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Conduit House, a Cockney Elysium, where Goldsmith used to figure in the humbler days of his fortune. In the first edition of his Essays he speaks of a stroll in these gardens, where he at that time, no doubt, thought himself in perfectly genteel society After his rise in the world, however, he became too knowing to speak of such plebeian haunts. In a new edition of his Essays, therefore, the White Conduit House and its garden disappears, and he speaks of "a stroll in the Park."
While Goldsmith was literally living from hand to mouth by the forced drudgery of the pen, his independence of spirit was subjected to a sore pecuniary trial. It was the opening of Lord North's administration, a time of great political excitement. The public mind was agitated by the question of American taxation, and other questions of like irritating tendency. Junius and Wilkes and other powerful writers were attacking the administration with all their force; Grub-street was stirred up to its lowest depths; inflammatory talent of all kinds was in full activity, and the kingdom was deluged with pamphlets, lampoons and libels of the grossest kinds. The ministry were looking anxiously round for literary support. It was thought that the pen of Goldsmith might be readily enlisted. His hospitable friend and countryman, Robert Nugent, politically known as Squire Gawky, had come out strenuously for colonial taxation; had been selected for a lordship of the board of trade, and raised to the rank of Baron Nugent and Viscount Clare. His exam ple, it was thought, would be enough of itself, to bring Goldsmith into the ministerial ranks; and then what writer of the day was proof against a full purse or a pension? Accordingly one Parson Scott, chaplain to Lord Sandwich, and author of Anti Sejanus Panurge, and other political libels in support of the administra
tion, was sent to negotiate with the poet, who at this time was returned to town. Dr. Scott, in after years, when his political subserviency had been rewarded by two fat crown livings, used to make, what he considered, a good story out of this embassy to the poet. "I found him," said he, "in a miserable suit of chambers in the Temple. I told him my authority: I told how I was empowered to pay most liberally for his exertions; and, would you believe it! he was so absurd as to say 'I can earn as much as will supply my wants without writing for any party; the assistance you offer is therefore unnecessary to me ;'-and so I left him in his garret !" Who does not admire the sturdy independence of poor Goldsmith toiling in his garret for nine guineas the job, and smile with contempt at the indignant wonder of the political divine, albeit his subserviency was repaid by two fat crown livings?
Not long after this occurrence, Goldsmith's old friend, though frugal-handed employer, Newbery, of picture-book renown, closed his mortal career. The poet has celebrated him as the friend of all mankind; he certainly lost nothing by his friendship. He coined the brains of his authors in the times of their exigency, and made them pay dear for the plank put out to keep them from drowning. It is not likely his death caused much lamentation among the scribbling tribe; we may express decent respect for the memory of the just, but we shed tears only at the grave of the generous.
Theatrical manoeuvring.-The comedy of "False Delicacy."-First performance of "The Good-natured Man."-Conduct of Johnson.-Conduct of the author.-Intermeddling of the press.
THE Comedy of "The Good-natured Man" was doomed to experience delays and difficulties to the very last. Garrick, notwithstanding his professions, had still a lurking grudge against the author, and tasked his managerial arts to thwart him in his theatrical enterprise. For this purpose he undertook to build up Hugh Kelly, Goldsmith's boon companion of the Wednesday club, as a kind of rival. Kelly had written a comedy called False Delicacy, in which were embodied all the meretricious qualities of the sentimental school. Garrick, though he had decried that school, and had brought out his comedy of “The Clandestine Marriage" in opposition to it, now lauded "False Delicacy" to the skies, and prepared to bring it out at Drury Lane with all possible stage effect. He even went so far as to write a prologue and epilogue for it, and to touch up some parts of the dialogue. He had become reconciled to his former colleague, Colman, and it is intimated that one condition in the treaty of peace between these potentates of the realms of pasteboard (equally prone to play into each other's hands with the confederate potentates on the great theatre of life) was, that
Goldsmith's play should be kept back until Kelly's had been brought forward.
In the meantime the poor author, little dreaming of the deleterious influence at work behind the scenes, saw the appointed time arrive and pass by without the performance of his play; while "False Delicacy" was brought out at Drury Lane (January 23, 1768) with all the trickery of managerial management. Houses were packed to applaud it to the echo; the newspapers vied with each other in their venal praises, and night after night seemed to give it a fresh triumph.
While "False Delicacy" was thus borne on the full tide of fictitious prosperity, "The Good-natured Man" was creeping through the last rehearsals at Covent Garden. The success of the rival piece threw a damp upon author, manager, and actors. Goldsmith went about with a face full of anxiety; Colman's hopes in the piece declined at each rehearsal; as to his fellow proprietors, they declared they had never entertained any. All the actors were discontented with their parts, excepting Ned Shuter, an excellent low comedian, and a pretty actress named Miss Walford; both of whom the poor author ever afterward held in grateful recollection.
Johnson, Goldsmith's growling monitor and unsparing castigator in times of heedless levity, stood by him at present with that protecting kindness with which he ever befriended him in time of need. He attended the rehearsals; he furnished the prologue according to promise; he pish'd and pshaw'd at any doubts and fears on the part of the author, but gave him sound counsel, and held him up with a steadfast and manly hand. Inspirited by his sympathy, Goldsmith plucked up new heart, and arrayed himself for the grand trial with unusual care. Ever since his
elevation into the polite world, he had improved in his wardrobe and toilet. Johnson could no longer accuse him of being shabby in his appearance; he rather went to the other extreme. On the present occasion there is an entry in the books of his tailor, Mr. William Filby, of a suit of "Tyrian bloom, satin grain, and garter blue silk breeches, £8 2s. 7d." Thus magnificently attired, he attended the theatre and watched the reception of the play, and the effect of each individual scene, with that vicissitude of feeling incident to his mercurial nature.
Johnson's prologue was solemn in itself, and being delivered by Brinsley in lugubrious tones suited to the ghost in Hamlet, seemed to throw a portentous gloom on the audience. Some of the scenes met with great applause, and at such times Goldsmith was highly elated; others went off coldly, or there were slight tokens of disapprobation, and then his spirits would sink. The fourth act saved the piece; for Shuter, who had the main comic character of Croaker, was so varied and ludicrous in his execution of the scene in which he reads an incendiary letter, that he drew down thunders of applause. On his coming behind the scenes, Goldsmith greeted him with an overflowing heart; declaring that he exceeded his own idea of the character, and made it almost as new to him as to any of the audience.
On the whole, however, both the author and his friends were disappointed at the reception of the piece, and considered it a failure. Poor Goldsmith left the theatre with his towering hopes completely cut down. He endeavored to hide his mortification, and even to assume an air of unconcern while among his associates; but, the moment he was alone with Dr. Johnson, in whose rough but magnanimous nature he reposed unlimited confidence, he threw off all restraint and gave way to an almost childlike burst