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hat think such a temper deserving of the gratitude of those who suffer so often from a contrary disposition. I am, Sir,
"Your most humble servant,
"sam. Johnson." "To Mr. Cave. "Sia, [No date.]
"I Waited on you to take the copy to Dodsley's: as I remember the number of lines which it contains, it will be no longer than Eugenio, with the quotations, which must be subjoined at the bottom of the page; part of the beauty of the performance (if any beauty be allowed it) consisting in adapting Juvenal's sentiments to modern facts and persons. It will, with those additions, very conveniently make five sheets. And since the expence will be no more, I shall contentedly insure it, as I mentioned in my last. If it be not therefore gone to Dodsley's I beg it may be sent me by the penny-post, that I may have it in the evening. I hive composed a Greek Epigram to Eliza*, and think she ought to be celebrated in as many different languages as Lewis le Grand. Pray *end me word when you will begin upon the poem, for it is a long way to walk, I would leave my Epigram, but have not day-light to transcribe it. I am, Sir,
"To Mr. Cave. "Sir, [no date.]
"1 am extremely obliged by your kind letter, and will not fail to attend ynu to-morrow with Irene, who looks upon you as one of her best friends.
"X was to-day with Mr. Dodsley, who declares very warmly in favour of the paper you sent him, which he desires to have a share in, it being, a> he says, a creditable thing to be concerned in. I knew not what answer to make till I had consulted you, nor what to demand on the authour's part, but am very willing that, if you please, he should have a part in it, as he will undoubtedly be more diligent to disperse and promote it. If you can send me word to-morrow what 1 shall say to him, 1 will settle matters, and bring the poem with me for the press, which as the town empties, we cannot be too quick with. I am, Sir,
To us who have long known the manly force, bold spirit, and masterly versification of this poem, it is a matter of curiosity to observe the diffidence with which its author brought it forward into public notice, while he is so cautious as not to avow it to be his own production; and with what humility he offers to allow the printer to "alter any stroke of satire which he might dislike." That any such alteration was made, we do not know. If we did, we could not but feel an indignaut regret;
'The learned Mrs. Elizabeth Carter.
bat how painful is it to see that a writer of such vigorous powers of mind was actually in such distress, that the small profit which so short a poem, however excellent, could yield, was courted as a " relief."
It has been generally said, 1 know not with what truth, that Johnson offered his " Loudon" to several booksellers, none of whom would pur_ chase it. To this circumstance Mr. Derrick alludes in the following line* of his " Fortune, A Rhapsody:"
"Will no kiad patron Johnson own?
But we have seen that the worthy, modest, and ingenious Mr. Kohert Dodsley had taste enough to perceive its uncommon merit, and thought it creditable to have a share in it. The fact is, that, at a future conference, he bargained for the whole property of it, for which he gave Johnson ten guineas; who told me, " I might perhaps have accepted of less; but that Paul Whitehead had a little before got ten guineas for a poem; and 1 would not take less than Paul Whitehead."
1 may ht re observe, that Johnson appeared to me to undervalue Paul Whitehead upon eveiy occasion when he was mentioned, and, in my opinion, did not da him justice; but when it is considered that Paul Whitehead was a member of a riotous and profane club, we muy account for Johnson's having u prejudice against him. Paul Whitehead was, indeed, unfortunate in being not only slighted by Johnson, but violently attacked by Churchill, who utters the following imprecation:
"May I (can worse disgrace on manhood fall')
yet I shall never be persuaded to think meanly of the author of so brilliant and pointed a satire as " MANNERS."
Johnson's " London" was published in May, 1738, and it is remarkable, that it came out on the same morning with Pope's satire, entitled "1738 ;" so that England had at once its Juvenal and Horace as poetical monitors. The Reverend Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, to whom I am indebted for some obliging communications, was then a student at Oxford, and remembers well the effect which " London" produced. Every body was delighted with it; and there being no name to it, the first buz of the literary circles was, " here is an unknown poet, greater ev'-u than Pope." Aud it is recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine of that year that it "got to the second edition in the course of a week."
One of the warmest patrons of this poem on its 6rst appearance was General Ogi.kthorpb, whose " strong benevolence of soul" was unabated during the course of a very long life: though it is painful to think, that he had but too much reason to become cold and callons, and discontented with the world, from the neglect which he experienced of his publie and private worth, by those in whose power it was to gratify so gallant a veteran with marks of distinction. This extraordinary person was as remarkable for his learning and taste, as for his other eminent qualities; and no man was more prompt, active, and generous, in encouraging merit. I have heard Johnson gratefully acknowledge, in his presence, the kind and effectual support which he gave to his " London," though unacquainted with its author.
Pope, who then filled the poetical throne without a rival, it may reasonably be presumed, must have been particularly struck by the sudden appearance of such a poet: and, to his credit, let it be remembered, tbat his feelings and conduct on the occasion were candid and liberal. He requested Mr. Kichardson, son of the painter, to endeavour to find out who this new author was. Mr. Richardson, after some inquiry, having informed him that he had discovered only that his name was Johnson,' and that he was' some obscure man, Pope said," He will soon be deterrc." We shall presently see, from a note written by Pope, that he was himself afterwards more successful in his inquiries than his friend.
