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His performances are all crowded with incident but want character, the genuine mark of genius in a dramatic poet."
The comedies of Farquhar and Vanbrugh, particularly the former, rejecting their indelicacies, he considered the best on the English stage.
Of Lord Kames's Elements of Criticism he said, "It is easier to write that book than to read it." Johnson admitted there was nothing new in the matter, but old things were told in a new way.
Pope found in him, as in all the poets of the past age, and in Lord Byron and in many of the distinguished names of the present, that warm admiration which his genius, vigour, variety and harmony must ever command from every reader of taste. The critical opinions of Warton, had failed to render his fallacies although recent, a fashion, or to convince the judgment of the age he addressed, that the class of poetry to which that of Pope belongs, was necessarily of an inferior order, or that popularity formed, after the lapse of a reasonable time, no criterion of merit. Goldsmith estimated his genius scarcely inferior to that of Dryden; his judgment and versification some degrees higher. His character of Addison he quoted on several occasions as displaying a profound knowledge of the human heart.
Toward the poetry of Gray he was as has been already stated, less favourably disposed, though from no unworthy motive; and without mentioning
names, it is indirectly expressed in the Vicar of Wakefield, where we find marked condemnation of redundancy of epithet, one of the admitted faults of that eminent poet. Goldsmith considered this blemish as bordering upon mere expletive; a symptom of want of variety of expression, or vigour of thought; and seems to have written the Hermit in proof of how successfully one man of genius could avoid what he considered so objectionable in others. That ballad is introduced in the novel with the remark, that whatever be its other defects, it is free at least from the one he
"It is remarkable that both the poets you mention (Ovid and Gay) have equally contributed to introduce a false taste into their respective countries by loading all their lines with epithet. Men of little genius found them most easily imitated in their defects, and English poetry like that in the latter empire of Rome, is nothing at present but a combination of luxuriant images without plot or connexion; a string of epithets that improve the sound without carrying on the sense.'
His opinion of portions of Gray's poetry seems corroborated by that of another contemporary poet, Langhorne, who thus figuratively expresses himself:-"How enchantingly beautiful was Gray's Muse when she wandered through the churchyard in her morning dress! But when she was arrayed in gorgeous attire, in a monstrous hoop and a brocade petticoat, I could gaze upon her
indeed; she made an impression on my eye, but not on my heart.” *
It is said indeed, if we are to believe Mr. Cradock, who however wrote at a late period of life and whose reports of mere conversations must be received with some caution, that Goldsmith proposed even, we may believe in a jocular moment, to improve the Elegy "You are so attached" he is made to say "to Hurd, Gray, and Mason, that you think nothing good can proceed but out of that formal school. Now I'll mend Gray's Elegy by leaving out an idle word in every line
The Curfew tolls the knell of day,
The lowing herd winds o'er the lea,
to which the narrator makes himself very promptly and reasonably object.
He was fond of the amusement of a garden, and when on a visit in the several hours in it daily. been permitted to build an ice-house and hot-house on plans of his own; he volunteered to construct one of the former for Cradock, saying that as he had already built two, it should be perfect, and a pattern for the whole county. To this taste Beauclerk probably alludes when writing to Lord
country commonly passed At Lord Clare's he had
*Correspondence of Hannah More, vol. i. p. 23.
DIFFERENCES OF OPINION AMONG ACQUAINTANCE. 369
Charlemont, whom he jocularly urges to return to London for the following reasons
"If you do not come here, I will bring all the club over to Ireland to live with you, and that will drive you here in your own defence. Johnson shall spoil your books, Goldsmith pull your flowers, and Boswell talk to you."
"When Boswell," adds Mr. Cradock, "was at Lichfield with Dr. Johnson he wrote a prologue to be spoken by some players who were performing there, and this caused a proposal that the comedy of the Beaux Stratagem should be got up in good style by amateurs. Then,' exclaimed Goldsmith, I shall certainly offer to play Scrub!'
"Goldsmith used to rally me" continues the same writer" on my Cambridge pedantry, and I in turn hinted at illegitimate education. He truly said that I was nibbling about elegant phrases while he was obliged to write half a volume." This hint if ever really given respecting imperfect education seems scarcely to have been called for, when it is considered, what Cradock did not probably know or remember, that the Poet like himself had been member of a university.
A question was started, how far people who disagree in a capital point can live in friendship together. Johnson said they might. Goldsmith said they could not, as they had not the idem velle atque idem nolle. the same likings and the same aversions. Johnson. "Why, Sir, you must shun the subject as to which you disagree. For in
stance, I can live very well with Burke: I love his knowledge, his genius, his diffusion, and affluence of conversation; but I would not talk to him of the Rockingham party." Goldsmith. "But, Sir, when people live together who have something as to which they disagree, and which they want to shun, they will be in the situation mentioned in the story of Bluebeard. You may look into all the chambers but one.' But we should have the greatest inclination to look into that chamber, to talk of that subject." Johnson (with a loud voice). "Sir, I am not saying that you could live in friendship with a man from whom you differ as to some point; I am only saying that I could do it. You put me in mind of Sappho in Ovid."
When conversing at the table of Sir Joshua on the merits of Otway's Venice Preserved which Goldsmith highly extolled as one of the tragedies nearest in excellence to those of Shakspeare, Johnson peremptorily contradicted him, asserting there were not forty good lines in the play, and adding, "Pooh! what stuff are these lines
• What feminine tales hast thou been listening to,
"True!" replied Goldsmith, "to be sure that is very like Shakspeare."
Few readers or spectators of the tragedy but will agree rather with Goldsmith than with Johnson. Whatever the professed critic may tell us of how, or by what, we are to be affected, there is another and higher tribunal to which the tragic