« VorigeDoorgaan »
which he was invited at Davies the bookseller's, but was disappointed. Goldsmith was present, but he was not as yet sufficiently renowned to excite the reverence of Boswell. "At this time," says he in his notes, "I think he had published nothing with his name, though it was pretty generally understood that one Dr. Goldsmith was the author of 'An Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe,' and of The Citizen of the World,' a series of letters supposed to be written from London, by a Chinese."
A conversation took place at table between Goldsmith and Mr. Robert Dodsley, compiler of the well-known collection of modern poetry, as to the merits of the current poetry of the day. Goldsmith declared there was none of superior merit. Dodsley cited his own collection in proof of the contrary. "It is true," said he, "we can boast of no palaces now-a-days, like Dryden's Ode to St. Cecilia's Day, but we have villages composed of very pretty houses." Goldsmith, however, maintained that there was nothing above mediocrity, an opinion in which Johnson, to whom it was repeated, concurred, and with reason, for the era was one of the dead levels of British poetry.
Boswell has made no note of this conversation; he was an unitarian in his literary devotion, and disposed to worship none but Johnson. Little Davies endeavored to console him for his disappointment, and to stay the stomach of his curiosity, by giving him imitations of the great lexicographer; mouthing his words, rolling his head, and assuming as ponderous a manner as his petty person would permit. Boswell was shortly afterwards made happy by an introduction to Johnson, of whom he became the obsequious satellite. From him he likewise imbibed a more favorable opinion of Goldsmith's merits, though he was fain to
JOHNSON AND GOLDSMITH.
consider them derived in a great measure from his Magnus Apollo. "He had sagacity enough," says he, "to cultivate assiduously the acquaintance of Johnson, and his faculties were gradually enlarged by the contemplation of such a model. To me and many others it appeared that he studiously copied the manner of Johnson, though, indeed, upon a smaller scale." So on another occasion he calls him "one of the brightest ornaments of the Johnsonian school." "His respectful attachment to Johnson," adds he, "was then at its height; for his own literary reputation had not yet distinguished him so much as to excite a vain desire of competition with his great master."
What beautiful instances does the garrulous Boswell give of the goodness of heart of Johnson, and the passing homage to it by Goldsmith. They were speaking of a Mr. Levett, long an inmate of Johnson's house and a dependent on his bounty; but who, Boswell thought, must be an irksome charge upon him. "He is poor and honest," said Goldsmith, "which is recommendation enough to Johnson."
Boswell mentioned another person of a very bad character, and wondered at Johnson's kindness to him. "He is now become miserable," said Goldsmith, "and that insures the protection of Johnson." Encomiums like these speak almost as much for the heart of him who praises as of him who is praised.
Subsequently, when Boswell had become more intense in his literary idolatry, he affected to undervalue Goldsmith, and a lurking hostility to him is discernible throughout his writings which some have attributed to a silly spirit of jealousy of the superior esteem evinced for the poet by Dr. Johnson. We have a gleam of this in his account of the first evening he spent in company with those two eminent authors at their famous resort,
the Mitre Tavern, in Fleet-street. This took place on the 1st of July, 1763. The trio supped together, and passed some time in literary conversation. On quitting the tavern, Johnson, who had now been sociably acquainted with Goldsmith for two years, and knew his merits, took him with him to drink tea with his blind pensioner, Miss Williams; a high privilege among his intimates and admirers. To Boswell, a recent acquaintance, whose intrusive sycophancy had not yet made its way into his confidential intimacy, he gave no invitation. Boswell felt it with all the jealousy of a little mind. "Dr. Goldsmith," says he, in his memoirs, "being a privileged man, went with him, strutting away, and calling to me with an air of superiority, like that of an esoteric over an exoteric disciple of a sage of antiquity, 'I go to Miss Williams.' I confess I then envied him this mighty privilege, of which he seemed to be so proud; but it was not long before I obtained the same mark of distinction."
Obtained! but how? not like Goldsmith, by the force of unpretending but congenial merit, but by a course of the most pushing, contriving, and spaniel-like subserviency. Really, the ambition of the man to illustrate his mental insignificance, by continually placing himself in juxtaposition with the great lexicographer, has something in it perfectly ludicrous. Never, since the days of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, has there been presented to the world a more whimsically contrasted pair of associates than Johnson and Boswell.
"Who is this Scotch cur at Johnson's heels?" asked some one when Boswell had worked his way into incessant companionship. "He is not a cur," replied Goldsmith, "you are too severe; he is only a bur. Tom Davies flung him at Johnson in sport, and he has the faculty of sticking."
HOGARTH'S VISIT AT ISLINGTON.
Hogarth a visitor at Islington-his character-Street studies.-Sympathies between authors and painters.-Sir Joshua Reynolds-his character-his dinners.-The Literary Club-its members.-Johnson's revels with Lanky and Beau.-Goldsmith at the club.
AMONG the intimates who used to visit the poet occasionally in his retreat at Islington, was Hogarth the painter. Goldsmith had spoken well of him in his essays in the Public Ledger, and this formed the first link in their friendship. He was at this time upwards of sixty years of age, and is described as a stout, active, bustling little man, in a sky-blue coat, satirical and dogmatic, yet full of real benevolence and the love of human nature. He was the moralist and philosopher of the pencil; like Gold smith he had sounded the depths of vice and misery, without being polluted by them; and though his picturings had not the pervading amenity of those of the essayist, and dwelt more on the crimes and vices, than the follies and humors of mankind, yet they were all calculated, in like manner, to fill the mind with instruction and precept, and to make the heart better.
Hogarth does not appear to have had much of the rural feeling with which Goldsmith was so amply endowed, and may not have accompanied him in his strolls about hedges and green lanes; but he was a fit companion with whom to explore the
mazes of London, in which he was continually on the look-out for character and incident. One of Hogarth's admirers speaks of having come upon him in Castle-street, engaged in one of his street studies, watching two boys who were quarrelling; patting one on the back who flinched, and endeavoring to spirit him up to a fresh encounter. 66 "At him again! D— him, if I would
take it of him! at him again!"
A frail memorial of this intimacy between the painter and the poet exists in a portrait in oil, called 'Goldsmith's Hostess.' It is supposed to have been painted by Hogarth in the course of his visits to Islington, and given by him to the poet as a means of paying his landlady. There are no friendships among men of talents more likely to be sincere than those between painters and poets. Possessed of the same qualities of mind, governed by the same principles of taste and natural laws of grace and beauty, but applying them to different yet mutually illustrative arts, they are constantly in sympathy, and never in collision with each other.
A still more congenial intimacy of the kind was that contracted by Goldsmith with Mr. afterwards Sir Joshua Reynolds. The latter was now about forty years of age, a few years older than the poet, whom he charmed by the blandness and benignity of his manners, and the nobleness and generosity of his disposition, as much as he did by the graces of his pencil and the magic of his coloring. They were men of kindred genius, excelling in corresponding qualities of their several arts, for style in writing is what color is in painting; both are innate endowments, and equally magical in their effects. Certain graces and harmonies of both may be acquired by diligent study and imitation, but only in a limited degree; whereas by their natural