The Life of Richard Nash, of Bath, Esq; Extracted Principally From His Original Papers.

London: J. Newbery; Bath: W. Frederick, 1762. 8vo, vi, 234 pp. (lacking the 4 pp. of ads at the end). Engraved frontispiece portrait by Walker after Hoare. Modern half calf, marbled boards and edges, bookplate removed at front. First edition of an anonymously written biography of Beau Nash, which Newbery commissioned of Goldsmith. “Poor health drove Goldsmith to Bath in the summer of 1762, where he won access to the papers of Beau Nash, the ‘King of Bath’, and collected anecdotes from witnesses who had known this colourful figure, who died in February 1761. On 14 October 1762 The Life of Richard Nash was published, for which Goldsmith had been paid 14 guineas beforehand, and a second edition appeared in December. In some respects Nash's career had parallels with Goldsmith's. His humble entrance into Oxford as demi-commoner and his undistinguished academic record resembled Goldsmith's pattern at Trinity. If Nash's prowess in moving up in Bath society and holding sway as its ‘king’ is in contrast to Goldsmith's own awkwardness in company they both shared a benevolent temperament, good humour, and compulsive indulgence in fashion that could result in ludicrous situations. ... Doubtless influenced by Johnson's Life of Richard Savage in rendering a subject from the ‘middle ranks of life’ with rare gifts as well as glaring weaknesses, Goldsmith assumed at once the authoritative stance of the disinterested compiler of Nash's records, without any design of writing a panegyric. Goldsmith draws on considerable information in the architect John Wood's Essay towards a Description of Bath to place his subject as the leader of this little community comprising many Londoners seeking to improve their health or their fortunes. It was a heroic achievement, Goldsmith implies, that Nash could turn a wildly heterogeneous collection of landed aristocrats, rich tradesmen, and sickly valetudinarians—besides gamblers, rakes, and crooks—into an orderly and even useful society” (DNB). Rothschild 1022; Tinker 1093. (Item Id: 5562)

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