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Garrick being now vested with theatrical power by being manager of Drury-lane Theatre, he kindly and generously made use of it to bring out Johnson's tragedy, which had been long kept back for want of encouragement. But in this benevolent purpose he met with no small difficulty from the temper of Johnson, which could not brook that a drama which he had formed with much study, and had been obliged to keep more than the nine years of Horace, should be revised and altered at the pleasure of an actor. Yet Garrick knew well, that without some alterations it would not be fit for the stage. A. violent dispute having ensued between them, Garrick applied to the Reverend Dr. Taylor to interpose. Johnson was at first very obstinate. "Sir," said he, “the fellow wants me to make 'Mahomet' run mad, that he may have an opportunity of tossing his hands and kicking his heels." He was, however, at last, with difficulty, prevailed on to comply with Garrick's wishes, so as to allow of some changes; but still there were not enough.

Dr. Adams was present the first night of the representation of "Irene," and gave me the following account:-"Before the curtain drew up, there were catcalls whistling, which alarmed Johnson's friends. The Prologue, which was written by himself in a manly strain, soothed the audience, and the play went off tolerably, till it came to the conclusion, when Mrs. Pritchard, the heroine of the piece, was to be strangled upon

"In Dr. Johnson's 'Vanity of Human Wishes,' there is the following passage :—
'The teeming mother, anxious for her race,

Begs for each birth the fortune of a face:

Yet Vane,' &c.

"Lord Hailes told him [Johnson] he was mistaken in the instances he had given of unfortunate fair ones, for neither Vane nor Sedley had a title to that description."-His lordship therefore thought that the lines should rather have run thus:

"Yet Shore could tell

And Valiere curs'd"

"Our friend, (he added in a subsequent note, addressed to Mr. Boswell on this subject), chose Vane, who was far from being well-look'd, and Sedley, who was so ugly that Charles II. said-his brother had her by way of penance."-MALONE.

1 Mahomet was in fact played by Mr. Barry, and Demetrius by Mr. Garrick; but probably at this time the parts were not yet cast.-Boswell.

2 The expression used by Dr. Adams was "soothed." I should rather think the audience was awed by the extraordinary spirit and dignity of the following lines:—

"Be this at least his praise, be this his pride,
To force applause no modern arts are tried:
Should partial catcalls all his hopes confound,
He bids no trumpet quell the fatal sound;
Should welcome sleep relieve the weary wit,
He rolls no thunders o'er the drowsy pit;
No snares to captivate the judgment spreads,
Nor bribes your eyes, to prejudice your heads.
Unmov'd, though witlings sneer and rivals rail,
Studious to please, yet not ashamed to fail,
He scorns the meek address, the suppliant strain,
With merit needless, and without it vain;

In Reason, Nature, Truth, he dares to trust;

Ye fops be silent, and ye wits be just!"-BOSWELL.

the stage, and was to speak two lines with the bow-string round her neck. The audience cried out 'Murder! Murder!'1 She several times attempted to speak; but in vain. At last she was obliged to go off the stage alive." This passage was afterwards struck out, and she was carried off to be put to death behind the scenes, as the play now has it. The Epilogue, as Johnson informed me, was written by Sir William Yonge. I know not how his play came to be thus graced by the pen of a person so eminent in the political world.

Notwithstanding all the support of such performers as Garrick, Barry, Mrs. Cibber, Mrs. Pritchard, and every advantage of dress and decoration, the tragedy of Irene did not please the public. Mr. Garrick's zeal carried it through for nine nights, so that the author had his three nights' profit; and from a receipt signed by him, now in the hands of Mr. James Dodsley, it appears that his friend, Mr. Robert Dodsley,

1 This shows how ready modern audiences are to condemn in a new play what they have frequently endured very quietly in an old one. Rowe has made Moneses in "Tamerlane" die by the bow-string, without offence.-MALONE.

2 I know not what Sir John Hawkins means by the cold reception of "Irene." I was at the first representation, and most of the subsequent. It was much applauded the first night, particularly the speech on to-morrow. It ran nine nights at least. It did not indeed become a stock-play, but there was not the least opposition during the representation, except the first night in the last act, where Irene was to be strangled on the stage, which John could not bear, though a dramatic poet may stab or slay by hundreds. The bow-string was not a Christian nor an ancient Greek or Roman death. But this offence was removed after the first night, and Irene went off the stage to be strangled. Many stories were circulated at the time, of the author's being observed at the representation to be dissatisfied with some of the speeches and conduct of the play, himself; and, like La Fontaine, expressing his disappro bation aloud.-BURNEY.

Mr. Murphy, in his "Life of Johnson," p. 53, says, "The amount of the three benefit nights for the tragedy of 'Irene,' it is to be feared, were not very considerable, as the profit, that stimulating motive, never invited the author to another dramatic attempt."

On the word "profit," the late Mr. Isaac Reed in his copy of that Life, which I purchased at the sale of his library, has added a manuscript note, containing the following receipts on John son's three benefit nights :

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In a preceding page (52) Mr. Murphy says, "Irene' was acted at Drury-lane on Monday. Feb. 6, and from that time, without interruption, to Monday, February the 20th, being in all thirteen nights."

On this Mr. Reed somewhat indignantly has written-"This is false; it was acted only nine nights, and never repeated afterwards. Mr. Murphy, in making the above calculation, includes both the Sundays and Lent-days."

The blunder, however, is that of the Monthly Reviewer, from whom Murphy took, without acknowledgment, the greater part of his Essay. M. R. vol. lxxvii. p. 135.-A. CHALMERS.

gave him one hundred pounds for the copy, with his usual reservation of the right of one edition.


