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And other doctrines thence imbibe
Then welcome business, welcome strife
SAMUEL JOHNSON. 1709—1784. SAMUEL Jouxsox, the Corypheus of English Literature of the eighteenth century, was born at Litchfield,' in Staffordshire, September 7, 1709, and was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford. He gave early proof of a vigorous understanding and of a great fondness for knowledge; but poverty compelled him to leave the university, after being there three years, without taking a degree, and he returned to Litchfield in the autumn of 1731, destitute, and wliolly undetermined what plan of life to pursue. His father, who had been a bookseller, and who had become insolvent, died in Decernber, and in the July following, Johnson accepted the situation of usher of the grammar-school at Market-Bosworth, in Leicestershire. For this situation, however, he soou felt himself utterly unqualified by means of his natural disposition. Though his scholarship was arnple, he wanted that patience to bear with dulness and waywardness, those kind and urbane manners to win love and respect, that fact in controlling and governing youth, and that happy manner of illustrating disculties and imparting knowledge, which are as essential as high literary attainments to form the perfect schoolmaster. No wonder, therefore, that ho quitted the high vocation in disgust. His scholars, doubtless, were quite ai glad to get rid of him as he was of them. Non omnes omnibus.
1 Hence he has been frequently termed - The Sage of Litchfield.”
, whiclı, for the polish of its style, the elegance of its language, the keenness
The next year he obtained temporary employment from a bookseller at Birmingham, and soon after, entered into an engagement with Mr. Cave, the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, to write for that periodical. This, how. ever, was not sufficient to support him, but Cupid happily came to his assistance; for he fell in love with a Mrs. Porter, a widow of little more than double her lover's age, and possessed of eight hundred pounds. They were married on the 9th of July, 1736, and soon after, Johnson took a large house near Litchfield, and opened an academy for classical education. But the plan failed, and he went to London, and engaged himself as a regular contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine. Here he shortly produced his admirable poem entitled “London," in imitation of the third satire of Juvenal. For it, he received from Dodsley ten guineas; it immediately attracted great attention, and Pope, as soon as he read it, said, “ The author, whoever he is, will not be long concealed." His tragedy of “ Irene," produced about the same time, was, as regards stage success, a total failure, though, like the Cato of Addison, it is full of noble sentiments. His pen was at this time continually employed in writing pamphlets, prefaces, epitaphs, essays, and biographical memoirs for the magazine; but the compensation he received was small, very small; and it is distressing to reflect that, at this period, the poverty of this most distinguished scholar was so great, that he was sometimes obliged to pass the day without food.
In 1744 he published the “Life of Richard Savage," one of the best written and most instructive pieces of biography extant, and which was at once the theme of general admiration. In 1747 he issued his plan for his * Eng. lish Dictionary,” addressed, in an admirably written pamphlet, to the Earl of Chesterfield, who, however, concerned himself very little about its success. The time he could spare from this Herculean labor, he gave to various literary subjects. In 1749 appeared his “Vanity of Human Wishes," an admi. Jable poem, in imitation of the tenth satire of Juvenal; and in the next year he commenced his periodical paper «The Rambler," which deservedly raised the reputation of the author still higher, and which, from the peculiar strength of its style, exerted a powerful influence on English Prose Literature. In 1755, appeared the great work which has made his name known wherever the English language is spoken-his long-promised « Dictionary." Eight long years was he in bringing it to a completion; and considering the little aid he could receive from previous lexicographers, it was a gigantic undertaking i and most successfully and nobly did he accomplish it. But just before it was
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD.
I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of The World.
When upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your
mase. I had done all that I could ; and no man is well pleased to
Seven years, my lord, have now passed since I waited in you priward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which tune I have been pushing on my work through difficulties of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word o encouragement, or one smile of lavor. Such treatment I did no espect, for I never had a patron before.
