MoboReader> Literature > Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century

   Chapter 5 GOLDSMITH, REYNOLDS, AND SOME OF THEIR CIRCLE

Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century By Virginia Tatnall Peacock Characters: 32054

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


One of Sir James Thornhill's illustrious sitters was Sir Isaac Newton, who lived within a stone's throw of Hogarth's London house, just round the corner out of Leicester Square, at No. 35 St. Martin's Street. Here Sir Isaac made his home from 1720 to 1725. The red brick walls have been stuccoed over; and the observatory that the philosopher built for himself on the roof, after being turned into a Sunday-school, was removed about forty years ago, and helped to supply pews for the Orange Street Chapel that stands next door.

The greatest of Newton's work was done before he set up in St. Martin's Street, but he told a friend that the happiest years of his life had been spent in the observatory there. Though he kept his carriage, lived in some style, had half-a-dozen male and female servants, and was always hospitable, he was not fond of society, and talked but little in it. Johnson once remarked to Sir William Jones that if Newton had flourished in ancient Greece, he would have been worshipped as a divinity, but there was nothing godlike in his appearance. "He was a man of no very promising aspect," says Herne; and Humphrey Newton describes his famous relative as of a carriage "meek, sedate, and humble; never seeming angry, of profound thought, his countenance mild, pleasant, and comely. He always kept close to his studies.... I never knew him to take any recreation or pastime, thinking all hours lost that were not spent in his studies." There are a good many stories told of his eccentricities and absent-mindedness. He would ride through London in his coach with one arm out of the window on one side and one out on the other; he would sometimes start to get up of a morning and sit down on his bed, absorbed in thought, and so remain for hours without dressing himself; and, when his dinner was laid, he would walk about the room, forgetting to eat it, and carelessly eat it standing when his attention was called to it. On one occasion, when he was leading his horse up a hill, he found, when he went to remount on reaching the top, that the animal had slipped its bridle and stayed behind without his perceiving it, and he had nothing in his hand but some of the harness. "When he had friends to entertain," according to Dr. Stukeley, "if he went into his study to fetch a bottle of wine, there was danger of his forgetting them," and not coming back again. And it is told of this same Dr. Stukeley that he called one day to see Newton, and was shown into the dining-room, where Sir Isaac's dinner was in readiness. After a long wait, feeling hungry as well as impatient, Stukeley ate the cold chicken intended for his host, and left nothing but the bones. By-and-by Sir Isaac entered, made his greetings and apologies, and, whilst they were talking, drew a chair to the table, took off the dish-cover, and at sight of the bones merely observed placidly, "How absent we philosophers are! I had forgotten that I had dined!"

SIR ISAAC NEWTON'S HOUSE. ST. MARTIN'S STREET. W.C.

Later, this same house in St. Martin's Street was occupied by Dr. Burney and his daughter Fanny, who wrote Evelina here.

Near by, in Leicester Square again, on the opposite side, and almost exactly facing Hogarth's residence, was the house of Sir Joshua Reynolds. From 1753 to 1761 Sir Joshua lived at 5 Great Newport Street, which was built in Charles II.'s days, and is still standing. It is now and has for a century past been occupied by a firm of art dealers; so that it happens from time to time that a picture of Reynolds's is here put up for sale, "on the very spot where it was painted." But in the crowning years of his career-from 1761 till his death, in 1792-Sir Joshua dwelt at 42 Leicester Square, and what was formerly his studio there has been transformed into one of Messrs. Puttick and Simpson's auction rooms. Here is Allan Cunningham's description of it, and of the painter's method of work: "His study was octagonal, some twenty feet long by sixteen broad, and about fifteen feet high. The window was small and square, and the sill nine feet from the floor. His sitters' chair moved on castors, and stood above the floor about a foot and a half. He held his palette by the handle, and the sticks of his brushes were eighteen inches long. He wrought standing, and with great celerity. He rose early, breakfasted at nine, entered his study at ten, examined designs or touched unfinished portraits, till eleven brought him a sitter; painted till four, then dressed, and gave the evenings to company."

SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS' HOUSE. GREAT NEWPORT STREET.

THE STAIRCASE. 41 LEICESTER SQUARE.

