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diligence to perform ; and yet his edition has been the ground on which every subsequent commentator has chose to build. The general observations at the end of the several plays, with great elegance and precision, give a summary view of each drama. The preface is a tract of great erudition and philosophical criticism.
“ Johnson's political pamphlets, whatever was his motive for writing them, whether gratitude for his pension, or the solicitation of men in power, did not support the cause for which they were undertaken. They are written in a style truly harmonious, and with his usual dignity of language. When it is said that he advanced positions repugnant to the common rights of mankind, the virulence of party may be suspected. It is, perhaps, true, that in the clamour raised throughout the kingdom, Johnson over-heated his mind; but he was a friend to the rights of man, and he was
greatly superior to the littleness of fpirit that might incline him to advance what he did not think and firmly believe.
“ The account of his Journey to the Hebrides or Western Illes of Scotland, is a model for such as shall hereafter relate their travels. The author did not visit that part of the world in the character of an antiquary, to amuse us with wonders taken from the dark and fabulous ages; nor as a mathematician, to measure a degree, and settle the longitude and latitude of the several islands. Those who expected such information, expected what was never intended.
In every work regard the writer's end.
Johnson went to see men and manners, modes of life, and the progress of civilization. His remarks are so artfully blended with the rapidity and elegance of his nar, rative, that the reader is inclined to with, as Johnson did with regard to Gray, that to travel, and to tell bis travels, had been more of his employment.
“ We come now to the Lives of the Poets, a work undertaken at the age of seventy, yet the most brilliant, and certainly the most popular of all our author's writings. For this performance he needed little preparation. Attentive always to the history of letters, and by his own natural bias fond of biography, he was the more willing to embrace the proposition of the booksellers. He was versed in the whole body of the English poetry, and his rules of criticism were settled with precision. The facts are related upon the best intelligence, and the best vouchers that could be gleaned, after a great lapse of time. Probability was to be inferred from such materials as could be procured, and no man better understood the nature of historical evidence than Johnson; no man was
more religiously an observer of truth. It his history is any where defective, it must be imputed to the want of better information, and the errors of uncertain tradition.
Ad nos vix tenuis famæ prelabitur aura.
“ If the strictures on the works of the various authors are not always fatisfactory, and if erroneous criticism may sometimes be fufpected, who can hope, that, in matters of taste, all shall agree? The inftances in which the public mind has differed from the positions advanced by the author, are - few in number. It has been said, that justice has not been done to Swift ; that Gay and Prior are undervalued ; and that Gray has been harshly treated. This charge, perhaps, ought not to be disputed. Johnson, it is well known, had conceived a prejudice against Swift. His friends trembled for him when he was
writing that life, but were pleased, at last, to see it executed with temper and moderation. As to Prior, it is probable that he gave his real opinion; but an opinion that will not be adopted by men of lively fancy: With regard to Gray, when he condemns the apostrophe, in which Father Thames iš desired to tell who drives the hoop or toffes the ball, and then adds, that Father Thames had no better means of knowing than himself; when he compares the abrupt beginning of the first stanza of the “ Bard” to the ballad of “ Johnny Armstrong,” “ Is there ever a man in all Scotland;" there are, perhaps, few friends of Johnson, who would not wish to blot out both the passages.”
The following quotation from Horace is given by Mr. Murphy, as containing Johnson's picture in miniature.
“ Iracundior est paulo minus aptus acutis