Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Goldsmith’

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Even when a child, Johnson was noted for his great capacity for repartee and one day when his mother in a burst of anger called him a ‘puppy’ he instantly retorted, “Do you know what they call a puppy’s mother?”
Johnson was noted for his deep seated prejudice against Scotsmen. The first meeting between him and his future biographer James Boswell was arranged by Davis, a common friend. Boswell had instructed him not to divulge his country of origin to Johnson.
But Davis after introducing Boswell to Johnson mischievously added “from Scotland.” Boswell excused himself by saying, “Mr. Johnson, I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.”
Johnson’s retort was, “That, sir, I find, is what many of your countrymen cannot help.”
On another occasion when Boswell tried to defend his country by saying that Scotland could boast of plenty of meat and drink Johnson replied, “Why, yes, sir meat and drink enough to give the inhabitants sufficient strength to run away from home.”
In his eyes the noblest prospect which, a Scotsman could ever see was the high road that led him to England.
Johnson never allowed himself to be nonplussed by his inability to give a logical reply to an argument. He would turn around the discussion to his advantage by giving a witty or sarcastic comment about his opponent, which was summed up by Oliver Goldsmith as thus, “There’s no arguing with Johnson;for when his pistol misses ,he knocks you down with the butt end of it.”
Once the discussion was centered on the efficacy of medicated bath and Johnson had little faith in it. But one gentleman present put up a logical argument in its favor by saying that medicated vapors entered through the pores of the skin and this had a beneficial effect on the sick person. All except Johnson was impressed. Johnson had this to say, Well, sr, go to Dominicetti and get thyself fumigated; but be sure that the steam be directed to thy head,for that is the diseased part.”
When a gentleman remarked to him, “I don’t understand you, sir,” Johnson retorted, “Sir, I found you an argument ;but I am not obliged to find you an understanding.”
When Boswell once remarked that he had listened to a woman’s sermon, Johnson replied, “Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”
In 1783, Mrs.Siddons a great Shakespearean actress, a formidable lady in her own right called on him. On arriving she found there was no chair ready for her. Observing this Johnson commented, “You, madam, who so often occasion a want of seats to other people, will the more easily excuse the want of one yourself.”
Dr. Johnson once attended a concert much against his will. During the violin solo, his companion leaned over and remarked to Johnson squirming in his seats, “That is a very difficult passage.”
“Difficult do you call it, sir?” grumbled Johnson, “I wish it were impossible.”
Oliver Goldsmith, Samuel Johnson and Sir. Joshua Reynolds were chatting together and Goldsmith said he intends to write a fable. He cited The Fable of the Little Fishes and said the trick was in making them talk like little fishes. As he thought loud of his proposed fable Dr. Johnson could not help laughing loudly.
Irritated Goldsmith referring to Johnsonian bombastic style said, “Why, Dr. Johnson, this is not so easy as you seem to think, for if you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk like whales”.
It was his dictionary that made his name. In the wake of his success many paid him generous compliments for his achievement. Two ladies were all praises for his leaving out naughty words.
“What my dears!” Johnson said, “then you have been looking for them?”

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Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774) was described by his first teacher as ‘impenetrably stupid.’ Balzac similarly was written away as useless.Einstein was not expected to set the world on fire either. Many more instances could be cited where those who were in authority so lightly dismissed those youths who didn’t fit their mold. Are lives of men and women such stuff, as simple and regular as some rock specimens to be labeled and put away?
Naturally Oliver Goldsmith in the eyes of his peers might have seemed ’stupid’. They might have in the past predicted similarly and were found right.  The only difference between Oliver and other boys was in this: other boys compromised with the opinion of the elders while he didn’t. Oliver Goldsmith explored his life despite of his uncommon clumsiness and many failings, to find its common center. His creative output (among which ‘The Vicar of Wakefield ‘She stoops to conquer and many poems are literary gems) gave his life its compactness.

I have made a fool of myself many times. I might again make mistakes. But these are nothing compared to the one I could if I go by opinion of others. They might write me off from mistakes. But how right they are to put a seal on my life for good or bad? My growth is not driven by my mistakes but from my life force . It is such I could use it as a straw or as a steam roller, which coupled with my character shall smash to powder every negative aside of others that is not truly part of me. These mistakes are incidentals due to my trust misplaced in others or my inability to change shapes of my words to counter false friends. I came across the case of art dealer Lawrence Salander, 59, who was arrested at his New York home on Thursday, when he and his gallery were charged with 100 counts, including grand larceny and securities fraud. So far, authorities have identified 26 victims of Salander’s scheme, including McEnroe, who lost $2 million after investing a half share in two paintings, which was sold at the same time to another collector. ( It is learned that McEnroe never recouped the money.)

The con artist’s scheme, which lasted from 1994 to 2007, included luring investors who paid cash in exchange for shares of ownership of works of art.Why did he do it? He ‘needed’ the money to fund “an extravagant lifestyle” of lavish parties and private jets. Most of the artworks, which are yet to be valued, are being held in the custody of a bankruptcy court in Poughkeepsie, New York. Many of the investors have filed civil claims against Salander and his gallery, which filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2007. Was such a charade really necessary? What scandalous times do we live in where a man would rather be known for a crook than as one whose word is his bond and as straight as an arrow. What is Madoff now worth for?(It seems a Milwauee man won at Lotto $1500 by using his prison number. It is is the only good it has done in his case.) Who cares for Madoff’s philanthropic works now by hindsight are equated for trapping the unwary investors. Even now from two examples cited above we may understand that fraudsters get their comeuppance sooner or later.

Our lives are blank pages where what is written must be the truth of our character that met the challenge of our circumstances and like the white plume of Cyrano de Bergerac remains unsullied. It s panache of the  highest sort.

Tailpiece: In cases where doubt exists the best course open for any is to prove by his or her deeds.

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