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poetasters he has overpraised, and some true but minor poets he has thrust down too far in the scale. But the work, as a whole, is full of inextinguishable life, and has passages verging on the eloquence and power of genius. A piece of stern, sober, yet broad and animated composition, rather careless in dates, and rather cursory in many of its criticisms, it displays unequalled force of thought, and pointed vigour of style, and when taken in connexion with the age of the author (seventy), is altogether marvellous. Truly there were “ giants in those days," and this was a Briareus.
For the details of his later life, his conversations, growing weakness, little journeys, unconquerable love of literature, &c., we must refer our readers to Boswell's teeming narrative. In 1783, he had a stroke of palsy, which deprived him for a time of speech. That returned to him, however, but a complication of complaints, including asthma, sciatica, and dropsy, began gradually to undermine his powerful frame. He continued to the last to cherish the prospect of a tour to Italy, but never accomplished his purpose. Death had all along been his great object of dread, and its fast approaches were regarded with unmitigated terror. “ Cut deeper," he cried to the physicians who were operating on his limbs ; “cut deeper; I don't care for pain, but I fear death.” He fixed all his dying hope upon the Cross, and recommended Clarke's Sermons as fullest on the doctrine of a Propitiation. He spoke of the Bible and of the Sabbath with the warmest feelings of belief and respect. At last, on the 13th day of December 1784, in the seventy-fifth year of his age, this great, good man, whose fears had subsided, and who had become as a little child, fell asleep in Jesus. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, on Monday, December 20th, and his funeral was attended by the most distinguished men of the day.
Perhaps no literary man ever exerted, during his lifetime, the same personal influence as Samuel Johnson. Shelley used to call Byron the “Byronic Energy," from a sense of his exceeding power. The author of “Rasselas” was the “ Johnsonian Energy;" and the demon within him, if not so ethereal
and terrible as Byron's, was far more massive, equally strong, and in conversation, at least, much more ready to do his work. First-rate conversation generally springs from a desire to shine, or from the effort of a full mind to relieve itself, or from exuberant animal spirits, or from deep-seated misery. In Johnson it sprang from a combination of all these causes. He went to conversation as to an arena-bis mind was richly-stored, even to overflowing—in company his spirits uniformly rose—and yet there was always at his heart a burden of wretchedness, seeking solace, not in silence, but in speech. Hence, with the exception of Burke, no one ever matched him in talk; and Burke, we imagine, although profounder in thought, more varied in learning, and more brilliant in imagination, seldom fairly pitted himself against Johnson. He was a younger man, and held the sage in too much reverence to encounter him often with any deliberate and determined purpose of contest. He frequently touched the shield of the general challenger, not with the sharp, but with the butt-end of his lance. He said, on one occasion, when asked why he had not talked more in Johnson's company, “Oh! it is enough for me to have rung the bell to him!”
In all Johnson's works you see the traces of the triumphant conversationalist—of one who has met with few to contradict, and scarcely one to rival him. Hence the dogmatic strength and certainty, and hence, too, the one-sidedness and limitation of much of his writings. He does not allow for the wind." He seems to anticipate no reply, and to defy all criticism. One is tempted to quote the words of Solomon, “ He that is first in his own cause seemeth just, but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.” No such searching seems ever to have entered into Johnson's apprehensions. His sentences roll forth like the laws of the Medes and Persians; his praise alights with the authoritativeness of a sun-burst on a mountain summit; and when he blames, he seems to add, like an ancient doomster, the words, “I pronounce for doom.” With Burke, it was very different. Accustomed to parliamentary debate in its vicissitudes and interchange-gifted, too, with a prophetic insight into coming objections, which “cast their shadows before," and with an almost diseased subtlety of thinking, he binds up his answers to opponents with every thesis he propounds; and his paragraphs sometimes remind you
of the plan of generals in great emergencies, putting foot soldiers on the same saddles with cavalry—they seem to ride double.
This is not the place, nor have we room, to dilate on Johnson's obvious merits and faults-his straightforward sincerity -his strong manly sense—the masterly force with which he grasps all his subjects—the measured fervour of his stylethe precision and vivacity of his shorter sentences—the grand swell and sonorousness of his longer; on his frequent monotony - his sesquipedalia verba — the “ timorous meaning which sometimes lurks under his "boldest words;" or on the deep chiaroscuro which discolours all his pictures of man, nature, society, and human life. We have now only to speak of his poetry. That is, unfortunately, small in amount, although its quality is so excellent as to excite keen regret that he had not, as he once intended, written many more pieces in the style of “ London,” and the “Vanity of Human Wishes.” In these, the model of his mere manner is Pope, although coloured by Juvenal, his Latin original; but the matter and spirit are intensely his own. In “London,” satire seems swelling out of itself into something stronger and statelier—it is the apotheosis of that kind of poetry. You see in it a mind purer and sterner than Dryden's, or Pope's, or Churchill's, or even Juvenal's; “doing well to be angry with degenerate age, and a false, cowardly country, of which he deems himself unworthy to be a citizen. If there is rather too much of the saeva indignatio, which Swift speaks of as lacerating his heart, it is a nobler and less selfish ire than his, and the language and verse which it inspires are full of the very soul of dignity. In the “ Vanity of Human Wishes,” he becomes one of those “ hunters whose game is man”
(to use the language of Soame Jenyns, in that essay on “The Origin of Evil,” which Johnson, in the Literary Review, so mercilessly lashed); and from assailing premiers, parliaments, and the vices of London and England, he passes, in a very solemn
spirit, to expose the vain hopes, wishes, and efforts of humanity at large. Parts of this poem are written more in sorrow than in
anger, and parts more in anger than in sorrow. traits of Wolsey, Bacon, and Charles the Twelfth, are admirable in their execution, and in their adaptation to the argument of the piece; and the last paragraph, for truth and masculine energy is unsurpassed, we believe, in the whole compass of ethical poetry. We are far from assenting to the statement we once heard ably and elaborately advocated, " that there had been no strong poetry in Britain since the two satires of Johnson;" and we are still further from classing their author with the Shakspeares, Miltons, Wordsworths, and Coleridges of song; but we are nevertheless prepared, not only for the sake of these two satires, of his prologue, and of some other pieces in verse, but on account of the general spirit of much of his prose, to pronounce him potentially, if not actually, a great poet.
A POEM IN IMITATION OF THE THIRD SATIRE OF
Though grief and fondness in my breast rebel
For who would leave, unbribed, Hibernia's land,
1. Thales :' supposed to refer to Savage, who intended retire to Wales about this time, and who accomplished his purpose soon after.