Page images
PDF
EPUB

the harpsichord ; and yet it was but a melancholy pleasure I felt the first time I heard them ; for that being the first time also that either of them had touched the instrument since their mother's death, I saw the tears in silence trickle down their father's cheeks. I every day endeavored to go away, but every day was pressed and obliged to stay. On my going, the counsellor offered me his purse, with a horse and servant to convey me home; but the latter I declined, and only took a guinea to bear my necessary expenses on the road.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH. “To Mrs. Anne Goldsmith, Ballymahon."

Such is the story given by the poet-errant of this his second sally in quest of adventures. We cannot but think it was here and there touched up a little with the fanciful pen of the future essayist, with a view to amuse his mother and soften her vexation ; but even in these respects it is valuable as showing the early play of his humor, and his happy knack of extracting sweets from that worldly experience which to others yields nothing but bitterness.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Ballies forth as a Law Student. - Stumbles at the Outset.

Cousin Jane and the Valentine. — A Family Oracle. Sallies forth as a Student of Medicine. - Hocus pocus of a Boarding-House. — Transformations of a Leg of Mutton. The mock Ghost. - Sketches of Scotland. – Trials of Toadyism. – A Poet's Purse for a Continental Tour.

а

held among

NEW consultation was
Goldsmith's friends as to his future

course, and it was determined he should try the law.

His uncle Contarine agreed to advance the neces

cessary funds, and actually furnished him with fifty pounds, with which he set off for London, to enter on his studies at the Temple. Unfortunately, he fell in company at Dublin with a Roscommon acquaintance, one whose wits had been sharpened about town, who beguiled him into a gambling-house, and soon left him as penniless as when he bestrode the redoubtable Fiddle-back.

He was so ashamed of this fresh instance of gross heedlessness and imprudence, that he remained some time in Dublin without communicating to his friends his destitute condition. They heard of it, however, and he was invited back to the country, and indulgently forgiven by his generous uncle, but less readily by his mother, who was mortified and disheartened at seeing all her early hopes of him so repeatedly blighted. His brother Henry, too, began to lose patience at these successive failures, resulting from thoughtless indiscretion ; and a quarrel took place, which for some time interrupted their usually affectionate intercourse.

The only home where poor erring Goldsmith still received a welcome, was the parsonage of his affectionate forgiving uncle. Here he used to talk of literature with the good simple-hearted man, and delight him and his daughter with his

Jane, his early playmate, was now the woman grown; their intercourse was of a more intellectual kind than formerly; they discoursed of poetry and music; she played on the harpsichord, and he accompanied her with his flute. The music may not have been very artistic, as he never performed but by ear; it had probably as much merit as the poetry, which, if we may judge by the following specimen, was as yet but juvenile :

verses.

TO A YOUNG LADY ON VALENTINE'S DAY.

WITH THE DRAWING OF A HEART.

With submission at your shrine,
Comes a heart your Valentine;
From the side where once it grew,
See it panting flies to you.
Take it, fair one, to your breast,
Soothe the fluttering thing to rest;
Let the gentle, spotless toy
Be your sweetest, greatest joy;
Every night when wrapp'd in sleep,
Next your heart the conquest keep;
Or if dreams your fancy move,
Hear it whisper me and love;

THE FAMILY ORACLE.

55

Then in pity to the swain,
Who must heartless else remain,
Soft as gentle dewy show'rs,
Slow descend on April flow'rs;
Soft as gentle riv'lets glide,
Steal unnoticed to my side;
If the gem you have to spare,
Take your own and place it there.

If this Valentine was intended for the fair Jane, and expressive of a tender sentiment indulged by the stripling poet, it was unavailing; as not long afterwards she was married to a Mr. Lawder. We trust, however, it was but a poetical passion of that transient kind which grows up in idleness and exhales itself in rhyme. While Oliver was thus piping and poetizing at the parsonage, his uncle Contarine received a visit from Dean Goldsmith of Cloyne, a kind of magnate in the wide but improvident family connection, throughout which his word was law and almost gospel. This august dignitary was pleased to discover signs of talent in Oliver, and suggested that, as he had attempted divinity and law without success, he should now try physic. The advice came from too important a source to be disregarded, and it was determined to send him to Edinburgh to commence his studies. The Dean having given the advice, added to it, we trust, his blessing, but no money; that was furnished from the scantier purses of Goldsmith's brother, his sister (Mrs. Hodson), and his ever-ready uncle, Contarine.

It was in the autumn of 1752 that Goldsmith arrived in Edinburgh. His outset in that city came near adding to the list of his indiscretions and disasters. Having taken lodgings at haphaz

. ard, he left his trunk there, containing all his worldly effects, and sallied forth to see the town. After sauntering about the streets until a late hour, he thought of returning home, when, to his confusion, he found he had not acquainted himself with the name either of his landlady or of the street in which she lived. Fortunately, in the height of his whimsical perplexity, he met the cawdy or porter who had carried his trunk, and who now served him as a guide.

He did not remain long in the lodgings in which he had put up.

The hostess was too adroit at that hocus-pocus of the table which often is practised in cheap boarding-houses.

No one could conjure a single joint through a greater variety of forms. A loin of mutton, according to

A Goldsmith's account, would serve him and two fellow-students a whole week. " A brandered chop was served up one day, a fried steak another, collops with onion-sauce a third, and so on until the fleshy parts were quite consumed, when finally a dish of broth was manufactured from the bones on the seventh day, and the landlady rested from her labors.” Goldsmith had a good-humored mode of taking things, and for a short time amused himself with the shifts and expedients of his landlady, which struck him in a ludicrous manner; he soon, however, fell in with fellow-students from his own country, whom he joined at more eligible quarters.

He now attended medical lectures, and attached

« PreviousContinue »