GOLDSMITH, Oliver (1728-1774). Autograph letter fragment, unsigned, to Dr Charles Burney, n.p., n.d., 1 page, folio, autograph address panel, docket on verso, seal hole repaired (closed tear at top crease, other creases reinforced on verso).
'WHO WILL RIDICULE IMPERFECTION IN ONE THAT SEEMS CONSCIOUS THAT IT IS AN IMPERFECTION?'. Goldsmith offers some witty reflections on how to 'read' the badly dressed. 'Plain dress,' he says, 'for an ordinary man or Woman, implies at least Modesty, & always procures kind quarter from the Censorious -- Who will ridicule Imperfection in One that seems conscious that it is an imperfection? ... But who wd spare so very absurd a Wronghead, as shd bestow Tinsel to make his deformity more conspicuous?'. To illustrate his point he reports that 'I have just Parted with an immense beau one Mr Thompson, the ugliest man I think I ever saw. I know but little of him, or of his Character & Am in doubt whether I should put him down for a Great fool or a Smatterer in Wit. Something, methinks, I saw wrong in him by his dress. If this fellow delights not so much in ridicule that he will not spare himself he must be plaguy silly to take such pains to make his ugliness more conspicuous that it wd otherwise be.' He finishes by thanking Burney for the favour of remembering his map: 'I have often censured the boldness of those who applying for a favour, which it is in a Person's option to grant or to refuse, take the liberty of being offended if they are not gratified; as if the Petitioned had not as much right to refuse, as the Petitioner to ask.'
Goldsmith consistently indulged his own taste for expensive and stylish clothes, yet by all accounts would often play the fool in company to compensate for his physical awkwardness and lack of conversational ease. Not published in Letters.