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OLD DRUDGERY WITH A NEW HOPE
“SATURDAY will be published," said the Public Advertiser of the 20th of May, 1766, “in two volumes, in twelves, price 68. bound, or 58. sewed, the second edition of the Vicar of Wakefield. A Tale. Supposed to be written by himself. Sperate miseri, cavete felices. Printed for F. Newbery, at the Crown in Pater-noster Row.”—And on that very Saturday a bill which Oliver Goldsmith had drawn upon Mr. John Newbery, for fifteen guineas, was returned dishonored. But the old time did not come back with the old necessities. If solid rewards were not now to wait on even the happiest of Goldsmith's achievements, he was never again to lose courage and hope, or to show signs of yielding in the struggle. He had always his accustomed resource, and went uncomplaining to the desk.
Payne the bookseller gave him in this month ten guineas for compiling a duodecimo volume of “Poems for Young Ladies. In three parts: Devotional, Moral, and Entertaining.” It was a respectable selection of pieces, chiefly from Parnell, Pope, Thomson, Addison, and Collins; with additions of less importance from less eminent hands, and some occasional verses which he supposed to be his friend Robert Nugent's,' but which were really written by Lord
The origin of the mistake is obvious. Nugent had written an Epistle to - ,” begioning
Clarinda, dearly lov'd, attend
The counsels of a faithful friend”; and this had become confounded in Goldsmith's recollection with Lyttelton's “ Advice to a Lady,” beginning,
"The counsels of friend, Belinda, hear."
Lyttelton. It has been assumed to have been in this book “ for young ladies” that two objectionable pieces by Prior were inserted; but the statement, though sanctioned by Percy, is incorrect. It was in a more extensive compilation of Beauties of English Poetry Selected, published in the following year, and for the gathering together of which Griffin the bookseller gave him fifty pounds, that he made that questionable choice of the “Ladle” and “Hans Carvel,” which for once interdicted from general reading a book with his name upon its title-page. This was unlucky; for the selection in other respects, making allowance for a limited acquaintance with the earlier English poets, was a reasonably good one; and in this, as well as in its preface and brief notices of the pieces quoted, though without any claim to originality or critical depth, was not undeserving of what he claimed generally for books of the kind as entitling them to fair reward. He used to point to them as illustrating, better than any other kind of compilations, “the art of profession” in authorship. “Judgment,” he said, " is to be paid for in such selections; and a man may be twenty years of his life cultivating his judgment.” But he has also, with its help, to be mindful of changes in the public taste, to which he may himself have contributed. Nothing is more frequent than these, and few things so
1 His old friend Griffiths, nevertheless, laid hold of it to assail him in the Monthly Revier, wbich had the good taste thus to speak of the now avowed author of the Citizen of the World, the Vicar of Wakefield, and the Traveller: “Though Mr. Goldsmith hath written some little pieces that have been read and approved of, yet, from bis preface, notes, and introductions to these poems, one would almost be inclined to think he had never written before.”- Monthly Revier, xxxvi. 490, June, 1767. The reviewer's wrath was greatly excited by Goldsmith's having said of Shenstone's Schoolmistress that it was one of those happinesses in which a poet excels himself” -but is it not true? Which of the Pastorals has survived with it in the love and admiration of the readers of poetry?
· European Magazine, xxiv.94. Cooke tells us that his own account of this selection was “that he did nothing but mark the particular passages with a red-lead pencil, and for this he got £200.” He only got a fourth of that sum, as we see; the rest, perhaps, was a little braggadocio for admirers at the Wednesday Club.