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There are few writers of the period more generally beloved than Dr. Goldsmith. Of his contemporaries, Burke excelled him in splendor of diction, and Johnson in depth of thought. The former continues to enjoy a larger share of admiration, and the latter of respect, but the labors of their less pretending companion have secured him a far richer heritage of love. Of all posthumous tributes to genins, this seems the most truly desirable. It recognizes the man as well as the author. It is called forth by more interesting characteristics than talent. It bespeaks a greater than ordinary association of the individual with his works, and looking beyond the mere embodiment of his intellect, it gives assurance of an attractiveness in his character which has made itself felt even through the artificial medium of writing. The authors are comparatively few, who have awakened this feeling of personal interest and affection. It is common, indeed, for any writer of genius to inspire emotions of gratitude in the breasts of those susceptible to the charm, but the instances are rare in which this sentiment is vivified and elevated into positive affection. And few, I apprehend, among the wits and poets of old England, have more widely awakened it than Oliver Goldsmith. I have said this kind of literary fame was eminently desirable. There is, indeed, something inexpressibly touching in the thought of one of the gifted of our race, attaching to himself countless hearts by the force of a charm woven in by-gone years, when environed by neglect and discouragement. Though a late, it is a beautiful recompense, transcending mere critical approbation, or even the reverence men offer to the monuments of mind. We can conreive of no motive to effort which can be presented to a man of true feeling, like the hope of winning the love of his kind by the faithful exhibition of himself. It is a nobler purpose than that entertained by heartless ambition. The appeal is not merely to the judgment and imagination, it is to the universal heart of mankind. Such fame is emphatically rich. It gains its possessor warm friends instead of mere admirers. To establish such an inheritance in the breast of humanity, were indeed worthy of sacrifice and toil. It is an offering not only to intellectual but to moral graces, and its possession argues for the sons of fame holier qualities than genius itself. It eloquently indicates that its subject is not only capable of interesting the general mind by the power of his creations, but of captivating the feelings by the earnest beauty of his nature. Of all oblations, therefore, we deem it the most valuable. It is this sentiment with which the lovers of painting regard the truest interpreters of the art. They wonder at Michael Angelo but love Raphael, and gaze upon the pensively beautiful delineation he has left us of himself, with the regretful tenderness with which we look upon the portrait of a departed friend. The devotees of music, too, dwell with glad astonishment upon the celebrated operas of Rosini and some of the German composers, but the memory of Bellini is absolutely loved. It is well remarked by one of Goldsmith’s biographers, that the very fact of his being spoken of always with the epithet “poor” attached to his name, is sufficient evidence of the kind of fame he enjoys. Whence, then, the peculiar attraction of his writings, and wherein consists the spell which has so long rendered his works the favoriteş of so many and such a variety of readers ?
The primary and all pervading charm of Goldsmith is his truth. It is interesting to trace this delightful characteristic, as it exhibits itself not less in his life than in his writings. We see it displayed in the remarkable frankness which distinguisle ed his intercourse with others, and in that winning simplicity which so frequently excited the contemptuous laugh of the worldly-wise, but failed not to draw towards him the more valuable sympathies of less perverted natures. All who have sketched his biography unite in declaring, that he could not dissemble ; and we have a good illustration of his want of tact in concealing a defect, in the story which is related of him at the time of his unsuccessful attempt at medical practice in Edinburgh — when, his only velvet coat being deformed by a huge patch on the right breast, he was accustomed, while in the drawing-room, to cover it in the most awkward manner with his hat. It was his natural truthfulness which led him to so candid and habitual a confession of his faults. Johnson ridiculed him for so freely describing the state of his feelings during the representation of his first play ; and, throughout his life, the perfect honesty of his spirit made him the subject of innumerable practical jokes. Credulity is perhaps a weakness almost inseparable from eminently truthful characters Yet, if such is the case, it does not in the least diminish our faith in the superiority and value of such characters. Waiving all moral considerations, we believe it can be demonstrated that truth is one of the most essential elements of real greatness, and surest means of eminent success. Management, Chicanery and cunning, may advance men in the career of the world; it may forward the views of the politician, and clear the way of the diplomatist. But when humanity is to be addressed in the universal language of genius; when, through the medium of literature and art, man essays to reach the heart of his kind, the more sincere the appeal, the surer its effect; the more direct the call, and deeper the response. In a word, the more largely truth enters into a work, the more certain the fame of its author. But a few months since, I saw the Parisian populace crowding around the church where the remains of Talleyrand lay in state, but the fever of curiosity alone gleamed from their eyes, undimmed by tears. When Goldsmith died, Reynolds, then in the full tide of success, threw his pencil aside in sorrow, and Burke turned from the fast-brightening vision of renown, to weep.
Truth is an endearing quality. None are so beloved as the ingenuous. We feel in approaching them that the look of welcome is unaffected — that the friendly grasp is from the heart, and we regret their departure as an actual loss. And not less winningly shines this high and sacred principle through the labors of genius. It immortalizes history - it is the true origin of eloquence, and constitutes the living charm of poetry. When Goldsmith penned the lines
“ To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
he furnished the key to his peculiar genius, and recorded the secret which has embalmed his memory. It was the clearness of his own soul which reflected so truly the imagery of life. He did but transcribe the unadorned convictions that glowed in his mind, and faithfully traced the pictures which nature threw upon the mirror of his fancy. Hence the unrivalled excellence of his descriptions. Rural life has never found a sweeter eulogist. To countless memories have bis village landscapes risen pleasantly, when the “
rose at eventide. Where do we not meet with a kind-hearted philosopher delighting in some speculative hobby, equally dear as the good Vicar's theory of Monogamy? The vigils of many an ardent student have been beguiled by his portraiture of a country clergyman - brightening the dim vista of futurity as his own ideal of destiny; and who has not, at times, caught the very solace of retirement from his sweet apostrophe ?
The genius of Goldsmith was chiefly fertilized by observation. He was not one of those who regard books as the only, or even the principal sources of knowledge. He recognized and delighted to study the unwritten lore so richly spread over the volume of nature, and shadowed forth so variously from the scenes of every-day life and the teachings of individual experience. There is a class of minds, second to none in native acuteness and reflective power, so constituted as to flourish alnıost exclusively by observation. Too impatient of restraint to endure the long vigils of the scholar, they are yet keenly alive to every idea and truth which is evolved from life. Without a tithe of that spirit of application that binds the German student for years to his familiar tomes, they suffer not a single impression which events or character leave upon their memories to pass unappreciated. Unlearned, in a great measure, in the history of the past, the present is not allowed to pass without eliciting their intelligent comment. Unskilled in the technicalities of learning, they contrive to appropriate, with surprising facility, the wisdom born of the passing moment. No striking trait of character- no remarkable effect in nature
none of the phenomena of social existence, escape them. Like Hogarth, they are constantly enriching themselves with sketches from life ; and as he drew street-wonders upon his thumb-nail, they note and remember, and afterwards elaborate and digest whatever of interest experience affords. Goldsmith was a true specimen of this class. He vindicated, indeed, his claim to the title of scholar, by research and study; but the field most congenial to his taste, was the broad universe of na