chapter  68
7 Pages

Washington Irving comments on Goldsmith’s life and writings, 1825

Washington Irving (1783-1859) first wrote a sketch of Goldsmith's life and writings in 1825 as one of the volumes in a series called British Classics. His interest in Goldsmith had been lifelong, and he once remarked that Goldsmith's writings 'were the delight of my childhood, and have been a source of enjoyment to me throughout life' {Stanley T. Williams, The Life of Washington Irving, 2 vols, New York: Oxford University Press, 1935, ii, p. 221). The first sketch was reworked and appeared as an introduction to an American edition of Goldsmith's selected works published in 1840 in New York. This introduction was expanded during 1849 into a full-sized biography which enjoyed widespread popularity both in England and abroad. While Irving's life does not reveal a singularly American point of view regarding Goldsmith, it does reflect an unusual understanding of the vicissitudes of his life and sympathy for his literary weaknesses. James W. Webb has discussed the history and reception of Irving's various versions of his Life of Goldsmith in 'Irving and his "Favorite Author," ' University of Mississippi Studies in English, iii, 1962, pp. 61-74. The passages printed here are found on pp. 161-24 7 of the expanded version of 1849.