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Johnson; and after dinner the conversation happening to turn on this subject, Goldsmith maintained that a poet was more likely to pronounce verse with accuracy and spirit than other men. He was immediately called upon to support his argument by an example; a request with which he readily complied; and he repeated the first stanza of the ballad beginning with the words "At Upton on the Hill" with such false emphasis by marking the word on very strongly, that all the company agreed he had by no means established his position."
One of the things to the knowledge of which he did not pretend, was painting; this he avows in the dedication of the Deserted Village, and made the same acknowledgment in conversation with his countrymen, Barrett the landscape painter, and Barry. The former who is said to have painted a picture for him the history of which cannot be traced, spoke of the pleasure he had on more than one occasion experienced in his society; and very warmly praised his benevolence and lamented his premature death.
With Barry he was less cordial, arising from his intimacy with Sir Joshua, which it was one of the infirmities of temper so strongly characterizing the former eminent and irritable artist, not to forgive in his acquaintance. For a year or two indeed they met not unfrequently, and on one occasion at the house of Burke in London, when a discussion taking place on the arts, Goldsmith said he could
not account for poetry, painting, and music, being called sister arts, because he saw little connexion between them; he had heard of few who had excelled in one, who knew or cared more than persons in general, for any of the others; no man was eminent in any two of them. Poetry as an effort of mind, he considered so far beyond her companions as to be in some degree lowered by the association; painting for instance was in many respects a mechanical art, though undoubtedly in its highest range requiring great genius for its execution. A painting however was but a scene; a poem was composed of a series of scenes, and could enchain the attention or touch the affections infinitely more than any representation on canvass. Then a painter might execute during his life, fifty, or a hundred, or more, good paintings; while no genius could furnish such a number of good poems; this alone evinced the greater difficulty and superiority of the art.
Barry at length alarmed for the credit of his profession, grew vehement in its defence, and something dropped from him to the effect that he was astonished at the hardihood of persons venturing to argue upon subjects of which they knew nothing. The discussion dropped, and they had little intercourse afterwards. Barry however spoke of him kindly long after his death, praised his good qualities, yet commented freely on his foibles.*
* A lady of consideration and much good sense, now resident in Pembrokeshire, who in early life mingled in the society
Acquitting Goldsmith of the passion of envy in its odious acceptation, it may be nevertheless
of eminent men at her father's house in London, gives the following sketch of Barry in a letter to the writer of these pages.
"I knew Mr. Barry in early life; for having taken a fancy to learn something of the art of engraving for my amusement, my father whose house was frequented by several men of letters and of the arts, indulged the whim. Barry was my instructor and took some pains with me; but the state of my eyes at length compelled me to desist; I had much respect for him as a well-intentioned, though, in many points, singular man.
"In appearance there was little to distinguish him; for though of noble mind and elevated thoughts, little trace of these could be found in his countenance; his complexion was light, his figure clumsy, and his dress and person negligent to a degree that approached want of personal cleanliness. In manner he was plain, but energetic when excited by conversation, and then his language soared with the loftiness of his ideas, so that on many occasions he might be termed eloquent. The moral qualities and powers of men, the arts, and topics bearing upon such matters, were his favourite themes. He never seemed to be in unison with mirth and pleasantry, and had a laudable antipathy to ridicule, more especially when personal; to me he seemed to have one object chiefly in view in his discussions, that of raising, strengthening, and improving the mind, and this may account for his usual gravity of demeanour. He was no doubt ill-tempered, yet his detestation of personal ridicule belonged at least to goodness of disposition, if I may be permitted to consider the following as an instance. "During one of the evening visits of Mrs. Barbauld at our house, she was accompanied by Miss S- a young lady under her care, the daughter of a wealthy citizen, who by her manner and conversation obviously attaching more importance to the wealth of her father, than respect for mental excellence however great in her friend, did not long continue the charge of Mrs. Barbauld. On quitting the room, her behaviour and name afforded room for much censure and jest to the party. When they had nearly all departed, the indignation of Barry, who was
true that having earned literary fame laboriously himself, he was unwilling to share it with such
present, and which had been smothered for a time, at length burst forth, declaring in vehement terms his contempt for persons who with no superiority of mind themselves, presumed to ridicule the errors of so young and inexperienced a creature. The defence which was very zealous, raised the painter much in our estimation, but not the young lady.
"He was accused of being parsimonious, but this I believe arose from the narrowness of his means, which admitted as I was told, of few comforts and no luxuries; he was indeed marked by many eccentricities, and therefore appeared from his habits poorer than he really was, though at the time I knew him these peculiarities were less known or less offensive than afterwards. The people in the street in which he lived annoyed him; and one day at a future time an acquaintance of ours passing through it, reported that he had seen him with his head out of the window in violent altercation with coalheavers, whom he accused of fraudulent practices with his coals.
"I remember he told us he had occasionally visited Dr. Johnson; and more than once during his last illness, when the mind of that eminent man was clouded by the prospect of death, of which he spoke with more apprehension than became so good a Christian and so great a philosopher. All the statements of Mr. Barry on this point, corroborated those which are to be found elsewhere, of the great sense of his imperfections entertained by the moralist. Latterly however these fears gave way, or rather his confidence in the merciful forgiveness of God became strong; and on one occasion he expressed himself so finely and eloquently on this head, that Barry said he always regretted not having written down the particulars on retiring from the interview.
"Until I read the Life of Burke, whom I heard in Westminster Hall in the prosecution of Hastings, I was not aware of the great obligations of Barry to him; I never heard the latter mention him; and this now surprises me much, because most public names were brought in review before us in conversation
whose claims were either doubtful, or over-estimated by the zeal of private friendship. This has been one ground for the charge of envy. He never on such occasions concealed his opinions; and none that are recorded have proved wrong; but in return for his candour or imprudence, sometimes lost a friend or made an enemy.
Thus when Sir Joshua painted a fine allegorical picture of Beattie in his Doctor's dress, with his volume on the Immutability of Truth under his arm, the angel of Truth going before him and beating down the vices Envy, Falsehood, &c. the principal head in the group was made an exact likeness of Voltaire.* When Goldsmith saw this, he remonstrated with the President for placing an inferior writer however laudable his object, in competition with so great a genius, and pronounced that posterity would call him a flatterer. This came to the ears of Beattie, who in a letter to Mrs. Montagu, made against him the usual charge of envy.
"I am sorry," he says among other remarks, "for poor Goldsmith. There were some things in his temper which I did not like; but I liked many things in his genius; and I was sorry to find last
on the passing matters of the day, and I had thought the painter's mind too noble to be ashamed to confess obligations to such a man as Burke. I am disposed to believe that a sense of his own demerits kept him silent."
* This picture was exhibited in the spring of 1774, and in the catalogue is called " Dr. Beattie triumphing over Infidelity."