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OLIVER GOLDSMITH, M.B.
It cannot be said of this ornament of British literature, as has been observed of most authors, that the Memoirs of his life comprise little more than a history of his writings. Goldsmith's life was full of adventure; and a due consideration of his conduct from the outset to his death will furnish many useful lessons to those who live after him.
Our Author, the third son of Mr. Charles Goldsmith, was born at Elphin, in the county of Roscommon, Ireland, on the 29th of November, 1728. His father, who had been educated at Dublin college, was a clergyman of the established church, and had married Anne, daughter of the Rev. Oliver Jones, Master of the diocesan school of Elphin.
Her mother's brother, the Rev. Mr. Green, then Rector of Kilkenny West, lent the young couple the house in which our author was born; and at his death Mr. Green was succeeded in his benefice by his clerical protégée.
Mr. Charles Goldsmith had five sons and two daughters.
Henry, the eldest son (to whom the poem of “ The Traveller” is dedicated), distinguished himself greatly both at school and at college; but his marriage at nineteen years of age appears to have been a bar to his preferment in the church; and we believe that he never ascended above a curacy.
The liberal education which the father bestowed upon Henry, had deducted so much from a narrow income, that when Oliver was born, after an interval of seven years from the birth of the former child, no prospect in life appeared for him, but a mechanical or mercantile occupation.
The rudiments of instruction he acquired from a schoolmaster in the village, who had served in Queen Anne's wars as a quarter
master in that detachment of the army which was sent to Spain. Being of a communicative turn, and finding a ready hearer in young Oliver, this man used frequently to entertain him with what he called his adventures; nor is it without probability supposed, that these laid the foundation of that wandering disposition which became afterwards so conspicuous in his pupil.
At a very early age Oliver began to exhibit indications of genius; for when only seven or eight years old he would often amuse his father and mother with poetical attempts which attracted much notice from them and their friends; but his infant mind does not appear to have been much elated by their approbation; for after his verses had been adınired they were without regret committed by him to the flames.
He was now taken from the tuition of the quondan soldier, to be put under that of the Rev. Mr. Griffin, schoolmaster of Elphin; and was at the same time received into the house of his father's brother, John Goldsmith, Esq. of Ballyoughter, near that town).
Our author's eldest sister Catharine (afterwards married to Daniel Hodson, Esq. of Lishoy, near Ballymahon) relates, that one evening, when Oliver was about nine years of age, a company of young people of both sexes being assembled at his uncle's, the boy was required to dance a hornpipe, a youth undertaking to play to him on the fiddle. Being but lately out of the small-pox, which had much disfigured his countenance, and his bodily proportions being short and thick, the young musician thought to show his wit by comparing our hero to Æsop dancing; and having harped a little too lang, as the caperer thought, on this bright idea, the latter suddenly stopped, and said,
Our herald hath proclaim'd this saying,
This instance of early wit, we are told, decided his fortune; for, from that time, it was determined to send him to the university; and some of his relations, who were in the church, offered to contribute toward the expence, particularly the Rey. Thomas Conta
rine, rector' of Kilmore, near Carrick-uponShannon, who had married an aunt of Oliver's. The Rev. Mr. Green also, whom we have before mentioned, liberally assisted in this friendly design.
To further the purpose intended, he was now removed to Athlone, where he continued about two years under the Rev. Mr. Campbell; who being then obliged by ill health to resign the charge, Oliver was sent to the school of the Rev. Patrick Hughes, at Edgeworthstown, in the county of Longford *.
* We are told, that in his last journey to this school, he had an adventure which is thought to have suggested the plot of his comedy of 'She Stoops to Conquer.'--Some friend had given him a guinea ; and in his way to Edgeworthstown, which was about twenty miles from his father's house, he had amused himself the whole day with viewing the gentlemen's seats on the road; and at night-fall found himself in the small town of Ardagh. Here he enquired for the best house in the place, meaning the best inn ; but his informant, taking the question in its literal sense, showed him to the house of a private gentleman; where, calling for somebody to take his horse to the stable, our hero alighted, and was shown into the parlour, being supposed to have come on a visit to the master, whom he found sitting by the fire. This gentleman soon discovered Oliver's