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His just abhorrence of Milton's political notions was ever strong. But this did not prevent his warm admiration of Milton's great poetical merit, to which he has done illustrious justice, beyond all who have written upon the subject. And this year he not only wrote a Prologue, which was spoken by Mr. Garrick before the acting of Comusat Drury-lane theatre, for the benefit of Milton's grand-daughter, but took a very zealous interest in the success of the charity. On the day preceding the performance, he published the following letter in the "General Adrertiser," addressed to the printer of that paper: "Sir,
"That a certain degree of reputation is acquired merely by approving the works of genins, and testifying a regard to the memory of authors, is a truth too evident to be denied; and therefore to ensure a participation of fame with a celebrated poet, many, who would, perhaps, have contributed to starve him when alive, have heaped expensive pageants upon his grave. f
"It must, indeed, be confessed, that this method of becoming known to posterity with honour, is peculiar to the great, or at least to the wealthy; but an opportunity now offers for almost every individual to secure the praise of paying a just regard to the illustrious dead, united with the pleasure of doing good to the living. To assist industrious indigence, struggling with distress and debilitated by age, is a display of virtue, and an acquisition of happiness and honour.
"Whoever, then, would be thought capable of pleasure in reading the works of our incomparable Milton, and not so destitute of gratitude as to refuse to lay out a trifle in rational and elegant entertainment, for the benefit of his living remains, for the exercise of their own virtue, the increase of their reputation, and the pleasing consciousness of doing good, should appear at Drury-lane theatre to-morrow, April 5, when Comus will be performed for the benefit of Mrs. Elizabeth Foster, grand-daughter to the author, and the only surviving branch of his family.
"N. B. There will be a new prologue on the occasion, written by the author of Irene, and spoken by Mr. Garrick: and, by particular desire, there will be added to the Masque a dramatic satire, called Lethe, in which Mr. Garrick will perform."
In 1751 we are to consider him as carrying on both his Dictionary and Rambler. But he also wrote " The Life of Cheynel,"* in the miscellany called "The Student;" and the Reverend Dr. Douglas having unconimon acuteness clearly detected a gross forgery and imposition upon the public by William Lauder, a Scotch schoolmaster, who hud, with equal impudence and ingenuity, represented Milton as a plagiary from certain modern Latin poets, Johnson, who had been so far imposed upon as to furnish a Preface and Postscript to his work, now dictated a letter for Lauder, addressed to Dr. Douglas, acknowledging his fiaud in terms of suitable contrition.%
X Lest there should be any person, at any future period, absurd enough to suspect that Johnson was a partaker in Lauder's fraud, or had any knowledge
This extraordinary attempt of Lander was no sadden effort. He had brooded over it for maty years: and to this hour it is uncertain what hi* principal motive was, unless it were a vain notion of his superiority, in being able, by whatever means, to deceive mankind. To effect this, he produced certain passages from Grotins, Masenins, and others, which had a faint resemblauce to some parts of the Paradise Lost." In these he interpolated some fragments of Hog's Latin translation of that poem, alledging that the mass thus fabricated was the archetype from which Milton copied. These fabrications he published from time to time in the Gentleman's Magazine; and, exulting in his fancied success, be in 1750 ventured to collect them into a pamphlet, entitled "An Essay ou Milton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost." To this pamphlet Johnson wrote a Preface, in full persuasion of Lauder's honesty, and a Postscript recommending, in the most persuasive terms, a subscription for the relief of a grand-daughter of Milton, of whom he thus speaks; " It is yet in the power of a great people to reward the poet whose name they boast, and from their alliance to whose genins they claim some kind of superiority to every other nation of the earth; that poet, whose works may possibly be read when every other mouument of British greatness shall be obliterated; to reward him, not wjth pictures or with medals, which, if he sees; he sees with contempt, but with tokens of gratitude, which he, perhaps, may even now consider as not unworthy the regard of an immortal spirit." Surely this is inconsistent with "enmity towards Milton," which Sir John Hawkins imputes to Johnson upon this occasion, adding, " 1 could all along observe that Johnson seemed to approve not only of the design, but of the argument; and seemed to exult in a persuasion, that the reputation of Milton was likely to suffer by this discovery. That he was not privy to the imposture, I am well persuaded; that he wished well to the argument may be
of it, when he assisted him with his masterly pen, it is proper here to quote the words of Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, at the time when he detected the imposition. "It is to be hoped, nay it is expected, that the elegant and nervous writer, whose judicious sentiments and inimitable style point out the author of Lauder's Preface and Postscript, will no longer allow one to plume himself with hit feathers, who appeareth so little to deserve assistance, —an assistance which I am persuaded would never have been communicated, had there been the least suspicion of those facts which I have been the instrument of conveying to the world in these sheets." Milton no Plagiary, Sd edit, p. 78. And his Lordship has been pleased now to authorise me to say, in the strongest manner, that there is no ground whatever for any unfavourable reflection against Dr. Johnson, who expressed the strongest indignation against Lauder.
