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DEATH OF GOLDSMITH.
vances from his booksellers in order to meet the pressing wants of the hour. He undertook a History of England, in four volumes; a History of the Earth and Animated Nature, largely a translation from Buffon; Histories of Greece and Rome; and wrote a second successful comedy, She Stoops to Conquer, which was first acted in 1773.
The last flash of his genius was the short poem, Retaliation, written in reply to some jibing epitaphs, which were composed on him by the company met one day at dinner in the St. James's Coffee-house. Garrick's couplet ran thus:
"Here lies poet Goldsmith, for shortness called Noll,
And certainly in the reply poor Garrick suffers for his unkindness; for never with so light but so perfect a touch was the skin peeled from any character.
With hands yet full of unfinished work, Goldsmith lay down to die. An old illness seized him. Low fever set in. He took powders against the advice of his doctors, and died, after nine days' sickness, on the 4th of April 1774. "Is your mind at ease?" asked the doctor by his bed-side. No, 1774 it is not," was the sad reply. At last the spendthrift author had lost "his knack of hoping," as he used to call the unthinking joyousness of his nature. His debts and the memory of his reckless life cast heavy shadows on his dying bed. In the spirit of that sublime prayer, which we learn to say at our mother's knee in the season of life when, in truth, we take no thought for the morrow," let us hope that the gentle, thoughtless, erring nature, which gave and forgave so much on earth, found in Heaven that mercy which every human spirit needs.
THE FAMILY PICTURE.
(FROM THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD.")
My wife and daughters, happening to return a visit at neighbour Flamborough's, found that family had lately got their pictures drawn by a limner, who travelled the country, and took likenesses for fifteen shillings a head. As this family and ours had long a sort of rivalry in point of taste, our spirit took the alarm at this stolen march upon us, and, notwithstanding all I could say, and I said much, it was resolved that we should have our pictures done too. Having, therefore,
SPECIMEN OF GOLDSMITH'S PROSE.
engaged the limner, (for what could I do?) our next deliberation was to show the superiority of our taste in the attitudes. As for our neighbour's family, there were seven of them, and they were drawn with seven oranges, a thing quite out of taste, no variety in life, no composition in the world. We desired to have something in a brighter style, and, after many debates, at length came a unanimous resolution of being drawn together, in one large historical familypiece. This would be cheaper, since one frame would serve for all; and it would be infinitely more genteel, for all families of any taste were now drawn in the same manner. As we did not immediately recollect an historical subject to hit us, we were contented each with being drawn as independent historical figures. My wife desired to be represented as Venus; and the painter was requested not to be too frugal of his diamonds in her stomacher and hair. Her two little ones were to be as Cupids by her side; while I, in my gown and bands, was to present her with my books on the Whistonian Controversy. Olivia would be drawn as an Amazon, sitting upon a bank of flowers, dressed in a green joseph, richly laced with gold, and a whip in her hand. Sophia was to be a shepherdess, with as many sheep as the painter could put in for nothing; and Moses was to be dressed out with a hat and white feather.
Our taste so much pleased the squire, that he insisted on being put in as one of the family, in the character of Alexander the Great at Olivia's feet. This was considered by us all as an indication of his desire to be introduced into the family, nor could we refuse his request. The painter was therefore set to work, and, as he wrought with assiduity and expedition, in less than four days the whole was completed. The piece was large, and it must be owned he did not spare his colours; for which my wife gave him great encomiums. We were all perfectly satisfied with his performance; but an unfortunate circumstance, which had not occurred till the picture was finished, now struck us with dismay. It was so very large that we had no place in the house to fix it! How we all came to disregard so material a point is inconceivable; but certain it is we had all been greatly remiss. This picture, therefore, instead of gratifying our vanity, as we hoped, leaned in a most mortifying manner against the kitchen wall, where the canvas was stretched and painted, much too large to be got through any of the doors, and the jest of all our neighbours. One compared it to Robinson Crusoe's long-boat, too large to be removed; another thought it more resembled a reel in a bottle; some wondered how it could be got out, but still more were amazed how it ever got in.
A HUGE and slovenly figure, clad in a greasy brown coat and coarse black worsted stockings, wearing a grey wig with scorched foretop, rolls in his arm-chair long past midnight, holding in a dirty hand his nineteenth cup of tea. As he pauses to utter one of his terrible growls of argument, or rather of dogmatic assertion, commencing invariably with a thunderous "Sir," we have leisure to note the bitten nails, the scars of king's evil that mark his swollen face, and the convulsive workings of the muscles round mouth and eyes, which accompany the puffs and snorts foreboding a coming storm of ponderous English talk. Such was the famous Doctor Samuel Johnson in his old age, when he had climbed from the most squalid cellars of Grub Street to the dictatorial throne of English criticism-such the man who wrote Rasselas and London, who compiled the great English Dictionary, and composed the majestically moral pages of the Rambler.
