1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Oliver Goldsmith

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 195.



He hung loosely on society, without wife or domestic tie. He received 850 for The History of Animated Nature, largely a translation from Buffon. But debt had him in its talons. Still he would give away to any needy person the last penny he had in his own pocket. His chambers were the resort of a congregation of poor people whom he habitually relieved. At last Goldsmith grew to be abrupt, odd, and abstracted. The alarm of his friends was excited. At that date a literary association used to meet at St. James's Coffee-house. Garrick, Burke, Cumberland, Reynolds, and others were regular attendants. A night of meeting having arrived, and Goldsmith being late, as usual, the members amused themselves by writing epitaphs on him as "the late Dr. Goldsmith." When he came, these effusions were read to him. On returning home, he commenced his poem entitled Retaliation. It was never completed, for fever seized him at his work. A doctor being called in, asked, "Is your mind at ease?" "No, it is not," were the last words Goldsmith uttered. He was seized with convulsions on the morning of April 4th, 1774, and died, at the age of forty-six. He was 2000 in debt. "Was ever poet so trusted before!" exclaimed Johnson.