1 One of the best proofs of its attractive power was given by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who said that, an his return from Italy, he met with it in Devonshire, knowink abthink of its author, and be a read it while he was standing with his arm leaning against a chimney-piece. It seized his attention
strongly, that, not being able to lay down the book till he had finished it. when he attempted to move, he found his arm totally benumbed.
2 "The Rambler,” was commenced on the 20th of March, 1750, and continued every Tuesday and Saturday to March 14, 1752. Or the energy and fertility of resource with which this work was co! ducted, there can be no greater proof than that during the whole time, though afflicted with diseas and harassed with the toils of lexicography, he wrote the whole himself, with the exception of De or five numbers.
3 The French Academy of FORTY members were all engaged upon their boasted Dictionary, DECA, after all, was not equal to Johnson's single-handed labor. This kave rise to the following spiro lines from Garrick :
Talk of war with a Briton, he'u boldly advance,
In the deep mines of science, though Frenchmen may toll,
Has beat Tolny French, and will beat forty more!
Their numbeplotes, and one and eple to the fight, wh ours;
Each, and win hero of you pe;
Ik banqueror of the conqueror of the world.
have sulled a long and pain Yo we send out two cock buala lo low me
published, Lord Chesterfield endeavored to influence Johnson to dedicate it to himself, and for this purpose he wrote two numbers, in a periodical paper, “ The World," highly complimentary of Johnson's learning and labors. John son was of course highly indignant, and addressed to him the following lotter, which, for the polish of its style, the elegance of its language, the keenness of its sarcasm, its manly disdain, and the condensed vigor of its thought, is, perhaps, unequalled in English literature.
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD.
Mr LORD :
I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of The World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished, is an honor, which, being very little accustomed to favors from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.
When upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address; and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre ;that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could ; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.
Seven years, my lord, have now passed since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favor. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.
In the deep mines of science, though Frenchmen may toil,
Has beat PORTY French, and will beat forty more!" 1 In his anger he exclaimed to his friend Garrick, "I have sailed a long and painful voyage round the world of the English language; and does he now send out two cock buals to low me into harbor p ? The conqueror of the conqueror of the world.
The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Lore, and found him a native of the rocks.
Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached the ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labors, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical aspenty not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron, which Providence has enabled me to do for myself.
Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favorer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less ; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,
Most obedient servant,
miliar, as it is in the power of writing to make us, with the character, the bant, and the appearance of Johnson, and the persons and things with which be is connected. “Every thing about him," says an able critie;' w his coat, his with his figure, his rolling walk, his blinking eye, the outward signs which to clearly marked the approbation of his dinner, his insatiable appetite for Exà sauce, and veal pie with plums, his inextinguishable thirst for tea, bus rick of touching the posts as he walked, luis mysterious practice of treasurinz up scraps of orange peel, his morning shumbers, his midnight disputations, his camions, his mutterings, his gruntings, his puffings, his vigorous, acute, and ready eloquence; bis sarcastic wit, his vehemence, his insolence, his fits of zapestuous rage, his queer inmates-mold Mr. Levett and blind Mrs. Wil. liarns, the cat Hodge, and the negro Frank-mall are as familiar to us as the oleje a by which we have been surrounded."
In 1773, in company with Mr. Boswell, he made a tour to the Western Lands of Scotland, of which he published an interesting and instructive scount. In it he pronounces decidedly against the authenticity of the poems calied Ossian's." The last of his literary labors was bis "Lives of the Parets," which were completed in 1781. Though it is a work that, on the
whole, is justly considered as one of the ablest contributions to English bio graphy, it must be read with great caution; for the criticisms of Johnson are 100 chen biased by his strong political, religious, and even personal antipats this, as is clearly evinced in the gross injustice he has done to the two greattest parts of the seriesMilton and Gray. His indiscriminate hatred of W Lig principles; his detestation of blank verse; his dislike of pastoral, lyric and descriptive poetry; his total want of enthusiasm; and his perpetual einu to veil the splendor of genius, are frequently lost in the admiration which the blaze and vigor of his intellectual powers so strongly excite. This 14in fact, the work in which the excellencies and defects of Johnson are Based before the reader with their full prominence; in which the lovers of patibelogy and biography, the friends of moral and ethic wisdom, will find
In the few years succeeding the publication of his Dictionary," he em ployed himself in an edition of Shakspeare, and gave to the world another periodical paper entitled “The Idler.” In the former, when it appeared in 1765, the public were very much disappointed; for though the preface was written in a style unsurpassed for its beauty and strength, and showed that he well knew the duties and requirements of a commentator upon the great dramatic poet, his annotations showed that he had not that critical knotledge of the writers of the times of Sbakspeare and antecedent thereto, which is requisite properly to elucidate the bard. In 1759 he appeared in a new character, that of a Novelist, in the publication of his « Rasselas," wlich was written to defray the expenses of his mother's funeral. In 1762 he was relieved from pecuniary anxiety by a pension of £300 a year, granted to him in consideration of the happy influence of his writings; for Lord Bule en pressly told him, on his accepting the bounty, that it was given him not for any thing he was to do, bu, for what he had done.
In the next year, 1763, he was introduced to his biographer, James bos weil, and we have, from this date, a fuller account of him, perhaps, than . uver wri'ten of any other individual. From this time we are made as ļa
recorded of any celebrated mennes to be found in Rome
wart reparties, profound remarks, and keen invectives to be found in Roswell's Inventory of an
W we recorded of any celebrated man. The lle and dramatic play of his conversation tra i entras to his written works. His natural powers and undisguised opinions were called
in cevival intercourse. In public, he practised with the folls: in private, he unsbeatbed the and of ontroverss, and it was 'the Ebro's temper.' The eagerness of opposition roused him from dia matural slusszishness and acquired timility; he returned blow for blow, and whether the til were of argument or wit, none of his rivals could boast much of the encounter. Burke me
obce been the only person who had a chance with him; and it is the unpardonable sin of Bos 1 vit, that be bas purposely omitted their combats of strength and skill. Goldsmith asked
Does the wind into a subject like a serpent, as Burke does? And when exhausted with stekene
not his province; and thought an
1 There is pretty good evidence that Johnson, after the first ebullition of temper had substiche that he had been unreasonably violent in addressing this letter to Chesterfield; and that his cors was not to blame for not sooner noticing Johnson's krent work. Indeed the "notice," or any con purpose, could not have been earlier. Consult-Croker's "new and revised edition of Bos Johnson, 1 vol. 8vo., pp. 85, 86-a most admirable book, and one which probably contains more teresting and valuable literary Information than any other volnme or equn size in the lancung.
1 The most triumphant record of the carents and character or Johnson is to be found lu Bosni Ule or him. Toe man was superior to the author. When he threw aside his pen, which he as an encumbrance, he became not only learned and thoughtful, but acnte, witty, bunorum, honest; hearty and determined, the king of good follows and wale of old ben.' There are as many
1894-th artikle in the 531 rol of the Edinburgh Review, or in Macaulay's Miscellanles, vol. I. Pl a n article, Johnson and his Biographers," in the 46th vol, of the Quarterly: also, par
as the new edition of Crokers Boswell, in one large octavoman lnvaluable work: Murs Wih. In the preface to his Works;& Memoir" by Sir Walter Scott, in the third volume of his pros Bur; and the literary Life of Dr. Johnson," in the 4th vol. of Drake's Esenys.
