תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

account when disposed of again in London ? Such curiosities on the way as could be seen for nothing, he was ready enough to look at; but if the sight of them was to be paid for, he usually asserted that he had been told that they were not worth seeing. He never paid a bill that he would not observe how amazingly expensive travelling was: and all this though not yet twenty-one."

In this sketch Goldsmith undoubtedly shadows forth his annoyances as travelling tutor to this concrete young gentleman, compounded of the pawnbroker, the pettifogger, and the West Indian heir, with an overlaying of the city miser. They had continual difficulties on all points of expense until they reached Marseilles, where both were glad to separate.

Once more on foot, but freed from the irksome duties of bear leader,' and with some of his pay, as tutor, in his pocket, Goldsmith continued his half vagrant peregrinations through part of France and Piedmont, and some of the Italian States. He had acquired, as has been shown, a habit of shifting along and living by expedients, and a new one presented itself in Italy. “ My skill in music,” says he, in the Philosophic Vagabond, bu could avail me nothing in a country where every peasant was a better musician than I; but by this time I had acquired another talent, which answered my purpose as well, and this was a skill in disputation. In all the foreign universities and convents there are, upon certain days, philosophical theses maintained against every adventitious disputant: for which, if the champion opposes with any dexterity, he can claim a gratuity in money, a dinner, and a bed for one night.” Though a poor wandering scholar, his reception in these learned piles was as free from humiliation as in the cottages of the peasantry.

6. With the members of these establishments," said he, “I could converse on

TRAVELLING SHIFTS.

75

[ocr errors]

topics of literature, and then I always forgot the meanness of my circumstances.

At Padua, where he remained some months, he is said to have taken his medical degree. It is probable he was brought to a pause in this city by the illness of his uncle Contarine; who had hitherto assisted him in his wanderings by occasional, though, of course, slender remittances. Deprived of this source of supplies, he wrote to his friends in Ireland, and especially to his brotherin-law, Hodson, describing his destitute situation. His letters brought him neither money nor reply. It appears, from subse. quent correspondence, that his brother-in-law actually exerted himself to raise a subscription for his assistance among his relatives, friends and acquaintance, but without success. Their faith and hope in him were most probably at an end; as yet he had disappointed them at every point, he had given none of the anticipated proofs of talent, and they were too poor to support what they may have considered the wandering propensities of a heedless spendthrift.

Thus left to his own precarious resources, Goldsmith gave up all further wandering in Italy, without visiting the south, though Rome and Naples must have held out powerful attractions to one of his poetical cast. Once more resuming his pilgrim staff, he turned his face toward England, “walking along from city to city, examining mankind more nearly, and seeing both sides of the picture.” In traversing France his flute—his magic flute !—was once more in requisition, as we may conclude, by the following passage in his Traveller :

Gay, sprightly land of mirth and social ease,
Pleased with thyself, whom all the world can please,

How often have I led thy sportive choir
With tuneless pipe beside the murmuring Loire !
Where shading elms along the margin grew,
And freshened from the wave the zephyr flew ;
And haply though my harsh note falt'ring still,
But mocked all tune, and marr'd the dancer's skill ;
Yet would the village praise my wondrous power,
And dance forgetful of the noontide hour.
Alike all ages: Dames of ancient days
Have led their children through the mirthful maze,
And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore,
Has frisk'd beneath the burden of three-score."

LAUNCH UPON LONDON.

77

CHAPTER VI.

Landing in England.—Shifts of a man without money.—The pestle and

mortar.— Theatricals in a barn.-Launch upon London.—A city night scene.—Struggles with penury.—Miseries of a tutor.–A doctor in the suburb.- Poor practice and second-hand finery.-A tragedy in embryo.— Project of the written mountains.

AFTER two years spent in roving about the continent, “pursuing novelty," as he said, “and losing content,” Goldsmith landed at Dover early in 1756. He appears to have had no definite plan of action. The death of his uncle Contarine, and the neglect of his relatives and friends to reply to his letters, seem to have produced in him a temporary feeling of loneliness and destitution, and his only thought was to get to London, and throw himself upon the world. But how was he to get there? His purse was empty. England was to him as completely a foreign land as any part of the continent, and where on earth is a penniless stranger more destitute? His flute and his philosophy were no longer of any avail; the English boors cared nothing for music; there were no convents; and as to the learned and the clergy, not one of them would give a vagrant scholar a supper and night's lodging for the best thesis that ever was argued.

“ You may easily imagine," says he, in a subsequent letter to his brother-in-law, 6 what difficulties I had to encounter, left as I was without friends, recommendations, money, or impudence, and that in a country where being born an Irishman was sufficient to keep me unemployed. Many, in such circumstances, would have had recourse to the friar's cord or the suicide's halter. But, with all my follies, I had principle to resist the one, and resolution to combat the other."

He applied at one place, we are told, for employment in the shop of a country apothecary; but all his medical science gathered in foreign universities could not gain him the management of a pestle and mortar. He even resorted, it is said, to the stage as a temporary expedient, and figured in low comedy at a country town in Kent. This accords with his last shift of the Philosophic Vagabond, and with the knowledge of country theatricals displayed in his “ Adventures of a Strolling Player,” or may be a story suggested by them. All this part of his career, however, in which he must have trod the lowest paths of humility, are only to be conjectured from vague traditions, or scraps of autobiography gleaned from his miscellaneous writings.

At length we find him launched on the great metropolis, or rather drifting about its streets, at night, in the gloomy month of February, with but a few half-pence in his pocket. The Deserts of Arabia are not more dreary and inhospitable than the streets of London at such a time, and to a stranger in such a plight. Do we want a picture as an illustration ? We have it in his own works, and furnished, doubtless, from his own experience.

“ The clock has just struck two; what a gloom hangs all round! no sound is heard but of the chiming clock, or the distant watch-dog. How few appear in those streets, which but some few hours ago were crowded ! But who are those who make the streets their couch, and find a short repose from wretchedness at

« הקודםהמשך »