Page images

and Angelina,” a circumstance which lends a certain piquancy to the artless statement in the preface that

every poem in the following collection would singly have procured an author great reputation.” Following hard upon the publication of this in December, comes the record of a “short English Grammar" for Newbery ; and then was prepared for Griffin “The Beauties of English Poesy,” in two volumes, for which selection, with the addition of his name on the title-page, he was paid £50, or only £10 less than the sum he obtained for the “Vicar," an original work. His "original work” in this was confined to a preface, and brief introductory notes. But the success of this otherwise excellent anthology was prejudiced considerably by the presence in it of two of Prior's most hazardous pieces, the “ Ladle " and “ Hans Carvel,” an intrusion all the more unwarrantable, because Prior's somewhat meagre individuality was already sufficiently represented by his poem of “Alma."

Not many months after the publication of the “Beauties," and prompted, it may be, by the reappearance of “Edwin and Angelina" in the "Poems for Young Ladies," Kenrick, Goldsmith's successor on The Monthly Review, and his persistent assailant, took occasion to bring against him a charge of gross plagiarism. A letter signed "Detector” appeared in the St. James's Chronicle in which he was accused of taking

" The Hermit” ("Edwin and Angelina ") direct from Percy's “Friar of Orders Gray," with this difference only, that he had substituted "languid smoothness" and "tedious paraphrase " for the “natural simplicity and tenderness of the original.” Several of the stanzas in the “Friar"


[ocr errors]

are the


beautiful snatches sung by Ophelia in her insanity, and Goldsmith might well have been absolved from improving upon them. But to the general charge of theft he replied conclusively in a letter to the Chronicle dated July, of which the following is the material portion : “Another Correspondent of yours accuses me of having taken a Ballad, I published some Time ago, from one by the ingenious Mr. Percy. I do not think there is any great Resemblance between the two Pieces in Question. If there be any, his Ballad is taken from mine. I read it to Mr. Percy some Years ago, and he (as we both considered these Things as Trifles at best) told me, with his usual Good Humour, the next Time I saw him, that he had taken my Plan to form the fragments of Shakespeare into a Ballad of his own. He then read me his little Cento, it I may so call it, and I highly approved it. Such petty Anecdotes as these are scarce worth printing, and were it not for the busy Disposition of some of your Correspondents, the Publick should never have known that he owes me the Hint of his Ballad, or that I am obliged to his Friendship and Learning for Communications of a much more important Nature.” The reply is perfect in tone, and shows once more how unfailing was Goldsmith's skill when he took pen in hand. Percy, it may be added, confirmed this story, with but little variation, in a note which he appended to the “Friar of Orders Gray” in the 1775 edition of the “Reliques," and also in the “Memoir” of Goldsmith, prefixed to the “Miscellaneous Works” of 1801.

About the middle of 1767 Goldsmith seems to have again taken up his residence at Islington, and this time

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

it is definitely asserted that he lived in Canonbury House. The old tower of Queen Elizabeth's hunting lodge was a favourite summer resort of literary men, publishers, and printers, and, as already stated, John Newbery himself, who died in December of this year, was one of its most frequent inmates. Indeed, some last business instructions drawn up by him in November are dated “Canbury House," and the notice of his death in The Public Advertiser affirms that it actually occurred there. But whether Goldsmith now occupied that "upper story

“ so commonly devoted to poets,” or tenanted, either on his own account, or as Newbery's substitute, the old oak-panelled room on the first floor, long shown to visitors as his, history sayeth not with any certainty. That he attended, and occasionally presided at a club, largely recruited from the lettered and quasi-lettered occupants of Canonbury Tower, which was held at the Crown Tavern in the Islington Lower Road, may be more safely assumed. When in London, he occupied new quarters in the Temple, to which he had moved from his old home in Fleet Street. These were in Garden Court, an address that figures at the head of one of his letters to Colman, dated • July the 19th, and hence, in all probability, he penned his letter to the Chronicle. According to Prior his apartments were on the library staircase, and he shared them with one Jeffs, butler to the Society. Consequently there is no record of his residence in the books. Nor is there any record of the somewhat superior lodging in King's Bench Walks to which he removed a little later, where he was again, apparently, the tenant of a private owner. Neither of these retreats was of imposing character, and Goldsmith's ready susceptibility took alarm when he saw Johnson blinking about, in his short-sighted way, at his friend's environment. “I shall soon be in better chambers than these," he said, apologetically. But his sturdy old mentor was down upon him at once with a ' Nay, Sir, never mind that : Nil te quæsiveris extra.

To another of his Temple visitors Goldsmith behaved with greater dignity. Towards the close of this same year of 1767 an attempt was made to enlist his pen in the service of that “party,” to which, in the “ dedication” of “The Traveller,” he had referred as one of the enemies of his art. The North Administration, harassed by Wilkes, and goaded by the far more terrible “ Junius,” was casting about helplessly for literary champions, and overtures were accordingly made to Goldsmith . by Sandwich's chaplain, Parson Scott, known to the contemporary caricaturist as “Twitcher's Advocate," a title he had earned by his support of his patron under the nom de guerre of Anti-Sejanus. Scott had already reaped the benefit of his “venal pen" by presentation to the living of Simonburn, in Northumberland, and appointment as Chaplain of Greenwich Hospital. The sequel of his visit to Goldsmith may be told in his own words : “I found him," said Dr. Scott to Basil Montagu, “in a miserable set of chambers in the Temple. I told him my authority; I told him that I was empowered to pay most liberally for his exertions; and, would you believe it! he was so absurd as to say, 'I can earn as much as will supply my wants without writing for any party. The assistance you offer is, therefore, unnecessary to me,' and so I left him," added Dr. Scott, "in his garret.” The

[ocr errors]

contempt of the prosperous timeserver was to be anticipated, though Goldsmith's admirers will doubtless take a different view of the matter.

But when Goldsmith told Lord North's emissary that he was earning enough for his wants, it is to be feared that the statement, like his earlier announcement to Beatty of his prosperity as a physician in Southwark, was a palpable exaggeration. Of lucrative work during 1767 there is scant indication. What he did for his old employer, Newbery, amounted to little; and Newbery, it has been shown, was ill or dying in the latter months of this year. Yet a turn for the better was coming in Goldsmith’s life, and during part of 1766 and 1767 he had been engaged in a new enterprise, of which an account will presently be given. In addition, about this time, a somewhat more prosperous way of compilation was opened by a proposal of the bookseller, Thomas Davies, whose“ very pretty wife"

celebrated in the verse of Churchill. Davies had been shrewd enough to observe that the “ Letters from a Nobleman to his Son” of two years before, still freely given to literary lords like Chesterfield and Orrery, had lost none of their real popularity or their fictitious prestige, and he hit upon the happy idea of proposing to Goldsmith to write a Roman History upon the same pattern. The honorarium was to be two hundred and fifty guineas. There were to be two volumes, to be finished in two years or less. As the book was published in May, 1769, it must be assumed that it had, or should have, begun to employ Goldsmith actively in the later months of 1767.

There is little record of his other occupations. Doubt

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »