Oliver Goldsmith (1730?1774). She Stoops to Conquer. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, like his contemporary dramatist Sheridan, was an Irishman. He was born at Pallas, near Ballymahon, Longford, November 10, 1728, the son of Charles Goldsmith, a clergyman with narrow means and a large family. Through the help of relatives Oliver was able to get through his course at Trinity College, Dublin, and after various futile experiments he went to Edinburgh to study medicine. Deciding to finish his studies abroad, he set out for Leyden, whence he went traveling through France, Switzerland, and Italy, usually on foot, and earning his meals by playing to the peasants on the flute. Returning to England in 1756 in a state of destitution, he set up as a physician in London, later tried teaching, and in 1757 began his work as a literary hack in the employment of Griffiths, proprietor of the Monthly Review. The next year he failed in an attempt to reenter the practise of medicine, and for the rest of his life was dependent on his pen and the generosity of his friends for a precarious livelihood.
Goldsmiths literary work began with writing for periodicals, and in this form appeared his earliest notable production, The Chinese Letters, later republished as The Citizen of the World. His reputation was increased by the publication of The Traveller in 1764, and still farther by that of The Vicar of Wakefield in 1766, so that he obtained abundance of work from publishers and came as near being in easy circumstances as his improvident nature permitted. In 1768 appeared his first attempt at drama, The Good-Natured Man, which met with fair success. The Deserted Village, issued in 1770, was immediately popular; and in 1773 She Stoops to Conquer was presented at Covent Garden and scored a great triumph. But Goldsmiths money was usually spent or given away before it was earned; and he died on April 4, 1774, deeply in debt.
Goldsmith shares with Sheridan the honor of being the only dramatist of his century whose plays are both read and acted to-day. She Stoops to Conquer, while less brilliant in both dialogue and characterization than The School for Scandal, is rich in amusing situations and still holds its audiences delighted with its genial and rollicking fun.