Story type: Essay
Jarvis: A few of our usual cards of compliments–that’s all. This bill from your tailor; this from your mercer; and this from the little broker in Crooked Lane. He says he has been at a great deal of trouble to get back the money you borrowed.
Honeydew: But I am sure we were at a great deal of trouble in getting him to lend it.
Jarvis: He has lost all patience.
Honeydew: Then he has lost a good thing.
Jarvis: There’s that ten guineas you were sending to the poor man and his children in the Fleet. I believe that would stop his mouth for a while.
Honeydew: Ay, Jarvis; but what will fill their mouths in the meantime?
–Goldsmith, “The Good-Natured Man”
The Isle of Erin has the same number of square miles as the State of Indiana; it also has more kindness to the acre than any other country on earth.
Ireland has five million inhabitants; once it had eight. Three millions have gone away, and when one thinks of landlordism he wonders why the five millions did not go, too. But the Irish are a poetic people and love the land of their fathers with a childlike love, and their hearts are all bound up in sweet memories, rooted by song and legend into nooks and curious corners, so the tendrils of affection hold them fast.
Ireland is very beautiful. Its pasture-lands and meadow-lands, blossom-decked and water-fed, crossed and recrossed by never-ending hedgerows, that stretch away and lose themselves in misty nothingness, are fair as a poet’s dream. Birds carol in the white hawthorn and the yellow furze all day long, and the fragrant summer winds that blow lazily across the fields are laden with the perfume of fairest flowers.
It is like crossing the dark river called Death, to many, to think of leaving Ireland–besides that, even if they wanted to go they haven’t money to buy a steerage ticket.
From across the dark river called Death come no remittances; but from America many dollars are sent back to Ireland. This often supplies the obolus that secures the necessary bit of Cunard passport.
Whenever an Irishman embarks at Queenstown, part of the five million inhabitants go down to the waterside to see him off. Not long ago I stood with the crowd and watched two fine lads go up the gangplank, each carrying a red handkerchief containing his worldly goods. As the good ship moved away we lifted a wild wail of woe that drowned the sobbing of the waves. Everybody cried–I wept, too–and as the great, black ship became but a speck on the Western horizon we embraced each other in frenzied grief.
There is beauty in Ireland–physical beauty of so rare and radiant a type that it makes the heart of an artist ache to think that it can not endure. On country roads, at fair time, the traveler will see barefoot girls who are women, and just suspecting it, who have cheeks like ripe pippins; laughing eyes with long, dark, wicked lashes; teeth like ivory; necks of perfect poise; and waists that, never having known a corset, are pure Greek.
Of course, these girls are aware that we admire them–how could they help it? They carry big baskets on either shapely arm, bundles balanced on their heads, and we, suddenly grown tired, sit on the bankside as they pass by, and feign indifference to their charms.
Once safely past, we admiringly examine their tracks in the soft mud (for there has been a shower during the night), and we vow that such footprints were never before left upon the sands of time.
The typical young woman in Ireland is Juno before she was married; the old woman is Sycorax after Caliban was weaned. Wrinkled, toothless, yellow old hags are seen sitting by the roadside, rocking back and forth, crooning a song that is mate to the chant of the witches in “Macbeth” when they brew the hellbroth.
See that wizened, scarred and cruel old face–how it speaks of a seared and bitter heart! so dull yet so alert, so changeful yet so impassive, so immobile yet so cunning–a paradox in wrinkles, where half-stifled desperation has clawed at the soul until it has fled, and only dead indifference or greedy expectation is left to tell the tragic tale.
“In the name of God, charity, kind gentlemen, charity!” and the old crone stretches forth a long, bony claw. Should you pass on she calls down curses on your head. If you are wise, you go back and fling her a copper to stop the cold streaks that are shooting up your spine. And these old women were the most trying sights I saw in Ireland.
“Pshaw!” said a friend of mine when I told him this; “these old creatures are actors, and if you would sit down and talk to them, as I have done, they will laugh and joke, and tell you of sons in America who are policemen, and then they will fill black ‘dhudeens’ out of your tobacco and ask if you know Mike McGuire who lives in She-ka-gy.”
