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the name of sentimental comedy, in which the virtues of private life are exhibited rather than the vices exposed ; and the distresses rather than the faults of mankind make our interest in the piece. In these plays almost all the characters are good, and exceedingly generous ; they are lavish enough of their tin money on the stage; and though they want humor, have abundance of sentiment and feeling
If they happen to have faults or foibles, the spectator is taught not only to pardon, but to applaud them in consideration of the goodness of their hearts; so that folly, instead of being ridiculed, is commended, and the comedy aims at touching our passions, without the power of being truly pathetic. In this manner we are likely to lose one great source of entertainment on the stage ; for while the comic poet is invading the province of the tragic muse, he leaves her lively sister quite neglected. Of this, however, he is no ways solicitous, as he measures his fame by his profits.
“ Humor at present seems to be departing from the stage ; and it will soon happen that our comic players will have nothing left for it but a fine coat and a song. It depends upon the audience whether they will actually drive those poor merry creatures from the stage, or sit at a play as gloomy as at the tabernacle. It is not easy to recover an art when once lost; and it will be a just punishment, that when, by our being too fastidious, we have banished humor from the stage, we should ourbelves be deprived of the art of laughing."
Symptoms of reform in the drama had recently
taken place. The comedy of the “ Clandestine Marriage,” the joint production of Colman and Garrick, and suggested by Hogarth's inimitable pictures of Marriage a la mode, had taken the town by storm, crowded the theatre with fashionable audiences, and formed one of the leading literary topics of the year. Goldsmith's emulation was roused by its success. The comedy was in what he considered the legitimate line, totally different from the sentimental school; it presented pictures of real life, delineations of character and touches of humor, in which he felt himself calculated to excel. The consequence was, that in the course of this year (1766) he commenced a comedy of the same class, to be entitled the “ GoodNatured Man," at which he diligently wrought whenever the hurried occupation of “ book-building" allowed him leisure.
Social Position of Goldsmith; His Colloquial Contests with
Johnson. - Anecdotes and Illustrations.
HE social position of Goldsmith had un
dergone a material change since the pub
lication of “ The Traveller.” Before that event he was but partially known as the author of some clever anonymous writings, and had been a tolerated member of the club and the Johnson circle, without much being expected from him. Now he had suddenly risen to literary fame, and become one of the lions of the day. The highest regions of intellectual society were now open to him; but he was not prepared to move in them with confidence and success. Ballymahon had not been a good school of manners at the outset of life; nor had his experience as a “ poor student” at colleges and medical schools contributed to give him the polish of society. He had brought from Ireland, as he said, nothing but his “ brogue and his blunders,” and they had never left him. He had travelled, it is true ; but the Continental tour which in those days gave the finishing grace to the education of a patrician youth, had, with poot Goldsmith, been little better than a course of literary vagabondizing. It had enriched his mind, deepened and widened the benevolence of his heart, and filled his memory with enchanting pictures, but it had contributed little to disciplining him for the polite intercourse of the world.
His life in London had hitherto been a struggle with sordid cares and sad humiliations.
6 You scarcely can conceive," wrote he some time previously to his brother, “how much eight years of disappointment, anguish, and study have worn me down.” Several more years had since been added to the term during which he had trod the lowly walks of life. He had been a tutor, an apothecary's drudge, a petty physician of the suburbs, a bookseller's hack, drudging for daily bread. Each separate walk had been beset by its peculiar thorns and humiliations. It is wonderful how his heart retained its gentleness and kindness through all these trials ; how his mind rose above
meannesses of poverty,” to which, as he says, he was compelled to submit; but it would be still more wonderful, had his manners acquired a tone corresponding to the innate grace and refinement of his intellect. He was near forty years
age when he published “ The Traveller," and was lifted by it into celebrity. As is beautifully said of him by one of his biographers, “ he has fought his way to consideration and esteem ; but he bears
1 upon him the scars of his twelve years' conflict; of the mean sorrows through which he has passed ; ad of the cheap indulgences he has sought relief and help from. There is nothing plastic in his nature now. His manners and habits are completely formed ; and in them any further success
can make little favorable change, whatever it may effect for his mind or genius.”
We are not to be surprised, therefore, at find ing him make an awkward figure in the elegant drawing-rooms which were now open to him, and disappointing those who had formed an idea of him from the fascinating ease and gracefulness of his poetry.
Even the literary club, and the circle of which it formed a part, after their surprise at the intellectual flights of which he showed himself capable, fell into a conventional mode of judging and talking of him, and of placing him in absurd and whimsical points of view. His very celebrity operated here to his disadvantage. It brought him into continual comparison with Johnson, who was the oracle of that circle and had given it a tone. Conversation was the great staple there, and of this Johnson was a master. He had been a reader and thinker from childhood : his melancholy temperament, which unfitted him for the pleasures of youth, had made him so. For many years past the vast variety of works he had been obliged to consult in preparing his Dictionary, had stored an uncommonly retentive memory with facts on all kinds of subjects ; making it a perfect colloquial armory. “ He had all his life,” says Boswell, 6 habituated himself to consider conversation as a trial of intellectual vigor and skill. He had disciplined himself as a talker as well as a writer, making it a rule to impart whatever he knew in the most forcible language he could put it in, so
* Forster's Goldsmith.