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Langton declared “there was not a bad line in the poem, not one of Dryden's careless verses.” “I was glad,” observed Reynolds, “to hear Charles Fox say it was one of the finest poems in the English language.” “Why was you glad?” rejoined Langton, "you surely had no doubt of this before." "No," interposed Johnson,
“ , decisively; 66 the merit of The Traveller'is so well established that Mr. Fox's praise cannot augment it, nor his censure diminish it.”
Boswell, who was absent from England at the time of the publication of the “ Traveller," was astonished, on his return, to find Goldsmith, whom he had so much undervalued, suddenly elevated almost to a par with his idol. He accounted for it by concluding that much both of the sentiments and expression of the poem had been derived from conversations with Johnson. “ He imitates you, sir," said this incarnation of toadyism.
” " Why no, sir," replied Johnson, “ Jack Hawksworth is one of my imitators, but not Goldsmith. Goldy, sir, has great merit.” But, sir, he is much indebted to you for his getting so high in the public estimation." “ Why, sir, he has, perhaps, got sooner to it by his intimacy with me.”
The poem went through several editions in the course of the first year, and received some few additions and corrections from the author's pen. It produced a golden harvest to Mr. Newbery ; but all the remuneration on record, doled out by his niggard hand to the author, was twenty guineas !
New Lodgings. — Johnson's Compliment. A Titled Patron.
The Poet at Northumberland House. — His Independence
the world, and becoming a notoriety,
felt himself called upon to improve his style of living. He accordingly emerged from Wine-Office Court, and took chambers in the Temple. It is true they were but of humble pretensions, situated on what was then the library staircase, and it would appear that he was a kind of inmate with Jeffs, the butler of the society. Still he was in the Temple, that classic region rendered famous by the Spectator and other essayists as the abode of gay wits and thoughtful men of letters; and which, with its retired courts and embowered gardens, in the very heart of a noisy metropolis, is, to the quiet-seeking student and author, an oasis freshening with verdure in the midst of a desert. Johnson, who had become a kind of growling supervisor of the poet's affairs, paid him a visit soon after he had installed himself in his new quarters, and went
A TITLED PATRON.
prying about the apartment, in his near-sighted manner, examining everything minutely. Goldsmith was fidgeted by this curious scrutiny, and apprehending a disposition to find fault, exclaimed, with the air of a man who had money in both pockets, “ I shall soon be in better chambers than these.” The harmless bravado drew a reply from Johnson, which touched the chord of proper pride. Nay, sir,” said he, never mind that. Nil te quæsiveris extra,” — implying that his reputation rendered him independent of outward show. Happy would it have been for poor Goldsmith, could he have kept this consolatory compliment perpetually in mind, and squared his expenses accordingly.
Among the persons of rank who were struck with the merits of the “ Traveller” was the Earl (afterwards Duke) of Northumberland. He procured several other of Goldsmith's writings, the perusal of which tended to elevate the author in his good opinion, and to gain for him his good will. The Earl held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and understanding Goldsmith was an Irishman, was disposed to extend to him the patronage which his high post afforded. He intimated the same to his relative, Dr. Percy, who, he found, was well acquainted with the poet, and expressed a wish that the latter should wait upon him. Here, then, was another opportunity for Goldsmith to better his fortune, had he been knowing and worldly enough to profit by it. Unluckily the path to fortune lay through the aristocratical mazes of Northumberland House, and the poet blundered at the outset. The fol lowing is the account he used to give of his visit: “I dressed myself in the best manner I could, and, after studying some compliments I thought necessary on such an occasion, proceeded to Northumberland House, and acquainted the servants that I had particular business with the Duke. They showed me into an antechamber, where, after waiting some time, a gentleman, very elegantly dressed, made his appearance : taking him for the Duke, I delivered all the fine things I had composed in order to compliment him on the honor he had done me ; when, to my great astonishment, he told me I had mistaken him for his master, who would see me immediately. At that instant the Duke came into the apartment, and I was so confounded on the occasion that I wanted words barely sufficient to express the sense I entertained of the Duke's politeness, and went away exceedingly chagrined at the blunder I had committed."
Sir John Hawkins, in his Life of Dr. Johnson, gives some farther particulars of this visit, of which he was, in part, a witness. Having one day,” says he, a call to make on the late Duke (then Earl) of Northumberland, I found Goldsmith waiting for an audience in an outer room: I asked him what had brought him there; he told me, an invitation from his lordship. I made my business as short as I could, and, as a reason, mentioned that Dr. Goldsmith was waiting without. The Earl asked me if I was acquainted with him. I told him that I was, adding what I
INDEPENDENCE OF CHARACTER.
thought was most likely to recommend him. I retired, and stayed in the outer room to take him home. Upon his coming out, I asked him the result of his conversation. His lordship,' said he, told me he had read my poem, meaning the “ Traveller," and was much delighted with it; that he was going to be lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and that, hearing I was a native of that country, he should be glad to do me any kindness.' And what did you answer,' said I, “to this gracious offer?' Why,' said he, I could say nothing but that I had a brother there, a clergyman, that stood in need of help: as for myself, I have no great dependence on the promises of great men; I look to the booksellers for support; they are my best friends, and I am not inclined to forsake them for others.' “ Thus," continues Sir John, 6 did this idiot in the affairs of the world trifle with his fortunes, and put back the hand that was held out to assist him.”
We cannot join with Sir John in his worldly sneer at the conduct of Goldsmith on this occasion. While we admire that honest independence of spirit which prevented him from asking favors for himself, we love that warmth of affection which instantly sought to advance the fortunes of a brother ; but the peculiar merits of poor Goldsmith seem to have been little understood by the Hawkinses, the Boswells, and the other biographers of the day.
After all, the introduction to Northumberland House did not prove so complete a failure as the humorous account given by Goldsmith, and the