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in any language; whether we regard the sound, and striking, and useful truths in which they abound, or the graceful and entertaining shape in which they are conveyed. ANONYMOUS.
SOAME JENYNS. A DISAGREEMENT about a name or a date will mar the best story that ever was put together. Sir Joshua Reynolds luckily could not hear an interrupter of this sort; Johnson would not hear, or if he heard him, would not heed him ; Soame Jenyns heard him, heeded him, set him right, and took up his tale, where he had left it, without any diminution of its humour, adding only a few more twists to his snuff-box, a few more taps upon the lid of it, with a preparatory grunt or two, the invariable forerunners of the amenity that was at the heels of them. He was the man who bore his part in all societies with the most even temper and undisturbed hilarity of all the good companions whom I ever knew. He came into your house at the very moment you had put upon your card; he dressed himself to do your party honour in all the colours of the jay; his lace indeed had long since lost its lustre; but his coat had faithfully retained its cut since the days when gentlemen wore embroidered figured velvets, with short sleeves, boot-cuffs, and buckram skirts ; as nature had cast him in the exact mould of an ill made pair of stiff stays, he followed her so close in the fashion of his coat, that it was doubted if he did not wear them; because
he had a protuberant wen just under his pole he wore a wig, that did not cover above half his head. His eyes were protruded like the eyes of a lobster, who wears them at the end of his feelers, and yet there was room between one of these and his nose for another wen, that added nothing to his beauty: yet I heard this good man very innocently remark, when Gibbon published his history, that he wondered any body so ugly could write a book.
Such was the exterior of a man, who was the charm of the circle, and gave a zest to every company he came into; his pleasantry was of a sort peculiar to himself; it harmonized with every thing; it was like the bread to our dinner; you did not perhaps make it the whole, or principal part of your meal, but it was an admirable and wholesome auxiliary to your other viands. Soame Jenyns told you no long stories, engrossed not much of your attention, and was not angry with those that did : his thoughts were original, and were apt to have a very whimsical affinity to the paradox in them. He wrote verses upon dancing, and prose upon the origin of evil; yet he was a very indifferent metaphysician, and a worse dancer. Ill nature and personality, with the single exception of his lines upon Johnson, I never heard fall from his lips; those lines I have forgotten, though I believe I was the first person to whom he recited them : they were very bad ; but he had been told that Johnson ridiculed his metaphysics, and some of us had just then been making extemporary epitaphs upon each other. Though his wit was harmless, yet the general VOL. II.
cast of it was ironical; there was a terseness in his repartees that had a play of words as well as of thought; as when speaking of the difference between laying out money upon land, or purchasing into the funds, he said, “ One was principal without interest, and the other interest without principal.” Certain it is he had a brevity of expression, that never hung upon the ear, and you felt the point in the very moment that he made the push. It was rather to be lamented that his lady, Mrs. Jenyns, had so great a respect for his good sayings, and so imperfect a recollection of them; for though she always prefaced her recitals of them with as Mr. Jenyns says-it was not always what Mr. Jenyns said, and never, I am apt to think, as Mr. Jenyns said ; but she was an excellent old lady, and twirled her fan with as much mechanical address as her ingenious husband twirled his snuff-box.
DR. GOLDSMITH. At this time I did not know Oliver Goldsmith even by person; I think our first meeting chanced to be at the British Coffee House; when we came together, we very speedily coalesced ; and I believe he forgave me for all the little fame I had got by the success of my West Indian, which had put him to some trouble; for it was not his nature to be unkind; and I had soon an oppor. tunity of convincing him how incapable I was of harbouring resentment, and how zealously I
took my share in what concerned his interest and reputation. That he was fantastically vain all the world knows; but there was no settled and inherent malice in his heart. He was tenacious to a ridiculous extreme of certain pretensions, that did not, and by nature could not belong to him, and at the same time inexcusably careless of the fame which he had powers to command. His table-talk was, as Garrick aptly compared it, like that of a parrot, whilst he wrote like Apollo : he had gleams of eloquence, and at times a majesty of thought; but in general his tongue and his pen had two very different styles of talking. What foibles he had he took no · pains to conceal; the good qualities of his heart were too frequently obscured by the carelessness of his conduct and the frivolity of his manners. Sir Joshua Reynolds was very good to him, and would have drilled him into better trim and order for society, if he would have been amenable ; for Reynolds was a perfect gentleman, had good sense, great propriety, with all the social attributes, and all the graces of hospitality, equal to any man. . He well knew how to appreciate men of talents, and how near akin the Muse of poetry was to that art of which he was so eminent a master. From Goldsmith he caught the subject of his famous Ugolino; what aids he got from others, if he got any, were worthily bestowed and happily applied.
There is something in Goldsmith's prose that to my ear is uncommonly sweet and harmonious; it is clear, simple, easy to be understood; we never want to read his period twice over, except for the pleasure it bestows; obscurity never calls us back to a repetition of it. That he was a poet there is no doubt; but the paucity of his verses does not allow us to rank him in that high station where his genius might have carried him. There must be bulk, variety, and grandeur of design, to constitute a first-rate poet. The Deserted Village, Traveller, and Hermit, are all specimens beautiful as such; but they are only birds' eggs on a string, and eggs of small birds too. One great magnificent whole must be accomplished before we can pronounce upon the maker to be the į mointn's Pope himself never earned this title by a work of any magnitude but his Homer; and that being a translation only constitutes him an accomplished versifier. Distress drove Goldsmith upon undertakings neither congenial with his studies, nor worthy of his talents.
I remember him, when in his chamber in the Temple, he showed me the beginning of his Animated Nature; it was with a sigh, such as genius draws when hard necessity diverts it from its bent to drudge for bread, and talk of birds and beasts and creeping things, which Pidcock's showman would have done as well. Poor fellow, he hardly knew an ass from a mule, nor a turkey from a goose, but when he saw it on the table. But publishers hate poetry, and Paternoster-row is not Parnassus. Even the mighty Doctor Hill, who was not a very delicate feeder, could not make a dinner out of the press till by a happy transformation into Hannah Glass he turned himself into a cook, and sold receipts for made dishes to all the savoury readers in the kingdom. Then