« EelmineJätka »
He waited upon the manager, and, in few words, requested his vote and interest. Mr. Garrick could not avoid obsery. ing to him, that it was impossible he could lay claim to any recommendation from him, as he had taken pains to deprive himself of his assistance by an unprovoked attack upon his management of the theatre, in his State of Learning. Gold. smith, instead of making an apology for his conduct, either from misinformation or misconception, bluntly replied, 'In truth he had spoken his mind, and believed what he said was very right.' The manager dismissed him with civility; and Goldsmith lost the office by a very great majority, who voted in favour of Dr. Templeman.
The Doctor's reputation, which was daily increasing from a variety of successful labours, was at length lifted so high that he escaped from indigence and obscurity to coinpetence and fame.
The first man of the age, one who, from the extensiveness of his genius and benevolence of his mind, is superior to the little envy and mean jealousy which adhere so closely to most authors, and especially to those of equivocal merit, took pleasure in introducing Dr. Goldsmith to his intimate friends, persons of eminent rank and distinguished abilities. The Doctor's conversation by no means corresponded with the idea formed of him from his writings.
The Duchess of Rambouillet, who was charmed with the tragedies of Corneille, wished to have so great an author amongst her constant visitors, expecting infinite entertainment from the writer of the Cid, the Horace, and Cinna. But the poet lost himself in society; he held no rank with the beaux esprits who met at the hotel of this celebrated lady; his con. versation was dry, unpleasant, and what the French call distrait. So Dr. Goldsmith appeared in company to have no spark of that genius which shone forth so brightly in his writings; his address was awkward, his manner uncouth, his language unpolished, his elocution was continually interrupted by disagreeable hesitation, and he was always unhappy if the conversation did not turn upon himself.
To manifest bis intrepidity in argument, he would generously, espouse the worst side of the question, and almost always left it weaker than he found it. His jealousy fixed a perpetual ridicule on his character, for he was emulous of every thing and everybody. He went with some friends to see the entertainment of the Fantoccini, whose uncommon agility and quick evolutions were much celebrated. The Ductor was asked how he liked these automatons. He replied, he was surprised at the applause bestowed on the little insignificant creatures, for he could have performed their exercises much better himself. When his great literary friend was commended in his hearing, he could not restrain his uneasiness, but exclaimed, in a kind of agony, .No more, I desire you; you barrow up my soul!' More absurd stories may be recorded of Goldsmith than of any man: his absence of mind would not permit him to attend to time, place, or company. When at the table of a nobleman of high rank and great accomplishments, one to whom England stands indebted in many obligations, and it is hoped that he will more and more increase the debt by his continual and vigorous efforts to secure her happiness, — to this great man Goldsmith observed, that he was called by the name of Malagrida; but I protest and vow to your lordship, I can't conceive for what reason; for Malagrida* was an honest man.'
In short, his absurdities were so glaring, and his whole conduct so contradictory to common sense, and so opposite to what was expected from a man of his admirable genius, that a gentleman of strong discernment characterised him by the name of the Inspired Idiot.
When the Doctor had finished his comedy of The Goodnatured Man, he was advised to offer it to Mr. Garrick. The manager was fully conscious of his merit, and perhaps more ostentatious of his abilities to serve a dramatic author
* A Portuguese Jesuit, put to the stake by the Inquisition under the charge of heresy, his real offence being his intimacy with certain political offenders. The nobleman alluded to was Lord Shelburne.
than became a man of his prudence. Goldsmith was, on his side, as fully persuaded of his own importance and independent greatness. Mr. Garrick, who had been so long treated with the complimentary language paid to a successful patentee and admired actor, expected that the writer would esteem the patronage of his play as a favour : Goldsmith rejected all ideas of kindness in a bargain that was intended to be of mutual advantage to both parties; and in this he was certainly justifiable. Mr. Garrick could reasonably expect no thanks for the acting a new play, which he would have rejected if he had not been convinced it would have amply rewarded his pains and expense. I believe the manager was willing to accept the play; but he wished to be courted to it, and the Doctor was not disposed to purchase his friendship by the resignation of his sincerity. He then applied to Mr. Colman, who accepted his comedy without any hesitation.
The Good-natured Man bears strong marks of that happy originality which distinguishes the writings of Dr. Goldsmith. Two characters in this comedy were absolutely unknown before to the English stage; a man who boasts an intimacy with persons of high rank whom he never saw, and another who is almost always lamenting misfortunes he never knew. Croaker is as strongly designed and as highly finished a portrait of a discontented man, of one who disturbs every happiness he possesses, from apprehension of distant evil, as any character of Congreve, or any other of our English dramatists. Shuter acted Croaker with that warm glee of fancy, and genuine flow of humour, that always accompanied his best and most animated performance. The great applause and profit which attended the acting of this comedy contributed to render the author more important in his own eyes, and in the opinion of the public. But no good fortune could make Goldsmith discreet, nor any increase of fame diminish his envy, or cure the intractability of his temper. John Home was taught by experience, that his connexions with the great were of no avail with the public, and that courtly approbation was no protection from popular dislike; he therefore veiled him. self in obscurity, and prevailed upon a young gentleman, his friend, to adopt his play of The Fatal Discovery; but the foster-father performed his assumed character so awkwardly at the rehearsal of this tragedy, that it was soon discovered that the child was not his own; for he submitted to have the piece altered, lopped, and corrected, with such tranquillity of temper as the real parent could not have assumed. Of the true author Guldsmith by chance found out the knowledge; and when the play was announced to the public, it will hardly be credited, that this man of benevolence, for such he really was, endeavoured to muster a party to condemn it; alleging this cogent reason for the proceeding, that such • fellows ought not to be encouraged.'
Wits are game-cocks to one another;
The tragedy of The Countess of Salisbury, a play in which Mr. Barry and Mrs. Dancer displayed great powers of acting, was in a good degree of favour with the town. This was a crime sufficient to rouse the indignation of Goldsmith, who issued forth to see it, and with a determined resolution to consign the play to perdition. He sat out four acts of The Countess of Salisbury with great calmness and seeming teinper; but, as the plot thickened, and his apprehension began to be terrified with the ideas of blood and slaughter, he got up in a great hurry, saying, loud enough to be heard, Brownrig! Brownrig! by G-'
Goldsmith never wanted literary employment. The booksellers understood the value of his name, and did all they could to excite his industry; and it cannot be denied, that they rewarded his labours generously. In a few years he wrote three histories of England ; the first in two pocket volumes in letters, and another in four volumes octavo: the first an elegant summary of British transactions, and the other an excellent abridgment of Hume, and other copious historians. These books are in everybody's hands. The last is a short contraction of four volumes into one duo
decimo. For writing these books he obtained £750 or £800.
His squabbles with booksellers and publishers were innu. merable; his appetites and passions were craving and violent; he loved variety of pleasures, but could not devote himself to industry long enough to purchase them by his writings. Upon every emergency, half a dozen projects would present themselves to his mind; these he communicated to the men who were to advance money on the reputation of the author; but the money was generally spent long before the new work was half finished, or perhaps before it was commenced. This circumstance naturally produced expostulation and reproach from one side, which was often returned with anger and vehemence on the other. After much and disagreeable alter. cation, one bookseller desired to refer the matter in dispute to the Doctor's learned friend, a man of known integrity, and one who would favour no cause but that of justice and truth. Goldsmith consented, and was enraged to find that one author should have so little feeling for another as to determine a dispute to his disadvantage, in favour of a tradesman.
His love of play involved him in many perplexing difficulties, and a thousand anxieties; and yet he had not the resolution to abandon a practice for which his impatience of temper and great unskilfulness rendered him totally unqualified.
Though Mr. Garrick did not act his comedy of She Stoops to Conquer, yet, as he was then upon very friendly terms with the author, he presented him with a very humorous prologue, well accommodated to the author's intention of reviving fancy, wit, gaiety, humour, incident, and character, in the place of sentiment and moral preachment.
Woodward spoke this whimsical address in mourning, and lamented pathetically over poor dying Comedy. To her he says:
- A mawkish drab of spurious breed,
Who deals in sentimentals, will succeed. In the close of the prologue, the Doctor is recommended as a fit person to revive poor drooping Thalia, with a compliment