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life; the feeling with which "rare Ben Jonson" sought these very haunts and circles in days of yore, to study "Every Man in his Humor."
It was not always, however, that the humor of these associates was to his taste: as they became boisterous in their merriment he was apt to become depressed. "The company of fools," says he, in one of his essays, "may at first make us smile; but at last never fails of making us melancholy." "Often he would become moody," says Glover, "and would leave the party abruptly to go home and brood over his misfortune."
It is possible, however, that he went home for quite a different purpose; to commit to paper some scene or passage suggested for his comedy of "The Good-natured Man." The elaboration of humor is often a most serious task; and we have never witnessed a more perfect picture of mental misery than was once presented to us by a popular dramatic writer-still, we hope, living—whom we found in the agonies of producing a farce which subsequently set the theatres in a roar.
THE GREAT CHAM AND THE KING.
The Great Cham of literature and the King.-Scene at Sir Joshua Reynolds's. -Goldsmith accused of jealousy.-Negotiations with Garrick.-The author and the actor-their correspondence.
THE comedy of "The Good-natured Man" was completed by Goldsmith early in 1767, and submitted to the perusal of Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, and others of the literary club, by whom it was heartily approved. Johnson, who was seldom half way either in censure or applause, pronounced it the best comedy that had been written since "The Provoked Husband," and promished to furnish the prologue. This immediately became an object of great solicitude with Goldsmith, knowing the weight an introduction from the Great Cham of literature would have with the public; but circumstances occurred which he feared might drive the comedy and the prologue from Johnson's thoughis. The latter was in the habit of visiting the royal library at the Queen's (Buckingham) House, a noble collection of books, in the formation of which he had assisted the librarian, Mr. Bernard, with his advice. One evening, as he was seated there by the fire reading, he was surprised by the entrance of the King (George III.), then a young man; who sought this occasion to have a conversation with him. The conversation was varied and discursive; the King shifting from subject to subject according to his wont; "during the whole interview,"
says Boswell," Johnson talked to his majesty with profound respect, but still in his open, manly manner, with a sonorous voice, and never in that subdued tone which is commonly used at the levee and in the drawing-room. 'I found his majesty wished I should talk,' said he, ‘and I made it my business to talk. I find it does a man good to be talked to by his sovereign. In the first place, a man cannot be in a passion-.'" It would have been well for Johnson's colloquial disputants, could he have often been under such decorous restraint. Profoundly monarchical in his principles, he retired from the interview highly gratified with the conversation of the King and with his gracious behavior. "Sir," said he to the librarian, "they may talk of the King as they will, but he is the finest gentleman I have ever seen.”—“Sir,” said he subsequently to Bennet Langton, "his manners are those of as fine a gentleman as we may suppose Lewis the Fourteenth or Charles the Second."
While Johnson's face was still radiant with the reflex of royalty, he was holding forth one day to a listening group at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, who were anxious to hear every particular of this memorable conversation. Among other questions, the King had asked him whether he was writing any thing. His reply was, that he thought he had already done his part as a writer. "I should have thought so too," said the King, "if you had not written so well."—" No man," said Johnson, commenting on this speech, "could have made a handsomer compliment; and it was fit for a King to pay. It was decisive."- "But did you make no reply to this high compliment?" asked one of the company. "No, sir,” replied the profoundly deferential Johnson, “when the King had said it, it was to be so. It was not for me to bandy civilities with my sovereign,"
BOSWELL AT FAULT.
During all the time that Johnson was thus holding forth, Goldsmith, who was present, appeared to take no interest in the royal theme, but remained seated on a sofa at a distance, in a moody fit of abstraction; at length recollecting himself, he sprang up, and advancing, exclaimed, with what Boswell calls his usual "frankness and simplicity," "Well, you acquitted yourself in this conversation better than I should have done, for I should have bowed and stammered through the whole of it." He afterwards explained his seeming inattention, by saying that his mind was completely occupied about his play, and by fears lest Johnson, in his present state of royal excitement, would fail to furnish the much-desired prologue.
How natural and truthful is this explanation. Yet Boswell presumes to pronounce Goldsmith's inattention affected; and attributes it to jealousy. "It was strongly suspected," says he, "that he was fretting with chagrin and envy at the singular honor Dr. Johnson had lately enjoyed." It needed the littleness of mind of Boswell to ascribe such pitiful motives to Goldsmith, and to entertain such exaggerated notions of the honor paid to Dr. Johnson.
"The Good-natured Man" was now ready for performance, but the question was, how to get it upon the stage. The affairs of Covent Garden, for which it had been intended, were thrown in confusion by the recent death of Rich, the manager. Drury Lane was under the management of Garrick, but a feud, it will be recollected, existed between him and the poet, from the animadversions of the latter on the mismanagement of theatrical affairs, and the refusal of the former to give the poet his vote for the secretaryship of the Society of Arts. Times, however, were changed. Goldsmith when that feud took place was an anony
mous writer, almost unknown to fame, and of no circulation in society. Now he had become a literary lion; he was a member of the Literary Club; he was the associate of Johnson, Burke, Topham Beauclerc, and other magnates-in a word, he had risen to consequence in the public eye, and of course was of consequence in the eyes of David Garrick. Sir Joshua Reynolds saw the lurking scruples of pride existing between the author and actor, and thinking it a pity that two men of such congenial talents, and who might be so serviceable to each other, should be kept asunder by a worn-out pique, exerted his friendly offices to bring them together. The meeting took place in Reynolds's house in Leicester Square. Garrick, however, could not entirely put off the mock majesty of the stage; he meant to be civil, but he was rather too gracious and condescending. Tom Davies, in his "Life of Garrick," gives an amusing picture of the coming together of these punctilious parties. "The manager," says he, "was fully conscious of his (Goldsmith's) merit, and perhaps more ostentatious of his abilities to serve a dramatic author than became a man of his prudence; Goldsmith was, on his side, as fully persuaded of his own importance and independent greatness. Mr. Garrick, who had so long been treated with the complimentary language paid to a successful patentee and admired actor, expected that the writer would esteem the patronage of his play a favor; Goldsmith rejected all ideas of kindness in a bargain that was intended to be of mutual advantage to both parties, and in this he was certainly justifiable; Mr. Garrick could reasonably expect no thanks for the acting a new play, which he would have rejected if he had not been convinced it would have amply rewarded his pains and expense. I believe the manager was willing to accept the play, but he wished to be courted to it;