Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

“ blazed forth;” but, as they have been lately re-printed, the reader, who wishes to gratify his curiosity, is referred to the fourteenth volume of Johnson's works, published by Stockdale. The lives of Boerhaave, Blake, Barratier, Father Paul, and others, were, about that time, printed in the Gentleman's Magazine. The subscription of fifty pounds a year for Savage was completed; and in July, 1739, Johnson parted with the companion of his midnight hours, never to see him more. The separation was, perhaps, an advantage to him, who wanted to make a right use of his time, and even then beheld with selfreproach the waste occasioned by dissipation. His abstinence from wine and strong liquors began soon after the departure of Savage. What habits he contracted in the course of that acquaintance cannot now be known. The ambition of excelling in conversation, and that pride of victory, which, at times, disgraced a man of Johnson's genius, were, perhaps, native blemishes. A fierce spirit of independence, even in the midst of poverty, may be seen in Savage; and, if not thence transfused by Johnson into his own manners, it may, at least, be supposed to have gained

strength stren gth from the example before him. During that connection there was, if we believe Sir John Hawkins, a short separation between our author and his wife; but a reconciliation soon took place. Johnson loved her, and shewed his affection in various modes of gallantry, which Garrick used to render ridiculous by his mimicry. The affectation of soft and fashionable airs did not become an unwieldy figure: his admiration was received by the wife with the flutter of an antiquated coquette ; and both, it is well known, furnished matter for the lively genius of Garrick.

It is a mortifying reflection, that Johnson, with a store of learning and extraordinary talents, was not able, at the age of thirty, to force his way to the favour of the publick. Slow rises worth by poverty depress'd. “ He “ was still,” as he says himself, “to provide “ for the day that was passing over him.” He saw Cave involved in a state of warfare with the numerous competitors, at that time struggling with the Gentleman's Magazine; and gratitude for such supplies as Johnson

* received

received dictated a Latin Ode on the subject of that contention. The first lines,

“ Urbane, nullis fesse laboribus,
“ Urbane, nulius victe calumniis,”

put one in mind of Casimir's Ode to Pope

Urban :

“ Urbane, regum maxime, maxime

“ Urbane vatum.”—

The Polish poet was, probably, at that time in the hands of a man who had meditated the history of the Latin poets. Guthrie the historian had from July 1736 composed the parliamentary speeches for the Magazine; but, from the beginning of the session which opened on the 19th of November, 1740, Johnson succeeded to that department, and continued it from that time to the debate on spirituous liquors, which happened in the House of Lords in February, 1742-3. The eloquence, the force of argument, and the splendor of language, displayed in the several speeches, are well known, and universally admired. The whole has been collected in two volumes by Mr. Stockdale, and may form a proper supplement to this edition. That Johnson

[merged small][ocr errors]

was the author of the debates during that period was not generally known; but the secret transpired several years afterwards, and was avowed by himself on the following occasion. Mr. Wedderburne (now Lord Loughborough”), Dr. Johnson, Dr. Francis (the translator of Horace), the present writer, and others, dined with the late Mr. Foote. An important debate towards the end of Sir Robert Walpole's administration being mentioned, Dr. Francis observed, “That Mr. “ Pitt's speech, on that occasion, was the best “ he had ever read.” He added, “That he “ had employed eight years of his life in the “ study of Demosthenes, and finished a trans“ lation of that celebrated orator, with all the “ decorations of style and language within “ the reach of his capacity; but he had met “ with nothing equal to the speech above“ mentioned.” Many of the company remembered the debate; and some passages were cited, with the approbation and applause of all present. During the ardour of conversation Johnson remained silent. As soon as the warmth of praise subsided, he opened with these words: “That speech I wrote in

* Afterwards Earl of Roslin. He died Jan. 3, 1805. a garret

a garret in Exeter-street.” The company was struck with astonishment. After staring at each other in silent amaze, Dr. Francis asked, “How that speech could be written “ by him?” “Sir,” said Johnson, “I wrote “ it in Exeter-street. I never had been “ in the gallery of the House of Commons “ but once. Cave had interest with the door“ keepers. He, and the persons employed “ under him, gained admistance: they brought away the subject of discussion, the names of the speakers, the side they took, and the order in which they rose, together with notes of the arguments advanced in the course of the debate. The whole was afterwards communicated to me, and I composed the speeches in the form which they now have in the Parliamentary “ debates.” To this discovery Dr. Francis made answer: “Then, Sir, you have exceeded De“ mosthenes himself; for to say, that you have “ exceeded Francis's Demosthenes, would be “ saying nothing.” The rest of the company bestowed lavish encomiums on Johnson : one, in particular, praised his impartiality; observing, that he dealt out reason and eloN * quence

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »