Kenrick's article in the London Packet remains to this day as the vilest example of scurrility published under the form of criticism. All the venom that can be engendered by envy and malice appears in every line of it. It contains no suggestion of literary criticism; it contains no clever phrase. It is the shriek of a vulgar wretch dominated by the demon of jealousy. The note of the Gadarene herd sounds through it, strident and strenuous. It exists as the worst outcome of the period when every garret scribbler emulated “Junius,” both as regards style and method, but only succeeded in producing the shriek of a wildcat, instead of the thunder of the unknown master of vituperation.

Goldsmith read the first part of the scurrility without feeling hurt; but when he came to that vile passage—“For hours the great Goldsmith will stand arranging his grotesque orangoutang figure before a pier-glass. Was but the lovely H———k as much enamoured, you would not sigh, my gentle swain”—his hands tore the paper in fury.

He had received abuse in the past without being affected by it. He did not know much about natural history, but he knew enough to make him aware of the fact that the skunk tribe cannot change their nature. He did not mind any attack that might be made upon himself; but to have the name that he most cherished of all names associated with his in an insult that seemed to him diabolical in the manner of its delivery, was more than he could bear. He felt as if a foul creature had crept behind him and had struck from thence the one who had been kindest to him of all the people in the world.

There was the horrible thing printed for all eyes in the town to read. There was the thing that had in a moment raised a barrier between him and the girl who was all in all to him. How could he look Mary Horneck in the face again? How could he ever meet any member of the family to whom he had been the means of causing so much pain as the Hornecks would undoubtedly feel when they read that vile thing? He felt that he himself was to blame for the appearance of that insult upon the girl. He felt that if the attack had not been made upon him she would certainly have escaped. Yes, that blow had been struck by a hand that stretched over him to her.

His first impulse had sent his hand to his sword. He had shown himself upon several occasions to be a brave man; but instead of drawing his sword he had taken it off and had placed it out of the reach of his hands.

And this was the man who, a few hours earlier in the day, had been assuming that if a certain man were in his power he would not shrink from running him through the body with his sword.

On leaving the Mitre he did not seek any one with whom he might take counsel as to what course it would be wise for him to pursue. He knew that he had adopted a wise course when he had placed his sword in a corner; he felt he did not require any further counsel. His mind was made up as to what he should do, and all that he now feared was that some circumstance might prevent his realising his intention.

He grasped his cane firmly, and walked excitedly to the shop of Evans, the publisher of the London Packet. He arrived almost breathless at the place—it was in Little Queen street—and entered the shop demanding to see Kenrick, who, he knew was employed on the premises. Evans, the publisher, being in a room the door of which was open, and hearing a stranger's voice speaking in a high tone, came out to the shop. Goldsmith met him, asking to see Kenrick; and Evans denied that he was in the house.

“I require you to tell me if Kenrick is the writer of that article upon me which appeared in the Packet of to-day. My name is Goldsmith!” said the visitor.

The shopkeeper smiled.

“Does anything appear about you in the Packet, sir?” he said, over-emphasising the tone of complete ignorance and inquiry.

“You are the publisher of the foul thing, you rascal!” cried Goldsmith, stung by the supercilious smile of the man; “you are the publisher of this gross outrage upon an innocent lady, and, as the ruffian who wrote it struck at her through me, so I strike at him through you.”

He rushed at the man, seized him by the throat, and struck at him with his cane. The bookseller shouted for help while he struggled with his opponent, and Kenrick himself, who had been within the shelter of a small wooden-partitioned office from the moment of Goldsmith's entrance, and had, consequently, overheard every word of the recrimination and all the noise of the scuffle that followed, ran to the help of his paymaster. It was quite in keeping with his cowardly nature to hold back from the cane of Evans's assailant. He did so, and, looking round for a missile to fling at Goldsmith, he caught up a heavy lamp that stood on a table and hurled it at his enemy's head. Missing this mark, however, it struck Evans on the chest and knocked him down, Goldsmith falling over him. This Kenrick perceived to be his chance. He lifted one of the small shop chairs and rushed forward to brain the man whom he had libelled; but, before he could carry out his purpose, a man ran into the shop from the street, and, flinging him and the chair into a corner, caught Goldsmith, who had risen, by the shoulder and hurried him into a hackney-coach, which drove away.

The man was Captain Higgins. When Goldsmith had failed to return to the room in the Mitre where he had left his sword, his friends became uneasy regarding him, and Higgins, suspecting his purpose in leaving the tavern, had hastened to Evans's, hoping to be in time to prevent the assault which he felt certain Goldsmith intended to commit upon the person of Kenrick.

He ordered the coachman to drive to the Temple, and took advantage of the occasion to lecture the excited man upon the impropriety of his conduct. A lecture on the disgrace attached to a public fight, when delivered in a broad Irish brogue, can rarely be effective, and Captain Higgins's counsel of peace only called for Goldsmith's ridicule.

