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GOLDSMITH's Essays are better known to the public than any other of his prose works, except the Vicar of Wakefield. They have been frequently reprinted, either separately, or in the same volume with his Poems. It is proper to mention, however, that some of these collections contained several pieces from the Citizen of the World, and also from the Bee, — all of which have, in the present edition, been restored to their place in the works to which they properly belong - while some of the following pieces were omitted These Essays were chiefly contributed to the British Magazine, (of which Dr Smollet was then editor,) and other periodical publications, with which Goldsmith had no farther connection than that of an occasional contributor. They were written between the year 1758, when the author first began to write for the press, and 1765, when they were published in a collected form. - B.
The following Essays have already appeared at different times, and in different publications. The pamphlets in which they were inserted being generally unsuccessful, these shared the common fate, without assisting the bookseller's aims, or extending the writer's reputation. The public were too strenuously employed with their own follies to be assiduous in estimating mine, so that many of my best attempts in this way have fallen victims to the transient topic of the times - the Ghost in Cock Lane, or the siege of Ticonderago.
But though they have passed pretty silently into the world, I can by no means complain of their circulation. The magazines and papers of the day have indeed been liberal enough in this respect. Most of these Essays have been regularly reprinted twice or thrice a-year, and conveyed to the public through the kennel of some engaging compilation. If there be a pride in multiplied editions, I have seen some of my labours sixteen times reprinted, and claimed by different parents as their own. I have seen them flourished at the beginning with praise, and signed at the end with the names of Philantos, Philalethes, Philaleutheros, and Philanthropos. These gentlemen have kindly stood sponsors to my productions, and, to flatter me more, have always passed them as their own.
It is time, however, at last, to vindicate my claims ; and as these entertainers of the public, as they call themselves, have partly lived upon me for some years, let me now try if I cannot live a little upon myself
. I would desire, in this case, to imitate that fat man whom I have somewhere heard of in a shipwreck, who, when the sailors, pressed by famine, were taking slices from his posteriors to satisfy their hunger, insisted, with great justice, on having the first cut for himself,
Yet, after all, I cannot be angry with any who have taken it into their heads to think that whatever I write is worth reprinting, particularly when I consider how great
a majority will think it scarcely worth reading. Trifling and superficial are terms of reproach that are easily objected, and that carry an air of penetration in the observer. These faults have been objected to the following Essays; and it must be owned, in some measure, that the charge is true. However, I could have made them more metaphysical, had I thought fit ; but I would ask, whether, in a short Essay, it is not necessary to be superficial ? Before we have prepared to enter into the depths of a subject in the usual forms, we have arrived at the bottom of our scanty page, and thus lose the honours of a victory by too tedious a preparation for the combat.
There is another fault in this collection of trifles, which, I fear, will not be so easily pardoned. It will be alleged, that the humour of them (if any be found) is stale and hackneyed. This may be true enough, as matters now stand ; but I may with great truth assert, that the humour was new when I wrote it. Since that time, indeed, many of the topics, which were first started here, have been hunted down, and many of the thoughts blown upon. fact, these Essays were considered as quietly laid in the grave of oblivion; and our modern compilers, like sextons and executioners, think it their undoubted right to pillage the dead.
However, whatever right I have to complain of the public, they can, as yet, have no just reason to complain of
If I have written dull Essays, they have hitherto treated them as dull Essays. Thus far we are at least upon par, and until they think fit to make me their humble debtor by praise, I am resolved not to lose a single inch of my self-importance. Instead, therefore, of attempting to establish a credit amongst them, it will perhaps be wiser to apply to some more distant correspondent"; and as my drafts are in some danger of being protested at home, it may not be imprudent, upon this occasion, to draw my bills upon Posterity. MR POSTERITY,
Sır,– Nine hundred and ninety-nine years after sight hereof, pay the bearer, or order, a thousand pounds worth of praise, free from all deductions whatsoever, it being a commodity that will then be very serviceable to him, and place it to the account of, &c,
DESCRIPTION OF VARIOUS CLUBS.
I REMEMBER to have read in some philosopher, (I believe in Tom Brown's works,) that, let a man's character, sentiments, or complexion, be what they will, he can find company in London to match them. If he be splenetic, he may every day meet companions on the seats in St James's Park, with whose groans he may mix his own, and pathetically talk of the weather. If he be passionate, he may vent his rage among the old orators at Slaughter's Coffeehouse, and damn the nation, because it keeps him from starving. If he be phlegmatic, he may sit in silence at the Humdrum Club in Ivy Lane; and, if actually mad, he may
very good company in Moorfields, either at Bedlam or the Foundery, ready to cultivate a nearer acquaintance.
But, although such as have a knowledge of the town, may eaşily class themselves with tempers congenial to their own, a countryman, who comes to live in London, finds nothing more difficult. With regard to myself, none ever tried with more assiduity, or came off with such indifferent success. I spent a whole season in the search, during which time my name has been enrolled in societies, lodges, convocations, and meetings, without number. To some I was introduced by a friend, to others invited by an advertisement: to these I introduced myself, and to those I changed my name to gain admittance. In short, no coquette was ever more solicitous to match her ribands to her complexion, than I to suit my club to my temper; for I was too obstinate to bring my temper to conform to it.
The first club I entered, upon coming to town, was that of the Choice Spirits. The name was entirely suited to my taste, - I was a lover of mirth, good-humour, and even sometimes of fun, from my childhood.
As no other passport was requisite, but the payment of two shillings at the door, I introduced myself without farther ceremony to the members, who were already assembled, and had for some time begun upon business. The Grand, with a mallet in his hand, presided at the head of the table. I could not avoid, upon my entrance, making use of all my skill in physiognomy, in order to discover that superiority of genius in men who had taken a title so superior to the rest of mankind. I expected to see the lines of every face marked with strong thinking ; but though I had some skill in this science, I could for my life discover nothing but a pert simper, fat, or profound stupidity.
My speculations were soon interrupted by the Grand, who had knocked down Mr Spriggins for a song, I was upon this whispered by one of the company who sat next me, that I should now see something touched off to a nicety, for Mr Spriggins was going to give us Mad Tom in all its glory. Mr Spriggins endeavoured to excuse himself ; for as he was to act a madman and a king, it was impossible to go through the part properly without a crown and chains.
His excuses were overruled by a great majority, and with much vociferation. The president ordered up the jack-chain, and instead of a crown, our performer covered his brows with an inverted jordan. After he had rattled his chain and shook his head, to the great delight of the whole company, he began his song. As I have heard few young fellows offer to sing in company, that did not expose themselves, it was no great disappointment to me to find Mr Spriggins among the number ; however, not to seem an odd fish, I rose from my seat in rapturé, cried out, “ Bravo! Encore !” and slapped the table as loud as any of the rest.
The gentleman who sat next me seemed highly pleased with my taste and the ardour of my approbation; and whispering, told me that I had suffered an immense loss, for had I come a few minutes sooner, I might have heard Geeho Dobbin, sung in a tip-top manner, by the pimple-nosed spirit at the president's right elbow ; but he was evaporated before I came.
As I was expressing my uneasiness at this disappointment,