The next day the news of the prompt and vigorous action taken by Goldsmith in respect of the scurrility of Kenrick had spread round the literary circle of which Johnson was the centre, and the general feeling was one of regret that Kenrick had not received the beating instead of Evans. Of course, Johnson, who had threatened two writers with an oak stick, shook his head—and his body as well—in grave disapproval of Goldsmith's use of his cane; but Reynolds, Garrick and the two Burkes were of the opinion that a cane had never been more appropriately used.

What Colman's attitude was in regard to the man who had put thousands of pounds into his pocket may be gathered from the fact that, shortly afterwards, he accepted and produced a play of Kenrick's at his theatre, which was more decisively damned than any play ever produced under Colman's management.

Of course, the act of an author in resenting the scurrility of a man who had delivered his stab under the cloak of criticism, called for a howl of indignation from the scores of hacks who existed at that period—some in the pay of the government others of the opposition—solely by stabbing men of reputation; for the literary cut-throat, in the person of the professional libeller-critic, and the literary cut-purse, in the form of the professional blackmailer, followed as well as preceded Junius.

The howl went up that the liberty of the press was in danger, and the public, who took then, as they do now, but the most languid interest in the quarrels of literature, were forced to become the unwilling audience. When, however, Goldsmith published his letter in the Daily Advertiser—surely the manliest manifesto ever printed—the howls became attenuated, and shortly afterwards died away. It was admitted, even by Dr. Johnson—and so emphatically, too, that his biographer could not avoid recording his judgment—that Goldsmith had increased his reputation by the incident.

(Boswell paid Goldsmith the highest compliment in his power on account of this letter, for he fancied that it had been written by Johnson, and received another rebuke from the latter to gloat over.)

For some days Goldsmith had many visitors at his chambers, including Baretti, who remarked that he took it for granted that he need not now search for the fencingmaster, as his quarrel was over. Goldsmith allowed him to go away under the impression that he had foreseen the quarrel when he had consulted him regarding the fencingmaster.

But at the end of a week, when Evans had been conciliated by the friends of his assailant, Goldsmith, on returning to his chambers one afternoon, found Johnson gravely awaiting his arrival. His hearty welcome was not responded to quite so heartily by his visitor.

“Dr. Goldsmith,” said Johnson, after he had made some of those grotesque movements with which his judicial utterances were invariably accompanied—“Dr. Goldsmith, we have been friends for a good many years, sir.”

“That fact constitutes one of my pleasantest reflections, sir,” said Goldsmith. He spoke with some measure of hesitancy, for he had a feeling that his friend had come to him with a reproof. He had expected him to come rather sooner.

“If our friendship was not such as it is, I would not have come to you to-day, sir, to tell you that you have been a fool,” said Johnson.

“Yes, sir,” said Goldsmith, “you were right in assuming that you could say nothing to me that would offend me; I know that I have been a fool—at many times—in many ways.”

“I suspected that you were a fool before I set out to come hither, sir, and since I entered this room I have convinced myself of the accuracy of my suspicion.”

“If a man suspects that I am a fool before seeing me, sir, what will he do after having seen me?” said Goldsmith.

“Dr. Goldsmith,” resumed Johnson, “it was, believe me, sir, a great pain to me to find, as I did in this room—on that desk—such evidence of your folly as left no doubt on my mind in this matter.”

“What do you mean, sir? My folly—evidence—on that desk? Ah, I know now what you mean. Yes, poor Filby's bill for my last coats and I suppose for a few others that have long ago been worn threadbare. Alas, sir, who could resist Filby's flatteries?”

“Sir,” said Johnson, “you gave me permission several years ago to read any manuscript of yours in prose or verse at which you were engaged.”

“And the result of your so honouring me, Dr. Johnson, has invariably been advantageous to my work. What, sir, have I ever failed in respect for your criticisms? Have I ever failed to make a change that you suggested?”

“It was in consideration of that permission, Dr. Goldsmith, that while waiting for you here to-day, I read several pages in your handwriting,” said Johnson sternly.

Goldsmith glanced at his desk.

“I forget now what work was last under my hand,” said he; “but whatever it was, sir——”

“I have it here, sir,” said Johnson, and Goldsmith for the first time noticed that he held in one of his hands a roll of manuscript. Johnson laid it solemnly on the table, and in a moment Goldsmith perceived that it consisted of a number of the poems which he had written to the Jessamy Bride, but which he had not dared to send to her. He had had them before him on the desk that day while he asked himself what would be the result of sending them to her.

He was considerably disturbed when he discovered what it was that his friend had been reading in his absence, and his attempt to treat the matter lightly only made his confusion appear the greater.

“Oh, those verses, sir,” he stammered; “they are poor things. You will, I fear, find them too obviously defective to merit criticism; they resemble my oldest coat, sir, which I designed to have repaired for my man, but Filby returned it with the remark that it was not worth the cost of repairing. If you were to become a critic of those trifles——”

“They are trifles, Goldsmith, for they represent the trifling of a man of determination with his own future—with his own happiness and the happiness of others.”

“I protest, sir, I scarcely understand——”

“Your confusion, sir, shows that you do understand.”

“Nay, sir, you do not suppose that the lines which a poet writes in the character of a lover should be accepted as damning evidence that his own heart speaks.”

“Goldsmith, I am not the man to be deceived by any literary work that may come under my notice. I have read those verses of yours; sir, your heart throbs in every line.”

