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'Change of London, with a hundred thousand pounds, is nothing; an English Duke, with an immense fortune, is nothing: he has no tenants who consider themselves as under his patriarchal care, and who will follow him to the field upon an emergency.”
His notion of the dignity of a Scotch landlord had been formed upon what he had heard of the Highland chiefs; for it is long since a lowland landlord has been so curtailed in his feudal authority, that he has little more influence over his tenants than an English landlord-; and of late years most of the Highland chiefs have destroyed, by means too well known, the princely power which they once enjoyed. (1)
He proceeded :-—“Your going abroad, Sir, and breaking off idle habits, may be of great importance. to you. I would go where there are courts and learned men. There is a good deal of Spain that has not been perambulated. I would have A man of inferior talents to yours may furnish us with useful observations upon that country.” His supposing me, at that period of life, capable of writing an account of my travels that would deserve to be read, elated me not a little.
I appeal to every impartial reader whether this faithful detail of his frankness, complacency, and
you go thither.
:(1) [Boswell alludes, principally at least, to the substitution of sheep farming for the old black-cattle system in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, in consequence of which, fewer hands being required on the chiefs' estates, a large portion of their clansmen were driven into exile in America. We shall hear more of these affairs in the course of the Hebridean journal, post.]
kindness to a young man, a stranger, and a Scotchman, does not refute the unjust opinion of the harshness of his general demeanour. His occasional reproofs of folly, impudence, or impiety, and even the sudden sallies of his constitutional irritability of temper, which have been preserved for the poignancy of their wit, have produced that opinion among those who have not considered that such instances, though collected by Mrs. Piozzi into a small volume, and read over in a few hours, were, in fact, scattered through a long series of years : years, in which his time was chiefly spent in instructing and delighting mankind by his writings and conversation, in acts of piety to God, and good-will to men.
I complained to him that I had not yet acquired much knowledge, and asked his advice as to my studies. He said, “Don't talk of study now. I will give you a plan ; but it will require some time to consider of it." “ It is very good in you," I replied, “ to allow me to be with you thus. Had it been foretold to me some years ago that I should pass an evening with the author of the RAMBLER, how should I have exulted !” What I then expressed, was sincerely from the heart. He was satisfied that it was, and cordially answered, “Sir, I am glad we have met. I hope we shall pass many evenings, and mornings too, together." We finished a couple of bottles of port, and sat till between one and two in the morning
Graham's “ Telemachus, a Mask.” Dr. Oliver Gold
smith. Dr. John Campbell. Hermippus Redicious.” Churchill's Poetry. Bonnell Thornton. “ Odeon St. Cecilia's Day." The Connoisseur. The World. Miss Williams's Tea Parties. Anecdotes of Goldsmith.
He wrote this year in the Critical Review the account of “ Telemachus, a Mask,” by the Rev. George Graham, of Eton College. The subject of this beautiful poem was particularly interesting to Johnson, who had much experience of “ the conflict of opposite principles,” which he describes as • The contention between pleasure and virtue; a struggle which will always be continued while the present system of nature shall subsist; nor can history or poetry exhibit more than pleasure triumphing over virtue, and virtue subjugating pleasure.”
As Dr. Oliver Goldsmith will frequently appear in this narrative, I shall endeavour to make
readers in some degree acquainted with his singular character. He was a native of Ireland, and contemporary with Mr. Burke, at Trinity College, Dublin, but did not then give much promise of future celebrity. (1) He, however, observed to Mr. Malone, that “though he made no great figure in mathetics, which was a study in much repute there, he could turn an Ode of Horace into English better than any
of them.” He afterwards studied physic at Edinburgh, and upon the continent; and, I have been informed, was enabled to pursue his travels on foot, partly by demanding at universities to enter the lists as a disputant, by which, according to the custom of many of them, he was entitled to the premium of a crown, when luckily for him his challenge was not accepted; so that, as I once observed to Dr. Johnson, he disputed his passage through Europe. He then came to England, and was employed successively in the capacities of an usher to an academy, a corrector of the press, a reviewer, and a writer for a newspaper. He had sagacity enough to cultivate assiduously the acquaintance of Johnson, and his faculties were gradually enlarged by the contemplation of such a model. To me and many others it appeared that he studiously copied the manner of Johnson, though, indeed, upon a smaller scale.
At this time I think he had published nothing
(1) Goldsmith got a premium at a Christmas examination in Trinity College, Dublin, which I have seen. — - KEARNEY. A premium obtained at the Christmas examination is generally more honourable than any other; because it ascertains the person who receives it to be the first in literary merit. At the other examinations, the person thus distinguished may be only the second in merit; he who has previously obtained the same honorary reward, sometimes receiving a written certificate that he was the best answerer, it being a rule that not more than one premium should be adjudged to the same person in one year. See antè, p.73.- M.
with his name, though it was pretty generally known that one Dr. Goldsmith was the author of " An Inquiry into the present State of Polite Learning in Europe," and of “ The Citizen of the World,” a series of letters supposed to be written from London by a Chinese. (1) No man had the art of displaying with more advantage as a writer, whatever literary acquisitions he made.
“ Nihil quod tetigit non ornavit.” (?) His mind resembled a fertile, but thin soil. There was a quick, but not a strong vegetation, of whatever chanced to be thrown upon it. No deep root could be struck. The oak of the forest did not grow there; but the elegant shrubbery and the fragrant parterre appeared in gay succession. It has been generally circulated and believed that he was a mere fool in conversation (3); but, in truth, this has been greatly exaggerated. He had, no
(1) He had also published in 1759, “ The Bee; being, Essays on the most interesting Subjects.” — M.
(2) See his Epitaph in Westminster Abbey, written by Dr. Johnson.
(3) In allusion to this, Mr. Horace Walpole, who admired his writings, said he was “an inspired idiot;" and Garrick described him as one
“ for shortness call'd Noll, Who wrote like an angel, and talk'd like poor Póll." Sir Joshua Reynolds mentioned to me, that he frequently heard Goldsmith talk warmly of the pleasure of being liked, and observe how hard it would be if literary excellence should pre clude a man from that satisfaction, which he perceived it often did, from the envy which attended it; and therefore Sir Joshua was convinced that he was intentionally more absurd, in order to lessen himself in social intercourse, trusting that his character would be sufficiently supported by his works. If it indeed was his intention to appear absurd in company, he was often very successful. But, with due deference to Sir Joshua's ingenuity, I think the conjecture too refined.