صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

legislature frequently introduce and expatiate upon subjects of which they have informed themselves for the occasion.

In 1760 he wrote " an Address of the Painters to George III. on his Accession to the Throne of these Kingdoms,"f which no monarch ever ascended with more sincere congratulations from his people. Two generations of foreign princes had prepared their minds to rejoice in having again a King, who gloried in being " born a Briton." He also wrote for Mr. Baretti the Dedicationf of his Italian and English Dictionary, to the Marquis of Abren, then Envoy-Extraordinary from Spain, at the Court of Great Britain.

Johnson was now either very idle, or very busy with his Shakspeare; for lean find no other public composition by him except an Introduction to the proceedings of the Committee forcloathing the French prisoners;* one of the many proofs that he was ever awake to the calls of humanity; and an account which he gave in the Gentleman's Magazine of Mr. Tytler's acute and able vindication of Mary, Queen of Scots.* The generosity of Johnson's feelings shines forth in the following sentence: "It has now been fashionable, for near half a century, to defame and vilify the house of Stuart, and to exalt and magnify the reign of Elizabeth. The Stuarts have found few apologists, for the dead cannot pay for praise; and who will, without reward, oppose the tide of popularity? Yet there remains still among us, not wholly extinguished, a zeal for truth, a desire of establishing right in opposition to fashion."

In this year I have not discovered a single private letter written by him to any of his friends. It should seem, however, that he had at this period a floating intention of writing a history of the recent and wonderful successes of the British arms in all quarters of the globe ; for among his resolutions or memorandums, September 18, there is, "Send for books for Hist, of War." How much is it to be regretted that this intention was not fulfilled. His majestic expression would have carried down to the latest posterity the glorious achievements of his country, with the same fervent glow which they produced on the mind at the time. He would have been under no temptation to deviate in any degree from truth, which he held very sacred, or to take a licence, which a learned divine told me he once seemed, in a conversation, jocularly to allow to historians. "There are (said he) inexcusable lies, and consecrated lies. For instance, we are told that on the arrival of the news of the unfortunate battle of Fontenoy, every heart beat, and every eye was in tears. Now we know that no man eat his dinner the worse' but there should have been all this concern; and to say there was, (smiling) may be reckoned a consecrated lie."

This year Mr. Murphy, having thought himself ill-treated by the Reverend Dr. Franklin, who was one of the writers of " The Critical Review," published an indignant vindication in " A Poetical Epistle to Samuel Johnson, A. M," in which he compliments Johnson in a just and elegant manner:

"Transcendant Genins! whose prolifick vein "Ne'er knew the frigid poet's toil and pain; "To whom Apollo opens all his store, "And every Muse presents her sacred lore; "Say, pow'rful Johnson, whence thy verse is fraught "With so much grace, such energy of thought; "Whether thy Juvenal instructs the age "In chaster numbers, and new-points his rage; "Or fair Irene sees, alas! too late, "Her innocence exchang'd for guilty state; ** Whate'er you write, in every golden line "Sublimity and elegance combine; "Thy nervous phrase impresses every soul, "While harmony gives rapture to the whole." Again, towards the conclusion:

"Thou, then, my friend, who see'st the dangerous strife

"In which some demon bids me plunge my life,

"To the Aonian fount direct my feet.

"Say, where the Nine thy lonely musings meet?

*' Where warbles to thy ear the sacred throng,

"Thy moral sense, thy dignity of song?

"Tell, for you can, by what unerring art

"You wake to finer feelings every heart;

"In each bright page some truth important give,

"And bid to future times thy Ramrler live."

I take this opportunity to relate the manner in which an acquaintance first commenced between Dr. Johnson and Mr. Murphy. During the publication of "The Gray's-Inn Journal," a periodical paper which was successfully carried on by Mr. Murphy alone, when a very young man, he happened to be in the country with Mr. Foote; and having mentioned that he was obliged to go to London in order to get ready for the press one of the numbers of that Journal, Foote said to him, " You need not goon that account. Here is a French magazine, in which you will find a very pretty oriental tale; translate that, and send it to your printer." Mr. Murphy having read the tale, was highly pleased with it, and followed Foote's advice. When he returned to Town, this tale was pointed out to him in " The Rambler," from whence it had been translated into the French magazine. Mr. Murphy then waited upon Johnson, to explain this curious incident. His talents, literature, and gentleman-like manners, were soon perceived by Johnson, and a friendship was formed which was never broken.J

X When Mr. Murphy first became acquainted with Dr. Johnson, he was about thirty-one years old. He died at Knightsbridge, June 18, 1805, it is believed in his eighty-second year.

