Page images

aspect. Playing the flute one day to his pupils, he paused for a moment to expatiate upon the advantages of music as a gentlemanlike acquirement. “A pert boy, looking at his situation and personal disadvantages with something of contempt, rudely replied to the effect that he surely could not consider himself a gentleman ; an offence which, though followed by instant chastisement, disconcerted and pained him extremely.” It was probably owing to slights of this kind that, although he left so satisfactory an impression behind him, he always looked back to the days of this servitude with unusual bitterness. He would talk freely of his distresses and difficulties, Cooke tells us, but he always carefully avoided the "little story of Peckham school.”

His stay there, however, can have been but brief. Miss Milner, indeed, talked of a three years' residence; but, if Forster be right in fixing his entry upon his duties at “about the beginning of 1757,” it could scarcely have exceeded three months, as it is possible to fix definitely the termination of the engagement. Dr. Milner was a dabbler in literature, and a contributor to The Monthly Review, which, a few years earlier, had been established by Griffiths the bookseller. Griffiths was thus an occasional visitor at Peckham, and, struck by some remark on the part of the usher, he called him aside and inquired whether he could furnish “a few specimens of criticism.” These, when prepared, were so satisfactory, that an agreement was entered into in April by which Goldsmith was to be released from Peckham, to have a fixed salary,--qualified indifferently by Percy as “handsome,” by Prior as “adequate,” and by Forster as

[ocr errors]

"small,”—and to prepare copy-of-all-work for his master's periodical.

Griffiths' shop was in Paternoster Row—“at the Sign of the Dunciad.” Most of the mere paste-and-scissors work of the magazine was done by the bookseller himself, the criticisms being supplied by a staff which included several contemporary writers of minor rank. Ruffhead, who wrote a life of Pope, Kippis, of the “Biographia

· Britannica," James Grainger, afterwards the poet of “ The Sugar Cane," and Langhorne, one of the translators of Plutarch's “Lives,” were amongst these, to whose number Goldsmith must now be added. In Griffiths' copy of the review for this period, which once belonged to Richard Heber, his new assistant's articles were marked, so that it is possible to form some idea of the very miscellaneous nature of his duties. He reviewed the “Mythology and Poetry of the Celtes," by Mallet of Copenhagen; he reviewed Home's “Douglas” and Burke “On the Sublime and Beautiful;” he reviewed the new “History of England” by Smollett and teahating old Jonas Hanway's “Eight Days' Journey from Portsmouth to Kingston-upon-Thames." "Letters from an Armenian in Ireland, to his Friends at Trebisonde"-concerning which it is quite competent for any one to assert that they suggested the subsequent “Citizen of the World,” were it not that such collections appear to have been in the air at the time—a translation of Cardinal Polignac's “Anti-Lucretius,” Wilkie's “Epigoniad,” and the “Memoirs of Madame de Maintenon,” are also among the heterogeneous list. One of the last of his efforts for the review was a notice of Gray's

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Odes,” which Dodsley had just published in a shilling quarto. It is interesting, because it shows how, in his long probation, his taste had gradually been formed. He admitted Gray's genius; he admitted his exquisite verbal felicities; but he regretted his remoteness, and his want of emotion, and he gave him the advice of Isocrates to his scholars,—to “study the people." Counsel from the back-parlour of the “ Dunciad” to the cloistered precinct of Pembroke College was not likely to be much regarded, even if it reached that sanctuary of culture; but the fact

; illustrates the difference between Gray and the writer of whom he was afterwards to say, “ This man is a poet."

Goldsmith's criticism of Gray appeared in The Monthly Review for September, 1757, and at this point his labours for Griffiths were interrupted. The reasons for this are obscure; but incompatibility of temper may probably stand for all of them. It is not unlikely that Goldsmith's habits were too desultory and uncertain to suit an employer with confirmed business habits, and a low standard of literary excellence; while Goldsmith, on his side, complained that the bookseller and his wife (who assisted him) not only denied him the requisite comforts, but edited and manipulated his articles, -always a thing intolerable to the possessor of an individual style. Style, however, was little to honest Griffiths, who doubtless thought, not without some reason, that he knew better what he wanted than the unknown Peckham usher whom he had introduced into the world of letters. So Griffiths and his assistant dissolved their compact, the latter to live for the next few months, no one quite knows


how, by miscellaneous practice of the pen. His brother Charles, attracted from Ireland by some romancing phrases in one of his elder's letters about his illustrious friends, visited him unexpectedly at the end of 1757. To his disappointment, he found him in a squalid garret near Salisbury Square, and promptly recognizing the improbability of help in this direction, vanished as suddenly as he came.

But if there is uncertainty as to Goldsmith's general occupations at this time, there is one work upon which, either during his bondage in Paternoster Row, or immediately after, he must have been engaged. This was a translation of the remarkable Memoirs of Jean Marteilhe • of Bergerac, which Griffiths and Dilly published in February, 1758, under the title of “ Memoirs of a Protestant Condemned to the Galleys of France for his Religion.” The book, it is true, "from prudential motives” now no longer very intelligible, bears the name of James Willington, an old class-fellow of Goldsmith at Trinity College. But Griffiths, according to Prior, acknowledged that the translator was Goldsmith himself. Indeed, it is not impossible that Goldsmith may have seen Marteilhe, who died at Cuylenberg as late as 1777, and, who, the preface expressly says, was, at the time of writing, “known to numbers, not only in Holland, but London.” Of late years the Religious Tract Society has issued a somewhat exacter version of this moving record, surely one of the

* Mr. J. W. M. Gibbs (Goldsmith's “ Works,” Bell's edition, vol. v.) has discovered that some parts of “ A History of the Seven Years' War,” hitherto supposed to have been written in 1761, were published in The Literary Magazine, 1757-8.

[ocr errors]

most forcible pictures of the miseries ensuing upon the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes that has ever been penned, and not wholly undeserving the praise accorded to it by Michelet of seeming to have been written as if between earth and heaven.” Nor, despite certain apologetic passages in the translator's preface, can it be held to be seriously deficient in romantic interest. The episode of Goujon, the young cadet of the regiment of Aubesson, and the disastrous development of his lovestory, might furnish ample material for one of Dumas' most stirring chapters.

- By the time, however, that the “Memoirs of a Protestant” had appeared, Goldsmith had deserted his garret near Salisbury Square, and gone back to help Dr. Milner at Peckham. Here, at least, he found a home, added to which, his old master had promised to endeavour to procure for him a medical appointment in India. With a view to the necessary outfit, he seems to have set about what was to be his first original work, and his letters to his friends in Ireland, of which several written at this time were printed by Prior and Percy, are plainly prompted by the desire to obtain subscribers. He is going to publish a book in London, he says to Edward Mills, “entitled An Essay on the Present State of Taste and Literature in Europe," and he goes on to beg him to circulate proposals for the same. To like effect he write to Robert Bryanton, and to Jane Contarine, now Mrs. Lawder. These letters are excellent specimens of his epistolary art. All written within a few days of each other, they are skilfully discriminate in their variation of style. To Mills, who, by the way, never answered his

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »