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Ætat. 48.

have received, though, indeed I am promised something of that fort from Sweden.

“ How my new editions will be received I know not; the subscription has not been very successful. I shall publish about March.

“ If you can direct me how to send proposals, I should wish that they were in such hands.

“ I remember, Sir, in some of the first letters with which you favoured me, you mentioned your lady. May I enquire after her? In return for the favours which you have shewn me, it is not much to tell you, that I wish you and her all that can conduce to your happiness. I am, Sir,

« Your most obliged

“ And most humble servant, “ Gough-square, Dec. 24, 1757


In 1758 we find him, it should seem, in as easy and pleasant a state of 1758. existence, as constitutional unhappiness ever permitted him to enjoy.

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“ YOUR kindness is so great, and my claim to any particular regard from you so little, that I am at a loss how to express my sense of your favours; but I am, indeed, much pleased to be thus distinguished by you.

“ I am ashamed to tell you that my Shakspeare will not be out so foon as I promised my subscribers; but I did not promise them more than I promised myself

. It will, however, be published before summer. “ I have sent you a bundle of proposals, which, I think, do not profess more than I have hitherto performed. I have printed many of the plays, and have hitherto left very few passages unexplained; where I am quite at a loss, I confess my ignorance, which is seldom done by commentators.

“ I have, likewise, inclosed twelve receipts ; not that I mean to impose upon you the trouble of puihing them with more importunity than may seem proper, but that you may rather have more than fewer than you shall want. The proposals you will diseminate as there shall be opportunity. I once printed them at length in the Chronicle, and some of my friends (I believe

s Of Shakfpeare.

• This letter was an answer to one in which was enclosed a drast for the payment of some subfcriptions to his Shakspeare,

Mr. Аа 2




Mr. Murphy, who formerly wrote the Gray’s-Inn Journal) introduced theri with a splendid encomium.

“ Since the Life of Browne, I have been a little engaged, from time to time, in the Literary Magazine, but not very lately. I have not the collection by me, and therefore cannot draw out a catalogue of my own parts, but will do it, and send it. Do not buy them, for I will gather all those that have any thing of mine in them, and send them to Mrs. Burney, as a small token of gratitude for the regard which she is pleased to bestow upon me. I am, Sir,

“ Your most obliged

« And most humble servant, « London, March 8, 1758.


Dr. Burney has kindly favoured me with the following memorandum, which I take the liberty to insert in his own genuine easy style. I love to exhibit sketches of my illustrious friend by various eminent hands.

“ Soon after this, Mr. Burney, during a visit to the capital, had an interview with him in Gough-square, where he dined and drank tea with him, and was introduced to the acquaintance of Mrs. Williams. After dinner, Mr. Johnson proposed to Mr. Burney to go up with him into his garret, which being accepted, he there found about five or fix Greek folios, a deal writingdesk, and a chair and a half. Johnson giving to his guest the entire seat, tottered himself on one with only three legs and one arm. Here he gave Mr. Burney Mrs. Williams's history, and shewed him some volumes of his Shakspeare already printed, to prove that he was in earnest. Upon Mr. Burney's opening the first volume, at the Merchant of Venice, he observed to him, that he seemed to be more severe on Warburton than Theobald. O poor Tib.! (said Johnson) he was ready knocked down to my hands ; Warburton stands between me and him.' But, Sir, (said Mr. Burney,) you'll have Warburton upon your bones, won't you?' 'No, Sir; he'll not come out: he'll only growl in his den." But you think, Sir, that Warburton is a superiour critick to Theobald?'--'O, Sir, he'd make two-and-fifty Theobalds, cut into slices! The worst of Warburton is, that he has a rage for saying fomething, when there's nothing to be said.'--Mr. Burney then asked him whether he had seen the letter which Warburton had written in answer to a pamphlet addressed To the most impudent Man alive.' He answered in the negative. Mr. Burney told him it was supposed to be written by Mallet. The controversy now raged between the friends of Pope and Bolingbroke; and Warburton and Mallet were the leaders of the several parties. Mr. Burney asked him then if he had seen Warburton's book against Bolingbroke's Philosophy? No, 1758. Sir; I have never read Bolingbroke's impiety, and therefore am not interested Arat. 49. about its confutation.”

On the fifteenth of April he began a new periodical paper, entitled “The IDLER,*" which came out every Saturday in a weekly newspaper, called “ The Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette,” published by Newberry. These essays were continued till April 5, 1760. Of one hundred and three, their total number, twelve were contributed by his friends; of which, Numbers 33, 93, and 96, were written by Mr. Thomas Warton; No. 67 by Mr. Langton; and No. 76, 79, and 82 by Sir Joshua Reynolds; the concluding words of No. 82, “ and pollute his canvas with deformity,” being added by Johnson, as Sir Joshua informed me.

The Idler is evidently the work of the fame mind which produced the RAMBLER, but has less body, and more spirit. It has more variety of real life, and greater facility of language. He describes the miseries of idleness, with the lively sensations of one who had felt them; and in his private memorandums while engaged in it, we find “ This year I hope to learn diligence ?.” Many of these excellent efsays were written as hastily as an ordinary letter. Mr. Langton remembers Johnson, when on a visit at Oxford, asking him one evening how long it was till the post went out; and on being told about half an hour, he exclaimed, “ then we shall do very well.” He upon this instantly sat down and finished an Idler, which it was necessary should be in London the next day. Mr. Langton having signified a wish to read it, “Sir, (said he) you shall not do more than I have done myself.” He then folded it up, and sent it off.

