- (disputed) Either Ballymahon, County Longford, Ireland or Elphin, County Roscommon, Ireland
- November 10, 1730 – Born
- 1766 – The Vicar of Wakefield, Published
“Oh,… if you could but learn to commune with your own hearts and know what noble company you make them, you would little regard the elegance and splendor of the worthless.” – Oliver Goldsmith
Life Sketch from The Other Eminent Men of Wilford WoodruffCopyright © Taken from the book: The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy. Irish/English Poet, Playwright, Novelist 1763-1846 From his tragic life, Goldsmith wrote of the refining elements that come from tragedy. Outwardly he suffered; inwardly he was pressed to pure gold. Nothing could change the kindness and generosity of his heart. When Johann Herder recommended to Goethe The Vicar of Wakefield, Goethe pronounced it to be “the best which has ever been written.”
[It] represents the reward of good will and perseverance in the right, strengthens an unconditional confidence in God, and attest the final triumph of good over evil…. Doctor Goldsmith, has without question, great insight into the moral world, into its strength and its infirmities; … I was overpowered by the subject-matter…. The above work had left in me a great impression, for which I could not account; but properly speaking, I felt in harmony with that ironical tone of mind which elevates itself above every object, above fortune and misfortune, good and egil, death and life, and thus attains to the possession of a truly poetical world.Samuel Johnson said of Goldsmith: “He touched nothing that he did not adorn.”
Early LifeBorn in Ireland to a poor farmer, Goldsmith was the second son and one of eight children. He wrote of his father, who was a local curate:
His pleasure increased in proportion to the pleasure he gave; he loved all the world, and he fancied all the world loved him…. He undertook to instruct us himself, and took as much care to form our morals as to improve our understanding. We were told that universal benevolence was what first cemented society; we were taught to consider all the ants of mankind as our own; to regard the human fave divine with affection and esteem.At three years of age Goldsmith was taught by a good woman, who taught the village children their letters and kept them out of harm’s way. At seven he was sent to the village school. A loyal Irishman, the master of the school expounded Irish verse and folklore, which instilled in Goldsmith a passionate admiration of Irish music and his imagination filled with a store of superstitions and lore. As he grew older, he became a master storyteller, drawing on these early stories to entertain and captivate his audience. During these school years, Goldsmith contracted smallpox. He survived the disease but was left with a more that usual severity of marks, His appearance was not helped by arms and legs which seamed to long for his small body. At the age of nine he entered a school for older boys, where he suffered greatly for his looks. He was rather a dull student and remained so throughout his entire formal education, which included a degree from the university. Although his mother had observed flashes of genius in Goldsmith as a child his mediocre school performance seemed less than promising. It would be some time before he matured and gained experience enough to respond to his gifts. Goldsmith’s naive and trusting nature often put him in embarrassing situations. One day Goldsmith was returning to his father’s home for a visit from school, which was about twenty miles away. The road was impassable to the carriages, so Goldsmith procured a horse to make the trip and a friend loaned him a guinea for traveling expenses. He was now sixteen, he had a horse, and money in his pocket. He was, he though, a man of the world. He determined to play the part. Instead of hurrying home for the night, he stopped in a nearby town. He detained the first person he saw and asked with as much dignity as he could muster where the best inn could be found. Unfortunately for Goldsmith, he had asked the town jokester. The man, amused at the youth’s attempt of self-confidence, directed him to what was literally the “best house in the place,” namely, the family mansion of a local wealthy landowner, Mr. Featherstone. Goldsmith went to the supposed inn, and in the words of Washington Irving “ordered his horse to be taken to the stable, walked into the parlor, seated himself by the fire, and demanded what he could have for supper.” On ordinary occasions he was diffident and even awkward in his manners, but here he felt called upon to act the experienced traveler, an image which was not characteristic of his stature, for his air and carriage was by no means distinguished. The owner, a man of humor, indulged the youth’s mistake, especially when he accidentally learned that this intruding guest was the son of an old acquaintance. “Never was [a] schoolboy more elated. When supper was served, he most condescendingly insisted that the landlord, his wife and daughter should partake. His last flourish was on going to bed, when he gave especial orders to have a hot cake at breakfast.” One can only imagine his dismay the next morning when his true situation was revealed to him. Goldsmith dramatized this experience in his well known play She Stoops to Conquer’’. As a young man Goldsmith attended Trinity College in Dublin, he worked as a sizar because he was to poor to pay his way. As a sizar he had to mop floors every morning, wash dishes, serve meals, and wear a short-sleeved black robe which separated him as a pauper from the other students. Perhaps to make up for his embarrassment, he became the “buffoon” of the class, and created much mischief. His tutor was violent and unkind. As devoted to math as Goldsmith was to his classics, he abused him in the presence of the class as ignorant and stupid. He ridiculed Goldsmith as awkward, ugly, and at times he used personal violence.