Page images


[ocr errors]


Mackin- whose meekness and gentleness he unluckily regarded, before he

knew him, as proofs of want of wit. The following extract from some criticism on parliamentary speakers written by him long after, is an agreeable proof that, in the case of Mr. Wilberforce, he discovered his error, and was willing to acknowledge the justice of the chastisement. “He (Mr. W.) is quick and acute in debate, and always prompt to answer and reply. When he is provoked to personality (which seldom happens) he retorts in a poignant and refined vein of satire, peculiarly his own." In the same criticism he makes reparation to Mr. Canning, by owning that “his wit is keen," but he tries to excuse himself by adding, “that it is sometimes flippant.”

He died at his humble lodging, in Duke-street, Portland-place, on the 21st of March, 1815, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.

To the early connexion of Mr. Courtenay with General Fraser, in the family of Lord Townshend, the writer of this note, (who is the general's grand-nephew) owed the beginning of a kindness which lasted till Courtenay's death. Fraser was Lord Townshend's aide-de-camp at Quebec in 1759, where by means of some French acquired when an officer in the Scotch regiments in the service of the states-general, he had the good fortune to render a more important service than is usually within the reach of an officer of the rank which he held at that time. When rowing down the river St. Lawrence, and on the point of landing, the night before the battle, they were observed by a French sentinel, who called to him for “the word,” which the British officers did not know. Fraser answered in an audible whisper in French, “Hold your tongue; they will overhear us.” The sentinel believed them to be a French reinforcement, and they effected their landing without disturbance. He went with Lord Townshend to Ireland, and he was killed in Burgoyne's army at Stillwater, near Saratoga, on the 7th October, 1777. His death has been affectingly represented by the pencil and the pen. The writer attended Mr. Courtenay's funeral, almost the only duty

riend and an executor which circumstances left for him to perform ; unless he may be allowed to consider as another of these duties the present attempt to preserve a short account of Mr. Courtenay, in which he has studiously endeavoured to avoid all exaggeration, and has laboured to shun that undue expansion which he cannot help considering as a sort of tacit exaggeration.—Mackintosu.


of a


A generous tear will Caledonia shed?
Her ancient foe, illustrious Johnson's dead :
Mac-Ossian's sons may now securely rest,

Safe from the bitter sneer, the cynick jest '.
1“ A Scotchman must be a sturdy moralist, who does not prefer Scotland to truth."
Johnson's Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland. COURTENAY.

Lost is the man, who scarce deigns Gray to praise,
But from the grave calls Blackmore's sleeping lays;
A passport grants to Pomfret's dismal chimes,
To Yalden's hymns, and Watts's holy rhymes';
By subtle doubts would Swift's fair fame invade,

And round his brows the ray of glory shade ? ; The Poems of Dr. Watts were, by my recommendation, inserted in this collection; the readers of which are to impute to me whatever pleasure or weariness they may find in the perusal of Blackmore, Watts, Pomfret, and Yalden." Johnson's Life of Watts. The following specimen of their productions may be sufficient to enable the reader to judge of their respective merits :

" Alas, Jerusalem ! alas ! where 's now

Thy pristine glory, thy unmatch'd renown,
To which the heathen monarchies did bow ?
Ah, hapless, miserable town!”

Eleazar's Lamentation over Jerusalem, paraphrased by Pomfret.
“ Before the Almighty Artist framed the sky,
Or gave the earth its harmony,
His first command was for thy light;
He view'd the lovely birth, and bless'd it:
In purple swuddling bands it struggling lay,
Old Chaos then a cheerful smile put on,
And from thy beauteous form did first presage its own.”

Yalden's Hymn to Light. “My cheerful soul now all the day

Sits waiting here and sings ;
Looks through the ruins of her clay,

And practises her wings.
0, rather let this fesh decay,

The ruins wider grow ;
Till, glad to see the enlarged way,
I stretch my pinions through.”

