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It has been the careful object of the Editor to expunge the errors, and condense the text of the original, without marring the fascination of the narrative-and (which is the characteristic of this edition) to combine with it, in the shape of illustrative Notes, all the information which has been elicited by the advance of the science since Goldsmith wrote. These Notes, it will be found, equal, or exceed, the original.
This has been characterised as the age of cheap literature: this is unquestioned. It would be better for the prospects of society, if the utility of the works passed into extensive circulation bore any proportion to their demand. The advantages resulting from the study of Natural History need not be substantiated at this hour of the day; and it may be questioned whether an illustrated work exists containing such a mass of popular and useful knowledge, at such a price, as that now put forth.
CONTENTS OF THE FIRST SECTION.
the Quadrupeds. In addition, a GENERAL INDEX includes the many hundred species
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he chequered life of the author of the * Vicar of Wakefield,' unlike the lives of professional literary men in general, abounds in incident, and is replete with entertainment and instruction. It is a chapter in the History of English literature, which the student will peruse and reperuse with feelings of mingled delight and pain; but which he must needs linger over, if he desires to understand the character of the age which the writings
of Goldsmith contributed so greatly to enlighten, refine and amuse. The following—the chief materials for which have been derived from the laborious Biography of the Poet, by Mr. Prioris necessarily limited to a brief sketch.
Oliver was the fifth child of the Reverend Charles Goldsmith, at that time Curate of Forney, in the County of Longford, and Kingdom of Ireland. He was born on the 10th November, 1728, at a place called Pallas, in the parish of Forney. The income of his father was exceedingly limited, and, as he had seven children, he was reduced to considerable straights to maintain his family with any show of respectability. Henry, the eldest son, was destined for the church, and consequently a good education was to him indispensable. To obtain this, the other branches of the family were compelled to be comparatively neglected. It was proposed from his birth to bring up Oliver to some mercantile profession, which at that period was supposed to require little learning or accomplishments. Reading, writing and arithmetic were deemed as much as men of the ledger could digest with ease; and these were set down as the sum of knowledge the future painter of life and manners was to derive from his tutors. His first school was one kept by a dame at Lissoy; in the Parish of Kilkenny West, County Westmeath, to the rectory of which Charles Goldsmith was inducted in 1730. The characteristics of the child's mind appeared anything but promising. Mrs. Delap, his schoolmistress, admitted that he was one of the dullest boys ever placed under her charge, and doubted for some time whether anything could be made of him. In the words of a Mr. Handcock, who supplied Mr. Prior with some of his information, he seemed “impenetrably stupid !” or as Dr. Strean ascertained, “he was considered by his contemporaries and schoolfellows, as a heavy blockhead, little better than a fool, whom every body made fun of.”.
From the terrors and mortifications of Mrs. Delap's nursery for rising critics, young Goldsmith was removed to the domus of the village schoolmaster, Thomas Byrne-a man who had been a soldier in the wars of Queen Anne, and had seen some service in Spain. This old campaigner had more reverence for military orders of the day, than for the rules of syntax, and preferred recounting his strange adventures beyond the Pyrenees to solving the abstrusities of arithmetical compounds. He was, moreover, of a romantic turn, wrote poetry, and was well versed in the fairy lore of the country. His pupils, doubtless, had similar predilections; at all events, Master Oliver had; and to the marvellous relations which he was then accustomed to hear, his family afterwards attributed that wandering and unsettled disposition which was remarked in him through life. His eldest sister, Mrs. Hodson, has furnished an account of him at this period. “His temper, though peculiar, was kind and affectionate ; his manner for the most part uncommonly serious and reserved; but, when in gay humour, none was more cheerful and agreeable. He was then, as he afterwards appeared to his acquaintances in London, solemn and yet gay, good-natured yet irritable, petulant sometimes, and instantly appeased by the smallest concession-so that such as did not understand or enquire into the occasional peculiarities of genius were puzzled by this contrariety of disposition; and the remark is preserved, that he seemed to possess two natures."
But though in all this there were some indications of the superficial man, there was little to reveal the spirit of genius which was struggling for birth within him. He plodded on with his “impenetrable stupidity," and picked up some knowledge of the horn-book, a facility at pot-hooks, and, it may be, a smattering of figures. He at the same time read and learned by rote many of the wild ballads common among the peasantry; and took great delight in listening to the fairy tales and superstitions with which every hill and valley-every stream and thicket, was rendered classical. But among his associates he was still made fun of, and misunderstood. It was while at the day-school at Lissoy, when Goldsmith was eight or nine years old, that he was attacked by the small-pox, the ravages of which left indelible traces upon a countenance which had always been uncommonly plain. On his recovery he was sent to a superior schooi kept by a clergyman, at Elphin, in Roscommon; in the neighbourhood