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wind,--but warm, brain-oppressing thunder and lightning. Quickly the clouds disperse, and from the serenest blue the sun glistens on leaf and blossom, as if angels were abroad and had sent the tempest to beautify the earth for their pleasure. The rainbow has scarcely arched the heavens in token of peace, ere another congregation of vapor gathers over your head, and rapidly precipitates itself in fire and water. The earth steams incessantly, and the atmosphere is unwhole. somely thick. Midst your enjoyment of a sunny landscape, a mist suddenly breaks the picture, concealing some of its parts and magnifying others.
Throughout his works, the views and sentiments are sound and true, often singularly deep, original, and beautiful; but the mode and form in which they are presented are as often unsightly. The materials are of the richest and most substantial, but so crowded one upon the other, and so awkwardly put together, that the edifice they constitute will be outlasted by one inferior both in compass and in strength, but erected with symmetry and grace. Writers, poor in resources compared with him, impart a greater durability to their works, by justness and taste in execution, and the smooth hardness of polish. “They manage well," as Schiller says, "their little family of ideas," while the vast kingdom of Richter loses much of its weight from the want of due control.
But of one in whom there is so much to love and to admire ; in whom á mighty intellect, brightened by genius, works ever under the sway of the soundest principles and purest aspirations; "in whose anger even love spoke, -not in its softness but in its strength;" from whom philosophers can learn acuteness, sages wisdom, and all men virtue, --of such a nature, at once so genial, so powerful, and so beneficent, it were as unjust as it were ungracious that our last words should be words of disparagement. Moreover, our strictures, if they be just, go no further than to deny to Richter as creative Artist a place by the side of a Schiller or a Goethe. As critic and philosopher he ranks with Herder and Lessing, while in wit and humor he is both a German Swift and Sterne with the healthy purity of a Coleridge or a Scott. For a concluding sentence we will borrow from the eminent British critic Carlyle, who thus summarily characterises him :“ Unite the sportfulness of Rabelais, and the best sensibility of Sterne, with the earnestness, and even in slight portions, the sublimity, of Milton; and let the mosaic brain of old Burton give forth the workings of this strange union with the pen
of Jeremy Bentham.”
Art. II.-- The Life of Oliver Goldsmith, from a variety of
original sources. By James Prior, author of the Life of Burke. Philadelphia, E. L. Carey and A. Hart. 1837.
The literary character never had a freer exhibition, with its lights and shades, its gayety and sorrow, its defects of imprudence, its virtues of benevolence, than in the person of Oliver Goldsmith. Linked to a thousand foibles but no crimes, the sport of every chance folly but never truant to the call of virtue, he pursued his irregular course the most pitied and the best loved among his contemporaries. His biography is a record of the old literary life, and in its varied scenes resembles the strange visions of Grub Street we sometimes catch in the pages of Fielding or Smollett. We cannot help looking back upon that as the most characteristic, if not the best period of authorship, when the writer lived on in happy indifference from day to day, penning an essay or compiling a quarto for the bookseller who humoured his eccentricity, and was a prompt treasurer in the payment of his slender necessities. His indolence had a relish of the early age, and as he passed from the Wits at the Coffee Houses and the theatre to sun himself in the Park or in an occasional visit to the country, seemed to enjoy the easy happiness of Arcadia. The much talked of misery of the author by profession has been far overstated. The unhappiness of Genius is not so great but that there are many, and notable instances too, of those who have managed to live very well by it, and the improvident members of the race fare no worse than the improvident of any other class. A great deal of good commiseration has been thrown away upon the poor author, who perhaps, after all, is a happier man than his patron. Thus Goldsmith has been the subject of pity till the customary phrase "poor Goldsmith," a phrase to be applied in love not in pity, has grown familiar as a proverb. The rich need not regret his life, for there are other things than wealth and a dignified station in society to constitute happiness. The cheerfulness of the soul, the ready sympathy of the heart, the fine thoughts of the head, the pleasures of friendship, freedom from the restraints of business, and ability to follow one's own inclination, the devotion to "the labour that we delight in that physics pain," are items that enter into the account; and the man that possesses these, with health and means to their enjoyment, which they presuppose, need not envy a prince. Goldsmith was happy in these respects. It is true he died poor, but he always lived honourably
on the reward of his talents, indebted to no other patronage than that of the public. After Scarron he playfully took his badge of nobility from his bookseller, and called himself the Marquis of Newberry; and while he could furnish such papers as the Bee or the Chinese Letters, and volumes like the History of England, he was able to back his title by a liberal estate. Newberry supplied him with small sums, credited the bills of his landlady, met the drafts from his tailor; and what needed the Poet more? He could entertain Johnson, and Burke, and Reynolds, and whole troops of children at his lodgings; could take his seat at the Club; and had means to support an extra wardrobe at the masquerade ; had always a guinea for the distressed ; and besides the relief of his present desires, found time without adequate reward to unite two of the finest poems in the language for the sake of Fame and Posterity. On the score of wealth he could enjoy all his wants, since he was a man of simple habits, and asked for little from without; he was rich in himself, and illustrated his own couplet
Man wants but little here below,
for he travelled through Europe on foot without bills of credit, and subsisted in London on the moderate recompense of the publishers.
