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they reqnested; to which we were the more encouraged, because the Emperor's letter informed our Provincial, that we might easily enter his dominions by the way of Dancala; but, unhappily, the secretary wrote Geila for Dancala, which cost two of our fathers their lives." Everv one acquainted with Johnson's manner will be sensible that there is nothing of it here; but this sentence might have been composed by any other man.
But, in the Preface, the Johnsonian style begins to appear; and though use had not yet taught his wing a permanent and equable flight, there are parts of it which exhibit his best manner in full vigour. I had once the pleasure of examining it with Mr. Edmund Burke, who confirmed me in this opinion, by his superior critical sagacity, and was, I remember, much delighted with the following specimen:
"The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general vein of his countrymen, has amused his reader with no romantic ubsurdity, or incredible fictions ; whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at least probable; and he who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of probability, has'a right to demand that they should believe him who cannot contradict him.
"He appears by his modest and unaffected narration, to have described things as he saw them, to have consulted his senses, not his imagination. He meets with no basilisks that destroy with their eyes, his crocodiles devour their prey without tears, and his cataracts fall from the rocks without deafening the neighbouring inhabitants.
"The reader will here find no regions cursed with irremediable barrenness, or blest with spontaneous fecundity; no perpetual gloom, or unceasing sunshine; nor are the nations here described either devo1d of all sense of humanity, or consummate in all p.ivate or social virtues. Here are no Hottentots without religious policy or articulate language; no Chinese perfectly polite, and completely skilled in all sciences; he will discover, what will always be discovered by a diligent and impartial enquirer, that wherever human nature is to be found, there is a mixture «f vice and virtue, a contest of passion and reason; and that the Creator doth not appear partial in his distributions, but has balanced, in most countries, their particular inconveniencies by particular favours." Here we have an early example of that brilliant and energetic expression, which, upon innumerable occasions in his subsequent life, justly impressed the world with the highest admiration.
Nor can any one, conversant with the writings of Johnson, fail to discern his hand in this passage of the Dedication to John Warren, Esq. of Pembrokeshire, though it is ascribed to Warren the bookseller. "An generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than an eminent degree of curiosity ; nor is that curiosity ever more agreeably or usefully employed, than in examining the laws and customs of foreign nations. 1 hope, therefore, the present I now presume to make, will not be thought improper; which, however, it is not my business as as a dedicator to commend, nor us a bookseller to depreciate."
It is reasonable to suppose, that his having been thus accidentally led to a particular stody of the history and manners of Abyssinia, was the remote occasion of his writing, many years afterwards, his admirable philosophical tale, the principal scene of which is laid in that country.
Johnson returned to Lichfield early in 1734, and in August that year lie made an attempt to procure some little subsistence by his pen ; for he published proposals for printing by subscription the Latin Poems of Politian: "Angeli Politiani Pocmata Latina, qnibus, Notat cum historic Latino; poe.ieos, a Pctrach<c a-vo ad Politiani tempora deducta, ft vitd Politiani fusins quam antehac enarrata, addidit Sam. Johnson."
It appears that his brother Nathanael had taken up his father's trade; for it is mentioned that " subscriptions are taken in by the Editor, or N. Johnson, bookseller, of Lichfield." Notwithstanding the merit of John, son, and the cheap price at which this book was offered, there were not subscribers enough to insure a sufficient sale ; so the work never appeared] and probably, never was executed.
We find him again this year at Birmingham, and there is preserved the following letter from him to Mr. Edward Cave, the original compile, and editor of the Gentleman's Magazine:
To Mb. Cave.
"S,R, Xov. 25, 1734.
"As you appear no less sensible than your readers of the defects of your poetical article, you will not be displeased, if, in order to the improvement of it, I communicate to you the sentiments of a person, who will undertake, on reasonable terms, sometimes to fill a column.
"His opinion is, that the public would not give you a bad reception, if, besides the current wit of the month, winch a critical examination would generally reduce to a narrow compass, you admitted not only poems, inscriptions, &c. never printed before, which he will sometimes iupply you with; but likewise short literary dissertations in Latin or English, critical remarks on authors ancient or modern, forgotten poem, that deserve revival, or loose pieces, hke Plover's, worth preserving. By this method, your literary article, for so ,t might be called, will, h<. thinks, be better recommended to the public than by low jests, ankw'ard buffoonery, or the dull scurrilities of either party.
