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the fool. Take my present follies as instances of regard. Poetry is a much easier, and more agreeable species of composition than prose, and could a man live by it, it were not unpleasant employment to be a poet."
Honest Henry Goldsmith, in his remote Irish curacy, might perhaps be excused, from offering any critical opinions upon a fragment, the ultimate development of which it was so little possible to forecast. The author himself seems to have carried it no farther than this introductory description, some details of which are certainly borrowed from his own Green Arbour Court environment. It was still a fragment when later he worked it into letter xxix. of "The Citizen of the World;" and when, in 1770, part of it served for the decoration of "The Deserted Village,” it had found its final use. But it is interesting as being, with exception of the trifling epigram written in Scotland in 1753, and already referred to in chapter ii., the first poetical utterance of Goldsmith concerning which there is definite evidence. From this alone, as the production of a poet of thirty-one, it would be hard to predict "The Traveller" or "Retaliation.” Certainly, as Johnson said, Goldsmith "was a plant that flowered late."
Not long after the date of the above letter to Henry Goldsmith, Breakneck Steps were scaled by an illustrious inquirer, whose experiences are, with becoming mystery, related in the "Percy Memoir." "A friend of his," says that record, in some respects the most important account that exists concerning Goldsmith, "paying him a visit at the beginning of March, 1759, found him in lodgings there so poor and uncomfortable, that he should
not think it proper to mention the circumstance, if he did not consider it as the highest proof of the splendor of Dr. Goldsmith's genius and talents, that by the bare exertion of their powers, under every disadvantage of person and fortune, he could gradually emerge from such obscurity to the enjoyment of all the comforts and even luxuries of life, and admission into the best societies in London. The Doctor was writing his Enquiry, &c., in a wretched dirty room, in which there was but one chair, and when he, from civility, offered it to his visitant, himself was obliged to sit in the window. While they were conversing, some one gently rapped at the door, and being desired to come in, a poor little ragged girl of very decent behaviour, entered, who, dropping a curtsie,' said, 'My mamma sends her compliments, and begs the favour of you to lend her a chamber-pot full of coals.""
The visitor here mentioned so reticently was Percy himself, not yet Bishop of Dromore, but only chaplain to Lord Sussex and Vicar of Easton Mauduit in Northamptonshire. He had been introduced to Goldsmith by Grainger of The Monthly Review, at the Temple Exchange Coffee House; and, as he was already collecting the materials for his "Reliques of English Poetry," had no doubt been attracted by his new friend's knowledge of ballad literature. He was wrong, however, in thinking that Goldsmith was writing the "Enquiry," of which he must rather have been correcting the proofs, as it was published for the Dodsleys in the following April.
It is a commonplace to say that the "Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe" was some
what over-titled. In the first edition it is but a small and not very closely printed duodecimo of two hundred pages; and it is shorter still in the revised issue of 1774, from which a considerable portion, and notably much of the chapter relating to the stage, was withdrawn. Obviously so wide a survey could scarcely be confined in so narrow a space. Nor, with all his gifts, was Goldsmith sufficiently equipped for the task. It is true he had travelled upon the Continent (his sketch, he says, though general, was for the most part taken upon the spot"), and he was right in claiming certain advantages for the pedestrian's point of view. "A man who is whirled through Europe in a postchaise, and the pilgrim who walks the grand tour on foot, will form very different conclusions," he affirms, adding, with a frankness confined to the first edition, "Haud inexpertus loquor." But he forgot that there is also something to be said for the rival mode of locomotion, and that it may be urged that the one he adopted is open to the charge of being too exclusively that of an outsider. It is needless, however, to cross-question closely the agreement of Goldsmith's performance with his promise. What attracted him most, as Mr. Forster has not failed to point out, was less the condition of letters in Europe than the condition of letters in the immediate neighbourhood of his retreat in the Old Bailey. The mercantile avidity and sordid standards of the bookseller, the venal rancour of the hungry critics in his pay, the poverty of the poets, the decay of patronage, the slow rewards of genius, all these were nearer to his heart (and vision) than the learning of Luitprandus, or the "philological perform
ances of Constantinus Afer. Some of his periods, indeed, have almost a note of personal disclosure. Who shall say, for example, that, in more than one sentence of the following, it was not Oliver Goldsmith whom he had in mind? "If the author be, therefore, still so necessary among us, let us treat him with proper consideration, as a child of the public, not a rent-charge on the community. And, indeed, a child of the public he is in all respects; for while so well able to direct others, how incapable is he frequently found of guiding himself. His simplicity exposes him to all the insidious approaches of cunning, his sensibility to the slightest invasions of contempt. Though possessed of fortitude to stand unmoved the expected bursts of an earthquake, yet of feelings so exquisitely poignant as to agonize under the slightest disappointment. Broken rest, tasteless meals, and causeless anxiety, shorten his life, or render it unfit for active employment; prolonged vigils and intense application still farther contract his span, and make his time glide insensibly away. . . . It is enough that the age has already yielded instances of men pressing foremost in the lists of fame, and worthy of better times, schooled by continued adversity into an hatred of their kind, flying from thought to drunkenness, yielding to the united pressure of labour, penury, and sorrow, sinking unheeded, without one friend to drop a tear on their unattended obsequies, and indebted to charity for a grave among the dregs of mankind."
The title-page of the "Enquiry" was without an author's name; but Goldsmith made no secret of his connection with the book. It was fairly received. The
Gentleman's published a long letter respecting it, and the two Reviews (the Monthly and the Critical) gave reports of its contents, both coloured, more or less, by a sense of the references which they detected in it to themselves. Smollett, in the Critical, was hurt that "a work undertaken from public spirit," such as his own, should be confused with "one supported for the sordid purposes of a bookseller" such as Griffiths; and the bookseller on his side did not omit, in the true spirit of vulgar reprisal, to salt his notice with unworthy innuendoes directed at his own not very satisfactory relations with Goldsmith. Such a course was to be expected in such a warfare; and it is idle now to grow virtuously indignant, because, read by the light of Goldsmith's later fame, these old injuries seem all the blacker. What most concerns us at present is that the "Enquiry" was Goldsmith's first original work, and that he revealed in it the dawning graces of a style, which, as yet occasionally elliptical and jerky, and disfigured here and there by Johnsonian constructions, nevertheless ran bright and clear. Acting upon his maxim that "to be dull and dronish, is an encroachment on the prerogative of a folio," he had, moreover, successfully avoided that "didactic stiffness of wisdom," which he declared to be the prevailing vice of the performances of his day. "The most diminutive son of fame, or of famine," he said, "has his we and his us, his firstlys and his secondlys as methodical, as if bound in cow-hide, and closed with clasps of brass." His own work could not be accused justly of this defect. But on the whole, and looking to the main purpose of his pages, it must be conceded that he made better use of his continental