Goldsmith, Oliver

Oliver Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith. Image source Wikimedia. Public Domain

Oliver Goldsmith was born on November 10th, 1730. His birthplace is disputed but it is most probably Pallasmore, Co. Longford. At the age of eight he had a severe attack of smallpox which disfigured him for life.

He received a B.A. degree in February 1749 from Trinity College Dublin, before he left Ireland in 1752 to study medicine in Edinburgh. He subsequently wandered through Europe, supporting himself by begging and by playing the flute, before settling in London.

His most famous works are his novel, The Vicar of Wakefield (Salisbury, B. Collins for F. Newbery, 2 volumes, 1766); his long poem, The Deserted Village (London, W. Griffin, 26 May, 1770, with four more editions in the same year); and his play, She Stoops to Conquer, a Comedy (produced at Covent Garden, 15 March, 1773).
His voluminous lesser-known works include An Enquiry into the present State of Polite Learning in Europe (1759); Retaliation (Essays, London, G. Kearsley, 1774. 2nd edition, corrected, 1766); Memoirs of M. de Voltaire (The Lady’s Magazine, 1761); The History of England (4 volumes, 1771); The Citizen of the World; or, Letters from a Chinese Philosopher, residing in London, to his Friend in the East (appeared in The Public Ledger as Chinese Letters from 24 January, 1760, to 14 August, 1761. Published in two volumes, May, 1762); Plutarch’s Lives, abridged from the Greek. By Goldsmith and Joseph Collyer (7 vols. 1762); The Art of Poetry (2 vols. 1762); The Traveller; or, a Prospect of Society (published 19 December, 1764, dated 1765); An History of the Earth and Animated Nature (Dublin, J. Williams, 1782-83, 8 volumes); An History of England in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman to his Son (2 volumes, 1764); A Concise History of Philosophy and Philosophers. Translated by Goldsmith from the French of Formey (1766); A Short English Grammar (1766); Poems for Young Ladies. Collected, with Preface (1767); Beauties of English Poesy (2 volumes, 1767); The Good Natur’d Man, a Comedy (produced at Covent Garden, 29 January,1768, 5th edn. 1768); A Survey of Experimental Philosophy (published posthumously, 2 volumes, 1776); and The Haunch of Venison (published posthumously 1776).

He was extravagant in taste and recklessly generous, to the extent that he died leaving debts of £2000. He never married, but had a close relationship with Mary Horneck, with whom he fell in love in 1769.

He died after a short illness in the spring of 1774, and is buried in the churchyard of the Church of Saint Mary, also known as The Temple, in London. His epitaph, by Johnson, includes the famous line:

Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit
(He touched nothing that he did not adorn).

Oliver Dalziels’ illustrated Goldsmith … and A sketch of the life of Oliver Goldsmith by H.W. Dulcken ; with one hundred pictures drawn by G.J. Pinwell ; engraved by the brothers Dalziel. Published 1865 by Ward, Lock in London. (

The Poems and Plays of Oliver Goldsmith (

Oliver Goldsmith at The National Library of Ireland