Page images
PDF
EPUB

PORTRAITS AND ENGRAVINGS.

269

with them; he is honorary professor, without pay; his portrait is to be engraved in mezzotint, in company with those of his friends, Burke, Reynolds, Johnson, Colman, and others, and he will send prints of them to his friends over the Channel, though they may not have a house to hang them up in What a motley letter ! How indicative of the motley character of the writer! By the by, the publication of a splendid mezzotinto engraving of his likeness by Reynolds was a great matter of glorification to Goldsmith, especially as it appeared in such illustrious company.

As he was one day walking the streets in a state of high elation, from having just seen it figuring in the print-shop windows, he met a young gentleman with a newly married wife hanging on his arm, whom he immediately recognized for Master Bishop, one of the boys he had petted and treated with sweetmeats when a humble usher at Milner's school. The kindly feelings of old times revived, and he accosted him with cordial familiarity, though the youth may have found some difficulty in recognizing in the personage, arrayed, perhaps, in garments of Tyrian dye, the dingy pedagogue of the Milners. “ Come, my boy,” cried Goldsmith, as if still speaking to a school-boy, come, Sam, I am delighted to see you. I must treat you to something — what shall it be? Will you have some apples?” glancing at an old woman's stall; then, recollecting the print-shop window : “ Sam,” said he,“ have you seen my picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds ? Have you seen it, Sam ? Have you got an engraving?” Bishop was caught; he

66

[ocr errors]

equivocated; he had not yet bought it; but he was furnishing his house, and had fixed upon the place where it was to be hung. “ Ah, Sam !” rejoined Goldsmith reproachfully, "if your picture had been published, I should not have waited an hour without having it.”

After all, it was honest pride, not vanity, in Goldsmith, that was gratified at seeing his portrait deemed worthy of being perpetuated by the classic pencil of Reynolds, and “ hung up in history” beside that of his revered friend Johnson. Even the great moralist himself was not insensible to a feeling of this kind. Walking one day with Goldsmith, in Westminster Abbey, among the tombs of monarchs, warriors, and statesmen, they came to the sculptured mementos of literary worthies in poets' corner. Casting his eye round upon these memorials of genius, Johnson muttered in a low tone to his companion,

“Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis." Goldsmith treasured up the intimated hope, and shortly afterwards, as they were passing by Temple Bar, where the heads of Jacobite rebels, executed for treason, were mouldering aloft on spikes, pointed up to the grizzly mementos, and echoed the intimation,

“ Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis."

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XXVIII.

Publication of the “ Deserted Village”; Notices and Illustra

tions of it.

EVERAL years had now elapsed since

the publication of “The Traveller,” and

much wonder was expressed that the great success of that poem had not excited the author to further poetic attempts. On being questioned at the annual dinner of the Royal Academy by the Earl of Lisburn, why he neglected the Muses to compile histories and write novels, “ My Lord," replied he, " by courting the Muses I shall starve, but by my other labors I eat, drink, have good clothes, and can enjoy the luxuries of life.” So, also, on being asked by a poor writer what was the most profitable mode of exercising the pen, — “My dear fellow," replied he, good

. humoredly, “ pay no regard to the draggle-tailed Muses ; for my part I have found productions in · prose much more sought after and better paid for."

Still, however, as we have heretofore shown, he found sweet moments of dalliance to steal away from his prosaic toils, and court the Muse among the green lanes and hedge-rows in the rural environs of London, and on the 26th of May, 1770, he was enabled to bring his “ Deserted Village” before the public.

The popularity of “ The Traveller” had prepared the way for this poem, and its sale was instantaneous and iinmense. The first edition was immediately exhausted; in a few days a second was issued ; in a few days more a third, and by the 16th of August the fifth edition was hurried through the press. As is the case with popular writers, he had become his own rival, and critics were inclined to give the preference to his first poem ; but with the public at large we believe the “ Deserted Village” has ever been the greatest favorite. Previous to its publication the bookseller gave him in advance a note for the price agreed upon, one hundred guineas. As the latter was returning home he met a friend to whom he mentioned the circumstance, and who, apparently judging of poetry by quantity rather than quality, observed that it was a great sum for so small a poem. “ In truth,” said Goldsmith, “I think so too; it is much more than the honest man can afford or the piece is worth. I have not been easy since I received it.” In fact, he actually returned the note to the bookseller, and left it to him to graduate the payment according to the success of the work. The bookseller, as may well be supposed, soon repaid him in full with many acknowledgments of his disinterestedness. This anecdote has been called in question, we know not on what grounds; we see nothing in it incompatible with the character of Goldsmith, who was very impulsive, and prone to acts of inconsiderate generosity.

As we do not pretend in this summary memoir

THOUGHTS OF HOME.

273

a

any

to go into a criticism or analysis of of Gold-
smith's writings, we shall not dwell upon the pecu-
liar merits of this poem ; we cannot help noticing,
however, how truly it is a mirror of the author's
heart, and of all the fond pictures of early friends
and early life forever present there. It seems to
us as if the very last accounts received from home,
of his “ shattered family," and the desolation that
seemed to have settled upon the haunts of his
childhood, had cut to the roots one feebly cherished
hope, and produced the following exquisitely ten-
der and mournful lines :
“ In all my wand'rings round this world of care,
In all my griefs — and God has giv'n my share -

still had hopes my latest hours to crown,
Amid these humble bowers to lay me down;
To husband out life's taper at the close,
And keep the flame from wasting by repose;
I still had hopes, for pride attends us still,
Amid the swains to show my book-learn’d skill,
Around my fire an ev’ning group to draw,
And tell of all I felt and all I saw ;
And as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
Pants to the place from whence at first she flew;
I still had hopes, my long vexations past,
Here to return and die at home at last."

How touchingly expressive are the succeeding lines, wrung from a heart which all the trials and temptations and buffetings of the world could not render worldly ; which, amid a thousand follies and errors of the head, still retained its childlike innocence; and which, doomed to struggle on to the last amidst the din and turmoil of the metropolis, had ever been cheating itself with a dream of rural quiet and seclusion :

« PreviousContinue »