When he had disappeared, the room was very silent.

Suddenly Goldsmith, who had remained sitting at the table with his face buried in his hands, started up, crying out, “'Rasse-las, Prince of Abyssinia'! How could I be so great a fool as to forget that he published 'Rasselas' since the Dictionary?” He ran to the door and opened it, calling downstairs: “'Rasselas, Prince of Abysinia'!” “Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia'!”

“Sir!” came the roar of Dr. Johnson. “Close that door and return to your chair, if you desire to retain even the smallest amount of the respect which your friends once had for you. Cease your bawling, sir, and behave decently.”

Goldsmith shut the door.

“I did you a gross injustice, sir,” said he, returning slowly to the table. “I allowed that man to assume that you had published no book since your Dictionary. The fact is, that I was so disturbed at the moment I forgot your 'Rasselas.'”

“If you had mentioned that book, you would but have added to the force of your relation's contention, Dr. Goldsmith,” said Johnson. “If I am suspected of being an idle dog, the fact that I have printed a small volume of no particular merit will not convince my accuser of my industry.”

“Those who know you, sir,” cried Goldsmith, “do not need any evidence of your industry. As for that man——”

“Let the man alone, sir,” thundered Johnson.

“Pray, why should he let the man alone, sir?” said Boswell.

“Because, in the first place, sir, the man is a clergyman, in rank next to a Bishop; in the second place, he is a relative of Dr. Goldsmith's; and, in the third place, he was justified in his remarks.”

“Oh, no, sir,” said Boswell. “We deny your generous plea of justification. Idle! Think of the dedications which you have written even within the year.”

“Psha! Sir, the more I think of them the—well, the less I think of them, if you will allow me the paradox,” said Johnson. “Sir, the man is right, and there's an end on't. Dr. Goldsmith, you will convey my compliments to your cousin, and assure him of my good will. I can forgive him for everything, sir, except his ignorance respecting my Dictionary. Pray what is his name, sir?”

“His name, sir, his name?” faltered Goldsmith.

“Yes, sir, his name. Surely the man has a name,” said Johnson.

“His name, sir, is—is—God help me, sir, I know not what is his name.”

“Nonsense, Dr. Goldsmith! He is your cousin and a Dean. Mr. Boswell tells me that he has heard you refer to him in conversation; if you did so in a spirit of boasting, you erred.”

For some moments Goldsmith was silent. Then, without looking up, he said in a low tone:

“The man is no cousin of mine; I have no relative who is a Dean.”

“Nay, Dr. Goldsmith, you need not deny it,” cried Boswell. “You boasted of him quite recently, and in the presence of Mr. Garrick, too.”

“Mr. Boswell's ear is acute, Goldsmith,” said Burke with a smile.

“His ears are so long, sir, one is not surprised to find the unities of nature are maintained when one hears his voice,” remarked Goldsmith in a low tone.

“Here comes Mr. Garrick himself,” said Reynolds as the door was opened and Garrick returned, bowing in his usual pleasant manner as he advanced to the chair which he had vacated not more than half an hour before. “Mr. Garrick is an impartial witness on this point.”

“Whatever he may be on some other points,” remarked Burke.

“Gentlemen,” said Garrick, “you seem to be somewhat less harmonious than you were when I was compelled to hurry away to keep my appointment. May I inquire the reason of the difference?”

“You may not, sir!” shouted Johnson, seeing that Boswell was burning to acquaint Garrick with what had occurred. Johnson quickly perceived that it would be well to keep the visit of the clergyman a secret, and he knew that it would have no chance of remaining one for long if Garrick were to hear of it. He could imagine Garrick burlesquing the whole scene for the entertainment of the Burney girls or the Horneck family. He had heard more than once of the diversion which his old pupil at Lichfield had created by his mimicry of certain scenes in which he, Johnson, played an important part. He had been congratulating himself upon the fortunate absence of the actor during the visit of the clergyman.

“You may tell Mr. Garrick nothing, sir,” he repeated, as Garrick looked with a blank expression of interrogation around the company.

“Sir,” said Boswell, “my veracity is called in question.”

