Aetat. 55.)

Grainger's SUGAR CANE.


In this year, except what he may have done in revising Shakspeare, we do not find that he laboured much in literature. He wrote a review of Grainger's Sugar Cane, a Poem, in the London Chronicle. He told me, that Dr. Percy wrote the greatest part of this review; but, I imagine, he did not recollect it distinctly, for it appears to be mostly, if not altogether, his own'. He also wrote in The

tender affectionate man. He was merely offended at the actor's conceit.' He continues : On the former part of this story it probably was that Hawkins grounded his account that Garrick never was of the Club, and that Johnson said he never ought to be of it. And thus it is that this stupid biographer, and the more flippant and malicious Mrs. Piozzi have miscoloured and misrepresented almost every anecdote that they have pretended to tell of Dr. Johnson.' Prior's Malone, p. 392. Whatever was the slight cast upon Garrick, he was nevertheless the sixth new member elected. Four, as I have shown, were added by 1768. The next elections were in 1773 (Croker's Boswell, ed. 1844, ii. 326), when five were added, of whom Garrick was the second, and Boswell the fifth. In 1774 five more were elected, among whom were Fox and Gibbon. Hannah More (Memoirs, i. 249) says that 'upon Garrick's death, when numberless applications were made to succeed him (in the Club), Johnson was deaf to them all. He said, “ No, there never could be found any successor worthy of such a man;" and he insisted upon it there should be a year's widowhood in the club, before they thought of a new election.'

Grainger wrote to Percy on April 6, 1764 :- Sam. Johnson says he will review it in The Critical. In August 1765, he wrote:—I am perfectly satisfied with the reception the Sugar Cane has met with, and am greatly obliged to you and Mr. Johnson for the generous care you took of it in my absence.' Prior's Goldsmith, i. 238. He was absent in the West Indies. He died on Dec. 16, 1766. 16. p. 241. The review of the Sugar Cane in the Critical Review (p. 270) is certainly by Johnson. The following passage is curious: The last book begins with a striking invocation to the genius of Africa, and goes on to give proper instructions for the buying and choice of negroes. ... The poet talks of this ungenerous commerce without the least appearance of detestation; but proceeds to direct these purchasers of their fellow-creatures with the same indifference that a groom would give instructions for choosing a horse.

Clear roll their ample eye; their tongue be red;
Broad swell their chest; their shoulders wide expand ;



Johnson's self-accusations.

(A.D. 1764.

Critical Review, an accountt of Goldsmith's excellent poem, The Traveller'.

The ease and independence to which he had at last at. tained by royal munificence, increased his natural indolence. In his Meditations he thus accuses himself:

'Good Friday, April 20, 1764.-I have made no reformation; I have lived totally useless, more sensual in thought, and more addicted to wine and meat'.' And next morning he thus feelingly complains :

My indolence, since my last reception of the sacrament, has sunk into grosser sluggishness, and my dissipation spread into wilder negligence. My thoughts have been clouded with sensuality; and, except that from the beginning of this year I have, in some measure, forborne excess of strong drink, my appetites have predominated over my reason. A kind of strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the last year; and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over me, without leaving any impression.' He then solemnly says,

“This is not the life to which heaven is promised';' and he earnestly resolves an amendment.

It was his custom to observe certain days with a pious abstraction ; viz. New-year's-day, the day of his wife's death, Good Friday, Easter-day, and his own birth-day. He this year says':'I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving;


Not prominent their belly; clean and strong

Their thighs and legs in just proportion rise.' See also post, March 21, 1776.

Johnson thus ends his brief review :— Such is the poem on which we now congratulate the public as on a production to which, since the death of Pope, it will not be easy to find anything equal.' Critical Review, p. 462. * Pr. and Med. p. 50. BOSWELL. He adds :

I hope

To put my rooms in order.

Disorder I have found one great cause of idleness." 16. p. 51. BOSWELL. • It was on his birth-day that he said this. He wrote on the same


Aetat. 55.] A severe attack of hypochondria.


having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions, for JESUS CHRIST's sake. Amen'.'

Such a tenderness of conscience, such a fervent desire of improvement, will rarely be found. It is, surely, not decent in those who are hardened in indifference to spiritual improvement, to treat this pious anxiety of Johnson with contempt.

About this time he was afflicted with a very severe return of the hypochondriack disorder, which was ever lurking about him. He was so ill, as, notwithstanding his remarkable love of company, to be entirely averse to society, the most fatal symptom of that malady. Dr. Adams told me, that as an old friend he was admitted to visit him, and that he found him in a deplorable state, sighing, groaning, talking to himself, and restlessly walking from room to room. He then used this emphatical expression of the misery which he felt : • I would consent to have a limb amputated to recover my spirits”.'

