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BoETHIUS DE CONSOLATIONE.
with which he could draw up a prefatory address, was one of his peculiar excellencies.
It appears too, that he paid a friendly attention to Mrs. Elizabeth Carter; for in a letter from Mr. Cave to Dr. Birch, November 28, this year, I find ‘Mr. Johnson advises Miss C. to undertake a translation of Boethius de Cons. because there is prose and verse, and to put her name to it when published.' This advice was not followed ; probably from an apprehension that the work was not sufficiently popular for an extensive sale. How well Johnson himself could have executed a translation of this philosophical poet, we may judge from the following specimen which he has given in the Rambler: (Motto to No. 7.)
O qui perpetuâ mundum ratione gubernas,
Path, motive, guide, original, and end !' In 1739, beside the assistance which he gave to the Parliamentary Debates, his writings in the Gentleman's Magazine' were, ‘The Life of Boerhaave,'* in which it is to be observed, that he discovers that love of chymistry' which never forsook him ; 'An appeal to the publick in behalf of the Editor;'+
· The letter to Mr. Urban in the January number of this year (p. 3) is, I believe, by Johnson.
? Yet did Boerhaave not suffer one branch of science to withdraw his attention from others; anatomy did not withhold him from chymistry, nor chymistry, enchanting as it is, from the study of botany." Johnson's Works, vi. 276. See post, under Sept. 9, 1779. I.-II
‘An Address to the Reader;'+ 'An Epigram both in Greek and Latin to Eliza','* and also English verses to her*;* and, 'A Greek Epigram to Dr. Bircho.'* It has been erroneously supposed, that an Essay published in that Magazine this year, , entitled “The Apotheosis of Milton,' was written by Johnson; and on that supposition it has been improperly inserted in the edition of his works by the Booksellers, after his decease. Were there no positive testimony as to this point, the style of the performance, and the name of Shakspeare not being mentioned in an Essay professedly reviewing the principal English poets, would ascertain it not to be the production of Johnson. But there is here no occasion to resort to internal evidence; for my Lord Bishop of Salisbury (Dr. Douglas) has assured me, that it was written by Guthrie. His separate publications were', 'A Complete Vindication of the Licensers of
· Gent. Mag. viii. 210, and Johnson's Works, i. 170.
• What these verses are is not clear. On p. 372 there is an epigram Ad Elisam Popi Horto Lauros carpentem, of which on p. 429 there are three translations. That by Urbanus may be Johnson's.
• Ib. p. 654, and Johnson's Works, i. 170. On p. 211 of this volume of the Gent. Mag. is given the epigram ‘To a lady who spoke in defence of liberty.' This was · Molly Aston' mentioned ante, p. 96.
• To the year 1739 belongs Considerations on the Case of Dr. T[rapp]'s Sermons. Abridged by Mr. Cave, 1739; first published in the Gent. Mag. of July 1787. (See post under Nov. 5, 1784, note.) Cave had begun to publish in the Gent. Mag. an abridgment of four sermons preached by Trapp against Whitefield. He stopped short in the publication, deterred perhaps by the threat of a prosecution for an infringement of copy - right. «On all difficult occasions,' writes the Editor in 1787, * Johnson was Cave's oracle; and the paper now before us was certainly written on that occasion.' Johnson argues that abridgments are not only legal but also justifiable. “The design of an abridgment is to benefit mankind by facilitating the attainment of knowledge ... for as an incorrect book is lawfully criticised, and false assertions justly confuted ... so a tedious volume may no less lawfully be abridged, because it is better that the proprietors should suffer some damage, than that the acquisition of knowledge should be obstructed with unnecessary difficulties, and the valuable hours of thousands thrown away.' Johnson's Works, v. 465. Whether we have here Johnson's own opinion cannot be known. He was writing as Cave's advocate. See also Boswell's Hebrides, Aug. 20, 1773.
the Stage, from the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke, Authour of Gustavus Vasa,'* being an ironical Attack upon them for their Suppression of that Tragedy'; and, Marmor Norfolciense; or an Essay on an ancient prophetical Inscription in monkish Rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne in Norfolk, by PROBUS BRITANNICUS.'* In this performance, he, in a feigned inscription, supposed to have been found in Norfolk, the county of Sir Robert Walpole, then the obnoxious prime minister of this country, inveighs against the Brunswick succession, and the measures of government consequent upon it'. To this supposed prophecy he added a Commentary, making each expression apply to the times, with warm Anti-Hanoverian zeal.
