« ZurückWeiter »
that he every night drank tea with her before he went home, however late it might be, and she always sat up for him. This, it may be fairly conjectured, was not alone a proof of his regard for her; but of his own unwillingness to go
into solitude, before that unseasonable hour at which he had habituated himself to expect the oblivion of repose. Dr. Goldsmith, being a privileged man, went with him this night, strutting away, and calling to me with an air of superiority, like that of an esoteric over an exoteric disciple of a sage of antiquity (1), go
to Miss Williams.” I confess, I then envied him this mighty privilege, of which he seemed so proud ; but it was not long before I obtained the same mark of distinction.(2)
(1) The ancient philosophers were supposed to have two sets of tenets — one, the exoteric, external, or public doctrines — the other, the esoteric, the internal, or secret doctrines, which were reserved for the more favoured few.-C.
(2) Goldsmith affected Johnson's style and manner of conversation; and, when he had uttered, as he often would, a laboured sentence, so tumid as to be scarce intelligible, would ask, if that was not truly Johnsonian; yet he loved not Johnson, but rather envied him for his parts; and once entreated a friend to desist from praising him; for in doing so,' said he, . you harrow up my very soul.' He had some wit, but no humour, and never told a story but he spoiled it.
The following anecdotes will convey some idea of the style and manner of his conversation : - He was used to say he could play on the German fute as well as most men; at other times, as well as any man living; and, in his poem of the • Traveller,' has hinted at this attainment; but, in truth, he understood not the character in which music is written, and played on that instrument, as many of the vulgar do, merely by ear. Roubiliac, the sculptor, a merry fellow, once heard him play; and minding to put a trick on him, pretended to be so charmed with his performance, that he entreated him to repeat the air, that he might write it down. Goldsmith readily consenting, Roubiliac called for paper, and scored thereon a few five-lined staves, which having done, Goldsmith proceeded to play, and Roubiliac to write; but his writing was only such random notes on the lines and spaces as any one might set down who had ever inspected a page of music. When they had both done, Roubiliac showed the paper to Goldsmith, who, looking it over with seeming great attention, said it was very correct, and that if he had not seen him do it, he never could have believed his friend capable of writing music after him.
He would frequently preface a story thus: - I'll now tell you a story of myself, which some people laugh at, and some do not. At the breaking up of an evening at a tavern, he entreated the company to sit down, and told them if they would call for another bottle, they should hear one of his bon mots. They agreed, and he began thus :—- I was once told that Sheridan, the player, in order to improve himself in stage gestures, had looking glasses, to the number of ten, hung about his room, and that he practised before them; upon which I said, Then there were ten ugly fellows together.' The company were all silent. He asked, why they did not laugh? which they not doing, he, without tasting the wine, left the room in anger. He once complained to a friend in these words: - Mr. Martinelli is a rude man; I said, in his hearing, that there were no good writers among the Italians; and he said to one that sat near him, that I was very ignorant.' ' People,' said he, are greatly mistaken in me A notion goes about, that when I am silent, I mean to be impudent; but I assure you, gentlemen, my silence arises from bashfulness.'
Having one day a call to wait on the late Duke (then Earl) of Northumberland, I found Goldsmith waiting for an audience in an outer room. I asked what had brought him there: he replied, an invitation from his lordship. I made my business as short as I could; and, as a reason, mentioned, that Dr. Goldsmith was waiting without. The 'earl asked me, if I was acquainted with him. I told him I was, adding what I thought likely to recommend him. I retired, and stayed in the outer room to take Goldsmith home. Upon his coming out, I asked him the result of his conversation. His lordship,' says he told me he had read my poem (meaning the Traveller'), and was much delighted with it; that he was going Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and that, hearing that I was a native of that country, he should be glad to do me any kindness. And what did you answer,' asked I, to this gracious offer?' Why,' said he, 'I could say nothing, but that I had a brother there, a clergyman, that stood in need of help: as for myself, I have no dependence on the promises of great men; I look to the booksellers for support; they are my best friends, and I am not inclined to forsake them for others.