Talking to himself was, indeed, one of his singularities ever since I knew him. I was certain that he was frequently uttering pious ejaculations; for fragments of the Lord's Prayer have been distinctly overheard'. His friend Mr. Thomas Davies, of whom Churchill says,

day:—'I have outlived many friends. I have felt many sorrows. I have made few improvements.'

* Prayers and Meditations, p. 58. BOSWELL. In his Vision of Theodore (Works, ix. 174) he describes the state of mind which he has recorded in his Meditations :— There were others whose crime it was rather to neglect Reason than to disobey her; and who retreated from the heat and tumult of the way, not to the bowers of Intemperance, but to the maze of Indolence. They had this peculiarity in their condition, that they were always in sight of the road of Reason, always wishing for her presence, and always resolving to return to-morrow.' • See Appendix F. It used to be imagined at Mr. Thrale's, when Johnson retired to a

• That


Johnson's particularities.

[A.D. 1764.

“That Davies hath a very pretty wife',' when Dr. Johnson muttered 'lead us not into temptation, used with waggish and gallant humour to whisper Mrs. Davies, 'You, my dear, are the cause of this.'

He had another particularity, of which none of his friends ever ventured to ask an explanation'. It appeared to me some superstitious habit, which he had contracted early, and

window or corner of the room, by perceiving his lips in motion, and hearing a murmur without audible articulation, that he was praying: but this was not always the case, for I was once, perhaps unperceived by him, writing at a table, so near the place of his retreat, that I heard him repeating some lines in an ode of Horace, over and over again, as if by iteration, to exercise the organs of speech, and fix the ode in his memory:

Audiet cives acuisse ferrum
Quo graves Persæ melius perirent,
Audiet pugnas. ...

Odes, i. 2. 21. [Our sons shall hear, shall hear to latest times,

Of Roman arms with civil gore imbrued,
Which better had the Persian foe subdued.'

Francis.] It was during the American War. BURNEY. Boswell in his Hebrides (Oct. 12, 1773) records, Dr. Johnson is often uttering pious ejaculations, when he appears to be talking to himself; for sometimes his voice grows stronger, and parts of the Lord's Prayer are heard.' In the same passage he describes other particularities,' and adds in a note :— It is remarkable that Dr. Johnson should have read this account of some of his own peculiar habits, without saying anything on the subject, which I hoped he would have done.' See post, Dec. 1784. note.

"Churchill's Poems, i. 16. See ante, p. 452.

: "It is in vain to try to find a meaning in every of his particu. larities, which, I suppose, are mere habits contracted by chance; of which every man has some that are more or less remarkable.' Boswell's Hebrides, Oct. 12, 1773. *The love of symmetry and order, which is natural to the mind of man, betrays him sometimes into very whimsical fancies. “This noble principle,” says a French author, “loves to amuse itself on the most trifling occasions. You may see profound philosopher,” says he, “walk for an hour together in his chamber, and industriously treading at every step upon every other board in the flooring."' The Spectator, No. 632.


Aetat. 65.)

Johnson's particularities.


from which he had never called upon his reason to disentangle him. This was his anxious care to go out or in at a door or passage by a certain number of steps from a certain point, or at least so as that either his right or his left foot, (I am not certain which,) should constantly make the first actual movement when he came close to the door or passage. Thus I conjecture: for I have, upon innumerable occasions, observed him suddenly stop, and then seem to count his steps with a deep earnestness; and when he had neglected or gone wrong in this sort of magical movement, I have seen him go back again, put himself in a proper posture to begin the ceremony, and, having gone through it, break from his abstraction, walk briskly on, and join his companion'. A strange instance of something of this nature, even when on horseback, happened when he was in the isle of Sky'. Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed him to go a good way about, rather than cross a particular alley in Leicester-fields; but this Sir Joshua imputed to his having had some disagreeable recollection associated with it.

That the most minute singularities which belonged to him, and made very observable parts of his appearance and manner, may not be omitted, it is requisite to mention, that while talking or even musing as he sat in his chair, he commonly

"Mr. S. Whyte (Miscellanea Nova, p. 49) tells how from old Mr. Sheridan's house in Bedford-street, opposite Henrietta-street, with an opera-glass he watched Johnson approaching. 'I perceived him at a good distance working along with a peculiar solemnity of deportment, and an awkward sort of measured step. Upon every post as he passed along, he deliberately laid his hand; but missing one of them, when he had got at some distance, he seemed suddenly to recollect himself, and immediately returning carefully performed the accustomed ceremony, and resumed his former course, not omitting one till he gained the crossing. This, Mr. Sheridan assured me, was his constant practice.'

Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3rd edit. p. 316. Boswell. 'The day that we left Talisker, he bade us ride on. He then turned the head of his horse back towards Talisker, stopped for some time; then wheeled round to the same direction with ours, and then came briskly after us.' Boswell's Hebrides, Oct. 12, 1773. 1.-36


« ElőzőTovább »