« VorigeDoorgaan »
say, not polished; at least without the refinement and goodbreeding which the exquisite polish of his compositions would lead us to expect. He was always cheerful and animated, often, indeed, boisterous in his mirth; entered with spirit into convivial society; contributed largely to its enjoyments by solidity of information, and the naïveté and originality of his character; talked often without premeditation, and laughed loudly without restraint."
This, it will be recollected, represents him as he appeared to a young Templar, who probably saw him only in Temple coffeehouses, at students' quarters, or at the jovial supper parties given at the poet's own chambers; here, of course, his mind was in its rough dress; his laugh may have been loud and his mirth boisterous; but we trust all these matters became softened and modified when he found himself in polite drawing-rooms and in female society.
But what say the ladies themselves of him; and here, fortunately, we have another sketch of him, as he appeared at the ime to one of the Horneck circle; in fact, we believe, to the Jessamy Bride herself. After admitting, apparently, with some reluctance, that "he was a very plain man," she goes on to say,
but had he been much more so, it was impossible not to love and respect his goodness of heart, which broke out on every occasion. His benevolence was unquestionable, and his countenance bore every trace of it: no one that knew him intimately could avoid admiring and loving his good qualities." When to all this we add the idea of intellectual delicacy and refinement associated with him by his poetry and the newly-plucked bays that were flourishing round his brow, we cannot be surprised that fine and fashionable ladies should be proud of his attentions, and that
HINTS AND SURMISES.
even a young beauty should not be altogether displeased with the thoughts of having a man of his genius in her chains.
We are led to indulge some notions of the kind from finding him in the month of July, but a few weeks after the publication of the Deserted Village, setting off on a six weeks' excursion to Paris, in company with Mrs. Horneck and her two beautiful daughters. A day or two before his departure, we find another new gala suit charged to him on the books of Mr. William Filby. Were the bright eyes of the Jessamy Bride responsible for this additional extravagance of wardrobe? Goldsmith had recently been editing the works of Parnell; had he taken courage from the example of Edwin in the Fairy tale?—
"Yet spite of all that nature did
This creature dared to love.
All this we throw out as mere hints and surmises, leaving it to our readers to draw their own conclusions. It will be found, however, that the poet was subjected to shrewd bantering among his contemporaries about the beautiful Mary Horneck, and that he was extremely sensitive on the subject.
It was in the month of June that he set out for Paris with his fair companions, and the following letter was written by him to Sir Joshua Reynolds, soon after the party landed at Calais :
"MY DEAR FRIEND,
"We had a very quick passage from Dover to Calais, which we performed in three hours and twenty minutes, all of us ex
tremely sea-sick, which must necessarily have happened, as my machine to prevent sea-sickness was not completed. We were glad to leave Dover, because we hated to be imposed upon; so were in high spirits at coming to Calais, where we were told that a little money would go a great way.
"Upon landing, with two little trunks, which was all we carried with us, we were surprised to see fourteen or fifteen fellows all running down to the ship to lay their hands upon them; four got under each trunk, the rest surrounded and held the hasps; and in this manner our little baggage was conducted, with a kind of funeral solemnity, till it was safely lodged at the custom-house. We were well enough pleased with the people's civility till they came to be paid; every creature that had the happiness of but touching our trunks with their finger expected sixpence; and they had so pretty and civil a manner of demanding it, that there was no refusing them.
"When we had done with the porters, we had next to speak with the custom-house officers, who had their pretty civil way too. We were directed to the Hôtel d'Angleterre, where a valet-deplace came to offer his service, and spoke to me ten minutes before I once found out that he was speaking English. We had no occasion for his services, so we gave him a little money because he spoke English, and because he wanted it. I cannot help mentioning another circumstance: I bought a new riband for my wig at Canterbury, and the barber at Calais broke it in order to gain sixpence by buying me a new one."
An incident which occurred in the course of this tour has been tortured by that literary magpie, Boswell, into a proof of Goldsmith's absurd jealousy of any admiration shown to others in his
presence. While stopping at a hotel in Lisle, they were drawn to the windows by a military parade in front. The extreme beauty of the Miss Hornecks immediately attracted the attention of the officers, who broke forth with enthusiastic speeches and compliments intended for their ears. Goldsmith was amused for a hile, but at length affected impatience at this exclusive admiration of his beautiful companions, and exclaimed, with mock severity of aspect, "Elsewhere I also would have my admirers."
It is difficult to conceive the obtuseness of intellect necessary to misconstrue so obvious a piece of mock petulance and dry humor into an instance of mortified vanity and jealous self-conceit. Goldsmith jealous of the admiration of a group of gay officers for the charms of two beautiful young women! This even outBoswells Boswell; yet this is but one of several similar absurdities, evidently misconceptions of Goldsmith's peculiar vein of humor, by which the charge of envious jealousy has been attempted to be fixed upon him. In the present instance it was contradicted by one of the ladies herself, who was annoyed that it had been advanced against him. "I am sure," said she, “from the peculiar manner of his humor, and assumed frown of coun tenance, what was often uttered in jest was mistaken, by those who did not know him, for earnest." No one was more prone to err on this point than Boswell. He had a tolerable perception of wit, but none of humor.
The following letter to Sir Joshua Reynolds was subsequently written:
"To Sir Joshua Reynolds.
"Paris, July 29, (1770.)
"MY DEAR FRIEND,-I began a long letter to you from Lisle, giving a description of all that we had done and seen, but, find
ing it very dull, and knowing that you would show it again, I threw it aside and it was lost. You see by the top of this letter that we are at Paris, and (as I have often heard you say) we have brought our own amusement with us, for the ladies do not seem to be very fond of what we have yet seen.
"With regard to myself, I find that travelling at twenty and forty are very different things. I set out with all my confirmed habits about me, and can find nothing on the Continent so good as when I formerly left it. One of our chief amusements here is scolding at every thing we meet with, and praising every thing and every person we left at home. You may judge, therefore, whether your name is not frequently bandied at table among us. To tell you the truth, I never thought I could regret your absence so much as our various mortifications on the road have often taught me to do. I could tell you of disasters and adventures without number; of our lying in barns, and of my being half poisoned with a dish of green peas; of our quarrelling with postillions, and being cheated by our landladies; but I reserve all this for a happy hour which I expect to share with you upon my return.
"I have little to tell you more but that we are at present all well, and expect returning when we have stayed out one month, which I did not care if it were over this very day. I long to hear from you all, how you yourself do, how Johnson, Burke, Dyer, Chamier, Colman, and every one of the club do. I wish I could send you some amusement in this letter, but I protest I am so stupefied by the air of this country (for I am sure it cannot be natural) that I have not a word to say. I have been thinking of the plot of a comedy, which shall be entitled A Journey to Paris, in which a family shall be introduced with a full intention of