Oliver Goldsmith sephia

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Oliver Goldsmith
Born November 10, 1730(1730-Template:MONTHNUMBER-10) (disputed)
Either Ballymahon County Longford or Elphin, County Roscommon, Ireland
Died April 4, 1774(1774-Template:MONTHNUMBER-04) (aged 43)
London, England
Occupation Author, playwright, poet, apothecary's assistant, busker
Nationality Republic of Ireland Irish
Literary movement The Club
Notable work(s) The Vicar of Wakefield, "The Deserted Village", The Good-Natur'd Man, She Stoops to Conquer

Dr. Oliver Goldsmith (10 November 1730 - 4 April 1774) was an Irish poet, miscellaneous writer, and physician



Goldsmith, son of an Irish clergyman, was born at Pallasmore in co. Longford. His early education was received at schools at Elphin, Athlone, and Edgeworthstown. At 8 he had a severe attack of smallpox which disfigured him for life. In 1744 he went to Trinity College, Dublin, from which he ran away in 1746. He was, however, induced to return, and graduated in 1749. After an interval spent in idleness, a medical career was perceived to be the likeliest opening, and in 1752 he steered for Edinburgh, where he remained on the usual happy-go-lucky terms until 1754, when he proceeded to Leyden. After a year there he started on a walking tour, which led him through France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. How he lived it is hard to say, for he left Leyden penniless. It is said that he disputed at univesities, and played the flute, and thus kept himself in existence. All this time, however, he was gaining the experiences and knowledge of foreign countries which he was afterwards to turn to such excellent account. At one of the universities visited at this time, he is believed to have secured the medical degree, of which he subsequently made use. Louvain and Padua have both been named as the source of it. He reached London almost literally penniless in 1756, and appears to have been occupied successively as an apothecary's journeyman, a doctor of the poor, and an usher in a school at Peckham. In 1757 he was writing for the Monthly Review. The next year he applied unsuccessfully for a medical appointment in India; and the year following, 1759, saw his first important literary venture, An Enquiry into the State of Polite Learning in Europe. It was published anonymously, but attracted some attention, and brought him other work. At the same time he became known to Bishop Percy, the collector of the Reliques of Ancient Poetry, and he had written The Bee, a collection of essays, and was employed upon various periodicals. In 1761 began his friendship with Johnson, which led to that of the other great men of that circle. His Chinese Letters, afterwards republished as The Citizen of the World, appeared in The Public Ledger in 1762. The Traveller, the 1st of his longer poems, came out in 1764, and was followed in 1766 by The Vicar of Wakefield. In 1768 he essayed the drama, with The Good-natured Man, which had considerable success. The next few years saw him busily occupied with work for the publishers; in 1770 The Deserted Village appeared; The History of England was published in 1771. In 1773 he produced with great success his other drama, She Stoops to Conquer. In 1774, worn out with overwork and anxiety, he caught a fever, of which he died April 4.[1]

With all his serious and very obvious faults – his reckless improvidence, his vanity, and, in his earlier years at any rate, his dissipated habits – Goldsmith is one of the most lovable characters in English literature, and one whose writings show most of himself: his humanity, his bright and spontaneous humour, and "the kindest heart in the world." His friends included some of the best and greatest men in England, among them Johnson, Burke, and Reynolds. They all, doubtless, laughed at and made a butt of him, but they all admired and loved him. At the news of his death Burke burst into tears, Reynolds laid down his brush and painted no more that day, and Johnson wrote an imperishable epitaph on him. The poor, the old, and the outcast crowded the stair leading to his lodgings, and wept for the benefactor who had never refused to share what he had (often little enough) with them. Much of his work – written at high pressure for the means of existence, or to satisfy the urgency of duns – his histories, his Animated Nature, and such like, have, apart from a certain charm of style which no work of his could be without, little permanent value; but The Traveller and The Deserted Village, She Stoops to Conquer, and, above all, The Vicar of Wakefield, will keep his memory dear to all future readers of English.[1]

Family, youth, educationEdit

Goldsmih, the 2nd son and 5th child of Charles Goldsmith, by his wife, Ann (Jones) (daughter of Rev. Oliver Jones, master of the diocesan school at Elphin), was born at Pallas, near Ballymahon, Longford, 10 Nov. 1728 (Prior, i. 14). Charles Goldsmith, married in 1718, was at this time curate to the rector of Kilkenny West. He also farmed a few fields. His other children were Margaret, born 1719); Catherine, 13 Jan. 1721 (Mrs. Hodson); Henry, 9 February 1722 or 1723, died in May 1768; Jane, born before Oliver; Maurice, born 7 July 1736; Charles, born 16 August 1737; and John, born 1740.[2] In 1730 Charles Goldsmith became rector of Kilkenny West and settled at Lissoy.[3]

Oliver learnt his letters from a Mrs. Delap, who thought him "impenetrably stupid." When 6 years old he was sent to the village school kept by an old soldier, Thomas Byrne, described in the Deserted Village. Goldsmith, though bad at his lessons, read chapbooks, listened to the ballads of the peasantry, and made his 1st attempts at rhyme. His sister, Mrs. Hodson, says that he was always scribbling verses before he could write legibly (Percy Memoir, 4).[3]

A bad attack of smallpox, which left a permanent disfigurement, interrupted his schooling, and he was afterwards placed under a Mr. Griffin at Elphin school, where he began to be noticed for his cleverness. His father's means were strained by the cost of keeping the eldest son Henry at a classical school. Relations now came forward and enabled Oliver to be placed about 1739 at a school in Athlone; 2 years later, he was moved to the school of Patrick Hughes in Edgeworthstown, Longford.[3]

The local poets, O'Carolan and Lawrence Whyte, whose songs were popular in the country, are supposed to have interested Goldsmith, who was now showing decided promise. When finally going home he was sent (as his sister says) by a Tony Lumpkin of the district to a gentleman's house on pretence that it was an inn. The incident suggested, if it is not derived from, the plot of She stoops to conquer (Prior, i. 47; cf. Gent. Mag. 1820, p. 620).[3]

His brother Henry had married early, after obtaining a scholarship at Trinity College, Dublin, and set up a school near his father. One of Henry's pupils, the son of a rich neighbor, Daniel Hodson, privately married his sister Catherine. The elder Goldsmith, to show that he had not been intriguing for a rich son-in-law, engaged to pay a marriage portion of £400 to his daughter. The sum, which was double the annual income of the rectory, made economy necessary. It was therefore decided that Oliver should go to Trinity as a sizar, his brother having been a pensioner. He was only induced to submit by the persuasion of Thomas Contarine, husband of his father's sister, who had already helped to educate him and was a friend through life.[3]

Goldsmith was entered at Trinity College 11 June 1744. He was a contemporary, but probably not an acquaintance, of Edmund Burke. His tutor was Rev. Theaker Wilder, an able mathematician and a man of some good qualities, but always harsh, and at times brutal. Goldsmith felt the humiliations of a sizar's position, and disliked the mathematical and logical studies.[3]

His father died early in 1747. By the help of Contarine and other relations he was able to struggle on, but he had often to pawn his books, and occasionally earned a little by writing street-ballads which he sold for 5s. apiece. In May 1747 he was admonished for abetting a riot, in which some bailiffs were ducked in the college cistern, the 4 ringleaders being expelled. In June 1747 he tried for a scholarship, and though he failed obtained a Smyth exhibition of about 30s. a year. He gave a supper and a dance to celebrate his success, when his tutor entered the room in a rage and administered "personal chastisement." Goldsmith sold his books and ran away to Cork, but want of funds compelled him to return to his brother Henry, who patched up a reconciliation with the tutor.[3]

