Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

1776. trouble you give, the more good things you call for, Ætat. 67. the welcomer you are.

No servants will attend you with the alacrity which waiters do, who are incited by the prospect of an immediate reward in proportion as they please. No, Sir ; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn." He then repeated, with great emotion, Shenstone's lines: 6 Whoe'er has travell'd life's dull round,

“ Where'er his stages may have been, May sigh to think he still has found

“ The warmest welcome at an inn."!

My illustrious friend, I thought, did not sufficently admire Shenstone. That ingenious and elegant gentleman's opinion of Johnson appears in one

3 Sir John Hawkins has preserved very few Memorabilia of Johnson. There is, however, to be found, in his bulky tome, a very excellent one upon this subject. “ In contradiction to those, who, having a wife and children, prefer domestick enjoyments to those which a tavern affords, I have heard him assert, that a tarern chair was the throne of human felicity.- As soon (said he) as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude: when I am seated, I find the master courteous, and the servants obsequious to my call; anxious to know and ready to supply my wants : wine there exhilarates my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love : I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinion and sentiments I find delight.”

4 We happened to lie this night at the inn at Henley, where Shenstone wrote these lines. *

* I give them as they are found in the corrected edition of his Works, published after his death. In Dodsley's collection the stanza ran thus:

“ Whoe'er has travell'd life's dull round,

" Whate'er his various tour has been, “ May sigh to think how oft he found

His warmest welcome at an Inn.''

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

A

of his letters to Mr. Greaves, dated Feb. 9, 1760. 1776. “ I have lately been reading one or two volumes of

Ætat. 67. the Rambler; who, excepting against some few hardnesses in his manner, and the want of more examples to enliven, is one of the most nervous, most perspicuous, most concise, most harmonious prosę writers I know. A learned diction improves by time,”

In the afternoon, as we were driven rapidly along in the post chaise, he said to me “ Life has not many things better than this.

We stopped at Stratford-upon-Avon, and drank tea and coffee; and it pleased me to be with him upon the classick ground of Shakspeare's native place.

He spoke slightingly of Dyer's “ Fleece.”—The subject, Sir, cannot be made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets ! Yet you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that excellent poem, “The Fleece.” Having talked of Grainger's “Sugar-Cane," I mentioned to him Mr. Langton's having told me, that this

poem,

when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the assembled wits burst into a laugh, when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus :

“ Now, Muse, let's sing of rats.

And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who slily overlooked the reader, perceived

5" He too often makes use of the abstract for the concrele."

нн2

1776. that the word had been originally mice, and had been Saltered to rats, as more dignified. Atat. 67.

This

passage does not appear in the printed work. . Dr. Grainger, or some of his friends, it should seem, having become sensible that introducing even Rats, in a grave poem, might be liable to banter. He, however, could not bring himself to relinquish the idea ; for they are thus, in a still more ludicrous manner, periphrastically exhibited in his poem as it now stands :

“ Nor with less waste the whisker'd vermin race “A countless clan despoil the lowland cane.” - Johnson said, that Dr. Grainger was an agreeable man; a man who would do any good that was in

6 Such is this little laughable incident, which has been often related. Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who was an intimate friend of Dr. Grainger, and has a particular regard for his memory, has communicated to me the following explanation :

“ The passage in question was originally not liable to such a perversion ; for the authour having occasion in that part of his work to mention the havock made by rats and mice, had introduced the subject in a kind of mock heroick, and a parody of Homer's battle of the frogs and mice, invoking the Muse of the old Grecian bard in an elegant and well-turned manner. In that state I had seen it; but afterwards, unknown to me and other friends, he had been persuaded, contrary to his own better judgement, to alter it, so as to produce the unlucky effect above-mentioned.”

The above was written by the Bishop when he had not the Poem itself to recur to; and though the account given was true of it at one period, yet as Dr. Grainger afterwards altered the passage in question; the remarks in the text do not now apply to the printed poem.

The bishop gives this character of Dr. Grainger ;-" He was not only a man of genius and learning, but had many excellent virtues ; being one of the most generous, friendly, and benevolent men I ever knew,"

his power.

His translation of Tibullus, he thought, 1776. was very well done; but “ The Sugar-Cane, a poem,

Etat. 67. did not please him;? for, he exclaimed, “What could he make of a sugar-cane ? One might as well write the . Parsley-bed, a Poem;' or “The Cabbagegarden, a Poem.” Boswell. “You must then pickle your cabbage with the sal atticum.JOHNSON. “ You know there is already · The Hop-Garden, a Poem :' and, I think, one could say a great deal about cabbage. The poem might begin with the advantages of civilized society over a rude state, exemplified by the Scotch, who had no cabbages till Oliver Cromwell's soldiers introduced them; and one might thus shew how arts are propagated by conquest, as they were by the Roman arms." He seemed to be much diverted with the fertility of his own fancy.

I told him, that I heard Dr. Percy was writing the history of the wolf in Great-Britain. Johnson. “ The wolf, Sir! why the wolf ? Why does he not write of the bear, which we had formerly? Nay, it is said we had the beaver. Or why does he not write of the grey rat, the Hanover rat, as it is called, because it is said to have come into this country about the time that the family of Hanover came? I should like to see The History of the Grey Rat, by Thomas Percy, D. D. Chaplain in Ordinary to His Majesty," (laughing immoderately). BOSWELL. “I am afraid a court chaplain could not decently write of the grey rat.” Johnson. “Sir, he need not

7 Dr. Johnson said to me, Percy, Sir, was angry with me for laughing at the Sugar-cane: for he had a mind to make a great thing of Grainger's rats.”

[ocr errors]

1776. give it the name of the Hanover rat.” Thus could Ætat. 67.

he indulge a luxuriant sportive imagination, when talking of a friend whoin he loved and esteemed.

He mentioned to me the singular history of an ingenious acquaintance. “He had practised physick in various situations with no great emolument. A West-India gentleman, whom he delighted by his conversation, gave him a bond for a handsome annuity during his life, on the condition of his accompanying him to the West-Indies, and living with him there for two years. He accordingly embarked with the gentleman; but upon the voyage fell in love with a young woman who happened to be one of the passengers, and married the wench. From the imprudence of his disposition he quarrelled with the gentleman, and declared he would have no connection with him. So he forfeited the annuity. He settled as a physician in one of the Leeward Islands. A man was sent out to him merely to compound his medicines. This fellow set up as rival to him in his practice of physick, and got so much the better of him in the opinion of the people of the island, that he carried away all the business, upon which he returned to England, and soon after died.”

On Friday, March 22, having set out early from Henley, where we had lain the preceding night, we arrived at Birmingham about nine o'clock, and, after breakfast, went to call on his old schoolfellow Mr. Hector. A very stupid maid, who opened the door, told us, that, “ her master was gone out ;

he gone to the country; she could not tell when he would return." In short, she gave us a miserable reception; and Johnson observed, “She would have

was

« AnteriorContinuar »