The last trace of comeliness has long left the faces of these repulsive beggars, but there is a type of feminine beauty that comes with years. It is found only where intellect and affection keep step with spiritual desire; and in Ireland, where it is often a crime to think, where superstition stalks, and avarice rules, and hunger crouches, it is very, very rare.
But I met one woman in the Emerald Isle whose hair was snow-white, and whose face seemed to beam a benediction. It was a countenance refined by sorrow, purified by aspiration, made peaceful by right intellectual employment, strong through self-reliance, and gentle by an earnest faith in things unseen. It proved the possible.
When the nations are disarmed, Ireland will take first place, for in fistiana she is supreme.
James Russell Lowell once said that where the “code duello” exists, men lift their hats to ladies, and say “Excuse me” and “If you please.” And if Lowell was so bold as to say a good word for the gentlemen who hold themselves “personally responsible,” I may venture the remark that men who strike from the shoulder are almost universally polite to strangers.
A woman can do Ireland afoot and alone with perfect safety. Everywhere one finds courtesy, kindness and bubbling good-cheer.
Nineteen-twentieths of all lawlessness in Ireland during the past two hundred years has been directed against the landlord’s agent. This is a very Irish-like proceeding–to punish the agent for the sins of the principal. When the landlord himself comes over from England he affects a fatherly interest in “his people.” He gives out presents and cheap favors, and the people treat him with humble deference. When the landlord’s agent goes to America he gets a place as first mate on a Mississippi River Steamboat; and before the War he was in demand in the South as overseer. He it is who has taught the “byes” the villainy that they execute; and it sometimes goes hard, for they better the instruction.
But there is one other character that the boys occasionally look after in Ireland, and that is the “Squire.” He is a merry wight in tight breeches, red coat, and a number-six hat. He has yellow side-whiskers and ‘unts to ‘ounds, riding over the wheatfields of honest men. The genuine landlord lives in London; the squire would like to but can not afford it. Of course, there are squires and squires, but the kind I have in mind is an Irishman who tries to pass for an Englishman. He is that curious thing–a man without a country.
There is a theory to the effect that the Universal Mother in giving out happiness bestows on each and all an equal portion–that the beggar trudging along the stony road is as happy as the king who rides by in his carriage. This is a very old belief, and it has been held by many learned men. From the time I first heard it, it appealed to me as truth.
Yet recently my faith has been shaken; for not long ago in New York I climbed the marble steps of a splendid mansion and was admitted by a servant in livery who carried my card on a silver tray to his master. This master had a son in the “Keeley Institute,” a daughter in her grave, and a wife who shrank from his presence. His heart was as lonely as a winter night at sea. Fate had sent him a coachman, a butler, a gardener and a footman, but she took his happiness and passed it through a hole in the thatch of a mud-plastered cottage in Ireland, where, each night, six rosy children soundly slept in one straw bed.
In that cottage I stayed two days. There was a stone floor and bare, whitewashed walls; but there was a rosebush climbing over the door, and within health and sunny temper that made mirth with a meal of herbs, and a tenderness that touched to poetry the prose of daily duties.
But it is well to bear in mind that an Irishman in America and an Irishman in Ireland are not necessarily the same thing. Often the first effect of a higher civilization is degeneration. Just as the Chinaman quickly learns big swear-words, and the Indian takes to drink, and certain young men on first reading Emerson’s essay on “Self-Reliance” go about with a chip on their shoulders, so sometimes does the first full breath of freedom’s air develop the worst in Paddy instead of the best.
As one tramps through Ireland and makes the acquaintance of a blue-eyed “broth of a bye,” who weighs one hundred and ninety, and measures forty-four inches around the chest, he catches glimpses of noble traits and hints of mystic possibilities. There are actions that look like rudiments of greatness gone, and you think of the days when Olympian games were played, and finger meanwhile the silver in your pocket and inwardly place it on this twenty-year-old, pink-faced, six-foot “boy” that stands before you.
