Monday, 4 April 2016

April‭ ‬4‭ ‬1774:‭ ‬Oliver Goldsmith [above]*,‭ ‬Irish novelist,‭ ‬playwright and poet,‭ ‬died in London on this day.‭ ‬He was born in the Irish Midlands in about‭ ‬1730‭ ‬the son of an Anglican clergyman.‭ ‬At the age of eight he had a severe attack of smallpox which disfigured him for life.‭ ‬He studied Theology and Law at Trinity College in Dublin during the‭ ‬1740s and eventually graduated from there as a Bachelor of Arts in‭ ‬1749.‭ ‬While a student he picked up a taste for the good life of drinking,‭ ‬singing and playing cards.‭ ‬He spent some time studying Medicine in Edinburgh and in Leiden in the Austrian Netherlands but gave it up.‭ ‬He then drifted about and wandered on foot across Flanders,‭ ‬France,‭ ‬Switzerland and Northern Italy.‭ ‬He survived on his wits and‭ ‘‬busked‭’ ‬for a living when he could.

‭ ‬He settled in London in‭ ‬1756‭ ‬and started to earn an income by the pen.‭ ‬Necessity being the mother of invention he produced much low grade material but some gems too as he honed his art.‭ ‬His fortunate inclusion in‭ ‘‬the Club‭’ ‬of Samuel Johnson gave him an introduction to many of the City’s literati.‭ ‬Though Boswell depicted him as a ridiculous,‭ ‬blundering,‭ ‬but tender hearted and generous creature.

His most famous works are his novel‭ ‬The Vicar of Wakefield‭ (‬1766‭) ‬a‭  ‬humorous melodrama and his short and ironic poem‭ ‬An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog of the same year‭ ; ‬his poem‭ ‬The Deserted Village‭ (‬1770‭) ‬a lament on a fictional Irish village in the Midlands and his play‭ ‬She Stoops to Conquer‭ (‬1773‭) ‬a comedy of manners,‭ ‬all made his name.‭ ‬He also turned out many works of lesser importance including Histories and works on Philosophy which helped give him a lucrative income.

He was known as a very generous man but with extravagant tastes and when he died he owed‭ ‬£2,000‭ – ‬a small fortune in those days.‭ ‬He had a close relationship with Mary Horneck,‭ ‬with whom he fell in love in‭ ‬1769‭ ‬but they never married.‭ ‬He died after a short illness in‭ ‬1774‭ ‬and was buried in the Church of St Mary or‭ ‘‬The Temple‭’‬.‭ ‬His Latin Epitaph by Johnson was praise indeed:‭

Oliver Goldsmith:‭ ‬A Poet,‭ ‬Naturalist,‭ ‬and Historian,‭ ‬who left scarcely any style of writing untouched,‭ ‬and touched nothing that he did not adorn.‭ ‬Of all the passions,‭ ‬whether smiles were to move or tears,‭ ‬a powerful yet gentle master.‭ ‬In genius,‭ ‬vivid,‭ ‬versatile,‭ ‬sublime.‭ ‬In style,‭ ‬clear,‭ ‬elevated,‭ ‬elegant.

A statue of him stands outside the front doors of his old Alma Mater,Trinity College Dublin.‭ ‬

* Oliver Goldsmith by Sir Joshua Reynolds

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