Page images
PDF
EPUB

company with three of your friends, and I talked at every thing.' -And they would spare you in nothing.'--I cared not for that, I persisted; but I declare solemnly to you, that, though I angled the whole evening, I never once obtained a bite.'

•You are all of you,' continued he, "absolutely afraid of Johnson : now I attack him boldly, and without the least reserve.'—•You do, Doctor, and sometimes catch a Tartar.'

- If it were not for me, he would be insufferable: if you remember the last time we ever supped together, he sat sulky and growling, but I resolved to fetch him out.'— You did, and at last he told you that he would have no more of your fooleries.

It was always thought fair by some persons to make what stories they pleased of Dr. Goldsmith, and the following was freely circulated in ridicule of him : "That he attended the Fantoccini in Penton-street, and that from envy he wished to excel the dexterity of one of the puppets.' I was of the party, and remember no more than that the Doctor, the Rev. Mr. Ludlam of St. John's College, and some others, went together to see the puppetshow: there we were all greatly entertained, and many idle remarks might possibly be made by all of us during the evening. Mr. Ludlam afterwards laughingly declared, that he believed he must shut up all his experiments at Cambridge and Leicester in future, and take lectures only during the winter from Fantoccinis, and the expert mechanists of both the royal theatres.

The greatest real fault of Dr. Goldsmith was, that, if he had thirty pounds in his pocket, he would go into certain companies in the country, and, in hopes of doubling the sum, would generally return to town without any part of it.

One of the worst affrays that Dr. Goldsmith ever engaged in was with Evans the bookseller, of Paternoster Row. Evans was the editor of the Universal Magazine, and had suffered a most offensive article to be inserted therein, which turned to ridicule not only the Doctor, but some ladies of the highest respectability. The Doctor unfortunately went to dine with the family, in Westminster, just after they had read this insulting article, and they were all most highly indignant at it. The Doctor, agonized all dinner-time, but, as soon as possible afterwards, he stole away, set off in great haste for Paternoster Row, and caned Evans in his own shop. This was every way a terrible affair, and I privately consulted with Dr. Johnson concerning it. He said, that this at any time would have been highly prejudicial to Goldsmith, but particularly now;' and he advised me, as I was intimate with both, that I should call upon Evans, and endeavour to get the matter adjusted. I followed his advice, and Evans really behaved very kindly to me on the occasion. I truly urged, that this publication had cut off Dr. Goldsmith from the society of one of the most friendly houses that he had ever frequented, and that he could not have tortured him in a more tender point.' Evans calmly attended to me; and, after much negotiation, and the interference of several discreet friends, this vexatious affair was at last finally got rid of. The name of Johnson on such an affray will perhaps remind the reader, that he himself once knocked down a very worthy bookseller in his own shop, at Gray's Inn (as related by Boswell). The story was currently reported, and caused the following extempore, which has never extended before beyond a private circulation:

"When Johnson, with tremendous step and slow,
Fully determin’d, deigns to fell the foe,
E’en the earth trembles, thunders roll around,
And mighty Osborne's self lies levell’d with the ground.'

Lie still, sir,' said Johnson, that you may not give me a second trouble.' Mr. Nichols once asked Dr. Johnson, if the story was true.' -No, sir, it was not in his shop, it was in my own house."

I had not seen or heard from Dr. Goldsmith for a very considerable time, till I came to town with my wife, who was to place herself under the care of Mr. Parkinson, dentist, in Fleetstreet, for rather a dangerous operation; and we took lodgings in Norfolk-street, that we might be in his neighbourhood. Goldsmith I found much altered, and at times very low; and I devoted almost all my mornings to his immediate service. He wished me to look over and revise some of his works; but, with a select friend or two, I was most pressing that he should publish, by subscription, his two celebrated poems of • The Traveller' and The Deserted Village,' with notes; for he was well aware that I was no stranger to Johnson's having made some little addition to the one, and possibly had suggested some corrections at least for the other'; but the real meaning was to give some great persons an opportunity of delicately conveying pecuniary relief, of which the Doctor at that time was particularly in need. Goldsmith readily gave up to me his private copies, and said, Pray, do what you please with them.' But, whilst he sat near me, he rather submitted to than encouraged my zealous proceedings.

I one morning called upon him, however, and found him infinitely better than I expected, and in a kind of exulting style he exclaimed, Here are some of the best of my prose writings: I have been bard at work ever since midnight, and I desire you to examine them.' "These,' said I, are excellent indeed.' • They are,' replied he, intended as an introduction to a body of arts and sciences. "If so, Dr. Goldsmith, let me most seriously entreat, that, as your name is to be prefixed, more care may be taken by those who are to compile the work than has formerly been the case, when Knaresborough was printed for Naseby, and Yorkshire for Northamptonshire; and you know what was the consequence with Mr. Cadell.'

