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He seemed to learn by intuition ; for enjoying the common sports; and he though indolence and procrastination once pleasantly remarked to me, “how were inherent in his constitution, when- wonderfully well he had contrived to be ever he made an exertion he did more idle without them.” Lord Chesterfield, than any one else. In short, he is a however, has justly observed in one of memorable instance of what has been his letters, when earnestly cautioning a often observed, that the boy is the man friend against the pernicious effects of in miniature ; and that the distinguishing idleness, that active sports are not to be characteristics of each individual are the reckoned idleness in young people ; and same, through the whole course of life. that the listless torpor of doing nothing, His favourites used to receive very alone deserves that name. Of this liberal assistance from him ; and such dismal inertness of disposition, Johnson was the submission and deference with had all his life too great a share. Mr, which he was treated, such the desire to Hector relates, that “he could not obtain his regard, that three of the boys, oblige him more than by sauntering away of whom Mr. Hector was sometimes one, the hours of vacation in the fields, during used to come in the morning as his which he was more engaged in talking to humble attendants, and carry him to himself than to his companion.” school. One in the middle stooped, Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore,1 while he sat upon his back, and one on who was long intimately acquainted with each side supported him ; and thus he him, and has preserved a few anecdotes was borne triumphant. Such a proof of concerning him, regretting that he was the early predominance of intellectual not a more diligent collector, informs me, vigour is very remarkable, and does that “when a boy he was immoderately honour to human nature. —Talking to me fond of reading romances of chivalry, and once himself of his being much dis- he retained his fondness for them through tinguished at school, he told me, “They life; so that,"adds his lordship, “spending never thought to raise me by comparing part of a summer at my parsonage-house me to any one ; they never said Johnson in the country, he chose for his regular is as good a scholar as such a one ; but reading the old Spanish romance of such a one is as good a scholar as FELIXMARTE OF HIRCANIA, in folio, Johnson ; and this was said but of one, which he read quite through. Yet I but of Lowe ; and I do not think he was have heard him attribute to these as good a scholar."
extravagant fictions that unsettled turn of He discovered a great ambition to mind which prevented his ever fixing in excel, which roused him to counteract any profession.” his indolence. He was uncommonly After having resided for some time at inquisitive ; and his memory was
so the house of his uncle, Cornelius Ford, tenacious, that he never forgot any thing Johnson was, at the age of fifteen, that he either heard or read. Mr. removed to the school of Stourbridge, in Hector remembers having recited to him Worcestershire, of which Mr. Wentworth eighteen verses, which, after a little was then master. This step was taken pause, he repeated verbatim, varying only by the advice of his cousin, the Rev. Mr. one epithet, by which he improved the Ford, a man in whom both talents and line.
good dispositions were disgraced by He never joined with the other boys licentiousness, 2 but who was a very able in their ordirary diversions : his only judge of what was right. At this school amusement was in winter, when he took he did not receive so much benefit as a pleasure in being drawn upon the ice was expected. It has been said, that he by a boy bare-footed, who pulled him along by a garter fixed round him : 1 Editor of Reliques of Ancient English no very easy operation, as his size Poetry (1765).
2 He is said to be the original of the parson in was remarkably large. His defective Hogarth's Modern Midnight Conversation. See sight, indeed, prevented him from also Lives of the Poets, (* Fenton.”)
HIS EARLY COMPOSITIONS
-6 At one,
acted in the capacity of an assistant to
was a very able man, but an idle man, and to me very severe ; but I cannot
Now, Tityrus, you, supine and careless laid, blame him much. I was then a big boy ; Play on your pipe beneath this beechen shade; he saw I did not reverence him ; and While wretched we about the world must roam, that he should get no honour by me. I
And leave our pleasing fields and native home,
Here at your ease you sing your amorous flame, had brought enough with me to carry me And the wood rings with Åmarillis' name. through ; and all I should get at his school would be ascribed to my own labour, or to my former master. Yet he taught me a great deal.”
Those blessings, friend, a deity bestow'd,
For I shall never think him less than god : Bishop of Dromore, his progress at his Their blood the consecrated stones shall dye:
I two grammar-schools.
gave my flocks to graze the flowery meads, learned much in the school, but little And me to tune at ease th’ unequal reeds. from the master ; in the other, I learned much from the master, but little in the school."