“What is a question of your veracity, sir, in comparison with the issues that have been in the balance during the past half-hour?” cried Johnson.

“Nay, sir, one question,” said Burke, seeing that Boswell had collapsed. “Mr. Garrick—have you heard Dr. Goldsmith boast of having a Dean for a relative?”

“Why, no, sir,” replied Garrick; “but I heard him say that he had a brother who deserved to be a Dean.”

“And so I had,” cried Goldsmith. “Alas! I cannot say that I have now. My poor brother died a country clergyman a few years ago.”

“I am a blind man so far as evidence bearing upon things seen is concerned,” said Johnson; “but it seemed to me that some of the man's gestures—nay, some of the tones of his voice as well—resembled those of Dr. Goldsmith. I should like to know if any one at the table noticed the similarity to which I allude.”

“I certainly noticed it,” cried Boswell eagerly.

“Your evidence is not admissible, sir,” said Johnson. “What does Sir Joshua Reynolds say?”

“Why, sir,” said Reynolds with a laugh, and a glance towards Garrick, “I confess that I noticed the resemblance and was struck by it, both as regards the man's gestures and his voice. But I am as convinced that he was no relation of Dr. Goldsmith's as I am of my own existence.”

“But if not, sir, how can you account for——”

Boswell's inquiry was promptly checked by Johnson.

“Be silent, sir,” he thundered. “If you have left your manners in Scotland in an impulse of generosity, you have done a foolish thing, for the gift was meagre out of all proportion to the needs of your country in that respect. Sir, let me tell you that the last word has been spoken touching this incident. I will consider any further reference to it in the light of a personal affront.”

After a rather awkward pause, Garrick said:

“I begin to suspect that I have been more highly diverted during the past half-hour than any of this company.”

“Well, Davy,” said Johnson, “the accuracy of your suspicion is wholly dependent on your disposition to be entertained. Where have you been, sir, and of what nature was your diversion?”

“Sir,” said Garrick, “I have been with a poet.”

“So have we, sir—with the greatest poet alive—the author of 'The Deserted Village'—and yet you enter to find us immoderately glum,” said Johnson. He was anxious to show his friend Goldsmith that he did not regard him as accountable for the visit of the clergyman whom he quite believed to be Oliver's cousin, in spite of the repudiation of the relationship by Goldsmith himself, and the asseveration of Reynolds.

“Ah, sir, mine was not a poet such as Dr. Goldsmith,” said Garrick. “Mine was only a sort of poet.”

“And pray, sir, what is a sort of poet?” asked Boswell.

“A sort of poet, sir, is one who writes a sort of poetry,” replied Garrick.

He then began a circumstantial account of how he had made an appointment for the hour at which he had left his friends, with a gentleman who was anxious to read to him some portions of a play which he had just written. The meeting was to take place in a neighbouring coffee-house in the Strand; but even though the distance which he had to traverse was short, it had been the scene of more than one adventure, which, narrated by Garrick, proved comical to an extraordinary degree.

“A few yards away I almost ran into the arms of a clergyman—he wore the bands and apron of a Dean,” he continued, “not seeming to notice the little start which his announcement caused in some directions. The man grasped me by the arm,” he continued, “doubtless recognising me from my portraits—for he said he had never seen me act—and then began an harangue on the text of neglected opportunities. It seemed, however, that he had no more apparent example of my sins in this direction than my neglect to produce Dr. Goldsmith's 'Good-Natured Man.' Faith, gentlemen, he took it quite as a family grievance.” Suddenly he paused, and looked around the party; only Reynolds was laughing, all the rest were grave. A thought seemed to strike the narrator. “What!” he cried, “it is not possible that this was, after all, Dr. Goldsmith's cousin, the Dean, regarding whom you interrogated me just now? If so,'tis an extraordinary coincidence that I should have encountered him—unless—good heavens, gentlemen! is it the case that he came here when I had thrown him off?”

“Sir,” cried Oliver, “I affirm that no relation of mine, Dean or no Dean, entered this room!”

“Then, sir, you may look to find him at your chambers in Brick Court on your return,” said Garrick. “Oh, yes, Doctor!—a small man with the family bow of the Goldsmiths—something like this.” He gave a comical reproduction of the salutation of the clergyman.

