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laureate, undertook to convey the manuscript to his lordship: the consequence was an invitation from lord Chesterfield to the author. A stronger contrast of characters could not be brought together; the nobleman, celebrated for his wit, and all the graces of polite behaviour; the author, conscious of his own merit, towering in idea above all competition, versed in scholastic logic, but a stranger to the arts of polite conversation, uncouth, vehement, and vociferous. The coalition was too unnatural. Johnson expected a Mæcenas, and was disappointed. No patronage, no assistance followed. Visits were repeated; but the reception was not cordial. Johnson, one day, was left a full hour, waiting in an antichamber, till a gentleman should retire, and leave his lordship at leisure. This was the famous Colley Cibber. Johnson saw him go, and, fired with indignation, rushed out of the house.. What lord Chesterfield thought of his visitor may be seen in a passage in one of that nobleman's letters to his son m. "There is a man, whose moral character, deep learning, and superior parts, I acknowledge, admire, and respect; but whom it is so impossible for me to love, that I am almost in a fever, whenever I am in his company. His figure (without being deformed) seems made to disgrace or ridicule the common structure of the human body. His legs and arms are never in the position which, according to the situation of his body, they ought to be in, but constantly employed in committing acts of hostility upon the graces. He throws any where, but down his throat, whatever he means to drink; and mangles what he means to carve. attentive to all the regards of social life, he mistimes and misplaces every thing. He disputes with heat indiscriminately, mindless of the rank, character, and situation of those with whom he disputes. Absolutely ignorant of the several gradations of familiarity and respect, he is exactly the same to his superiors, his equals, and his inferiors; and, therefore, by a necessary consequence, is absurd to two of the three. Is it possible to love such a man? No. The utmost I can do for him is, to consider him a respectable Hottentot." Such was the idea entertained by lord Chesterfield. After the incident of Colley Cibber, Johnson never repeated his visits. In his high and decisive tone, he has
Dr. Johnson denies the whole of this story. See Boswell's Life, vol. i. p. 128. oct. edit. 1804.
been often heard to say, "lord Chesterfield is a wit among lords, and a lord among wits."
In the course of the year 1747, Garrick, in conjunction with Lacy, became patentee of Drury lane playhouse. For the opening of the theatre, at the usual time, Johnson wrote, for his friend, the well-known prologue, which, to say no more of it, may, at least, be placed on a level with Pope's to the tragedy of Cato. The playhouse being now under Garrick's direction, Johnson thought the opportunity fair to think of his tragedy of Irene, which was his whole stock on his first arrival in town, in the year 1737. That play was, accordingly, put into rehearsal in January, 1749. As a precursor to prepare the way, and to awaken the public attention, The Vanity of human Wishes, a poem in imitation of the tenth satire of Juvenal, by the author of London, was published in the same month. In the Gentleman's Magazine, for February, 1749, we find that the tragedy of Irene was acted at Drury lane, on Monday, February the 6th, and, from that time, without interruption, to Monday, February the 20th, being in all thirteen nights. Since that time, it has not been exhibited on any stage. Irene may be added to some other plays in our language, which have lost their place in the theatre, but continue to please in the closet. During the representation of this piece, Johnson attended every night behind the scenes. Conceiving that his character, as an author, required some ornament for his person, he chose, upon that occasion, to decorate himself with a handsome waistcoat, and a gold-laced hat. The late Mr. Topham Beauclerc, who had a great deal of that humour, which pleases the more for seeming undesigned, used to give a pleasant description of this green-room finery, as related by the author himself; "But," said Johnson, with great gravity, “ I soon laid aside my gold-laced hat, lest it should make me proud." The amount of the three benefit nights for the tragedy of Irene, it is to be feared, was not very considerable, as the profit, that stimulating motive, never invited the author to another dramatic attempt. Some years afterwards, when the present writer was intimate with Garrick, and knew Johnson to be in distress, he asked the manager, why he did not produce another tragedy for his Lichfield friend? Garrick's answer was remarkable: "When Johnson writes tragedy, declamation roars, and passion sleeps :" when Shakespeare wrote, he dipped his pen in his own heart."
