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OLIVER GOLDSMITH, M. B.
The life of a scholar,' Dr. Goldsmith has remarked, 'seldom abounds with adventure; his fame is acquired in solitude, and the historian, who only views him at a distance, must be content with a dry detail of actions by which he is scarce distinguished from the rest of mankind; but we are fond of talking of those who have given us pleasure, not that we have any thing important to say, but because the subject is pleasing.'
Oliver Goldsmith, son of the Reverend Charle's Goldsmith, was born at Elphin, in the county of Roscommon, in Ireland, in the year 1729. His father had four sons, of whom Oliver was the third. After being well instructed in the classics, at the school of Mr. Hughes, he was admitted a sizer in Trinity College, Dublin, on the 11th of June, 1744. While he resided there, he exhibited no specimens of that genius which, in maturer years, raised his character so high. On the 20th of February, 1749, 0. S. (two years after the regular time) he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Soon after he turned his thoughts tu he profession of physic; and having attended some courses of anatomy in Dublin, proceeded to Edinburgh, in the year 1751, where he studied the several branches of medicine under the different professors in that university. His beneficent disposition soon involved him in unexpected difficulties; and he was obliged precipitately to leave Scotland, in consequence of having engaged himself to pay a considerable sum of money for a fellowstudent.
The beginning of the year 1754, he arrived at Sunderland, near Newcastle, where he was arrested at the suit of one Barclay, a tailor, in Edinburgh, to whom he had given security for his friend. By the good offices of Laughlin Maclane, Esq. and Dr. Sleigh, who were then in the college, he was soon delivered out of the hands of the bailiff, and took his passage on board a Dutch ship to Rotterdam; where, after a short stay, he proceeded to Brussels. He then visited great part of Flanders; and after passing some time at Strasbourg and Louvain, where he obtained a degree of Bachelor in Physic, he accompanied an English gentleman to Geneva.
It is undoubtedly a fact, that this ingenious, unfor funate man made most of his tour on foot. He had left England with very little money ; and being of a philosophic turn, and at that time possessing a body capable of sustaining every fatigue, and a heart not easily terrified by danger, he became an enthusiast to the design he had formed of seeing the manners of distant countries. He had some knowledge of the French language, and of music; he played tolerably well on the German flute, which from an amusement, sometimes became the means of subsistence. His learning procured him an hospitable reception at most of the religious houses he visited;
and his music made him welcome to the peasants of Flanders and Germany.
On his arrival at Geneva, he was recommended as a proper person for a travelling tutor to a young man, who had been unexpectedly left a considerable sum by his uncle Mr. S***. This youth, who was articled to an attorney, on receipt of his fortune, determined to see the world.
During Goldsmith's continuance in Switzerland, he sent the first sketch of his delightful epistle, called The Traveller, to his brother Henry, a clergyman in Ireland; who, giving up fame and fortune, had retired with an amiable wife to happiness and obscurity, on an income of only forty ponnds a year. The great affection Goldsmith bore for this brother is expressed in the poem before mentioned, which gives a striking picture of his situation.
From Geneva, Mr. Goldsmith and his pupil proceeded to the South of France; where the young man, upon some disagreement with his preceptor, paid him the small part of his salary which was due, and embarked at Marseilles for England. Our wanderer was left once more upon the world at large, and passed through a number of difficulties in traversing the greatest part of France. At length his curiosity being gratified, he bent his course towards England, and arrived at Dover, the beginning of the winter, in the year 1758.
His finances were so low on his return to England, that he with difficulty got to the metropolis, his wbole stock of cash amounting to no more than a few halfpence. An entire stranger in London, his mind
was filled with the most gloomy reflections in consequence of his embarrassed situation. He applied to several apothecaries, in hopes of being received in the capacity of a journeyman ; but his broad Irish accent, and the uncouthness of his appearance, occasioned him to meet with insult from most of the medical tribe. The next day, a chymist, near Fishstreet, struck with his forlorn condition, and the simplicity of his manner, took him into his laboratory; where he continued till he discovered that his old friend, Dr. Sleigh, was in London. That gentleman received him with the warmest affection, and liberally invited him to share his purse till some establishment could be procured for him. Goldsmith, unwilling to be a burden to his friend, a short time after eagerly embraced an offer which was made him to assist the late Rev. Dr. Milner, in instructing the young gentlemen at the academy at Peckham; and acquitted himself greatly to the Doctor's satisfaction for a short time; but, having obtained some reputation by the criticisms he had written in the Monthly Reveiw, Mr. Griffith, the principal proprietor, engaged him in the compilation of it; and resolving to pursue the profession of writing, he returned to London, as the mart where abilities of every kind were sure of meeting distinction and reward. Here he determined to adopt a plan of the strictest economy, and at the close of the year 1759, took lodgings in Green-Arbour Court, in the Old Bailey, where he wrote several ingenious pieces. The late Mr. Newbery, who at that time gave great encouragement to men of literary abilities, became a kind of patron to our young author, and introduced him as one of the writers in the Public Ledger, in which the Citizen of the World originally appeared, under the title of * Chinese Letters. During this time (according to another account,) he wrote for the British Magazine, of which Dr. Smollet was then editor, most of those Essays and Tales which he afterward collected and published in a separate volume. He also wrote occasionally for the Critical Review; and it was the merit which he discovered in criticising a despicable translation of Ovid's Fasti, by a pedantic schoolmaster, and his Inquiry into the Present State of Learning in Europe, which first introduced him to the acquaintance of Dr. Smollet, who recommended him to several literati, and to most of the booksellers, by whom he was afterward patronised.
Fortune now seemed to take some notice of a man she had long neglected. The simplicity of his character, the integrity of his heart, and the merit of his productions, made his company very acceptable to a number of respectable persons; and about the middle of the year 1762, he emerged from his mean apartments, near the Old Bailey, to the politer regions of the Temple, where he took handsome chambers, and lived in a genteel style.
Among many other persons of distinction who were desirous to know him, was the Duke of Northumberland. The Doctor, vain of the honour done him, was continually mentioning it. One of those ingenious executors of the law, a bailiff, who had a writ against him, determined to turn this circumstance to his own advantage; he wrote him a