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Churchill, and the elder George Colman, either come to London or tending thither ;—and you will have an idea of the state of the world of British letters at the end of the Second George's reign, and also some rough notion of the extent to which that world and its interests interpenetrated London when Goldsmith first gazed about in the crowded streets. And who was the nominal chief or laureate? Who but Colley Cibber, of whom Johnson had written
Great George's acts let tuneful Cibber sing,
For Nature formed the poet for the king. But Cibber, who was now eighty-four years of age, did not live beyond 1757. He was succeeded by a William Whitehead, whose laureateship extended from 1757 to 1788. The whole of Goldsmith's literary career, as it happened, and large portions also of the lives of Johnson, Smollett, Burke, Garrick, Reynolds, and others whom we now associate with Goldsmith, fell within the laureateship of this memorable Whitehead.
We have been attaching Goldsmith to the London world of letters somewhat in anticipation of his own efforts at any such connexion. Not to set the Thames on fire, but to get anything whatever to do by which he could earn sheer bread for his own teeth and mouth, with a daily gulp of beer, was the poor fellow's one object during a whole year after his arrival in London. It was desperate work, and the details were locked up, for the most part, in his own memory, and never told connectedly to anybody. “When I lived among the beggars in Axe Lane,” he would sometimes afterwards say with a laugh; and there are traces of him in various capacities just above Axe Lane and its beggars. He was, for some time, an usher somewhere under a false name; he was then employed in the shop of a druggist in Fish-street Hill; next he is heard of as having set up for himself as a physician among the poor of Bankside, and as wearing a miserable second-hand suit of green and gold; and again he is found as reader for the press to Richardson, the novelist and printer, in his printing-office in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. Of this last connexion, in which one might have ncied some likelihood, nothing more came than some acquaintance with Richardson himself and a sight of the poet Young; and Goldsmith had some glorious project of getting appointed to go out to the East, on a salary of 3001, a year, to decipher the inscriptions on “the Written Mountains' (the necessary Arabic to be learnt in the process), when an ushership in a boarding. school of the better sort turned up at Peckham. Here he lived for some time with Dr. Milner, a Dissenting minister, the proprietor of the school, and was apparently not worse off than other ushers. One day, however, Griffiths, the bookseller of Paternoster Row, dined with the Milners, and, from something he saw or had heard of the Irish usher, fancied he might be useful for hackwork on the Monthly Review -a periodical which had been started by Griffiths in 1749 on Whig principles, but against which a Tory rival had recently been set up in the Critical Review, edited by Smollett. After getting some specimens of what Goldsmith could do in the kind of work wanted, Griffiths was discerning enough to engage him. Accordingly, in April 1757, he took up his quarters in the house of Griffiths, over the shop in Paternoster Row, on the understanding that, for board, lodging, and some small salary besides, he was to write such articles and reviews of books as might be required from him. Griffiths, and (what was worse for Goldy) Mrs. Griffiths, were to be judges of the articles, and were to clip and doctor them to suit.
Behold Goldsmith at last with the pen put into his hand-his one predestined instrument in the world! In the circumstances, however, he does not seem to have taken to it kindly. For five months, indeed, he sat daily in his room in the bookseller's house from nine o'clock till two, and sometimes later, writing, or supposed to be writing, notices of books and such-like for the Monthly Review. His contributions, longer and shorter, in the successive numbers of the Review from April to September 1757, have been picked out from among the articles supplied by other members of the Griffiths staff-Griffiths himself, Ruffhead, Grainger, Ralph, Kippis, Langhorne, &c. They include a paper on Mallet's “Mythology of the Celts,” and reviews of Home's "Douglas,” Burke's “Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful,” Smollett's “ History of England,” Voltaire's “Universal History,” Wilkie's “Epigoniad,” and the “Odes” of Gray. They were fair magazine-articles of the kind then going, and something of Goldsmith's lightness and ease of style is discernible in all or most of them. But, whether because Goldsmith's rate of industry did not satisfy the methodical bookseller, or because Mrs. Griffiths did not like his ways, or because the tampering of both with what he wrote and their general treatment of him hurt his sensitiveness, the engagement, which had been for a year, was broken short at the end of the five months. A new hand, named Kenrick, took Goldsmith's place as Griffiths's resident hack; and Goldsmith was again adrift—not absolutely cashiered by Griffiths, and indeed still writing for him, though they were not on the best of terms, but at liberty to take other work.
