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It will be observed, that he reserves to himself the right of printing one edition of this satire, which was his practice upon occasion of the sale of all his writings; it being his fixed intention to publish at some period, for his own profit, a complete collection of his works.
His “ Vanity of human Wishes” has less of common life, but more of a philosophick dignity than his “ London.” More readers, therefore, will be delighted with the pointed spirit of “ London,” than with the profound reflection of “ The Vanity of human Wishes.” Garrick, for instance, observed, in his sprightly manner, with more vivacity than regard to just discrimination, as is usual with wits, “ When Johnson lived much with the Herveys, and saw a good deal of what was passing in life, he wrote his · London,' which is lively and easy. When he became more retired, he gave us his · Vanity of human Wishes,' which is as hard as Greek. Had he gone on to imitate another satire, it would have been as hard as Hebrew 8.
But “ The Vanity of human Wishes” is, in the opinion of the best judges, as high an effort of ethick poetry as any language can shew. The instances of variety of disappointment are chosen so judiciously, and painted so strongly, that, the moment they are read, they bring conviction to every thinking mind. That of the scholar must have depressed the too fanguine expectations of many an ambitious student'. That of the warrior, Charles of Sweden, is, I think, as highly finished a picture as can possibly be conceived.
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right of copy of an Imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal, written by me; reserving to myself
“ JAS. DODSLEY,"
“ Hear Lydiat's life, and Galileo's end."
Were all the other excellencies of this poem annihilated, it must ever have our grateful reverence from its noble conclusion; in which we are consoled with the assurance that happiness may be attained, if we “ apply our hearts” to piety :
“ Where then shall hope and fear their objects find ?
Implore his aid, in his decisions rest,
Garrick being now vested with theatrical power by being manager of Drurylane theatre, he kindly and generously made use of it to bring out Johnson's tragedy, which had been long kept back for want of encouragement. But in this benevolent purpose he met with no small difficulty from the temper of Johnson, which could not brook that a drama which he had formed with much study, and had been obliged to keep more than the nine years of Horace,
should be revised and altered at the pleasure of an actor. Yet Garrick knew
Dr. Adams was present the first night of the representation of Irene,
• Mahomet was, in fact, played by Mr. Barry, and Demetrius by Mr. Garrick ; but probably at this time the parts were not yet caft.
2 The expression used by Dr. Adams was “ soothed.” I Mould rather think the audience was
“ Be this at least his praise, be this his pride,
Notwithstanding all the support of such performers as Garrick, Barry, Mrs. Cibber, Mrs. Pritchard, and every advantage of dress and decoration, the tragedy of Irene did not please the publick. Mr. Garrick's zeal carried it through for nine nights, so that the authour had his three nights' profits; and from a receipt signed by him, now in the hands of Mr. James Dodsley, it appears that his friend Mr. Robert Dodsey gave him one hundred pounds for the copy, with his usual reservation of the right of one edition.
Irene, considered as a poem, is intitled to the praise of superiour excellence. Analysed into parts, it will furnish a rich store of noble fentiments, fine imagery, and beautiful language ; but it is deficient in pathos, in that delicate power of touching the human feelings, which is the principal end of the drama. Indeed Garrick has complained to me, that Johnson not only had not the faculty of producing the impressions of tragedy, but that he had not the sensibility to perceive them. His great friend Mr. Walmsley's prediction, that he would “ turn out a fine tragedy-writer," was, therefore, ill founded. Johnson was wise enough to be convinced that he had not the talents necefsary to write successfully for the stage, and never made another attempt in that species of composition.
When asked how he felt upon the ill success of his tragedy, he replied, “ Like the Monument;” meaning that he continued firm and unmoved as that column. And let it be remembered, as an admonition to the genus irritabile of dramatick writers, that this great man, instead of peevishly complaining of the bad taste of the town, submitted to its decision without a
He had, indeed, upon all occasions a great deference for the general opinion: “A man (said he) who writes a book, thinks himself wiser or wittier than the rest of mankind; he supposes that he can instruct or amuse them, and the publick to whom he appeals, muft, after all, be the judges of his pretensions.”
On occasion of his play being brought upon the stage, Johnson had a fancy that as a dramatick authour his dress should be more gay than what he ordinarily wore; he therefore appeared behind the scenes, and even in one of the fide boxes, in a scarlet waistcoat, with rich gold lace. His necessary attendance while his play was in rehearsal, and during its performance, brought him acquainted with many of the performers of both sexes, which produced a more favourable opinion of their profession than he had harshly expressed in his Life of Savage. With some of them he kept up an acquaintance as long as he and they lived, and was ever ready to fhew them acts of kindness. He for a considerable time used to frequent the Green Room, and seemed to take
1749. delight in dislipating his gloom, by mixing in the sprightly chit-chat of the Ærat. 40. motley circle then to be found there. Mr. David Hume related to me from
Mr. Garrick, that Johnson at last denied himself this amusement, from confiderations of rigid virtue ; faying, “I'll come no more behind your scenes, David; for the filk stockings and white bosoms of your actresses excite my amorous propensities.”
In 1750 he came forth in the character for which he was eminently qualified, a majestick teacher of moral and religious wisdom. The vehicle which he chose was that of a periodical paper, which he knew had been, upon former occasions, employed with great success.
success. The Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian, were the last of the kind published in England, which had stood the test of a long trial; and such an interval had now elapsed since their publication, as made him justly think that, to many of his readers, this form of instruction would, in some degree, have the advantage of novelty. A few days before the first of his Essays came out, there started another competitor for fame in the same form, under the title of “ The Tatler Revived,” which I believe was “ born but to die.” Johnson was, I think, not very happy in the choice of his title, “ The Rambler,” which certainly is not suited to a feries of grave and moral discourses; which the Italians have literally, but ludicrously, translated by Il Vagabondo ; and which has been lately assumed as the denomination of a vehicle of licentious tales, “ The Rambler's Magazine.” He gave Sir Joshua Reynolds the following account of its getting this name:
“ What must be done, Sir, will be done. When I was to begin publishing that paper, I was at a loss how to name it. I fat down at night upon my bedside, and resolved that I would not go to sleep till I had fixed its title. The Rambler seemed the best that occurred, and I took it?.
With what devout and conscientious sentiments this paper was undertaken, is evidenced by the following prayer, which he composed and offered up on the occasion : « Almighty God, the giver of all good things, without whose
3 I have heard Dr. Warton mention, that he was at Mr. Robert Dodfley's with the late Mr. Moore, and several others of his friends, considering what should be the name of the periodical paper which Moore had undertaken. Garrick proposed the Sallad, which, by a curious coinci. dence, was afterwards applied to himself by Goldsmith :
“ Our Garrick's a sallad, for in him we fee
“ Oil, vinegar, sugar, and faltness agree!” At last the company having separated, without any thing of which they approved having been offered, Dodsley himself thought of The World.