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104

IRENE READY FOR THE STAGE

[1741 This year I find that his tragedy of Irene had been for some time ready for the stage, and that his necessities made him desirous of getting as much as he could for it, without delay; for there is the following letter from Mr. Cave to Dr. Birch, in the same volume of manuscripts in the British Museum, from which I copied those above quoted. They were most obligingly pointed out to me by Sir William Musgrave, one of the Curators of that noble repository.

Sept. 9, 1741.

'I have put Mr. Johnson's play into Mr. Gray's' hands, in order to sell it to him, if he is inclined to buy it; but I doubt whether he will or not. He would dispose of the copy, and whatever advantage may be made by acting it. Would your society, or any gentleman, or body of men that you know, take such a bargain? He and I are very unfit to deal with theatrical persons. Fleetwood was to have acted it last season, but Johnson's diffidence or prevented it."

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I have already mentioned that Irene was not brought into publick notice till Garrick was manager of Drury-lane theatre.

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1742: ÆTAT. 33.]—IN 1742 he wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine the 'Preface,'† the 'Parliamentary Debates,** 'Essay on the Account of the conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough,'* then the popular topick of conversation. This Essay' is a short but masterly performance. We find him in No. 13 of his Rambler, censuring a profligate sentiment in that Account;' and again insisting upon it strenuously in conversation *. An account of the Life of Peter Burman,'* I believe chiefly taken from a foreign publication; as, indeed, he could not himself know much about Burman ; .** Additions to his Life of Baretier;' 'The Life of Sydenham,' ** afterwards prefixed to Dr. Swan's edition of his works; Proposals for Printing Bibliotheca Harleiana, or 1 A bookseller of London.

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Not the Royal Society; but the Society for the encouragement of learning, of which Dr. Birch was a leading member. Their object was to assist authors in printing expensive works. It existed from about 1735 to 1746, when having incurred a considerable debt, it was dissolved. There is no erasure here, but a mere blank; to fill up which may be an exercise for ingenious conjecture.

Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3rd edit. p. 167. [Sept. 10, 1773.]

1742]

BIBLIOTHECA HARLEIANA

105

a Catalogue of the Library of the Earl of Oxford.'* His account of that celebrated collection of books, in which he displays the importance to literature of what the French call a catalogue raisonné, when the subjects of it are extensive and various, and it is executed with ability, cannot fail to impress all his readers with admiration of his philological attainments. It was afterwards prefixed to the first volume of the Catalogue, in which the Latin accounts of books were written by him. He was employed in this business by Mr. Thomas Osborne the bookseller, who purchased the library for 13,000l., a sum which Mr. Oldys says, in one of his manuscripts, was not more than the binding of the books had cost; yet, as Dr. Johnson assured me, the slowness of the sale was such, that there was not much gained by it. It has been confidently related, with many embellishments, that Johnson one day knocked Osborne down in his shop, with a folio, and put his foot upon his neck. The simple truth I had from Johnson himself. 'Sir, he was impertinent to me, and I beat him. But it was not in his shop: it was in my own chamber.' A very diligent observer may trace him where we should not easily suppose him to be found. I have no doubt that he wrote the little abridgement entitled 'Foreign History,' in the Magazine for December. To prove it, I shall quote the Introduction. As this is that season of the year in which Nature may be said to command a suspension of hostilities, and which seems intended, by putting a short stop to violence and slaughter, to afford time for malice to relent, and animosity to subside; we can scarce expect any other accounts than of plans, negotiations and treaties, of proposals for peace, and preparations for war.' As also this

passage: Let those who despise the capacity of the Swiss, tell us by what wonderful policy, or by what happy conciliation of interests, it is brought to pass, that in a body made up of different communities and different religions, there should be no civil commotions, though the people are so warlike, that to nominate and raise an army is the same.'

I am obliged to Mr. Astle for his ready permission to copy the two following letters, of which the originals are in his possession. Their contents shew that they were written about this time, and that Johnson was now engaged in preparing an historical account of the British Parliament.

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'I believe I am going to write a long letter, and have therefore taken a whole sheet of paper. The first thing to be written about is our historical design.

'You mentioned the proposal of printing in numbers, as an alteration in the scheme, but I believe you mistook, some way or other, my meaning; I had no other view than that you might rather print too many of five sheets, than of five and thirty.

'With regard to what I shall say on the manner of proceeding, I would have it understood as wholly indifferent to me, and my opinion only, not my resolution. Emptoris sit eligere.

