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the greatest tenderness, has the greatest simplicity; yet, though this ballad was so recently published in the Ancient Reliques, Dr. Goldsmith has been hardy enough to publish a poem called the Hermit,' where the circumstances and catastrophe are exactly the same, only with this difference, that the natural simplicity and tenderness of the original are almost entirely lost in the languid smoothness and tedious paraphrase of the copy, which is as short of the merits of Mr. Percy's ballad as the insipidity of negus is to the genuine flavor of champagne.
“I am, sir, yours, &c.,
This attack, supposed to be by Goldsmith's constant persecu tor, the malignant Kenrick, drew from him the following note to the editor:
“SIR, -As there is nothing I dislike so much as newspaper controversy, particularly upon trifles, permit me to be as concise as possible in informing a correspondent of yours that I recommended Blainville's travels because I thought the book was a good one; and I think so still. I said I was told by the bookseller that it was then first published; but in that it seems I was misinformed, and my reading was not extensive enough to set me right.
" Another correspondent of yours accuses me of having taken a ballad I published some time ago, from one by the ingenious Mr. Percy. I do not think there is any great resemblance between the two pieces in question. If there be any, his ballad was taken from mine. I read it to Mr. Percy some years ago; and he, as we both considered these things as trifles at best, told , me, with his usual good-humor, the next time I saw him, that he
had taken my plan to form the fragments of Shakspeare into a ballad of his own. He then read me his little Cento, if I may so call it, and I highly approved it. Such petty anecdotes as these are scarcely worth printing; and, were it not for the busy disposition of some of your correspondents, the public should never have known that he owes me the hint of his ballad, or that I am obliged to his friendship and learning for communications of a much more important nature.
“I am, sir, yours, &c.,
6 OLIVER GOLDSMITH."
The unexpected circulation of the “ Vicar of Wakefield," enriched the publisher, but not the author. Goldsmith no doubt thought himself entitled to participate in the profits of the repeated editions; and a memorandum, still extant, shows that he drew upon Mr. Francis Newbery, in the month of June, for fifteen guineas, but that the bill was returned dishonored. continued, therefore, his usual job-work for the booksellers, writing introductions, prefaces, and head and tail pieces for new works; revising, touching up, and modifying travels and voyages; making compilations of prose and poetry, and "building books," as he sportively termed it. These tasks required little labor or talent, but that taste and touch which are the magic of gifted minds. His terms began to be proportioned to his celebrity. If his price was at any time objected to, “Why, sir," he would say, “it may seem large; but then a man may be many, years working in obscurity before his taste and reputation are fixed or estimated ; and then he is, as in other professions, only paid for his previous labors."
He was, however, prepared to try his fortune in a different
walk of literature from any he had yet attempted. We have repeatedly adverted to his fondness for the drama; he was a frequent attendant at the theatres; though, as we have shown, he considered them under gross mismanagement. He thought, too that a vicious taste prevailed among those who wrote for the stage. “A new species of dramatic composition,” says he, in one of his essays, “has been introduced under the name of sentimental comedy, in which the virtues of private life are exhibited rather than the vices exposed ; and the distresses rather than the faults of mankind make our interest in the piece. In these plays almost all the characters are good, and exceedingly generous; they are lavish enough of their tin money on the stage; and though they want humor, have abundance of sentiment and feeling. If they happen to have faults or foibles, the spectator is taught not only to pardon, but to applaud them in consideration of the goodness of their hearts; so that folly, instead of being ridiculed, is commended, and the comedy aims at touching our passions, without the power of being truly pathetic. In this manner we are likely to lose one great source of entertainment on the stage; for while the comic poet is invading the province of the tragic muse, he leaves her lively sister quite neglected. Of this, however, he is no ways solicitous, as he measures his fame by his profits.
“Humor at present seems to be departing from the stage; and it will soon happen that our comic players will have nothing left for it but a fine coat and a song. It depends upon the audience whether they will actually drive those poor merry creatures from the stage, or sit at a play as gloomy as at the tabernacle. It is not easy to recover an art when once lost; and it will be a just punishment, that when, by our being too fastidious,
we have banished humor from the stage, we should oarselyes be deprived of the art of laughing."
Symptoms of reform in the drama had recently taken place. The comedy of the Clandestine Marriage, the joint production of Colman and Garrick, and suggested by Hogarth's inimitable pictures of Marriage a la mode, had taken the town by storm, crowded the theatre with fashionable audiences, and formed one of the leading literary topics of the year. Goldsmith's emula tion was roused by its success. The comedy was in what he considered the legitimate line, totally different from the sentimental school; it presented pictures of real life, delineations of character and touches of humor, in which he felt himself calculated to excel. The consequence was, that in the course of this year (1766), he commenced a comedy of the same class, to be entitled the Good Natured Man, at which he diligently wrought whenever the hurried occupation of "book building' allowed him leisure,
SOCIAL POSITION OF GOLDSMITH.
Social position of Goldsmith—his colloquial contests with Johnson.—Anec
dotes and illustrations.
THE social position of Goldsmith had undergone a material change since the publication of The Traveller. Before that event he was but partially known as the author of some clever anonymous writings, and had been a tolerated member of the club and the Johnson circle, without much being expected from him. Now he had suddenly risen to literary fame, and become one of the lions of the day. The highest regions of intellectual society were now open to him; but he was not prepared to move in them with confidence and success. Ballymahon had not been a good school of manners at the outset of life; nor had his experience as a 'poor student' at colleges and medical schools contributed to give him the polish of society. He had brought from Ireland, as he said, nothing but his “brogue and his blunders,”. and they had never left him. He had travelled, it is true; bu the Continental tour which in those days gave the finishing grace to the education of a patrician youth, had, with poor Goldsmith, been little better than a course of literary vagabondizing. It had enriched his mind, deepened and widened the benevolence of his heart, and filled his memory with enchanting pictures, but it had