« ElőzőTovább »
Snarlers at Johnson's fame.
the University, by the Reverend Mr. Agutter, of Magdalen College'. The Lives, the Memoirs, the Essays, both in prose and verse, which have been published concerning him, would make many volumes. The numerous attacks too upon him, I consider as part of his consequence, upon the principle which he himself so well knew and asserted". Many who trembled at his presence, were forward in assault, when they no longer apprehended danger. When one of his little pragmatical foes was invidiously snarling at his fame, at Sir Joshua Reynolds's table, the Reverend Dr. Parr exclaimed, with his usual bold animation, 'Ay, now that the old lion is dead, every ass thinks he
may kick at him.' A monument for him, in Westminster Abbey, was resolved upon soon after his death, and was supported by a most
publish another of the same, that it may be more generally circulated among the admirers of Dr. Johnson.-16. One large, from Sir Joshua's first picture of him, by Heath, for this work, in quarto.-17. One octavo, by Baker, for the octavo edition.--18. And one for Lavater's Essay on Physiog nomy, in which Johnson's countenance is analysed upon the principles of that fanciful writer.—There are also several seals with his head cut on them, particularly a very fine one by that eminent artist, Edward Burch, Esq. R.A. in the possession of the younger Dr. Charles Burney.
Let me add, as a proof of the popularity of his character, that there are copper pieces struck at Birmingham, with his head impressed on them, which pass current as half-pence there, and in the neighbouring parts of the country. BOSWELL.
· It is not yet published.—In a letter to me, Mr. Agutter says, “My sermon before the University was more engaged with Dr. Johnson's moral than his intellectual character. It particularly examined his fear of death, and suggested several reasons for the apprehension of the good, and the indifference of the infidel in their last hours; this was illustrated by contrasting the death of Dr. Johnson and Mr. Hume: the text was Job xxi. 22-26.' BOSWELL. It was preached on July 23, 1786, and not at Johnson's death. It is entitled On the Difference between the Deaths of the Righteous and the Wicked. Ilustrated in the Instance of Dr. Samuel Johnson and David Hume, Esq. The text is from Job xxi. 23 (not 22)—26. It was published in 1800. Neither Johnson nor Hume is mentioned in the sermon itself by
Its chief, perhaps its sole, merit is its brevity. ? See ante, ii. 384, and iii. 426.
Johnson's monument in St. Paul's. [A.D. 1781.
respectable contribution’; but the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's having come to a resolution of admitting monuments there, upon a liberal and magnificent plan, that Cathedral was afterwards fixed on, as the place in which a cenotaph should be erected to his memory* : and in the cathedral of his native city of Lichfield, a smaller one is to be erected. To compose his epitaph, could not but excite the warmest competition of genius". If laudari à laudato viro be praise
May 26, 1791. After the Doctor's death, Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Boswell sent an ambling circular-letter to me begging subscriptions for a monument for him. I would not deign to write an answer; but sent down word by my footman, as I would have done to parish officers, with a brief, that I would not subscribe.' Horace Walpole's Letters, ix. 319. In Malone's correspondence are complaints of the backwardness of the members of the Literary Club'to pay the amounts nominally subscribed by them.' Prior's Goldsmith, ii. 226.
? It was, says Malone, owing to Reynolds that the monument was erected in St. Paul's. In his Journey to Flanders he had lamented that sculpture languished in England, and was almost confined to monuments to eminent men. But even in these it liad not fair play, for Westminster Abbey was so full, that the recent monuments appeared ridiculous being stuck up in odd holes and corners. On the other hand St. Paul's looked forlorn and desolate. Here monunients should be erected, under the direction of the Royal Academy. He took advantage of Johnson's death to make a beginning with the plan which he had here sketched, and induced his friends to give up their intention of setting up the monument in the Abbey. Reynolds's Works, ed. 1824, ii. 248. “He asked Dr. Parr—but in vain--to include in the epitaph Johnson's title of Professor of Ancient Literature to the Royal Academy; as it was on this pretext that he persuaded the Academicians to subscribe a hundred guineas.' Johnstone's Parr, iv. 686. See ante, ii. 274, where the question was raised whose monument should be first erected in St. Paul's, and Johnson proposed Milton's.
The Reverend Dr. Parr, on being requested to undertake it, thus expressed himself in a letter to William Seward, Esq.:
I leave this mighty task to some hardier and some abler writer. The variety and splendour of Johnson's attainments, the peculiarities of his character, his private virtues, and his literary publications, fill me with confusion and dismay, when I reflect upon the confined and difficult species of composition, in which alone they can be expressed, with propriety, upon his monument.'
