תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER XXXIV.

Mr. Joseph Cradock.-An author's confidings.- An amanuensis.-- Lite at

Edgeware.- Goldsmith conjuring.–George Colman.—The Fantoccini.

a

AMONG the agreeable acquaintances made by Goldsmith about this time was a Mr. Joseph Cradock, a young gentleman of Leicestershire, living at his ease, but disposed to “make himself uneasy," by meddling with literature and the theatre; in fact, he had a passion for plays and players, and had come up to town with a modified translation of Voltaire's tragedy of Zobeide, in view to get it acted. There was no great difficulty in the case, as he was a man of fortune, had letters of introduction to persons of note, and was altogether in a different position from the indigent man of genius whom managers might harass with impunity. Goldsmith met him at the house of Yates, the actor, and finding that he was a friend of Lord Clare, soon became sociable with him. Mutual tastes quickened the intimacy, especially as they found means of serving each other. Goldsmith wrote an epilogue for the tragedy of Zobeide; and Cradock, who was an amateur musician, arranged the music for the Threnodia Augustalis, a lament on the death of the Princess Dowager of Wales, the political mistress and patron of Lord Clare, which Goldsmith had thrown off hastily to please that nobleman. The tragedy was played

AN AUTHOR'S CONFIDINGS.

285

with some success at Covent-Garden; the Lament was recited and sung at Mrs. Cornelys' rooms—a very fashionable resort in Soho Square, got up by a woman of enterprise of that name. It was in whimsical parody of those gay and somewhat promiscuous assemblages that Goldsmith used to call the motley evening parties at his lodgings “ little Cornelys."

The Threnodia Augustalis was not publicly known to be by Goldsmith until several years after his death.

Cradock was one of the few polite intimates who felt more disposed to sympathize with the generous qualities of the poet than to sport with his eccentricities. He sought his society whenever he came to town, and occasionally had him to his seat in the country. Goldsmith appreciated his sympathy, and unburthened himself to him without reserve. Seeing the lettered ease in which this amateur author was enabled to live, and the time he could bestow on the elaboration of a manuscript, “ Ah! Mr. Cradock," cried he, “think of me, that must write a volume every month!” He complained to him of the attempts made by inferior writers, and by others who could scarcely come under that denomination, not only to abuse and depreciate his writings, but to render him ridiculous as a man; perverting every harmless sentiment and action into charges of absurdity, malice, or folly. “Sir," said he, in the fulness of his heart, “ I am as a lion baited by curs !”

Another acquaintance, which he made about this time, was a young countryman of the name of M‘Donnell, whom he met in a state of destitution, and, of course, befriended. The following grateful recollections of his kindness and his merits were furnished by that person in after years :

“It was in the year 1772," writes he, “ that the death of my elder brother—when in London, on my way to Ireland—left me in a most forlorn situation; I was then about eighteen; I

possessed neither friends nor money, nor the means of getting to Ireland, of which or of England I knew scarcely any thing, from having so long resided in France. In this situation I had strolled about for two or three days, considering what to do, but unable to come to any determination, when Providence directed me to the Temple Gardens. I threw myself on a seat, and, willing to forget my miseries for a moment, drew out a book; that book was a volume of Boileau. I had not been there long when a gentleman, strolling about, passed near me, and observing, perhaps, something Irish or foreign in my garb or countenance, addressed me: 'Sir, you seem studious; I hope you find this a favorable place to pursue it.' 'Not very studious, sir; I fear it is the want of society that brings me hither; I am solitary and unknown in this metropolis ;' and a passage from Cicero—Oratio pro Archiaoccurring to me, I quoted it; · Hæc studia pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur.' 'You are a scholar, too, sir, I perceive.' 'A piece of one, sir; but I ought still to have been in the college where I had the good fortune to pick up the little I know.' A good deal of conversation ensued; I told him part of my history, and he, in return, gave his address in the Temple, desiring me to call soon, from which, to my infinite surprise and gratification, I found that the person who thus seemed to take an interest in my fate was my countryman, and a distinguished ornament of letters.

“I did not fail to keep the appointment, and was received in the kindest manner. He told me, smilingly, that he was not rich; that he could do little for me in direct pecuniary aid, but would endeavor to put me in the way of doing something for myself;

[blocks in formation]

observing, that he could at least furnish me with advice not wholly useless to a young man placed in the heart of a great metropolis. 'In London,' he continued, nothing is to be got for nothing: you must work; and no man who chooses to be industrious need be under obligations to another, for here labor of every kind commands its reward. If you think proper to assist me occasionally as amanuensis, I shall be obliged, and you will be placed under no obligation, until something more permanent can be secured for you.' This employment, which I pursued for some time, was to translate passages from Buffon, which was abridged or altered, according to circumstances, for his Natural History."

Goldsmith's literary tasks were fast getting ahead of him, and he began now to “ toil after them in vain."

Five volumes of the Natural History here spoken of had long since been paid for by Mr. Griffin, yet most of them were still to be written. His young amanuensis bears testimony to his embarrassments and perplexities, but to the degree of equanimity with which he bore them :

“ It has been said,” observes he, " that he was irritable. Such may have been the case at times; nay, I believe it was so; for what with the continual pursuit of authors, printers, and booksellers, and occasional pecuniary embarrassments, few could have avoided exhibiting similar marks of impatience. But it was never so towards me. I saw him only in his bland and kind moods, with a flow, perhaps an overflow, of the milk of human kindness for all who were in any manner dependent upon him. I looked upon him with awe and veneration, and he upon me as a kind parent upon a child.

" His manner and address exhibited much frankness and cor

diality, particularly to those with whom he possessed any degree of intimacy. His good-nature was equally apparent. You could not dislike the man, although several of his follies and foibles you might be tempted to condemn. He was generous and inconsiderate: money with him had little value.” To escape from

many of the tormentors just alluded to, and to devote himself without interruption to his task, Goldsmith took lodgings for the summer at a farm-house near the six-mile stone on the Edgeware road, and carried down his books in two return post-chaises. He used to say he believed the farmer's family thought him an odd character, similar to that in which the Spectator appeared to his landlady and her children: he was The Gentleman. Boswell tells us that he went to visit him at the place in company with Mickle, translator of the Lusiad Goldsmith was not at home. Having a curiosity to see his apartment, however, they went in, and found curious scraps of descriptions of animals scrawled upon the wall with a black lead pencil.

The farm-house in question is still in existence, though much altered. It stands upon a gentle eminence in Hyde Lane, commanding a pleasant prospect towards Hendon. The room is still pointed out in which “She Stoops to Conquer" was written; a convenient and airy apartment, up one flight of stairs.

Some matter of fact traditions concerning the author were furnished, a few years since, by a son of the farmer, who was sixteen years

at the time Goldsmith resided with his father. Though he had engaged to board with the family, his meals were generally sent to him in his room, in which he passed the most of his time, negligently dressed, with his shirt collar open, busily engaged in writing. Sometimes, probably when in moods of composition, he would wander into the kitchen, without noticing any

of age

« הקודםהמשך »