In Ireland there are no forests, but in the peat-bogs are found remains of mighty trees that once lifted their outstretched branches to the sun. Are these remains of stately forests symbols of a race of men that, too, have passed away?
In any wayside village of Leinster you can pick you a model for an Apollo. He is in rags, is this giant, and can not read, but he can dance and sing and fight. He has an eye for color, an ear for music, a taste for rhyme, a love of novelty and a thirst for fun. And withal he has blundering sympathy and a pity whose tears are near the surface.
Now, will this fine savage be a victim of arrested development, and sink gradually through weight of years into mere animal stupidity and sodden superstition?
The chances are that this is just what he will do, and that at twenty he will be in his intellectual zenith. Summer does not fulfil the promise of Spring.
But as occasionally there is one of those beautiful, glowing Irish girls who leaves footsteps that endure (in bettered lives), instead of merely transient tracks in mud, so there has been a Burke, a Wellington, an O’Connell, a Sheridan, a Tom Moore and an Oliver Goldsmith.
* * * * *
While Goldsmith was an Irishman, Swift was an Englishman who chanced to be born of Irish parents in Dublin. In comparing these men Thackeray says: “I think I would rather have had a cold potato and a friendly word from Goldsmith than to have been beholden to the Dean for a guinea and a dinner. No; the Dean was not an Irishman, for no Irishman ever gave but with a kind word and a kind heart.”
Charles Goldsmith was a clergyman, passing rich on forty pounds a year. He had a nice little family of eight children, and what became of the seven who went not astray I do not know. But the smallest and homeliest one of the brood became the best-loved man in London. These sickly boys who have been educated only because they were too weak to work–what a record their lives make!
Little Oliver had a pug-nose and bandy legs, and fists not big enough to fight, but he had a large head, and because he was absent-minded, lots of folks thought him dull and stupid, and others were sure he was very bad. In fact, let us admit it, he did steal apples and rifle birds’ nests, and on “the straggling fence that skirts the way,” he drew pictures of Paddy Byrne, the schoolmaster, who amazed the rustics by the amount of knowledge he carried in one small head. But Paddy Byrne did not love art for art’s sake, so he applied the ferule vigorously to little Goldsmith’s anatomy, with a hope of diverting the lad’s inclinations from art to arithmetic. I do not think the plan was very successful, for the pockmarked youngster was often adorned with the dunce-cap.
“And, Sir,” said Doctor Johnson, many years after, “it must have been very becoming.”
It seems that Paddy Byrne “boarded round,” and part of the time was under the roof of the rectory. Now we all know that schoolmasters are dual creatures, and that once away from the schoolyard, and having laid aside the robe of office, are often good, honest, simple folks. In his official capacity Paddy Byrne made things very uncomfortable for the pug-nosed little boy, but, like the true Irishman that he was, when he got away from the schoolhouse he was sorry for it. Whether dignity is the mask we wear to hide ignorance, I am not sure, yet when Paddy Byrne was the schoolmaster he was a man severe and stern to view; but when he was plain Paddy Byrne he was a first-rate good fellow.
Evenings he would hold little Oliver on his knee, and instead of helping him in his lessons would tell him tales of robbers, pirates, smugglers–everything and anything in fact that boys like: stories of fairies, goblins, ghosts; lion-hunts and tiger-killing in which the redoubtable Paddy was supposed to have taken a chief part. The schoolmaster had been a soldier and a sailor. He had been in many lands, and when he related his adventures, no doubt he often mistook imagination for memory. But the stories had the effect of choking the desire in Oliver for useful knowledge, and gave instead a thirst for wandering and adventure.
Byrne also had a taste for poetry, and taught the lad to scribble rhymes. Very proud was the boy’s mother, and very carefully did she preserve these foolish lines.
All this was in the village of Lissoy, County Westmeath; yet if you look on the map you will look in vain for Lissoy. But six miles northeast from Athlone and three miles from Ballymahon is the village of Auburn.
