Imágenes de página

His reading was by fits and starts, undirected to any particular science. General philology, agreeably to his cousin Ford's advice, was the object of his ambition. He received, at that time, an early impression of piety, and a taste for the best authors, ancient and modern. It may, notwithstanding, be questioned whether, except his Bible, he ever read a book entirely through. Late in life, if any' man praised a book in his presence, he was sure to ask, “ Did you read it through ?” If the answer was in the affirmative, he did not seem willing to believe it. He continued at the university till the want of pecuniary supplies obliged him to quit the place. He obtained, however, the assistance of a friend, and returning in a short time, was able to complete a residence of three years. The history of his exploits at Oxford, he used to say, was best known to Dr. Taylor and Dr. Adams. Wonders are told of his memory, and, indeed, all who knew him late in life.can witness that he retained that faculty in the greatest vigour.

From the university Johnson returned to Lichfield. His father died soon after, December 1731 ; and the whole receipt out of his effects, as appeared by a memorandum in the son's hand-writing, dated 15th June, 1732, was no more than twenty pounds *. In this exi

* The entry of this is remarkable for his early resolution to preserve through life a fair and upright character. 1732, Junii 15. Undecim aureos deposui, quo die, “ quidquid ante matris funus (quod serum sit precor) de “ paternis bonis sperare licet, viginti scilicet libras, açı gence, determined that poverty should never depress his spirits nor warp his integrity, he became under-master of a Grammar-school at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire. That resource, however, did not last long. Disgusted by the pride of Sir Wolstan Dixie, the patron of that little seminary, he left the place in discontent, and ever spoke of it with abhorrence. In 1733 he went on a visit to Mr. Hector, who had been his school-fellow, and was then a surgeon at Birmingham, lodging at the house of Warren, a bookseller. At that place Johnson translated a Voyage to Abyssinia, written by Jerome Lobo, a Portugueze missionary. This was the first literary work from the pen of Dr. Johnson. His friend Hector was occasionally his amanuensis. The work was, probably, undertaken at the desire of Warren, the book'seller, and was printed at Birmingham; but it appears in the Literary Magazine, or History of the Works of the Learned, for March, 1735, that it was published by Bettesworth and Hitch, Paternoster-row. It contains a narrative of the endeavours of a company of missionaries to convert the people of Abyssinia to the Church of Rome. In the preface to this work Johnson obseryes, “ that the Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general view of his countrymen, “ has amused his readers with no romantic ab“ surdities, or incredible fictions. He appears, -" by his modest and unaffected narration, to

"! cepi. Usque adeo mihi mea fortuna fingenda est inte« have described things as he saw them; to have “ copied nature from the life; and to have con“sulted his senses, not his imagination. He “ meets with no basilisks, that destroy with “their eyes; his crocodiles devour their prey, “ without tears; and his cataracts fall from the “rock, without deafening the neighbouring in“ habitants. The reader will here find no re“gions cursed with irremediable barrenness, or “ blessed with spontaneous fecundity; no per“petual gloom, or unceasing sun-shine: nor “are the nations, here described, either void “ of all sense of humanity, or consummate in “ all private and social virtues: here are no “ Hottentots without religion, polity, or articu"late language; no Chinese perfectly polite, “ and completely skilled in all the sciences: he “ will discover, what will always be discovered “by a diligent and impartial enquirer, that “ wherever human nature is to be found, there “is a mixture of vice and virtue, a contest of “ passion and reason; and that the Creator “ doth not appear partial in his distributions, “ but has balanced, in most countries, their “particular inconveniences by particular fa“ vours." We have here an early specimen of Johnson's manner : the vein of thinking and the frame of the sentences are manifestly his: we see the infant Hercules. The translation of Lobo's Narrative has been reprinted lately in a separate volume, with some other tracts of Dr. Johnson's, and therefore forms no part of this edition ; but a compendious account of so interesting a work as Father Lobo's dis, covery of the head of the Nile will not, it is imagined, be unacceptable to the reader.

rea, et ne paupertate viręs animi languescant, ne in fia. 6 gitia egestas adigat, cavendum."

Father Lobo, the Portuguese Missionary, embarked, in 1622, in the same fleet with the Count Vidigueira, who was appointed, by the king of Portugal, Viceroy of the Indies. They arrived at Goa; and, in January 1624, Father Lobo set out on the mission to Abyssinia. Two of the Jesuits sent on the same commission, were murdered in their attempt to penetrate into that empire. Lobo had better success; he surmounted all difficulties, and made his way into the heart of the country. Then follows a description of Abyssinia, formerly the largest empire of which we have an account in history. It extended from the Red Sea to the kingdom of Congo, and from Ægypt to the Indian Sea, containing no less than forty provinces. At the time of Lobo's mission, it was not much larger than Spain, consisting then but of five kingdoms, of which part was entirely subject to the Emperor, and part paid him a tribute, as an acknowledgment. The provinces were inhabited by Moors, Pagans, Jews, and Christians. The last was in Lobo's time the established and reigning religion. The diversity of people and religion is the reason why the kingdom was under different forms of government, with laws and customs extremely various. Some of the people neither sowed their lands, nor improved them by any kind of culture, living upon milk and flesh, and, like the Arabs, encamping without any settled habitation. In some places they practised no rites of worship, though they believed that, in the regions above, there dwells a Being that governs a world. This Deity they call in their own language Oul. The Christianity, professed by the people in some parts, is so corrupted with superstitions, errors, and heresies, and so mingled with ceremonies borrowed from the Jews, that little, besides the name of Christianity, is to be found among them. The Abyssins cannot properly be said to have either cities or houses; they live in tents or cottages made of straw or clay, very rarely building with stone. Their villages or towns consist of these huts; yet even of such villages they have but few ; because the grandees, the viceroys, and the emperor himself, are always in camp, that they may be prepared, upon the most sudden alarm, to meet every emergence in a country which is engaged every year either in foreign wars or intestine commotions. Ethiopia produces very near the same kinds of provision as Portugal, though, by the extreme laziness of the inhabitants, in a much less quantity. What the ancients imagined of the torrid zone being a part of the world uninhabitable, is so far from being true, that the climate is very temperate. The blacks have better features than in other countries, and are not without wit and ingenuity. Their apprehension is quick, and their judgement sound. There are in the climate two harvests in the year: one in winter, which lasts through the months of July, August, and September; the other in the spring. They have, in the greatest plenty, raisins, peaches, pomegranates, sugar-canes, and some figs. Most of


« AnteriorContinuar »