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OLIVER GOLDSMITH. BORN 1728: DIED 1774.
(From the “ Citizen of the World,” and Miscellaneous Essays.)
| this invitation; we walked together, and entered DESCRIPTION OF A CLUB OF
the house some time before the usual hour for AUTHORS.
the company assembling. WERE we to estimate the learning of the English | My friend took this opportunity of letting me by the number of books that are every day | into the characters of the principal members of published among them, perhaps no country, not the club, not even the host excepted : who, it even China itself, could equal them in this par- | seems, was once an author himself, but preferred ticular. I have reckoned not less than twenty- by a bookseller to this situation as a reward for three new books published in one day, which, his former services. upon computation, makes eight thousand three | “The first person,” said he, “of our society, is hundred and ninety-five in one year. Most of Doctor Nonentity, a metaphysician. Most people these are not confined to one single science, but think him a profound scholar; but as he seldom embrace the whole circle. History, politics, speaks, I cannot be positive in that particular; poetry, mathematics, metaphysics, and the philo. | he generally spreads himself before the fire, sucks sophy of nature, are all comprised in a manual his pipe, talks little, drinks much, and is recknot larger than that in which our children are oned very good company. I am told he writes taught the letters. If, then, we suppose the indexes to perfection, he makes essays on the learned of England to read but an eighth part origin of evil, philosophical inquiries upon any of the works which daily come from the press subject, and draws up an answer to any book (and surely none can pretend to learning upon upon twenty-four hours' warning. You may less easy terms), at this rate every scholar will distinguish him from the rest of the company read a thousand books in one year. From such by his long grey wig, and the blue handkerchief a calculation, you may conjecture what an amaz- | round his neck. ing fund of literature a man must be possessed “The next to him in merit and esteem is Tim of, who thus reads three new books every day, Syllabub, a droll creature; he sometimes shines not one of which but contains all the good things as a star of the first magnitude among the choice that ever were said or written.
spirits of the age ; he is reckoned equally excelAnd yet I know not how it happens, but the lent at a rebus, a riddle, a lewd song, and a English are not, in reality, so learned as would hymn for the tabernacle. You will know him seem from this calculation. We meet but few by a shabby finery, his powdered wig, dirty who know all arts and sciences to perfection ; | shirt, and broken silk stockings. whether it is that the generality are incapable of “After him succeeds Mr Tibs, a very useful such extensive knowledge, or that the authors of hand; he writes receipts for the bite of a mad those books are not adequate instructors. In dog, and throws off an Eastern tale to perfection: China, the emperor himself takes cognisance of he understands the business of an author as well all the doctors in the kingdom who profess as any man, for no bookseller alive can cheat authorship. In England, every man may be an him. You may distinguish him by the peculiar author that can write; for they have by law a clumsiness of his figure, and the coarseness liberty not only of saying what they please, but of his coat; however, though it be coarse (as of being also as dull as they please.
he frequently tells the company), he has paid Yesterday, I testified my surprise to the man in black, where writers could be found in suffi. “Lawyer Squint is the politician of the society; cient number to throw off the books I daily saw he makes speeches for Parliament, writes adcrowding from the press. I at first imagined dresses to fellow-subjects, and letters to noble that their learned seminaries might take this commanders; he gives the history of every new method of instructing the world. But to obviate play, and finds seasonable thoughts upon every this objection, my companion assured me that occasion.” My companion was proceeding in his the doctors of colleges never wrote, and that description, when the host came running in with some of them had actually forgot their reading; | terror on his countenance to tell us that the door but if you desire, continued he, to see a collection was beset with bailiffs. “If that be the case, then," of authors, I fancy I can introduce you this says my companion, "we had as good be going; evening to a club, which assemble every Saturday for I am positive we shall not see one of the comat seven, at the sign of the Broom, near Islington, pany this night.” Wherefore, disappointed, we to talk over the business of the last, and the were both obliged to return
were both obliged to return home, he to enjoy the entertainment of the week ensuing. I accepted oddities which compose his character alone, and
I to write as usual to my friend the occurrences of Nature. I only beg you will endeavour to of the day.
make your souls in unison with mine, and hear with the same enthusiasm with which I have
| written. The poem begins with the description PROCEEDINGS OF THE CLUB OF
of an author's bed-chamber: the picture was AUTHORS.