“Nay, sir, you would make me believe that my poor attempts to realise the feelings of one who has experienced the tender passion are more happy than I fancied.”

“Sir, this dissimulation is unworthy of you.”

“Sir, I protest that I—that is—no, I shall protest nothing. You have spoken the truth, sir; any dissimulation is unworthy of me. I wrote those verses out of my own heart—God knows if they are the first that came from my heart—I own it, sir. Why should I be ashamed to own it?”

“My poor friend, you have been Fortune's plaything all your life; but I did not think that she was reserving such a blow as this for you.”

“A blow, sir? Nay, I cannot regard as a blow that which has been the sweetest—the only consolation of a life that has known but few consolations.”

“Sir, this will not do. A man has the right to make himself as miserable as he pleases, but he has no right to make others miserable. Dr. Goldsmith, you have ill-repaid the friendship which Miss Horneck and her family have extended to you.”

“I have done nothing for which my conscience reproaches me, Dr. Johnson. What, sir, if I have ventured to love that lady whose name had better remain unspoken by either of us—what if I do love her? Where is the indignity that I do either to her or to the sentiment of friendship? Does one offer an indignity to friendship by loving?”

“My poor friend, you are laying up a future of misery for yourself—yes, and for her too; for she has a kind heart, and if she should come to know—and, indeed, I think she must—that she has been the cause, even though the unwilling cause, of suffering on the part of another, she will not be free from unhappiness.”

“She need not know, she need not know. I have been a bearer of burdens all my life. I will assume without repining this new burden.”

“Nay, sir, if I know your character—and I believe I have known it for some years—you will cast that burden away from you. Life, my dear friend, you and I have found to be not a meadow wherein to sport, but a battle field. We have been in the struggle, you and I, and we have not come out of it unscathed. Come, sir, face boldly this new enemy, and put it to flight before it prove your ruin.”

“Enemy, you call it, sir? You call that which gives everything there is of beauty—everything there is of sweetness—in the life of man—you call it our enemy?”

“I call it your enemy, Goldsmith.”

“Why mine only? What is there about me that makes me different from other men? Why should a poet be looked upon as one who is shut out for evermore from all the tenderness, all the grace of life, when he has proved to the world that he is most capable of all mankind of appreciating tenderness and grace? What trick of nature is this? What paradox for men to vex their souls over? Is the poet to stand aloof from men, evermore looking on happiness through another man's eyes? If you answer 'yes,' then I say that men who are not poets should go down on their knees and thank Heaven that they are not poets. Happy it is for mankind that Heaven has laid on few men the curse of being poets. For myself, I feel that I would rather be a man for an hour than a poet for all time.”

“Come, sir, let us not waste our time railing against Heaven. Let us look at this matter as it stands at present. You have been unfortunate enough to conceive a passion for a lady whose family could never be brought to think of you seriously as a lover. You have been foolish enough to regard their kindness to you—their acceptance of you as a friend—as encouragement in your mad aspirations.”

“You have no right to speak so authoritatively, sir.”

“I have the right as your oldest friend, Goldsmith; and you know I speak only what is true. Does your own conscience, your own intelligence, sir, not tell you that the lady's family would regard her acceptance of you as a lover in the light of the greatest misfortune possible to happen to her? Answer me that question, sir.”

But Goldsmith made no attempt to speak. He only buried his face in his hands, resting his elbows on the table at which he sat.

“You cannot deny what you know to be a fact, sir,” resumed Johnson. “I will not humiliate you by suggesting that the young lady herself would only be moved to laughter were you to make serious advances to her; but I ask you if you think her family would not regard such an attitude on your side as ridiculous—nay, worse—a gross affront.”

Still Goldsmith remained silent, and after a short pause his visitor resumed his discourse.

“The question that remains for you to answer is this, sir: Are you desirous of humiliating yourself in the eyes of your best friends, and of forfeiting their friendship for you, by persisting in your infatuation?”

Goldsmith started up.

“Say no more, sir; for God's sake, say no more,” he cried almost piteously. “Am I, do you fancy, as great a fool as Pope, who did not hesitate to declare himself to Lady Mary? Sir, I have done nothing that the most honourable of men would shrink from doing. There are the verses which I wrote—I could not help writing them—but she does not know that they were ever written. Dr. Johnson, she shall never hear it from me. My history, sir, shall be that of the hopeless lover—a blank—a blank.”

“My poor friend,” said Johnson after a pause—he had laid his hand upon the shoulder of his friend as he seated himself once more at the table—“My poor friend, Providence puts into our hands many cups which are bitter to the taste, but cannot be turned away from. You and I have drank of bitter cups before now, and perhaps we may have to drink of others before we die. To be a man is to suffer; to be a poet means to have double the capacity of men to suffer. You have shown yourself before now worthy of the admiration of all good men by the way you have faced life, by your independence of the patronage of the great. You dedicated 'The Traveller' to your brother, and your last comedy to me. You did not hesitate to turn away from your door the man who came to offer you money for the prostitution of the talents which God has given you. Dr. Goldsmith, you have my respect—you have the respect of every good man. I came to you to-day that you may disappoint those of your detractors who are waiting for you to be guilty of an act that would give them an opportunity of pointing a finger of malice at you. You will not do anything but that which will reflect honour upon yourself, and show all those who are your friends that their friendship for you is well founded. I am assured that I can trust you, sir.”

Goldsmith took the hand that he offered, but said no word.

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