페이지 이미지

acute, penetrating, and luminous, cannot discover by its own force. It is remarkable, that at this time his fancied activity was for the moment so vigorous, that he promised his work should be published before Christmas, 1757. Yet nine years elapsed before it saw the light. Churchill's upbraiding satire, I dare say, made Johnson's friends urge him to dispatch.

"He for subscribers baits his hook,
And takes your cash; but where's the book?
No matter where; wise fear, you know,
Forbids the robbing of a foe;
But what, to serve our private ends,
Forbids the cheating of our friends?”

On the 15th of April, 1758, he began a new periodical paper, entitled The Idler, which came out every Saturday in a weekly newspaper, called The Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette. These essays were continued till April 5, 1760. The Idler is evidently the work of the same mind which produced The Rambler, but has less body and more spirit. He describes the miseries of idleness, with the lively sensations of one who has felt them.

In 1759, in the month of January, his mother died at the great age of ninety, an event which deeply affected him; not that "his mind had acquired no firmness by the contemplation of mortality; but that his reverential affection for her was not abated by years, as indeed he retained all his tender feelings even to the latest period of his life. I have been told, that he regretted much his not having gone to visit his mother for several years previous to her death. But he was constantly engaged in literary labors which confined him to London; and though

he had not the comfort of seeing his aged parent, he contributed to her support.

“To Mrs. Johnson, IN LICHFIELD.

HONORED MADAM: "The account which Miss [Porter) gives me of your health pierces my heart. God comfort, and preserve you, and save you, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

“I would have Miss read to you from time to time the Passion of our Savior, and sometimes the sentences in the Communion Service, beginningCome unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“I have just now read a physical book, which inclines me to think that a strong infusion of the bark would do you good. Do, dear mother, try it.

“Pray, send me your blessing, and forgive all that I have done amiss to you. And whatever you would have done, and what debts you would have paid first, or any thing else that you would direct, let Miss put it down; I shall endeavor to obey you.

“I have got twelve guineas to send you, but unhappily am at a loss how to send it to-night. If I cannot send it to-night, it will come by the next post.

“Pray, do not omit any thing mentioned in this letter. God bless you for ever and ever.

“Your dutiful son,

“SAM. JOHNSON.” "Jan. 13, 1758."

I am

"To Miss PORTER, IN LICHFIELD. “You will conceive my sorrow for the loss of my mother, of the best mother. If she were to live

again, surely I should behave better to her. But she is happy, and what is past is nothing to her; and for me, since I cannot repair my faults to her, I hope repentance will efface them. I return you and all those that have been good to her my sincerest thanks, and pray God to repay you all with infinite advantage. Write to me, and comfort me, dear child. I shall be glad likewise, if Kitty will write to me. I shall send a bill of twenty pounds in a few days, which I thought to have brought to my mother; but God suffered it not. I have not power or composure to say much more. God bless you, and bless us all.

"I am, dear Miss, “Your affectionate humble Servant,

“SAM. Johnson." Jan, 23, 1759."

Soon after this event, he wrote his Rassclas, Prince of Abyssinia, concerning the publication of which Sir John Hawkins guesses vaguely and idly, instead of having taken the trouble to inform himself with authentic precision. Not to trouble my readers with a repetition of the knight's reveries, I have to mention, that the late Mr. Strahan the printer told me, that Johnson wrote it, that with the profits he might defray the expense of his mother's funeral, and pay some little debts which she had left. He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that he composed it in the evenings of one week, sent it to the press in portions as it was written, and had never since read it over. Mr. Strahan, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Dodsley purchased it for a hundred pounds, but afterwards paid him twentyfive pounds more, when it came to a second edition.

The accession [1760] of George the Third to the

throne of these kingdoms, opened a new and brighter prospect to men of literary merit, who had been honored with no mark of royal favor in the preceding reign. IIis present Majesty's education in this country, as well as his taste and beneficence, prompted him to be the patron of science and the arts; and early this year Johnson having been represented to him as a very learned and good man, without any certain provision, his Majesty was pleased to grant him a pension of three hundred pounds a year. The Earl of Bute, who was then Prime Minister, had the honor to announce this instance of his Sovereign's bounty. Mr. Thomas Sheridan and Mr. Murphy, who then lived a good deal both with him and Mr. Wedderburne, told me, that they previously talked with Johnson upon this matter, and that it was perfectly understood by all parties that the pension was merely honorary. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me, that Johnson called on him after his Majesty's intention had been notified to him, and said he wished to consult his friends as to the propriety of his accepting this mark of the royal favor, after the definitions which he had given in his Dictionary of pension and pensioner's. He then told Sir Joshua that Lord Bute said to him expressly, “It is not given you for any thing you are to do, but for what you have done." When I spoke to Lord Loughborough, wishing to know if he recollected the prime mover in the business, he said, “All his friends assisted :” and when I told him that Mr. Sheridan strenuously asserted his claim to it, his Lordship said, “He rang the bell.” Dr. Johnson replied in a fervor of gratitude, "The English language does not afford me terms adequate to my feelings on this oc

casion. I must have recourse to the French. I am pénétré with his Majesty's goodness."

This year [1762] his friend, Sir Joshua Reynolds, paid a visit of some weeks to his native country, Devonshire, in which he was accompanied by Johnson, who was much pleased with this jaunt, and declared he had derived from it a great accession of new ideas. He was entertained at the seats of seyeral noblemen and gentlemen in the west of England; but the greatest part of this time was passed at Plymouth, where the magnificence of the navy, the shipbuilding and all its circumstances, afforded him a grand subject of contemplation. The Commissioner of the Dock-yard paid him the compliment of ordering the yacht to convey him and his friend to the Eddystone, to which they accordingly sailed. But the weather was so tempestuous that they could not land.

This is to me a memorable year (1763]; for in it I had the happiness to obtain the acquaintance of that extraordinary man whose memoirs I am now writing; an acquaintance which I shall ever esteem as one of the most fortunate circumstances in my life. Though then but two-and-twenty, I had for several years read his works with delight and instruction, and had the highest reverence for their author, which had grown up in my fancy into a kind of mysterious veneration, by figuring to myself a state of solemn elevated abstraction, in which I supposed him to live in the immense metropolis of London. Mr. Thomas Davies the actor, who then kept a bookseller's shop in Russell-street, Covent-garden, told me that Johnson was very much his friend, and came frequently to his house, where he more than once invited me to

« 이전계속 »