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the author's life. His rambling biography displays him the same kind, artless, good-humoured, excursive, sensible, whimsical, intelligent being that he appears in his writings. Scarcely an adventure or a character is given in his page that may not be traced to his own parti-coloured story. Many of his most ludicrous scenes and ridiculous incidents have been drawn from his own blunders and mischances, and he seems really to have been buffeted into almost every maxim imparted by him for the instruction of his readers.
Oliver Goldsmith was a native of Ireland, and was born on the 29th of November, 1728. Two villages claim the honour of having given him birth: Pallas, in the county of Longford; and Elphin, in the county of Roscommon. The former is named as the place in the epitaph by Dr Johnson, inscribed on his monument in Westminster Abbey; but later investigations have decided in favour of Elphin.
He was the second son of the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, a clergyman of the established church, but without any patrimony. His mother was daughter of the Rev. Oliver Jones, master of the diocesan school at Elphin. It was not till some time after the birth of Oliver that his father obtained the living of Kilkenny-West, in the county of Westmeath. Previous to this perijd he and his wife appear to have been almost entirely dependent on her relations for support.
His father was equally distinguished for his literary attainments and for the benevolence of his heart. His family consisted of five sons and two daughters. From this little world of home Goldsmith has drawn many of his domestic scenes, both whimsical and touching, which appeal so forcibly to the heart, as well as to the fancy; his father's fireside furnished many of the family scenes of the Vicar of Wakefield; and it is said that the learned simplicity and amiable peculiarities of that worthy divine have been happily illustrated in the character of Dr Primrose.
The present biography is principally taken from the Scotch edition of Goldsmith's works, published in 1821.
The Rev. Henry Goldsmith, elder brother of the poet, and born seven years before him, was a man of estimable worth and excellent talents. Great expectations were formed of him, from the promise of his youth, both when at school and at college; but he offended and disappointed his friends, by entering into matrimony at the early age of nineteen, and resigning all ambitious views for love and a curacy. If, however, we may believe the pictures drawn by the poet of his brother's domestic life, his lot, though humble, was a happy one. He is the village pastor of the « Deserted Village, » so exemplary in his character, and « passing rich with forty pounds a year.» It is to this brother, who was the guide and protector of Goldsmith during his childhood, and to whom he was tenderly attached, that he addresses those beautiful lines in his poem of the Traveller:
Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see,
And drags at each remove a length’ning chain. His family also form the ruddy and joyous group, and exercise the simple but generous rites of hospitality, which the poet so charmingly describes :
Bless'd be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd,
The whimsical character of the Man in Black, in the « Citizen of the World,» so rich in eccentricities and in amiable failings, is said to have been likewise drawn partly from his brother, partly from his father, but in a great measure from the author himself. It is difficult, however, to assign with precision the originals of a writer's characters. They are generally composed of scattered, though accordant traits, observed in various individuals, which have been seized upon with the discriminating tact of genius and combined into one harmonious whole. Still,
it is a fact, as evident as it is delightful, that Goldsmith has poured out the genuine feelings of his heart in his works; and has had continually before him, in his delineations of simple worth and domestic virtue, the objects of his filial and fraternal affection.
Goldsmith is said, in his earlier years, to have been whimsical in his humours and eccentric in his habits. This was remarked in his infancy. Sometimes he assumed the gravity and reserve of riper years, at other times would give free scope to the wild frolic and exuberant vivacity suited to his age. The singularity of his moods and manners, and the evidences he gave of a precocity of talent, caused him to be talked of in the neighbourhood as a little prodigy. It is said that, even before he was eight years old he evinced a natural turn for poetry, and made many attempts at rhymes, to the amusement of his father and friends; and when somewhat older, after he had learned to write, his chief pleasure was to scribble rúde verses on small scraps of paper, and then commit them to the flames.
