صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

by time of the selfishnesss, the meannes?, the cowardice, the treachery of men.

"Youth amhitious, as thinking honours easy to be had.

"Different kinds of praise pursned at different periods. Of the gay in youth.—dang, hurt, &c. despised.

"Of the fancy in manhood. Amhit.—stocks—bargains.—Of the wise and sober in old age—seriousness—formality—maxims, but generalonly of the rich, otherwise age is happy—but at last every thing referred to riches—no having fame, honour, inflnence, without subjection to caprice.

"Horace.

"Hard it would be if men entered life with the same views with which they leave it, or left as they enter it.—No hope—no undertaking—no regard to benevolence—no fear of disgrace, &c.

"Youth to be taught the piety of age—age to retain the honour of youth."

This, it will be observed, is the sketch of Number 196 of the Rambler. I shall gratify my readers with another specimen:

"Confederacies difficult; why.

"Seldom in war a match for single persons—nor in peace; therefore kings make themselves absolute. Confederacies in learning—every great work the work of one. Bruy. Scholars' friendship like ladies. Scribebamus, &c Mart. The apple of discord—the laurel of discord—the poverty of criticism. Swift's opinion of the power of six geniuses united. That union scarce possible. His remarks just;—man a social, not steady nature. Drawn to man by words, repelled by passions. Orb drawn by attraction, rep. [repelled] by centrifugal.

"Common danger unites by crushing other passions—but they return. Equally hinders compliance. Superiority produces insolence and envy. Too much regard in each to private interest;—too little.

"The mischiefs of private and exclusive societies—The fitness of social attraction diffused through the whole. The mischiefs of too partial love of our country. Contraction of moral duties.—"Ot <pt\ot, a <pt\oe.

"Every man moves upon his own center, and therefore repels others from too near a contact, though he may comply with some general laws*

"Of confederacy with superiors every one knows the inconvenience. With equals, no authority ;—every man his own opinion—his own interest.

"Man and wife hardly united ;—scarce ever without children. Computation, if two to one against two, how many against five ? If confederacies were easy—useless ;—many oppresses many.—If possible only to some, dangerous. Principum amicitias."

Here we see the embryo of Number 45 of the Adventurer; and it ia a confirmation of what I shall presently have occasion to mention, that the papers in that collection marked T. were written by Johnson.

No. 2. N

This scanty preparation of materials will not, however, much diminish our wonder at the extraordinary fertility of his mind; for the proportion which they bear to the number of essays which he wrote, is very small : and it is remarkable, that those for which he had made no preparation, are as rich and as highly finished, as those for which the hints were lying by him. It is also to be observed, that the papers formed from his hints are worked up with such strength and elegance, that we almost lose sight of the hints, which become like " drops in the bucket." Indeed, in several instances, he has made a very slender use of them, so that many of them remain still unapplied.

As the Rambler was entirely the work of one man, there was, of course, such a uinformity in its texture, as very much to exclnde the charm of variety; and the grave and often solemn cast of thinking, which distingnished it from other periodical papers, made it, for some time, not generally liked. So slowly did this excellent work, of which twelve editions have now issned from the press, gain upon the world at large, that even in the closing number the anthor says, " I have never been much a favourite of the public."

Vet, very soon after its commencement, there were who felt and acknowledged its uncommon excellence. Verses in it* praises appeared in the newspapers; and the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine mentions, in October, his having received several litters to the same purpose from the learned. "The Stndent, or Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany," in which Mr. Council Thornton and .Mr. Column wire the principal writers, describes it as " a work that exceeds any thing of the kind ever published in this kingdom, some of the Spectators excepted,—if indeed they may be excepted." And afterwards, "May the public favour crown his merits, and may not the English, under the anspicious reign of George the Second, neglect a man, who, had he lived in the first century would have been one of the greatest favourites of Augustus." This flattery of the monarch had no effect. It is too well known, that the second George never was an Augustus to learning or genins.

