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THE MEMOIRS OF GRAY's Life.
Mr. Murphy said, that The Memoirs of Gray's Life set him much higher in his estimation than his poems did; for you there saw a man constantly at work in literature.' Johnson acquiesced in this; but depreciated the book, I thought, very unreasonably. For he said, 'I forced myself to read it, only because it was a common topick of conversation. I found it mighty dull; and, as to the style, it is fit for the second table'.' Why he thought so
of it, and who bore a respectable character.
'We have been induced to enter thus circumstantially into the foregoing detail of facts relating to The Lives of the Poets, compiled by Messrs. Cibber and Shiels, from a sincere regard to that sacred principle of Truth, to which Dr. Johnson so rigidly adhered, according to the best of his knowledge; and which we believe, no consideration would have prevailed on him to violate. In regard to the matter, which we now dismiss, he had, no doubt, been misled by partial and wrong information: Shiels was the Doctor's amanuensis; he had quarrelled with Cibber; it is natural to suppose that he told his story in his own way; and it is certain that he was not "a very sturdy moralist." [The quotation is from Johnson's Works, ix. 116.] This explanation appears to me very satisfactory. It is, however, to be observed, that the story told by Johnson does not rest solely upon my record of his conversation; for he himself has published it in his Life of Hammond [ib. viii. 90], where he says, "the manuscript of Shiels is now in my possession." Very probably he had trusted to Shiels's word, and never looked at it so as to compare it with The Lives of the Poets, as published under Mr. Cibber's name. What became of that manuscript I know not. I should have liked much to examine it. I suppose it was thrown into the fire in that impet
uous combustion of papers, which Johnson I think rashly executed, when moribundus.' BosWELL. Mr. Croker, quoting a letter by Griffiths the publisher, says :-'The question is now decided by this letter in opposition to Dr. Johnson's assertion.' Croker's Boswell, p. 818. The evidence of such an infamous fellow as Griffiths is worthless. (For his character see Forster's Goldsmith, i. 161.) As the Monthly Review was his property, the passage quoted by Boswell was, no doubt, written by his direction. D'Israeli (Curiosities of Literature, ed. 1834, vi. 375) says that Oldys (ante, i. 175) made annotations on a copy of Langbaine's Dramatic Poets. 'This Langbaine, with additions by Coxeter, was bought by Theophilus Cibber; on the strength of these notes he prefixed his name to the first collection of the Lives of Our Poets, written chiefly by Shiels.'
1 Mason's Memoirs of Gray's Life was published in 1775. Johnson, in his Life of Gray (Works, viii. 476), praises Gray's portion of the book :-' They [Gray and Horace Walpole] wandered through France into Italy; and Gray's Letters contain a very pleasing account of many parts of their journey.' 'The style of Madame de Sévigné,' wrote Mackintosh (Life, ii. 221), 'is evidently copied, not only by her worshipper Walpole, but even by Gray; notwithstanding the extraordinary merits of his matter, he has the double stiffness of an imitator and of a college recluse.'
The MONTHLY and CRITICAL REVIEWS. [A.D.1776.
I was at a loss to conceive. He now gave it as his opinion, that 'Akenside' was a superiour poet both to Gray and Mason.'
Talking of the Reviews, Johnson said, 'I think them very impartial: I do not know an instance of partiality'.' He mentioned what had passed upon the subject of the Monthly and Critical Reviews, in the conversation with which his Majesty had honoured him3. He expatiated a little more on them this evening. 'The Monthly Reviewers (said he) are not Deists; but they are Christians with as little christianity as may be ; and are for pulling down all establishments. The Critical Reviewers are for supporting the constitution both in church and state. The Critical Reviewers, I believe, often review without reading the books through; but lay hold of a topick, and write chiefly from their own minds. The Monthly Reviewers are duller men, and are glad to read the books through.'
He talked of Lord Lyttelton's extreme anxiety as an authour; observing, that he was thirty years in preparing his History, and that he employed a man to point it for him; as if (laughing) another man could point his sense better than himself 5.
See ante, ii. 164.