That in this justly-celebrated poem may be found a few rhymes which the critical precision of English prosody at this day would disallow, cannot be denied; but with this small imperfection, which in the general blaze of its excellence is not perceived, till the mind has subsided into cool attention, it is, undoubtedly, one of the noblest productions in our language, both for sentiment and expression. The nation was then in tbat ferment against the Court and the Ministry, which some years after ended in the downfal of Sir Robert Walpole; and as it has been said, that Tories are Whigs when out of place, and Whigs Tories when in place: so, as a Whig Administration ruled with what force it could, a Tory Opposition had all the animation and all the eloquence of resistance to power, aided by the common topics of patriotism, liberty, and independence! Accordingly, we find in Johnson's "London" the most spirited invectives against tyranny and oppression, the warmest predilection for his own country, and the purest love of virtue; interspersed with traits of his own particular character and situation, not omitting his prejudices as a " true-bor.i Englishman," not only against foreign countries, bat against Ireland and Scotland. On some of these topics I shall quote a few passages:
"The cheated nation's happy fav'rites see;
*' Mark whom the great caress, who frown on me."
"Has heaven reserv'd, in pity to the poor,
** How, when competitors like these contend,
"This mournful truth is every where confess'd,
We may easily couceive with what feeling a great mind like his, cramped nnd galled by narrow circumstances, uttered this last line, which he marked by capitals. The whole of the poem is eminently excellent, and there are in it such proofs of a knowledge of the world, and of a mature acquaintance with life, as cannot be contemplated without wonder, when we consider that he was then only in his twenty-ninth year, and had yet been so little in the " busy haunts of men."
Yet, while we admire the poetical excellence of this poem, candour obliges us to allow, that the flame of patriotism and zeal for popular resistance with which it is fraught, had no jast cause. There was, in truth, no " oppression ;'* the " nation" was not " cheated." Sir Robert Walpole was a wise and benevolent minister, who thought that the happiness and prosperity of a commercial country like ours, would be best promoted by peace, which he accordingly maintained with credit, during a very long period. Johnson himself afterwards honestly acknowledged the merit of Walpole, whom he called "a fixed star;" while he characterised his opponent, Pitt, as "a meteor." But Johnson's juvenile poem was naturally impregnated with the fire of opposition, and upoa every account was universally admired.
Though thus elevated into fame, and conscious of uncommon powers, he had not that bustling confidence, or, I may rather say, that animated ambition, which one might have supposed Mould have urged him to endeavour ut rising in life. Cut such was his inflexible dignity of character, that he could not stoop to court the great; without which, hardly any man has made his way to a high station. He could not expect to produce many such works as his " Lon )on," and he felt the hardships of writing for bread; he was therefore, willing to resume the office of a school-master, so as to have a sure, though moderate income for his life*; and an offer being made to him of the mastership of a school, provided he could obtain the degree of Master of Arts, Dr. Adams was applied to, by a common friend, to know whether that could be granted him as a favour from the University of Oxford. But though he had made such a figure in the literary world, it was then thought too great a favour to be asked.
Pope, without any knowledge of him but from his " London," recommended him to Earl Gower, who endeavoured to procure for him a degree from Dublin, by the following letter to a friend of Deau Swift:
"Mr. Samuel Johnson (author of London, a satire, and some other poetical pieces) is a native of this country, and much respected by some worthy gentlemen in his neighbourhood, who are trustees of a charity-school now vacant; the certain salary is sixty pounds a year, of which they are desirous to make him master; but, unfortunately, he ia not capable of receiving their bounty, which would make him happy for life, by not being a Master of Arts} which, by the statutes of this school, the master of it must be.
"Now these gentlemen do me the honour to think that I have interest enough in you, to prevail upon you to write to Dean Swift, to persuade the University of Dublin to send a diploma to me, constituting this poor man Master of Arts in their University. They highly extol the rnan's learning and probity ; and will not be persuaded, that the University will make any difficulty of conferring such a favour upon a stranger, if he is recommended by the Dean. They say, he is not afraid of the strictest examination, though he is of so long a junrney ; and will endure it, if the Dean thinks it necessary: choosing rather to die upon the road, than be starved to death in translating for booksellers; which has been his only subsistence for some time past.
"1 fear there is more difficulty in this affair, than those good-naUmd: gentlemen apprehend; especially as their election cannot be delayed longer than the 11th of next mouth. If you see this matter in the same light that it appears to me, I hope yeu will burn this, and pardon me for giving you so much trouble about an impracticable thing; but, if you think there is a probability of obtaining the favour asked, I am sure your humanity, and propensity to relieve merit in distress, will incline you to serve the poor man without my adding any more to the trouble I have already given you, than assuring you that I am, with great truth,
"Sir, "Your faithful servant, "Trentham, Aug. I, 1739. "gower."
It was perhaps no small disappointment to Johnson that this respectable application had not the desired effect; yet how much reason has there been, both for himself and his country, to rejoice that it did not succeed, as he might probably have wasted in obscurity those hours irt which he afterwards produced his incomparable works.
About this time he made one other effort to emancipate himself from the drudgery of authorship. He applied to Dr. Adams, to consult Dr. Smalbroke of the Commons, whether a person might be permitted to practise as an advocate there, without a doctor's degree in Civil Law. "I am (said he) a total stranger to these .studies; but whatever is a profession, and maintains numbers, must be within the reach of common abilities, and some degree of industry." Dr. Adams was much pleased with Johnson's design to employ his talents in that manner, being confident he would have attained to great eminence. And, indeed, I cannot conceive a man better qualified to make a distinguished figure us a lawyer; for, he would have brought his profession a rich store of various knowledge, an uncommon acuteness, and command of language, in which few could have equalled, and none have surpassed him. He who could display eloquence and wit in defence of the decision of the House of Commons upon Mr. Wilkes's election for Middlesex, and of tlie