My admiration only I exprest, The bishop also informs me, that “Dr. (No spark of envy harbours in my breast) Johnson's father, before he was received That, when confusion o'er the country reigns,
To you alone this happy state remains. at Stourbridge, applied to have him Here I, though faint myself, must drive my goats, admitted as a scholar and assistant to Far from their ancient fields and humble cots. the Rev. Samuel Lea, M.A. head This scarce I lead, who left on yonder rock master of Newport school, in Shropshire Had we not been perverse and careless grown,
Two tender kids, the hopes of all the flock. (a very diligent good teacher, at that This dire event by omens was foreshewn; time in high reputation, under whom Mr. Our trees were blasted by the thunder stroke, Hollis is said, in the Memoirs of his And left-hand crows, from an old hollow oak,
Foretold the coming evil by their dismal croak. Life, to have been also educated). 1 This application to Mr. Lea was not successful ; but Johnson' had afterwards
Translation of HORACE. Book I. Ode xxii. the gratification to hear that the old
The man, my friend, whose conscious heart gentleman, who lived to
a very ad
With virtue's sacred ardour glows, vanced age, mentioned it as one of the Nor taints with death the envenom'd dart, most memorable events of his life, that Nor needs the guard of Moorish bows :
he was very near having that great Though Scythia's icy cliffs he treads,
Or horrid Afric's faithless sands;
Or where the famed Hydaspes spreads
His liquid wealth o'er barbarous lands. than a year, and then he returned home, where he may be said to have loitered, For while by Chloe's image charm’d, for two years, in a state very unworthy
Too far in Sabine woods I stray'd ;
Me singing, careless and unarm’d, his uncommon abilities. He had already
A grisly wolf surprised, and fled. given several proofs of his poetical genius, both in his school exercises and
No savage more portentous stain'd
Apulia's spacious wilds with gore ; in other occasional compositions. Of
No fiercer Juba's thirsty land, these I have obtained a considerable Dire nurse of raging lions, bore. collection, by the favour of Mr. Went
Place me where no soft summer gale worth, son of one of his masters, and Among the quivering branches sighs; of Mr. Hector, his schoolfellow and Where clouds condensed for ever veil friend; from which I select the following
With horrid gloom the frowning skies : specimens :
Place me beneath the burning line,
A clime denied to human race ; 1 As was likewise the Bishop of Dromore I'll sing of Chloe's charms divine, many years afterward. B.
Her heavenly voice, and beauteous face
Translation of HORACE. Book II. Ode ix. To a YOUNG LADY on her Birth-NAY.1 Clouds do not always veil the skies,
This tributary verse receive, my fair, Nor showers immerse the verdant plain ; Warm with an ardent lover's fondest prayer. Nor do the billows always rise,
May this returning day for ever find Or storms afflict the ruffled main :
Thy form more lovely, more adorned thy mind; Nor, Valgius, on th’ Armenian shores
All pains, all cares, may favouring Heaven Do the chain'd waters always freeze;
remove, Not always furious Boreas roars,
All but the sweet solicitudes of love! Or bends with violent force the trees.
May powerful nature join with grateful art,
To point each glance, and force it to the heart ! But you are ever drown'd in tears,
O then, when conquered crowds confess thy For Mystes dead you ever mourn;
sway, No setting Sol can ease your cares,
When ev'n proud wealth and prouder wit obey, But finds you sad at his return.
My fair, be mindful of the mighty trust : The wise experienc'd Grecian sage
Alas! 'tis hard for beauty to be just. Mourn'd not Antilochus so long ;
Those sovereign charms with strictest Nor did King Priam's hoary age,
employ, So much lament his slaughter's son.
Nor give the generous pain, the worthless joy :
With his own form acquaint the forward fool, Leave off, at length, these woman's sighs; Shewn in the faithful glass of ridicule ; Augustus' numerous trophies sing ;
Teach mimic censure her own faults to find, Repeat that prince's victories,
No more let coquettes to themselves be blind, To whom all nations tribute bring.
So shall Belinda's charms improve mankind.
THE YOUNG AUTHOR.2
When first the peasant, long inclin'd to roam, And scarce forsakes his native fields.
Forsakes his rural sports and peaceful home,
Pleas'd with the scene smiling ocean yields, Translation of part of the Dialogue between He scorns the verdant meads and flow'ry fields ;
HECTOR and ANDROMACHE; from the Sixth | Then dances jocund o'er the watery way,
While the breeze whispers, and the streamers She ceased; then god-like Hector answer’d kind, Unbounded prospects in his bosom roll,
play: (His various plumage sporting in the wind) and all the rest, shall be my care ;
And future millions lift his rising soul ;
In blissful dreams he digs the golden mine,
And raptur'd sees the new-found ruby shine.
Toys insincere ! thick clouds invade the skies, name! And one base action sully all my fame,
Loud roar the billows, high the waves arise ; Acquired by wounds and battles bravely fought! And vows to trust the faithless deep no more.
Sick’ning with fear, he longs to view the shore, 0, how my soul abhors so mean a thought! Long since I learn’d to slight this fleeting breath, And the long honours of a lasting name,
So the young Author, panting after fame,
Intrusts his happiness to human kind,
More false, more cruel, than the seas or wind. The day will come, in which proud Troy shall
“ Toil on, dull crowd," in ecstacies he cries,
“For wealth or title, perishable prize ; yield,
“While I those transitory blessings scorn, And spread its smoking ruins o'er the field. Yet Hecuba's, nor Priam's hoary age,
“Secure of praise from ages yet unborn.” Whose blood shall quench some Grecian's thirsty This thought once form’d, all counsel comes too
late, rage, Nor my brave brothers, that have bit the ground, He flies to press, and hurries on his fate; Their souls dismiss'd through many a ghastlý Swiftly he sees the imagin’d laurels spread, wound,
And feels the unfading wreath surround his head. Can in my bosom half that grief create,
Warn’d by another's fate, vain youth, be wise ;
Those dreams were Settle's once, and Ogilby's: As the sad thought of your impending fate : When some proud Grecian dame shall tasks The pamphlet spreads, incessant hisses rise, impose,
To some retreat the baffled writer flies; Mimic your tears, and ridicule your woes;
Where no sour critics snarl, no sneers molest, Beneath Hyperia's waters shall you sweat,
Safe from the tart lampoon, and stinging jest: And, fainting, scarce support the liquid weight:
There begs of Heaven a less distinguish'd lot, Then shall some Argive loud insulting cry,
Glad to be hid, and proud to be forgot. Behold the wife of Hector, guard of Troy! Tears, at my name, shall drown those beauteous 1 Mr. Hector informs me, that this was made eyes,
almost impromptu, in his presence. B. And that fair bosom heave with rising sighs ! 2 This was afterwards published with many Before that day, by some brave hero's hand alterations, and anonymously, in the Gentleman's May I lie slain, and spurn the bloody sand. Magazine, 1743.
Epilogue, intended to have been spoken by a
but merely lived from day to day. Yet LADY’who was to personate the Ghost of he read a great deal in a desultory HERMIONE. 1
manner, without any scheme of study ; Ye blooming train, who give despair or joy,
as chance threw books in his way, and Bless with a smile, or with a frown destroy;
inclination directed him through them. In whose fair cheeks destructive Cupids wait, He used to mention one curious instance And with unerring shafts distribute fate ;
of his casual reading, when but a boy. Whose snowy breasts, whose animated eyes, Each youth admires, though each admirer dies; Having imagined that his brother had hid Whilst you deride their pangs in barb'rous play,) some apples behind a large folio upon an Unpitying see them weep, and hear them pray, And unrelenting sport ten thousand lives away ;)
upper shelf in his father's shop, he climbed For you, ye fair, I quit the gloomy plains,
up to search for them. There were no Where sable night in all her horror reigns; apples ; but the large folio proved to be No fragrant bowers, no delightful glades, Petrarch, whom he had seen mentioned, Receive the unhappy ghosts of scornful maids. For kind, for tender nymphs, the myrtle blooms, in some preface, as one of the restorers And weaves her bending boughs in pleasing of learning. His curiosity having been glooms;
thus excited, he sat down with avidity, Perennial roses deck each purple vale, And scents ambrosial breathe in every gale :
and read a great part of the book. What Far hence are banish'd vapours, spleen, and tears, he read during these two years, he told Tea, scandal, ivory teeth, and languid airs : me, was not works of mere amusement, No pug, nor favourite Cupid there enjoys “Not voyages and travels, but all literaThe balmy kiss, for which poor Thyrsis dies; Form'd to delight, they use no foreign arms,
ture, Sir, all ancient writers, all manly : Nor torturing whalebones pinch them into though but little Greek, only some of charms;
Anacreon and Hesiod : but in this irreNo conscious blushes there their cheeks inflame, For those who feel no guilt can know no shame; gular manner,” added he, “I had looked Unfaded still their former charms they shew,
into a great many books, which were not Around them pleasures wait, and joys for ever commonly known at the Universities,
where they seldom read any books but But cruel virgins meet severer fates ; Expellid and exil'd from the blissful seats,
what are put into their hands by their To dismal realms, and regions void of peace,
tutors ; so that when I came to Oxford, Where furies ever howl, and serpents hiss. Dr. Adams, now master of Pembroke O'er the sad plains perpetual tempests sigh, College, told me, I was the best qualified And pois'nous vapours, black’ning all the sky, With livid hue the fairest face o'ercast,
for the University that he had ever known And every beauty withers at the blast':
come there." Where'er they fly their lovers' ghosts pursue, In estimating the progress of his mind Inflicting all those ills which once they knew; Vexation, Fury, Jealousy, Despair,
during these two years, as well as in Vex ev'ry eye, and every bosom tear;
future periods of his life, we must not Their foul deformities by all descried,
regard his own hasty confession of idleNo maid to flatter, and no paint to hide. Then melt, ye fair, while crowds around you self, that he was acquiring various stores ;
ness; for we see, when he explains himsigh, Nor let disdain sit lowering in your eye;
and indeed he himself concluded the With pity soften
account, with saying, “I would not have And beauty smile auspicious in each face ; To ease their pains exert your milder
you think I was doing nothing then." So shall you guiltless reign, and all mankind He might, perhaps, have studied more adore.
