Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

being truly fine of their kind, whatever springs out of evil, it is developed to its their mistaken aim, or partial error, is highest by contention with evil. There proof of their noble origin: and that, (240 are some groups of peasantry, in far-away if there is indeed sterling value in the nooks of Christian countries, who are thing done, it has come of a sterling worth nearly as innocent as lambs; but the in the soul that did it, however alloyed or morality which gives power to art is the defiled by conditions of sin which are morality of men, not of cattle. sometimes more appalling or more strange Secondly, the virtues of the inhabitants than those which all may detect in their of many country districts are ap- (300 own hearts, because they are part of a parent, not real; their lives are indeed personality altogether larger than ours, artless, but not innocent; and it is only and as far beyond our judgment in its the monotony of circumstances, and the darkness as beyond our following in (250 absence of temptation, which prevent its light. And it is sufficient warning the exhibition of evil passions not less against what some might dread as the real because often dormant, nor less foul probable effect of such a conviction on because shown only in petty faults, or your own minds, namely, that you might inactive malignities. permit yourselves in the weaknesses But you will observe also that absolute which you imagined to be allied to genius, artlessness, to men in any kind of (310 when they took the form of personal moral health, is impossible; they have temptations;-—it is surely, I say, suffi- always, at least, the art by which they cient warning against so mean a folly, live-agriculture or seamanship; and in to discern, as you may with little (260 these industries, skilfully practised, you pains, that, of all human existences, the will find the law of their moral training; lives of men of that distorted and tainted while, whatever the adversity of cirnobility of intellect are probably the cumstances, every rightly-minded peasmost miserable.

antry, such as that of Sweden, Denmark, I pass to the second, and for us the more Bavaria, or Switzerland, has associated practically important question, What is with its needful industry a quite (320 the effect of noble art upon other men; studied school of pleasurable art in dress; what has it done for national morality and generally also in song, and simple in time past: and what effect is the ex- domestic architecture. tended knowledge or possession of it (270 Again, I need not repeat to you here likely to have upon us now? And here what I endeavored to explain in the first we are at once met by the facts, which lecture in the book I called The Two Paths, are as gloomy as indisputable, that, while respecting the arts of savage races: but many peasant populations, among whom I may now note briefly that such arts are scarcely the rudest practice of art has the result of an intellectual activity which ever been attempted, have lived in com- has found no room to expand, and (330 parative innocence, honor, and happi- which the tyranny of nature or of man ness, the worst foulness and cruelty of has condemned to disease through arsavage tribes have been frequently asso- rested growth. And where neither Chrisciated with fine ingenuities of decora- [280 tianity, nor any other religion conveying

( tive design; also, that no people has ever some moral help, has reached, the animal attained the higher stages of art skill, energy of such races necessarily flames except at a period of its civilization which into ghastly conditions of evil, and the was sullied by frequent, violent, and even grotesque or frightful forms assumed by monstrous crime; and, lastly, that the their art are precisely indicative of their attaining of perfection in art power, has distorted moral nature.

(340 been hitherto, in every nation, the ac- But the truly great nations nearly curate signal of the beginning of its always begin from a race possessing this ruin.

