I am aware that what I am about to relate will somewhat subject myself to ridicule. It was the fashion of some authors frequently to retail poor Goldsmith's absurdities; but they, at times, misrepresented or exaggerated. I recollect, one evening he had launched out unboundedly, and next morning I ventured to say to him, that "I was surprised that in that company he would lay himself so open." His answer was. "I believe I did; I fired at them all; I angled all the night, but I caught nothing." When he was scheming some essay perhaps, he would force the subject on every body, till Johnson has been quite provoked, and at last did say, "My dear Doctor, let us have no more of your fooleries to-night." Mr. Boswell and others have given some account of these particular absurdities of Goldsmith relative to the fantoccini, then exhibiting in London; and as I was present at the greater part of what then passed I will beg to trespass with all the truth I know. Dr. Goldsmith spoke most highly of the performance in Panton-street, and talked about bringing out a comedy of his own there in ridicule. When the Rev. Wm. Ludlam, the great mechanic, of Leicester, came to town, I often talked about Goldsmith to him, and persuaded him to go and see the puppet-show. He was quite surprised and entertained, and declared that at the conclusion of the little comedy, the puppets acted so naturally that, though he placed himself close to the stage, he could scarce detect either string or wire. I was with Goldsmith there; but whether that night or not I cannot specify. Goldsmith merely was made known to Ludlam by me, and his low humour was not ill adapted to Ludlam's own style of conversation; however, I will add Mr. Ludlam's own remark: "I have caught many a cold by examining the dock-yards; however, in future, I believe, I must come to London, and instead of attending our mechanical societies, and rummaging for improvements afterwards, I must only visit fantoccinis, and frequent the harlequin farces. I cannot guess where the managers collect all these able mechanists." Ludlam was likewise excessively fond of music, and I introduced Mrs. Barthelemon to him at Leicester. She was a great favourite; and many of my musical friends very kindly entertained him in town with particular performances, and he was offered to take an interior view of both the great theatres. Ludlam occasionally entertained his friends at Leicester, with some Chinese Tumblers, which he had made. They were dressed puppets, with quicksilver in the veins, and surprised even at Cambridge. However, on leaving London this time, he turned to me, and slyly said, "The first thing I shall do at my return will be to burn my Chinese tumblers."
Polly Pattens, in the Puppet-show, meant Mrs. Yates; but when Foote mentioned the names of Kelly, Cumberland, and Cradock on the stage, the audience would not permit him to proceed. The scene was printed in the Bon Ton Magazine, and illustrated by a good print, representing Foote, a strong likeness, the Devil, Polly Pattens, Harlequin, Punch, and Stevens.
Goldsmith at that time greatly wished to bring out a comedy, but he had powerful rivals to contend with, who were in full possession of the town. Goldsmith's turn was for very low humour, always dangerous; but when some authors hinted to him, that for a man to write genteel comedy it was necessary that he should be well acquainted with high life himself; — "True," says Goldsmith; "and if any of you have a character of a truly elegant lady in high life, who is neither a coquette or a prude, I hope you will favour me with it." Some one observed, that Millament was the most refined character he recollected in any comedy, neither a prude nor a coquette; and I then ventured to say, that "however refined Millament might be, I thought no very delicate lady would now venture upon her raillery of Mirabel, who declares, 'When I'm married to you, I'll positively get up in a morning as early as I please;' and the refined and delicate lady replies, 'Oh! to be sure; get up, idle creature.'" The cry was, "Goldsmith is envious;" but surely it was a little irritating to hear the town ring with applause of Garrick, and see him courted every where, and in the height of splendour, whilst he, perhaps, had only to retire "impransus" to the Temple.
About the time that I think Boswell wrote a prologue in compliment to Johnson at Lichfield, a proposal was made for the play of the Beaux Stratagem to be acted there, by a party of friends, in honour of Johnson and Garrick. Mr. Yates offered all assistance from Birmingham, where he was then manager, and, if required, to play Scrub.
"No," says Goldsmith; "I should of all things like to try my hand at that character." Several smiled, thinking perhaps of his assuming such a part, who frequently, with his gold-headed cane, assumed the real character of Doctor of Physic. However, the thought amused Goldsmith at the time. It was the fashion to say, that Goldsmith's turn was merely for low humour; and that his Vicar, his Moses, and his Tony Lumpkin, were characters now obsolete. However, Goldsmith often retaliated with good effect. Dick Yates at that time was much admired in Old Fondlewife, and Goldsmith said he "was surprised, in this refined age, to see Lord North and all his family in the stage-box; to be sure, Mr. Yates being admonished not to sing 'The soldier and the sailor' in another refined comedy, was a good sign of delicacy." I was, however, with Mr. Yates at his house just after he had received this order, and he expressed himself in violent terms against it, insomuch that I doubted whether he would play the part of Ben, unless permitted as for forty years past. At last he complied.
