« PreviousContinue »
JEALOUSY OF BOSWELL.
of the superior esteem evinced for the poet by Dr. Johnson.
We have a gleam of this in his account of the first evening he spent in company with those two eminent authors at their famous resort, the Mitre Tavern, in Fleet Street. This took place on the 1st of July, 1763. The trio supped together, and passed some time in literary conversation. On quitting the tavern, Johnson, who had now been sociably acquainted with Goldsmith for two years, and knew his merits, took him with him to drink tea with his blind pensioner, Miss Williams, - a high privilege among his intimates and admirers. To Boswell, a recent acquaintance, whose intrusive sycophancy had not yet made its way into his confidential intimacy, he gave no invitation. Boswell felt it with all the jealousy of a little mind. “ Dr. Goldsmith, says he, in his Memoirs,“ being a privileged man, went with him, strutting away, and calling to me with an air of superiority, like that of an esoteric over an exoteric disciple of a sage of antiquity, • I go to Miss Williams. I confess I then envied him this mighty privilege, of which he seemed to be so proud ; but it was not long before I obtained the same mark of distinction."
Obtained ! but how? not like Goldsmith, by the force of unpretending but congenial merit, but by a course of the most pushing, contriving, and spaniel-like subserviency. Really, the ambition of the man to illustrate his mental insignificance, by continually placing himself in juxtaposition with the great lexicographer, has something in it perfectly ludicrous. Never, since the days of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, has there been presented to the world a more whimsically contrasted pair of associates than Johnson and Boswell.
66 Who is this Scotch cur at Johnson's heels ? " asked some one when Boswell had worked his way into incessant companionship. 66 He is not a cur,” replied Goldsmith, “ you are too severe ; he is only a bur. Tom Davies flung him at Johnson in sport, and he has the faculty of sticking."
Hogarth a Visitor at Islington; His Character. — Street
Studies. — Sympathies between Authors and Painters. Sir Joshua Reynolds; His Character; His Dinners. The Literary Club; Its Members. — Johnson's Revels with Lanky and Beau. — Goldsmith at the Club.
MONG the intimates who used to visit
the poet occasionally in his retreat at Is
lington, was Hogarth the painter. Goldsmith had spoken well of him in his essays in the “ Public Ledger,” and this formed the first link in their friendship. He was at this time upwards of sixty years of age, and is described as a stout, active, bustling little man, in a sky-blue coat, satirical and dogmatic, yet full of real benevolence and the love of human nature. He was the moralist and philosopher of the pencil; like Goldsmith he had sounded the depths of vice and misery, without being polluted by them; and though his picturings had not the pervading amenity of those of the essayist, and dwelt more on the crimes and vices than the follies and humors of mankind, yet they were all calculated, in like manner, to fill the mind with instruction and precept, and to make the heart better.
Hogarth does not appear to have had much of the rural feeling with which Goldsmith was so nmply endowed, and may not have accompanied him in his strolls about hedges and green lanes ; but he was a fit companion with whom to explore the mazes of London, in which he was continually on the lookout for character and incident. One of Hogarth's admirers speaks of having come upon him in Castle Street, engaged in one of his street-studies, watching two boys who were quarrelling ; patting one on the back who flinched, and endeavoring to spirit him up to a fresh encounter. “ At him again ! De him, if I would take it of him! At him again!"
A frail memorial of this intimacy between the painter and the poet exists in a portrait in oil, called “ Goldsmith's Hostess.” It is supposed to have been painted by Hogarth in the course of his visits to Islington, and given by him to the poet as a means of paying his landlady. There are no friendships among men of talents more likely to be sincere than those between painters and poets. Possessed of the same qualities of mind, governed by the same principles of taste and natural laws of grace and beauty, but applying them to different yet mutually illustrative arts, they are constantly in sympathy, and never in collision with each other.
A still more congenial intimacy of the kind was that contracted by Goldsmith with Mr. (afterwards Sir Joshua) Reynolds. The latter was now about forty years of
older than the poet, whom he charmed by the blandness and benignity of his manners, and the nobleness and generosity of his disposition, as much as he did
age, a few
SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
by the graces of his pencil and the magic of his coloring They were men of kindred genius, excelling in corresponding qualities of their several arts, for style in writing is what color is in painting ; both are innate endowments, and equally magical in their effects. Certain graces and harmonies of both may be acquired by diligent study and imitation, but only in a limited degree; whereas by their natural possessors they are exercised spontaneously, almost unconsciously, and with ever-varying fascination. Reynolds soon understood and appreciated the merits of Goldsmith, and a sincere and lasting friendship ensued between them.
At Reynolds's house Goldsmith mingled in a higher range of company
than he had been accustomed to. The fame of this celebrated artist, and his amenity of manners, were gathering round him men of talents of all kinds, and the increasing affluence of his circumstances enabled him to give full indulgence to his hospitable disposition. Poor Goldsmith had not yet, like Dr. Johnson, acquired reputation enough to atone for his external defects and his want of the air of good society. Miss Reynolds used to inveigh against his personal appearance, which gave her the idea, she said, of a low mechanic, a journeyman tailor One evening at a large supper-party, being called upon to give as a toast the ugliest man she knew, she gave Dr. Goldsmith, upon which a lady who sat opposite, and whom she had never met before, shook hands with her across the table, and * hoped to become better acquainted."