Oliver Goldsmith Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

0111201550-Goldsmith.jpg Oliver Goldsmith (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Goldsmith is best known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), his play She Stoops to Conquer (1773), and his poem The Deserted Village (1770). It was, however, an abridged version of his A History of England (1764) that raised the ire of the Roman Catholic church. That abridgment—which contributed nothing to Goldsmith’s literary reputation—was first published shortly after he died in 1774, and it was often revised and republished in Great Britain and North America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1823, an Italian translation of the text was listed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum with the proviso donec corrigatur (“until it is corrected”).

Goldsmith’s negative remarks about the Catholic church at the time of the Reformation, were doubtless a primary reason for his book’s condemnation. He wrote that the “vices and impositions of the church of Rome were now almost come to a head; and the increase of arts and learning among the laity . . . began to make them resist that power which was originally founded in deceit.” The book also discusses how Pope Leo X’s greed led to the hated practice of selling of indulgences, which were easily purchased “at taverns, brothels and gaming houses,” and it emphasizes base financial squabbles among Catholic monastic orders. In Goldsmith’s view, the Catholic church was petty and weak, and thus an easy mark for England’s forceful and astute King Henry VIII. Goldsmith’s account of Pope Innocent III’s interdict against England in the reign of King John is also notable for its unflattering portrayal of Catholic leadership: “This instrument of Terror in the hands of the See of Rome was calculated to strike the senses, and to operate on the superstitious minds of the people, in the highest degree.”


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Oliver Goldsmith received his A.B. from Trinity College in Dublin in 1749. He toyed with the notion of taking holy orders but was refused by a bishop who felt his scarlet breeches reflected a less than serious attitude. In 1752, he left Ireland never to return. His travels to London to study law met with misfortune, but a generous uncle then sent him to study medicine at Edinburgh. Shortly thereafter he traveled by foot through Holland, Switzerland, and France. He settled in England in 1756, supporting himself at various times as a doctor among the poor, an apothecary’s assistant, an usher in a school, and finally as a hack writer for Ralph Griffith’s Monthly Review. His life was marked by continual wandering, and poverty was his constant companion. After establishing himself in the literary world, he was honored by being chosen one of the nine charter members of Samuel Johnson’s famous club. He died in 1774, leaving an incredible volume of work and an equal amount of debt.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Tony Lumpkin in She Stoops to Conquer is one of those classic ne’er-do-wells in English literature who would rather eat, drink, and play a merry prank than work for a living. Tony may have been Oliver Goldsmith’s favorite male character in the play; at the very least, he was a kindred spirit, because the playwright himself had lived a ne’er-do-well’s existence before successful authorship brought him some stability and an income, however irregular it may have been.

Goldsmith began life as the second son in the large family of an Anglo-Irish clergyman. What limited wealth the family had was destined to become part of his older brother’s inheritance or of the dowry for an older sister who “married...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Oliver Goldsmith was born of English stock to Ann Jones and the Reverend Charles Goldsmith, an Anglican curate. He first attended the village school of Lissoy and was taught by Thomas Byrne, a veteran of the War of the Spanish Succession. Byrne, a versifier who regaled his pupils with stories and legends of old Irish heroes, perhaps inspired Goldsmith with his love of poetry, imaginative romance, and adventure. In 1747, Goldsmith attended Patrick Hughes’s school at Edgeworthstown, where he received a thorough grounding in the Latin classics. While there he probably first heard Turlogh O’Carolan, “the last of the bards,” whose minstrelry left a lasting impression on him. In 1745, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a sizar, a position that required him to do menial work in exchange for room, board, and tuition. Goldsmith earned his B.A. degree in either 1749 or 1750. In 1752, he journeyed to Edinburgh, Scotland, to study medicine, and he continued to pursue his medical studies at the University of Leiden, in the Netherlands, in 1754. The next year he set out on a grand tour of the Continent. In February, 1756, he arrived in London, where he briefly taught in Dr. Milner’s school for nonconformists and eked out a living doing hack writing.

A reversal of his fortunes occurred in 1759 with the publication of his first substantial work, An Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe. Goldsmith subsequently befriended such luminaries as the great critic and writer Johnson, the Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett, the actor David Garrick, the writer and statesman Sir Edmund Burke, and the aesthetician and portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1763, they formed themselves into the famous Literary Club, which is memorialized in James Boswell’s great biography of Johnson. Goldsmith died in 1774, possibly of Bright’s disease exacerbated by worry over debts, and was buried in Temple Churchyard. Two years later, the Literary Club erected a monument to him in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, for which Johnson wrote an inscription.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Although David Garrick’s epigrammatic remark that Oliver Goldsmith “wrote like an angel, but talk’s like poor Poll” exaggerates his social awkwardness, it does contain an important indicator. Before Goldsmith discovered authorship, his life had been all trial and mostly error.

As the second son of an Irish clergyman, Goldsmith could not look forward to independent means; most of the family resources went to increase the dowry of a sister. Nature seems to have been equally parsimonious toward him: Childhood disease, natural indolence, and physical ungainliness left him prey to his classmates’ teasing and his schoolmasters’ scorn. His later days at Trinity College in Dublin were no better: He got into trouble...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Oliver Goldsmith’s life divides into almost equal segments. The first half is poorly understood. The second, beginning in 1756 with his arrival in London, is well documented. Goldsmith’s birth is shrouded in some mystery. It is believed that he was born on November 10, 1728 or 1730, at his parents’ home at Pallas, County Longford, Ireland. The uncertainty arises because the year next to Goldsmith’s recorded birth was ripped out of the family Bible. He was the fourth child and second son of Charles Goldsmith, a leisure-loving curate who rose slowly in the Anglican Church, and Ann Jones Goldsmith. Shortly after Oliver’s birth, the family moved to Lissoy, where Charles became curate-in-charge of the parish at Kilkenny West....

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Oliver Goldsmith is one of the great writers of the eighteenth century, ranking with Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson. He was certainly the master comedian of his age. His versatility in producing important poems, dramas, novels, and essays is without peer.

Goldsmith always remained a puzzle to his contemporaries. He was a difficult personality for them to comprehend. After his death, however, he assumed legendary proportions. Over the centuries, many anecdotes and recollections of the man have been offered, including countless books and shorter works. Perhaps Johnson wrote it best in his Latin inscription on Goldsmith’s memorial in the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey: “in genius lofty, lively, versatile; in style weighty, clear, engaging.”


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Oliver Goldsmith, the son of a Protestant clergyman in Ballymahon, was born in a small and poor village in Ireland. When Goldsmith was two years old his father succeeded to a more lucrative parish and moved his family to Lissoy, Westmeath. Little in Goldsmith’s early life pointed him toward literature. He received his earliest education at home from a maid-servant and thereupon at the Lissoy village school and a variety of boarding schools. Because he was small in stature, pitted with smallpox, and awkward in manner, he was the butt of his schoolmates’ jokes, and his schoolmasters considered him “a stupid, heavy blockhead.” However, both his characteristic good nature and his characteristic indolence remained unaltered....

(The entire section is 1395 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Born November 10, 1728, in Ballymahon, Ireland, Goldsmith was from a poor but not needy family, supported by his father's position as a...

(The entire section is 625 words.)