Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), Augustan Age: 18th Century Literature

Goldsmith was a playwright, novelist, essayist and poet. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduation, he applied for ordination but was rejected. He was given fifty pounds to study law but he gambled the amount away. After that, he studied Medicine at Edinburgh and Leyden, but it is not clear whether he obtained his degree or not. In 1755, he set out on a tour of Europe with one clean shirt, a guinea in his pocket and a flute as his equipment. He toured through Flanders to Paris, Switzerland, the Alps, Italy and back to London. How he managed to pay the expenditure remains a mystery. In 1756, he reached London penniless and friendless. Somehow he got an introduction to Richardson. He worked as a messenger, teacher, apothecary’s assistant, usher and hack writer for a periodical.
Goldsmith befriended Samuel Johnson and David Garrick. Johnson praised his writing for its ‘clarity and elegance’. His literary charm was made up of humour, modesty, vitality and graceful lucidity.

His works are:

  1. The Citizen of the World (1760-61): It is a satiric view of England written from the supposed viewpoint of a Chinese traveller. In fact, these are Goldsmith’s own views and experiences.
  2. The Traveller (1764): It is a poem which contains a study of the prevalent life in many European countries. It is written in a rhyming couplet.
  3. The Deserted Village (1770): This poem contains the author’s broad sympathies with human beings and mankind in general. It expresses man’s revolt against exploitative institutions. It gives a portrayal of the two most loveable characters-the village parson and the village school
    master.
  4. Comedies:

(a) The Good-Natured Man (1768): This comedy was a flop on the stage despite its hilarious scenes and a funny
character- Croaker.

(b) She Stoops to Conquer (1773): This comedy has still not lost its appeal.

(c) The Vicar of Wakefield (1766): This novel has an ill-concocted plot that is full of gearing improbabilities and huddled up in the most ludicrous manner at the close. However, Goldsmith depicts domestic life in a pleasant, romantic way and shows the author’s true regard for female modesty. Hence, it is shorn of all obscenity and vulgarity. The novelist also presents the portrayal of his father under the name of Dr. Primrose.

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