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1744]

LORD TYRCONNEL

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-be it ever so doubtful 'To whom related, or by whom begot,' was, unquestionably, a man of no common endowments,) we must allow the weight of general repute as to his Status or parentage, though illicit; and supposing him to be an impostor, it seems strange that Lord Tyrconnel, the nephew of Lady Macclesfield, should patronise him, and even admit him as a guest in his family. Lastly, it must ever appear very suspicious, that three different accounts of the Life of Richard Savage, one published in The Plain Dealer, in 1724, another in 1727, and another by the powerful pen of Johnson, in 1744, and all of them while Lady Macclesfield was alive, should, notwithstanding the severe attacks upon her, have been suffered to pass without any publick and effectual contradiction.

I have thus endeavoured to sum up the evidence upon the case, as fairly as I can; and the result seems to be, that the world must vibrate in a state of uncertainty as to what was the truth.

This digression, I trust, will not be censured, as it relates to a matter exceedingly curious, and very intimately connected with Johnson, both as a man and an authour2.

Trusting to Savage's information, Johnson represents this unhappy man's being received as a companion by Lord Tyrconnel, and pensioned by his Lordship, as if posteriour to Savage's conviction and pardon. But I am assured, that Savage had received the voluntary bounty of Lord Tyrconnel, and had been dismissed by him, long before the murder was committed, and that his Lordship was very instrumental in procuring Savage's pardon, by his intercession with the Queen, through Lady Hertford. If, therefore, he had been desirous of preventing the publication by Savage, he would have left him to his fate. Indeed I must observe, that although Johnson mentions that Lord Tyrconnel's patronage of Savage was upon his promise to lay aside his design of exposing the cruelty of his mother,' the great biographer has forgotten that he himself has mentioned, that Savage's story had been told several years before in The Plain Dealer; from which he quotes this strong saying of the generous Sir Richard Steele, that the inhumanity of his mother had given him a right to find every good man his father.' At the same time it must be acknowledged, that Lady Macclesfield and her relations might still wish that her story should not be brought into more conspicuous notice by the satirical pen of Savage.

2 Miss Mason, after having forfeited the title of Lady Macclesfield by divorce, was married to Colonel Brett, and, it is said, was well known in all the polite circles. Colley Cibber, I am informed, had so high an opinion of her taste and judgement as to genteel life, and manners, that he submitted every scene of his Careless Husband to Mrs. Brett's revisal

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OBSERVATIONS ON SHAKSPEARE

[1745 He this year wrote the Preface to the Harleian Miscellany.* The selection of the pamphlets of which it was composed was made by Mr. Oldys, a man of eager curiosity and indefatigable diligence, who first exerted that spirit of inquiry into the literature of the old English writers, by which the works of our great dramatick poet have of late been so signally illustrated.

In 1745 he published a pamphlet entitled Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with remarks on Sir T. H.'s (Sir Thomas Hanmer's) Edition of Shakspeare.* To which he affixed, proposals for a new edition of that poet.

As we do not trace any thing else published by him during the course of this year, we may conjecture that he was occupied entirely with that work. But the little encouragement which was given by the publick to his anonymous proposals for the execution of a task which Warburton was known to have undertaken, probably damped his ardour. His pamphlet, however, was highly esteemed, and was fortunate enough to obtain the approbation even of the supercilious Warburton himself, who, in the Preface to his Shakspeare published two years afterwards, thus mentioned it: As to all those things which have been published under the titles. of Essays, Remarks, Observations, &c. on Shakspeare, if you except some critical notes on Macbeth, given as a specimen of a projected edition, and written, as appears, by a man of parts and genius, the rest are absolutely below a serious notice.'

Of this flattering distinction shewn to him by Warburton, a very grateful remembrance was ever entertained by Johnson, who said, 'He praised me at a time when praise was of value to me.'

1746: ÆTAT. 37.]—IN 1746 it is probable that he was still employed upon his Shakspeare, which perhaps he laid aside for a time, upon account of the high expectations which were formed of Warburton's edition of that great poet. It is and correction. Colonel Brett was reported to be too free in his gallantry with his Lady's maid. Mrs. Brett came into a room one day in her own house, and found the Colonel and her maid both fast asleep in two chairs. She tied a white handkerchief round her husband's neck, which was a sufficient proof that she had discovered his intrigue; but she never at any time took notice of it to him. This incident, as I am told, gave occasion to the well-wrought scene of Sir Charles and Lady Easy and Edging.

1746]

THE REBELLION OF 1745

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somewhat curious, that his literary career appears to have been almost totally suspended in the years 1745 and 1746, those years which were marked by a civil war in GreatBritain, when a rash attempt was made to restore the House of Stuart to the throne. That he had a tenderness for that unfortunate House, is well known; and some may fancifully imagine, that a sympathetick anxiety impeded the exertion of his intellectual powers: but I am inclined to think, that he was, during this time, sketching the outlines of his great philological work.

None of his letters during those years are extant, so far as I can discover. This is much to be regretted. It might afford some entertainment to see how he then expressed himself to his private friends, concerning State affairs. Dr. Adams informs me, that at this time a favourite object which he had in contemplation was The Life of Alfred; in which, from the warmth with which he spoke about it, he would, I believe, had he been master of his own will, have engaged himself, rather than on any other subject.'

