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SON. “I believe, sir, there is not; but it is better that some should be unhappy, than that none should be happy, which would be the case in a general state of equality.”
When the service was ended, I went home with him, and we sat quietly by ourselves. He recommended Dr. Cheyne's books. I said, I thought Cheyne bad been reckoned whimsical.—“ So he was,” said he, “ in some things; but there is no end of objections. There are few books to which some objection or other may not be made.” He added, " I would not have you read any thing else of Cheyne but his book on Health, and his English Malady."
Upon the question whether a man who had been guilty of vicious actions would do well to force himself into solitude and sadness; JOHNSON. “ No, sir, unless it prevent him from being vicious again. With some people, gloomy penitence is only madness turned upside down.
A man may be gloomy, till, in order to be relieved from gloom, he has recourse again to criminal indulgences."
On Wednesday, April 10th, I dined with him at Mr. Thrale's, where were Mr. Murphy and some other company. Before dinner, Dr. Johnson and I passed some time by ourselves. I was sorry to find it was now resolved that the proposed journey to Italy should not take place this year. He said, “ I am disappointed, to be sure ; but it is not a great disappointment.” I wondered to see him bear, with a philosophical calmness, what would have made most people peevish and fretful. I perceived, however, that he bad so warmly cherished the hope of enjoying classical scenes, that he could not easily part with the scheme; for he said, “I shall probably contrive to get to Italy some other way. But I wont mention it to Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, as it might vex them.” I suggested, that going to Italy might have done Mr. and Mrs. Thrale good. JOHNSON. " I rather believe not, sir. While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till grief be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.”
At dinner, Mr. Murphy entertained us with the history of Mr. Joseph Simpson, a schoolfellow of Dr. Johnson's, a barrister at law, of good parts, but who fell into a dissipated course of life, incompatible with that success in his profession which he once had, and would otherwise have deservedly maintained ; yet he still preserved a dignity in his deportment. He wrote a tragedy on the story of Leonidas, entitled The Patriot.. He read it to a company of lawyers, who found so many faults that he wrote it over again; so then there were two tragedies on the same subject and with the same title. Dr. Johnson told us, that one of them was still in his possession. This very piece was, after his death, published by some person who had been about him, and, for the sake of a little hasty profit, was fallaciously advertised so as to make it be believed to have been written by Johnson himself.
I said, I disliked the custom which some people had of bringing their children into company, because it in a manner forced us to pay foolish compliments to please their parents. JOHNSON. “ You are right, sir. We may be excused for not caring much about other people's children, for there are many who care very little about their own children. It may be observed, that men, who, from being engaged in business, or from their course of life in whatever way, seldom see their children, do not care much about them. I myself should not have had much fondness for a child of my own.” Mrs. THRALE.“ Nay, sir, how can you talk so ?” JOHNSON. • At least, I never wished to have a child."
Mr. Murphy mentioned Dr. Johnson's having a design to publish an edition of Cowley. Johnson said, he did not know but he should; and he expressed his disapprobation of Dr. Hurd, for having published a mutilated edition, under the title of Select Works of Abraham Cowley. Mr. Murphy thought it a bad precedent; observing, that any author might be used in the same manner; and that it was pleasing to see the variety of an author's compositions at different periods.
We talked of Flatman's Poems; and Mrs. Thrale observed, that Pope had partly borrowed from him The dying Christian to his Soul. Johnson repeated Rochester's verses upon Flatman, which I think by much too severe :
Nor that slow drudge in swift Pindarick strains,
I like to recollect all the passages that I heard Johnson repeat: it stamps a value on them.
He told us, that the book entitled The Lives of the Poets, by Mr. Cibber, was entirely compiled by Mr. Shiels P, a Scotchman, one of his amanuenses. “ The
p In the Monthly Review for May, 1792, there is such a correction of the above passage, as I should think myself very culpable not to subjoin.
" This account is very inaccurate. The following statement of facts we know to be true, in every material circumstance:Shiels was the principal collector and digester of the materials for the work; but as he was very raw in authorship, an indifferent writer in prose, and his language full of Scotticisms, Cibber, who was a clever, lively fellow, and then soliciting employment among the booksellers, was engaged to correct the style and diction of the whole work, then intended to make only four volumes, with power to alter, expunge, or add, as he liked. He was also to supply notes occasionally, especially concerning those dramatick poets with whom he had been chiefly conversant. He also engaged to write several of the lives; which, as we are told, he accordingly performed. He was further useful in striking out the jacobitical and tory sentiments which Shiels had industriously interspersed wherever he could bring them in :—and as the success of the work appeared, after all, very doubtful, he was content with twenty-one pounds for his labour, besides a few sets of the books, to disperse among his friends.-Shiels had nearly seventy pounds, beside the advantage of many of the best lives in the work being communicated by friends to the under. taking;
and for which Mr. Shiels had the same consideration as for the rest, being paid by the sheet for the whole. He was, however, so angry with his whiggish supervisor, (The. like his father, being a violent stickler for the political principles which prevailed in the reign of George the second,) for so unmercifully mutilating his copy, and scouting his politics, that he wrote Cibber a challenge; but was prevented from sending it by the publisher, who fairly laughed him out of his fury. The proprietors, too, were discontented in the end on account of Mr. Cibber's unexpected industry; for his corrections and alterations in the proof sheets were so numerous and considerable, that the printer made for them a grievous addition to his bill; and, in fine, all parties were dissatisfied. On the whole, the work was productive of no profit to the underbooksellers," said he, “ gave Theophilus Cibber, who was then in prison, ten guineas, to allow Mr. Cibbér to be put upon the title-page, as the author: by this, a double imposition was intended; in the first place, that it was the work of a Cibber at all; and in the second place, that it was the work of old Cibber.”
