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learned the lesson, that we must be just before we are generous, and that there is little commendable in the generosity which prompts us to give away what is not our own.
Some interesting reminiscences of the poet, while living in Green Arbour-court, are preserved by Washington Irving. “An old woman,” he says, " was still living, in 1820, who was a relative of the identical landlady whom Goldsmith had relieved by the money received from the pawnbroker. She was a child about seven years of age at the time that the poet rented his apartment of her relative, and used frequently to be at the house in Green Arbourcourt. She was drawn there, in a great measure, by the goodhumoured kindness of Goldsmith, who was always exceedingly fond of the society of children. He used to assemble those of the family in his room, give them cakes and sweetmeats, and set them dancing to the sound of his flute. He was very friendly to those around him, and cultivated a kind of intimacy with a watchmaker in the court, who possessed much native wit and humour. He passed most of the day, however, in his room, and only went out in the evenings. His days were, no doubt, devoted to the drudgery of the pen, and it would appear that he occasionally found the booksellers urgent taskmasters. On one occasion, a visitor was shown up to his room, and immediately their voices were heard in high altercation, and the key was turned within the lock. The landlady, at first, was disposed to go to the assistance of her lodger, but a calm succeeding, she forbore to interfere. Late in the evening the door was unlocked, a supper ordered by the visitor from a neighbouring tavern, and Goldsmith and his intrusive guest finished the evening in great good-humour. It was probably his old taskmaster Griffiths, whose press might have been waiting, and who found no other mode of getting a stipulated task from Goldsmith than by locking him in, and staying by him till it was finished.”
The scene now shifts to Wine Office-court, Fleet-street, and
there we follow our poet. He now resided with an acquaintance or relation of Newberry, a famous publisher of books for children. He wrote much for that kindly person, and found probably a better patron and paymaster than Mr. Griffiths—for Goldsmith's circumstances were in a decidedly improved condition after he left Green Arbour-court; yet for his former landlady he seems to have retained a benevolent regard, as we are informed " that he often supplied her with food from his own table, and visited her frequently with the sole purpose to be kind to her.” A debating club, called the Robin Hood, used to meet in those days somewhere near Temple Bar; and there, at the conventions of the men of wit and letters, with others who had pretensions to neither, Goldsmith made his appearance. He was introduced for the first time by an Irish acquaintance of the name of Derry. It happened that the chair was that evening occupied by a baker, who seemed mightily elated with an idea of his own importance. “This," said Goldsmith, “must be the Lord Chancellor at least." “ No, no," replied his companion," he is only master of the rolls.”
There is a building in Islington closely connected with Oliver Goldsmith. Here, again, we have to note the ravages of picturesque relics carried on by the steady march of utilitarian improvement. There lies before us an engraving of Canonbury House as it was fifty years ago, with a large piece of water flowing in front, with green-bordered banks, and a line of rustic paling. Squares and streets have risen up in close contiguity to this ancient edifice, and changed the face and fashion of the whole vicinity, blotting out all its rustic accompaniments and destroying its country views. But the old watch-tower remains, built in with modern dwellings. The bricks are black with age, the door retains an antique look, and the little windows speak of times long gone by. Some writers relate that Goldsmith resided here. Sir John Hawkins, his biographer, states that Newberry, the publisher, had
apartments in the house; and that the poet there concealed himself from his creditors. It is probable that it was only an occasional and temporary abode; but it has linked itself with his name, by the report that in one of the rooms, still preserved, Goldsmith wrote his “ Deserted Village.”
Washington Irving describes the room as a relic of the original style of the castle, with panelled ornaments and gothic windows. Our attempt to verify his description was fruitless, as the present inhabitant of the classic dwelling would not admit us to the interior, sensible, no doubt, of the annoyance attendant upon allowing it to remain a show-house, when what Irving relates in the person of his. hero, in the “ Tales of a Traveller," would often occur. “ In the midst of a vein of thought, or a moment of literary inspiration, I was interrupted, and all my ideas put to flight, by my intolerable landlady tapping at the door, and asking me if I would just please to let a lady and a gentleman come in and take a look at Mr. Goldsmith's room.' Perhaps the distinguished American is here actually giving his own experience, and we are to add him to the celebrities of Canonbury Tower--a man who, for delicacy of genius, is not unlike the poet he celebrates.
