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operations of every mind. By him we are told, “Masterless passion sways us to the mood “ of what it likes or loaths.”
It remains to enquire, whether in the lives before us the characters are partial, and too often drawn with malignity of misrepresentation. To prove this it is alleged, that Johnson has misrepresented the circumstances relative to the translation of the first Iliad, and maliciously ascribed that performance to Addison, instead of Tickell, with too much reliance on the testimony of Pope, taken from the account in the papers left by Mr. Spence. For a refutation of the fallacy imputed to Addison, we are referred to a note in the Biographia Britannica, written by the late Judge Blackstone, who, it is said, examined the whole matter with accuracy, and found that the first regular statement of the accusation against Addison was published by Ruffhead, in his Life of Pope, from the materials which he received from Dr. Warburton. But, with all due deference to the learned Judge, whose talents deserve all praise, this account is by InO naeanS acCul’ate.
N 3 Sir
Sir Richard Steele, in a dedication of the Comedy of the Drummer to Mr. Congreve, gave the first insight into that business. He says, in a style of anger and resentment, “If “ that gentleman (Mr. Tickell) thinks him“self injured, I will allow I have wronged “ him upon this issue, that (if the reputed translator of the first book of Homer shall please to give us another book) there shall appear another good judge in poetry, besides Mr. Alexander Pope, who shall like “it.” The authority of Steele outweighs all opinions founded on vain conjecture, and, in
deed, seems to be decisive, since we do not find that Tickell, though warmly pressed, thought proper to vindicate himself.
But the grand proof. of Johnson's malignity is the manner in which he has treated the character and conduct of Milton. To enforce this charge has wearied sophistry, and exhausted the invention of a party. What they cannot deny, they palliate; what they cannot prove, they say is probable. But why all all this rage against Dr. Johnson 2 Addison, before him, had said of Milton:
Oh! had the Poet ne'er prophan'd his pen,
And had not Johnson an equal right to avow his sentiments! Do his enemies claim a privilege to abuse whatever is valuable to Englishmen, either in Church or State 2 and must the liberty of UNLIce Nsed PRINTING be denied to the friends of the British constitution?
It is unnecessary to pursue the argument through all its artifices, since, dismantled of ornament and seducing language, the plain truth may be stated in a narrow compass. Johnson knew that Milton was a republican ; he says, “an acrimonious and surly republi“can, for which it is not known that he gave “any better reason, than that a popular go“vernment was the most frugal; for, the “ trappings of a monarchy would set up an “ordinary commonwealth.” Johnson knew that Milton talked aloud “ of the danger of “Re-ADMITTING RINgship in this nation;” N 4 and and when Milton adds, “ that a common“wealth was commended, or rather ENJoIN“ED, by our Saviour himself, to all Christians, “ not without a remarkable disallowance, and “ the brand of Gentilism UPon KING's HIP,” Johnson thought him no better than a wild enthusiast. He knew as well as Milton, “that “ the happiness of a nation must needs be “ firmest and certainest in a full and free “ council of their own electing, where no single “ person, but reason only, sways;” but the example of all the republics, recorded in the annals of mankind, gave him no room to hope that REA son only would be heard. He knew that the republican form of government, having little or no complication, and no consonance of parts by a nice mechanism forming a regular whole, was too simple to be beautiful even in theory. In practice it, perhaps, never existed. In its most flourishing state, at Athens, Rome, and Carthage, it was a constant scene of tumult and commotion. From the mischiefs of a wild democracy, the progress has ever been to the dominion of an aristocracy ; and the word aristocracy fatally includes the boldest and most turbulent citizens, who rise by their
crimes, crimes, and call themselves the best men in the state. By intrigue, by cabal, and faction, a pernicious oligarchy is sure to succeed, and end at last in the tyranny of a single ruler. Tacitus, the great master of political wisdom, saw, under the mixed authority of king, nobles, and people, a better form of government, than Milton's boasted republic; and what Tacitus admired in theory, but despaired of enjoying, Johnson saw established in this country. He knew that it had been overturned by the rage of frantic men; but he knew that, after the iron rod of Cromwell's usurpation, the constitution was once more restored to its first principles. Monarchy was established, and this country was regenerated. It was regenerated a second time at the Re- volution: the rights of men were then defined, and the blessings of good order and civil liberty have been ever since diffused through the whole community.