« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
His father was dead, but he idled away two years of the day. In 1758 he presented himself at among his relations. He afterwards became tutor Surgeons Hall for examination as an hospital in the family of a gentleman in Ireland, where he mate, with the view of entering the army or navy ; remained a year. His uncle then gave him £50 to but he had the mortification of being rejected study the law in Dublin, but he lost the whole in a as unqualified. That he might appear before gaming house. A second contribution was raised, the examining surgeon suitably dressed, Goldsmith and the poet next proceeded to Edinburgh, where obtained a new suit of clothes, for which Griffiths, be continued a year and a-half studying medi. publisher of the Monthly Review, became security. cine. He then drew upon his uncle for £20, and The clothes were immediately to be returned when embarked for Bordeaux. The vessel was driven the purpose was served, or the debt was to be into Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and whilst there, Gold- discharged. Poor Goldsmith, having failed in his smith and his fellow passengers were arrested and object, and probably distressed by urgent want, put into prison, where the poet was kept a fortnight. pawned the clothes. The publisher threatened, and It appeared that his companions were Scotsmert, in the poet replied—I know of no misery but a gaol, the French service, and had been in Scotland enlist- to which my own imprudences and your letter ing soldiers for the French army. Having over- seem to point. I have seen it inevitable these come this most innocent of all his misfortunes, he is three or four weeks, and, by heavens ! request it as represented as having immediately proceeded to a favour—as a favour that may prevent somewhat Leyden; but this part of his biography has lately more fatal. I have been some years struggling with got a new turn from the inquiries of a gentleman a wretched being-with all that contempt and indiwhose book is quoted below,* according to which it gence brings with it with all those strong passions would appear to have been now, instead of four years which make contempt insupportable. What, then, later, that Goldsmith acted as usher of Dr Milner's has a gaol that is formidable? Such was the almost school at Peckham, in the neighbourhood of London. hopeless condition, the deep despair, of this imThe tradition of the school is, that he was ex- prudent but amiable author, who has added to the tremely good-natured and playful, and advanced delight of millions, and to the glory of English his pupils more by conversation than by book-tasks. literature. On the supposition of this being the true account of Henceforward the life of Goldsmith was that of a Goldsmith's 25th year, we may presume that he man of letters. He lived solely by his pen. Besides next went to Leyden, and there made the resolution numerous contributions to the Monthly and Critical to travel over the Continent in spite of all pecuniary Reviews, the Lady's Magazine, the British Magadeficiencies. He stopped some time at Louvain, in zine, &c., he published an_Inquiry into the Present Flanders, at Antwerp, and at Brussels. In France, State of Polite Learning in Europe (1759), his admirhe is said, like George Primrose, in his Vicar of able Chinese Letters, afterwards published with the Wakefield, to have occasionally earned a night's title of The Citizen of the World, a Life of Beau Nash, lodging and food by playing on his flute.
and the History of England in a series of letters from
a nobleman to his son. The latter was highly sucHow often have I led thy sportive choir, With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire !
cessful, and was popularly attributed to Lord ChesWhere shading eims along the margin grew,
terfield. In December 1764 appeared his poem of And freshened from the wave the zephyr flew ;
The Traveller, the chief corner-stone of his fame,
without one bad line,' as has been said ; 'without And haply, though my harsh touch, faltering still, But mocked all tune, and marred the dancer's skill,
one of Dryden's careless verses.' Charles Fox proYet would the village praise my wondrous power,
nounced it one of the finest poems in the English
language ; and Dr Johnson (then numbered among And dance, forgetful of the noontide hour,
Goldsmith's friends) said that the merit of “The
Traveller' was so well established, that Mr Fox's Scenes of this kind formed an appropriate school praise could not augment it, nor his censure diminish for the poet. He brooded with delight over these it. The periodical critics were unanimous in its pictures of humble primitive happiness, and his praise. In 1766 he published his exquisite novel, imagination loved to invest them with the charms of The Vicar of Wakefield, which had been written two poetry. Goldsmith afterwards visited Germany years before, and sold to Newberry the bookseller, and the Rhine. From Switzerland he sent the first to discharge a pressing debt. His comedy of The sketch of the "Traveller to his brother. The loftier Good-Natured Man was produced in 1767, his Roman charms of nature in these Alpine scenes seems to History next year, and The Deserted Village in 1770. have had no permanent effect on the character or The latter was as popular as “The Traveller,' and direction of his genius. He visited Florence, Verona, speedily ran through a number of editions. In 1773, Venice, and stopped at Padua some months, where Goldsmith's comedy, She Stoops to Conquer, was he is supposed to have taken his medical degree. In brought out at Covent Garden theatre with immense 1756 the poet reached England, after two years of applause. He was now at the summit of his fame wandering, lonely, and in poverty, yet buoyed up and popularity. The march had been long and toilby dreams of hope and fame. Many a hard struggle some, and he was often nearly fainting by the way; he had yet to encounter! His biographers repre- but his success was at length complete. His name sent him as now becoming usher at Dr Milner's stood among the foremost of his contemporaries ; his school, a portion of his history which we have seen works brought him in from £1000 to £1800 per anreason to place at an earlier period. However this num. Difficulty and distress, however, still clung may be, he is soon after found contributing to the to him: poetry had found him poor at first, and she Monthly Review. He was also some time assistant kept him so. From heedless profusion and extravato a chemist. A college friend, Dr Sleigh, enabled gance, chiefly in dress, and from a benevolence which him to commence practice as a humble physician knew no limit while his funds lasted, Goldsmith was in Bankside, Southwark; but his chief support scarcely ever free from debt. The gaming table also arose from contributions to the periodical literature presented irresistible attractions. He hung loosely
on society, without wife or domestic tie; and his * Collections Illustrative of the Geology, History, Anti- early habits and experience were ill calculated to quities, and Associations of Camberwell. By Douglas Allport. teach him strict conscientiousness or regularity. He Camberwell: 1841.
continued to write task-work for the booksellers,
and produced a . History of England' in four volumes. heightening the effect of his pictures. In the folThis was succeeded by a History of Greece' in two lowing quotation, the rich scenery of Italy, and the volumes, for which he was paid £250. He had con effeminate character of its population, are placed in tracted to write a ‘History of Animated Nature' in striking juxtaposition with the rugged mountains of eight volumes, at the rate of a hundred guineas for Switzerland and their hardy natives. each volume; but this work he did not live to complete, though the greater part was finished in his
[Italians and Swiss Contrasted.] own attractive and easy manner. In March 1774, he was attacked by a painful complaint (dysuria) Far to the right, where Apennine ascends, caused by close study, which was succeeded by a Bright as the summer, Italy extends ; nervous fever. Contrary to the advice of his apo- Its uplands sloping deck the mountain's side, thecary, he persisted in the use of James's powders, Woods over woods in gay theatric pride; a medicine to which he had often had recourse; and While oft some temple’s mouldering tops between, gradually getting worse, he expired in strong con- With venerable grandeur mark the scene. vulsions on the 4th of April. The death of so popu- Could nature's bounty satisfy the breast, lar an author, at the age of forty-five, was a shock The sons of Italy were surely blest. equally to his friends and the public. The former Whatever fruits in different climes were found, knew his sterling worth, and loved him with all his That proudly rise, or humbly court the ground; foibles—his undisguised vanity, his national prone- Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear, ness to blundering, his thoughtless extravagance, his Whose bright succession decks the varied year; credulity, and his frequent absurdities. Under these Whatever sweets salute the northern sky ran a current of generous benevolence, of enlightened With vernal lives, that blossom but to die; zeal for the happiness and improvement of mankind, These, here disporting, own the kindred soil, and of manly independent feeling. He died £2000 Nor ask luxuriance from the planter's toil ; in debt: Was ever poet so trusted before !' ex
While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand, claimed Johnson. His remains were interred in the To winnow fragrance round the smiling land. Temple burying ground, and a monument erected to
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows, his memory in Westminster Abbey, next the grave And sensual bliss is all the nation knows. of Gay, whom he somewhat resembled in character, Man seems the only growth that dwindles here. Both
In florid beauty groves and fields appear, and far surpassed in genius.