I think the insertion of the exact dates of the most important events in the margin, or of so many events as may enable the reader to regulate the order of facts with sufficient exactness, the proper medium between a journal, which has regard only to time, and a history which ranges facts according to their dependence on each other, and postpones or anticipates according to the convenience of narration. I think the work ought to partake of the spirit of history, which is contrary to minute exactness, and of the regularity of a journal, which is inconsistent with spirit. For this reason, I neither admit numbers or dates, nor reject them.

'I am of your opinion with regard to placing most of the resolutions &c., in the margin, and think we shall give the most complete account of Parliamentary proceedings that can be contrived. The naked papers, without an historical treatise interwoven, require some other book to make them understood. I will date the succeeding facts with some exactness, but I think in the margin. You told me on Saturday that I had received money on this work, and found set down 131. 2s. 6d., reckoning the half guinea of last Saturday. As you hinted to me that you had many calls for money, I would not press you too hard, and therefore shall desire only, as I send it in, two guineas for a sheet of copy; the rest you may pay me when it may be more convenient; and even by this sheet-payment I shall, for some time, be very expensive.

"The Life of Savage I am ready to go upon; and in Great

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1742]

BUSINESS ENOUGH

107 Primer, and Pica notes, I reckon on sending in half a sheet a day; but the money for that shall likewise lye by in hands till it is done. With the debates, shall not I have business enough? if I had but good pens.

your

Towards Mr. Savage's Life what more have you got? I would willingly have his trial, &c., and know whether his defence be at Bristol, and would have his collection of poems, on account of the Preface.-The Plain Dealer 1-all the magazines that have anything of his, or relating to him.

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"I thought my letter would be long, but it is now ended; and I am, Sir, yours, &c. 'SAM. JOHNSON.'

'The boy found me writing this almost in the dark, when I could not quite easily read yours.

'I have read the Italian-nothing in it is well.

'I had no notion of having any thing for the Inscription. I hope you don't think I kept it to extort a price. I could think of nothing, till to day. If you could spare me another guinea for the history, I should take it very kindly, to night; but if you do not I shall not think it an injury.—I am almost

well again.'

'To MR. CAVE.

'SIR.-You did not tell me your determination about the "Soldier's Letter 2," which I am confident was never printed. I think it will not do by itself, or in any other place, so well as the Mag. Extraordinary. If you will have it at all, I believe you do not think I set it high, and I will be glad if what you give, you will give quickly.

'You need not be in care about something to print, for I have got the State Trials, and shall extract Layer, Atterbury, and Macclesfield from them, and shall bring them to you in a fortnight; after which I will try to get the South Sea Report.'

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[No date, nor signature.]

I would also ascribe to him an Essay on the Description of China, from the French of Du Halde.'+

His writings in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1743, are, the 'Preface,'t the Parliamentary Debates,'† 'Considerations

1 The Plain Dealer was published in 1724, and contained some account of Savage.

'I have not discovered what this was.

108

FRIENDSHIP, AN ODE

[1743 on the Dispute between Crousaz and Warburton, on Pope's Essay on Man ;'t in which, while he defends Crousaz, he shews an admirable metaphysical acuteness and temperance in controversy; Ad Lauram parituram Epigramma ';' and, 'A Latin Translation of Pope's Verses on his Grotto ;'* and, as he could employ his pen with equal success upon a small matter as a great, I suppose him to be the authour of an advertisement for Osborne, concerning the great Harleian Catalogue.

But I should think myself much wanting, both to my illustrious friend and my readers, did I not introduce here, with more than ordinary respect, an exquisitely beautiful Ode, which has not been inserted in any of the collections of Johnson's poetry, written by him at a very early period, as Mr. Hector informs me, and inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine of this year.

FRIENDSHIP, an ODE.*
'Friendship, peculiar boon of heav'n,
The noble mind's delight and pride,
To men and angels only giv'n,
To all the lower world deny'd.
While love, unknown among the blest,
Parent of thousand wild desires,
The savage and the human breast
Torments alike with raging fires;
With bright, but oft destructive, gleam,
Alike o'er all his lightnings fly;
Thy lambent glories only beam
Around the fav'rites of the sky.
Thy gentle flows of guiltless joys
On fools and villains ne'er descend;
In vain for thee the tyrant sighs,

And hugs a flatterer for a friend.
Directress of the brave and just,

O guide us through life's darksome way!
And let the tortures of mistrust

On selfish bosoms only prey.

1 Angliacas inter pulcherrima Laura puellas,
Mox uteri pondus depositura grave,

Adsit, Laura, tibi facilis Lucina dolenti,
Neve tibi noceat præenituisse Deœ.

Mr. Hector was present when this Epigram was made impromptu. The first line was proposed by Dr. James, and Johnson was called upon by the company to finish it, which he instantly did.

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