Johnson told me, with an amiable fondness, a little pleasing circumstance relative to this work, Mrs. Johnson, in whose jndgment and taste he had great confidence, said to him, after a few numbers of the Rambler came out, " I thought very well of you before; but I did not imagine you could have written any thing equal to this." Distant praise, from whatever quarter, is not so delightful as that of a wife whom a man loves arid esteems. Her approbation may be said to "come home to his bosom ." and heing so near, its ellect is most sensible and permanent.

Mr. James Elphinston, who has since published various works, and who was ever esteemed by Johnson as a worthy man, happened to be in Scotland while the Itambler was coining out in single papers at London. With a landable zeal at once for the improvement of his countrymen, and the reputation of his friend, he suggested and took the charge of an edition of those Essays at Edinburgh, which followed progressively the London publication.

The following tetter written at this time, though not dated, will show how much pleased Johnson was with this publication, and what kindness and regard he had for Mr. Elphinston.

"To Mr. James Elphinston. "Dear Sir, [no date.)

"I Cannot but confess the failures of my correspondence, but hope the same, regard which you express for me on every other occasion, will incline you to forgive me. I am often, very often, ill; and, when I am well, am obliged to work: and indeed, have never much used myself to punctuality. You are, however, not to make unkind inferences, when I forbear to reply to your kindness; for be assured, I never received a letter from you without great pleasure, and a very warm sense of your generosity and friendship, which 1 heartily blame myself fir uot cultivating. with more care. In this, as in many other cases, I go wrong, in opposition to conviction; for 1 think scarce auy temporal good equally to be desired with the regard and familiarity of worthy men. I hope we shall be some time nearer to each other, and have a more ready way of pouriIig out our hearts.

"I am glad that you still find encouragement to proceed in your publication, and shall beg the favour of six more volumes to add to my former six, when you can, with auy convenience, send them me. Please to present a set, in my name, to Mr. liuddiman,* of whom, I hear, that his learning is uot his highest excellence. 1 have transcribed the mottos, and returned them, 1 hope not too late, of which 1 think many very happily performed. Mr. Cave has put the last in the magazine, in which I think he did well. I beg of you to write soon, and to write often, and to write long letters, which I hope in time to repay you; but you must he a patient creditor. I have, however, this of gratitude, that I think of you with regard, when I do not, perhaps, give the proofs which 1 ought, of being, Sir, "Your most obliged and

H Most humble servant,

Sam. Johnson."

This year he wrote to the same gentleman another letter upon a mournful occasion.

"To Mr. James Elphinston,

"Dear Sir. "September 25, 1750.

"You have, as I find by every kind of evidence, lost an excellent mother; and I hope you will not think me incapable of partaking of ydur grief. I have a mother, now eighty-two years of age, whom, therefore, 1 must soon lose, unless it please God that she should rather mourn for me. I read the letters in which you relate your mother's death to Mrs. Strahan, and think 1 do myself honour, when 1 tell you that 1 read

* Mr.ThomasRnddiman, the learned grammarian of Scotland, well known for his various excellent works, and for his accurate editions of several authors. He was also a man of a most worthy private character. His zeal for the Royal House of Stuart did not render him less estimable in Dr. Johnson's eye.

[ocr errors]

them with tears; but tears are neither to you nor to me of any further VK, when once the tribute to nature has been paid. The business of life summons us away from useless grief, and calls us to the exercise o' those virtues of which we are lamenting our deprivation. The greatest benefit which one friend can confer upon another, is to guard, and excite, and elevate, his virtues. This your mother will still perform, if you diligently preserve the memory of her life, and of her death: a life, so far as 1 can learn, useful, wise, and innocent: and a death resigned, peaceful, and holy. I cannot forbear to mention, that neither reason nor revelation denies you to bope, that you may increase her happiness by obeying her precepts; and that she may, in her present state, look with pleasure upon every act of virtue to which her instructions or example have contributed. Whether this be more than a pleasing dream, or a just opinion of separate spirits, is, indeed, of no great importance to us, when we consider ourselves as acting under the eye of God: yet, surely there is something pleasing in the belief, that our separation from those whom we love is merely corporeal ; and it may be a great incitement to virtuous friendship, if it can be made probable, that that union that has received the divine approbation shall continue to eternity.

