« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
appeal, he is most formal; he is addressing the rich relation, the well-to-do "squireen," who had patronised him at college. "I have often," he says, "let my fancy loose when you were the subject, and have imagined you gracing the bench, or thundering at the bar; while I have taken no small pride to myself, and whispered all that I could come near, that this was my cousin. Instead of this, it seems you are contented to be merely an happy man; to be esteemed only by your acquaintance-to cultivate your paternal acres—to take unmolested a nap under one of your own hawthorns, or in Mrs. Mills' bedchamber, which, even a poet must confess, is rather the most [more] comfortable place of the two." Already, it will be seen, he speaks of himself as a "poet." To Bryanton he writes with the freedom of an ancient boon companion at the Three Pigeons, runs over their old experiences, deplores their enforced separation, and draws a half-humorous, half-bitter picture of his own neglected merits. "There will come a day," he says, "no doubt it will-I beg you may live a couple of hundred years longer only to see the day—when the Scaligers and Daciers will vindicate my character, give learned editions of my labours, and bless the times with copious comments on the text. You shall see how they will fish up the heavy scoundrels who disregard me now, or will then offer to cavil at my productions. How will they bewail the time that suffered so much genius to be neglected. If ever my works find their way to Tartary or China, I know the consequence. Suppose one of your Chinese Owanowitzers instructing one of your Tartarian Chianobacchi-you see I use Chinese names to show my
own erudition, as I shall soon make our Chinese talk like an Englishman to show his. This may be the subject of the lecture :
"Oliver Goldsmith flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He lived to be an hundred and three years old [and in that] age may justly be styled the sun of [literature] and the Confucius of Europe. [Many of his earlier writings to the regret of the] learned world were anonymous, and have probably been lost, because united with those of others. The first avowed piece the world has of his is entitled an "Essay on the Present State of Taste and Literature in Europe,”—a work well worth its weight in diamonds. In this he profoundly explains what learning is, and what learning is not. In this he proves that blockheads are not men of wit, and yet that men of wit are actually blockheads.'”
And then-not "to tire his Chinese Philosopher," of whom, two or three years hence, we shall hear more in The Public Ledger-he "lights down, as the boys say, to see himself on horse-back," and where is he? "Here in a garret writing for bread, and expecting to be dunned for a milk-score."
The letter to Mrs. Lawder-Cousin Con. of the harpsichords-is in a different strain from the two others. Half playful, half respectful, it is at the same time more personal and confidential. After explaining his long silence by his fears that his letters might be attributed
The words between square brackets were supplied by Prior, the original manuscript being, in these places, worn by age.
to wrong motives-that is to say, to petitions for money -he goes on:—
"Those who know me at all, know that I have always been actuated by different principles from the rest of Mankind, and while none regarded the interests of his friends more, no man on earth regarded his own less. I have often affected bluntness to avoid the imputation of flattery, have frequently seem'd to overlook those merits, too obvious to escape notice, and pretended disregard to those instances of good nature and good sense which I could not fail tacitly to applaud; and all this lest I should be rank'd among the grinning tribe who say very true to all that is said, who fill a vacant chair at a tea table whose narrow souls never moved in a wider circle than the circumference of a guinea, and who had rather be reckoning the money in your pocket than the virtues of your breast; all this, I say, I have done and a thousand other very silly tho' very disinterested things in my time, and for all which no soul cares a farthing about me. .. Madam, is it to be wondered that he should once in his life forget you who has been all his life forgetting himself?
"However it is probable you may one of these days see me turn'd into a perfect Hunks and as dark and intricate as a mouse-hole. I have already given my Lanlady orders for an entire reform in the state of my finances; I declaim against hot suppers, drink less sugar in my tea, and cheek my grate with brick-bats. Instead of hanging my room with pictures I intend to adorn it with maxims of frugality, these will make
pretty furniture enough, and won't be a bit too expensive; for I shall draw them all out with my own hands and my lanlady's daughter shall frame them with the parings of my black waistcoat; Each maxim is to be inscrib'd on a sheet of clean paper and wrote with my best pen, of which the following will serve as a specimen. 'Look Sharp. Mind the mean chance. Money is money now. you have a thousand pounds you can put your hands by your sides and say you are worth a thousand pounds every day of the year. Take a farthing from an hundred pound and it will be an hundred pound no longer.' Thus which way so ever I turn my eyes they are sure to meet one of those friendly Monitors, and as we are told of an Actor who hung his room round with lookingglasses to correct the defects of his person, my appartment shall be furnishd in a peculiar manner to correct the errors of my mind.
"Faith, Madam, I heartily wish to be rich, if it were only for this reason, to say without a blush how much I esteem you, but alass I have many a fatigue to encounter before that happy time comes; when your poor old simple friend may again give a loose to the luxuriance of his nature, sitting by Kilmore fireside recount the various adventures of an hard fought life, laugh over the follies of the day, join his flute to your harpsicord and forget that ever he starv'd in those streets where Butler and Otway starv'd before him." 2
1 I.e., Thomas Sheridan, the father of the author of "The School for Scandal."
2 This extract is printed textually from a facsimile of the original letter in Griffin's "Works of Oliver Goldsmith," 1858.
LIFE OF GOLDSMITH.
And so, with a pathetic reference to his kind Uncle Contarine, now lapsed into "second childishness and mere oblivion," he winds into the business of his letter -the solicitation of subscriptions for the forthcoming book.
Three months after the date of this epistle the longdesired appointment has come, and he describes it to his brother-in-law Hodson. He is going in quality of physician and surgeon to a factory on the Coast of Coromandel. The Company have signed the warrant, which has already cost £10, and there will be other heavy expenses for passage and outfit. The salary of £100, it is true, is only trifling. Still the practice of the place (if he is rightly informed), "generally amounts to not less than £1,000 per annum, for which the appointed physician has an exclusive privilege." An East India exile, however, was not to be his fate. Why the project, with its executed warrant, and boundless potentialities, came to nothing, his biographers have failed to discover, nor did he himself ever reveal the reason. But in the absence of information upon this point, there is definite evidence upon another. In December of the same year, 1758, . he presented himself at Surgeons' Hall to be examined for the humble office of hospital mate. The curt official record in the College books, first made public by Prior, runs as follows:
"James Bernard, mate to an hospital. OLIVER GoldSMITH, found not qualified for ditto."