Our estimate of the infelicity of Genius is partial. We talk of the miseries of authorship, but take no account of the painful life of the merchant; the careful brow, the early and late application, the diligence of many years at the sport of an unruly wind; drawn over the soul like a pall, the harrowing visions of inevitable bankruptcy, which must sweep away his long-sought earnings, with the trust of the widow and orphan in his keeping to rob him of his last, best earthly possession, his station of honour among men.
We do not think of the anxieties of wealth when we overvalue the suffering of the improvidence which neglects it. So, too, of the physician, the lawyer, and of every grade of society from the highest ; each has its evils and knows its own bitterness : the wretched outcasts on the world, the unhappy inmates of the sad wards in Bedlam, are not all numbered or constituted from the race of Poets, though they be imprudent, or “of imagination all compact.” There are woes dark enough in the annals of literary history, but they are not confined to its pages ; they are the lot of man, thick sown like a scurf o'er life;" nor should we repine over
the sorrows of others till we are securely strengthened against those liable to ourselves. So superior is every thing connected with literature, that we care not to see its true nobility drawn into contempt; the scholar, even with his faults and imperfections, his distaste of “the sacred thirst for gold,” is a greater, perhaps not less unfortunate, and may be a better man than the being who despises him.
Mr. Prior's new life of Goldsmith does honour to the poet, and must ensure to the author the gratitude of the literary world. It is rarely that such qualifications meet for the work of biography as those possessed by Mr. Prior, whose taste is of no common order. His subject appears slight on its surface as comprehending the simple life of a man of letters disentangled from the interests of party politics or religion; but this very case constitutes its difficulty. Had there been virulent prejudices against Goldsmith, they would have asked the attention of his friends; their discussion would have elucidated his character; his errors would have been weighed, and his good qualities fairly established. Nothing of this kind was called forth. At his death Johnson pronounced him "a very great man,” which the world knew from his writings; but no one, while the materials were recent, erected a suitable monument to his worth. Exaggerated anecdotes of his extreme simplicity were suffered to pass current; his foibles were multiplied to failings; and in the great literary memorial of his times his pretensions were obscured by the vast shadow of Johnson. In the mean time the fame of the author increased ; edition after edition was published of his delightful, heart-easing novel; his poetry was copied and emulated, and, what was more, popularly read; thousands, in defiance of the unities and good breeding, went away pleased from the performance of his comedy; the rich humour of his Essays was admitted, but no attempt was made to give the world a just idea of the man. While entire hecatombs were sacrificed at the altar of Johnson, scarce a single offering was presented at the deserted fane of Goldsmith.
This neglect Mr. Prior has amply remedied. With untiring industry he has sought out and traced every possible memorial of the poet, whether in loose fragments of his writing, or personal anecdotes and recollections lingering in the memory of his friends. He has collected so vast an amount of new and interesting matter, that before this the life of the poet can hardly be said to have been written. The way in which many of these materials have been found is extraordinary. We shall offer several instances that naturally hang together. The fact of Goldsmith's residence at Green Arbour
Court (made the scene of one of Irving's happy sketches,) is well known ; but what do we not owe to Mr. Prior for the recovery of the following characteristic incidents ?
“ In the year 1820, long before any thought of this biography was entertained, entering a small shop of miscellaneous articles in the Clapham-Road, in order to purchase the first edition (1765) of his Essays lying in the window, the owner, a fresh-looking woman be. tween sixty and seventy, in opening the volume made a variety of affectionate encomiums on his kindness and charity to others when labouring under difficulties himself, intimating, at the same time, her personal knowledge of the persons befriended. Curiosity thus ex. cited, occasioned inquiry; and this person, whose features and shop, though not her name, are well remembered, communicated all she professed to recollect.
• By her account she was a near relative of the woman who kept the house in Green-Arbour Court, and at the age of seven or eight years went frequently thither, one of the inducements to which was the cakes and sweat-meats given to her and other children of the family by the gentleman who lodged there ; these they duly valued at the moment, but when afterwards, considered as the gifts of one so eminent, the recollection became a source of pride and boast. Another of his amusements consisted in assembling these children in his room, and inducing them to dance to the music of his Aute. of this instrument, as a favourite relaxation from study, he was fond. He was usually, as she subsequently heard when older and induced to inquire more about him, shut up in the room during the day, went out in the evenings, and preserved regular hours. His habits other. wise were sociable, and he had several visitors. One of the com. panions, whose society gave him particular pleasure, was a respect. able watchmaker residing in the same court, celebrated for the possession of much wit and humour ; qualities which, as they distinguish his own writings, he professes to have sought and cultivated wherever they were to be found. His benevolence, as usual, flowed freely, according to my informant, whenever he had any thing to bestow, and even when he had not, the stream could not always be checked in its current; an instance of which tells highly to his honour. The landlord of the house having fallen into difficulties, was at length arrested ; and Goldsmith, who owed a small sum for rent, being applied to by his wife to assist in the release of her husband, found that, although without money, he did not want resources ; a new suit of clothes was consigned to the pawnbroker, and the amount raised, proving much more than sufficient to dis. charge his own debt, was handed over for the release of the prisoner. It would be a singular though not an improbable coincidence, if this story, repeated to the writer by the descendant of a person who afterwards became his tailor, and who knew not that it had been previously told, should apply to that identical suit of apparel for VOL. 1.-NO. 11.