sketched in my own apartment: for you must By my last advices from Moscow, I find the know, gentlemen, that I am myself the hero." caravan has not yet departed for China : I still | Then putting himself
Then putting himself into the attitude of an continue to write, expecting that you may receive orator, with all the emphasis of voice and action, a large number of letters at once. In them you he proceeded : will find rather a minute detail of English peculiarities, than a general picture of their manners “Where the Red Lion flaring o'er the way, or dispositions. Happy it were for mankind if Invites each passing stranger that can pry: all travellers would thus, instead of characteris
Where Calvert's butt. and Parson's black champagne,
Regale the drabs and bloods of Drury Lane; ing a people in general terms, lead us into a
There in a lonely room, from bailiffs snug, detail of those minute circumstances which first
The muse found Scroggen stretched beneath a rug; influenced their opinion. The genius of a coun
A window patched with paper lent a ray, try should be investigated with a kind of experi
That dimly showed the state in which he lay; mental inquiry: by this means, we should have The sanded floor, that grits beneath the tread; more precise and just notions of foreign nations, The humid wall with paltry pictures spread : and detect travellers themselves when they hap
The royal game of goose was there in view
And the twelve rules the royal martyr drew; pened to form wrong conclusions.
The seasons, framed with listing, found a place, My friend and I repeated our visit to the club
And brave Prince William showed his lamp-black of authors; where, upon our entrance, we found
face. the members all assembled, and engaged in a The morn was cold, he views with keen desire loud debate.
The rusty grate, unconscious of a fire ; The poet in shabby finery, holding a manu With beer and milk arrears the frieze was scored, script in his hand, was earnestly endeavouring
And five cracked tea-cups dressed the chimney board; to persuade the company to hear him read the
A night-cap decked his brows instead of bay, first book of an heroic poem, which he had com
A cap by night-a stocking all the day !" posed the day before. But against this all the
With this last line he seemed so much elated members very warmly objected. They knew no
that he was unable to proceed. “There, gentle. reason why any member of the club should be
men," cries he, “there is a description for you; indulged with a particular hearing, when many
Rabelais's bed-chamber is but a fool to it. of them had published whole volumes which had never been looked in. They insisted that the A cap by night-a stocking all the day! law should be observed where reading in company was expressly noticed. It was in vain that the There is sound, and sense, and truth, and nature, poet pleaded the peculiar merit of his piece; he | in the trifling compass of ten syllables." spoke to an assembly insensible to all his re | He was too much employed in self-admiration monstrances : the book of laws was opened, and to observe the company; who, by nods, winks, read by the secretary, where it was expressly shrugs, and stified laughter, testified every mark enacted, “That whatsoever poet, speech-maker, of contempt. He turned severally to each for critic, or historian, should presume to engage their opinion, and found all, however, ready to the company by reading his own works, he was applaud. One swore it was inimitable; another to lay down sixpence previous to opening the said it was — fine; and a third cried out in manuscript, and should be charged one shilling a rapture, “Carissimo.” At last, addressing him. an hour while he continued reading : the said self to the president—“And pray, Mr Squint," shilling to be equally distributed among the says he, “let us have your opinion." “Mine !" company as a recompense for their trouble." :) answered the president (taking the manuscript
Our poet seemed at first to shrink at the out of the author's hand), “may this glass sufpenalty, hesitating for some time whether he focate me, but I think it equal to anything I should deposit the fine, or shut up the poem : have seen ; and I fancy” (continued he, doubling but, looking round, and perceiving two strangers up the poem and forcing it into the author's in the room, his love of fame outweighed his pocket), “that you will get great honour when it prudence, and laying down the sum by law estab comes out; so I shall beg leave to pat it in. lished, he insisted on his prerogative.
We will not intrude upon your good-plature, in A profound silence ensuing, he began by ex. desiring to hear more of it at present; ex ungue plaining his design. “Gentlemen,” says he, Herculem, we are satisfied, perfectly satisfied." “the present piece is not one of your common The author made two or three attempts to pull epic poems which come from the press like paper it out a second time, and the preside ant made as kites in summer; there are none of your Turn- many to prevent him. Thus, though with reuses or Didos in it; it is an heroical description luctance, he was at last obliged to sit down,
contented with the commendations for which he fiend, returned with a letter four times as big as had paid.
