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I; but by this time I had acquired another tal. ent, which answered my purpose as well, and this was a skill in disputation. In all the foreign universities and convents there are, upon certain days, philosophical theses maintained against every adventitious disputant, for which, if the champion opposes with any dexterity, he can claim a gratuity in money, a dinner, and a bed for one night." Though a poor wandering scholar, his reception in these learned piles was as free from humiliation as in the cottages of the peasantry. 6 With the members of these establishments,” said he, “ I could converse on topics of literature, and then I always forgot the meanness of my circumstances."
At Padua, where he remained some months, he is said to have taken his medical degree. It is probable he was brought to a pause in this city by the illness of his uncle Contarine; who had hitherto assisted him in his wanderings by occasional, though, of course, slender remittances. Deprived of this source of supplies, he wrote to his friends in Ireland, and especially to his brotherin-law, Hodson, describing his destitute situation. His letters brought him neither money nor reply. It appears, from subsequent correspondence, that his brother-in-law actually exerted himself to raise a subscription for his assistance among his relatives, friends, and acquaintance, but without
Their faith and hope in him were most probably at an end; as yet he had disappointed them at every point, he had given none of the anticipated proofs of talent, and they were too
HIS MAGIC FLUTE.
poor to support what they may have considered the wandering propensities of a heedless spendthrift.
Thus left to his own precarious resources, Goldsmith gave up all further wandering in Italy, without visiting the south, though Rome and Naples must have held out powerful attractions to one of his poetical cast. Once more resuming his pilgrim staff, he turned his face toward England,“ walking along from city to city, examining mankind more nearly, and seeing both sides of the picture.” In traversing France his flute
his magic flute! - was once more in requisition, as we may conclude by the following passage in his “ Traveller”:“Gay, sprightly land of mirth and social ease, Pleased with thyself, whom all the world can please, How often have I led thy sportive choir With tuneless pipe beside the murmuring Loire ! Where shading elms along the margin grew, And freshened from the wave the zephyr flew; And haply though my harsh note falt'ring still, But mocked all tune, and marr’d the dancer's skill; Yet would the village praise my wondrous power, And dance forgetful of the noontide hour. Alike all ages: Dames of ancient days Have led their children through the mirthful maze, And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore, Has frisk'd beneath the burden of three-score."
Landing in England. - Shifts of a Man without Money.
The Pestle and Mortar. — Theatricals in a Barn.- Launch upon London. – A City Night-Scene. - Struggles with Penury. - Miseries of a Tutor. - A Doctor in the Suburb. Poor Practice and second-hand Finery.- A Tragedy in Embryo.— Project of the Written Mountains.
FTER two years spent in roving about
the Continent, “ pursuing novelty,” as he
said, “and losing content," Goldsmith landed at Dover early in 1756. He appears to have had no definite plan of action. The death of his uncle Contarine, and the neglect of his relatives and friends to reply to his letters, seem to have produced in him a temporary feeling of loneliness and destitution, and his only thought was to get to London, and throw himself upon the world. But how was he to get there? His purse was empty. England was to him as completely a foreign land as any part of the Continent, and where on earth is a penniless stranger more destitute ? His flute and his philosophy were no longer of any avail; the English boors cared nothing for music; there were no convents; and as to the learned and the clergy, not one of them would give a vagrant scholar a supper and night's lodging for the best thesis that ever was argued. “ You may easily imagine,” says he, in a subse
LAUNCH UPON LONDON.
quent letter to his brother-in-law, " what difficul. ties I had to encounter, left as I was without friends, recommendations, money, or impudence, and that in a country where being born an Irishman was sufficient to keep me unemployed. Many, in such circumstances, would have had recourse to the friar's cord or the suicide's halter. But, with all my follies, I had principle to resist the one, and resolution to combat the other.”
He applied at one place, we are told, for employment in the shop of a country apothecary ; but all his medical science gathered in foreign universities could not gain him the management of a pestle and mortar. He even resorted, it is said, to the stage as a temporary expedient, and figured in low comedy at a country town in Kent. This accords with his last shift of the Philosophic Vagabond, and with the knowledge of country theatricals displayed in his “ Adventures of a Strolling Player,” or may be a story suggested
All this part of his career, however, in which he must have trod the lowest paths of humility, are only to be conjectured from vague traditions, or scraps of autobiography gleaned from his miscellaneous writings.
At length we find him launched on the great metropolis, or rather drifting about its streets, at night, in the gloomy month of February, with but a few half-pence in his pocket. The Deserts of Arabia are not more dreary and inhospitable than the streets of London at such a time, and to a stranger in such a plight. Do we want a picture as an illustration ? We have it in his
own works, and furnished, doubtless, from his own experience.
“ The clock has just struck two; what a gloom hangs all around ! no sound is heard but of the chiming clock, or the distant watch-dog. How few
appear in those streets, which but some few hours ago were crowded ! But who are those who make the streets their couch, and find a short repose from wretchedness at the doors of the opulent ? They are strangers, wanderers, and orphans, whose circumstances are too humble to expect redress, and whose distresses are too great even for pity. Some are without the covering even of rags, and others emaciated with disease ; the world has disclaimed them ; society turns its back upon their distress, and has given them up to nakedness and hunger. These poor shivering females have once seen happier days, and been flattered into beauty. They are now turned out to meet the severity of winter. Perhaps now, lying at the doors of their betrayers, they sue to wretches whose hearts are insensible, or debauchees who may curse, but will not relieve them.
Why, why was I born a man, and yet see the sufferings of wretches I cannot relieve! Poor houseless creatures ! The world will give you reproaches, but will not give you relief."
Poor houseless Goldsmith! we may here ejaculate to what shifts he must have been driven to find shelter and sustenance for himself in this his first venture into London! Many years afterwards, in the days of his social elevation, ho