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LETTER TO MILLS.
As the work grew on his hands his sanguine temper ran ahead of his labors. Feeling secure of success in England, he was anxious to forestall the piracy of the Irish press; for as yet, the union not having taken place, the English law of copyright did not extend to the other side of the Irish channel. He wrote, therefore, to his friends in Ireland, urging them to circulate his proposals for his contemplated work, and obtain subscriptions payable in advance; the money to be transmitted to a Mr. Bradley, an eminent bookseller in Dublin, who would give a receipt for it and be accountable for the delivery of the books. The letters written by him on this occasion are worthy of copious citation as being full of character and interest. One was to his relative and college intimate, Edward Wells, who had studied for the bar, but was now living at ease on his estate at Roscommon. “You have quitted,” writes Goldsmith, “ the plan of life which you once intended to pursue, and given up ambition for domestic tranquillity. I cannot avoid feeling some regret that one of my few friends has declined a pursuit in which he had every reason to expect success. I have often let my fancy loose when you were the subject, and have imagined you gracing the bench, or thundering at the bar: while I have taken no small pride to myself, and whispered to all that I could come near, that this was my cousin. Instead of this, it seems, you are merely contented to be a happy man; to be esteemed by your acquaintances; to cultivate your paternal acres; to take unmolested a nap under one of your own hawthorns, or in Mrs. Wells's bedchamber, which, even a poet must confess, is rather the more comfortable place of the two. But, however your resolutions may be altered with regard to your situation in life, I persuade myself they are unalterable with respect to your friends in it. I
cannot think the world has taken such entire possession of that heart (once so susceptible of friendship) as not to have left a corner there for a friend or two, but I flatter myself that even I have a place among the number. This I have a claim to from the similitude of our dispositions; or setting that aside, I can demand it as a right by the most equitable law of nature; I mean that of retaliation ; for indeed you have more than your share iņ mine. I am a man of few professions; and yet at this very instant I cannot avoid the painful apprehension that my present professions (which speak not half my feelings) should be considered only as a pretext to cover a request, as I have a request to make. No, my dear Ned, I know you are too generous to think so,
know me too proud to stoop to unnecessary insincerity—I have a request, it is true, to make; but as I know to whom I am a petitioner, I make it without diffidence or confusion. It is in short this, I am going to publish a book in London," &c. The residue of the letter specifies the nature of the request, which was merely to aid in circulating his proposals and obtaining subscriptions. The letter of the poor author, however, was unattended to and unacknowledged by the prosperous Mr. Wells, of Roscommon, though in after years he was proud to claim relationship to Dr. Goldsmith, when he had risen to celebrity
Another of Goldsmith's letters was to Robert Bryanton, with whom he had long ceased to be in correspondence. “I believe,” writes he, “ that they who are drunk, or out of their wits, fancy every body else in the same condition. Mine is a friendship that neither distance nor time can efface, which is probably the reason that, for the soul of me, I can't avoid thinking yours of the same complexion ; and yet I have many reasons for being of
LETTER TO BRYANTON.
a contrary opinion, else why, in so long an absence, was I never made a partner in your concerns ? To hear of your success would have given me the utmost pleasure; and a communication of your very disappointments would divide the uneasiness, I too frequently feel for my own. Indeed, my dear Bob, you don't conceive how unkindly you have treated one whose circumstances afford him few prospects of pleasure, except those reflected from the happiness of his friends. However, since you have not let me hear from you, I have in some measure disappointed your neglect by frequently thinking of you. Every day or so I remember the calm anecdotes of your life, from the fireside to the easy chair ; recall the various adventures that first cemented our friendship; the school, the college, or the tavern; preside in fancy over your cards; and am displeased at your bad play when the rubber goes against you, though not with all that agony of soul as when I was once your partner. Is it not strange that two of such like affections should be so much separated, and so differently employed as we are ? You seem placed at the centre of fortune's wheel, and, let it revolve ever so fast, are insensible of the motion. I seem to have been tied to the circumference, and whirled disagreeably round, as if on a whirligig."
He then runs into a whimsical and extravagant tirade about his future prospects. The wonderful career of fame and fortune that awaits him, and after indulging in all kinds of humorous gasconades, concludes: “Let me, then, stop my fancy to take a view of my future self,—and, as the boys say, light down to see myself on horseback. Well, now that I am down, where the d-1 is I? Oh gods ! gods! here in a garret, writing for bread, and expecting to be dunned for a milk score !"
He would, on this occasion, have doubtless written to his un
cle Contarine, but that generous friend was sunk into a helpless hopeless state from which death soon released him.
Cut off thus from the kind co-operation of his uncle, he addresses a letter to his daughter Jane, the companion of his school-boy and happy days, now the wife of Mr. Lawder. The object was to secure her interest with her husband in promoting the circulation of his proposals. The letter is full of character.
“ If you should ask," he begins, "why, in an interval of so many years, you never heard from me, permit me, madam, to ask the same question. I have the best excuse in recrimination. I wrote to Kilmore from Leyden in Holland, from Louvain in Flanders, and Rouen in France, but received no answer. what could I attribute this silence but to displeasure or forgetfulness? Whether I was right in my conjecture I do not pretend to determine; but this I must ingenuously own, that I have a thousand times in my turn endeavored to forget them, whom I could not but look upon as forgetting me. I have attempted to blot their names from my memory, and, I confess it, spent whole days in efforts to tear their image from my heart. Could I have succeeded, you had not now been troubled with this renewal of a discontinued correspondence; but, as every effort the restless make to procure sleep serves but to keep them waking, all my attempts contributed to impress what I would forget deeper on my imagination. But this subject I would willingly turn from, and yet, 'for the soul of me,' I can't till I have said all. I was, madam, when I discontinued writing to Kilmore, in such circumstances, that all my endeavors to continue your regards might be attributed to wrong motives. My letters might be looked upon as the petitions of a beggar, and not the offerings of a friend ; while all my professions, instead of being considered as the re
LETTER TO COUSIN JANE.
sult of disinterested esteem, might be ascribed to venal insin cerity. I believe, indeed, you had too much generosity to pla them in such a light, but I could not bear even the shadow such a suspicion. The most delicate friendships are always most sensible of the slightest invasion, and the strongest jealousy is ever attendant on the warmest regard. I could not-I own I could not continue a correspondence in which every acknowledgment for past favors might be considered as an indirect request for future ones; and where it might be thought I gave my heart from a motive of gratitude alone, when I was conscious of having bestowed it on much more disinterested principles. It is true, this conduct might have been simple enough ; but yourself must confess it was in character. Those who know me at all, know that I have always been actuated by different principles from the rest of mankind : and while none regarded the interest of his friend more, no man on earth regarded his own less. I have often affected bluntness to avoid the imputation of flattery; have frequently seemed to overlook those merits too obvious to escape notice, and pretended disregard to those instances of good nature and good sense, which I could not fail tacitly to applaud; and all this lest I should be ranked among the grinning tribe, who say 'very true' to all that is said ; who fill a vacant chair at a tea-table; whose narrow souls never moved in a wider circle than the circumference of a guinea ; and who had rather be reckoning the money in your pocket than the virtue in your breast All this, I say, I have done, and a thousand other very silly, though very disinterested, things in my time; and for all which no soul cares a farthing about me.
Is it to be wondered that he should once in his life forget you, who has been all his life forgetting himself? However, it is probable