« ElőzőTovább »
1781. desisting from it, from a supposed scantiness of ma.
terials, he should, at an advanced age, have exhibited so ampiy. :
His defence of that great poet against the illiberal attacks upon him, as if his embracing the Roman Catholick communion had been a time-serving measure, is a piece of reasoning at once able and candid. Indeed, Dryden himself, in his “ Hind and Panther," hath given such a picture of his mind, that they who know the anxiety for repose as to the aweful subject of our state beyond the grave, though they may think his opinion ill-founded, must think charitably of his sentiment:
“ But, gracious God, how well dost thou provide
was gone, " My pride struck out new sparkles of her own. “ Such was I, such by nature still I am; “ Be thine the glory, and be mine the shame.
“Good life be now my task: my doubts are done; ;" What more could shock my faith than Three in
In drawing Dryden's character, Johnson has given,
though I suppose unintentionally, some touches of 1781. his own. Thus: “ The power that predominated in
inated in Ætat. 72. his intellectual operations was rather strong reason than quick sensibility. Upon all occasions that were presented, he studied rather then felt; and produced sentiments not such as Nature enforces, but meditation supplies. With the simple and elemental passions as they spring separate in the mind, he seems not much acquainted. He is, therefore, with all his variety of excellence, not often pathetick;9 and had so little sensibility of the power of effusions purely natural, that he did not esteem them in others.”—It may indeed be observed, that in all the numerous writings of Johnson, whether in prose or verse, and even in his Tragedy, of which the subject is the distress of an unfortunate Princess, there is not a single passage that ever drew a tear. *
Various readings in the Life of DRYDEN.
“ The reason of this general perusal, Addison has attempted to find in derive from the delight which the mind feels in the investigation of secrets.
“ His best actions are but [convenient] inability of wickedness.
“When once he had engaged himself in disputation, [matter] thoughts flowed in on either side.
“ The abyss of an un-ideal [emptiness] vacancy.
“ These, like [many other harlots,] the harlots of other men, had his love though not his approbation.
9 [It seems to me, that there are many pathetick passages in Johnson's works, both prose and verse. K.]
1781. “He (sometimes displays] descends to display his A knowledge with pedantick ostentation.
“ French words which [were then used in) had then crept into conversation."
The Life of Pope was written by Johnson con amore, both from the early possession which that writer had taken of his mind, and from the pleasure which he must have felt, in for ever silencing all attempts to lessen his poetical fame, by demonstrating his excellence, and pronouncing the following triumphant eulogium:" After all this, it is surely superfluous to answer the question that has once been asked, Whether Pope was a poet? otherwise than by asking in return, if Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found? To circumscribe poetry by a definition, will only shew the narrowness of the definer; though a definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look round upon the present time, and back upon the past; let us enquire to whom the voice of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry; let their productions be examined, and their claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will be no more disputed."
I remember once to have heard Johnson say, " Sir, a thousand years may elapse before there shall appear · another man with a power of versification equal to
that of Pope.” That power must undoubtedly be allowed its due share in enhancing the value of his captivating composition.
Johnson who had done liberal justice to Warburton in his edition of Shakspeare, which was published during the life of that powerful writer, with still greater liberality took an opportunity, in the life of Pope, of paying the tribute due to him when he
was no longer in “ high place,” but numbered with 1781. the dead."
* Of Johnson's conduct towards Warburton, a very honourable notice is taken by the Editor of “ Tracts by Warburton, and a Warburtonian, not admitted into the Collection of their respective Works.” After an able and a fond, though not undistinguishing,” consideration of Warburton's character, he says, “In two immortal works, Johnson has stood forth in the foremost rank of his admirers. By the testimony of such a man, impertinence must be abashed, and malignity itself must be softened. Of literary merit, Johnson, as we all know, was a sagacious but a most severe judge. Such was his discernment, that he pierced into the most secret springs of human actions; and such was his integrity, that he always weighed the moral characters of his fellow-creatures in the balance of the sanctuary. He was too courageous to propitiate a rival, and too proud to truckle to a superiour. Warburton he knew, as I know him, and as every man of sense and virtue would wish to be known,-I mean, both from his own writings, and from the writings of those who dissented from his principles, or who envied his reputation. But, as to favours, he had never received or asked any from the Bishop of Gloucester: and, if my memory fails me not, he had seen him only once, when they met almost without design, conversed without much effort, and parted without any lasting impression of hatred or affection. Yet, with all the ardour of sympathetick genius, Johnson had done that spontaneously and ably, which, by some writers, had been before attempted injudiciously, and which, by others, from whom more successful attempts might have been expected, has not hitherto been done at all. He spoke well of Warburton, without insulting those whom Warburton despised. He suppressed not the imperfections of this extraordinary man, while he endeavoured to do justice to his numerous and transcendental excellencies. He defended him when living, amidst the clamours of his enemies; and praised him when deal, amidst the silence of kis friends.” · Having availed myself of this editor's eulogy on my departed friend, for which I warmly thank him, let me not suffer the lustre of his reputation, honestly acquired by profound learning and vigorous eloquence, to be tarnished by a charge of illiberality; He has been accused of invidiously dragging again into light cern
It seems strange, that two such men as Johnson
and Warburton, who lived in the same age and Ætat. 72.
country, should not only not have been in any de. gree of intimacy, but been almost personally unacquainted. But such instances, though we must wonder at them, are not rare. If I am rightly informed, after a careful enquiry, they never met but once, which was at the house of Mrs. French, in London, well known for her elegant assemblies, and bringing eminent characters together. The interview proved to be mutually agreeable.
I am well informed, that Warburton said of Johnson, “ I admire him, but I cannot bear his style:" and that Johnson being told of this, said, " That is exactly my case as to him.” The manner in which he expressed his admiration of the fertility of Warburton's genius and of the variety of his materials, was, “ The table is always full, Sir. He brings things from the north, and the south, and from every quarter. In his · Divine Legation, you are always
tain writings of a person respectable by his talents, his learning, his station and his age, which were published a great many years ago, and have since, it is said, been silently given up by their au-, thour. But when it is considered that these writings were not sins of youth, but deliberate works of one well-advanced in life, overflowing at once with flattery to a great man of great interest in the Church, and with unjust and acrimonious abuse of two men of eminent merit; and that, though it would have been unreasonable to expect an humiliating recantation, no apology whatever has been made in the cool of the evening, for the oppressive fervour of the heat of the day; no slight relenting indication has appeared in any note, or any corner of later publications; it is not fair to understand him as superciliously persevering? When he allows the shafts to remain in the wounds, and will not stretch forth a lenient hend, is it wrong, is it not generous to become an indignant arenger?