Oliver Goldsmith

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Goldsmith, Oliver,

1730?–1774, Anglo-Irish author. The son of an Irish clergyman, he was graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1749. He studied medicine at Edinburgh and Leiden, but his career as a physician was quite unsuccessful. In 1756 he settled in London, where he achieved some success as a miscellaneous contributor to periodicals and as the author of Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe (1759). But it was not until The Citizen of the World (1762), a series of whimsical and satirical essays, that he was recognized as an able man of letters. His fame grew with The Traveler (1764), a philosophic poem, and the nostalgic pastoral The Deserted Village (1770). However, his literary reputation rests on his two comedies, The Good-natur'd Man (1768) and She Stoops to Conquer (1773), and his only novel, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766). His comedies injected a much-needed sense of realism into the dull, sentimental plays of the period. They are lively, witty, and imbued with an endearing humanity. The Vicar of Wakefield is the warm, humorous, if somewhat melodramatic, story of a country parson and his family. Although he earned a great deal of money in his lifetime, Goldsmith's improvidence kept him poor. Boswell depicted him as a ridiculous, blundering, but tenderhearted and generous creature. He had the friendship of many of the literary and artistic great of his day, the most notable being that of Samuel Johnson.


See biography by R. M. Wardle (1957, repr. 1969); R. Quintana (1967), R. H. Hopkins (1969), R. L. Harp (1976), and J. Giner (1978).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Goldsmith, Oliver


Born Nov. 10, 1728, in the village of Pallas in Ireland; died Apr. 4. 1774, in London. English writer; son of a clergyman.

Oliver Goldsmith graduated from the university in Dublin in 1749. He wrote An Enquiry Into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe (1759) and compiled histories of ancient Greece and Rome. He also wrote a series of satirical sketches on morals and manners entitled A Citizen of the World, or Letters of a Chinese Philosopher Residing in London to His Friends in the East (1762). The poem The Traveller (1765) was well known. Goldsmith’s comedies The Good-Natured Man (1768; Russian translation, 1955) and She Stoops to Conquer, or The Mistakes of a Night (1773; Russian translations. 1899 and 1954), as well as An Essay on the Theater, or a Comparison Between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy (1773), contrasted with the sentimental and moralistic type of comedy. Goldsmith’s best works are the poem The Deserted Village (1770; Russian translation, 1902). which is about the devastation of the countryside as a result of the agrarian revolution, and the novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766; Russian translations, 1786 and 1959), written in a sentimental style about the history of a village pastor’s family persecuted by the landlord. Criticism of bourgeois relations in Goldsmith’s writings is combined with the idealization of patriarchal society.


Works, vols. 1–10. London. 1908.
Selected Works. London, 1950.


Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. I, issue 2. Moscow-Leningrad,1945. Pages 510–23.
Lozovskii, A. I. “Agrarnyi perevorot v Anglii serediny XVIII stoletiia i tvorchestvo Gol’dsmita.” Uch. zap. Krasnodarskogopedagogicheskogo in-ta, issue 21–a. 1957.
Paden, W. D., and C. K. Hyder. A Concordance to the Poems ofOliver Goldsmith. London, 1940.
Kirk, C. M. Oliver Goldsmith. New York [1967]. (Bibliography pp. 195–97.)
Hopkins. R. H. The True Genius of Oliver Goldsmith. Baltimore [1969].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.