Page images



reviewer, and his disputatious ramble among the schools and universities and literati of the Continent, had filled his mind with facts and observations which he now set about digesting into a treatise of some magnitude, to be entitled “ An Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe.” As the work grew on his hands, his sanguine temper ran ahead of his labors. Feeling secure of success in England, he was anxious to forestall the piracy of the Irish press; for as yet, the union not having taken place, the English law of copyright did not extend to the other side of the Irish channel. He wrote, therefore, to his friends in Ireland, urging them to circulate his proposals for his contemplated work, and obtain subscriptions payable in advance; the money to be transmitted to a Mr. Bradley, an eminent bookseller in Dublin, who would give a receipt for it and be accountable for the delivery of the books. The letters written by him on this occasion are worthy of copious citation as being full of character and interest. One was to his relative and college intimate, Edward Wells, who had studied for the bar, but was now living at ease on his estate at Roscommon. • You have quitted," writes Goldsmith, “the plan of life which you once intended to pursue, and given up ambition for domestic tranquillity. I cannot avoid feeling some regret that one of my few friends has declined a pursuit in which he had every reason to expect success.

I have often let my fancy loose when you were the subject, and have imagined you gracing the bench, or thundering at

the bar: while I have taken no small pride to myself, and whispered to all that I could coine near, that this was my cousin. Instead of this, it seems, you are merely contented to be a happy man; to be esteemed by your acquaintances; to cultivate your paternal acres; to take unmolested a nap under one of your own hawthorns, or in Mrs. Wells's bedchamber, which, even a poet must confess, is rather the more comfortable place of the two. But, however your resolutions may be altered with regard to your situation in life, I persuade myself they are unalterable with respect to your friends in it. I cannot think the world has taken such entire possession of that heart (once so susceptible of friendship) as not to have left a corner there for a friend or two, but I flatter myself that even I have a place among the number. This I have a claim to from the similitude of our dispositions ; or setting that aside, I can demand it as a right by the most equitable law of nature : I mean that of retaliation; for indeed you have more than your share in mine. I am a man of few professions ; and yet at this very instant I cannot avoid the painful apprehension that my present professions (which speak not half my feelings) should be considered only as a pretext to cover a request, as I have a request to make. No, my dear Ned, I know you are too generous to think so, and you

know me too proud to stoop to unnecessary insincerity ;I have a request, it is true, to make ; but as I know to whom I am a petitioner, I make it without diffidence or confusion. It is in short shis:




I am going to publish a book in London,” &c The residue of the letter specifies the nature of the request, which was merely to aid in circulating his proposals and obtaining subscriptions. The letter of the poor author, however, was un-. attended to and unacknowledged by the prosperous Mr. Wells, of Roscommon, though in afteryears he was proud to claim relationship to Dr. Goldsmith, when he had risen to celebrity.

Another of Goldsmith's letters was to Robert Bryanton, with whom he had long ceased to be in correspondence. “I believe," writes he, “ that they who are drunk, or out of their wits, fancy everybody else in the same condition. Mine is a friendship that neither distance nor time can efface, which is probably the reason that, for the soul of me, I can't avoid thinking yours of the same complexion; and yet I have many reasons for being of a contrary opinion, else why, in so long an absence, was I never made a partner in your concerns ?

To hear of your success would have given me the utmost pleasure ; and a communication of your very disappointments would divide the uneasiness I too frequently feel for my

Indeed, my dear Bob, you don't conceive how unkindly you have treated one whose circumstances afford him few prospects of pleasure, except those reflected from the happiness of his friends. However, since you have not let me hear from you, I have in some measure disappointed your neglect by frequently thinking of you. Every day or so I remember the calm anecdotes of your life, from the fireside to the easy-chair ;


live. Nothing is more apt to introduce us to the gates of the Muses than poverty; but it were well if they only left us at the door. The mischief is, they sometimes choose to give us their company to the entertainment; and want, instead of being gentleman-usher, often turns master of the ceremonies.

“ Thus, upon learning I write, no doubt you imagine I starve ; and the name of an author naturally reminds you of a garret. In this particular I do not think proper to undeceive my

friends. But, whether I eat or starve, live in a first floor or four pairs of stairs high, I still remember them with ardor ; nay, my very country comes in for a share of


affection. Unaccountable fondness for country, this maladie du pais, as the French call it! Unaccountable that he should still have an affection for a place, who never, when in it, received above common civility; who never brought anything out of it except his brogue and his blunders. Surely my affection is equally ridiculous with the Scotchman's, who refused to be cured of the itch because it made him unco' thoughtful of his wife and bonny Inverary.

But, now, to be serious : let me ask myself what gives me a wish to see Ireland again. The country is a fine one, perhaps ? No. There are good company in Ireland ? No.

The conversation there is generally made up of a smutty toast or a bawdy song; the vivacity supported by some humble cousin, who had just folly enough to earn his dinner. Then, perhaps, there's more wit and learning among the Irish ? Oh, Lord, no ! There

[ocr errors]



has been more money spent in the encouragement of the Padareen mare there one season, than given in rewards to learned men since the time of Usher. All their productions in learning amount to perhaps a translation, or a few tracts in divinity; and all their productions in wit to just nothing at all. Why the plague, then, so fond of Ireland ? Then, all at once, because you, my dear friend, and a few more who are exceptions to the general picture, have a residence there. This it is that gives me all the pangs I feel in separation. I confess I carry this spirit sometimes to the souring the pleasures I at present possess. If I go to the opera, where Signora Columba pours out all the mazes of melody, I sit and sigh for Lissoy fireside, and Johnny Armstrong's

Last Good-night' from Peggy Golden. If I climb Hampstead Hill, than where nature never exhibited a more magnificent prospect, I confess it fine; but then I had rather be placed on the little mount before Lissoy gate, and there take in, to me, the most pleasing horizon in nature.

“ Before Charles came hither, my thoughts sometimes found refuge from severer studies among my friends in Ireland. I fancied strange revolutions at home; but I find it was the rapidity of my own motion that gave an imaginary one to objects really at rest. No alterations there. Some friends, he tells me, are still lean, but very rich ; others very fat, but still very poor. Nay, all the news I hear of you is, that you sally out in visits among the neighbors, and sometimes make a migration from the blue bed to the brown,

« PreviousContinue »