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SOME ACCOUNT OF
THE LIFE AND WRITINGS
The frivolous taste of most readers, and a desire to swell into a volume what should comprise only a few pages, are the reasons why the lives of illustrious men contain in general so many useless details.
In endeavouring to avoid a like error, we hope our narrative will not be esteemed the less for its brevity.
Oliver Goldsmith was a native of Ireland, and is said to have been
born, in the year 1729, at Elphin, in the county of Roscommon; but according to the inscription upon his nument in Westminster-Abbey, written by Dr. Johnson, it appears that the place of his birth was Fernes, in the province of Leinster, and the date of it the 29th of November 1731, His father, who was a respectable clergyman, though in narrow circumstances, neglected not the education of his children; and Oliver, after studying the classics in Mr. Hughes's school, was sent to Trinity-College, Dublin; of which he was admitted a sizer on the 11th of June 1744.
During his residence at the University he discovered no extraordinary capacity. He tells us, in his
Life of Parnell, a work which does honour to his head and to his heart, that “he never found any of those prodigies of parts, although he knew enow that were desirous, among the ignorant, of being thought so." In truth, whatever examples may be adduced of a forward understanding among celebrated wits, it still remains a question whether nature, or education and chance, have most influence in the formation of genius?
Goldsmith's application, at this period, cannot have been great, since he did not obtain the degree of Bachelor of Arts till two years after the regular time. It is probable that the same heedless disposition, which contributed to embitter the latter part of of his days, prevented his making a greater progress at College. However that may be, he turned his thoughts to the profession of Physic, and visited Edinburgh in the year 1751; where he studied the different branches of medicine under the respective professors of that university. But the goodness of his heart, joined to his want of circumspection, soon involved him in difficulties; and having made himself responsible for the debt of a fellow-student, who failed to exonerate him from the demand, he was obliged abruptly to quit Scotland, in order to avoid the horrors of a prison.