2 This impartiality is very unlikely. In 1757 Griffiths, the owner of the Monthly, aiming a blow at Smollett, the editor of the Critical, said that The Monthly Review was not written by physicians without practice, authors without learning, men without decency, gentlemen without manners, and critics without judgment.' Smollett retorted :- The Critical Review is not written by a parcel of obscure hirelings, under the restraint of a bookseller and his wife, who presume to revise, alter, and amend the articles occasionally. The principal writers in the Critical Review are unconnected with booksellers, unawed by old women, and independent of each other.' Forster's Goldsmith, i. 100. 'A fourth share in The Monthly Review was sold in 1761 for £755. A Bookseller of the Last Century, p. 19.
3 See ante, ii. 39.
Horace Walpole writes :-The scope of the Critical Review was to decry any work that appeared favourable to the principles of the Revolution.' Memoirs of the Reign of George II, iii. 260.
5 The story of this publication is remarkable. The whole book was printed twice over, a great part of it three times, and many sheets four or five times. The booksellers paid for the first impression; but the charges and repeated operations of the press were at the expense of the author, whose ambitious accuracy is known to have cost him at least a thousand pounds. He began to print in 1755. Three volumes appeared in 1764, and the conclusion in 1771. Andrew Reid undertook to persuade Lyttelton, as he had persuaded himhimself, that he was master of the secret of punctuation; and, as fear Mr. Murphy
Mr. Murphy said, he understood his history was kept back several years for fear of Smollet1. JOHNSON. 'This seems strange to Murphy and me, who never felt that anxiety, but sent what we wrote to the press, and let it take its chance.' MRS. THRALE. The time has been, Sir, when you felt it.' JOHNSON. 'Why really, Madam, I do not recollect a time when that was the case.'
Talking of The Spectator, he said, 'It is wonderful that there is such a proportion of bad papers, in the half of the work which was not written by Addison; for there was all the world to write that half, yet not a half of that half is good. One of the finest pieces in the English language is the paper on Novelty", yet we do not hear it talked of. It was written by Grove, a dissenting teacher' He would not, I perceived, call him a clergyman, though he was candid enough to allow very great merit to his composition. Mr. Murphy said, he remembered when there were several people alive in London, who enjoyed a considerable reputation merely from having written a paper in The Spectator. He mentioned particularly Mr. Ince, who used to frequent Tom's coffee-house. But (said Johnson,) you must consider how highly Steele speaks of Mr. Ince3.
He ing paragraph:-"The words of Abbot Suger, in his life of Lewis le Gros, concerning this prince are very remarkable,' he thus corrects, 'after prince a comma is wanting.' See ante, ii. 37.
According to Horace Walpole, Lyttelton had angered Smollett by declining 'to recommend to the stage' a comedy of his. 'He promised,' Walpole continues, 'if it should be acted, to do all the service in his power for the author. Smollett's return was drawing an abusive portrait of Lord Lyttelton in Roderick Random?' Memoirs of the Reign of George II, iii. 259. Spectator, No. 626.
See post, 1780, in Mr. Langton's Collection, near the end.
When Steele brought The Spectator to the close of its first period, he acknowledged in the final number would
begets credulity, he was employed, I know not at what price, to point the pages of Henry the Second. When time brought the History to a third edition, Reid was either dead or discarded; and the superintendence of typography and punctuation was committed to a man originally a comb-maker, but then known by the style of Doctor. Something uncommon was probably expected, and something uncommon was at last done; for to the Doctor's edition is appended, what the world had hardly seen before, a list of errors in nineteen pages.' Johnson's Works, viii. 492. In the first edition of The Lives of the Poets the Doctor' is called Dr. Saunders. So ambitious was Lord Lyttelton's accuracy that in the second edition he gave a list of' false stops which hurt the sense.' For instance, the punctuation of the followVOL. III.
Dr. Barry's System of Physick.
would not allow that the paper' on carrying a boy to travel, signed Philip Homebred, which was reported to be written by the Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, had merit. He said, 'it was quite vulgar, and had nothing luminous.'
Johnson mentioned Dr. Barry's System of Physick. 'He was a man (said he,) who had acquired a high reputation in Dublin, came over to England, and brought his reputation with him, but had not great success. His notion was, that pulsation occasions death by attrition; and that, therefore, the way to preserve life is to retard pulsation3. But we know that pulsation is strongest in infants, and that we increase in growth while it operates in its regular course; so it cannot be the cause of destruction.' Soon after this, he said something very flattering to Mrs. Thrale, which I do not recollect; but it concluded with wishing her long life. 'Sir, (said I,) if Dr. Barry's system be true, you have now shortened Mrs. Thrale's life, perhaps, some minutes, by accelerating her pulsation.'
