Oliver Goldsmith: It All Amounts to the Same Thing In the End

      A quiet home had Parson Gray,
      Secluded in a vale;
      His daughters all were feminine,
      And all his sons were male.

      How faithfully did Parson Gray
      The bread of life dispense–
      Well “posted” in theology,
      And post and rail his fence.

      ‘Gainst all the vices of the age
      He manfully did battle;
      His chickens were a biped breed,
      And quadruped his cattle.

      No clock more punctually went,
      He ne’er delayed a minute–
      Nor ever empty was his purse,
      When he had money in it.

      
      His piety was ne’er denied;
      His truths hit saint and sinner;
      At morn he always breakfasted;
      He always dined at dinner.

      He ne’er by any luck was grieved,
      By any care perplexed–
      No filcher he, though when he preached,
      He always “took” a text.

      As faithful characters he drew
      As mortal ever saw;
      But ah! poor parson! when he died,
      His breath he could not draw!
by Oliver Goldsmith (10 November 1730 – 4 April 1774)

“[Goldsmith, Irish writer and poet] settled in London in 1756, where he briefly held various jobs, including an apothecary’s assistant and an usher of a school. Perennially in debt and addicted to gambling, Goldsmith produced a massive output as a hack writer for the publishers of London, but his few painstaking works earned him the company of Samuel Johnson . . .

Goldsmith was described by contemporaries as prone to envy, a congenial but impetuous and disorganised personality who once planned to emigrate to America but failed because he missed his ship.” (from this Wiki article)

Hack writer, great poet, perfect parson–it all amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it?  Thank you for reminding me, Mr. Goldsmith, the perpetually low self-esteem author.  Yes, he was, because he knew he was a hack.  That is, he wrote what publishers wanted.  But he also had the confidence to know he was better than that.  At least Samuel Johnson thought he was!

p.s. God knows I don’t mean that publishers pick up and promote hack writers.  Publishing hacks only occurred during the 1700s.  Never after.  Ever.

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3 comments

  1. He was an awfully good writer, and I wonder, despite his impetuous personality, what he would have written if he'd not died so young. It's good to be a bumbler, I think!

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