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My task perform'd, and all my labours o'er, For me what lot has Fortune now in store ? The listless will succeeds, that worst disease, The rack of indolence, the sluggish ease. Care grows on care, and o'er my aching brain Black melancholy pours her morbid train. No ki d relief, no lenitive at hand, I seek at midnight clubs, the social Band; But midnight clubs, where wit with noise conspires, Where Comus revels, and where wine inspires, Delight no more: I seek my lonely bed, And call on Sleep to sooth my languid head, But Sleep from these sad lids Aies far away; I mourn all night, and dread the coming day. Exhausted, tir’d, I throw my eyes around, To find some vacant spot on classic ground; And soon, vain hope! I form a grand design ; Langour succeeds, and all my pow'rs decline. If Science open not her richest vein, Without materials all our toil is vain. A form to rugged stone when Phidias gives, Beneath his touch a new creation lives. Remove his marble, and his genius dies; With Nature then no breathing statue vies.
Whate'er I plan, I feel my pow'rs' confin'd
What then remains ? Must 1 in slow decline
Such is the picture for which Dr. Johnson sat to himself. He gives the prominent fealures of his character; his lassitude, his morbid melancholy, his love of fame, his dejection, his tavern parties, and his wandering re, veries, Vacuæ mala somnia mentis, about which so much has been written; all are painted in mipiature, but in vivid colours, by his own hand. His idea of writing more dictionaries was not merely said in verse. Mr. Hamilton, who was at that time an eminent printer, and well acquainted with Dr. Johnson, remembers that he engaged in a Commercial Dictionary, and, as appears by the receipts in his possession, was paid his price for several sheets; but he soon relinquished the undertaking. It is probable, that he found himself not sufficiently versed in that branch of knowledge.
He was again reduced to the expedient of short compositions for the supply of the day. The writer of this narrative has now before him a letter in Dr. Johnson's hand-writing, which shews the distress and melancholy situation of the man, who had written the Rambler, and finished the great work of his Dictionary. The letter is directed to Mr. Richardson (the author of Clarissa), and is as follows:
“ I am obliged to entreat your assistance. I “ am now under an arrest for five pounds eigh“ teen shillings. Mr. Strahan, from whom I “should have received the necessary help in " this case, is not at home; and I am afraid
“ of not finding Mr. Millar. If you will be so “ good as to send me this sum I will very “ gratefully repay you, and add it to all former “ obligations. I am, Sir,
“ Your most obedient,
“ SAMUEL JOHNson.” | “ Gough-square, 16 March.” In the margin of this letter there is a memorandum in these words: “ March 16, 1756, “ Sent six guineas. Witness Wm. Richard“son.” For the honour of an admired writer it is to be regretted, that we do not find a more liberal entry. To his friend in distress he sent eight shillings more than was wanted. Had an incident of this kind occurred in one of his Romances, Richardson would have known how to grace his hero; but in fictitious scenes ge· nerosity costs the writer nothing.
About this time Johnson contributed several papers to a periodical Miscellany, called The VISITOR, from motives which are highly honourable to him, a compassionate regard for the late Mr. Christopher Smart. The Criticism on Pope's Epitaphs appeared in that work. In a short time after, he became a reviewer in the Literary Magazine, under the auspices of the late Mr. New bery, a man of a projecting head, good taste, and great industry. This employment engrossed but little of Johnson's time. He resigned himself to indolence, took no exercise, rose about two, and then received the visits of his friends. Authors, long since for
gotten, waited upon him as their oracle, and be gave responses in the chair of criticism. He Listened to the complaints, the schemes, and the hopes and fears, of a crowd of inferior writers, “who,” he said, in the words of Ruger Ascham,“ lived, men knew not how, and “ died obscure, men marked not when.” He believed, that he could give a better history of Grub-street than any man living. His house was filled with a succession of visitors till four or five in the evening. During the whole time he presided at tea-table, Tea was his favourite beverage; and, when the late Jonas Hanway pronounced his anathema against the use of tea, Johnson rose in defence of his habitual practice, declaring himself “ in that article a " hardened sinner, who had for years diluted " his meals with the infusion of that fascinat“ing plant; whose tea-kettle had no time to “ cool; who with tea solaced the midnight “ hour, and with tea welcomed the morning."
The proposal for a new edition of Shakspeare, which had formerly miscarried, was resumed in the year 1756. The booksellers readily agreed to his terms; and subscription-tickets were issued out. For undertaking this work, money, he confessed, was the inciting motive. His friends exerted themselves to promote his interest; and, in the mean time, he engaged in a new periodical production called The Idler. The first number appeared on Saturday, April 15, 1758; and the last, April 5, 1760. The profits of this work, and the subscriptions for the new edition of Shakspeare, were the means by which he supported himself for four or five years. In 1759 was published Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia. His translation of Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia seems to have pointed out that country for the scene of action; and Rassila Christos, the General of Sultan Segued, mentioned in that work, most probably suggested the name of the prince. The author wanted to set out on a journey to Lichfield, in order to pay the last offices of filial piety to his mother, who, at the age of ninety, was then near her dissolution; but money was necessary. Mr. Johnson, a bookseller, who has long since left off business, gave one hundred pounds for the copy. With this supply Johnson set out for Lichfield; but did not arrive in time to close the eyes of a parent whom he loved. He attended the funeral, wliich, as appears among his memorandums, was on the 25d of January, 1759.
Johnson now found it necessary to retrench his expences. He gave up his house in Goughsquare. Mrs. Williams went into lodgings. He retired to Gray's-Inn, and soon removed to chambers in the Inner Temple-lane, where he lived in poverty, total idleness, and the pride of literature. Magni stat 'nominis umbrâ. Mr. Fitzherbert (the father of Lord St. Helen's, the present minister at Madrid) a man distinguished through life for his benevolence and other amiable qualities, used to say, that he paid a morning visit to Johnson, intending from his chambers to send a letter into the city; but, to his great surprize, he found an author by profession without pen, ink, or paper. The present