« AnteriorContinuar »
duction of Johnson's pen ; but it is now known, that Mrs. Elizabeth Carter has acknowledged it to be one of her early performances. It is certain, however, that Johnson was eager to promote the publication. He considered the foreign philosopher as a man zealous in the cause of religion; and with him he was willing to join against the system of the Fatalists, and the doctrine of Leibnitz. It is well known that Warburton wrote a vindication of Mr. Pope ; but there is reason to think, that Johnson conceived an early prejudice against the Essay on Man; and what once took root in a mind like his, was not easily eradicated. His letter to Cave on this subject is still extant, and may well justify Sir John Hawkins, who inferred that Johnson was the translator of Crousaz. The conclusion of the letter is remarkable. “I am yours, IMPRANSUS.” If by that Latin word was meant that he had not dined, because he wanted the means, who can read it, even at this hour, without an aching heart ?
With a mind naturally vigorous, and quickened by necessity, Johnson formed a multiplicity of projects; but most of them proved abortive. A number of small tracts issued from his pen with wonderful rapidity ; such as “ MAR“ MOR NORFOLCIENSE; or an Essay on an “ ancient prophetical Inscription, in Monkish “ Rhyme, discovered at Lynn in Norfolk. By Probus Britannicus.” This was a pamphlet against Sir Robert Walpole. According to Sir John Hawkins, a warrant was issued to apprehend the Author, who retired with his wife to
an obscure lodging 'near Lambeth Marsh, and there eluded the search of the messengers. · But this story has no foundation in truth. Johnson was never known to mention such an incident in his life; and Mr. Steele (late of the Treasury) caused diligent search to be made at the proper offices, and no trace of such a proceeding could be found. In the same year (1739) the Lord Chamberlain prohibited the representation of a tragedy, called GUSTAVUS VASA, by Henry Brooke. Under the mask of irony Johnson published, “A Vindication of “ the Licenser from the malicious and scan“ dalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke.” Of these two pieces Sir John Hawkins says, “ they have “ neither learning nor wit: nor a single ray of " that genius which has since blazed forth ;" but, as they have been lately re-printed, the reader, who wishes to gratify his curiosity, is referred to the fourteenth volume of Johnson's works, published by Stockdale. The lives of Boerhaave, Blake, Barratier, Father Paul, and others, were, about that time, printed in the Gentleman's Magazine. The subscription of fifty pounds a year for Savage was completed: and in July 1739, Johnson parted with the companion of his midnight hours, never to see him more. The separation was, perhaps, an advantage to him, who wanted to make a right use of his time, and even then beheld with selfreproach the waste occasioned by dissipation. His abstinence from wine and strong liquors began soon after the departure of Savage. What habits he contracted in the course of that acquaintance cannot now be known. The ambition of excelling in conversation, and that pride of victory, which, at times, disgraced a man of Johnson's genius, were, perhaps, native blemishes. A fierce spirit of independence, even in the midst of poverty, may be seen in Savage ; and, if not thence transfused by Johnson into his own manners, it may, at least, be supposed to have gained strength from the example before him. During that connection there was, if we believe Sir John Hawkins, a short separation between our author and his wife ; but a reconciliation soon took place. Jolinson loved her, and shewed his affection in various modes of gallantry, which Garrick used to render ridiculous by his mimicry. The affectation of soft and fashionable airs did not become an unwieidy figure : his adıniration was received by the wife with the flutter of an antiquated coquette; and both, it is well known, furnished matter for the lively genius of Garrick.
It is a mortifying reflection, that Johnson, with a store of learning and extraordinary talents, was not able, at the age of thirty, to force his way to the favour of the public, Slow rises worth by poverty depress’d, “ He was still,” as he says himself, “ to provide for the day that "was passing over him.” He saw Caye involv-. ed in a state of warfare with the numerous competitors, at that time struggling with the Gentleman's Magazine; and gratitude for such supplies as Johnson received dictated a Latin Ode
on the subject of that contention. The first
“ Urbane, nullis fesse laboribus,
" Urbane, nullis victe calumniis,” put one in mind of Casimir's Ode to Pope Urban :
“ Urbane, regnum maxime, maxime
« Urbane vatum.” The Polish poet was, probably, at that time in the hands of a man who had meditated the history of the Latin poets. Guthrie the historian had from July 1736 composed the parliamentary speeches for the Magazine; but, from the beginning of the session which opened on the 19th of November, 1740, Johnson succeeded to that department, and continued it from that time to the debate 'on spirituous liquors, which happened in the House of Lords in February, 1742-3. The eloquence, the force of argument, and the splendor of language, displayed in the several speeches, are well known, and universally admired. The whole has been collected in 'two volumes by Mr. Stockdale, and may form a proper supplement to this edi. tion. That Johnson was the author of the debates during that period was not generally known; but the secret transpired several years afterwards, and was avowed by himself on the following occasion.' Mr. Wedderburne (now Lord Loughborough*), Dr. Johnson, Dr. Francis(the translator of Horace), the present writer,
Afterwards Earl of Roslin. He died Jan. 3, 1805.
and others, dined with the late Mr. Foote. An important debate towards the end of Sir Robert Walpole’s administration being mentioned, Dr. Francis observed, “ That Mr. Pitt's “ speech, on that occasion, was the best he “ had ever read.” He added, “ That he had “ employed eight years of his life in the study s of Demosthenes, and finished a translation “ of that celebrated orator, with all the decora“ tions of style and language within the reach “ of his capacity; but he had met with nothing “ equal to the speech above-mentioned.” Many of the company remembered the debate; and some passages were cited, with the approbation and applause of all present. During the ardour of conversation Johnson remained silent. As soon as the warmth of praise subsided, he opened with these words: “ That speech I “wrote in a garret in Eseter-street.” The company was struck with astonishment. After staring at each other in silent amaze, Dr, Francis asked, " How that speech could be “ written by him?” “ Sir,” said Johnson, “I “ wrote it in Exeter-street. I never had been “ in the gallery of the House of Commons but sonce. Cave had interest with the door“keepers. He, and the persons employed un-. “ der him, gained admittance: they brought “ away the subject of discussion, the naines of “ the speakers, the side they took, and the or“ der in which they rose, together with notes “ of the arguments advanced in the course of " the debate. The whole was afterwards com
municated to me, and I composed the speeches