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every young fellow setting out in life to love gravy: ' and added, that he had formerly seen a glutton's eldest nephew disinherited, because his uncle never could persuade him to say he liked gravy."
Mr. Forster thinks that the concluding anecdote conveys a false impression of one
"Who wrote like an angel, but talked like poor Poll."
"Mrs. Piozzi, in her travels, quite solemnly sets forth that poor Dr. Goldsmith said once, 'I would advise every young fellow setting forth in life to love gravy,' alleging for it the serious reason that he had formerly seen a glutton's eldest nephew disinherited because his uncle never could persuade him to say he liked gravy.' Imagine the dullness that would convert a jocose saying of this kind into an unconscious utterance of grave absurdity."* In his index may be read: "Mrs. Piozzi's absurd instance of Goldsmith's absurdity." Mrs. Piozzi does not quote the saying as an instance of absurdity; nor set it forth solemnly. She repeats it, as an illustration of her argument, in the same semi-serious spirit in which it was originally hazarded. Sydney Smith took a different view of this grave gravy question. On a young lady's declining gravy, he exclaimed: "I have been looking all my life for a person who, on principle, rejected gravy: let us vow eternal friendship."
* Life of Goldsmith, vol. ii. p. 205. Mr. Forster allows her the credit of discovering the lurking irony in Goldsmith's verses on Cumberland, vol. ii. p. 293.
The "British Synonymy" appeared in 1794. It was thus assailed by Gifford:
Though no one better knows his own house' than I the vanity of this woman; yet the idea of her undertaking such a work had never entered my head; and I was thunderstruck when I first saw it announced. To execute it with any tolerable degree of success, required a rare combination of talents, among the least of which may be numbered neatness of style, acuteness of perception, and a more than common accuracy of discrimination; and Mrs. Piozzi brought to the task, a jargon long since become proverbial for its vulgarity, an utter incapability of defining a single term in the language, and just as much Latin from a child's Syntax, as sufficed to expose the ignorance she so anxiously labours to conceal. If such a one be fit to write on Synonimes, speak.' Pignotti himself laughs in his sleeve; and his countrymen, long since undeceived, prize the lady's talents at their true worth,
"Et centum Tales* curto centusse licentur.'
Other critics have been more lenient or more just. Enough philosophical knowledge and acuteness were discovered in the work to originate a rumour that she had retained some of the great lexicographer's manuscripts, or derived a posthumous advantage, in some shape, from her former intimacy with him. In "Thraliana," Denbigh, 2nd January, 1795, she writes:
My Synonimes' have been reviewed at last. The
critics are all civil for aught I see, and nearly just, except when they say that Johnson left some fragments of a work upon Synonymy: of which God knows I never heard till now one syllable; never had he and I, in all the time we lived together, any conversation upon the subject."
Even Walpole admits that it has some marked and peculiar merits, although its value consists rather in the illustrative matter, than in the definitions and etymologies. Thus, in distinguishing between lavish, profuse and prodigal, she relates:
"Two gentlemen were walking leisurely up the Hay-Market some time in the year 1749, lamenting the fate of the famous Cuzzona, an actress who some time before had been in high vogue, but was then as they heard in a very pitiable situation. Let us go and visit her,' said one of them,' she lives but over the way.' The other consented; and calling at the door, they were shown up stairs, but found the faded beauty dull and spiritless, unable or unwilling to converse on any sub'How's this?' cried one of her consolers, are you ject. ill? or is it but low spirits chains your tongue so?'"Neither,' replied she: 'tis hunger I suppose. I ate nothing yesterday, and now 'tis past six o'clock, and not one penny have I in the world to buy me any food.' -Come with us instantly to a tavern; we will treat you with the best roast fowls and Port wine that London can produce.' 'But I will have neither my dinner nor my place of eating it prescribed to me,' answered Cuzzona, in a sharper tone,' else I need never have wanted.'
'Forgive me,' cries the friend; do your own way; but eat in the name of God, and restore fainting nature.'She thanked him then; and, calling to her a friendly wretch who inhabited the same theatre of misery, gave him the guinea the visitor accompanied his last words with; and run with this money,' said she, 'to such a wine-merchant,' (naming him); he is the only one keeps good Tokay by him. "Tis a guinea a bottle, mind you,' to the boy; and bid the gentleman you buy it of give you a loaf into the bargain,
refuse.' In half an hour or less the lad returned with
the Tokay. spoke for?
But where,' cries Cuzzona, is the loaf I
The merchant would give me no loaf,' replies her messenger; he drove me from the door, and asked if I took him for a baker.' 'Blockhead!' exclaims she; why I must have bread to my wine, you know, and I have not a penny to purchase any. beg me a loaf directly.' The fellow returns once more with one in his hand and a halfpenny, telling 'em the gentleman threw him three, and laughed at his impudence. She gave her Mercury the money, broke the bread into a wash-hand basin which stood near, poured the Tokay over it, and devoured the whole with eagerThis was indeed a heroine in PROFUSION. Some active well-wishers procured her a benefit after this; she gained about 350l., 'tis said, and laid out two hundred of the money instantly in a shell-cap. They wore such things then."
When Savage got a guinea, he commonly spent it in a tavern at a sitting; and referring to the memorable
morning when the "Vicar of Wakefield" was produced, Johnson says: "I sent him (Goldsmith) a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent. I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had got a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him." Mrs. Piozzi continues:
"But Doctor Johnson had always some story at hand to check extravagant and wanton wastefulness. His improviso verses made on a young heir's coming of age are highly capable of restraining such folly, if it is to be restrained: they never yet were printed, I believe.
"Long expected one-and-twenty,
Lingering year, at length is flown;
"Loosen'd from the minor's tether,
Free to mortgage or to sell,
Bid the sons of thrift farewell.
"Call the Betseys, Kates, and Jennies,
"All that prey on vice or folly
Joy to see their quarry fly;