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In drawing Dryden's character, Johnson has given, though I suppose unintentionally, some touches of his own. Thus: “ The power
predominated in his intellectual operations was rather strong reaso
ason than quick sensibility. Upon all occasions that were presented, he studied rather than felt, and produced sentiments not such as Nature enforces, but meditation supplies. With the simple and elemental passions as they spring separate in the mind, he seems not much acquainted. He is, therefore, with all his variety of excellence, not often pathetic; and had so little sensibility of the power of effusions purely natural, that he did not esteem them in others.”-It may indeed be observed, that in all the numerous writings of Johnson, whether in prose or verse, and even in his Tragedy, of which the subject is the distress of an unfortunate Princess, there is not a single passage that ever drew a tear.
Various Readings in the Life of Dryden. “The reason of this general perusal, Addison has attempted to find in) derive from the delight which the mind feels in the investigation of secrets,
“ His best actions are but [convenient) inability of wickedness.
« When once be had engaged himself in disputation matter) thoughts flowed in on either side.
" The abyss of an un-ideal çemptiness] vacancy.
• These like many other barlots,) the harlots of other men, had his love though not his approbation.
• He (sometimes displays) descends to display his knowledge with pedantic ostentation,
• French words which (were theu used io) had then crept into couver sation."
The Life of Pope was written by Johnson con amore, both from the early possessiou which that writer had taken of his mind, and from the pleasure which he must have felt, in forever silencing all attempts to lessen bis poetical fame, by demonstrating his excellence, and pronouncing the following triumphant eulogium :-“ Alter all this, it is surely superfluous to answer the question that has once been asked, Whether Pope was a poet ? otherwise than by asking in return, if Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be fouod : To circumscribe poetry by a definition, will only shew the narrowness of the definer; though a definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look round upon the present time, and back upon the past ; let us enquire to whom the voice of mankind bus decrred the wreath of poetry; let their productions be exainined, and their claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will be no more disputed."
I remember once to have heard Johnson say, “Sir, a thousand years may clapse before there shall appear another man with a power of versifi. cation equal to that of Pope." That power must undoubtedly be allowed its due share in enhancing the value of his captivating composition.
Johnson who had done liberal justice to Warburton in his edition of Shakspeare, which was published during the life of that powerful writer, with still greater liberality took an opportunity, in the Life of Pope, of paying the tribute due to him when he was no longer in “high place." but numbered with the dead.
It seems strange, that two such men as Johnson and Warburton, who lived in the same age and country, should not only not have been in any degree of intimacy, but been almost personally unacquainted. But such instances, though we must wonder at them, are not rare. If I am rightly informed, after a careful enquiry, they never met but once, which was at the house of Mrs. French, in London, well known for her elegant assemblies, and bringing eminent characters together. The interview proved to be mutually agreeable.
I am well informed, that Warburton said of Johnson, I admire him, but I cannot bear his style : and that Johosou being told of this, said, That is exactly my case as to him. The manner in which he expressed his admiration of the fertility of Warburton's genius and of the variety of bis materials, was, The table is always full, Sir. He brings things from the north, and the south, and from every quarter. In his, “ Divine Legation,” you are always entertained. He carries you round and round, without carrying you forward to the point; but then you have no wish to be carried forward. He said to the Reverend Mr. Strahan, Warburton is perhaps the last man who has written with a mind full of reading and reflection.
It is remarkable, that in the Life of Broome, Johnson takes notice of Dr. Warburton's using a mode of expression which he himself used, and that not seldoin, to the great offence of those who did not know him. Having occasion to mention a note, stating the different parts which were executed by the associated translators of “ The Odyssey,” he Warburton told me, in bis warm language, that he thought the relation given in the vote a lie. This language is warm indeed ; and, I must own, cannot be justified in consistency with a decent regard to the established forms of speech. Johnson had accustomed himself to use the word lie, to express a mistake or an error in relation ; in short, when the thing was not so as told, though the relater did not mean to deceive. When he thought there was intentional falsehood in the relater, his expression was, He lies, and he knows he lies.
Speaking of Pope's not having been knowu to excel in conversation, Johnson observes, that traditional memory retains no sallies of raillery, or seoteaces of observation ; nothing either pointed or solid, wise or merry ; and that one apophthegm only is recorded. In this respect, Pope differed widely from Johnson, whose conversation was, perhaps, more admirable than even his writings, however excellent. Mr. Wilkes has, however, favoured me with one repartee of Pope, of which Johnson was
not informęJ. Johnson, after justly censuring him for having sursed in his mind a foolish dis-esteem of Kings, tells us, yet a little regard shewn him by the Prince of Wales melted his obduracy ; and he had not much to say when he was asked by his Royal Highness, how he could love a Prince w'ile he dişliked Kings? The answer which Pope made, was, “The young lion is harmless, and even playful; but when bis claws are full grown, he becomes cruel, dreadful, and mischievous.”
But although we have no collection of Pope's sayings, it is not therefore to be concluded, that he was not agreeable in social intercourse ; for Johnson has been heard to say, that the happiest conversation is that of which nothing is distinctly remeinbered, but a general effeet of pleasing impression. The late Lord Somerville, who saw much both of great and þrilliant life, told me, that he had dined in company with Pope, and that after dinner the little man, as he called him, dranş his bottle of Burgundy, and was exceedingly gay and entertaining.
