« PreviousContinue »
shillings a couplet, which was more than any mo-
be the value of modern poetry in general, the publick soon gave a convincing proof of the excellence of the “ Deserted Village." Several large impressions were sold; and the bookseller paid Goldsmith his full sum.
In 1772, appeared his comedy of “She Stoops to Conquer,” which, for broad humour, stands among the first of that class of dramatick compositions.
Colman, the manager, however, bad but indifferent hopes of its success, and even the performers
the author but little encouragement. On the night of performance Goldsmith, instead of attending the house early; walked the park in great agitation. There he was found by a friend who urged the necessity of his going to the theatre to see liow the piece went on. Immediately on his entrance behind the scenes, the audience hissed that part where Mrs. Hardcastle supposes herself fifty miles off.
Goldsmith, in great alarm, exclaimed to Colman, “What's that? What's that?" -"Pshaw, doctor,” says the manager, “don't be alarmed at a few squibs, when we have been sitting these two hours upon a barrel of gunpowder."
The play, notwithstanding this, went off with great applause, and the author cleared by it eight hundred pounds. But though it succeeded so well on the stage,
it was attacked with great severity, in some of the publick prints, particularly in one published by Evans the bookseller, and conducted by the noted Dr. Kenrick. It happened at this time that Goldsmith, who was always vain of a very ordinary person, dressed beauishly to make himself agreeable to a lady of fortune, with whose brother he was intimate. The critic in censuring his play, did not overlook this circumstance, and in language which nothing could excuse, compared the author to the monkey in the fable who went to see the world. Goldsmith was highly exaspe. rated at this attack, and with his usual want of consideration, hastened to Paternoster Row, where poor Evans happened to be in his shop, whom the doctor, in great wrath, immediately assailed with a volley of execrations, at the same time elevating his cane, which striking against the lamp, broke it all to pieces, the oil pouring down upon Goldsmith's clothes. Evans saved his pate by ducking behind the counter, but the irritated poet gave him two or three smart strokes upon the shoulders, and was still exercising this discipline, when Kenrick, the original cause of the mischief, came in; to him the doctor made his complaint, and Kenrick, to prevent farther mischief, persuaded him to go home with him in a backney coach. An account of this affair getting into the newspapers, Goldsmith published an ingenious defence of his conduçt. in the Daily Advertiser ; but Evans had recourse to the law, 2 14
and the matter was determined in his favour by arbitration.
The extravagance of Goldsmith kept pace with his gains, and it affords matter of astonishment, that a man fond of company, the tavern, and the gaming-table, should have had so much industry, and fertility of composition. He had copious resources in his mind, and it was his reliance upon these which made him so indifferent to the patronage of the great, and regardless of the money he acquired by his literary labour.
Goldsmith used to say, that he once waited upon the Earl, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, by appointment, but that on being shewn into the antichamber, he met a gentleman very elegantly dressed, and mistaking him for his lordship, he paid him all the compliments which he had previously prepared, when, to his great astonishment, he found that this fine gentleman was the servant and not the master. At that instant, said Goldsmith, the duke came into the apartment, and I was so confounded on the oc casion, that I wanted words to express the sense I entertained of the duke's politeness, and weut away exceedingly chagrined at the blunder I had committed.
The story, however, is differently told by Sir John Hawkins, who, as having been present at Northumberland House at that time, is more entitled to belief. " Having one day,” says Sir John, “a call to wait on the late duke, then Earl
me aske Ic
ther as f mis for
of Northumberland, I found Goldsmith waiting for an audience in an outer room;-I asked him, what had brought bin there? He told me, an invitation from his lordship. I made my
business as short as I could, and, as a reason, mentioned that Dr. Goldsmith was waiting without. The earl asked me if I was acquainted with him; I told him I was, adding what I thought likely to recommend him. I retired, and staid in the outer room to take him home. Upon his coming out, I asked him the result of his conversation. His lordship,' says he told me he had read my poem,” meaning the Traveller, and was much delighted with it; that he was going lordlieutenant of Ireland, and that hearing I was a native of that country, he should be glad to do me any kindness. And what did you answer, asked I, to this gracious offer? Why,' said he, • I could say nothing, but that I bad a brother there, a clergyman, that stood in need of help; as for myself, I have no dependence on the promises of great men. I look to the booksellers for support; they are my best friends, and I am not inclined to forsake them for others.'
Goldsmith was a member of the literary club, established by Johnson and Reynolds, at the Turk’s Head, in Gerard-street; and az Hawkins was also one of that association, he had abundant opportunities to be acquainted with his singularities. Sir John says of him, “ that he had some wit,
intreate them if should and he ridan the
stage ge of ten,
were a wbich left the
In a I hear
now if it."
but no humour, and never told a story but he spoiled it.” The following anecdotes will convey some idea of the style and manner of his conversation.
“ He was used to say he could play on the German Aute, as well as most men; at other times, as well as any man living ; but, in truth, he understood not the character in which musick is written, and played on that instrument as many of the vulgar do, merely by ear. Roubiliac, the sculptor, a merry fellow, once heard him play, and minding to put a trick upon him, pretended to be charmed with his performance, as also that himself was skilled in the art, and entreated him to repeat the air, that he might write it down. Goldsmith readily consenting, Roubiliac called for paper, and scored thereon a few five-lined staves, which having done, Goldsmith proceeded to play, and Roubiliac to write; but his writing was only such random notes on the lines and spaces as any one might set down who had ever inspected a page of musick. When they had both done, Roubiliac shewed the paper to Goldsmith, who looking it over with seeming great attention, said it was very correct, and that if he had not seen him-do it, he never could have believed his friend capable of writing musick after him."
He would frequently preface a story thus :“I'll now tell you a story of myself, which some people laugh at, and some do not."At the breaking up of an evening at a tavern, he