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ten pounds for clothes and linen. He said a man might live in a garret at eighteen-pence a week : few people would inquire where he lodged; and if they did, it was easy to say, 'Sir, I am to be found at such a place.' By spending threepence in a coffee-house, he might be for some hours every day in very good company; he might dine for sixpence, breakfast on bread and milk for a penny, and do without supper. On clean-shirt day he went abroad, and paid visits.” I have heard him more than once talk of his frugal friend, whom he recollected with esteem and kindness, and did not like to have one smile at the recital. “ This man,” said he,
was a very sensible man, who perfectly understood common affairs: a man of a great deal of knowledge of the world, fresh from life, not strained through books. He borrowed a horse and ten pounds at Birmingham. Finding himself master of so much money, he set off for West Chester, in order to get to Ireland. He returned the horse, and probably the ten pounds too, after he got home.”
Considering Johnson's narrow circumstances in the early part of his life, and particularly at the interesting era of his launching into the ocean of London, it is not to be wondered at, that an actual instance, proved by experience, of the possibility of enjoying the intellectual luxury of social life upon a very small income, should deeply engage his attention, and be ever recollected by him as a circumstance of much importance. He amused himself, I remember, by computing how much more expense was absolutely necessary to live upon the same scale with that which his friend described, when the value of money was diminished by the progress of commerce. It may be estimated that double the money might now with difficulty be sufficient,
Amidst this cold obscurity, there was one brilliant circumstance to cheer him ; he was well acquainted with Mr. Henry Herveyt, one of the branches of the noble + The honourable Henry Hervey, third son of the first earl of Bristol, quitted
army and took orders. He married a sister of sir Thomas Aston, by whom he got the Aston estate, and assumed the name and arms of that family. Vide Collins's Peerage.-Boswell.
The honourable Henry Hervey was nearly of the same age with Johnson,
family of that name, who had been quartered at Lichfield as an officer of the army, and had at this time a house in London, where Johnson was frequently entertained, and had an opportunity of meeting genteel company. Not very long before his death, he mentioned this, among other particulars of his life, which he was kindly communicating to me; and he described this early friend, “Harry Hervey,” thus: “He was a vicious man, but very kind to me. If you call a dog Hervey, I shall love him.”
He told me he had now written only three acts of his Irene, and that he retired for some time to lodgings at Greenwich, where he proceeded in it somewhat farther, and used to compose, walking in the park; but did not stay long enough at that place to finish it.
At this period we find the following letter from him to Mr. Edward Cave, which, as a link in the chain of his literary history, it is proper to insert.
TO MR. CAVE.
“ Greenwich, next door to the Golden Heart,
Church-street, July 12, 1737.
“SIR,-Having observed in your papers very uncommon offers of encouragement to men of letters ", I have chosen, being a stranger in London, to communicate to you the following design, which, I hope, if you join in it, will be of advantage to both of us.
“ The History of the Council of Trent having been lately translated into French, and published with large notes by Dr. Le Courayer, the reputation of that book is so much revived in England, that, it is presumed, a new translation
having been born about nine months before him, in the year 1709. He married Catharine, the sister of sir Thomas Aston, in 1739; and as that lady had seven sisters, she probably succeeded to the Aston estate on the death of her brother, under his will. Mr. Hervey took the degree of master of arts at Cambridge, at the late age of thirty-five, in 1744 ; about which time, it is believed, he entered into holy orders.—MALONE.
» See Johnson's former letter to Cave, from Birmingham.-Ed.
of it from the Italian, together with Le Courayer's notes from the French, could not fail of a favourable reception.
“ If it be answered, that the history is already in English, it must be remembered, that there was the same objection against Le Courayer's undertaking, with this disadvantage, that the French had a version by one of their best translators, whereas you cannot read three pages of the English history without discovering that the style is capable of great improvements; but whether those improvements are to be expected from this attempt, you must judge from the specimen, which, if you approve the proposal, I shall submit to your examination.
“Suppose the merit of the versions equal, we may hope that the addition of the notes will turn the balance in our favour, considering the reputation of the annotator.
“Be pleased to favour me with a speedy answer, if you are not willing to engage in this scheme; and appoint me a day to wait upon you, if you are.
“ I am, sir,
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
It should seem from this letter, though subscribed with his own name, that he had not yet been introduced to Mr. Cave. We shall presently see what was done in consequence of the proposal which it contains.
In the course of the summer he returned to Lichfield, where he had left Mrs. Johnson, and there be at last finished his tragedy, which was not executed with his rapidity of composition upon other occasions, but was slowly and painfully elaborated. A few days before his death, , while burning a great mass of papers, he picked out from among them the original unformed sketch of this tragedy, in his own handwriting, and gave it to Mr. Langton, by whose favour a copy of it is now in my possession. It contains fragments of the intended plot, and speeches for the different persons of the drama, partly in the raw materials of prose, partly worked up into verse ; as also a
variety of hints for illustration, borrowed from the Greek, Roman, and modern writers. The handwriting is very difficult to be read, even by those who are best acquainted with Johnson's mode of penmanship, which at all times was very particular. The king having graciously accepted of this manuscript as a literary curiosity, Mr. Langton made a fair and distinct copy of it, which he ordered to be bound up with the original and the printed tragedy; and the volume is deposited in the king's library. His majesty was pleased to permit Mr. Langton to take a copy of it for himself.
The whole of it is rich in thought and imagery, and happy expressions; and of the disjecta membra' scattered throughout, and as yet unarranged, a good dramatick poet might avail himself with considerable advantage. I shall give my readers some specimens of different kinds, distinguishing them by the italic character.
Nor think to say, here will I stop,
A small part only of this interesting admonition is preserved in the play, and is varied, I think, not to advantage.
The soul once tainted with so foul a crime,
I feel the soft infection
Sure this is love, which heretofore I conceived the dream of idle maids, and wanton poets.
Though no comets or prodigies foretold the ruin of Greece, signs which heaven must by another miracle enable us to understand, yet might it be foreshown by tokens no less certain, by the vices which always bring it on.
This last passage is worked up in the tragedy itself, as follows.
-That power that kindly spreads
MAHOMET. (to IREN E.) I have tried thee, and joy to find that thou deservest to be loved by Mahomet-with a mind great as his own. Sure, thou art an errour of nature, and an exception to the rest of thy sex, and art immortal; for sentiments like thine were never to sink into nothing. I thought all the thoughts of the fair had been to select the graces of the day, dispose the colours of the flaunting (flowing) robe, tune the voice and roll the eye,