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Thus did this idiot, in the affairs of the world, trifle with his fortunes, and put back the hand that was held out to assist him. Other offers of a like kind he either rejected or failed to improve, contenting himself with the patronage of one nobleman, whose mansion afforded him the delights of a splendid table, and a retreat for a few days from the metropolis.
While I was writing the History of Music, he, at the club, communicated to me some curious matter. I desired he would reduce it to writing; he promised me he would, and desired to see me at his chambers: I called on him there; he stepped into a closet, and tore out of a printed book six leaves that contained what he had mentioned to me. As he wrote for the booksellers, we, at the club, looked on him as a mere literary drudge, equal to the task of compiling and translating, but little capable of original, and still less of poetical composition: he had, nevertheless, unknown to us, written and addressed to the countess, afterwards duchess, of Northumberland, one of the finest poems of the lyric kind that our language has to boast of, the ballad, Turn, gentle Hermit of the Dale;'* and surprised us with The Traveller,' a poem that contains some particulars of his own history. Johnson was supposed to have assisted him in it; but he contributed to the perfection of it only four lines: his opinion of it was, that it was the best written poem since the time of Pope.
Of the booksellers whom he styled his friends, Mr. Newbery was one. This person had apartments in Canonbury-house, where Goldsmith often lay concealed from his creditors. Under a pressing necessity, he there wrote his Vicar of Wakefield, and for it received of Newbery forty pounds.
Of a man named Griffin, a bookseller, in Catherine-street in the Strand, he had borrowed, by two and three guineas at a time, money to the amount of two hundred pounds: to discharge this debt he wrote The Deserted Village,' but was
* That this beautiful poem exists we owe to Dr. Chapman, of Sudbury. Soon after he wrote it, Goldsmith showed it to the Doctor, and was by him hardly dissuaded from throwing it into the fire. - Hawkins.
two years about it. Soon after its publication, Griffin declared that it had discharged the whole of his debt.
His poems are replete with fine moral sentiment, and bespeak a great dignity of mind; yet he had no sense of the shame, nor dread of the evils, of poverty.
In the latter he was at one time so involved, that, for the clamours of a woman to whom he was indebted for lodging, and for bailiffs that waited to arrest him, he was equally unable, till he had made himself drunk, to stay within doors, or go abroad to hawk among the booksellers a piece of his writing, the title whereof my author does not remember. In this distress he sent for Johnson, who immediately went to one of them, and brought back money for his relief.
In his dealings with the booksellers, he is said to have acted very dishonestly, never fulfilling his engagements. In one year he got of them, and by his plays, the sum of £1,800, which he dissipated by gaming and extravagance. and died poor, in 1774.
He that can account for the inconsistencies of character above noted, otherwise than by showing that wit and wisdom are seldom found to meet in the same mind, will do more than any of Goldsmith's friends were ever able to do. He was buried in the Temple churchyard. A monument was erected for him in the Poet's Corner, in Westminster Abbey, by a subscription of his friends, and is placed over the entrance into St. Blase's Chapel. The inscription thereon was written by Johnson. This I am able to say with certainty, for he showed it to me in manuscript.
"THE Traveller; or, a Prospect of Society, inscribed to the Rev. Mr. Henry Goldsmith, by Oliver Goldsmith, M. B.," was first published in December, 1764, price 1s. 6d., and was the earliest production to which Goldsmith prefixed his name. It went through nine editions in Goldsmith's lifetime, and is here reprinted from the ninth edition, 4to, 1774, compared with the first edition, 4to, 1765, and with the "sixth edition, corrected," 4to, 1770.
This poem is founded on Addison's "Letter from Italy to the Right Honourable Charles Lord Halifax," of which Goldsmith himself says: "Few poems have done more honour to English genius than this. There is in it a strain of political thinking, that was, at that time, [1701,] new in our poetry. Had the harmony of this been equal to that of Pope's versification, it would be incontestably the finest poem in our language; but there is a dryness in the numbers which greatly lessens the pleasure excited both by the parts judgment and imagination." (Beauties of English Poesy, 1767, vol. i.
All that Goldsmith would appear to have received for this poem, was twenty guineas.-Newberry MSS., Prior, ii. 58.CUNNINGHAM.
TO THE REV. HENRY GOLDSMITH,
DEAR SIR,I am sensible that the friendship between us can acquire no new force from the ceremonies of a dedication; and perhaps it demands an excuse thus to prefix your name to my attempts, which you decline giving with your own. But as a part of this poem was formerly written to you from Switzerland, the whole can now, with propriety, be only inscribed to you. It will also throw a light upon many parts of it, when the reader understands that it is addressed to a man who, despising fame and fortune, has retired early to happiness and obscurity, with an income of forty pounds a year.
I now perceive, my dear brother, the wisdom your humble choice. You have entered upon a sacred office, where the harvest is great, and the labourers are but few; while you have left the field of ambition, where the labourers are many, and the harvest not worth carrying away.