Графични страници
PDF файл

Rat. 61.



“Speaking of Burke, he said, “It was commonly observed he spoke too often in parliament; but nobody could say he did not speak well, though too frequently and too familiarly.'

“Speaking of economy, he remarked, it was hardly worth while to save anxiously twenty pounds a year. If a man could save to that degree, so as to enable him to assume a different rank in society, then, indeed, it might answer some purpose.

“ He observed, a principal source of erroneous judgment was viewing things partially and only on one side ; as for instance, fortune-hunters, when they contemplated the fortunes singly and separately, it was a dazzling and tempting object; but when they came to possess the wives and their fortunes together, they began to suspect they had not made quite so good a bargain.

“Speaking of the late Duke of Northumberland' living very magnificently when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, somebody remarked, it would be difficult to find a suitable successor to him: 'then,' exclaimed Johnson,' he is only fit to succeed himself.'

“He advised me, if possible, to have a good orchard. He knew, he said, a clergyman of small income, who brought up a family very reputably, which he chiefly fed with apple dumplings.

“ He said he had known several good scholars among the Irish gentlemen; but scarcely any of them correct in quantity. He extended the same observation to Scotland.

“Speaking of a certain prelate, who exerted himself very laudably in bnilding churches and parsonage-houses : 'however,' said he, “I do not find that he is esteemed a man of much professional learning, or a liberal patron of it; yet, it is well where a man possesses any strong positive excellence. Few have all kinds of merit belonging to their character. We must not examine matters too deeply. No, Sir, a fallible being will fail somewhere.'

“ Talking of the Irish clergy, he said, 'Swift was a man of great parts, and the instrument of much good to his country. Berkeley was a profound scholar, as well as a man of fine imagination ; but Usher,' he said, 'was the great luminary of the Irish church; and a greater,' he added, ‘no church could boast of; at least in modern times.'

“ We dined tėte-à-tête at the Mitre, as I was preparing to return to Ireland, after an absence of many years. I regretted much leaving London, where I had formed many agreeable connections: “Sir,' said he, 'I don't wonder at it: no man, fond of letters, leaves London without regret. But remember, Sir, you have seen and enjoyed a great deal; you have seen life in its highest decorations, and the world has nothing new to exhibit. No man is so well qualified to leave public life as he who has long tried it and known it well. We are always hankering after untried situations, and imagining greater

1 Sir Hugh Smithson, who became second Earl of Northumberland of the new creation, was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1763 to 1765; he was created a duke in 1763. --O.

felicity from them than they can afford. No, Sir, knowledge and virtue may be acquired in all countries, and your local consequence will make you some amends for the intellectual gratifications you relinquish.' Then he quoted the following lines with great pathos :

“He who has early known the pomps of state,

(For things unknown 'tis ignorance to condemn ;)
And after having viewed the gaudy bait,

Can boldly say, the trifle I contemn;
With such a one contented could I live,

Contented could I die.' 1

“He then took a most affecting teave of me; said, he knew it was a point of duty that called me away. We shall all be sorry to lose you,' said he * laudo tamen.'"

1 Being desirous to trace these verses to the fountain head, after having in vain turned over several of our elder poets with the hope of lighting on them, I applied to Dr. Maxwell, now resident of Bath, for the purpose of ascertaining their author; but that gentleman could furnish no aid on this occasion. At length the lines have been discovered by the author's second son, Mr. James Boswell, in the London Magazine for July, 1732, where they form part of a poem on Retirement, there published anonymously, but in fact (as he afterwards found) copied, with some slight variations, from one of Walsh's smaller poems, entitled "The Retirement;" and they exhibit another proof of what has been elsewhere observed by the author of the work before us, that Johnson retained in his memory fragments of obscure or neglected poetry. In quoting verses of that description, he appears by a slight variation to have sometimes given them a moral turn, and to have dexterously adapted them to his own sentiments, where the original had a very different tendency. Thus, in the present instance (as Mr. J. Boswell observes to me), “the author of the poem above mentioned exhibits himself as hav. ing retired to the country, to avoid the vain follies of a town life-ambition, avarice, and the pursuit of pleasure, contrasted with the enjoyments of the country, and the deli htful conversation that the brooks, &c. furnish ; which he holds to be infinitely more pleasing and instructive than any which towns afford. He is then led to consider the weakness of the human mind, and, after lamenting that he (the writer) who is neither enslaved by avarice, ambition, or pleasure, has yet made himself a slave to love, he thus proceeds :

• If this dire passion never will be done,

If beauty always must my heart enthral,
0, rather let me be enslaved by one,

Than madly thus become a slave to all :
• One who has early known the pomp of state,

(For things unknown 'tis ignorance to condemn),
And, after having view'd the gaudy bait,

Can coldly say, the trifle I contemn :
'In her blest arms contented could I live,

Contented could I die. But O, my mind
Imaginary scenes of bliss deceive

With hopes of joys impossible to find.'" Another instance of Johnson's retaining in his memory verses by obscure authors is given [post, Aug. 27, 1773), where, in consequence of hearing a girl spinning in a chamber over that in which he was sitting, he repeated these lines, which he said were written by one Gif

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

fard, a clergyman; but the poem in which they are introduced bas hitherto been undio covered:

“ Verse sweetens toil, however rude the sound:

All at her work the village maiden sings ;
Nor while she turns the giddy wheel around,

Revolves the sad vicissitude of things."

