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That wicked comet, which Will Whiston swore
peep from Esdras' text ? !
But who to blaze his frailties feels delight,
By grateful bards his name be ever sung,
1 “Since 575 years appear to be the period of the comet that caused the déluge, what a learned friend, who was the occasion of my examination of this matter, suggests, will deserve to be considered ; viz. Whether the story of the phenix, that celebrated emblem of the resurrection in christian antiquity, (that it returns once after five centuries, and goes to the altar and city of the sun, and is there burnt; and another arises out of its ashes, and carries away the remains of the former, &c.) be not an allegorical representation of this comet, which returns once after five centuries, and goes down to the sun, and is there vehemently heated, and its outward regions dissolved; yet that it flies off again, and carries away what remains after that terrible burning, &c.; and whether the conflagration and renovation of things, which some such comet may bring on the earth, be not hereby prefigured, I will not here be positive: but I own, that I do not know of any solution of this famous piece of mythology and hieroglyphics, as this seems to be, that can be compared with it.” Ibid. p. 196.-COURTENAY.
36'Tis here foretold (by Esdras) that there should be signs in the woman ; and before all others this prediction has been verified in the famous rabbit-woman of Surrey, in the days of King George I. This story has been so unjustly laughed out of countenance, that I must distinctly give my reasons for believing it to be true, and alleging it here as the fulfilling of this ancient prophecy before us. 1st. The man-midwife, Mr. Howard, of Godalmin, Surrey, a person of very great honesty, skill and reputation in his profession, attested it. It was believed by King George to be real; and it was also believed by my old friends, the speaker and Mr. Samuel Collet, as they told me themselves, and was generally by sober persons in the neighbourhood. Nay, Mr. Molyneux, the prince's secretary, a very inquisitive person, and my very worthy friend, assured me he had at first so great a diffidence in the truth of the fact, and was so little biassed by the other believers, even by the king himself, that he would not be satisfied till he was permitted both to see and feel the rabbit, in that very passage, whence we all come into this world.”—Whiston's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 110.-COUR
3“ The incumbrances of fortune were shaken from his mind, like dew-drops from the lion's mane.
.” Johnson's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare.—COURTENAY. 4 Every reader of sensibility must be strongly affected by the following pathetic passages :—“Much of my life has been lost under the pressures of disease; much has been trifled away, and much has always been spent in provision for the day that was passing over me; but I shall not think my employment useless or ignoble, if by my
The bulky tome his curious care refines,
assistance foreign nations and distant ages gain access to the propagators of knowledge, and understand the teachers of truth; if my labours afford light to the repositories of science, and add celebrity to Bacon, to Hooker, to Milton, and to Boyle.”—“In this work, when it shall be found that much is omitted, let it not be forgotten that much likewise is performed; and though no book was ever spared out of tenderness to the author, and the world is little solicitous to know whence proceeded the faults of that which it condemns, yet it may gratify curiosity to inform it, that the English Dictionary was written with little assistance of the learned, and without any patronage of the great; not in the soft obscurities of retirement, or under the shelter of acadeinic, bowers, but amidst inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow.” Preface to Dr. Johnson's Dictionary.--COURTENAY.
1 See Swift's letter to Lord Oxford for the institution of an academy to improve and fix the English language.--COURTENAY,
2 The great French and Italian Dictionaries were not the productions of an individual, but were compiled by a body of academicians in each country.—COURTENAY.
3“ In times and regions so disjoined from each other, that there can scarcely be imagined any communication of sentiments, either by commerce or tradition, has prevailed a general and uniform expectation of propitiating God by corporal austerities, of anticipating his vengeance by voluntary inflictions, and appeasing his justice by a speedy and cheerful submission to a less penalty when a greater is incurred.” Rambler, No, 110.-COURTENAY.
4 The style of the “ Ramblers” seems to have been formed on that of Sir Thomas Brown's “Vulgar Errors and Christian Morals.” “ But ice is water congealed by the frigidity of the air, whereby it acquireth no new form, but rather a consistence or determination of its deffluency, and amitteth not its essence, but condition of fluidity. Neither doth there any thing properly conglaciate but water, or watery humidity, for the determination of quicksilver is properly fixation, that of milk coagulation, and that of oil and unctuous bodies only incrassation.”—Is this written by Brown or Johnson ?COURTENAY. [This criticism is not just, or at least not well placed. Brown is treating of scientific effects, and uses learned language; any other writer would probably have done the same: the real objection is that which Mr. Courtenay states afterwards. namely, that Johnson uses these learned words on inappropriate occasions. Ed.]
s In the 6 Ramblers” the abstract too often occurs instead of the concrete ;--one of Dr. Johnson's peculiarities.--COURTENAY.