The plan of * The Traveller' is simple, yet compre- Contrasted faults through all his manners reign: hensive and philosophical. The poet represents him- Though poor, luxurious ; though submissive, vain; self as sitting among Alpine solitudes, looking down Though grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue ; on a hundred realms
And even in penance planning sins anew.
All evils here contaminate the mind, Lakes, forests, cities, plains extending wide, That opulence departed leaves behind;
The pomp of kings, the shepherd's humbler pride. For wealth was theirs, not far removed the date, He views the whole with delight, yet sighs to think When commerce proudly flourished through the state; that the hoard of human bliss is so small, and he At her command the palace learned to rise, wishes to find some spot consigned to real happiness, Again the long-fallen column sought the skies ; where his worn soul
The canvass glowed beyond even nature warm,
The pregnant quarry teemed with human form, Might gather bliss to see his fellows blessed.
Till, more unsteady than the southern gale, But where is such a spot to be found? The natives Commerce on other shores displayed her sail ; of each country think their own the best—the pa- While nought remained of all that riches gave, triot boasts
But towns unmanned, and lords without a slave; His first, best country, ever is at home.
And late the nation found with fruitless skill,
Its former strength was but plethoric ill. If nations are compared, the amount of happiness in Yet, still the loss of wealth is here supplied each is found to be about the same; and to illustrate By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride; this position, the poet describes the state of manners From these the feeble heart and long-fallen mind and government in Italy, Switzerland, France, Hol- An easy compensation seem to find. land, and England. In general correctness and Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp arrayed, beauty of expression, these sketches have never been The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade; surpassed. The politician may think that the poet Processions formed for picty and love, ascribes too little importance to the influence of A mistress or a saint in every grove. government on the happiness of mankind, seeing By sports like these are all their cares beguiled, that in a despotic state the whole must depend on The sports of children satisfy the child ; the individual character of the governor; yet in the Each nobler aim, repressed by long control, cases cited by Goldsmith, it is difficult to resist his Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul; conclusions; while his short sententious reasoning While low delights, succeeding fast behind, is relieved and elevated by bursts of true poetry. In happier meanness occupy the mind: His character of the men of England used to draw As in those domes, where Cæsars once bore sway, tears from Dr Johnson
Defaced by time and tottering in decay, Stern o'er each bosom reason holds her state,
There in the ruin, heedless of the dead, With daring aims irregularly great.
The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed; Pride in their port, defiance in their eye,
And, wondering man could want the larger pile, I see the lords of human kind pass by ;
Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile. Intent on high designs, a thoughtful band,
My soul turn from them, turn we to survey By forms unfashioned, fresh from nature's hand.
Where rougher climes a nobler race display, Fierce in their native hardiness of soul,
Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansion tread,
And force a churlish soil for scanty bread;
No product here the barren hills afford,
But man and steel, the soldier and his sword;
No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array, Goldsmith was a master of the art of contrast in But winter lingering chills the lap of May ;
Xo zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast, While the pent ocean, rising o'er the pile,
Yet still, even here, content can spread a charm, The slow canal, the yellow-blossomed vale,
The willow-tufted bank, the gliding sail, Though poor the peasant's hut, his feasts though The crowded mart, the cultivated plain, small,
A new creation rescued from his reign. He sees bis little lot the lot of all;
Thus, while around the wave-subjected soil Sees no contiguous palace rear its head,
Impels the native to repeated toil, To shame the meanness of his humble shed ;
Industrious habits in each bosom reign, No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal,
And industry begets a love of gain. To make him loath his vegetable meal ;
Hence all the good from opulence that springs, But calm, and bred in ignorance and toil,
With all those ills superfluous treasure brings, Each wish contracting, fits him to the soil.
Are here displayed. Their much-loved wealth imparts Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose, Convenience, plenty, elegance, and arts ; Breathes the keen air, and carols as he goes ;
But view them closer, craft and fraud appear,
Even liberty itself is bartered here.
