Oliver Goldsmith 1728?-1774

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Oliver GOLDSMITH 1728?-1774

Biographical Note

Born near Ballymahon, Ireland, son of Charles Goldsmith, curate. Although he graduated BA at Trinity College, Dublin in 1750 his early years involved various difficulties and false starts, including the study of medicine in Edinburgh and Paris in the early 1750s. He did not take a medical degree and after some years of travelling in Europe he sought unsuccessfully to set up a medical practice in London. He had a post as a schoolmaster but during the late 1750s he mostly earned a poor living through writing and journalism. He gradually established a reputation as a literary author, helped by his partnership with the publisher John Newbery. The Citizen of the world and The life of Richard Nash were published in 1762, and The Vicar of Wakefield in 1766. Throughout the 1760s and early 70s he wrote other poems, plays, novels and histories, developing an extensive acquaintance with other literary figures of the time, but always living on the edge of financial security. His early death was widely mourned, and his literary reputation has survived to the present day.


Goldsmith's straitened circumstances during most of his life limited his ability to buy and keep books, and Stephen Clarke describes his library as "a working writer's reasonably modest accumulation of books". He was not noted as a bibliophile and there are anecdotes recounting his tearing pages out of books in order to supply references. His library, together with his household furniture, was auctioned in London, beginning 12 July 1774; the catalogue (which has been reproduced in facsimile, see below) includes 162 lots of books, in ca.300 volumes, including titles in history, natural history, and English and French literature.


  • Alston, R. C. Inventory of sale catalogues ... 1676-1800, St Philip, 2010.
  • Amory, H., Introduction to the facsimile of Goldsmith's sale catalogue, in A.N.L.Munby (ed), Sale catalogues of libraries of eminent persons, London, 1973, vol.7, 227-33.
  • Clarke, Stephen, The libraries of twelve early members of The Club, part 5, Oliver Goldsmith, The Book Collector 70 (2021), 700-3.
  • A catalogue of the houshold furniture, with ... books ... of Dr. Goldsmith, London, 1774, ESTC n52434.
  • Dobson, A., Goldsmith's library, Eighteenth century vignettes, London, 1892, 167-75.
  • Dussinger, John A. "Goldsmith, Oliver (1728?–1774), author." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.