His father had strained his slender means in giving a liberal education to his eldest son, and had determined to bring up Oliver to trade. He was placed under the care of a village schoolmaster, to be instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic. This pedagogue, whom his scholar afterwards so happily describes in the « Deserted Village, » had been a quarter-master in the army during the wars of Queen Anne, and, in his own estimation, a man of no small pith and moment. Having passed through various parts of Europe, and being of an eccentric turn of mind, he acquired habits of romancing that bordered on the marvellous, and, like many other travellers, was possessed with a prodigious itch for detailing his adventures. He himself was most commonly the redoubted hero of his own story, and his pupils were always the amazed and willing auditory:
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
The tales of wonder recounted by this second Pinto are said to have had surprising effects on his youthful hearers ; and it
has been plausibly conjectured that to the vivid impressions thus made on the young imagination of our author, may be ascribed those wandering propensities which influenced his after life.
After he had been for some time with this indifferent preceptor, his mother, with whom he was always a favourite, exerted her influence to persuade his father to give him an education that would qualify him for a liberal profession. Her solicitations, together with the passionate attachment which the boy evinced for books and learning, and his early indications of talent, prevailed over all scruples of economy, and he was placed under the care of the Rev. Mr Griffin, schoolmaster of Elphin. He was boarded in the house of his uncle, John Goldsmith, Esq., of Ballyoughter, in the vicinity. Here the amiableness of his disposition and the amusing eccentricity of his humour rendered him a universal favourite. A little anecdote, preserved by the family of his uncle, evinces the precocity of his wit.
At an entertainment given by this gentleman to a party of young people in the neighbourhood, a fiddler was sent for, and dancing introduced. Oliver, although only nine years of age, was permitted to share in the festivities of the evening, and was called on to dance a hornpipe. His figure was never good, but at this time it was peculiarly short and clumsy, and having but recently recovered from the small-pox, his features were greatly disfigured. The scraper of catgut, struck with the oddity of the · boy's appearance, thought to display his waggery, by likening him to Æsop dancing. This comparison, according to his notions, being uncommonly happy, he continued to harp on it for a considerable time, when suddenly the laugh of the company was turned against himself, by Oliver sarcastically remarking,
Our herald hath proclaim'd this saying,
So smart a repartee, from so young a boy, was the subject of much conversation, and perhaps of itself was decisive of his fortune. His friends immediately determined that he should be sent
to the university; and some of his relations, who belonged to the church, and possessed the necessary means, generously offered to contribute towards the expense. The Rev. Mr Green, and the Rev. Mr Contarine, both men of distinguished worth and learning, stood forward on this occasion as the youth's patrons.
To qualify him for the university, he was now sent to Athlone school, and placed under the tuition of the Rev. Mr Campbell. There he remained two years; but the ill-health of the master having obliged him to resign his situation, Oliver was consigned to the care of the Rev. Patrick Hughes, at Edgeworthstown, in the county of Longford, under whom he continued his studies till finally fitted for the university. Under this respectable teacher and excellent man, he is said to have made much greater progress than under any of the rest of his instructors.
A short time before leaving the school of Mr Hughes, our poet had an adventure which is believed to have suggested the plot of his comedy of « She Stoops to Conquer, or the Mistakes of a Night.»
His father's house was distant about twenty miles from Edgeworthstown, and when on his journey thither for the last time, he had devoted so much time to amusement on the road, that it was almost dark when he reached the little town of Ardagh. Some friend had given him a guinea, and Oliver, who was never niggard of his pursé, resolved to put up here for the night, and treat himself to a good supper and a bed. Having asked for the best house in the village, he was conducted to the best house, instead of the best inn. The owner, immediately discovered the mistake, but being a man of humour, resolved to carry on the joke. Oliver was therefore permitted to order his horse to the stable, while he himself walked into the parlour, and took his seat familiarly by the fire-side. The servants were then called about him to receive his orders as to supper. The supper was soon produced; the gentleman, with his wife and daughters, were generously invited to partake; a bottle of wine was called for to crown the feast, and at going to bed, a hot cake was ordered to be prepared for his breakfast. The laugh, to be sure, was rather against our hero in the morn