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is confirmatory of the latest development of the story. It gives the value of a third share accurately; it describes it as an advance; it makes the advancer Newbery, and, by implication, it places the occurrence in Wine Office Court, where Goldsmith lived to the end of 1762, in October of which year, either at Salisbury or London, Collins effected his purchase.
Unless some further discoveries are made, it is not likely that the above discrepancies can be finally adjusted. But as the latest editor of Boswell has thrown no light upon the subject, and the latest biographer of Johnson has handed it over to the biographers of Goldsmith, it is scarcely possible to quit the question without suggestion of some kind. The fact of Collins's purchase of a third share, resting as it does upon the evidence of his own account-books, which have been inspected by the present writer, is incontestable. The account of Johnson's sale of the manuscript, as Johnson, habitually "attentive to truth in the most minute particulars," originally gave it, is no doubt also essentially true, and its variations under other hands may be attributed in part to confused recollections of a confusing story. The mention of twenty
. guineas and forty pounds in two of the versions appears to indicate a confirmation of the sale by shares; while the phrase "immediate relief” used by Mrs. Piozzi, and the “money for his relief” of Hawkins, suggest that Johnson may not have meant that he actually obtained the whole of the sixty pounds or guineas, but only that he had agreed upon that as the entire price, which he would have to do in order to establish the value of a share. If he only brought back part of the money, the case admits of
plausible solution. Unless Boswell bungled terribly in his “exact narration," it is most improbable that the Collins sale preceded the Johnson sale. If it did, it involves, what is practically inadmissible, dishonesty on the part of Goldsmith or Johnson, in selling as a whole a book of which a part had already been disposed of. But if, on the other hand, the Johnson sale came before the Collins sale, the not unreasonable explanation would be that Johnson, called in, as he says, to Goldsmith's aid, went to Newbery or Strahan, settled upon the price of the manuscript, and procured for Goldsmith “immediate relief” in the shape of an advance for one or for two shares. The other share or shares would remain to be disposed of by the author, and so, either at Salisbury or London, the transfer to Collins would come about.
The only objection to this supposition is, that it puts back the sale to 1762, instead of the usually accepted date of 1764. But 17.64 has only been chosen because it is the year of the publication of “The Traveller.” And it is noticeable that Boswell, who made Johnson's acquaintance in May, 1763, does not speak of the incident as if it had happened within his personal experience. On the other hand, in 1762, Goldsmith was at Wine Office Court, where, Cooke says, he finished the book. At Wine Office Court, we believe, the occurrence took place. It is more likely that Johnson, close at hand in Inner Temple Lane, would come to Wine Office Court than to Islington; and it is not likely that Mrs. Fleming, the only evidence concerning whom, viz., her accounts, goes to show that she was not a particularly grasping personage, would arrest Goldsmith for bills which were usually paid by her friend Mr. Newbery. In cases of this kind, it is necessary, as a first duty, to clear away structures that have been raised upon false data, and one of these is the traditional reputation, as an arbitrary person, of poor Mrs. Fleming of Islington. For, if the sale by Johnson took place in London, and not at Islington, Mrs. Fleming is not concerned in it.
But when Cooke says that the “Vicar” was finished at Wine Office Court, it is probable that he is not strictly accurate. What is most likely is, that when Goldsmith's pressure came, it was sufficiently finished to be sold. That it was written, or being written, in 1762, appears from the reference in chap. xix. to The Auditor, which began its career in June of that year, and from the mention in chap. ix. of the musical glasses then in vogue. But that it could not have been “ready for the press” is plain from the fact that the ballad of “ Edwin and Angelina," privately printed in 1765 for the Countess of Northumberland, and first published in the novel, does not seem to have been in existence until about 1764.
Percy says that it was composed before his own “Friar of Orders Gray,” which came out in the “Reliques of English Poetry” in 1765, and Hawkins speaks of it in terms which imply that its composition belongs to some period subsequent to the establishment of the Club ” at the beginning of 1764. “Without informing any of us," says Hawkins," he [Goldsmith) wrote and addressed to the Countess, afterwards Duchess of Northumberland, one of the first poems of the lyric kind that our language has to boast of.” Although it is impossible to fix an exact date for the writing of “Edwin and Angelina,” the
obvious inference is that it must have been written after October 28, 1762, and consequently did not form part of the book as sold to Collins. Similarly, the "Elegy on a Mad Dog," the scene of which lies at Islington, may have been written there, and added to fill up. In short, the most reasonable supposition is that Goldsmith had practically written his novel when he sold it to Collins and Co., but that it required expansion to make up the “two volumes, 12mo," which he had promised. Probably —as men do with work that has been paid for—he put off making the necessary additions, and ultimately stopped a gap with “Edwin and Angelina,” which he had written in the interim. This, by the way, would supply a new reason for the private printing of the ballad, namely, that Goldsmith wanted to use it, or had already used it, in the forthcoming “Vicar of Wakefield.” In any case, even when the novel was published, it does not seem to have been quite completed. Criticism has pointed out that it contains references showing that additions were intended which were never made. This is exactly what happens when a work is sold before it is fully finished. Moreover, it has been noticed by a writer in the Athenæum, on inspection of the first issue, that, even with the assumed additions, the printers had evidently hard work to make up the required two volumes. This, and the difficulty of getting the author to supply the requisite "copy,” may indeed be the true solution of that long delay to publish, which has surprised so many of Goldsmith's biographers.
Of the “Vicar” itself it is happily not necessary to give any detailed account, still less to illustrate its beauties by what Mr. Lowell has somewhere called the Bæotian
method of extract. Dr. Primrose and his wife, Olivia and Sophia, Moses with his white stockings and black ribbon, Mr. Burchell and his immortal “Fudge,” My Lady Blarney and Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs-have all become household words. The family picture that could not be got into the house when it was painted; the colt that was sold for a gross of green spectacles; the patter about Sanchoniathon, Manetho, Berosus, and Ocellus Lucanus, with the other humours of Mr. Ephraim Jenkinson—these are part of our stock speech and current illustration. Whether the book is still much read it would be hard to say, for when a work has, so to speak, entered into the blood of a literature, it is often more recollected and transmitted by oral tradition than actually studied. But in spite of the inconsistencies of the plot, and the incoherencies of the story, it remains, and will continue to be, one of the first of our English classics. Its sweet humanity, its simplicity, its wisdom and its common-sense, its happy mingling of character and Christianity, will keep it sweet long after more ambitious, and in many respects abler, works have found their level with the great democracy of the forgotten.
It is the property of a masterpiece to gather about it a literature of illustration and interpretation, especially when, as in the present case, its origin is unusually obscure. With the bulk of this it would be impossible to deal here. But a recent speculation respecting the reasons for the choice of Wakefield as the locality of the tale (at all events at the outset), deserves a few sentences. Joseph Cradock, one of Goldsmith's later friends, had a story that the “ Vicar” was written to defray the expenses