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The name of Goldsmith holds an enviable position in the annals of English literature. The versatility of his genius, his elegant taste, and the benevolence of his disposition, carried him with an easy flight over wide and varied provinces of study, and enabled him to bestow a grace on whatever he touched, which renders his writings as delightful as they are discursive.

This eminent man was born, November 29th, 1728, at Palice, otherwise Pallas, in the parish of Farney, county Longford in Ireland. His father was a clergyman of the church of England, whose virtues and poverty are said to be described with equal truth in the exquisite picture of the country parson in the Deserted Village. The fortunes of this amiable man, who had a wife and seven children to support out of his miserable pittance, were subsequently improved by the grant of a living, which was given him, in the county of Roscommon; but he died too early to see his children provided for, and our poet was left to the sole care of his mother. One of those minute circumstances, which add so much interest to biography, and for which the public is indebted to the Rev. John Graham, of Lifford, throws great light upon the situation of the widow, and her humble mode of living. According to that gentleman, the shop-book of a little grocer in the town of Ballymahon, has the name of Mrs. Goldsmith in many of its columns; trifling purchases, it farther appears, having been generally made through the medium of her son Oliver, then about eleven or twelve years old

Soon after this period, however, the original cast of Oliver's mind attracted the attention of his relative, the Rev. Thomas Contarine: and, through the kindness of that gentleman, he was sent from Ballymahon, where he had spent most of his time in playing the flute, and rambling on the banks of the Inny, to a classical seminary at Edgeworth's-town, whence, in June 1714, he proceeded to Dublin, and was entered at Trinity College as a sizer. The circumstances in which he had been brought up were not such as to foster pride, but the delicacy of his mind revolted against the petty and degrading tyranny to which the grade of a sizer was then subjected. It is much to the honour of Cambridge, that it was the first to do away with the custom, which imposed the performance of a servile office on the young scholars of talent, who had less wealth, though abundantly more learning than their associates. Poor Goldsmith experienced all the evils of the system, as it was then in vogue, to their full extent; but he continued to endure them for three years, without allowing his temper to overcome his prudence; till, towards the end of that period, he became involved in an adventure, which obliged him to leave the college for a time: but he returned, and in 1749 took the degree of Bachelor of Arts.

On thus completing his course of preliminary study, he was advised by Mr. Contarine to turn his attention to that of medicine; an advice which he appears to have readily followed, as in 1752 we find him regularly pursuing the science in the university of Edinburgh.

It is well known that the time he spent there was not passed in the most agreeable manner, and he took a pleasure in venting his occasional fits of ill-humour in sarcastic remarks on the country and its inhabitants. A kindly and good-natured pleasantry is, however, observable even in his sareasms; and among the few letters he has left, those which he wrote to his friends at this period are perhaps the most amusing. Among the letters written at this period is one ludicrously descriptive of his opinion respecting the Scotch character. " I shall tire you,” he says, “with a description of this unfruitsul country, where I must lead you over their hills all brown with heath, or their



valleys scarce able to feed a rabbit! Man alone seems to be the only creature who has arrived to the natural size in this

poor soil ; every part of the country presents the same dismal landscape: no grove or brook lend their music to cheer the stranger, or make the inhabitants forget their poverty: yet with all these disadvantages to call him down to humility, a Scotchman is one of the proudest things alive: the poor have pride ever ready to relieve them; if mankind should happen to despise them, they

2 are masters of their own admiration, and that they can plentifully bestow on themselves. From their pride and poverty, as I take it, results one advantage this country enjoys; namely, the gentlemen are much better bred than amongst us. No such character here as our fox-hunters; and they have expressed great surprise, when I informed them that some men in Ireland, of a thousand pounds a year, spend their whole lives in running after a hare, drinking to be drunk, and getting every girl that will let them with child; and, truly, if such a being, equipped in his hunting-dress, came among a circle of Scotch gentry, they would behold him with the same astonishment that a countryman would King George on horseback. The men have generally high cheek-bones, and are lean and swarthy, fond of action, dancing in particular ; though, now I have mentioned dancing, let me say something of their balls, which are very frequent here. When a stranger enters the dancing-hall, he sees one end of the room taken up with the ladies, who sit, dismally, in a group by themselves; on the other end stand their pensive partners, that are to be; but no more intercourse between the sexes than there is between two countries at war. The ladies, indeed, may ogle, and the gentlemen sigh ; but an embargo is laid on any closer commerce. At length, to interrupt hostilities, the lady-directress, or intendant, or what you will, pitches on a gentleman and lady to walk a minuet, which they perform with a formality that approaches despondence : after five or six couple have thus walked the gauntlet, all stand up to country-dances, each gentleman furnished with a partner from the aforesaid ladydirectress : so they dance much, and say nothing; and thus concludes our assembly. I told a Scotch gentleman that such


profound silence resembled the ancient procession of the Roman matrons in honour of Ceres; and the Scotch gentleman told me (and, faith, I believe he was right) that I was a very great pedant for my pains. Now I am come to the ladies; and to show that I love Scotland, and every thing that belongs to so charming a country, I insist on it, and will give him leave to break

my head that denies it, that the Scotch ladies are ten thousand times handsomer and finer than the Irish. To be sure, now, I see your sisters, Betty and Peggy, vastly surprised at my partiality; but tell them flatly, I don't value them, or their fine skins, or eyes, or good sense, or a potato ; for I say it, and will maintain it; and, as a convincing proof (I'm in a very great passion) of what I assert, the Scotch ladies say it themselves. But, to be less serious, where will you find a language so pretty, become a pretty mouth, as the broad Scotch ? and the women here speak it in its highest purity. For instance, teach one of your young ladies to pronounce, “Whoar will I gong?' with a becoming wideness of mouth, and I'll lay my life they will wound every hearer.” He, however, in some degree, softens his satire on the ladies, and at the same time feelingly alludes to his situation, and his own homeliness of person, in the following passage of the same letter: “But how ill, my Bob, does it become me to ridicule women, with whom I have scarce any correspondence! There are, 'tis certain, handsome women here, and 'tis as certain there are handsome men to keep them company. An ugly and a poor man is society for himself; and such society the world lets me enjoy in great abundance."

But, notwithstanding the privations and difficulties with which he had thus to struggle, he continued steadily to pursue his studies, and after the usual residence at Edinburgh proceeded to Leyden. It appears, however, that, studious as he was, and much as he was straitened in his circumstances, he allowed himself to be tempted into a love of gambling, which more than once placed him on the verge of ruin. Owing to difficulties thus contracted, he found himself obliged to leave Leyden, and commenced the long pedestrian tour, by which he gained, it is probable, more valuable knowledge, both as a


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