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pounds, and was at his wits’-end how to wipe off the score and keep a roof over his head, except by closing with a very staggering proposal on her part, and taking his creditor to wife, whose charms were very far from alluring, while her demands were extremely urgent. In this crisis of his fate he was found by Johnson in the act of meditating on the melancholy alternative before him. He showed Johnson his manuscript of The Vicar of Wakefleld, but seemed to be without any plan, or even hope, of raising money upon the disposal of it; when Johnson cast his eye upon it, he discovered something that gave him hope, and immediately took it to Dodsley, who paid down the price above-mentioned in ready money, and added an eventual condition upon its future sale. Johnson described the precautions he took in concealing the amount of the sum he had in hand, which he prudently administered to him by a guinea at a time. In the event he paid of the landlady's score, and redeemed the person of his friend from her embraces." .
In all these varying accounts—the discrepancies of which scarcely deserve minute attention—it will be remarked that no reference is made to Goldsmith himself as the source of information, while all the writers, Hawkins excepted, profess to have obtained their data direct from
Johnson, the only other aĉtor in the drama. It is also manifest that each narrator reproduces, in more or less accurate form, one and the same incident. Goldsmith's necesity, Johnson's intervention, the consequent sale of a book in manuscript,—these features are common to them all. The difference consists in the details which each adds, alters or advantage over his competitors. His method of reporting, though by no means perfect, was unusually painstaking and exa&t. His chronicle is, in addition, that of a man to whom chronicling was a self-imposed function ; and who was not recording his random recollections, or reviving the faded impressions of half-forgotten things. Cumberland's serniapocryphal Memoirs were composed when he was a septuagenarian, and a septuagenarian, moreover, who had apparently neglected to read Boswell's Life; Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes were jotted down in Italy, far from Johnson's contemporaries, and long after the events to which they relate ; while the jumbled paragraphs of Sir John Hawkins plainly bear upon them the marks either of imperfeet information or imperfeet apprehension. Boswell's story alone wears an air of veracity, and it has generally been regarded as the accepted version.
omits; and it becomes a question which, on the whole, is most · worthy of credit. In this respect Boswell has greatly the
Boswell, however, makes one notable omission—be gives no date for the incident be describes. Mrs. Piozzi, or, as it will be most convenient to call her, Mrs. Thrale, thinks that it could not have been later than 1765 or 1766. It was, demonstrably, earlier than this. “ The bookseller,” Johnson told Boswell, “ had such faint hopes of profit by his bargain, that he kept the manuscript by him a long time, and did not publish it till after the Traveller had appeared.” “It was written and sold to a bookseller before his Traveller, but published after," he Says again, in terms that could scarcely be more explicit. The Traveller-Goldsmith's first long poem—appeared on the 19th December, 1764. Thus we get a definite date before which the sale must have taken place; and GoldSmith's biographers, while refraining from anything like authoritative statement, seem to have praktically de
cided that it cannot have been much before, in fact that, as one of them says, it was “ late in 1764.” And, indeed, this would seem to follow naturally from any attempt to reconcile the evidence of the two witnesses best acquainted with the faits, Bofwell and Mrs. Thrale. Johnson, whose presence is essential to the story, was away with Percy in Northamptonshire during part of June, July, and August, and had not returned to London on the 19th of the last-mentioned month, when he wrote a letter to Reynolds, which Boswell prints. After he got back, he made the acquaintance, for the first time, of Thrale and his wife. If, setting aside minor inconsistencies, it be asumed that Mrs. Thrale can scarcely have been miltaken in dating the occurrence after her first acquaintance with the great man, we are driven to the conclusion that Goldsmith's arrest by his landlady must have taken place at some time between August the 19th and December the 19th, 1764. This would favour the conje&ture now from habit almost regarded as an established fact, that the landlady was Mrs. Elizabeth Fleming, and that the lodging was the room at Islington which, as the accounts printed by Prior and Forster incontestably prove, Gold(mith occupied during April, May, and June in 1764, and perhaps later. Up to June, John Newbery the bookseller, for whom the author of the Vicar was chiefly working, had, by arrangement, paid his bills for board and lodging ; and it has not unreasonably been concluded that Goldsmith's misadventure arose from the temporary withdrawal of John Newbery's aid.
Unfortunately the minutest pin-prick from a fact or date is generally fatal to the most artfully inflated surmiles. From an ancient account-book, which is at present in the keeping of Mr. Charles Welsh,* but formerly belonged to one B. Collins, Printer, of Salisbury, it seems that, as far back as the 28th of O Etober, 1762, the said B. Collins had purchased of “ Dr. Goldsmith, the Author," for £21, a third pare in the Vicar of Wakefield. The problem, therefore, becomes one, not of reconciling Boswell's story with that of Mrs. Thrale, who must be left henceforth in undisturbed enjoyment of her reputation for what Johnson himself stigmatised as her “ laxity of narration, but of bringing Boswell's story into agreement - with the fresh information contributed to the question by this hitherto unrevealed transaktion of B. Collins of Salisbury. It must be confessed that the folution is not an easy one. Still, the record in Collins's account-book is supported by several collateral circumstances. The reference in chapter ix. of the Vicar to the famous “musical glasses” which were in full vogue circa 1761-62, and that in chapter xix. to Arthur Murphy's paper, the Auditor; which only began its career on the roth June, 1762, seem to point unmistakably to the middle of that year as the date at, or about which the book was being written. Then, again, when it was ultimately printed, Collins himself was the printer; and he was undoubtedly at some time popelled of a third share in it, because, as will presently
* Mr. Welsh is a member of the firm of Griffith, Farran, Okeden and Welsh, of St. Paul's Churchyard, the latest successors to John Newbery. He is at present engaged upon a long-expected life of the old bookseller and publisher, in which it is hoped some of these knotty questions may receive their definite disentanglement.
be shewn, he afterwards sold a third share. Lastly, the price which he paid for his third fare in 1762, putting guineas for pounds, corresponds with a third of the price which, according to Boswell's account, Johnson obtained for the manuscript. In order to harmonise the facts, we must therefore asume that the unnamed bookseller of Johnson, at his presling solicitation, advanced the whole of the price agreed upon, leaving the question of the partners in his venture for subsequent settlement. Or it may be, that when Johnson said “ I brought Goldsmith the money,” he did not mean the whole fum, but an instalment. In this way the statement of Collins that he purchased his third fare from the author would be explained; and the apparent abjence of any receipt on Goldsmith's part for the £60 satisfa£torily accounted for. · But who was Johnson's unnamed bookseller? Hawkins says Newbery; Cumberland, Dodsley. The circumstances seem to point to John Newbery. He had already employed, and continued to employ Goldsmith; and it may be that the arrangement by which he afterwards paid for Goldsmith's board and lodging at Mrs. Fleming's in Islington* was the outcome of this experience of the author's manners and customs. On the other hand, his
* Mrs. Fleming, it may be observed, in the above circumstances, is wholly cleared from her traditional reputation as an arbitrary landlady, since Goldsmith's first residence in her house appears to have been subsequent to the 28th OEtober, 1762. (Cf. Forster's Life, Bk. iii., chap. vii.)