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sisted with some justice on having the first slice himself. But his most elaborate effort in this style is the Citizen of the World ; letters supposed to be written by a Chinese philosopher, resident in England, in imitation of the Lettres Persannes of Montesquieu. Still, however, though subsisting thus precariously, he was getting forward in society; and had already, in the year 1761, made his way as far as Dr Johnson, who seems, from their first acquaintance, till death separated them, to have entertained for Goldsmith the most sincere friendship, regarding his genius with respect, his failings with indulgence, and his per..
, son with affection.
It was probably soon after this first acquaintance, that Necessity, the parent of so many works of genius, gave birth to the Vicar of Wakefield. The circumstances attending the sale of the work to the fortunate publisher, are too singular to be told in any other words than those of Johnson, as reported by his faithful chronicler, Boswell.
“I received one morning a message from poor Goldsmith, that he was in
great distress ; and as it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion. I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had got a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me that he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it, and saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon return, and, having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill."
Newberry, the purchaser of the Vicar of Wakefield, best known to the present generation by recollection of their infantine studies, was a man of worth as well as wealth, and the frequent patron of distressed genius. When he completed the bargain, which he probably entered into partly from compassion, partly from deference to John
son's judgment, he had so little confidence in the value of his
purchase, that the Vicar of Wakefield remained in manuscript until the publication of the Traveller had established the fame of the author.
For this beautiful poem Goldsmith had collected materials during his travels ; and a part of it had been actually written in Switzerland, and transmitted from that country to the author's brother, the Reverend Dr Henry Goldsmith. His distinguished friend, Dr Johnson, aided him with several general hints; and is said to have contributed the sentiment which Goldsmith has so beautifully versified in the concluding lines.
The publication of the Traveller gave the author all that celebrity which he had so long laboured to attain. He now assumed the professional dress of the medical science, a scarlet cloak, wig, sword, and cane, and was admitted as a valued member of that distinguished society, which afterwards formed the Literary, or as it is more commonly called, emphatically, The Club. For this he made some sacrifices, renouncing some of the public places which he had formerly found convenient in point of expence and amusement; not without regret, , for he used to say, “ In truth, one must make some sacrifices to obtain good society ; for here am I shut out of several places where I used to play the fool very agreeably.” It often happened amid those sharper wits with whom he now associated, that the simplicity of his character, mingled with an inaccuracy of expression, an undistinguishing spirit of vanity, and a hurriedness of conception, which led him often into absurdity, rendered Dr Goldsmith in some degree the butt of the company. Garrick, in particular, who probably presumed somewhat on the superiority of a theatrical manager over a dramatic author, shot at him many shafts of small epigrammatic wit. It is probable that Goldsmith began to feel that this spirit was carried too far, and to check it in the best taste, he composed his celebrated poem of Retaliation, in which the characters and failings of his associates are drawn with satire, at once pungent and good-humoured. Garrick is smartly chastised ; Burke, the Dinner-bell of the House of Commons, is not spared ; and of all the more distinguished names of the Club, Johnson and Rey
nolds alone escape the lash of the satirist. The latter is even dismissed with unqualified and affectionate applause. Retaliation had the effect of placing the author on a more equal footing with his society than he had ever before assumed. Even against the despotism of Johnson, though much respecting him, and as much beloved by him, Goldsmith made a more spirited stand than was generally ventured upon by the compeers of that arbitrary Sultan of literature. Of this Boswell has recorded a striking instance. Goldsmith had been descanting on the difficulty and importance of making animals in an apologue speak in character, and particularly instanced the fable of the Little Fishes. Observing that Doctor Johnson was laughing scornfully, he proceeded smartly; “ Why, Dr Johnson, this is not so easy as you seem to think ; for if you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk like whales.”