which is highly estimable', I should not forgive myself were I to omit the following sepulchral verses on the authour of THE ENGLISH DICTIONARY, written by the Right Honourable Henry Flood:
But I understand that this great scholar, and warm admirer of Johnson, has yielded to repeated solicitations, and executed the very difficult undertaking. BOSWELL. Dr. Johnson's Monument, consisting of a colossal figure leaning against a column, has since the death of our authour been placed in St. Paul's Cathedral. The Epitaph was written by the Rev. Dr. Parr, and is as follows:
Α Ρ Ω
GRAMMATICO · ET · CRITICO SCRIPTORVM · ANGLICORVM · LITTERATE · PERITO
POETAE · LVMINIBVS · SENTENTIARVM
MAGISTRO · VIRTVTIS · GRAVISSIMO
QVI · VIXIT · ANN · LAXV · MENS : 11. · DIEB. xuil
PECVNIA · CONLATA
H· M · FACIVND · CVRAVER. On a scroll in his hand are the following words:
ΕΝΜΑΚΑΡΕΣΣΙΠΩΝΩΝΑΝΤΑΞΙΟΣΕΙΗΑΜΟΙΒΗ. On one side of the Monument — FACIEBAT JOHANNES BACON, SCULPTOR ANN. CHRIST. M.DCC.LXXXXV.
The Subscription for this monument, which cost eleven hundred guineas, was begun by the LITERARY CLUB. MALONE. See Appendix I.
Laetus sum laudari me," inquit Hector, opinor apud Naevium, "abs te, pater, a laudato viro."' Cicero, Ep. ad Fam. xv. 6.
? To prevent any misconception on this subject, Mr. Malone, by whom these lines were obligingly communicated, requests me to add the following remark :
In justice to the late Mr. Flood, now himself wanting, and highly meriting, an epitaph from his country, to which his transcendent talents did the highest honour, as well as the most important service; it should be observed that these lines were by no means intended as a regular monumental inscription for Dr. Johnson. Had he under
• No need of Latin or of Greek to grace
Our Johnson's memory, or inscribe his grave;
To pay the Immortality he gave.'
I developed in the course of this work, that they who have honoured it with a perusal, may be considered as well acquainted with him. As, however, it may be expected that I should collect into one view the capital and distinguishing features of this extraordinary man, I shall endeavour to acquit myself of that part of my biographical undertaking', however difficult it may be to do that which many of my readers will do better for themselves.
His figure was large and well formed, and his countenance of the cast of an ancient statue; yet his appearance was rendered strange and somewhat uncouth, by convulsive cramps, by the scars of that distemper which it was once imagined the royal touch could cure, and by a slovenly mode of dress. He had the use only of one eye; yet so much does mind govern and even supply the deficiency of organs, that his visual perceptions, as far as they extended,
taken to write an appropriated and discriminative epitaph for that excellent and extraordinary man, those who knew Mr. Flood's vigour of mind, will have no doubt that he would have produced one worthy of his illustrious subject. But the fact was merely this: In Dec. 1789, after a large subscription had been made for Dr. Johnson's monument, to which Mr. Flood liberally contributed, Mr. Malone happened to call on him at his house, in Berners-street, and the conversation turning on the proposed monument, Mr. Malone maintained that the epitaph, by whomsoever it should be written, ought to be in Latin. Mr. Flood thought differently. The next morning, in the postscript to a note on another subject, he mentioned that he continued of the same opinion as on the preceding day, and subjoined the lines above given.' BOSWELL. Cowper also composed an epitaph for Johnsonthough not one of much merit. See Southey's Cowper, v. 119.
· As I do not see any reason to give a different character of my illustrious friend now, from what I formerly gave, the greatest part of the sketch of him in my Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, is here adopted. BOSWELL.
were uncommonly quick and accurate'. So morbid was his temperament, that he never knew the natural joy of a free and vigorous use of his limbs: when he walked, it was like the struggling gait of one in fetters; when he rode, he had no command or direction of his horse, but was carried as if in a balloon'. That with his constitution and habits of life he should have lived seventy-five years, is a proof that an inherent vivida viso is a powerful preservative of the human frame.
Man is, in general, made up of contradictory qualities; and these will ever shew themselves in strange succession, where a consistency in appearance at least; if not in reality, has not been attained by long habits of philosophical discipline. In proportion to the native vigour of the mind, the contradictory qualities will be the more prominent, and more difficult to be adjusted ; and, therefore, we are not to wonder, that Johnson exhibited an eminent example of this remark which I have made upon human nature. At different times, he seemed a different man, in some respects; not, however, in any great or essential article, upon which he had fully employed his mind, and settled certain principles of duty, but only in his manners, and in the display of argument and fancy in his talk. He was prone to superstition, but not to credulity. Though his imagination might incline him to a belief of the marvellous and the mysterious, his vigorous reason examined the evidence with jealousy'. He was a sincere and zealous Christian, of high Church-ofEngland and monarchical principles, which he would not tamely suffer to be questioned; and had, perhaps, at an early period, narrowed his mind somewhat too much, both as to religion and politicks. His being impressed with the danger of extreme latitude in either, though he was of a very independent spirit, occasioned his appearing somewhat unfavourable to the prevalence of that noble freedom of sentiment which is the best possession of man. Nor can it
i See ante, i. 48.
? For his fox-hunting see ante, i. 517, note 1. * See ante, i. 470.