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poem entitled “ The Traveller.” It was the first work to which he had put his name, and it at once raised him to the rank of a legitimate English classic. Its opening lines, in which he strikes the keynote of the poem, are as follows:
Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
And drags at each remove a lengthening chain.” The best critics declared that nothing finer had appeared in print since the fourth book of “ The Durciad."
While the fourth edition of “The Traveller ” was being sold, the Vicar of Wakefield " appeared, and rapidly obtained a popularity which has lasted down to our own time. The plot is exactly the same as that of the book of Job. A just man is tormented by impossible misfortunes, but finally is disentangled from his troubles. But the details of the story afford a delightful mixture of pastoral poetry and vivacious comedy, and the style is as witty and polished as that of Addison.
Goldsmith's success as a novelist emboldened him to try his fortune as a dramatist. He wrote“ The Good Natur'd Man," which was acted at Covent Garden in 1768, but was coldly received. The author, however, cleared by his benefit nights and by the sale of the copyright no less than five hundred pounds, five times as much as he had made by “The Traveller " and "The Vicar of Wakefield" together. If “ The Good Natur'd Man” was a failure, Goldsmith's next venture, “The Deserted Village," which appeared in 1770, was an immense success. In plan this poem is probably inferior to “The Traveller," but in sweetness it is far superior. The pictures of sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain, of the village preacher, of the schoolmaster, and of the maiden, sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn, immediately won and still continue to retain the affection of all lovers of poetry.
In 1773 Goldsmith produced a second play, "She Stoops to Conquer
The Good Natur'd Man” had been too funny to succeed; yet the mirth of “ The Good Natur'd Man was sober when compared with the rich drollery of “She Stoops to Conquer.” On this occasion, however, genius triumphed. Pit, boxes, and galleries were in a constant roar of laughter. Seven generations have since confirmed the verdict which was pronounced on the night when “ She Stoops to Conquer ” was first performed.
While Goldsmith was writing “ The Deserted Village” and “She Stoops to Conquer,” he was employed on other works, from which he derived little reputation but much profit. He compiled for the use of schools a “History of Rome," by which he made three hundred pounds; a “ History of England,” by which he made six hundred pounds; a “History of Greece," for which he received two hundred and fifty pounds; and a “ Natural History," for which the booksellers agreed to pay him eight hundred guineas. In these works he committed some strange blunders, for he knew nothing with accuracy. He was very nearly hoaxed into putting into the “History of Greece" an account of a battle between Alexander the Great and Montezuma. He informs us with perfect gravity that the furious tiger is a native of Canada. “If he can tell a horse from a cow,” said Johnson, " that is the extent of his knowledge of zoology.” In spite of these defects, however, the clearness, purity, and simplicity of his style make these epitomes of his always readable and not seldom highly amusing. Goldsmith should now have been a prosperous man.
His fame was great and rising. He lived in the best society of the kingdom. There probably were never four talkers more admirable in four different ways than Johnson, Burke, Beauclerk, and Garrick; and Goldsmith was on terms of intimacy with all the four. He was, however, by no means their equal in conversation. Horace Walpole, indeed, referring to his colloquial powers, described him as an inspired idiot. “Noll,” said Garrick, "wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll.” His associates seemed to have regarded him with a kindness which, in spite of their admiration of his writings, was not unmixed with contempt. In truth, there was in his character much to love, but little to respect. He was so generous that he quite forgot to be just, and was so liberal to beggars that he had nothing left for his tailor and his butcher. He has sometimes been represented as a man of genius, cruelly treated by the world, and doomed to struggle with
difficulties which at last broke his heart. He did, indeed, go through much misery before he had done anything considerable in literature. But after his name had appeared on the title-page of “The Traveller” he had none but himself to blame for his distresses. His average income, during the last seven years of his life, certainly exceeded four hundred pounds a year, and four hundred pounds a year ranked, among the incomes of that day, at least as high as sixteen hundred pounds a year at present. But, if Goldsmith had had the wealth of John D. Rockefeller, it would not have sufficed. He always spent twice as much as he had. Finally he found himself more than two thousand pounds in debt, and he saw no hope of escaping from his embarrassments. His spirits and health gave way. He was attacked by a nervous fever, and undertook to prescribe for himself. “I do not practise," he once said; “I make it a rule to prescribe only for my friends."
