great expence, for they were not absolutely sure of being indemnified.

On the first day of this year we find from his private devotions, that he had then recovered from sickness 1; and in February that his eye was restored to its use. The pious gratitude with which he acknowledges mercies upon every occasion is very edifying; as is the humble submission which he breathes, when it is the will of his heavenly Father to try him with afflictions. As such dispositions become the state of man here, and are the true effects of religious discipline, we cannot but venerate in Johnson one of the most exercised minds that our holy religion hath ever formed. If there be any thoughtless enough to suppose such exercise the weakness of a great understanding, let them look up to Johnson and be convinced that what he so earnestly practised must have a rational foundation.

His works this year were, an abstract or epitome, in octavo, of his folio Dictionary, and a few essays in a monthly publication, entitled, The Universal Visitor. Christopher Smart, with whose unhappy vacillation of mind he sincerely sympathised, was one of the stated undertakers of this miscellany; and it was to assist him that Johnson sometimes employed his pen. All the essays marked with two asterisks have been ascribed to him; but I am confident, from internal evidence, that of these, neither 'The Life of Chaucer,' 'Reflections on the State of Portugal,' nor an 'Essay on Architecture,' were written by him. I am equally confident, upon the same evidence, that he wrote 'Further Thoughts on Agriculture; 't being the sequel of a very inferiour essay on the same subject, and which, though carried on as if by the same hand, is both in thinking and expression so far above it, and so strikingly peculiar, as to leave no doubt of its true parent; and that he also wrote 'A Dissertation on the State of Literature and Authours,' and 'A Dissertation on the Epitaphs written by Pope.' The last of these, indeed, he afterwards added to his Idler. Why the essays truly written by him are marked in the same manner with some which he did not write, I cannot explain; but with deference to those who have ascribed to him the three essays which I have rejected, they want all the characteristical marks of Johnsonian composition.

1 Prayers and Meditations, p. 40 [25].

2 Ib., p. 27.




He engaged also to superintend and contribute largely to another monthly publication, entitled The Literary Magazine, or Universal Review;' the first number of which came out in May this year. What were his emoluments from this undertaking, and what other writers were employed in it, I have not discovered. He continued to write in it, with intermissions, till the fifteenth number; and I think that he never gave better proofs of the force, acuteness, and vivacity of his mind, than in this miscellany, whether we consider his original essays, or his reviews of the works of others. The Preliminary Address '† to the Publick is a proof how this great man could embellish, with the graces of superiour composition, even so trite a thing as the plan of a magazine.

[ocr errors]

His original essays are, 'An Introduction to the Political State of Great Britain;'† 'Remarks on the Militia Bill;'† Observations on his Britannick Majesty's Treaties with the Empress of Russia and the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel ;'† 'Observations on the Present State of Affairs;'† and 'Memoirs of Frederick III, King of Prussia.'† In all these he displays extensive political knowledge and sagacity, expressed with uncommon energy and perspicuity, without any of those words which he sometimes took a pleasure in adopting in imitation of Sir Thomas Browne; of whose Christian Morals he this year gave an edition, with his 'Life'† prefixed to it, which is one of Johnson's best biographical performances. In one instance only in these essays has he indulged his Brownism. Dr. Robertson, the historian, mentioned it to me, as having at once convinced him that Johnson was the author of the 'Memoirs of the King of Prussia.' Speaking of the pride which the old King, the father of his hero, took in being master of the tallest regiment in Europe, he says, 'To review this towering regiment was his daily pleasure; and to perpetuate it was so much his care, that when he met a tall woman he immediately commanded one of his Titanian retinue to marry her, that they might propagate procerity.' For this Anglo-Latian word procerity, Johnson had, however, the authority of Addison.

His reviews are of the following books: 'Birch's History of the Royal Society;'† 'Murphy's Gray's Inn Journal; '† 'Warton's Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope, Vol. I.'† 'Hampton's Translation of Polybius; '† 'Black



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

[1756 well's Memoirs of the Court of Augustus; '† 'Russel's Natural History of Aleppo;'† 'Sir Isaac Newton's Arguments in Proof of a Deity;'t 'Borlase's History of the Isles of Scilly;'t 'Home's Experiments on Bleaching;'† 'Browne's Christian Morals;'t Hales on Distilling SeaWater, Ventilators in Ships, and curing an ill Taste in Milk;' Lucas's Essay on Waters;'t Keith's Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops;'† 'Browne's History of Jamaica;'† 'Philosophical Transactions, Vol. XLIX.'† 'Mrs. Lennox's Translation of Sully's Memoirs;'* 'Miscellanies by Elizabeth Harrison;'† 'Evans's Map and Account of the Middle Colonies in America;'† 'Letter on the Case of Admiral Byng;'* Appeal to the People concerning Admiral Byng ;'* Hanway's Eight Days' Journey, and Essay on Tea;' "The Cadet, a Military Treatise;'† 'Some further Particulars in Relation to the Case of Admiral Byng, by a Gentleman of Oxford;'* The Conduct of the Ministry relating to the present War impartially examined;'† 'A Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil.'* All these, from internal evidence, were written by Johnson; some of them I know he avowed, and have marked them with an asterisk accordingly. Mr. Thomas Davies indeed, ascribed to him the Review of Mr. Burke's 'Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful;' and Sir John Hawkins, with equal discernment, has inserted it in his collection of Johnson's works: whereas it has no resemblance to Johnson's composition, and is well known to have been written by Mr. Murphy, who has acknowledged it to me and many others.

