Goldsmith as Journalist

Goldsmith as Journalist

Author: Richard C. Taylor

Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press

ISBN: 0838634621

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 218

View: 853

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This study finds in Oliver Goldsmith's early work a compelling narrative of social protest and professional accommodation: the struggle of an anonymous "hack" with expectations of recognition and fame too unrealistic for survival in a newly forming profession. As "true critic," as "foreign correspondent" to the magazines, and as an anonymous voice of protest against the commercialization of letters, Goldsmith defined a journalistic self that would inform his later productions. Goldsmith was the "true critic" assailing the romance of - and proclaiming aesthetic standards for - poetry, philosophy, history, satire, and most of the staples of the press in the late 1750s and early 1760s. He was the "foreign correspondent" who, without leaving his bookseller's garret, gave a "first-hand" account of the latest in fashion and learning throughout Europe. He was the blistering social critic attacking the taste of booksellers and "coffee-house readers." And, perhaps most significantly, he provided a lens through which to view the commercialization and professionalization of the publishing industry at a time when literary patronage was moribund. He was, in fact, one of the most important commentators on a period of war and economic expansion, rapid change in public taste, and revolutionary developments in the press. Indeed, the journalistic achievements of Oliver Goldsmith invite a reconsideration of the man doomed for so many years to play "Doctor Minor" to Johnson's "Doctor Major." Long before he established a reputation as the author of The Vicar of Wakefield, She Stoops to Conquer, and The Deserted Village, Goldsmith was establishing his unique journalistic voice - a voice incredibly diverse, if also frequently self-contradictory. There is no doubt that Goldsmith was something of a controversial figure - working for both of London's monthly book review journals while they were engaged in an ongoing, venomous, and well-publicized dispute. But it is important to remember that he was respected, too. He did serve, after all, as principal contributor to several of London's most successful newspapers and magazine miscellanies. In this capacity, his career intersected with the careers of Arthur Murphy, John Newbery, David Hume, Thomas Gray, Edmund Burke, and the most prominent booksellers, authors, and editors of the period. As interest in eighteenth-century English journalism continues to accelerate, the critical reputation of Oliver Goldsmith which has been dwindling for years may receive an important boost. Scholars now have a wealth of primary and critical material from which to construct a contextual framework for understanding literary, social, and political developments in eighteenth-century England. Perhaps this wealth of information will lead them to reassess the man who not only exemplified, but also consistently commented on, the state of the press in "High Georgian" England.