And to the best of good company too. By day, the chariot of a duke or a marchioness might drive to his door, and return later to wait for his lordship or her ladyship, who was occupying the sitter's chair, while Sir Joshua was busy at his easel; but of an evening he would have such men as Dr. Johnson, Boswell, Goldsmith, Garrick, Burke (who was living close at hand, in Gerrard Street) gathered about his dinner-table; for in spite of his deafness he was the very soul of sociability. He never got out of his naturally careless, Bohemian habits. He was the favourite portrait-painter of the fashionable world, but mixed with the aristocracy without apeing any of their etiquette. "There was something singular in the style and economy of Sir Joshua's table that contributed to pleasantry and good-humour; a coarse, inelegant plenty, without any regard to order and arrangement," according to Courtenay. "A table prepared for seven or eight was often compelled to contain fifteen or sixteen. When this pressing difficulty was got over, a deficiency of knives, plates, forks, and glasses succeeded. The attendance was in the same style; and it was absolutely necessary to call instantly for beer, bread, or wine, that you might be supplied with them before the first course was over. He was once prevailed on to furnish the table with decanters and glasses at dinner, to save time and prevent the tardy man?uvres of two or three occasional, undisciplined domestics. As these accelerating utensils were demolished in the course of service, Sir Joshua would never be persuaded to replace them. But these trifling embarrassments only served to enhance the hilarity and singular pleasure of the entertainment. The wines, cookery, and dishes were but little attended to; nor was the fish or venison ever talked of or recommended. Amidst this convivial, animated bustle among his guests, our host sat perfectly composed; always attentive to what was said, never minding what was ate or drunk, but left every one at perfect liberty to scramble for himself. Temporal and spiritual peers, physicians, lawyers, actors, and musicians composed the motley group, and played their parts without dissonance or discord."

SIR BENJAMIN WEST'S HOUSE. NEWMAN STREET.

He was so imperturbable and easy-natured that Dr. Johnson said if he ever quarrelled with him he would find it most difficult to know how to abuse him; and even the sharp-tongued Mrs. Thrale praised his peaceful temper, and considered that of him "all good should be said, and no harm." He shared Hogarth's contempt for the old masters; but, unlike Hogarth, he was not loud and aggressive in his objections to them.

"When they talked of their Raphaels, Correggios, and stuff,

He shifted his trumpet, and only took snuff."

It was on Reynolds's suggestion that he and Johnson founded, in 1763, what later became celebrated as the Literary Club. They held their first meetings at the Turk's Head (where Hogarth and Thornhill had previously established their Art Club), and among the original members were Burke, Langton, Beauclerk, Goldsmith, and Sir John Hawkins. The latter, an arrant snob, objected to Goldsmith's election on the ground that he was "a mere literary drudge," but his protest carried no weight with the rest. Five years later, when, under the patronage of the king, Reynolds inaugurated the Royal Academy, Johnson was appointed its first Professor of Ancient Literature, and Goldsmith its first Professor of History, Reynolds himself being its first President-in which office, on his death in 1792, he was succeeded by Benjamin West. West was an American, and had won a considerable reputation in his own country before he came over and settled down in England. He was introduced to Johnson and Reynolds, and was for some time a neighbour of Sir Joshua's, in Castle Street, Leicester Square. But he is more closely associated with the house that still stands at 14 Newman Street, Oxford Street, in which he lived and worked for forty-five years, and in which he died.

A far greater contemporary painter, who moved on the fringes of Sir Joshua's circle, was Gainsborough. That he did not come familiarly into the circle, and sometimes make one of the memorable company that gathered round Reynolds's dinner-table, was owing to some lack of geniality in himself, that kept him from responding to Sir Joshua's friendly advances. He came from Bath to London in 1774, when he was forty-seven years of age, took a studio at Schonberg House, Pall Mall, and it was not long before celebrities and leaders of fashion were flocking to it to sit for their portraits, and he was recognised as a successful rival of Reynolds. Reynolds was so far from feeling jealousy or resentment that he promptly paid his popular rival a visit; but Gainsborough did not trouble himself to return the call. No doubt it was to some extent owing to Reynolds, too, that in the year of his appearance in London he was elected to the council of management of the Royal Academy; but he ignored the honour, did not attend any meetings, and sent nothing to the exhibition. Reynolds was frankly outspoken in his admiration of Gainsborough's work, and was even anxious to have his own portrait painted by him. After some delay appointments were fixed, and Sir Joshua duly went to Schonberg House, and the painting was commenced. But after the first sitting he was taken ill; and when, on his recovery, he wrote to tell Gainsborough that he was ready to come again, he received no reply, and the portrait had to remain an unfinished sketch.