imaginative power; and for some time Respecting which phenomena, ob- (290 their progress is very slow, and their state serve first, that although good never not one of innocence, but of feverish and faultful animal energy. This is gradually father, Charles Goldsmith, studied in the subdued and exalted into bright human reign of Queen Anne at the diocesan (10 life; the art instinct purifying itself with school at Elphin, became attached to the rest of the nature, until social per- the daughter of the schoolmaster, married fectness is nearly reached; and then (350 her, took orders, and settled at a place comes the period when conscience and called Pallas, in the county of Longford. intellect are so highly developed, that new There he with difficulty supported his forms of error begin in the inability to wife and children on what he could earn, fulfil the demands of the one, or to answer partly as a curate and partly as a farmer. the doubts of the other. Then the whole- At Pallas Oliver Goldsmith was born ness of the people is lost; all kinds of in November 1728. That spot was then, hypocrisies and oppositions of science for all practical purposes, almost as [20 develop themselves; their faith is ques- remote from the busy and splendid tioned on one side, and compromised with capital in which his later years were on the other; wealth commonly in- (360 passed, as any clearing in Upper creases at the same period to a destructive Canada or any sheep-walk in Australasia extent; luxury follows; and the ruin of now is. Even at this day those enthusiasts the nation is then certain: while the arts, who venture to make a pilgrimage to the all this time, are simply, as I said at first, birthplace of the poet are forced to perthe exponents of each phase of its moral form the latter part of their journey on state, and no more control it in its political foot. The hamlet lies far from any highcareer than the gleam of the firefly guides road on a dreary plain which in wet (30 its oscillation. It is true that their most weather is often a lake. The lanes would splendid results are usually obtained in break any jaunting-car to pieces; and the swiftness of the power which is (370 there are ruts and sloughs through which hurrying to the precipice; but to lay the the most strongly-built wheels cannot charge of the catastrophe to the art by be dragged. which it is illumined, is to find a cause for While Oliver was still a child, his the cataract in the hues of its iris. It is father was presented to a living worth true that the colossal vices belonging to about £200 a year, in the county of West periods of great national wealth (for Meath. The family accordingly quitted wealth, you will find, is the real root of their cottage in the wilderness for a (40 all evil) can turn every good gift and skill spacious house on a frequented road, near of nature or of man to evil purpose. If, the village of Lissoy. Here the boy was in such times, fair pictures have been (380 taught his letters by a maid-servant, misused, how much more fair realities? and was sent in his seventh year to a vilAnd if Miranda is immoral to Caliban is lage school kept by an old quarter-master that Miranda's fault? ...

on half-pay, who professed to teach nothing but reading, writing, and arithmetic, but who had an inexhaustible

fund of stories about ghosts, banshees, THOMAS BABINGTON, LORD and fairies, about the great Rap- 150 MACAULAY (1800-1869)

paree chiefs, Baldearg O'Donnell and

galloping Hogan, and about the exploits OLIVER GOLDSMITH

of Peterborough and Stanhope, the sur

prise of Monjuich, and the glorious disOliver Goldsmith, one of the most aster of Brihuega. This man must have pleasing English writers of the eighteenth been of the Protestant religion; but he century. He was of a Protestant and was of the aboriginal race, and not only Saxon family which had been long settled spoke the Irish language, but could pour in Ireland, and which had, like most forth unpremeditated Irish verses. Oliver other Protestant and Saxon families, early became, and through life con- (60 been, in troubled times, harassed and put tinued to be, a passionate admirer of in fear by the native population. His

His the Irish music, and especially of the

1

compositions of Carolan, some of the from which they have long been relieved. last notes of whose harp he heard. It They swept the court: they carried up ought to be added that Oliver, though by the dinner to the fellows' table, and birth one of the Englishry, and though changed the plates and poured out (120 connected by numerous ties with the the ale of the rulers of the society. Goldestablished church, never showed the smith was quartered, not alone, in a least sign of that contemptuous antipathy garret, on the window of which his name, with which, in his days, the ruling 170 scrawled by himself, is still read with minority in Ireland too generally regarded interest.' From such garrets many men the subject majority. So far indeed was of less parts than his have made their he from sharing the opinions and feelings way to the woolsack or to the episcopal of the caste to which he belonged, that bench. But Goldsmith, while he suffered he conceived an aversion to the Glorious all the humiliations, threw away all the and Immortal Memory, and, even when advantages of his situation. He neg- (130 George the Third was on the throne, lected the studies of the place, stood low maintained that nothing but the restora- at the examinations, was turned down tion of the banished dynasty could save to the bottom of his class for playing the the country.

