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  Wanderings at home and abroad Medical and literary efforts in London: the parting of the ways  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

IX. Oliver Goldsmith.

§ 7. Sojourn at Leyden.


After two years’ stay in the Scottish capital, where more memories survive of his social success than of his studies, he took his departure for Leyden, nominally to substitute the lectures of Albinus for the lectures of Monro. At Leyden, he arrived in 1754, not without some picturesque and, possibly, romanced adventures related in a letter to Contarine. The names of Gaubius and other Batavian professors figure glibly and sonorously in his future pages; but that he had much experimental knowledge of their instruction is doubtful. His name is not enrolled as a “Stud. Litt.” in the Album Academicum of Leyden university, nor is it known where he received that “commission to slay” which justified him in signing himself “M.B.” It was certainly not at Padua; 1  and enquiries at Leyden and Louvain were made by Prior without success. But the Louvain records were destroyed in the revolutionary wars. That, however, his stay at Leyden was neither prosperous nor prolonged is plain. He fell again among thieves; and, finally, like Holberg, or that earlier “Peregrine of Odcombe,” Thomas Coryat of the Crudities, set out to make the grand tour on foot. “Haud inexpertus loquor,” he wrote, later, in praising this mode of locomotion; though, on second thoughts, he suppressed the quotation as an undignified admission. He went, first, to Flanders; then passed to France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, supporting himself, much as George Primrose does in The Vicar of Wakefield, by playing the flute, and by occasional disputations at convents or universities. “Sir,” said Boswell to Johnson (who seems to have sustained the pun without blenching), “he disputed his passage through Europe.” At some period of his wanderings he must have sketched a part of The Traveller, specimens of which he sent from Switzerland to his brother Henry. After a year’s wandering, he landed at Dover on 1 February, 1756, “his whole stock of cash,” says an early biographer, “amounting to no more than a few half-pence.” By this time, he was seven-and-twenty.   8

Note 1The Athenaeum, 21 July, 1894. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Wanderings at home and abroad Medical and literary efforts in London: the parting of the ways  
 
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