A land of tyrants, and a den of slaves;
Here wretches seek dishonourable graves,
And calmly bent, to servitude conform,
The Deserted Village' is limited in design, but
exhibits the same correctness of outline, and the Displays her cleanly platter on the board : And haply too some pilgrim thither led,
same beauty of colouring, as "The Traveller.' The With many a tale repays the nightly bed.
poet drew upon his recollections of Lissoy for most Thus every good his native wilds impart,
of the landscape, as well as the characters introduced. Imprints the patriot passion on his heart;
His father sat for the village pastor, and such a porAnd even those ills that round his mansion rise,
trait might well have cancelled, with Oliver's relaEnhance the bliss his scanty fund supplies.
tions, all the follies and irregularities of his youth. Dear is that shed to which his soul conforms,
Perhaps there is no poem in the English language And dear that hidl which lifts him to the storms;
more universally popular than the Deserted VilAnd as a child, when scaring sounds molest,
lage.' Its best passages are learned in youth, and Clings close and closer to the mother's breast, never quit the memory. Its delineations of rustic So the loud torrent, and the whirlwind's roar,
life accord with those ideas of romantic purity, But bind him to his native mountains more.
seclusion, and happiness, which the young mind
associates with the country and all its charms, be[France Contrasted with Holland.]
fore modern manners and oppression had driven
them thenceSo blest a life these thoughtless realms display,
To pamper luxury, and thin mankind. Thus idly busy rolls their world away:
Political economists may dispute the axiom, that Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear,
luxury is hurtful to nations; and curious speculators, For honour forms the social temper here.
like Mandeville, may even argue that private vices Honour, that praise which real merit gains,
are public benefits; but Goldsmith has a surer adOr even imaginary worth obtains,
vocate in the feelings of the heart, which yield a Here passes current; paid from hand to hand, It shifts in splendid traffic round the land.
spontaneous assent to the principles he inculcates, From courts to camps, to cottages it strays,
when teaching by examples, with all the efficacy of And all are taught an avarice of praise ;
apparent truth, and all the effect of poetical beauty
[Description of Auburn -- The Village Preacher, the It gives their follies also room to rise :
Schoolmaster, and Alchouse-Reflections.] For praise too dearly loved, or warmly sought, Sweet Auburn ! loveliest village of the plain, Enfeebles all internal strength of thought;
Where health and plenty cheered the labouring swain; And the weak soul, within itself unblest,
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid, Leans for all pleasure on another's breast.
And parting summer's lingering blooms delayed; Hence ostentation here, with tawdry art,
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
How often have I loitered o'er thy green,
How often have I paused on every charm!
The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm ; The mind still turns where shifting fashion draws, The never failing brook, the busy mill, Nor weighs the solid worth of self-applause.
The decent church that topped the neighbouring hin; To men of other minds my fancy Aies,
The hawthorn bush, with scats bencath the shade, Embosomed in the deep where Holland lies.
For talking age, and whispering lovers made! Methinks her patient sons before me stand,
How often have I blessed the coming day, Where the broad ocean leans against the land, When toil remitting lent its turn to play ; And, sedulous to stop the coming tide,
And all the village train, from labour free, Lift the tall rampire's artificial pride.
Led up their sports bencath the spreading tree; Onward, methinks, and diligently slow,
While many a pastime circled in the shade, The firm connected bulwark seems to grow;
The young contending as the old surveyed ; Spreads its long arms amidst the watery roar, And many a gambol frolicked o'er the ground, Scoops out an empire, and usurps the shore:
And sleights of art and feats of strength went round.
And still, as each repeated pleasure tired,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread, Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired : Eternal sunshine settles on its head. The dancing pair that simply sought renown,
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way, By holding out to tire each other down;
With blossomed furze unprofitably gay, The swain, mistrustless of his smutted face,
There, in his noisy mansion skilled to rule, While secret laughter tittered round the place ; The village master taught his little school; The bashful virgin's sidelong looks of love,
A man severe he was, and stern to view; The matron’s glance that would those looks reprove I knew him well, and every truant knew. These were thy charms, sweet village ! sports like these, | Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please. The day's disasters in his morning's face;
Sweet was the sound, when oft, at evening's close, Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee Up younder hill the village murmur rose;
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he; There as I passed, with careless steps and slow, Full well the busy whisper circling round, The mingling notes came softened from below; Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned; The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung,
Yet he was kind; or, if severe in aught, The sober herd that lowed to meet their young; The love he bore to learning was in fault; The noisy geese that gabbled o’er the pool,
The village all declared how much he knew; The playful children just let loose from school ; 'Twas certain he could write, and cipher too; The watchdog's voice that bayed the whispering wind, Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage ; And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind; And even the story ran that he could guage; These all in sweet confusion sought the shade, In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill, And filled each pause the nightingale had made. For even, though vanquished, he could argue still;
Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled, While words of learned length, and thundering sound, And still where many a garden flower grows wild, Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around ; There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose, And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew, The village preacher's modest mansion rose.
