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To the memory of
Nor touched any that he did not embellish:
Over the affections ;
equal to every subject;
He was born in the kingdom of Ireland,
And county of Longford,
29th Nov. 1731.* Educated at Dublin, And died in London,
4th April, 1774.
Beside this Latin epitaph, Dr. Johnson honored the memo ry of Goldsmith with the following short one in Greek :
Τον τάφον είσoράας τον Ολιβαρίσιο, κονίην
"Αφρoσι μη σεμνην, Ξεϊνε, πόδεσσι πάτει·
Κλαίετε ποιητης, ιστορικον, φυσικον.
• The person of Goldsmith was short ; his countenance coarse and vulgar; his deportment that of a scholar, awkwardly affecting the complete gentleman. No man had the art of displaying, with more advantage, whatever literary acquisitions he made. His mind resembled a fertile but thin soil ; there was a quick but not a strong vegetation of whatever chanced to be tlırown upon it. No deep root could be struck. The oak of the forest did not grow there ; but the elegant shrubbery, and the fragrant parterre, appeared in gay succession. It has been generally circulated, and believed, that he was a mere fool in conversation. In allusion to this, Mr. Horatio Walpole, who admired his writings, said, he was an inspired idiot;” and Garrick describes him as one,
* See the Note on the preceding page.
for shortness called Noll, Who wrote like an angel, and talk'd like poor Poll.”
But in reality these descriptions are greatly exaggerated. He had no doubt a more than common share of that hurry of ideas which we often find in his countrymen, and which sometimes introduces a laughable confusion in expressing them. He was very much what the French call un étourdi : and from vanity, and an eager desire of being conspicuous wherever he was, he frequently talked carelessly, without any knowledge of the subject, or even without thought. Those who were any ways distinguished, excited envy in him to so ridiculous an excess, that the instances of it are hardly credible. He, I am told, had no settled system of any sort, so that his conduct must not be too strictly criticised; but his affections were social and generous; and when he had money, he bestowed it liberally. His desires of imaginary consequence frequently predominated over his attention to truth.
* His prose has been admitted as the model of perfection, and the standard of the English language. Dr. Johnson says, “ Goldsmith was a man of such variety of powers, and such felicity of performance, that he seemed to excel in whatever he attempted; a man who had the art of being minute without tediousness, and generally without confusion ; whose language was capacious without exuberance ; exact without restraint; and easy without weakness.”
• His merit as a poet is universally acknowledged. His writings partake rather of the elegance and harmony of Pope, than the grandeur and sublimity of Milton ; and it is to be lamented that his poetical productions are not more numerous; for though his ideas flowed rapidly, he arranged them with great caution, and occupied much time in polishing his periods, and harmonizing his numbers.
· Ilis most favorite poems are, “ The Traveller," " Deserted Village”
," " Hermit,” and “ Retaliation.” These productions may be justly ranked with the most admired works in English poetry.
66. The Traveller” delights us with a display of charming imagery, refined ideas, and happy expressions. The characteristics of the different nations are strongly marked, and the predilection of each inhabitant in favor of his own ingeniously described.
The Deserted Village ” is generally admired; the characters are drawn from the life. The descriptions are lively and picturesque ; and the whole appears so easy and natural, as to bear the semblance of, historical truth more than poetical fiction. The description of the parish priest, (probably intended for a character of his brother Henry) would have done honor to any poet of any age. In this description, the simile of the bird teaching her young to fly, and of the mountain that rises above the storm, are not easily to be paralleled. The rest of the poem consists of the character of the village schoolmaster, and a description of the village alehouse ; both drawn with admirable propriety and force; a descant on the mischiefs of luxury and wealth; the variety of artificial please ures; the miseries of those who, for want of employment at home, are driven to settle new colonies abroad; and concludes with a beautiful apostrophe to poetry.
6" The Hermit” holds equal estimation with the rest of his poetical productions.
* His last poem, of “Retaliation,” is replete with humor, free from spleen, and forcibly exhibits the prominent features of the several characters to which it alludes. Dr. Johnson sums up his literary character in the following concise manner: “ Take him [Goldsmith] as a poet, his · Traveller' is a very fine performance; and so is his · Deserted Village,' were it not sometimes too much the echo of his Traveller.' Whether we take him as a poet, as a comic writer, or as an historian, he stands in the first class.
We have before observed, that his poem of 'RETALIATION' was provoked by several jocular epitaphs written upon him by the different members of a dinner club to which he belonged. Of these we subjoin a part of that which was produced by Garrick :
• Here, Hermes, says Jove, who with nectar was mellow, Go, fetch me some clay“I will make an odd fellow. Right and wrong shall be jumbled; much gold, and some dross; Without cause be he pleased, without cause be he cross; Be sure, as I work, to throw in contradictions; A great lover of truth, yet a mind turned to fictions. Now mix these ingredients, which, warm'd in the baking, Turn to learning and gaming, religion and raking; With the love of a wench, let his writings be chaste, Tip his tongue with strange matter, his pen with fine taste; That the rake and the poet o'er all may prevail, Set fire to his head, and set fire to his tail; For the joy of each sex on the world I'll bestow it, This scholar, rake, christian, dupe, gamester, and poet.
Though a mixture so odd, he shall merit great fame,
To these we shall add another sketch of our author (br way of Epitaph), written by a friend as soon as he heard of his death :
Here rests from the cares of the world and his pen,
"The lovers —'t was theirs to esteem and commend,
'Yet, bless'd with original powers like these,