A Sight of Heaven in Sickness, by Isaac Watts.- COURTENAY. [The editor is not without some apprehensions, that he may incur a similar censure, for having recommended the introduction of Mr. Courtenay's poem into this collection. -Ed.]

2 He seemed to me to have an unaccountable prejudice against Swift. He said today, “ I doubt if the “ Tale of a Tub' was his ; it has so much more thinking, more knowledge, more power, more colour, than any of the works that are indisputably his. If it was his, I shall only say, he was impar sibi.Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides, p. 38. Dr. Johnson's “unaccountable prejudice against Swift” may probably be derived from the same source as Blackınore's, if we may venture form a judgment from the panegyrick he bestows on the following groundless invective, expressly aimed at Swift, as the author of " A Tale of a Tub,” which he quotes in his life of Blackmore: “Several, in their books, have many sarcastical and spiteful strokes at religion in general ; while others make themselves pleasant with the principles of the christian. Of the last kind, this age has seen a most audacious example in the book entitled " A Tale of a Tub? Had this writing been published in a pagan or popish nation, who are justly impatient of all indignity offered to the established religion of their country, no doubt but the author would have received the punishment he deserved. But the fate of this impious buffoon is very different; for, in a protestant kingdom, zealous of their civil and religious immunities, he has not only escaped affronts, and the effects of publick resentment, but has been caressed and patronized by persons of great figure of all denoininations." The malevolent dulness of bigotry alone could have inspired Blackmore with these sentiments. The fact is, that the “ Tale of a Tub" is a continued panegyrick on the Church of England, and a bitter satire on popery, Calvinism, and every sect of dissenters. At the same time I am persuaded, that every reader of taste and discernment will perceive, in many parts of Swift's other writings, strong internal proofs of that style which characterises the “ Tale of a Tub;" especially in the VOL. V.


[ocr errors]

With poignant taunt mild Shenstone's life arraigns,
His taste contemns, and sweetly-flowing strains ;
At zealous Milton aims his tory dart,
But in his Savage finds a moral heart;
At great Nassau despiteful rancour Alings',
But pension'd kneels ev'n to usurping kings:
Rich, old, and dying, bows his laurel’d head,
And almost deigns to ask superfluous bread 2.

A sceptick once, he taught the letter'd throng
To doubt the existence of famed Ossian's song ;
Yet by the eye of faith, in reason's spite,
Saw ghosts and witches, preach'd up second-sight :
For o'er his soul sad superstition threw
Her gloom, and tinged his genius with her hue.
On popish ground he takes his high church station,
To sound mysterious tenets through the nations ;

66 The


“ Publick Spirit of the Whigs.” It is well known, that he affected simplicity, and studiously avoided any display of learning, except where the subject made it absolutely necessary. Temporary, local, and political topicks compose too great a part of his works ; but in a treatise that admitted “ more thinking, more knowledge,” &c. he naturally exerted all his powers. Let us hear the author himself on this point. greatest part of that book was finished above thirteen years since (1696), which is eight years before it was published. The author was then young, his invention at the height, and his reading fresh in his head.” And again : “Men should be more cautious in losing their time, if they did but consider, that to answer a book effectually requireth more pains and skill, more wit, learning, and judgment than were employed in writing it. And the author assureth those gentlemen, who have given themselves that trouble with him, that his discourse is the product of the study, the observation and the invention of several years; that he often blotted out more than he left; and if his papers had not been a long time out of his possession, they must still have undergone more severe corrections."

“ An Apology for the Tale of a Tub.”-With respect to this work being the production of Swift, see his letter to the printer, Mr. Benjamin Tooke, dated Dublin, June 29, 1710, and Tooke's answer on the publication of the “ Apology” and a new edition of the “ Tale of a Tub.”-Hawkesworth's edition of Swift's Works, 8vo. vol. xvi. p. 145. Dr. Hawkesworth mentions, in his preface, that the edition of " A Tale of a Tub," printed in 1710, was revised and corrected by the Dean a short time before his understanding was impaired, and that the corrected copy was, in the year 1760, in the hands of his kinsman, Mr. Dean Swift.-COURTENAY.