fLauder renewed his attempts on Milton's character in 1754 in a pamphlet' entitled, "The Grand Impostor detected, or Milton convicted of forgery against King Charles I;" which was reviewed, probably by Jonhson, in the Gent. Mag. 1754, p. 97. A. Chalmers.]
[Lauder afterwards went to Barbadoca, where he died very miserably about the year 1771, Malone.]
inferred from the Preface, which indubitably was written by Johnson." Is it possible for any mau of clear judgment to suppose that Johnson, who so nobly praised the poetical excellence of Milton in a Postscript to this very " discovery," as he then supposed it, could, at the same time, exult in a persuasion that the great poet's reputation was likely to suffer by it? This is an inconsistency of which Johnson was incapable; nor can any thing more be fairly inferred from the Preface, than that Johnson, who was alike distinguished for ardent curiosity and love of truth, was pleased with an investigation by which both were gratified. That he was actuated by these motives, and certainly by no unworthy desire to depreciate our great epic poet,Is evident from his own words; for, after mentioning the general zeal of men of genins and literature, "to advance the honour and distinguish the beauties of Paradise Lost," he says, "Among the inquiries to which this ardour of criticism has naturally given occasion' none is more obscure in itself, or more worthy of rational curiosity, than a retrospect of the progress of this mighty genins in the construction of his work; a view of the fabrick gradually rising, perhaps, from small beginnings, till its foundation rests in the centre, and its turrets sparkle in the skies; to trace back the structure through all its varieties to the simplicity of its first plan; to find what was first projected, whence the scheme was taken, how it was improved, by what assistance it was executed, and from what stores the materials were collected, whether its founder dug them from the quarries of Nature, or demolished other buildings to embellish his own."—Is this the language of one who wished to blast the laurels of Milton?
Though Johnson's circumstances were at this time far from being easy, bis humane and charitable disposition was constantly exerting itself. Mr*. Anna Williams, daughter of a very ingenious Welsh physician, and a woman of more than ordinary talents and literature, having come to London in hopes of being cured of a cataract in both her eyes, which afterwards ended in total blindness, was kindly received as a constant visitor at his house while Mrs. Johnson lived; and, after her death, having come under his roof in order to have mi operation upon her eyes performed with more comfort to her than in lodgings, she had an apartment from him during the rest of her life, at all times when he had a house.
In 1752 he was almost entirely occupied with his Dictionary. The last paper of his Rambler was published March 2, this year; after which, there was a cessation for some time of any exertion of his talents as an essayist. But, in the same year, Dr. Hawkesworth, who was his warm admirer, and a studious imitator of his style, and then lived in great intimacy with him, began a periodical paper, entitled, " The AdvenTurer," in connection with other gentlemen, one of whom was Johnson's much-loved friend, Dr. Bathurst; and, without doubt, they received many valuable hints from his conversation, most of his friends having been so assisted in the course of their works.
That there (thould be a suspension of his literary labours during a part *f the year 1752, will not seem strange, when it is considered that soon after closing his Ramblers, he suffered a loss which, there can be no doubt, affected him with the deepest distress. For on the 171I1 of March, O. S. his wife died. Why Sir John Hawkins should unwarrantably take upon him even to suppose that Johnson's fondness of her was dissembled (meaning simulated or assumed,) and to assert, that if it was not the case "it was a lesson he had learned by rote," I cannot conceive; unless it proceeded from a want of similar feelings in his own breast. To argue from her being much older than Johnson, or any other circumstances, that he could not really love her, is absurd; for love is not a subject of reasoning, but of feeling, and therefore there are no common principles) upon which one can persuade another concerning it. Every man feels for himself, and knows how he is affected by particular qualities in the person he admires, the impressions of which are too minute and delicate to be substantiated in language.
