« PreviousContinue »
have wondered at the sudden revolution which brought England, France, and Spain all under one crown ; but, as I was also no conjurer, it amazed me beyond measure.
From that time, whenever the Doctor came to visit my father,
"I pluck'd his gown to share the good man's smile;' a game
of romps constantly ensued, and we were always cordial friends and merry playfellows."
Although Goldsmith made the Edgeware farmhouse his headquarters for the summer, he would absent himself for weeks at a time on visits to Mr. Cradock, Lord Clare, and Mr. Langton, at their country-seats.
He would often visit town, also, to dine and partake of the public amusements. On one occasion he accompanied Edmund Burke to witness a performance of the Italian Fantoccini or Puppets, in Panton Street; an exhibition which had hit the caprice of the town, and was in a great vogue. The puppets were set in motion by wires, so well concealed as to be with difficulty detected. Boswell, with his usual obtuseness with respect to Goldsmith, accuses him of being jealous of the puppets !
66 When Burke,” said he, “praised the dexterity with which one of them tossed a pike, ' Pshaw,' said Goldsmith with some warmth, "I can do it better myself.'” “ The same evening," adds Boswell, ”
, “ when supping at Burke's lodgings, he broke his shin by attempting to exhibit to the company how much better he could jump over a stick than the puppets." Goldsmith jealous of puppets !
passes in absurdity Boswell's charge upon him of being jealous of the beauty of the two Miss Hornecks.
The Panton-Street puppets were destined to be a source of further amusement to the town, and of annoyance to the little autocrat of the stage. Foote, the Aristophanes of the English drama, who was always on the alert to turn every subject of popular excitement to account, seeing the success of the Fantoccini, gave out that he should produce a Primitive Puppet-Show at the Haymarket, to be entitled “ The Handsome Chambermaid, or Piety in Pattens ”; intended to burlesque the sentimental comedy which Garrick still maintained at Drury Lane. The idea of a play to be performed in a regular theatre by puppets excited the curiosity and talk of the town. your puppets be as large as life, Mr. Foote ? ” demanded a lady of rank. Oh, no, my lady,” replied Foote, “not much larger than Garrick."
Broken Health. — Dissipation and Debts. — The Irish Wid
ow. – Practical Jokes. — Scrub. A misquoted Pun.Malagrida. — Goldsmith proved to be a Fool. — Distressed Ballad-Singers. — The Poet at Ranelagh.
FOLDSMITH returned to town in the
autumn (1772), with his health much
disordered. His close fits of sedentary application, during which he in a manner tied himself to the mast, had laid the seeds of a lurking malady in his system, and produced a severe illness in the course of the summer. Town-life was not favorable to the health either of body or mind. He could not resist the siren voice of temptation, which, now that he had become a notoriety, assailed him on every side. Accordingly we find him launching away in a career of social dissipation; dining and supping out; at clubs, at routs, at theatres ; he is a guest with Johnson at the Thrales, and an object of Mrs. Thrale's lively sallies; he is a lion at Mrs. Vesey's and Mrs. Montagu's, where some of the high-bred blue-stockings pronounce him a “ wild genius," and others, peradventure, a “wild Irish- . man.” In the mean time his pecuniary difficulties are increasing upon him, conflicting with his proneness to pleasure and expense, and contributing by the harassment of his mind to the wear
DISSIPATION AND DEBTS.
and tear of his constitution. His « Animated Nature," though not finished, has been entirely paid for, and the money spent.
advanced by Garrick on Newbery's note, still hangg over him as a debt. The tale on which Newbery had loaned from two to three hundred pounds previous to the excursion to Barton, has proved a failure. The bookseller is urgent for the settlement of his complicated account ; the perplexed author has nothing to offer him in liquidation but the copyright of the comedy which he has in his portfolio; “ Though, to tell you the truth, Frank," said he, “ there are great doubts of its success.” The offer was accepted, and, like bargains wrung from Goldsmith in times of emergency, turned out a golden speculation to the bookseller.
In this way Goldsmith went on "overrunning the constable,” as he termed it ; spending everything in advance; working with an overtasked head and weary heart to pay for past pleasures and past extravagance, and at the same time incurring new debts, to perpetuate his struggles and darken his future prospects. While the excitement of society and the excitement of composition conspire to keep up a feverishness of the system, he has incurred an unfortunate habit of quacking himself with James's powders, a fashionable panacea of the day.
A farce, produced this year by Garrick, and entitled “ The Irish Widow," perpetuates the memory of practical jokes played off a year or two previously upon the alleged vanity of poor, simple-hearted Goldsmith. He was one evening
at the house of his friend Burke, when he was beset by a tenth muse, an Irish widow and authoress, just arrived from Ireland, full of brogue and blunders, and poetic fire and rantipole gentility. She was soliciting subscriptions for her poems, and assailed Goldsmith for his patronage ; the great Goldsmith — her countryman, and of course her friend.
She overpowered him with eulogiums on his own poems, and then read some of her own, with vehemence of tone and gesture, appealing continually to the great Goldsmith to know how he relished them.
Poor Goldsmith did all that a kind -hearted and gallant gentleman could do in such a case; he praised her poems as far as the stomach of his sense would permit — perhaps a little further ; he offered her his subscription; and it was not until she had retired with many parting compliments to the great Goldsmith, that he pronounced the poetry which had been inflicted on him execrable. The whole scene had been a hoax got up by Burke for the amusement of his company; and the Irish widow, so admirably performed, had been personated by a Mrs. Balfour, a lady of his connection, of great sprightliness and talent.
We see nothing in the story to establish the alleged vanity of Goldsmith, but we think it tells rather to the disadvantage of Burke, — being unwarrantable under their relations of friendship, and a species of waggery quite beneath his genius.
Croker, in his notes to Boswell, gives another of these practical jokes perpetrated by Burke at