His coldness to Reynolds is inexplicable, for he was a kindly-disposed man, and sociable. He kept almost open house in Pall Mall, and such jovial spirits as the Sheridans, Colman, and Garrick were among the constant guests at his table.

GAINSBOROUGH'S HOUSE. PALL MALL.

The year after Gainsborough's coming to London, Sheridan's Rivals was produced at the Covent Garden Theatre, to be followed two years after by The School for Scandal. Before he was out of his twenties Sheridan had finished his career as a dramatist, turned to politics, and was one of the most brilliant of Parliamentary orators, still remaining principal proprietor of Drury Lane Theatre. All his life he was living beyond his income, borrowing, getting into debt, and dodging duns and bailiffs with the gayest imperturbability. Everybody liked him, and was susceptible to his charm. Wherever the wits foregathered, he was the best drinker, the best talker, and the wittiest among them. Byron writes of him in his Diary: "What a wreck that man is! and all from bad pilotage; for no one had ever better gales, though now and then a little too squally. Poor dear Sherry! I shall never forget the day he and Rogers and Moore and I passed together; when he talked and we listened, without one yawn, from six till one in the morning." In a letter to Moore, Byron records a dinner at which Sheridan, Colman, and a large party were present, and at the finish, when they were all the worse for drink, "Kinnaird and I had to conduct Sheridan down a damned corkscrew staircase, which had certainly been constructed before the discovery of fermented liquors, and to which no legs, however crooked, could possibly accommodate themselves. We deposited him safe at home, where his man, evidently used to the business, waited to receive him in the hall."

This was in October 1815, and 14 Savile Row is the house at which Sheridan was thus deposited by his noble friend. He was then an old man of sixty-four, and a year later he died there, five thousand pounds in debt, and only saved, by the emphatic intervention of the doctor who was attending him, from being arrested by bailiffs as he lay dying, and carried off to a sponging-house in his blankets.

The year that brought Gainsborough to London (1774) was also the year of Goldsmith's death; and I want to get back to Goldsmith for a little, in this chapter, and to say something of Richardson. For it is curiously interesting to note how the lives of all these famous men, though there was little enough in common between some of them, met at certain points and established certain connecting links between them; so that it is possible, as Leigh Hunt has said somewhere, to trace a sort of genealogy of such acquaintanceships, such notable meetings and touchings of "beamy hands," coming down in an unbroken line from Shakespeare to our own day.

Thus, Hogarth first met Johnson in Richardson's parlour at Salisbury Court; and, in 1757, Goldsmith was employed by Richardson, and worked on his printing premises, in the same court, as reader and corrector to the press; and these, and most of the other immortals named in this chapter-including Sheridan, though he was then so young a man that he outlived them all, and counts among the friends of Lord Byron-have a common link in Dr. Johnson, who was so great a Londoner that he must needs have a chapter presently to himself, or one that he shall share with none but the inevitable Boswell.

Whilst Goldsmith was working as one of his employees, Richardson was not only a prosperous printer, he was already the most popular novelist of his day. Pamela, Clarissa Harlowe, and Sir Charles Grandison had carried his fame throughout the kingdom and beyond it, and were drawing rapturous admiration and tears of sentiment from countless admirers in France as well as in England; and, as befitted a man of his means and eminence, he had supplemented his house off Fleet Street with a country residence at Parson's Green, where he died in 1761. Down to 1754, however, his country house was The Grange, at North End, Fulham, then a pretty, old-world spot,-"the pleasantest village within ten miles of London." And it was here that all his novels were written; for he took The Grange in 1738, and Pamela appeared in 1740, and Sir Charles Grandison in 1753. Here, too, he used to give large literary parties, to which Johnson occasionally went with Boswell. But whatever other authors were there, you may safely depend that Fielding was never among the guests; for with all his high morality Richardson was intolerably self-complacent and vain, and never forgave Fielding for burlesquing Pamela as "Shamela," and parodying her impossible virtues in Joseph Andrews.

SHERIDAN'S HOUSE. SAVILE ROW.