“I tell you, sir, once and for all, that the man is no relation of mine,” protested Goldsmith.

“And let that be the end of the matter,” declared Johnson, with no lack of decisiveness in his voice.

“Oh, sir, I assure you I have no desire to meet the gentleman again,” laughed Garrick. “I got rid of him by a feint, just as he was endeavouring to force me to promise a production of a dramatic version of 'The Deserted Village'—he said he had the version at his lodging, and meant to read it to his cousin—I ask your pardon, sir, but he said 'cousin.'”

“Sir, let us have no more of this—cousin or no cousin,” roared Johnson.

“That is my prayer, sir—I utter it with all my heart and soul,” said Garrick. “It was about my poet I meant to speak—my poet and his play. What think you of the South Seas and the visit of Lieutenant Cook as the subject of a tragedy in blank verse, Dr. Johnson?”

“I think, Davy, that the subject represents so magnificent a scheme of theatrical bankruptcy you would do well to hand it over to that scoundrel Foote,” said Johnson pleasantly. He was by this time quite himself again, and ready to pronounce an opinion on any question with that finality which carried conviction with it—yes, to James Boswell.

For the next half-hour Garrick entertained his friends with the details of his interview with the poet who—according to his account—had designed the drama of “Otaheite” in order to afford Garrick an opportunity of playing the part of a cannibal king, dressed mainly in feathers, and beating time alternately with a club and a tomahawk, while he delivered a series of blank verse soliloquies and apostrophes to Mars, Vulcan and Diana.

“The monarch was especially devoted to Diana,” said Garrick. “My poet explained that, being a hunter, he would naturally find it greatly to his advantage to say a good word now and again for the chaste goddess; and when I inquired how it was possible that his Majesty of Otaheite could know anything about Diana, he said the Romans and the South Sea Islanders were equally Pagans, and that, as such, they had equal rights in the Pagan mythology; it would be monstrously unjust to assume that the Romans should claim a monopoly of Diana.”

Boswell interrupted him to express the opinion that the poet's contention was quite untenable, and Garrick said it was a great relief to his mind to have so erudite a scholar as Boswell on his side in the argument, though he admitted that he thought there was a good deal in the poet's argument.

He adroitly led on his victim to enter into a serious argument on the question of the possibility of the Otaheitans having any definite notion of the character and responsibilities assigned to Diana in the Roman mythology; and after keeping the party in roars of laughter for half an hour, he delighted Boswell by assuring him that his eloquence and the force of his arguments had removed whatever misgivings he, Garrick, originally had, that he was doing the poet an injustice in declining his tragedy.

When the party were about to separate, Goldsmith drew Johnson apart—greatly to the pique of Boswell—and said—

“Dr. Johnson, I have a great favour to ask of you, sir, and I hope you will see your way to grant it, though I do not deserve any favour from you.”

“You deserve no favour, Goldy,” said Johnson, laying his hand on the little man's shoulder, “and therefore, sir, you make a man who grants you one so well satisfied with himself he should regard himself your debtor. Pray, sir, make me your debtor by giving me a chance of granting you a favour.”

“You say everything better than any living man, sir,” cried Goldsmith. “How long would it take me to compose so graceful a sentence, do you suppose? You are the man whom I most highly respect, sir, and I am anxious to obtain your permission to dedicate to you the comedy which I have written and Mr. Colman is about to produce.”

“Dr. Goldsmith,” said Johnson, “we have been good friends for several years now.”

“Long before Mr. Boswell came to town, sir.”

“Undoubtedly, sir—long before you became recognised as the most melodious of our poets—the most diverting of our play-writers. I wrote the prologue to your first play, Goldy, and I'll stand sponsor for your second—nay, sir, not only so, but I'll also go to see it, and if it be damned, I'll drink punch with you all night and talk of my tragedy of 'Irene,' which was also damned; there's my hand on it, Dr. Goldsmith.”

Goldsmith pressed the great hand with both of his own, and tears were in his eyes and his voice as he said—

“Your generosity overpowers me, sir.”

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