[ocr errors]

in the autumn of 1782, when he nas al segitulawwae, he frequently accompanied Mr. Philip Metcalfe in his chaise, to take the air ; and the conversation in one of their excursions happening to turn on a celebrated historiad", zice deceased, he repeated, with great preci. rion, some verses, as very characteristic of that gentleman. These furnish another proof of what has been above observed; for they are found in a very obscure quarter, among sone anonymous poems appended to the second volume of a collection frequently printed by Lin. tot, under the title of “ Pope's Miscellanies :"

“See how the wand'ring Danube flows,

Realms and religious parting ;
A friend to all true Christion foes,

To Peter, Jack, and Martin.
“Now Protestant, and Papist now,

Not constant long to either,
At length an áidel does grow,

And ends his journey neither.
“Thus many a youth I've known set out,

Half Protestant, half Papist,
And rambling long the world about,

Turn infidel or atheist." In rociting these verses, I have no doubt that Johnson substituted some word for infidel the second stanza, to avoid the disagreeable repetition of the same expression -MALON.

• No doubt Cibbon.




Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falkland's Islands "-Lord George Grenville -Junius-Design of bringing Johnson into Parliament-Mr. Strahan-Lord North-Mr. Flood-Boswell's Marriage - Visit to Lichfield and Ashbourne-Dr. Beattie-Lord Monboddo -St. Kilda-Scots Church - Second Sight-The Thirty-nine Articles - Thirtieth of JanuaryRoyal Marriage Act-Old Families--Mimickry-Foote-Mr. Peyton -Origin of LanguagesIrish and Gaelic-Flogging at Schools—Lord Mansfield--Sir Gilbert Elliot.

In 1771 he published another political pamphlet, entitled “Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falkland's Islands,” in which, upon materials furnished to him by ministry, and upon general topics, expanded in his rich style, he successfully endeavoured to persuade the nation that it was wise and laudable to suffer the question of right to remain undecided, rather than involve our country in another war. It has been suggested by some, with what truth I shall not take upon me to decide, that he rated the consequence of those islands to Great Britain too low. But however this may be, every humane mind must surely applaud the earnestness with which he averted the calamity of war ; a calamity so dreadful, that it is astonishing how civilized, nay, Christian nations, cau deliberately continue to renew it. His description of its miseries, in this pamphlet, is one of the finest pieces of eloquence in the English language. Upon this occasion, too, we find Johnson lashing the party in opposition with unbounded severity, and making the fullest use of what he ever reckoned a most effectual argumentative iustrument_contempt. His character of their very able mysterious champion, Junius, is executed with all the force of his genius, and finished with the highest care. He seems to have exulted in sallying forth to single combat against the boasted and formidable hero, who hade defiance to “principalities and powers, and the rulers of this world."

[ocr errors]

I He often delighted his imagination with the thoughts of having destroyed Junjun. Op

ÆTAT. 62



This pamphlet, it is observable, was softened in one particular, after the first edition ; for the conclusion of Mr. George Grenville's character stood thus ; "Let him not, however, be depreciated in his grave. He had powers not universally possessed : could he have enforced payment of the Manilla ransom he could have counted it.Which, instead of retaining its sly sharp point, was reduced to a mere flat unmeaning expression, or, if I may use the word,—truism : “He had powers not universally possessed : and if he sometimes erred, he was likewise sometimes right.”


March 20, 1771. “DEAR SIR, -After much lingering of my own, and much of the ministry, I Lave, at length, got out my paper. But delay is not yet at an end. Not many bad been dispersed, before Lord North ordered the sale to stop. His reasons I do not distinctly know. You may try to find them in the perusal. Before his order, a sufficieni number were dispersed to do all the mischief, though, perhaps, not to make all the sport that might be expected from it.

“Soon after your departure, I had the pleasure of finding all the danger past with which your navigation was threatened. I hope nothing happens at home to abate your satisfaction ; but that Lady Rothes ', and Mrs. Langton and the young ladies, are all well.

“I was last night at the Club. Dr. Percy has written a long ballad in many fits; it is pretty enough. He has printed, and will soon publish it. Goldsmith is at Bath, with Lord Clare." At Mr. Thrale's, where I am now writing, all are well. I am, dear Sir, your most humble servant, Sam. Johnson."

[ocr errors]

Mr. Strahan, the printer, who had long been in intimacy with

day I had received a remarkably fine Stilton cheese as a present from some person who had packed and directed it carefully, but without mentioning whence it came. Mr. Thrale, desirous to know who they were obliged to, asked every friend as they came in, but nobody owned it. “ Depend upon it, Sir," says Johnson, "it was sent by Junius.”—Piozzi.

1 Mr. Langton married, May 24, 1770, Jane Lloyd, widow of John, eighth Earl of Rothes, who died in 1767.-M.

2 Robert Nugent, an Irish gentleman, who married the sister and heiress of Secretary Craggs. He was created, in 1767, Baron Nugent and Viscount Clare, and in 1777, Earl Nugent. His only daughter married the first Marquis of Buckingham, on whose second son the title of Baron Nugent devolved. Lord Nugent wrote some odes and light pieces, which had some merit and a great vogue. He died in 1788.

3 One evening, in the oratorio season of 1771, Mr. Johnson went with me to Covent Garden ; and though he was for the most part an exceeding bad playhouse companion, as his person drew people's eyes upon the box, and the loudness of his voice made it difficult to hear anybody ant himself, he sat surprisingly quiet, and I fattered myself that he was listening to the musiu

« ПредишнаНапред »