His later career, though not distinguished, was so far successful that he earned a B.A. 27 February 1749. A pane of glass on which he had scrawled his name is now preserved in the manuscript room of Trinity College.[3]

Early careerEdit

Goldsmith for some time led an unsettled life, occasionally helping in his brother's school, or joining in sport with his brother-in-law. He declined to take holy orders (or, according to a story, the bishop to whom he presented himself had heard of college pranks or was shocked by his "scarlet breeches"). He haunted the inn at Ballymahon, told stories, played the flute, and threw the hammer at village sports.[3]

His uncle Contarine got him a tutorship with a Mr. Flinn. Tired of this, he started for Ameica; provided with a horse and £30, he sold the horse at Cork to pay for his passage. Then he missed his ship, and after various adventures got home without a penny, and with a wretched hack in place of his horse. Prior (i. 119) gives a letter from Goldsmith containing this story, which, however, reads suspiciously like the fragment of a novel.[3]

Contarine next supplied Goldsmith with £50 to start as a lawyer in London; and Goldsmith returned after losing the money at a Dublin gaming-house. At last, by the help of his uncle, brother, and sister, he was enabled to start for Edinburgh to study medicine. He arrived there in the autumn of 1752.[3]

On 13 January 1753 he became a member of a students' club called ‘The Medical Society.’ He sang Irish songs,[3] told good stories, made many friends, and wrote letters which already show his characteristic style. He made a trip to the highlands in the spring of 1753, but the Scots and their country were not very congenial to his tastes. He speaks with respect of Alexander Monro, the professor of anatomy, but soon decided to finish his studies on the continent.[4]

European travelsEdit

At the end of 1753 he started, intending to go to Paris and Leyden. He was released by 2 friends, Sleigh and Lauchlan Macleane, from a debt incurred on behalf of a friend, and sailed for Bordeaux. The ship was driven into Newcastle, where Goldsmith went ashore with some companions, and the whole party was arrested on suspicion of having been enlisting for the French service in Scotland. Goldsmith was in prison for a fortnight, during which the ship sailed and was lost with all the crew.[4]

He found another ship sailing for Rotterdam, took a passage and went to Leyden. Here he was befriended by a fellow-countryman named Ellis. He soon set off on a fresh journey, stimulated perhaps by the precedent of Baron Holberg (1684–1754), whose travels he describes in his Polite Learning (ch. v.). Ellis lent him a small sum, which he spent upon some bulbs for his uncle Contarine. He started with "one clean shirt" and next to no money.[4]

The accounts given of his travels are of doubtful authenticity. They have been constructed from the story of George Primrose in the Vicar of Wakefield, assumed to be autobiographical from occasional hints in his books, and from reports of his conversation and missing letters. Goldsmith probably amused himself with travellers' tales, taken too seriously by his friends.[4]

He started about February 1755; his biographers trace him to Louvain, to Paris, Strasburg, Germany, and Switzerland; thence to Italy, where he is supposed to have visited Venice, and to have studied at Padua for 6 months (Works, 1812, i. 36), to Carinthia (mentioned in the Traveller), and back through France to England, landing at Dover 1 February 1756.[4]

He is said to have acted as tutor to a stingy pupil, either from Paris to Switzerland, or from Geneva to Marseilles; but he travelled chiefly on foot, paying for the hospitality of peasants by playing on his flute. In Italy, where every peasant played better than himself, he supported himself by disputing at universities or convents. It seems very improbable that Goldsmith could have disputed to any purpose, or that disputation was then at all profitable.[4]

He is reported to have taken the M.B. degree at Louvain (Glover), or again at Padua (M'Donnell in Prior, ii. 346). He says in his Polite Learning (ch. viii.) and Percy that he had heard chemical lectures in Paris, and in No. 2 of the ‘Bee’ he describes the acting of Mlle. Clairon. In the Animated Nature (v. 207) he speaks of walks round Paris, of having flushed woodcocks on the Jura in June and July, and of having seen the Rhine frozen at Schaffhausen.[4]

He speaks of hearing Voltaire talk in "his house at Monrion," near Lausanne, and in his Life of Voltaire gives a detailed account of a conversation at Paris between Voltaire, Diderot, and Fontenelle. Voltaire was certainly in Switzerland during the whole of 1755, and Goldsmith may have seen him at Monrion; but Diderot was certainly at Paris; Fontenelle, then aged 98, could not possibly have taken the part described by Goldsmith; and the conversation, for which Goldsmith vouches, must be set down as pure fiction. He was no doubt in Switzerland, Padua, and Paris; but all details are doubtful.[4]

Return to EnglandEdit

He reached London in great destitution. Stories are told that he tried acting (probably an inference from his "Adventures of a Strolling Player" in the British Magazine), and that he was usher in a country school (T. Campbell, Historical Survey of South of Ireland, 286-289). He became assistant to a chemist named Jacob on Fish Street Hill. After a time he met his friend Dr. Sleigh, who received him kindly, and he managed to set up as a physician in Bankside, Southwark.[4]

He told a friend (Prior, i. 215) that he "was doing very well;" but his dress was tarnished and his shirt a fortnight old. Reynolds (ib.) repeated an anecdote of the pains which he took to carry his hat so as to conceal a patch in his coat. From the statement of an old Edinburgh friend (Dr. Farr) it appears that he had written a tragedy, which he had shown to Richardson, and that he had a scheme for travelling to Mount Sinai, to decipher the "written mountains." A salary of £300 per annum had been left for the purpose. Boswell says that he had been a corrector of the press, possibly to Richardson.[4]

About the end of 1756 he became usher in a school at Peckham kept by Dr. Milner, a dissenting minister, whose daughter and 1 of whose pupils, Samuel Bishop, preserved a few traditions of his flute-playing, his fun with the boys, and his pecuniary imbecility. Milner's son had known Goldsmith at Edinburgh, and Dr. Milner wanted an assistant, on account of an illness which proved fatal not long after (Percy Memoir, 45).[4]

Monthly ReviewEdit

At Milner's house he met a bookseller named Griffiths, proprietor of the Monthly Review, a chief periodical of the day.[4] Early in 1757 he agreed to lodge with Griffiths, and work for the review at an "adequate salary.’ He contributed many miscellaneous articles from April to September 1757, the last being a review of [[Thomas Gray]|Gray's]] Odes in September 1757. He also reviewed Home's ‘Douglas,’ Burke's ‘On the Sublime and Beautiful,’ Smollett's ‘History,’ and Wilkie's ‘Epigoniad.’ Both Griffiths and his wife edited his papers remorselessly, and Goldsmith became disgusted. He probably contributed to other papers, and was engaged in a translation of the ‘Memoirs of Jean Marteilhe’ of Bergerac, which was published by Griffiths and Dilly in February 1758. [5]

After leaving Griffiths he returned for a time to Dr. Milner. A letter to his brother-in-law, Hodson, of December 1757 says that he was making a shift to live by a "very little practice as a physician, and a very little reputation as a poet." His younger brother Charles was paying him a visit, prompted by an erroneous impression of his prosperity, which soon terminated. 3 letters, written in August 1758 to friends in Ireland, show that he was trying to get subscribers for his essay On the Present State of Taste and Literature in Europe, which was then going through the press.[5]

He was still hoping to obtain an appointment as physician and surgeon to a factory on the coast of Coromandel. The appointment was obtained through Milner. He would have a salary of £100 a year, and the practice was worth £1,000. His book was to pay for his passage. On 21 December 1758 he was examined at Surgeons' Hall for a certificate as "hospital mate" and found "not qualified." Although his hopes of the Indian appointment survived for a time (Prior, i. 297), he was henceforth doomed to be a literary hack.[5]