Irene," considered as a poem, is entitled to the praise of superior excellence. Analysed into parts, it will furnish a rich store of noble sentiments, fine imagery, and beautiful language; but it is deficient in pathos, in that delicate power of touching the human feelings, which is the principal end of the drama.1 Indeed Garrick has complained to me that Johnson not only had not the faculty of producing the impressions of tragedy, but that he had not the sensibility to perceive them. His great friend Mr. Walmesley's prediction, that he would "turn out a fine tragedy writer," was, therefore, ill-founded. Johnson was wise enough to be convinced that he had not the talents necessary to write successfully for the stage, and never made another attempt in that species of composition.

When asked how he felt upon the ill success of his tragedy, he replied, "Like the Monument;" meaning that he continued firm and unmoved as that column. And let it be remembered, as an admonition to the genus irritabile of dramatic writers, that this great man, instead of peevishly complaining of the bad taste of the town, submitted to its decision without a murmur. He had, indeed, upon all occasions, a great deference for the general opinion: "A man," said he, "who writes a book, thinks himself wiser or wittier than the rest of mankind; he supposes that he can instruct or amuse them, and the public to whom he appeals must, after all, be the judges of his pretensions."

On occasion of this play being brought upon the stage, Johnson had a fancy, that as a dramatic author, his dress should be more gay than what he ordinarily wore; he therefore appeared behind the scenes, and even in one of the side boxes, in a scarlet waistcoat, with rich gold lace, and a gold laced hat. He humorously observed to Mr. Langton, "that when in that dress he could not treat people with the same ease as when in his usual plain clothes." Dress indeed, we must allow, has more effect even upon strong minds than one should suppose without having had the experience of it. His necessary attendance while his play was in rehearsal, and during its performance, brought him acquainted with many of the performers of both sexes, which produced a more favourable opinion of their profession than he had harshly expressed in his "Life of Savage." With some of them he kept up an acquaintance as long as he and they lived, and was ever ready to show them acts of kindness. He, for a considerable time, used to frequent the Green Room, and seemed to take delight in dissipating his gloom, by mixing in the sprightly chit-chat of the motley circle then to be found there. Mr. David Hume related to me from Mr. Garrick, that Johnson at last denied

1 Aaron Hill (vol. ii. p. 355), in a letter to Mr. Mallet, gives the following account of "Irene," after having seen it :-"I was at the anomalous Mr. Johnson's benefit, and found the play his proper representative; strong sense ungraced by sweetness or decorum."-BOSWELL.

himself this amusement, from considerations of rigid virtue, saying, "I'll come no more behind your scenes, David; for the silk stockings and white bosoms of your actresses excite my amorous propensities."

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In 1750 he came forth in the character for which he was eminently qualified, a majestic teacher of moral and religious wisdom. The vehicle which he chose, was that of a periodical paper, which he knew had been, upon former occasions, employed with great success. The "Tatler," "Spectator," and "Guardian," were the last of the kind published in England, which had stood the test of a long trial; and such an interval had now elapsed since their publication, as made him justly think that, to many of his readers, this form of instruction would, in some degree, have the advantage of novelty. A few days before the first of his Essays came out, there started another competitor for fame in the same form, under the title of "The Tatler Revived," which I believe was "born but to die." Johnson was, I think, not very happy in the choice of his title,-" The Rambler;" which certainly is not suited to a series of grave and moral discourses, which the Italians have literally, but ludicrously, translated by Il Vagabondo, and which has been lately assumed as the denomination of a vehicle of licentious tales, "The Rambler's Magazine." He gave Sir Joshua Reynolds the following account of its getting this name:-" 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."1

With what devout and conscientious sentiments this paper was undertaken, is evidenced by the following prayer, which he composed and offered up on the occasion :—

"Almighty God, the giver of all good things, without whose help all labour is ineffectual, and without whose grace all wisdm 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.”—[Pr. & Med. p. 9.]

The first paper of the "Rambler" was published on Tuesday the 20th of March, 1749-50; and its author was enabled to continue it, without interruption, every Tuesday and Saturday, till Saturday the 17th of March,2 1752, on which day it closed. This is a strong confirmation of the truth of a remark of his, which I have had occasion to quote elsewhere,3 that “ a man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it;" for, notwithstanding his constitutional indolence, his depression of spirits, and his labour in carrying on his Dictionary, he answered the stated calls of the press twice a week from the stores of his mind, during all that time; having received no assistance, except four billets in No. 10, by Miss Mulso, now Mrs. Chapone; No. 30, by Mrs. Catherine Talbot; No. 97, by Mr. Samuel Richardson, whom he describes in an introductory note as An author who has enlarged the knowledge of human nature, and taught the passions to move at the command of virtue ;" and Numbers 44 and 100, by Mrs. Elizabeth Carter.

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Posterity will be astonished when they are told, upon the authority of Johnson himself, that many of these discourses, which we should suppose had been laboured with all the slow attention of literary leisure, were written in haste as the moment pressed, without even being read

1 I have heard Dr. Warton mention, that he was at Mr. Robert Dodsley's with the late Mr. Moore, and several of his friends, considering what should be the name of the periodical paper which Moore had undertaken. Garrick proposed the "Salad," which, by a curious coincidence, was afterwards applied to himself by Goldsmith:

"Our Garrick's a salad, for in him we see
Oil, vinegar, sugar, and saltness agree!"

At last, the company having separated, without anything of which they approved having been offered, Dodsley himself thought of "The World."-BosWELL.

2 This is a mistake, into which the author was very pardonably led by the inaccuracy of the original folio edition of the "Rambler," in which the concluding paper of that work is dated on "Saturday, March 17." But Saturday was in fact the fourteenth of March. This circumstance, though it may at first appear of very little importance, is yet worth notice; for Mrs. Johnson died on the seventeenth of March.-MALONE.

3 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3rd edit. p. 28.-BOSWELL.

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