Boswell gives two good anecdotes illustrative of Richardson's fretful vanity and the limits of his conversational powers. "Richardson had little conversation," he says Johnson once remarked to him, "except about his own works, of which Sir Joshua Reynolds said he was always willing to talk, and glad to have them introduced. Johnson, when he carried Mr. Langton to see him, professed that he could bring him out in conversation, and used this illusive expression: 'Sir, I can make him rear.' But he failed; for in that interview Richardson said little else than that there lay in the room a translation of his Clarissa into German." And in a footnote to this Boswell adds: "A literary lady has favoured me with a characteristic anecdote of Richardson. One day at his country house at North End, where a large company was assembled at dinner, a gentleman who was just returned from Paris, willing to please Mr. Richardson, mentioned to him a very flattering circumstance-that he had seen his Clarissa lying on the king's brother's table. Richardso

n, observing that part of the company were engaged in talking to each other, affected not to attend to it. But by-and-by, when there was a general silence, and he thought that the flattery might be fully heard, he addressed himself to the gentleman, 'I think, sir, you were saying something about-' pausing in a high flutter of expectation. The gentleman, provoked at his inordinate vanity, resolved not to indulge it, and with an exquisitely sly air of indifference remarked, 'A mere trifle, sir, not worth repeating.' The mortification of Richardson was visible, and he did not speak ten words more the whole day. Dr. Johnson was present, and appeared to enjoy it much."

PUMP COURT. TEMPLE.

While Fielding was roystering in the wild haunts of Bohemian London, gambling at his club, reeling home to his chambers in Pump Court, and writing his novels in odds and ends of soberer time, Richardson was methodically composing his books at Fulham, getting up early of summer mornings, working at his manuscript in the little summer-house that he had built in his garden, then reading over breakfast to the worshipping members of his family the results of his morning's labour. Wherever he went, groups of adoring ladies were sure to gather about him, to chatter fervently of their delight in his interminable stories; and he snuffed up their incense with a solemn and self-satisfied joy, for he took himself as seriously as he was taken by them, and never felt that he was ridiculous, even when he looked it. Not infrequently he would sit in his drawing-room at The Grange, or in the summer-house, surrounded by a rapt audience of feminine believers, who wept as he read aloud to them of the sufferings and heroic virtue of Pamela, or the persecutions of the gentle Clarissa. You cannot think of it without imagining there, in one of the rooms, the comfortable, obese, touchy, rather pompous, double-chinned little gentleman, in his fair wig and dark coat, an ink-horn set in the arm of his chair with a quill sticking out of it, one hand thrust into the front of his waistcoat, the book or manuscript in his hand, reading gravely and deliberately his long, minute dissections of character, his elaborate descriptions of events and incidents, his formal dialogues, pleased when his stilted sentiment or simple sentimentality brought tears to the eyes of his listeners, and not ashamed to shed one or two with them.

He drew a word-portrait of himself for Lady Bradshaigh, which is fairly well known but is worth repeating, and, judging by the portraits we have of him, is a fairly true one. He paints himself as "short, rather plump, about five feet five inches, fair wig, one hand generally in his bosom, the other a cane in it, which he leans upon under the skirts of his coat that it may imperceptibly serve him as a support when attacked by sudden tremors or dizziness, which too frequently attack him, but, thank God! not so often as formerly; looking directly forthright, as passers-by would imagine, but observing all that stirs on either hand of him without moving his short neck; hardly ever turning back; of a light-brown complexion, teeth not yet failing him; smooth faced, and ruddy cheeked; at some times looking to be about sixty-five, at other times much younger; a regular, even pace, stealing away the ground rather than seeming to rid it; a grey eye, too often overclouded by mistiness from the head; by chance lively-very lively it will be, if he have hope of seeing a lady whom he loves and honours."

RICHARDSON'S HOUSE. NORTH END FULHAM.

Richardson's summer-house is long since gone from the garden, and long ago now The Grange was divided in two, and in the half that has been stucco-fronted Burne-Jones went to live in 1867, dying there in 1898.

Five years after Goldsmith had given up proofreading for Richardson, you find him still drudging amid the squalor of Grub Street, still living from hand to mouth, writing reviews and prefaces, revising and preparing new editions of dull books on dull subjects, for a sum of twenty-one pounds compiling a two-volume History of England in the form of a series of letters, and generally subduing his heart and mind to the doing of the wretched hack-work to which the impecunious literary man in all ages has usually been condemned.

