Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]

"I BELIEVE I am going to write a long letter, and have therefore taken a whole sheet of paper. The first thing to be written about is our historical design.

"You mentioned the proposal of printing in numbers, as an alteration in the scheme, but I believe you mistook, some way or other, my meaning; I had no other view than that you might rather print too many of five sheets, than of five-and-thirty.


"With regard to what I shall say on manner of proceeding, I would have it understood as wholly indifferent to me, and my opinion only, not my resolution. Emptoris sit eligere.

"I think the insertion of the exact dates of the most important events in the margin, or of so many events as may enable the reader to regulate the order of facts with sufficient exactness, the proper medium between a journal, which has regard only to time, and a history which ranges facts according to their dependence on each other, and postpones or anticipates according to the convenience of narration. I think the work ought to partake of the spirit of history, which is contrary to minute exactness, and of the regularity of a journal, which is inconsistent with spirit. For this reason, I neither admit numbers nor dates, nor reject them.

"I am of your opinion with regard to placing most of the resolutions, &c., in the margin, and think we shall give the most complete account of parliamentary proceedings that can be contrived. The naked papers, without an historical treatise interwoven, require some other book to make them understood. I will date the succeeding facts with some exactness, but I think in the margin. You told me on Saturday that I had received money on this work, and found set down 137. 25. 6d. reckoning the half-guinea of last Saturday. As you hinted to me that you had many calls for money, I would not press you too hard, and therefore shall desire only, as I send it in, two guineas for a sheet of copy; the rest you may pay me, when it may be more convenient; and even by this sheet-payment I shall, for some time, be very expensive.


"The Life of Savage I am ready to upon; and in Great Primer, and Pica notes, I reckon on sending in half a sheet a day; but the money for that shall likewise lie by in your hands till it is done. With the debates, shall not I have business enough? if I had but good pens.

"Towards Mr. Savage's Life what more have you got? I would willingly have his trial, &c., and know whether his defence be at Bristol, and would have his collection of poems, on account of the Preface ;-"The Plain Dealer,"1-all the

[blocks in formation]

"I had no notion of having any thing for the inscription. I hope you don't think I kept it to extort a price. I could think of nothing till today. If you could spare me another guinea for the history, I should take it very kindly, tonight; but if you do not, I shall not think it an injury. I am almost well again."



"You did not tell me your determination about the Soldier's Letter,2 which I am confident was never printed. I think it will not do by itself, or in any other place, so well as the Mag. Extraordinary. If you will have it all, I believe you do not think I set it high, and I will be glad if what you give, you will give quickly.

"You need not be in care about something to print, for I have got the State Trials, and shall extract Layer, Atterbury, and Macclesfield from them, and shall bring them to you in a fortnight; after which I will try to get the South Sea Report." [No date, nor signature.] "Essay

I would also ascribe to him an on the Description of China, from the French of Du Halde."+

His writings in the "Gentleman's Magazine" in 1743, are, the Preface, the Parliamentary Debates, "Considerations on the Dispute between Crousaz and Warburton, on Pope's Essay on Man';"† in which, while he defends Crousaz, he shews an admirable metaphysical acuteness and temperance in controversy; "Ad Lauram parituram Epigramma; * 3 and, "A

Latin Translation of Pope's Verses on his Grotto ";* and, as he could employ his pen with equal success upon a small matter as a great, I suppose him to be the author of an advertisement for Osborne, concerning the great Harleian Catalogue. 2 I have not discovered what this was. B. 3 Angliacas inter pulcherrima Laura puellas, Mox uteri pondus depositura grave, Adsit, Laura, tibi facilis Lucina dolenti, Neve tibi noceat prænituisse Deæ.

Mr. Hector was present when this Epigram was made impromptu. The first line was proposed by Dr. James, and Johnson was called 1 The Plain Dealer was published in 1724, and upon by the company to finish it, which he incontained some account of Savage. B.

stantly did. B.


But I should think myself much wanting, both to my illustrious friend and my readers, did I not introduce here, with more than ordinary respect, an exquisitely beautiful Ode, which has not been inserted in any of the collections of Johnson's poetry, written by him at a very early period, as Mr. Hector informs me, and inserted in the "Gentleman's Magazine" of this year.


FRIENDSHIP, peculiar boon of heav'n,
The noble mind's delight and pride,
To men and angels only giv'n,

To all the lower world deny'd.

While love unknown among the blest, Parent of thousand wild desires, → The savage and the human breast

Torments alike with raging fires;

With bright, but oft destructive, gleam,
Alike o'er all his lightnings fly;
Thy lambent glories only beam
Around the fav'rites of the sky.
Thy gentle flows of guiltless joys

On fools and villains ne'er descend:
In vain for thee the tyrant sighs,

And hugs a flatterer for a friend.

