Before he became famous as a playwright, Oliver Goldsmith was renowned for his sparkling prose, which attracted the attention of no less a figure than Dr. Johnson, the foremost man of letters in England at that time.
Like so many other people then and since, Johnson was attracted to the wit, elegance, and clarity of Goldsmith's prose. All of these characteristics were put to good use in Goldsmith's early essays, which established his reputation as one of the most promising writers of his age.
These essays covered a wide and at times bewildering array of different subjects. Yet no matter what subject he wrote on, Goldsmith managed to combine considerable erudition with a lucid style that was easy to read. One of Goldsmith's greatest gifts was undoubtedly his ability to make a serious point using simple language.
For instance, in The Citizen of the World, Goldsmith uses a series of imaginary letters written by a Chinese man to satirize the social mores of English society. In common with other eighteenth-century writers such as Diderot and Montesquieu, Goldsmith attempts to get his readers to look at Western customs afresh by seeing them through the eyes of a foreigner.
The style in which the letters are written is very simple, and yet Goldsmith is nonetheless able to say much more about English society than many other writers could.