Oliver Goldsmith

(10 November 1728? - 4 April 1774)
Oliver Goldsmith (1728?-1774)

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Oliver Goldsmith (1728?-1774)

Works in ECPA

alphabetical listing / listing in source editions

Source editions

  • Mendez, Moses. A collection of the most esteemed pieces of poetry: that have appeared for several years. With variety of originals, by the late Moses Mendez, Esq; and other contributors to Dodsley's collection. To which this is intended as a supplement. London: printed for Richardson and Urquhart, 1767. [8],320p. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T124631; DMI 1073; OTA K099398.000)
  • Pearch, G. A collection of poems in four volumes. By several hands. Vol. IV. [The second edition]. London: printed for G. Pearch, 1770. 4v. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T116245; DMI 1137; OTA K093079.004)
  • Goldsmith, Oliver, 1730?-1774. The Miscellaneous Works of Oliver Goldsmith, M.B. Containing all his Essays and Poems. London: printed for W. Griffin, Catherine-street, in the Strand, 1775. [8],iv,[1],10-200p. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T146118; OTA K113624.000)

Biographical note

Oliver Goldsmith was born at Pallas, near Ballymahon, County Longford, Ireland, the fifth child of Charles Goldsmith (c. 1690–1747), curate and later rector at Kilkenny West, and his wife, Ann (d. 1770), the daughter of a clergyman. Goldsmith grew up near the village of Lissoy, where the family moved in 1730. Goldsmith was disfigured by smallpox as a child. He was educated by the village schoolmaster, Thomas Byrne, and then at schools at Elphin, Athlone, and Edgeworthstown. Goldsmith showed early promise as a poet. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1745, but only just graduated BA in 1750. While at university, he supported himself and his gambling habit by selling ballads. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University for two years, and in 1754 went to Leiden for further training. He abandoned the plan, however, and instead travelled on foot through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. On his return to England in 1756, he worked as assistant to an apothecary, doctor (apparently without a medical degree), school-teacher, and writer. Goldsmith became a staff writer first on the The Monthly Review, and later on the rival Critical Review. He also contributed pieces to other periodicals, wrote biographies, and became a novelist. By 1760, he was established as a professional writer and made new friends, including Smollet, Thomas Percy, Samuel Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the bookseller John Newbery. In 1764, he was a founder member of the Club, the literary association formed by Johnson, Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir John Hawkins and others. Also in 1764, he completed and published his first major poem, The Traveller; or, A Prospect of Society. After his success as a poet, Newbery also published Goldsmith's collected Essays in 1765 and his novel, The Vicar of Wakefield, in 1766. Goldsmith edited two poetry anthologies in 1766 and 1767 and wrote a play, which was performed at Covent Garden in 1768. In 1769, Goldsmith was was appointed Professor of Ancient History at the Royal Academy at the suggestion of Reynolds. In 1770, he published The Deserted Village, his most famous poem, contrasting the innocent state of rural life with the evils of commercialism and enclosure. Goldsmith produced several historical and biographical works as well as continuing to write for the stage. Despite his many successes and his fame as a writer, Goldsmith was plagued by his prodigal habits throughout his life. In 1773, he had his greatest success as a playwright with She Stoops to Conquer. In 1774, Goldsmith increasingly suffered from bad health and had to seek treatment. His last poem, Retaliation, a series of mock epitaphs for his friends, remained unfinished. Goldsmith died on 4 April 1774. The memorial to Goldsmith in Westminster Abbey, erected by Reynolds, carries a Latin epitaph by Johnson.


ODNB 10924; DMI 1629; NCBEL 1191-1210


  • Smith, Margaret M. Index of English Literary Manuscripts. Vol. III, 1700-1800 . London: Mansell, 1986-1997. Pt. 2 Gay-Philips. 63-70. Print. 4 volumes.


  • Friedman, Arthur, ed. Collected Works of Oliver Goldsmith. 5 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966. Print.
  • Lonsdale, Roger, ed. The Poems of Gray, Collins and Goldsmith. London and Harlow: Longmans, 1969. Print.


  • Ginger, John. The Notable Man: The Life and Times of Oliver Goldsmith. London: Hamilton, 1977. Print.

Reference works


  • Carey, Brycchan. Deserted village and animated nature: an ecocritcal approach to Oliver Goldsmith. Fowler, Joanna and Allan Ingram, eds. Voice and context in eighteenth-century verse: order in variety. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 117-132. Print.
  • Clarke, Norma. Brothers of the quill: Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard UP, 2016. Print.
  • Conti Camaiora, Luisa. Virtuous texts: the idea of virtue in poems by Pope, Gray and Goldsmith. Milan: Vita e pensiero, 2003. Print.
  • Dixon, Peter. Goldsmith and Johnson. New Rambler E:1 (1997/98): 50-57. Print.
  • Griffin, Michael. Enlightenment in ruins: the geographies of Oliver Goldsmith. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2013. Print.
  • Lonsdale, Roger. 'A Garden and a Grave': The Poetry of Oliver Goldsmith. Martz, Louis L. and Aubrey L. Williams, eds., The Author in his Work: Essays on a Problem in Criticism. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1978. 3-30. Print.
  • Lutz, Alfred. The Poet and the Hack: Goldsmith's Career as a Professional Writer. Anglia: Zeitschrift für Englische Philologie 123(3) (2005): 414-440. Print.
  • Mounsey, Chris. Oliver Goldsmith and John Newbery. Eighteenth-Century Ireland/ Iris an dá Chultúr 13 (1998): 149-158. Print.

Studies of individual works

  • Chaden, Caryn. Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village, and George Crabbe, The Village. Gerrard, Christine, ed. A Companion to Eighteenth-Century Poetry. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006. 303-315. Print.
  • Clarke, Matthew. The 'Luxury of Woe': The Deserted Village and the Politics of Publication. European Romantic Review 26(2) (2015): 165-183. Print.
  • Hessell, Nikki. Antipodean Auburns: The Deserted Village and the colonized world. Modern Philology 112(4) (2015): 643-660. Print.
  • Kazmin, Roman. Oliver Goldsmith's The Traveller and The Deserted Village: moral economy of landscape representation. English Studies (The Netherlands) 87(6) (2006): 653-668. Print.
  • Love, H. W. Goldsmith's Deserted Village: or paradise mislaid. Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association 67 (1987): 43-59. Print.
  • Lutz, Alfred. The Politics of Reception: The Case of Goldsmith's 'The Deserted Village'. Studies in Philology 95(2) (1998): 174-196. Print.
  • Lutz, Alfred. The Deserted Village and the politics of genre. Modern Language Quarterly 55(2) (1994): 149-168. Print.
  • Mahony, Robert. Lyrical Antithesis: The Moral Style of The Deserted Village. Ariel 8 (1977): 33-47. Print.
  • Mitchell, Sebastian. Oliver Goldsmith's The Deserted Village: past, present, and future. English 55(212) (2006): 123-139. Print.
  • Newey, Vincent. Goldsmith's 'Pensive Plain': Re-viewing The Deserted Village. Woodman, Thomas, ed., Early Romantics: Perspectives in British Poetry from Pope to Wordsworth. Houndmills: Macmillan, 1998. 93-116. Print.
  • Piper, William Bowman. The musical quality of Goldsmith's The Deserted Village. Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 14 (1985): 259-274. Print.
  • Storm, Leo. Literary Convention in Goldsmith's Deserted Village. Huntington Library Quarterly 33 (1969-70): 243-56. Print.