Sunday, April 4, 2010

Oliver Goldsmith

'Dr. Goldsmith is one of the first men we now have as an authour, and he is a very worthy man too. He has been loose in his principles, but he is coming right.'

- Samuel Johnson, as quoted by James Boswell in his "Life of Johnson"

The author of "The Traveler", and "The Vicar of Wakefield" died on April 4, 1774.  Walter Scott wrote a short biography of Goldsmith, contained in his "Miscellaneous Prose Works."  Goldsmith was known for his foibles as well as his talents, and Scott recognizes the influence of Samuel Johnson on Goldsmith's work:

"..Still, however, though subsisting thus precariously, he was getting forward in society; and had already, in the year 1761, made his way as far as Dr. Johnson, who seems, from their first acquaintance, till death separated them, to have entertained for Goldsmith the most sincere friendship, regarding his genius with respect, his failings with indulgence, and his person with-affection.

It was probably soon after this first acquaintance, that Necessity, the parent of so many works of genius, gave birth to the Vicar of Wakefield. The circumstances attending the sale of the work to the fortunate publisher, are too singular to be told in any other words than those of Johnson, as reported by his faithful chronicler, Boswell.

" I received one morning a message from poor Goldsmith, that he was in great distress; and as it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion. I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had got a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated.- He then told me that he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it, and saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon return, and, having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill."..."

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