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THE MEDICAL PROFESSION.
and “ Tom Thumb,” flourish in wide-spreading and never-ceasing popularity.
As Goldsmith had now acquired popularity and an extensive acquaintance, he attempted, with the advice of his friends, to procure a more regular and ample support by resuming the medical profession. He accordingly launched himself upon the town in style ; hired a man-servant; replenished his wardrobe at considerable expense, and appeared in a professional wig and cane, purple silk small-clothes, and a scarlet roquelaure buttoned to the chin: a fantastic garb, as we should think at the present day, but not unsuited to the fashion of the times.
With his sturdy little person thus arrayed in the unusual magnificence of purple and fine linen, and his scarlet roquelaure flaunting from his shoulders, he used to strut into the apartments of his patients swaying his three-cornered hat in one hand and his medical sceptre, the cane, in the other, and assuming an air of gravity and importance suited to the solemnity of his wig ; at least, such is the picture given of him by the waiting gentlewoman who let him into the chamber of one of his lady-patients.
He soon, however, grew tired and impatient of the duties and restraints of his profession ; his practice was chiefly among his friends, and the fees were not sufficient for his maintenance; he was disgusted with attendance on sick-chambers and capricious patients, and looked back with longing to his tavern-haunts and broad convivial meetings, from which the dignity and duties of his medical calling restrained him.
At length, on prescribing to a lady of his acquaintance, who, to use a hackneyed phrase, "rejoiced " in the aristocratical name of Sidebotham, a warm dispute arose between him and the apothecary as to the quancity of medicine to be administered. The Doctor stood up for the rights and dignities of his profession, and resented the interference of the compounder of drugs. His rights and dignities, however, were disregarded ; his wig and cane and scarlet roquelaure were of no avail ; Mrs. Sidebotham sided with the hero of the pestle and more tar; and Goldsmith flung out of the house in a passion. “I am determined henceforth,” said he to Topham Beauclerc, “ to leave off prescribing for friends." “ Do so, my dear Doctor," was the reply;
undertake to kill, let it be only your enemies."
This was the end of Goldsmith's medical ca
Publication of the “Vicar of Wakefield"; Opinions concerning
it: Of Dr. Johnson; Of Rogers the Poet; Of Goethe; Its Merits; Exquisite Extract. - Attack by Kenrick. - Reply. - Book-Building. — Project of a Comedy.
HE success of the poem of “ The Trav
eller," and the popularity which it had
conferred or its author, now roused the attention of the bookseller in whose hands the novel of “ The Vicar of Wakefield ” had been slumbering for nearly two long years. The idea has generally prevailed that it was Mr. John Newbery to whom the manuscript had been sold, and much surprise has been expressed that he should be insensible to its merit and suffer it to remain unpublished, while putting forth various inferior writings by the same author. This, however, is a mistake; it was his nephew, Francis Newbery, who had become the fortunate purchaser. Still the delay is equally unaccountable. Some have imagined that the uncle and nephew had business arrangements together, in which this work was included, and that the elder Newbery, dubious of its success, retarded the publication until the full harvest of “ The Traveller” should be reaped. Booksellers are prone to make egregious mistakes as to the merit of works in manuscript; and to
undervalue, if not reject, those of classic and enduring excellence, when destitute of that false brilliancy commonly called
“ effect." In the present instance, an intellect vastly superior to that of either of the booksellers was equally at fault. Dr. Johnson, speaking of the work to Boswell, some time subsequent to its publication, observed, “ I myself did not think it would have had much success. It was written and sold to a bookseller before “The Traveller,' but published after, so little expectation had the bookseller from it. Had it been sold after • The Traveller,' he might have had twice as much money; though sixty guineas was no mean price."
Sixty guineas for the “Vicar of Wakefield ”! and this could be pronounced no mean price by Dr. Johnson, at that time the arbiter of British talent, and who had had an opportunity of witnessing the effect of the work upon the public mind; for its success was immediate. It came out on the 27th of March, 1766 ; before the end of May a second edition was called for ; in three months more, a third ; and so it went on, widening in a popularity that has never flagged. Rogers, the Nestor of British literature, whose refined purity of taste and exquisite mental organization rendered him eminently calculated to appreciate a work of the kind, declared that of all the books which through the fitful changes of three generations he had seen rise and fall, the charm of the “ Vicar of Wakefield” had alone continued as at first; and could he revisit the world after an interval of many more generations, he
THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD.
should as surely look to find it undiminished. Nor has its celebrity been confined to Great Britain. Though so exclusively a picture of British scenes and manners, it has been translated into almost every language, and everywhere its charm has been the same. Goethe, the great genius of Germany, declared in his eighty-first year, that it was his delight at the age of twenty, that it had in a manner formed a part of his education, influencing his taste and feelings throughout life, and that he had recently read it again from beginning to end — with renewed delight, and with a grateful sense of the early benefit derived from it.
It is needless to expatiate upon the qualities of a work which has thus passed from country to country, and language to language, until it is now known throughout the whole reading-world and is become a household book in every hand. The secret of its universal and enduring popularity is undoubtedly its truth to nature, but to nature of the most amiable kind, to nature such as Goldsmith saw it. The author, as we have occasionally shown in the course of this memoir, took his scenes and characters in this, as in his other writings, from originals in his own motley experience; but he has given them as seen through the medium of his own indulgent eye, and has set them forth with the colorings of his own good head and heart. Yet how contradictory it seems that this, one of the most delightful pictures of home and homefelt happiness should be drawn by a homeless man ; that the most amiable picture