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The triumph of the author was singal and complete, and the discomfiture of Colman attended with no circumstance of mitigation. The warfare against Colman was waged with such spirit and heat, that he at length cried out to his victor for mercy, and begged him "to take him off the rack of the newspapers.” Such is the intrinsic virtue of a good cause, or rather such the retributive power of justice!
A flood of so much praise provoked, unavoidably, the malevolence of his old enemies. Kenrick was the author of a most scurrilous composition, referring unhandsomely to a female of the poet's acquaintance. Though too coarse and vulgar for notice, Goldsmith was indignant, and in the mistaken notion that a show of spirit was necessary, corporally belaboured the unoffending publisher. The fact was noised about London, and the impropriety of attempting to restrain the freedom of the press by such means, was canvassed. It was asserted, too, that Goldsmith, as a contributor to the periodical press, had no doubt indulged in criticism as severe as that for the punishment of which he had now resorted to personal outrage. Of this imputation he seems to have been entirely innocent, as his strictures were always exempt from personality, and the tone of his criticism was calm and dignificd. He therefore replied to the charge, and justified his course in the following brief and well-written address :
66 To the Public.
“Lest it should be supposed that I have been willing to correct in others an abuse of which I have been guilty myself, I beg leave to declare, that in all my life I never wrote or dictated a single paragraph, letter, or essay in a newspaper, except a few moral essays under the character of a Chinese, about ten years ago, in the Ledger, and a letter to which I signed my name, in the St. James's Chronicle. If the liberty of the press, therefore, has been abused, I have had no hand in it.
“I have always considered the press as the protector of our freedom, as a watchful guardian, capable of uniting the weak against the encroachments of power. What concerns the public, most properly admits of a public discussion. But of late the press has turned from defending public interest, to making inroads upon private lise; from combatting the strong, to overwhelming the feeble. No condition is now too obscure for its abuse, and the protector has become the tyrant of the people. In this manner the freedom of the press is beginning to sow the seeds of its own dissolution ; the great must oppose it from principle, and the weak from fear; till at last every rank of mankind shall be found to give up its benefits, content with security from insults.
“How to put a stop to this licentiousness by which all are indiscriminately abused, and by which vice consequently escapes in the general censure, I am unable to tell; all I could wish is that, as the law gives us no protection against the injury, so it should give calumniators no shelter after having provoked correction. The insults which we receive before the public, by being more open are the more distressing; by treating them with silent contempt, we do not pay a sufficient deference
to the opinion of the world. By recurring to legal redress we too often expose the weakness of the law, which only serves to increase our mortification by failing to relieve us. In short, every man should singly consider himself as the guardian of the liberty of the press, and as far as his influence can extend, should endeavour to prevent its licentiousness becoming at last the grave of its freedom.
“ OLIVER GOLDSMITH.” The play was as successful in print as at the theatre, for it is said six thousand copies were sold during that and the ensuing season.
He had projected, upon a popular plan, a “Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences," which the versatility of his genius and the distinguished aid he had been promised, would no doubt have been worthy of his great reputation. Burke was to furnish an abstract of his Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, Bishop Berkley a paper on Philosophy, Sir Joshua Reynolds on Painting, Dr. Burney on Music, and (arrick on his peculiar art, as far as writing could impart its intransitive arcana. As Dr. Goldsmith's taste, which he made no secret in consessing, was rather classical than scientific, other contributors would have been indispensable. A prospectus was prepared, according to Bishop Percy, in the best style of the author, but the booksellers hesitating to second his views, an undertaking which had long engaged his mind, upon which he had spent great labour, and for which he had felt unch anxiety, was abandoned. His inferior enterprises, which were always numerous, and now, when his pecuniary atlairs were involved, ceased to be productive, gave him marked uneasiness. Ilis “ Animated Nature," which came out in June, 1774, had been paid for long before, and though it confirmed and enlarged his reputation, did not replenish his coffers. Of this extensive and laborious work, it is enough to say, that happily coinciding with his tastes, it was executed con amore, and written in his most polished and elegant manner. Though more than sixty years have clapsed from its appearance, and since that time knowledge in this department has greatly advanced, yet no treatise has superseded it with the general reader. An edition of this excellent book, with “alterations and corrections," was published a year or two ago in Philadelphia. .
But the pressure of his necessities increasing, they at length undermined his nervous system, produced despondency, and laid the foundation of that disease which soon after extinguished in death the perishable part of Goldsmith. His friend Cradock, who met him in London a short time before his decease, gives the following narrative:
“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 pressing that he should publish by subscription bis 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 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 my best prose writings; I have been hard at work since midnight, and I desire you to examine them. These,' said I,
are excellent indeed. They are,' he replied, intended as an introduction to a body of arts and sciences.' “The day before I was to set out for Leicestershire, I insisted
I 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 is absolutely unkind; for I had hoped, as we are supplied from the Crown and Anchor, that you would have named something you might have relished.?
