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and imposition upon the public by William Lauder, a Scotch schoolmaster, who had, with equal impudence and ingenuity, represented Milton as a plagiary from certain modern Latin poets, Johnson, who had been so far imposed upon as to furnish a Preface and Postscript to his work, now dictated a letter for Lauder, addressed to Dr. Douglas, acknowledging his fraud in terms of suitable contrition.
This extraordinary attempt of Lauder was no sudden effort. He had brooded over it for many years; and to this hour it is uncertain what his principal motive was, unless it were a vain notion of his superiority, in being able, by whatever means, to deceive mankind. To effect this, he produced certain passages from Grotius, Masenius, and others, which had a faint resemblance to some parts of the “ Paradise Lost." In these he interpolated some fragments of Hog's Latin translation of that Poem, alleging, that the mass thus fabricated, was the archetype from which Milton copied. These fabrications he published from time to time in the Gentleman's Magazine ; and, exulting in his fancied success, he, in 1750, ventured to collect them into a pamphlet, entitled, “ An Essay on Milton's Use and Ianitation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost." To this pamphlet Johnson wrote a Preface, in full persuasion of Lauder's honesty, and a Postscript recommending, in the most persuasive terms, a subscription for the relief of a grand daughter of Milton, of whom he thus speaks: " It is yet in the power of a great people to reward the poet whose name they boast, and from their; alliance to whose genius they claim some kind of superiority to every other nation of the earth; that poet, whose works may possibly be read when every other monument of British greatuess shall be obliterated; to reward him, not with pictures, or with medals, which, if he sees, he sees with contempt, but with tokens of gratitude, which he, perhaps, may even now consider, not unworthy the regard of an immortal spirit.”
The circle of his friends, in the year 1752, 'was extensive and various, far beyond what has been general, ly imagined, among whom was his dulce decus, Sir ·
Joshua Reynolds, and with whom he maintained an uninterrupted intimacy to the last hour of his life.--When Johnson lived in Castle-street, Cavendish-square, he used frequently to visit two ladies, who lived opposite to him, Miss Cotterells, daughters of Admiral Cotterell. Reynolds used also to visit there, and thus they met. Mr. Reynolds had, from the first reading : of his most admiral Life of Savage, conceived a very high admiration of Johnson's powers of writing. His conversation no less delighted him; and he cultivated his, acquaintance with the laudable zeal of one who was ambitious of general improvement. Sir Joshua,, indeed, was lucky enough at their very first mecting to make a remark, which was so much above the common-place style of conversation, that Johnson at once perceived that Reynolds had the habit of thinking for himself. The ladies were regretting the death of a friend, to whom they owed great obligations ; upon. which Reynolds observed," You have, however, the comfort of being relieved from a burthen of gratitude.” They were shocked a little at this alleviating sugge3- : tion, as too selfish ; but Johnson defended it in his, clear and forcible manner, and was much pleased with, the mind, the fair view of human nature, whicla it exhibited, like some of the reflections of Rochefaucault. The consequence was, that he went home with Reynolds, and supped with him.
When they were one evening together at the Miss Cotterells, the then Duchess of Argyle and another lady of high rank came in. Johnson thinking that the Miss Cotterells were too much engrossed by them, and that he and his friend were neglected as low company, of whom they were somewhat ashamed, grew angry; and resolving to shock their supposed pride, by making their great visitors imagine that his friend and he were low indeed, he addressed himself in a loud tone to Mr. Reynolds, saying, “ Ilow much do you think you and I could get in a week, if we were to work as hard as we could ?” as if they had been common mechanics.
Soon after his acquaintance with Mr. Langton commenced, Johnson passed a considerable time at Oxford.
He at first thought it strange that Langton should associate so much with Beauclerk, one who had the character of being loose, both in his principles and practice; but by degrees, he himself was fascinated. Mr. Beauclerk being of the St. Alban's family, and having, in some particulars, a resemblance to King Charles the Second, contributed, in Johnson's imagination, to throw a lustre upon his other qualities; and, in a short time, the moral, pious Johnson, and the gay, dissipated Beauclerk, were companions. " What a coalition ! (said Garrick, when he heard of this) I shall have my old friend to bail out of the round-house." Innumerable were the scenes in which Johnson was amused by these young men. Beauclerk had such a propensity to satire, that at one time Johnson said to him, “ You never open your mouth but with intention to give pain; and you have often given me pain, not from the power of what you said, but from seeing your intention." At another time applying to him, with a slight alteration, a line of Pope, he said, “ Thy love of folly, and thy scorn of fools.-Every thing thou dost shews the one, and every thing thou say'st the other.” At another time, he said to him, " Thy body is all vice, and thy mind all virtue.". Beauclerk not seeming to relish the compliment, Johnson said, “ Nay, Sir, Alexander the Great, marching in triumph into Babylon, could not have desired to have more said to him." • Johnson was some time with Beauclerk at his house at Windsor, where he was entertained with experiments in natural philosophy. One Sunday, when the weather was very fine, Beauclerk enticed him, insensibly, to saunter about all the morning. They went into a churchyard, in the time of divine service, and Johnson laid himself down at his ease upon one of the tomb-stones. " Now, Sir (said Beauclerk) you are like Hogarth's Idle Apprentice," When Johnson got his pension, Beauclerk said to him, in the humorous phrase of Falstaff, “ I hope you'll now purge, and live cleanly, like a gentleman."
· One night, when Beauclerk and Langton had supped at a tavern in London, and sat till about three in tho
morning, morning, it came into their heads to go and knock up Johnson, and see if they could prevail on him to join them in a ramble. They rapped violently at the door of his chambers in the Temple, till at last he appeared in his shirt with his little black wig on the top of his head, instead of a night-cap, and a poker in his hand, imagining, probably, that some ruffians were coming to attack him. When he discovered who they were, and was told their errand, he smiled, and with great good humour agreed to their proposal : “ What is it you, you dogs? I'll have a frisk with you.” He was soon dressed, and they sallied forth together into CoventGarden, where the green-grocers and fruiterers were beginning to arrange their hampers, just come in from the country. Johnson made some attempts to help them ; but the honest gardeners stared so at his figure and manner, and odd interference, that he soon saw his services were not relished. They then repaired to one of the neighbouring taverns, and made a bowl of that liquor called Bishop, which Johnson had always liked : while in joyous contempt of sleep, from which he had been roused, he repeated the festive lines,
o Short, o short then be thy reign,
They did not stay long, but walked down to the Thames, took a boat, and rowed to Billingsgate. Beauclerk and Johnson were so well pleased with their amusement, that they resolved to persevere in dissipa. tion for the rest of the day: but Langton deserted them, being engaged to breakfast with some young ladies. Johnson scolded him for “ leaving his social friends to go and sit with a set of wretched, un-idea'd girls. Garrick being told of this råmble, said to him, smartly, “ I heard of your frolick t'other night. You'll be in the Chronicle." Upon which Johnson afterwards obr. served, “ He durst not do such a thing. His wife would not let him.”
The following is that celebrated letter to Lord Chesterfield, on the two papers which he had writ
ten in the World, in recommendation of Johnson's Dictionary. . . To the Right Hon. the Earl of Chesterfield. « My Lord,
February, 1755. “ I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of the World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your Lordship. To be so distinguished, is an honour, which being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.
" When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your Lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address; and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre;--that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.
“ Seven years, my Lord, are now past, since I waited in your outer rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance", one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a Patron before.