1 Johnson. “I would tell truth of the two Georges, or of that scoundrel, King Wil. liam.” Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides, ante, v. ii. p. 480.-COURTENAY.

2 See his letter to Lord Thurlow, in which he seems to approve of the application (though he was not previously consulted), thanks his lordship for having made it, and even seems to express some degree of surprise and resentment on the proposed addition to his pension being refused.-COURTENAY. [It seems very strange, that after Sir Joshua Reynolds had received Lord Thurlow's letter of the 18th Nov. 1784, he should still have permitted Dr. Johnson and all his friends to remain in the belief, that the king had been applied to and had refused. See ante, p. 265.-Ed.]

3** If (added Dr. Johnson) God had never spoken figuratively, we might hold that he speaks literally, when he says, “This is my body.' Boswell's Tour, p. 67. Here his only objection to transubstantiation seems to rest on the style of the scripture being figurative elsewhere as well as in this passage. Hence we may infer, that he ould otherwise have believed in it. But Archbishop Tillotson and Mr. Locke reason more philosophically, by asserting, that "no doctrine, however clearly expressed in scripture, is to be admitted, if it contradict the evidence of our senses :-For our evidence for the truth of revealed religion is less than the evidence for the truth of our senses, because, 6 - PURPOSES. " To keep a journal. To begin this day (September 18th, 1766). “ To spend four hours in study every day, and as much more as I can. “ To read a portion of scripture in Greek every Sunday. 66 To rise at eight. Oct. 3d. Of all this I have done nothing.” Ibid.-COURTENAY.

On Scotland's kirk he vents a bigot's gall",
Though her young chieftains prophesy like Saulo!
On Tetty's state his frighted fancy runs",

And Heaven's appeased by cross unbutter'd buns 4 :
He sleeps and fasts 5, pens on himself a libelo,
And still believes, but never reads the Bible 7.
Fame says, at school, of scripture science vain,
Bel and the Dragon smote him on the brain 8 ;
Scared with the blow, he shunn'd the Jewish law,
And eyed the ark with reverential awe 9 :
Let priestly Strahan, in a godly fit,

The tale relate, in aid of Holy Writ; even in the first authors of our religion, it was no greater ; and it is evident it must diminish in passing from them to us, through the medium of human testimony.”COURTENAY. (Mr. Courtenay's sneer at Dr. Johnson's opinion on transubstantiation is surely unmerited. No doubt, if there were no other figurative expressions in the scriptures, this single text must have been understood literally by Dr. Johnson, or any other man of common sense ; and as to what Mr. Courtenay adds about the evidence of our senses, and attributes to Mr. Locke and Archbishop Tillotson, these writers, and particularly Tillotson, appear to limit their assertion to doctrines, the subjects of which are properly within the evidence of our senses. Could Mr. Courtenay doubt that Til. lotson believed in the Trinity ?-Yet how stands that doctrine with the mere evidence of our senses ?-ED.]

See his conversation with Lord Auchinleck. Boswell's Tour, ante, vol. iii. p. 78. COURTENAY.

? See the First Book of Samuel, ch. x.–COURTENAY.

3“ And I commend to thy fatherly goodness the soul of my departed wife, beseeching thee to grant her whatever is best in her present state.Johnson's Meditations.COURTENAY.

4“ I returned home, but could not settle my mind. At last I read a chapter. Then went down about six or seven, and eat two cross-buns." Meditations, p. 154.COURTENAY.

5“I fasted, though less rigorously than at other times. I by negligence poured some milk into my tea.Ibid. p. 146. “Yesterday I fasted, as I have always, or commonly done, since the death of Tetty ; the fast was more painful than usual.”COURTENAY.

7 “I resolved last Easter to read, within the year, the whole Bible ; a great part of which I had never looked upon.” Meditations. -COURTENAY.

