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hopeless. In one of the editions of Boswell, there is a letter from Dr. Johnson to a late venerable prelate of Philadelphia, referring to the comedy, "She Stoops to Conquer," then about to appear at Covent Garden Theatre. As this very aged gentleman obtained his clerical degree in England, and during his sojourn there associated with the wits of the metropolis, we had no doubt he might possess some anecdotes of the slighted and injured Goldsmith, illustrative of his personal character. But an application to the prelate, though seriously intended, was unfortunately deferred until the death of the distinguished and excellent man at last closed the avenue forever.
We, therefore, hail Mr. Prior's book with the sincerest pleasure. Without the advantage of a personal acquaintance with the illustrious subject of his book, and too far from the period when he lived to hope for literal reports of conversations, he has done all that could have been reasonably expected, if not as much as might reasonably have been hoped for. He has penetrated the obscurity of his early life, traced his wayward career in youth, followed his adventurous fortunes in mature years, fixed the localities of his "Deserted Village," brought to light many interesting facts and anecdotes, and greatly added to the known number of his writings. The charming letters he has preserved, entitle him to our grateful acknowledgments. Of these letters, indeed, which are given to us as new, we recognise many that we have elsewhere perused. Some of these are to be found in Bishop Percy's memoir, and in several others of the many imperfect biographies which have been prefixed to various editions of Goldsmith's miscellaneous works.
The circulation of this interesting volume, promises to be diffusive in this country. It has not only been republished by one or more booksellers, but Mr. Waldie, of Philadelphia, has reprinted it in his valuable Library. Not only Mr. Prior's biography, but his edition of the works of his beautiful author, not yet in this country, would greatly enrich the pages of such a repository. We cannot wish our countrymen better aid to the attainment of an elegant taste in composition than the writings of Goldsmith. Let them be widely disseminated. Divested of those meretricious trappings which are now so much the fashion, they will correct the false taste which sets so high a value upon fustian and affectation, and lead to an appreciation of the charms of refined simplicity in authorship.
Without wishing to find fault, we may hope that Mr. Prior himself, in a future edition, or some Croker with whom he may be favoured, may glean additional particulars illustrative of Goldsmith's social qualities. We may hope, too, that certain episodes may be lopped, and disquisitions retrenched, which detract from the prevailing interest of his pages. The book, in
this respect, claims some affinity to the recent Life of Cowper by Southey, which includes a somewhat lengthened account of every literary person who had the slightest intimacy with the professed subject of the narrative.
The reading of this biography will, we think, induce the perusal of works, which, from their subject or pretensions, would hardly claim a notice. Mr. Prior not only renders it probable that "Goody Two Shoes" was an emanation of Goldsmith's teeming pen, but ascertains that the Life of Beau Nash, and the Letters on English History in the character of a Nobleman to his Son, successively attributed to Littleton and Chesterfield, are from the same intellectual mine. We have done in this case what, no doubt, many of our readers may likewise be allured to attempt
-we have searched for and read all that have been thus specified. In Beau Nash we found his easy style, and many of his beauties, but much that is crude, and the result of that haste, rendered necessary "by his scurvy circumstances." Too much praise cannot be awarded to the Letters on English History as a comprehensive and philosophical survey of British annals. Perhaps there is no book extant which embraces so distinct an elucidation of the British constitution, at the same time marking with clearness the events of each historical
But not to anticipate what, on another occasion, we may be required to enlarge upon, we will now rapidly pass in review some of the leading incidents of the poet's life.
The herald's office cannot dissipate the obscurity which hangs over the early progenitors of Oliver Goldsmith. His great-great grandfather, the Rev. John Goldsmith, is the first ascertained ancestor of the family. This gentleman was rector of Borrishoull, in the county of Mayo, Ireland, a respectable and deserving man. It is related of him that he narrowly escaped the popish massacre of 1641. The father of Oliver was Charles Goldsmith, of Trinity College, Dublin. He took orders on leaving it, immediately married, and lived twelve years upon a farm of fifty acres of land, known by the name of Pallismore, in the parish of Kilkenny-West. It was here the poet was born on the 10th of November, 1728. Two or three years after the birth of this son, who was one of six children, the father acceded to the living of Kilkenny-West, then worth from £150 to £200, and occupied a neat house at Lissoy in that parish. Lissoy is the "sweet Auburn" so graphically_and beautifully delineated by the poet in after life, as Mr. Prior establishes by abundant proofs, to which we shall hereafter refer.
