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Y this date Goldsmith had passed that critical time
axiom, whose falsity he was to demonstrate, no man that has hitherto failed can hope to succeed. His thirtieth birthday had gone by. In a letter written not many weeks after the disaster which closed the foregoing chapter, he gives a description of his appearance at the beginning of 1759. “Though I never had a day's sickness since I saw you, yet I am not that strong active man you once knew me.
You scarcely can conceive how much eight years of disappointment, anguish, and study have worn me down. . . . Imagine to yourself a pale melancholy visage, with two great wrinkles between the eyebrows, with an eye disgustingly severe, and a big wig; and you may have a perfect picture of my present appearance.
I have passed my days among a parcel of cool designing beings, and have contracted all their suspicious manner in my own behaviour. I should actually be as unfit for the society of my friends at home, as I detest that which I am obliged to partake of here. . . . I can neither laugh nor drink, have contracted an hesitating disagreeable manner of speaking, and a visage that looks ill-nature itself; in short, I have thought myself into a
settled melancholy, and an utter disgust of all that life brings with it.” That this picture is strongly coloured by the depression of the moment is manifest. “Never," says Percy, commenting upon part of it, "was a character so unsuspicious and so unguarded as the writer's.” But the life he had led was not calculated to soften his manners or modify his physical disadvantages.
About the end of 1758,-and probably, as Mr. Forster conjectures, with part of the money he had received for some articles in The Critical Review of Griffiths' rival, Hamilton,-Goldsmith had moved from his Salisbury Square garret into his now historic lodgings in Green Arbour Court. Green Arbour Court was a tiny square, which extended from the upper end of the Old Bailey into Sea-coal Lane, and was approached on that side by a steep flight of stone stairs (of which Ned Ward has chronicled the dangers) called Breakneck Steps. When Washington Irving visited it, before its demolition, he described it as a region of washerwomen, consisting of “tall and miserable houses, the very intestines of which seemed turned inside out, to judge from the old garments and frippery that fluttered from every window.” In The European Magazine for January, 1803, the reader may see a contemporary print of the place, still to be identified on ancient maps of London. Goldsmith's room was on the first floor at No. 12; and here, solaced by the humours of a friendly watchmaker, or recreating the ragged infantry of the neighbourhood with his flute, working busily in the daytime, and creeping out stealthily at nightfall, he made his home from 1758 until the end of 1760.
The first months of his residence were signalized by one of those untoward incidents, which are always a difficulty to the hero-worshipping biographer. In order to make a decent appearance before the Court of Examiners at Surgeons' Hall, he had applied to Griffiths to become security with a tailor for a suit of clothes, and, upon his promising to write four articles for The Monthly Review, Griffiths had consented. The reviews had been written, and the examination undergone, with the result already recorded, when Goldsmith's landlord at Green Arbour Court was suddenly arrested for debt. To comfort his inconsolable wife, Goldsmith pledged the clothes. A few days later, under further pressure, the books he had reviewed were transferred to a friend as security for a small loan; and by ill luck, almost immediately afterwards, the irate Griffiths demanded restitution. Thereupon ensued a bitter and humiliating correspondence, the closing letter in which was printed by Mr. Forster from the original in his possession. It is a passionate outburst on Goldsmith's part, in which he almost implores the bookseller to send him to prison, He has told him again and again, he can pay him nothing ; but he will be punctual to any arrangement made. He is not a sharper (as Griffiths had evidently called him); had he been so, had he been possessed of less good nature and native generosity, he might surely now have been in better circumstances. “I am guilty, I own," he says, "of meannesses which poverty unavoidably
, brings with it, my reflections are filled with repentance for my imprudence, but not with any remorse for being a villain.” The volumes reviewed, which are merely in the
custody of a friend, shall be returned in a month. “At least spare invective 'till my book with Mr. Dodsley shall be publish'd, and then perhaps you may see the bright side of a mind when my professions shall not appear the dictates of necessity but of choice." Thus, without let or break, in a hand trembling with agitation and wounded pride, the words hurry on to the postscript, “I shall expect impatiently the result of your resolutions.” The result seems to have been that Griffiths refrained from further proceedings; and the matter ended with an engagement on Goldsmith's part to prepare, for twenty pounds, from which the price of the clothes was to be deducted, a “Life of Voltaire,” to accompany a new translation of “The Henriade” by one of the bookseller's hacks.
To this work, already quoted, he refers in the letter to Henry Goldsmith of February, 1759, containing the personal portrait with which the present chapter opens. After mentioning his mother, who by this time has become almost blind, sending affectionate injunctions to Bob Bryanton not to drink, and making brotherly inquiries after his younger sister Jenny, who has married ill, he
goes on :
“There is a book of mine will be published in a few days, the life of a very extraordinary man-no less than the great Voltaire. You know already by the title, that it is no more than a catch-penny. However I spent but four weeks on the whole performance, for which I received twenty pounds. When published, I shall take some means of conveying it to you, unless you may think it dear of [at] the postage, which may amount to four or five shillings. However, I fear you will not find an equivalence of amusement. Your last letter, I repeat it, was too short; you should have given me your opinion of the heroicomical poem which I sent you : you remember I intended to introduce the hero of the poem, as lying in a paltry alehouse. You may take the following specimen of the manner, which I flatter myself is quite original. The room in which he lies, may be described somewhat this way :
66. The window, patch'd with paper, lent a ray,
That feebly shew'd the state in which he lay.
goose was there exposed to view,
“And now imagine after his soliloquy, the landlord to make his appearance, in order to dun him for the reckoning :
566 Not with that face, so servile and so gay,
That welcomes every stranger that can pay ;
“ All this is taken, you see, from nature. It is a good remark of Montaign's, that the wisest men often have friends, with whom they do not care how much they play