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LIFE OF OLIVER GOLDSMITH.
ACCORDING to the fly-sheet of his father's family Bible, "Oliver Goldsmith was born at Pallas, November yee 10th 17." The last two figures have been lost with the margin of the leaf; but, from other sources, the poet is known to have been born in the year 1728. Pallas, his birthplace, is a hamlet in the parish of Forney, and county Longford, where the parents of Oliver Goldsmith took up house on being married in 1718, and where they resided twelve years. The whole family consisted of five sons and two daughters, Oliver being the fourth child and second son. Of the others may be mentioned the eldest son Henry, who, after being elected scholar in Trinity College, Dublin, forfeited all the advantages connected with that appointment by a precipitate marriage, and spent his whole life on a curacy of £40 a-year, with what else he could make by teaching; and Maurice, a cabinet-maker, who died in great indigence in 1792, whilst a life of his poet-brother, undertaken for his relief was going through the press.
That want of manly self-control, and that incapacity of practising the wisdom acquired by reflection and experience, which characterised the poet throughout his whole career, were defects running in the Goldsmith blood; and his father's marriage seems to have been nearly as imprudent as his brother Henry's. The Rev. Charles Goldsmith, father of the poet, had, whilst a pupil at the diocesan school of Elphin, fallen in love with Ann, daughter of the Rev. Oliver Jones, the head-master; and their marriage was resolved upon, although the bridegroom had as yet no cure, and the bride's portion was insignificant. On being married, they were indebted for a residence to the Rev. Mr Green, rector of Kilkenny West, and uncle to the bride. In 1730 this gentlemán died, the poet's father succeeding to his rectory; and then it was that the Goldsmiths removed to Lishoy, which was the true original of Auburn, The Deserted Village.'
Oliver received his first lessons from Mrs Delap, who often after
wards, and with almost her last breath in 1787, when about ninety years of age, boasted that she had been the first to put a book into Oliver Goldsmith's hands. At the age of six he was handed over to Thomas Byrne, the Lishoy schoolmaster, who, after exchanging the birch for the musket, and seeing some service in Spain during the reign of Queen Anne, had resumed his original profession, and was fully competent to teach the elementary courses of reading, writing, and arithmetic. In all these departments Oliver was surpassed by many of his fellows; but, as afterwards at the university, so now, when a boy, he excelled them all in extra-academical lore. None were so well acquainted as he with the marvels of popular literature, oral and printed, and he alone rhymed his boyish impressions. This Thomas Byrne is understood to have sat for the portrait of the schoolmaster in The Deserted Village ;' and it was while under his care that Goldsmith was attacked with smallpox, which completed the disfigurement of a face by no means naturally prepossessing. His whole person and manner were, even in after life, indicative of anything but genius or refinement. Boswell describes him thus:- His person was short, his countenance coarse and vulgar, and his deportment that of a scholar awkwardly affecting that of a gentleman.' This unflat tering portrait may be individualised by an anecdote. One day at Sir Joshua Reynold's, Goldsmith was indignantly relating how some person had insulted him, and concluded by saying, The fellow took me for a tailor!' whereupon the whole company either laughed outright, or with difficulty suppressed a laugh,-Goldsmith's appearance being precisely that of a low mechanic, especially of a journeyman tailor.
On recovering from the smallpox, Goldsmith was sent to the diocesan school of Elphin, and to this period belongs the earliest of his couplets quoted by Prior. At an evening party Goldsmith was dancing a hornpipe, while another youth named Cumming played on the violin; the latter drew the attention of the company to Goldsmith's ungainly person, by calling him Æsop; but the laugh was soon turned against the aggressor by the dancer stopping short, and repeating the following impromptu:
Our herald hath proclaimed this saying,
See Æsop dancing, and his monkey playing.'
This, and the like of this, from a boy nine or ten years of age, naturally excited the hopes of his friends; and in 1739 Goldsmith was removed to a school of repute in Athlone, that he might be better prepared for the University, should means be found of supporting him there. On the master retiring, after two years, he was sent to the school of the Rev. Patrick Hughes, in Edgeworthstown, where he remained till his entrance into the University.
At Edgeworthstown Goldsmith came into contact with two poets of local celebrity, viz. Turlogh O'Carolan, the last of the ancient Irish bards, and Laurence Whyte, who set the popular grievances