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sipation in youth, and some more suspicious passions in mature life, did not spoil him for an author. Yet we perceive only a slight sprinkling of their influence in his works. His more correct convictions and feelings prevailed. He was, after all, with some few exceptions, an instructive and safe writer. The more common opinion we have presumed to be is, that no writer of his class is more unexceptionable, in the particular here contemplated, than Goldsmith. His biographers speak favorably of the moral tenor of his writings. The professed critics hold the same language. One of them says: "He is, perhaps, the only authority the memory can honestly suggest, for the well known line of leaving
• No line which, dying, he would wish to blot.'' Sir Walter Scott observes : “He wrote to exalt virtue and expose vice, and he accomplished his task in a manner which raises him to the highest rank among British authors.” Even Cowper was highly pleased with the tendency of his Traveler and Deserted Village, and with the lessons of wisdom which they inculcated. We may admit the justice of these and similar eulogiums, in a degree. It is believed, that Goldsmith was free from the infidelity which began to be rife at the period in which he wrote. At least, we have no recollection, that he has given any distinct utterance to it in his works. They evidently appear not designed to unhinge our belief in the principles of christianity. Indeed he seems almost to take credit to himself, that he was not cursed with the vagaries of unbelief. There is, probably, little reason to doubt his sincerity in such a declaration, however he may not have deemed himself “good enough” to read prayers in a private family, and though he refused to go into orders, because, as he humorously expressed it, he should be "obliged to wear a long wig, when he liked a short one, or a black coat, when he generally dressed in brown.” A man may not be an infidel, and yet be very unfit, even with the brightest parts, to communicate to the world the lessons of wisdom and virtue. Still, it was commendable in Goldsmith, surrounded as he was by sceptical and corrupting influences, that he should have escaped the infection, and so sagaciously consulted for his fame, in declining to sanction, by the effusions of his genius, the infidelity and flagitiousness of the times. It must be conceded, also, that the general amiability and kindness of his heart would, through his writings, dictate only a gentle and amiable morality, and lead him to consult, so far as he understood the subject, the true perfection and happiness of his species. His manner is certainly that of mild instruction and gentle reproof. The lessons of wisdom he set off rather by a genial and bland humor, than by smartness of wit or boldness of denunciation. The pleasantry of Horace is his, and not the indignation of Juvenal, or the severity of Persius, whom Queen Elizabeth so dryly called a crab-staff.
After all, we can say no more, as has already been expressed, in respect to his writings generally, than that they have a negative merit, as to their bearing on religion and the great and permanent interests of human beings. We can hardly say even so much in their favor, unless an exception or two be admitted. We fear it would be difficult to exculpate him from the charge of occasional indelicacy of allusion or expression. Profane he certainly is, in one or two instances. And what, for example, does the candid, catholic man mean, by putting the following sarcasm against the ministry of religion, in the mouth of his Chinese philosopher, in “ The Citizen of the World ?”. “In every country, my friend, the bonzes, the brachmans, and the priests, deceive the people; all reformations begin from the laity; the priests point out the way to heaven with their fingers, but stand still themselves, nor seem to travel towards the country in view.” Even Goldsmith was “good enough,” not only to read prayers, but to enter into the christian ministry, if it were just to characterize it in this manner, in company with the ministries of superstition. These obliquities, we own, are exceptions to the general decency and moral propriety of his writings. As a body, we believe they do not offend against christianity and correct morals, except as mere worldliness and a worldly religion offend against them. He leaves out, of course, the peculiarities of revealed truth, and fails to strike any effectual blow against sin. He does not recommend, as he might have done, by his rich thought and elegant pen, the spiritual glories of the gospel. Common goodness of heart, and the lower proprieties of religion, are indeed recommended; the external defenses of christianity are attempted. We learn to be kind and amiable, indulgent and charitable, from the writings of Goldsmith, but not to be serious and prayerful and pure in heart. We learn lessons of caution and propriety in common life, but not the fear of God. We learn to admire the wonders of creating wisdom, but not to love their holy author. We can make out even a sort of piety, a patch-work of religious instinct, from his ethical illustrations, but not the religion of principle. He comes short, as might be expected, from his own allowed aberrations in practice, of the real thing,—the essence of christian truth and rectitude, even
when he professes to be the moral adviser, or to portray the
* Thus to reliere the wrete hed was his pride,
tempt its new-tiedig docspring to the skies,
Allur d w brighter worlds, and led the war."
