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LETTER TO REYNOLDS.
going to France to save money. You know there is not a place in the world more promising for that purpose. As for the meat of this country, I can scarce eat it; and, though we pay two good shillings a head for our dinner, I find it all so tough that I have spent less time with my knife than my picktooth. I said this as a good thing at the table, but it was not understood. I believe it to be a good thing.
"As for our intended journey to Devonshire, I find it out of my power to perform it; for, as soon as I arrive at Dover, I intend to let the ladies go on, and I will take a country lodging somewhere near that place in order to do some business. I have so outrun the constable that I must mortify a little to bring it up again. For God's sake, the night you receive this, take your pen in your hand and tell me something about yourself and myself, if you know any thing that has happened. About Miss Reynolds, about Mr. Bickerstaff, my nephew, or any body that you regard. I beg you will send to Griffin the bookseller to know if there be any letters left for me, and be so good as to send them to me at Paris. They may perhaps be left for me at the Porter's Lodge, opposite the pump in Temple Lane. The same messenger will do. I expect one from Lord Clare, from Ireland. As for the others, I am not much uneasy about.
"Is there any thing I can do for you at Paris? I wish you would tell me. The whole of my own purchases here is one silk coat, which I have put on, and which makes me look like a fool. But no more of that. I find that Colman has gained his lawsuit. I am glad of it. I suppose you often meet. I will soon be among you, better pleased with my situation at home than I ever was before. And yet I must say, that if any thing could make France pleasant, the very good women with whom I am at pre
sent would certainly do it. I could say more about that, but I intend showing them the letter before I send it away. What signifies teazing you longer with moral observations, when the business of my writing is over? I have one thing only more to say, and of that I think every hour in the day, namely that I am your most sincere and most affectionate friend,
"Direct to me at the Hotel de Danemarc,
A word of comment on this letter: Travelling is, indeed, a very different thing with Goldsmith the poor student at twenty, and Goldsmith the poet and professor at forty. At twenty, though obliged to trudge on foot from town to town, and country to country, paying for a supper and a bed by a tune on the flute, every thing pleased, every thing was good; a truckle bed in a garret was a couch of down, and the homely fare of the peasant a feast fit for an epicure. Now, at forty, when he posts through the country in a carriage, with fair ladies by his side, every thing goes wrong: he has to quarrel with postillions, he is cheated by landladies, the hotels are barns, the meat is too tough to be eaten, and he is half poisoned by green peas! A line in his letter explains the secret: "the ladies do not seem to be very fond of what we have yet seen." "One of our chief amusements is scolding at every thing we meet with, and praising every thing and every person we have left at home!" the true English travelling amusement. Poor Goldsmith! he has "all his confirmed habits about him;" that is to say, he has recently risen into high life, and acquired high-bred notions; he must be fastidious like his fellow-travellers; he dare not be pleased with what pleased the vulgar tastes of his youth. He is unconsciously illustrating
THE SPECIAL ATTORNEY.
the trait so humorously satirized by him in Ned Tibbs, the shabby beau, who can find "no such dressing as he had at Lord Crump's or Lady Crimp's ;" whose very senses have grown genteel, and who no longer "smacks at wretched wine or praises detestable custard." A lurking thorn, too, is worrying him throughout this tour; he has "outrun the constable;" that is to say, his expenses have outrun his means, and he will have to make up for this butterfly flight by toiling like a grub on his return.
Another circumstance contributes to mar the pleasure he had promised himself in this excursion. At Paris the party is unexpectedly joined by a Mr. Hickey, a bustling attorney, who is well acquainted with that metropolis and its environs, and insists on playing the cicerone on all occasions. He and Goldsmith do not relish each other, and they have several petty altercations. The lawyer is too much a man of business and method for the careless poet, and is disposed to manage every thing. He has perceived Goldsmith's whimsical peculiarities without properly appreciating his merits, and is prone to indulge in broad bantering and raillery at his expense, particularly irksome if indulged in presence of the ladies. He makes himself merry on his return to England, by giving the following anecdote as illustrative of Goldsmith's vanity: Being with a party at Versailles, viewing the water-works, a question arose among the gentlemen present, whether the distance from whence they stood to one of the little islands was within the compass of a leap. Goldsmith maintained the affirmative; but, being bantered on the subject, and remembering his former prowess as a youth, attempted the leap, but, falling short, descended into the water, to the great amusement of the company." Was the Jessamy Bride a witness of this unlucky exploit ? This same Hickey is the one of whom Goldsmith, some time
subsequently, gave a good-humored sketch, in his poem of "The Retaliation."
"Here Hickey reclines, a most blunt, pleasant creature,
Then what was his failing? Come, tell it, and burn ye—
One of the few remarks extant made by Goldsmith during his tour is the following, of whimsical import, in his "Animated Nature."
"In going through the towns of France, some time since, I could not help observing how much plainer their parrots spoke than ours, and how very distinctly I understood their parrots speak French, when I could not understand our own, though they spoke my native language. I at first ascribed it to the different qualities of the two languages, and was for entering into an elaborate discussion on the vowels and consonants; but a friend that was with me solved the difficulty at once, by assuring me that the French women scarce did any thing else the whole day than sit and instruct their feathered pupils; and that the birds were thus distinct in their lessons in consequence of continual schooling."
His tour does not seem to have left in his memory the most
fragrant recollections; for, being asked, after his return, whether travelling on the Continent repaid "an Englishman for the privations and annoyances attendant on it," he replied, "I recommend it by all means to the sick, if they are without the sense o smelling, and to the poor if they are without the sense of feeling; and to both if they can discharge from their minds all idea of what in England we term comfort."
It is needless to say, that the universal improvement in the art of living on the Continent has at the present day taken away the force of Goldsmith's reply, though even at the time it was more humorous than correct.