compromised, and the poet published an address on the subject in the DAILY ADVERTISER, written so much in the nervous style of Dr. Johnson, that it was at first supposed, though without foundation, to be bis.
His last publication was his “ History of animated Nature,” in eight volumes octavo, which appeared in 1774. In the spring of that year, being embarrassed in his circumstances, owing to his profusion and liberality, but still more to bis pernicious attachment to gaming, he was attacked with a severe fit of the strangury. To this complaint he was subject, owing