His new taskmaster was Mr. Newbery the publisher, and he was living, in those days of 1762, in Wine Office Court, Fleet Street; but the publisher was not altogether ungenerous, and made arrangements that enabled his poor hack to leave town at intervals and work in the fresh air and rural environment of Islington. Newbery had chambers of his own there in Canonbury Tower, and Goldsmith used to put up at a cottage near by that was kept by an elderly Mrs. Fleming, a friend or relative of Newbery's, his bills for board and lodging being periodically settled by his employer, who deducted the amount of them from whatever fell due to Goldsmith from time to time for work done. Fortunately Mrs. Fleming's accounts have been preserved, and we get an idea of Goldsmith's wardrobe from her washing-lists, and learn from the items she carefully details that she now and then lent him small sums in cash-tenpence one day, and one and twopence another; that occasionally, when he had a friend to dinner, though she duly noted it, she ostentatiously made no charge; but when four gentlemen came to take tea with him, she debited him with eighteenpence.

GOLDSMITH'S HOUSE. CANONBURY.

Probably one of those friends who had a free dinner was Hogarth, for he travelled out to Islington occasionally on a visit to Goldsmith; and there is a painting of his which is known as "Goldsmith's Hostess," and is believed to be none other than Mrs. Fleming's portrait.

You remember Boswell's story of how The Vicar of Wakefield saved Goldsmith from imprisonment for debt. "I received one morning a letter from poor Goldsmith that he was in great distress," Johnson told him, "and, as it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion. I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had got a bottle of madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork 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 that he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it, and saw its merit. I told the landlady I should soon return; and, having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill." Everything points to Mrs. Fleming as that harsh landlady, and the lodging in her cottage at Islington as the scene of that famous interlude. The presumption is that Goldsmith had incurred a much heavier liability to her than was covered by what was accruing to him for his services to Newbery, as a result of his giving time to the writing of The Vicar of Wakefield that should have been devoted to his usual drudgery; and the cautious Newbery declined to make further advances, and advised his relative, the landlady, to adopt summary methods for the recovery of her debt. Goldsmith never lodged with Mrs. Fleming after that date; but later, when Newbery took a lease of Canonbury Tower, he was from time to time a guest there, and occupied a room in the turret. During one of these visits he wrote The Traveller; and in later years Charles Lamb often walked across from his Islington home to the Tower to watch the sunset from the summit, and to be entertained by the tenant of it in the panelled chamber where Goldsmith's poem was written.

It was with the publication of The Traveller that Goldsmith began to emerge from Grub Street. Its success was considerable enough to lead to the publisher's looking out the manuscript of The Vicar of Wakefield, and issuing that also; and in 1768, having made five hundred pounds by the production and publishing of The Good-natured Man, he removed from an attic in the Staircase, Inner Temple, and purchased a lease of three rooms on the second floor of 2 Brick Court, Temple. Blackstone, the lawyer, then working on his Commentaries, had chambers immediately below him, and complained angrily of the distracting noises-the singing, dancing, and playing blind-man's-buff-that went on over his head when Goldsmith was entertaining his friends.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH

Pale, round-faced, plain-featured, with a bulging forehead and an ugly, long upper lip, there was more of kindness and geniality than of dignity or intellect in Goldsmith's appearance. "His person was short," says Boswell, who was jealous of his friendship with Johnson, and never realised how great he was, "his countenance was coarse and vulgar, his deportment that of a scholar awkwardly affecting the easy gentleman. Those who were in any way distinguished excited envy in him to so ridiculous an excess that the instances of it are hardly credible." But Boswell misjudged him because, conceited and petty himself, he easily read those qualities into the behaviour of the other, and so misunderstood him. Goldsmith may have had some harmless vanity in the matter of dress, when he could afford to indulge it; but as for vanity of his achievements, that speaking of poetry as

"My shame in crowds, my solitary pride,"

is the spontaneous confession of a naturally shy and diffident spirit. When a man has been buffeted as he had been, has had to slave so hard and wait so long for his reward as he had slaved and waited, he accepts the fame that comes to him merely as wages well earned, and is not likely to grow swollen-headed concerning it. And for his envious character-here is what Boswell gives as a specimen of it. Johnson had come from an unexpected interview with the king, and a party of friends at Sir Joshua Reynolds's house in Leicester Square were gathered about him pressing for a full account of what had taken place. During all the time that Johnson was employed in this narration, remarks Boswell, "Dr. Goldsmith remained unmoved upon a sofa at some distance, affecting not to join in the least in the eager curiosity of the company. He assigned as a reason for his gloom and seeming inattention that he apprehended Johnson had relinquished his purpose of furnishing him with a prologue to his play, with the hopes of which he had been flattered; but it was strongly suspected that he was fretting with chagrin and envy at the singular honour Dr. Johnson had lately enjoyed. At length, the frankness and simplicity of his natural character prevailed. He sprung from the sofa, advanced to Johnson, and in a kind of flutter from imagining himself in the situation which he had just been hearing described, exclaimed, 'Well, you acquitted yourself in this conversation better than I should have done; for I should have bowed and stammered through the whole of it.'" Naturally this talk with the king would not seem such a breathlessly overwhelming honour to such a man as Goldsmith as to such a snob as Boswell. It was in keeping with Goldsmith's nature that he should sit quietly listening and imagining the whole thing as he heard about it, instead of fussing round open-mouthed to pester the narrator with trivial questions; but Boswell was incapable of realising this.

