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It was in the same pamphlet that Johnson offered battle to JUNIUS; a writer, who, by the uncommon elegance of his style, charmed every reader, though his object was to inflame the nation in favour of a faction. Junius fought in the dark; he saw his enemy and had his full blow, while he himself remained safe in obscurity. But let us not, said Johnson, mistake the venom of the shaft for the vigour of the bow'. The keen invective which he published on that occasion, promised a paper-war between two combatants, who knew the use of their weapons. A battle between them was as eagerly expected as between Mendoza and Big Ben 2. But Junius, whatever was his reason, never returned to the field. He laid down his arms, and has, ever since, remained as secret as the MAN IN THE MASK in Voltaire's History 3.

The account of his journey to the Hebrides or Western Isles of Scotland, is a model for such as shall hereafter relate their travels. The author did not visit that part of the world in the character of an Antiquary, to amuse us with wonders taken from the dark and fabulous ages; nor as a Mathematician, to measure a degree, and settle the longitude and latitude of the several islands. Those, who expected such information,

1 Works, vi. 205.

2 6

'Big Ben (Mr. George C. Boase writes to me) was Benjamin Brain or Bryan, champion of England in 1790. I do not think he ever fought with Mendoza; but Mendoza sucIceeded him as champion in 1791. Big Ben was never beaten.' It was probably after him that the Warden of Wadham College, Oxford, of my undergraduate days, Dr. Benjamin Symons, was called 'Big Ben.'

In the Gentleman's Magazine, for 1787, p. 361, an account is given of a fight between Mendoza a Jew, and one Martin, a Bath butcher, in the presence of some of the first personages of the kingdom. It was decided in favour of the Jew. A year

later the Prince of Wales witnessed a fight at Brighton, in which one of the men was killed. Ib. 1788, p. 745.

Horace Walpole wrote on June 20, 1760-It is a comfortable reflection to me that all the victories of last year have been gained since the suppression of the Bear Garden and prize-fighting; as it is plain, and nothing else would have made it so, that our valour did not singly and solely depend upon these two Universities.' Letters, iii. 320. If prize-fighting was suppressed for a time, it soon revived.

3 Siècle de Louis XIV, ch. 25; ante, p. 172.

expected

expected what was never intended. In every work regard the writer's end'. Johnson went to see men and manners, modes of life, and the progress of civilization. His remarks are so artfully blended with the rapidity and elegance of his narrative, that the reader is inclined to wish, as Johnson did with regard to GRAY, that to travel, and to tell his travels, had been more of his employment3.

As to Johnson's Parliamentary Debates, nothing with propriety can be said in this place. They are collected in two volumes by Mr. Stockdale, and the flow of eloquence which runs through the several speeches is sufficiently known.

It will not be useless to mention two more volumes, which may form a proper supplement to this edition. They contain a set of Sermons left for publication by John Taylor, LL.D. The Reverend Mr. Hayes, who ushered these Discourses into the world, has not given them as the composition of Dr. Taylor. All he could say for his departed friend was, that he left them in silence among his papers. Mr. Hayes knew them to be the production of a superior mind; and the writer of these Memoirs owes it to the candour of that elegant scholar, that he is now warranted to give an additional proof of Johnson's ardour in the cause of piety, and every moral duty. The last discourse in the collection was intended to be delivered by Dr. Taylor at the funeral of Johnson's wife; but that Reverend gentleman declined the office, because, as he told Mr. Hayes, the praise of the deceased was too much amplified. He, who reads the piece, will find it a beautiful moral lesson, written with temper, and no where overcharged with ambitious ornaments. The rest of the Discourses were the fund, which

1 Pope, Essay on Criticism, 1. 255.
2 Ante, p. 430.
3 Works, viii. 480.

▲ Life, i. 190, n. 4.
5 lb. iii. 181.

Samuel Hayes, 'Botch Hayes, as he was denominated, for the manner in which he mended his pupil's

He

verses,' was Southey's tutor at West-
minster. He had some skill and
much facility in versifying.'
was 'a free, good-natured, fuddling
companion, whose wig the boys
stuck full of paper darts in school.'
Southey's Life, &c., ed. 1849, i. 135.
6
• Life, i. 241.

Dr.

Dr. Taylor, from time to time, carried with him to his pulpit. He had the LARGEST BULL in England', and some of the best Sermons.

We come now to the Lives of the Poets, a work undertaken at the age of seventy, yet the most brilliant, and certainly the most popular of all our Author's writings. For this performance he needed little preparation. Attentive always to the history of letters, and by his own natural bias fond of Biography, he was the more willing to embrace the proposition of the Booksellers. He was versed in the whole body of English Poetry, and his rules of criticism were settled with precision. The dissertation, in the Life of Cowley, on the metaphysical Poets of the last century, has the attraction of novelty as well

I

Letters, i. Preface, p. 13.

He was sixty-seven when he undertook the work; sixty-nine when the first four volumes were published, and seventy-one when the last four. Life, iii. 109, 370; iv. 34.

