Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

servants of God. I will only refer to St. Luke, xviii. 29, 30, and 1 Tim. iv. 8.

“Upon the whole, setting aside instances of great and lasting bodily pain, of minds peculiarly oppressed by melancholy, and of severe temporal calamities, from which extraordinary cases we surely should not form our estimate of the general tenour and complexion of life; excluding these from the account, I am convinced that as well the gracious constitution of things which providence has ordained, as the declarations of scripture and the actual experience of individuals, authorize the sincere Christian to hope that his humble and constant endeavours to perform his duty, chequered as the best life is with many failings, will be crowned with a greater degree of present peace, serenity, and comfort, than he could reasonably permit himself to expect, if he measured his views and judged of life from the opinion of Dr. Johnson, often and energetically expressed in the memoirs of him, without any animadversion or censure by his ingenious biographer. If he himself, upon reviewing the subject, shall see the matter in this light, he will, in an octavo edition, which is eagerly expected, make such additional remarks or corrections as he shall judge fit; lest the impressions which these discouraging passages may leave on the reader's mind should in a degree hinder what otherwise the whole spirit and energy of the work tends, and, I hope, successfully, to promote,-pure morality and true religion.”

Though I have, in some degree, obviated any reflections against my illustrious friend's dark views of life, when considering, in the course of this work, his “Rambler” and his “Rasselas," I am obliged to Mr. Churton for complying with my request of his permission to insert his remarks, being conscious of the weight of what he judiciously suggests as to the melancholy in my own constitution. pleasing views of life, I hope, are just. Valeant quantum valere possunt.

Mr. Churton concludes his letter to me in these words: “Once, and only once, I had the satisfaction of seeing your illustrious friend ; and as I feel a particular regard for all whom he distinguished with his esteem and friendship, so I derive much pleasure from reflecting that I once beheld, though but transiently, near our college gate, one whose works will for ever delight and improve the world, who was a sincere and zealous son of the church of England, an honour to his country, and an ornament to human nature.”

His letter was accompanied with a present from himself of his “Sermons at the Bampton Lecture," and from his friend, Dr. Townson, the venerable rector of Malpas, in Cheshire, of his “Discourses on the Gospels,” together with the following extract of a letter from that excellent person, who is now gone to receive the reward of his labours: “Mr. Boswell is not only very entertaining in his works, but they are so replete with moral and religious sentiments, without

His more

[ocr errors]


an instance, as far as I know, of a contrary tendency, that I cannot help having a great esteem for him; and if

; you

think such a trifle as a copy of the Discourses, ex dono authoris, would be acceptable to him, I should be happy to give him this small testimony of my regard.”

Such spontaneous testimonies of approbation from such men, without any personal acquaintance with me, are truly valuable and encouraging.

No. II.

[CATALOGUE, or List of Designs, referred to in p. 299.]

“ DIVINITY. “ A small book of precepts and directions for piety; the hint taken from the directions in Morton's exercise.

“ PhiloSOPHY, HISTORY, AND LITERATURE IN GENERAL. “ History of Criticism, as it relates to judging of authours, from Aristotle to the present age. An account of the rise and improvements of that art: of the different opinions of authours, ancient and modern.

“ Translation of the History of Herodian. “New edition of Fairfax's Translation of Tasso, with notes, glos

sary, &c.

[ocr errors]

Chaucer, a new edition of him, from manuscripts and old editions, with various readings, conjectures, remarks on his language, and the changes it had undergone from the earliest times to his age, and from his to the present; with notes explanatory of customs, &c. and references to Boccace, and other authours, from whom he has borrowed, with an account of the liberties he has taken in telling the stories; his life, and an exact etymological glossary.

“Aristotle's Rhetorick, a translation of it into English.

A Collection of Letters, translated from the modern writers, with some account of the several authours.

“Oldham's Poems, with notes, historical and critical. “ Roscommon's Poems, with notes.

“Lives of the Philosophers, written with a polite air, in such a manner as may divert as well as instruct.

History of the Heathen Mythology, with an explication of the fables, both allegorical and historical ; with references to the poets.

History of the State of Venice, in a compendious manner. “ Aristotle's Ethicks, an English translation of them, with notes.

[ocr errors]

“Geographical Dictionary from the French. [Utrecht.] MS.

“Hierocles upon Pythagoras, translated into English, perhaps with notes. This is done by Norris. [Nov. 9th, 1752.] MS.

“A book of Letters, upon all kinds of subjects.

“Claudian, a new edition of his works, cum notis variorum, in the manner of Burman.

“Tully's Tusculan questions, a translation of them.
“ Tully’s De Naturâ Deorum, a translation of those books.
“Benzo's New History of the New World, to be translated.
“Machiavel's History of Florence, to be translated.

“History of the Revival of Learning in Europe, containing an account of whatever contributed to the restoration of literature; such as controversies, printing, the destruction of the Greek empire, the encouragement of great men, with the lives of the most eminent patrons, and most eminent early professors of all kinds of learning in different countries.

“A Body of Chronology, in verse, with historical notes. [Nov.9th, 1752.] MS.

A Table of the Spectators, Tatlers, and Guardians, distinguished by figures into six degrees of value, with notes, giving the reasons of preference or degradation.

“A Collection of Letters from English authours, with a preface giving some account of the writers; with reasons for selection, and criticism

upon styles; remarks on each letter, if needful. “A Collection of Proverbs from various languages. Jan. 6th,—53.