* At church with meek and una feeted grace,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.'
charities, his self-complacent goodness, his indifference to his own fate, amounting almost to stoicism, intended to be passed off as the height of christian virtue? Delightful as the picture is, in many respects, is it not calculated to mislead the mind, as to the real nature of evangelical goodness, and the proper work and worthiness of the pious pastor? We should say it was rather a worldly temporizing, philosophical religion, than the spiritual loveliness, enlightened firmness, and chastened spirit which the gospel inculcates and inspires. It is the portraiture of good nature, heedless philanthropy, and religious oddities, rather than of the innate principles and fine developments of christian and pastoral fidelity. It is the history less of evangelical purity than of pharisaic goodness, including among other virtues, a hatred of washes, and finery, and all play, except backgammon ! We are gratified, that so much of what is wrong, extravagant, and unprincipled in character, which finds its way in common fictions, is here avoided, and that so many correct, and even beautiful representations, so far as they extend, of the effects of moral and religious feelings are admitted. But the picture, as a whole, is imperfect. It gives an inadequate view of the real glory of an upright character. The great peculiarities of christianity are left out in the delineation of the good Vicar.
Goldsmith, therefore, even when he attempted to give his readers an idea of true virtue, only delineated an approximation towards it. In inculcating goodness and wisdom, he leaves out of view the living spring and principle, from which they proceed. He produces only a polished marble likeness, instead of the real being. His merit, as a moral monitor, is only that of being harmless. He does not corrupt his readers by blinding the understanding, and sharpening unholy appetite. He makes none, perhaps, less wise and happy by the perusal of his writings. But is it sufficient, in such an author, to have exerted only a negative influence, in regard to religion, and the great interests of human society? Is the responsibility of high talent, and especially the talent of communicating thought, fully met by merely not doing an injury to public morals and piety, if even so much can be claimed for Goldsmith ? God having endowed him with the transcendent gifts of genius, should have been honored by their employment for his glory. Rare endowments of this kind, are eminently needed in such a world, to enlighten, and reform, and bless it. What might not Goldsmith, had he properly felt his responsibility to God, have achieved for religion and humanity, with a prese style, which, VOL. X.
as one says, may be regarded as “the model of perfection, and the standard of our language, to equal which, the efforts of most will be vain, and to exceed it, every expectation folly," and with a talent for poetry, next to the highest, among the British bards. The convictions of a perfect ratiocination, the fullness of various knowledge, and the charm of an elegant pen, all so emphatically his, would have given to christianity an aid of great importance, at that period. Those inimitable finished sentences which enshrine the common things of this world, would have recommended it to all future ages. Had the genius of Goldsmith, like Cowper's, been sanctified by the grace of God, his peculiar melody of style and power to touch the heart,-his enlarged acquaintance with the world and human life, -his cheerful and buoyant temper, would have fitted him, in a manner unsurpassed by any writer, to instruct and charm the readers of English literature, to the latest generations.
If anything may be properly added to the incidental notices of Goldsmith's character, which have been already introduced, we must say, that although there is something in it to be admired, there is not a little to be deplored. His faults have indeed been often commented on, and sometimes with harshness. His singularities and foibles, his infirmities of temper and aberrations of conduct, as they occasioned a good deal of gossiping at the time, so they have come down to us, in company with the recorded monuments of the poet's genius. Our anecdotical literature abounds with them. They are calculated to present him in a very ridiculous light. Some of the stories are foolish and incredible enough ; others, his present biographer has amply disproved. A few must be allowed to be founded in truth. According to Mr. Prior's own showing, Goldsmith indulged occasionally in the pernicious habit of gambling, was foolishly imprudent, guilty of vanity, envy, and other meannesses unworthy of a man of his exalted parts, or of any man. It is true, he felt acutely the shame and mortification of his wrong actions, and none lamented more strongly than he did, when too late, the results of his error. Even some of his virtues verged to the extreme of vices or weaknesses. rosity was thoughtless. He relieved the miserable at a needless expense. His simplicity was such, that nothing was more easy than to dupe him, and his sensibility to the woes of others so excessive, that he was wholly unmanned by any idle tale of distress. His facility of disposition was indulged, at the loss of self-respect and self-consistency; and his charity towards