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OLIVER GOLDSMITH was born on the 10th of November, 1728, at Pallas, Pallice, or Pallasmore, a village about two miles from the small town of Ballymahon, in the county of Longford; the place is now a collection of mere cabins, and the house in which the poet was born has long since been levelled with the ground. He was third son and sixth child of the Rev. Charles Goldsmith and Ann his wife; Mrs. Goldsmith was the daughter of the Rev. Oliver Jones, master of the Diocesan School at Elphin. His father's family were of English descent, and appear to have furnished clergymen to the Established Church for several generations. From the entry of their children's births in the family Bible, his parents appear to have removed to Lissoy about the year 1730, when his father was appointed to the rectory of Kilkenny-west. The village of Lissoy,—which has been generally considered the place of the poet's birth, and certainly the
“ Seat of his youth, when every sport could please."
-is in the county of Westmeath, very near the borders of Longford, and about six miles from Athlone. Here the boyish days of the poet were passed, and here his brotherthe Rev. Henry Goldsmith - continued to reside after his father's death, and was residing when the poet dedicated to him “ The Traveller."
At Lissoy—or Auburn, as it is sometimes designated—may still be found some few traces of the poet's remembrances of the scenes of his childhood, as depicted in “ The Deserted Village.” The village is on the summit of a hill, and at its
“ the busy mill,” though but a small cottage, used for grinding the corn of the peasantry of the neighbourhood, parts of the machinery bearing marks of age sufficient to indicate they may be the same that left their impress on the poet's memory. At the distance of about a mile is
“ The decent church that tops the neighbouring hill.”
We are told that
“ The hawthorn bush with seats beneath the shade,
was flourishing within existing memories, and that some fifty years back it was destroyed by an accident,- a heap surrounded by cemented stones shows its site; and on the opposite side of the road, upon a tree, hangs the sign of The Pigeons, a little inn of the place. The Three Pigeons is the sign of the ale-house in which Tony Lumpkin plays the hero in "
She Stoops to Conquer.” But although the poet adopted some few such remembrances in his picture of the “ Deserted Village,” we conceive he must have had some other place in his mind's eye, the poem being so essentially English in its character, that there is scarcely a single point of Irish feature in it.
After receiving the elements of education from the village schoolmaster, he was, at an early age, sent to the diocesan school at Elphin, to prepare him for some mercantile employment. His fondness for rhyming, combined with some other manifestations of wit, however, excited some hope that he was deserving of encouragement, and he was thereupon removed to a school at Athlone, where he stayed two years, and then placed with the Rev. Edward Hughes, Vicar of Shruel, near Ballymahon, to which town, upon the death of his father, his mother retired.
By the aid of his uncle, the Rev. Thomas Contarine, and some assistance of other relations, Goldsmith was admitted a sizar of Trinity College, Dublin, June 11th, 1745. He soon quarrelled with his tutor, and absented himself from college, but returned, and at the Christmas examination obtained a premium, and on the 27th of February, 1750, took his degree of A.B.
Yielding to his uncle's wishes, he now consented to enter holy orders; but on application to the bishop he was rejected, from what cause it is unknown. He then became a tutor in the family of a private gentleman of the neighbourhood—a vocation certainly not suited to his tastes or habits, and of course the engagement lasted but a short time. His uncle then determined on sending him to London, to keep his terms at the Temple, for the purpose of preparing him for the profession of the law; but stopping at Dublin on his way, he lost in gambling the whole of the money necessary for his journey, and returned without a penny. His uncle's kindness was, however, not yet exhausted, and after forgiveness, he sent him to Edinburgh to study medicine; from Edinburgh, after a stay of two years, he went to Leyden to complete his medical studies; and at the expiration of some few months, having exhausted his funds, he started on a tour of Europe ; having, according to his own statement, but one spare shirt, a flute, and a guinea; trusting entirely to his wits for support.
The following passage in “ The Vicar of Wakefield" is supposed to describe his own travels : “ I had some knowledge of music, and now turned what was once my amusement into a present means of subsistence. Whenever I approached a peasant's house towards nightfall, I played one of my most merry tunes, and that procured me not only a lodging, but also a subsistence for the next day.” He thus by expedients worked his way through Flanders, parts of France, Germany, and Switzerland —where he composed a portion of “ The Traveller,”—he tells us he saw the cataract at Schauffhausen frozen quite across, that he had flushed