The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

by James Boswell

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"Was Ever Poet So Trusted Before?"

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Context: The question in this quotation is about Oliver Goldsmith, well-known to both Samuel Johnson and his biographer, James Boswell. Obviously Dr. Johnson could scarcely believe that so poor a credit risk as a writer could slip so far into debt as Goldsmith apparently did before his death. Johnson asked the question rhetorically in a letter to Boswell written on July 4, 1774. Goldsmith died three months before, on April 4th. Although he had acquired a good literary reputation during his lifetime and had made considerable money, Goldsmith died far in debt, owing what was at that time a small fortune. In a paragraph in the letter, Johnson writes:

Of poor dear Dr. Goldsmith there is little to be told, more than the papers have made publick. He died of a fever, made, I am afraid, more violent by uneasiness of mind. His debts began to be heavy, and all his resources were exhausted. Sir Joshua [Reynolds] is of opinion that he owed not less than two thousand pounds. Was ever poet so trusted before?

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