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of Pope, of which Johnson was not informed. Johnson, after justly censuring him for having "nursed in his mind a foolish diseşteem of kings," tells us, "yet a little regard shown him by the Prince of Wales melted his obduracy; and he had not much to say when he was asked by his royal highness, how he could love a prince while he disliked kings?" The answer which Pope made was, "The young lion is harmless, and even playful; but when his claws are full grown, he becomes cruel, dreadful, and mischievous."
But although we have no collection of Pope's sayings, it is not therefore to be concluded, that he was not agreeable in social intercourse; for Johnson has been heard to say, that "the happiest conversation is that of which nothing is distinctly remembered, but a general effect of pleasing impression." The late Lord Somerville,' who saw much both of great and brilliant life, told me, that he had dined in company with Pope, and that after dinner the little man, as he called him, drank his bottle of Burgundy, and was exceeding gay and entertaining.
I cannot withhold from my great friend a censure of at least culpable inattention to a nobleman, who, it has been shown, behaved to him with uncommon politeness. He says, "except Lord Bathurst, none of Pope's noble friends were such as that a good man would wish to have his intimacy with them known to posterity." This will not apply to Lord Mansfield, who was not ennobled in Pope's lifetime; but Johnson should have recollected, that Lord Marchmont was one of those noble friends. He includes his lordship, along with Lord Bolingbroke, in a charge of neglect of the papers which Pope left by his will; when, in truth, as I myself pointed out to him, before he wrote that poet's life, the papers were "committed to the sole care and judgment of Lord Bolingbroke, unless he (Lord Bolingbroke) shall not survive me ;" so that Lord Marchmont has no concern what
1 James, Lord Somerville, who died in 1765. Let me here express grateful remembrance of Lord Somerville's kindness to me, at a very early period. He was the first person of high rank that took particular notice of me in the way most flattering to a young man, ndly ambitious of being distinguished for his literary talents; and by the honour of his encouragement made me think well of myself, and aspire to deserve it better. He had a happy art of communicating his varied knowledge of the world, in short remarks and anecdotes, with a quiet pleasant gravity, which was exceedingly engaging. Never shall I forget the hours which I enjoyed with him at his apartments in the royal palace of Holyrood House, and at his seat near Edinburgh, which he himself had formed with an elegant taste.
ever with them. After the first edition of the Lives, Mr. Malone, whose love of justice is equal to his accuracy, made, in my hearing, the same remark to Johnson; yet he omitted to correct the erroneous statement.' These particulars I mention, in the belief that there was only forgetfulness in my friend; but I owe this much to the Earl of Marchmont's reputation, who, were there no other memorials, will be immortalized by that line of Pope, in the verses on his Grotto :
“And the bright flame was shot through Marchmont's soul.”
Various Readings in the Life of POPE.
"[Somewhat free] sufficiently bold in his criticism. "All the gay [niceties] varieties of diction.
"Strikes the imagination with far [more] greater force.
"It is [probably] certainly the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen.
"Every sheet enabled him to write the next with [less trouble] more facility.
"No man sympathises with [vanity depressed] the sorrows of vanity.
"It had been [criminal] less easily excused.
"When he [threatened to lay down] talked of laying down his pen.
"Society [is so named emphatically in opposition to] politically regulated, is a state contradistinguished from a state of nature.
"A fictitious life of an [absurd] infatuated scholar.
"A foolish [contempt, disregard,] disesteem of kings.
"His hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows [were like those of other mor tals] acted strongly upon his mind.
'Eager to pursue knowledge and attentive to [accumulate] retain it.
"A mind [excursive] active, ambitious, and adventurous.
"In its [noblest] widest searches still longing to go forward.
"He wrote in such a manner as might expose him to few [neglects] hazards.
"The [reasonableness] justice of my determination.
"A [favourite] delicious employment of the poets.
"More terrific and more powerful [beings] phantoms perform on the stormy
"The inventor of [those] this petty [beings] nation. "The [mind] heart naturally loves truth."
1 This neglect, however, assuredly did not arise from any ill-will towards Lord Marchmont, but from inattention; just as he neglected to correct his statement concerning the family of Thomson, the poet, after it had been shown to be erroneous.-M.
In the Life of ADDISON we find an unpleasing account of his having lent Steele a hundred pounds, and "reclaimed his loan by an execution." In the new edition of the Biographia Britannica, the authenticity of this anecdote is denied. But Mr. Malone has obliged me with the following note concerning it :
"March 15th, 1781.-Many persons having doubts concerning this fact, I applied to Dr. Johnson, to learn on what authority he asserted it. He told me, he had it from Savage, who lived in intimacy with Steele, and who mentioned, that Steele told him the story with tears in his eyes. Ben Victor, Dr. Johnson said, likewise informed him of this remarkable transaction, from the relation of Mr. Wilkes the comedian, who was also an intimate of Steele's.1 Some, in defence of Addison, have said, that 'the act was done with the goodnatured view of rousing Steele, and correcting that profusion which always made him necessitous.' 'If that were the case,' said Johnson, and that he only wanted to alarm Steele, he would afterwards have returned the money to his friend, which it is not pretended he did.' 'This too,' he added, ‘might be retorted by an advocate for Steele, who might allege, that he did not repay the loan intentionally, merely to see whether Addison would be mean and ungenerous enough to make use of legal process to recover it. But of such speculations there is no end: we cannot dive into the hearts of men; but their actions are open to observation.'