"There is one expedient by which you may, in some degree, continue her presence. If you write down minutely what you remember of her from your earliest years, you will read it with great pleasure, and receive from it many hints of soothing recollection, when time shall remove her yet further from you, and your grief shall be matured to veneration. To this, however painful for the present, I cannot but advise you, as to a source of comfort and satisfaction in the time to come; for all comfort and all satisfaction is sincerely wished you by, dear Sir,

"Your most obliged, most obedient,

"And most humble servant,

"Sam. Johsson."

The Rambler has increased in fame as in age. Soon after its first folio edition was concluded, it was published in six duodecimo volumes; and its author lived to see ten numerous editions of it in London, beside those of Ireland and Scotland.

I profess myself to have ever entertained a profound veneration for the astonishing force and vivacity of mind, which the Rambler exhibits. That Johnson had penetration enough to see, and seeing would not disguise the general misery of man in this state of being, have given rise to the superficial uotion of his being too stern a philosopher. But men of reflection will be sensible that he has given a true representation of human existence, and that he has, at the same time, with a generous benevolence displayed every consolation which our state affords us; not only those arising from the hopes of futurity, but such as may be attained in the immediate progress through life. He has not depressed the soul to despondency and indifference. He has every where inculcated study, labour, and exertion. Nay, he has shewn, in * very odious light, a man whose practice is to go about darkening the views of others, by perpetual complaints of evil, and awakening those considerations of danger and distress, which are, for the most part, lulled into a quiet oblivion. This he has done very strongly in his character of Suspirins, from which Cioldsruitli took that of Croaker, in bis comedy of V The Good-natured Man," as Johnson told me he acknowledged to him, and which is, indeed, very obvious.

To point out the numerous subjects which the Rambler treats, with a dignity and perspicuity which are there united in a manner which we shall in vain look for any where eke, would take up too large a portion of my book, and would, I trust, be superfluous, considering how universally those volumes are now disseminated. Even the most condensed, and brilliant sentences which they contain, and which have properly been selected under the name of " Beauties," are of considerable bulk. But I may shortly observe, that the Rambler furnishes such an assemblage of discourses on practical religion and moral duty, of critical investigations, and allegorical and oriental tales, that no mind can be thought very deficient that has, by constant study and meditation, assimilated to itself all that may found there. No. 7, written in Passion week, on abstraction and self-examination, and No. 110, on penitence and the placability of the Divine Nature, cannot be too often read. No. 54, on the effect which the death of a friend should have upon us, though rather too dispiriting, may be occasionally very medicinal to the mind. Every one must suppose the writer to have been deeply impressed by a real scene; but he told me that that was not the case; which shews how well his fancy could conduct him to the " house of mourning." Some of these more solemn papers, 1 doubt not, particularly attracted the notice of Dr. Young, the author of "The Night Thoughts," of whom my estimation is such, as to reckon his applause an honour even to Johnson. I have seen volumes of Dr. Young's copy of the Rambler, in which he has marked the passage which he thought particularly excellent, by folding down a corner of the page; and such as he rated in a super-eminent degree, are marked by double folds. I am sorry that some of the volumns are lost. Johnson was pleased when told of the minute attention with which Young had signified his approbation of his Essays.

I will venture to say, that in no writings whatever can be found more bark and steel for the mind, if I may use the expression; more that can brace and invigorate every manly and noble sentiment. No. 32 on patience, even under extreme misery, is wonderfully lofty, and as much above the rant of stoicism, as the Sun of Revelation is brighter than the twilight of Pagan philosophy. I never read the following sentence without feeling my frame thrill : "I think there is some reason for questioning whether the body and mind are not so proportioned, that the one Can bear all which can be inflicted on the other; whether virtue cannot, *tand its ground as long as life, and whether a soul well principled will 6ot be sooner separated than subdued."

Though instruction be the predominant purpose of the Rambler, yet it is enlivened with a considerable portion of amusement. Nothing can

« السابقةمتابعة »