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I would also ascribe to him an “Essay on the Description of China, from the French of Du Halde.”
His writings in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1743, are, the Preface,t the Parliamentary Debates, t “ Considerations on the Dispute between Crousaz and Warburton, on Pope's Essay on Man,t” in which, while he defends Croufaz, he shews an admirable metaphysical acuteness and temperance in controversy; “ Ad Lauram parituram Epigramma ? ;* ” and,
and, “A Latin Translation of Pope's Verses on his Grotto ;*” and, as he could employ his pen with equal success upon a small matter as a great, I suppose him to be the authour of an advertisement for Osborn, concerning the great Harleian Catalogue.
But I should think myself much wanting, both to my illustrious friend and my readers, did I not introduce here, with more than ordinary respect, an exquisitely beautiful Ode, which has not been inserted in any of the collections of Johnson's poetry, written by him at a very early period, as Mr. Hector informs me, and inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine of this year.
FRIENDSHIP, an ODE.*
FriendSHIP, peculiar boon of heaven,
The noble mind's delight and pride,
To all the lower world deny’d.
Parent of thousand wild desires,
Torments alike with raging fires.
Alike o'er all his lightnings Aly;
Around the fav’rites of the sky.
Angliacas inter pulcherrima Laura puellas,
Mox uteri pondus depofitura grave,
Neve tibi noceat prænituise Deæ.
Thy gentle flows of guiltless joys
On fools and villains ne'er descend;
And hugs a flatterer for a friend.
Directress of the brave and just,
O guide us through life's darksome way!
On selfish bosoms only prey.
Nor shall thine ardours cease to glow,
When fouls to blissful climes remove :
Shall aid our happiness above.
Johnson had now an opportunity of obliging his schoolfellow Dr. James, of whom he once observed, “no man brings more mind to his profession.” James published this year his “ Medicinal Dictionary,” in three volumes folio. Johnson, as I understood from him, had written, or assisted in writing, the proposals for this work; and being very fond of the study of physick, in which James was his master, he furnished some of the articles. He, however, certainly wrote for it the Dedication to Dr. Mead,f which is conceived with great address, to conciliate the patronage of that very eminent man
It has been circulated, I know not with what authenticity, that Johnson considered Dr. Birch as a dull writer, and said of him, “ Tom Birch is as brisk as a bee in conversation; but no sooner does he take a pen in his hand, than
8 To Dr. MEAU.
" THAT the Medicinal Dictionary is dedicated to you, is to be imputed only to your reputation for superiour skill in those scier.ces which I have endeavoured to explain and facilitate : and you are, therefore, to consider this address, if it be agreeable to you, as one of the rewards of merit ; and, if otherwise, as one of the inconveniencies of eminence.
“ However you shall receive it, my design cannot be disappointed ; because this publick appeal to your judgement will shew that I do not found my hopes of approbation upon the ignorance of my readers, and that I fear his censure least, whose knowledge is most extensive. " I am, Sir, - Your most obedient humble servant,
" R. JAMES."
it becomes a torpedo to him, and benumbs all his faculties.” That the literature of this country is much indebted to Birch's activity and diligence, must certainly be acknowledged. We have seen that Johnson honoured him with a Greek Epigram ; and his correspondence with him, during many years, proves that he had no mean opinion of him.
To Dr. BIRCH.
Thursday, Sept. 29, 1743. “ I hope you will excuse me for troubling you on an occasion on which I know not whom else I can apply to; I am at a loss for the Lives and Characters of Earl Stanhope, the two Craggs, and the Minister Sunderland; and beg that you will inform [me] where I may find them, and send any pamphlets, &c. relating to them to Mr. Cave, to be perused for a few days by, Sir, 6 Your most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
His circumstances were at this time much embarrassed; yet his affection for his mother was so warm, and so liberal, that he took upon himself a debt of hers, which, though small in itself, was then considerable, to him. This appears from the following letter which he wrote to Mr. Levett, of Lichfield, the original of which lies now before me.
To Mr. LEVETT, in Lichfield.
December 1, 1743•
“ I am extremely sorry that we have encroached so much upon your forbearance with respect to the interest, which a great perplexity of affairs hindered me from thinking of with that attention that I ought, and which I am not immediately able to remit to you, but will pay it (I think twelve pounds,) in two months. I look upon this, and on the future interest of that mortgage, as my own debt ; and beg that you will be pleased to give me directions how to pay it, and not mention it to my dear mother. If it be necessary to pay this in less time, I believe I can do it; but I take two months for certainty, and beg an answer whether you can allow me so much time. I think myself very much obliged to your forbearance, and shall esteem it a great happiness to be able to serve you. I have great opportu
nities of dispersing any thing that you may think it proper to make publick.
