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interest enough in you, to prevail upon you to write to dean Swift, to persuade the university of Dublin to send a diploma to me, constituting this poor man master of arts in their university. They highly extol the man's learning and probity; and will not be persuaded, that the university will make any difficulty of conferring such a favour upon a stranger, if he is recommended by the dean. They say, he is not afraid of the strictest examination, though he is of so long a journey; and yet he will venture it, if the dean thinks it necessary, choosing rather to die upon the road, than to be starved to death in translating for booksellers, which has been his only subsistence for some time past.
I fear there is more difficulty in this affair than these goodnatured gentlemen apprehend, especially as their election cannot be delayed longer than the eleventh of next month. If
you see this matter in the same light that it appears to me, I hope you will burn this, and pardon me for giving you so much trouble about an impracticable thing ; but, if you think there is a probability of obtaining the favour asked, I am sure your humanity and propensity to relieve merit, in distress, will incline you to serve the poor man, without my adding any more to the trouble I have already given you, than assuring you, that I am, with great truth, sir,
Your faithful humble servant, Trentham, Aug. Ist.
GOWER. This scheme miscarried. There is reason to think, that Swift declined to meddle in the business; and, to that circumstance, Johnson's known dislike of Swift has been often imputed.
It is mortifying to pursue a man of merit through all his difficulties; and yet this narrative must be, through many following years, the history of genius and virtue struggling with adversity. Having lost the school at Appleby, Johnson was thrown back on the metropolis. Bred to no profession, without relations, friends, or interest, he was condemned to drudgery in the service of Cave, his only patron. In November, 1738, was published a translation of Crousaz's Examen of Pope's Essay on Man; containing a succinct view of the system of the fatalists, and a confutation of their opinions ; with an illustration of the doctrine of free will ; and an enquiry, what view Mr. Pope might have in touching upon the Leibnitzian philosophy, and
fatalism : by Mr. Crousaz, professor of philosophy and mathematics at Lausanne. This translation has been generally thought a production of Johnson's pen; but it is now known, that Mrs. Elizabeth Carter has acknowledged it to be one of her early per formances. It is certain, however, that Johnson was eager to promote the publication. He considered the foreign philosopher as a man zealous in the cause of religion ; and with him he was willing to join against the system of the fatalists, and the doctrine of Leibnitz. It is well known, that Warburton wrote a vindication of Mr. Pope ; but there is reason to think, that Johnson conceived an early prejudice against the Essay on Man; and what once took root in a mind like his, was not easily eradicated. His letter to Cave on this subject is still extant, and may well justify sir John Hawkins, who inferred that Johnson was the translator of Crousaz. The conclusion of the letter is remarkable: “ I am yours, Impransus.” If by that Latin word was meant, that he had not dined, because he wanted the means, who can read it, even at this hour, without an aching heart ?
With a mind naturally vigorous, and quickened by necessity, Johnson formed a multiplicity of projects ; but most of them proved abortive. A number of small tracts issued from his pen with wonderful rapidity ; such as Marmor Norfolciense; or an essay on an ancient prophetical inscription, in monkish rhyme, discovered at Lynn, in Norfolk. By Probus Britannicus. This was a pamphlet against sir Robert Walpole. According to sir John Hawkins, a warrant was issued to apprehend the author, who retired, with his wife, to an obscure lodging near Lambeth marsh, and there eluded the search of the messengers. But this story has no foundation in truth. Johnson was never known to mention such an incident in his life; and Mr. Steele, late of the treasury, caused diligent search to be made at the proper offices, and no trace of such a proceeding could be found. In the same year (1739) the lord chamberlain prohibited the representation of a tragedy, called Gustavus Vasa, by Henry Brooke. Under the mask of irony, Johnson published, A Vindication of the Licenser from the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke. Of these two pieces, sir John Hawkins says, “ they have neither learning nor wit; nor a single ray of that genius, which has since blazed forth ;” but, as they have been lately reprinted, the reader, who wishes to gratify his curiosity, is referred to the fourteenth volume
of Johnson's works, published by Stockdale h. The lives of Boerhaave, Blake, Barratier, father Paul, and others, were, about that time, printed in the Gentleman's Magazine. The subscription of fifty pounds a year for Savage was completed ; and, in July 1739, Johnson parted with the companion of his midnight hours, never to see him more. The separation was, perhaps, an advantage to him, who wanted to make a right use of his time, and even then beheld, with self-reproach, the waste occasioned by dissipation. His abstinence from wine and strong liquors began soon after the departure of Savage.' What habits he contracted in the course of that acquaintance cannot now be known. The ambition of excelling in conversation, and that pride of victory, which, at times, disgraced a man of Johnson’s genius, were, perhaps, native blemishes. A fierce spirit of independence, even in the midst of poverty, may be seen in Savage; and, if not thence transfused by Johnson into his own manners, it may, at least, be supposed to have gained strength from the example before him. During that connexion, there was, if we believe sir John Hawkins, a short separation between our author and his wife; but a reconciliation soon took place. Johnson loved her, and showed his affection in various modes of gallantry, which Garrick used to render ridiculous by his mimicry. The affectation of soft and fashionable airs did not become an unwieldy figure: his admiration was received by the wife with the flutter of an antiquated coquette ; and both, it is well known, furnished matter for the lively genius of Garrick.