To support the expence of his new dignities, Goldsmith laboured incessantly at the literary oar. The Letters on the History of England, commonly ascribed to Lord Lyttleton, and containing an excellent and entertaining abridgment of the annals of Britain, are the work of Goldsmith. His mode of compiling them we learn from some interesting anecdotes of the author, communicated to the public by Lee Lewes, an actor of genius, whom he patronized, and with whom he often associated.
“ He first read in a morning, from Hume, Rapin, and sometimes Kennet, as much as he designed for one letter, marking down the passages referred to on a sheet of paper, with remarks. He then rode or walked out with a friend or two, whom he constantly had with him; returned to dinner, spent the day generally convivially, without much drinking (which he was never in the habit of,) and when he went up to bed, took up his books and paper with him, where he generally wrote the chapter, or the best part of it, before he went to rest. This latter exercise cost him very little trouble, he said; for having all his materials ready for him, he wrote it with as much facility as a common letter.
“ But of all his compilations, he used to say, his Selections of Eng. lish Poetry shewed more the art of profession.' Here he did nothing but mark the particular passages with a red-lead pencil, and for this he got two hundred pounds—but then he used to add, “a man shews his judgment in these selections, and he may be often twenty years of his life cultivating that judgment.'
Goldsmith, amid these more petty labours, aspired to the honours of the sock, and the Good-natured Man was produced at Covent Garden, 29th January, 1768, with the moderate success of nine nights' run. The principal character the author probably drew from the weak side of his own; for no man was more liable than Goldsmith to be gulled by pretended friends. The character of Croaker, highly comic in itself, and admirably represented by Shuter, helped to save the piece, which was endangered by the scene of the Bailiffs, then considered as too vulgar for the stage. Upon the whole, however, Goldsmith is said to have cleared five hundred pounds by this dramatic performance. He hired better chambers in the Temple, embarked more boldly in literary speculation, and unfortunately at the same time enlarged his ideas of expence, and indulged his habit of playing at games of hazard. The Memoirs, or Anecdotes, which we have before quoted, give a minute and curious description of his habits and enjoyments about this period, when he was constantly occupied with extracts, abridgments, and other arts of book-making, but at the same time working slowly, and in secret, on those immortal verses, which secure for him so high a rank among English poets.
“ Goldsmith, though quick enough at prose, was rather slow in his poetry—not from the tardiness of fancy, but the time he took in pointing the sentiment, and polishing the versification. He was, by his own confession, four or five years collecting materials in all his country excursions for this poem, and was actually engaged in the construction of it above two years. His manner of writing poetry was this ; he first sketched a part of his design in prose, in which he threw out his ideas as they occurred to him ; he then sat carefully down to versify them, correct them, and add such other ideas as he thought better fitted to the subject. He sometimes would exceed his prose design by writing several verses impromptu, 'but these he would take uncommon pains afterwards to revise, lest they should be found unconnected with his main design.
“ The writer of these Memoirs, (Lee Lewes) called upon the Doctor the second morning after he had begun The Deserted Village, and to him he communicated the plan of his poem. Some of my friends, continued he, · differ with me on this plan, and think this depopulation of villages does not exist—but I am myself satisfied of the fact. I remember it in my own country, and have seen it in this.' He then read what he had done of it that morning, beginning,
• Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Come,' says he, let me tell you this is no bad morning's work; and now, my dear boy, if you are not better engaged, I should be glad to enjoy a Shoemaker's holiday with you.' This Shoemaker's Holiday was a day of great festivity to poor Goldsmith, and was spent in the following innocent manner :
66 Three or four of his intimate friends rendezvoused at his chambers, to breakfast, about ten o'clock in the morning; at eleven they proceeded by the City-Road, and through the fields to Highbury Barn to dinner; about six o'clock in the evening they adjourned to White Conduit House to drink tea ; and concluded the evening by supping at the Grecian or Temple Exchange Coffee-houses, or at the Globe, in Fleet Street. There was a very good ordinary of two dishes and pastry kept at Highbury Barn about this time (five-and-twenty years ago, in 1796) at 10d. per head, including a penny to the waiter,