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will prefer to read Boswell's gossiping and lively“ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides.” In 1774 Dr. Johnson went with the Thrales on a tour in Wales, and in 1775 he visited France with them.
His last literary undertaking was to write Prefaces, biographical and critical, to the works of the English poets, included by the syndicate of booksellers in their great edition of 1779-1781. These Prefaces were soon republished as “Lives of the English Poets.” Johnson was not responsible for the selection of names, though it was at his suggestion that the works of Blackmore, Watts, Pomfret, and Yalden were added; a selection which excludes the great Elizabethans and the amatory and religious poets of the mid seventeenth century. Chaucer, and Spenser, and Shakespeare, Herrick, and Herbert are indeed absent; but then have we not Walsh and “Rag” Smith, Duke and King, and Sprat? The work was done very unevenly, and is very unequal in value. There was not very much consultation of unpublished authorities. But he used Spence's MS. Collection of Anecdotes, lent by the Duke of Newcastle; and he was at some little pains to insert gossip and personal reminiscences, which would otherwise have vanished. The “Lives” remain our chief authority for many of the minor writers; while no modern biographer can afford to neglect the accounts given by Johnson of the great writers of the early eighteenth century. Of the criticism contained in the book, something will be said presently.
During the half-century he spent in London, Johnson had lived in nearly a score of different places. At first he changed his lodgings frequently. After his wife joined him in 1738 he lived in Castle Street, which runs parallel with Oxford Street; and then in the Strand and in several of the adjoining streets, in Holborn, in Gough Square (1748-1758), in Staple Inn, in Gray's Inn, then for five years in Inner Temple Lane (1760-1765), in Johnson's Court, Fleet Street (1765-1777), and in Bolt Court, Fleet Street, for the last seven years of his life. In his house he had accumulated an extraordinary group of feeble and unfortunate people, whom he treated with great kindness and charity: Robert Levett, a broken-down medical man, in whose skill Johnson professed the greatest trust; Miss Williams, a pale, shrunken old lady afflicted with blindness; Mrs. Desmoulins and her daughter, to whom he allowed half-a-guinea a week, and Miss Carmichael. These inmates gave Johnson unnecessary trouble by their frequent quarrels. He told Mrs. Thrale on one occasion : “ Williams hates everybody; Levett hates Desmoulins and does not love Williams : Desmoulins hates them both; Poll loves none of them.” 1
In 1781 he lost his friend Mr. Thrale, who had made Johnson one of his executors. Mrs. Thrale soon formed an attachment to an Italian musician named Piozzi, and in the interests of her children as well as herself Johnson opposed this union. In 1784, however, she married, much against Johnson's wish, and their friendship was at an end. He suffered a great deal from asthma and sleeplessness. After visiting Oxford, Lichfield, and Birmingham in the summer, he was taken worse in November, and died on December 13th, 1784, aged 75.
Johnson was one of the most honest and independent of men; his powerful, masculine nature, and his hatred of unreality sometimes led him to speak with almost brutal violence; but there was a great depth of tenderness under his rough exterior. People of narrow natures perceived only the outside. Mrs. Boswell said to her husband: “I have seen many a bear led by a man, but I never before saw a man led by a bear.” But Goldsmith had keener
1 Boswell, Bohn, iii. 363.
2 Boswell, Bohn, ii. 249.
insight when he said, “He has nothing of the bear but the skin."? He had the firmest convictions in religion and politics; he disliked Whiggism and dissent; but some of his greatest friends were Whigs, and some of his favourite authors were Nonconformists. We need not (with Macaulay) call him a bigot, because he practised abstinence on Good Friday. Judged by the standard of the age his mind was singularly free from superstitions, political and theological. He was less superstitious than Doddridge or Wesley, and other pious contemporaries, and who shall complain of his conditional belief in the Cock Lane ghost, a belief necessarily assumed merely for the put ose of examination, in these days of the Psychical Society ?
“One thing he did,” says Leigh Hunt, “perhaps beyond any man in England before or since—he advanced, by the powers of his conversation, the strictness of his veracity, and the respect he exacted towards his presence, what may be called the personal dignity of literature.”
II. JOHNSON'S CRITICISM.
Johnson's literary attitude is that of the average practical man, caught young and educated. He accepts the critical standards of the age, without much misgiving, and seldom goes behind them to ask the why and the wherefore. In the words of Macaulay he “decided literary questions like a lawyer, not like a legislator.” Now-adays the critics try to decide them like philosophers, or men of science.
The main object of modern criticism is to show us how to understand, and how to enjoy, literary or artistic work. It strives to trace the special laws which underlie the different kinds of excellence. It does not assume that great literary achievement is always dependent on the same conditions, that there are any universal and necessary canons of beauty which will be always exemplified in the finest work. The best modern critics approach a great poem somewt as men of science approach a fact of nature. The ly of the critic is to analyze the complex effect prodhu id on us, and to exhibit separately the conditions of its pduction. Although we may recognize that some types f beauty are more impressive, or more insistent, or morenplete, than others, it is not for the critic to classify literary works as good or bad merely because they embody the particular ideals which he regards as most perfect. Many critics do not accept this view of their functions even now. In the eighteenth century scarcely any accepted it. They pronounced a judgment on a work because it was, or was not, in accordance with the literary ideals then accepted. They did not stop to inquire whether there were other literary ideals equally valid.
1 Boswell, Bohn, ii. 76.
The literary models of the eighteenth century were determined by three principal factors—regard for morality, regard for the classics, and regard for the opinion of the average plain man; in other words, by edification, correctness, and common sense. And the greatest of these three was common sense.
On the first of the ideals there is no need to say much. When we find Dennis laying down that it is the “ duty of every tragic poet .... to inculcate a particular Providence,” we see that he carries the union of Church and Stage to a very exacting degree. When Dr. Johnson grumbles at Gray's “ Bard,” because it does not “promote any truth, moral or political,” we are struck with the cramping effect on literature of this insatiable desire for edification. We are reminded of the senior wrangler who had been induced to read “Paradise Lost,” and who returned the book with the remark that he did not see what it proved. The eighteenth century did not believe in art for art's sake. It was still dominated by Puritan scruples. Defoe lards his “Moll Flanders ” with pious reflectionsoften half ironical, as it seems to the modern reader ; while “Pamela" is "published in order to cultivate the principles of Virtue and Religion in the Minds of the Youth of Both Sexes,” and Swift himself, the supreme master of cynical humour, defends the “Beggar's Opera” in all seriousness as “an excellent moral performance.”
1 On what has been called Inductive Criticism, see Professor R. G. Moulton's "Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist,” Introduc. tion.
The term “correctness," so often used by the eighteenth century critics, is difficult to explain. It involves perfection of technique, the avoidance of all inadequacies and excesses of form ; the achievement of clearness and precision in language, metre, and rhymne, and in what may be called the anatomy of epic and tragedy. There must be the proper word in the proper place; the right number of syllables in the line; the rhymes must be true; the work must begin and end in the proper way; the story must be told within the proper limitations as to length, number of books or acts, number of characters, and so forth. The ideal aimed at, the approximation to which constituted correctness, was, however, not quite clearly defined. It was partly due to study of the French poets and critics of the reign of Louis XIV., and partly to the study of the sources. from which these derived their inspiration, the classical poets and critics.
A dread of all strong feeling and of any vividness of expression which was likely to be regarded as hyperbolical in a very conventional age, went along with a dislike of the unsophisticated, the merely ordinary and simple. On the one hand there was the Scylla of “ enthusiasm," on the other