« VorigeDoorgaan »
I don't find myself the better for my confinement of late. My best compliments, &c. &c. attend the best of Queens and her companion, my favourite Mrs. Flasby. “ Yours most sincerely and affectionately, &c.
" THOMAS FITZMAURICE."
IMPRUDENCE in the management of his pecuniary concerns, produced at this time its frequent result, serious uneasiness of mind. To disappointment in the project of the Dictionary, was added failure by a few of his friends in efforts made to secure some provision for him from Government; he found difficulty in raising further supplies, and as a necessary consequence, of repaying sums already borrowed; while the calls of publishers compelled him to labour upon works for which the remunera. tion had been received and spent. His spirits became depressed, his health impaired, and short starts of irritability to which he had been occasionally subject, increased; a jest would disconcert him, and he was seen to take offence in mixed societies from trifling causes.
As none of his acquaintance were informed of the extent of these embarrassments, they understood not certain inconsistencies, or as they were termed, absurdities, in his behaviour, assumed no doubt often to throw off unpleasant recollections. From seeming absence or gravity, he would fly to
the extremes of mirth and jollity; and from silence, would commence talking incessantly and inconsiderately on all subjects ; just as he was formerly seen, when by his own account nearly suffocating with vexation at the reception of his play, singing a song of “ an old woman tossed in a blanket seventeen times as high as the moon.” Unwilling to be suspected of wishing to tax the generosity of his friends, or too proud to seem as poor as he really was, a few only suspected his situation ; to these he exhibited the assumed gaiety of despair.
About this period one of those friends with whom there existed much mutual esteem * saw him in London, and in his Recollections has given some particulars which from corroborating circumstances are no doubt substantially true. He had come to town out of the usual season for country visitors, in order to place his lady under the care of a popular dentist, and took lodgings in the vicinity of the Temple. With him the Poet seems to have used no disguise, and the relation is not without interest.
“Goldsmith” writes this gentleman “I found much altered and at times very low ; and I devoted almost all my mornings to his immediate service. He wished me to look over and revise some of his works; but with a select friend or two, I was most pressing that he should publish by subscription his two celebrated poems of the • Traveller' and the · Deserted Village' with notes; for he was well aware that I was no stranger
The late Joseph Cradock, Esq.
to Johnson's having made some little addition to the one, and possibly had suggested some corrections at least for the other ; but the real meaning was to give some great persons an opportunity of conveying pecuniary relief of which the Doctor at that time was particularly in need. Goldsmith readily gave up to me his private copies and said, “Pray do what you please with them.' But whilst he sat near me he rather submitted to, than encouraged my zealous proceedings.
“I one morning called upon him however and found him infinitely better than I expected, and in a kind of exulting style he exclaimed, “Here are some of the best of my prose writings ; I have been hard at work since midnight and I desire you to examine them.' These' said I are excellent indeed.' They are' he replied, 'intended as an introduction to a body of arts and sciences.'
“ The day before I was to set out for Leicestershire I insisted upon his dining with us. plied 'I will, but on one condition that not ask me to eat any thing.' 'Nay,' said I, “this answer is absolutely unkind, for I had hoped as we are supplied from the Crown and Anchor that
you would have named something you might have relished.' • Well’ was the reply, “if explain it to Mrs. Cradock I will certainly wait upon you.'
“ The Doctor found as usual at my apartments
you will but newspapers and pamphlets, and with a pen and ink he amused himself as well as he could. I had ordered from the tavern some fish, a roasted joint of lamb, and a tart; and the Doctor either sat down or walked about just as he pleased. After dinner he took some wine with biscuits, but I was obliged soon to leave him for a while, as I had matters to settle for my next day's journey. On my return coffee was ready, and the Doctor appeared more cheerful (for Mrs. Cradock was always rather a favourite with him) and in the course of the evening he endeavoured to talk and remark as usual, but all was force. He stayed till midnight, and I insisted on seeing him safe home, and we most cordially shook hands at the Temple gate. He did not live long after our return into Leicestershire ; and I have often since regretted that I did not remain longer in town at every inconvenience.”
Besides the literary societies of London, he was occasionally known to mingle in circles of higher rank and pretension, though like Johnson, this was a sphere he neither much sought nor enjoyed. He probably found it, as most men of observation find it, without heart or cordiality. Fashionable society, although sought after by such as know it not, is very far from being the best society in London; it is too frequently parade without pleasure, the forms of intercourse without its substance; where little sincerity is found, and few friendships are formed; and where slight differences in rank become a bar to that intercourse which best exercises the under