chapter  38
2 Pages

James Beattie on Goldsmith’s envy of other authors, in A London Diary, 14 June 1773

Dr James Beattie (1735-1803), the Scottish professor, poet and author of the Minstrel (Book I, 1771; Book II, 1774), had recently gained fame and adulation by the publication of his Essay on Truth (1770), a defence of Christianity. The London literary world was sufficiently impressed by the worth of this essay to award him a pension of £200 per annum. Goldsmith was enraged when he heard about the pension and told Dr Johnson, 'here's such a stir about a fellow that has written one book, and I have written many.' 'Ah, Doctor ! ' retorted Johnson, to his indigent, unpensioned friend, 'there go two-and-forty sixpences, you know, to one guinea,' whereupon the lively Mrs Thrale apparently clasped her hands and Goldsmith withdrew to a comer to sulk. Sec Thraliana, June 1777. The following extract is quoted from the edition of james Beattie's London Diary by Ralph S. Walker, Aberdeen University Press, 1946, p. 55·

-Miss Reynolds1 told me to day some particulars of Goldsmith. He, it seems, not only is, but even acknowledges himself to be, envious of all contemporary authors whose works are succesful, and has several times spoken wt. some peevishness of the attention that has been shown to me in England. 'Why should he have a pension?' (he said one day in a company where I happened to be mentioned)-'For writing the minstrel? Then surely I have a better claim.' One of the company told him, that my claim was founded on the Essay on Truth, a work of public utility, and which had been attended wt. danger or at least no small inconvenience to the Author. Here Foote2 the player

interposed: 'I have read (said he) the Minstrel and think it an excellent poem; but the Author of the Essay on Truth is peculiarly entitled to publick encouragement for writing one of the best and most ingenious books which have appeared this age.'-We came not away from Richmond till it was dark and by the way met wt. more than one adventure, owing to the drunkenness of the coachman; however we got safely into town about II o'clock: Sir Joshua, Mess. Ed. & Wm. Burke's, Goldsmith and I in one coach; & Mrs. Burke Miss Reynolds Mrs. Beattie and Dick Burke in another. Rainy and dark evenmg.