페이지 이미지

French, and published with large Notes by Dr. Le Courayer, the reputation of that book is so much revived in England, that, it is presumed, a new translation of it from the Italian, together with Le Courayer's Notes from the French, could not fail of a favourable reception.

"If it be answered, that the history is already in English, it must be remembered, that there was the same objection against Le Courayer's undertaking, with this disadvantage, that the French had a version by one of their best translators, whereas you cannot read three pages of the English history without discovering that the style is capable of great improvements; but whether those improvements are to be expected from this attempt, you must judge from the specimen, which, if you approve the proposal, I shall submit to your examination.

"Suppose the merit of the versions equal, we may hope that the addition of the notes will turn the balance in our favour, considering the reputation of the annotator.

"Be pleased to favour me with a speedy answer, if you are not willing to engage in this scheme; and appoint me a day to wait upon you, if you are.

"I am, Sir,

"Your humble servant,


It should seem from this letter, though subscribed with his own name, that he had not yet been introduced to Mr. Cave. We shall presently see what was done in consequence of the proposal which it contains.

In the course of the summer he returned to Lichfield, where he had left Mrs. Johnson, and there he at last finished his tragedy, which was executed with his rapidity of composition upon other occasions, but was slowly and painfully elaborated. A few days before his death, while burning a great mass of papers, he picked out from among them the original uniform sketch of this tragedy, in his own handwriting, and gave it to Mr. Langton, by whose favour a copy of it is now in my possession. It contains fragments of the intended plot, and speeches for the different persons of the drama, partly in the raw materials of prose, partly worked up into verse; as also a variety of hints for illustration, borrowed from the Greek, Roman, and modern writers. The handwriting is very difficult to be read, even by those who were best acquainted with Johnson's mode of penmanship, which at all times was very particular. The King having graciously accepted of this manuscript as a literary curiosity, Mr. Langton made a fair and distinct copy of it, which he ordered to be bound up with the original and the printed tragedy; and the volume is deposited in the King's

born about nine months before him, in the year 1709. He married Catherine, the sister of Sir Thomas Aston, in 1789; and as that lady had seven sisters, she probably succeeded to the Aston estate on the death of her brother under his will. Mr. Hervey took the degree of Master of Arts at Cambridge, at the late age of thirty-five, in 1774; about which time, it is believed, he entered into holy orders.-MALONE,

library. His Majesty was pleased to permit Mr. Langton to take a copy of it for himself.

The whole of it is rich in thought and imagery, and happy expressions; and of the disjecta membra scattered throughout, and as yet unarranged, a good dramatic poet might avail himself with considerable advantage. I shall give my readers some specimens of different kinds, distinguishing them by the asterisk (*).

"Nor think to say here will I stop,

Here will I fix the limits of transgression,

Nor farther tempt the avenging rage of heaven.
When guilt like this once harbours in the breast,
Those holy beings, whose unseen direction

Guides through the maze of life the steps of man,
Fly the detested mansions of impiety,

And quit their charge to horror and to ruin,"

A small part only of this interesting admonition is preserved in the play, and is varied, I think, not to advantage :

"The soul once tainted with so foul a crime,

No more shall glow with friendship's hallow'd ardour,
Those holy beings whose superior care

Guides erring mortals to the paths of virtue,

Affrighted at impiety like thine,

Resign their charge to baseness and to ruin."

* "I feel the soft infection

Flush in my cheek, and wander in my veins.

Teach me the Grecian arts of soft persuasion."

* "Sure this is love, which heretofore I conceived the dream of idle maids, and wanton poets."

# 66 Though no comets or prodigies foretold the ruin of Greece, signs which heaven must by another miracle enable us to understand, yet it might be foreshown, by tokens no less certain, by the vices which always bring it on."

This last passage is worked up in the tragedy itself, as follows:



-That power that kindly spreads

The clouds, a signal of impending showers,
To warn the wand'ring linnet to the shade
Beheld, without concern, expiring Greece,
And not one prodigy foretold our fate.

1 The "King's library" (that of George III.) was given by his son and successor, George IV., to the British Museum.-MALONE.

It has recently transpired, if we are to believe such an authority as the "Quarterly Review," that the Government of the day bought the library of George IV., just as he was on the eve of concluding a sale of it to the Emperor of Russia. The statement of the "Quarterly" is denied by a writer-probably Mr. Croker-in "Notes and Queries," Vol. 4, No. 96.-ED.


A thousand horrid prodigies foretold it;
A feeble government, eluded laws,
A factious populace, luxurious nobles,
And all the maladies of sinking States.
When public villany, too strong for Justice,
Shows his bold front, the harbinger of 1 in,
Can brave Leontius call for airy wonder,
Which cheats interpret, and which fools regard;
When some neglected fabric nods beneath
The weight of years, and totters to the tempest,
Must heaven despatch the messengers of light,
Or wake the dead, to warn us of its fall?"

* MAHOMET (to IRENE). "I have tried thee, and joy to find that thou. deservest to be loved by Mahomet,-with a mind great as his own. Sure, thou art an error of nature, and an exception to the rest of thy sex, and art immortal; for sentiments like thine were never to sink into nothing. I thought all the thoughts of the fair had been to select the graces of the day, dispose the colours of the flaunting (flowing) robe, tune the voice and roll the eye, place the gem, choose the dress, and add new roses to the fading cheek, but-sparkling."