Mr. Murphy said, that “The Memoirs of Gray's Life set him much higher in his estimation than his poems did; for you there saw a man constantly at work in literature." Johnson acquiesced in this; but depreciated the book, I
takers, who had agreed, in case of success, to make Cibber a present of some addition to the twenty guineas which he had received, and for which his receipt is now in the booksellers' hands. We are further assured, that he actually obtained an additional sum ; when he, soon after, (in the year 1758,) unfortunately embarked for Dublin, on an engagement for one of the theatres there : but the ship was cast away, and every person on board perished. There were about sixty passengers, among whom was the earl of Drogheda,
of consequence and property. “ As to the alleged design of making the compilement pass for the work of old Mr. Cibber, the charges seem to have been founded on a somewhat uncharitable construction. We are assured that the thought was not harboured by some of the proprietors, who are still living ; and we hope that it did not occur to the first designer of the work, who was also the printer of it, and who bore a respectable character.
“We have been induced to enter thus circumstantially into the foregoing detail of facts relating to the Lives of the Poets, compiled by Messrs. Cibber and Shiels, from a sincere regard to that sacred principle of truth, to which Dr. Johnson so rigidly adhered, according to the best of his knowledge; and which, we believe, no consideration would have prevailed on him to violate. In regard to the matter which we now dismiss, he had, no doubt, been misled by partial and wrong information. Shiels was the doctor's amanuensis; he had quarrelled with Cibber; it is natural to suppose that he told his story in his own way; and it is certain that he was not a very sturdy moralist.?” This explanation appears to me satisfactory. It is, however, to be observed, that the story told by Johnson does not rest solely upon my record of his conversation ; for he himself has published it in his life of Hammond, where he says, “ the manuscript of Shiels is now in my possession.” Very probably he had trusted to Shiels's word, and never looked at it so as to compare it with the Lives of the Poets, as published under Mr. Cibber's name. What became of that manuscript I know not. I should have liked much to examine it. I suppose it was thrown into the fire in that impetuous combustion of papers, which Johnson I think rashly executed when moribundus.-Boswell.
Shiels died in the same year in which the Lives of the Poets were published : 1753.-Ep.
thought, very unreasonably; for he said, “ I forced myself to read it, only because it was a common topick of conversation. I found it mighty dull; and, as to the style, it is fit for the second table." Why he thought so, I was at a loss to conceive. He now gave it as his opinion, that “Akenside was a superiour poet both to Gray and Mason.”
Talking of the reviews, Johnson said, “ I think them very impartial: I do not know an instance of partiality." He mentioned what had passed upon the subject of the Monthly and Critical Reviews, in the conversation with which his majesty had honoured him. He expatiated a little more on them this evening. “ The Monthly reviewers,” said he, “are not deists; but they are christians, with as little christianity as may be; and are for pulling down all establishments. The Critical reviewers are for supporting the constitution both in church and state. The Critical reviewers, I believe, often review without reading the books tlirough; but lay hold of a topick, and write chiefly from their own minds. The Monthly reviewers are duller men, and are glad to read the books through.”
He talked of lord Lyttelton's extreme anxiety as an author; observing, that “ he was thirty years in preparing his history, and that he employed a man to point it for him; as if (laughing) another man could point his sense better than himself." Mr. Murphy said, he understood his history was kept back several years for fear of Smollett. Johnson." This seems strange to Murphy and me, who never felt that anxiety, but sent what we wrote to the press, and let it take its chance." Mrs. THRALE. “The time has been, sir, when you felt it.” Johnson. " Why really, madam, I do not recollect a time when that was the case.”
Talking of the Spectator, he said, “ It is wonderful that there is such a proportion of bad papers in the half of the
9 Johnson's opinions concerning the Monthly and Critical Reviews would not be accurate now, 1803.—BLAKEWAY. The Monthly Review has improved since the above character was given of it: the Critical has been discontinued many years.-E..