8 "" I have never yet read the Apocrypha. When I was a boy I have read or heard Bel and the Dragon.” Meditations.-COURTENAY. (It is not worth while to show that, in several of the foregoing allusions, the verse above is often a misrepresentation of the prose below, and that Mr. Courtenay plays the mere verbal critic on these expressions, while the spirit escapes him. If, indeed (as from Dr. Strahan's preface might be believed), Dr. Johnson had directed the publication of these " Meditations” as an example of his own piety, or an incentive to that of others, Mr. Courtenay might have been forgiven if he had made his satire still more poignant. It is hoped, however, that, afte: the explanations given (ante, preface, vol. i. p. 213, and vol. v. p. 295), that Dr. Johnson will hereafter receive the full credit for the piety which prompted these “ Me ditations," without any of the ridicule or obloquy of having prepared'them for publication.--Ed.]

9 See the First Book of Samuel, ch. v. and vi., in which an account is given of the punishment of the Philistines for looking into the ark.-COURTENAY.

[ocr errors]


Though candid Adams, by whom David fell",
Who ancient miracles sustain'd so well,
To recent wonders may deny his aid ?,
Nor own a pious brother of the trade.

À coward wish, long stigmatized by fame,
Devotes Mæcenas to eternal shame 3 ;
Religious Johnson, future life to gain,
Would ev’n submit to everlasting pain :
How clear, how strong, such kindred colours paint
The Roman epicure and Christian saint !
O, had he lived in more enlighten'd times,
When signs from heaven proclaim'd vile mortals' crimes,
How had he groan'd, with sacred horrors pale,
When Noah's comet shook her


tailo ;

· The Rev. Dr. Adams, of Oxford, distinguished for his answer to David Hume's “ Essay on Miracles.”_COURTENAY.

? From the following letter there is reason to apprehend that Dr. Adams would not support Mr. Strahan,

if he should add this to the other singular anecdotes that he has published relative to Dr. Johnson.

Oxford, 220 Oct. 1785. “MR. URBAN,-In your last month's review of books, you have asserted, that the publication of Dr. Johnson's Prayers and Meditations' appears to have been at the instance of Dr. Adams, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford. This, I think, is more than you are warranted by the editor's preface to say; and is so far from being true, that Dr. Adams never saw a line of these compositions, before they appeared in print, nor ever heard from Dr. Johnson, or the editor, that any such existed. Had he been consulted about the publication, he would certainly have given his voice against it: and he therefore hopes that you will clear him, in as public a manner as you can, from being any way accessary to it.

“ Wm. Adams.”.

"-COURTENAY. 366 Debilem facito manu,

Debilem pede, coxa,
Tuber adstrue gibberum ;
Lubricos quate dentes,
Vita dum superest, bene est :
Hanc mihi, vel acuta

Si sedeam cruce, sustine.”'--Senec. Epist.
Let me but live, the famed Mæcenas cries,
Lame of both hands, and lame in feet and thighs ;
Hump-back’d and toothless ;-all convulsed with pain,

Ev'n on the cross,—so precious life remain. Dr. Johnson, in his last illness, is said to have declared (in the presence of Doctors H. and B.) that he would prefer a state of existence in eternal pain to annihilation.-COURTENAY. [The editor finds no evidence of this, and the subsequent testimony of Drs. Heberden and Brocklesby inclines him to disbelieve it. It is not very clear here, whether Mr. Courtenay meant to censure Johnson for a “kindred” wish to that of Mæcenas, or to praise him as a “ christian saint,” for aspiring after even a painful immortality ; but 'tis really of no importance. All these flippancies of Mr. Courtenay may be regretted on his own account, but they cannot affect the character of Dr. Johnson.Ed.)

4" This last comet, which appeared in the year 1680, I may well call the most remarkable one that ever appeared ; since, besides the former consideration, I shall presently show, that it is no other than that very comet, which came by the earth at the time of Noah's deluge, and which was the cause of the same.” Whiston's Theory of the Earth, p. 188. COURTENAY.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »