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“If there be any land, as Fame reports, Where common laws restrain the prince and subject; A happy land, where circulating power Flows through each member of th’ embodied state; Sure, not unconscious of the mighty blessing, Her grateful sons shine bright with ev'ry virtue; Untainted with the LUST of INNov ATION ; Sure all unite to hold her league of rule, Unbroken as the sacred chain of Nature, That links the jarring elements in peace.”
These are British sentiments. Above forty years ago they found an echo in the breast of applauding audiences; and to this hour they are the voice of the people, in defiance of the metaphysicks and the new lights of certain politicians, who would gladly find their private advantage in the disasters of their country ; a race of men, quibus nulla ew homesto spes.
The Prologue to Irene is written with elegance, and, in a peculiar strain shows the literary pride and lofty spirit of the author. The Epilogue, we are told in a late publication, was written by Sir William Young. This is a new discovery, but by no means
probable. When the appendages to a Dra
matick Performance are not assigned to a friend, or an unknown hand, or a person of fashion, they are always supposed to be written by the author of the Play. It is to be wished, however, that the Epilogue in question could be transferred to any other writer. It is the worst Jeu d'Esprit that ever fell from Johnson's pen”.
An account of the various pieces contained in this edition, such as miscellaneous tracts, and philological dissertations, would lead beyond the intended limits of this essay. It will suffice to say, that they are the productions of a man who never wanted decorations of language, and always taught his reader to think. The life of the late king of Prussia, as far as it extends, is a model of the biographical style. The Review of THE ORIG IN of Ev II, was, perhaps, written with asperity; but the angry epitaph, which it provoked from So AM E. JENYNs, was an ill-timed re
* Dr. Johnson informed Mr. Boswell that this Epilogue was written by Sir William Young. See Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. 1. p. 169–70, 8vo. edit. 1804. Theinternal evidence that it is not Johnson's is very strong, partier:larly in the line, “But how the devil,” &c. C.
sentment, unworthy of the genius of that amiable author.
The Rambler may be considered as Johnson's great work. It was the basis of that high reputation which went on increasing to the end of his days. The circulation of those periodical essays was not, at first, equal to their merit. They had not, like the Spectators, the art of charming by variety; and indeed how could it be expected? The wits of queen Anne's reign sent their contributions to the Spectator; and Johnson stood alone. A stage-coach, says Sir Richard Steele, must go forward on stated days, whether there are passengers or not. So it was with the Rambler, every Tuesday and Saturday, for two years. In this collection Johnson is the great moral teacher of his countrymen ; his essays form a body of ethics; the observations on life and manners are acute and instructive ; and the papers professedly critical, serve to promote the cause of literature. It must, however, be acknowledged, that a settled gloom hangs over the author's mind; and all the essays, except eight or ten, coming from the same fountain-head, no wonder that they have the raciness of the soil from which they sprang. Of this uniformity Johnson was sensible. He used to say, that if he had joined a friend or two, who would have been able to intermix papers of a sprightly turn, the collection would have been more miscellaneous, and by consequence more agreeable to the generality of readers. This he used to illustrate by repeating two beautiful stanzas from his own Ode to Cave, or Sylvanus
Non ulla Musis pagina gratior,
Texente nymphis certa Lycoride,
It is remarkable, that the pomp of diction, which has been objected to Johnson, was first assumed in the Rambler. His Dictionary was going on at the same time, and, in the course of that work, as he grew familiar with technical technical and scholastic words, he thought that the bulk of his readers were equally learned ; or at least would admire the splendour and dignity of the style. And yet it is well known, that he praised in Cowley the ease and unaffected structure of the sentences. Cowley may be placed at the head of those who cultivated a clear and natural style. Dryden, Tillotson, and Sir William Temple, followed. Addison, Swift, and Pope, with more correctness, carried our language well nigh to perfection. Of Addison, Johnson was used to say, He is the Raphael of Essay JWriters. How he differed so widely from such elegant models is a problem not to be solved, unless it be true that he took an early tincture from the writers of the last century, particularly Sir Thomas Browne. Hence the peculiarities of his style, new combinations, sentences of an unusual structure, and words derived from the learned languages. His own account of the matter is, “When “ common words were less pleasing to the “ear, or less distinct in their signification, I “familiarized the terms of philosophy, by “applying them to popular ideas.” But he forgot the observation of Dryden : If too