We entered on various topics, and I left him that morning seemingly much relieved.

The day before I was to set out from town for Leicestershire, I insisted upon his dining with us. He replied, • I will; but on one condition, that you will not ask me to eat any thing.' • Nay,' said I, “this answer, Goldsmith, is absolutely unkind; for I had hoped, as we are entirely served from the Crown and Anchor, that you would have named something that you might have relished.' "Well,' says he, if you will but explain it to Mrs. Cradock, I will certainly wait upon you.'

The Doctor found, as usual, at my apartments, newspapers and pamphlets, and with a pen and ink he amused himself as well as he could. I had ordered from the tavern some fish, a roasted joint of lamb, and a tart; and the Doctor either sat down or walked about, just as he liked. After dinner he took some wine with biscuits; but I was soon obliged to leave him for a while, as I had matters to settle for our next day's journey. On my return, coffee was ready; and the Doctor appeared more cheerful (for Mrs. Cradock was always rather a favourite with him), and in the course of the evening he endeavoured to talk and remark as usual, but all was force. He stayed till midnight, and I insisted on seeing him safe home; and we most cordially shook hands at the Temple gate.

Dr. Goldsunith did not live long after our return into Leicestershire, and I have often since regretted that I did not remain longer in town at every inconvenience. Yet, alas! what could I have done? With one or two select friends, I might have stood by his bedside, deeply lamenting his most unfortunate fate, till he, in a last agony, would have exclaimed,

Dear friends, adieu!
For, see, the hounds are full in view.'

DR. GOLDSMITH.

I AM aware that what I am about to relate will somewhat subject myself to ridicule. It was the fashion of some authors frequently to retail poor Goldsmith's absurdities; but they, at times, misrepresented or exaggerated. I recollect one evening he had launched out unboundedly, and next morning I ventured to say to him, that I was surprised that in that company he would lay himself so open.' His answer was, I believe I did; I fired at them all; I angled all the night, but I caught nothing.' When he was scheming some essay perhaps, he would force the subject on every body, till Johnson has been quite provoked, and at last did say, My dear Doctor, let us have no more of your fooleries to-night.' Mr. Boswell and others have given some account of these particular absurdities of Goldsmith relative to the Fantoccini, then exhibiting in London; and as I was present at the greater part of what then passed, I will beg to trespass with all the truth I know. Dr. Goldsmith spoke most highly of the performance in Pantonstreet, and talked about bringing out a comedy of his own there În ridicule. When the Rev. Wm. Ludlam, the great mechanic, of Leicester, came to town, I often talked about Goldsmith to him, and persuaded him to go and see the puppetshow. He was quite surprised and entertained, and declared that, at the conclusion of the little comedy, the puppets acted so naturally, that, though he placed himself close to the stage, he could scarce detect either string or wire. I was with Goldsmith there; but whether that night or not I cannot specify. Goldsmith merely was made known to Ludlam by me, and his low humour was not ill adapted to Ludlam's own style of conversa* tion; however, I will add Mr. Ludlam's own remark: “I have caught many a cold by examining the dock-yards; however, in future, I believe, I must come to London, and instead of attending our mechanical societies, and rummaging for improvements afterwards, I must only visit Fantoccinis, and frequent the har. lequin farces. I cannot guess where the managers collect all these able mechanists.' Ludlam was likewise excessively fond of music, and I introduced Mrs. Barthelemon to him at Leicester. She was a great favourite; and many of my musical friends very kindly entertained him in town with particular performances, and he was offered to take an interior view of both the great theatres. Ludlam occasionally entertained his friends at Leicester with some Chinese tumblers, which he had made. They were dressed puppets, with quicksilver in the veins, and surprised even at Cambridge. However, on leaving London this time, he turned to me, and slily said, “The first thing I shall do at my return will be to burn my Chinese tumblers.'

Polly Pattens, in the Puppetshow,* meant Mrs. Yates; but, when Foote mentioned the names of Kelly, Cumberland, and Cradock on the stage, the audience would not permit him to proceed. The scene was printed in the Bon Ton Magazine, and illustrated by a good print, representing Foote, a strong likeness, the Devil, Polly Pattens, Harlequin, Punch, and Stevens. Goldsmith at that time greatly wished to bring out a comedy;

* This made its first appearance at the Haymarket Theatre, Feb. 15, 1753, under the title of the 'Handsome Housemaid, or Piety in Pattens.' -Ed.

« EelmineJätka »