Oliver does not seem to have been distinguished as a precocious child. A Mrs. Delap, with whom he learnt his letters,
when boasting in subsequent years of their former connection, described him as the dullest boy in her school. He passed at the age of six to the care of Thomas Byrne, a veteran soldier in the wars of Marlborough. His course there seemed to be unmarked by any peculiarity, except that he always listened with rapture to the relations of his teacher's campaigns and adventures, and was delighted with the music of the blind Irish minstrel, Carolan, whose name and lyrical pretensions he has embalmed in one of his charming essays. He was likewise fond of reading wondrous stories of pirates, robbers, and smugglers. His passion for music, and love of the marvellous, were fostered by his master to such an extent that he became noted for his legends and the delight of his friends, in the singing of pathetic old ballads. "Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night" continued to possess charms for him in manhood, as he informs us, beyond all the attractions of Italian melody.
All his biographers tell a miraculous story, which Mr. Prior, with some variation, has repeated, tending to show his impromptu power of versification. Whoever the truth-telling wight, there is little doubt its nominal hero would have discarded it, as Dr. Johnson did the wonderful tale of his doting father about the duck, in proof of his own surprising precocity. Mr. Prior gives another anecdote of his smartness a year or two later, which we omit because hardly worthy of repetition.
These or other proofs of superior intelligence induced his father to relinquish the design of making him a merchant. The limited circumstances of the Rev. Mr. Goldsmith scarcely justified the expense of sending him to the university, after the liberal education he had bestowed on an elder son. Oliver, however, was sent in 1739 to a school of some repute in Athlone, where he continued two years, and thence to Edgeworthstown, where he was prepared for entrance into the university.
He was admitted a sizer of Trinity College, Dublin, on the 11th June, 1745. At that time, the unfortunate student who entered the college upon such a footing, was exposed to the humiliation of carrying up dinner, and subjected to other menial compliances. Goldsmith was stung to the soul by subjection to such an indignity, and seems to have been strongly impressed with it in subsequent life. He thus refers to the oppressive regulation, in his Enquiry into Polite Learning in Europe.
"Sure pride itself has dictated to the fellows of our colleges the absurd passion of being attended at meals and on other public occasions by those poor men who, willing to be scholars, come in upon some charitable foundation. It implies a contradiction, for men to be at once 59
VOL. XXI.-No. 42.
learning the liberal arts, and at the same time treated as slaves; at once studying freedom and practising servitude." p. 46.
From such a degradation, however, these poor men, whose fate Goldsmith could so sympathetically deplore, were relieved by a more generous policy some years after.
But the humility of his station at college was not the grievance of which he chiefly complained. His tutor, Mr. Wilder, a man of savage brutality of disposition, and addicted to the exact sciences, for which his poetical pupil entertained no partiality, treated him with cruel harshness, and took pleasure in deriding his abilities in the presence of his class. The character of this man is so vividly drawn by Mr. Prior, that we make no apology for quoting it at length.