a higher idea of Jolinson's Intelectual powers as a lexicographer der, a morallst, than myself, but poetical criticism was not his province and Y o style Lisex' be superior, perhaps, to any of his preceding compositions, they are in sely more disgraced by the inexorable partialities of the man." -Drake's Literars Ron Indon, nine article on Johnson In Sir Egerton Brydges's "Imaginative Biography,
Want ervatier contrast can we conerive than that exhibited in the characters of
is the formet of whom a predominated the marinative and the spiritual: In the lens Win A the animal
exhibited in the characters of Milton and John
miliar, as it is in the power of writing to make us, with the character, the habits, and the appearance of Johnson, and the persons and things with which he is connected. “Every thing about him," says an able critic, « his coat, his wig, his figure, his rolling walk, his blinking eye, the outward signs which too clearly marked the approbation of his dinner, his insatiable appetite for fish sauce, and veal pie with plums, his inextinguishable thirst for tea, bis trick of touching the posts as he walked, his mysterious practice of treasuring up scraps of orange peel, his morning slumbers, his midnight disputations, his contortions, his mutterings, his gruntings, his puffings, his vigorous, acute, and ready eloquence; his sarcastic wit, his vehemence, his insolence, his fits of tempestuous rage, his queer inmates-old Mr. Levett and blind Mrs. Wil. liams, the cat Hodge, and the negro Frank-all are as familiar to us as the objects by wbich we have been surrounded."
In 1773, in company with Mr. Boswell, he made a tour to the Western Islands of Scotland, of which he published an interesting and instructive account. In it he pronounces decidedly against the authenticity of the poems called “Ossian's." The last of his literary labors was his “Lives of the Poets," which were completed in 1781. Though it is a work that, on the whole, is justly considered as one of the ablest contributions to English biography, it must be read with great caution; for the criticisms of Johnson are too often biased by his strong political, religious, and even personal antipathies, as is clearly evinced in the gross injustice he has done to the two greatest poets of the series—Milton” and Gray. " His indiscriminate hatred of Whig principles; his detestation of blank verse; his dislike of pastoral, lyric, and descriptive poetry; bis total want of enthusiasm; and his perpetual efforts to veil the splendor of genius, are frequently lost in the admiration which the blaze and vigor of his intellectual powers so strongly excite. This is, in fact, the work in wbich the excellencies and defects of Johnson are placed before the reader with their full prominence; in which the lovers of philology and biography, the friends of moral and ethic wisdom, will find
smart repartees, profound remarks, and keen invectives to be found in Boswell's 'Inventory of an he said,' as are recorded of any celebrated man. The life and dramatic play of his conversation form a contrast to his written works. His natural powers and undisguised opinions were called out in convivial intercourse. In public, he practised with the foils : in private, he unsheathed the sword of controversy, and it was 'the Ebro's temper.' The eagerness of opposition roused him from his natural sluggishness and acquired timidity; he returned blow for blow; and whether the trial were of argument or wit, none of his rivals could boast much of the encounter. Burke seems to have been the only person who had a chance with him; and it is the unpardonable sin of Bose well's work, that he has purposely omitted their combats of strength and skil. Goldsmith asked, "Does he wind into a subject like a serpent, as Burke does ? And when exhausted with sickness, he himself said, "If that fellow Burke were here now, he would kill me.' "--Hazill's English Comic Wrilers.
1 Read--the article in the 53. vol. of the Edinburgh Review, or in Macaulay's Miscellanica, vol. il. p. 11; also an article, “Johnson and his Biographers," in the 16th vol. of the Quarterly: also, par ticularly, the new edition of Croker's Boswell, in one large octavo-an invaluable work; Murphy's Life, in the Preface to his Works; a Memoir" by Sir Walter Scott, in the third volume of his Prose Works; and the "Literary Life of Dr. Johnson," in the 4th vol. of Drake's Essays.
2 "No man can entertain a higher idea of Jolinson's intellectual powers as a lexicographer, a teacher, and a moralist, than myself; but poetical criticism was not his province; and though in point of style his .Lives' be superior, perhaps, to any of his preceding compositions, they are inf. nitely more disgraced by the inexorable partialities of the man."--Drake's "Literary Hours," 1. 221 Read, also, a fine article on Johnson in Sir Egerton Brydges's " Imaginative Biography," 31. 251.
3 What greater contrast can we conceive than that exhibited in the characters of Milton and John. 800; In the former of whom so predominated the imaginative and the spiritual; in the latter, the sensuous and the animal.