When Goldsmith was a boy Lissoy was:
“Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheered the laboring swain,
Where smiling Spring the earliest visits paid,
And parting Summer’s lingering blooms delayed–
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please–
How often have I loitered o’er thy green,
Where humble happiness endeared each scene;
How often have I paused on every charm,
The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm,
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church, that topped the neighboring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade
For talking age and whispering lovers made:
How often have I blessed the coming day,
When toil remitting lent its turn to play,
And all the village train from labor free,
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree–
While many a pastime circled in the shade,
The young contending as the old surveyed;
And many a gambol frolicked o’er the ground,
And sleights of art and feats of strength went round.”
In America, when a “city” is to be started, the first thing is to divide up the land into town-lots and then sell these lots to whoever will buy. This is a very modern scheme. But in Ireland whole villages belong to one man, and every one in the place pays tribute. Then villages are passed down from generation to generation, and sometimes sold outright, but there is no wish to dispose of corner lots. For when a man lives in your house and you can put him out at any time, he is, of course, much more likely to be civil than if he owns the place.
But it has happened many times that the inhabitants of Irish villages have all packed up and deserted the place, leaving no one but the village squire and that nice man, the landlord’s agent. The cottages then are turned into sheep-pens or hay-barns. They may be pulled down, or, if they are left standing, the weather looks after that. And these are common sights to the tourist.
Now the landlord, who owned every rood of the village of Lissoy, lived in London. He lived well. He gambled a little, and as the cards did not run his way he got into debt. So he wrote to his agent in Lissoy to raise the rents. He did so, threatened, applied the screws, and–the inhabitants packed up and let the landlord have his village all to himself. Let Goldsmith tell:
“Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn,
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn:
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant’s hand is seen,
And desolation saddens all thy green;
One only master grasps the whole domain,
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain.
No more thy glassy brook reflects the day,
But choked with sedges, works its weedy way;
Along thy glades, a solitary guest,
The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest;
Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies,
And tires their echoes with unvaried cries.
Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all,
And the long grass overtops the moldering wall;
And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler’s hand,
Far, far away, thy children leave the land.”
A titled gentleman by the name of Napier was the owner of the estate at that time, and as his tenantry had left, he in wrath pulled down their rows of pretty white cottages, demolished the schoolhouse, blew up the mill, and took all the material and built a splendid mansion on the hillside.
The cards had evidently turned in his direction, but anyway, he owned several other villages, so although he toiled not neither did he spin, yet he was well clothed and always fed. But my lord Napier was not immortal, for he died, and was buried; and over his grave they erected a monument, and on it are these words: “He was the friend of the oppressed.”
The records of literature, so far as I know, show no such moving force in a simple poem as the re-birth of the village of Auburn. No man can live in a village and illuminate it by his genius. His fellow townsmen and neighbors are not to be influenced by his eloquence except in a very limited way. His presence creates an opposition, for the “personal touch” repels as well as attracts. Dying, seven cities may contend for the honor of his birthplace; or after his departure, knowledge of his fame may travel back across the scenes that he has known, and move to better things.
The years went by and the Napier estate got into a bad way and was sold. Captain Hogan became the owner of the site of the village of Lissoy. Now, Captain Hogan was a poet in feeling, and he set about to replace the village that Goldsmith had loved and immortalized. He adopted the name that Goldsmith supplied, and Auburn it is even unto this day.
In the village-green is the original spreading hawthorn-tree, all enclosed in a stone wall to preserve it. And on the wall is a sign requesting you not to break off branches.
Around the trees are seats. I sat there one evening with “talking age” and “whispering lovers.” The mirth that night was of a quiet sort, and I listened to an old man who recited all “The Deserted Village” to the little group that was present. It cost me sixpence, but was cheap for the money, for the brogue was very choice. I was the only stranger present, and quickly guessed that the entertainment was for my sole benefit, as I saw that I was being furtively watched to see how I took my medicine.
