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1756.

Ætat. 47.

I have rejected, they want all the characteristical marks of Johnsonian composition.

He engaged also to superintend and contribute largely to another monthly publication, entitled “ The LITERARY MAGAZINE, or Universal Review;" the first number of which came out in May this year. What were his emoluments from this undertaking, and what other writers were employed in it, I have not discovered. He continued to write in it, with intermissions, till the fifteenth number; and I think that he never gave better proofs of the force, acuteness, and vivacity of his mind, than in this miscellany, whether we consider his original essays, or his reviews of the works of others. The “ Preliminary Address” to the publick is a proof how this great man could embellish even so trite a thing as the plan of- a magazine with the graces of fuperiour composition.

His original essays are, “ An Introduction to the political State of GreatBritain ;t” “ Remarks on the Militia Bill;t” “ Observations on his Britannick Majesty's Treaties with the Empress of Russia and the. Landgrave of Hesse Caffel ;t” « Observations on the present State of Affairs ;t” and, “ Memoirs of Frederick III. King of Prussia.t” In all these he displays extensive political knowledge and sagacity, expressed with uncommon energy and perspicuity, without any of those words which he sometimes took a pleasure in adopting, in imitation of Sir Thomas Browne, of whose “ Christian Morals” he this year gave an edition, with his “ Life *" prefixed to it, which is one of Johnson's best biographical performances. In one instance only in these essays has he indulged his Brownism. Dr. Robertson, the historian, mentioned it to me, as having at once convinced him that Johnson was the authour of the “ Memoirs of the King of Prussia.” Speaking of the pride which the old King, the father of his hero, took in being master of the tallest regiment in Europe, he says, “ To review this towering regiment was his daily pleasure, and to perpetuate it was so much his care, that when he met a tall woman he immediately commanded one of his Titanian retinue to marry her, that they might propagate procerity.” For this Anglo-Latian word procerity, Johnson had, however, the authority of Addison.

His reviews are of the following books : “Birch's History of the Royal Society ;t” “Murphy's Gray's-Inn Journal;t” “Warton's Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope. Vol. I.t” “ Hampton's Translation of Polybius ;ť” « Blackwell's Memoirs of the Court of Augustus ;t” “Ruffel's Natural History of Aleppo ;t” « Sir Isaac Newton's Arguments in Proof of a Deity ;t” “ Borlase's History of the Isles of Scilly it” “ Home's Experi

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1756.

Ætat. 47•

ments on Bleaching ;t” “ Browne's Christian Morals ;t” “ Hales on distilling
Sea-Water, Ventilators in Ships, and curing an ill Taste in Milk ;” “Lucas's
Essay on Waters ;ť” “Keith’s Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops ;t” “Browne's
History of Jamaica ; ” “ Philosophical Transactions. Vol. XLIX. +” « Mrs.
Lennox's Translation of Sully's Memoirs ; “ Miscellanies by Elizabeth
Harrison; “ Evans's Map and Account of the middle Colonies in Ame-
rica ; ” “ Letter on the Case of Admiral Byng ;*” “ Appeal to the People
concerning Admiral Byng ;*” “ Hanway's Eight Days Journey, and Essay
on Tea ; *” “ The Cadet, a military Treatise ;t” “Some further Particulars
in Relation to the Case of Admiral Byng, by a Gentleman of Oxford ;*” “ The
Conduct of the Ministry relating to the present War impartially examined ;t”
“A Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil.*" All these, from internal
evidence, were written by Johnson; some of them I know he avowed, and have
marked them with an asterisk accordingly. Mr. Thomas Davies, indeed,
ascribed to him the Review of Mr. Burke's “Inquiry into the Origin of our
Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful ;” and Sir John Hawkins, with equal dif-
cernment, has inserted it in his collection of Johnson's works. Whereas it has
no resemblance to Johnson's composition, and is well known to have been
written by Mr. Murphy, who has acknowledged it to me and many

others.
It is worthy of remark, in justice to Johnson's political character, which
has been misrepresented as abjectly submissive to power, that his “Obferva-
tions on the present State of Affairs,” glow with as animated a spirit of
constitutional liberty as can be found any where. Thus he begins,

" The
time is now come, in which every Englishman expects to be informed of the
national affairs, and in which he has a right to have that expectation gratified.
For whatever may be urged by ministers, or those whom vanity or interest
make the followers of ministers, concerning the necessity of confidence in our
governours, and the presumption of prying with profane eyes into the recesses
of policy, it is evident that this reverence can be claimed only by counsels
yet unexecuted, and projects suspended in deliberation. But when a design
has ended in miscarriage or success, when every eye and every ear is witness
to general discontent, or general fatisfaction, it is then a proper time to disen-
tangle confusion and illustrate obscurity, to shew by what causes every event was
produced, and in what effects it is likely to terminate; to lay down with distinct
particularity what rumour always huddles in general exclamation, or perplexes
by indigested narratives ; to Thew whence happiness or calamity is derived, and
whence it may be expected; and honestly to lay before the people what inquiry
can gather of the past, and conjecture can estimate of the future.”

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1756.

Ætat, 47

Here we have it assumed as an incontrovertible principle, that in this country the people are the superintendants of the conduct and measures of those by whom government is administered, of the beneficial effect of which the present reign afforded an illustrious example, when addresses from all parts of the kingdom controuled an audacious attempt to introduce a new power subversive of the crown.

A still stronger proof of his patriotick spirit appears in his review of an « Essay on Waters, by Dr. Lucas ;” of whom, after describing him as a man well known to the world for his daring defiance of power, when he thought it exerted on the side of wrong, he thus speaks: “ The Irish ministers drove him from his native country by a proclamation, in which they charged him with crimes of which they never intended to be called to the proof, and oppressed him by methods equally irresistible by guilt and innocence.

