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peror. To avert the impending danger, Mahomet, in' a full assembly of the grandees, “ Catching with one hand,” as KNOLLES relates it, “ the fair Greek by the hair of her • head, and drawing his falchion with the other, “he, at one blow, struck off her head, to the “ great terror of them all; and, having so done, “ said unto them, Now, by this, judge whether “ your emperor is able to bridle his affections “ or not.” The story is simple, and it remained for the author to amplify it with proper episodes, and give it complication and variety. The catastrophe is changed, and horror gives place to terror and piety. But, after all, the fable is cold and languid. There is not, throughout the piece, a single situation to excite curiosity, and raise a conflict of passions. The diction is nervous, rich, and elegant; but splendid language, and melodious numbers, will make a fine poem, not a tragedy. The sentiments are beautiful, always happily expressed, but seldom appropriated to the character, and generally too philosophic. What Johnson has said of the Tragedy of Cato may be applied to Irene; “ It is rather a poem in dialogue than “ a drama; rather a succession of just senti« ments in elegant language, than a represen“tation of natural affection. Nothing excites “ or assuages emotion. The events are expectsed without solicitude, and are remeinbered “ without joy or sorrow. Of the agents we “ have no care; we consider not what they are “ doing, nor what they are suffering; we wish “ only to know what they have to say. It is "unaffecting elegance, and chill philosophy.” The following speech, in the mouth of a Turk, who is supposed to have heard of the British constitution, has been often selected from the numberless beauties with which Irene abounds:
“ If there be any land, as fame reports,
These are British sentiments. Above forty years ago they found an echo in the breast of applauding audiences; and to this hour they are the voice of the people, in decance of the metaphysics and the new lights of certain politicians, who would gladly find their private advantage in the disasters of their country; a race of men, quibus nulla ex honesto spes.
The prologue to Irene is written with elegance, and, in a peculiar strain, shews the literary pride and lofty spirit of the author, The Epilogue, we are told in a late publication, was written by Sir William Young. This is a new discovery, but by no means probable. When the appendages to a Dramatic Performance are not assigned to a friend, or an unknown hand, or a person of fashion, they are always supposed to be written by the author of the Play. It is to be wished, however, that the Epilogue in question could be transferred to any other writer. It is the worst Jcu d Esprit that ever fell from Johnson's pen *.
An account of the yarious pieces contained in this edition, such as iniscellaneous tracts, and philological dissertations, would lead beyond the intended limits of this essay. It will suffice to say, that they are the productions of a man who never wanted decorations of language, and always taught his reader to think. The life of the late king of Prussia, as far as it extends, is a model of the biographical style. The Review of The Origin Of Evil was, perhaps, written with asperity ; but the angry epitaph, which it provoked from SOAME JENYNS, was an ill-timed resentment, unworthy of the genius of that amiable author.
The Rambler may be considered as Johnson’s great work. It was the basis of that high reputation which went on increasing to the end of his days. The circulation of those periodical essays was not, at first, equal to their merit. They had not, like the Spectators, the art of charming by variety; and indeed how could it be expected? The wits of queen Anne's reign sent their contributions to the Spectator; and Johnson stood alone. A stage-coach, says Sir Richard Steele, must go forward on stated days,
* Dr. Johnson informed Mr. Boswell that this Epilogue was written by Sir William Young. See, Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. i. p. 169–70. 8vo. edit. 1804. The internal evidence that it is not Johnson's is very strong, para ticularly in the line, " But how the devil," &c. G.
whether there are passengers or not. So it was with the Rambler, every Tuesday and Saturday, for two years. In this collection Johnson is the great moral teacher of his countrymen; his essays form a body of ethics; the observations on life and manners are acute and instructive; and the papers professedly critical, serve to promote the cause of literature. It must, however, be acknowledged, that a settled gloom bangs over the author's mind; and all the essays, except eight or ten, coming from the same fountain-head, no wonder that they have the raciness of the soil from which they sprang. Of this uniformity Johnson was sensible. He used to say, that if he had joined a friend or two, who would have been able to intermix papers of a sprightly turn, the collection would have been more miscellaneous, and by conse, quence more agreeable to the generality of readers. This he used to illustrate by repeating two beautiful stanzas from his own Ode to Cave, or Sylvunus Urban :
Non ulla Musis pagina gratior,
Utilibus recreare mentem.
Textente nymphis serta Lycoride,
Ethereis variata fucis,
It is remarkable, that the pomp of diction, wbich has been objected to Johnson, was first
assumed in the Rambler. His Dictionary was going on at the same time, and, in the course of that work, as he grew familiar with technical and scholastic words, he thought that the bulk of his readers were equally learned; or at least would adınire the splendour and dignity of the style. And yet it is well known, that he praised in Cowley the ease and unaffected structure of the sentences. Cowley may be placed at the head of those who cultivated a clear and natural style. Dryden, Tillotson, and Sir William Temple, followed. Addison, Swift, and Pope, with more correctness, carried our language well nigh to perfection. Of Addison, Johnson was used to say, He is the Raphael of Essay Writers. How he differed $0 widely from such elegant models is a problem not to be solved, unless it be true that he took an early tincture froin the writers of the last century, particularly Sir Thomas Browne. Hence the peculiarities of his style, new combinations, sentences of an unusual structure, and words derived from the learned languages. His own account of the matter is, “When “ common words were less pleasing to the ear, s or less distinct in their signification, I fami“ liarized the terms of philosophy, by applying " them to popular ideas.” But he forgot the observation of Dryden: If too many foreign words are poured in upon us, it looks as if they were designed, not to assist the natives, but to conquer them. There is, it must be admitted, a swell of language, often out of all proportion to the sentiment; but there is, in general, a