There may, perhaps, be a degree of sameness in this regular
way of tracing an author from one work to another, and the reader may feel the effect of a tedious monotony; but, in the life of Johnson, there are no other landmarks. He was now forty years old, and had mixed but little with the world. He followed no profession, transacted no business, and was a stranger to what is called a town life. We are now arrived at the brightest period, he had hitherto known. His name broke out upon mankind with a degree of lustre that promised a triumph over all his difficulties. The life of Savage was admired, as a beautiful and instructive piece of biography. The two imitations of Juvenal were thought to rival even the excellence of Pope; and the tragedy of Irene, though uninteresting on the stage, was universally admired in the closet, for the propriety of the sentiments, the richness of the language, and the general harmony of the whole composition. His fame was widely diffused; and he had made his agreement with the booksellers for his English dictionary at the sum of fifteen hundred guineas; a part of which was to be, from time to time, advanced, in proportion to the progress of the work. This was a certain fund for his support, without being obliged to write fugitive pieces for the petty supplies of the day. Accordingly we find that, in 1749, he established a club, consisting of ten in number, at Horseman's, in Ivy lane, on every Tuesday evening. This is the first scene of social life to which Johnson can be traced, out of his own house. The members of this little society were, Samuel Johnson; Dr. Salter, father of the late master of the Charter house; Dr. Hawkesworth; Mr. Ryland, a merchant; Mr. Payne, a bookseller, in Paternoster row; Mr. Samuel Dyer, a learned young man; Dr. William M'Ghie, a Scotch physician; Dr. Edmund Barker, a young physician; Dr. Bathurst, another young physician; and sir John Hawkins. This list is given by sir John, as it should seem, with no other view than to draw a spiteful and malevolent character of almost every one of them. Mr. Dyer, whom sir John says he loved with the affection of a brother, meets with the harshest treatment, because it was his maxim, that "to live in peace with mankind, and in a temper to do good offices, was the most essential part of our duty." That notion of moral goodness gave umbrage to sir John Hawkins, and drew down upon the memory of his friend, the bitterest impütations. Mr. Dyer, however, was admired and loved through life. He was a man of literature. Johnson loved to enter with him into a discussion of metaphysical, moral, and critical subjects; in
The public credulity swallowed all with eagerness; and Milton was supposed to be guilty of plagiarism from inferior modern writers. The fraud succeeded so well, that Lauder collected the whole into a volume, and advertised it under the title of An Essay on Milton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns, in his Paradise Lost; dedicated to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. While the book was in the press, the proof-sheets were shown to Johnson, at the Ivy lane club, by Payne, the bookseller, who was one of the members. No man in that society was in possession of the authors from whom Lauder professed to make his extracts. The charge was believed, and the contriver of it found his way to Johnson, who is represented, by sir John Hawkins, not indeed as an accomplice in the fraud, but, through motives of malignity to Milton, delighting in the detection, and exulting that the poet's reputation would suffer by the discovery. More malice to a deceased friend cannot well be imagined. Hawkins adds, “that he wished well to the argument must be inferred from the preface, which, indubitably, was written by him." The preface, it is well known, was written by Johnson, and for that reason is inserted in this edition. But if Johnson approved of the argument, it was no longer than while he believed it founded in truth. Let us advert to his own words in that very preface. Among the inquiries to which the ardour of criticism has naturally given occasion, none is more obscure in itself, or more worthy of rational curiosity, than a retrospection of the progress of this mighty genius 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 the first plan; to find what was 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." These were the motives that induced Johnson to assist Lauder with a preface; and are not these the motives of a critic and a scholar? What reader of taste, what man of real knowledge, would not think his time well employed in an enquiry so curious, so interesting, and instructive? If Lauder's facts were really true, who would not be glad, without the smallest tincture of malevolence, to receive real information? It is painful to be thus obliged to vindicate a man
who, in his heart, towered above the petty arts of fraud and imposition, against an injudicious biographer, who undertook to be his editor, and the protector of his memory. Another writer, Dr. Towers, in an Essay on the Life and Character of Dr. Johnson, seems to countenance this calumny. He says: "It can hardly be doubted, but that Johnson's aversion to Milton's politics was the cause of that alacrity, with which he joined with Lauder in his infamous attack on our great epic poet, and which induced him to assist in that transaction." These words would seem to describe an accomplice, were they not immediately followed by an express declaration, that Johnson was unacquainted with the imposture." Dr. Towers adds, "It seems to have been, by way of making some compensation to the memory of Milton, for the share he had in the attack of Lauder, that Johnson wrote the prologue, spoken by Garrick, at Drury lane theatre, 1750, on the performance of the Masque of Comus, for the benefit of Milton's granddaughter." Dr. Towers is not free from prejudice; but, as Shakespeare has it," he begets a temperance, to give it smoothness." He is, therefore, entitled to a dispassionate answer. When Johnson wrote the prologue, it does appear that he was aware of the malignant artifices practised by Lauder. In the postscript to Johnson's preface, a subscription is proposed, for relieving the granddaughter of the author of Paradise Lost. Dr. Towers will agree, that this shows Johnson's alacrity in doing good. That alacrity showed itself again, in the letter printed in the European Magazine, January, 1785, and there said to have appeared originally in the General Advertiser, 4th April, 1750, by which the public were invited to embrace the opportunity of paying a just regard to the illustrious dead, united with the pleasure of doing good to the living. The letter adds, "To assist industrious indigence, struggling with distress, and debilitated by age, is a display of virtue, and an acquisition of happiness and honour. Whoever, therefore, 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 a 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 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, granddaughter to the author, and the only surviving branch of his