Page images
PDF
EPUB

LETTER TO COUSIN JANE.

113

Street, directions to send to him.

If, in pursuance of such circulation, he should receive any subscriptions, I entreat, when collected, they may be sent to Mr. Bradley, as aforesaid, who will give a receipt, and be accountable for the work, or a return of the subscription. If this request (which, if it be complied with, will in some measure be an encouragement to a man of learning) should be disagreeable or troublesome, I would not press it; for I would be the last man on earth to have my labors go a-begging ; but if I know Mr. Lawder (and sure I'ought to know him), he will accept the employment with pleasure. All

if he writes a book, I will get him two hundred subscribers, and those of the best wits in Europe.

Whether this request is complied with or not, I shall not be uneasy; but there is one petition I must make to him and to you, which I solicit with the warmest ardor, and in which I cannot bear a refusal. I mean, dear madam, that I may be allowed to subscribe myself, your ever affectionate and obliged kinsman, OLIVER GOLDSMITH. Now see how I blot and blunder, when I am asking a favor.”

I can say

CHAPTER X.

Oriental Appointment; and Disappointment. — Examination

at the College of Surgeons. — How to procure a Suit of Clothes. — Fresh Disappointment. — A Tale of Distress. The Suit of Clothes in Pawn. — Punishment for doing an Act of Charity.— Gayeties of Green Arbor Court. – Letter to his Brother. — Life of Voltaire. — Scroggins, an Attempt at mock-heroic Petry.

W

HILE Goldsmith was yet laboring at his

treatise, the promise made him by Dr.

Milner was carried into effect, and he was actually appointed physician and surgeon to one of the factories on the coast of Coromandel. His imagination was immediately on fire with visions of Oriental wealth and magnificence. It is true the salary did not exceed one hundred pounds, but then, as appointed physician, he would have the exclusive practice of the place, amounting to one thousand pounds per annum; with advantages to be derived from trade and from the high interest

-twenty per cent. ; in a word, for once in his life, the road to fortune lay broad and straight before him.

Hitherto, in his correspondence with his friends, he had said nothing of his India scheme; but now he imparted to them his brilliant prospects, urging the importance of their circulating his proposals and obtaining him subscriptions and advances on his forthcoming work, to furnish funds for his outfit.

of money

ORIENTAL APPOINTMENT.

115

[ocr errors]

a

In the mean time he had to task that poor drudge, his Muse, for present exigencies. Ten pounds were demanded for his appointment-warrant. Other expenses pressed hard upon him. Fortunately, though as yet unknown to fame, his literary capability was known to “ the trade,” and the coinage of his brain passed current in Grub Street. Archibald Hamilton, proprietor of the “ Critical Review," the rival to that of Griffiths, readily made him a small advance on receiving three articles for his periodical. His purse thus slenderly replenished, Goldsmith paid for his warrant; wiped off the score of his milkmaid ; abandoned his garret, and moved into a shabby first floor in a forlorn court near the Old Bailey ; there to await the time of his migration to the magnificent coast of Coromandel. Alas! poor

Goldsmith ! ever doomed to disappointment. Early in the gloomy month of November, that month of fog and despondency in London, he learnt the shipwreck of his hope. The great Coromandel enterprise fell through; or rather the post promised to him was transferred to some other candidate. The cause of this disappointment it is now impossible to ascertain. The death of his quasi patron, Dr. Milner, which happened about this time, may have had some effect in producing it; or there may have been some heedlessness and blundering on his own part; or some obstacle arising from his insuperable indigence ; — whatever may have been the Cause, he never mentioned it, which gives some ground to surmise that he himself was to blame.

It was

so?

His friends learnt with surprise that he had suddenly relinquished his appointment to India, about which he had raised such sanguire expectations : some accused him of fickleness and caprice ; others supposed him unwilling to tear himself from the growing fascinations of the literary society of London.

In the mean time, cut down in his hopes, and humiliated in his pride by the failure of his Coromandel scheme, he sought, without consulting his friends, to be examined at the College of Physicians for the humble situation of hospital mate. Even here poverty stood in his way. necessary to appear in a decent garb before the examining committee ; but how was he to do

He was literally out at elbows as well as out of cash. Here again the Muse, so often jilted and neglected by him, came to his aid. In consideration of four articles furnished to the

Monthly Review,” Griffiths, his old task-master, was to become his security to the tailor for a suit of clothes. Goldsmith said he wanted them but for a single occasion, upon which depended his appointment to a situation in the army; as soon as that temporary purpose was served they would either be returned or paid for. The books to be reviewed were accordingly lent to him; the Muse

; was again set to her compulsory drudgery ; the articles were scribbled off and sent to the bookseller, and the clothes came in due time from the tailor.

From the records of the College of Surgeons, it appears that Goldsmith underwent his exami

66

FIRST DISAPPOINTMENT.

117

a

nation at Surgeons' Hall, on the 21st of December, 1758. Either from a confusion of mind incident to sensitive and imaginative persons on such occasions, or from a real want of surgical science, which last is extremely probable, he failed in his examination, and was rejected as unqualified. The effect of such a rejection was to disqualify him for every branch of public service, though he might have claimed a reëxamination, after the interval of a few months devoted to further study. Such a

а reëxamination he never attempted, nor did he ever communicate his discomfiture to any of his friends.

On Christmas Day, but four days after his rejection by the College of Surgeons, while he was suffering under the mortification of defeat and disappointment, and hard pressed for means of subsistence, he was surprised by the entrance into his room of the poor woman of whom he hired his wretched apartment, and to whom he owed some small arrears of rent. She had a piteous tale of distress, and was clamorous in her afflictions. Her husband had been arrested in the night for debt, and thrown into prison. This was too much for the quick feelings of Goldsmith; he was ready at any time to help the distressed, but in this instance he was himself in some measure a cause of the distress. What was to be done ? He had no money, it is true ; but there hung the new suit of clothes in which he had stood his un. lucky examination at Surgeons' Hall. Without giving himself time for reflection, he sent it off to the pawnbroker's, and raised thereon a sufficient

« PreviousContinue »