Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

him with the means of subsistence, and his learning procured him a favourable reception at most of the religious houses be visited. He himself tells us, that whenever he approached a peasant's house, he played one of his most merry tunes, and that generally procured him not only a lodging, but subsist- ence for the next day. This, however, was not the case with the rich, who generally despised both him and his music.

He had not been long arrived at Geneva, when he met with a young man, who, by the death of an uncle, was become possessed of a considerable fortune, aud to whom Mr. Goldsmith was recommended for a traveling companion.-As avarice was the prevailing principle of this young man, it cannot be supposed he was long pleased with his preceptor, who was of a contrary turn of mind.

Mr. Goldsmith, during his residence at the college of Edinburgh, liad given marks of his rising genius for poetry, which Switzerland greatly contributed to bring to maturity. It was here he wrote the first sketch of his Traveller, which he sent to his brother Henry, a clergyman in Ireland, who, despising Fame and Fortune, retired with an amiable wife, on an income of only forty pounds per annum, to pass a life of happiness and obscurity.

Our poet and his pupil continued together until they arrived at the south of France, where, on a disagreement, they parted, and our author was left to struggle with all the difficulties that a man could experience, who was in a state of poverty, in a foreign country, without friends. Yet, notwithstanding all bis difficulties, his ardour for traveling was not abated; and he persisted in his scheme, though he was frequently obliged to be beholden to his flute and the peasants. At length, his curiosity being gratified, he bent his course towards England, and about the beginning of the winter, in 1758, he arrived at Dover.

His situation was not much mended on his arrival in London, at which period the whole of his finances were reduced to a few halfpence. What must be the gloomy apprehensions of a man in so forlorn a situation, and an utter stranger to the metropolis! He applied to several apothecaries for employment; but his awkward appearance and his broad Irish accent were so much against him, that he met only with ridicule and contempt. At last, however, merely through inotives of humanity, he was taken notice of by a chemist who em. ployed him in bis laboratory.

In this situation he continued till he was informed that his old friend Dr. Sleigh was in London. He

then quitted the chemist, and lived some time upon the liberality of the doctor; but, disliking a life of dependance on the generosity of his friend, and being unwilling to be burthensome to him, lie soon accepted an offer that was made him, of assisting the late Rev. Dr. Milner in the education of young gentlemen, at his academy at Peckham. During the time he remained in this situation, he gave much satisfaction to his employer; but as he had obtained some reputation from criticisms he had written in the Monthly Review, he eagerly engaged in the compilation of that work, with Mr. Griffith, the principal proprietor. He accordingly returned to London, took a lodging in Green Arbour Conrt, in the Old Bailey, and commenced a professed author.

This was in the year 1759, before the close of which he produced several works, particularly a periodical publication, called The Bee, and An Enquiry into the present State of polite Learning in Europe. He also became a writer in The Public Ledger, in which his Citizen of the World originally appeared under the title of Chinese Letters. His reputation extended so rapidly, and his connexion became so numerous, that he was soon enabled to emerge from his mean lodgings in the Old Bailey to the politer air of the temple, where he took chambers

in 1762, and lived in a more creditable manner. At length, his reputation was fully established by the publication of The Traveller in the year 1765. His Vicar of Wakefield followed his Traveller, and his History of England was followed by the performance of his Comedy of The Good-natured Man, all which contributed to place him among the first rank of the poets of these times.

The Good-natured Man was acted at Covent Garden Theatre, in the year 1768. Many parts of this play exhibit the strongest indications of our author's comic talents. There is perhaps no character on the stage more happily imagined, and more highly finished than Croaker's; nor do we recollect so ori. ginal and successful an incident as that of the letter, which he conceives to be the composition of the incendiary, and feels a thousand ridiculous horrors in consequence of his absurd apprehension. The audience, however, having been just before exalted on the sentimental stilts of False Delicacy, a comedy by Mr. Kelly, they regarded a few scenes in Mr. Goldsmith's piece as too low for their entertainment, and therefore treated them with unjustifiable severity. Nevertheless The Good-natured Man succeeded, though in a degree inferior to its merit. The prologue to it, which is excellent, was written by Dr. Samuel Johnson,

In 1773, the comedy of She Stoops to Conquer ; or, The Mistakes of a Night, was acted at Covent Garden Theatre. This piece was considered as a farce by some writers; even if so, it must be ranked among the farces of a man of genius. One of the most ludicrous circumstances it contains, which is that of the robbery, is said to be borrowed from Albamazar.

Mr. Colman, who was then manager of the theatre, had very little opinion of this piece, and made so keen a remark on it, while in rehearsal, that the Doctor never forgave him for it. The piece, however, succeeded contrary to Mr. Colman's expectations, being received with uncommon applause by the audience.

The last theatrical piece the Doctor produced was The Grumbler, a Farce, altered from Sedley. It was acted at Covent Garden, in 1773, for the benefit of Mr. Quick; but it was acted only one night, and was never printed.

The Doctor might, with a little attention to prudence and economy, have placed himself in a state above want and dependence. He is said to have acquired, in one year, one thousand eight hundred pounds; and the advantages arising from his writings were very considerable for many years before his death. But these were rendered useless by

« FöregåendeFortsätt »