페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

explanations, in one 8vo pica, which he is willing to do for twelve shillings a sheet, to be made up a guinea at the second impression. If you think on it I will wait on you with him.

66

"I am, Sir, your humble servant,

'Pray lend me Topsel on Animals."

"SAM. JOHNSON."

I must not omit to mention that this Mr. Macbean was a native of Scotland.

[ocr errors]

In the "Gentleman's Magazine" of this year Johnson gave a life of Father Paul ;* and he wrote the preface to the volume,t which, though prefixed to it when bound, is always published with the appendix, and is, therefore, the last composition belonging to it. The ability and nice adaptation with which he could draw up a prefatory address, was one of his peculiar excellencies.

It appears, too, that he paid a friendly attention to Mrs. Elizabeth Carter; for, in a letter from Mr. Cave to Dr. Birch, November 28th, this year, I find "Mr. Johnson advises Miss C. to undertake a translation of Boethius de Cons., because there is prose and verse, and to put her name to it when published." This advice was not followed; probably from an apprehension that the work was not sufficiently popular for an extensive sale. How well Johnson himself could have executed a translation of this philosophical poet we may judge from the following specimen which he has given in the "Rambler" (Motto to No. 7) :—

"O qui perpetuâ mundum ratione gubernas,
Terrarum cœlique sator !-

Disjice terrenæ nebulas et pondera molis,

Atque tuo splendore mica! Tu namque serenum,
Tu requies tranquilla piis. Te cernere finis,
Principium, vector, dux, semita, terminus, idem."

"O Thou whose power o'er moving worlds presides,
Whose voice created, and whose wisdom guides,
On darkling man in pure effulgence shine,

And cheer the clouded mind with light divine.

'Tis thine alone to calm the pious breast,

With silent confidence and holy rest;

From thee, great God! we spring, to thee we tend,
Path, motive, guide, original, and end!"

In 1739, besides the assistance which he gave to the "Parliamentary Debates," his writings in the "Gentleman's Magazine " were, "The Life of Boerhaave," ," in which it is to be observed, that he discovers that love of chemistry which never forsook him; "An appeal to the Public in behalf of the Editor ;"+ "An Address to the Reader;"+" An Epigram both in Greek and Latin to Eliza ;"* and also English verses to her ;* and "A Greek Epigram to Dr. Birch."* It has been erroneously

supposed that an essay, published in that Magazine this year, entitled The Apotheosis of Milton," was written by Johnson; and on that supposition it has been improperly inserted in the edition of his works by the booksellers after his decease. Were there no positive testimony as to this point, the style of the performance, and the name of Shakspeare not being mentioned in an essay professedly reviewing the principal English poets, would ascertain it not to be the production of Johnson. But there is here no occasion to resort to internal evidence; for my Lord Bishop of Salisbury (Dr. Douglas) has assured me that it was written by Guthrie. His separate publications were, "A Complete Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage, from the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke, author of 'Gustavus Vasa,'"* being an ironical attack upon them for their suppression of that tragedy; and "Marmor Norfolciense; or, an Essay on an Ancient Prophetical Inscription, in Monkish Rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne, in Norfolk, by Probus Britannicus." * In this performance he, in a feigned inscription, supposed to have been found in Norfolk, the county of Sir Robert Walpole, then the obnoxious prime minister of this country, inveighs against the Brunswick succession, and the measures of government consequent upon it. To this supposed prophecy he added a Commentary, making each expression apply to the times, with warm anti-Hanoverian zeal.

This anonymous pamphlet, I believe, did not make so much noise as was expected, and, therefore, had not a very extensive circulation. Sir John Hawkins relates, that "warrants were issued and messengers employed to apprehend the author; who, though he had forborne to subscribe his name to the pamphlet, the vigilance of those in pursuit of him had discovered;" and we are informed that he lay concealed in Lambeth-marsh till the scent after him grew cold. This, however, is altogether without foundation; for Mr. Steele, one of the Secretaries of the Treasury, who, amidst a variety of important business, politely obliged me with his attention to my inquiry, informed me that "he directed every possible search to be made in the records of the Treasury and Secretary of State's Office, but could find no trace whatever of any warrant having been issued to apprehend the author of this pamphlet." "Marmor Norfolciense" became exceedingly scarce, so that I, for many years, endeavoured in vain to procure a copy of it. At last I was indebted to the malice of one of Johnson's numerous petty adversaries, who in 1775, published a new edition of it," with Notes and a Dedication to Samuel Johnson, L.L.D., by Tribunus;" in which some puny scribbler invidiously attempted to found upon it a charge of inconsistency against its author, because he had accepted of a pension from his present Majesty, and had written in support of the measures of government. As a mortification to such impotent malice, of which there are so many

