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his vagabond wanderings in foreign lands, and had brought with him from the wars a world of campaigning stories, of which he was generally the hero, and which he would deal forth to his wondering scholars when he ought to have been teaching them their lessons. These travellers' tales had a powerful effect upon the vivid imagination of Goldsmith, and awakened an unconquerable passion for wandering and seeking adventure.
Byrne was, moreover, of a romantic vein, and exceedingly superstitious. He was deeply versed in the fairy superstitions which abound in Ireland, all which he professed implicitly to believe. Under his tuition Goldsmith soon became almost as great a proficient in fairy lore. From this branch of good-for-nothing knowledge, his studies, by an easy transition, extended to the histories of robbers, pirates, smugglers, and the whole race of Irish rogues and rapparees. Every thing, in short, that savored of romance, fable, and adventure, was congenial to his poetic mind, and took instant root there; but the slow plants of useful knowledge were apt to be overrun, if not choked, by the weeds of his quick imagination.
Another trait of his motley preceptor, Byrne, was a disposition to dabble in poetry, and this likewise was caught by his pupil. Before he was eight years old Goldsmith had contracted a habit of scribbling verses on small scraps of paper, which, in a little while, he would throw into the fire. A few of these sybilline leaves, however, were rescued from the flames and conveyed to his mother. The good woman read them with a mother's delight, and saw at once that her son was a genius and a poet. From that time she beset her husband with solicitations to give the boy an education suitable to his talents. The worthy man was already straitened by the costs of instruction of his eldest
HORNPIPE AND EPIGRAM.
son Henry, and had intended to bring his second son up to a trade; but the mother would listen to no such thing; as usual, her influence prevailed, and Oliver, instead of being instructed in some humble, but cheerful and gainful handicraft, was devoted to poverty and the Muse.
A severe attack of the smallpox caused him to be taken from under the care of his story-telling preceptor, Byrne. His malady had nearly proved fatal, and his face remained pitted through life. On his recovery he was placed under the charge of the Rev. Mr. Griffin, schoolmaster of Elphin, in Roscommon, and became an inmate in the house of his uncle, John Goldsmith, Esq., of Ballyoughter, in that vicinity. He now entered upon studies of a higher order, but without making any uncommon progress. Still a careless, easy facility of disposition, an amusing eccentricity of manners, and a vein of quiet and peculiar humor, rendered him a general favorite, and a trilling incident soon induced his uncle's family to concur in his mother's opinion of his genius.
A number of young folks had assembled at his uncle's to dance. One of the company, named Cummings, played on the violin. In the course of the evening Oliver undertook a hornpipe. His short and clumsy figure, and his face pitted and discolored with the smallpox, rendered him a ludicrous figure in the eyes of the musician, who made merry at his expense, dubbing him his little Æsop. Goldsmith was nettled by the jest, and. stopping short in the hornpipe, exclaimed,
“Our herald hath proclaimed this saying,
See Æsop dancing, and his monkey playing.”
The repartee was thought wonderful for a boy of nine years old, and Oliver became forthwith the wit and the bright genius of the family. It was thought a pity he should not receive the same advantages with his elder brother Henry, who had been sent to the University; and, as his father's circumstances would not afford it, several of his relatives, spurred on by the representations of his mother, agreed to contribute towards the expense. The greater part, however, was borne by his uncle, the Rev. Thomas Contarine. This worthy man had been the college companion of Bishop Berkeley, and was possessed of moderate means, holding the living of Carrick-on-Shannon. He had married the sister of Goldsmith's father, but was now a widower, with an only child, a daughter, named Jane. Contarine was a kind-hearted man, with a generosity beyond his means. He took Goldsmith into favor from his infancy; his house was open to him during the holidays; his daughter Jane, two years older than the poet, was his early playmate : and uncle Contarine continued to the last one of his most active, unwavering, and generous friends.
Fitted out in a great measure by this considerate relative, Oliver was now transferred to schools of a higher order, to prepare him for the University; first to one at Athlone, kept by the Rev. Mr. Campbell, and, at the end of two years, to one at Edgeworthstown, under the superintendence of the Rev. Patrick Hughes.
Even at these schools his proficiency does not appear to have been brilliant. He was indolent and careless, however, rather than dull, and, on the whole, appears to have been well thought of by his teachers. In his studies he inclined towards the Latin poets and historians; relished Ovid and Horace, and delighted in Livy. He exercised himself with pleasure in read
ing and translating Tacitus, and was brought to pay attention to style in his compositions by a reproof from his brother Henry, to whom he had written brief and confused letters, and who told him in reply, that if he had but little to say, to endeavor to say that little well.
The career of his brother Henry at the University was enough to stimulate him to exertion. He seemed to be realizing all his father's hopes, and was winning collegiate honors that the good man considered indicative of his future success in life.
In the meanwhile, Oliver, if not distinguished among his teachers, was popular among his schoolmates. He had a thoughtless generosity extremely captivating to young hearts: his temper was quick and sensitive, and easily offended; but his anger was momentary, and it was impossible for him to harbor resentment. He was the leader of all boyish sports and athletic amusements, especially ball-playing, and he was foremost in all mischievous pranks. Many years afterward, an old man, Jack Fitzimmons, one of the directors of the sports and keeper of the ball-court at Ballymahon, used to boast of having been schoolmate of “ Noll Goldsmith,” as he called him, and would dwell with vainglory on one of their exploits, in robbing the orchard of Tirlicken, an old family residence of Lord Annaly. The exploit, however, had nearly involved disastrous consequences; for the crew of juvenile depredators were captured, like Shakspeare and his deer-stealing colleagues; and nothing but the respectability of Goldsmith's connections saved him from the punishment that would have awaited more plebeian delinquents.
An amusing incident is related as occurring in Goldsmith's last journey homeward from Edgeworthstown. His father's house was about twenty iniles distant; the road lay through a
rough country, impassable for carriages. Goldsmith procured a horse for the journey, and a friend furnished him with a guinea for travelling expenses. He was but a stripling of sixteen, and being thus suddenly mounted on horseback, with money in his pocket, it is no wonder that his head was turned. He determined to play the man, and to spend his money in independent traveller's style. Accordingly, instead of pushing directly for home, he halted for the night at the little town of Ardagh, and, accosting the first person he met, inquired, with somewhat of a consequential air, for the best house in the place. Unluckily, the person he had accosted was one Kelly, a notorious wag, who was quartered in the family of one Mr. Featherstone, a gentleman of fortune. Amused with the self-consequence of the stripling, and willing to play off a practical joke at his expense, he directed him to what was literally “the best house in the place," namely, the family mansion of Mr. Featherstone. Goldsmith accordingly rode up to what he supposed to be an inn, ordered his horse to be taken to the stable, walked into the parlor, seated himself by the fire, and demanded what he could have for supper. On ordinary occasions he was diffident and even awkward in his manners, but here he was “at ease in his inn," and felt called upon to show his manhood and enact the experienced traveller. His person was by no means calculated to play off his pretensions, for he was short and thick, with a pock-marked face, and an air and carriage by no means of a distinguished cast.
The owner of the house, however, soon discovered his whimsical mistake, and, being a man of humor, determined to indulge it, especially as he accidentally learned that this intruding guest was the son of an old acquaintance.
Accordingly, Goldsmith was “fooled to the top of his bent,"