Why dwell over the particulars of the next year or two of Goldsmith's anonymous drudgery? Let the merest sketch suffice :-In or about September 1757, after leaving Griffiths, he went into a garret somewhere near Salisbury Square ; and here it was that his youngest brother, Charles, came in upon him, and lived for a day or two with him ruefully, on his way to Jamaica. He was then living on translations from the French and other things, still chiefly for Griffiths, with the Temple Exchange Coffee House, near Temple Bar, as his daily house of call, where letters could be addressed to him, and where he could meet and talk with a few fellow-craftsmen like himself, or somewhat more flourishing. Then he is traced going back for a little while, in his despair, to his ushership at Peckham-only, however, to emerge again and resume literary hackwork. In 1758 he is found living in No. 12, Green Arbour Court, Old Bailey—a dingy little old square, approached from Farringdon Street by a passage called Break-Neck Steps, now all demolished, and surviving only in Washington Irving's description of it when he visited it for Goldsmith's sake, and found it a colony of washerwomen, and slovenly with wash-tubs on the pavement and clothes hung to dry an lines from the windows. Here, when it was much in the same state, Goldsmith lived from some time in 1758 till late in 1760—i. e. till George II. was king no longer, but young George III. reigned
in his stead. Here, through part of 1758 and part of 1759, he was at his very worst. Never having quite ceased to hope something from his medical studies and his degree of M.B., he had set his heart on going out to India as a medical officer in the Company's service, and had actually, through Dr. Milner, obtained the promise of some such appointment on the Coromandel coast. This prospect failing in some unexplained way, he resolved to try for an appointment as surgeon's mate in the Army or Navy. The result appears from an entry in the books of the College of Surgeons. At a Court of the Examiners for the College, held on the 21st of December, 1758, in the Old Bailey, not far from Goldsmith's lodging, various candidates were found qualified for appointments. Among them was a James Barnard, who passed as mate to an hospital ;” after the record of which fact there is this brief entry, “Oliver Goldsmith, found not qualified for ditto.” It was a dreadful blow, not only on account of the shame should the fact become known (it was pretty well kept secret during Goldy's lifetime), but also on account of some immediate consequences. To appear becomingly before the examiners he had wanted a new suit of clothes ; and, though by this time he had begun to have dealings with other publishers than Griffiths—with Newbery, the proprietor of the Literary Magazine, and with Archibald Hamilton, the proprietor of the Critical Review, which Smollett edited-yet it was to Griffiths that he had applied in his difficulty. For four articles contributed in advance for the Monthly Review Griffiths had become his security to the tailor for the new suit, on condition that the suit should be returned or paid for within a certain time. But, four days after Goldsmith's rejection at Surgeons' Hall, his landlord, to whom he was in arrears, was hauled off to prison for debt, and, to help somewhat in the landlady's distress, not only the new suit went into pawn, but the books of Griffiths which Goldsmith had for review. Griffiths, learning the fact, and probably all the angrier with Goldsmith because he had written for Hamilton and the rival Review, demanded his books, called Goldsmith a “sharper” and a villain," and threatened all sorts of horrors. Sir," wrote Goldsmith in reply, “I know of no misery "but a jail to which my own imprudences and your letter seem to point. I have 'seen it inevitable these three or four weeks, and, by heavens! request it as a * favour—as a favour that may prevent somewhat more fatal. I have been some "years struggling with a wretched being, with all that contempt which indigence " brings with it, with all those strong passions which make contempt insupportable.” But Griffiths's bark was worse than his bite, and Goldsmith was let live on in Green Arbour Court.