“Pray, dear Doctor,” said Beauclerk,“ alter your rule, and prescribe only for your enemies.” Now, in spite of this excellent advice, Goldsmith prescribed for himself. The remedy aggravated the disease. Finally he called in real physicians, but too late. He died April 4, 1774, in his forty-sixth year.
A short time after his death a little poem of his called “ Retaliation ” was published. Among his other weaknesses was that of never being on time. On one of the occasions on which he had kept a number of his friends waiting, they amused the interval in writing epitaphs on the late Dr. Goldsmith. Of these, Garrick's, perhaps, was the most famous:
'Here lies Nolly Goldsmith, for shortness called “Noll,'
In order to revenge himself upon these friends, he betook himself to his pen and produced " Retaliation,” which contains two matchless portraits, those of Burke and Garrick, which have ever since been associated with their names.
Some of Goldsmith's friends honored him with a cenotaph in Westminster Abbey, for which Johnson wrote the inscription. It is much to be lamented that Johnson did not leave to posterity a more durable memorial of his friend. A Life of Goldsmith would have been an invaluable addition to “ The Lives of the Poets.” Goldsmith, however, has been fortunate in his biographers. Among them have been Washington Irving, Forster, the friend and biographer of Charles Dickens, and Lord Macaulay. Irving's “ Life of Goldsmith” is a delightful work; that of Forster is interesting and scholarly; but the highest place must, in view of its brevity, the clearness and simplicity of its style, and its admirable framework, be assigned to the essay of Lord Macaulay.
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. Read “The Deserted Village” ard determine whether the economic
condition described has any analogy in the community in which you
live. 2. What do you know of Goldsmith's career at Trinity College, Dublin? 3. Give an account of Goldsmith's life up till his thirtieth year. 4. Who was Beau Nash ? 5. How was “The Vicar of Wakefield ” ushered into the world? 6. In how many forms of literature did Goldsmith excel? 7. Name one of his productions in each. 8. What do you know of his conversational powers? 9. Where is he buried and next to whom? 1o. Do you believe automobiles, moving pictures, and the other “speeders”
in our life to-day are conducive to the development of the conver
sational power possessed by the men in Doctor Johnson's circle ?
Suggested Readings.—“The Vicar of Wakefield,” “The Deserted Village,
She Stoops to Conquer,” and excerpts from “The Citizen of the World” will give the student a taste of Goldsmith's many-sided genius. The essay by Thackeray in the volume “ English Humorists will be found interesting. Washington Irving's “Life of Goldsmith” is delightful.
EDMUND BURKE (1729-1797)
" An extraordinary man.”—Johnson.
In amplitude of comprehension and richness of imagination superior to every orator, ancient or modern.”—Macaulay.
EDMUND BURKE, the greatest of the English orators and one of the best prose writers of all time, was born January 12, 1729, at Dublin. His youth was passed in a period full of spiritual and national expansion. The year 1730 witnessed the beginnings of Methodism, the year 1732 the birth of George Washington and the foundation from philanthropic motives of the Colony of Georgia, and the year 1733 the publication of the first number of "Poor Richard's Almanac" by Benjamin Franklin. In 1741 we find Burke at school at Ballitore under a Quaker named Abraham Shackleton, who seems to have accomplished at least two things for his distinguished pupil. First, he made him his life-long friend, a feat of which any teacher might be proud, and, second, he imparted to him a brogue which likewise persisted to the end of Burke's days.
In 1743, Burke entered Trinity College, Dublin, where Oliver Goldsmith was also at that time a student. During his college days, Burke was inspired successively, to use his own words, with the furor mathematicus, the furor logicus, the furor historicus, and the furor poeticus. His college letters, like all of his writings, are full of illuminating ideas. He spoke even then of Ireland feelingly as our "own poor country.” He found it easier to follow the gospel in the country than at Trinity. He said, “ The best way to kill thought is to sit three hours daily in a college library." His favorite authors at this time were Cicero, Milton, and Spenser. He was graduated in 1748.
Two years later he was sent by his father to London to study law. As Augustine Birrell says, in his brilliant lecture on Burke, “He arrived in the metropolis without any desperate purpose to make his fortune and immediately, like the sensible Irishman he was, pro