"Man wants but little here below, nor wants that little long." -- Oliver Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith (10 November 1730 – 4 April 1774) was an Irish writer, poet, and physician known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), his pastoral poem The Deserted Village (1770) (written in memory of his brother), and his plays The Good-Natur'd Man (1768) and She Stoops to Conquer (1771, first performed in 1773). He also wrote "An History of the Earth and Animated Nature". He is thought to have written the classic children's tale The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, the source of the phrase "goody two-shoes".
"A great source of calamity lies in regret and anticipation; therefore a person is wise who thinks of the present alone, regardless of the past or future.""A man who leaves home to mend himself and others is a philosopher; but he who goes from country to country, guided by the blind impulse of curiosity, is a vagabond.""All that a husband or wife really wants is to be pitied a little, praised a little, and appreciated a little.""As writers become more numerous, it is natural for readers to become more indolent; whence must necessarily arise a desire of attaining knowledge with the greatest possible ease.""Be not affronted at a joke. If one throw salt at thee, thou wilt receive no harm, unless thou art raw.""Ceremonies are different in every country, but true politeness is everywhere the same.""Conscience is a coward, and those faults it has not strength enough to prevent it seldom has justice enough to accuse.""Could a man live by it, it were not unpleasant employment to be a poet.""Every absurdity has a champion to defend it.""Friendship is a disinterested commerce between equals; love, an abject intercourse between tyrants and slaves.""Girls like to be played with, and rumpled a little too, sometimes.""Honour sinks where commerce long prevails.""Hope is such a bait, it covers any hook.""I chose my wife, as she did her wedding gown, for qualities that would wear well.""I love everything that's old, - old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.""I was ever of the opinion, that the honest man who married and brought up a large family, did more service than he who continued single, and only talked of population.""If you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk like whales.""Law grinds the poor, and rich men rule the law.""Let schoolmasters puzzle their brain, With grammar, and nonsense, and learning, Good liquor, I stoutly maintain, Gives genius a better discerning.""Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.""Modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues.""On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting, 'Twas only when he was off, he was acting.""Our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.""People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.""Pity and friendship are two passions incompatible with each other.""Romance and novel paint beauty in colors more charming than nature, and describe a happiness that humans never taste. How deceptive and destructive are those pictures of consummate bliss!""Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall.""Surely the best way to meet the enemy is head on in the field and not wait till they plunder our very homes.""Tenderness is a virtue.""The best way to make your audience laugh is to start laughing yourself.""The company of fools may first make us smile, but in the end we always feel melancholy.""The hours we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasing than those crowded with fruition.""The jests of the rich are ever successful.""There are some faults so nearly allied to excellence that we can scarce weed out the vice without eradicating the virtue.""They say women and music should never be dated.""When lovely woman stoops to folly, and finds too late that men betray, what charm can soothe her melancholy, what art can wash her guilt away?""Where wealth accumulates, men decay.""With disadvantages enough to bring him to humility, a Scotsman is one of the proudest things alive.""Write how you want, the critic shall show the world you could have written better.""You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips."
Goldsmith's birth date and year are not known with certainty. According to the Library of Congress authority file, he told a biographer that he was born on 29 November 1731, or perhaps in 1730. Other sources have indicated 10 November, on any year from 1727 to 1731. 10 November 1730 is now the most commonly accepted birth date.
Neither is the location of his birthplace certain. He was born either in the townland of Pallas, near Ballymahon, County Longford, Ireland, where his father was the Anglican curate of the parish of Forgney, or at the residence of his maternal grandparents, at the Smith Hill House in the diocese of Elphin, County Roscommon where his grandfather Oliver Jones was a clergyman and master of the Elphin diocesan school. When he was two years old, Goldsmith's father was appointed the rector of the parish of "Kilkenny West" in County Westmeath. The family moved to the parsonage at Lissoy, between Athlone and Ballymahon, and continued to live there until his father's death in 1747.
