Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

influence it seems to me is produced by the harmonious versification and elegant diction of Goldsmith.

It is not, indeed, by an analysis, however critical, of the intellectual distinctions of any author, that we can arrive at a complete view of his genius. It is to the feelings that we must look for that earnestness which gives vigor to mental efforts, and imparts to them their peculiar tone and coloring. And it will generally be found that what is really and permanently attractive in the works of genius, independent of mere diction, is to be traced rather to the heart than the head. We may admire the original conception, the lofty imagery or winning style of a popular author, but what touches us most deeply is the sentiment of which these are the vehicles. The fertile invention of Petrarch, in displaying under such a variety of disguises the same favorite subject, is not so moving as the unalterable devotion which inspires his fancy and quickens his muse. The popularity of Mrs. Hemans is more owing to the delicate and deep enthusiasm than to the elegance of her poetry, and Charles Lamb is not less attractive for his kindly affections than for his quaint humor. Not a little of the peculiar charm of Goldsmith, is attributable to the excellence of his heart. Mere talent would scarcely have sufficed to interpret and display so enchantingly the humble characters and scenes to which his most brilliant efforts were devoted. It was his sincere and ready sympathy with man, his sensibility to suffering in every form, his strong social sentiment and his amiable interest in all around, which brightened to his mind's eye, what to the less susceptible is unheeded and obscure. Naturally endowed with free and keen sensibilities, his own experience of privation prevented them from

indurating through age or prosperity. He cherished throughout his life an earnest faith in the better feelings of our nature. He realized the universal beauty and power of Love; and neither the solitary pursuits of literature, the elation of success, nor the blandishments of pleasure or society, ever banished from his bosom the generous and kindly sentiments which adorned his character. He was not the mere creature of attainment, the reserved scholar or abstracted dreamer. Pride of intellect usurped not his heart. Pedantry congealed not the fountains of feeling. He rejoiced in the exercise of all those tender and noble sentiments which are so much more honorable to man than the highest triumphs of mind. And it is these which make us love the man not less than admire the author. Goldsmith's early sympathy with the sufferings of the peasantry, is eloquently expressed in both his poems and frequently in his prose writings. How expressive that lament for the destruction of the "Ale-House'

[ocr errors]

that it would

No more impart
An hour's importance to the poor man's heart.'

There is more true benevolence in the feeling which prompted such a thought, than in all the cold and calculating philosophy with which so many expect to elevate the lower classes in these days of ultra-reform. When shall we learn that we must sympathize with those we would improve ? At college, we are told, one bitter night Goldsmith encountered a poor woman and her infants shivering at the gate, and having no money to give them, bringing out all his bed-clothes, and to keep himself from freezing, cut open his bed and slept within it. When hard at work earning a scanty pittance in his garret, he spent every spare penny in cakes for the children of bis poorer neighbors, and when he could do nothing else, taught them dancing by way of cheering their poverty. Notwithstanding his avowed antipathy to Baretti, he visited and relieved him in prison ; and when returning home with the 1001. received from his bookseller for the ‘Deserted Village, upon being told by an acquaintance he fell in with, that it was a great price for so little a thing, replied, “ Perhaps it is more than he can afford,' and returning, offered to refund a part. To his poor countrymen he was a constant benefactor, and while he had a shilling was ready to share it with them, so that they familiarly styled him our doctor.' In Leyden, when on the point of commencing his tour, he stripped himself of all his funds to send a collection of flower-roots to an uncle who was devoted to botany; and on the first occasion that patronage was offered him, declined aid for himself, to bespeak a vacant living for his brother. In truth, his life abounds in anecdotes of a like nature. We read one day of his pawning his watch for Pilkington, another of his bringing home a poor foreigner from Temple gardens to be his amanuensis, and again of his leaving the card-table to relieve a poor woman, whose tones as she chanted some ditty in passing, came to him above the hum of gaiety and indicated to his ear distress. Though the frequent and undeserved subject of literary abuse, he was never known to write severely against any one.

His talents were sacredly devoted to the cause of virtue and humanity. No malignant satire ever came from his pen. He loved to dwell upon the beautiful vindications in Nature of the paternity of God, and expatiate upon the noblest and most universal attributes of man. * If I were to love you by rule,' he writes to his brother, 'I dare say I never could do it sincerely. There was in his nature, an instinctive aversion to the frigid ceremonial and meaningless professions which so coldly imitate the language of feeling. Goldsmith saw enough of the world, to disrobe his mind of that scepticism born of custom which makes dotards of us all.' He did not wander among foreign nations, sit at the cottage fire-side, nor mix in the thoroughfare and gay saloon, in vain. Travel liberalized his views and demolished the barriers of local prejudice. He looked around upon his kind with the charitable judgment and interest born of an observing mind and a kindly heart with an infinite love, an infinite pity.' He delighted in the delineation of humble life, because he knew it to be the most unperverted. Simple pleasures warmed his fancy because he had learned their prečminent truth.

Childhood with its innocent playfulness, intellectual character with its tutored wisdom, and the uncultivated but • bold peasantry,' interested him alike. He could enjoy an hour's friendly chat with his fellow-lodger - the watchmaker in Green Arbor Court — not less than a literary discussion with Dr. Johnson. 'I must own,' he writes, • I should prefer the title of the ancient philosopher, namely, a Citizen of the World — to that of an Englishman, a Frenchman, an European, or that of any appellation whatever And this title he has nobly earned, by the wide scope of his sympathies and the beautiful pictures of life and nature universally recognized and universally loved, which have spread his name over the world. Pilgrims to the supposed scene of the Deserted Village have long since carried away every vestige of the hawthorn at Lissoy, but the laurels of Goldsmith will never be garnered by the hand of time, or blighted by the frost of neglect, as long as there are minds to appreciate, or hearts to reverence the household lore of English literature.

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »