Imágenes de páginas

what may please the general taste at the time." J.“ But you can be sure of neither; and therefore I should scruple much to give a suppressive vote. Both Goldsmith's comedies were once refused; his first by Garrick, his second by Colman, who was prevailed on at last by much solicitation, nay a kind of force, to bring it on: His - Vicar of Wakefield' I myself did not think would have had much success. It was written, and sold to a bookseller before his Traveller;" but published after; so little expectation had the bookseller from it. Had it been sold after the 6 Traveller,' he might have had twice as much money for it, though sixty guineas was no mean price. The bookseller had the advantage of Goldsmith's reputation from The Traveller in the sale, though Goldsmith had it not in selling the copy."-Sir J. R. - The Beggar's Opera affords a proof how strangely people will differ int opinion about a literary performance. Burke thinks it has no merit.”-J. “ It was refused by one of the houses; but I should have thought it would succeed, not from any great excellence in the writing, but from the novelty, and the general spirit and gaiety of the piece, which keeps the audience always attentive, and dismisses them in good humour."

He once mentioned with an air of satisfaction what Baretti had told him; that meeting, in the

course of his studying English, with an excellent paper in the Spectator, one of four that were written by the respectable dissenting minister Mr. Grove of Taunton, and observing the genius and energy of mind that it exhibits, it greatly. quickened his curiosity to visit our country; as he thought if such were the lighter periodical essays of our authors, their productions on more weighty occasions must be wonderful indeed.

Mr. Boswell expressed a liking for Mr. Francis Osborn's works, and asked Jobnson what he thought of that writer. He answered, “ A cons ceited fellow. Were a man to write so now, the boys would throw stones at him." He however (says Mr. B.) did not alter my opinion of a favourite author, to whom I was first directed by his being quoted in "The Spectator,' and in whom I have found much shrewd and lively sense, expressed indeed in a style somewhat quaint, which however I do not dislike. His book has an air of originality. We figure to ourselves an ancient gentleman talking to us.

Johnson once talked with approbation of an intended edition of · The Spectator' with notes; two volumes of which had been prepared by a gentleman eminent in the literary world, and the materials which he had collected for the remainder had been transferred to another hand. He observed, that all works which describe man

[ocr errors]

ners require notes in sixty or seventy years or less; and said, he had communicated all he knew that could throw light upon “ The Spectator.' He said, “ Addison had made his Sir Andrew Freeport a true Whig, arguing against giving charity to beggars, and throwing out other such ungracious sentiments; but that he had thought better, and made amends by making him found an hospital for decayed farmers." He called for the volume of · The Spectator' in which that account is contained, and read it aloud. Indeed he read so well, that every thing' acquired additional weight and grace from his utterance.

Johnson on another occasion praised « The Spectator,' particularly the character of Sir Roger de Coverley. He said, “ Sir Roger did not die a violent death, as has been generally fancied. He was not killed; he died only because others were to die, and because his death afforded an opportunity to Addison for some very fine writing. We have the example of Cervantes making Don Quixote die. : I never could see why Sir Roger is represented as a little cracked. It appears to me that the story of the widow was intended to have something superinduced upon it; but the superstructure did not come.”

Johnson talked of its having been said that Addison wrote some of his best papers in The Spectator' when warin with wine. He did not

seem willing to admit this. Dr. Scott, as a confirmation of it, related, that Blackstone, a sober man, composed his Commentaries' with a bottle of port before him; and found his mind invigo. rated and supported in the fatigue of his great work, by a temperate use of it.

In another conversation on The Spectator, he said, “ It is wonderful that there is such a proportion of bad papers, in the half of the work which was not written by Addison; for there was all the world to write that half, yet not a half of that half is good. One of the finest pieces in the English language is the paper on Novelty, yet we do not hear it talked of. It was written by Mr. Grove, a dissenting teacher,” Mr. Murphy said, he remembered when there were several people alive in London, who enjoyed a considerable reputation merely from having written a paper in 'The Spectator.' He mentioned particularly Mr. Ince, who used to frequent Tom's coffee-house; “but (said Johuson) you must consider how highly Steele speaks of Mr. Ince." He would not allow that the paper on carrying a boy to travel, signed Philip Homebred, which was reported to be written by the Lord Chancellor Hardwick, had merit. He said, “It was quite vulgar, and had nothing luminous.”

A gentleman mentioned Sir Richard Steele having published his Christian Here with the

avowed purpose of obliging himself to lead a religious life, yet that his conduct was by no means strictly suitable.—JOHNSON. “ Steele, I believe, practised the lighter vices.”

A desire was expressed to know his authority for the story of Addison's sending an execution into Steele's house. “ Sir (said he), it is generally known, it is known to all who are acquainted with the literary history of that period. It is as well known, as that he wrote 6 Cato.' Mr. Thomas Sheridan once defended Addison, by alleging, that he did it in order to cover Steele's goods from other creditors, who were going to seize them.”

Johnson said, that “ Addison wrote Budgell's papers in the Spectator, at least mended them so much, that he made them almost his own; and that Draper, Tonson's partner, assured Mrs. Johnson, that the much-admired Epilogue to 6 The Distressed Mother, which came out in Budgell's name, was in reality written by Addi. son."

Mr. Eliot, with whom Dr. Walter Harte had travelled, talked of Harte's History of Gustavus Adolphus,' which he said was a very good book in the German translation. Johnson said, 6. Harte was excessively vain: he put copies of his book in manuscript into the hands of Lord Chesterfield and Lord Granville, that they might revise it. Now how absurd was it to suppose

« AnteriorContinuar »