Directress of the brave and just,

O guide us through life's darksome way!
And let the tortures of mistrust

On selfish bosoms only prey.
Nor shall thine ardour cease to glow,
When souls to blissful climes remove :
What rais'd our virtue here below,

Shall aid our happiness above.

Johnson had now an opportunity of obliging his schoolfellow, Dr. James, of whom he once observed, ": no man brings more mind to his profession." James published this year his "Medicinal Dictionary," in three volumes folio. Johnson, as I understood from him, had written, or assisted in writing, the proposals for this work; and being very fond of the study of physic, in which James was his master, he furnished some of the articles. He, however, certainly wrote for it the Dedication to Dr. Mead,† which is conceived with great address, to conciliate the patronage of that very eminent man.1

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]


It has been circulated, I know not with what authenticity, that Johnson considered Dr. Birch as a dull writer, and said of him, "Tom Birch is as brisk as a bee in conversation; but no sooner does he take a pen in his hand, than it becomes a torpedo to him, and benumbs all his faculties." That the literature of this country is much indebted to Birch's activity and diligence must certainly be acknowledged. We have seen that Johnson honoured him with a Greek Epigram; and his correspondence with him, during many years, proves that he had no mean opinion of him.2

[blocks in formation]

His circumstances were at this time embarrassed; yet his affection for his mother was so warm, and so liberal, that he took upon himself a debt of hers, which, though small in itself, was then consider

which I have endeavoured to explain and facilitate: and you are, therefore, to consider this rewards of merit, and if otherwise, as one of the address, if it be agreeable to you, as one of the inconveniences of eminence. However you shall receive it, my design cannot be disappointed; because this public appeal to your judgment will shew that I do not found my hopes of approbation upon the ignorance of my readers, and that I fear his censure least, whose knowledge is most extensive. I am Sir, your most obedient humble servant, R. JAMES." B.

Leyden, and Padua, where he took his doctor's Richard Mead (1675-1754) studied at Utrecht, degree. He was appointed physician to St. Thomas's Hospital, and was a strong supporter of inoculation for small-pox. He published several works on his profession.

1 Thomas Birch (1705-66), originally a Quaker, afterwards a clergyman of the Church of England. He was chaplain to Lord Kilmarnock, who was executed for his share in the Rebellion of 1745; a voluminous writer, and an honest, industrious man. He left his library and collection of manuscripts to the British Museum, of which he was a trustee.

able to him. This appears from the following letter which he wrote to Mr. Levett, of Lichfield, the original of which lies now before me.



"December 1, 1743.

"I AM extremely sorry that we have encroached so much upon your forbearance with respect to the interest, which a great perplexity of affairs hindered me from thinking of with that attention that I ought, and which I am not immediately able to remit to you, but will pay it think twelve pounds) in two months. I look upon this, and on the future interest of that mortgage, as my own debt; and beg that you will be pleased to give me directions how to pay it,

and not mention it to my dear mother. If it be necessary to pay this in less time, I believe I can do it; but I take two months for certainty, and beg an answer whether you can allow me so much time. I think myself very much obliged to your forbearance, and shall esteem it a great happiness to be able to serve you. I have great opportunities of dispersing any thing that you may think it proper to make public. I will give a note for the money, payable at the time mentioned, to any one here that you shall appoint. I am, Sir, your most obedient and most humble



"At Mr. Osborne's, bookseller, "in Gray's Inn."

It does not appear that he wrote any thing in 1744 for the "Gentleman's Magazine, "but the Preface. His "Life of Barretier" was now re-published in a pamphlet by itself. But he produced one work this year, fully sufficient to maintain the high reputation which he had acquired. This was "THE LIFE OF RICHARD SAVAGE";* a man, of whom it is difficult to speak impartially, without wondering that he was for some time the intimate companion of Johnson; for his character1

As a specimen of his temper, I insert the following letter from him to a noble Lord [Tyrconnel], to whom he was under great obligations, but who, on account of his bad conduct, was obliged to discard him. The original was in the hands of the late Francis Cockayne Cust, Esq., one of his Majesty's Counsel learned in the law: "Right Honourable BRUTE and BOOBY,-I find you want (as Mr. is pleased to hint) to swear away my life, that is, the life of your creditor, because he asks you for a debt.-The public shall soon be acquainted with this, to judge whether you are not fitter to be an Irish Evidence, than to be an Irish Peer.-I defy and despise you. I am, your determined adversary, R. S." B.