Cowper wrote of the Lives:'Johnson has a penetrating insight into character, and a happy talent of correcting the popular opinion upon all occasions where it is erroneous; and this he does with the boldness of a man who will think for himself, but, at the same time, with a justness of sentiment that convinces us he does not differ from others through affectation, but because he has a sounder judgment. This remark, however, has his narrative for its object, rather than his critical performance.' Cowper's Works, ed. 1836, v. 12.

'The Lives of the Poets are, on the whole, the best of Johnson's works. The narratives are as entertaining as any novel. The remarks on life and on human nature are eminently shrewd and profound. The criticisms are often excellent, and even when grossly and provokingly

unjust, well deserve to be studied.' Macaulay's Misc. Works, ed. 1871, p. 392.

3 Wordsworth writes of 'that class of curious thinkers whom Dr. Johnson has strangely styled metaphysical Poets.' Wordsworth's Works, ed. 1857, vi. 365. Johnson defines metaphysical,' 1. versed in metaphysicks; relating to metaphysicks; 2. In Shakespeare it means supernatural or preternatural. In speaking of an author's right to his own writings, he speaks of his having 'a metaphysical right, a right, as it were, of creation.' Life, ii. 259. I suppose he means that as 'creation' is beyond the nature of man, right derived from it is preternatural or metaphysical. He used the word in a very different sense when he told Hannah More that 'he hated to hear people whine about metaphysical distresses, when there was so much want and hunger in the world.' More's Memoirs, i. 249. South had used it in much the same sense when he writes:-Those who neither do good turns, nor give good looks, nor speak good words, have a love

as

as sound observation. The writers, who followed Dr. Donne, went in quest of something better than truth and nature. As Sancho says in Don Quixotte, they wanted better bread than is made with wheat. They took pains to bewilder themselves, and were ingenious for no other purpose than to err. In Johnson's review of Cowley's works, false wit is detected in all its shapes, and the Gothic taste for glittering conceits, and far-fetched allusions, is exploded, never, it is hoped, to revive again.

An author, who has published his observations on the Life and Writings of Dr. Johnson3, speaking of the Lives of the Poets, says, 'These [considered as] compositions, [and as] abounding in [with] strong and acute remarks, and with many fine and [some] even sublime passages, have unquestionably great merit; but if they be regarded merely as containing narrations of the lives, delineations of the characters, and strictures of the several authors, they are far from being always to be depended on.' He adds, 'The characters are sometimes partial, and there is sometimes TOO MUCH MALIGNITY [the capital letters are Murphy's] of misrepresentation, to which, perhaps, may be joined no inconsiderable portion of erroneous criticism.' The several clauses of this censure deserve to be answered as fully as the limits of this essay will permit.

strangely subtile and metaphysical; for other poor mortals of an ordinary capacity are forced to be ignorant of that which they can neither see, hear, feel, nor understand.' Sermons, ed. 1823, ii. 304.

Dr. Warton says that Johnson calls the poets metaphysical after Dryden. Warton's Pope's Works, i. 270.

'The designation,' writes Southey, 'is not fortunate, but so much respect is due to Johnson that it would be unbecoming to substitute, even if it were easy to propose, one which might be unexceptionable.' Southey's Cowper, ii. 127.

the age, in which it was usual to designate almost anything absurd or extravagant by the name of metaphysical.' Cary's Lives of English Poets, ed. 1846, p. 86.

'The Life of COWLEY he himself considered as the best of the whole, on account of the dissertation which it contains on the Metaphysical Poets. Life, iv. 38.

2 Gothic is not in Johnson's Dictionary. It was commonly used for mediaeval or barbarous. Ante, p. 384, n. I.

3 An Essay on the Life, Character, &c., of Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1786, p. 53. It was published anonymously,

'Johnson had caught the cant of but it was by Dr. Joseph Towers.

In the first place, the facts are related upon the best intelligence, and the best vouchers that could be gleaned, after a great lapse of time'. Probability was to be inferred from such materials as could be procured, and no man better understood the nature of historical evidence than Dr. Johnson; no man was more religiously an observer of truth. If his History is any where defective, it must be imputed to the want of better information, and the errors of uncertain tradition.

Ad nos vix tenuis famæ perlabitur aura".

If the strictures on the works of the various authors are not always satisfactory, and if erroneous criticism may sometimes be suspected, who can hope that in matters of taste all shall agree? The instances in which the public mind has differed from the positions advanced by the author, are few in number. It has been said, that justice has not been done to Swift; that Gay and Prior are undervalued; and that Gray has been harshly treated3. This charge, perhaps, ought not to be disputed. Johnson, it is well known, had conceived a prejudice against Swift. His friends trembled for him when he was writing that life, but were pleased, at last, to see it executed with temper and moderation. As to Prior, it is probable that he gave his real opinion, but an opinion that will not be adopted by men of lively fancy 5. With regard

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his poems with the most charming ease, stood unshaken till Johnson thrust his head against it.' 'The supposed injury done by him to the memory of Gray is resented by the whole university of Cambridge.' Hawkins, p. 538. 'Among the Lives the very worst is, beyond all doubt, that of Gray.' Macaulay's Misc. Works, ed. 1871, p. 392.

Life, iv. 61; v. 44; ante, p. 373. 5 His numbers are such as mere diligence may attain; they seldom offend the ear, and seldom soothe it; they commonly want airiness, lightness, and facility: what is smooth

to

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