On Thursday, April 11, I dined with him at General Paoli's,
(No. 555) his obligation to his assistants. In a postscript to the later editions he says:-'It had not come to my knowledge, when I left off The Spectator, that I owe several excellent sentiments and agreeable pieces in this work to Mr. Ince, of Gray's Inn. Mr. Ince died in 1758. Gent. Mag. 1758, p. 504.
Spectator, No. 364.
2 Sir Edward Barry, Baronet. Bos
3 'We form our words with the breath of our nostrils, we have the less to live upon for every word we speak.' Jeremy Taylor's Holy Dying, ch. i. sec. I.
On this day Johnson sent the following application for rooms in Hampton Court to the Lord Chamberlain :
'MY LORD, Being wholly unknown to your lordship, I have only this apology to make for presuming to trouble you with a request, that a stranger's petition, if it cannot be
easily granted, can be easily refused. Some of the apartments are now vacant in which I am encouraged to hope that by application to your lordship I may obtain a residence. Such a grant would be considered by me as a great favour; and I hope that to a man who has had the honour of vindicating his Majesty's Government, a retreat in one of his houses may not be improperly or unworthily allowed. I therefore request that your lordship will be pleased to grant such rooms in Hampton Court as shall seem proper to
'Your lordship's most obedient and most faithful humble servant,
'April 11, 1776.'
Indorsed. Mr. Saml. Johnson to the Earl of Hertford, requesting apartments at Hampton Court. 11th May, 1776.' And within, a memo
Garrick in low characters.
in whose house I now resided, and where I had ever afterwards the honour of being entertained with the kindest attention as his constant guest, while I was in London, till I had a house of my own there. I mentioned my having that morning introduced to Mr. Garrick, Count Neni, a Flemish Nobleman of great rank and fortune, to whom Garrick talked of Abel Drugger' as a small part; and related, with pleasant vanity, that a Frenchman who had seen him in one of his low characters, exclaimed, 'Comment! je ne le crois pas. Ce n'est pas Monsieur Garrick, ce Grand Homme!' Garrick added, with an appearance of grave recollection, 'If I were to begin life again, I think I should not play those low characters.' Upon which I observed, 'Sir, you would be in the wrong; for your great excellence is your variety of playing, your representing so well, characters so very different.' JOHNSON. 'Garrick, Sir, was not in earnest in what he said; for, to be sure, his peculiar excellence is his variety2: and, perhaps, there is not any one character which has not been as well acted by somebody else, as he could do it.' BOSWELL. 'Why then, Sir, did he talk so?' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, to make you answer as you did.' BOSWELL. 'I don't know, Sir ; he seemed to dip deep into his mind for the reflection.' JOHNSON. He had not far to dip, Sir: he said the same thing, probably, twenty times before.'
Of a nobleman raised at a very early period to high office, he said, 'His parts, Sir, are pretty well for a Lord; but would
randum of the answer :-'Lord C. presents his compliments to Mr. Johnson, and is sorry he cannot obey his commands, having already on his hands many engagements unsatisfied.' Prior's Malone, p. 337. The endorsement does not, it will be seen, agree in date with the letter. Lord C. stands for the Lord Chamberlain.
Cooke, in his Memoirs of Macklin, p. 110, says that a Lichfield grocer, who came to London with a letter of introduction to Garrick from Peter Garrick, saw him act Abel Drugger, and returned without calling on him. He said to Peter Garrick: 'I saw enough of him on the stage. He may be rich, as I dare say any man who lives like him must be ; but by G-d, though he is your brother, Mr. Garrick, he is one of the shabbiest, meanest, most pitiful hounds I ever saw in the whole course of my life.' Abel Drugger is a character in Ben Jonson's Alchemist.
Hogarth saw Garrick in Richard III, and on the following night in Abel Drugger; he was so struck, that he said to him, 'You are in your element when you are begrimed with dirt, or up to your elbows in blood.' Murphy's Garrick, p. 21. * See post, under Sept. 30, 1783. D 2 not