« AnteriorContinuar »
is thus given : “The view towards the gardens supplied him with an observation given in Animated Nature, respecting the natural history of the rooks. 'I have often amused myself with observing their plan of policy from my window in the Temple, that looks upon a grove where they have made a colony in the midst of the city,'" &c.
This could not be in Brick-court, where there is no view towards the garden. The court is built all round with buildings as old as Goldsmith's time, and older. In his rooms in Garden-court he could have full view of the elms in the garden, the probable scene of the rookery in question.
During Goldsmith's life here, he was in the habit of meeting his literary friends often in the evening at the Mitre tavern, Fleetstreet; at a card club at the Devil tavern, near Temple-bar, not now existing ; at the Globe tavern, also near there, now gone too; and at Jack's coffee-house, now Walker's hotel, Dean-street, corner of Queen-street, Soho. This was at that time a resort of Garrick and his friends, being kept by Jack Roberts, formerly a singer of Garrick's theatre. It was here that Goldsmith confounded the gravity of Johnson with one of his off-hand and simple jokes. They were supping tête-à-tête on rumps and kidneys. Johnson observed, “Sir, these rumps are pretty little things, but they require a good many to satisfy a man.” “Aye, but,” said Goldsmith, how many of these would reach to the moon ?” “To the moon! aye, Sir, I fear that exceeds your calculation.” “Not at all, Sir," said Goldsmith, “I think I could tell.” “Pray then let us hear.” “Why one, if it were long enough.” Johnson growled at this reply for some time, but at last, recollecting himself, “Well, Sir, I have deserved it; I should not have provoked so foolish an answer by so foolish question.”
This house, in 1770, was the oldest tavern in London but three, and is now probably the oldest. Mr. Walker, the landlord at the time I visited it, who had lived in it fifty years, and had then reached the venerable age of ninety, was proud of the ancient honours of the house. On his card he duly informed his friends, that it was here that “ Johnson, Garrick, Goldsmith, and other literary characters of eminence," used to resort. The house is old, spacious, and quiet, and well adapted for the sojourn of families from the country, who are glad to escape the noise of more frequented parts of the city. By permission of Mr. Walker, I present at the head of this article a view of the room once honoured by Johnson and Goldsmith.
It is pleasant to find the author of The Traveller and Deserted Village, amid all his labours, ever and anon escaping to the country, which no man more profoundly enjoyed. It is delightful to imagine with what intense pleasure he must have traversed the groves or Ilam, and the lovely scenes of Dove-Dale. He made many similar rambles into Hampshire, Sussex, Suffolk, Yorkshire, Leicestershire, and Lincolnshire. "When he wanted at once to enjoy country retirement and hard work, he would "abscond” from his town associates
without a word-dive into some queer obscure retreat, often on the Harrow or Edgeware roads, and not be visible for two or three months together. One of these retreats is said to be a small wooden cottage, on the north side of the Edgeware-road, about a mile from Paddington, near what is called Kilburn Priory. At such places it. was his great luxury, when tired of writing, to stroll along the shady hedge-sides, seating himself in the most agreeable spots, and occasionally setting down thoughts which arose for future use. When he was in a more sociable mood, he got up parties for excursions into the neighbourhood of London, in which he and his companions had a good long ramble amongst the villages, dined at the village inn, and so home again in the evening. These he called “tradesmen's holidays," and thus were Blackheath, Wandsworth, Fulham, Chelsea, Hampstead, Highgate, Highbury, &c., explored and enjoyed.
“There was a very good ordinary,” says Conversation Cooke, who was occasionally of the party, “at Highbury Barn about this time, at ten-pence per head, including a penny to the waiter; and the company generally consisted of literary characters, a few Templars, and citizens who had left off trade. The whole expenses of this day's fete never exceeded a crown, and were oftener from three and sixpence to four shillings."
On those occasions Goldsmith gave himself up to all his love of good fellowship and of generously seeing others happy. He made it & rule that the party should meet and take a splendid breakfast at his rooms. The party generally consisted of four or five persons ; and was almost sure to include some humble person, to whom such a treat would never come from any other quarter. One of the most constant of these was his poor amanuensis, Peter Barlow. Peter had bis oddities; but with them a spirit of high independence. He always wore the same dress, and never would pay more than a certain sum, and that a trifle, for his dinner, but that he would insist on paring. The dinner always costing a great deal more, Goldsmith paid the difference, and considered himself well reimbursed by the fund of amusement Peter furnished to the party. One of their frequent retreats was the well known Chelsea Bun-house. Another of these companions was a Dr. Glover, a medical man and author
of no great note, who once took Goldsmith into a cottage in one :? of their rambles at West End, Hampstead, and took tea with the
fatnily as an old acquaintance, when he actually knew no more of the ::? people than Goldsmith did, to his vast chagrin on discovering the
A temporary retreat of Goldsmith's was a cottage near Edgeware, un the vicinity of Canons. There he lived, in conjunction with his friend Bott, and there he worked hard at his Roman History. It had been the retreat of a wealthy shoemaker of Piccadilly; and, having
pleasant garden, they christened the place “ The Shoemaker's Puise." The last country lodging which he had was at Hyde, on
the Edgeware-road. It is described by Prior as “ of the superior i nier of farm-houses, and stands upon a gentle eminence in what is :! lol Hyde-lane, leading to Kenton, about three hundred yards from
the village of Hyde, on the Edgeware-road, and commands a view of an undulating country directly opposite, diversified with wood, in the direction of Hendon.” From Mr. Selby, the occupier of the property, Mr. Prior obtained this information. He was himself a lad of sixteen at the time Goldsmith lodged there, and remembered him perfectly. He had only one room there, up one pair of stairs, to the right of the landing. There he wrote She Stoops to Conquer. He boarded with the family, but commonly had his meals sent up to his own apartment. When he had visitors to tea,- for his friends used to come out from London, take tea, and then drive home,- he had the use of the parlour immediately under his own room. Occasionally he would wander into the kitchen, and stand with his back towards the fire, apparently absorbed in thought. Sometimes he strolled about the fields, or was seen loitering and musing under the hedges, or perusing a book. In the house he usually wore his shirt-collar open, in the manner represented in the portrait by Sir Joshua. Occasionally he read much in bed, and his mode of extinguishing his candle, when out of immediate reach, was to fling his slipper at it, which in the morning was found near the overturned candlestick, bedaubed with grease.
