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tion of the Roman satirist ; particularly in the pious and consolatory conclusion of the satire. It has less of common life and party exaggeration, and more of philosophic dignity and sublime morality than his London. It is characterized by profound reflection and pious instruction, more than pointed spirit and poetic fire. It is, however, inferior to no classical imitation in our language, and is certainly as great an effort of ethic poetry as any language can show. The instances of variety of disappointment are chosen so judiciously, and painted 80 strongly, that the whole has the air of an original; and, to be understood, requires not to be compared with its archetype. That of the scholar, representing the usual fate of the profession of literature, the most useful and laborious of any, as productive of no solid advantage or true glory, is drawn in his strongest manner, from the conviction of a mind sharpened by the experience of want and neglect, and indignant at the inadequate recompence of cultivated genius and learned toil.
* Deign on the passing world to turn thine eyes,
And pause a while from letters, to be wise ;
On the 6th of February this year, his tragedy of Irene, which had been long kept back for want of encouragement, was brought upon the stage at Drury-lane by the kindness of Garrick. A violent dispute arose between him and the manager, relative to the alterations necessary to be made to fit it for the theatre. The poet for a long time refused to submit his lines to the critical amputation of the actor, and the latter was obliged to apply to Dr Taylor to become a mediator in the dispute. Johnson's pride at length gave way to alterations; but whether to the full extent of the manager's wishes is not known. Dr Adams was present the first night of the representation, and gave Mr Boswell the following ac
* Altered from “ the garret,” in the earlier editions, after he found reason to disclaim the patronage of Ches. terfield. The alterations are inconsiderable.
count: “ Before the curtain drew up, there were catcalls whistling, which alarmed Johnson's friends. The Prologue, which was written by himself, in a manly strain, soothed the audience, and the play went off tolerably till it came to the conclusion, when Mrs Pritchard, the heroine of the piece, was to be strangled upon the stage, and to speak two lines with the bow-string round her neck. The audience cried out, “ Murder! murder! She several times attempted to speak, but in vain. At last she was obliged to go off the stage alive.” This offence was removed after the first night, and Irene carried off, to be put to death behind the scenes, as the play now has it. Though the whole force of the theatre was employed in the principal parts, and every advantage of magnificent scenery and splendid and well-chosen dresses supplied by the zeal of the manager, yet the representation of the tragedy of Irene did not please the public. It was acted, without any direct interruption being given to the representation, thirteen
nights * successively, and has not since that time been exhibited on any stage. He had the profits of the author's three benefit nights, the amount of which, it is believed, was considerable ; and Dodsley gave him a hundred pounds for the copy, with his usual reservation of the right of an edition. The Prologue, which, according to Dr Adams, “ soothed the audience," seems more likely to have awed bis judges, as he professes, with emphatic solemnity, to “ scorn the meek address” and “ suppliant strain," and relies, with a lofty spirit and dignified pride, on the unprejudiced deci. sign of “ Reason, Nature, and Truth.” For the “ Epilogue,” an unworthy appendage to the piece, the author, fortunately for his fame, is not answerable, as he told Mr Boswell it was the production of Sir William Yonge, a famous wit and parliamentary orator of that time. The acceptance of the obligation is
* From the 6th to the 20th February inclusive. See
ing to Sir John Hawkins and Mr Boswell, it reached but to a ninth night's performance.
remarkable, as the name of the writer of the jeu d'esprit does not appear in conjunction with that of the author of the tragedy upon any other occasion. Johnson attended the theatre every night during the performance of his play; and conceiving that his character, as a dramatic author, required some distinction of dress, he appeared behind the scenes, and even in one of the side-boxes, in a scarlet waistcoat, with rich gold lace, and a gold-laced hat. He used to give a pleasant description of this green-room finery, in his social hours; but concluded with great gravity, “ I soon laid aside my gold-laced hat, lest it should make me proud.”
In the unfavourable decision of the public upon his tragedy, Johnson acquiesced without a murmur. He was convinced that he had not the talents necessary to write successfully for the stage, and never made another attempt in that species of composition.
Towards the close of this year, he unfortunately appeared in connection with Lauder, the defamer of Milton, and, in a moment of