An extract or two from letters written by him to his Irish relatives and friends, either shortly before or shortly after his rejection by the College of Surgeons, will picture him better in this time of his deepest distress than any mere description. "Whether I eat or starve,” he writes to his brother-in-law Hodson at Lissoy, “live "in a first floor or four pair of stairs high, I still remember them [his Irish friends] with * pleasure ; nay, my very country comes in for a share of my affection. Unaccountable "' fondness for country, this maladie du pays, as the French call it! Unaccountable
"that he should still have an affection for a place who never, when in it, received “above common civility; who never brought anything out of it but his brogue and “his blunders ! Surely my affection is equally ridiculous with the Scotchman's, who “refused to be cured of the itch, because it made him unco' thoughtful of his wife “and bonny Inverary.” He goes on to say that, if he went to the opera, where Signora Columba was pouring forth all the mazes of melody, it only made him sigh for Lissoy fireside and “Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night” from the lips of Peggy Golden, and that, if he climbed Hampstead Hill, the magnificent prospect thence only made him think of the dearer landscape from the little mount before Lissoy Gate. Again in a letter to an old college friend, Bryanton, whom he jocosely takes to task for having forgotten him : “God's curse, Sir ! who am I? Eh! what “ am I? Do you know whom you have offended ? A man whose character may
one of these days be mentioned with profound respect in a German comment or “ Dutch Dictionary; whose name you will probably hear ushered in by a doctis. “simus doctissimorum,' or heel-pieced with a long Latin termination. ... There will
come a day, no doubt it will—I beg you may live a couple of hundred years longer only to see the day—when the Scaligers and Daciers will vindicate my character, "give learned editions of my labours, and bless the times with copious comments on “ the text. You shall see how they will fish up the heavy scoundrels who disregard
me now, or will then offer to cavil at my productions. How will they bewail the "times that suffered so much genius to lie neglected! If ever my works find their
way to Tartary or China, I know the consequence. Suppose one of your Chinese “Owanowitzers instructing one of your Tartarian Chianobacchi-you see I use “ Chinese names to show my erudition, as I shall soon make our Chinese talk like
an Englishman to show his. This may be the subject of the lecture, ‘Oliver “Goldsmith flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. He lived to be an hundred "and three years old, and in that age may be justly styled the Sun of Literature and “the Confucius of Europe,'" &c. Again, in a letter to his cousin, Uncle Contarine's daughter, now Mrs. Lauder: “Alas ! I have many a fatigue to encounter before that “happy time arrives when your poor old simple friend may again give a loose to the “luxuriance of his nature, sitting by Kilmore fireside, recount the various adventures “of a hard-fought life, laugh over the follies of the day, join his Aute to your harp. “sichord, and forget that ever he starved in those streets where Butler and Otway “starved before him.” And, best of all, in a long letter to his brother Henry : “It gives me some pain to think I am almost beginning the world at the age of thirty
Though I never had a day's illness since I saw you, I am not that strong active man you once knew me. You scarcely can conceive how much eight years of disappointment, anguish, and study, have worn me down. If I remember right, you are seven or eight years older than me; yet I dare venture to say that, if a stranger saw us both, he would pay me the honours of seniority. Imagine to yourself a pale melancholy visage, with two great wrinkles between the eyebrows, with an eye disgustingly severe, and a big wig; and you have a perfect picture of my present appearance. . I can neither laugh nor drink ; have contracted a hesi
"tating, disagreeable manner of speaking, and a visage that looks ill-nature itself ; “in short, I have thought myself into a settled melancholy, and an utter disgust of "all that life brings with it. ... Your last letter, I repeat it, was too short ; you “ should have given me your opinion of the design of the heroi-comical poem which “I sent you. You remember I intended to introduce the hero of the poem as lying "in a paltry alehouse. You may take the following specimen of the manner, which "I flatter myself is quite original. The room in which he lies may be described "somewhat in this way
The window, patched with paper, lent a ray
The of goose was there exposed to view,
“ And five cracked teacups dressed the chimney-board.'' This last letter was written in February 1759, and within a month or two after that date things took a turn for the better with Goldsmith. His writings, hitherto, had been but anonymous hackwork in the Monthly Review, the Literary Magazine, and the Critical Review, with two translations from the French, both for Griffithsone a novel; the other entitled “Memoirs of a Protestant condemned to the Galleys of France for his Religion,” published in two volumes in February 1758, under the borrowed name of James Willington. But one consequence of his quarrel with Griffiths had been an engagement to pay off his unsettled score with that bookseller for the suit of clothes, and earn something besides, by writing A Life of Voltaire, to be published along with a new translation of the Henriade. The life and the translation were advertised by Griffiths in February 1759, as then about to appear ; and, though this intention was not carried into effect, and both remained to be published in another form, the Life was probably ready by March, if not earlier. But, better still, Goldsmith had for some time been engaged on a little treatise of his own designing, which he intended to be his first avowed publication, and on which, accordingly, he was bestowing pains. The batch of letters to his Irish friends and relatives from which we have quoted had been in great part occasioned by his desire to announce to them this forthcoming performance, and to obtain through them Irish subscribers for English copies in advance, so as to prevent the Dublin booksellers from reprinting it and thus depriving him of the benefits of an Irish sale. Little or nothing seems to have been done in the desired way by his Irish friends when, in April 1759, the book was published in London by the Dodsleys, in a respectable duodecimo, and with the title “ An Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Eurode.” It is the first publication of Goldsmith's in which one need now look for anything of his real