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notes it as a peculiarity in one who professed to write on Natural History-was a strong antipathy to mice, eels, and most little animals of the crawling kind, such as worms and caterpillars. Of all the rest of that strange mixture, or jumble, of qualities that went to make Goldy, a sufficient account has already been given ; and, if one were dent on summing it all up in some one general idea or impression, to be easily remembered, it must be that impression or idea in which his contemporaries concurred unanimously through every period of his life, and which has been transmitted to us in so many forms, viz. that he was one of the best-hearted creatures ever born, but a positive idiot except when he had the pen in his hand.

Except when he had the pen in his hand! Ay! there has been his powe with the world! And what shall one say now of Goldsmith's writings ? Take four brief remarks :-(1) Not to be forgotten is that division of them, already dwelt on, into two distinct orderscompilations and original pieces. As the division was a vital one to Goldsmith himself—for his literary life consisted, as we have said, of a succession of glitterings of spontaneous genius amid dull habitual drudgery at hackwork—so it is of consequence in our retrospect of him. Probably much that Goldsmith did in the way of anonymous compilation lies buried irrecoverably in the old periodicals for which he wrote, and which are now little better than lumber on the shelves of our great libraries. But his compilations of English, Roman, and Grecian History, and his Animated Nature, once so popular, are still known, and are to be distinguished from that class of his writings of which the present volume is a collection. Even in the present volume there are some small things that must be regarded as mere compilations, and may serve as minor specimens of Goldsmith in that line—the wretched shred called a Life of Bolingbroke, for example, and the better, but still poor, Life of Parnell, if not indeed also the Memoir of Voltaire, and the Life of Beau Nash. Deduct these, and in the Inquiry into the State of Polite Learning, the Essays, the Bee, the Citizen of the World, the Vicar of Wakefield, and the Poems and Plays, you have, in various forms, the pure and real Goldsmith. (2) In all that he wrote, his compilations included, there was the charm of his easy, perspicuous style. This was one of Goldsmith's natural gifts; with his humour, his tenderness, and his graceful delicacy of thought, he had it from the first. No writer in the language has ever surpassed him, or even equalled him, in that witching simplicity, that gentle ease of movement, sometimes careless and slip-shod, but always in perfect good taste, and often delighting with the subtlest turns and felicities, which critics have admired for a hundred years in the diction of Goldsmith. It is this merit that still gives to his compilations what interest they have, though it was but in a moderate degree that he could exhibit it there. “Nullum ferè scribendi genus non fetigit; nullum quod tetigit non ornavit” (“There was no kind of writing almost that he did not touch; none that he touched that he did not adorn,”) said Johnson of him in his epitaph in Westminster Abbey; and the remark includes his compilations. In matter, his History of England, for example, has become quite worthless; and if you want a good laugh over Goldy’s notion of what sort of thing a battle

might be, open the book at his descriptions of the battles of Cressy and Agincourt. What “letting fly” at the enemy! and how it is the Black Prince in the one case, and Henry V. in the other, that settles everything with his own hand, and tumbles them over in droves! But read on, and you will see how the style could reconcile people to the meagreness of the matter, and keep the compilation so long popular. And so with his Animated Nature. Johnson prophesied that he would make the work as pleasant as a Persian tale; and the prophecy was fulfilled. The "style” of Goldsmith-which includes, of course, the habitual rule of sequence in his ideas, his sense of fitness and harmony, the liveliness of his fancy from moment to moment, and his general mental tact--this is a study in itself. (3) In his original writings, where the charm of his style is most felt, there is, with all their variety of form, a certain sameness of general effect. The field of incidents, characters, sentiments, and imagined situations, within which the author moves, is a limited one, though there is great deftness of recombination within that horizon. We do not mean merely that Goldsmith, as an eighteenth-century writer, did not go beyond the intellectual and poetic range to which his century had restricted itself. This is true; and though we discern in Goldsmith's writings a fine vein of peculiarity, or even uniqueness, for the generation to which they belonged, there is yet abundant proof that his critical tenets did not essentially transcend those of his generation. Even more for him than for some of his contemporaries, Pope was the limit of classic English literature, and the older grandeurs of Shakespeare and Milton were rugged, barbaric mountain-masses, well at a distance. But, over and above this limitation of Goldsmith's range by essential sympathy with the tastes of his time, there was a something in his own method and choice of subjects causing a farther and inner circumscription of his bounds. All Goldsmith's phantasies, whether in verse or prose—his Vicar of Wakefield, his Traveller, his Deserted Village, his Good-Natured Man and She Stoops to Conquer, and even the humorous sketches that occur in his Essays and Citizen of the Worldare phantasies of what may be called reminiscence. Less than even Smollett, did Goldsmith invent, if by invention we mean a projection of the imagination into vacant space, and a filling of portion after portion of that space, as by sheer bold dreaming, with scenery, events, and beings, never known before. He drew on the recollections of his own life, on the history of his own family, on the characters of his relatives, on whimsical incidents that had happened to him in his Irish youth or during his continental wanderings, on his experience as a literary drudge in London. It is easy to pick out passages in his Vicar, his Citizen, and elsewhere, which are, with hardly a disguise, autobiographical. Dr. Primrose is his own father, and the good clergyman of the Deserted Village is his brother Henry ; the simple Moses, the Gentleman in Black, young Honeywood in the GoodNatured Man, and even Tony Lumpkin in She Stoops to Conquer, are so many reproductions of phases of himself; the incident on which this last play turns, the mistake of a gentleman's house for an inn, was a remembered blunder of his own in early life ; and more than once his device for ending all happily is a benevolent uncle in the background. That of these simple elements he made so many charming combinations, really differing from each other, and all, though suggested by fact, yet hung so sweetly in an ideal air, proved what an artist he was, and was better than much that is commonly called invention. In short, if there is a sameness of effect in Goldsmith's writings, it is because they consist of poetry and truth, humour and pathos, from his own life, and the supply from such a life as his was not inexhaustible. (4) Though so much of Goldsmith's best writing was generalized and idealized reminiscence, he discharged all special Irish colour out of the reminiscence. There are, of course, Irish references and allusions, and we know what a warm heart he had to the last for the island of his birth. But in most of his writings, even when it may have been Irish recollections that suggested the theme, he is careful to drop its origin, and transplant the tale into England. The ideal air in which his phantasies are hung is an English air. The Vicar of Wakefield is an English prose-idyll ; She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy of English humour, and Tony Lumpkin is an English country-lout; and, notwithstanding all the accuracy with which Lissoy and its neighbourhood have been identified with the Auburn of the Deserted Village, we are in England and not in Ireland while we read that poem.

Goldsmith's heart and genius were Irish ; his wandering about in the world had given him a touch of cosmopolitan ease in his judgment of things and opinions, and especially, what was rare among Englishmen then, a great liking for the French ; but in the form and matter of his writings he was purposely English,


August 1868

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