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Improvident Marriages in the Goldsmith Family.-- Goldsmith
at the University. — Situation of a Sizer. — Tyranny of Wilder, the Tutor. - Pecuniary Straits. - Street-Ballads. College Riot. Gallows Walsh. — College Prize. — A Dance interrupted.
HILE Oliver was making his way some
what negligently through the schools,
his elder brother Henry was rejoicing his father's heart by his career at the University. He soon distinguished himself at the examinations, and obtained a scholarship in 1743. This is a collegiate distinction which serves as a stepping-stone in any of the learned professions, and which leads to advancement in the University should the individual choose to remain there. His father now trusted that he would push forward for that comfortable provision, a fellowship, and thence to higher dignities and emoluments. Henry, however, had the improvidence or the “unworldliness ” of his race: returning to the country during the succeeding vacation, he married for love, relinquished, of course, all his collegiate prospects and advantages, set up a school in his father's neighborhood, and buried his talents and acquirements for the remainder of his life in a curacy of forty pounds a year.
Another matrimonial event occurred not long afterward in the Goldsmith family, to disturb the equanimity of its worthy head. This was the clandestine marriage of his daughter Catherine with a young gentleman of the name of Hodson, who had been confided to the care of her brother Henry to complete his studies. As the youth was of wealthy parentage, it was thought a lucky match for the Goldsmith family; but the tidings of the event stung the bride's father to the soul. Proud of his integrity, and jealous of that good name which was his chief possession, he saw himself and his family subjected to the degrading suspicion of having abused a trust reposed in them to promote a mercenary match. In the first transports of his feelings, he is said to have uttered a wish that his daughter might never have a child to bring like shame and sorrow on her head. The hasty wish, so contrary to the usual benignity. of the man, was recalled and repented of almost as soon as uttered ; but it was considered baleful in its effects by the superstitious neighborhood; for, though his daughter bore three children, they all died before her.
A more effectual measure was taken by Mr. Goldsmith to ward off the apprehended imputation, but one which imposed a heavy burden on his family. This was to furnish a marriage portion of four hundred pounds, that his daughter might not be said to have entered her husband's family empty-handed. To raise the sum in cash was impossible ; but he assigned to Mr. Hodson his little farm and the income of his tithes unti!
INDIGNITIES OF A “POOR STUDENT."
the inarriage portion should be paid. In the mean time, as bis living did not amount to £200 per annum, he had to practise the strictest econ. omy to pay off gradually this heavy tax incurred by his nice sense of honor.
The first of his family to feel the effects of this economy was Oliver. The time had now arrived for him to be sent to the University; and, accordingly, on the 11th June, 1745, when seventeen years of age, he entered Trinity College, Dublin; but his father was no longer able to place him there as a pensioner, as he had done his eldest son Henry; he was obliged, therefore, to enter him as a sizer, or“ poor scholar.” He was lodged in one of the top rooms adjoining the library of the building, numbered 35, where it is said his name may still be seen, scratched by himself upon a window-frame.
A student of this class is taught and boarded gratuitously, and has to pay but a small sum for his room.
It is expected, in return for these advantages, that he will be a diligent student, and render himself useful in a variety of ways. In Trinity College, at the time of Goldsmith's admission, several derogatory, and, indeed, menial offices were exacted from the sizer, as if the college sought to indemnify itself for conferring benefits by inflicting indignities. He was obliged to sweep part of the courts in the morning ; to carry up the dishes from the kitchen to the fellows' table, and to wait in the hall until that body had dined. His very dress marked the inferiority of the “poor student ” to his happier classmates. It was a black gown of coarse stuff without sleeves, and a plain black cloth cap
without a tassel. We can conceive nothing more odious and ill-judged than these distinctions, which attached the idea of degradation to poverty, and placed the indigent youth of merit below the worthless minion of fortune. They were calculated to wound and irritate the noble mind, and to render the base mind baser.
Indeed, the galling effect of these servile tasks upon youths of proud spirits and quick sensibilities became at length too notorious to be disregarded. About fifty years since, on a Trinity Sunday, a number of persons were assembled to witness the college ceremonies; and as a sizer was carrying up a dish of meat to the fellows' table, a burly citizen in the crowd made some sneering observation on the servility of his office. Stung to the quick, the high-spirited youth instantly flung the dish and its contents at the head of the
The sizer was sharply reprimanded for this outbreak of wounded pride, but the degrading task was from that day forward very properly consigned to menial hands.
It was with the utmost repugnance that Goldsmith entered college in this capacity. His shy and sensitive nature was affected by the inferior station he was doomed to hold among
and opulent fellow-students, and he became, at times, moody and despondent. A recollection of these early mortifications induced him, in after-years, most strongly to dissuade his brother Henry, the clergyman, from sending a son to college on a
HIS LOVE OF CUNVIVIAL PLEASURES.
like footing, “ If he has ambition, strong passions, and an exquisite sensibility of contempt, do not send him there, unless you have no other trade for him except your own.”
To add to his annoyances, the fellow of the college who had the peculiar control of his studies, the Rev. Theaker Wilder, was a man of violent and capricious temper, and of diametrically opposite tastes. The tutor was devoted to the exact sciences ; Goldsmith was for the classics. Wilder endeavored to force his favorite studies upon the student by harsh means, suggested by his own coarse and savage nature. He abused him in presence of the class as ignorant and stupid ; ridiculed him as awkward and ugly, and at times in the transports of his temper indulged in personal violence. The effect was to aggravate a passive distaste into a positive aversion. Goldsmith was loud in expressing his contempt for mathematics and his dislike of ethics and logic; and the prejudices thus imbibed continued through life. Mathematics he always pronounced a science to which the meanest intellects were competent.
A truer cause of this distaste for the severer studies may probably be found in his natural indolence and his love of convivial pleasures. “ I was a lover of mirth, good-humor, and even sometimes of fun,” said he, “ from my childhood.” IIe sang a good song, was a boon companion, and could not resist any temptation to social enjoyment. He endeavored to persuade himself that learning and dulness went hand in hand, and that