"If such a correspondence will be agreeable to von, be pleased to in. form me in two posts, what the conditions are on which you shall expect it. Your late offer * gives me no reason to distrust your generosity. If you engage in any literary projects hes,des this paper, I have other designs to impart, if I could be secure from having others reap the advantage o? what I should hint.
*' Your letter by being directed to <v. Smith, In be left at the Castle I: Birmingham, Warwickshire, will reach "Your humble servant."
Mr. Cave has put a note on this letter, " Answered Dec. 2." But whether any thing was done in conseqnence of it we are not informed.
• A prize of 50f. for the best poem " on Life, Death, Jodgment, Heaver,, and Hell." See Gent. Mag. vol. iv, pg. 'Co.
Johnson had, from his early youth, been sensible to the influence of female charms. When at Stourbridge school, he was much enamoured of Olivia Lloyd, a young quaker, to whom he wrote a copy of verses, which I have not been able to recover ;* but with what facility and elegance he could warble the amorous lay, will appear from the following lines which he wrote for his friend Mr. Edmund Hector.
Verses to a Lady, on receiving from her a Spriu of Myrtle.
"What hopes, -what terrours does thy gift create,
• [He also wrote some amatory verses, before he left Staffordshire, which our author appears not to have seen. They were addressed " to Miss Hickman, playing on the Spinet." At the back of this early poetical effusion, of which the original copy, in Johnson's hand writing, was obligingly communicated to me by Mr. John Taylor, is the following attestation:
- Written by the late Dr. Samuel Johnson, on my mother, then Miss Hickman, playing on the Spinet. J. Turtou."
Dr. Turton, the physician, the writer of this certificate, who died in April, 1806, in his 71st year, was boru in 1735. The verses in question therefore, which have been printed in some late editions of Johnson's poems, must have been written before that year. Miss Hickman, it is believed, was a lady of Staffordshire.
The concluding lines of this early copy of verses have much of the vigourof Johnson's poetry in hismatureryears:
"When old Timothens struck the vocal string, "Ambitious fury fir'd the Grecian king: "Unbounded projects lab'ring in his mind, "He pants for room, in one poor world confin'd. "Thus wak'd to rage by musick's dreadful power, "He bids the sword destroy, the flame devour. "Had Stella's gentle touches mov'd the lyre, "No more delighted with disastrous war, "Ambitious only now to please the fair, "Resign'd his thirst of empire to her charms, "And found a thousand worlds in Stella's arms." MAlone.]
t Mrs. Piozzi gives the following account of this little composition, from Dr. Johnson's own relation to her, on her enquiring whether it was rightly attriNo. 1. F
His juvenile attachments to the fair sex were, however, very transient; and it is certain, that he formed no criminal connection whatsoever. Mr. Hector, who lived with him in his younger days in the utmost intimacy and social freedom, has assured me, that even at that ardent season his conduct was strictly virtuous in that respect; and that though he loved to exhilarate himself with wine, he never knew him intoxicated but once^
buted to him—" I think it now just forty years ago, that a young fellow had a sprig of myrtle given him by a girl he courted, and asked me to write him some verses that he might present her in return. I promised, but forgot; aud when he called for his lines at the time agreed on—Sit still a moment, (says I) dear Mund» and I'll fetch them thee—So stepped aside for fire minutes and wrote the nonsense you now keep such a stir about." Anecdotes, p. 34
In my first edition I was induced to doubt the authenticity of this account, by the following circntnstauli.il statement in a letter to mc from Miss Seward, of Lichfield:—" I know those verses were addressed to Lucy Porter, when he was enamoured of her in his boyish days, two or three years before he had seen her mother, his future wife. He wrote them at my grandfather's and gave them to Lucy in the presence of my mother, to whom he showed them on the instant. She used to repeat them to me, when I asked her for the VsriaDr. Johnson gave her on a sprig of myrtle, which he had stolen or begged from her bonm. We all know honest Lucy Porter to have been incapable of the mean vanity of applying to herself a compliment not intended for her." Such was this lady's statement, which I make no doubt she supposed to be correct; but it shows how dangerous it is to trust too implicitly to traditional testimony and ingenious inference; for Mr. I lector has lately assured me that Mrs. PiozziV account is in this instance, accurate, and that he was the person for whom Johnson wrote those verses, which have been erroneously ascribed to Mr. Hammond.