Other offers of a like kind he either rejected or failed to improve, contenting himself with the patronage of one nobleman [Nugent, Lord Clare), whose mansion afforded him the delights of a splendid table, and a retreat for a few days from the metropolis. His poems are replete with fine moral sentiments, and bespeak a great dignity of mind; yet he had no sense of the shame, nor dread of the evils, of poverty. - HawKINS.
Colonel O'Moore, of Cloghan Castle in Ireland, told me an amusing instance of the mingled vanity and simplicity of Goldsmith, which (though, perhaps, coloured a little, as anecdotes too often are) is characteristic at least of the opinion which his best friends entertained of Goldsmith. One afternoon, as Colonel O’Moore and Mr. Burke were going to dine with Sir Joshua Reynolds, they observed Goldsmith (also on his way to Sir Joshua's) standing near a crowd of people, who were staring and shouting at some foreign women in the windows of one of the houses in Leicester-square. « Observe Goldsmith," said Mr. Burke to O'Moore, "and mark what passes between him and me by-and-by at Sir Joshua's." They passed on, and arrived before Goldsmith, who came soon after, and Mr. Burke affected to receive him very coolly. This seemed to vex poor Goldsmith, who begged Mr. Burke would tell him how he had had the misfortune to offend him. Burke appeared very reluctant to speak; but, after a good deal of pressing, said, "that he was really ashamed to keep up an intimacy with one who could be guilty of such monstrous indiscretions as Goldsmith had just exhibited in the square.” Goldsmith, with great earnestness, protested he was unconscious of what was meant. “Why,” said Burke, "did you not exclaim, as you were looking up at those women, what stupid beasts the crowd must be for staring with such admiration at those painted jezebels ; while a man of your talents passed by unnoticed?” Goldsmith was horror-struck, and said, « Surely, surely, my dear friend, I did not say so ?”, “Nay,” replied 'Burke, if you had not said so, how should I have known it?” “That's true," answered Goldsmith, with great humility: “I am very sorry - it was very foolish: I do recollect that something of the kind passed through my mind, but I did not think I had uttered it." - CROKER.
CHAPTER VII. .
London. - Miss Porter's Legacy. - Boswell and his
Landlord. -- Suppers at the Mitre. — “ The King can do no Wrong." - Historical Composition. — Bayle. — Arbuthnot. — The noblest Prospect in Scotland. - Jacobitism. - Lord Hailes. — Keeping a Journal. - The King of Prussia's Poetry. — Johnson's Library. “ Not at Home.” Pity. — Style of Hume. Inequality of Mankind. — Constitutional Goodness. Miracles. — Acquaintance o Young People. Hard Reading. — Melancholy. Mrs. Macaulay. - Warton's Essay on Pope. - Sir James Macdonald.- Projected Tour to the Hebrides.
On Tuesday the 5th of July, I again visited Johnson. He told me he had looked into the poems of a pretty voluminous writer, Mr. (now Dr.) John Ogilvie, one of the Presbyterian ministers of Scotland, which had lately come out, but could find nothing in them. BOSWELL. « Is there not imagination in them, Sir?” JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, there is in them, what was imagination, but it is no more imagination in him, than sound is sound in the echo. And his diction, too, is not his own. We have long ago seen white-robed innocence, and flower-bespangled meads.” Talking of London, he observed, “Sir, if
you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists." - I have often amused myself with thinking how different a place London is to different people. They, whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one particular pursuit, view it only through that medium. A politician thinks of it merely as the seat of government in its different departments; a grazier, as a vast market for cattle; a mercantile man, as a place where a prodigious deal of business is done upon 'Change; a dramatic enthusiast, as the grand scene of theatrical entertainments; a man of pleasure, as an assemblage of taverns, and the great emporium for ladies of easy virtue. But the intellectual man is struck with it, as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible.
LETTER 85. TO MISS LUCY PORTER.
“ July 5. 1763. “My DEAREST DEAR,—I am extremely glad that so much prudence and virtue as yours is at last awarded with so large a fortune (1), and doubt not but that the excellence which you have shown in circumstances of difficulty will continue the same in the convenience of wealth. “ I have not written to you sooner, having nothing
which you would not easily suppose — nothing
(1) Miss Porter had just received a legacy of ten thousand pounds, by the death of her brother.-C.