Oliver Goldsmith

Oliver Goldsmith

Oliver Goldsmith

Oliver Goldsmith

Excerpt

The best way to find out why Goldsmith's writings are usually characterized as charming is to enquire into the nature of the man who wrote them; and the most rewarding way of doing this is to read his original writings, those pieces of self-expression which were accomplished in the midst of writing for the periodicals, of compiling for publishers, when 'sheet after sheet was thrown off to oblivion'. Though much of his hack-work is still readable for the ease of its style, for its characteristic delicacy of thought, and even for its occasional perspicacity, the real Goldsmith is to be found in the wise writings which drew largely upon his own experience, and in which his own generosity and gullibility are irradiated by a sense of sheer fun.

By the time he died in his forties in 1774, Goldsmith had composed out of a deep awareness of both the blessings and sorrows of life two of the eighteenth century's best known poems, The Traveller and The Deserted Village; he had written The Vicar of Wakefield, the novel upon which his fame has rested secure, strengthened throughout the nineteenth century by Goethe's intense approbation; he had created She Stoops to Conquer, a successful comedy which still delights audiences in our time, and he had written many urbanely amusing yet subtly serious essays. Why, when he had written so well and with such versatility, and his friends had recognized his merits, his literary achievement, did he die obsessed with a sense of sadness and unease? When one of the doctors attending him in his last brief illness asked him if his mind was at case he answered poignantly, 'No, it is not'.

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