180 buffoon in the lecture-room, was severely From the humble academy kept by reprimanded for pumping on a constable, the old soldier Goldsmith was removed and was caned by a brutal tutor for giving in his ninth year. He went to several a ball in the attic story of the college to grammar-schools, and acquired some some gay youths and damsels from the knowledge of the ancient languages. His city. life at this time seems to have been far While Oliver was leading at Dublin (140 from happy. He had, as appears from a life divided between squalid distress the admirable portrait of him at Knowle, and squalid dissipation, his father died, features harsh even to ugliness. The leaving a mere pittance. The youth obsmall-pox had set its mark on him (90 tained his bachelor's degree, and left the with more than usual severity. His University. During some time the humstature was small, and his limbs ill put ble dwelling to which his widowed mother together. Among boys little tenderness had retired was his home. He was now is shown to personal defects; and the in his twenty-first year; it was necessary ridicule excited by poor Oliver's appear- that he should do something; and his ance was heightened by a peculiar sim- education seemed to have fitted him (150 plicity and a disposition to blunder which to do nothing but to dress himself in he retained to the last. He became the gaudy colors, of which he was as fond as common butt of boys and masters, was a magpie, to take a hand at cards, to sing pointed at as a fright in the play- (100 Irish airs, to play the flute, to angle in ground, and flogged as a dunce in the summer, and to tell ghost stories by the schoolroom. When he had risen to fire in winter. He tried five or six proeminence, those who had once derided fessions in turn without success. He aphim ransacked their memory for the plied for ordination; but, as he applied events of his early years, and recited in scarlet clothes, he was speedily turned repartees and couplets which had dropped out of the episcopal palace. He then (100 from him, and which, though little no- became tutor in an opulent family, but ticed at the time, were supposed, a quarter soon quitted his situation in consequence of a century later, to indicate the powers of a dispute about play. Then he deterwhich produced the Vicar of Wake- (110 mined to emigrate to America. His relafield and the Deserted Village.

tions, with much satisfaction, saw him In his seventeenth year Oliver went set out for Cork on a good horse, with up to Trinity College, Dublin, as a sizar. thirty pounds in his pocket. But in six

. The sizars paid nothing for food and

1 The glass on which the name is written bas, as we are intuition, and very little for lodging; but formed by a writer in Notes and Queries (2nd S. ix. p. 91),

been enclosed in a frame deposited in the Manuscript Room of they had to perform some menial services

the College Library, where it is still to be seen. (Macaulay.)

weeks he came back on a miserable hack, friend, and without a calling. He had, without a penny, and informed his mother indeed, if his own unsupported evidence that the ship in which he had taken (170 may be trusted, obtained from the Unihis passage, having got a fair wind while versity of Padua a doctor's degree; but he was at a party of pleasure, had sailed this dignity proved utterly useless to him. without him. Then he resolved to study In England his flute was not in request; the law. A generous kinsman advanced there were no convents; and he was forced fifty pounds. With this sum Goldsmith to have recourse to a series of desperate went to Dublin, was enticed into a gaming- expedients. He turned strolling (230 house, and lost every shilling. He then player; but his face and figure were ill thought of medicine. A small purse was suited to the boards even of the humblest made up: and in his twenty-fourth year theatre. He pounded drugs and ran he was sent to Edinburgh. At Edin- (180 about London with phials for charitable burgh he passed eighteen months in chemists. He joined a swarm of beggars, nominal attendance on lectures, and which made its nest in Axe Yard. He picked up some superficial information was for a time usher of a school, and felt about chemistry and natural history. the miseries and humiliations of this situaThence he went to Leyden, still pretend- tion so keenly that he thought it a proing to study physic. He left that cele- motion to be permitted to earn his (240 brated university, the third university bread as a bookseller's hack; but he soon at which he had resided, in his twenty- found the new yoke more galling than the seventh year, without a degree, with the old one, and was glad to become an usher merest smattering of medical knowl- (190 again. He obtained a medical appointedge, and with no property but his clothes ment in the service of the East India and his flute. His fute, however, proved Company: but the appointment was a useful friend. He rambled on foot speedily revoked. Why it was revoked through Flanders, France, and Switzer- we are not told. The subject was one on land, playing tunes which everywhere which he never liked to talk. It is probset the peasantry dancing, and which able that he was incompetent to per- (250 often procured for him a supper and a form the duties of the place. Then he bed. He wandered as far as Italy. His presented himself at Surgeons' Hall for musical performances, indeed, were not examination, as mate to a naval hospital. to the taste of the Italians, but he (200 Even to so humble a post he was found contrived to live on the alms which he unequal. By this time the schoolmaster obtained at the gates of convents. It whom he had served for a morsel of food should, however, be observed that the and the third part of a bed was no more. stories which he told about this part of Nothing remained but to return to the his life ought to be received with great lowest drudgery of literature. Goldsmith caution; for strict veracity was never one took a garret in a miserable court, (260 of his virtues; and a man who is ordinarily to which he had to climb from the brink inaccurate in narration is likely to be of Fleet Ditch by a dizzy ladder of flagmore than ordinarily inaccurate when he stones called Breakneck Steps. The talks about his own travels. Gold- (210 court and the ascent have long disapsmith, indeed, was so regardless of truth peared; but old Londoners will remember as to assert in print that he was present both. Here, at thirty, the unlucky ad

