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OLIVER GOLDSMITH was the third son of the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, a divine of great respectability, though but in narrow circumstances. He was born at Elphin, in the county of Roscommon, in the kingdom of Ireland, 29th November, in the year 1731,* and was instructed in the classics, at the school of Mr. Hughes. On the 11th of June, 1744, he was admitted a Sizer of Trinity College, Dublin, under the tuition of Dr. Radcliffe, where he was contemporary with Mr. Edmund Burke. At college he exhibited no specimens of that genius which distinguished him in his maturer years. According to his own whimsical account of himself," he made no great figure in mathematics, which was a study much in repute there, yet he could turn an ode of Horace into English better than any of them.” On the 27th of February, 1749, 0. S. (two years after the regular time,) he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts. At this period of his life he turned his thoughts to the profession of physic; and after attending some courses of anatomy in Dublin, he proceeded to Edinburgh, in the year 1751, where pursued the study of the several branches of medicine, under the different professors in that university. At this period of bis life, the same want of thought
So his Epitaph. Other accounts place his birth, and not without probability, in 1729.
and circumspection, and the same heedless beneficence governed, that in his later years continued to involve him in difficulties. Imprudently engaging to pay a considerable sum of money for a fellow student, who failed to exonerate him from the demand, he found himself under the necessity of hastily quitting Scotland, to avoid the horrors of a jail.
Sunderland was the place in which he took refuge, and there he arrived in the beginning of the year 1754. His sudden flight had left him no means of providing for his present wants, and he was driven to the greatest extremity It was at this period, it is imagined, that he was reduced to an embarrassment, which will be best related in the words of the person who originally gave the anecdote to the public.*
“ Upuu his first going to England, he was in such distress, that he would have gladly become an usher to a country school; but so destitute was he of friends to recommend him, that he could not without difficulty obtain even this low department. The master of the school scrupled to employ him without some testimonial of his past life. Goldsmith referred him to his tutor at college for a character; but all this while he went under a feigned name. From this resource, therefore, one would think that little in his favour could even be hoped for; but he only wanted to serve a present exigency-an ushership was not his object.
In this strait he writes a letter to Dr. Radcliffe, imploring him, as he tendered the welfare of an old pupil, not to answer a letter which he would probably receive the same post with his own, from the school.master. He
* A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland, in a Series of Letters to John Watkinson, M. D. Dublin, 8vo. 1788.
added, that he had good reasons for concealing, both from him and the rest of the world, his name, and the real state of his case ; every circumstance of which he promised to communicate on some future occasion His tutor, embarrassed enough before to know what answer he should give, resolved at last to give none, And thus was poor Goldsmith snatched from between the horns of his present dilemma, and suffered to drag on a miserable life for a few probationary months.
“ It was not till after his return to London, from his rambles over great part of the world, and after having got some sure footing on this slippery globe, that he at length wrote to Dr. Radcliffe, to thank him for not answering the schoolmaster's letter, and to fulfill his promise of giving the history of the whole transaction. It contained a comical narrative of his adventures, from his leaving Ireland to that time,” It is to be regretted, that accident has since destroyed this narrative, which the gentleman to whom it was written, admired more than any part of our author's works.
But although Dr. Goldsmith had escaped from Scotland into England, he could not secure himself from the fangs of the law. The vigilance of his creditor, a tailor, followed him, and he was arrested for the money, on account of which he had become security. From this difficulty he was released by the frie dship of Mr. Laughlin Maclane and Dr Sleigh, who were then at the college of Edinburgh. As soon as he was at liberty, he took his passage on board a Dutch ship to Rotterdam, from whence, after a short stay, he proceeded to Brussels. He then visited a great part of Flanders; and after pass. ing some time at Strasbourg and Louvain, at which last place he obtained a degree of Bachelor in Physic, he accompanied an English gentleman to Geneva.
It is said, on unquestionable authority, that our ingenious author performed the greater part of his travels on foot; and he himself alludes to this circumstance in one of his early works. " Countries,” says he, different appearances to travellers of different circum
A man who is whirled through Europe in a postchaise, and the pilgriin who walks the grand tour on foot, will form very different conclusions-- Haud inexpertus loquor.” It has been asserted, that he was enabled to pursue his travels, partly by demanding at universities to enter the lists as a disputant, by which, accordiorg to the custom of many of thein, he was entitled to the premium of a crown, when, luckily for liim, his challenge was not accepted; so that, as it has been observed, he disputed his passage through Europe.
He had left England ill provided with money ; but being at that time of a rambling disposition, and having probably no settled scheme of life, he neither foresaw, nor feared, any difficulties. He possessed also a body capable of sustaining every fatigue, and a mind not easily terrified hy danger. Thus qualified, he formed the design of seeing the manners of different countries. He had acquired some knowledge of the French language, and of music; he played also on the German flute, which he found a very useful accomplishment, as at times it afforded him the means of subsistence, which all his other qualities would have failed to acquire for him. His learning, though not profound, produced him an hospitable reception at most of the religious houses that he visited ; and his music made him welcome to the peasants of Flanders and Germany. “Whenever I approached a peasant's house towards night-fall," he used to say, “ Į played one of my most merry tunes, and that generally procured me not only a lodging, but subsistence for the
next day; but in truth,” his constant expression, " I must own, whenever I attempted to entertain persons of a higher rank, they always thought my performance odious, and never made me any return for my endeavours to please them.”
On his arrival at Geneva, it is said he was recommended as travelling tutor to a young man of mean birth and sordid disposition, who, after he had arrived at the years of maturity, unexpectedly came into possession of a considerable fortune. With this person our author proceeded to the south of France, where a disagreement arose between the tutor and pupil, which ended in their parting from each other. Once more our illfated traveller was left to encounter the difficulties of a friendless stranger in a foreign country. He had by this time satisfied his curiosity, and accordingly bent his steps towards England, where he arrived some time about the
His situation was now altered, but not improved. He was still a stranger, and still destitute. 6. The world was all before him," but the means of present subsistence was not easily to be obtained. He applied to several apothecaries to be received as a journeyman; but his broad Irish accent, and uncouth appearance, operated against his reception In this forlorn state he was at length obliged to submit to the humble condition of an assistant in the laboratory of a chymist near Fish-streethill. From this drudgery he was released by the kindness of his friend Dr. Sleigh, who received him into his family, and undertook to support him, until some means could be devised for his maintenance. In a short time he accepted the employment of usher to a boardingschool, kept by Dr. Milner, a dissenting teacher, at Peckham. Though this station, when viewed in its pro