1744 I will give a note for the money, payable at the time mentioned, to any one Ærat. 35. here that you shall appoint. I am, Sir,
~ Your most obedient
“ SAM. JOHNSON,
It does not appear that he wrote any thing in 1744 for the Gentleman's Magazine, but the Preface.f His life of Baretier was now re-published in a pamphlet by itself. But he produced one work this year, fully sufficient to maintain the high reputation which he had acquired. This was “ The Life of RICHARD SAVAGE ;*” a man, of whom it is difficult to speak impartially, without wondering that he was for some time the intimate companion of Johnson ; for his character was marked by profligacy, insolence, and ingratitude ?: yet, as he undoubtedly had a warm and vigorous, though unregulated mind, had seen life in all its varieties, and been much in the company of the statesmen and wits of his time, he could communicate to Johnson an abundant supply of such materials as his philosophical curiosity most eagerly desired ; and as Savage's misfortunes and misconduct had reduced him to the lowest state of wretchedness as a writer for bread, his visits to St. John's Gate naturally brought Johnson and him together'.
9 As a specimen of his temper, I insert the following letter from him to a noble Lord, to whom he was under great obligations, but who, on account of his bad conduct, was obliged to discard him. The original is in the hands of one of his Majesty's Counsel learned in the Law:
" Right Honourable BRUTE, and BOOBY, “ I FIND you want (as Mr. is pleased to hint,) to swear away my life, that is, the life of your creditor, because he asks you for a debt.—The publick shall foon be acquainted with this, to judge whether you are fitter to be an Irish Evidence, than to be an Irish Peer. I defy and despise you. I am, " Your determined adversary,
" R. S.” * Sir John Hawkins gives the world to understand, that Johnson “ being an admirer of genteel manners, was captivated by the address and demeanour of Savage, who, as to his exterior, was, to a remarkable degree, accomplished." Hawkins's Life, p. 52. But Sir John’s notions of gentility must appear somewhat ludicrous, from his stating the following circumstance as presumptive evidence that Savage was a good swordsman: “ That he understood the exercise of a gentleman's weapon, may be inferred from the use made of it in that rash encounter which is related in his life.” The dexterity here alluded to was, that Savage, in a nocturnal fit of drunkenness, stabbed a man at a
It is melancholy to reflect, that Johnson and Savage were sometimes in such extreme indigence, that they could not pay for a lodging ; so that they have wandered together whole nights in the streets. Yet in these almost incredible scenes of distress, we may suppose that Savage mentioned many of the anecdotes with which Johnson afterwards enriched the life of his unhappy companion, and those of other Poets.
He mentioned to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that one night in particular, when Savage and he walked round St. James's-square for want of a lodging, they were not at all depressed by their situation, but in high spirits and brimful of patriotism, traversed the square for several hours, inveighed against the minister, and “resolved they would stand by their country.”
I am afraid, however, that by associating with Savage, who was habituated to the dissipation and licentiousness of the Town, Johnson, though his good principles remained steady, did not entirely preserve that conduct, for which, in days of greater fimplicity, he was remarked by his friend Mr. Hector; but was imperceptibly led into some indulgences which occasioned much distress to his virtuous mind.
That Johnson was anxious that an authentick and favourable account of his extraordinary friend should first get poffeffion of the publick attention, is evident from a letter which he wrote in the Gentleman's Magazine for August of the year preceding its publication.
.86 Mr. URBAN,
“ AS your collections show how often you have owed the ornaments of your poetical pages to the correspondence of the unfortunate and ingenious Mr. Savage, I doubt not but you have so much regard to his memory as to encourage any design that may have a tendency to the preservation of it from insults or calumnies; and therefore, with some degree of assurance,
coffee-house, and killed him; for which he was tried at the Old-Bailey, and found guilty of murder.
Johnson, indeed, describes him as having " a grave and manly deportment, a folemn dignity of mien ; but which, upon a nearer acquaintance, softened into an engaging easiness of manners." How highly Johnson admired him for that knowledge which he himself so much cultivated, and what kindness he entertained for him, appears from the following lines in the Gentleman's Magazine for April, 1738, which I am assured were written by Johnson :
Ad RICARDUM SAVAGE,