. at a most interesting conversation be- venturer sat down to toil like a galley tween Voltaire and Fontenelle, and that slave. this conversation took place at Paris. In the succeeding six years he sent to Now it is certain that Voltaire never was the press some things which have (270 within a hundred leagues of Paris during survived and many which have perished. the whole time which Goldsmith passed He produced articles for reviews, magaon the Continent.

zines, and newspapers; children's books In 1756 the wanderer landed at [220 which, bound in gilt paper and adorned Dover, without a shilling, without a with hideous woodcuts, appeared in the

window of the once far-famed shop at the lish writers; to Reynolds, the first of (330 corner of Saint Paul's Churchyard; An | English painters; and to Burke, who had Enquiry into the State of Polite Learning not yet entered Parliament, but who had in Europe, which, though of little or no distinguished himself greatly by his writvalue, is still reprinted among his [280 ings and by the eloquence of his conversaworks; a Life of Beau Nash, which is not tion. With these eminent men Goldreprinted, though it well deserves to be smith became intimate. In 1763 he was so; a superficial and incorrect, but very one of the nine original members of that readable, History of England, in a series celebrated fraternity which has someof letters purporting to be addressed by times been called the Literary Club, but a nobleman to his son; and some lively which has always disclaimed that (340 and amusing Sketches of London Society, epithet, and still glories in the simple in a series of letters purporting to be name of The Club. addressed by a Chinese traveller to his By this time Goldsmith had quitted friends. All these works were anony- (290 his miserable dwelling at the top of Breakmous; but some of them were well known neck Steps, and had taken chambers in to be Goldsmith's; and he gradually rose the more civilized region of the Inns of in the estimation of the booksellers for Court. But he was still often reduced to whom he drudged. He was, indeed, em- pitiable shifts. Towards the close of 1764 phatically a popular writer. For accurate his rent was so long in arrear that his research or grave disquisition he was landlady one morning called in the 1350 not well qualified by nature or by educa- help of a sheriff's officer. The debtor, tion. He knew nothing accurately: his in great perplexity, dispatched a mesreading had been desultory; nor had he senger to Johnson; and Johnson, always meditated deeply on what he had (300 friendly, though often surly, sent back read. He had seen much of the world; the messenger with a guinea, and promised but he had noticed and retained little to follow speedily. He came, and found more of what he had seen than some that Goldsmith had changed the guinea, grotesque incidents and characters which and was railing at the landlady over a had happened to strike his fancy. But, bottle of Madeira. Johnson put the though his mind was very scantily stored cork into the bottle, and entreated his (360 with materials, he used what materials friend to consider calmly how money was he had in such a way as to produce a won- to be procured. Goldsmith said that he derful effect. There have been many had a novel ready for the press. Johnson greater writers; but perhaps no writer (310 glanced at the manuscript, saw that there

, was ever more uniformly agreeable. His * were good things in it, took it to a bookstyle was always pure and easy, and, on seller, sold it for £60, and soon returned proper occasions, pointed and energetic. with the money. The rent was paid; His narratives were always amusing, his and the sheriff's officer withdrew. "Acdescriptions always picturesque, his humor cording to one story, Goldsmith gave his rich and joyous, yet not without an oc- landlady a sharp reprimand for her (370 casional tinge of amiable sadness. About treatment of him: according to another, everything that he wrote, serious or spor- he insisted on her joining him in a bowl of tive, there was a certain natural grace punch. Both stories are probably true. and decorum, hardly to be expected [320 The novel which was thus ushered into from a man a great part of whose life the world was the Vicar of Wakefield. had been passed among thieves and beg- But, before the Vicar of Wakefield apgars, street-walkers and merry-andrews, in peared in print, came the great crisis of those squalid dens which are the reproach Goldsmith's literary life. In Christmas of great capitals.

week, 1764, he published a poem entitled As his name gradually became known, the Traveller. It was the first work (380 the circle of his acquaintance widened. to which he had put his name; and it at He was introduced to Johnson, who was once raised him to the rank of a legitimate then considered as the first of living Eng- English classic. The opinion of the most

« AnteriorContinuar »