תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

GOSFORD AND LORD CLARE.

169

All this, though it may not have been attended with any immediate pecuniary advantage, contributed to give Goldsmith's name and poetry the high stamp of fashion, so potent in England: the circle at Northumberland House, however, was of too stately and aristocratical a nature to be much to his taste, and we do not find that he became familiar in it.

He was much more at home at Gosfield, the seat of his countryman, Robert Nugent, afterwards Baron Nugent and Viscount Clare, who appreciated his merits even more heartily than the Earl of Northumberland, and occasionally made him his guest both in town and country. Nugent is described as a jovial voluptuary, who left the Roman Catholic for the Protestant religion, with a view to bettering his fortunes; he had an Irishman's inclination for rich widows, and an Irishman's luck with the sex; having been thrice married, and gained a fortune with each wife. He was now nearly sixty, with a remarkably loud voice, broad Irish brogue, and ready, but somewhat coarse wit. With all his occasional coarseness he was capable of high thought, and had produced poems which showed a truly poetic vein. He was long a member of the House of Commons, where his ready wit, his fearless decision, and good-humored audacity of expression, always gained him a heaing, though his tall person and awkward manner gained him the nickname of Squire Gawky, among the political scribblers of the day. With a patron of this jovial temperament, Goldsmith probably felt more at ease than with those of higher refinement.

The celebrity which Goldsmith had acquired by his poem of “The Traveller," occasioned a resuscitation of many of his miscellaneous and anonymous tales and essays from the various newspapers and other transient publications in which they lay

66

The maga

dormant. These he published in 1765, in a collected form, under the title of " Essays by Mr. Goldsmith.” “The following Essays," observes he in his preface,“ have already appeared at different times, and in different publications. The pamphlets in which they were inserted being generally unsuccessful, these shared the common fate, without assisting the booksellers’ aims, or extending the author's reputation. The public were too strenuously employed with their own follies to be assiduous in estimating mine; so that many of my best attempts in this way have fallen victims to the transient topic of the times—the Ghost in Cock-Lane, or the Siege of Ticonderoga.

But, though they have passed pretty silently into the world, I can by no means complain of their circulation. zines and papers of the day have indeed been liberal enough in this respect. Most of these essays have been regularly reprinted twice or thrice a year, and conveyed to the public through the kennel of some engaging compilation. If there be a pride in multiplied editions, I have seen some of my labors sixteen times reprinted, and claimed by different parents as their own. I have seen them flourished at the beginning with praise, and signed at the end with the names of Philautos, Philalethes, Phileleutheros, and Philanthropos. It is time, however, at last to vindicate my claims; and as these entertainers of the public, as they call themselves, have partly lived upon me for some years, let me ow try if I cannot live a little upon myself.”

It was but little, in fact, for all the pecuniary emolument he received from the volume was twenty guineas. It had a good circulation, however, was translated into French, and has maintained its stand among the British classics.

Notwithstanding that the reputation of Goldsmith had great

[ocr errors][merged small]

NEWBERY AND GOODY TWO SHOES.

171

ly risen, his finances were often at a very low ebb, owing to his heedlessness as to expense, his liability to be imposed upon, and a spontaneous and irresistible propensity to give to every one who asked. The very rise in his reputation had increased these embarrassments. It had enlarged his circle of needy acquaintances, authors poorer in pocket than himself, who came in search of literary counsel; which generally meant a guinea and a breakfast. And then his Irish hangers-on! "Our Doctor," said one of these sponges, “had a constant levee of his distressed countrymen, whose wants, as far as he was able, he always relieved; and he has often been known to leave himself without a guinea, in order to supply the necessities of others."

This constant drainage of the purse therefore obliged him to undertake all jobs proposed by the booksellers, and to keep up a kind of running account with Mr. Newbery; who was his banker on all occasions, sometimes for pounds, sometimes for shillings; but who was a rigid accountant, and took care to be amply repaid in manuscript. Many effusions, hastily penned in these moments of exigency, were published anonymously, and never claimed. Some of them have but recently been traced to his pen; while of many the true authorship will probably never be discovered. Among others, it is suggested, and with great probability, that he wrote for Mr. Newbery the famous nursery story of “Goody Two Shoes,” which appeared in 1765, at a moment when Goldsmith was scribbling for Newbery, and much pressed for funds. Several quaint little tales introduced in his Essays show that he had a turn for this species of mock history; and the advertisement and title-page bear the stamp of his sly and playful humor.

“We are desired to give notice, that there is in the press, and speedily will be published, either by subscription or otherwise, as the public shall please to determine, the History of Little Goody Two Shoes, otherwise Mrs. Margery Two Shoes; with the means by which she acquired learning and wisdom, and, in consequence thereof, her estate; set forth at large for the benefit of those

“ Who, from a state of rags and care,

And having shoes but half a pair,
Their fortune and their fame should fix,
And gallop in a coach and six.”

The world is probably not aware of the ingenuity, humor, good sense, and sly satire contained in many of the old English nursery-tales. They have evidently been the sportive productions of able writers, who would not trust their names to productions that might be considered beneath their dignity. The ponderous works on which they relied for immortality have perhaps sunk into oblivion, and carried their names down with them ; while their unacknowledged offspring, Jack the Giant Killer, Giles Gingerbread, and Tom Thumb, flourish in widespreading and never-ceasing popularity.

As Goldsmith had now acquired popularity and an extensive acquaintance, he attempted, with the advice of his friends, to procure a more regular and ample support by resuming the medical profession. He accordingly launched himself upon the town in style; hired a man-servant; replenished his wardrobe at considerable expense, and appeared in a professional wig and cane, purple silk small-clothes, and a scarlet roquelaure buttoned to the chin : a fantastic garb, as we should think at the present day, but not unsuited to the fashion of the times.

MRS. SIDEBOTHAM.

173

With his sturdy little person thus arrayed in the unusual magnificence of purple and fine linen, and his scarlet roquelaure flaunting from his shoulders, he used to strut into the apartments of his patients swaying his three-cornered hat in one hand and his medical sceptre, the cane, in the other, and assuming an air of gravity and importance suited to the solemnity of his wig; at least, such is the picture given of him by the waiting gentlewoman who let him into the chamber of one of his lady patients.

He soon, however, grew tired and impatient of the duties and restraints of his profession; his practice was chiefly among his friends, and the fees were not sufficient for his maintenance; he was disgusted with attendance on sick-chambers and capricious patients, and looked back with longing to his tavern haunts and broad convivial meetings, from which the dignity and duties of his medical calling restrained him. At length, on prescribing to a lady of his acquaintance who, to use a hackneyed phrase, “rejoiced” in the aristocratical name of Sidebotham, a warm dispute arose between him and the apothecary as to the quantity of medicine to be administered. The doctor stood up for the rights and dignities of his profession, and resented the interference of the compounder of drugs. His rights and dignities, however, were disregarded; his wig and cane and scarlet

roquelaur were of no avail; Mrs. Sidebotham sided with the hero of the pestle and mortar; and Goldsmith flung out of the house in a passion. “I am determined henceforth," said he to Topham Beauclerc, “to leave off prescribing for friends." “Do so, my dear doctor," was the reply; "whenever you undertake to kill, let it be only your enemies."

This was the end of Goldsmith's medical career.

« הקודםהמשך »