vanced by Garrick on Newbery's note, still hangs over him as a debt. The tale on which Newbery had loaned from two to three hundred pounds previous to the excursion to Barton, has proved a failure. The bookseller is urgent for the settlement of his complicated account; the perplexed author has nothing to offer him in liquidation but the copyright of the comedy which he has in his portfolio; "Though to tell you the truth, Frank," said he, "there are great doubts of its success. The offer was accepted, and, like bargains wrung from Goldsmith in times of emergency, turned out a golden speculation to the bookseller.


In this way Goldsmith went on "overrunning the constable," as he termed it; spending every thing in advance; working with an overtasked head and weary heart to pay for past pleasures and past extravagance, and at the same time incurring new debts, to perpetuate his struggles and darken his future prospects. While the excitement of society and the excitement of composition conspire to keep up a feverishness of the system, he has incurred an unfortunate habit of quacking himself with James's powders, a fashionable panacea of the day.

A farce, produced this year by Garrick, and entitled The Irish Widow, perpetuates the memory of practical jokes played off a year or two previously upon the alleged vanity of poor, simple-hearted Goldsmith. He was one evening at the house of his friend Burke, when he was beset by a tenth muse, an Irish widow and authoress, just arrived from Ireland, full of brogue and blunders, and poetic fire and rantipole gentility. She was soliciting subscriptions for her poems; and assailed Goldsmith for his patronage; the great Goldsmith-her countryman, and of course her friend. She overpowered him with eulogiums on his own poems, and then read some of her own, with vehemence of

[blocks in formation]

tone and gesture, appealing continually to the great Goldsmith to know how he relished them.

Poor Goldsmith did all that a kind-hearted and gallant gentleman could do in such a case; he praised her poems as far as the stomach of his sense would permit: perhaps a little further; he offered her his subscription, and it was not until she had retired with many parting compliments to the great Goldsmith, that he pronounced the poetry which had been inflicted on him execrable. The whole scene had been a hoax got up by Burke for the amusement of his company, and the Irish widow, so admirably performed, had been personated by a Mrs. Balfour, a lady of his connection, of great sprightliness and talent.

We see nothing in the story to establish the alleged vanity of Goldsmith, but we think it tells rather to the disadvantage of Burke; being unwarrantable under their relations of friendship, and a species of waggery quite beneath his genius.

Croker, in his notes to Boswell, gives another of these practical jokes perpetrated by Burke at the expense of Goldsmith's credulity. It was related to Croker by Colonel O'Moore, of Cloghan Castle, in Ireland, who was a party concerned. The Colonel and Burke, walking one day through Leicester Square on their way to Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with whom they were to dine, observed Goldsmith, who was likewise to be a guest, standing and regarding a crowd which was staring and shouting at some foreign ladies in the window of a hotel. "Observe Goldsmith," said Burke to O'Moore, "and mark what passes between us at Sir Joshua's." They passed on and reached there before him. Burke received Goldsmith with affected reserve and coldness: being pressed to explain the reason, “Really," said he, "I am ashamed to keep company with a per

son who could act as you have just done in the Square." Goldsmith protested he was ignorant of what was meant. "Why," said Burke, "did you not exclaim as you were looking up at those women, what stupid beasts the crowd must be for staring with such admiration at those painted Jezebels, while a man of your talents passed by unnoticed?" "Surely, surely, my dear friend," cried Goldsmith, with alarm, "surely I did not say so?" "Nay," replied Burke, "if you had not said so, how should I have known it?" "That's true," answered Goldsmith, “I am very sorry-it was very foolish: I do recollect that something of the kind passed through my mind, but I did not think I had uttered it."

It is proper to observe that these jokes were played off by Burke before he had attained the full eminence of his social position, and that he may have felt privileged to take liberties with Goldsmith as his countryman and college associate. It is evident, however, that the peculiarities of the latter, and his guileless simplicity, made him a butt for the broad waggery of some of his associates; while others more polished, though equally perfidious, were on the watch to give currency to his bulls and blunders.