I am obliged in so many instances to notice Mrs. Piozzi's incorrectness of relation, that I gladly seize this opportunity of acknowledging, that however often, she is not always inaccurate.
The author having been drawn into a controversy with Miss Anna Seward, in consequence of the preceding statement, (which may be found in " the Gentleman's Magazine," Vol. Ixiii and Ixiv.) received the following letter from Mr. Edmund Hector, on the subject:
"lam sorry to see you are engaged in altercation with a Lady who seems unwilling to be convinced of her errors. Surely it would be more ingenuous to acknowledge than to persevere.
■ Lately, in looking over some papers I meant to burn, I found the original manuscript of the myrtle, with the date on it, 1731, which I have inclosed,
"The true history (which I could swear to) is as follows: Mr. Morgan Grave, the elder brother of a worthy Clergyman near Bath, with whom 1 was acquainted, waited upon a Lady in this neighbourhood, who at parting presented him the branch.- He shewed it me, and wished much to return the compliment in verse. I applied to Johnson, who was with me, and in about half an hour dictated the verses which I sent to my friend. .
In a man whom religious education lias secured from licentious indulgences, the passion of love, when once it has seized him, is exceedingly strong; being unimpaired by dissipation, and totally concentrated in oue object. This was experienced by Johnson, when he become the fervent admirer of Mrs. Porter, after her hrst husbands'* death. Miss Porter told me, that when he was first introduced to her mother, his appearance was rery forbidding; he was then lean and lank, so that his immense structure of bones was hideously striking to the eye, and the scars of the scropbula were deeply visible. He also wore his hair, which was straight and stiff, and separated behind; and he often had seemingly, convulsive starts and odd gesticulations, which tended to excite at mice surprize and ridicule. Mrs. Porter was so much engaged by his conversation that she everlooked all these external disadvantages, and said to her daughter, "this is the most sensible man that I ever saw in my life."
Though Mrs. Porter was double the age of Johnson, and her person and manner, as described to me by the late Air. Garrick, were by no means pleasing to others, she must have had a superiority of understanding and talents, as she certainly inspired him with a more than ordinary passion; md she having signified her willingness to accept of his hand, he went to Lichfield to ask his mother's consent to the marriage, which he could not but be conscious was a very imprudent scheme, both on account of their disparity of years, and her want of fortune. But Mrs. Johnson knew too well the ardour of her son's temper, and was too tender a parent to oppose his inclinations
I know not for what reason the marriage ceremony was not performed at Birmingham; but a resolution was taken that it should be at Derby, for which place the bride and bridegroom set out on horseback, 1 suppose in very good humour. Bui though Mr. Topham Beauclerk used archly to mention Johnson's having told him, with much gravity, " Sir, it was a love marriage on both sides," I have had from my illustrious friend the following curious account of their journey to church upon the nuptial morn, (9th July) :—"Sir, she had read the old romances, and had got into her head the fantastical notion that a woman of spirit should use her lover like a dog. S», Sir, at first she told me that I rode too fast, and she could not keep up with me; and, when I rode a little slower, she passed me, and complained that I lagged behind. 1 was not to be made the slave of caprice; and 1 resolved to begin as 1 meant to end. I therefore pushed on briskly, till 1 was fairly out of her sight. The road lay between two hedges, so I was sure she could not miss it; and I contrived that she should soon come up with me. When she did, 1 observed her to be in tears."
"If you intend to convince this obstinate womao, and to exhibit fo the publick the truth of your narrative, you are at liberty to make what use you please of this statement.
"1 hope you will pardon me for taking up so much of your time. Wishing you multos etfelices anacs, I shall subscribe myself "Brimingham, "Your obliged humble servant,
Jan. 9tb, 1794. "E. Hector."