"A Dictionary to the Common Prayer, in imitation of Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible. March,-[17]52.

“A Collection of Stories and Examples, like those of Valerius Maximus. Jan. 10th,-[17]53.

“ From Ælian, a volume of select Stories, perhaps from others. Jan. 28th,– [17]53.

“ Collection of Travels, Voyages, Adventures, and Descriptions of Countries.

“Dictionary of Ancient History and Mythology.

“ Treatise on the Study of Polite Literature, containing the history of learning, directions for editions, commentaries, &c.

“Maxims, Characters, and Sentiments, after the manner of Bruyere, collected out of ancient authours, particularly the Greek, with Apophthegms.

“ Classical Miscellanies, Select Translations from ancient Greek and Latin authours.

“ Lives of Illustrious Persons, as well of the active as the learned, in imitation of Plutarch.

“Judgment of the learned upon English Authours.
“ Poetical Dictionary of the English tongue.
“ Considerations


present State of London.


[ocr errors]

“ Collection of Epigrams, with notes and observations.

“ Observations on the English Language, relating to words, phrases, and modes of speech..

Minutiæ, Literariæ, Miscellaneous Reflections, Criticisms, Emendations, Notes.

History of the Constitution.

Comparison of Philosophical and Christian Morality, by sentences collected from the moralists and fathers.

“ Plutarch's Lives, in English, with notes.

[ocr errors]

« POETRY AND WORKS OF IMAGINATION. “Hymn to Ignorance. “ The Palace of Sloth,—a vision. “ Coluthus, to be translated.

Prejudice,-a poetical essay. “ The Palace of Nonsense,-a vision.”

Johnson's extraordinary facility of composition, when he shook off his constitutional indolence, and resolutely sat down to write, is admirably described by Mr. Courtenay, in his “Poetical Review,” which I have several times quoted:

“ While through life's maze he sent a piercing view,

His mind expansive to the object grew.
With various stores of erudition fraught,
The lively image, the deep-searching thought,
Slept in repose ;- but when the moment press’d,
The bright ideas stood at once confess'd ;
Instant his genius sped its vigorous rays,
And o'er the letter'd world diffused a blaze.
As womb'd with fire the cloud electrick fies,
And calmly o'er th' horizon seems to rise:
Touch'd by the pointed steel, the lightning flows,
And all th’expanse with rich effulgence glows.”

We shall in vain endeavour to know with exact precision every production of Johnson's pen. He owned to me that he had written about forty sermons; but as I understood that he had given or sold them to different persons, who were to preach them as their own, he did not consider himself at liberty to acknowledge them. Would those who were thus aided by him, who are still alive, and the friends of those who are dead, fairly inform the world, it would be obligingly gratifying a reasonable curiosity, to which there should, I think, now be no objection. Two volumes of them, published since his death, are sufficiently ascertained. See vol. iv. p. 32. I have before me in his handwriting a fragment of twenty quarto leaves, of a translation into English of Sallust, De Bello Catilinario. When it was done I have no notion ; but it seems to have no very superiour


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

merit to mark it as his. Besides the publications heretofore mentioned, I am satisfied, from internal evidence, to admit also as genuine the following, which, notwithstanding all my chronological care, escaped me in the course of this work:

“Considerations on the Case of Dr. Trapp's Sermons,”+ published in 1739, in the “Gentleman's Magazine." It is a very ingenious defence of the right of abridging an authour's work, without being held as infringing his property. This is one of the nicest questions in the Law of Literature; and I cannot help thinking, that the indulgence of abridging is often exceedingly injurious to authours and booksellers, and should in very few cases be permitted. At any rate, to prevent difficult and uncertain discussion, and give an absolute security to authours in the property of their labours, no abridgment whatever should be permitted till after the expiration of such a number of years as the legislature may be pleased to fix.

But, though it has been confidently ascribed to him, I cannot allow that he wrote a dedication to both houses of parliament of a book entitled “The Evangelical History Harmonized.”. He was no croaker, no declaimer against the times. He would not have written “That we are fallen upon an age in which corruption is not barely universal, is universally confessed.” Nor, “Rapine preys on the publick without opposition, and perjury betrays it without inquiry." Nor would he, to excite a speedy reformation, have conjured up such phantoms of terrour as these: “A few years longer, and perhaps all endeavours will be in vain. We may be swallowed by an earthquake; we may be delivered to our enemies.” This is not Johnsonian.

There are, indeed, in this dedication several sentences constructed upon the model of those of Johnson. But the imitation of the form, without the spirit of his style, has been so general, that this of itself is not sufficient evidence. Even our newspaper writers aspire to it. In an account of the funeral of Edwin, the comedian, in “ The Diary” of Nov. 9, 1790, that son of drollery is thus described : “ A man who had so often cheered the sullenness of vacancy, and suspended the approaches of sorrow.” And in “ The Dublin Evening Post,” August 16, 1791, there is the following paragraph : “It is a singular circumstance, that in a city like this, containing 200,000 people, there are three months in the year during which no place of publick amusement is open. Long vacation is here a vacation from pleasure, as well as business ; nor is there any mode of passing the listless evenings of declining summer, but in the riots of a tavern, or the stupidity of a coffee-house.”

I have not thought it necessary to specify every copy of verses written by Johnson, it being my intention to publish an authentick edition of all his poetry, with notes.


« PreviousContinue »