2 BRICK COURT. THE TEMPLE.

When Boswell, in his toadying spirit, was saying that in any conversation Johnson was entitled to the honour of unquestionable superiority, and Goldsmith, with a truer conception of the art and pleasure of social intercourse, replied, "Sir, you are for making a monarchy of what should be a republic," Boswell took it as another proof of Goldsmith's envy, and of his "incessant desire of being conspicuous in company." He goes on to say: "He was still more mortified when, talking in a company with fluent vivacity and, as he flattered himself, to the admiration of all who were present, a German who sat next to him, and perceived Johnson rolling himself as if about to speak, suddenly stopped him, saying, 'Stay, stay! Toctor Shonson is going to say something!' This was no doubt very provoking, especially to one so irritable as Goldsmith, who frequently mentioned it with strong expressions of indignation." A vain man would not have mentioned it frequently, but a man with Goldsmith's sense of fun would be tickled by it, and rejoice to tell it as a joke against himself, simulating indignation to heighten the jest. When he heard that jape at Sir Joshua's table of taking peas to Hammersmith because that was the way to Turn'am Green, and afterwards retelling it muddled the phrase and made nonsense of it, Boswell offers it as further evidence that he was a blundering fool. But it is more likely that he blundered on purpose, merely to raise a laugh, that being his queer, freakish fashion of humour. But the Laird of Auchinleck and some of the others were too staid and heavy to follow his nimble wits in their grotesque and airy dancings.

STAIRS UP TO SECOND FLOOR. 2 BRICK COURT.

Why, even the egregious Boswell has to admit that "Goldsmith, however, was often very fortunate in his witty contests, even when he entered the lists with Johnson himself." And once, when Johnson observed, "It is amazing how little Goldsmith knows; he seldom comes where he is not more ignorant than any one else," Reynolds put in quietly, "Yet there is no man whose company is more liked"; and the Doctor promptly admitted that, saying, "When people find a man of the most distinguished abilities as a writer their inferior while he is with them, it must be highly gratifying to them." But that did not fully explain why he was liked, of course; and what Johnson added as to "what Goldsmith comically says of himself" shows that Goldie knew his own weaknesses, and was amused by them. Lamb would have understood him and laughed with him, for he loved to frivol and play the fool in the same vein. When he was dead, Johnson said he was "a very great man"; and don't you think there is some touch of remorse in that later remark of his, that the partiality of Goldsmith's friends was always against him, and "it was with difficulty we could give him a hearing"?

GOLDSMITH'S GRAVE.

When he lay dead in his chambers at 2 Brick Court, as Forster relates, the staircase was filled with mourners the reverse of domestic-"women without a home, without domesticity of any kind, with no friend but him they had come to weep for; outcasts of that great, solitary, wicked city, to whom he had never forgotten to be kind and charitable. And he had domestic mourners, too. His coffin was reopened at the request of Miss Horneck and her sister (such was the regard he was known to have for them), that a lock might be cut from his hair. It was in Mrs. Gwyn's possession when she died, after nearly seventy years." When Burke was told that Goldsmith was dead, he burst into tears; and when the news reached Reynolds in his Leicester Square painting-room, he laid his brush aside-a thing he had not been known to do even in times of great family distress-left his study, and entered it no more that day. A vain and envious fool is not mourned in that fashion.

"I have been many a time in the chambers in the Temple which were his," writes Thackeray, "and passed up the staircase which Johnson and Burke and Reynolds trod to see their friend, their poet, their kind Goldsmith-the stair on which the poor women sat weeping bitterly when they heard that the greatest and most generous of all men was dead within the black oak door."

No. 2 Brick Court would be memorable enough if it held no other memory; but in 1839 Mackworth Praed died in the same house, and for a short time in 1855 Thackeray too had chambers in it.

* * *

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares