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poor Goldsmith that he was in great distress, and, as it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would go to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion: I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced to
I looked into it, and saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon return; and, having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill."
The novel in question was the “ Vicar of Wakefield;" the bookseller to whom Johnson sold it was Francis Newbery, nephew to John. Strange as it may seem, this captivating work, which has obtained and preserved an almost unrivalled popularity in various languages, was so little appreciated by the bookseller, that he kept it by him for nearly two years unpublished !
At this very time he had by him the poem of “ The Traveller.” The plan of it, as has already been observed, was conceived many years before, during his travels in Switzerland, and a sketch of it sent from that country to his brother Henry in Ireland. The original idea is said to have embraced a wider
scope; but it was probably contracted through diffidence, in the process of finishing the parts. It had laid by him for several years in a crude state, and it was with extreme hesitation, and after much revision, that he at length submitted it to Dr. Johnson. The frank and warm approbation of the latter encouraged him to finish it for the press; and Dr. Johnson himself contributed nine couplets towards the
conclusion. The poem was published in December, 1764, in quarto, by Newbery, and was the first of his works to which Goldsmith prefixed his name. Johnson, with generous warmth, ponounced it the finest poem that had appeared since the days of Pope. It went through several editions in the course of the first year, and produced a golden harvest to Newbery; but all the remuneration on record doled out to the author was twenty guineas. About this time the beautiful and pathetic ballad of “The Hermit” was published in the St. J mes's Chronicle, a journal still in existence.
Goldsmith, now that he was rising in the world, and becoming a notoriety, felt himself called upon to improve his style of living. He accordingly emerged from Wine Officecourt, and took chambers in the Temple. The success of the “The Traveller” roused the attention of the bookseller to produce “ The Vicar of Wakefield,” the manuscript of which had been for two years slumbering in his hands. It was published on the 27th of March, 1766; in a month a second edition, in three months a third, and so it went on increasing in popularity.
Early in 1767 Goldsmith had completed his comedy of “ The Good-natured Man,” and submitted it to the perusal of Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, and others, by all of whom it was heartily approved. But the representation was doomed to experience all sorts of difficulties and delays; at last, however, it was to be produced on the stage, and Johnson attended the rehearsals and wrote the prologue, inspiriting by his sympathy the nervous author, who, magnificently attired in a suit of
“ Tyrian bloom, satin-grain, and garter-blue silk breeches,”las appears by the entry in his tailor's bill, at a cost of 81, 28.7d., --watched the effect of its representation, which, after all, did not come up to its merits; it ran for ten nights in succession, and after that was acted but occasionally, having always pleased more in the closet than on the stage. The profits of the play were beyond any that Goldsmith had yet derived from his works— four hundred pounds from the theatre, and one hundred from the publisher. This seemingly, to him, inexhaustible sum of five hundred pounds led poor Goldsmith into all kinds of extravagance, and he accordingly purchased the chambers, consisting of three rooms, on the second floor of No. 2, Brick-court, Temple, which overlooked the umbrageous walks of the Temple garden, for four hundred pounds, and furnished them with sofas, card-tables, bookcases, curtains, mirrors, and Wilton carpets, and invited all his courtly acquaintances—young and old-of both sexes ; and by their romps and rioting caused Blackstone, who was then occupied with his “Commentaries" in the rooms beneath to complain of the racket made over-head by his revelling neighbour.
In course of the summer of 1768 his career of gaiety was brought to a pause by the intelligence of the death of his beloved brother Henry, then but forty-five years of age. He had led a quiet and blameless life amid the scenes of his youth, fulfilling the duties of a village pastor with unaffected piety, and in all the duties of life acquitting himself with undeviating rectitude. In the winter of 1768-9 Goldsmith was engaged upon his “Roman History,” which was published in the ensuing May, and commanded a ready sale, which has continued to this day; and in the same year entered into an engagement with Griffiths for the “History of Animated Nature,” in eight volumes, at the price of one hundred pounds
Amid his prosaic toils, Goldsmith, however, found time to dally with the Muses, and on the 26th of May, 1779, the “Deserted Village” was brought before the public. The popularity of “The Traveller” had prepared the way, and the sale of the poem was immense, so that by the 16th of August a fifth edition was published; he received one hundred guineas for the copyright.
In 1770, on the establishment of the Royal Academy of Painting, Goldsmith received the appointment of Professor of Ancient History in the institution; it was, however, but honorary. He produced his “History of Greece,” in two volumes, and “History of England,” in four volumes; the latter was without his name.
Early in 1772 he had completed a comedy, which had long engaged his attention, but the year passed without his being able to get it on the stage; the negotiation of Johnson with Colman, the manager of Covent Garden, was at last effective, and on the 15th of March, 1773, it was produced, under the title of “She Stoops to Conquer,” and its success was most triumphant. The comedy was immediately printed, with a grateful dedication to Johnson.
The works which Goldsmith had still in hand were already paid for, and the money gone, and for impending debts and present expenses he devised a scheme for a work of greater extent than any he had hitherto undertaken-a“Dictionary of Arts and Sciences,” which was to occupy several volumes : and Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, Burney, and others of his friends promised to contribute articles. The booksellers, however, notwithstanding they had a high opinion of his abilities, feared to trust a man of Goldsmith's procrastinating habits with so important an undertaking. Some other plans of a similar kind alike fell to the ground.
In the early part of the year 1774 the poor poet was toiling hopelessly and fitfully at a multiplicity of tasks, and one of the last was a translation of the “ Comic Romance of Scarron.”
In sheer despite of his embarrassments, he assumed a forced gaiety, and gave expensive entertainments at his chambers in the Temple; but on one occasion--and it was the last—his imprudent profusion so vexed Johnson and Reynolds that they declined to partake of a needless second course, and the untasted dishes were a silent rebuke that Goldsmith most. sensibly felt. Wearied and harassed, he now took the resolution to retire to the quiet of the country, and accordingly made arrangements to sell his chambers, and in the month of March was at his country lodgings at Hyde; but a local complaint, under which he had some time suffered, having increased, he returned to town for medical advice; the complaint subsided, but was followed by a low nervous fever. His malady fluctuated for several days, and hopes were entertained of his recovery; he had the most skilful medical aid, and good nurses, but would not follow the advice afforded him, and having on former occasions found benefit from the use of James's powder, persisted in the use of it, against the remonstrance of his physician, who pointed out its extreme danger, in the patient's then state; the result was, after some hours of restlessness, a deep sleep, from which he awoke in strong convulsions, that continued till he finally sank at five o'clock in the morning of the 4th of April, 1774, in the forty-sixth year of his age.
His death caused deep affliction to his friends--it is said that Burke, on hearing the news, burst into tears. The grief of Johnson was gloomy, but profound: he truly could say
in the words of the psalmist, “I behaved myself as though it had been my brother, I went heavily as one that mourneth for his mother."
In the warm feeling of the moment his friends determined on a public funeral and a tomb in Westminster Abbey, but it being discovered that he died in debt-owing, it was said, as much as two thousand pounds—and there were no means to pay the costs, he was privately interred, on the 9th of April, in the burying-ground of the Temple church. Soon after his death, the Literary Club, of which he had so long been a member, set on foot a subscription to erect a monument to his memory in Westminster Abbey, which was exe