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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

Sidenote 1774 Goldsmith and Dr


The

same pervading cheerfulness, the same sunny philosophy, which is, however, by no means the philosophy of Pangloss, informs all his work. Beau Tibbs boasting in his garret; Dr. Primrose in Newgate; the good-natured man, seated between two bailiffs, and trying to converse with his heart's idol as if nothing had happened; Mr. Hardcastle, foiled for the five-hundredth time in the tale of Old Grouse in the Gun Room; each is an example of Goldsmith's method and of Goldsmith's manner. If Goldsmith did not enjoy while he lived all the admiration, all the rewards that belonged of right to his genius, the generations that have succeeded have made amends for the errors of their ancestors. "She Stoops to Conquer" is still the most successful of the stock comedies. If "The Good-Natured Man" can scarcely be said to have kept the stage, it is still the delight of the student in his closet. What satires are better known than the letters of the "Citizen of the World"? What spot on the map is more familiar than Sweet Auburn? As for the "Vicar of Wakefield," what profitable words could now be added to {171} its praise? It has conquered the world, it is dear to every country and known in every language, it has taken its place by unquestionable right with the masterpieces of all time.

[Sidenote: 1774--Goldsmith and Dr. Johnson]

"Dr. Goldsmith," said his most famous friend of the man who was then lying in the Temple earth--"Dr.

Goldsmith was wild, sir, but he is so no more." This epitaph has been quoted a thousand times, but it must in no sense be taken as a summing-up of the dead man's career. It was a rebuke, justly administered, to the critic who at such a moment could have the heart to say that Oliver Goldsmith had been wild. Dr. Johnson, who uttered the rebuke, put the same thought even more profoundly in a letter addressed to Bennet Langton shortly after Goldsmith's death. In this letter he announces Goldsmith's death, speaks of his "folly of expense," and concludes by saying, "But let not his frailties be remembered; he was a very great man." These simple words are infinitely more impressive than the magniloquence of the epitaph which Johnson wrote on Goldsmith.

Goldsmith lived in London and he died in London, and he lies buried in the precincts of the Temple. The noise, and rattle, and roar of London rave daily about his grave. Around it rolls the awful music of a great city that has grown and swollen and extended its limits and multiplied its population out of all resemblance to that little London where Goldsmith lived and starved and made merry, and was loved, and dunned, and sorrowed for. The body that first drew breath among the pleasant Longford meadows, which seem to stretch in all directions to touch the sky, lies at rest within the humming, jostling, liberties of the Temple. It is perhaps fitting that the grave of one who all his life loved men and rejoiced so much in companionship should be laid in a place where the foot of man is almost always busy, where silence, when it comes at all, comes only with the night.


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