"The character of the unhappy person to whom the direction of his studies was entrusted, 'under the notion of a tutor,' as Dr. Wilson expresses it, appears to have been wholly unfit, either in temper or general conduct, for the superintendence of youth. Many unfavourable stories are still told of him in the university; and the mortifications endured by his pupil, from mingled caprice and harshness, were supposed to have not only obstructed his progress in learning, but, by producing despondency and irregularities, tinged with a darker hue parts of his future life. This person was fixed upon from being the younger son of a gentleman living within a few miles of the Rev. Mr. Goldsmith, and Oliver had been especially recommended to his care. He possessed considerable scientific attainments, clouded by a disposition represented as almost savage, and passions so irregular as to require for himself that indulgence he rarely extended to others. In Dublin he was noted for strength, agility, and ferocity; an instance of which was exhibited in the streets by springing, at a bound, from the pavement on a hackney coach proceeding at a fast pace, and felling to the ground the driver, who had accidentally touched his face with the whip. Of his strange caprice or injustice in the performance of his public duties, the Rev. Dr. Marsh mentioned an instance. When filling the senior lecturer's chair, the three first places were admitted to be the right of Marsh, Mead, and Hans, the best answerers in the order of their names, which he thought fit to transpose into the order of Hans, Mead, and Marsh, assigning as the reason the superior euphony of the latter arrangement.
To such students as incurred his dislike, he proved a bitter persecutor at the public examinations; and an illustration of this disposition appears in the vindictive conduct adopted towards another. When a student himself, he found constant means of evading college discipline, and gaining egress from its walls at night by the connivance of a companion, whose window in the front square being secured by an iron palisading, a movable bar had been skilfully introduced unknown to the authorities, which admitted of removal at pleasure. Soon afterwards (1774) he was elected to a fellowship; the office of sub-dean, who has charge of the general conduct of the students, came to him in rotation; and now, from being an offender against discipline, he became its most strict and often severe preserver. The first exertion of authority was a visit to the apartment of which he had formerly so often made use, but unexpectedly he found the outlet already secured. On sternly enquiring of its then possessor, a friend of the previous occupier, whether there had not been a screw bar before the window, the reply was in the affirmative,
and that he very well knew it. To further questions, uttered in an insulting manner, by whom the alteration was made, the student (afterwards the Rev. Mr. G-, an amiable man) was tempted to reply, 'By me, sir; for I knew you.' The remark was never forgiven; he assailed him unremittingly ever afterwards at the public examinations, and when his proficiency admitted of little censure, found a handle for ill-nature and sarcasm in the personal peculiarities of the youth. These in return produced retorts not quite in keeping with subordination, or the decorum of the place and occasion, until at length an opportunity offered of turning him down to the bottom of his class." pp. 48, 49.
With such a person, a boy of Goldsmith's waywardness and peculiar temperament would not be likely to get along without disagreement. He was insulted and chastised for a trifling imprudence, and the result was his indignant retreat from college. The mediation of his brother Henry restored peace, if it did not bring amity, to the parties. His stay at the university was undistinguished, except by penury and academical disgraces. He sought to forget the last in an occasional song, and to alleviate the other by the composition of ballads to be sung in the streets. Although he received but five shillings for a ballad, his friend Beatty relates that he never forgot them; but, true to his offspring, he evinced all the feelings of solicitous paternity. It was his wont to stroll about at night, with a view to listen to the songs which were sung; and, upon recognising his own, to mark the applause which they received from the auditors.
Besides these relaxations from academic discipline, he is remembered to have indulged now and then in original compositions and translations from the classics. In his own words to Malone, many years afterwards, "though he made no great figure in mathematics, which was a study much in repute at the university, he could turn an ode of Horace into English with the best of them."
But neither his restricted remittances from home, nor the low price of his ballads, taught him the necessary prudence in expenditure, nor steeled his heart against the appeals of distress. In illustration of the latter, we quote a whimsical story which is told by Mr. Prior upon the authority of a fellow student. We give it in his own words, with the restrictions which he has thought proper to prescribe.
"The poor are commonly said to be improvident; and Goldsmith, by all accounts, failed to manage his scanty finances with the care that his necessities required-an imprudent benevolence, as it would seem, to distressed objects proving the cause of serious inconvenience to himself. Illustrative of this point of character, Mr. Edward Mills, of Mount Prospect in Roscommon, his relative, and who entered college about two years after him, told a ludicrous story which, though obviously exaggerated, may have had some foundation in truth. He was a professed wit and punster, and therefore the anecdote probably lost nothing