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“ The circumstances attending the personal contest between Dr. Goldsmith and Evans the bookseller with whom I lived at the time, are to the best of my recollection as follow.
“ A letter signed Tom Tickle appeared in the London Packet of which Evans was the publisher, reflecting on the person and literary character of Goldsmith and introducing the name of one of his female acquaintance. Instigated as it was believed by injudicious friends, he came to Paternoster Row accompanied by Captain Horneck of the Guards *, and inquiring of me whether Evans was at home, I called the latter from an adjoining room and heard Goldsmith say to him - I have called in consequence of a scurrilous attack in your paper upon me (my name is Goldsmith) and an unwarrantable liberty taken with the name of a young lady. As for myself I care little, but her name must not be sported with. Evans declaring his ignorance of the matter, said he would speak to the editor, and stooping down for the file of the paper to look for the offensive article, the Poet struck him smartly with his cane across the back. Evans who was sturdy, returned the blow with interest, when in the scuffle a lamp suspended over head was broken and the oil fell upon the combatants; one of the shopmen was sent for a constable, but in the mean time Dr. Kenrick who had been all the time in the adjoining room, and who it was pretty certain was really author of the news
* Other accounts state it to have been Captain Higgins.
paper article, came forward, separated the parties, and sent Goldsmith home in a coach.
Captain Horneck expressed his surprise at the assault, declaring he had no previous intimation of such a design on the part of the Poet, who had merely requested that he should accompany him to Paternoster Row. Evans took steps to indict him for an assault; but subsequently a compromise took place by his assailant agreeing to pay fifty pounds to the Welsh charity.”
The affair gave ample employment to the newspapers for several days. A sense of common danger, on all such occasions, unites a body which almost claims to be irresponsible not only against the law but against individuals who attempt to resent their untruths or provocations; and Goldsmith was assailed for the gross outrage, as it was called, of beating a man in his own house.* Among other things urged against him was that of having been formerly editor of a Magazine, in which he had no doubt taken as many liberties with others as had been in the present instance taken with him. To the latter part of this accusation, from which as far as can be discovered he was quite
* Of the innumerable squibs issued on this occasion, the following is a specimen :
« THE COMBAT.
“ While the printer was busy - to give him a blow,
Unsuspecting, unguarded — how could you do so ?
free, he however thought proper to reply in the following address, printed in the Daily Advertiser of the 31st March, 1773.
“ To the Public.
“ Lest it should be supposed that I have been willing to correct in others an abuse of which I have been guilty myself, I beg leave to declare, that in all my life I never wrote or dictated a single paragraph, letter, or essay in a newspaper, except a few moral essays under the character of a Chinese, about ten years ago, in the Ledger, and a letter to which I signed my name, in the St. James's Chronicle. If the liberty of the press, therefore, has been abused, I have had no hand in it.
“I have always considered the press as the protector of our freedom, as a watchful guardian, capable of uniting the weak against the encroachments of power. What concerns the public, most properly admits of a public discussion. But of late the press has turned from defending public interest, to making inroads upon private life ; from combating the strong, to overwhelming the feeble. No condition is now too obscure for its abuse, and the protector has become the tyrant of the people. In this manner the freedom of the press is beginning to sow the seeds of its own dissolution ; the great must oppose it from principle, and the weak from fear; till at last every rank of mankind shall be found to give up its benefits, content with security from insults.
“ How to put a stop to this licentiousness by which all are indiscriminately abused, and by which vice consequently escapes in the general censure, I am unable to tell ; all I could wish is that, as the law gives us no protection against the injury, so it should give calumniators no shelter after having provoked correction. The insults which we receive before the public, by being more open are the more distressing ; by treating them with silent contempt, we do not pay a sufficient deference to the opinion of the world. By recurring to legal redress we too often expose the weakness of the law, which only serves to increase our mortification by failing to relieve us.
In short, every man should singly consider himself as a guardian of the liberty of the press, and as far as his influence can extend, should endeavour to prevent its licentiousness becoming at last the grave of its freedom.
“ OLIVER GOLDSMITH.”
One of the jests played off upon him on this occasion was a story, that having proceeded after the engagement with injured eyes and bandaged face to his friend Dr. Johnson, complaining of the insolence and slanders of anonymous writers in the newspapers, the latter is made to reply, though with a very humble imitation of his sarcastic wit, that if he (Dr. Johnson) had attempted to resent all the slanders vented against him through such channels, he would have had by that time neither eyes to see, nor jaws to eat with. This alleged conversation some of his friends deemed it necessary to meet by a formal contradiction.
What Johnson really thought and said on this occasion is told by Boswell.
“On Saturday April 3d, the day after my arrival in London this year, I went to his (Dr. Johnson's) house late in the evening and sat with Mrs. Williams till he came home. I found in the London Chronicle Dr. Goldsmith's apology to the public for beating Evans the bookseller, on account of a paragraph in a newspaper published by him, which Goldsmith thought impertinent to him and to a lady of his acquaintance.
“ The apology was written so much in Dr. Johnson's manner that both Mrs. Williams and I supposed it to be his ; but when he came home he soon undeceived us. When he said to Mrs. Williams, : Well, Dr. Goldsmith's manifesto has got into your paper ;' I asked him if Dr. Goldsmith had written it, with an air that made him see I suspected it was his, though subscribed by Dr. Goldsmith.
“ JOHNSON. “Sir, Dr. Goldsmith would no more have asked me to have wrote such a thing as that for him, than he would have asked me to feed him with a spoon, or do any thing else that denoted his imbecility. I as much believe that he wrote it as if I had seen him do it. Sir, had he shown it to any