« AnteriorContinuar »
1773, where, amongst other company, were the Archbishop of Tuam and Mr. (now Lord) Elliot, when the latter making use of some sarcastical reflections on Goldsmith, Johnson broke out warmly in his defence, and, in the course of a spirited eulogium, said, “Is there a man, Sir, now who can pen an essay with such ease and elegance as Goldsmith ?'
On another occasion this great critic observed, · Dr. Goldsmith is one of the first men we now have as an author, and he is a very worthy man too. He has been loose in his principles, but he is coming right*'
One of his last publications was, “ An History of the Earth and animated Nature,” in 8 vols. 8vo. which was published in 1774, and which for two or three years before he had been preparing. The elegance and purity of the style, the interesting and striking reflections with which it abounds, and the powers of description which so frequently appear, must atone for the want of original information on the subjects introduced, and for the occasional mistakes, which were impossible to be avoided by a writer who took all his materials on trust; and, as far as they could be supplied, chiefly from Buffon. For this work he is said to have been paid by the bookseller, 8501. and during the time he was engaged in this undertaking he had received the copy money for his comedy, and the profits of his third nights : so that his receipts amounted at this time to a considerable sum. He was, however, so liberal in his donations, and profuse in his disbursements; he was unfortunately so attached to the pernicious practice of gaming; and from his unsettled habits of life, his supplies being precarious and uncertain, he had been so little accustomed to regulate his expenses by any system of economy, that his debts far
Boswell's Life. Vol. i. p. 367.
exceeded his resources ; and he was obliged to take up money in advance from the managers of the two theatres, for comedies, which he engaged to furnish to each ; and from the booksellers, for publications which he was to finish for the press. All these engagements he fully intended, and doubtless would have been able to fulfil with the strictest honour, as he had done on former occasions in similar exigencies; but his premature death unhappily prevented the execution of his plans, and gave occasion to malignity to impute those failures to deliberate intention, which were merely the result of inevitable mortality.
Dr. Goldsmith, however, wrote by intervals about this time, his poems entitled, “ The Haunch of Venison,"
,” « Retaliation,” and some other little sportive sallies, which were not printed till after his death, He altered about this period the Grumbler from Sedley, which was acted at Covent Garden in the year 1772. This alteration was made to serve Mr. Quick at his benefit, and acted only on that night; it was never printed. But the chief publication which he was then projecting, was, “ An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences." This he intended should be a work of general entertainment, as well as instruction; in which, by the graces of his style, and his powers of writing, he hoped to render his account of the other sciences as interesting and amusing as he had made natural history in his book of “ Animated Nature." He had engaged all his literary friends, and the members of the club, to contribute articles, each on the subject in which he excelled; so that it could not but have contained a great assemblage of excellent disquisitions. He accordingly had prepared a Prospectus *, in which, as usual, he gave a luminous view of
• This, with other papers and fugitive pieces, fell into the hands of Mr. Bott, a gentleman in the Temple, and au
his design; but his death unfortunately prevented the execution of the work.
He was subject to severe fits of the stranguary, owing probably to the intemperate manner in which he confined himself to the desk, when he was employed in his compilations, often indeed for several weeks successively without taking exercise. On such occasions he usually hired lodgings in some farm house a few miles from London, and wrote without cessation till he had finished his task. He then carried his copy to the bookseller, received his compensation, and gave himself up perhaps for months without interruption, to the gayeties, amusements, and societies of London.
And here it may be observed, once for all, that his elegant and enchanting style in prose flowed from him with such facility, that in whole quires of his histories, Animated Nature, &c. he had seldom occasion to correct or alter a single word; but in his verses, especially his two great ethic poems, nothing could exceed the patient and incessant revisal which he bestowed upon them.
To save himself the trouble of transcription, he wrote the lines in his first copy very wide, and would so fill up the intermediate space with reiterated corrections, that scarcely a word of his first effusions was left unaltered.
In the Spring of 1774, being embarrassed in his circumstances, and attacked with his usual malady, his indisposition, aggravated too by mental distress, terminated in a fever; which, on 25th March, had become exceedingly violent, when he called in medical assistance. Although he had then taken ipecacuanha
thor of a valuable work on the Poor Laws, (since dead) who had lent Dr. Goldsmith large sums of money, and being his principal creditor, took possession of his effects, &c.
to promote a vomit, he would proceed to the use of James's Fever Powder, contrary to the advice of the medical gentlemen who attended him. From the application of these powders he had received the greatest benefit in a similar attack nearly two years before, but then they had been administered by Dr. James himself in person. This happened in September, 1772. But now the progress of the disease was as unfavourable as possible; for from the time abovementioned every symptom became more and more alarming till Monday, April 4th, when he died, aged 45.
Mr. Hawes, his apothecary, who had discouraged the use of these powders, in the manner Dr. Goldsmith chose to apply them, published, in vindication of himself, and of two eminent physicians, who had concurred with him in opposing their patient's use of them, “ An account of the late Dr. Goldsmith's ill
ness, so far as relates to the exhibition of Dr. & James's Powders, &c. London, printed for W. 6 Brown, &c. 1774, 4to.” In reply to some positions in this pamphlet, an advertisement was printed in the papers, containing the depositions of the servants who had attended their master in his illness, in which it appeared that Goldsmith had strongly intimated his opinion that he had not received the genuine powders, from the effects being so different from what he had ever experienced of this his favourite medicine.
It was deliberated by Sir Joshua Reynolds and other friends of the poor departed bard, whether it was more expedient to give him an expensive public funeral, or to inter him privately, and reserve the expenditure for a more lasting monument in the Poet's Corner, in Westminster Abbey. The latter opinion prevailed, and his remains were privately interred in
the Temple burial-ground, at five o'clock on Saturday evening, April 9, attended by the Rev. Joseph Palmer, (nephew of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and now Dean of Cashel, in Ireland,) Mr. Hugh Kelly, the dramatic poet, Messrs. John and Robert Day, Mr. Etherington, and Mr. (now Dr.) Hawes, his apothecary.
By a subscription raised among our poet's friends, and chiefly by his brethren of the club, a marble monument was executed by Nollikins, and placed in Westminster Abbey, between that of Gay and the Duke of Argyle, in the Poet's Corner; consisting of a large medallion, with a good resemblance of the Doctor in profile, embellished with appropriate ornaments; and underneath, on a tablet of white marble, the following inscription, written by Dr. Johnson*.
Poetæ, Physici, Historici,
Ingenio sublimis, vividus, versatilis,
In loco cui nomen Pallas,
* See a humorous account of an Address to Dr. Johnson, in the form of a round robin, concerning this epitaph, in Boswell's Life of Johnson. Vol. III. p. 84.
4 The year of Dr. Goldsmith's birth had been universally