A young fellow sitting near me offered a little Goldsmith information, then a woman on the other side did the same, and the old man who had recited suggested that we go over and see the alehouse “where the justly celebhrated Docther Goldsmith so often played his harp so feelin’ly.” So we adjourned to The Three Jolly Pigeons–a dozen of us, including the lovers, whom I personally invited.
“And did Oliver Goldsmith really play his harp in this very room?” I asked.
“Aye, indade he did, yer honor, an’ ef ye don’t belave it, ye kin sit in the same chair that was his.”
So they led me to the big chair that stood on a little raised platform, and I sat in the great oaken seat which was surely made before Goldsmith was born. Then we all took ale (at my expense). The lovers sat in one corner, drinking from one glass, and very particular to drink from the same side, and giggling to themselves.
The old man wanted to again recite “The Deserted Village,” but was forcibly restrained. And instead, by invitation of himself, the landlord sang a song composed by Goldsmith, but which I have failed to find in Goldsmith’s works, entitled, “When Ireland Is Free.” There were thirteen stanzas in this song, and a chorus and refrain in which the words of the title are repeated. After each stanza we all came in strong on the chorus, keeping time by tapping our glasses on the tables.
Then we all drank perdition to English landlords, had our glasses refilled, and I was called on for a speech. I responded in a few words that were loudly cheered, and the very good health of “the ‘Merican Nobleman” was drunk with much fervor.
The Three Jolly Pigeons is arranged exactly to the letter:
“The whitewashed walls, the nicely sanded floor,
The varnished clock that clicked behind the door;
The chest contrived a doubly debt to pay,
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day;
The pictures placed for ornament and use,
The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose.”
And behold, there on the wall behind the big oak chair are “the twelve good rules.”
The next morning I saw the modest mansion of the village preacher “whose house was known to all the vagrant train,” then the little stone church, and beyond I came to the blossoming furze, unprofitably gay, where the village master taught his little school. A bright young woman teaches there now, and it is certain that she can write and cipher too, for I saw “sums” on the blackboard, and I also saw where she had written some very pretty mottoes on the wall with colored chalk, a thing I am sure that Paddy Byrne never thought to do.
Below the schoolhouse is a pretty little stream that dances over pebbles and untiringly turns the wheel in the old mill; and not far away I saw the round top of Knockrue hill, where Goldsmith said he would rather sit with a book in hand than mingle with the throng at the court of royalty.
Goldsmith’s verse is all clean, sweet and wholesome, and I do not wonder that he was everywhere a favorite with women. This was true in his very babyhood. For he was the pet of several good old dames, one of whom taught him to count by using cards as object-lessons He proudly said that when he was three years of age he could pick out the “ten-spot.” This love of pasteboard was not exactly an advantage, for when he was sixteen he went to Dublin to attend college, and carried fifty pounds and a deck of cards in his pocket. The first day in Dublin he met a man who thought he knew more about cards than Oliver did–and the man did: in three days Oliver arrived back in Sweet Auburn penniless, but wonderfully glad to get home and everybody glad to see him. “It seemed as if I ‘d been away a year,” he said.
But in a few weeks he started out with no baggage but a harp, and he played in the villages and the inns, and sometimes at the homes of the rich. And his melodies won all hearts.
The author of “Vanity Fair” says: “You come hot and tired from the day’s battle, and this sweet minstrel sings to you. Who could harm the kind vagrant harper? Whom did he ever hurt? He carries no weapon–only the harp on which he plays to you; and with which he delights great and humble, young and old, the captains in the tent or the soldiers round the fire, or the women and children in the villages at whose porches he stops and sings his simple songs of love and beauty.”
* * * * *
When Goldsmith arrived in London in Seventeen Hundred Fifty-six, he was ragged, penniless, friendless and forlorn. In the country he could always make his way, but the city to him was new and strange. For several days he begged a crust here and there, sleeping in the doorways at night and dreaming of the flowery wealth of gentle Lissoy, where even the poorest had enough to eat and a warm place to huddle when the sun went down.