In an account of this gentleman published recently after his death, he is reported to have said, that "be was but twenty-one; wben he had the impudence to write a periodical paper, during the time that Johnson was publishing the RamLHer."—In a subsequent page, in which Mr. Boswell gives an account

To Bemnet Langton, Esq. At Langton, Near Spilsry, Lincolnshire. "Dear Sir,

"You that travel about the world, have more materials for letters, than I who stay at home: and should, therefore, write with frequency equal to your opportunities. I should be glad to have all England surveyed by you, if you would impart your observations in narratives as agreeable as your last. Knowledge is always to be wished to those who can communicate it well. While you have been riding and running, and seeing the tombs of the learned, and the camps of the valiant, I have only staid at home, and intended to do great things, which I have not

of his first introduction to Johnson, will be found a striking instance of the incorrectness of Mr. Murphy's memory; and the assertion above-mentioned, if indeed he made it, which is by no means improbable, furnishes an additional proof of his inaccuracy: for both the facts asserted are unfounded. He appears to have been eight years older than twenty-one, when lie began the Gray'sIun Journal; and that paper, instead of running a race with Johnson's production, did not appear till after the closing of the Rambler, which ended March 14, 1752. The first number of the Gray's-Imi Journal made its appear, ance about seven months afterwards, in a news-paper of the time, called the Craftsman, October 21, 1752; and in that form the first forty-nine numbers were given to the public. On Saturday, Sept. 29, 1753, it assumed a new form, and was published as a distinct periodical paper; and in that shape it continued to be published till the 21st of Sept. 1754, when it finally closed; forming in the whole one hundred and one Essays in the folio copy. Tbc extraordinary paper mentioned in the text, is No. 38 of the second series, published on June 15, 1754; which is a retranslation from the French version of Johnson's Rambler, No. 190. It was omitted in the republication of these Essays in two volumes 12mo. in which one hundred and four are found, and in which the papers are not always dated on the days when they really appeared; so that the motto prefixed to this Anglo-Gallic Eastern tale, obscuris vera involvent, might very properly have been prefixed to this work, when republished. Mr. Murphy did not, I believe, wait on Johnson recently after the publication of this adumbration of one of his Ramblers, as seems to be stated in the text; for, in his concluding Essay, Sept. 21, 1754, wefiud the following paragraph:

"Besides, why may not a person rather choose an air of bold negligence, than the obscure diligence of pedants and writers of affected phraseology. For my part, I have always thought an easy style more eligible than a pompous diction, lifted up by metaphor, amplified by epithet, and dignified by too frequent insertions of the Latin idiom." It is probable that the Rambler was here intended to be censured, and that the author, when he wrote it was not acquainted with Johnson, whom from his first introduction, he endeavoured to conciliate. Their acquaintance, therefore, it may be presumed, did not commence till towards the end of this year, 1754. Murphy however had highly praised Johnson Iu the preceding year, No. 14. of ithc second series, Dec. 22, 1753.

done. Beau* went away to Cheshire, and has not yet found his way back. Chambers passed the vacation at Oxford.

"I am very sincerely solicitous for the preservation or curing of Mr. Langton's sight, and am glad that the chirurgeon at Coventry gives him so much hope. Mr. Sharpe is of opinion that the tedious maturation of the cataract is a vulgar errour, and that it may be removed as soon as it is formed. This notion deserves to be considered; I doubt whether it be universally trne : but if it be trne in some cases, and those cases can be distingnished, it may save a long and uncomfortable delay.

"Of dear Mrs. Langton you give me no account; which is the less friendly, as you know how highly I think of her, and how much I interest myself in her health. I suppose you told her of my opinion, and likewise suppose it was not followed ; however, I still believe it to be right.

"Let me hear from you again, wherever you are, or whatever you are doing; whether you wander or sit still, plant trees or make Rusticks,ii play with your sisters or muse alone; and in return I will tell you the success of Sheridan, who at this instant is playing Cato, and has already played Richard twice. He had more company the second than the first night, and will make I believe a good figure in the whole, though his faults seem to be very many; some of natural deficience, and some of laborious affectation. He has, I think, no power of assuming either that dignity or elegance which some men, who have little of either in common life, can exhihit on the stage. His voice when strained is unpleasing, and when low is not always heard. He seems to think too much on the andience, and turns his face too often to the galleries.

"However, I wish him well; and among other reasons, because I like his wife.§ "Make haste to write to, dear Sir,

"Your most affectionate servant, "Oct. 18, 1760. "Sam. Johnson."

In 1761 Johnson appears to have done little. He was still, no doubt, proceeding in his edition of Shakspeare; but what advances he made in it cannot be ascertained. He certainly was at this time not active; for iii his scrupulous examination of himself on Easter eve, he laments, in his too rigorous mode of censuring his own conduct, that his life, since the communion of the preceding Easter, had been " dissipated and useless." He, however, contributed this year the Preface* to "Rolt's Dictionary, of Trade and Commerce," in which he displays such a clear and comprehensive knowledge of the subject, as might lead the reader to think that its author had devoted all his life to it. I asked him, whether he knew much of Rolt, and of his work. "Sir, (said he) I never saw the man, and never read his book. The booksellers wanted a Preface to a Dictionary of Trade and Commerce. 1 knew very well what

X Topham Beauclerk, Esq.

|| Essays with that title, written about this time by Mr. Langton, but not published.

§ Mrs. Sheridan was anthor of " Memoirs of Miss Sydney Biddulph," a novel of great merit, and of some other pieces.

such a Dictionary should be, and 1 wrote a Preface accordingly." Rott, who wrote a great deal for the booksellers, was, as Johnson told me, a singular character. Though not in the least acquainted with him, he used to say, "I am just come from Sam. Johnson." This was a sufficient specimen of his vanity and impudence. But he gave a more eminent proof of it in our sister kingdom, as Dr. Johnson. informed me. When Akenside's "Pleasures of the Imagination" first came out, he did not put his name to the poem. Kolt went over to Dublin, published an edition of it, and put his own name to it. Upon the fame of this he lived for several months, being entertained at the best tables as " the ingenious Mr. Kolt.* His conversation indeed, did not discover much of the fire of a poet; but it was recollected that both Addison and Thomson were equally dull till excited by wine. Akenside having been informed of this imposition, vindicated his right by publishing the poem with its real author's name. Several instances of such literary fraud have been detected. The Reverend Dr. Campbell, of St. Andrew's, wrote " An Enquiry into the original of Moral Virtue," the manuscript of which he sent to Mr. lnnes, a clergyman in England, who was his countryman and acquaintance. Innes published it with his own name to it; and before the imposition was discovered, obtained considerable promotion, as a reward of his merit.|| The celebrated Dr. Hugh Blair, and his cousin Mr. George Bannatine, when students in divinity, wrote a poem, entitled "The Resurrection," copies of which were handed about in manuscript. They were, at length, very much surprised to see a pompous edition of it in folio dedicated to the Princess Dowager of Wales-, by a Dr. Douglas, as his own. Some years ago a little novel, entitled " The Man of Feeling," was assumed by Mr. Eccles, a young Irish clergyman, who was afterwards drowned near Bath. He had been at the pains to transcribe the whole book, with blottings, interlineations, and corrections, that it might be shewn to several people as an original. It was, in truth, the production of Mr. Henry Mackenzie, an attorney in the Exchequer at Edinburgh, who is the author of several other ingenious pieces; but the belief with regard to Mr. Eccles became so general, that it was thought necessary for Messienrs Strahan and Cadell to publish an advertisement in the news-papers, contradicting the report, and mentioning that they purchased the copy-right of Mr. Mackenzie. I can conceive this kind of fraud to be very easily practised with successful effrontery. The Filiation of a literary'perforruauce is difficult of proof; seldom is there

J I have had enquiry made in Ireland as to this story, but do not find it recollected there. I give it on the authority of Dr. Johnson, to which may be added that of the " Biographical Dictionary," and " Biographin Dramatica;" in both of which it has stood many years. Mr. Malonc observes, that the truth probably is, not that an edition was published with Rolfs name in the title-page, but, fhat the poem being then anonymous, Rolt acquiesced ia its being attributed to him in conversation.

II I have both the books. Innes was the clergyman who brought Psalmanazar to England, and was an accomplice in his extraordinary fiction.

« السابقةمتابعة »