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“ Ascend again the Pegasean hill,
Th' abstracted ear with rapturous music fill ;
“ P. F.”
One of the topics particularly adverted to by readers and critics, was the intimation dropped by the Poet, of forsaking the pursuit of an art which is plainly stated to have proved of an unprofitable kind. A general interest was expressed on this occasion by all the admirers of his poetical talents; the reviews joined the newspapers in their regrets ; and a variety of petitions were thrown out to prevail upon him not to carry his threat into execution. “We hope," was the general strain of supplication, "for the honour of the art and the pleasure of the public, Dr. Goldsmith will retract his farewell to poetry, and give us other opportunities of doing justice to his merit.” +
Two letters on this subject, one partly in verse, the other in prose, indicate that some interest was really felt in his threatened desertion ; the first, originally supposed from the initials affixed and perhaps from the verses being on a par with such as he usually wrote, to be written by Boswell though dated from Oxford ; the second, though signed with an apparently real name, was said by his constant assailant Kenrick to be written by Goldsmith himself in order to praise his own production; but
* St. James's Chronicle, July 31.-Aug. 2. 1770. † Monthly Review, June 1770.
neither statement appears to be true.
Little or nothing in his praise can be traced to the pen of Boswell; and Goldsmith had quitted England on an excursion to France before the publication of the second letter. From the tone of the latter however, and the minuteness of reply to the chief strictures passed on the poem, particularly in the Critical Review, it may have come from some zealous friend who knew and spoke the sentiments of the author, but most certainly it is not his own. The remonstrance in verse is subjoined * ; that in
To the Printer of the St. James's Chronicle. “ Dr. Goldsmith in his Deserted Village has these excellent but alarming lines toward the end of it, addressed to Poetry –
• Dear charming nymph, neglected and decry'd,
“ Apollo and the Muses forbid! What! shall the author of the Traveller and the Deserted Village, poems which not only do honour to the nation, but are the only living proofs that true poetry is not dead among us; shall he, I say, this author, living in the richest nation in Europe and the subject of a young and generous King who loves, cherishes, and understands the fine arts, be obliged to drudge for booksellers, and write, because he must write, lives of poets much inferior to himself, Roman History, Natural History, or any history, and be forced to curb his imagination lest it should run him into distresses ?
• Quatenus heu nefas.'
“ I could not stop the overflowing of my mind on this occasion in the following lines
prose as a specimen of the opinions and criticism of the day being too long for insertion here, will be found in a future volume annexed to the
poem. Among other evidences of the popularity of the poem were imitations of the title and subject. Thus, “The Village Oppressed; a Poem-Dedicated to Dr. Goldsmith,” and “The Frequented Village; a Poem
-Dedicated to Dr. Goldsmith” soon appeared, both authors proud of his acquaintance, and proud likewise to tell the world of the honour they enjoyed. It may be doubted whether he was equally proud of his disciples, neither of whom were proficients in the art of poetry, as will be obvious from the complimentary and concluding part of the latter production, the better of the two, “by a Gentleman of the Middle Temple,” who was so impressed by the danger of surreptitious copies of his work
UPON DR. GOLDSMITH TAKING HIS FAREWELL OF POETRY IN
HIS DESERTED VILLAGE.
• Mason was mute, and Gray but touch'd the lyre,
• Pathetic warbler of the pensive plain,
That kings can feel and Genius smile at care.'
being put into circulation, that he “begs to sign the initials of his name ‘B. K.' in each copy.”
Accept dear Goldsmith, these ingenuous lines,
Proclaim a village lost, forlorn, forgot.”
“ That trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay, As ocean sweeps the labour'd mole
away : While self-dependent power can time defy, As rocks resist the billows and the sky.”
See Boswell, vol. ii. p. 309.
The attention drawn to his farewell to Poetry appeared to answer the object for which it was probably written; that of hinting the impracticability of pursuing an art in which he gave so much pleasure, without having other pecuniary means than his literary labours furnished, of acquiring the necessary leisure for that purpose ; and a public provision was thought of by his friends.
An impression of being neglected there is no doubt, had for some time taken root in his mind; he became irritable from the constant drudgery of writing; and from the same cause experienced occasional attacks of a very painful complaint, which were usually succeeded by fits of despondency, and these held up to an excited imagination the probability of being deprived by advancing infirmity of the power of contributing to his own support. A considerable share of public favour and applause added something perhaps to the opinion of his own deserts. Next to Johnson, he occupied the largest share of public attention