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Prisoners ;* one of the many proofs that he was ever awake to the calls of humanity; and an account which he
in the Gentleman's Magazine of Mr. Tytler's acute and able vindication of Mary Queen of Scots.* The generosity of Johnson's feelings shines forth in the following sentence:
“ It has now been fashionable, for near half a century, to defame and vilify the house of Stuart, and to exalt and magnify the reign of Elizabeth. The Stuarts have found few apologists, for the dead cannot pay for praise ; and who will, without reward, oppose the tide of popularity? Yet there remains still among us, not wholly extinguished, a zeal for truth, a desire of establishing right in opposition to fashion.”
In this year I have not discovered a single private letter written by him to any of his friends. It should seem, however, that he had at this period a floating intention of writing a history of the recent and wonderful successes of the British arms in all quarters of the globe; for among his resolutions or memorandums, September 18., there is, “ Send for books for Hist. of War.” (1) How much is it to be
(1) The following memorandum, made on his birthday in this year, may be quoted as an example of the rules and resolutions which he was in the habit of making, for the guidance of his moral conduct and literary studies :
“ Sept. 18. Resolved, D (eo) j (uvante),
regretted that this intention was not fulfilled. His majestic expression would have carried down to the latest posterity the glorious achievements of his country, with the same fervent glow which they produced on the mind at the time. He would have been under no temptation to deviate in any degree from truth, which he held very sacred, or to take a licence, which a learned divine told me he once seemed, in a conversation, jocularly to allow to historians. “ There are (said he) inexcusable lies, and consecrated lies. For instance, we are told that on the arrival of the news of the unfortunate battle of Fontenoy, every heart beat, and every eye was in tears. Now we know that no man eat his dinner the worse, but there should have been all this concern; and to say there was (smiling), may be reckoned a consecrated lie.”
This year Mr. Murphy, having thought himself ill-treated by the Rev. Dr. Francklin (1), who was one of the writers of “ The Critical Review,” published an indignant vindication in “ A Poetical Epistle to Samuel Johnson, A. M.” in which he compliments Johnson in a just and elegant manner:
Rise as early as I can:
The fourth item seems obscure and strange.-C. -- [Possibly certain resolutions he had committed to writing, after contemplating his wife's coffin, and which he had not consulted for some time,
- MARKLAND.] (1) [Dr. Thomas Francklin, the translator of Sophocles and Lucian. He died in 1784.]
“ Transcendent Genius! whose prolific vein
Ne'er knew the frigid poet's toil and pain;
While harmony gives rapture to the whole.”
In which some demon bids me plunge my life, To the Aonian fount direct my feet, Say, where the Nine thy lonely musings meet? Where warbles to thy ear the sacred throng, Thy moral sense, thy dignity of song ? Tell, for you can, by what unerring art You wake to finer feelings every heart; In each bright page some truth important give, And bid to future times thy RAMBLER live.” I take this opportunity to relate the manner in which an acquaintance first commenced between Dr. Johnson and Mr. Murphy. During the publication of “ The Gray's Inn Journal," a periodical paper which was successfully carried on by Mr. Murphy alone, when a very young man, he happened to be in the country with Mr. Foote; and having mentioned that he was obliged to go to London in order tu get ready for the press one of the numbers of that journal, Foote said to him, “ You need not go on that account. Here is a French magazine, in which you will find a very pretty oriental tale; translate that, and send it to your printer.” Mr. Murphy having read the tale, was highly pleased with it, and followed Foote's advice. When he returned to town, this tale was pointed out to him in “ The Rambler, from whence it had been translated into the French magazine. () Mr. Murphy then waited upon Johnson, to explain this curious incident. His talents, literature, and gentleman-like manners, were soon perceived by Johnson, and a friendship was formed which was never broken.
LETTER 75. TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ.
6 October 18. 1760. * DEAR SIR,—You that travel about the world, have more materials for letters, than I who stay at home ; and should, therefore, write with frequency equal to your opportunities. I should be glad to have all England surveyed by you, if you would impart your observations in narratives as agreeable as your last. Knowledge is always to be wished to those who can communicate it well. While you have been riding and running, and seeing the tombs of the learned, and the camps of the valiant, I have only staid at home, and intended to do great things, which I have not done. Beau (2) went away to Cheshire, and has not yet found his way back. Chambers passed the vacation at Oxford.
(1) When Mr. Murphy first became acquainted with Dr. Johnson he was about thirty-one years old,
He died at Knightsbridge, June 18. 1805, in his eighty-second year. The extraordinary paper mentioned in the text is No. 38. of the second series Çof the Gray's Inn Journal], published on June 15. 1754; which is a retranslation from the French version of the Rambler, No. 190. — M. [The History of Abouzaid, the Son of Morad.]
(2) Topham Beauclerk, Esq.
“ I am very sincerely solicitous for the preservation or curing of Mr. Langton's sight, and am glad that the chirurgeon at Coventry gives him so much hope. Mr. Sharp is of opinion that the tedious maturation of the cataract is a vulgar error (1), and that it may be removed as soon as it is formed. This notion deserves to be considered ; I doubt whether it be universally true ; but if it be true in some cases, and those cases can be distinguished, it may save a long and uncomfortable delay.
“ Of dear Mrs. Langton you give me no account ; which is the less friendly, as you know how highly I think of her, and how much I interest myself in her health. I suppose you told her of my opinion, and likewise suppose it was not followed ; however I still believe it to be right.
“Let me hear from you again, wherever you are, or whatever you are doing ; whether you wander or sit still, plant trees or make Rustics (2), play with your sisters or muse alone; and in return I will tell you
the success of Sheridan, who at this instant is playing Cato, and has already played Richard twice. He had more company the second than the first night, and will make I believe a good figure in the whole, though his faults seem to be very many; some of natural deficience, and some of laborious affectation. He has, I think, no power of assuming either that dignity or elegance which some men, who have little of either in common life, can exhibit on the stage. His voice when strained is unpleasing, and when low is not always heard. He seems to think too much on the audience, and turns his face too often to the galleries.
(1) Mr. Sharp seems to have once been of a different opinion on this point. See antè, Vol. I. p. 274. n. - -C.
(2) Essays with that title, written about this time by Mr. Langton, but not published.