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didactic poem in any language, was written in defence of the silliest and meanest of all systems of natural and moral philosophy. A poet may easily be pardoned for reasoning ill; but he cannot be pardoned for describing ill, for observing the world in which he lives so carelessly, that his portraits bear no resemblance to the originals, for exhibiting as copies from real life monstrous combinations of things which never were and never could be found together. What would be thought of a painter who should mix August and January in one landscape, who should introduce a frozen river into a harvest scene? Would it be a sufficient defence of such a picture to say
every part was exquisitely coloured, that the green hedges, the apple-trees loaded with fruit, the wagons reeling under the yellow sheaves, and the sun-burned reapers wiping their foreheads, were very fine, and that the ice and the boys sliding were also
very fine? To such a picture the Deserted Village bears a great resemblance. It is made up of incongruous parts. The village in its happy days, is a true English village. The village in its decay, is an Irish village. The felicity and the misery which Goldsmith has brought close together, belong to two different countries, and to two different stages in the progress of society. He had assuredly never seen in his native island such a rural paradise, such a seat of plenty, content, and tranquillity, as his Auburn. He had assuredly never seen in England all the inhabitants of such a paradise turned out of their homes in one day, and forced to emigrate in a body to America. The hamlet he had probably seen in Kent; the ejectment he had probably seen in Munster ; but by joining the two, he has produced something which never was and never will be seen in any part of the world.
In 1773, Goldsmith tried his chance at Covent Garden with a second play, She Stoops to Conquer. The manager was not without great difficulty induced to bring this piece out. The sentimental comedy still reigned, and Goldsmith's comedies were not sentimental. The Goodnatured Man had been too funny to succeed; yet the mirth of the Good-natured Man was sober when compared with the rich drollery of She Stoops to Conquer, which is, in truth, an incomparable farce in five acts. On this occasion, however, genius triumphed. Pit, boxes, and galleries were in a constant roar of laughter. If any bigoted admirer of Kelly and Cumberland ventured to hiss or groan, he was speedily silenced by a general cry of “turn him out,” or " throw him over.” Two generations have since confirmed the verdict which was pronounced on that night.
While Goldsmith was writing the Deserted Village and She Stoops to Conquer, he was employed on works of a very different kind, works from which he derived little reputation, but much profit. He compiled for the use of schools a History of Rome, by which he made £300, a History of England, by which he made £600, a History of Greece, for which he received £250, a Natural History, for which the booksellers covenanted to pay him 800 guineas. These works he produced without any elaborate research, by merely selecting, abridging, and translating into his own clear, pure, and flowing language, what he found in books well known to the world, but too bulky or too dry for boys and girls. He committed some strange blunders; for he knew nothing with accuracy. Thus, in his History of England, he tells us that Naseby is in Yorkshire; nor did he correct this mistake when the book was reprinted. He was very nearly hoaxed into putting into the History of Greece an account of a battle between Alexander the Great and Montezuma. In his Animated Nature, he relates, with faith and with perfect gravity, all the most absurd lies which he could find in books of travels about gigantic Patagonians, monkeys that preach sermons, nightingales that repeat long conversations. “ If he can tell a horse from a cow,” said Johnson, that is the extent of his knowledge of zoology." How little Goldsmith was qualified to write about the physical sciences, is sufficiently proved by two anecdotes. He on one occasion denied that the sun is longer in the northern than in the southern signs. It was vain to cite the authority of Maupertuis. "Maupertuis !” he cried, "I understand those matters better than Maupertuis.” On another occasion, he, in defiance of the evidence of his own senses, maintained obstinately, and even angrily, that he chewed his dinner by moving his upper jaw.
Yet, ignorant as Goldsmith was, few writers have done more to make the first steps in the laborious road to knowledge easy and pleasant. His compilations are widely distinguished from the compilations of ordinary bookmakers. He was a great, perhaps an unequalled, master of the arts . of selection and condensation. In these respects, his histories of Rome and of England, and still more his own abridgments of these histories, well deserved to be studied. In general, nothing is less attractive than an epitome ; but the epitomes of Goldsmith, even when most concise, are always amusing; and to read them is considered by intelligent children, not as a task, but as a pleasure.
Goldsmith might now be considered as a prosperous man.
He had the means of living in comfort, and even in what to one who had so often slept in barns and on bulks, must have been luxury. His fame was great, and was constantly rising. He lived in what was intellectually far the best society of the kingdom, in a society in which no talent or accomplishment was wanting, and in which the art of conversation was culti
vated with splendid success.
There probably were never four talkers more admirable in four different ways than Johnson, Burke, Beauclerk, and Garrick; and Goldsmith was on terms of intimacy with all the four. He aspired to share in their colloquial renown; but never was ambition more unfortunate. It may seem strange that man who wrote with so much perspicuity, vivacity, and
grace, should have been, whenever he took a part in conversation, an empty, noisy, blundering rattler. But on this point the evidence is overwhelming So extraordinary was the contrast between Goldsmith's published works and the silly things which he said, that Horace Walpole described him as an inspired idiot. “Noll,” said Garrick, “wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Pol.” Chamier declared that it was a hard exercise of faith to believe that so foolish a chatterer could have really written the Traveller. Even Boswell could say, with contemptuous compassion, that he liked very well to hear honest Goldsmith run “Yes, sir," said Johnson, “but he should not like to hear himself.” Minds differ as rivers differ. There are transparent and sparkling rivers from which it is delightful to drink as they flow; to such rivers, the minds of such men as Burke and Johnson may be compared. But there are rivers of which the water, when first drawn, is turbid and noisome, but becomes pellucid as crystal and delicious to the