Imágenes de página

Lichfield friend did not think so highly of his dramatic art as the rest of the world. The fact was, Johnson could not see the passions as they rose and chased one another in the varied features of that expressive face; and by his own manner of reciting verses, which was wonderfully impressive, he plainly shewed that he thought there was too much of artificial tone and measured cadence in the declamation of the theatre. The present writer well remembers being in conversation with Dr. Johnson near the side of the scenes during the tragedy of King Lear: when Garrick came off the stage, he said, “ You two talk so loud you destroy all

my feelings.”. “ Prithee," replied Johnson, “ do not talk of feelings, Punch has no feel

This seems to have been his settled opinion; admirable as Garrick's imitation of nature always was, Johnson thought it no better than mere mimickry. Yet it is certain that he esteemed and loved Garrick; that he dwelt with pleasure on his praise; and used to declare, that he deserved his great success, because on all applications for charity he gave more than was asked. After Garrick's death he never talked of him without a tear in his eyes. He offered, if Mrs. Garrick would desire it of him, to be the editor of his works and the historian of his life *. It has been mentioned, that on

* It is to be regretted that he was not encouraged in this undertaking. The assistance, however, which he gave to Davies, in writing the Life of Garrick, has been acknowledged in general terms by that writer, and, from the evidence of style, appears to have been very considerable. C.



his death-bed he thought of writing a Latin inscription to the memory of his friend. Numbers are still living who know these facts, and still remember with gratitude the friendship which he shewed to them with unaltered affection for a number of years. His humanity and generosity, in proportion to his slender income, were unbounded. It has been truly said, that the lame, the blind, and the sorrowful, found his house a sure retreat.

A strict adherence to truth he considered as a sacred obligation, insomuch that, in relating the most minute anecdote, he would not allow himself the smallest addition to embellish bis story. The late Mr. Tyers, who knew Dr. Johnson intimately, observed, “ that he always talked as if he was " talking upon oath.”

After a long acquaintance with this excellent man, and an attentive retrospect to his whole conduct, such is the light in which he appears to the writer of this essay. The following lines of Horace may be deemed his picture in miniature.

Iracundior est paulo, minus aptus acutis
Naribus horum hominum, rideri possit, eo quod
Rusticius tonso toga defiuit, & male laxus
In pede calceus hæret; at est bonus, ut melior vir
Non alius quisquam ; at tibi amicus, at ingenium ingens,
Inculto latet hoc sub corpore.

“ Your friend is passionate, perhaps unfit
For the brisk petulance of modern wit.
His hair ill-cut, his robe that aukward flows,
Or his large shoes, to raillery expose

The man you love ; yet is he not possessid
Of virtues, with which very few are blest?
While underneath this rude, uncouth disguise
A genius of extensive knowledge lies.

FRANCIS's Hor. Book i. Sat. 3.2Gov.

It remains to give a review of Johnson's works; and this, it is imagined, will not be unwelcome to the reader.

Like Milton and Addison, he seems to have been fond of his Latin poetry. Those compositions shew that he was an early scholar; but his verses have not the graceful ease that gave so much suavity to the poems of Addison. The translation of the Messiah labours under two disadvantages; it is first compared with Pope's inimitable performance, and afterwards with the Pollio of Virgil. It may appear trifling to remark, that he has made the letter o, in the word Virgo, long and short in the same line; Virco, VIRGO PARIT. But the translation has great merit, and some admirable lines. In the odes there is a sweet flexibility, particularly, To his worthy friend Dr. Laurence; on himself at the theatre, March 8, 1771; the Ode in the Isle of Sky; and that to Mrs. Thrale from the same place.

His English poetry is such as leaves, room to think, if he had devoted himself to the Musés, that he would have been the rival of Pope. His first production in this kind was LONDON, a poem in imitation of the third satire of Juvenal. The vices of the metropolis are placed in the room of ancient manners. The author had heated his mind with the ar

dour of Juvenal, and, having the skill to polish his numbers, he became a sharp accuser of the times. The VANITY of HUMAN WISHES is an imitation of the tenth satire of the same author. Though it is translated by Dryden, Johnson's imitation approaches nearest to the spirit of the original. The subject is taken from the AlciBIADES of Plato, and has an intermixture of the sentiments of SocRATES concerning the object of prayers offered up to the Deity. The general proposition is, that good and evil are so little understood by mankind, that their wishes when granted are always destructive. This is exemplified in a variety of instances, such as riches, state-preferment, eloquence, military glory, long life, and the advantages of form and beauty. Juvenal's conclusion is worthy of a Christian poet, and such a pen as Johnson's.



says, “ leave it to the Gods to judge what is fittest

Man is dearer to his Creator than to “ himself. If we must pray for special favour, “ let it be for a sound mind in a sound body. Let us pray for fortitude, that we may think o the labours of Hercules and all his sufferings “ preferable to a life of luxury and the soft re

pose of SARDANAPALUS. This is a blessing « within the reach of every man; this we can

give ourselves. It is virtue, and virtue only, “That can make us happy.” In the translation the zeal of the Christian conspired with the warmth and energy of the poet; but Juvenal is not eclipsed. For the various characters in the original the reader is pleased, in the

66 Let

« for us.

English poem, to meet with Cardinal Wolsey, Buckingham stabbed by Felton, Lord Strafford, Clarendon, Charles XIl. of Sweden; and for Tully and Demosthenes, Lydiat, Galileo, and Archbishop Laud, It is owing to Johnson's delight in biography that the name of Lydiat is called forth froni obscurity. It may, therefore, not be useless to tell, that LYDIAT was a learned divine and mathematician in the beginning of the last century. He attacked the doctrine of Aristotle and Scaliger, and wrote a number of sermons on the harmony of the Evangelists. With all his merit, he lay in the prison of Bocardo at Oxford, till Bishop Usher, Laud, and others, paid his debts. He petitioned Charles I. to be sent to Ethiopia to proeure manuscripts. Having spoken in favour of monarchy and bishops, he was plundered by the Puritans, and twice carried away a prisoner from his rectory. He died very poor in 1646.

The Tragedy of Irene is founded on a passage in KNOLLES's History of the Turks; an author highly commended in the Rainbler, No. 122. An incident in the Life of Mahomet the Great, first emperor of the Turks, is the hinge on which the fable is made to move. The substance of the story is shortly this. In 1453 Mahomet laid siege to Constantinople, and having reduced the place, became enamoured of a fair Greek, whose name Irene. The sultan invited her to embrace the law of the Prophet, and to grace his throne. Enraged at this intended marriage, the Janižaries formed á conspiracy to dethrone the em,


« AnteriorContinuar »