Well, was the reply, “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 pleased. After dinner he took some wine with biscuits, but I was obliged soon to leave him for a while, as I had matters to settle for my 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. He 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.” pp. 468, 469.
His death, which occurred soon after, was accelerated by the use of a medicine which was thought to be inapplicable to his
He died on the 4th of April, 1774, at the early age of forty-five years.
or the character of Dr. Goldsmith enough has been said to show that it was marked by many of those peculiarities which sometimes unhappily fall to the lot of genius. Rather of plain physiognomy, and not strikingly personable, he was slovenly or gay in his attire, according to his mood; and seldom in this, or any thing else, preserved a medium. He joined the greatest playfulness of temper to manners the most simple and unobtrusive. His heart was open to every manifestation of distress, and his hand was at once obedient to its impulses. Owing to the thriftless prodigality of his munificence, and the base arts VOL. XXI.- NO. 42.
practised upon his simplicity, he was needy through life. Anecdotes abound in the pages of Mr. Prior, which want of space prevents us from quoting, in proof of the most extraordinary and boundless generosity. Poor as he was, so long as the objects which sought his bounty were in want, he continued to sive, and only ceased his donatives when he had nothing left to bestow.
Dr. Goldsmitlis pen was enlisted on the side of religion and virtue; and such was the moral chastity of his mind, that he repelled an application to write for the ministry with disdain. Considering the society in which he mingled in early lise, the temptations to which lie was exposed by his necessities, the sharpers wlio preyed upon his substance, and the scenes of profligacy he was doomed to witness, we think that the prevailing purity of his allusions and sentiments presents an anomaly in authorship. The honest sincerity of his heart determined him to decline the clerical oflice, believing that he was religiously unfit for such a station. His standing aloof' from Baretti
, because his principles were infidel, deserves specification, since the rigid Johnson and the other wits of London, adopted his companionship, and admitted him to their confidence and intiinacy.
The powers of Goldsmith as a writer in every thing he attempted, were of the highest order, and his range of subjects embraces nearly the wide circle of literature. Either as a poet, historian, naturalist, novelist, dramatic writer, biographer, or essayist, he has been rarely equalled. His delicate taste, his excursive imagination, the fine powers of his understanding, his exquisite humour, and the polished harmony of his expressions, prove the superiority and rare versatility of his talents. But this is not the place to enter into a critical examination of his distinct and comparative merits. These may be analysed hereafter, when Mr. Prior's edition of the poet's works shall be the subject of comincntary. For the present, we shall quote in conclusion the opinions of two eminent writers upon the general character of his prose and poetry-opinions which good taste and critical judgment have long since recognised as orthodox. His prose compositions are thus characterized by Dr. Anderson in his British Poets :
“As a prose writer, Goldsmith must be allowed to have rivalled and even exceeded Dr. Johnson, and his imitator Dr. Hawkesworth, the most celebrated professional prose writer of his time. His prose may be regarded as the model of perfection, and the standard of our language; lo equal which the efforts of most will be vain, and to exceed it, every expectation solly.”
The other writer bears a nanie of no less literary authority than Sir Walter Scott, After condemning, in the character of
a reviewer, a remark which had been applied to the poetry of Pratt, that he inherited the lyre of Goldsmith, he proceeds in the following manner :
“ This is the third instance we remember of living poets being complimented at the expense of poor Goldsmith. A literary journal has thought proper to extol Mr. Crabbe as far above him; and Mr. Richards (a man of genius also we readily admit) has been said in a note to a late sermon, famous for its length, to unite the nervousness of Dryden with the ease of Goldsmith. This is all very easily asserted. The native ease and grace of Goldsmith's versification have probably led to the deception, but it would be difficult to point out one among the English poets less likely to be excelled in his own style than the author of the ‘Deserted Village. Possessing much of the compactness of Pope's versification, without the monotonous structure of his lines; rising sometimes to the swell and fulness of Dryden, without his inflations; delicate and masterly in his descriptions; graceful in one of the great graces of poetry, its transitions ; alike successful in his sportive or grave, his playful or melancholy mood; he may long bid defiance to the numerous competitors whom the friendship or flattery of the present age is so hastily arraying against him.”
ART. X.-MISCELLANEOUS NOTICES.
Juvenal and Persius. 1 vol. Classical Family Library, No. 35.
Pindar and Anacreon. Ditto, No. 36. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1837.
We know of no undertaking in this age of cheap reprints, which deserves more encouragement than the Classical Family Library of the above enterprising publishers. The bent of the times has been entirely too much towards a disregard of classical studies and works, and in favour of the lighter and frivolous productions of fancy. To these have been postponed not only the bright memorials of antiquity, but even the remains of the Augustan age of English literature. Nothing has a run but the tribe of novels, or an occasional book of travels. This danger to the public taste we have often noticed, and have done our share in endeavouring to avert—the effect is but too apparent every where around us. Any experiment with a view of introducing a better state of things should be warmly welcomed, and ought to receive the aid of all who have the cause of letters in their country at heart.