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Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who was long intimately acquainted with him, and has preserved a few anecdotes concerning him, regretting that he was not a more diligent collector, informs me, that "when a boy he was immoderately fond of reading romances of chivalry, and he retained his fondness for them through life; so that," adds his lordship, "spending part of a summer at my parsonage-house in the country, he chose for his regular reading the old Spanish romance of 'Felixmarte of Hircania,' in folio, which he read quite through. Yet I have heard him attribute to these extravagant fictions that unsettled turn of mind which prevented his ever fixing in any profession."

[1724. Aged 15.]-After having resided for some time at the house of his uncle, Cornelius Ford,' Johnson was, at the age of fifteen, removed to the school of Stourbridge, in

Worcestershire, of which Mr. Wentworth was then master. This step was taken by the advice of his cousin, the Rev. Mr. Ford, a man in whom both talents and good dispositions were disgraced by licentiousness, but who was a very able judge of what was right. At this school he did not receive so much benefit as was expected It has been said, that he acted in the capacity of an assistant to Mr. Wentworth, in teaching the younger boys. "Mr. Wentworth," he told 66 me, was a very able man, but an idle man, and to me very severe; but I cannot blame him much. I was then a big boy; he saw I did not reverence him, and that he should get no honour by me. I had brought enough with me to carry me through; and all I should get at his school would be ascribed to my own labour, or to my former master. Yet he taught me a great deal.”

[graphic]

PARSON FORD, FROM HOGARTH'S PICTURE.

He thus discriminated to Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dromore, his progress at his two grammar schools. "At one, I learned much in the school, but little from the master; in the other, I learned much from the master, but little in the school."

The bishop also informs me, that Dr. Johnson's father, before he was received at Stourbridge, applied to have him admitted as a scholar and assistant to the Rev. Samuel Lee, M.A., head master of Newport school in Shropshire, (a very diligent good teacher, at that time in high reputation, under whom Mr. Hollis is said, in the Memoirs of his Life,

1 Cornelius Ford, according to Sir John Hawkins, was his cousin german, being the son of Dr. Ford, an eminent physician, who was brother to Johnson's mother."-MALONE.

2 He is said to be the original of the parson in Hogarth's Modern Midnight Conversation. -BOSWELL.

to have been also educated.)1 This application to Mr. Lee was not suc'cessful; but Johnson had afterwards the gratification to hear that the old gentleman, who lived to a very advanced age, mentioned it as one of the most memorable events of his life, that "he was very near having that great man for his scholar."

He remained at Stourbridge little more than a year,2 and then he returned home, where he may be said to have loitered, for two years, in a state very unworthy his uncommon abilities. He had already given several proofs of his poetical genius, both in his school exercises and in other occasional compositions. Of these I have obtained a considerable collection, by the favour of Mr. Wentworth, son of one of his masters, and of Mr. Hector,3 his schoolfellow and friend; from which I select the following specimens:

Translation of VIRGIL. Pastoral I.

MELIBEUS.

Now, Tityrus, you, supine and careless laid,
Play on your pipe beneath this beechen shade;
While wretched we about the world must roam,
And leave our pleasing fields and native home,
Here at your ease you sing your amorous flame,
And the wood rings with Amarillis' name.

TITYRUS.

Those blessings, friend, a deity bestow'd,
For I shall never think him less than god:
Oft on his altar shall my firstlings lie,
Their blood the consecrated stones shall dye :
He gave my flocks to graze the flowery meads,
And me to tune at ease th' unequal reeds.

MELIBUS.

My admiration only I exprest

(No spark of envy harbours in my breast),
That, when confusion o'er the country reigns,
To you alone this happy state remains.

Here I, though faint myself, must drive my goats,
Far from their ancient fields and humble cots.
This scarce I lead, who left on yonder rock

Two tender kids, the hopes of all the flock.

As was likewise the Bishop of Dromore many years afterwards.-BOSWELL.

2 Yet here his genius was so distinguished, that although little better than a schoolboy, he was admitted into the best company of the place, and had no common attention paid to him; of which remarkable instances were long remembered there.-PERCY.

3 Mr. Hector, to whom we are indebted for so many reminiscences of Johnson's early life was a native of Lichfield, and became an eminent surgeon in Birmingham, where he died September 2, 1794, aged 85. He resided for very many years at a house in the Old-square, where he was visited by Johnson in 1781, and again in 1784. This house, "much modernised,” is now occupied by W. Scholefield, Esq., M.P. for Birmingham.-ED.

Had we not been perverse and careless grown,
This dire event by omens was foreshown;
Our trees were blasted by the thunder stroke,
And left-hand crows, from an old hollow oak,
Foretold the coming evil by their dismal croak.

Translation of HORACE. Book I. Ode xxii.