When no diversity we trace between
Though Johnson's merits thus I freely scan,
In judgment keen he acts the critic's part,
When specious sophists with presumption scan
1 See “ Victoria's Letter,” Rambler, No. 130.—“I was never permitted to sleep till I had passed through the cosmetick discipline, part of which was a regular lustration performed with bean-flower water and may-dews; my hair was perfumed with a variety of unguents, by some of which it was to be thickened, and by others to be curled. The softness of my hands was secured by medicated gloves, and my bosom rubbed with a pomade prepared by my mother, of virtue to discuss dimples and clear discolorations.” -COURTENAY.
2 See his admirable “ Lives of the Poets,” and particularly his disquisition on metaphysical and religious poetry._COURTENAY.
3 See his review of Soame Jennings's (Jenyns] “ Essay on the Origin of Evil;” a masterpiece of composition, both for vigour of style and precision of ideas.-COURTENAY.
4 Pope's, or rather Bolingbroke's, system was borrowed from the Arabian metaphysicians.-COURTENAY.
Ś The scheme of the “ Essay on Man” was given by Lord Bolingbroke to Pope.COURTENAY. [Dr. Johnson doubted this, and there seems good reason to believe that Bolingbroke's contribution towards the Essay on Man has been greatly overstated.--En.]
The bounds of knowledge marks, and points the way
Impressive truth, in splendid fiction drest ?,
Soft-eyed compassion with a look benign,
See that sublime and beautiful tale, “ The Prince of Abyssinia,” and “The Rambler,” No. 65, 204, &c. &c.—COURTENAY.
96 The world is disposed to call this a discovery of Dr. Franklin's (from his paper inserted in the Philosophical Transactions,”) but in this they are much mistaken. Pliny, Plutarch, and other naturalists were acquainted with it.—“Ea natura est olei, ut lucem afferat, ac tranquillat omnia, etiam mare, quo non aliud elementum implacabilius.” Memoirs of the Society of Manchester.— COURTENAY.
3 Dr. Johnson's extraordinary facility of composition is well known from many circumstances. He wrote forty pages of the “Life of Savage” in one night. He com. posed seventy lines of his “ Imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal,” and wrote them down from memory, without altering a word. In the prologue on opening Drury-lane theatre, he changed but one word, and that in compliment to Mr. Garrick. Some of his “ Ramblers” were written while the printer's messenger was waiting to carry the copy to the press. Many of the “ Idlers" were written at Oxford ; Dr. Johnson often began his task only just in time not to miss the post, and sent away the reading it over.-COURTENAY.
4 The dignified and affecting letter written by him to the king in the name of Dr. Dodd, after his condemnation, is justly and, I believe, universally admired. His benevolence, indeed, was uniform and unbounded. I have been assured, that he has often been so much affected by the sight of several unfortunate women, whom he has seen almost perishing in the streets, that he has taken them to his own house ; had them attended with care and tenderness; and, on their recovery, clothed, and placed them in a way of life to earn their bread by honest industry.- COURTENAY. [See ante, vol. v. p. 219. Such a circumstance may have happened once, but it is absurd to represent it as habitual as Mr. Courtenay has done. Dr. Johnson's house never was without the superintendence of a respectable lady, who, of course, would not have tolerated any frequent practice of such irregular charity.-Ev.]
Snatch'd from disease, and want's abandon’d crew,
But hark, he sings! the strain even Pope admires ;
So full his mind with images was fraught,
1 “ London," a Satire, and “The Vanity of Human Wishes," are both imitated from Juvenal. On the publication of “ London” in 1738, Mr. Pope was so much struck by it, that he desired Mr. Dodsley, his bookseller, to find out the author. Dodsley having sought him in vain for some time, Mr. Pope said he would very soon be deterré. Afterwards Mr. Richardson, the painter, found out Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Pope recommended him to Lord Gower.—COURTENAY.
* See the prologue spoken by Mr. Garrick in 1747, on the opening of Drury-lane theatre._COURTENAY.
3“ Inter ignotæ strepitus loquela.” Ode to Mrs. Thrale.-COURTENAY. [See ante, vol. ii. p. 388.-ED.]