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1756]

JOHNSON'S DEFENCE OF TEA

209

attack upon that elegant and popular beverage, shews how
very well a man of genius can write upon the slightest sub-
ject, when he writes, as the Italians say, con amore: I sup-
pose no person ever enjoyed with more relish the infusion of
that fragrant leaf than Johnson. The quantities which he
drank of it at all hours were so great, that his nerves must
have been uncommonly strong, not to have been extremely
relaxed by such an intemperate use of it. He assured me,
that he never felt the least inconvenience from it; which is
a proof that the fault of his constitution was rather a too
great tension of fibres, than the contrary. Mr. Hanway wrote
an angry answer to Johnson's review of his Essay on Tea, and
Johnson, after a full and deliberate pause, made a reply to
it; the only instance, I believe, in the whole course of his
life, when he condescended to oppose any thing that was
written against him. I suppose when he thought of any of
his little antagonists, he was ever justly aware of the high.
sentiment of Ajax in Ovid:

'Iste tulit pretium jam nunc certaminis hujus,
Qui, cùm victus erit, mecum certasse feretur.'

But, indeed, the good Mr. Hanway laid himself so open to ridicule, that Johnson's animadversions upon his attack were chiefly to make sport.

The generosity with which he pleads the cause of Admiral Byng is highly to the honour of his heart and spirit. Though Voltaire affects to be witty upon the fate of that unfortunate officer, observing that he was shot 'pour encourager les autres,' the nation has long been satisfied that his life was sacrificed to the political fervour of the times. In the vault belonging to the Torrington family, in the church of Southill, in Bedfordshire, there is the following Epitaph upon his monument, which I have transcribed:

'TO THE PERPETUAL DISGRACE

OF PUBLIC JUSTICE,

THE HONOURABLE JOHN BYNG, ESQ.
ADMIRAL OF THE BLUE,
FELL A MARTYR TO POLITICAL
PERSECUTION,

MARCH 14, IN THE YEAR, 1757;
WHEN BRAVERY AND LOYALTY
WERE INSUFFICIENT SECURITIES
FOR THE LIFE AND HONOUR OF
A NAVAL OFFICER.'

210

SOAME JENYNS

[1756 Johnson's most exquisite critical essay in the Literary Magazine, and indeed any where, is his review of Soame Jenyns's Inquiry into the Origin of Evil. Jenyns was possessed of lively talents, and a style eminently pure and easy, and could very happily play with a light subject, either in prose or verse; but when he speculated on that most difficult and excruciating question, the Origin of Evil, he ventured far beyond his depth,' and, accordingly, was exposed by Johnson, both with acute argument and brilliant wit. I remember when the late Mr. Bicknell's humourous performance, entitled The Musical Travels of Joel Collyer, in which a slight attempt is made to ridicule Johnson, was ascribed to Soame Jenyns, 'Ha! (said Johnson) I thought I had given him enough of it.'

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His triumph over Jenyns is thus described by my friend Mr. Courtenay in his Poetical Review of the literary and moral Character of Dr. Johnson; a performance of such merit, that had I not been honoured with a very kind and partial notice in it, I should echo the sentiments of men of the first taste loudly in its praise:

'When specious sophists with presumption scan
The source of evil hidden still from man;
Revive Arabian tales, and vainly hope

To rival St. John, and his scholar Pope:

Though metaphysicks spread the gloom of night,

By reason's star he guides our aching sight;

The bounds of knowledge marks, and points the way
To pathless wastes, where wilder'd sages stray;
Where, like a farthing link-boy, Jenyns stands,
And the dim torch drops from his feeble hands '.'

1 Some time after Dr. Johnson's death there appeared in the newspapers and magazines an illiberal and petulant attack upon him, in the form of an Epitaph, under the name of Mr. Soame Jenyns, very unworthy of that gentleman, who had quietly submitted to the critical lash while Johnson lived. It assumed, as characteristicks of him, all the vulgar circumstances of abuse which had circulated amongst the ignorant. It was an unbecoming indulgence of puny resentment, at a time when he himself was at a very advanced age, and had a near prospect of descending to the grave. I was truly sorry for it; for he was then become an avowed, and (as my Lord Bishop of London, who had a serious conversation with him on the subject, assures me) a sincere Christian. He could not expect that Johnson's numerous friends would patiently bear to have the memory of their master stigmatized by no mean pen, but that, at least, one would be found to retort. Accordingly, this unjust and sarcastick Epitaph was met in the same publick field by an answer,

1756]

DRAUGHTS AND CARDS

211

This year Mr. William Payne, brother of the respectable Bookseller of that name, published An Introduction to the Game of Draughts, to which Johnson contributed a Dedication to the Earl of Rochford,* and a Preface,* both of which are admirably adapted to the treatise to which they are prefixed. Johnson, I believe, did not play at draughts after leaving College, by which he suffered; for it would have afforded him an innocent soothing relief from the melancholy which distressed him so often. I have heard him regret that he had not learnt to play at cards; and the game of draughts we know is peculiarly calculated to fix the attention without straining it. There is a composure and gravity in draughts which insensibly tranquillises the mind; and, accordingly, the Dutch are fond of it, as they are of smoaking, of the sedative influence of which, though he himself never smoaked, he had a high opinion. Besides, there is in draughts some exercise of the faculties; and, accordingly, Johnson wishing to dignify the subject in his Dedication with what is most estimable in it, observes,

'Triflers may find or make any thing a trifle; but since it is the great characteristick of a wise man to see events in their courses, to obviate consequences, and ascertain contingencies, your Lordship will think nothing a trifle by which the mind is inured to caution, foresight, and circumspection.'

