principally of James's powder, baffling the art of his two physicians, Doctor Hawes and Doctor Fordyce, he died on the 4th of April, when he had lived only a few days beyond the fourth month of his forty-sixth year.

The death of a man, who had so largely contributed to the instruction and the amusement of the world, was lamented as a general loss; and his friends intended to honour his remains with a sumptuous funeral in Westminster Abbey. On an examination, however, of his circumstances, they discovered that he had died under the encumbrance of a heavy debt; and they were in consequence deterred from the execution of their design. His body was, therefore, deposited, without the pomp which had been meditated, but with a numerous attendance of friends, in the burial ground of the Temple; and a monument, with his profile on a medallion, from the chisel of Nollekens, and a Latin inscription by the pen of Johnson, was raised, as a tribute to his celebrity, among the illustrious of Britain in the Abbey.

If we regard Goldsmith either as a man or an author, it will be impossible for us not to love and admire him. If there were blemishes in his personal character (and where is the human character without its blemishes ?) they were not of a nature to excite our resentment; and they were amply compensated by the probity and the ardent benevolence of his heart. As a writer he stands preeminently high, and challenges our unqualified applause. When we reflect, indeed, on the variety of his works, on the peculiar purity and elegance of his prose composition, on the captivating sweetness and almost unrivaled harmony of his verse, when we template the different powers of mind which he exhibited in their excellence in his multifarious pages, we shall not be able, among his contem



poraries, to point to his superior, or very easily to discover his equal.. The character of his genius has been rather depreciatingly drawn by Boswell, the biographer of Johnson. But Boswell was inadequate to the estimation of such a mind as that of Goidsmith; and, solicitous to make every knee bow to the vast golden idol which he had erected, the idolater of Johnson would not admit of any competitor with the object of his peculiar worship. In the writings of Goldsmith we cannot detect that alleged shallowness of mind which obstructed the penetration of the deep root, and refused nourishment to the lofty trunk. To every subject, with which he engages, we see him bringing all that is requisite for its illustration; and everywhere, with a display of judgment, taste, and imagination, disclosing knowledge which must have been collected from extensive reading, and which must have been concocted by a vigorous understanding. He preferred, indeed, the sweet, the tender, and the pathetic; but we cannot pronounce that he was incapable of reaching the sublime. He did not, it is true, excel in conversation, and his ambition to shine in the social circle was generally unsuccessful; for he talked with careless unpremeditation; his ideas seemed occasionally to be confused, and his utterance was hurried and ungraceful. But the man is not always to be estimated by his conversation; and he may possess much intellectual wealth, which he cannot readily arrange for exhibition, or which he may withhold from a want of confidence to produce it, or for which he may not immediately be able to find a proper vehicle of expression. To be brilliant in company are demanded clear self possession, quick combination of thought, a certain habit of mental digestion, and a peculiar art of bringing our wares, whether costly or cheap, advantageously into view; and of all these requisites the superior man may be destitute, and the inferior may be possessed. Certain it is that thousands, who are sparkling in conversation, are unequal to composition; and many, who are great in their writings, are without attraction and consequence in company. Addison is reported to have said, that he had not a guinea in his pocket, but that he could draw upon his banker for a thousand pounds: and both he and Dryden are known not to have been eminent for their companionable talents. With these illustrious men, in this instance of their alleged inferiority, may Goldsmith be classed, whilst in their higher character, as writers, he may justly also claim a place by their side; his prose being equal in its purity and elegance to that of Addison; and his poetry, though differently featured, discovering the same divine parentage with that of Dryden. His poetry, indeed, is exquisitely beautiful, if it be not sublime. Its distinguishing attributes are simplicity, and harmony, and a sweetness, as if gathered by the bees of Hymettus. Like a virgin proud in her native charms, it solicits not the aid of artifice for embellishment. It affects no novelties of expression to strike: it has recourse to no strong inversions of the sentence to separate itself from prose: it tries no experiments on metre to surprise and confound us with the result. Its sole instrument is the tongue of the people; and with this it infallibly accomplishes its purpose. It is studious only to please, and it invariably delights. Under an easy robe it conceals the most perfect symmetry; and, whilst it plays with the fancy, it never forfeits the approbation of the judgment. It may be regarded, in short, as an amber stream, flowing softly and fully without the interruption of a pebble in its channel, and sparkling under the radiance of an unclouded sun.

[blocks in formation]


As long as the language of England shall survive, or, when it ceases to be living, shall be made the subject of learned labour to attain, so long will * The Traveller' and ` The Deserted Village' excite the respect of the reader for the genius, and will conciliate his affection for the benignity of their author.




The village bell tolls out the tone of death,
And through the echoing air the lengthening sound,
With dreadful pause, reverberating deep,
Spreads the sad tidings o'er fair Auburn's vale.
There, to enjoy the scenes her Bard had praised
In all the sweet simplicity of song,
Genius, in pilgrim garb, sequester'd sat,
And herded jocund with the harmless swains:
But when she heard the fate-forboding knell,
With startled step, precipitate and swift,
And look pathetic, full of dire presage, [green,
The church-way walk, beside the neighbouring
Sorrowing she sought; and there, in black array,
Borne on the shoulders of the swains he loved,
She saw the boast of Auburn moved along.
Touch'd at the view, her pensive breast she struck,
And to the cypress (which incumbent hangs
With leaning slope, and branch irregular,
O'er the moss'd pillars of the sacred fane,
The briar-bound graves shadowing with funeral

gloom) Forlorn she hied; and there the crowding woe (Swell’d by the parent)press'don bleeding thought, Big ran the drops from her maternal eye, Fast broke the bosom sorrow from her heart,

« VorigeDoorgaan »