The Stratford jubilee, in honor of Shakspeare, where Boswell had made a fool of himself, was still in every one's mind. It was sportively suggested that a fête should be held at Litchfield in honor of Johnson and Garrick, and that the Beaux Stratagem should be played by the members of the Literary Club. "Then," exclaimed Goldsmith, "I shall certainly play Scrub. I should like of all things to try my hand at that character." The unwary speech, which any one else might have made without comment, has been thought worthy of record as whimsically characteristic. Beauclerc was extremely apt to circulate anecdotes at

[blocks in formation]

his expense, founded perhaps on some trivial incident, but dressed up with the embellishments of his sarcastic brain. One relates to a venerable dish of peas, served up at Sir Joshua's table, which should have been green, but were any other color. A wag suggested to Goldsmith, in a whisper, that they should be sent to Hammersmith, as that was the way to turn-em-green (TurnhamGreen). Goldsmith, delighted with the pun, endeavored to repeat it at Burke's table, but missed the point. "That is the way to make 'em green," said he. Nobody laughed. He perceived he was at fault. "I mean that is the road to turn 'em green." A dead pause and a stare; "whereupon," adds Beauclerc, “he started up disconcerted and abruptly left the table." This is evidently one of Beauclerc's caricatures.

On another occasion the poet and Beauclerc were seated at the theatre next to Lord Shelburne, the minister, whom political writers thought proper to nickname Malagrida. "Do you know," said Goldsmith to his lordship, in the course of conversation, “that I never could conceive why they call you Malagrida, for Malagrida was a very good sort of man." This was too good a trip of the tongue for Beauclerc to let pass: he serves it up in his next letter to Lord Charlemont, as a specimen of a mode of turning a thought the wrong way, peculiar to the poet; he makes merry over it with his witty and sarcastic compeer, Horace Walpole, who pronounces it " a picture of Goldsmith's whole life." Dr. Johnson alone, when he hears it bandied about as Goldsmith's last blunder, growls forth a friendly defence: "Sir," said he, "it was a mere blunder in emphasis. He meant to say, I wonder they should use Malagrida as a term of reproach." Poor Goldsmith! On such points he was ever doomed to be misinterpreted. Rogers, the poet, meeting in times long subsequent with

a survivor from those days, asked him what Goldsmith really was in conversation. The old conventional character was too deeply stamped in the memory of the veteran to be effaced. "Sir," replied the old wiseacre, "he was a fool. The right word never came to him. If you gave him back a bad shilling, he'd say, Why it's as good a shilling as ever was born. You know he ought to have said coined. Coined, sir, never entered his head. He was a fool, sir."

We have so many anecdotes in which Goldsmith's simplicity is played upon, that it is quite a treat to meet with one in which he is represented playing upon the simplicity of others, especially when the victim of his joke is the "Great Cham" himself, whom all others are disposed to hold so much in awe. Goldsmith and Johnson were supping cosily together at a tavern in Dean-street, Soho, kept by Jack Roberts, a singer at Drury-lane, and a protegee of Garrick's. Johnson delighted in these gastronomical tête-a-têtes, and was expatiating in high good humor on a dish of rumps and kidneys, the veins of his forehead swelling with the ardor of mastication. "These," said he, "are pretty little things; but a man must eat a great many of them before he is filled." "Aye; but how many of them," asked Goldsmith, with affected simplicity, "would reach to the moon ?” To the moon! Ah, sir, that, I fear, exceeds your calculation." "Not at all, sir; I think I could tell." "Pray, then, sir, let us hear." "Why, sir, one, if it were long enough!" Johnson growled for a time at finding himself caught in such a trite schoolboy trap. "Well, sir," cried he at length, "I have deserved it. I should not have provoked so foolish an answer by so foolish a question."

Among the many incidents related as illustrative of Gold smith's vanity and envy is one which occurred one evening when

« VorigeDoorgaan »