assiduously; but it may be doubted, The two years which he spent at home, enriched by roaming at large in the fields
whether such a mind as his was not more after his return from Stourbridge, he of literature than if it had been confined passed in what he thought idleness, and
to was scolded by his father for his want of body and mind is very general, and the
any single spot. The analogy between steady application. He had no settled plan of life, nor looked forward at all
, parallel will hold as to their food, as well
as any other particular. The flesh of 1 Some young ladies at Lichfield having pro- animals who feed excursively, is allowed posed to act The Distressed Mother [by Ambrose Phillips), Johnson wrote this, and gave it to Mr.
to have a higher flavour than that of Hector to convey it privately to them, B. those who are cooped up. May there
not be the same difference between men tensive reading in which he had indulged who read as their taste prompts and men himself. who are confined in cells and colleges to
Mr. Jorden, fellow of stated tasks?
Pembroke, was not, it seems, a man of That a man in Mr. Michael Johnson's such abilities as we should conceive circumstances should think of sending his requisite for the instructor of Samuel son to the expensive University of Oxford, Johnson, who gave me the following at his own charge, seems very im- account of him. “He was a very worthy probable. The subject was too delicate man, but a heavy man, and I did not to question Johnson upon ; but I have profit much by his ir structions. Indeed, been assured by Dr. Taylor, that the I did not attend him much. The first scheme never would have taken place had day after I came to college, I waited not a gentleman of Shropshire, one of upon him, and then stayed away four. his schoolfellows, spontaneously under. On the sixth, Mr. Jorden asked me why taken to support him at Oxford, in the I had not attended. I answered, I had character of his companion : though, in been sliding in Christ Church meadow : fact, he never received any assistance and this I said with as much nonchalance whatever from that gentleman.
as I am now talking to you. I had no He, however, went to Oxford, and was notion that I was wrong or irreverent to entered a commoner of Pembroke College, my tutor. BOSWELL : That, Sir, was on the 31st of October, 1728, being then great fortitude of mind. JOHNSON : No, in his nineteenth year.
Sir ; stark insensibility.4 The Reverend Dr. Adams, who after The fifth of November was at that ward presided over Pembroke College time kept with great solemnity at Pemwith universal esteem, told me he was broke College, and exercises upon the present, and gave me some account of subject of the day were required. what passed on the night of Johnson's Johnson neglected to perform his, which arrival at Oxford. On that evening, his is much to be regretted ; for his vivacity father, who had anxiously accompanied of imagination, and force of language, him, found means to have him introduced would probably have produced something to Mr. Jorden, who was to be his tutor. sublime upon the gunpowder-plot. To His being put under any tutor, reminds apologise for his neglect, he gave in a short us of what Wood says of Robert Burton, copy of verses entitled Somnium, conauthor of the Anatomy of Melancholy, taining a common thought ; “That the when elected student of Christ Church ; Muse had come to him in his sleep, and “For form's sake, though he wanted not a whispered that it did not become him to tutor, he was put under the tuition of write on such subjects as politics ; he Dr. John Bancroft, afterward Bishop of should confine himself humbler
themes : ” but the versification was truly His father seemed very full of the Virgilian. merits of his son, and told the company He had a love and respect for Jorden, he was a good scholar, and a poet, and not for his literature, but for his worth. wrote Latin verses. His figure and " Whenever,” said he, “a young man manner appeared strange to them ; but becomes Jorden's pupil, he becomes his he behaved modestly, and sat silent, till son. upon something which occurred in the Having given such a specimen of his course of conversation, he suddenly struck poetical powers, he was asked by Mr. in and quoted Macrobius; and thus he Jorden to translate Pope's Messiah into gave the first impression of that more ex- La
verse, as a Christmas exercise. He 1 According to Hawkins, this gentleman was 3 Oxford, 20th March, 1776. B. Andrew Corbet, who was entered at Pembroke 4 It ought to be remembered, that Dr. Johnson College in 1727 Croker thinks him more likely was apt, in his literary as well as moral exercises, to have been Dr. Swinfen, who took his degree to overcharge his defects. Dr. Adams informed from Pembroke in 1712.
me, that he attended his tutor's lectures, and also 2 Athen. Oxon. edit. 1721, i. 627. B.
the lectures in the College Hal!, very regularly. B.