History

Oliver Goldsmith

History

In Poets' Corner Westminster Abbey, over the doorway leading to St Faith's chapel, is a white marble memorial to author Oliver Goldsmith. This shows a portrait medallion with laurel branches, books and a mask. The sculptor was Joseph Nollekens and the inscription was written by Dr Samuel Johnson, who refused to write it in English.  A translation of the Latin is:

"To the memory of Oliver Goldsmith, poet, philosopher and historian, by whom scarcely any style of writing was left untouched and no one touched unadorned, whether to move to laughter or tears; a powerful, yet lenient master of the affections, in genius sublime, vivid, and versatile, in expression, noble, brilliant, and delicate, is cherished in this monument by the love of his companions, the fidelity of his friends, and the admiration of his readers. Born in the parish of Fernes, in Longford, a county of Ireland, at a place named Pallas, on the 29th November 1731. He was educated at Dublin and died in London on 4th April 1774".

He was a son of Charles Goldsmith, a curate, and his wife Ann (Jones). At the age of eight he was disfigured by smallpox. After education in Dublin he studied medicine in Edinburgh before touring on the continent. He turned to journalism and wrote for the Critical Review and was a friend of Johnson and Edmund Burke. As a poet his work The Traveller was acclaimed and he was the author of The Vicar of Wakefield, She stoops to conquer and The Deserted Village. Throughout his life he struggled with poverty and debt and was buried in the cemetery of the Temple Church in London.

A photo of the memorial can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

"Nollekens and his Times" by J.T.Smith, 1828 & 1986 edition.