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OLIVER GOLDSMITH, M.B.
BY DR. AIKIN.
It cannot be said of this ornament of British literature, as has been observed of most authors, that the memoirs of his life comprise little more than a history of his writings. Goldsmith's life was full of adventure; and a due consideration of his conduct, from the outset to his death, will furnish many useful lessons to those who live after him.
Our Author, the third son of Mr. Charles Goldsmith, was born at Elphin, in the county of Roscommon, Ireland, on the 29th of November, 1728. His father, who had been educated at Dublin College, was a clergyman of the established church, and had married Anne, daughter of the Rev. Oliver Jones, master of the diocesan school of Elphin. Her mother's brother, the Rev. Mr. Green, then rector of Kilkenny West, lent the yotng couple the house in which our author was born; and at his death Mr. Green was succeeded in his benefice by his clerical protégée.
Mr. Charles Goldsmith had five sons and two daughters.
Henry, the eldest son (to whom the poem of The Traveller' is dedicated), distinguished himself greatly both at school
and at college ; but his marriage at nineteen years of ago appears to have been a bar to his preferment in the church ; and we believe that he never ascended above a curacy.
The liberal education which the father bestowed upon Henry had deducted so much from a narrow income that, when Oliver was born, after an interval of seven years from the birth of the former child, no prospect in life appeared for him, but a mechanical or mercantile occupation.
The rudiments of instruction he acquired from a schoolmaster in the village, who had served in Queen Anne's wars as a quarter-master in that detachment of the army which was sent to Spain. Being of a communicative turn, and finding a ready hearer in young Oliver, this man used frequently to entertain him with what he called his adventures; nor is it without probability supposed, that these laid the foundation of that wandering disposition which became afterwards su conspicuous in his pupil.
At a very early age Oliver began to exhibit indications of genius; for, when only seven or eight years old, he would often amuse his father and mother with poetical attenipts, which attracted much notice from them and their friends ; but his infant mind does not appear to have been much elated by their approbation ; for after his verses had been admired, they were, without regret, committed by him to the flames.
He was now taken from the tuition of the quondam soldier, to be put under that of the Rev. Mr. Griffin, schoolmaster of Elphin ; and was at the same time received into the house of his father's brother, John Goldsmith, Esq., of Ballyoughter, near that town.
Our author's eldest sister, Catharine, (afterwards married to Daniel Hodson, Esq., of Lishoy, near Ballymahon,) relates, that one evening, when Oliver was about nine years of age, a company of young people of both sexes being assembled at his uncle's, the boy was required to dance a hornpipe, a youth undertaking to play to him on the fiddle. Being but lately out of the small-pox, which had much disfigured his countenance, and his bodily proportions being short and thick, the young musician thought to show his wit by comparing our hero to Æsop dancing; and having harped a little too long, as the caperer thought, on this bright idea, the latter suddenly stopped, and said,
Our herald hath proclaim'd this saying,
This instance of early wit, we are told; decided his fortune; for, from that time, it was determined to send him to the university; and some of his relations, who were in the church, offered to contribute towards the expense, particularly the Rev. Thomas Contarine, rector of Kilmore, near Carrick-upon-Shannon, who had married an aunt of Oliver's. The Rev. Mr. Green also, whom we have before mentioned, liberally assisted in this friendly design.
To further the purpose intended, he was now removed to Athlone, where he continued about two years under the Rev. Mr. Campbell ; who being then obliged by ill-health to resign the charge, Oliver was sent to the school of the Rev. Patrick Hughes, at Edgeworthstown, in the county of Longford.*
* We are told, that in his last journey to this school, he had an adventure, which is thought to have suggested the plot of his comedy of 'She stoops to conquer.'--Some friend had given him a guinea; and in his way to Edgeworthstown, which was about twenty miles Under this gentleman he was prepared for the university; and on the 11th of June, 1744, was admitted a Sizer of Trinity college, Dublin,* under the tuition of the Rev. Mr. Wilder, one of the Fellows, who was a man of harsh temper and violent passions; and Oliver being of a thoughtless and gay turn, it cannot be surprising that they should soon be dissatisfied with each other.
Oliver, it seems, had one day imprudently invited a party of both sexes to a supper and ball in his rooms; which coniing to the ears of his tutor, the latter entered the place in the midst of their jollity, abused the whole company, and inflicted manual correction on Goldsmith in their presence.
This mortification had such an effect on the mind of Oliver, that he resolved to seek his fortune in some place where he should be unknown : accordingly he sold his books and clothes, and quitted the university ; but loitered about the streets, considering of a destination, till his money was exhausted. With a solitary shilling in his pocket he at last left Dublin ; by abstinence he made this sum last him three days, and then was obliged to part, by degrees, with the clothes off his back : in short, to such an extremity was he reduced, as to find a handful of gray-peas, given him by a girl at a wake, the most Cumfortable repast that he had ever made.
from his father's house, he had amused himself the whole day with viewing the gentlemen's seats on the road; and at nightfall found himself in the small town of Ardagh. Here he inquired for the best house in the place, meaning the best inn; but his informant, taking the question in its literal sense, sliewed him to the house of a private gentleman; where, calling for somebody to take his horse to the stable, our hero alighted, and was shown into the parlor, being supposed to have come on a visit to the master, whom he found sitting by the fire. This gentleman soon discovered Oliver's mistake; but be ing a man of humor, and learning from him the name of his father, (whom he knew), he favored the deception. Oliver ordered a good supper, and invited his landlord and landlady, with their daughters, to partake of it; he treated them with a bottle or two of wine, and, at going to bed, ordered a hot cake to be prepared for his breakfast: nor was it till he was about to depart, and called for his bill, that he discovered his mistake.
* The celebrated E imund Burke was at the same time a collegian there.
After numberless adventures in this vagrant state, he found his way home, and was replaced under his morose and merciless tutor; by whom he was again exposed to so many mortifications, as induced an habitual despondence of mind, and a total careiessness about his studies; the consequence of which was, that he neither obtained a scholarship, nor became a candidate for the premiums. On the 25th of May, 1747, he received a public admonition, for having assisted other collegians in a riot occasioned by a scholar having been arrested, quod seditioni favisset, et tumultuantibus opem tulisset: in this case, however, he appears to have fared better than some of his companions, who were expelled the university. On the 15th of June following he was elected one of the exhibitioners on the foundation of Erasmus Smyth; but was not admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts till February, 1749, which was two years after the usual period.
Oliver's father being now dead, his uncle Contarine undertook to supply his place, and wished him to prepare for holy orders. This proposal not meeting with the young man's inclination, Mr. Contarine next resolved on sending him to London, that he might study law in the temple. Whilst at Dublin, however, on his way to England, he fell in with a sharper, who cheated him at play of 501., which had been providsu for his carriage, etc. He returned, and receiver his un