« AnteriorContinuar »
“ Eikon Basilike,” with a view of fixing on Charles I. the charge of impiety. He asserts, that his enmity to Milton was occasioned by this discovery; and threatens to “ reinforce the charge of plagiarism against the English poet, and to fix it upon him by irrefragable conviction, in the face of the whole world.” This effort of spleen and malice was also abortive; the public detestation of this violent and fraudulent character became strongly marked; and Lauder soon afterwards retired to Barbadoes, where he died, as he had lived, an object of general contempt and abhorrence, in 1771.
In the beginning of 1750, at the time he was induced to lend his assistance to the literary imposture of Lauder, the most unfortunate occurrence of his life, he projected The Rambler ; a work that was to exalt his name among the most distinguished teachers of moral and religious wisdom, and stamp a durable impression of novelty and originality of composition on the language and style of the present age. He had weighed in his mind the difficul. ty and the danger of attempting a periodical paper after “ The Spectator;" and was not deterred, by the failure of the intermediate efforts of his predecessors, to rival the productions of Addison and Steele, from entering into a noble competition with the great masters of periodic composition *. In this arduous undertaking, for the use and honour of the nation, and the improvement of his native language, he courted no assistance “ from the race that write," and the provision of materials which his Common. Place Book supplied was soon exhausted. He relied entirely on the resources of his own strong and devout mind, and the special protection of the Divine Being, “ who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge;" which he implored in the following prayer, composed by himself on the occasion :
* Of the numerous periodical papers which appeared and disappeared in the interval between the close of the “ Tatler,” “ Spectator,” and “ Guardian,” many were. confined to politics, and none were written with any considerable portion of the spirit, style, and dramatic contrivance of these standard works, with the exception of “ The Lay Monastery,” « The Free-Thinker," " and “ The Plain-Dealer," which have not been often reprinted, and are seldom met with or read.
“ Almighty God, the giver of all good things, without whose help all labour is ineffectual, and without whose grace all wisdom is folly, grant, I beseech Thee, that in this undertaking thy Holy Spirit may not be withheld from me; but that I may promote thy glory, and the salvation of myself and others : Grant this, O LORD, for the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen *.”
The title of this paper seems to have been precipitately chosen, as he informed Sir Joshua Reynolds. " What must be done, Sir,“ will be done. When I was to begin publishing that paper I was at a loss how to name it. I sat down at night upon my bedside, and resolved that I would not go to sleep till I had fixed its title. The Rambler seemed the best that occurred, and I took it t." The title which seemed to
* Prayers and Meditations, p. 9.
+ Boswell's Life, &c. Vol. i. p. 170. The Italians have translated this title by Il Vagabondo. A paper with the same title appeared in 1712, of which one number is preserved in the British Museum. It is probable that Johnson was ignorant of this anticipation.
him the best, when it might be his intention to make it correspond with a paper of a more familiar and sprightly tenor, is certainly susceptible of an ambiguous interpretation, and possesses no characteristic relation to a vehicle of dignified ethic precept, and grave religious instruction *
* Mr Boswell objects to the title of Rambler, which he says was ill-suited to a series of grave and moral discourses, and is translated into Italian 1 Vagabondo, as also because the same title was afterwards given to a licentious magazine. These are curious reasons. But, in the first place, Mr Boswell assumes, that Johnson intended only to write a series of papers on “ grave and moral” subjects ; whereas, on the contrary, he meant this periodical paper should be open for the reception of every subject, serious or sprightly, solemn or familiar, moral or amusing; and therefore endeavoured to find a title as general and unconfined as possible. lle acknowledged, that “ The Spectator” was the most happily chosen of all others, and “ The Tatler” the next to it; and after long consideration how to fix a third title, equally capacious and suited to his purpose, he suddenly thought upon The Rambler, and it would be difficult to find any other that so exactly coincided with the motto he has adopted in the title-page.
" Quo me cunque rapit tempestas deferor hospes."
Bishop Percy. Having elevated his mind, by an act of devotion, to a pious dependence on the Divine blessing on the undertaking, he commenced the publication of The Rambler on the 20th of March 1750, and continued it, without interruption, every Tuesday and Saturday, till the 14th of March 1752, when it closed. Each number was printed on a sheet and half of fine paper, price two-pence; sold by Mr John Payne, Paternoster-row, who agreed to give him two guineas for each number as it appeared, and to allow him a share of the profits arising from the sale when the collection appeared in volumes. Not more than five hundred copies of any one number were ever printed; of course, the bookseller, who paid Johnson four guineas a-week, which enabled him to live comfortably, did not carry on a very successful trade. His generosity and perseverance deserve to be commended; and were eventually rewarded in the multiplied editions of the collected work. While it was coming out in single numbers