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Oriental projecte.-Literary jobs.-The Cherokee chiefs.-Merry Islington and the White Conduit House.-Letters on the History of England.— James Boswell.-Dinner of Davies.-Anecdotes of Johnson and Goldsmith.
NOTWITHSTANDING his growing success, Goldsmith continued to consider literature a mere make-shift, and his vagrant imagination teemed with schemes and plans of a grand but indefinite nature. One was for visiting the East and exploring the interior of Asia. He had, as has been before observed, a vague notion that valuable discoveries were to be made there, and many useful inventions in the arts brought back to the stock of European knowledge. "Thus, in Siberian Tartary," observes he, in one of his writings, "the natives extract a strong spirit from milk, which is a secret probably unknown to the chemists of Europe. In the most savage parts of India they are possessed of the secret of dying vegetable substances scarlet, and that of refining lead into a metal which, for hardness and color, is little inferior to silver."
Goldsmith adds a description of the kind of person suited to such an enterprise, in which he evidently had himself in view.
"He should be a man of philosophical turn, one apt to de
duce consequences of general utility from particular occurrences; neither swoln with pride, nor hardened by prejudice; neither wedded to one particular system, nor instructed only in one particular science; neither wholly a botanist, nor quite an antiquarian; his mind should be tinctured with miscellaneous knowledge, and his manners humanized by an intercourse with men. He should be in some measure an enthusiast to the design; fond of travelling, from a rapid imagination and an innate 'ove of change; furnished with a body capable of sustaining every fatigue, and a heart not easily terrified at danger."
In 1761, when Lord Bute became prime minister on the accession of George the Third, Goldsmith drew up a memorial on the subject, suggesting the advantages to be derived from a mission to those countries solely for useful and scientific purposes; and, the better to insure success, he preceded his application to the government by an ingenious essay to the same effect in the Public Ledger.
His memorial and his essay were fruitless, his project most probably being deemed the dream of a visionary. Still it continued to haunt his mind, and he would often talk of making an expedition to Aleppo some time or other, when his means were greater, to inquire into the arts peculiar to the East, and to bring home such as might be valuable. Johnson, who knew how little poor Goldsmith was fitted by scientific lore for this favorite scheme of his fancy, scoffed at the project when it was mentioned to him. "Of all men," said he, "Goldsmith is the most unfit to go out upon such an inquiry, for he is utterly ignorant of such arts as we already possess, and, consequently, could not know what would be accessions to our present stock of mechanical knowledge. Sir, he would bring home a grinding barrow, which
THE CHEROKEE CHIEFS.
you see in every street in London, and think that he had furnished a wonderful improvement."
His connection with Newbery the bookseller now led him into a variety of temporary jobs, such as a pamphlet on the Cock-lane Ghost, a Life of Beau Nash, the famous Master of Ceremonies at Bath, &c.: one of the best things for his fame, however, was the remodelling and republication of his Chinese Letters under the title of "the Citizen of the World," a work which has long since taken its merited stand among the classics of the English language. "Few works," it has been observed by one of his biographers," exhibit a nicer perception, or more delicate delineation of life and manners. Wit, humor, and sentiment, pervade every page; the vices and follies of the day are touched with the most playful and diverting satire; and English characteristics, in endless variety, are hit off with the pencil of a master."
In seeking materials for his varied views of life, he often mingled in strange scenes and got involved in whimsical situations. In the summer of 1762 he was one of the thousands who went to see the Cherokee chiefs, whom he mentions in one of his writings. The Indians made their appearance in grand costume, hideously painted and besmeared. In the course of the visit Goldsmith made one of the chiefs a present, who, in the ecstasy of his gratitude, gave him an embrace that left his face well bedaubed with oil and red ochre.
Towards the close of 1762 he removed to "merry Islington," then a country village, though now swallowed up in omniverous London. He went there for the benefit of country air, his health being injured by literary application and confinement, and to be near his chief employer, Mr. Newbery, who resided in the Canon
bury House. In this neighborhood he used to take his solitary rambles, sometimes extending his walks to the gardens of the "White Conduit House," so famous among the essayists of the last century. While strolling one day in these gardens, he met three females of the family of a respectable tradesman to whom he was under some obligation. With his prompt disposition to oblige, he conducted them about the garden, treated them to tea, and ran up a bill in the most open-handed manner imaginable; it was only when he came to pay that he found himself in one of his old dilemmas-he had not the wherewithal in his pocket. A scene of perplexity now took place between him and the waiter, in the midst of which came up some of his acquaintances, in whose eyes he wished to stand particularly well. This completed his mortification. There was no concealing the awkwardness of his position. The sneers of the waiter revealed it. His acquaintances amused themselves for some time at his expense, professing their inability to relieve him. When, however, they had enjoyed their banter, the waiter was paid, and poor Goldsmith enabled to convoy off the ladies with flying colors.
Among the various productions thrown off by him for the booksellers during this growing period of his reputation, was a small work in two volumes, entitled "the History of England, in a series of Letters from a Nobleman to his Son." It was digested from Hume, Rapin, Carte, and Kennet. These authors he would read in the morning; make a few notes; ramble with a friend into the country about the skirts of "merry Islington;" return to a temperate dinner and cheerful evening; and, before going to bed, write off what had arranged itself in his head from the studies of the morning. In this way he took a more general view of the subject, and wrote in a more free and
fluent style than if he had been mousing at the time among authorities. The work, like many others written by him in the earlier part of his literary career, was anonymous. Some attributed it to Lord Chesterfield, others to Lord Orrery, and others to Lord Lyttelton. The latter seemed pleased to be the putative father, and never disowned the bantling thus laid at his door; and well might he have been proud to be considered capable of producing what has been well-pronounced "the most finished and elegant summary of English history in the same compass that has been or is likely to be written."
The reputation of Goldsmith, it will be perceived, grew slowly; he was known and estimated by a few; but he had not those brilliant though fallacious qualities which flash upon the public, and excite loud but transient applause. His works were more read than cited; and the charm of style, for which he was especially noted, was more apt to be felt than talked about. He used often to repine, in a half-humorous, half-querulous manner, at his tardiness in gaining the laurels which he felt to be his due. "The public," he would exclaim, "will never do me justice; whenever I write any thing, they make a point to know nothing about it."
About the beginning of 1763 he became acquainted with Boswell, whose literary gossipings were destined to have a deleterious effect upon his reputation. Boswell was at that time a young man, light, buoyant, pushing, and presumptuous. He had a morbid passion for mingling in the society of men noted for wit and learning, and had just arrived from Scotland, bent upon making his way into the literary circles of the metropolis. An intimacy with Dr. Johnson, the great literary luminary of the day, was the crowning object of his aspiring and somewhat ludicrous ambition. He expected to meet him at a dinner to