THE man, my friend, whose conscious heart
With virtue's sacred ardour glows,
Nor taints with death the envenom'd dart,
Nor needs the guard of Moorish bows:

Though Scythia's icy cliffs he treads,
Or horrid Afric's faithless sands;
Or where the famed Hydaspes spreads
His liquid wealth o'er barbarous lands.

For while by Chloe's image charm'd,
Too far in Sabine woods I stray'd;
Me singing, careless and unarm'd,
A grizzly wolf surprised, and fled.

No savage more portentous stain'd
Apulia's spacious wilds with gore;
No fiercer Juba's thirsty land,

Dire nurse of raging lions, bore.

Place me where no soft summer gale
Among the quivering branches sighs;
Where clouds condensed for ever veil
With horrid gloom the frowning skies :

Place me beneath the burning line,

A clime denied to human race;

I'll sing of Chloe's charms divine,

Her heavenly voice, and beauteous face.

Translation of HORACE. Book II. Ode ix.

CLOUDS do not always veil the skies,

Nor showers immerse the verdant plain. Nor do the billows always rise,

Or storms afflict the ruffled main :

Nor, Valgius, on th' Armenian shores

Do the chain'd waters always freeze; Not always furious Boreas roars,

Or bends with violent force the trees,

But you are ever drown'd in tears,
For Mystes dead you ever mourn;
No setting Sol can ease your cares,
But finds you sad at his return.
The wise experienced Grecian sage
Mourn'd not Antilochus so long;
Nor did King Priam's hoary age

So much lament his slaughter'd son.

Leave off, at length, these woman's sighs,
Augustus' numerous trophies sing;
Repeat that prince's victories,

To whom all nations tribute bring.

Niphates rolls an humbler wave,

At length the undaunted Scythian yields,
Content to live the Roman's slave,

And scarce forsakes his native fields.

Translation of part of the Dialogue between HECTOR and ANDROMACHE; from the
Sixth Book of HOMER'S ILIAD.

SHE ceased; then god-like Hector answer'd kind
(His various plumage sporting in the wind),
That post, and all the rest, shall be my care;
But shall I, then, forsake the unfinish'd war?

How would the Trojans brand great Hector's name!
And one base action sully all my fame,
Acquired by wounds and battles bravely fought!
O, how my soul abhors so mean a thought!
Long since I learn'd to slight this fleeting breath,
And view with cheerful eyes approaching death.
The inexorable sisters have decreed

That Priam's house, and Priam's self shall bleed :
The day will come, in which proud Troy shall yield,
And spread its smoking ruins o'er the field.

Yet Hecuba's, nor Priam's hoary age,

Whose blood shall quench some Grecian's thirsty rage,
Nor my brave brothers, that have bit the ground,
Their souls dismiss'd through many a ghastly wound,
Can in my bosom half that grief create,

As the sad thought of your impending fate:

When some proud Grecian dame shall tasks impose,
Mimic your tears, and ridicule your woes;
Beneath Hyperia's waters shall you sweat,
And, fainting, scarce support the liquid weight:
Then shall some Argive loud insulting cry,
Behold the wife of Hector, guard of Troy!

Tears, at my name, shall drown those beauteous eyes,
And that fair bosom heave with rising sighs!

Before that day, by some brave hero's hand

May I lie slain, and spurn the bloody sand.

To a YOUNG LADY on her BIRTHDAY.

THIS tributary verse receive, my fair,
Warm with an ardent lover's fondest prayer.

May this returning day for ever find

Thy form more lovely, more adorn'd thy mind;
All pains, all cares, may favouring Heaven remove,
All but the sweet solicitudes of love!

May powerful nature join with grateful art,
To point each glance, and force it to the heart!
O then, when conquer'd crowds confess thy sway,
When ev'n proud wealth and prouder wit obey
My fair, be mindful of the mighty trust:
Alas! 'tis hard for beauty to be just.

Those sovereign charms with strictest care employ;
Nor give the generous pain, the worthless joy:
With his own form acquaint the forward fool,
Shown in the faithful glass of ridicule;
Teach mimic censure her own faults to find,
No more let coquettes to themselves be blind,
So shall Belinda's charms improve mankind.

THE YOUNG AUTHOR.2

WHEN first the peasant, long inclin❜d to roam,
Forsakes his rural sports and peaceful home,
Pleas'd with the scene the smiling ocean yields,
He scorns the verdant meads and flow'ry fields;
Then dances jocund o'er the watery way,
While the breeze whispers, and the streamers play:
Unbounded prospects in his bosom roll,
And future millions lift his rising soul;
In blissful dreams he digs the golden mine,
And raptur'd sees the new-found ruby shine.
Joys insincere! thick clouds invade the skies,
Loud roar the billows, high the waves arise;
Sick'ning with fear, he longs to view the shore,
And vows to trust the faithless deep no more.

1 Mr. Hector informs me, that this was made almost impromptu, in his presence.-BOSWELL. 2 This he inserted, with many alterations, in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1743.-BOSWELL He however did not add his name.-MALONE.

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