« VorigeDoorgaan »
one who had from the first experienced his malignity. *
The writer of the lines being very well known, he and the subject of them met shortly afterwards at the Chapter Coffee-house, when the former was in conversation with another literary man. Goldsmith very sharply took him to task for presuming to take liberties with his name and by implication with his morals, in connexion with a place of general resort and amusement, conveying an intelligible intimation that as he had more than once indulged in similar attacks, a repetition of such conduct would be productive of personal consequences of an unpleasant description. Kenrick shuffled out of the difficulty lamely, protesting nothing derogatory to his private character was meant; but afterwards loudly complained of being publicly and wantonly attacked in the coffee-house by one who (in his modest estimate) was his inferior, and whose writings, conversation, and person he designated as being fit subjects for ridicule. He likewise took the opportunity of laughing at the mathematical knowledge of the Poet in consequence of a controversy (whether real or fictitious is doubtful) represented as arising on another occasion in the same house, when the latter maintained that the sun was not eight days or thereabout, more in the northern than southern signs, and being referred to the authority of Maupertuis for a contrary opinion, spurned it, saying with an affectation of authority Maupertuis ! I know more of the matter than Maupertuis.”*
* “ To Dr. Goldsmith ;
ON SEEING HIS NAME IN THE LIST OF MUMMERS AT THE LATE MASQUERADE.
"Say should the philosophic mind disdain
That good which makes each humbler bosom vain ?
“ How widely different, Goldsmith, are the ways
Of Doctors now, and those of ancient days !
It is remembered likewise that masquerades were sometimes chosen by wags of his acquaintance to single him out under cover of their disguise, seemingly without design, and either by praising other poets and decrying him, by misquoting his verses, and then abusing them, or by burlesque parodies, occasioned him annoyance. One of these, a Mr. Purefoy, whom he did not discover, by continued persecution for an evening, at length drove him fairly out of the house. On another occasion, according to the late Mr. John Taylor, the Poet himself having teased a young lady who happened to know him, and giving way to laughter at his own wit, was instantly silenced by her quotation of his line
* The censures of Kenrick did not pass for much with his contemporaries. Langhorne the poet writing to Hannah More
_“I hear you have had the honour to be abused by Kenrick; I think nothing would hurt me so much as such a fellow's praise ; - I should feel as if I had a blister upon me." -H. More's Correspondence, vol. i. p. 23,
in 1776 says
“ And the loud laugh that speaks the vacant mind.”
Connected with this subject, an anecdote of his whim mentioned by Sir Joshua Reynolds, has been communicated by the lady to whom the reader is indebted for several contributions of a similar kind. Entering his chambers on one occasion the President found him in something of a reverie, yet deliberately walking round the room and kicking a bundle before him in the manner of a foot-ball of which the nature could not be immediately distinguished. On enquiry the article proved to be an expensive masquerade dress which he had been persuaded to purchase, and the occasion having been served and repenting perhaps of his imprudence in expending on such an article money for which there were so many more pressing demands, he was determined in his own phrase “ to have the value out of it in exercise.”
A sharp attack of illness of a peculiarly painful nature, not long afterward gave considerable inter
ruption to his literary pursuits ; the disease was accompanied by febrile symptoms, for which James's Powders under the direction of Doctor James himself, were administered with good effect; and this success impressed him ever after with great confidence in the efficacy of the remedy.
He retired soon afterwards to the country to reestablish his health, spent part of the summer with Lord Clare, Mr. Cradock, and it is believed Mr. Langton, and visited the Leasowes of Shenstone of which he gave some account a few months afterward in a magazine. A rumour gained credence at the time, that his illness had been occasioned by the vexation of losing nearly one hundred pounds at play, though there is no good reason to believe that he ever at any time lost such a sum, or that he had it often to lose. More than one such illness beyond doubt was occasioned by severe application to his desk.
Much however has been said on this attachment to gaming, as one of the sources of those embarrassments under which he appears to have frequently suffered. The result of diligent enquiry on this head as far as enquiry can now be carried, gives little confirmation to the belief that serious losses were ever sustained from that cause ; an impression to the contrary has indeed been so generally received, that to question it may seem like violation of historical truth, especially after what we are told by one of his acquaintance, if he be correct in his
statement. “ The greatest real fault of Dr, Goldsmith was, that if he had thirty pounds in his pocket he would go into certain companies in the country, and in hopes of doubling the sum would generally return to town without any part of it.”
It is not meant here to shield him from an accusation induced in some degree by his own inconsiderate, or possibly ostentatious acknowledgments; for the vice being fashionable, he was vain enough to believe that confessions of losses by such means, enhanced his importance by implying there was something to lose. That he was fond of cards as a source of amusement, and exceedingly inexpert in their use, we may believe; that he played at whist and at loo, sometimes perhaps expensively, but more commonly for trifling sums as is stated by one who frequently enjoyed this amusement in his company, is likewise true; but thousands daily do this without incurring the name of gamester, or sustaining losses of moment.
It should be remarked likewise, that of all such as venture to speak of his habits, a few only of whom knew him intimately, none state any fact in proof of the existence of such an unhappy propensity, or of specific sums thus expended; and it is improbable that such a practice could have been carried on for years under the eyes of his friends without particular instances coming to their know.
* Mr. Cradock.