Goldsmith had borrowed a suit of clothes from Griffiths in order to appear decently before his examiners. He contributed in return 4 articles to the December number of the Monthly Review to show his gratitude. Goldsmith was driven to pawn these clothes, and Griffiths suspected him of having also disposed of some books which (as Goldsmith declared) were not pawned, but were "in the custody of a friend from whom he had borrowed some money." A letter to Griffiths promising repayment (Prior, i. 286) in January 1759 appears to have led to some reconciliation.[5]

Goldsmith wrote a catchpenny Life of Voltaire, for which Griffiths paid £20, and which was advertised for publication in February. It ultimately came out in the Lady's Magazine (edited by Goldsmith) in 1761. An attack upon Goldsmith, however, appeared in the Monthly Review on the appearance of his Polite Literature, written by Kenrick, who had succeeded him as writer of all work for Griffiths. Although some apology was afterwards made, cordiality was never restored.[5]

Green Arbour CourtEdit

Goldsmith had now taken a lodging in 12 Green Arbour Court, between the Old Bailey and Fleet Market, a small yard approached by ‘Breakneck Steps.’ Here he used to collect the children to dance to his flute, and made friends with a clever watchmaker. He was beginning to win some reputation as a writer. The Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe appeared in April 1759. The book shows pessimistic views as to the state of literature, which is naturally attributed to the inadequate remuneration of authors. It attracted some notice, and some useful visitors came to Green Arbour Court.[5]

Among them was Thomas Percy, afterwards bishop of Dromore, who had been introduced to Goldsmith by James Grainger, a contributor to the Monthly Review. Percy was collecting materials for the Reliques, and Goldsmith shared his love of old ballads. Percy found only 1 chair in Goldsmith's room, and a neighbor sent a child during his visit to borrow ‘a chamberpot full of coals."[5]

Smollett, another acquaintance, was at this time connected with the Critical Review, to which Goldsmith contributed a few articles in 1757-1759, and in 1760 started the British Magazine, for which Goldsmith also wrote. He was employed on 3 periodicals started in this year, the Lady's Magazine, the Bee, and the Busybody, of which the 1st numbers appeared on 1, 6, and 9 October 1759 respectively. The Bee only lasted through 8 weekly numbers, of which Goldsmith was the principal if not the sole author.[5]

His contributions to the British Magazine in 1760 are said to have included "The History of Mrs. Stanton," which has been regarded as the germ of the Vicar of Wakefield.’Austin Dobson, with apparent reason, doubts the authorship. He left the British Magazine for a time to edit the Lady's Magazine, but appears to have afterwards contributed a series of articles on the "Belles-Lettres," which began in July 1761, and continued with intervals until 1763. Another periodical to which he contributed was Dodd's Christian Magazine.[5]

Newbery and JohnsonEdit

Goldsmith had formed a more important connection with John Newbery,[5] bookseller, in St. Paul's Churchyard. He is mentioned in the Vicar of Wakefield (ch. xviii.) as the "philanthropic bookseller" who has "written so many little books for children." Newbery started the Public Ledger, a newspaper of which the first number appeared 12 January 1760. He engaged Goldsmith for £100 a year to contribute 2 papers a week. Samuel Johnson was at the same time writing the "Idler" for another paper of Newbery's, the Universal Chronicle. The 1st of Goldsmith's papers, called the "Chinese Letters," appeared on 24 January. They continued during the year, in which 98 letters appeared in all. He afterwards used some of them, together with his Life of Voltaire, in the Lady's Magazine, which occupied much of his time in 1761.[6]

The "Chinese Letters," which were printed in 2 vols. 12mo in 1762 as The Citizen of the World, raised Goldsmith's reputation. He inserted some of his other anonymous essays. They contain many descriptions of character, which, if surpassed by himself, were surpassed by no other writer of the time.[6] Purportedly written by a Chinese traveler in England named Lien Chi, they used this fictional outsider's perspective to comment ironically and at times moralistically on British society and manners. The series was inspired by the earlier essay series Persian Letters by Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu.

His position improved as his reputation rose, and he moved in 1760 to superior lodgings at No. 6 Wine Office Court, Fleet Street, where he lodged with 1 of Newbery's connections. He had paid a compliment to Johnson] in the 5th number of the Bee, and on 31 May 1761 Johnson came to a supper at Goldsmith's lodgings, dressed with scrupulous neatness, because, as he told Percy, he had heard that he had been quoted by Goldsmith as a precedent for slovenly habits. Goldsmith was generally more inclined to lavishness in the matter of tailors' bills.[6]

About this time, on the accession of Bute to office (Prior, i. 383), Goldsmith is said to have memorialised him, asking to be sent to the East to make scientific inquiries. He also applied to Garrick to recommend him for the secretaryship of the Society of Arts, which was vacant in 1760. Garrick refused in consequence of passages by Goldsmith in Polite Literature reflecting upon his theatrical management (ib. p. 379).[6]

During 1762 Goldsmith did various pieces of hackwork for Newbery. He wrote a pamphlet on the Cock Lane ghost for £3.3s.; a History of Mecklenburgh, the country of the new queen, Charlotte; and he began a Compendium of Biography, based upon Plutarch's Lives. 7 volumes appeared during the year, the last 2 volumes of which were probably compiled by a hack named Collyer. Goldsmith's health was weak at this period, and he visited Bath, paying for his expenses, it is to be hoped, by a life of Nash (published 14 October 1762), for which he received 14 guineas. Prior estimates his whole income for 1762 at under £120.[6]

At the end of 1762 he moved to Islington. Newbery occupied a room in the old tower of Canonbury House in that parish (description and engraving in Welsh, A Bookseller of the last Century, p. 46); and Goldsmith lodged with a Mrs. Elizabeth Fleming, paying £50 a year for his board and lodging. He worked for Newbery at a variety of odd jobs, writing prefaces, correcting the press, and so forth, though Newbery's advances during the year previous to October 1763 exceeded the amount due for "Copy of different kinds," namely, £63, by £48.1s.6d., for which Goldsmith gave a promissory note dated 11 October 1763.[6]

On 17 December he borrowed 25 guineas from Newbery. According to one story he needed the money for an excursion to Yorkshire, in the course of which the Vicar of Wakefield was suggested by some incident. He was absent from Islington, as his bills show, during the 1st quarter of 1764. A History of England in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman to his Son, in 2 volumes 12mo, for which Goldsmith received some £50. (Prior, i. 498), appeared in June 1764 anonymously, and was attributed to many eminent writers.[6]

About this time he became one of the original 9 members of Johnson's famous club which met during his life at the Turk's Head, Gerrard Street, Soho. Hawkins, an original member, says that "we" considered him "as a mere literary drudge." The election was no doubt due to Johnson's good opinion, who told Boswell in June 1763 that Goldsmith was "one of the first men we now have as an author."[6]

Literary fameEdit

Johnson's opinion, then esoteric, became general on the publication of the Traveller, 19 December 1764, inscribed to his brother Henry, to whom he had sent some portions from Switzerland. 4 editions appeared during 1765, a 5th in 1768, a 6th (the last revised by the author) in 1770, and a 9th in 1774. Goldsmith received 20 guineas for it on publication, and probably an additional 20 guineas on its success.[6]