It is a mortifying reflection, that Johnson, with a store of learning and extraordinary talents, was not able, at the age of thirty, to force his way to the favour of the public:
“ He was still,” as he says himself, to provide for the day that was passing over him.” He saw Cave involved in a state of warfare with the numerous competitors, at that time, struggling with the Gentleman's Magazine; and gratitude for such supplies as Johnson received, dictated a Latin ode on the subject of that contention. The first lines,
“ Urbane, nullis fesse laboribus,
It is added to the present edition of Dr. Johnson's works ; vol. v. p. 202,
put one in mind of Casimir's ode to Pope Urban :
“ Urbane, regum maxime, maxime
Urbane vatum.”The Polish poet was, probably, at that time, in the hands of a man, who had meditated the history of the Latin poets. Guthrie, the historian, had, from July, 1736, composed the parliamentary speeches for the magazine ; but, from the beginning of the session, which opened on the 19th of November, 1740, Johnson succeeded to that department, and continued it from that time to the debate on spirituous liquors, which happened in the house of lords, in February, 1742-3. The eloquence, the force of argument, and the splendor of language, displayed in the several speeches, are well known, and universally admired. That Johnson was the author of the debates, during that period, was not generally known; but the secret transpired several years afterwards, and was avowed, by himself, on the following occasion. Mr. Wedderburne, now lord Loughborough', Dr. Johnson, Dr. Francis, the translator of Horace, the present writer, and others, dined with the late Mr. Foote. An important debate, towards the end of sir Robert Walpole's administration, being mentioned, Dr. Francis observed, “that Mr. Pitt's speech, on that occasion, was the best he had ever read.” He added, “ that he had employed eight years of his life in the study of Demosthenes, and finished a translation of that celebrated orator, with all the decorations of style and language within the reach of his capacity; but he had met with nothing equal to the speech above mentioned.” Many of the company remembered the debate, and some passages were cited, with the approbation and applause of all present. During the ardour of conversation, Johnson remained silent. As soon as the warmth of praise subsided, he opened with these words: “That speech I wrote in a garret in Exeter street.” The company was struck with astonishment. After staring at each other in silent amaze, Dr. Francis asked, “how that speech could be written by him?” “Sir," said Johnson, “I wrote it in Exeter street. I never had been in the gallery of the house of commons but once. Cave had interest with the door-keepers. He, and the persons employed under him, gained admittance; they brought away the subject of discussion, the names of the speakers, the side they took, and the
Afterwards earl of Roslin. He died January 3, 1805.
order in which they rose, together with notes of the arguments advanced in the course of the debate. The whole was afterwards communicated to me, and I composed the speeches in the form which they now have in the parliamentary debates.” To this discovery, Dr. Francis made answer: “ Then, sir, you have exceeded Demosthenes himself; for to say, that you have exceeded Francis's Demosthenes, would be saying nothing." The rest of the company bestowed lavish encomiums on Johnson: one, in particular, praised his impartiality; observing, that he dealt out reason and eloquence, with an equal hand to both parties. “That is not quite true,” said Johnson; “ I saved appearances tolerably well; but I took care that the whiG DOGS should not have the best of it.” The sale of the magazine was greatly increased by the parliamentary debates, which were continued by Johnson till the month of March, 1742-3. From that time the magazine was conducted by Dr. Hawkesworth.
In 1743-4, Osborne, the bookseller, who kept a shop in Gray's inn, purchased the earl of Oxford's library, at the price of thirteen thousand pounds. He projected a catalogue in five octavo volumes, at five shillings each. Johnson was employed in that painful drudgery. He was, likewise, to collect all such small tracts as were, in any degree, worth preserving, in order to reprint and publish the whole in a collection, called The Harleian Miscellany. The catalogue was completed; and the miscellany, in 1749, was published in eight quarto volumes. In this business Johnson was a day-labourer for immediate subsistence, not unlike Gustavus Vasa, working in the mines of Dalecarlia. What Wilcox, a bookseller of eminence in the Strand, said to Johnson, on his first arrival in town, was now almost confirmed. He lent our author five guineas, and then asked him, “ How do you mean to earn your livelihood in this town?” By my literary labours," was the answer. Wilcox, staring at him, shook his head: “ Ву your literary labours! You had better buy a porter's knot.” Johnson used to tell this anecdote to Mr. Nichols: but he said, “ Wile cox was one of my best friends, and he meant well.” In fact, Johnson, while employed in Gray's inn, may be said to have carried a porter's knot. He paused occasionally to peruse the book that came to his hand. Osborne thought that such curiosity tended to nothing but delay, and objected to it with all the pride and insolence of a man who knew that he paid daily wages. In the dispute that of course ensued, Osborne, with that roughness