Thus in the tragedy:

"Illustrious maid, new wonders fix me thine;
Thy soul completes the triumphs of thy face;
I thought, forgive my fair, the noblest aim,
The strongest effort of a female soul

Was but to choose the graces of the day,

To tune the tongue, to teach the eyes to roll,

Dispose the colours of the flowing robe,

And add new roses to the faded cheek."

I shall select one other passage, on account of the doctrine which it illustrates. IRENE observes,

* "That the Supreme Being will accept of virtue, whatever outward circumstances it may be accompanied with, and may be delighted with varieties of worship :" but is answered, "That variety cannot affect that Being, who, infinitely happy in his own perfections, wants no external gratifications; nor can infinite truth be delighted with falsehood; that though he may guide or pity those he leaves in darkness, he abandons those who shut their eyes against the beams of day."

Johnson's residence at Lichfield, on his return to it at this time, was only for three months; and as he had as yet seen but a small part of the wonders of the metropolis, he had little to tell his townsmen. He related to me the following minute anecdote of this period:-" In the last age, when my mother lived in London, there were two sets of

people, those who gave the wall, and those who took it; the peaceable and the quarrelsome. When I returned to Lichfield, after having been in London, my mother asked me, whether I was one of those who gave the wall, or those who took it. Now it is fixed that every man keeps to the right; or, if one is taking the wall, another yields it; and it is never a dispute."

[ocr errors]

He now removed to London with Mrs. Johnson; but her daughter, who had lived with them at Edial, was left with her relations in the country. His lodgings were for some time in Woodstock-street, near Hanover-square, and afterwards in Castle-street, near Cavendish-square. As something pleasingly interesting, to many, in tracing so great a man through all his different habitations, I shall, before this work is concluded, present my readers with an exact list of his lodgings and houses, in order of time, which, in placid condescension to my respectful curiosity, he one evening dictated to me, but without specifying how long he lived at each. In the progress of his life I shall have occasion to mention some of them as connected with particular incidents, or with the writing of particular parts of his works. To some, this minute attention may appear trifling; but when we consider the punctilious exactness with which the different houses in which Milton resided have been traced by the writers of his life, a similar enthusiasm may be pardoned in the biographer of Johnson.

His tragedy being by this time, as he thought, completely finished and fit for the stage, he was very desirous that should be brought forward. Mr. Peter Garrick told me, that Johnson and he went together to the Fountain tavern, and read it over, and that he afterwards solicited Mr. Fleetwood, the patentee of Drury Lane theatre, to have it acted at his house; but Mr. Fleetwood would not accept it, probably because it was not patronised by some man of high rank; and it was not acted till 1749, when his friend David Garrick was manager of that theatre.

[ocr errors]

"The Gentleman's Magazine," begun and carried on by Mr. Edward Cave, under the name of Sylvanus Urban, had attracted the notice and esteem of Johnson, in an eminent degree, before he came to London as an adventurer in literature. He told me that when he first saw St. John's Gate, the place where that deservedly popular miscellany was originally printed, he "beheld it with reverence.' I suppose, indeed, that every young author has had the same kind of feeling for the magazine or periodical publication which has first entertained him, and in which he has first had an opportunity to see himself in print, without the risk of exposing his name. I myself recollect such impressions from "The Scots Magazine," which was begun at Edinburgh in the year 1739, and has been ever conducted with judgment

"Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides."-BOSWELL.

accuracy, and propriety. I yet cannot help thinking of it with an affectionate regard. Johnson has dignified the "Gentleman's Magazine," by the importance with which he invests the life of Cave; but he has given it still greater lustre by the various admirable Essays which he wrote for it.

Though Johnson was often solicited by his friends to make a complete list of his writings, and talked of doing it, I believe with a serious intention that they should all be collected on his own account, he put it off from year to year, and at last died without having done it perfectly. I have one in his own handwriting, which contains a certain number; I, indeed, doubt if he could have remembered every one of them, as they were so numerous, so various, and scattered in such a multiplicity of unconnected publications; nay, several of them published under the names of other persons, to whom he liberally contributed from the abundance of his mind. We must, therefore, be content to discover them, partly from occasional information given by him to his friends, and partly from internal evidence.2

His first performance in the "Gentleman's Magazine,” which for many years was his principal source for employment and support, was a copy of Latin verses, in March, 1738, addressed to the editor in so happy a style of compliment, that Cave must have been destitute both of taste and sensibility, had he not felt himself highly gratified.


URBANE, nullis fesse laboribus,
URBANE, nullis victe calumniis,
Cui fronte sertum in eruditâ
Perpetuò viret et virebit ;

Quid moliatur gens imitantium,
Quid et minetur, solicitus parùm,
Vacare solis perge Musis,

Juxta animo studiisque felix.

Linguæ procacis plumbea spicula,
Fidens, superbo frange silentio ;
Victrix per obstantes catervas
Sedulitas animosa tendet.

Intende nervos, fortis, inanibus
Risurus olim nisibus æmuli;
Intende jam nervos, habebis
Participes operæ Camœnas.

While in the course of my narrative I enumerate his writings, I shall take care that my readers shall not be left to waver in doubt, between certainty and conjecture, with regard to their authenticity; and, for that purpose, shall mark with an asterisk (*) those which he acknowledged to his friends, and with a dagger (†) those which are ascertained to be his by internal evidence. When any other pieces are ascribed to him, I shall give my reasons.BOSWELL.

« 이전계속 »