He at length found work as clerk or porter in a chemist’s shop, where he remained until he got money enough to buy a velvet coat and a ruffled shirt, and then he moved to the Bankside and hung out a surgeon’s sign. The neighbors thought the little doctor funny, and the women would call to him out of the second-story window that it was a fine day, but when they were ill they sent for some one else to attend them.
Goldsmith was twenty-eight, and the thought that he could make a living with his pen had never come to him. Yet he loved books, and he would loiter about bookshops, pricing first editions, and talking poetry to the patrons. He chanced in this way to meet Samuel Richardson, who, because he wrote the first English romance, has earned the title of Father of Lies. In order to get a very necessary loaf of bread, Doctor Goldsmith asked Richardson to let him read proof. So Richardson gave him employment, and in correcting proof the discovery was made that the Irish doctor could turn a sentence, too.
He became affected with literary eczema, and wrote a tragedy which he read to Richardson and a few assembled friends. They voted it “vile, demnition vile.” But one man thought it wasn’t so bad as it might be, and this man found a market for some of the little doctor’s book reviews, but the tragedy was fed to the fireplace. With the money for his book reviews the doctor bought goose quills and ink, and inspiration in bottles.
Grub Street dropped in, shabby, seedy, empty of pocket but full of hope, and little suppers were given in dingy coffeehouses where success to English letters was drunk.
Then we find Goldsmith making a bold stand for reform. He hired out to write magazine articles by the day; going to work in the morning when the bell rang, an hour off at noon, and then at it again until nightfall. Mr. Griffiths, publisher of the “Monthly Review,” was his employer. And in order to hold his newly captured prize, the publisher boarded the pockmarked Irishman in his own house. Mrs. Griffiths looked after him closely, spurring him on when he lagged, correcting his copy, striking out such portions as showed too much genius and inserting a word here and there in order to make a purely neutral decoction, which it seems is what magazine readers have always desired.
Occasionally these articles were duly fathered by great men, as this gave them the required specific gravity.
It is said that even in our day there are editors who employ convict labor in this way. But I am sure that this is not so, for we live in an age of competition, and it is just as cheap to hire the great men to supply twaddle direct as it is to employ foreign paupers to turn it out with the extra expense of elderly women to revise.
After working in the Griffith literary mill for five months, Goldsmith scaled the barricade one dark night, leaving behind, pasted on the wall, a ballad not only to Mrs. Griffiths’ eyebrow, but to her wig as well.
Soon after this, when Goldsmith was thirty years of age, his first book, “Enquiry Into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe,” was published. It brought him a little money and tuppence worth of fame, so he took better lodgings, in Green Arbor Court, proposing to do great things.
Half a century after the death of Goldsmith, Irving visited Green Arbor Court:
“At length we came upon Fleet Market, and traversing it, turned up a narrow street to the bottom of a long, steep flight of stone steps called Breakneck Stairs. These led to Green Arbor Court, and down them Goldsmith many a time risked his neck. When we entered the Court, I could not but smile to think in what out of the way corners Genius produces her bantlings. The Court I found to be a small square surrounded by tall, miserable houses, with old garments and frippery fluttering from every window. It appeared to be a region of washerwomen, and lines were stretched about the square on which clothes were dangling to dry. Poor Goldsmith! What a time he must have had of it, with his quiet disposition and nervous habits, penned up in this den of noise and vulgarity.”
One can imagine Goldsmith running the whole gamut of possible jokes on Breakneck Stairs, and Green Arbor Court, which, by the way, was never green and where there was no arbor.
“I’ve been admitted to Court, gentlemen!” said Goldsmith proudly, one day at The Mitre Tavern.
“Ah, yes, Doctor, we know–Green Arbor Court! and any man who has climbed Breakneck Stairs has surely achieved,” said Tom Davies.
In Seventeen Hundred Sixty, Goldsmith moved to Number Six Wine-Office Court, where he wrote the “Vicar of Wakefield.” Boswell reports Doctor Johnson’s account of visiting him there:
“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 to him 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 half a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork in 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 he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced for me. I looked into it and saw its merits; told the landlady I would soon return, and having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged the rent, not without rating his landlady for having used him so ill.”
For the play of “The Good-Natured Man” Goldsmith received five hundred pounds. And he immediately expended four hundred in mahogany furniture, easy chairs, lace curtains and Wilton carpets. Then he called in his friends. This was at Number Two Brick Court, Middle Temple. Blackstone had chambers just below, and was working as hard over his Commentaries as many a lawyer’s clerk has done since. He complained of the abominable noise and racket of “those fellows upstairs,” but was asked to come in and listen to wit while he had the chance.
I believe the bailiffs eventually captured the mahogany furniture, but Goldsmith held the quarters. They are today in good repair, and the people who occupy the house are very courteous, and obligingly show the rooms to the curious. No attempt at a museum is made, but there are to be seen various articles which belonged to Goldsmith and a collection of portraits that are interesting.
When “The Traveler” was published Goldsmith’s fame was made secure. As long as he wrote plays, reviews, history and criticism he was working for hire. People said it was “clever,” “brilliant,” and all that, but their hearts were not won until the poet had poured out his soul to his brother in that gentlest of all sweet rhymes. I pity the man who can read the opening lines of “The Traveler” without a misty something coming over his vision:
“Where’er I roam, whatever realms I see,
My heart untraveled fondly turns to thee;
Still to my brother turns, with ceaseless pain,
And drags at each remove a lengthening chain.”
This is the earliest English poem which I can recall that makes use of our American Indian names:
“Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around,
And Niagara stuns with thundering sound.”
Indeed, we came near having Goldsmith for an adopted citizen. According to his own report he once secured passage to Boston, and after carrying his baggage aboard the ship he went back to town to say a last hurried word of farewell to a fair lady, and when he got back to the dock the ship had sailed away with his luggage.
His earnest wish was to spend his last days in Sweet Auburn.
“In all my wand’rings round this world of care,
In all my griefs–and God has given my share–
I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown,
Amidst those humble bowers to lay me down;
To husband out life’s taper at its close,
And keep the flame from wasting by repose.
I still had hopes–for pride attends us still–
Amidst the swains to show my book-learned skill,
Around my fire an evening group to draw,
And tell of all I felt and all I saw.
And as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
Pants to the place from whence at first she flew,
I still had hopes, my long vexations past,
Here to return–and die at home at last.”
But he never saw Ireland after he left it in Seventeen Hundred Fifty-four. He died in London in Seventeen Hundred Seventy-four, aged forty-six. On the plain little monument in Temple Church where he was buried are only these words:
Here Lies Oliver Goldsmith.
Hawkins once called on the Earl of Northumberland and found Goldsmith waiting in an outer room, having come in response to an invitation from the nobleman. Hawkins, having finished his business, waited until Goldsmith came out, as he had a curiosity to know why the Earl had sent for him.
“Well,” said Hawkins, “what did he say to you?”
“His lordship told me that he had read ‘The Traveler,’ and that he was pleased with it, and that inasmuch as he was soon to be Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and knowing I was an Irishman, asked what he could do for me!”
“And what did you tell him?” inquired the eager Hawkins.
“Why, there was nothing for me to say, but that I was glad he liked my poem, and–that I had a brother in Ireland, a clergyman, who stood in need of help—-“
“Enough!” cried Hawkins, and left him.
To Hawkins himself are we indebted for the incident, and after relating it Hawkins adds:
“And thus did this idiot in the affairs of the world trifle with his fortunes!”
Let him who wishes preach a sermon on this story. But there you have it! “A brother in Ireland who needs help—-“
The brother in London, the brother in America, the brother in Ireland who needs help! All men were his brothers, and those who needed help were first in his mind.
Dear little Doctor Goldsmith, you were not a hustler, but when I get to the Spirit World, I’ll surely hunt you up!