That one small head could carry all he knew. A man he was to all the country dear,
But past is all his fame: the very spot And passing rich with forty pounds a-year ;
Where many a time he triumphed, is forgot. Remote from towns, he ran his godly race,
Near yonder thorn that lifts its head on high, Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change, his place; Where once the sign-post caught the passing eye, Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power,
Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts inspired, By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour;
Where gray-beard mirth and smiling toil retired ; Far other aims his heart had learned to prize, Where village statesmen talked with looks profound, More bent to raise the wretched than to rise.
And news much older than their ale went round. His house was known to all the vagrant train ; Imagination fondly stoops to trace He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain. The parlour splendours of that festive place; The long-remembered beggar was his guest,
The white-washed wall, the nicely sanded floor, Whose beard descending swept his aged breast; The varnished clock that clicked behind the door; The ruined spendthrift now no longer proud, The chest, contrived a double debt to pay, Claimed kindred there, and had his claims allowed; A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day; The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
The pictures placed for ornament and use, Sat by his fire, and talked the night away;
The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose; Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done, The hearth, except when winter chilled the day, Shouldered his crutch, and showed how fields were won. With aspen boughs, and flowers, and fennel gay; Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow, While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for show, And quite forgot their vices in their wo;
Ranged o'er the chimney, glistened in a row. Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
Vain transitory splendour ! could not all
Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall!
Thither no more the peasant shall repair,
No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale,
No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear, Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.
Relax his ponderous strength, and lean to hear; Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
The host himself no longer shall be found
At church, with meek and unaffected grace, To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
One native charm, than all the gloss of art. Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway; Spontaneous joys, where nature has its play, And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray. The soul adopts, and owns their first-born sway: The service past, around the pious man,
Lightly they frolic o'er the vacant mind, With ready zeal, each honest rustic ran ;
Unenvied, unmolested, unconfined.
But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade,
Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen who survey Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm ; The rich man’s joys increase, the poor's decay,
'Tis yours to judge how wide the limits stand
As some fair female, unadorned and plain,
Edwin and Angelina.
And guide my lonely way,
With hospitable ray.
With fainting steps and slow;
Seem lengthening as I go.'
To tempt the dangerous gloom ;
To lure thee to thy doom.
My door is open still :
I give it with good will.
Whate'er, my cell bestows ;
My blessing and repose.
To slaughter I condemn;
I learn to pity them.
A guiltless feast I bring ;
And water from the spring.
All earth-born cares are wrong:
Nor wants that little long.'
Soft as the dew from heaven descends,
His gentle accents fell;
And follows to the cell.
The lonely mansion lay;
And strangers led astray.
Required a master's care ;
Received the harmless pair.
To take their evening rest,
And cheered his pensive guest :
And gaily pressed and smiled; And, skilled in legendary lore,
The lingering hours beguiled.
Its tricks the kitten tries ;
The crackling faggot flies.
To soothe the stranger's wo;
And tears began to flow.
With answering care opprest : ‘And whence, unhappy youth,' he cried,
• The sorrows of thy breast ? From better habitations spurned,
Reluctant dost thou rove?
Or unregarded love i
Are trifting and decay ;
More trifling still than they.
A charm that lulls to sleep!
And leaves the wretch to weep!
The modern fair-one's jest ; On earth unseen, or only found
To warm the turtle's nest. For shame, fond youth, thy sorrows hush,
And spurn the sex,' he said : But while he spoke, a rising blush
His love-lorn guest betrayed.
Swift mantling to the view,
As bright, as transient too.
Alternate spread alarms;
A maid in all her charms.
A wretch forlorn,' she cried,
Where heaven and you reside. But let a maid thy pity share,
Whom love has taught to stray : Who seeks for rest, but finds despair Companion of her way.