The Traveller brought Goldsmith the acquaintance of Robert Nugent (afterwards Viscount Clare),[6] and it seems that Nugent introduced him to the Earl of Northumberland (lord-lieutenant of Ireland from April 1763 till April 1765). Hawkins (Johnson, 419) states that Northumberland offered to help Goldsmith in Ireland, and that this "idiot in the affairs of the world" only recommended his brother Henry, and preferred for himself to depend upon the booksellers. His lamentable indifference, says this stern censor, confined him to 1 patron (Lord Clare), whom he occasionally visited.[7]

Northumberland (to whom Goldsmith's friend Percy was chaplain) did not return to Ireland, and therefore, perhaps, did nothing for Goldsmith. Percy (p. 66) says that Goldsmith was confused on this or some other occasion by mistaking the groom of the chambers for the nobleman. In any case, Goldsmith continued to be on friendly terms with him, and sent his ballad "Edwin and Angelina" to the Countess of Northumberland, for whose amusement it was privately printed.[7]

A spiteful charge made against him in 1767 by Kenrick of stealing from Percy's "Friar of Orders Grey" was disposed of by Goldsmith's statement, confirmed by Percy, that "Edwin and Angelina" was written earlier. In 1797 Goldsmith's ballad was asserted to have been taken from a French poem, really a translation from Goldsmith (Prior, ii. 89). The ballad was first published in the Vicar of Wakefield.[7]

A collection of Goldsmith's essays in 1765 proved the growth of his fame, and he tried to take advantage of it by setting up as a physician. The cost of "purple silk small clothes" and a "scarlet roquelaure" probably exceeded all that he made by fees. One of his patients preferring the advice of an apothecary to that of her physician, Goldsmith declared that he would prescribe no more (ib. ii. 105).[7]

Vicar of WakefieldEdit

The Vicar of Wakefield was published on 27 March 1766 (1st editions described in Notes and Queries, 6th ser. ix. 68, xi. 268, 371). It had been kept back until the success of the Traveller had raised the author's reputation.[7]

Boswell (Johnson (Birkbeck Hill), i. 415) tells the story that Johnson was one morning called in by Goldsmith, whose landlady had arrested him for his rent. Johnson found that Goldsmith had a novel ready for press, took it to a publisher, sold it for £60 (or guineas, ib. iii. 321), and brought back the sum, which enabled Goldsmith to pay his rent and rate his landlady. Boswell's account, carefully taken from Johnson's statement, is no doubt substantially accurate. Some difficulty has arisen from the discovery of Mr. Welsh that Goldsmith sold a 1/3 share in the book to Collins, a Salisbury printer, for 20 guineas on 28 October 1762. It seems, however, that the statements may be sufficiently harmonised if we suppose the incident described by Johnson to have taken place in Wine Office Court before the sale to Collins, and that Johnson obtained, not the full price, but an advance on account of an unfinished story. Several minute circumstances show that the book was partly written in 1762, but not completed until a later period (see Austin Dobson, pp. 110–117).[7]

The success of this masterpiece was marked and immediate, though its popularity is now greater than it was originally. Goldsmith's reputation was now established, and his circumstances improved correspondingly. Upon leaving Islington, he had taken chambers in the Temple; at Garden Court, afterwards in the King's Bench Walk, and finally on the second floor at 2 Brick Court, where he remained till his death.[7]

At different times he took lodgings in the country to work without interruption. In the summer of 1767 he again lodged at Islington, this time in the turret of Canonbury House, and attended convivial meetings at the Crown tavern. At a later period he took lodgings at a farm near Hyde, on the Edgware road, where in 1771-1774 he wrote She stoops to conquer, and worked at the Animated Nature. In London his love of society, of masquerades, and probably of gaming, distracted him from regular work.[7]

Goldsmith labored industriously at tasks which brought in regular pay, though not conducive to permanent fame. He appears to have fulfilled his engagements with booksellers with a punctuality hardly to be anticipated from his general habits.[7]

In December 1766 appeared a selection of Poems for Young Ladies, for which he received 10 guineas; and in April 1767 he had probably £50 (Prior, ii. 130) for 2 volumes of The Beauties of English Poesy, which gave offense by the inclusion of 2 indelicate poems of Prior. In 1767 he engaged to write a Roman history, for which Davies offered him 250 guineas. It appeared in May 1769, and its pleasant style gave it a popularity not earned by any severe research. His lives of Parnell and Bolingbroke were published in 1770.[7]

In February 1769 he agreed to write a book for Griffin upon natural history, in 8 volumes, for which he was to receive 100 guineas a volume; and in the following June he wrote an English history (for Davies) for which he was to have 500 guineas. The English history (chiefly derived from Hume) appeared in August 1771, and he afterwards wrote a small schoolbook on the same subject, which was posthumously published. He wrote a Greek history, for which Griffin paid him £250 in June 1773, though it was not published till 2 months after his death. The payments for the Animated Nature (the ultimate title of his book on natural history) were completed in June 1772. This, like the 2 preceding, was posthumously published.[8]

Dramatist and poetEdit

The hackwork had more than the usual merit from the invariable charm of Goldsmith's style. Happily, however, he found time for more permanent work. Early in 1767 he offered his Good-natured Man to Garrick for Drury Lane. Garrick probably retained some resentment against Goldsmith, and doubted the success of the play. A proposal to refer the matter to William Whitehead only led to a quarrel. Goldsmith then offered his play to Colman for Covent Garden (July 1767). It was accepted for Christmas. Garrick in competition brought out Hugh Kelly's sentimental comedy, ‘False Delicacy,’ and Colman, who meanwhile was reconciled to Garrick, postponed Goldsmith's play till 29 January 1768 (Kelly's being acted a week earlier).[8]

The reception was not entirely favorable. The scene with the bailiffs was hissed, and Goldsmith going to the club with Johnson professed to be in high spirits, but when left alone with his friend burst into tears and swore that he would never write again (Piozzi, pp. 244–6). The obnoxious scene being retrenched the play went better, and ran for 10 nights. The omitted scene was replaced "by particular desire" at Covent Garden, 3 March 1773 (Genest, v. 372). Goldsmith made £300 or £400 besides another £100 for the copyright. The popularity of the "sentimental comedy" seems to have hindered a full appreciation of Goldsmith's fun.[8]

The next triumph of Goldsmith's genius was the Deserted Village, published 26 May 1770, and begun 2 years previously. It went through 5 editions at once (for first editions see Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xi. 491). The statement by Glover that he received 100 guineas and returned it as too much is hardly probable.[8]

She Stoops to Conquer had been written in 1771 at Hyde. It was offered to Colman in 1772. He hesitated till January 1773, when he yielded to the pressure applied by Johnson. Colman's doubts were shared by the actors, some of whom threw up their parts. It was at last performed at Covent Garden 15 March 1773. Johnson led a body of friends, including Burke and Reynolds, to the 1st night. Cumberland, whose inaccuracies make all his statements doubtful, says that he was of the party, and minutely describes the result (Memoirs, i. 367).[8]

In any case the success was undeniable. It answered, as Johnson said, the "great end of comedy, making an audience merry." When Goldsmith heard from Northcote (then a pupil of Reynolds) that he had laughed "exceedingly," "That," he replied, "is all that I require." The adherents of the sentimental comedy had forgotten the advantages of laughter; and the success of Goldsmith's play led to their discomfiture. It ran for 12 nights, producing £400 or £500 for the author, and was published with a dedication to his staunch supporter, Johnson.[8]

Last yearsEdit

During his later years Goldsmith was widely known and beloved. His most intimate friends appear to have been the Hornecks, who were Devonshire people, and known through Reynolds. The family consisted of a widowed mother, a son Charles, who was in the guards, and 2 daughters, Catherine ("Little Comedy"), married in 1771 to Henry William Bunbury, and Mary ("the Jessamy Bride"), who became Mrs. Gwyn, gave recollections to Prior, and died in 1840.[8]