was marked by profligacy, insolence and ingratitude: yet, as he undoubtedly had a warm and vigorous, though unregulated mind, had seen life in all its varieties, and been much in the company of the statesmen and wits of his time, he could communicate to Johnson an abundant supply of such materials as his philosophical curiosity most eagerly desired; and, as Savage's misfortunes and misconduct had reduced him to the lowest state of wretchedness as a writer for his bread, his visit to St. John's Gate naturally brought Johnson and him together.2

It is melancholy to reflect, that Johnson and Savage were sometimes in such extreme indigence,3 that they could not pay

2 Sir John Hawkins gives the world to understand, that Johnson, "Being an admirer of genteel manners, was captivated by the address. and demeanour of Savage, who, as to his exterior, was to a remarkable degree accomplished." --Hawkins's Life, p. 52. But Sir John's notions of gentility must appear somewhat ludicrous, from his stating the following circumstance as presumptive evidence that Savage was a good

swordsman: "That he understood the exercise of
a gentleman's weapon, may be inferred from the
use made of it in that rash encounter which is
related in his life." The dexterity here alluded
to was, that Savage, in a nocturnal fit of drunken-
ness, stabbed a man at a coffee-house, and killed
him for which he was tried at the Old Bailey,
and found guilty of murder. Johnson, indeed,
describes him as having "A grave and manly
deportment, a solemn dignity of mien; but
which, upon a nearer acquaintance, softened into
an engaging casiness of manners.' How highly
Johnson admired him for that knowledge which
he himself so much cultivated, and what kindness
he entertained for him, appears from the following
lines in the Gentleman's Magazine for April,
1738, which I am assured were written by

"Humani studium generis cui pectore fervet,
O colat humanum te foveatque genus.'
The original title, given by Croker, is as absurd

as the lines themselves.


[blocks in formation]


for a lodging; so that they have wandered together whole nights in the streets. Yet in these almost incredible scenes of distress, we may suppose that Savage mentioned many of the anecdotes with which Johnson afterwards enriched the life of this unhappy companion, and those of other poets.

He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that one night in particular, when Savage and he walked round St. James's Square for want of a lodging, they were not at all depressed by their situation; but in high spirits and brimful of patriotism, traversed the square for several hours, inveighed against the minister, and "resolved they would stand by their country."

[ocr errors]

I am afraid, however, that by associating with Savage, who was habituated to the dissipation and licentiousness of the town, Johnson, though his good principles remained steady, did not entirely preserve that conduct, for which, in days of greater simplicity, he was remarked by his friend Mr. Hector; but was imperceptibly led into some indulgences which occasioned much distress to his virtuous mind.

That Johnson was anxious that an authentic and favourable account of his extraordinary friend should first get possession of the public attention, is evident from a letter which he wrote in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for August of the year preceding its publication.


"As your collections shew how often you have owed the ornaments of your poetical pages to the correspondence of the unfortunate and ingenious Mr. Savage, I doubt not but you have so much regard to his memory as to encourage any design that may have a tendency to the preservation of it from insults or calumnies; and therefore, with some degree of assurance, entreat you to inform the public, that his life will speedily be published by a person who was favoured with his confidence, and received from

himself an account of most of the transactions

Harte dined with Edward Cave, and occasionally praised it. Soon after, meeting him, Cave said, You made a man very happy t'other day.''How could that be,' says Harte; nobody was there but ourselves. Cave answered by reminding him that a plate of victuals was sent behind a screen, which was to Johnson, dressed so shabbily, that he did not choose to appear; but on hearing the conversation, he was highly delighted with the encomiums on his book.'


which he proposes to mention, to the time of his retirement to Swansea in Wales.

of Bristol, the account will be continued from "From that period, to his death in the prison materials still less liable to objection; his own letters, and those of his friends, some of which will be inserted in the work, and abstracts of others subjoined in the margin.

"It may be reasonably imagined, that others may have the same design; but as it is not credible that they can obtain the same materials, vention the want of intelligence; and that under it must be expected they will supply from inthe title of 'The Life of Savage,' they will publish only a novel, filled with romantic advenperhaps, gratify the lovers of truth and wit, by tures, and imaginary amours. You may therefore, giving me leave to inform them in your Magazine, that my account will be published in 8vo by Mr. Roberts, in Warwick-lane.' [No signature.]

In February, 1744, it accordingly came forth from the shop of Roberts, between whom and Johnson I have not traced any connexion, except the casual one of this publication. In Johnson's "Life of Savage," although it must be allowed that its moral is the reverse of " Respicere exemplar vita morumque jubebo," a very useful lesson is inculcated, to guard men of warm passions from a too free indulgence of them; and the various incidents are related in so clear and animated a manner, and illuminated throughout with so much philosophy, that it is one of the most interesting narratives in the English language. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me, that upon his return from Italy he met with it in Devonshire, knowing nothing of its author, and began to read it while he was standing with his arm leaning against a chimney-piece. It seized his attention so strongly, that, not being able to lay down the book till he had finished it, when he attempted to move, he found his arm totally benumbed. The rapidity with which this work was composed, is a wonderful circumstance. been heard to say, "I wrote forty-eight Johnson has of the printed octavo pages of the 'Life of Savage' at a sitting; but then I sat up all night."1

He exhibits the genius of Savage to the

1 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3rd edit. p. 35. B. Johnson received fifteen guineas from Cave for the book, which reached a second edition in 1748, a third in 1767, and a fourth in 1769. A French translation was published in It was included in the Lives of the Poets.


best advantage, in the specimens of his poetry which he has selected, some of which are of uncommon merit. We, indeed, occasionally find such vigour and such point, as might make us suppose that the generous aid of Johnson had been imparted to his friend. Mr. Thomas Warton made this remark to me ; and, in support of it, quoted from the poem entitled "The Bastard," a line in which the fancied superiority of one Stamped in Nature's mint with ecstasy," is contrasted with a regular lawful descendant of some great and ancient family:


"No tenth transmitter of a foolish face."

But the fact is that this poem was published some years before Johnson and Savage were acquainted.

It is remarkable, that in this biographical disquisition there appears a very strong symptom of Johnson's prejudice against players ; a prejudice which may be attributed to the following causes: first, the imperfection of his organs, which were so defective that he was not susceptible of the fine impressions which theatrical excellence produces upon the generality of mankind; secondly, the cold rejection of his tragedy; and, lastly, the brilliant success of Garrick, who had been his pupil, who had come to London at the same time with him, not in a much more prosperous state than himself, and whose talents he undoubtedly rated low, compared with his own. His being outstripped by his pupil in the race of immediate fame, as well as of fortune, probably made him feel some indignation, as thinking that whatever might be Garrick's merits in his art, the reward was too great when compared with what the most successful efforts of literary labour could attain. At all periods of his life Johnson used to talk contemptuously of players; but in this work he speaks of them with peculiar acrimony; for which, perhaps, there was formerly too much reason from the licentious and dissolute manners of those engaged in that profession. It is but justice to add, that in our own time such a change has taken place, that there is no longer room for such an unfavourable distinction.

His schoolfellow and friend, Dr. Taylor, told me a pleasant anecdote of Johnson's triumphing over his pupil, David Garrick. When that great actor had played some little time at Goodman's Fields, Johnson and Taylor went to see him perform, and afterwards passed the evening at a tavern with him and old Giffard.1 Johnson, who was ever depreciating stage-players, after censuring some mistakes in emphasis, which Garrick had committed in the course of that night's acting, said, "The players, Sir, have got a kind of rant, with which they run on, without any regard either to accent or emphasis." Both Garrick and Giffard were offended at this sarcasm, and endeavoured to refute it; upon which Johnson rejoined, "Well now, I'll give you something to speak, with which you are little acquainted, and then we shall see how just my observation is. That shall be the criterion. Let me hear you repeat the ninth Commandment, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Both tried at it, said Dr. Taylor, and both mistook the emphasis, which should be upon not and false witness. Johnson put them right, and enjoyed his victory with great glee.

[ocr errors]

His "Life of Savage was no sooner published, than the following liberal praise was given to it, in "The Champion,” a periodical paper :

author, as just and well written a piece as of its "This pamphlet is, without flattery to its kind I ever saw; so that at the same time that it highly deserves, it certainly stands very little in need of this recommendation. As to the history of the unfortunate person, whose memoirs compose this work, it is certainly penned with equal accuracy and spirit, of which I am so much the better judge, as I know many of the facts mentioned to be strictly true, and very fairly related. Besides, it is not only the story of Mr. Savage, but innumerable incidents relating to other persons, and other affairs, which renders tive and valuable performance. this a very amusing, and, withal, a very instrucThe author's

1 Giffard was manager of the theatre in Goodman's Fields, where Garrick made his first appearance in London, October 19, 1741. statement. 2 I suspect Dr. Taylor was inaccurate in this The emphasis should be equally upon shalt and not, as both concur to form the negative injunction; and false witness, like the be marked by any peculiar emphasis, but only be other acts prohibited in the Decalogue, should not

distinctly enunciated. B.

« AnteriorContinuar »