1831 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Oliver Goldsmith

John Wilson Croker, Note in Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 1:423n.



Colonel O'Moore, of Cloghan Castle in Ireland, told me an amusing instance of the mingled vanity and simplicity of Goldsmith, which (though, perhaps, coloured a little, as anecdotes too often are) is characteristic at least of the opinion which his best friends entertained of Goldsmith. One afternoon, as Colonel O'Moore and Mr. Burke were going to dine with Sir Joshua Reynolds, they observed Goldsmith (also on his way to Sir Joshua's) standing near a crowd of people, who were staring and shouting at some foreign women in the windows of one of the houses in Leicester-square. "Observe Goldsmith," said Mr. Burke to O'Moore, "and mark what passes between him and me by-and-by at Sir Joshua's." They passed on, and arrived before Goldsmith, who came soon after, and Mr. Burke affected to receive him very coolly. This seemed to vex poor Goldsmith, who begged Mr. Burke would tell him how he had had the misfortune to offend him. Burke appeared very reluctant to speak; but, after a good deal of pressing, said, "that he was really ashamed to keep up an intimacy with one who could be guilty of such monstrous indiscretions as Goldsmith had just exhibited in the square." Goldsmith, with great earnestness, protested he was unconscious of what was meant. "Why," said Burke, "did you not exclaim, as you were looking up at those women, what stupid beasts the crowd must be for staring with such admiration at those painted jezebels; while a man of your talents passed by unnoticed?" Goldsmith was horror-struck, and said, "Surely, surely, my dear friend, I did not say so?" "Nay," replied Burke, "if you had not said so, how should I have known it?" "That's true," answered Goldsmith, with great humility, "I am very sorry — it was very foolish; I do recollect that something of the kind passed through my mind, but I did not think I had uttered it."