In 1770 he took a trip to Paris with Mrs. Horneck and her daughters. In 1773 his old enemy, Kenrick (probably), wrote an insulting letter to the London Packet (24 March), signed "Tom Tickle," abusing Goldsmith as an author, and alluding insultingly to his passion for "the lovely H——k." Goldsmith went to the shop of the publisher, Evans, and struck him with a cane. Evans returned the blow; a scuffle followed, a broken lamp covered the combatants with oil, and Goldsmith was sent home in a coach. An action was threatened, which Goldsmith compromised by paying £50 to a Welsh charity,[8] while he relieved his feelings by writing a dignified letter to the papers about the "licentiousness" of the press.[9]

Goldsmith's friendship with Lord Clare is shown by a recorded visit to Clare at Bath in the winter of 1770-1771, and by the admirable Haunch of Venison, probably written in the same spring. The most vivid descriptions of Goldsmith in society are, however, to be found in Boswell. That Boswell had some prejudice against Goldsmith, partly due to jealousy of his intimacy with Johnson, talks of him with an absurd affectation of superiority, and dwells too much on his foibles, is no doubt true. The portrait may be slightly caricatured; but the substantial likeness is not doubtful.[9]

Goldsmith, no doubt, often blundered in conversation; went on without knowing how he should come off (Johnson in Boswell, ii. 196), and displayed ignorance when trying to "get in and shine." Reynolds admitted the fact by explaining it as intended to diminish the awe which isolates an author (Northcote, i. 328). On such a question there can be no appeal from the unanimous judgment of contemporaries. But all this is perfectly compatible with his having frequently made the excellent hits reported by Boswell.[9]

He was clearly vain, acutely sensitive to neglect, and hostile to criticism; fond of splendid garments, as appears from the testimony of his tailors' bills, printed by Prior; and occasionally jealous, so far as jealousy can coexist with absolute guilelessness and freedom from the slightest tinge of malice. His charity seems to have been pushed beyond the limits of prudence, and all who knew him testify to the singular kindliness of his nature. According to Cradock (i. 232) he indulged in gambling. He was certainly not retentive of money; but his extravagance went naturally with an expansive and sympathetic character open to all social impulses.[9]

In 1773 Goldsmith was much interested in a proposed Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. He drew up a prospectus and had promises of contributions from Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, and others. Burney had actually written the article "Museum." The booksellers, however, showed a coolness which caused the scheme to be dropped, and depressed Goldsmith's spirits.[9]

Goldsmith was meanwhile anxious, and Cradock noticed that his gaiety was forced. He was in debt and had spent the sum received for his works in advance. His last poem, Retaliation, was probably written in February 1774. It was an answer to some mock-epitaphs composed at a dinner of some of his friends at the St. James's Coffee-house — the exact circumstances being differently stated by Cradock (i. 228) and Cumberland (i. 370), both of whom profess to have been present. Passages of Goldsmith's poem were shown to a few of his friends, but it was not published till after his death.[9]

He had gone to Hyde, where he felt ill, returned to London, and on 25 March sent for an apothecary, William Hawes, who afterwards wrote an account of his illness. In spite of Hawes's advice, he doctored himself with James's powder. Hawes called in Dr. Fordyce and Dr. Turton. Turton, thinking that his pulse was worse than it should be, asked whether his mind was at ease. Goldsmith replied "It is not." He was, however, calm and sometimes cheerful; but grew weaker and died 4 April 1774.[9]

Burke burst into tears at the news, and Reynolds, his most beloved friend, gave up painting for the day. Johnson thought that the fever had been increased by the pressure of debt, and reports that, according to Reynolds, he "owed not less than £2,000."[9]

Writing Edit


"The Hermit"Edit

Goldsmith wrote this romantic ballad of 160 lines in 1765. The hero and heroine are Edwin, a youth without wealth or power, and Angelina, the daughter of a lord "beside the Tyne." Angelina spurns many wooers, but refuses to make plain her love for young Edwin. "Quite dejected with my scorn," Edwin disappears and becomes a hermit. One day, Angelina turns up at his cell in boy's clothes and, not recognizing him, tells him her story. Edwin then reveals his true identity, and the lovers never part again. The poem is notable for its interesting portrayal of a hermit, who is fond of the natural world and his wilderness solitude but maintains a gentle, sympathetic demeanor toward other people. In keeping with eremitical tradition, however, Edwin the Hermit claims to "spurn the [opposite] sex." This poem appears under the title of "A Ballad" sung by the character of Mr. Burchell in Chapter 8 of Goldsmith's novel, The Vicar of Wakefield.

The TravellerEdit

Samuel Johnson's opinion that Goldsmith was "one of the first men we now have as an author" became general on the publication of the Traveller. Johnson declared in the Critical Review that it would not be easy to find its equal since the death of Pope. He also contributed a few lines ("nine," as he told Boswell), and was therefore supposed to have written more. The Traveller owes something to Johnson's own didactic poems, and something to Addison's Letter from Italy. But Johnson's eulogy is fully deserved, and the Traveller is still among the most perfect examples of its style.[6]

The Deserted VillageEdit

In the 1760's Goldsmith witnessed the demolition of an ancient village and destruction of its farms to clear land to become a wealthy man's garden. His poem The Deserted Village, published in 1770, expresses a fear that the destruction of villages and the conversion of land from productive agriculture to ornamental landscape gardens would ruin the peasantry.[10]

The Deserted Village gave the demolished village the pseudonym "Sweet Auburn" and Goldsmith did not disclose the real village on which he based it. However, he did indicate it was about 50 miles from London, and it is widely believed to have been Nuneham Courtenay in Oxfordshire, which Simon Harcourt, 1st Earl Harcourt]] had demolished and moved 1 mile away to make the park for his newly built Nuneham House.[10]

The only critical question raised by The Deserted Village has been whether it is a little better than the Traveller or not quite so good. Both poems are elegant versions of the popular declamation of the time against luxury and depopulation. Auburn in some degree represents Lissoy, and the story of an old eviction by a General Napier was probably in Goldsmith's mind. Some of the characters are obviously his old friends. But the poem is intended to apply to England; and the attempt to turn poems into a gazetteer is generally illusory.[8]