In 1744 Goldsmith went up to Trinity College, Dublin. Neglecting his studies in theology and law, he fell to the bottom of his class. His tutor was Theaker Wilder. He was graduated in 1749 as a Bachelor of Arts, but without the discipline or distinction that might have gained him entry to a profession in the church or the law; his education seemed to have given him mainly a taste for fine clothes, playing cards, singing Irish airs and playing the flute. He lived for a short time with his mother, tried various professions without success, studied medicine desultorily at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Leiden, and set out on a walking tour of Flanders, France, Switzerland and Northern Italy, living by his wits (busking with his flute).
He settled in London in 1756, where he briefly held various jobs, including an apothecary's assistant and an usher of a school. Perennially in debt and addicted to gambling, Goldsmith produced a massive output as a hack writer for the publishers of London, but his few painstaking works earned him the company of Samuel Johnson, with whom he was a founding member of "The Club". The combination of his literary work and his dissolute lifestyle led Horace Walpole to give him the epithet inspired idiot. During this period he used the pseudonym "James Willington" (the name of a fellow student at Trinity) to publish his 1758 translation of the autobiography of the Huguenot Jean Marteilhe.
Goldsmith was described by contemporaries as prone to envy, a congenial but impetuous and disorganised personality who once planned to emigrate to America but failed because he missed his ship.
His premature death in 1774 may have been partly due to his own misdiagnosis of his kidney infection. Goldsmith was buried in Temple Church. The inscription reads; "HERE LIES/OLIVER GOLDSMITH". There is a monument to him in the center of Ballymahon, also in Westminster Abbey with an epitaph written by Samuel Johnson.
See The Vicar of Wakefield, The Good-Natur'd Man, and She Stoops to Conquer.
Goldsmith wrote this romantic ballad of precisely 160 lines in 1765. The hero and heroine are Edwin, a youth without wealth or power, and Angelina, the daughter of a lord "beside the Tyne." Angelina spurns many wooers, but refuses to make plain her love for young Edwin. "Quite dejected with my scorn," Edwin disappears and becomes a hermit. One day, Angelina turns up at his cell in boy's clothes and, not recognizing him, tells him her story. Edwin then reveals his true identity, and the lovers never part again. The poem is notable for its interesting portrayal of a hermit, who is fond of the natural world and his wilderness solitude but maintains a gentle, sympathetic demeanor toward other people. In keeping with eremitical tradition, however, Edwin the Hermit claims to "spurn the [opposite] sex." This poem appears under the title of "A Ballad" sung by the character of Mr. Burchell in Chapter 8 of Goldsmith's novel, The Vicar of Wakefield.
The Citizen of the World
In 1760, Goldsmith began to publish a series of letters in the Public Ledger under the title The Citizen of the World. Purportedly written by a Chinese traveler in England named Lien Chi, they used this fictional outsider's perspective to comment ironically and at times moralistically on British society and manners. It was inspired by the earlier essay series Persian Letters by Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu.
The ironic poem, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog was published in 1766.
He is also thought to have written the classic children's tale The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes.
Goldsmith lived in Kingsbury, London between 1771-1774 and there is a school named after him there called the Oliver Goldsmith Primary School.
In the play Marx In Soho by Howard Zinn, Marx makes a reference to Goldsmiths' poem, The Deserted Village.
A statue of him stands at the Front Arch of Trinity College, Dublin.
His name has been given to a new lecture theater and student accommodation on the Trinity College campus, Goldsmith Hall.
Somerset Maugham used the last line from An Elegy On The Death Of A Mad Dog in his novel The Painted Veil (1925). The character Walter Fane's last words are The dog it was that died.
Auburn, Alabama and Auburn University were named for the first line in Goldsmith's poem: "Sweet Auburn, loveliest village on the plain." Auburn is still referred to as the 'loveliest village on the plains.'
There is a statue in Ballymahon County Longford.
London Underground locomotive number 16 (used on the Metropolitan line of the London Underground until 1962) was named Oliver Goldsmith.