« 上一页继续 »
late publications (an irregularity into which the high prices of town-made books, and the low state of his own finances, have sometimes betrayed him, to the detriment of copy-hold rights, and “ against the form of the statute in that case provided ;") he found the parcel, on its arrival in his chambers, to be double-fortified with swathes of printed sheets ; resembling, in their general appearance, what is known among the
last vacation, to see the royal warehouses at the ports opposite to the Irish coast, crowded with so many choice and famous authors, languishing in ignoble bonds, and some of them expiring, in defiance of magna charta, under cruel tortures. Here lay Mrs C-th--ne M
-y, new from the sheers and spunge,-her pure costume gothically MASKED,”
," " her silver skin laced with her golden blood,” -pointing to her ample gashes, and pining under the denial of her habeas corpus.
There lay the redoubted Junius, his body dismembered by the axe, and his quarters at the king's disposal,--and there the stately G-b-ns, laniatum corpore toto, the vehicle of his keen elocution bored through with a red-hot iron, &c. &c.
Non, mihi si linguc centum sint, oraque centum,
trade, by the name of imperfections. This, being quite “ selon les Regles," excited neither curiosity nor attention ; but approaching, soon after, the parcel more nearly, for the purpose of undoing the twine, the wrappers were again forced upon
when he perceived, by certain cabilistical marks
upon gins and field, and which his printer would laugh at him should he attempt to depict that what he had taken at first for imperfections, were no other than proofsheets, of a work apparently critical, and which he felicitated himself on his chance of feasting on, perhaps, before the public. He set himself accordingly to examine the sheets with attention ; and found them, not without some surprise, to contain a methodical criticism upon Gray's “ Elegy written in a Country Church-yard ;" executed in a manner somewhat outré, and including observations on certain other poems of Gray, together with allusions to certain analyses of them, preceding this particular criticism, but which were not to be found in these sheets. A sudden thought now entered his head, and one which some will perhaps think he too hastily adopted. Having been lately reading Dr Johnson’s Criticism on Gray, (a work which afforded him infinite gratification,) and the doctor's manner being then strongly impressed on his mind, he fancied he perceived a resemblance betwixt the style and mode of criticism displayed in the doctor's published strictures on Gray's other poems, and that adopted in the criticism before him. The leges judicandi were the same ; and the editor was led to fancy it possible, that the observations on the Elegy written in a Country Church-yard, were composed by Dr Johnson, and printed off for publication, along with the other parts of the Criticism on Gray, but afterwards withdrawn ; from the suspicion that a censure so free, of one of the most popular productions in the English language, might be ill-received by the public. Full of this idea, the editor formed the resolution of restoring to his fellow-readers what seemed to him to have been needlessly taken away ; and thus of gratifying their palates with a dish that one meets not with every day.
What his riper sentiments upon this subject are, the editor does not choose to say. The public are in possession of the evidence, both external and internal; and they are left to judge for themselves. It is, however, but fair to admit, that there are some circumstances which appear rather unfavourable to the idea, that this Criticism on Gray's Elegy is the genuine production of Dr Johnson. Although it is not difficult to conceive, that means might have been found to get the 'proof-sheets of this work transmitted successively to Ireland (as the proof-sheets of other works have been, even in due course of post); and although the case of an author of note, as well as of boldness, withdrawing a printed work, previous to the day of publication, is not without precedent in the annals of literature; yet the boldness of Dr Johnson is so colossal, and his just confidence in the propriety of his own taste, and the
* The great number of proprietors (in all thirty-six"contez,”) whose names, in eight files, marshalled in the form of the Cuneus, defend the title-page of Dr Johnson's amusing work, though calculated to strike terror in after pirates, may have even contributed to render easy the first trespass. Secrecy and prudence distributed among thirtysix men, amount to little else than names, " In the multitude of counsellors there is safety :" The case does not apply to copy-holders.
* It is said to be a vouched anecdote of the author of
Essays and Treatises on several subjects,” that he revoked and destroyed certain essays, which he had already got printed off, and in which he found reason to suspect that he had taken his ground rather hastily.