1 The Inscription and the Translation of it are preserved in the "London Magazine" for the year 1739, p. 244.-BoswELL.

instances towards men of eminence, I am happy to relate that this telum imbelle did not reach its exalted object till about a year after it thus appeared, when I mentioned it to him, supposing that he knew of the republication. To my surprise he had not yet heard of it. He requested me to go directly and get it for him, which I did. He looked at it and laughed, and seemed to be much diverted with the feeble efforts of his unknown adversary, who, I hope, is alive to read this account. 'Now," said he, "here is somebody who thinks he has vexed me sadly; yet if it had not been for you, you rogue, I should probably never have seen it."

66

As Mr. Pope's note concerning Johnson, alluded to in a former page, refers both to his "London," and his "Marmor Norfolciense," I have deferred inserting it till now. I am indebted for it to Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who permitted me to copy it from the original in his possession. It was presented to his Lordship by Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom it was given by the son of Mr. Richardson the painter, the person to whom it is addressed. I have transcribed it with minute exactness, that the peculiar mode of writing, and imperfect spelling of that celebrated poet, may be exhibited to the curious in literature. It justifies Swift's epithet of "paper-sparing Pope," for it is written on a slip no larger than a common message-card, and was sent to Mr. Richardson, along with the imitation of Juvenal.

"This is imitated by one Johnson who put in for a Public-school in Shropshire,' but was disappointed. He has an infirmity of the convulsive kind, that attacks him sometimes so as to make Him a sad Spectacle. Mr. P. from the Merit of This Work which was all the knowledge he had of him, endeavour'd to serve him without his own application; & wrote to my Ld. gore, but he did not succeed. Mr. Johnson published afterwds. another Poem in Latin with Notes the whole very humerous call'd the Norfolk Prophecy.

"D"

Johnson had been told of this note: and Sir Joshua Reynolds informed him of the compliment which it contained, but, from delicacy, avoided showing him the paper itself. When Sir Joshua observed to Johnson that he seemed very desirous to see Pope's note, he answered, "Who would not be proud to have such a man as Pope so solicitous in inquiring about him?"

The infirmity to which Mr. Pope alludes, appeared to me also, as I have elsewhere2 observed, to be of the convulsive kind, and of the nature of that distemper called St. Vitus's dance; and in this opinion I am confirmed by the description which Sydenham gives of that disease: "This disorder is a kind of convulsion. It manifests itself by halting, or unsteadiness of one of the legs, which the patient draws after him

[ocr errors][merged small]

2 " Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," 3rd edit. p. 8.-BOSWELL.

[ocr errors]

like an idiot. If the hand of the same side be applied to the breast, or any other part of the body, he cannot keep it a moment in the same posture, but it will be drawn into a different one by a convulsion, notwithstanding all his efforts to the contrary." Sir Joshua Reynolds, however, was of a different opinion, and favoured me with the following

paper :

"Those notions or tricks of Dr. Johnson are improperly called convulsions. He could sit motionless when he was told so to do, as well as any other man. My opinion is, that it proceeded from a habit1 which he had indulged himself in, of accompanying his thoughts with certain untoward actions, and those actions always appeared to me as if they were meant to reprobate some part of his past conduct. Whenever he was not engaged in conversation, such thoughts were sure to rush into his mind; and, for this reason, any company, any employment whatever, he preferred to being alone. The great business of his life, he said, was to escape from himself; this disposition he considered as the disease of his mind, which nothing cured but company.

