Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

knowledge, admire, and respect; but whom it is so impossible for me to love, that I am almost in a fever whenever I am in his company. His figure (without being deformed) seems made to disgrace or ridicule the common structure of the human body. His legs and arms are never in the position which, according to the situation of his body, they ought to be in, but constantly employed in committing acts of hostility upon the Graces. He throws any where, but down his throat, whatever he means to drink; and mangles what he means to carve. Inattentive to all the regards of social life, he mis-times and mis-places every thing.

“He disputes with heat indiscriminately,

mindless of the rank, character, and situation of those with whom he disputes. Absolutely ignorant of the several gradations of familiarity and respect, he is exactly the same to his superiors, his equals, and his inferiors;

‘ and therefore, by a necessary consequence,

is absurd to two of the three. Is it possible to love such a man? No. The utmost I can do for him is, to consider him a respectable Hottentot.” Such was the idea entertained

by Lord Chesterfield. After the incident of

F 2 Colley

Colley Cibber, Johnson never repeated his visits. In his high and decisive tone, he has been often heard to say, “Lord Chesterfield ** is a Wit among Lords, and a Lord among “ Wits.”

In the eourse of the year 1747, Garrick, in conjunction with Lacy, became patentee of Drury-lane Playhouse. For the opening of the theatre, at the usual time, Johnson wrote for his friend the well-known prologue, which, to say no more of it, may at least be placed on a level with Pope's to the tragedy of Cato. The playhouse being now under Garrick's direction, Johnson thought the opportunity fair to think of his tragedy of Irene, which was his whole stock on his first arrival. in town, in the year 1737. That play was accordingly put into rehearsal in January, 1749. As a precursor to prepare the way, and to awaken the public attention, The Vanity of Human Wishes, a Poem in Imitation of the Tenth. Satire of Juvenal, by the Author of London, was published in the same month. In the Gentleman's Magazine, for February 1749, we find that the tragedy of Irene was acted at Drury-lane, on Monday, February the

the 6th, and from that time, without interruption, to Monday, February the 20th, being in all thirteen nights. Since that time it has not been exhibited on any stage. Irene may be added to some other plays in our language, which have lost their place in the theatre, but continue to please in the closet. During the representation of this piece, Johnson attended every night behind the scenes. Conceiving that his character as an author required some ornament for his person, he chose, upon that occasion, to decorate himself with a handsome waistcoat, and a gold-laced hat. The late Mr. Topham Beauclerc, who had a great deal of that humour which pleases the more for seeming undesigned, used to give a pleasant description of this Greenroom finery, as related by the author himself; “But,” said Johnson, with great gravity, “I soon laid aside my gold-laced hat, lest it “should make me proud.” The amount of the three benefit nights for the tragedy of Irene, it is to be feared, was not very considerable, as the profit, that stimulating motive, never invited the author to another dramatic attempt. Some years afterwards, when the present writer was intimate with . . E 3 Garrick, Garrick, and knew Johnson to be in distress, he asked the manager why he did not produce another tragedy for his Lichfield friend? Garrick's answer was remarkable : “When Johnson writes tragedy, declamation roars, and passion sleeps : when Shakspeare “ wrote, he dipped his pen in his own heart.”

There may, perhaps, be a degree of sameness in this regular way of tracing an author from one work to another, and the reader may feel the effect of a tedious monotony; but in the life of Johnson there are no other landmarks. He was now, forty years old, and had mixed but little with the world. He followed no profession, transacted no business, and was a stranger to what is called a town-life. We are now arrived at the brightest period he had hitherto known. His name broke out upon mankind with a degree of lustre that promised a triumph over all his difficulties. The Life of Savage was admired as a beautiful and instructive piece of biography. The two imitations of Juvenal were thought to rival even the excellence of Pope; and the tragedy of Irene, though uninteresting on the stage, was universally

r ) : a admired

* - - * t

admired in the closet, for the propriety of the sentiments, the richness of the language, and the general harmony of the whole composition. His fame was widely diffused; and he had made his agreement with the booksellers for his English Dictionary at the sum of fifteen hundred guineas; part of which was to be, from time to time, advanced in proportion to the progress of the work. This was a certain fund for his support, without being obliged to write fugitive pieces for the petty supplies of the day. Accordingly we find that, in 1749, he established a club, consisting of ten in number, at Horseman's in Ivy-lane, on every Tuesday evening. This is the first scene of social life to which Johnson can be traced out of his own house. The members of this little society were, Samuel Johnson; Dr. Salter (father of the late Master of the Charter-house); Dr. Hawkesworth; Mr. Ryland, a merchant; Mr. Payne, a bookseller, in Pater-noster-row; Mr. Samuel Dyer, a learned young man; Dr. William M“Ghie, a Scotch Physician; Dr. Edmund Barker, a young physician; Dr. Bathurst, another young physician; and Sir John Hawkins. This list is given by Sir John, as &m Jo 4 it

« AnteriorContinuar »