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Hugh Kelly was one of those men, of whom there are several in the history of letters, who starting into life under serious disadvantages, found nothing in his progress through it but his own industry to help him on his way, and who unable to attain a place in the first rank of genius, received little credit for the talents he really possesssed, or the difficulties he overcame. Born in Ireland, in an humble station of life and
apprenticed to a stay
maker, but feeling his mind superior to his occupation, he transferred himself to London at the age of twenty-one. Here he experienced much of that distress which awaits the poor and unfriended; from occasional employment in his trade he became a writer in an attorney's office, then a contributor to magazines and newspapers, afterwards an editor, and finally appeared as an original writer in essays called the “Babbler,” the “ History of Louisa Mildmay,” and “Thespis,” a poem, on the plan of the Rosciad of Churchill. False Delicacy was his first comedy, followed by a Word to the Wise, Clementina, a Tragedy, the School for Wives, Romance of an Hour, and the Man of Reason. He had entered himself of one of the Inns of Court, was called to the bar, and had some chance of succeeding in this new career when disease, contracted by the sedentary habits inseparable from literature, terminated an industrious and inoffensive, if not meritorious life.
Circumstances made it a kind of fashion to depreciate Kelly while alive, for no reason that can
be discovered excepting the original sins of poverty and the calling to which he had been brought up, the latter furnishing a handle for the wit of such as assailed him. The learned treated him lightly from the limited nature of his acquirements, though this defect he remedied in part by sedulous study; men of the first genius denied his claims to equality; inferior writers questioned his superiority and could at least abuse what they failed to equal, for with this class the supposed use of his power as editor of periodical works, kept him in continual conflict. And having written largely in support of the ministers, those who disliked their politics thought it necessary to condemn his plays in order to exhibit their patriotism. Between parties so unfriendly or hostile there was little hope of meeting an unbiassed judgment, and it is doubtful whether he ever received it. His political writings were shrewd and sensible, and from the anger excited in opponents, may be supposed to have had their effect; his dramatic pieces much above mediocrity and commonly successful ; his essays, , though destitute of the depth of Johnson or the humour of Goldsmith, touch upon manners very agreeably ; his novel is still perused; and Thespis, if inferior to Churchill's satire, is not without pungency and power.
All these and others not avowed were written amid the cares of providing for a young family wholly dependent on his pen for support ; his life was therefore laborious, and his morals it is said blameless; and if
we decline placing him in the first rank among the writers of his day, we cannot withhold the praise of variety and ingenuity.
The disagreement of Kelly and Goldsmith became a source of amusement to several who had assisted to foment it; among others to Kenrick who at once envied and aimed to be a competitor of both. He had lately produced a comedy called the Widowed Wife, with indifferent credit. The greater applause bestowed on the productions of his rivals, followed within a few weeks by the success of Bickerstaffe's opera of Lionel and Clarissa, and Murphy's tragedy of Zenobia, which seemed to throw the three departments of the drama exclusively into the hands of Irish writers, excited his spleen, and it found vent in the following parody on Dryden's lines on Milton ; they are preserved as evidence that he “whose hand was against every man" and who never hesitated to use it in a hostile manner, had nothing worse to say. Murphy seems to have escaped, not from particular favour, but from having no niche in the verses properly adapted to receive him.
66 The Poetical Triumvirate.
* Griffin, the bookseller, in Catherine Street in the Strand.
Three poets of one age and nation,
In May this year he lost his brother, the Rev. Henry Goldsmith, for whom he had been unable to obtain preferment in the church ; a failure which among his relatives less acquainted with the world, as fame was erroneously supposed by them to be influence, incurred the reproach of negligence. They knew not the terms on which an author usually lives with the great, who are often willing to admire in him what deserves admiration, but seldom think it necessary to evince their consideration in the form of patronage or reward. Neither will the honest pride of a man of genius always permit him to solicit favours, either for himself or his friends ; he shrinks from being considered a dependent, where nature has in some respects made him an equal ; and he may have been observant enough to discover that the assumption of independence commands respect from the most supercilious. He is not then suspected of being likely to be a tax upon his acquaintance possessed of rank or power, and is thus enabled to retain their society, if not their esteem, without suspicion of his motives.
To the curacy of Kilkenny West, the moderate stipend of which, forty pounds a year, is suffiof his age.
ciently celebrated by his brother's lines, it has been stated that Mr. Goldsmith added a school, which after having been held at more than one place in the vicinity, was finally fixed at Lissoy. Here his talents and industry gave it celebrity, and under his care the sons of many of the neighbouring gentry received their education. A fever breaking out among the boys about 1765, they dispersed for a time; but re-assembling at Athlone, he continued his scholastic labours there until the time of his death, which happened like that of his brother, about the forty-fifth year
He was a man of an excellent heart and amiable disposition. The late Mr. John Goldsmith of Stephen's Green, Dublin, one of the family of Ballyoughter, and his pupil, communicated to the writer several anecdotes of his unaffected goodness. His views of the duties of his sacred office were strict, and his piety unfeigned. It is recorded of him by his brother, that he once saw, or believed he saw, an apparition ; under what circumstances is not mentioned, nor could inquiry of the relatives of the family glean traditionary notices of the story; but he was not a weak man, and firmly believed, beyond doubt, what he told. Of his descendants some particulars will be hereafter given.
In the spring of this year, the Poet visited Derbyshire, one of those occasional excursions made into the country whenever his literary occupations permitted. In this county it was said he was a