Goldsmith's works are: 1. ‘Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe,’ 1759, 8vo. 2. ‘The Bee; being essays on the most interesting subjects,’ 1759 (eight weekly essays, 6 Oct. to 24 Nov.), 12mo. 3. ‘History of Mecklenburgh,’ 1762. 4. ‘The Mystery Revealed, containing a series of transactions and authentic testimonials respecting the supposed Cock Lane Ghost,’ 1742 [1762], 8vo. 5. ‘The Citizen of the World; or Letters from a Chinese Philosopher residing in London to his Friends in the East,’ 2 vols. 12mo, 1762 (from ‘Public Ledger,’ &c.). 6. ‘Life of Richard Nash, of Bath, Esquire,’ 1762, 8vo. 7. ‘A History of England in a series of Letters from a Nobleman to his Son,’ 1764, 2 vols. 12mo. 8. ‘The Traveller,’ 1765, 4to. 9. ‘Essays’ (collected from ‘The Bee,’ &c.), 1765, 8vo. 10. ‘The Vicar of Wakefield; a Tale, supposed to be written by himself,’ 2 vols. 12mo, 1766; a list of ninety-six editions down to 1886 is given in Mr. Anderson's bibliography appended to Mr. Austin Dobson's ‘Goldsmith.’ Thirty appeared from 1863 to 1886. 11. ‘The Good-natured Man,’ a comedy, 1768. 12. ‘The Roman History from the Foundation of the City of Rome to the Destruction of the Roman Empire,’ 1769, 2 vols. 8vo (abridgment by himself 1772). 13. ‘The Deserted Village,’ 1770, 4to. 14. ‘The Life of Thomas Parnell, compiled from original papers and memoirs,’ 1770, 8vo (also prefixed to Parnell's ‘Poems,’ 1770). 15. ‘Life of Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke,’ 1770 (also prefixed to Bolingbroke's ‘Dissertation on Parties,’ 1770). 16. ‘The History of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II,’ 1771, 4 vols. 8vo (abridgment in 1774). 17. ‘Threnodia Augustalis’ (on death of Princess Dowager of Wales), 1772, 4to. 18. ‘She stoops to conquer, or the Mistakes of a Night,’ 1774. 19. ‘Retaliation, a Poem; including epitaphs on the most distinguished wits of this metropolis,’ 1774, 4to (fifth ed., with the Whitefoord ‘Postscript,’ same year). 20. ‘The Grecian History from the Earliest State to the Death of Alexander the Great,’ 1774, 2 vols. 8vo. 21. ‘An History of the Earth and Animated Nature,’ 1774, 8 vols. 8vo. 22. ‘The Haunch of Venison, a Poetical Epistle to Lord Clare,’ 1776 (with portrait by Bunbury); later edition of same year with alterations from author's manuscript. 23. ‘A Survey of Experimental Philosophy considered in its Present State of Improvement,’ 1776, 2 vols. 8vo, written in 1765 (see Prior, ii. 102, 123). 24. ‘The Captivity, an Oratorio,’ 1836 (written and sold to Dodsley in 1764; see Prior, ii. 9–12). A one-act comedy called ‘The Grumbler,’ adapted by Goldsmith from Sedley's version of Brueys's 3-act comedy ‘Le Grondeur,’ was performed at Covent Garden on 8 May 1773, but never published. A scene is printed in vol. iv. of ‘Miscellaneous Works’ by Prior (1837). Prior published from Goldsmith's manuscript ‘A History of the Seven Years' War,’ 1761, part of which had appeared in the ‘Literary Magazine’ of 1757–8; as a ‘History of our own Times’ Goldsmith also wrote a preface to the ‘Martial Review, or a General History of the late War,’ 1763, which appeared in the ‘Reading Mercury.’ He edited and annotated ‘Poems for Young Ladies’ and ‘Beauties of English Poesy’ in 1767. An ‘Art of Poetry’ (1762), by Newbery, was only revised by Goldsmith. Some of Newbery's children's books, especially the ‘History of Little Goody Two Shoes’ (3rd edit. 1766), have been attributed to him. He translated ‘Memoirs of a Protestant condemned to the Galleys’ (‘Jean Marteilhe’ of Bergerac), 1758; Formey's ‘Concise History of Philosophy,’ 1766; and Scarron's ‘Comic Romance’ (1776). With Joseph Collyer he abridged Plutarch's ‘Lives,’ 7 vols. 1762. In 1763 he engaged with Dodsley for a series of lives of ‘Eminent Persons of Great Britain and Ireland,’ which was never completed. Prefaces and revisions of many other books are mentioned in Newbery's accounts. The ‘Histoire de Francis Wills, par l'auteur du “Mi- nistre de Wakefield”’ (1773), of which an English version was published in Sweden in 1799, is spurious. An edition of ‘Poems and Plays’ appeared at Dublin in 1777, and his ‘Poetical and Dramatic Works’ in 1780. The best editions of his ‘Poetical Works’ are the Aldine edition by J. Mitford (1831) and the edition by Bolton Corney (1846). His ‘Miscellaneous Works,’ with the ‘Percy Memoir,’ were first published in 1801 (also in 1806, 1812, 1820); Prior's edition, in 4 vols. 8vo, in 1837; Peter Cunningham's, in 4 vols. 8vo, in 1855. The last and fullest collection, edited by J. W. M. Gibbs, is Bell's edition, in 5 vols. 1884–6. For many other editions see the bibliography, by J. P. Anderson, in Mr. Austin Dobson's ‘Goldsmith’ in ‘Great Writers Series,’ 1888.[11]

Critical introductionEdit

by Edward Dowden

The poems of Goldsmith make but a small fragment of his work; they are, however, more finely wrought and of a costlier material than the rest. "I cannot afford to court the draggle-tail Muses," he said, "they would let me starve." And so he turned to the booksellers’ task-work, bestowing on that task-work a grace which was all his own; and, the drudgery ended, he took his wages and was light of heart. But poetry belonged to his higher self, to his affections, to his imagination. Goldsmith could not have written The Deserted Village to the order of Griffiths or Newbery; and it is told — nor is the story incredible — that he went back with the note for one hundred pounds in his pocket, and insisted that his publisher should not ruin himself by paying "five shillings a couplet". The rustic maid Poetry whom he loved was not quite penniless; still Goldsmith felt that the attachment was imprudent, and she was none the less dear to his foolish heart on that account:

‘Dear charming nymph, neglected and decried,
My shame in crowds, my solitary pride,
Thou source of all my bliss and all my woe,
That found’st me poor at first, and keep’st me so.’

His poems won for Goldsmith friendships and fame, yet he felt truly that his was not a poetic age. The keenest intellects and the most powerful imaginations of the time found their proper utterance in prose. The high tragedy of that period is Clarissa; the broadest and brightest study of the comédie humaine is Tom Jones. Johnson in his essays had dignified the minor morals of Addison, and breathed into them the spirit of a courageous melancholy. Burke by breadth of vision and largeness of character was transforming the political pamphlet from a thing of party to a thing for mankind. Hume had shown how the facts of history may be artfully disposed, and their ragged edges smoothed away, until a graceful narrative emerges from the confusion. Gibbon was already projecting the lines of his Roman road through the centuries. It was the age of prose. The poets themselves had turned critics, making but timid experiments in verse; the more exquisite their culture, the less was their poetic courage. One or two indeed might appear more robust, but by a well-instructed eye their force was seen to be but turbulence. As for the rest they handed their verses around in manuscript; then perhaps contributed them to a poetical miscellany; finally, collected them in a tiny volume, or a quarto pamphlet of ample margin.

Goldsmith, whose genius slumbered late, was in no hurry to be a poet, and he looked carefully to make sure of himself and of his way. With a happy instinct he discerned his own gift, and it was his virtue, amid all his wanderings, and with all his seeming recklessness, to be faithful to that gift. Should he apply his humour to base uses and follow in the steps of Charles Churchill? Goldsmith affected no airs of dignity in what he wrote, and did not fear that word of reproach in his day, low; but his gentle heart, his kindly wisdom, made it impossible for him to follow Churchill. He did not covet the reputation of a literary bully; his was no loud contentious voice; if he hated anything, he hated the rage of party spirit.

But might he not accept Gray as a master? Goldsmith has left on record his estimate of Gray, and the words express a qualified enthusiasm, a certain official admiration as critic. But in truth, to please him poetry should address the heart, and he felt cold towards the fastidious flights of The Bard and The Progress of Poetry. He ventured to hint to Gray the advice that Isocrates used to give his scholars, study the people. Pindar had been popular — Pan himself was seen dancing to his melody. The seeming obscurity, the sudden transitions, the hazardous epithet of that mighty master had been caught by Gray; the directness, the life, the native energy of classical poetry he had not discovered. And Gray’s imitators, what did they produce but ‘tawdry things … in writing which the poet sits down without any plan, and heaps up splendid images without any selection’?