“Don't tell me what I ought to have done or what I ought to have abstained from doing,” cried the still breathless man. “I did what my manhood prompted me to do, and that is just what you would have done yourself, my friend. God knows I didn't mean to harm Evans—it was that reptile Kenrick whom I meant to flail; but when Evans undertook to shelter him, what was left to me, I ask you, sir?”

“You were a fool, Oliver,” said his countryman; “you made a great mistake. Can't you see that you should never go about such things single-handed? You should have brought with you a full-sized friend who would not hesitate to use his fists in the interests of fair play. Why the devil, sir, didn't you give me a hint of what was on your mind when you left the tavern?”

“Because I didn't know myself what was on my mind,” replied Goldsmith. “And, besides,” he added, “I'm not the man to carry bruisers about with me to engage in my quarrels. I don't regret what I have done to-day. I have taught the reptiles a lesson, even though I have to pay for it. Kenrick won't attack me again so long as I am alive.”

He was right. It was when he was lying in his coffin, yet unburied, that Kenrick made his next attack upon him in that scurrility of phrase of which he was a master.

When this curious exponent of the advantages of peace had left him at Brick Court, and his few incidental bruises were attended to by John Eyles, poor Oliver's despondency returned to him. He did not feel very like one who has got the better of another in a quarrel, though he knew that he had done all that he said he had done: he had taught his enemies a lesson.

But then he began to think about Mary Horneck, who had been so grossly insulted simply because of her kindness to him. He felt that if she had been less gracious to him—if she had treated him as Mrs. Thrale, for example, had been accustomed to treat him—regarding him and his defects merely as excuses for displaying her own wit, she would have escaped all mention by Kenrick. Yes, he still felt that he was the cause of her being insulted, and he would never forgive himself for it.

But what did it matter whether he forgave himself or not? It was the forgiveness of Mary Horneck and her friends that he had good reason to think about.

The longer he considered this point the more convinced he became that he had forfeited forever the friendship which he had enjoyed for several years, and which had been a dear consolation to him in his hours of despondency. A barrier had been raised between himself and the Hornecks that could not be surmounted.

He sat down at his desk and wrote a letter to Mary, asking her forgiveness for the insult for which he said he felt himself to be responsible. He could not, he added, expect that in the future it would be allowed to him to remain on the same terms of intimacy with her and her family as had been permitted to him in the past.

Suddenly he recollected the unknown trouble which had been upon the girl when he had last seen her. She was not yet free from that secret sorrow which he had hoped it might be in his power to dispel. He and he only had seen Captain Jackson speaking to her in the green room at Covent Garden, and he only had good reason to believe that her sorrow had originated with that man. Under these circumstances he asked himself if he was justified in leaving her to fight her battle alone. She had not asked him to be her champion, and he felt that if she had done so, it was a very poor champion that he would have made; but still he knew more of her grief than any one else, and he believed he might be able to help her.

He tore up the letter which he had written to her.

“I will not leave her,” he cried. “Whatever may happen—whatever blame people who do not understand may say I have earned, I will not leave her until she has been freed from whatever distress she is in.”

He had scarcely seated himself when his servant announced Captain Horneck.

For an instant Goldsmith was in trepidation. Mary Horneck's brother had no reason to visit him except as he himself had visited Evans and Kenrick. But with the sound of Captain Horneck's voice his trepidation passed away.

“Ha, my little hero!” Horneck cried before he had quite crossed the threshold. “What is this that is the talk of the town? Good Lord! what are things coming to when the men of letters have taken to beating the booksellers?”

“You have heard of it?” said Oliver. “You have heard of the quarrel, but you cannot have heard of the reason for it!”

“What, there is something behind the London Packet, after all?” cried Captain Horneck.

“Something behind it—something behind that slander—the mention of your sister's name, sir? What should be behind it, sir?”

“My dear old Nolly, do you fancy that the friendship which exists between my family and you is too weak to withstand such a strain as this—a strain put upon it by a vulgar scoundrel, whose malice so far as you are concerned is as well known as his envy of your success?”

Goldsmith stared at him for some moments and then at the hand which he was holding out. He seemed to be making an effort to speak, but the words never came. Suddenly he caught Captain Horneck's hand in both of his own, and held it for a moment; but then, quite overcome, he dropped it, and burying his face in his hands he burst into tears.

Horneck watched him for some time, and was himself almost equally affected.

“Come, come, old friend,” he said at last, placing his hand affectionately on Goldsmith's shoulder. “Come, come; this will not do. There is nothing to be so concerned about. What, man! are you so little aware of your own position in the world as to fancy that the Horneck family regard your friendship for them otherwise than an honour? Good heavens, Dr. Goldsmith, don't you perceive that we are making a bold bid for immortality through our names being associated with yours? Who in a hundred years—in fifty years—would know anything of the Horneck family if it were not for their association with you? The name of Oliver Goldsmith will live so long as there is life in English letters, and when your name is spoken the name of your friends the Hornecks will not be forgotten.”

He tried to comfort his unhappy friend, but though he remained at his chambers for half an hour, he got no word from Oliver Goldsmith.

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