I cannot withhold from my great friend a censure of at least culpable inattention, to a nobleman, who, it has been shewn, behayed to him with uncommon politeness. He says, Except Lord Bathurst, none of Pope's noble friends were such as that a good man would wish to have his intimacy with them kuowu to posterity. This will not apply to Lord Mansfield, who was not ennobled in Pope's lifetime; but Johnson should have recollected, that Lord Marchmont was one of those noble friends. He includes his Lordship along with Lord Boling broke, in a charge of neglect of the papers which Pope left by his will; when, in truth, as I myself pointed out to him, before he wrote that poet's life, the papers were committed to the sole care and judgment of Lord Bolingbroke, uuless he (Lord Bolingbroke) shall not survive me; so that Lord Marchmont had no concern whatever with them. After the first Edition of the Lives, Mr. Malone, whose love of justice is equal to his accuracy, made, in my hearing, the same remark to Johnson ; yet he omitted to çorrect the erroneous statement. These particulars I mention, in the belief that there was only forgetfulness in my friend ; but I owe this much to the Eurl of Marchmont's reputation, who, were there no other memorials, will be immortalized by that line of Pope, in the verses og his Grotio :
“ And the bright flame was shot through Marcbmoot's soul,"
Various Readings in the Life of Pope.
“ (Somewhat free) sufficiently buld ia bis criticism,
“ It is (probably) certainly the noblest version of poetry which the 'world has ever st en.
“ Every sheet enabled him to write the next with pless trouble] more Jariliny."
“ No man sympathizes with (vanity depressed] the sorrows of vanity, "It had been (criminalj less easily ercused. • When he [threatened to lay down) talked of laying down his pen."
In the Life of Addison we find an unpleasing account of his having lent Steel a hundred pouods, and reclaimed “his loan by an execution.” In the new edition of the Biographia Britannica, the authenticity of this anecdote is denied. But Mr. Maloue has obliged me with the following note conceroing it :
“ Many persons having doubts concerning this fact, I applied to Dr. Johnson, to learn on what authority he asserted it. He told me, he had it from Savage, who lived in intimacy with Steele, and who mentioned, that Steele told him the story with tears in his eyes,-Ben Victor, Dr. Joboson said, likewise informed him of this remarkable transaction, from the relation of Mr. Wilkts, the comedian, who was also an intimate of Steele’s.--Some in defence of Addison, have said, that the act was done with the good-natured view of rousing Steele, and correcting that profusion which always made him necessitous.' If that were the case, said Johnson, and that he only wanted to alarm Steele, he would afterwards have returned the money to his friend, which it is not pretended he did.'--"This, too, she added,) might be retorted by an advocate for Steele, who might alledge, that he did not repay the loan intentionally, merely to see whether Addison would be mean and ungenerous enough to make use of legal process to recover it. But of such speculations there is no end; we caynot dive into the hearts of men; but their actions are open to ohservation.'
• I then mentioned to him that some people thought that Mr. Addison's character was so pure, that the fact, though true, ought to have been sappressed. He saw no reason for this. If nothing but the bright side of characters should be shewn, we should sit down in despondency, and think it utterly impossible to imitate them in any thing. The sacred writers (he observed) related the vicious as well as the virtuous actions of men ; which had this moral effect, that it kept mankind from despair, joto which otherwise they would naturally fall, were they not supported by the recollection that others had offended like themselves, and by penitence and amendment of life had been restored to the favour of Heaven.” March 15, 1782.
E. M. The last paragraph of this note is of great importance; and I request that my readers may consider it with particular attention. It will be afterwards referred to in this work.
Various Readings in the Life of Addison. " (But he was our first example] He was, however, one of our earliest eramples of correctness,
“ And Coverlook] despise their asters.
“ His instructions were such as the (state) character of bis [own time) readers made [necessary proper.
“ His purpose was to diffuse) infuse literary curiosity by gentle and unsuspected conveyance famong) into the gay, the idle and the wealthy,
“ Framed rather for those that swish) are learning to write. « Domestic (manoers) scenes.”
In his life of Parnell, I wonder that Johnson omitted to insert an Epitaph which he had long before composed for that amiable man, without ever writing it down, but which he was so good as, at my request to dictate to me, by which means it has been preserved.
“ Hic requiescit Thomas Parnell, S. T. P.
“Qui sacerdos pariter et poeta,
Utras que partes ita implevit,
Various Readings in the Life of Parnell. “ About three years [after] afterwards, “[Did not much want] was in no great need of improvenient.
“ But his prosperity did not last long Iwas clouded with that which took away all his powers of enjoying either profit or pleasure, the death of his wife, whom he is said to have lamented with such sorrow, as hastened hisend.] His end, whatever was the cause, was now approaching.
“ In the Herinit, the (composition]narrative, as it is less airy, is less pleasing."
In the life of Blackmore, we find that writer's reputation generously cleared by Johnson from the cloud of prejudice which the maligoity of contemporary wits had raised around it. In this spirited exertion of justice, he has been imitated by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in bis praise of the architecture of Vanburgh.
We trace Johnson's own character in bis observations on Blackmore's “ magnanimity as an author.”—The incessant attacks of his enemies, whether serious or merry, are never discovered to have disturbed his quiet, or to have lessened his confidence in himself.” Johnson, I recollect, once told me, laughing heartily, that he understood it had been said of him, “ He appears not to feel; but when he is alone, depend upon it, he suffers sadly.” Iam as certain as I can be of any man's real sentiments, that be enjoyed the perpetual shower of little hostile arrows, as evidence of his fame.
Various Readings in the Life of Blackmore.
“To [sel] engage poetry (on the one side) in the cause of virtue.