This anonymous pamphlet, I believe, did not make so much noise as was expected, and, therefore, had not a very extensive circulation'. Sir John Hawkins relates', that, warrants were issued, and messengers employed to apprehend the authour; who, though he had forborne to subscribe his name to the pamphlet, the vigilance of those in pursuit of him had discovered ;' and we are informed, that he lay concealed in Lambeth-marsh till the scent after him grew cold. This, however, is altogether without foundation ; for Mr. Steele, one of the Secretaries of the Treasury, who amidst a variety of important business, politely obliged me with his attention to my inquiry, informed me, that he
* In his Life of Thomson Johnson writes :— About this time the act was passed for licensing plays, of which the first operation was the prohibition of Gustavus Vasa, a tragedy of Mr. Brooke, whom the public recompensed by a very liberal subscription ; the next was the refusal of Edward and Eleonora, offered by Thomson. It is hard to discover why either play should have been obstructed.' Johnson's Works, viii. 373.
? The Inscription and the Translation of it are preserved in the London Magazine for the year 1739, p. 244. BOSWELL. See Johnson's Works, vi. 89.
• It is a little heavy in its humour, and does not compare well with the like writings of Swift and the earlier wits. • Hawkins's Johnson, p. 72.
Reprint of MARMOR NORFOLCIENSE. (A.D. 1739.
directed every possible search to be made in the records of the Treasury and Secretary of State's Office, but could find no trace whatever of any warrant having been issued to apprehend the authour of this pamphlet.'
Marmor Norfolciense became exceedingly scarce, so that I, for many years, endeavoured in vain to procure a copy of it. At last I was indebted to the malice of one of Johnson's numerous petty adversaries, who, in 1775, published a new edition of it, 'with Notes and a dedication to SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D. by TRIBUNUS;' in which some puny scribbler invidiously attempted to found upon it a charge of inconsistency against its authour, because he had accepted of a pension from his present Majesty, and had written in support of the measures of government. As a mortificat to such impotent malice, of which there are so many instances towards men of eminence, I am happy to relate, that this telum imbelle' did not reach its exalted object, till about a year after it thus appeared, when I mentioned it to him, supposing that he knew of the re-publication. To my surprize, he had not yet heard of it. He requested me to go directly and get it for him, which I did. He looked at it and laughed, and seemed to be much diverted with the feeble efforts of his unknown adversary, who, I hope, is alive to read this account. Now (said he) here is somebody who thinks he has vexed me sadly; yet, if it had not been for you, you rogue, I should probably never have seen it.'
As Mr. Pope's note concerning Johnson, alluded to in a former page, refers both to his London, and his Marinor Norfolciense, I have deferred inserting it till now. I am indebted for it to Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who permitted me to copy it from the original in his possession. It was presented to his Lordship by Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom it was given by the son of Mr. Richardson the painter, the person to whom it is addressed. I have transcribed it
*Sic fatus senior, telumque imbelle sine ictu
Conjecit. So spake the elder, and cast forth a toothless spear and vain.' Morris, Æneids, ii. 544.
with minute exactness, that the peculiar mode of writing, and imperfect spelling of that celebrated poet, may be exhibited to the curious in literature. It justifies Swift's epithet of 'paper-sparing Pope',' for it is written on a slip no larger than a common message-card, and was sent to Mr. Richardson, along with the Imitation of Juvenal.
“This is imitated by one Johnson who put in for a Publickschool in Shropshire', but was disappointed. He has an infirmity of the convulsive kind, that attacks him sometimes, so as to make him a sad Spectacle. Mr. P. from the Merit of this Work which was all the knowledge he had of him endeavour'd to serve him without his own application ; & wrote to my Ld gore, but he did not succeed. Mr. Johnson published afterwds another Poem in Latin with Notes the whole very Humerous call’d the Norfolk Prophecyo.'
'P.' Johnson had been told of this note; and Sir Joshua Reynolds informed him of the compliment which it contained,
"Get all your verses printed fair,
Then let them well be dried ;
To leave the margin wide.
And when he sits to write,
Advice to the Grub-Street Verse-Writers. (Swift's Works, 1803, xi. 32.) Nichols, in a note on this passage, says: -The original copy of Pope's Homer is almost entirely written on the covers of letters, and sometimes between the lines of the letters themselves.” Johnson, in his Life of Pope, writes :— Of Pope's domestic character frugality was a part eminently remarkable ... This general care must be universally approved; but it sometimes appeared in petty artifices of parsimony, such as the practice of writing his compositions on the back of letters, as may be seen in the remaining copy of the Iliad, by which perhaps in five years five shillings were saved.' Johnson's Works, viii. 312. · See note, p. 153.
Boswell. · The Marmor Norfolciense, price one shilling, is advertised in the Gent. Mag. for 1739 (p. 220) among the books for April.