"One instance of his absence of mind and particularity, as it is characteristic of the man, may be worth relating. When he and I took a journey together into the West, we visited the late Mr. Banks, of Dorsetshire; the conversation turning upon pictures, which Johnson could not well see, he retired to a corner of the room, stretching out his right leg as far as he could reach before him, then bringing up his left leg, and stretching his right still further on. The old gentleman observing him, went up to him and in a very courteous manner assured him, though it was not a new house, the flooring was perfectly safe. The Doctor started from his reverie, like a person waked out of his sleep, but spoke not a word."

While we are on this subject, my readers may not be displeased with another anecdote, communicated to me by the same friend, from the relation of Mr. Hogarth.

Johnson used to be a pretty frequent visitor at the house of Mr. Richardson, author of "Clarissa," and other novels of extensive reputation. Mr. Hogarth came one day to see Richardson, soon after the execution of Dr. Cameron, for having taken arms for the house of Stuart in 1745-6; and being a warm partisan of George the Second, he observed to Richardson, that certainly there must have been some very unfavourable circumstances lately discovered in this particular case, which had induced the King to approve of an execution for rebellion so long after the time when it was committed, as this had the appearance of putting a man to death in cold blood,2 and was very unlike his Majesty's usual

1 Sir Joshua Reynolds's notion on this subject is confirmed by what Johnson himself said to a young lady, the niece of his friend Christopher Smart. See a note by Mr. Boswell on some particulars communicated by Reynolds, under March 30th, 1783.-MALONE.

2 Impartial posterity may, perhaps, be as little inclined as Dr. Johnson was, to justify the uncommon rigour exercised in the case of Dr. Archibald Cameron. He was an amiable and truly honest man; and his offence was owing to a generous, though mistaken principle of duty. Being obliged, after 1746, to give up his profession as a physician, and to go into foreign parts,

clemency. While he was talking, he perceived a person standing at a window in the room, shaking his head, and rolling himself about in a strange ridiculous manner. He concluded that he was an idiot, whom his relations had put under the care of Mr. Richardson, as a very good man. To his great surprise, however, this figure stalked forwards, to where he and Mr. Richardson were sitting, and all at once took up the argument, and burst out into an invective against George the Second, as one, who, upon all occasions, was unrelenting and barbarous; mentioning many instances; particularly, that when an officer of high rank had been acquitted by a court-martial, George the Second had with his own hand struck his name off the list. In short, he displayed such a power of eloquence, that Hogarth looked at him with astonishment, and actually imagined that this idiot had been at the moment inspired. Neither Hogarth nor Johnson were made known to each other at this interview.

In 1740 he wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine the "Preface,"† the "Life of Admiral Blake,' ,"* and the first parts of those of "Sir Francis Drake," " and "Philip Barretier," "*1 both which he finished the following year. He also wrote an "Essay on Epitaphs,"* and an "Epitaph on Phillips, a Musician,"* which was afterwards published with some other pieces of his, in Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies. This Epitaph is so exquisitely beautiful, that I remember even Lord Kaimes, strangely prejudiced as he was against Dr. Johnson, was compelled to allow it very high praise. It has been ascribed to Mr. Garrick, from its appearing at first with the signature G.; but I have heard Mr. Garrick declare, that it was written by Dr. Johnson, and give the following account of the manner in which it was composed. Johnson and he were sitting together; when, amongst other things, Garrick repeated an Epitaph upon this Phillips, by a Dr. Wilkes, in these words: "Exalted soul! whose harmony could please

The love-sick virgin, and the gouty ease;
Could jarring discord, like Amphion, move
To beauteous order and harmonious love;
Rest here in peace, till angels bid thee rise,

And meet thy blessed Saviour in the skies."

Johnson shook his head at these common-place funereal lines, and

he was honoured with the rank of Colonel, both in the French and Spanish service. He was a son of the ancient and respectable family of Cameron of Lochiel; and his brother, who was the Chief of that brave clan, distinguished himself by moderation and humanity, while the Highland army marched victorious through Scotland. It is remarkable of this Chief, that though he had earnestly remonstrated against the attempt as hopeless, he was of too heroic a spirit not to venture his life and fortune in the cause, when personally asked by him whom he thought his Prince.-BOSWELL.

1 To which in 1742 he made very large additions, which have never yet been incorporated in any edition of Barretier's life.-A. CHALMERS.

« 이전계속 »