I wrote an Epilogue, in the character of Tony Lumpkin, for "She Stoops to Conquer," and likewise the following Song:
TALLY-HO! A Song, intended to have been sung by Mr. Quick, in the character of Tony Lumkin, in Goldsmith's comedy of "She Stoops to Conquer."
Mine alone is the age,
When all pleasures engage,
The horses and hounds can bestow;
Among the great folks,
What their whims and their jokes,
Compar'd with a good Tally-ho!
To learn the soft airs
Of your opera players,
For ever the fine ladies go;
Ah! what are such joys
But low trifles and toys,
Compar'd with a good Tally-ho!
They can say that in time,
I should marry — refine,
If to courts and thier balls I would go;
But when tied up for life
To a termagant wife,
In vain I might cry, Tally-ho!
The Epilogue and Song were intended for Mr. Quick. He would, if any one, have carried them both through. The Epilogue was thought too personal, and occasioned some dissention, though not with my friend Goldsmith. That, curtailed and printed at the end of the Comedy was without either my knowledge or consent. Some of the allusions might be rather "trop libre," but it had reference to Foote's Puppet-show, which certainly was not expected to be strictly correct, nor was the character of Tony Lumpkin too refined. No comic prologue was ever more admired than Garrick's to "Barbarossa;" but what is a part of it?
I particularly recollect, that when Goldsmith was near completing his "Natural History," he sent to Dr. Percy and me, to state that he wished not to return to town, from Windsor I think, for a fortnight, if we would only complete a proof that lay upon his table in the Temple. It was concerning birds, and many books lay open that he occasionally consulted for his own materials. We met by appointment; and Dr. Percy, smiling, said, "Do you know any thing about birds?" "Not an atom," was my reply: "do you?" "Not I," says he, "scarce know a goose from a swan: however, let us try what we can do." We set to work, and our task was not very difficult. Sometime after the work appeared, we compared notes, but could not either of us recognise our own share. I come now to the last day but one I passed with poor Goldsmith (see vol. I. p. 234), whose loss (with whatever faults he might have) I shall ever lament whilst "memory of him holds its seat." At his breakfast in the Temple, as usual, I offered every aid in my power as to his works; some amendments had been agreed upon in his "Traveller," and more particularly his "Deserted Village." Some of the bad lines in the latter I have by me marked. "As to my 'Hermit,' that poem, Cradock, cannot be amended." I knew he had been offered ten pounds for the copy; and it was introduced into the "Vicar of Wakefield," to which he applied himself entirely for a fortnight, to pay a journey to Wakefield. "As my business then lay there," said he, "that was my reason for fixing on Wakefield as the field of action. I never took more pains than in the first volume of my 'Natural History;' surely that was good, and I was handsomely repaid for the whole. My 'Roman History,' Johnson says, is well abridged." Indeed, I could have added, that Johnson (when Goldsmith was absent), would frequently say, "Why, sir, whatever that man touches he adorns;" for like Garrick, when not present, he considered him as a kind of sacred character. After a general review of papers lying before him, I took leave; when, turning to his studytable, he pointed to an article I had procured for him, and said, "You are kindest to me." I only replied, "You mean more rude and saucy than some others." However, much of the conversation took a more melancholy tone than usuaI, and I became very uneasy about him.
When I returned to town after his death (see vol. I. p. 236), I had an interview with his nephew, an apothecary in Newman-street, and the two sister milliners, the Miss Gunns, who resided at a house at the corner of Temple-lane, who were always most attentive to him, and who once said to me, most feelingly, "O, sir, sooner persuade him to let us work for him, gratis, than suffer him to apply to any other; we are sure that he will pay us if he can." Circumstanced as he was, I know not what more could have been done for him. It was said, he improperly took laudanum; but all was inwardly disturbed.
Had the Doctor freely laid open all the debts he had contracted, I am certain that his zealous friends were so numerous, that they would freely have contributed to his relief. I mean here explicitly to assert only, that I believe he died miserable, and that his friends were not entirely aware of his distress.
Where the Doctor thought there was a sincere regard, he was not fastidious, but would listen with attention to the remonstrance of one whom he believed to be his friend; and when he assented to give his name for a mere trifle to a new publication, about which he never meant to give himself much trouble, I more than once spoke freely to him.
Goldsmith and I (with great satisfaction I now speak it) never had a serious dispute in our lives; we freely gave and took. He rallied me on my Cambridge pedantry, and I hinted at illegitimate education; for, to speak on my mended judgment, Johnson, he, Garrick, and some others, had convinced me "that all literature was not confined to our own academical world." Goldsmith truly said, I was nibbling about elegant phrases, whilst he was obliged to write half a volume. With respect to University education, even Mr. Professor Mainwaring was often provoked at Hurd's fastidious opinions; and it was well that my friend Mr. Russell, who afterwards possessed two good livings close to my house, did not reside in Leicestershire at an earlier period. He had lived in all companies whilst officiating for twenty years at Mary-le-bone; and in the highest, where the subjects of discussion were old law or antiquities. He spoke in no measured terms of Hurd's refinements.