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HOUGH the quantity of Dr. JOHNSON'S poetry bears no proportion to his profe writing, their quality has been always in such esteem with the best judges, that little remains for me, than to state a few facts and circumstances relative to the periods of their publication.
The translation of Mr. Pope's MESSIAH into Latin verse, was performed as an exercise when he was a commoner of Pembroke College, Oxford, at the age of twenty; and afterwards collected in a volume of Miscellaneous Poems, published by J. Husbands, M. A. in the year 1731. This translation gained him reputation in the college, and received the approbation of the original author. ,
The VERSES on a LADY presenting a Sprig of myrtle to a Gentleman, was written at Birmingham soon after he left the college, at the
request of a friend who aspired to the character of a poet with his mistress. Whether he was successful or not, anecdote is silent ; but if the lady required good poetry as the condition of her affeaion (provided the believed her lover to be the author) the probability is, that he gained his prize.
“ LONDON, imitated from the third Satire of Juvenal, was published in 1738, and was the first poetical production of Dr. Johnson after he came to town. This imitation had a great fale, and was so far applauded by Mr. Pope, that not being able to discover the author, he said “ It cannot be tong before my curiosity will be gratified, the writer of this poem will soon be deterré." The lighter Poems, addressed “ To STELLA,
were published at different times in the Gentleman's Magazine, in which our author was concerned for many years.
The prologue to the opening Drury Lane Theatre in 1747, though looked upon as one of the most critical accounts of the drama from the time of Shakespeare, was composed throughout before he put a single couplet on
paper. The correction it afterwards underwent being no more than the change of a single word, at the remonstrance of Mr. Gara rick. And then, said the Doctor, I did not think his criticism just ; but it was necessary he should be satisfied with what he was to utter.
'The Poem entitled " THE VANITY OF HUMAN WISHES," being an imitation of the tenth fatire of Juvenal, published in 1749, was composed nearly in the sanre manner, and has always been esteemed a fine parody on the force and spirit of the original.
Dr. Johnson brought his Tragedy of IRENE with him to London in the year 1737, but, from whatever cause it happened, was not performed till 1749, and then 'with some difficulty gained its ninth night. The general opinion on this Tragedy is, that though defective in plot and incidents, it pofsesses a degree of imagery and sentiment that must always render it an agreeable entertainment in the closet. The Prologue was written by the author. The Epilogue is said to be the produ&tion of the late Sir William Younge.