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edition, some enquiries as to the song of Ally Croaker mentioned in She Stoops to Conquer, elicited the fact that a line of that once popular lyric

"Too dull for a wit, and too grave for a joker "—

has a kind of echo in the

"Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit❞— of Burke's portrait in Retaliation. What is still more remarkable is that Gray's Sketch of his own Character, the resemblance of which to Goldsmith has been pointed out by his editors, begins-

"Too poor for a bribe, and too proud to importune.”

Whether Goldsmith was thinking of Anstey or Ally Croaker, it is at least worthy of passing notice that an Irish song of no particular literary merit should have succeeded in haunting the two foremost poets of their day.


Poetry brought Goldsmith fame, but money only indirectly. Those Saturnian days of the subscriptionedition, when Pope and Gay and Prior counted their gains by thousands, were over and gone. He had arrived, it has been well said, too late for the Patron, and too early for the Public. Of his lighter pieces the best were posthumous; the rest were either paid for at hack prices or not at all. For The Deserted Village Griffin gave him a hundred guineas, a sum so unexampled as to have prompted the pleasant legend that he returned it. For The Traveller the only payment that can be definitely traced is £21. "I cannot afford to court the draggletail Muses," he said laughingly to Lord Lisburn, "they ✓ would let me starve; but by my other labours I can make shift to eat, and drink, and have good clothes." It was in his "other labours" that his poems helped him. The booksellers who would not or could not remunerate him adequately for delayed production and minute revision, were willing enough to secure the sanction of

his name for humbler journey-work. If he was ill-paid for The Traveller, he was not ill-paid for the Beauties of English Poesy or the History of Animated Nature.

Yet, notwithstanding his ready pen, and his skill as a compiler, his life was a métier de forçat. "While you are nibbling about elegant phrases, I am obliged to write half a volume," he told his friend Cradock; and it was but natural that he should desire to escape into walks where he might accomplish something "for his own hand," by which, at the same time, he might exist. Fiction he had already essayed. Nearly two years before The Traveller appeared, he had written a story about the length of Joseph Andrews, for which he had received little more than a third of the sum paid by Andrew Millar to Fielding for his burlesque of Richardson's Pamela. But obscure circumstances delayed the publication of the Vicar of Wakefield for four years, and when at last it was issued, its first burst of success-a success, as far as can be ascertained, productive of no further profit to its author-was followed by a long period during which the sales were languid and uncertain. There remained the stage, with its two-fold allurement of fame and fortune, both payable at sight, added to which it was always possible that a popular play, in those days when plays were bought to read, might find a brisk market in book form. The prospect was a tempting one, and it is scarcely surprising that Goldsmith, weary of the dry drudgery at the desk's dead wood," and conscious of better things within him, should engage in that most tantalizing of all enterprises, the pursuit of dramatic



For acting and actors he had always shown a decided partiality. Vague stories, based, in all probability, upon the references to strolling players in his writings, hinted


1 This is not inconsistent with the splenetic utterances in the letters to Daniel Hodson, first made public in the "Great Writers" Life of Goldsmith, where he speaks of the stage as 'an abominable resource which neither became a man of honour, nor a man of sense. Those letters were written when the production of The Good-Natur'd Man had supplied him with abundant practical evidence of the vexations and difficulties of theatrical ambition.

that he himself had once worn the comic sock as "Scrub” in The Beaux' Stratagem; and it is clear that soon after he arrived in England, he had completed a tragedy, for he read it in manuscript to a friend. That he had been besides an acute and observant playgoer, is plain from his excellent account in The Bee of Mademoiselle Clairon, whom he had seen at Paris, and from his sensible notes in the same periodical on "gestic lore" as exhibited on the English stage. In his Polite Learning in Europe, he had followed up Ralph's Case of Authors by Profession, by protesting against the despotism of managers, and the unenlightened but economical policy of producing only the works of deceased playwrights; and he was equally opposed to the growing tendency on the part of the public-a tendency dating from Richardson and the French comédie larmoyante—to substitute sham sensibility and superficial refinement for that humorous delineation of manners, which, with all their errors of morality and taste, had been the chief aim of Congreve and his contemporaries. To the fact that what was now known as ،، genteel comedy" had almost wholly supplanted this elder and better manner, must be attributed his deferred entry upon a field so obviously adapted to his gifts. But when, in 1766, the Clandestine Marriage of Garrick and Colman, with its evergreen "Lord Ogleby," seemed to herald a return to the side of laughter as opposed to that of tears, he took heart of grace, and, calling to mind something of the old inconsiderate benevolence which had been the Goldsmith family-failing, set about his first comedy, The Good-Natur'd Man.

Even without experiment, no one could have known better than Goldsmith, upon what a sea of troubles he had embarked. Those obstacles which, more than thirty years before, had been so graphically described in Fielding's Pasquin,-which Goldsmith himself had indicated with equal accuracy in his earliest book, still lay in the way of all dramatic purpose, and he was to avoid none of them. When he submitted his completed work to Garrick, the all-powerful actor, who liked neither piece nor author, blew hot and cold so long, that Goldsmith

at last, in despair, transferred it to Colman. But, as if fate was inexorable, Colman, after accepting it effusively, also grew dilatory, and ultimately entered into a tacit league with Garrick not to produce it at Covent Garden until his former rival had brought out at Drury Lane a comedy by Goldsmith's countryman, Hugh Kelly, a sentimentalist of the first water. Upon the heels of the enthusiastic reception which Garrick's administrative tact secured for the superfine imbroglios of False Delicacy, came limping The Good-Natur'd Man of Goldsmith, wet-blanketed beforehand by a sententious prologue from Johnson. No débût could have been less favourable. Until it was finally saved in the fourth act by the excellent art of Shuter, its fate hung trembling in the balance, and even then one of its scenes—not afterwards reckoned the worst-had to be withdrawn in deference. to the delicate scruples of an audience which could not suffer such inferior beings as bailiffs to come between the wind and its gentility. Yet, in spite of all these disadvantages, The Good-Natur'd Man obtained a hearing, besides bringing its author about five hundred pounds, a sum far larger than anything he had ever made by poetry or fiction.

That the superior success of False Delicacy, with its mincing morality and jumble of inadequate motive, was wholly temporary and accidental, is evident from the fact that, to use a felicitous phrase, it has now to be disinterred in order to be discussed. But, notwithstanding one's instinctive sympathy for Goldsmith in his struggles with the managers, it is not equally clear that, everything considered, The Good-Natur'd Man was unfairly treated by the public. Because Kelly's play was praised too much, it by no means follows that Goldsmith's play was praised too little. With all the advantage of its author's reputation, it has never since passed into the répertoire, and, if it had something of the freshness of a first effort, it had also its inexperience. The chief character, Honeywood-the weak and amiable "goodnatur'd man"-never stands very firmly on his feet, and the first actor, Garrick's promising young rival, Powell,


failed, or disdained to make it a stage creation.

On the other hand, "Croaker," an admitted elaboration of Johnson's sketch of "Suspirius" in the Rambler, is a first-rate comic character, and the charlatan "Lofty,” a sort of "Beau Tibbs above-Stairs," is almost as good. But, as Garrick's keen eye saw, to have a second male figure of greater importance than the central personage was a serious error of judgment, added to which neither "Miss Richland" nor "Mrs. Croaker" ever establish any hold upon the audience. Last of all, the plot, such as it is, cannot be described as either particularly ingenious or particularly novel. In another way, the merit of the piece is, however, incontestable. It is written with all the perspicuous grace of Goldsmith's easy pen, and, in the absence of stage-craft, sparkles with neat and effective epigrams. One of these may be mentioned as illustrating the writer's curious (perhaps unconscious) habit of repeating ideas which had pleased him. He had quoted in his Polite Learning the exquisitely rhythmical close of Sir William Temple's prose essay on "Poetry,' and in The Bee it still seems to haunt him. In The Good-Natur'd Man he has absorbed it altogether, for he places it, without inverted commas, in the lips of Croaker.

But, if its lack of constructive power and its errors of conception make it impossible to regard The GoodNatur'd Man as a substantial gain to humorous drama, it was undoubtedly a formidable attack upon that "mawkish drab of spurious breed," Sentimental Comedy, and its success was amply sufficient to justify a second trial. That Goldsmith did not forthwith make this renewed effort must be attributed partly to the recollection of his difficulties in getting his first play produced, partly to the fact that, his dramatic gains exhausted, he was almost immediately involved in sequence of laborious taskwork. Still, he had never abandoned his ambition to restore humour and character to the stage; and as time went on, the sense of his past discouragements grew fainter, while the success of The Deserted Village increased his importance as an author.

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