Hone, in his “Every-day Book,” gives a further account of the room, of which, from want of personal inspection, we are glad to avail ourselves. The occupant in his time was but one generation removed from a relative who lived there when Goldsmith was a lodger. She affirmed that he wrote his “ Deserted Village” in the oak room on the first floor, and slept on a large press bedstead placed in the eastern corner. From this room, Mr. Hone informs us, “ two small ones for sleeping in have since been separated, by the removal of the panelled oak wainscoting from the north-east wall, and the cutting of two doors through it, with a partition between them: and since Goldsmith was here the window on the south side has been broken through.” We are pot certain whether it was
while tarrying in Islington that Goldsmith wrote that pleasant “History of England,” the most pleasant of our old school-books, though, by the way, not always conveying just views of our country's heroes and vicissitudes : at any rate the work is connected with Islington. He used to read Hume, Rapin, Carte, and Kennet in a morning, and having made a few notes, would ramble out into the fields round this neighbourhood, and then return to a temperate dinner and cheerful evening, writing off before he went to bed what had arranged itself in his mind from his morning studies. The headquarters of the poet seem still to have been in Wine Office-court, •and there it was that Johnson found him, driven to extremities by his landlady's application for rent, and relieved him from difficulty, by taking a MS. Goldsmith had just written, and selling it to a publisher for sixty pounds. It was no other than the famous “ « Vicar of Wakefield.” “I brought Goldsmith the money,” says the old king of critics, “and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill.”
The scene changes. We must walk to the Temple, to chambers on the library staircase, and there we find the poet "a kind of inmate with Jeff, the butler of the society.” The apartments appear to have been of a very humble sort; but then there were the Temple Gardens and the river Thames at hand, which, in the estimation of such a man as Goldsmith, must have made up for many deficiencies. His biography takes us, during his abode there, to a very different place under very amusing circumstances, which we cannot do better than relate in his own words: “Having received an invitation to wait upon the Earl of Northumberland,” he says, “I dressed myself in the best manner I could, and after studying some compliments I thought necessary on such an occasion, proceeded to Northumberland House, and acquainted the servants that I had particular business with the duke. They showed me into an antechamber, where, after waiting some time, a
gentleman very elegantly dressed made his appearance. Taking him for the duke, I delivered all the fine things I had composed in order to compliment him on the honour he had done me: when, to my great astonishment, he told me I had mistaken him for his master, who would see me immediately. At that instant the duke came into the apartment, and I was so confounded on the occasion, that I wanted words barely sufficient to express the sense I entertained of the duke's politeness, and went away exceedingly chagrined at the blunder I had committed.” Poor bashful man, by no means learned in the ways of this world! Sir John Hawkins, a man of a different stamp, who gives a further account of the interview between the author and the duke, blames the former for a want of dexterity in pushing his own interests. Northumberland was just going to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant, and he told Goldsmith he should be glad to do him a kindness. The visitor, much more from generosity than from confusion, commended his brother, a poor clergyman, to his grace's patronage: but sought not hing for himself.
Goldsmith gets five hundred pounds for his “Good-natured Man," and forth with his domicile bears witness to his altered fortune. “Jeff the butler's rooms” are exchanged for the second floor of No. 2, Brick Court, Temple, overlooking the pleasant garden on the river bank. The spendthrift gives 4001. for the lease, and squanders the rest upon splendid carpets and furniture, a suit of
Tyrian bloom, satin-grain ” and another “lined with silk and furnished with gold buttons.” He invites Johnson, Reynolds, Percy, and Bickerstaff to gay entertainments; and it is amusing to learn that the occupant of the ground floor is no other than the great lawyer Blackstone, who in his erudite studies, out of which grow his far-famed “Commentaries on the Laws of England,” sadly complains of the racket made overhead by neighbour Goldsmith's company. There they are positively playing at blind man’s buff!