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DAVIES AND HIS BOOK-SHOP.
Churchill had intimated, that while on the stage he was more noted for his pretty wife than his good acting:
“ With him came mighty Davies; on my life,
That fellow has a very pretty wife.”
“ Pretty Mrs. Davies” continued to be the loadstar of his fortunes. Her tea-table became almost as much a literary lounge as her husband's shop. She found favor in the eyes of the Ursa Major of literature by her winning ways, as she poured out for him cups without stint of his favorite beverage. Indeed it is suggested that she was one leading cause of his habitual resort to this literary haunt. Others were drawn thither for the sake of Johnson's conversation, and thus it became a resort of many of the notorieties of the day. Here might occasionally be seen Bennet Langton, George Steevens, Dr. Percy, celebrated for his ancient ballads, and sometimes Warburton in prelatic state. Garrick resorted to it for a time, but soon grew shy and suspicious, declaring that most of the authors who frequented Mr. Davies's shop went merely to abuse him.
Foote, the Aristophanes of the day, was a frequent visitor ; his broad face beaming with fun and waggery, and his satirical eye ever on the lookout for characters and incidents for his farces. He was struck with the odd habits and appearance of Johnson and Goldsmith, now
so often brought together in Davies's shop. He was about to put on the stage a farce called The Orators, intended as a hit at the Robin Hood debating-club, and resolved to show up the two doctors in it for the entertainment of the town.
“ What is the common price of an oak stick, sir ? said Johnson to Davies. “Sixpence," was the reply. “ Why then, sir, give me leave to send your servant to purchase a shilling one. I'll have a double quantity, for I am told Foote means to take me off as he calls it, and I am determined the fellow shall not do it with impunity.”
Foote had no disposition to undergo the criticism of the cudgel wielded by such potent hands, so the farce of “ The Orators " appeared without the caricatures of the lexicographer and the essayist.
Oriental Projects. — Literary Jobs. The Cherokee Chiefs.
Merry Islington and the White Conduit House.- Letters on the History of England. - James Boswell. - Dinner of Davies. — Anecdotes of Johnson and Goldsmith.
BOTWITHSTANDING his growing suc
cess, Goldsmith continued to consider
literature a mere makeshift, and his vagrant imagination teemed with schemes and plans of a grand but indefinite nature. One was for visiting the East and exploring the interior of . Asia. He had, as has been before observed, a vague notion that yaluable discoveries were to be made there, and many useful inventions in the arts brought back to the stock of European knowledge. “ Thus, in Siberian Tartary,” observes he, in one of his writings, “ the natives extract a strong spirit from milk, which is a secret probably unknown to the chemists of Europe. In the most savage parts of India they are possessed of the secret of dyeing vegetable substances scarlet, and that of refining lead into a metal which, for hardness and color, is little inferior to silver.”
Goldsmith adds a description of the kind of person suited to such an enterprise, in which he evidently had himself in view.
“ He should be a man of philosophical turn,
one apt to deduce consequences of general utility from particular occurrences ; neither swoln with pride, nor hardened by prejudice ; neither wedded to one particular system, nor instructed only in one particular science ; neither wholly a botanist, nor quite an antiquarian ; his mind should be tinctured with miscellaneous knowledge, and his manners humanized by an intercourse with men. He should be in some measure an enthusiast to the design ; fond of travelling, from a rapid imagination and an innate love of change; furnished with a body capable of sustaining every fatigue, and a heart not easily terrified at danger.”
In 1761, when Lord Bute became prime minister on the accession of George the Third, Goldsmith drew up a memorial on the subject, suggesting the advantages to be derived from a mission to those countries solely for useful and scientific purposes ; and, the better to insure success, he preceded his application to the government by an ingenious essay to the same effect in the “ Public Ledger."
His memorial and his essay were fruitless, his project most probably being deemed the dream of a visionary. Still it continued to haunt his mind, and he would often talk of making an expedition to Aleppo some time or other, when his means were greater, to inquire into the arts peculiar to the East, and to bring home such as might be valuable. Johnson, who knew how little poor Goldsmith was fitted by scientific lore for this favorite scheme of his fancy, scoffed at the project when it was mentioned to him. “ Of all men,” said he,
THE CHEROKEE CHIEFS.
“ Goldsmith is the most unfit to go out upon such an inquiry, for he is utterly ignorant of such arts as we already possess, and, consequently, could not know what would be accessions to our present stock of mechanical knowledge. Sir, he would bring home a grinding-barrow, which you see in every street in London, and think that he had furnished a wonderful improvement."
His connection with Newbery the bookseller now led him into a variety of temporary jobs, such as a pamphlet on the Cock-Lane Ghost, a Life of Beau Nash, the famous Master of Ceremonies at Bath, &c. : one of the best things for his fame, however, was the remodelling and republication of his Chinese Letters under the title of “The Citizen of the World,” a work which has long since taken its merited stand among the classics of the English language. “Few works,” it has been observed by one of his biographers, “ exhibit a nicer perception, or more delicate delineation of life and manners. Wit, humor, and sentiment pervade every page ; the vices and follies of the day are touched with the most playful and diverting satire ; and English characteristics, in endless variety, are hit off with the pencil of a master.”
In seeking materials for his varied views of life, he often mingled in strange scenes and got involved in whimsical situations. In the summer of 1762 he was one of the thousands who went to see the Cherokee chiefs, whom he mentions in one of his writings. The Indians made their appearance in grand costume, hideously painted and besmeared. In the course of the visit Goldsmith