« AnteriorContinuar »
in Gray's Inn; who purchased it for L.13,000 ; a sum which, according to Mr Oldys, who had been librarian to the Earl, was not more than the binding of the books had cost; yet the slowness of the sale was such, that there was not much gained by it. In this laborious undertaking he was assisted by Mr Mattaire, one of the masters of WestminsterSchool, who furnished some hints for the classification, and supplied the Latin Dedication to Lord Carteret; and by Mr Oldys, then employed in writing for the booksellers, who, it is believed, had a share in the two first volumes; but the portion which he contributed has not been ascertained. His Account of the Har. leian library presents a very conspicuous view of the collection, and of the plan adopted for the enumeration of its contents. What he undertook to perforin was, to distribute the books into distinct classes, to arrange every class with some regard to the age of the writers, to describe every volume accurately, to enumerate the peculiarities of editions, and occasionally to intersperse observations from the authors of literary history. The plan was executed with great ability; and what he allowed himself to hope, was fully verified. The catalogue became an object of public curiosity. It was purchased as the record of a most valuable collection, and preserved as one of the memorials of learning.
While he was employed in that business, in Gray's Inn, it has been confidently related, with many embellishments, that he knocked Osborne down in his shop with a folio, and put his foot upon his neck, Johnson himself relates it differently to Mr Boswell.“ Sir, he was impertinent to me, and I beat him; but it was not in his shop, it was in my own chamber.” Osborne was one of the most opulent, insolent, and ignorant of booksellers *; “ a man, alike destitute of decency and shame, without sense of any disgrace but that of poverty t," who regarded Johnson as a hireling, looking up to him for the reward of his work, and re
* See Note on the Dunciad, Book 11, v. 167.
† Life of Pope.
ceiving it accompanied with reproach and contumely. This anecdote has been often, told to prove Johnson's ferocity ; but merit cannot always take the spurns of the unworthy with patience and a forbearing spirit.
In 1743, he wrote for the “ Gentleman's Magazine” the Preface, and the Parliamentary Debates, for January and February; when he found other employment; and Hawkesworth succeeded to this department. During the time he wrote the debates exclusively, the eloquence, the force of argument, and the splendour of language, displayed in the several speeches, increased the sale of the Magazine, and extended the fame and honour of the parliamentary speakers. That he was the author of the debates, towards the end of Walpole's administration, he himself avowed, many years afterwards, on hearing Dr Francis *, in company with Mr Wedderburnt, Mr Murphy, and others, commend Mr Pitt's speech, in an im
* The translator of Horace, Demosthenes, &c.
+ Afterwards Lord Loughborough and Earl of Roslin. He died January 3, 1805.
portant debate, at that period, as superior to the best oration of Demosthenes. Some passages were cited, with the approbation and applause of all present. When the warmth of praise subsided, Johnson said, “ That speech I wrote in a garret in Exeter-street. I never had been in the gallery of the House of Commons but once. The notes of the arguments advanced in the course of the debate were communicated to me, and I composed the speeches in the form in which they appear in the Parliamentary Debates.”. The company were struck with astonishment, and bestowed lavish encomiums on Johnson. One, in particular, praised his impartiality, observing that he had dealt out reason and eloquence with an equal hand to both parties; “ That is not quite true, said Johnson ; I saved appearances tolerably well, but I took care that the WHIG DOGS should not have the best of it *.” Although the speeches, in the course of events, have lost their original interest, yet they possess intrinsic excellence; and, as orations on subjects of public import
* Murphy's Essay, &c. p. 45.
ance, deserve the attention of parliamentary speakers *.
The same year he wrote for the “ Gentleman's Magazine,” Considerations on the Dispute between Crousas and Warburton, on Pope's Essay on Msan; in which he defends Crousaz; and reviews the argument, and repels the contempt of his adversary with acuteness of reasoning and temperance of language; Ad Lauram parituram Epigrammat; Ad ornatissimam Puellam f; A Latin translation of Pope's Verses on his Grotto; an exquisitely beautiful Ode on Friend ship, and an Advertisement for Osborne, recommending a subscription for reprinting a selection from the Harleian library of such “ small tracts and fugitive pieces, as were of the great
* The Parliamentary Debates were collected and reprinted for J. Stockdale, in 2 vols. 8vo, 1787.
+ Mr Hector was present when this epigram was made impromptu. The first line was proposed by Dr James, and Johnson was called upon by the company to finish it.
[ In the " Gentleman's Magazine” for 1744, p. 46, the following epigram was inserted, Ad Authorem Carminis, in answer to this elegant Latin ode :
" ( cui non potuit, quia culta placere puella,
Qui speras Musam posse placere tuam."