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“I suppose you desire to know my present situation. As there is nothing in it at which I should blush or which mankind could censure, I see no reason for making it a secret. In short, by a very little practice as a physician, and a very little reputation as a poet, I make a shift to live. Nothing is more apt to introduce us to the gates of the muses than poverty; but it were well if they only left us at the door. The mischief is, they sometimes choose to give us their company to the entertainment; and want, instead of being gentleman-usber, often turns master of the ceremonies.
“Thus, upon learning I write, no doubt you imagine I starve; and the name of an author naturally reminds you of a garret. In this particular I do not think proper
friends. But, whether I eat or starve, live in a first floor or four pairs of stairs high, I still remember them with ardor; nay, my very country comes in for a share of my affection. Unaccountable fondness for country, this maladie du pais, as the French call it ! Unaccountable that he should still have an affection for a place, who
never, when in it, received above common civility; who never brought any thing out of it except his brogue and his blunders. Surely my affection is equally ridiculous with the Scotchman's, who refused to be cured of the itch because it made him unco' thoughtful of his wife and bonny Inverary.
“But, now, to be serious : let me ask myself what gives me a wish to see Ireland again. The country is a fine one, perhaps? No. There are good company in Ireland ? No. The conversation there is generally made up of a smutty toast or a bawdy song; the vivacity supported by some humble cousin, who had just folly enough to earn his dinner. Then, perhaps, there's more wit and learning among the Irish? Oh, Lord, no! There has been
RECOLLECTIONS OF HOME.
more money spent in the encouragement of the Padareen mare there one season, than given in rewards to learned men since the time of Usher. All their productions in learning amount to perhaps a translation, or a few tracts in divinity; and all their productions in wit to just nothing at all. Why the plague, then, so fond of Ireland ? Then, all at once, because you, my dear friend, and a few more who are exceptions to the general picture, have a residence there. This it is that gives me all the pangs
I feel in separation. I confess I carry this spirit sometimes to the souring the pleasures I at present possess. If I go to the opera, where Signora Columba pours out all the mazes of melody, I sit and sigh for Lissoy fireside, and Johnny Armstrong's Last Good-night' from Peggy Golden. If I climb Hampstead Hill, than where nature never exhibited a more magnificent prospect, I confess it fine; but then I had rather be placed on the little mount before Lissoy gate, and there take in, to me, the most pleasing horizon in nature.
“ Before Charles came hither, my thoughts sometimes found refuge from severer studies among my friends in Ireland. I fancied strange revolutions at home; but I find it was the rapidity of my own motion that gave an imaginary one to objects really at rest. No alterations there. Some friends, he tells me, are still lean, but very rich; others very fat, but still very poor. Nay, all the news I hear of you is, that you sally out in visits among the neighbors, and sometimes make a migration from the blue bed to the brown. I could from my heart wish that you and she (Mrs. Hodson), and Lissoy and Ballymahon, and all of you, would fairly make a migration into Middlesex; though, upon second thoughts, this might be attended with a few inconveniences. Therefore, as the mountain will not come to Mohammed, why Mohammed shall go to the mountain; or, to speak plain English, as you cannot conveniently pay me a visit, if next summer I can contrive to be absent six weeks from London, I shall spend three of them among my friends in Ireland. But first, believe me, my design is purely to visit, and neither to cut a figure nor levy contributions; neither to excite envy nor solicit favor; in fact, my circumstances are adapted to neither. too poor to be gazed at, and too rich to need assistance.
Hackney authorship.— Thoughts of literary suicide.—Return to Peckham.
Oriental projects.—Literary enterprise to raise funds.—Letter to Edward Wells—to Robert Bryanton.-Death of uncle Contarine.-Letter to cousin Jane.
For some time Goldsmith continued to write miscellaneously for reviews and other periodical publications, but without making decided hit, to use a technical term. Indeed as yet he
appeared destitute of the strong excitement of literary ambition, and wrote only on the spur of necessity and at the urgent importunity of his bookseller. His indolent and truant disposition, ever averse from labor and delighting in holiday, had to be scourged up to its task; still it was this very truant disposition which threw an unconscious charm over every thing he wrote; bringing with it honeyed thoughts and pictured images which had sprung up in his mind in the sunny hours of idleness: these effusions, dashed off on compulsion in the exigency of the moment, were published anonymously; so that they made no collective impression on the public, and reflected no fame on the name of their author.
In an essay published some time subsequently in the Bee," Goldsmith adverts in his own humorous way, to his impatience at the tardiness with which his desultory and unacknowledged essays crept into notice.
“I was once induced,” says he, "to show my indignation against the public by discontinuing my efforts to please; and was bravely resolved, like Raleigh, to vex them by burning my manuscripts in a passion. Upon reflection, however, I considered what set or body of people would be displeased at my rashness. The sun, after so sad an accident, might shine next morning as bright as usual; men might laugh and sing the next day, and transact business as before; and not a single creature feel any regret but myself. Instead of having Apollo in mourning or the Muses in a fit of the spleen; instead of having the learned world apostrophizing at my untimely decease; perhaps all Grub-street might laugh at my fate, and self-approving dignity be unable to shield me from ridicule.”
Circumstances occurred about this time to give a new direction to Goldsmith's hopes and schemes. Having resumed for a brief period the superintendence of the Peckham school, during a fit of illness of Dr. Milner, that gentleman, in requital for his timely services, promised to use his influence with a friend, an East India director, to procure him a medical appointment in India.
There was every reason to believe that the influence of Dr. Milner would be effectual; but how was Goldsmith to find the ways and means of fitting himself out for a voyage to the Indies ? In this emergency he was driven to a more extended exercise of the pen than he had yet attempted. His skirmishing among books as a reviewer, and his disputatious ramble among the schools and universities and literati of the Continent, had filled his mind with facts and observations which he now set about digesting into a treatise of some magnitude, to be entitled “ An Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe."