Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Dr. Johnson was not willing to reject. He wished for some positive proof of communications with another world. His benevolence embraced the whole race of man, and yet was tinctured with particular prejudices. He was pleased with the minister in the Isle of Sky, he loved him so much that he began to wish him not a Presbyterian. To that body of Dissenters his zeal for the Established Church made him in some degree an adversary ; and his attachment to a mixed and limited Monarchy led him to declare open war against what he called a sullen Republican. He would rather praise a man of Oxford than of Cambridge. He disliked a Whig, and loved a Tory. These were the shades of his character, which it has been the business of certain party-writers to represent

in the darkest colours. Since virtue, or moral goodness, consists in a just conformity of our actions to the relations in which we stand to the Supreme Being and to our fellow-creatures, where shall we find a man who has been, or endeavoured to be, more diligent in the discharge of those essential duties? His first prayer was composed in 17 38; he continued those fervent ejaculations ejaculations of piety to the end of his life. In his Meditations we see him scrutinizing himself with severity, and aiming at perfection unattainable by man. His duty to his neighbour consisted in universal benevolence, and a constant aim at the production of happiness. Who was more sincere and steady in his friendships? It has been said that there was no real affection between him and Garrick. On the part of the latter, there might be some corrosions of jealousy. The character of PROs PERo, in the Rambler, N° 200, was, beyond all question, occasioned by Garrick's ostentatious display of furniture and Dresden china. It was surely fair to take from this incident a hint for a moral essay : and, though no more was intended, Garrick, we are told, remembered it with uneasiness. He was also hurt that his Litchfield friend did not think so highly of his dramatick art as the rest of the world. The fact was, Johnson could not see the passions as they rose and chased one another in the varied features of that expressive face; and by his own manner of reciting verses, which was wonderfully impressive, he plainly showed that he thought there was too much of artificial tone and

L 2 measured

measured cadence in the declamation of the theatre. The present writer well remembers being in conversation with Dr. Johnson near the side of the scenes during the tragedy of King Lear; when Garrick came off the stage, he said, “You two talk so loud you destroy “ all my feelings.” “Prithee,” replied Johnson, “do not talk of feelings, Punch has no feelings.” This seems to have been his settled opinion ; admirable as Garrick's imitation of nature always was, Johnson thought it no better than mere mimickry. Yet it is certain that he esteemed and loved Garrick; that he dwelt with pleasure on his praise; and used to declare, that he deserved his great success, because on all applications for charity he gave more than was asked. After Garrick's death he never talked of him without a tear in his eyes. He offered, if Mrs. Garrick would desire it of him, to be the editor of his works and the historian of his life”. It has

* It is to be regretted that he was not encouraged in this undertaking. The assistance, however, which he gave to Davies, in writing the Life of Garrick, has been acknowledged in general terms by that writer, and, from the evidence of style, appears to have been very consi

derable. C. been

been mentioned, that on his death-bed he thought of writing a Latin inscription to the memory of his friend. Numbers are still living who know these facts, and still remember with gratitude the friendship which he showed to them with unaltered affection for a number of years. His humanity and generosity, in proportion to his slender income, were unbounded. It has been truly said, that the lame, the blind, and the sorrowful, found in his house a sure retreat. A strict adherence to truth he considered as a sacred obligation, insomuch that, in relating the most minute anecdote, he would not allow himself the smallest addition to embellish his story. The late Mr. Tyers, who knew Dr. Johnson intimately, observed, “that he always “ talked as if he was talking upon oath.”

After a long acquaintance with this excellent man, and an attentive retrospect to his whole conduct, such is the light in which he appears to the writer of this essay. The following lines of Horace may be deemed his picture in miniature.

L 3 Iracundior

Tracundiorest paulo, minus aptus acutis
Naribus horum hominum, rideri possit, eo quod
Rusticius tonso toga defluit, & male laxus
In pede calceus hæret; at est bonus, ut melior vir
Non alius quisquam; at tibi amicus, at ingenium
. ingens,

Inculto latet hoc sub corpore.

“Your friend is passionate, perhaps unfit For the brisk petulance of modern wit. His hair ill-cut, his robe that awkward flows, Or his large shoes, to raillery expose. The man you love; yet is he not possess'd Of virtues, with which very few are blest? While underneath this rude, uncouth disguise A genius of extensive knowledge lies. Francis's Hor. Book i. Sat. 3.

It remains to give a review of Johnson's works ; and this, it is imagined, will not be unwelcome to the reader.

Like Milton and Addison, he seems to have been fond of his Latin poetry. Those compositions show that he was an early scholar; but his verses have not the graceful ease that gave so much suavity to the poems of Addison. The translation of the Messiah labours

« AnteriorContinuar »