Last, there was the didactic essay or epistle in verse. Should Goldsmith become the successor of Akenside? Goldsmith highly esteemed the didactic poem; he looked on it as characteristic of England. But, at least, let it be written in our old rhymed couplet, not in pedantic blank-verse; and as for the pompous epithet, the licentious transposition, the unnatural construction, let these be reformed altogether. Why too should dulness be an essential of didactic poetry? Goldsmith could not endure its "disgusting solemnity of manner"; he loved innocent gaiety, and found much wisdom in that agreeable trifling which often "deceives us into instruction."

With such views, and at a time of life when all his powers were ripe and mellow, Goldsmith published his Traveller. Some fragments, perhaps a first sketch of the poem, had been sent from Switzerland to his brother Henry in 1755. The Traveller, as we know it, is an attempt to unite the didactic with the descriptive poem. But Goldsmith does not begin with theory, and proceed to illustrate his theory by a series of pictures. He begins with a sigh for kindred and for home. The poem is personal; the reflections, except perhaps the closing ones, which came from Johnson, are such as naturally arose in his mind in the days of his wandering. It would have been easy to have thrown The Traveller into the form of an Essay on the Happiness of Nations, or The Deserted Village into that of an Epistle on the Dangers of Luxury, and then the wanderer sounding his flute beside the Loire might have risen to the stature of a philosophic spectator with a classical name; sweet Auburn might have appeared as minor term of a syllogism concerned with the abuse of wealth.

Goldsmith chose a simpler method, more wholesome and sweet. He had actually smiled at sight of the old dames of the province in their quaint French caps leading out the little boys and girls to foot it while he piped; he had turned away disappointed from the Carinthian peasant’s inhospitable door; he had breasted the keen air with the Alpine herdsman; he had lazily stared from the towing-path at the Dutchman squat on his brown canal-boat. Seeking neither wealth, nor advancement, nor toilful learning, unencumbered by possessions of his own, he had looked on all with a sympathetic eye, an open heart, an innocent delight in human gladness, a kindly smile at human frailty, a sigh and a tear for human woe; and from all he had gathered a store of gentle wisdom, of dear remembrance. He needed only to select from his recollections whatever was most full of charm, what was gayest, tenderest, most pleasantly coloured, and with these to mingle some natural thoughts, some natural feelings. Surely an easy thing; and yet none except Goldsmith had the secret how to do this, to unite such various elements into a delightful whole,—description, reflection, mirth, sadness, memory and love. No one like Goldsmith could pass so tranquilly from grave to gay, still preserving the delicate harmony of tone. No one like Goldsmith knew how to be at once natural and exquisite, innocent and wise, a man and still a child.

The naturalness and ease of his poetry are those of an accomplished craftsman. His verse, which flows towards the close of the period with such a gentle yet steady advance, is not less elaborated than that of Pope, and Goldsmith conceived his verse more in paragraphs than in couplets. His subdued brilliance was perhaps harder to attain than the point and polish of The Rape of the Lock. His artless words were, each one, delicately chosen; his simple constructions were studiously sought. Cooke, Goldsmith’s neighbor in the Temple, speaks of the Doctor’s slowness in writing poetry "not from tardiness of fancy, but from the time he took in pointing the sentiment, and polishing the versification."

In writing The Deserted Village the Doctor, as Cooke again tells us, "first sketched a part of his design in prose, in which he threw out his ideas as they occurred to him; he then sat down carefully to versify them, correct them, and add such other ideas as he thought better fitted to the subject; and if sometimes he would exceed his prose design by writing several verses impromptu, these he would take singular pains afterwards to revise, lest they should be found unconnected with his main design." When Cooke entered the Doctor’s chamber one morning Goldsmith with some elation read aloud to him the ten lines beginning

‘Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please.’

"Come, let me tell you this is no bad morning’s work," he said; "and now, my dear boy, if you are not better engaged, I should be glad to enjoy a Shoemaker’s Holiday with you."

Whether The Traveller or The Deserted Village be the more admirable poem, whether Auburn be an English village or the Irish Lissoy, or both in one, whether Goldsmith’s political economy be solid or sentimental, it is perhaps not necessary once more to discuss. Perhaps Auburn bordered on Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden, and the doctrines concerning agricultural and commercial prosperity were suited to that neighbourhood. It would be pleasant to hear Jaques and Touchstone discuss them, taking opposite sides. Certainly Auburn is English, but certainly too Paddy Byrne kept school there, and Uncle Contarine or Henry Goldsmith occupied the rectory. In whatever shire or county situated, we know Auburn better than any other village; its sweet confusion of rural sounds is in our ears; we have seen its children hanging on the venerable preacher’s gown; we have played truant from the stern schoolmaster, and trembled in his presence; we know the clicking of the ale-house clock, and have felt the old, plain pathos of the woodman’s ballad! And we grieve that Auburn is departed. It may be a weak retreat into the age of sentiment and simplicity and Rousseau; perhaps we ought rather exult in the triumphs of modern civilisation and the progress of modern science. Still the flowers of an old garden-croft smell sweet, and the hawthorn bush is white under which lovers whisper.

The ballad of "Edwin and Angelina", "The Haunch of Venison", and "Retaliation" mark the extremes of Goldsmith’s somewhat limited range in verse. Any reader of the ballad who pleases may make a wry face, along with Kenrick of Grub Street, at the insipidity of Dr. Goldsmith’s negus, and may seek elsewhere some livelier liquor. We feel differently, for we have heard this ballad in the open air from Mr. Burchell’s manly throat, while Sophia in her new ribbons languished in the hay. To us, the love-lorn stranger is an eighteenth-century cousin—and so perhaps a little modish—of Rosalind and Viola. Those earlier disguisers bore themselves no doubt more gallantly, with more of saucy archness; but none was more sweetly discovered than Goldsmith’s pretty pilgrim by her mantling blush, and bashful glance, and rising breast. In The Haunch of Venison we have a miniature farce, and Goldsmith good-naturedly includes himself among the persons to be laughed at. Retaliation is the most mischievous, and the most playful, the friendliest and the faithfulest of satires. How much better we know Garrick because Goldsmith has shown him to us in his acting off the stage! And do we as often think of Reynolds in any attitude as in that of smiling non-listener to the critical coxcombs:

‘When they talked of their Raphaels, Correggios and stuff,
He shifted his trumpet and only took snuff.’

Would that portraits of Johnson and Boswell had been added![12]



Goldsmith was buried in the Temple. The benchers of the Temple placed a tablet in their church, now removed to the triforium. A stone on the north side of the Temple Church is supposed to mark his burial-place, which is not, however, certainly known.[9]

A monument, with a well-known epitaph by Johnson, was erected in Westminster Abbey at the expense of the club.[9] The white marble memorial, by Joseph Nollekens, is over the doorway leading to Faith Chapel in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.[13]

A statue by Foley was erected in 1864 in front of Trinity College, Dublin.[9]

Goldsmith lived in Kingsbury, London, between 1771 and 1774, and the Oliver Goldsmith Primary School there is named after him.

His name has been given to a new lecture theatre and student accommodation on the Trinity College campus, Goldsmith Hall.

Auburn, Alabama, and Auburn University were named for the first line in Goldsmith's poem: "Sweet Auburn, loveliest village on the plain." Auburn is still referred to as the 'loveliest village on the plains.'

There is a statue in Ballymahon, County Longford.

London Underground locomotive number 16 (used on the Metropolitan line of the Underground until 1962) was named Oliver Goldsmith.

