1848 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. James Granger

John Forster, in Life and Times of Oliver Goldsmith (1848; 1871) 2:279-80 &n.



The poor publisher [Thomas Davies] became alarmed, and a formal defence of the book appeared in the Public Advertiser. Tom was himself a critic, and had taken the field full-armed for his friend (and his property). "Have you seen," he says in a letter to Granger, "an impartial account of Goldsmith's History of England? If you want to know who was the writer of it, you will find him in Russell-street: but Mum!" [Author's note: Nov. 5, 1771. Granger's Letters, 53, 54.]

* Granger, an industrious but not very brilliant person (whom Boswell tried hard to exhibit to Johnson as untainted with whiggery, notwithstanding the patronage of Horace Walpole, vi. 217), has niched Goldsmith so oddly into his Biographical History of England that I may perhaps he forgiven for quoting, from one of the later editions of that successful book, the allusion here. It occurs in a note to an article on Francis Goldsmith of Gray's Inn, who died in 1655, after translating one of the minor works of Grotius. "We had lately a poet of the same name with the person just mentioned, perhaps of the same family, but by no means of the same character. His writings, in general, are much esteemed; but his poetry is greatly admired. Few tragedies have been read with stronger emotions of pity than the distressful scenes in the Vicar of Wakefield; yet we cannot but regret that the author of the Traveller (decies repetita placebit) should have undervalued his genius so far as to write a romance." Biog. Hist. iv. 40. What worthy Mr. Granger must have thought of those dull dogs, Fielding and Smollett, who wrote hardly anything else, the reader may be left to imagine. Tom Davies published Granger's book, and made money by it; nor is it possible to read the Letters from which I have quoted in the text without constantly recurring laughter at the amusing airs of importance displayed by Tom to his modest, inexperienced, deferential, laborious, biographical parson. In one of the more strict letters of business, I may add, Goldsmith's name is introduced; and it may serve to show the estimation in which he now stood (13th November, 1769), that his good word in society was thought worth securing by the bribe of a presentation copy. "I have," writes Davies, "taken all the pains I can to make your book as public as possible. The advertisements have cost me a great deal of money; and I have made presents of several copies printed on one side, in order to promote the sale of your book. I have given presents, as above, to the following gentlemen: Dr. Askew; Dr. Ducarel, of the Commons; the Rev. Mr. Bernard, a worthy clergyman in Cambridgeshire; Mr. Farmer, of Cambridge, author of the Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare; Dr. Goldsmith; the Rev. Mr. Bowle," &c. Granger's Letters, 25-29.