"I then mentioned to him that some people thought that Mr. Addison's character was so pure, that the fact, though true, ought to have been suppressed. He saw no reason for this. 'If nothing but the bright side of characters should be shown, we should sit down in despondency, and think it utterly impossible to imitate them in anything. The sacred writers,' he observed, 'related the vicious as well as the virtuous actions of men; which had this moral effect, that it kept mankind from despair, into which otherwise they would naturally fall, were they not supported by the recollection that others had offended like themselves, and by penitence and amendment of life had been restored to the favour of Heaven.'" E. M."
1 The late Mr. Burke informed me, in 1792, that Lady Dorothea Primrose, who died at a great age, I think in 1768, and had been well acquainted with Steele, told him the same story.-M.
2 I have since observed, that Johnson has further enforced the propriety of exhibiting the faults of virtuous and eminent men in their true colours, in the last paragraph of the 164th Number of his Rambler:
"It is particularly the duty of those who consign illustrious names to posterity, to take care lest their readers be misled by ambiguous examples. That writer may be justly condemned as an enemy to goodness, who suffers fondness or interest to confound right with wrong, or to shelter the faults which even the wisest and the best have committed, from that ignominy which guilt ought always to suffer, and with which it should be more deeply stigmatised, when dignified by its neighbourhood to uncommon worth; since we shall be in danger of
The last paragraph of this note is of great importance; and I request that my readers may consider it with particular attention. It will be afterwards referred to in this work.
Various Readings in the Life of ADDISON.
"[But he was our first example.] He was, however, one of our earliest examples of correctness.
“ And [overlook] despise their masters.
"His instructions were such as the [state] character of his [own time] readers made [necessary] proper.
"His purpose was to [diffuse] infuse literary curiosity by gentle and unsuspected conveyance [among] into the gay, the idle, and the wealthy.
"Framed rather for those that [wish] are learning to write. "Domestic [manners] scenes."
In his Life of PARNELL, I wonder that Johnson omitted to insert an epitaph which he had long before composed for that amiable man, without ever writing it down, but which he was so good as, at my request, to dictate to me, by which means it has been preserved.
"Hic requiescit THOMAS PARNELL, S. T. P.
"Qui sacerdos pariter et poeta,
Ut neque sacerdoti suavitas poetæ,
Various Readings in the Life of Parnell.
"About three years [after] afterwards.
"[Did not much want] was in no great need of improvement.
"But his prosperity did not last long [was clouded with that which took away all his powers of enjoying either profit or pleasure, the death of his wife. whom he is said to have lamented with such sorrow, as hastened his end.'] His end, whatever was the cause, was now approaching.
"In the Hermit, the [composition] narrative, as it is less airy, is less pleasing."
beholding it without abhorrence, unless its turpitude be laid open, and the eye secured from the deception of surrounding splendour."-B.
1 I should have thought that Johnson, who had felt the severe affliction from which Parnell never recovered, would have preserved this passage. He omitted it, doubtless, because he afterwards learned, that however he might have lamented his wife, his end was hastened by other means.-M.
In the Life of BLACKMORE, we find that writer's reputation generously cleared by Johnson from the cloud of prejudice which the malignity of contemporary wits had raised around it. In the spirited exertion of justice, he has been imitated by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his praise of the architecture of Vanburgh.
We trace Johnson's own character in his observations on Blackmore's "magnanimity as an author." "The incessant attacks of his enemies, whether serious or merry, are never discovered to have disturbed his quiet, or to have lessened his confidence in himself." Johnson, I recollect, once told me, laughing heartily, that he understood it had been said of him, "He appears not to feel; but when he is alone, depend upon it, he suffers sadly." I am as certain as I can be of any man's real sentiments, that he enjoyed the perpetual shower of little hostile arrows, as evidences of his fame.
Various Readings in the Life of Blackmore.
"To [set] engage poetry [on the side] in the cause of virtue. "He likewise [established] enforced the truth of Revelation.
[Kindness] benevolence was ashamed to favour.
"His practice, which was once [very extensive] invidiously great.
"There is scarcely any distemper of dreadful name [of] which he has not [shown] taught his reader how [it is to be opposed] to oppose.
"Of this [contemptuous] indecent arrogance.
[He wrote] but produced likewise a work of a different kind.
"At least [written] compiled with integrity.
"Faults which many tongues [were desirous] would have made haste to publish.
"But though he [had not] could not boast of much critical knowledge. "He [used] waited for no felicities of fancy.
"Or had ever elated his [mind] views to that ideal perfection which every [mind] genius born to excel is condemned always to pursue and never to overtake.
"The [first great] fundamental principle of wisdom and of virtue."
Various Readings in the Life of PHILIPS.
His dreaded [rival] antagonist Pope.
They [have not often much] are not loaded with thought.
"In his translation from Pindar, he [will not be denied to have reached] found the art of reaching all the obscurity of the Theban bard."