Page images



most part, ascertained ; and though thrown off hastily, often treating on subjects of temporary interest, and marred by the Griffith interpolations, they are still characterized by his sound, easy good sense, and the genial graces of his style. Johnson observed that Goldsmith's genius flowered late; he should have said it flowered early, but was late in bringing its fruit to maturity.


Newbery, of Picture-Book Memory. - How to keep up Ap

pearances. — Miseries of Authorship. — A poor Relation. Letter to Hodson.


EING now known in the publishing world, Goldsmith began to find casual

employment in various quarters ; among others he wrote occasionally for the “ Literary Magazine,” a production set on foot by Mr. John Newbery, bookseller, St. Paul's Churchyard, renowned in nursery literature throughout the latter half of the last century for his picture-books for children. Newbery was a worthy, intelligent, kind-hearted man, and a seasonable, though cautious friend to authors, relieving them with small loans when in pecuniary difficulties, though always taking care to be well repaid by the labor of their pens.

Goldsmith introduces him in a humorous yet friendly manner in his novel of the “ Vicar of Wakefield.” This

person was no other than the philanthropic bookseller in St. Paul's Churchyard, who has written so many little books for children ; he called himself their friend; but he was the friend of all mankind. He was no sooner alighted but he was in haste to be gone; for he was ever on business of importance, and was at that time actually compiling materials for the history of




one Mr. Thomas Trip. I immediately recollected this good-natured man's red-pimpled face.”

Besides his literary job-work, Goldsmith also resumed his medical practice, but with very

trifling success. The scantiness of his purse still obliged him to live in obscure lodgings somewhere in the vicinity of Salisbury Square, Fleet Street ; but his extended acquaintance and rising importance caused him to consult appearances.

He adopted an expedient, then very common, and still practised in London among those who have to tread the narrow path between pride and poverty: while he burrowed in lodgings suited to his means, he “hailed,” as it is termed, from the Temple Exchange Coffee-House near Temple Bar. Here he received his medical calls ; hence he dated his letters ; and here he passed much of his leisure hours, conversing with the frequenters of the place. “Thirty pounds a year," said a

” poor Irish painter, who understood the art of shifting, “is enough to enable a man to live in London without being contemptible. Ten pounds will find him in clothes and linen ; he can live in

: a garret on eighteen pence a week; hail from a coffee - house, where, by occasionally spending threepence, he may pass some hours each day in good company; he may breakfast on bread and milk for a penny; dine for sixpence ; do without supper; and on clean-shirt-day he may go abroad and pay visits.”

Goldsmith seems to have taken a leaf from this poor devil's manual in respect to the coffeehouse at least. Indeed, coffee - houses in those days were the resorts of wits and literati ; where the topics of the day were gossiped over, and the affairs of literature and the drama discussed and criticised. In this way he enlarged the circle of his intimacy, which now embraced several names of notoriety.

Do we want a picture of Goldsmith's experience in this part of his career ? we have it in his observations on the life of an author in the Inquiry into the State of Polite Learning," published some years

afterwards. “ The author, unpatronized by the great, has naturally recourse to the bookseller.

There cannot, perhaps, be imagined a combination more prejudicial to taste than this. It is the interest of the one to allow as little for writing, and for the other to write as much as possible ; accordingly, tedious compilations and periodical magazines are the result of their joint endeavors. In these circumstances the author bids adieu to fame ; writes for bread; and for that only imagination is seldom called in. He sits down to address the venal Muse with the most phlegmatic apathy; and, as we are told of the Russian, courts his mistress by falling asleep in her lap.”

Again. “ Those who are unacquainted with the world are apt to fancy the man of wit as leading a very agreeable life. They conclude, perhaps, that he is attended with silent admiration, and dictates to the rest of mankind with all the eloquence of conscious superiority. Very different is his present situation. He is called an author, and all know that an author is a thing only to be



laughed at. His person, not his jest, becomes the mirth of the company. At his approach the most fat, unthinking face brightens into malicious meaning. Even aldermen laugh, and avenge on him the ridicule which was lavished on their forefathers. .... The poet's poverty is a standing topic of contempt. His writing for bread is an unpardonable offence. Perhaps of all mankind, an author in these times is used most hardly. We keep him poor, and yet revile his poverty. We reproach him for living by his wit, and yet allow him no other means to live. His taking refuge in garrets and cellars has of late been violently objected to him, and that by men who, I have hope, are more apt to pity than insult his distress. Is poverty a careless fault ? No doubt he knows how to prefer a bottle of champagne to the nectar of the neighboring ale-house, or a venison pasty to a plate of potatoes. Want of delicacy is not in him, but in those who deny him the opportunity of making an elegant choice. Wit certainly is the property of those who have it, nor should we be displeased if it is the only property a man sometimes has. We must not under rate him who uses it for subsistence, and flees from the ingratitude of the age, even to a bookseller for redress.”

“ If the author be necessary among us, let us treat him with proper consideration as a child of the public, not as a rent-charge on the community. And indeed a child of the public he is in all respects; for while so well able to direct others, how incapable is he frequently found of guiding

« PreviousContinue »