As one of the little occasional advantages which he did not disdain to take by his pen, as a man whose profession was literature, he this year accepted of a guinea from Mr. Robert Dodsley, for writing the introduction to The London in terms by no means soft, and such as wanton provocation only could justify:

· ΕΡΙΤΑΡΗ,

'Prepared for a creature not quite dead yet.

'HERE lies a little ugly nauseous elf,
Who judging only from its wretched self,
Feebly attempted, petulant and vain,
The Origin of Evil" to explain.

A mighty Genius at this elf displeas'd,

With a strong critick grasp the urchin squeez'd.
For thirty years its coward spleen it kept,
Till in the dust the mighty Genius slept;
Then stunk and fretted in expiring snuff,
And blink'd at JOHNSON with its last poor puff.'

1 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 48. [Aug. 19.]

212

JOHNSON'S SHAKESPEARE

[1756 Chronicle, an evening news-paper; and even in so slight a performance exhibited peculiar talents. This Chronicle still subsists, and from what I observed, when I was abroad, has a more extensive circulation upon the Continent than any of the English news-papers. It was constantly read by Johnson himself; and it is but just to observe, that it has all along been distinguished for good sense, accuracy, moderation, and delicacy.

Another instance of the same nature has been communicated to me by the Reverend Dr. Thomas Campbell, who has done himself considerable credit by his own writings.

'Sitting with Dr. Johnson one morning alone, he asked me if I had known Dr. Madden, who was authour of the premium-scheme in Ireland. On my answering in the affirmative, and also that I had for some years lived in his neighbourhood, &c., he begged of me that when I returned to Ireland, I would endeavour to procure for him a poem of Dr. Madden's called Boulter's Monument. The reason (said he) why I wish for it, is this: when Dr. Madden came to London, he submitted that work to my castigation; and I remember I blotted a great many lines, and might have blotted many more, without making the poem worse. However, the Doctor was very thankful, and very generous, for he gave me ten guineas, which was to me at that time a great sum.'

*

He this year resumed his scheme of giving an edition of Shakspeare with notes. He issued Proposals of considerable length, in which he shewed that he perfectly well knew what a variety of research such an undertaking required; but his indolence prevented him from pursuing it with that diligence which alone can collect those scattered facts that genius, however acute, penetrating, and luminous, cannot discover by its own force. It is remarkable, that at this time his fancied activity was for the moment so vigorous, that he promised his work should be published before Christmas, 1757. Yet nine years elapsed before it saw the light. His throes in bringing it forth had been severe and remittent; and at last we may almost conclude that the Cæsarian operation was performed by the knife of Churchill, whose

1 They have been reprinted by Mr. Malone, in the Preface to his edition of Shakspeare.

1756] HE REFUSES A COUNTRY LIVING

2130

upbraiding satire, I dare say, made Johnson's friends urge him to dispatch.

'He for subscribers bates his hook,

And takes your cash; but where's the book?
No matter where; wise fear, you know,
Forbids the robbing of a foe;

But what, to serve our private ends,
Forbids the cheating of our friends?'

About this period he was offered a living of considerable value in Lincolnshire, if he were inclined to enter into holy orders. It was a rectory in the gift of Mr. Langton, the father of his much valued friend. But he did not accept of it; partly I believe from a conscientious motive, being persuaded that his temper and habits rendered him unfit for that assiduous and familiar instruction of the vulgar and ignorant which he held to be an essential duty in a clergyman; and partly because his love of a London life was so strong, that he would have thought himself an exile in any other place, particularly if residing in the country. Whoever would wish to see his thoughts upon that subject displayed in their full force, may peruse The Adventurer, Number 126.

1757 ÆTAT. 48.]-IN 1757 it does not appear that he published any thing, except some of those articles in The Literary Magazine, which have been mentioned. That magazine, after Johnson ceased to write in it, gradually declined, though the popular epithet of Antigallican was added to it; and in July 1758 it expired. He probably prepared a part of his Shakspeare this year, and he dictated a speech on the subject of an Address to the Throne, after the expedition to Rochfort, which was delivered by one of his friends, I know not in what publick meeting. It is printed in The Gentleman's Magazine for October 1785 as his, and bears sufficient marks of authenticity.

By the favour of Mr. Joseph Cooper Walker, of the Treasury, Dublin, I have obtained a copy of the following letter from Johnson to the venerable authour of Dissertations on the History of Ireland.

'TO CHARLES O'CONNOR, Esq.

'SIR,-I have lately, by the favour of Mr. Faulkner, seen your account of Ireland, and cannot forbear to solicit a

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