2 of his poems, "Woman" and "Memory", were included in the Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900.[14] [15]

The best portrait of Goldsmith, by Reynolds, is now at Knole Park, Kent. Another, painted by Reynolds for Thrale's gallery at Streatham, was bought by the Duke of Bedford. A copy is in the National Portrait Gallery. A caricature by his friend Bunbury was prefixed to the ‘Haunch of Venison.’ Another portrait is prefixed to the ‘Poetical and Dramatic Works’ (1780). A portrait attributed to Hogarth, engraved in Forster's ‘Life’ (ii. 11), was in the possession of Mr. Studley Martin of Liverpool in 1877.[9]

In popular cultureEdit

Somerset Maugham used the last line from An Elegy On The Death Of A Mad Dog in his novel The Painted Veil (1925). The character Walter Fane's last words are The dog it was that died.

In the play Marx In Soho by Howard Zinn, Marx makes a reference to Goldsmiths' poem, The Deserted Village.[16]



  • The Traveller; or, A prospect of society: A poem. London: J. Newberry, 1764.
  • Poems for Young Ladies: In three parts. London: J. Payne, 1767.
  • The Deserted Village. London: W. Griffin, 1770; Dublin: J. Exshaw, H. Saunders, B. Grierson, J. Potts, W. Sleater et al, 1770.
  • Threnodia Augustalis: Monody on the death of the Princess Dowager of Wales. (anonymous). London: W. Woodfall, 1772.
  • Retaliation: A poem. London: G. Kearsley, 1774.
  • The Haunch of Venison: A poetical epistle to Lord Clare. London: G. Kearsley, & J. Ridley, 1776.
  • The Poetical Works. London: C. Cooke (Cooke's edition), 1795.
  • The Poetical Works (with Life by John Mitford). London: William Pickering, 1831.
  • The Complete Poetical Works (with memoir by William Spalding). London: Griffin, 1870.
  • The Complete Poetical Works (edited by Austin Dobson). London: Henry Frowde for Oxford University Press, 1906.




  • The Mystery Revealed: Containing a series of transactions and authentic testimonials, respecting the supposed Cock-Lane ghost. London: W. Bristow, 1742.
  • Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe. London: R. & J. Dodsley, 1759.
  • The Citizen of the World; or, Letters from a Chinese philosopher, residing in London, to his friends in the east.. London: J. Newbery, 1762; Dublin: George & Alex Ewing, 1762. Volume I, Volume II
  • The Art of Poetry, on a New Plan. London: J. Newbery, 1762,
  • The Life of Richard Nash. London: J. Newbery; W. Frederick, at Bath; & G. Faulkener [sic], in Dublin, 1762.
  • An History of England: In a series of letters from a nobleman to his son. London: J. Newberry, 1764.
  • Essays. London: W. Griffin, 1765
    • (facsimile edition), Menston, UK: Scolar Press, 1970.
  • The Roman History: From the foundation of the city of Rome to the destruction of the Western Empire. Dublin: S. Powell, J. Exshaw, H. Saunders, B. Grierson, W. Sleater, et al, 1769. Volume I
  • The Life of Thomas Parnell. London: T. Davies, 1770.
  • The Life of Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke. London: T. Davies, 1770.
  • The History of England: From the invasion of Julius Cæsar, to the death of George II. London: T. Davies, Becket & De Hondt, & T. Cadell, 1771. Volume I
    • An Abridgment of The History of England: From the invasion of Julius Cæsar, to the death of George II. London: B. Law, G. Robinson, G. Kearsly, T. Davies,T. Becket, T. Cadell, & T. Evans, 1774.
  • An History of the Earth and Animated Nature. (8 volumes), London: J. Nourse, 1774. Volume I, Volume VI
  • The Grecian History: From the earliest state to the death of Alexander the Great. (2 volumes), London: J. & F. Rivington, T. Longman, G. Kearsley, W. Griffin, G. Robinson, et al, 1774.
  • A Survey of Experimental Philosophy: Considered in its present state of improvement. London: T. Carnan and F. Newbery, 1776.
  • The Bee: A collection of essays. London: John Sharpe, 1819.
  • The Bee, and other essays. London: Humphrey Milford for Oxford University Press, 1914.

Collected editionsEdit

  • Poems and Plays. Dublin: Price, Sleater, W. Watson, Whitestone, Chamberlaine, et al, 1777; London: B. Newberry & T. Johnson, 1780.
  • The Miscellaneous Works. (2 volumes), London: H. Baldwin for J. Johnson, G. & J. Robinson, W.J. & J. Richardson, et al, 1801. Volume I, Volume II
  • The Works of Oliver Goldsmith. London: J. Johnston, et al, 1806.
  • The Works of Oliver Goldsmith (edited by Peter Cunningham). (4 volumes), London: John Murray, 1854.


  • Jean Marteilhe, The Memoirs of a Protestant: Condemned to the galleys of France for his religion (translated as "James Wallington"). London: R. Griffiths & E. Dilly, 1758.
  • Jean-Henri-Samuel Formey, A Concise History of Philosophy and Philosophers. London: Francis Newbery, 1766.


  • The Bee (literary magazine). London: J. Wilkie, 1759.
  • The Beauties of English Poesy. (2 volumes), London: William Griffin, 1767.


  • The Collected Letters (edited by Catherine Goldsmith Hodson & Katharine Canby Balderston). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1928.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[17]

See alsoEdit

"The Deserted Village" by Oliver Goldsmith (excerpt read by Tom O'Bedlam)

"The Deserted Village" by Oliver Goldsmith (excerpt read by Tom O'Bedlam)

"The Village Schoolmaster" by Oliver Goldsmith (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

"The Village Schoolmaster" by Oliver Goldsmith (read by Tom O'Bedlam)


  • Campbell, Gordon (ed.), Oliver Goldsmith (Everyman's Poetry Series), ISBN 0-460-87827-1
  • Connellan, J.A., Oliver Goldsmith of Elphin, Published for the Goldsmith Society (1935)
  • Irving, Washington, Life of Oliver Goldsmith, ISBN 1-58963-236-2
  • Prior, James, Life of Goldsmith. (2 volumes), London: John Murray, 1837.
  • Rousseau, George (1974), Goldsmith: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974). ISBN 0-7100-7720-3
  • PD-icon.svg Stephen, Leslie (1890) "Goldsmith, Oliver" in Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney Dictionary of National Biography 22 London: Smith, Elder, pp. 86-95 . Wikisource, Web, Jan. 24, 2018.


  1. 1.0 1.1 John William Cousin, "Goldsmith, Oliver," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910, 161-162. Web, Jan. 19, 2018.
  2. Stephen, 86.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Stephen, 87.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 Stephen, 88.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 Stephen, 89.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Stephen, 90.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 Stephen, 91.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 Stephen, 92.
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 Stephen, 93.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Rowley, Trevor (1978). Villages in the Landscape. Archaeology in the Field Series. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. p. 132. ISBN 0 460 04166 5. 
  11. Stephen, 94.
  12. from Edward Dowden, "Critical Introduction: Oliver Goldsmith (1730–1774)," The English Poets: Selections with critical introductions (edited by Thomas Humphry Ward). New York & London: Macmillan, 1880-1918. Web, June 29, 2016.
  13. Oliver Goldsmith, People, History, Westminster Abbey. Web, July 11, 2016.
  14. "Woman," Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch). Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919)., Web, May 13, 2012.
  15. "Memory," Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch). Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919)., Web, May 13, 2012.
  16. Marx in Soho, Howard Zinn 1999, South End Press
  17. Search results = au:Oliver Goldsmith 1774, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Feb. 26, 2016.

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