[ocr errors]

It is worthy of remark, in justice to Johnson's political character, which has been misrepresented as abjectly submissive to power, that his 'Observations on the present State of Affairs' glow with as animated a spirit of constitutional liberty as can be found any where. Thus he begins :

'The time is now come, in which every Englishman expects to be informed of the national affairs; and in which he has a right to have that expectation gratified. For, whatever may be urged by Ministers, or those whom vanity or interest make the followers of ministers, concerning the necessity of confidence in our governours, and the presumption of prying with profane eyes into the recesses of policy, it is evident that this reverence can be claimed only by counsels yet

1756] JOHNSON'S ARDOUR FOR LIBERTY 207 unexecuted, and projects suspended in deliberation. But when a design has ended in miscarriage or success, when every eye and every ear is witness to general discontent, or general satisfaction, it is then a proper time to disentangle confusion and illustrate obscurity; to shew by what causes every event was produced, and in what effects it is likely to terminate; to lay down with distinct particularity what rumour always huddles in general exclamation, or perplexes by indigested narratives; to shew whence happiness or calamity is derived, and whence it may be expected; and honestly to lay before the people what inquiry can gather of the past, and conjecture can estimate of the future.'

Here we have it assumed as an incontrovertible principle, that in this country the people are the superintendants of the conduct and measures of those by whom government is administered; of the beneficial effect of which the present reign afforded an illustrious example, when addresses from all parts of the kingdom controuled an audacious attempt to introduce a new power subversive of the crown.

A still stronger proof of his patriotick spirit appears in his review of an Essay on Waters, by Dr. Lucas;' of whom, after describing him as a man well known to the world for his daring defiance of power, when he thought it exerted on the side of wrong, he thus speaks:

The Irish ministers drove him from his native country by a proclamation, in which they charged him with crimes of which they never intended to be called to the proof, and oppressed by methods equally irresistible by guilt and innocence.

Let the man thus driven into exile, for having been the friend of his country, be received in every other place as a confessor of liberty; and let the tools of power be taught in time, that they may rob, but cannot impoverish.'

Some of his reviews in this Magazine are very short accounts of the pieces noticed, and I mention them only that Dr. Johnson's opinion of the works may be known; but many of them are examples of elaborate criticism, in the most masterly style. In his review of the 'Memoirs of the Court of Augustus,' he has the resolution to think and speak from his own mind, regardless of the cant transmitted from age to age, in praise of the ancient Romans. Thus.

[ocr errors]




'I know not why any one but a school-boy in his declamation should whine over the Common-wealth of Rome, which grew great only by the misery of the rest of mankind. The Romans, like others, as soon as they grew rich, grew corrupt; and in their corruption sold the lives and freedoms of themselves, and of one another.'

Again, 'A people, who, while they were poor, robbed mankind; and as soon as they became rich, robbed one another.'

In his review of the Miscellanies in prose and verse, published by Elizabeth Harrison, but written by many hands, he gives an eminent proof at once of his orthodoxy and candour:

'The authours of the essays in prose seem generally to have imitated, or tried to imitate, the copiousness and luxuriance of Mrs. Rowe. This, however, is not all their praise; they have laboured to add to her brightness of imagery, her purity of sentiments. The poets have had Dr. Watts before their eyes; a writer, who, if he stood not in the first class of genius, compensated that defect by a ready application of his powers to the promotion of piety. The attempt to employ the ornaments of romance in the decoration of religion, was, I think, first made by Mr. Boyle's Martyrdom of Theodora; but Boyle's philosophical studies did not allow him time for the cultivation of style; and the completion of the great design was reserved for Mrs. Rowe. Dr. Watts was one of the first who taught the Dissenters to write and speak like other men, by shewing them that elegance might consist with piety. They would have both done honour to a better society, for they had that charity which might well make their failings be forgotten, and with which the whole Christian world might wish for communion. They were pure from all the heresies of an age, to which every opinion is become a favourite that the universal church has hitherto detested!

'This praise, the general interest of mankind requires to be given to writers who please and do not corrupt, who instruct and do not weary. But to them all human eulogies are vain, whom I believe applauded by angels, and numbered with the just.'

His defence of tea against Mr. Jonas Hanway's violent

« ElőzőTovább »