“ Let the man thus driven into exile for having been the friend of his country, be received in every other place as a confessor of liberty; and let the tools of power be taught in time, that they may rob, but cannot impoverish.”

Some of his reviews in this magazine are very short accounts of the pieces noticed, and I mention them only that Dr. Johnson's opinion of the works may be known; but many of them are examples of elaborate criticism, in the most masterly style. In his review of the “ Memoirs of the Court of Augustus,” he has the resolution to think and speak from his own mind, regardless of the cant transmitted from age to age, in praise of the ancient Romans. Thus: “I know not why any one but a school-boy in his declamation should whine over the Common-wealth of Rome, which grew great only by the misery of the rest of mankind. The Romans, like others, as soon as they grew rich, grew corrupt; and in their corruption sold the lives and freedoms of themselves, and of one another.” Again, “ A people, who while they were poor robbed mankind; and as soon as they became rich, robbed one another.” In his review of the Miscellanies in prose and verse, published by Elizabeth Harrison, but written by many hands, he gives an eminent proof at once of his orthodoxy and candour. authours of the essays in prose seem generally to have imitated, or tried to imitate, the copiousness and luxuriance of Mrs. Rowe. This, however, is not all their praise; they have laboured to add to her brightness of imagery, her purity of sentiments. The poets have had Dr. Watts before their eyes; a writer, who, if he stood not in the first class of genius, compensated that defect by a ready application of his powers to the promotion of piety. The attempt to employ the ornaments of romance in the decoration of religion, was, I think, first made by Mr. Boyle's Martyrdom of Theodora ; but Boyle's philosophical Z 2

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1756.

Ætat. 47•

ftudies did not allow him time for the cultivation of style ; and the completion of the great design was reserved for Mrs. Rowe. Dr. Watts was one of the first who taught the Disfenters to write and speak like other men, by sewing them that elegance might consist with piety. They would have both done honour to a better society, for they had that charity which might well make their failings be forgotten, and with which the whole Christian world might wish for communion. They were pure from all the heresies of an age, to which every opinion is become a favourite that the universal church has hitherto detested !

“ This praise, the general interest of mankind requires to be given to writers who please and do not corrupt, who instruct and do not weary. But to them all human eulogies are vain, whom I believe applauded by angels, and numbered with the just.”

His defence of tea against Mr. Jonas Hanway's violent attack upon that elegant and popular beverage, shews how very well a man of genius can write upon the nightest fubject, when he writes, as the Italians say, con amore: I fuppose no person ever enjoyed with more relish the infusion of that fragrant leaf than Johnson. The quantities which he drank of it at all hours were so great, that his nerves must have been uncommonly strong, not to have been extremely relaxed by such an intemperate use of it. He assured me, that he never felt the least inconvenience from it; which is a proof that the fault of his constitution was rather a too great tension of fibres, than the contrary. Mr. Hanway wrote an angry answer to Johnson's review of his Esay on Tea, and Johnson, after a full and deliberate pause, made a reply to it; the only instance, I believe, in the whole course of his life, when he condescended to oppose any thing that was written against him. I suppose when he thought of any of his little antagonists, he was ever justly aware of the high sentiment of Ajax in Ovid:

Ijte tulit pretium jam nunc certaminis hujus,

Qui, cùm vićtus erit, mecum certasse feretur.
But, indeed, the good Mr. Hanway laid himself so open to ridicule, that
Johnson's animadversions upon his attack were chiefly to make sport.

The generosity with which he pleads the cause of Admiral Byng is highly to the honour of his heart and spirit. Though Voltaire affects to be witty upon

the fate of that unfortunate officer, observing that he was shot “pour encourager les autres,” the nation has long been satisfied that his life was sacrificed

to

to the political fervour of the times. In the vault belonging to the Torrington 1756. family, in the church of Southill, in Bedfordshire, there is the following Etat. 47. Epitaph upon his monument, which I have transcribed :

« TO THE PERPETUAL DISGRACE

“ OF PUBLICK Justice,
« The HONOURABLE JOHN BYNG, EsQ

« ADMIRAL OF THE BLUE,
FELL A MARTYR TO POLITICAL

" PERSECUTION,
« MARCH 14, IN THE YEAR, 1757 ;

“ WHEN BRAVERY AND LOYALTY
« WERE INSUFFICIENT SECURITIES
FOR

THE LIFE AND HONOUR OF
" A Naval Officer.”

Johnson's most exquisite critical essay in the Literary Magazine, and indeed any where, is his review of Soame Jennings’s “ Inquiry into the Origin of Evil.” Jennings was possessed of lively talents, and a style eminently pure and easy, and could very happily play with a light subject, either in prose or verse; but when he speculated on that most difficult and excruciating question, the Origin of Evil, he “ ventured far beyond his depth," and, accordingly, was exposed by Johnson, both with acute argument and brilliant wit. I remember when the late Mr. Bicknell's humourous performance, entitled “ The Musical Travels of Joel Collyer,” in which a Night attempt is made to ridicule Johnson, was ascribed to Soame Jennings, “Ha! (said Johnson) I thought I had given him enough of it.”

His triumph over Jennings is thus described by my friend Mr. Courtenay in his “ Poetical Review of the literary and moral Character of Dr. Johnson,” a performance of such merit, that had I not been honoured with a very kind and partial notice in it, I should echo the sentiments of men of the first taste loudly in its praise :

“ When specious sophists with presumption scan
« The source of evil hidden still from man;
« Revive Arabian tales, and vainly hope
“ To rival St. John, and his scholar Pope:

Though metaphysicks spread the gloom of night,
“ By reason's star he guides our aching sight;

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