Page images


The Poet among the Ladies; Description of his Person and

Manners. — Expedition to Paris with the Horneck Family. The Traveller of Twenty and the Traveller of Forty. – Hickey, the Special Attorney. – An unlucky Exploit.

HE “ Deserted Village” had shed an ad

ditional poetic grace round the homely

person of the author; he was becoming more and more acceptable in ladies' eyes, and finding himself more and more at ease in their society; at least in the society of those whom he met in the Reynolds circle, among whom he particularly affected the beautiful family of the Hornecks.

But let us see what were really the looks and manners of Goldsmith about this time, and what right he had to aspire to ladies' smiles ; and in so doing let us not take the sketches of Boswell and his compeers, who had a propensity to represent him in caricature; but let us take the apparently truthful and discriminating picture of him as he appeared to Judge Day, when the latter was a student in the Temple.

"In person," says the Judge," he was short; about five feet five or six inches ; strong, but not heavy in make ; rather fair in complexion, with brown hair; such, at least, as could be distinguished from his wig. His features were plain, but not repulsive, - certainly not so when lighted up by conversation. His manners were simple, natural, and perhaps on the whole, we may say, not polished ; at least without the refinement and good-breeding which the exquisite polish of his compositions would lead us to expect. He was always cheerful and animated, often, indeed, boisterous in his mirth ; entered with spirit into convivial society; contributed largely to its enjoyments by solidity of information, and the naïveté and originality of his character ; talked often without premeditation, and laughed loudly without restraint."

This, it will be recollected, represents him as he appeared to a young Templar, who probably saw him only in Temple coffee-houses, at students' quarters, or at the jovial supper-parties given at the poet's own chambers. Here, of course, his mind was in its rough dress; his laugh may have been loud and his mirth boisterous ; but we trust all these matters became softened and modified when he found himself in polite drawing. rooms and in female society.

But what say the ladies themselves of him; and here, fortunately, we have another sketch of him, as he appeared at the time to one of the Horneck circle ; in fact, we believe, to the Jessa. my Bride herself.

After admitting, apparently, with some reluctance, that “ he was a very plain man,” she goes on to say, “ but had he been much more so, it was impossible not to love and respect his goodness of heart, which broke out on every



occasion. His benevolence was unquestionable, and his countenance bore every trace of it: no one that knew him intimately could avoid admiring and loving his good qualities.” When to all this we add the idea of intellectual delicacy and refinement associated with him by his poetry and the newly-plucked bays that were flourishing round his brow, we cannot be surprised that fine and fashionable ladies should be proud of his attentions, and that even a young beauty should not be altogether displeased with the thoughts of having a man of his genius in her chains.

We are led to indulge some notions of the kind from finding him in the month of July, but a few weeks after the publication of the “ Deserted Village,” setting off on a six weeks' excursion to Paris, in company with Mrs. Horneck and her two beautiful daughters. A day or two before his departure, we find another new gala suit charged to him on the books of Mr. William Filby. Were the bright eyes of the Jessamy Bride responsible for this additional extravagance of wardrobe ? Goldsmith had recently been editing the works of Parnell; had he taken courage from the example of Edwin in the Fairy tale ?

“Yet spite of all that nature did
To make his uncouth form forbid,

This creature dared to love.
He felt the force of Edith's eyes,
Nor wanted hope to gain the prize

Could ladies look within"

All this we throw out as mere hints and sur.

mises, leaving it to our readers to draw their own conclusions. It will be found, however, that the poet was subjected to shrewd bantering among his contemporaries about the beautiful Mary Horneck, and that he was extremely sensitive on the subject.

It was in the month of June that he set out for Paris with his fair companions, and the following letter. was written by him to Sir Joshua Reynolds, soon after the party landed at Calais.


“ We had a very quick passage from Dover to Calais, which we performed in three hours and twenty minutes, all of us extremely sea-sick, which must necessarily have happened, as my machine to prevent sea-sickness was not completed. We were glad to leave Dover, because we hated to be imposed upon ; so were in high spirits at coming to Calais, where we were told that a little money would go a great way.

“ Upon landing, with two little trunks, which was all we carried with us, we were surprised to see fourreen or fifteen fellows all running down to the ship to lay their hands upon them ; four got under each trunk, the rest surrounded and held the hasps ; and in this manner our little baggage was conducted, with a kind of funeral solemnity, till it was safely lodged at the custom-house. We were well enough pleased with the people's civility till they came to be paid ; every creature that had the happiness of but touching our trunks with their finger expected sixpence; and they had so



pretty and civil a manner of demanding it, that there was no refusing them.

“ When we had done with the porters, we had next to speak with the custom-house officers, who had their pretty civil way too. We were directed to the Hôtel d'Angleterre, where a valet-de-place came to offer his service, and spoke to me ten minutes before I once found out that he was speaking English. We had no occasion for his services, so we gave him a little money because he spoke English, and because he wanted it. I cannot help mentioning another circumstance: I bought a new riband for my wig at Canterbury, and the barber at Calais broke it in order to gain sixpence by buying me a new one.”

An incident which occurred in the course of this tour has been tortured by that literary magpie, Boswell, into a proof of Goldsmith's absurd jealousy of any admiration shown to others in his presence.

While stopping at a hotel in Lisle, they were drawn to the windows by a military parade in front. The extreme beauty of the Miss Hornecks immediately attracted the attention of the officers, who broke forth with enthusiastic speeches and compliments intended for their ears. Goldsmith was amused for a while, but at length effected impatience at this exclusive admiration of ois beautiful companions, and exclaimed, with mock severity of aspect, “ Elsewhere I also would bave my

admirers.” It is difficult to conceive the obtuseness of in'ellect necessary to misconstrue so obvious a piece

« PreviousContinue »