There, then, Goldsmith spent the last days of his life, except what he spent on his sick-bed, in the full enjoyment of those two great charms of his existence, nature and books. There he forgot all his bitter struggles, his ill-paid, endlesy work for the publishers, and even the empty honours of his latter years, which he expressively styled “ giving him ruffles, when he wanted a shirt." There he could forget that great disease of hunger, which he said killed so many who were said to die of broken hearts, some of whom he declared that he had known. He was still poor, but famous, and in these moments happy. Occasionally he would indulge in a festive diversionhave a dance got up amongst his visitors; and on one occasion took the young people of the house in a carriage to Windsor, to see a company of strolling players, and made himself and his juvenile party very merry by his remarks on the performance. From these quiet enjoyments and field musings, death called him away. He returned to town, and died in his lodgings in the Temple, on the 4th of April, 1774, only five months more than forty-five years of age. His constitution is said to have been exhausted by his labours and his consuming anxieties. He died two thousand pounds in debt, and Dr. Johnson, on hearing this fact, exclaimed, “ Was ever poet so trusted before ?” He was privately interred in the Temple burialground, and a tabular monument to his honour placed on the walls of Westminster Abbey. That great and noble building does not hold the remains of a nobler or better heart. Oliver Goldsmith was a true Irishman, generous, impulsive, and improvident; but he was more, he was a true man and true poet. Whether we laugh with him or weep with him, we are still the better for it.
We come now to the man who is the great representative of a class which is the peculiar glory of Great Britain ; that is, to Robert Burns. It is a brilliant feature of English literature, that the people, the mass, the multitude,-call them what you will,-have contributed to it their share, and that share a glorious one. We may look in vain into the literature of every other nation for the like fact. It is true that there may be found in all countries men who, born in the lowest walks of life-orphans, outcasts, slaves even-men labouring under not only all the weight of social prejudices, but under the curse of Personal deformity, have, through some fortunate circumstance, generally the favour of some generous and superior person, risen out of their original position, and through the advantages of academical or artistic education have taken their place amongst the learned and illustrious of their race. We need not turn back to the Æsops and Terences of antiquity for such characters; they are easy to select from the annals of the middle ages, and modern art and learning ; but there is a class, and this class is found in Great Britain alone, which, belonging to the body of the people, has caught, as it were pessingly, just the quantum of education which had come within the people's reach, and who, on this slender participation of the general intellectual property, have raised for themselves a renown, great, glorious, and enduring as that of the most learned or most socially exalted of mankind. These extraordinary individuals, who are found in the literature of all civilized nations, these men who, admitted from the ranks of the people to the college or the studio, have distinguished themselves in almost every walk of science or letters, these have vindicated the general intellect of the human race from every possible charge of inequality in its endowments. They have shown triumphantly that “God is no respecter of persons." They have thus vindicated not only man's universal capacity for greatness, but the Creator's justice. They have demonstrated that “God has made of one blood all the nations of the earth ;" and still more, that he has endowed them all with one intellect. Over the whole bosom of the globe its divine Architect has spread fertility; he has diffused beauty adapted to the diversity of climes, and made that beauty present itself in such a variety of forms, that the freshness of its first perception is kept alive by ever occurring novelties of construction, hue, or odour. It is the same in the intellectual as in the physical world. In the universal spirit of man he has implanted the universal gifts of his divine goodness. Genius, sentiment, feeling, the vast capacity of knowledge and of creative art, are made the common heritage of mankind. But climate and circumstance assert a great and equal influence on the outer and the inner life of the earth. Some nations, under the influences of certain causes, have advanced beyond others; some individuals, under the like causes, have advanced beyond the generality of their cotemporaries. But these facts have not proved that those nations, or those individuals, were more highly endowed than the rest; they have rather proved that the soil of human nature is rich beyond all conception,—the extent of that wealth, however, becoming only palpable through the operation of peculiar agencies. The causes which developed in Greece, in Rome, in India, in Egypt, such manifestations of grace, spirit, and power at certain periods, as never were developed even there at any other periods, before or since, present a subject of curious inquiry, but they leave the grand fact the same; and this fact is, that the soul of universal man is endowed with every gift and faculty which any possible circumstances can call upon him to exert for his benefit and the adornment of his life. He is furnished for every good word and work. He is a divine creature that when challenged can prove amply his divinity, though under ordinary circumstances he may be content to walk through this existence in an ordinary guise. Every great social revolution, every great popular excitement of every age, has amply demonstrated this. There never was a national demand for intellect and energy, from the emancipation of the Israelites from the Egyptian yoke, or the destruction of the Thirty Tyrants of Athens, down to the English or the French Revolution, which was not met, to the astonishment of the whole world, with such a supply of orators, poets, warriors, and statesmen, speakers and actors, inventors and constructors, in every shape of art, wisdom, and ability,