mine. Guess my ecstasy at the prospect of so When this tempest of poetry and praise was fine a return. I eagerly took the packet into blown over, one of the company changed the my hands, that trembled to receive it. I kept subject, by wondering how any man could be so | it some time unopened before me, brooding over dull as to write poetry at present, since prose the expected treasure it contained ; when openitself would hardiy pay. “Would you think it, / ing it, as I hope to be saved, gentlemen, his gentlemen,” continued he, “I have actually grace had sent me in payment for my poem, no sritten last week sixteen prayers, twelve lewd | bank-bills, but six copies of verses, each longer jests, and three sermons, all at the rate of six than mine, addressed to him upon the same pence a-piece; and what is still more extra occasion." ordinary, the bookseller has lost by the bargain. “A nobleman,” cries a member, who had Such sermons would once have gained me a hitherto been silent, “is created as much for prebend's stall; but now, alas, we have neither the confusion of us authors, as the catch-pole. piety, taste, or humour, among us. Positively, I'll tell you a story, gentlemen, which is as true if this season does not turn out better than it as that this pipe is made of clay. When I was has begun, unless the ministry commit some delivered of my first book, I owed my tailor sor blunders to furnish us with a new topic of abuse, a suit of clothes; but that is nothing new, you I shall resume my old business of working at the know, and may be any man's case as well as press, instead of finding it employment.”
mine. Well, owing him for a suit of clothes, The whole club seemed to join in condemn. and hearing that my book took very well, he ing the season, as one of the worst that had sent for his money, and insisted upon being come for some time : a gentleman particularly paid immediately: though I was at the timo observed that the nobility were never known to rich in fame, for my book ran like wildfire, yet subscribe worse than at present. “I know not I was very short in money, and being unable to how it happens,” said he, “though I follow them satisfy his demand, prudently resolved to keep up as close as possible, yet I can hardly get a my chamber, preferring a prison of my own single subscription in a week. The houses of choosing at home, to one of my tailor's choosing the great are as inaccessible as a frontier garri- abroad. In vain the bailiffs used all their arts son at midnight. I never see a nobleman's door to decoy me from my citadel ; in vain they sent half opened, that some surly porter or footman to let me know that a gentleman wanted to does not stand full in the breach. I was yester. | speak with me at the next tavern ; in vain they day to wait with a subscription-proposal upon came with an urgent message from my aunt in my Lord Squash the Creolian. I had posted the country; in vain I was told that a particular myself at his door the whole morning, and just | friend was at the point of death, and desired to as he was getting into his coach, thrust my pro take his last farewell. I was deaf, insensible, posal snug into his hand, folded up in the form rock, adamant; the bailiffs could make no imof a letter from myself. He just glanced at the pression on my hard heart, for I effectually kept superscription, and not knowing the hand, con- / my liberty by never stirring out of the room. signed it to his valet-de-chambre; this respect. “This was very well for a fortnight; when able personage treated it as his master, and put one morning I received a most splendid message it into the hands of the porter; the porter from the Earl of Doomsday, importing that he grasped my proposal frowning; and measuring had read my book, and was in raptures with my figure from top to toe, put it back into my every line of it; he impatiently longed to see own hands unopened.”
the author, and had some designs which might "To the devil I pitch all the nobility,” cries turn out greatly to my advantage. I paused a little man, in a peculiar accent, “I am sure | upon the contents of this message, and found they have of late used me most scurvily. You there could be no deceit, for the card was gilt at must know, gentlemen, some time ago, upon the the edges, and the bearer, I was told, had quite arrival of a certain noble duke from his travels, the looks of a gentleman. Witness, ye powers, I sat myself down, and vamped up a fine flaunt. how my heart triumphed at my own importance ! ing poetical panegyric, which I had written in I saw a long perspective of felicity before me; I such a strain, that I fancied it would have even applauded the taste of the times which never wheedled milk from a mouse. In this I repre- saw genius forsaken: I had prepared a set in. sented the whole kingdom welcoming his grace troductory speech for the occasion; five glaring to his native soil, not forgetting the loss France compliments for his lordship, and two more and Italy would sustain in their arts by his modest for myself. The next morning, theredeparture. I expected to touch for a bank-bill fore, in order to be punctual to my appointment, at least : so folding up my verses in gilt paper, I took coach, and ordered the fellow to drive to I gave my last half-crown to a genteel servant the street and house mentioned in his lordship’s to be the bearer. My letter was safely conveyed address. I had the precaution to pull up the to his grace, and the servant, after four hours' window as I went along, to keep off the busy absence, during which time I led the life of a part of mankind, and, big with expectation,