The following very solemn and affecting prayer was found after Dr. Johnson's decease, by his servant, Mr. Francis Barber, who delivered it to my worthy friend the Reverend Mr. Strahan, Vicar of Islington, who at my earnest request has obligingly favoured me with a copy of it, which he and I compared with the original. I present it to the world as an undoubted proof of a circumstance in the character of my illustrious friend, which, though some whose hard minds 1 never shall envy, may attack as snperstitious, will I am sure endear him more to numbrrs of good men. I have an additional, and that a personal motive for presenting it, because it sanctions what I myself have always maintained and am fond to indulge:
"April 26, 1752, being after 12 at Night of the '25th. "O Lord! Governor of heaven and earth, in whose hands are embodied and departed Spirits, if thou hast ordained the Souls of the Dead to minister to the Living, and appointed my departed Wife to have care of me, grunt that I may enjoy the good effects of her attention and ministration, whether exercised by appearance, impulses, dreams, or in any other manner agreeable to thy Government. Forgive my presumption, enlighten my ignorance, and however meaner agents are employed, grant me the blessed influence of thy holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
What actually followed upou this most interesting piece of devotion by Johnson, we are not informed; but I, whom it has pleased God to afflict in a similar manner to that which occasioned it, have certain experience of benignant communication by dreams.
That his love for his wife was of the most ardent kind, and, during the long period of fifty years; was unimpaired by the lapse of time, is evident from various passages in the series of his Prayers and Meditations, published by the Reverend Mr. Strahan, as well as from other memorials, two of which I select, as strongly marking the tenderness and sensibility of his mind.
"March 28, 17&3. I kept this day as the anniversary of my Tetty'i death, with prayer and tears in the morning, In the evening I prayed for her conditionally, if it were lawful."
"April 2*2, 1753. 1 know not whether I do not too much indulge the vain longings of affection; but I hope they intenerate my heart, aud that when 1 die like my Tetty, this affection will be acknowledged in a happy interview, and that in the meantime I am incited by it to piety. I will, however, not deviate too much from common and received methods of devotion."
Her wedding-ring, when she became his wife, was, after her death, preserved by him, as long as he lived, with an affectionate care, in a little round wooden box, in the inside of which he pasted a slip of paper, thus inscribed by him in fair characters, as follows:
M Nupta Jul. 9° 1736,
- Mart. 19° 1752."
After his death, Mr. Francis Barber, his faithful servant, and resi
1 duary legatee, offered this memorial of tenderness to Mrs. Lucy Porter,
Mrs. Johnson's daughter; but she having declined to accept of it, he had
it enamelled as a mouming ring for his old master, and presented it to
his wife, Mrs. Barber, who now has it.
The state of mind in which a man must be upon the death of a woman whom he sincerely loves, had been in his contemplation many years before. In his Irene, we find the following fervent and tender speech of Demetrins, addressed to his Aspasia:
u Prom those bright regions of eternal day,
"Where now tliou shin'st amongst thy fellow saints,
* Array'd in purer light, look down on me!
"In pleasing visions and assuasive dreams,
"O! sooth my soul, and teach me how to lose thee."
I have, indeed, been told by Mrs. Desmoulins, who, before her marriage, lived for some time with Mrs. Johnson at Hampstead, that she indulged herself in country air and nice living, at an unsnitable expence, while her husband was drndging in the smoke of London, and that she by no means treated him with that complacency which is the most engaging quality in a wife. But all this is perfectly compatible with his fondness for her, especially when it is remembered that he had a high opinion of her understanding, and that the impressions which her beauty, real or imaginary, had originally made upon his fancy, being continned by hahit, had not been effaced, though she herself was doubtless much altered for the worse. The dreadful shock of separation took place in the night; and he immediately dispatched a letter to his friend, the Reverend Dr. Taylor, which, as Taylor told me, expressed grief in the strongest manner he had ever read; so that it is much to be regtetted it