This celebrated son of a poor man, who used to spread his little book-stall on market-day in Lichfield to tempt the louts of Staffordshire, was born in that town on the 18th of September 1709. From infancy the child struggled with constitutional disease, which weakened his eyes and left indelible seams across his little face. The father gave his poor afflicted boy all he could—a liberal education; and upon this foundation-the best for fame that can ever be laid--the work of a great and noble lifetime began to rise.
Slowly, obscurely, and with many heavy falls, did the ill
SETS OUT FOR LONDON.
dressed, ugly, clumsy youth begin to take his first steps towards the kingship of English letterdom. Having received his elementary education chiefly at Stourbridge, he entered Pembroke College, Oxford. But his dying father could spare no more money to the lad, so a degree could not be taken then. He must wait until he has
earned a higher title with his pen. One terrible foe, with which poor Johnson had to battle through all his life, must not be forgotten, when we strive to estimate the greatness of his triumph over circumstances. Fits of morbid melancholy often seized him, which, as he says, "kept him mad half his life." Penniless, diseased, ill-favoured, but half educated, and touched with terrible insanity, the youth of twenty-two stood on the threshold 1731 of the mean house, within which his father lay dead, looking out upon a world, that seemed all cold and bare and friendless to his gaze. No wonder that his earlier portrait shows a thin cheek and saddened brow, with lines of suffering already round the wasted lips.
Trudging on foot to Market Bosworth in Leicestershire, he became usher in a school. It would not do; by natural temperament he was totally unfitted for the work. We then find him translating for a bookseller in Birmingham; and after a while marrying a Mrs. Porter, the widow of a mercer there, who had £800.* With this money he attempted to start a school of his own near Lichfield; but he could not gather pupils enough to pay the rent
and keep his wife in comfort. So, packing up his little 1736 stock of clothes and books, he set out in March 1736 for London, accompanied by a former pupil, fresh-coloured, good-humoured, little Davy Garrick, who was going up to study law in Lincoln's Inn, but in whose brain the foot-lights were already shining far more brightly than briefs or pleadings at the bar. It was just as well for the theatre-going folks of England that the little Huguenot's head did not become a wig-block, on which to air a covering of grey horse-hair.
to London went the dapper pupil and his great hulking
* Mrs. Johnson died on the 17th of March 1752, to the deep and lasting grief or her husband, and was buried at Bromley.
BEGINNING TO BE FAMOUS.
master; and there they parted, to meet occasionally, but each to go his several way. And Johnson's was a hard and perilous path. We have already given a picture of literary life in those days. The worst miseries of such a life were endured by Johnson. six-and-twenty years the pen scarcely ever left his hand. often he and Savage wandered foot-sore all night through the streets of London, unable to hire the meanest shelter; how often they spent their last penny on a little loaf, which they tore with wolfish teeth, we cannot tell. But we know that miseries like these were commonly endured by men of letters in Johnson's day, and that he had his full share of such bitterness and want. It was for Cave the bookseller that he chiefly drudged, enriching the "Gentleman's Magazine" with articles of various kinds. His poem London, a satire in imitation of Juvenal, laid the foundation of his literary fame, by establishing him in the good graces of the booksellers. For this work Dodsley gave him ten guineas. A Life of Savage (1744) was followed by a second satire in Juvenal's manner, The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749); but these are only the most notable works in a vast crowd of minor writings, which occupied the days and nights of these busy years. His tragedy of Irene, begun in his teaching days, was brought upon the stage in 1749; but it failed to hold its ground.
Johnson's name is inseparably associated with the Rambler, a periodical of the "Spectator" class, which appeared twice a week between March 1750 and March 1752. Only four of the papers proceeded from other pens. There was some strange sympathy between the bulky frame of the essayist and the ponderous words that came from his ink-bottle; and in the pages of the "Rambler" there is certainly much of wordy weight. He reäppeared as an essayist, after the lapse of six years, in a lighter periodical called the Idler, which ran to 103 numbers, closing with its last sheet the chequered list of single-article serials, which had opened with the "Tatler's" pleasant talk.
While writing for the "Rambler," and for some years before the starting of that heavy serial, Johnson had been steadily at work upon his Dictionary of the English Language. There was no such