Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

old enough to feel, as he remembered when he wrote his Random Records, the impression at this time made upon him by the poet's simple and playful manners, and by that love of children which had attended Goldsmith through life, which was noted everywhere, and made itself felt at even the small dinner-parties of pompous Hawkins. “I little thought what I should have to boast,” says Miss Hawkins, describing her experiences when she used to sit upon the carpet in the drawing - room till dinner was announced,

when Goldsmith taught me to play 'Jack and Gill' by two bits of paper on his fingers.” This lady observed, too, a distinction between Johnson's and Garrick's way with children,' which the younger Colman partly confirms in contrasting Goldsmith's with Garrick's. The one, he tells us, played to please the boy, the other as though to please himself;' and not even Foote, with his knowing, broad grin, his snuffbegrimed face, and his unvarying salutation of "blow your nose, child," was to him half so humorous as Goldsinith, of whose tenderness, of course, he had nothing. The poet would at any time, for amusement of the nursery, dance a mock minuet, sing a song, or play the flute; and thought little of even putting on his best wig the wrong side foremost. One of these childish reminiscences will bear relating in detail.

some

1 Miss Hawkins's Anecdotes (1822), 7.

? “Garrick had a frown, and spoke impetuously-Johnson was slow and kind in his way to children.”—Miss Hawkins's Anecdotes, 23. It is in an earlier part of the same book (not her Memoirs, which were not published till a few years later) she describes very pleasantly her childish recollection of Garrick : I see him now, in a dark blue coat, the button-holes bound with gold, a small cocked-bat laced with gold, his waistcoat very open, and his countenance never at rest, and, indeed, seldom his person times sitting on a table, and then, if he saw my brothers at a distance on the lawn, shooting off like an arrow out of a bow in a spirited chase of them round the garden.”-Anecdotes, 23.

3 "All this was very kind and condescending, but it wanted the bonhomie of Goldsmith, who played to please the boy, whereas Garrick al. ways seemed playing to please bimself, as he did in a theatre . . . he diverted and dazzled me, but never made me love him ; and I had always this feeling for him, though I was too young to define it.”—George Colman's Random Records, i. 117–118.

Drinking coffee one evening with Colman, at one of his first visits to Richmond, Goldsmith took little George upon his knee to amuse him; and being rewarded for his pains by a spiteful slap in the face, summary paternal punishment was inflicted by solitary confinement in an adjoining room. But here, when matters seemed desperate with the howling and screaming little prisoner, the door was unexpectedly unlocked and opened. “It was the tender-hearted Doctor himself," pursues the teller of the story, “with a lighted candle in his hand, and a smile upon his countenance, which was still partially red from the effects of my petulance. I sulked and sobbed, and he fondled and soothed, till I began to brighten. Goldsmith, who in regard to children was like the village preacher he has so beautifully described, for 'their welfare pleased him, and their cares distressed,' seized the propitious moment of returning good humor; so he put down the candle and began to conjure. He placed three hats which happened to be in the room upon the carpet, and a shilling under each: the shillings, he told me, were England, France, and Spain. Hey, presto, cockolorum! cried the Doctor; and lo! on uncovering the shillings, which had been dispersed each beneath a separate hat, they were all found congregated under one. I was no politician at five years old, and therefore might not 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. Astonishment might have amounted to awe for one who appeared to me gifted with the power of performing miracles, if the good-nature of the man had not obviated my dread of the magician; but 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." The little hero of the incident was a child of only five years old, but we have evidence in the letters of Garrick to his father that he used at this time

· Colman's Random Records, i. 110–113.

to imitate Garrick showing Charles Dibdin how to act Lord Ogleby, and that even a full year and a half earlier he had entertained Mrs. Garrick with a whole “ budget” of stories and songs, had delivered the ditty of the “Chimney Sweep” with exquisite taste as a solo, and, in the form of a duet with Garrick himself, “Old Rose and Burn the Bellows."! We shall be perfectly safe, therefore, in accepting it on his authority that Oliver Goldsmith in 1767 was neither more nor less than a conjurer.

· Letter dated 15th July, 1766, in Peake's Memoirs of the Colman Family, i. 186–187. And see Colman's Posthumous Letters, 296–297.

CHAPTER XVII

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

1767

But more serious affairs than conjuring again claim Goldsmith's attention, and ours. His comedy cannot, in the most favorable expectation, appear before Christmas; and his necessities are hardly less pressing, meanwhile, than in his most destitute time. The utmost he received this year from the elder Newbery for his usual task-work would seem to have been about ten pounds for a compilation on a historical subject (the British Empire). The concurrent advance of another ten pounds on his promissory note, though side by side with the ominous shadow of the yet unpaid note of four years preceding, shows their friendly relations subsisting still ;' but the present illness of the publisher, from which he never recovered, had for some months interrupted the ordinary course of his business, and its management was gradually devolving on his nephew. No less a person than Tom Davies, however, came to Goldsmith's relief.

Tom's business had thriven since he left the stage, and he determined to speculate in a history. Goldsmith's anon

Here (Newbery MSS.) is the memorandum to which I refer : "1764, Oct. 29. Dr. Goldsmith on account of English Lires, £8 88. Taylor's Works, 128. 1765, Sept. 12th, for half the copy of Essays, £10 108. 1767, July 13th, for British Empire, £10. Promissory note, Oct. 11th, 1763, £48 18. 6d. Ditto, July 7th, 1767, £10. [Total] £87 118. 6d.” In a subsequent memorandum of nearly the same date, the following interesting doubt occurs: “Query-Whether the money had at the Society was £4 4s." And in a separate paper, in Goldsmith's hand, I find the following: “I promise to pay to John Newbery or order ten pounds on demand for value received. OLIVER GOLDSMITH. July 7, 1767.”

ymous Letters from a Nobleman to his Son continued to sell, and still to excite curiosity whether or not Lord Lyttelton had really written them. “I asked Lord L. himself," writes the learned Mrs. Carter to the less learned Mrs. Vesey, “who assured me that he had never read them through, and moreover seemed to be very clearly of opinion that he did not write them. Seriously, you may deny his being the author with the fullest certainty. It seems they were writ by Lord Cork." All this sort of gossip (with no more foundation in the latter case than that Lord Cork and Orrery had addressed to bis son a translation of Pliny's as well as other letters, and was no longer alive to contradict the rumor) was better known to Davies than to any one; and the sensible suggestion occurred to him of a History of Rome from the same hand, in the same easy, popular, unlearned manner. An agreement was accordingly drawn up, in which Goldsmith undertook to write such a book in two volumes, and, if possible, to complete it in two years, for the sum of two hundred and fifty guineas-an undertaking of a somewhat brighter complexion than has yet appeared in these pages; rife with future promise, it may be, in that respect; and certainly very creditable to Davies.' It is alleged by Seward and Isaac Reed that, shortly before this agreement, Goldsmith's necessities had induced him to apply for the Gresham lectureship on civil law, an office of small remuneration and smaller responsibility, which the death of a Mr. Mace had vacated and to which a Mr. Jeffries was elected; but his name does not seem to have been formally entered as a candidate, and it is more certain that shortly after the agreement with Davies he had again taken lodgings in his favorite Islington, and was busy writing there.

Goldsmith's resource, in the midst of labor as in his brief intervals of leisure, was still the country haunt, the club, and the theatre; nor should what was called his

1 Mrs. Carter's Letters (February 19th, 1766), iii. 274–275.
? Percy Memoir, 78.

« ForrigeFortsett »