1747 ÆTAT. 38.]—IN 1747 it is supposed that the Gentleman's Magazine for May was enriched by him with five short poetical pieces, distinguished by three asterisks. The first is a translation, or rather a paraphrase, of a Latin Epitaph on Sir Thomas Hanmer. Whether the Latin was his, or not, I have never heard, though I should think it probably was, if it be certain that he wrote the English; as to which my only cause of doubt is, that his slighting character of Hanmer as an editor, in his Observations on Macbeth, is very different from that in the 'Epitaph.' It may be said, that there is the same contrariety between the character in the Observations, and that in his own Preface to Shakspeare; but a considerable time elapsed between the one publication and the other, whereas the Observations and the Epitaph' came close together. The others are 'To Miss on her giving the Authour a gold and silk net-work Purse of her own weaving;' Stella in Mourning;' 'The Winter's Walk;' 'An Ode;' and, 'To Lyce, an elderly Lady.' I am not positive that all these were his productions'; but as 'The Winter's Walk' has

In the Universal Visitor, to which Johnson contributed, the mark which is affixed to some pieces unquestionably his, is also found subjoined to others, of which he certainly was not the author. The mark

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POEMS WRONGLY ASSIGNED TO HIM [1747 never been controverted to be his, and all of them have the same mark, it is reasonable to conclude that they are all written by the same hand. Yet to the Ode, in which we find a passage very characteristick of him, being a learned description of the gout,

'Unhappy, whom to beds of pain
Arthritick tyranny consigns;'

there is the following note: The authour being ill of the gout' but Johnson was not attacked with that distemper till at a very late period of his life. May not this, however, be a poetical fiction? Why may not a poet suppose himself to have the gout, as well as suppose himself to be in love, of which we have innumerable instances, and which has been admirably ridiculed by Johnson in his Life of Cowley? I have also some difficulty to believe that he could produce such a group of conceits as appear in the verses to Lyce, in which he claims for this ancient personage as good a right to be assimilated to heaven, as nymphs whom other poets have flattered; he therefore ironically ascribes to her the attri butes of the sky, in such stanzas as this:

'Her teeth the night with darkness dies,
She's starr'd with pimples o'er;

Her tongue like nimble lightning plies,
And can with thunder roar.'

But as at a very advanced age he could condescend to trifle in namby-pamby rhymes, to please Mrs. Thrale and her daughter, he may have, in his earlier years, composed such a piece as this.

It is remarkable, that in this first edition of The Winter's Walk, the concluding line is much more Johnsonian than it was afterwards printed; for in subsequent editions, after praying Stella to snatch him to her arms,' he says,

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'And shield me from the ills of life.'

Whereas in the first edition it is

And hide me from the sight of life.'

A horrour at life in general is more consonant with Johnson's habitual gloomy cast of thought.

I have heard him repeat with great energy the following

therefore will not ascertain the poems in question to have been written by him. They were probably the productions of Hawkesworth, who, it is believed, was afflicted with the gout. [M.]

1747]

VERSES ON LORD LOVAT

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verses, which appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for April this year; but I have no authority to say they were his own. Indeed one of the best criticks of our age suggests to me, that the word indifferently being used in the sense of without concern,' and being also very unpoetical, renders it improbable that they should have been his composition.

'On Lord LoVAT's Execution.

'Pity'd by gentle minds KILMARNOCK died;
The brave, BALMERINO, were on thy side;
RADCLIFFE, unhappy in his crimes of youth,
Steady in what he still mistook for truth,
Beheld his death so decently unmov'd,
The soft lamented, and the brave approv❜d.
But LOVAT's fate indifferently we view,
True to no King, to no religion true:
No fair forgets the ruin he has done;
No child laments the tyrant of his son;
No tory pities, thinking what he was;
No whig compassions, for he left the cause;
The brave regret not, for he was not brave;

The honest mourn not, knowing him a knave'!'

This year his old pupil and friend, David Garrick, having become joint patentee and manager of Drury-lane theatre, Johnson honoured his opening of it with a Prologue,* which for just and manly dramatick criticism, on the whole range of the English stage, as well as for poetical excellence', is

1 These verses are somewhat too severe on the extraordinary person who is the chief figure in them, for he was undoubtedly brave. His pleasantry during his solemn trial (in which, by the way, I have heard Mr. David Hume observe, that we have one of the very few speeches of Mr. Murray, now Earl of Mansfield, authentically given) was very remarkable. When asked if he had any questions to put to Sir Everard Fawkener, who was one of the strongest witnesses against him, he answered, I only wish him joy of his young wife.' And after sentence of death, in the horrible terms in cases of treason, was pronounced upon him, and he was retiring from the bar, he said, ' Fare you well, my Lords, we shall not all meet again in one place.' He behaved with perfect composure at his execution, and called out 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.' My friend, Mr. Courtenay, whose eulogy on Johnson's Latin Poetry has been inserted in this Work, is no less happy in praising his English Poetry.

But hark, he sings! the strain ev'n Pope admires ;
Indignant virtue her own bard inspires.

Sublime as Juvenal he pours his lays,

And with the Roman shares congenial praise ;—

In glowing numbers now he fires the age,

And Shakspeare's sun relumes the clouded stage.

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