Yet there are in the Idler several papers which shew as much profundity of thought, and labour of language, as any of this great man's writings. No. 14, “ Robbery of time ;” No. 24, “ Thinking;” No. 41, “Death of a friend ;"

Flight of time;" No. 51, “ Domestick greatness unattainable ;”

“ Self-denial;” No. 58, “Actual, how short of fancied excellence;" No. 89,

Physical evil moral good ;” and his concluding paper on “The horrour of the last,” will prove this assertion. I know not why a motto, the usual trapping of periodical papers, is prefixed to very few of the Idlers, as I have heard Johnson commend the custom ; and he never could be at a loss for one, his memory being stored with innumerable passages of the classicks. In this series of essays he exhibits admirable instances of grave humour, of which he had

No. 43, No. 52,

· Prayers and Meditations, p. 30.



1758. an uncommon share. Nor on some occasions has he repressed that power of Arat. 49. sophistry which he possessed in so eminent a degree. In No. 11, he treats with

the utmost contempt the opinion that our mental faculties depend, in some degree, upon the weather ; an opinion, which they who have never experienced its truth are not to be envied, and of which he himself could not but be sensible, as the effects of weather upon him were very visible. Yet thus he declaims : “ Surely, nothing is more reproachful to a being endowed with reason, than to resign its powers to the influence of the air, and live in dependance on the weather and the wind for the only blessings which Nature has put into our power, tranquillity and benevolence. This distinction of seasons is produced only by imagination operating on luxury. To temperance, every day is bright; and every hour is propitious to diligence. He that shall resolutely excite his faculties, or exert his virtues, will soon make himself fuperiour to the seasons; and may set at defiance the morning mist and the evening damp, the blasts of the east, and the clouds of the south.”

Alas! it is too certain, that where the frame has delicate fibres, and there is a fine sensibility, such influences of the air are irresistible. He might as well have bid defiance to the ague, the palsy, and all other bodily disorders. Such boasting of the force of mind is false elevation.

« I think the Romans call it Stoicism."

But in this number of his Idler his spirits seem to run riot; for in the wantonness of his disquisition he forgets, for a moment, even the reverence for that which he held in high respect; and describes “the attendant on a Court,as one “ whose · business is to watch the looks of a being, weak and foolish as himself.”

His unqualified ridicule of rhetorical gesture or action is not, surely, a test of truth ; yet we cannot help admiring how well it is adapted to produce the effect which he wished. “ Neither the judges of our laws, nor the representatives of our people, would be much affected by laboured gesticulation, or believe any man the more because he rolled his eyes, or puffed his cheeks, or spread abroad his arms, or stamped the ground, or thumped his breast, or turned his eyes sometimes to the cieling, and sometimes to the floor.”

A casual coincidence with other writers, or an adoption of a sentiment or image which has been found in the writings of another, and afterwards appears in the mind as one's own, is not unfrequent. The richness of Johnson's fancy, which could supply his page abundantly on all occasions, and the strength of his memory, which at once detected the real owner of any thought, made him less liable to the imputation of plagiarism than, perhaps, any of our



writers. In the Idler, however, there is a paper, in which conversation is 1758.
assimilated to a bowl of punch, where there is the same train of comparison Ætat. 49.
as in a poem by Blacklock, in his collection published in 1756 ;-in which a
parallel is ingeniously drawn between human life and that liquor. It ends,

“ Suy then, physicians of each kind,
« Who cure the body or the mind,
“ What harm in drinking can there be,

“ Since punch and life so.well agree?"
To the Idler, when collected in volumes, he added (beside the Essay on
Epitaphs, and the Differtation on thofe of Pope,) an Efray on the Bravery of
the English common Soldiers.


To the Reverend Mr. THOMAS WARTON. " DEAR SIR,

“ YOUR notes upon my poet were very acceptable. I beg that you will be so kind as to continue your searches. It will be reputable to my work, and suitable to your professorship, to have something of yours in the


you have given no directions about your name, I Mall therefore put it. I wish your brother would take the same trouble. A commentary must arise from the fortuitous discoveries of many men in devious walks of literature. Some of your remarks are on plays already printed: but I purpose to add an Appendix of Notes, so that nothing comes too late.

" You give yourself too much uneasiness, dear Sir, about the loss of the papers S. The loss is nothing, if nobody has found them; nor even then, perhaps, if the numbers be known. You are not the only friend that has had the same mischance. You may repair your want out of a stock, which is deposited with Mr. Allen, of Magdalen-Hall; or out of a parcel which I have just sent to Mr. Chambers ?, for the use of any body that will be so kind as to want them. Mr. Langtons are well; and Miss Roberts, whom I have at last brought to speak, upon the information which you gave me, that she had something to say.

« I am, &c. [London,] April 14, 1758.

SAM. JOHNson."

“ Receipts for Shakspeare.” 9" Then of Lincoln College. Now Sir Robert Chambers, one of the Judges in India."


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