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College ; Corbet as a gentleman-commoner, and Johnson as a commoner. The college tutor, Mr. Jordan, was a man of no genius; and Johnson, it seems, thewed an early contempt of mean abilities, in one or two instances behaving with intolence to that gentle
Of his general conduct at the univers sity there are no particulars that merit attention, except the translation of Pope's Meffiah, which was a college exercile imposed upon him as a talk by Mr. Jordan. Corbet left the university in about two years, and Johnson's talary cealed.
He was, by confequence, Itraitened in his circumstances; but he still remained at college. Mr. Jordan, the tutor, went off to a living ; and was succeeded by Dr. Adams, who afterwards became head of the college, and was esteemed through life for his learning, his talents, and his amiable character. Johnson grew more regular in his attendance. Ethics, theology, and classic literature, were his favourite itudies. He discovered, notwithstanding, early symptoms of that wandering disposition of mind which adhered to him to the end of his life. His reading was by fits and starts, undirected to any particular science. General philology,
agreeably to his cousin Ford's advice, was the object of his ambition. He received, at that time, an early impression of piety, and a taste for the best authors ancient and modern. It may, notwithstanding, be questioned whether, except his Bible, he ever read a book entirely through. Late in life, if any man praised a book in his presence, he was sure to ask, “ Did you read it through ?” If the answer was in the affirmative, he did not seem willing to believe it. He continued at the university till the want of pecuniary fupplies obliged him to quit the place. He obtained, however, the assistance of a friend, and returning in a short time was able to complete a residence of three years. The history of his exploits at Oxford, he used to fay, was best known to Dr. Taylor and Dr, Adams. Wonders are told of his memory, and, indeed, all who knew him late in life can witness that he retained that faculty in the greatest vigour,
From the university Johnson returned to Lichfield. His father died soon after, December 1731 ; and the whole receipt out of his effects, as appeared by a memorandum
in the son's hand-writing, dated 15th June, 1732, was no more than twenty pounds In this exigence, determined that poverty should neither depress his spirit nor warp his integrity, he became under-master of a Grammar-school at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire, That resource, however, did not last long. Disgusted by the pride of Sir Wolftan Dixie, the patron of that little feminary, he left the place in discontent, and ever after spoke of it with abhorrence. In 1733 he went on a visit to Mr. Hector, who had been his school-fellow, and was then a surgeon at Biriningham, lodging at the house of Warren, a bookseller. At that place Johnson translated a Voyage to Abyssinia, written by Jerome Lobo, á Portugucze miffionary. This was the first literary work from the pen of Dr. Johnson. His friend Hector was occasionally his amanuensis. The work was, probably, undertaken at the desire of Warren, the bookseller, and was printed at Birmingham ; but it appears in the Lites rary Magazine, or History of the Works of the Learned, for March, 1735, that it was published by Betterworth and Hitch, Paternofter-row. It contains a narrative of the endeavours of a company of missionaries to convert the people of Abyssinia to the Church of Rome. In the preface to this work Johnson observes, “ that the Portu
* The entry of this is remarkable for his early resolution to preserve through life a fair and upright character. “1732, Junii 15. Undecim aureos depofui, quo die, quid
quid ante måtris funus (quod ferum fit precor) de pa“ terpis bonis fperare licet, viginti fcilicet libras, accepi.
Ufque adeo mibi mea fortuna fingenda eft interea, et ne paupertate vires animi languescant, ne in flagitia egestas adigar, cavendum.”
guese traveller, contrary to the general “ view of his countrymen, has amused his “ readers with no romantic absurdities, or “ incredible fictions. He appears, by his " modest and unaffected narration, to have “ described things as he saw them ; to have
copied nature from the life ; and to have “ consulted his senses, not his imagination. “ He meets with no basilisks, that destroy “ with their eyes; his crocodiles devour “ their prey, without tears ; and his cata“ racts fall from the rock, without deafening " the neighbouring inhabitants. “ der will here find no regions cursed with “ irremediable barrenness, or blessed with s spontaneous fecundity; no perpetual gloom,
« or unceasing fun-fhine ; nor are the na“ tions, here described, either void of all “ sense of humanity, or consummate in all
private and social virtues : here are no “ Hottentots without religion, polity, or ar“ ticulate language; no Chinese perfectly “ polite, and completely skilled in all sci
ences : he will discover, what will always “ be discovered by a diligent and impartial
enquirer, that wherever human nature is " to be found, there is a mixture of vice and “ virtue, a contest of passion and reason; 66 and that the Creator doth not appear par" tial in his distributions, but has balanced, “ in most countries, their particular incon“ veniences by particular favours.' We have here an early specimen of Johnson's manner : the vein of thinking and the frame of the sentences are manifestly his: we see the infant Hercules. The translation of Lobo's Narrative has been reprinted lately in a separate volume, with some other tracts of Dr. Johnson's, and therefore forms no part of this edition ; but a compendious account of so interesting a work as Father Lobo's discovery of the head of the Nile will not, it is imagined, be unacceptable to the reader.